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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Luther's Chronology, Part 6L (Barr – Bible's "literal intention")

In the last Part 6k of this series (Table of Contents in Part 1), I reviewed the objections of Professor James Barr († 2006) to biblical chronology based on Barr's second "gotcha" – that Luther "followed" historical forgeries.  As stated before, James Barr seems to be the only theologian / scholar, Lutheran or otherwise, who has even mentioned Luther's Chronikon since the 1960s.  Today's world only knows of James Ussher's 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 concluding Post 6L to the series of reviews of Prof. Barr, I will cover his grand notion of the Bible's "literal intention".  Prof. Barr attempted to put the last nail in the coffin of the Doctrine of Inspiration (and biblical chronology) with his grand idea to attempt to rescue Holy Scripture with this idea – that the Scriptures should be given some weight because they were "literally intended" even though they are not historically true.  I highlight in yellow the pertinent wording and in some cases I follow with some comments of mine directly afterward highlighted in green:
BCLS, pg , pdf page 6:
We have to distinguish between literal intention and historical, factual truth. The figures are not, to us, historically, scientifically or factually true, but they were literally intended. A year to them was the same period as it still is to us. The figures do not correspond with actual fact, that is, they or some of them are legendary or mythical in character, but the biblical writers in overwhelming probability did think that they corresponded to actual fact. When, in modern times, people began to say that these passages were ‘not to be taken literally’, this was really a cowardly expedient which enabled them to avoid saying that, though they were literally intended, they were not literally true. They were literally intended: they were chronological statements of numbers of years and made no sense otherwise.

BCLS, pg 17, pdf page 20:
... it is time that we recall ourselves to a sympathetic attempt to understand it [the Bible] as a literary form and a mode of theological expression.
*** Barr makes a grand attempt to appear as a friend of the Bible, to be in sympathy with the Bible against the "liberal" trend in modern times to dismiss it as only legendary.  But Barr is sadly mistaken for it goes directly against what Christ himself said and as Franz Pieper stresses:
John 17:20 ... pray I for ... them ... which shall believe on me through their word
Whose word?  The words of the Apostles and Prophets. Ephesians 2:20

PSC, pg 8:
...the Bible’s figures should be taken literally, because it is when they are taken literally that it becomes clear that they are not historically or scientifically true.
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Prof. James Barr takes a rather devilish approach here – he wants to appear to be a friend of Scripture.  He implies we are to believe something that is not true, at least not entirely true.  That may work for the American Philosophical Society but what comfort is there for a Christian who needs assurance from God that his sins are forgiven?  None.

Not so with the old (German) Missouri Synod... and Martin Luther.  Because they upheld the Doctrine of Inspiration, Christians can take comfort in knowing that when they read their Bible, it is the voice of our God where he speaks to us.  And because Martin Luther's great scholarship was tied to his towering faith, we can give great credence to his biblical chronology, more so than the Calvinist James Ussher.

There is a clear difference between the positions of Prof. James Barr and that of Martin Luther and the old (German) Missouri Synod.  Either you believe the Bible because it is ancient and "literal" or you believe the Bible because it is divinely inspired, inerrant, infallible – truth.

Who are you going to believe?  God or modern theologian-scholars?

In the next post Part 7a, I will review certain essays that have come from the Wisconsin Synod (WELS) regarding biblical chronology; the first of these is on Prof. John Brug.

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