Saturday, May 17, 2014

Responses to Miscellaneous Canon Questions and Objections

1) What is the canon? Is it an "authoritative list of books"?

It's better to think of the canon as the list of authoritative books. An official canon may itself be in some sense authoritative, but in that case it is an authoritative list of authoritative books. Even before any "authority" pronounces what the list is, the books have authority and are to be included in the list because of their authority, not because of the authority of the person or group making the list.  Thus, a canon list can be wrong.

2) Were the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of ben Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, and 1 & 2 Maccabees as well as the parts of books such as Baruch, the Epistle of Jeremiah, the Prayer of Azarias, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and six additional chapters in Esther, part of the Jewish canon? 

No.  The evidence is that they were not.  That's especially true of the Wisdom of Solomon, which wasn't even written in Hebrew or Aramaic.

3) Were they only excluded in the 2nd century A.D. in reaction to Christian usage of the Old Testament? 

a) It's hard to argue that the Samaritans excluded them on that ground.  They apparently only viewed the Pentateuch as canonical.  Some have asserted that the Saducees agreed with them.
b) Likewise, it's hard to explain the first century Pharisees' exclusion of them on that ground.
c) In fact, what is the supposed documentation? Is it just that they were rejected together with the New Testament books?

4) Was the Old Testament canon closed in the 1st century?

It may not have been closed in the sense of not being open to future additions, but it was closed in the sense of having an identifiable group of already-written books associated with the word "Scripture."  When Jesus said, "Search the Scriptures," the Pharisees didn't say "and what books are those?"

5) Objection: "There's no list closing the canon, before Christ."

Even if no such list exists, what difference does that make?  The argument seems to presuppose that one needs to have an authoritative list, in order for the canon to have definite shape.

6) Objection: "The three-fold division (in Sirach and in the NT) just refers to three stages of canon development and the 'the writings' category was an open one"

This argument hinges on the assertion that the "writings" category was still open, but where is the documentation to support this assertion?  On the contrary, the usage in Sirach and the New Testament seems to point to a fixed body of known works.

7) Objection: "Although the deutero-canonicals are not cited as Scripture in the New Testament there is reliance on them and some of the proto-canonicals are also not cited."

a) This, incidentally, is an undercutting argument with respect to item (3) above, about the reason for Jewish rejection being Christian acceptance.
b) It's just one evidence that the deuteros are not canonical.  It's not in itself the definitive proof.
c) There are good reason for including the unquoted protocanonicals.

8) Objection: "Hebrews 11 mentions martyrs of 2 Mac. 7"

Even assuming it does refer to them, there is no particular reason to infer canonicity of an historical account of those people's life.

9) Did Athanasius accept the Deuterocanonical books as inspired?  Did he just use the term "canon" differently?

His Festal Letter 39 puts that debate to rest (source):
4. There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.
5. Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John.
6. These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.’
7. But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.
Notice that Athanasius treats Esther as Deuterocanonical and that Athanasius thinks that Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah were parts of Jeremiah.  So, Athanasius' canon is not exactly the same as our canon.  It is interesting to note that we see a reckoning of 22 books here.  Others in the West have suggested the enumeration was 24 (link to discussion).  While the lists don't all agree with one another exactly, the Deuterocanonicals and Esther are the books that tend to be omitted from the list.  We have good reasons to keep Esther, but we don't have good reasons to the Deuterocanonicals.


Ergun Caner and "Assistant Rabbi" Peter Hirsch

Ergun Caner has several times complained about a post-9/11 ecumenical prayer gathering (sorry, I don't have the speeches and timestamps available).  I think that's why I was surprised to read an account from the Fort-Worth Star Telegram (apparently dated May 3, 2002), reporting Caner's participation in a National Day of Prayer group event (link to article).  The article states:
Ergun Caner, whose family is Turkish, grew up a devout Muslim before converting to Christianity.
"For the first half of my life, I assumed I was supposed to hate you. ... But through the faith and hope of other Christians, they did not return the hate I had for them," said Caner, an assistant professor at The Criswell College. "Pray for the capacity, ability and tenacity to love those who don't love you back."
During the closing blessing, Peter Hirsch, assistant rabbi of the Baruch Ha Shem synagogue, embraced Caner to the cheers of the crowd and said, "Where else can [we], committed Jews, and Dr. Caner, who grew up a committed Muslim, come together and show love for each other?"
a) Unfortunately, the article is not illustrated with a photo of this ecumenical embrace.
b) While Caner's father is from Turkey, his mother is from Sweden.
c) Considering his grandmother (who helped raise him) was apparently a Swedish Lutheran, this allegation of hatred seems implausible.
d) The idea that Caner was "devout" seems implausible in light of his making mistakes like thinking that Ramadan is 40 days long.
e) Oh, and I checked out this "assistant rabbi."  The "Baruch HaShem Synagogue" calls themselves a "Messianic" Jewish synagogue (you can read more about their vision here).


