Saturday, June 23, 2007

Response to Kurschner on Revelation 5:9-10

Response to Mr. Alan Kurschner
On Revelation 5:9-10
The Present Author Slightly Favoring
The Reading of the Authorized Version


In a recent article (link), Mr. Kurschner argued that the Authorized Version (aka the KJV) has several incorrect readings at Revelation 5:9-10. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Kurschner, and I believe that the Authorized Version generally has the better reading, based both on the internal and external evidence. Before I continue, I should point that although I believe that the KJV (in the 1792 edition) is the present paragon of excellence in translation of the Bible in the English language, I am not a KJV-only (KJVO) advocate. I have explained why I am not, previously (link). It is possible that some readings of the KJV could be improved, but this is not such a case, in my opinion, although I leave open the possibility that I could be wrong.

Reference English Readings

For reference, the Authorized Version's reading of the disputed passage is:

Revelation 5:9-10
9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

In contrast:

Revelation 5:9-10 (NASB, notes omitted, italics and quotation marks original)
9And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10"You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

For further comparison, here is the Westcott & Hort translation, "The Twentieth Century New Testament," (revised ed. 1904) for comparison (formatting omitted):

And they are singing a new song -- 'Thou art worthy to take the book and break its seals, for thou wast sacrificed, and with thy blood thou didst buy for God men of every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, and didst make them at Kingdom of Priests in the service of our God, and they are reigning upon the earth.'


For reasons that will be clear rather quickly, Mr. Kurschner begins with the second, rather than the first verse. I'll proceed in the order in which the verses would be read.

With respect to verse 9, Mr. Kurschner takes the position that the omission of "us" is the better reading, with the sole external evidence being the lone testimony of "A". The problem with Mr. Kurscher's view here is that it fails to account properly for the transcriptional evidence. The harder reading is "us" (not its omission). It appears that A (in the Apocalpyse) was copied by ear.

In evidence of the auditory copying of A, note, for example, who A also has a unique spelling of αδουσιν as αδωσιν. Two obvious explanations for this error spring to mind. One would be an error of the eye, the other of the ear. A, if it is as old as is claimed, was copied from an Uncial manuscript written in all capitals. If so, it would be difficult to confuse omicron-upsilon with omega. Accordingly, we can discard the error of eye hypothesis. Instead, it seems more that is simply an itacism, and that the scribe misheard the vowel pair as omega, and copied phonetically. (It is interesting to note, by way of comparison, that A alone likewise omits ημων in the phrase "our God" in verse 10, at which point Mr. Kurshner, Messrs. Westscott and Hort, and the NASB do not follow A.)

Once we recognize that A was copied by hearing, it would be reasonable, then for A simply to fail to hear the word ημας composed, as it is, entirely of vowels and soft consonents, and accidentally omit it.

Mr. Kurschner provides a counter argument that:

there was a scribal tendency to "clarify" ambiguous readings. And in this case, it makes much more sense that a scribe would add an object to clarify who is being purchased, rather than a scribe omitting the object of God's purchasing.

There is a significant problem with Mr. Kurschner's argument here. While it may be possible that a scribe would attempt to clarify who is being purchased, it is unclear why (if the scribe had before him) a text reflected by the NASB, the scribe would choose to insert "us" rather then "men" or "them," unless the scribe had a reason for believing that "us" was intended by the context. If one accepts NASB text as accurately reflecting the context, one is left wondering how "us" could have been the intent.

Furthermore, the internal evidence favors the reading from the standpoint of difficulty. Omission creates no serious difficulty, but insertion creates the difficulty that one must explain how (apparently and on its face) the twenty four enders and four beasts were redeemed out of every kindred, etc.

Furthermore, the versional testimony in favor of "us" is overwhelming. The Vulgate (all versions and old translations I could find except the Vatican II edition), Horner's translation of the Coptic, all the translations of the Peshitto I have (Murdoch's, Lamsa's, and Etheridge's translations), and my copy of the Slavonic.

When we come to verse 10, the reason for Mr. Kurschner's opposition with respect to verse 9 becomes apparent. In verse 10, there is a mixture in the external evidence as to whether the pronoun should be "us" or "them." The majority of the early Greek texts have "them." There are, however, very few early Greek texts of the Apocolypse. Unlike most of the Bible, there are no lectionaries of the Apocalypse presumably because it was not read in church, and accordingly there is no lectionary data at all for the text of the Apocalypse. Thus, the remaining evidence are patristic quotations (which favor "us") and versional evidence, which is mixed with the Coptic, Peshitto, and Armenian favoring "them" and the Slavonic and Vulgate favoring "us."

Furthermore, if we have established that reading of 9 is "us," then the internal evidence favors "us," because it makes more sense. This, of course, raises a slight transcriptional argument in favor of corruption of the text to smooth between 9 and 10, and this raises a slight amount of evidence that "them" could be the original in 10.

However, I'm not persuaded by that transcriptional argument, because the more likely transcriptional variation would flow from the verb "shall reign" (which, in many instances, is 3rd person plural), which is more directly connected with being made kings, than is the foregoing redemption.

