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Monday, October 15, 2012

Luther's Chronology, Part 6j (Barr – extra-biblical information, historians)

In the last Part 6i of this series (Table of Contents in Part 1), I reviewed the objections of Professor James Barr († 2006) to biblical chronology based on comments against Luther's use of Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27) to date the period between the Old Testament and New Testament.
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 6j, I will cover Barr's demand for extra-biblical information or secular histories to have a true biblical chronology.  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 579-580:
It is impossible from the Old Testament, taken alone, to know how far back its events had lain in history. At the end of the Old Testament, e.g. the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, no firm dating is given. The construction of any biblical chronology required a synchronism with profane history, with extra-biblical data, at some point or other. Ussher himself tells us (viii.6-7) what the essential synchronism for him was.... According to the "Chaldaean" historical tradition, which means through Berossus (Josephus, C. Ap., i.146-50), this took place in the year which from Greek and Roman history can be reckoned back to and fixed as 563.

UBC, pg 581:
From the classical side he [Ussher] could follow a chain of historical sequence right back into the Persian period and up to before 500 B.C. Any biblical chronology had to dovetail into that network of classical information. ...  The classical side is important also for our estimate of Ussher as a scholar. He was no 'man of one book', no scholar who never looked beyond the pages of his Bible. On the contrary, far more space in the Annales is taken up by Greek and Roman history than by biblical and Jewish;
***  Professor Barr reports that Archbishop Ussher "was a strong Calvinist... including absolute predestination" pg 576  Barr skirts the actual meaning of this term which is that God unconditionally elected some to damnation - a damnable heresy. So we see Ussher was from the sect of Calvinism and so had a severe weakness in believing the "one book".
Very good Professor Barr... maybe this was Luther's failing since Luther must have been what you call a 'man of one book' and a "scholar who never looked beyond the pages of his Bible".  But this would be a fallacy for Luther himself gave some weight to extra-biblical historians for he said in his preface:
I use the historians in such a way that I am not made to contradict the Scriptures. ... in the histories, good people by their ability, their diligence, and their faithfulness prove (but as human beings), or at least that the copyists, can err.
Did you get that?  Luther did use the historians, but only as subordinates to the Holy Scriptures.    ***

UBC, pg 599:
An apocryphal book of the biblical tradition like IV Ezra fared worse, as we have seen, and its data were branded as mere fictions.
*** Now we see where we should get our "data" – from apocryphal books. ***

UBC, pg 603:
This very openness of Ussher (and others) to extra-biblical truth was, in the next half-century, to alter the balance: by then the pressure of extra-biblical truth was to begin to cause men to think differently of the nature of biblical truth.
*** Barr is saying that "historical criticism" and/or "textual criticism" were gaining ground in the late 1600s, spurred on by "extra-biblical truth".  And so the sects and even Lutheran theologians began to stray not only in the doctrines of the Bible, but also the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible.  We must give weight to "extra-biblical truth" over biblical truth! ***

BCLS, page 8, pdf page 10:
...that all biblical chronology,when practised from after biblical times, necessarily depended on non-biblical data for an entry into the biblical.

LBC, pg 58:
... all biblical chronologies have to depend on extra-biblical information.
*** Although the Bible is not a book intended for chronological data, yet it does give chronological information that is absolutely true.  Even Barr's own statement belies his own stance: There is no true biblical chronology.  ***

LBC, pg 58:
If Luther had placed the end of the Hebrew kingdoms too late, the same happened with the rise of Alexander and the end of the Persian empire, placed in 3655 AM or 305 BC, close on thirty years too late. He was aware that 'almost all' place Alexander about thirty years earlier, but he made it clear that it did not matter very much to him where Alexander, Antiochus and other persons are located by historians, so long as he knew the one absolutely vital fact, namely, the date of the second year of Darius Longimanus, from which point the 490 years of Daniel are reckoned. This was a cavalier remark, for Luther was in fact highly dependent on the information that 'historians' furnished.
***  Barr points out Luther's stated purpose to set Holy Scripture as inerrant, over the "good people" of the histories that can err. Barr then introduces his second "gotcha" over Luther – the person of Annius of Viterbo in the next paragraph.  He makes use of the writings of the editor of the Weimar Ausgabe (German Weimar Edition of Luther's Works, 1920).  I will address this subject of Luther's "dependance" on historical forgies in my next Part 6k.  ***

