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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Luther's Chronology, Part 6e (Barr – Textual variations / criticism)

In Part 6d of this series (Table of Contents in Part 1 here), I reviewed the use of "theoretical schematism" of Professor James Barr († 2006) to criticize biblical chronology.
Again, these reviews of Barr make use of his four essays:
  1. UBC – Ussher and Biblical Chronology, 1985
  2. BCLS – Biblical Chronology: Legend Or Science?, 1987
  3. LBC – Luther and Biblical Chronology, 1990
  4. PSC – Pre-scientific Chronology, 1999
In this Part 6e, I will cover Barr's use of textual criticism, and so-called textual variations.  I highlight in yellow the pertinent wording and in some cases I follow with some comments of mine directly afterward highlighted in green.
UBC, pg 583:
In the seventeenth century, and indeed in Ussher's own time, a further new discovery [beyond Septuagint Greek Bible] had still more emphasized the question of textual variation. The Samaritan Bible contained only the Pentateuch, and in Hebrew, though in a script different from that of the Jewish text. Made known to the west through a discovery in Damascus in 1616, it immediately achieved considerable renown. Many scholars thought it superior to the accepted Jewish text.
*** "Textual variation" – a favorite subject of "critical" writers like Professor Barr — we can't be sure about our Bible because of these.  But not so for believers, for they have received the Word of God through the "received text", especially Luther's Bible and KJV.  The Bible was written that we "... might believe that Jesus is the Christ" (John 20:31)  Professor Barr and all modern theologians stumble on their "scholarly", "scientific" judgments.  ***

UBC, pg 584:
In ... 1583, Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609) published his de emendatione temporum, the foundation of scientific chronology. He was a Calvinist, and professor at Geneva, later at Leiden, and an enormous scholar in classical and historical learning, in textual criticism and in the critique of sources.
*** Ok, I should be shaking in my boots, me – a Bible believer, at such an enormous scholar in textual criticism... a Calvinist at that! What would I do without "scientific chronology"! ***

UBC, pg 588:
Would this, then, not have suggested that the true chronology of biblical times should be built upon the Septuagint's figures all the way through? Not according to Ussher. He adhered to the Jewish Hebrew text (not the Samaritan) throughout, and where the New Testament contradicted the obvious meaning of it he used his interpretative wiles to explain it in agreement with the New Testament.
*** Here Barr has a point that Ussher is indeed inconsistent.  Not so Luther, who held to the OT chronology where it differed from a NT passage because the OT chronology was the source of chronology, not the NT which sometimes followed the Greek Septuagint. I suppose one could say there is value in reading Professor Barr's judgments but why not just read the Bible... and Martin Luther?  ***

UBC, pg 589:
... out of the 430 years found by simple addition from the books of Kings, 58 years have to be disposed of as cases of overlapping, results of textual mistakes, theoretical schematism or pure historical errors of the sources.

UBC, pg 598:
Ussher stuck steadfastly to the Hebraica veritas, the truth as expressed in the traditional Hebrew text.... Ussher's chronology could be directly attached to the English Bible that everyone used and read in conjunction with it. No system which appealed at times to the Septuagint or the Samaritan [text] could have had that sort of acceptance.
*** Maybe Barr does not agree with this?  Maybe the Septuagint and Samaritan texts had some truth where they differed from the Hebrew text? He does not say it here but see next item... ***

UBC, pg 601:
It is probable that in the last stages of the development of the Old Testament chronological interests became more lively, and that some of the data we now have in our Bibles are products of late editing and comparable with the adjustments we see in the Samaritan and Greek texts. ...

UBC, pg 605, appendix a.:
The figures of the kingdom [of Judah] must be accounted for through textual errors, or through overlaps and coregencies, or on the grounds that they were adjusted to fit a theoretical chronological schematism
*** "textual errors" and "theoretical chronological schematism" – Barr's devices to make the Bible believable (?) ***

BCLS, pg 6, pdf page 7:
It is likely that these various sets of figures imply that in fairly late times attempts were still being made to adjust and realign the chronology of the Old Testament. This is confirmed by a work like the Book of Jubilees, which is a rewrite of Genesis-Exodus, coming from the third or second century BC.

BCLS, pg 6, pdf page 7:
...at that time [time of the Flood] the last touches were added to the Book of Genesis; moreover, the special place of Enoch in the genealogy of Genesis cannot be unconnected with the Book of Enoch, a 2nd-century BC work concerned with astronomy and heavenly things.
*** "late times attempts ... to adjust ... the Old Testament" and "last touches added to Genesis" clearly shows Barr's complete failure as a Christian theologian since he denies the Bible was written by the Prophets themselves. ***

BCLS, pg 6, pdf page 8:
[Paul in Gal. 3:17] put in the exact figure of 430 because he knew it very well: it was familiar and obvious to him. Moreover, no one today will doubt that in this he followed the text of the Greek and the Samaritan, both of which made the figure of 430 in Exod. 12:40 cover not only the time of  Israel in Egypt but also its time in Canaan beforehand, i.e. going right back to Abraham’s entry into the land.
***  Barr basically says no reasonable person would say that the Bible does not contain an error here.  This is a direct attack on the veracity of Scripture for he is using Scripture against Scripture.  Franz Pieper responds thus (Christian Dogmatics volume 1, p. 251):
We are of the opinion that human reason, if it be reasonable, must refrain from explaining the departure of the New Testament quotation from the wording of the Old Testament by assuming "mistakes" or "slips of memory" in the holy writers. There is but one explanation: the Holy Ghost is speaking through the Apostles and is "taking liberties" with His own Word. And as the apparent contradictions in the Scriptures prove that the Scriptures are not a fabrication of designing men, so particularly the manner in which the Evangelists and Apostles quote the Old Testament is a powerful proof that they have not spoken and written of themselves, not by purely human deliberation, but that they wrote by inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