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ergun Caner at SBTS - November 13, 2003

We previously reviewed Dr. Caner's comments on a panel with Mohler at SBTS on November 14, 2003 (link), but somehow we did not review his solo comments from the day before (link to mp3 - link to page for event). He presented a message he titled "The Gospel According to Oprah," which we've heard elsewhere. All time stamps are approximate:

0:10 "In recent months, most of the times when I speak, I speak before hostile crowds. Virginia Tech being the most recent. In those debates with Muslims and such, where the crowd is decidedly not Bible-believing, orthodox Christians. And so I spend a lot of my time getting yelled at, getting called names, and cursed and threatened and such. So it's always good to get among fellow believers."

a) What debates?  Almost all the speaking engagements of Dr. Caner's that we can find evidence of are speeches to Christian audiences.

b) I could not find any evidence of Dr. Caner actually speaking at Virginia Tech, although I did find a transcript in their digital archives of a news program from July 30, 2006, regarding Dr. Caner (link to full text):
Caner was raised a sunni Muslim in Turkey by his father, a prominent Islamic leader.
But at 13, he converted to Christianity, and was promptly disowned by his family.
Now, Caner uses his education as a muslim child, and experience as an immigrant to America, to explain what he sees happening in the Middle East, specifically Israel and Lebanon. 
a) He was not raised in Turkey.
b) While his father may have been a leader in the local Turkish community in Ohio, there's no evidence of greater prominence than that.
c) He was disowned by his non-custodial father, but apparently not by his hippy-universalist mother.
d) The "at 13" may be accurate, but it suggests a date from November 1979 - November 1980, which is different from other accounts of his alleged conversion.

1:10 "My full name is Ergun Mehmet Caner. I am Turkish, was born in Sweden but my family is Turkish, and so we came to this country, my father being an architect, to build mosques."

a) No, his name is Ergun Michael Caner.
b) His father was Turkish, his mother was Swedish.
c) There's no evidence to corroborate this idea that his dad was an architect or that he came to build mosques.

3:25 "You're never gonna have me back."

And not counting the next day's performance (which was already scheduled), they apparently did not.

16:00 "My brother and I do debates on university campuses. In 41 debates, I have never, I have never, did I say 'never'? I mean have never run into one Muslim who ever said "Allah of the Koran is the biblical Jehovah, Adonia, El-Gabor God of the Bible.'  Not one!"

a) What debates?  Where is even one of these debates from a university campus?
b) The Koran itself claims that the Allah described in it is the same one that gave the Torah and the Injeel.

23:25 "I went to college at Cumberland College, just about 12 months after I got saved."

That would suggest a 1983 conversion date, not a 1982 date (as suggested elsewhere), or a 1981 (as suggested in his book).

25:45 "He reached me 1000s of miles away, as a towel-head. I came to this country to be a missionary to you. I assumed that you hated me."

He came as a toddler.

27:05 "They didn't mock my language, or mock my accent, or mock the way I dressed in my full keffiyah, they simply loved me."

What language? Swedish?  What accent? He grew up in Ohio?  The photos we have of him from that era suggest he wore ordinary clothes.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Old Testament Canon: Patristic Use of Isaiah 3:9-10 or Wisdom 2:12?

William Albrecht has a video titled "Patristics and Scripture:Wisdom 2:12" (link).  It's an attempt to argue for the canonicity of the book, The Wisdom of Solomon.  In that video Albrecht says:
The book of Wisdom, a canonical book of Scripture, was a book that was employed quite often by the early church.  Wisdom is a book that can be found in the Septuagint canon, and was a book that was debated upon by early factions within Judaism, and it's a book that was part of the most ancient catalogs of historical Scripture that existed - that exist as well - continue to exist to this day. The book of Wisdom was also considered the historical word of God in the earliest Christian councils that were inspired by the Holy Spirit in determining the canon of Scripture.
The book of Wisdom is an intertestamental book, pseudonymously ascribed to Solomon in the name of the book ("The Wisdom of Solomon"). Although the text of the work itself does not mention Solomon's name, Wisdom 7:1-12, seems to be a clear allusion to Solomon's request for wisdom (rather than riches or power), and the author claims to be the king described.  Thus, this book is rightly regarded as pseudonymous, ascribed to King Solomon, but not written by him.

Saying that the book is "found in the Septuagint" canon is true if you mean that today's Septuagints include it.  If you mean that all ancient Septuagints included it, you would be mistaken.  Recall that Cyril of Jerusalem taught a Septuagint canon that did not include Wisdom of Solomon (link).