LBC, pg 59:
Historically, of course, Luther's reckoning is far astray: 496 BC is over forty years too late for Cyrus's establishment of the Persian empire.
***  Barr, of course, is using his modern history to make a statement that we are to believeHis version is the one we are to believe.  It is important that we believe Barr, not Luther (or the Bible).  Why?  Because of his modern "scientific" history.  ***

LBC, pg 65:
The historical accuracy of the one scripture [Holy Scripture] was therefore a major reason for belief in its divine inspiration. No other book gave a historical account from the absolute beginning of the world down to events knowable within ordinary human record. (Footnote 21): The Greeks, supposedly the epitome of natural human wisdom, had nothing to match this. Their great historians were vague about times and chronology. The first [Greek] historians had no notion of an era and little sense of time in its larger aspects', writes J. Forsdyke, Greece before Homer: Ancient Chronology and Mythology (New York: Norton, 1964), 36. And such feeble chronologies as they had scarcely went back beyond the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries BC at most.
*** This is perhaps one of the most valuable writings Prof. James Barr ever had, but it is rather oblique in it's praise of Holy Scriptures.  It is rather an apologetic argument, also used by ancients, that the Jewish record (Hebrew text of the Bible) was the most reliable of all ancient texts.  Helpful for the Christian, but not authoritative.  And so Barr is not authoritative for Christians, but may be helpful in this case.  Rather, read Luther and your Bible.  ***

LBC, pg 66:
[Luther's] handling of the early chapters of Genesis is a thorough historicization, which reads into them a pattern like that of the Reformation, a content of which the text itself is quite devoid.
*** The Bible, including Genesis, is authored by the Holy Spirit and Luther's faith provided this "historicization".  Hebrews 4:12 states this:
The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
So Luther's "historicization" recognizes that the Word of God is a Living Word from the Living God.  Luther's "historicization" follows the faith of the Bible, a faith that is unchanged since Genesis 3:15.  Barr's Bible is indeed "quite devoid" for it seems to be dead for him, not living, not powerful, not sharper than any twoedged sword, not a discerner of the thoughts of the heart. And so it is Luther, not Barr, who is the true biblical scholar. ***

PSC, pg 382:
... in a certain sense one cannot make a biblical chronology without going outside the Bible, not one by which one can reckon back from later times.  The chronological scheme of the Hebrew Bible in the end fades away: it works fairly well from Creation down to the end of the Hebrew kingdoms, but after that it has only vague and scattered hints, and in the Persian Empire, though it mentions various Persian emperors, no one can tell from the Bible alone how many Persian kings there were or how long the Persian Empire existed.
***  Part of what Prof. Barr states here (and elsewhere) is true.  The biblical chronological information becomes more sparse after the book of Genesis.  But how can you tell what is true with Barr and what is false?  God says in His Word that we must believe Him for "Thy Word Is Truth". (John 17:17) ***
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Indeed, extra-biblical information is interesting for me: biblical archaeology and biblical research such as the works of David Rohl, John J. Bimson, David Livingston, and others.  But I do not spend an inordinate amount of time with them because their research is not the authoritative basis for my faith.  No, my faith is the same as Luther's:
I use the historians in such a way that I am not made to contradict the Scriptures.
This can only be done by being first firmly grounded in the Scriptures.  Jesus said (John 5:39):
Search the scriptures ... they are they which testify of me.
In the next Part 6k, I will cover Barr's other major "gotcha" for Luther followers – Luther's use of Annius of Viterbo and "Metasthenes" for his chronology.  I mentioned this name above in my comment on LBC, pg 58.

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