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Monday, October 22, 2012

Luther's Chronology, Part 7b (WELS - John C. Jeske... and Cainan)

This continues the series on Biblical Chronology – Table of Contents in Part 1.  In the last Part 7a, I began this series of reviews of various essayists from the Wisconsin Synod (WELS) with Prof. John Brug who had something to recommend him for our faith.  Now I come to the essay by Professor John C. Jeske, – "Old Testament Chronology" which was delivered in 1980.

Unfortunately I find reviewing Prof. (emeritus) Jeske's essay to be much more difficult than Brug's essay.  I thought I would find  in the WELS someone who knew of Luther's Chronikon and would at least mention it, who would maybe encourage his readers to read of Luther on this topic.  But I was sadly disappointed for there was no mention of Luther.  Prof. Jeske only wrote about the work of James Ussher.  Why?  Because our generation has so thoroughly become "English", that all we know is our King James Bible (KJV) and subsequent English Bibles.  And along with the English Bible came an "accepted" chronology of the Calvinist Presbyterian (and English-Irish) James Ussher.  Jeske even points out that early LC-MS authors Rupprecht (Bible History References, WorldCat / Amazon ) and Paul E. Kretzmann (Popular Commentary of the Bible, WorldCat / Amazon / Concordia Pub. House CPH ) used the chronology of Ussher.  So Prof. Jeske concentrates on reviewing Ussher's work of chronology.

Now the modernist, liberal Prof. James Barr faulted Ussher for his holding to the "biblicism" of Protestantism, the notion of "scripture interprets scripture", the doctrine of Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.  These characteristics of Ussher are all quite "Protestant", yes, Lutheran.  But does Jeske mention these characteristics of Ussher?  No.

Rather Jeske undercuts practically all the work of Ussher.  How?  These quotes serve to portray his methodology: 
Page 2:
   Ussher used as raw materials for his OT chronological system the two Genesis genealogies (chs 5 and 11), and approached them with two assumptions:
1. that the genealogies are complete; they omit no names; and
2. that the periods of time listed are consecutive.
   To evaluate Ussher’s conclusions we shall have to question the premises on which he proceeded.  As the accompanying chart shows, Genesis 5:1-32 lists ten patriarchs from Adam to Noah; Genesis 11:10-26 lists ten patriarchs from Shem to Abram. But are these lists complete, as Ussher took for granted?  When St. Luke (Luke 3:36) lists the genealogy of Jesus, he adds a name (Cainan) which is missing in Moses’ genealogy.  Moses’ statement (Gen. 11:12) that Arphaxad was the father of Shelah (KJV: “begat”) is clarified by St. Luke.  Arphaxad was Shelah’s grandfather
If one actually compares the accounts of Genesis and Luke chapter 3, one notices the vast agreement between the genealogies.  There are the major names one is familiar with: Adam, Methusaleh, Noah, Shem, Abraham.  Ah, but now our Prof. Jeske attempts to pull the rug out from under a Christian reader of Luke chapter 3 for he says (paraphrasing):
Aha!.. see, there is one extra name in Luke's list than what is in Genesis!  Don't you see this?  Take a good look at it... there is a difference between Luke and Genesis!  And so we must assume that Genesis is clarified by St. Luke!
Does Jeske make note of the fact that the two listings of genealogies are practically identical?  No.  He must point out the one difference.  Well, to Bible believers who believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, Jeske presents quite a jolt.  How is this to help Christians in their faith, Professor Jeske?

This is very tiring for me... I smelled something amiss in Jeske's analysis for my upfront question to myself is this:
Does the essayist build up the Christian faith... or not?
For Prof. Jeske's essay, I must say No!  It caused me to try to figure out what is going on here.  Before I even started to figure this out, before I even attempted to look up the passages that Jeske (and Gleason Archer) point out, I must immediately freeze in my tracks and I had to ask myself this:  
Could the great scholars of Christianity not read their Bible well enough to figure out this basic discrepancy between the New Testament and the Old Testament?... indeed in the very early chapters of both Testaments?  
The evangelist Luke in chapter 3 is said to plainly offer evidence of a discrepancy that all these scholars including Martin Luther missed in their chronologies.  This idea is so preposterous to me that I have to pause for a moment and turn the tables on Professor Jeske and ask this very question of the reader: Do you believe that all believing ancient fathers and scholars and even Martin Luther did not compare the genealogies of Luke (and Matthew) with the genealogies of Genesis?