This brings us to the final textual variant, the conjugation of the verb "to reign" in verse 10. Again, the same versional information applies in favor, the Vulgate and the Slavonic favoring the third person singular. There is a further split among the Greek witnesses and versions on this very verb, however. At least the following are presented among the various witnesses and versions: basileian, basileis, basileusousin, and basileuiusin (in addition, of course, to basileusomen).

Mr. Kurschner selects basileusousin, but this is not the reading provided by A (his favored text elsewhere in this same argument). A has basileian.

In view of the variety of textual evidence for and against the conjugation of "to reign," I leave open the possibility that the KJV may have the wrong tense expressed. Nevertheless, I'm inclined to believe that the verb conjugation has been corrupted, and that we should restore the verb ending by the context. In the context, the preferred verb ending is first person plural, future.


Accordingly, I conclude that the KJV reading is slightly preferably here, primarily on the weight of the versional testimony of the Vulgate and Slavonic versions, against the apparently accidentally corrupted Greek text.

Almost by way of an afterword, it is important to note that Mr. Kurschner includes an argument that would be better omitted, as it can only weaken his position. That is Mr. Kurschner's argument that suggests that KJVO advocates insist on the KJV's reading here because of an a priori commitment to pretribulation premillenial theology. It seems completely unreasonable to suppose that such a commitment would force one to adopt the KJVO position - it would be sufficient simply to dispute the translation of the text (as, for example, the present author has done above). On the other hand, Mr. Kurschner could more readily be accused (and the accusation would be a false one, in my own estimation) of seeking to maintain a corrupt reading in the text in order to oppose pretribulation premillenialism. Because the KJVO position does not permit monkeying with text, suggesting that it is motivated by the readings of particular passages is not a reasonable critique.

I would encourage Mr. Kurschner to omit this argument in future versions of this same presentation, reserving it instead, for posts such as this one of his, on another site (link).

I would also continue to encourage Mr. Kurschner to address the actual problems with the KJVO position, rather than trying to find fault with Authorized Version. In most, if not all, of the cases of alleged incorrect readings of the KJV there is going to be a substantial argument in favor of the KJV, even when that substantial argument is wrong.

It would seem better to go after the root of the problem: the lack of a reason to suppose that the KJV (in any of its edititions) is entirely free from even the most trivial errors of reading.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Clarkian Epistemology - Contra Van-Tillian Objections

Clarkian Epistemology Distinguished
Against Van Tillian Responses

There has been a recent spat of comments flowing out of a discussion generally related to TJH's post (link) and my response (link).

In particular, TJH, Keith, and an internet poster who has adopted the handle "John Calvin" (JC), have provided some comments worthy of further discussion.

TJH's first comments (link) require me to dig through the disarray of tomes that I call my library to try to locate my copy of the relevant book. I have not yet found time to do so. I'll try to do so soon, rather than rely on my memory.

Keith's comments (link) ask:
You say that science collectively says R. In reality, the truth is R’. This is trivial. Who wouldn’t agree with that? Are there people out there who think that science has always given us the truth? The whole idea behind science is that we keep modifying our “knowledge”.
Nevertheless, this makes more sense of Clark’s claim that science is “false.” Collectively, yes it probably is, but once again, if he’s concerned about epistemic certainty then he still can’t say its truly false, only probably false.
By the way, how does Clark know that the Bible says what he thinks it says given the uncertainty of language?

I respond:

As to the first paragraph, that's an intermediate step of the argument, not the final point. I do think that virtually everyone would agree that the truth is R'. Nevertheless, evidentialism does not have the tools either to say with certainty that the truth is R', or even that R is close, far, or converging to R'. In other words, evidentialism is without an anchor. Evidentialism can convince us that the R of science is changing, but cannot tell us with certainty that it is approaching truth.

This does not mean that science is not useful, but that that science ALONE is not an epistemology of any value.

As to the second paragraph, all that is necessary for Clark to prevail is that we agree that evidentialism is an undesirable epistemology. Clark can easily demonstrate that Science collectively includes assertions that are contrary to the truth (for example, in the area of cosmology), but that is not based on evidentialism, but on Clark's own epistemology.

It's important to point out the evidentialism cannot only not show that R is not R' with certainty, but even that R is not R' with probability. There's no a priori way of assigning probabilities to the position. If one jumps out of evidentialism for a second, and presupposes that historical observations are a probable predictor of future events, then whatever you presuppose as that probability that historical observations will predict future events will correspond to the probability that Science is false. I'm not sure how helpful that would be.

As to the final question, Clark (like the Reformers) deduces from Scripture that the important things in Scripture are perspicuous.

TJH's second comments (link) follow on Keith's comments (above).

TJH writes:
Also, that applies to theology as well. I’m sure that Clark’s theology underwent tweaks over the course of his life, and there was probably at least one false proposition left in there. Say it is certainly so. Then, by the same reasoning, can we not say that Clark’s theology was false?