Albrecht claims it was "debated upon by early factions within Judaism."  I would love to see any documentation of this supposed debate.  Even the Essene sect, whose cave-preserved texts at Qumran are so valuable to Old Testament textual criticism, did not preserve any copies of this book (although they apparently include at least parts of some version of Sirach, Tobit, and the Epistle of Jeremiah, and numerous other non-canonical works, including a significant amount of so-called wisdom literature).  There is no doubt today that the book was originally written in Greek, and New English Translation of the Septuagint acknowledges this fact in the introduction to the book (link).

The Jewish Encyclopedia has this to say:
Apocryphal book written in Alexandria about the middle of the first century B.C. That it was composed in Greek by an Alexandrian Jew has been conclusively shown by Freudenthal ("J. Q. R." iii. 722-753). The book has neither an introductory verse nor a regular conclusion. In fact, it consists of three independent parts which have no real connection, and which treat of subjects altogether different, a fact clearly recognized by Bretschneider, Eichhorn, and others, but disputed by Grimm ("Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apocryphen des Alten Testaments," vi. 9-24, Leipsic, 1860) and his followers.

As quoted above, Albrecht stated: "The book of Wisdom was also considered the historical word of God in the earliest Christian councils that were inspired by the Holy Spirit in determining the canon of Scripture." I'm not trying to pick on Albrecht's grammar, but if he's suggesting that the councils of Hippo and Carthage that adopted the book of Wisdom were "inspired," then he's mistaken.  More than that, none of the bishops at those councils would have thought themselves inspired, and neither Albrecht's church nor any other has judged those councils to be inspired.  If means that the councils of Hippo and Carthage judged that the book of Wisdom was inspired, perhaps - although perhaps those councils were more concerned with what was ecclesiastical (i.e. to be read in the churches) rather than with what was inspired by God.

In the King James Version, Wisdom 2:12 reads: "Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education."

In the Douay-Rheims Bible, Wisdom 2:12 reads: "Let us therefore lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life."

Albrecht appears to be reading from the Revised Standard Version, where Wisdom 2:12 reads "2 "Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training."

What Albrecht has overlooked is that Isaiah 3:10-11 in the LXX (translated to English by Lancelot Brenton) states: "Woe to their soul, for they have devised an evil counsel against themselves, saying against themselves, Let us bind the just, for he is burdensome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruits of their works. Woe to the transgressor! evils shall happen to him according to the works of his hands."

After quoting the RSV translation of Wisdom 2:12, Albrecht says:
This clear prophecy of our God, of our Savior, of our Lord Christ Jesus, this clear prophecy was adored and preached from consistently in the early, historical Christian church.
It looks more like a general statement about the righteous than about Jesus specifically.  Remember that Wisdom is Sapiential literature, like Proverbs or Sirach.  Most of the description of the righteous could probably be applied to Jesus, but it is not even clear that the author intended to speak of the future.

Albrecht goes on to quote Ambrose of Milan (340-397) as supposedly referencing Wisdom 2:12 (in his Exposition on Psalm 35, at section 3) and seemingly ascribing it to Jesus.  The provided quotation has Ambrose saying "The Lord reproaches the Jews, "I made myself poor for you, I suffered for you, and you have raised impious hands, saying, 'Let us rid ourselves of the righteous one, because he is useless to us." The italics are the words perceived as coming from Wisdom 2:12.  Nevertheless, the same idea is found in LXX Isiah 3:10, quoted above.  Furthermore, Isaiah 3, but not Wisdom 2, includes a first person address from the Lord.

Albrecht then quotes from Athanasius (296-373) as supposedly referencing Wisdom 2:12 (apparently from Letter 19) and seemingly ascribing it to a prophet.  The text says "And what their end is, the prophet foretold, crying, 'Woe unto their soul, for they have devised an evil thought, saying, let us bind the just man, because he is not pleasing to us.'"  (link to source)  Here it is definitely a reference to LXX Isaiah 3:10.  The "Woe unto their soul" is from Isaiah but not from Wisdom.

Albrecht then says "Athanasius was clear, he was clear that the book of Wisdom was prophetic, was Scripture."  No. Albrecht has misunderstood Athanasius.

Athanasius wrote (in Letter 19 - alternative translation here):
But this displeased them. They were not anxious to understand, for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (l Cor. 2,8.) And what is the end of these, the prophet before pronounced, saying, Woe unto their souls, for they have devised an evil thought, saying, let us bind the just man, because he is not pleasing to us (Is. 3,9.10). The end of such abandonment as this is nothing but error, as the Lord, when reproving them, saith, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures. (Mat.22,29) 
Albrecht is misidentifying a reference to Isaiah 3 as a reference to Wisdom 2.  The "Woe unto their souls" (from Isaiah, not Wisdom) is a good clue, as well as the fact that "the prophet" is normally Isaiah, just as "the apostle" is normally Paul, in the patristic literature.