Ok, so I did do some research. 
  • A quick Google search showed first the Wikipedia article which indicates the anomaly that the Hebrew ("Masoretic") text in Genesis does not include Cainan and that Irenaeus and Eusebius considered it to be a copyist error in Luke.
  • Then I looked in a copy of Luther's German Bible as published by Concordia Publishing House in 1899. And I find this:
    Luke 3:36 – (Der war ein Sohn Cainans,) der war ein Sohn Arphachsads, der war ein Sohn Sems, der war ein Sohn Noah, der war ein Sohn Sohn Lamechs,
    The parenthesis around the Cainan phrase clearly shows that this portion is considered suspect as a possible copyist error
  • Then came the article that gave me a  most wonderful relief – the article "Cainan: How do you explain the difference between Luke 3:36 and Gen. 11:12?" on that beautifully gives a true harmonist's answer to this anomaly.  I encourage all to read this whole article because it builds up the Christian faith. Author Dr. Jonathan Sarfati uses the same Bible verses as Franz Pieper to bolster the Doctrine of Inspiration (especially John 10:35). He also presents Franz Pieper's point that divine inspiration applied only to the original texts, not the copies.  Then he goes on to present very plausible suggestions of how this portion in Luke 3:36 could be a copyist error.
So where does this leave the point made by Professor Jeske?  It leaves it in the dust.  It leaves me angry that I have to go to a non-Lutheran source to get a truly Christian (that is Lutheran) answer.  I am angry that a supposed "conservative" Lutheran church body would present such an article to cause anxiety for my Christian faith.  I am so angry that I will not address Jeske's next point about another anomaly in Matthew 1:8.  Why?  Because I suspect Jeske has fallen hard for modern "scholarship".

Now Jeske pauses to answer a question that may come into the minds of the pastors he is delivering this essay to:
Page 3:  The question may then legitimately be asked: “If we decline to view the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 as teaching a strict chronology, haven’t we thrown the door open to wild speculation about the age of the earth?   Haven’t we then allowed for the possibility of gaps totaling hundreds of thousands of years?”
Jeske then attempts to answer this question by giving some of his biblical evidences that the gaps in time are surely not large.  But to present a paper that even brings up this question in the pastors' minds does not recommend Jeske as a great promoter and defender of the Christian faith.

Now Jeske brings in the testimony of two of his fellow teachers at his seminary:

Page 3: Many of you will remember how reluctant Prof. John Meyer was to set a date for the creation of the world. When students used to ask him: “Is it possible that Creation may have occurred between five and ten thousand years BC?” he would smile and say: “Yes, that may be possible.”

Jeske's report of Prof. John P. Meyer is quite distressing – what kind of a "smile" was that?

But now Jeske brings another witness, one whom I respect highly for his 2 essays defending "Objective Justification" and "Universal Justification".  It is Siegbert Becker:
Page 3:  In a series of articles that appeared in the Northwestern Lutheran fifteen years ago [1965?] under the heading “Is Evolutionism the Answer?” Dr. Siegbert Becker wrote: “True Biblical scholarship ... will never make the Ussher chronology a test of orthodoxy. Where God has spoken, the issue is settled, but where God has not spoken, we must allow for a difference of opinion.”
This quote of Becker by Jeske is quite different than what is said of Prof. Meyer.  Ussher could indeed be suspect in some of his chronology because he admittedly made heavy use of extra-biblical sources, not just biblical information.  And Becker's statement does not say that Ussher's work had no use.  And there is this: neither Jeske, Meyer or Becker made any reference to the work of Martin Luther on biblical chronology.  But even Luther would say his chronology could not be taken as absolute truth for he stated that other true scholars could work on this same subject area to improve on it.  No, rather Becker's testimony does not uphold Jeske on this essay of his.

As for the rest of Jeske's essay, the following points can be made:
  • He follows a solution by Edwin R. Thiele (Seventh Day Adventist) solution to a discrepancy between 1 Kings and 2 Kings.  But John Brug identified Thiele as one who accepted the idea of "historical errors" in the Bible.
  • He gives great weight to the sciences of archeology and astronomy, so much so that one wonders he would accept them over the biblical record.
No, I am angry at Jeske's essay.  Rather I must say to Christians today to go back, back before Rupprecht and Kretzmann, before James Ussher... and read Martin Luther and his biblical chronology (in English here).

Yes, today's Lutherans: ==>>  go Back to Luther!

In Part 7c, I will review Prof. Siegbert Becker's essays that relate to this topic – a much happier task.

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