(underscore substituted for italics in original)

I respond:

Clark would agree that the entire body of Clarkian theology (even as it stood on his moment of death) undoubtedly contained some error or other, and consequently is not a suitable presuppositional basis. Clark would, therefore, agree that Scripture, not Clarkian theology, should be our epistemological starting point.

JC's comments (link) are lengthier, more vehement, and seem to reflect a personal stake in the debate, but are not remarkably different from Keith's.

JC wrote:
[1] And of course you don’t know that my conclusion proves the absurdity of trying to argue like a Van Tillian, do you? It’s just your mere opinion, isn’t it?
[2] I see you *assert* that the sun’s heat is being spoken of literally, but you don’t know that, do you? Sure you can “presuppose it,” but whopp-dee-doo.
[3] Then I can prove God is a bird by “presupposing” that it is speaking literally? No. So, just “presupposing” anything willy-nilly is a bit unwise. And, of course you don’t even know that Scripture says “sun.” That word could be “oven,” and so your eyes are tricking you. How would you know otherwise?
[4] So, no free lunches. I want to know how the Clarkian doesn’t commit epistemological suicide every time he opens his mouth. Your saying “just grant me that I know what the Bible says,” sems like the evolutionist asking me to grant him that “life evolved from non-life just once,” and then he’ll show me how everything else follows. Like Tim said above, “of where one cannot speak, one should be
[5] You don’t know Clark existed, and you don’t know he had a high standard of knowledge, either. That’s another mere opinion. Also, you don’t know that you don’t need to know. So that was another opinion. A mere assertion. Why do you expect “Van Tillians” to grant you your unjustified opinions? Is it because it’s “absurd” to reason like us so you think you can pass assertions on as substantive answers and we won’t “get it” because we’re “absurd.”
[6] You don’t know that Clark existed, that’s right. But, you also don;t know that eh
should have been ordained because you don’t know if he was a man. You don;t even
know if you’re a man, how much more then do you not know that Clark is?
[7] I mean, you don’t even know that Scripturalism is the case! If all knowledge is either found in Scripture, or able to be deduced from Scripture, then since *that proposition* cannot be deduced from Scripture, you don’t know it! So, the Scripturalist can’t even know his own Scripturalist package. Thus it looks like you have in-house problems in your backyard that needf cleaning before you tell me to clean up my own backyard.

(all errors in original, numbering added for convenient reference)

I respond:

As to [1], as I had previously stated (link), your conclusion demonstrates the absurdity of arguing like a Van Tillian. I'm not interested in proving that, or establishing to your satisfaction that I know it. If you don't see the absurdity of your previous argument (link), so be it. I think others can and will see the absurdity, but if not - I'll have to look for a more clear example. Perhaps the remainder of your present argument will provide such an example.

As to [2], the answer is that I do know that it is being spoken of literally; I have deduced that from Scripture.

As to [3], if you presuppose that God is a bird, it is your presupposition against mine. Yours are foolish presuppositions that will place you in the lake of fire, if you really hold to them. But I doubt you do. You only suggest such presuppositions to be argumentative.

As to [3] (cont'd), I do know that the word there is "sun," and you know it too. Your objection is not something you believe, but simply an attempt to be argumentative. I know otherwise by deduction from Scripture. If you would pay attention to the arguments presented previously (link), you would understand that.

As to [4], a better choice for comparison would have been the context of the recent PCA debate on justification. The elders have agreed that the WCF is Scriptural, and, thus, the debate centers around whether the FV doctrines are confessional. Nevertheless, yes, evolutionists are frequently trying to persuade people to accept their presupposition of Naturalism. If you do, you're not left with a lot of other choices besides evolution. As for epistemic suicide, Clark is not an evidentialist, and his epistemology is not evidentialism. His rebuttal of evidentialism, consequently, does not damage his epistemology. Your perception that it does appears to be a similar mistake to that made by Keith above.

As to [5], the questions of whether or not Clark existed or had a high standard for "knowledge" are not serious questions. If refusing to engage in puerile games is "taking a free pass," so be it. If the presentation of objections that are not one's own is all that Van Tillianism has to offer, I will let people decide for themselves whether it is worth anyone's time. Furthermore, "mere opinion" and "mere assertion" are not the only alternative to Clark's high standard of "knowledge." Your own assertions reflect your adoption of a false dichotomy.

As to [6], this argument relies on an implicit equivocation between the high standard of knowledge (absolute certainty) and ordinary knowledge. No one has suggested that we should act only on the basis of things for which we have absolute certainty, or that certainty is necessary in every aspect of life.

As to [7], despite the claims of many anti-Reformed apologists, Sola Scriptura is, in fact, a doctrine of Scripture. Here, at least, I think you go beyond any reasonable scope of Van Tilianism, if you deny that Sola Scriptura is a doctrine of Scripture. Perhaps, on the other hand, you simply either do not know what the doctrine is, or you are again equivocating between the high definition of knowledge and the ordinary definition of knowledge.


P.S. A response by JC with respect, primarily, to number 7 can be found here (link). In summation, JC falsely accused me of not understanding what Sola Scriptura is.

