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Friday, October 12, 2012

Luther's Chronology, Part 6g (Barr – Historical Criticism)

In the last Part 6f of this series (Table of Contents in Part 1), I reviewed the objections of Professor James Barr († 2006) to biblical chronology based on the Bible's "inconsistencies" and "errors".
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 6g, I will cover Barr's demand for the use of the "historical critical" methodology – i.e. "scholarship".   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 599:
In what sense was Ussher "critical"? ... Ussher is rather uncritical, in the sense that he seldom shows any doubt about the correctness of the information his sources give him. This is true not only of the Bible, which by definition was infallible, but also of Greek and Roman sources. What is written down is true history.
*** "the Bible... by definition was infallible" – was infallible?  What do you mean by this, Professor Barr?  Could you mean that you are not a true Protestant, one that believes the Bible is infallible?  Poor Ussher... not very "critical" of the Bible. ***

UBC, pg 599
He 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.... 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.
*** What an affront by Ussher to the precious "historical critical" methodology of Professor Barr!  Barr wants to complement Ussher for "contradicting the plain sense of biblical text", but the fool Ussher did it for the wrong reason: scripture interprets scripture.  Perish the thought that "all scripture hung together"!  So what if Ussher made a questionable call when there were seeming discrepancies between passages of Scripture (i.e. on Abraham's birth date in Acts 7:4 and Genesis 11), I'll take Ussher any day over Barr who must have the right to be judge over God's Word, Holy Scripture! But Luther did make the better call than Ussher - Genesis 11 over Acts 7:4 (LBC, 54-55). ***

UBC, pg 584:
In the very next year, 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.
*** Scaliger appears to be a champion scholar for Barr, and a Calvinist to boot!  But on page 582, Barr reports that Scaliger placed creation in 3950 B.C., about 4000 years, so he wasn't that good of a scholar... surely a scholar would never propose a figure near 4000 years for the O.T. ***

BCLS, pg 10, pdf page 12:
... the critical work on ancient chronologies done by Scaliger in his De emendatione temporum (1583), by the Jesuit Petavius (1627), as well as by others. Chronological questions were a common subject of learned discussion, and men of letters could be expected to know something about them: Sir Thomas Browne for example, wrote attractively about them in his Pseudoxia Epidemica.
*** We learn here of Barr's Hall of Fame of scholars who did critical work on ancient chronologies.  But did they assist Christians in their faith in Holy Scriptures?  While they may have called themselves "Christian", it appears all of these rather called into question the veracity of Scripture.  But Jesus said "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) ***

LBC, pg 56:
Luther had to find these twenty years. His judgement here was the reverse of critical.
*** How disappointing for Professor Barr – that Luther was not "critical", "historical critical", or "textual critical".  Luther would not admit of any error in Holy Scripture.  Barr shows that he is "critical", that we should admit of a "copying error" in the Bible and therefore he is the one that we should trust with our faith, not the Bible.  ***

LBC, pg 60:
A supremely ironic twist to the matter is the fact that Annius [of Viterbo], in order to defend his (forged) histories, developed rules of historical criticism that were considerably in advance of his time.
*** How Professor Barr wished Annius (the forger?) was a better representative of "historical criticism".  But you, Professor Barr are certainly not a forger, even if you are good at "historical criticism" and "textual criticism", even of the Bible. For you are a "scholar" for all Christianity, certainly much better than James Ussher and... Martin Luther! ***
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The "historical critical" methodology of Bible scholarship was a major reason for the downfall of today's (English) LC-MS.  It is well documented in the Wikipedia article on Seminex.  Franz Pieper said it well (Christian Dogmatics, vol. 1, page 38):
...they [modern theologians] are laboring under a delusion when they imagine that one can assume a critical attitude toward Scripture and at the same time maintain the absoluteness of the Christian religion. 
Make no mistake – Prof. James Barr called himself a Christian... and was quite deluded.

In the next Part 6h, I will cover Barr's insistence that Scripture be "reasonable" and "sensible"... for him.

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