We don't have to guess or try to infer whether Athanasius thought that Wisdom was canonical.  In his 39th Festal Letter, Athanasius is explicit that the Wisdom of Solomon is not in the canon of Scripture:
But for the sake of greater accuracy I add, being constrained to write, that there are also other books besides these, which have not indeed been put in the canon, but have been appointed by the Fathers as reading-matter for those who have just come forward and wish to be instructed in the doctrine of piety: the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobias, the so-called Teaching of the Apostles [the Didache], and the Shepherd [of Hermas]. 
Albrecht then quotes from the "Epistle of Barnabas" as supposedly referencing Wisdom 2:12 (chapter 6) where the author seems to ascribe the text to a prophet. "Forasmuch then as He was about to be manifested in the flesh and to suffer, His suffering was manifested beforehand. For the prophet saith concerning Israel; Woe unto their soul, for they have counseled evil counsel against themselves saying, Let us bind the righteous one, for he is unprofitable for us." As above, the prophet here is surely Isaiah (link to source).

Albrecht then quotes from Cyril of Alexandria (376 – 444) as supposedly referencing Wisdom 2:12 (Commentary on John Book 18, Chapter 12, on John 18:12) seemingly ascribing the text to a prophet. The text states "For the Jews were bent on showing to us, that that was indeed truly spoken of them which the prophet put into their mouths: Let us bind the righteous Man, for He is useless unto us. " (link to source)  But yet again, this is a reference to LXX Isaiah, not Wisdom.

Albrecht's mistake is somewhat understandable.  A number of patristic sources have the wrong citation or some ambiguity about the citation, due to the fact that the reading at LXX Isaiah 3 is different from the MT and Vulgate.  Nevertheless, Albrecht is wrong, and he should withdraw his claims.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Garry Wills on Community Functions in Paul's Epistles

Garry Wills (self-identified Catholic, though he does not accept Transubstantiation and the priesthood) in "Why Priests?" describes the evidence in Paul's epistles regarding the community functions (pp. 10-11):
Thus community functions (not offices) are direct gifts (charismata) of the Spirit, making the early community charistmatic in the root original sense, entirely guided by the Spirit, not by hierarchical rule or appointment to offices. Paul mentions eleven such charismata in his First Letter to Corinthinans:
There are diverse charisms, but from the same Spirit. There are distinct ways of serving, but of the same Lord. There are distinct ways of acting, but the same God is at work in all acts of all the actors. The Spirit makes itself known in a particular person for the general good. One man, through the Spirit, has the gift of wise speech, while another, by the power of the same Spirit, can put the deepest knowledge into words. Another's fidelity is from the same Spirit. Another has the gift of healing and it is still one Spirit. Another can work miracles, another can prophesy, another can read spiritual impulses, another can speak different languages, another can interpret languages. At work in all these things is the single and shared Spirit, distributing them as seems best individually. (12.4-11)
You are the body of Christ, each individually a part of it, from which God has provided for the gathering--first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then miracle-working, then healing gifts, help-providing, guidance-offering, kinds of speaking in tongues. Are all people apostles, all prophets, all teachers, all miracle workers, all with the gift of healing, all speaking in tongues, all interpreters of tongues? Strive for higher gifts than these. (12.27-31)
At Romans 12.7-8 he mentions four other charismata--for the supporter (parakalon), the servant (diakonos), the almsgiver (metadidous), and the representative (proistamenos). At Ephesians 4.11 he adds another charism, that of the shepherd (poimen). That makes sixteen actions prompted by the Spirit, none of them an office, each distinguished from the rest. Nowhere is the word "priest" (hierus) used in describing the services rendered by those receiving charismata.
Wills' point is more significant to the debate with Roman Catholics than one may immediately realize.  If Christ had left a church resembling the Roman Catholic Church, with its massive emphasis and central role of the priesthood, it would be absolutely remarkable that when Paul writes about the gifts given to the church, the gift of the priesthood is not among them - everything from apostle to almsgiver is mentioned, but not priest.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Craig's Dilemma - Escape for Aseity, but Hello Grounding Objection

William Lane Craig says he doesn't think aseity is threatened by middle knowledge, because he is an anti-realist with respect to abstract objects including possible worlds.  In other words, he views possible worlds as non-existent.  Thus, God's middle knowledge is not dependent on something outside himself.

While that's an understandable response, it runs smack into the grounding objection (discussed in more detail here).  By definition, middle knowledge is neither based on God's nature (or else it would be natural knowledge) nor based on God's volition (or else it would be free knowledge).

So, either what is called middle knowledge is based on something in God himself (in which case it is really free or natural knowledge, and there is no middle knowledge as such) or middle knowledge is based on something outside God (in which case we have the aseity problem).  It does not seem possible that grounds could be something that is outside God but that doesn't exist, since - by definition - nothing meets that definition.