I respond:

The only things we can know with the highest confidence are the things that God himself reveals. That is the reason behind the use of Scripture as the supreme judge. Once one has grasped that, the rest should fall into place, as long as one commits oneself to abandon consistent implicit equivocation over the words “know” and “knowledge.” So far, I don’t see the VT side doing that.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Centuri0n Makes a Good Point

This post (link) provides an excellent warm-up. If you have time, I encourage you to read it. It won't take long.

After you've read it, consider whether your evangelism technique mentions only love and heaven, or whether it also mentions wrath and hell ... but more importantly if it mentions, persecutions, trials, and difficulties.

Our spiritual ancestors, many of them, were martyred for their faith. Our brothers, in some lands, are being martyred and imprisoned even today. John the Baptist was imprisoned and eventually beheaded for preaching that someone's lifestyle was ungodly.

Guess what! Today, those whose lifestyles are even more depraved than those of the Herod family are trying to label John the Baptist-style preaching "hate speech," and trying to push for criminal sanctions. I doubt beheading is coming any time soon, but fines and imprisonment is definite possibility.

There can be real cost in terms of standing up for the truth of God's word - if you forget to mention this in your discussion with unbelievers, aren't really giving them a short 20?


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Doug Wilson - Clearly Upset by the PCA

Doug Wilson, clearly upset by the PCA's condemnation of FV, wrote (link):
But Lane is correct. I was not saying that those Reformed folk who did this thing deny the truth of the Confessions, or that they have embraced heretical doctrines. I am saying that they have adopted a means of defending their Confession that is at odds with the content of the Confession itself, and hence they will not be able sustain a defense of the Confession over any extended period of time. If there are any leading lights in the PCA who are able to defend the truths of the Reformation against those who contradict it (as it is claimed we in the FV do) by means of open debate, relevant interaction, and appeal to Scripture, this controversy has not revealed their names to us. A stacked committee, followed by time for debate on the floor of GA that could be measured in minutes. What a joke.

I respond:

There is no reason to suppose that the PCA should have permitted a lengthy oral debate on the topics identified in the PCA's report. There is also no reason to suppose, and - indeed - it is unfair to suppose that the PCA committee and assembly did not appeal to Scripture. The articles presented in the report were clearly contrary both to the WCF and to Scripture. As far as I can see, the question is not whether the articles presented are wrong (they undeniably are wrong), but whether they accurately portray FV.

It is for that reason that I have provided an open challenge to any advocate or proponent of FV/AAT to identify the FV/AAT distinctives (Link). So far, there have been no takers. The floor of the general assembly is not the place for "open debate" on the subject. There time constraints to be considered, and the parliamentary format is going, inevitably, to leave one side or the other feeling that they did not have a full chance to air their views.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Calvin - Infants - Original Sin

The Reformed Puritan recently wrote a post (link) which indicatesd that he was taking the position that God "condemns and punishes actual sin, not our original sin state." It seemed to me that this suggested that the guilt of original sin alone is insufficient to damn his children. Such a position would clearly be incorrect, contrary to Scripture, contrary to Reformed doctrine, and would seem to be an incorrect reading to suggest that this position was held by Calvin. If, however, Calvin held this view, then Calvin was wrong.

Nevertheless, I think that the Reformed Puritan's view that God "condemns and punishes actual sin, not our original sin state," while it may be correct (it is not our state of depravity that is the basis for guilt, but the actual sin of Adam our Federal head), is potentially misleading, because of the implicit follow-on that God therefore does not punish children, because they do not have "actual sin." But (as can be seen from the comments below) I had initially missed the Reformed Puritan's point, and perhaps I am now 0-2.

The Reformed Puritan's quotation from Calvin was (UPDATE: The Reformed Puritan has removed this quotation, because it could not be independently verified.):

“I everywhere teach that no one can be justly condemned and perish except on account of actual sin; and to say that the countless mortals taken from life while yet infants are precipitated from their mothers’ arms into eternal death is a blasphemy to be universally detested.” ~ John Calvin, Institutes, Book 4, p.335
I could not confirm that this quotation was an accurate quotation, possibly because I have a different publication of the Institutes.

However, I note that Calvin, in "Calvin on Secret Providence," wrote:

As to your objection, that no one is justly condemned, unless on account of crime, and after crime, I have no quarrel with you on the former point, since I everywhere teach that no one perishes, except by the just judgment of God. At the same time I may not dissemble that a secret venom lurks in your language; for if the similitude you propose is admitted, God will be unjust for involving the whole family of Abraham, in the guilt of original sin. You deny that it is lawful for God to condemn any man, except on account of actual sin. Innumerable infants are, to this day, hurried out of life. Discharge now your virulence against God, for precipitating into eternal death innocent babes torn from their mother's breasts. Whoever detests not this blasphemy, when it is openly detected, may curse me to his heart's content. For I have no right to demand exemption from the railings of those who spare not the Almighty himself.

~ pp. 102-103, Lille's translation (1840)

The passage above is so directly contrary to the presentation in the Reformed Puritan that I cannot help but think that Calvin has been misquoted, and/or mistranslated.

