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Friday, October 12, 2012

Luther's Chronology, Part 6f (Barr – Bible "inconsistencies, errors")

In Part 6e of this series (Table of Contents in Part 1 here), I reviewed the objections of Professor James Barr († 2006) to biblical chronology based on textual variations and criticism.
Again, these reviews of Barr make use of his four essays:
  1. UBC – Ussher and Biblical Chronology, 1985 (archived here)
  2. BCLS – Biblical Chronology: Legend Or Science?, 1987 (archived here)
  3. LBC – Luther and Biblical Chronology, 1990 (archived here)
  4. PSC – Pre-scientific Chronology, 1999 (archived here)
In this Part 6f, I will cover Barr's pointed remarks about the Bible's "inconsistencies" and "errors".   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 587:
For Ussher everything in the Bible was correct and accurate. This principle, however, was modified in those cases where two biblical passages [on Abraham's birth date in Acts 7:4 and Genesis 11] seemed to conflict. There was room for much freedom in interpretation, and need for much ingenuity.
*** But for you, Prof. Barr the modern scholar, not everything in the Bible is correct and accurate.  Ussher's respect for the Bible is a vestige of the true Protestantism, that is true Lutheranism which holds to an inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible as God's Word. Even though Ussher's judgment in this case was different than Luther's, yet it gives Ussher some authority in chronological matters. ***

UBC, pg 589:
But, if we may leave theoretical chronology [i.e. general biblical chronology] and turn for a moment to historical fact, there is no doubt that the duration of the kingdom was far less than 430 years: the actual historical duration, as modem scholars see it, is about 372 years (Solomon's accession 962 B.C.; start of temple 958; destruction of temple 586). If this is correct, 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.
*** Barr steps out of his review of Ussher to reveal his side, that of "modern scholars" on the period of the kingdoms of Judah.  "historical fact"!, "no doubt"! Yes indeed, we can trust you, Professor Barr for with you, not the Bible, there is no doubt and historical fact. But Barr himself says above "If this is correct..." about his own reckoning. He is not sure of anything, even himself.  And we are supposed to trust his judgment? (see also LBC, pg 57 below)  ***

UBC, pg 598, note 28:
... the more biblicistic emphasis of Protestantism.
*** "biblicistic"?  This is the term used by modern theology like other terms such as biblicism, biblical literalism, bibliolatry, letter worship, etc.  It is an attempt to equate the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible to idolatry. It was used by some of those professors in St. Louis who broke with the teaching of the old (German) Missouri Synod (and Luther and the Lutheran Confessions), many of whom left and formed Seminex. ***

UBC, pg 599:
He [Ussher] did sometimes contradict the plain sense of a biblical text, but this was because there was another biblical text that seemed to require him to do it. The principle of "comparing scripture with scripture", far from producing a clear and manifest agreement, actually served as the mode by which very artificial and implausible interpretations could be introduced. It was actually the assumption that all scripture hung together that forced Ussher at certain points to nullify the extremely probable sense of the text.
*** Tsk tsk, a Calvinist professor thrashing a Calvinist theologian!  Can't you Calvinists agree?  And Professor Barr – you held the key to the "extremely probable sense of the text" – how?  With your "scholarship", your "balanced" approach, your "historical critical" approach to the Bible!  Ah, but see what a red face Barr gets when he reviews Martin Luther's Bible chronology!  Then he goes ballistic! (see LBC, pg 56, etc.) ***

UBC, pg 600:
The Bible in fact left many gaps.
*** Now I know the Bible left gaps in chronology... because Professor Barr said it. Whew, I never thought of that when I read my Bible. But Professor Barr, did you read the passage about God loving the world? John 3:16  Sort of contradicts your theology of Calvinism. ***

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.

BCLS, page 12, pdf page 14
The Bible is supposed to be infallible ...  According to common theory of inspiration, the Holy Spirit prevented all error from getting into the text of the Bible, and yet here, in a most central book [Matthew], no such prevention of error has taken place. But if Matthew can have a completely erroneous sequence of events, then any other chronological indication in the Bible can be erroneous in the same respect.
*** Barr militates the "disparate" sequence of events in the NT against ïnfallibility and a "theory of inspiration". Barr brings all of human reasoning to bear here... it must make sense to his reason in order to be infallible or inspired by God. Barr demands that we can still believe our Bible somewhat and can still be Christians. We MUST believe Professor Barr on this! Ah, but he more than chips away at the foundation for Christianity — he works to make the Bible unbelievable.  ***

LBC, pg 55:
Luther's solution to this question [of Abraham's birth date] is undoubtedly right; it shows common sense and critical ability, while the alternative position as adopted by Calvin and Ussher makes literary nonsense of the Genesis passages.
*** Luther is praised here (see UBC, pg 588 above), not because he gives priority to the Genesis chronology over Acts 7:4, but because he acknowledges that the Book of Acts had an "error". It wasn't common sense or critical ability – it was his faith, faith in the Holy Scriptures. Barr will not allow this, but he will allow that the Book of Acts had an "error". ***

LBC, pg 55:
It is a clear error, Luther says ('iste enim error perspicuus est'), when it says that God appeared to Abraham 'in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran' (Acts 7:2-3)
*** Barr loves to jump on Luther's statement here for he has Luther himself claiming the Bible has an "error".  But Luther explains that this "error" is really not an error because Acts "spoke in careless and popluar terms".  I.e. the Bible is really not a book of chronology, but a book of salvation. John 20:31 ***

LBC, pg 55:
It hardly enters Luther's mind that one or other of these figures [2 Kings and 2 Chron. on Ahaziah age at at his accession] might be simply wrong. He thinks of far more complicated possibilities than that.... Luther took it seriously.
*** Barr's solution is that Holy Scripture is wrong, essentially that it has an error in the inconsistency between 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  But Luther knew that Holy Scripture is without error, so there could be another explanation (besides a copyist error) for the difference in the accounts of Ahaziah, even if it seemed so complicated to Barr. ***

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.
*** See UBC, pg 589 comment above ***

PSC, pg 382:
Some biblical passages were not absolutely clear. The whole thing worked on the assumption that the Bible was without errors and its figures should in general be taken literally, but this tended to breakdown where the Bible had two references to the same event and these did not quite agree
***  Barr shows no interest in being truly reasonable here.  His supposed instances where "two references ... did not quite agree" have been handled by true harmonists and by a submission to the authority of God's Word.  He wants us to be "reasonable" by his definition of reasonable.  ***
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These objections of Barr were largely answered by Franz Pieper and covered in my blog post "Objections to Inspiration (Part 2) – Contradictions, Errors".

In the next Part 6g, I will cover Barr's demand for the use of the "historical critical" methodology – i.e. "scholarship".

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