BCLS, pg 10-11, pdf page 11:
Another factor which brought chronological questions into the limelight at the time was the discovery, in 1616, of the Samaritan text of the Pentateuch. It was widely noted for its different chronological figures from the standard Jewish text; and many people thought that the Samaritan was in this respect the better. ... another, but different,text in the original language, and thus presented a new challenge.

BCLS, pg 11, pdf page 13:
... the existence of variant texts, of which the Samaritan, being in actual Hebrew and of ancient repute (its alphabet was exotic and more ancient in history than that normally used by Jews), was the most powerful.

BCLS, pg 11, pdf page 13:
One could say that the Masoretic text must be right, but for Christians that could only be a purely dogmatic decision: there was no good reason why it must be right.
*** There are good reasons for Christians, contrary to Barr's assertion.  The testimony of the Holy Spirit, the testimony of the church – believers through the ages.  That is what "textus receptus" means – the received text, received by the believing church. The doctrine of other texts that vary in doctrine, e.g. gnostic texts were not received by the church.  ***

BCLS, page 11, pdf page 13:
But if Paul, who was a totally inspired and authoritative person, actually followed the Septuagint or any other text, then that must mean that the Masoretic Hebrew is not absolutely inspired and right, since a text that differs from it may be correct. Even one such discrepancy totally destroys the possibility of a biblical chronology on the old style. Biblical chronology has to be perfect, otherwise it breaks down altogether.
     ***  Barr pits the Septuagint Greek text against the Hebrew text of O.T.  But Franz Pieper answered this objection nicely in his Christian Dogmatics, vol. 1, pgs 250-251:
The form of the Old Testament quotations as given in the New Testament does therefore not prove "fatal" to the theory of "verbal inspiration," but is, on the contrary, a mighty proof of inspiration. ... . There is but one explanation: the Holy Ghost is speaking through the Apostles and is "taking liberties" with His own Word.

LBC, pg 56:
And a moment's admission of a copying error in either Chronicles or Kings would have shattered the whole frail edifice.
*** Barr's solution to difference between 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings is "a copying error".  But Luther's solution was to "believe that in the Scriptures the true God speaks" and would rather show that the received text could indeed be without error, even though he would admit a possible "copyist error". ***

LBC, pg 57:
The figures given for all the kings of Judah, from the fourth year of Solomon, when the temple was commenced, to its destruction, add up to 430 years. Modern scholars consider the true historical period to have been just over 370 years: in other words, out of the sum of 430 found by pure addition they have to account for over fifty as cases of overlapping, theoretical schematism, different chronologies, mistakes of the authors and textual errors in transmission.

PSC, pg 382:
... the Bible existed in at least three textual traditions,which differed in the chronological figures, ... Anyway, one can see that the differences of text (Hebrew, Greek Septuagint, Samaritan Hebrew) form a difficulty.
*** See my comments shown under UBC, pg 583 above ***
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Most of these points were answered in my blog post that brought out Franz Pieper's defense against the objections to Inspiration based on variant readings.  The strongest evidence he brings is God's own promise to believers:
We know we have this Word a priori, that is, prior to any human investigation, on the basis of the divine promise.When our Savior says in His high-priestly prayer (John 17:20) that all those who will come to faith to the end of time will come to faith through the Word of the Apostles, He therewith promises us that the Word of the Apostles will be present in the Church to the Last Day. Again, when Christ admonishes all believers to continue in His Word (John 8:31-32: "If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth"), He guarantees that His Word will be present for us to continue in it.
Although Pieper also points out reasons a posteriori (after the fact) why we have God's Word even today in our Bible, I can add to his points with a recent article by Albert Mohler, a fundamentalist Southern Baptist, on a discovery of an ancient papyrus fragment purportedly teaching that Jesus had a wife.  His article is entitled "The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? When Sensationalism Masquerades as Scholarship" and indeed shows its "discovery" is sensationalism intended to cause Christians to question their Bible.

Lest anyone think that Franz Pieper "buried his head in the sand", hear what he says further (C.D., vol. 1, pg 240):
We, too, in our theological seminary at St. Louis introduce our students to modern textual criticism. That is a part of the complete external equipment of a theologian of our day.  But we point out two things to our students: 1) We know a priori from the divine promise that in our present Bible we have the Word of Christ which is to be taught in the Church and by the Church to the Last Day. 2) We recognize, too, a posteriori, that the divine providence has so wonderfully held its protecting hand over the Bible text that in spite of the variae lectiones not a single Christian doctrine has become a matter of doubt.
Textual criticism was not viewed by Pieper as something necessary for Christians but rather to be defended against so that their Christian faith, which has no basis other than God's Word, would not be shaken but strengthened.

In the next Part 6f, I will cover Barr's pointed remarks about the Bible's "inconsistencies" and "errors".

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