Furthermore, it is plainly the teaching of Scripture that all are subject to the guilt of Adam's first sin, and that consequently even children who do not have personal sin, nonetheless are justly subject both to physical death and to eternal condemnation, unless God (in his mercy) spares them.

God makes no promise to show mercy on all infants who die before committing voluntary sin. God would be fully just to condemn all such to hell. After all, God is fully just to permit their death. If God does not show entire mercy on such infants, even in their death, God shows a degree of mercy in that He does not permit them to compound their guilt through voluntary sin of their own.

The Reformed Puritan states: "I heartily affirm the doctrine of Original Sin. We are radically corrupt, totally depraved and completely helpless towards our salvation without the monergestic work of God regenerating our souls. " But the doctrine of Original Sin encompasses:

The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin. (WSC, I forget which question number, emphasis added, wording may be slightly off)

Consequently, I'm not sure that endorsing only the corruption of His nature is completely endorsing the Reformed (and Scriptural) doctrine on the subject. But perhaps the Reformed Puritan was not trying to be exhaustive, and mentioned part for the whole, metonymously.

May we all praise our Merciful and Longsuffering God!


UPDATE: The Reformed Puritan, place of the original quotation above, which has now been removed, has quoted this:

His (Servetus’) third point is, That all who believe not in the Son remain in death, the wrath of God abideth on them (John 3:36); and, therefore, infants who are unable to believe lie under condemnation. I (Calvin) answer, that Christ does not there speak of the general guilt in which all the posterity of Adam are involved, but only threatens the despisers of the gospel, who proudly and contumaciously spurn the grace which is offered to them. But this has nothing to do with infants. At the same time, I meet him with the opposite argument. Every one whom Christ blesses is exempted from the curse of Adam, and the wrath of God. Therefore, seeing it is certain that infants are blessed by him, it follows that they are freed from death.

~ Calvin, Institutes, Bk 4

While I appreciate that the new quotation appears to be fully accurate, I don't think it establishes the point that the Reformed Puritan is trying to make. I don't think it says that infants are punished only for personal and not imputed sin.


Murder Update

Murder Update

Here's a particularly brazen couple, who are providing a great example of exortion.


They threaten to kill their own child, unless , within three months, they are paid $50,000.

It is a particularly depraved person who will hold his own child hostage for ransom.

In case they happen to read this post, no - I won't pay; and if you kill the child, you must deal with the moral, physical, and psychological consequences.

Shame on you!


P.S. Of course, there is a real possibility that this is simply a scam, and that there is no couple and no child, just a greedy person who wants money. Only the most naive person would contribute money to these folks.

Response to Dave Armstrong's Reply - Part II

Response to Dave Armstrong's Reply
to James White's Review of
One-Minute Apologist, by Dave Armstrong

Here's a link to the reply. (Dr. White has provided his own response, here.) There are several parts to Mr. Armstrong's reply, and doing justice in response requires separating the issues into those parts, and replying to each seriatim. Part 1, relating to the Roman Catholic departure from the Scriptural identity between Bishop and Elder is provided above (link). The present post relates to the donation of the keys.

2. Keys to Peter alone?

A. Original Argument by Dave Armstrong

Dave Armstrong had written: "Peter alone is given the 'keys of the kingdom of heaven'--a symbol of stewardship and supervisory capacity over the house of God, or the Church," with a footnote pointing to Matthew 16:19.

Matthew 16:19 states: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

B. Dr. White's response

Dr. White had pointed out that Armstrong's reliance on Matthew 16:19 as indicating a donation of the keys to Peter alone is fatally flawed, because Matthew 16:19 is future tense: it is not recording the donation of the keys, but pointing forward to it.

Dr. White also pointed out the fulfilment of the promise in Matthew 18:18, but notes that there the recipient is clearly not Peter alone, but all the apostles.

Matthew 18:18 states: "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Finally, Dr. White asked: "So I would ask Armstrong: where in Scripture do we see the giving of the keys to Peter alone, as he claims? We all know this is the Roman claim. Outside of the self-serving interpretations of the bishops of Rome, upon what basis are we to accept this claim? "

C. Dave Armstrong's response

DA begins by quoting a comment by Paul Hoffer (who had commented on DA's blog), who wrote:

[A]t Matt. 16:18, Jesus says to Peter that He "will" give Peter the keys of the kingdom. Is he trying to say that Jesus is not a person that keeps His word because the Scriptures don't record the actual conveyance of keys later? If one reduces Mr. White's argument to its logical conclusion, it would suggest that Jesus is not "the Man of His Word (pun intended).

(reproduced as presented on DA's blog)

DA then adds his own two cents:

Yes, I thought this was rather bizarre and striking also. What does it matter what tense the statement was? Obviously Peter was singled out for an extraordinary position and we can assume from common sense that Jesus intended for this to be during his earthly lifetime.So who cares whether it was a reference to the future? The fact remains that only Peter was promised the "keys of the kingdom." What God says will happen inevitably does happen. Another fallacy of White is to assume that "binding and loosing" represents the sum total of the responsibilities and prerogatives of the "keyholder." This is untrue. It involves much more than that.

In addition to this, DA spends a significant amount of time and space seeking to establish that the "power of the keys" (note that this is not the Biblical description) is that of a steward or vizier. DA relies on various authors in support of his keys-steward connection, including some Protestants. In addition, DA links to a pair of his own previous posts, in which he had generally addressed the topic of the keys and Peter, and which appear to be the source material that DA has reposted in this post.

D. Response / Surcritique

i. Missed the point

Mr. Armstrong seems to miss the point of Dr. White's argument. Whether he misses it or not, Mr. Armostrong fails to interact in any substantive way with the argument. Mr. Armstong's one argument that comes close to interacting with Dr. White's argument is the argument he adopts from Mr. Hoffer. Unfortunately, Mr. Hoffer also missed Dr. White's point. Let's explicate.

Mr. Hoffer (and DA by adoption of Mr. Hoffer's argument) seems to think that Dr. White is saying that Jesus promised to give Peter the keys, but then never did. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. White clearly indicated that Peter was given the keys, two chapters later.

ii. The main points remains unaddressed by DA

As noted in my parallel discussion with Mr. Hoffer (PH, TF, PH, TF, PH, TF), the main points are this:

a. Matthew 16:19 is not the time when Peter received the keys.

b. Matthew 18:18 (in Dr. White's view) is the time when Peter received the keys.

c. When Peter received the keys in Matthew 18:18, he did not receive them alone, but with all the apostles (note the "ye" in Matthew 18:18 above).

d. The explanation for Jesus using third person singular in Matthew 16:19 is that Jesus was speaking directly to Peter.

e. The word "alone" or any equivalent thereof is not found Matthew 16:19.

Thus, Matthew 16:19 does not teach or suggest that Peter alone received the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and Matthew 18:18 indicates that at least the other apostles also received what Peter was promised in Matthew 16:19.

iii. There is a Roman Catholic viewpoint that DA could try to defend

As noted by Mr. Hoffer in the parallel dialogue linked above, Vatican I claimed that the keys were given to Peter in the famous "Feed my sheep" dialogue. Mr. Armstrong could try to present explanation as to why that passage is a more valid fulfillment of the promise to Peter in Matthew 16:19 than is the fulfillment that Dr. White identified in Matthew 18:18.

Mr. Armstrong, however, completely omits any such apology.

iv. Even if Vatican I were correct about the (apparently ad hoc) connection between "keys" and "Feed my sheep" again there is no indication that the feeding of the sheep was entrusted to Peter alone.

Indeed, the Apostle Peter himself does not claim a unique role in that regard, but writes:

1 Peter 5:1-4
1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

The duties and responsibilities of feeding the sheep are something that Peter does not claim for himself, that he explicitly denies is monarchical ("neither as being lords" "neque ut dominantes" "μηδε ως κατακυριευοντες"), but rather exemplary ("but being ensamples" "sed formae facti" "αλλα τυποι γινομενοι"). Additionally, he points to Christ as the head Shepherd ("the chief Shepherd" "princeps pastorum" "του αρχιποιμενος") and refers to himself only as a co-elder with the other elders ("who am also an elder" "consenior" "ο συμπρεσβυτερος").

v. Furthermore, Vatican I's interpretation (to the extent that it asserts that the keys were given to Peter alone) is inconsistent with Trent's interpretation

Trent relates the power of the keys to the confessional, to all the priests and bishops, and to the Church:

From the institution of the sacrament of Penance as already explained, the universal Church has always understood, that the entire confession of sins was also instituted by the Lord, and is of divine right necessary for all who have fallen after baptism; because that our Lord Jesus Christ, when about to ascend from earth to heaven, left priests His own vicars, as presidents and judges, unto whom all the mortal crimes, into which the faithful of Christ may have fallen, should be carried, in order that, in accordance with the power of the keys, they may pronounce the sentence of forgiveness or retention of sins.

(Session 14th, Chapter V, On Confession)

But, as regards the minister of this sacrament, the holy Synod declares all these doctrines to be false, and utterly alien from the truth of the Gospel, which perniciously extend the ministry of the keys to any others soever besides bishops and priests; imagining, contrary to the institution of this sacrament, that those words of our Lord, Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in heaven, and, Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained,were in such wise addressed to all the faithful of Christ indifferently and indiscriminately, as that every one has the power of forgiving sins,-public sins to wit by rebuke, provided he that is rebuked shall acquiesce, and secret sins by a voluntary confession made to any individual whatsoever.

(Session 14th, Chapter VI, On the ministry of this Sacrament, and Absolution)

For the ancient Fathers likewise both believe and teach, that the keys of the priests were given, not to loose only, but also to bind.

(Session 14th, Chapter VIII, On the necessity and on the fruit of Satisfaction)

CANON XV.--If any one saith, that the keys are given to the Church, only to loose, not also to bind; and that, therefore, priests act contrary to the purpose of the keys, and contrary to the institution of Christ, when they impose punishments on those who confess; and that it is a fiction, that, after the eternal punishment, has, by virtue of the keys, been removed, there remains for the most part a temporal punishment to be discharged; let him be anathema.

(On the most Holy Sacrament of Penance)

C. Conclusion

As has been shown above, Mr. Armstrong's response on the keys is entirely without merit. He fails to address the argument presented, he fails to defend the modern Roman Catholic view, and the modern Roman Catholic view itself is inconsistent with the historic Roman Catholic view expressed by the council of Trent. Consequently, even the testimony of the RCC is set against itself, and cannot stand. Thus, Mr. Armstrong's position is both Scripturally and historically untenable and should be rejected by all the faithful.


P.S. Note that there were other issues raised in Dr. White's review. These were not directly related to Mr. Armstrong's book, and I'm not sure that additional discussion on them is needed. Accordingly, at the present time, I'm not inclined to follow up with a more detailed response. The first part of the response and the present response jointly and fully establish the flaws of Mr. Armstrong's presentation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Judas Iscariot - Response to Sippo

Judas Iscariot
A Response to Art Sippo's Synthesis

In a recent blog post, (link), Roman Catholic (lay) apologist, "Art-of-Attack" Sippo attempts to strike a middle path between extreme views of Judas. He think the conventional view of Judas is too harsh, while he realizes that the Gnostic portrayal is clearly wrong.

It's really undeniable that Judas is portrayed in a harshly negative light by Scripture. Here's an exhaustive list of the passages in which Judas is mentioned by name. In every single one, something bad about Judas is mentioned, most of the time focusing on his betrayal of Jesus, though his avarice and suicide are also mentioned.

Matthew 10:4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

Matthew 26:14-15
14Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

Matthew 26:25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

Matthew 26:47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.

Matthew 27:3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

Mark 3:19 And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.

Mark 14:10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.

Mark 14:43 And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

Luke 6:16 And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.

Luke 22:3 Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.

Luke 22:47-48
47And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. 48But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

John 6:70-71
70Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

John 12:4-6
4Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 5Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

John 13:2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;

John 13:21-30
21When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. 22Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. 23Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 26Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 28Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 29For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

John 18:1-5
1When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. 2And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. 3Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? 5They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.

Acts 1:16-20
16Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 17For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 18Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 20For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

Acts 1:24-25
24And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
Sippo provokes a response from the Reformed church when he writes:

First of all, Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve Apostles chosen by Jesus himself to be in his inner circle and literally in his messianic Sanhedrin. For this reason, even as a child I could never understand why Jesus would have let an evil person get so close to him. There must have been something good -- if not exemplary -- in this man for Jesus to have elevated him to such an intimate relationship with Him. I cannot believe that Jesus would pick someone just to be His betrayer. There must have been more depth and character to Judas of which we are unaware.

I respond:

Sippo's mistake is understandable, because he is embedded in a religion of merit and works righteousness. It is hard for Sippo to imagine that God could choose an unworthy man for the role of apostle. Yet, Paul himself was most unworthy to be called an apostle because He persecuted the church. Paul was not saved because of something good in him, but despite the great evil in him. Judas was picked to be the betrayer. Recall Jesus' own words to that effect in John 6.

Jesus himself refers to Judas Iscariot as a devil.

Sippo even goes so far as to question Judas' avarice, claiming that the Apostles disliked Judas and exagerated his faults!

The Gospels tend to magnify Judas' faults and portray him as a hypocrite. We are told that he held the common purse of the group and stole from it (John 12:6). But is that not a mere peccadillo of which many of us are guilty? Who hasn't padded an expense account or somehow funded a pet project from company funds? Mea culpa! I find the fact that Jesus trusted Judas with money to indicate that he was a better candidate to do so than any of the other disciples. He may have dipped into the till, but he also may have been very careful with how the money was spent and kept everyone on a budget. Maybe the other Apostles resented how Judas controlled the purse strings. Nobody likes a bean-counter.

That's simply shocking. It's not as though Jesus and the 12 had much money at all. Recall that Jesus indicated that he did not even have a place to lay his head. Furthermore, when it came to ride into Jerusalem, Jesus did not have the cash for a mule. Perhaps we might even go so far as to suggest that Judas' theft is what kept Jesus poor, but to suggest that Judas was hated because he was a good accountant that occasionally padded an expense report is bizarre!

Sippo's punchline is about equally shocking:

I sincerely believe that Judas did not intend to betray Jesus to his death. Instead I think that was trying to goad Jesus into a final confrontation with the High Priest which he thought Jesus would win.

One is almost left without words! Judas may have be unaware that the Jews would kill Jesus, but he certainly intended to betray Jesus, and Judas certainly did do it for the money.

Furthermore, immediately before Judas' pretend interest in the poor (at least, immediately before in the order of Matthew, though not necessarily immediately before chronologically), Jesus had told the disciples:

Matthew 26:1-4
1And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, 2Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. 3Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.

Judas should have known that the betrayer was betraying him unto crucifixion, even if the Jews somehow hid their murderous intent from Judas when they solicited his betrayal of Christ.

It is a strained optimism to suppose that Judas thought it impossible that his betrayal would result in the death of our Lord. Jesus had often spoken of his death before hand, and we are told that the idea to betray Jesus was placed into Judas' mind by Satan.

Sippo goes on to speculate that Christ's death caught Judas by surprise, and that it was the surprise of a plan gone wrong that caused Judas' remorse. The problem is this, there is a powerful Scriptural reason not to suppose that Judas was not merely a misguided well-wisher, intending to set up Jesus so that Jesus could triumph over the Jewish leaders.

The Apostle Peter (in Acts 1) declared that Judas was to be numbered as one of those foretold by Psalms 69 and 109, i.e. that Judas was a wicked man. Furthermore, Peter, in his prayer, acknowledged that Judas fell from the ministry and apostleship by transgression.

But Peter does not stop there, he indicates that Judas fell "that he might go to his own place." That is to say, this was the place to which Judas was appointed, namely to hell. It's something that should give us all pause.

After all the punchlines, Sippo reminds us of his works-based religion with this closing remark:

And this hope serves a higher purpose. If there can be hope for Judas Iscariot, then there is hope for the rest of us! And to be honest, I identify better with the poor screw-up who blew it than with those sleek and sassy saints who never seem to have taken a misstep. May God have mercy on us all!

I respond:
What Sippo correctly realizes is that we all make mistakes. If perfect obedience were the measure of salvation, then no one (not even those whom Sippo calls the "sleek and sassy saints") would be saved. Our hope is in the substitionary work of our Christ. It is His perfection on our account that saves us, not our works of righteousness. We do not avoid hell because we are more holy than Judas, but because God has chosen to show mercy upon us. Sippo's request for mercy is exactly right in one respect - it is mercy that we need to be saved. Sippo's request is somewhat off in another respect, however, namely that God will not have mercy on all, but on whom He wishes to have mercy - which is not necessarily those who are the most deserving.

Accordingly, we should see Judas' example and tremble. It is not enough to go to a good church, to be in the fellowship of the apostles, or even to be a disciple sitting at the feet of Jesus himself. Our hearts must be changed, we must trust in Jesus, we must love God, and worship Him.

And yet Judas is a testimony to the goodness of God, and an answer to the supposed problem of evil. Judas, Satan, and the Jews had bad intent and purpose in the crucifixion, but God meant it unto good to save much people. God, therefore, ordained that the wickedness of man should be the instrument of crucifying His only begotten Son and the salvation of his flock, the elect.

May God provide us with both fear and praise at the story of Judas Iscariot, whose habitation was rendered desolate by the curse of God against sin!


Do Modern Roman Catholic Apologists Care about Pope Leo X?

Do Modern Roman Catholic Apologists Care about Pope Leo X?
Do they fear the automatic excommunication he set in place?

The reason I ask is this.

Leo X, on June 15, 1520, issued a bull, Exsurge Domine, in which (among other things) he demanded the following:
With the advice and consent of these our venerable brothers, with mature deliberation on each and every one of the above theses, and by the authority of almighty God, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own authority, we condemn, reprobate, and reject completely each of these theses or errors as either heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth. By listing them, we decree and declare that all the faithful of both sexes must regard them as condemned, reprobated, and rejected….We restrain all in the virtue of holy obedience and under the penalty of an automatic major excommunication....
Moreover, because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther, we likewise condemn, reprobate, and reject completely the books and all the writings and sermons of the said Martin, whether in Latin or any other language, containing the said errors or any one of them; and we wish them to be regarded as utterly condemned, reprobated, and rejected. We forbid each and every one of the faithful of either sex, in virtue of holy obedience and under the above penalties to be incurred automatically, to read, assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or defend them. They will incur these penalties if they presume to uphold them in any way, personally or through another or others, directly or indirectly, tacitly or explicitly, publicly or occultly, either in their own homes or in other public or private places.

In case you missed it, it states that all the faithful of either sex is (under penalty of automatic major excommunication) forbidden even to read the books or writings of Martin Luther.

Nevertheless, some lay apologists have recently begun reading, and indeed republishing on the Interent various portions of Luther's writings. I've even seen some (but certainly fewer) go so far as to praise Luther's writings.

Now, Leo's bull, which summoned the authority of both Peter and Paul, is almost 500 years old. Perhaps these lay apologists have merely forgotten it. Or perhaps some later council or Pope, by some higher authority than Peter and Paul has set aside this bull. I do not pretend to have an exhaustive knowledge of the machinations of the Vatican.

Can anyone shed any light on the subject? As far as I can see, all of those lay apologists (and perhaps even some ordained apologists) are under Leo's automatic major excommunication. Furthermore, as Leo pointed out (negatively) in the same bull, it is (according to Leo) an error to suppose that "Christians must be taught to cherish excommunications rather than to fear them." So then, if Leo is to be trusted (and I certainly would say he should not - but then again I am not in communion with Pontificus Maximus) then those lay (or ordained) apologists should be in fear. But I have not detected any hint of this fear. How can it be? Have I missed some subsequent overruling of Leo's dispensation of Peter's and Paul's power? Or perhaps Luther's rebuttal (use the bull as kindling) was sufficient to revoke the bull.

Ah yes, for the truly dubious, here is the obligatory link to source. (link) See also (link).