Monday, August 1, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles—and Sending Daughters Abroad

I've probably watched the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles at least five or six times, and it's just as laugh-out-loud funny each time. It is about a man (Steve Martin) who tries to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, and everything that can go wrong goes wrong on his trip, including the fact that he always ends up with an annoying shower ring salesman as a companion (John Candy). But I don't think it's just the comedic genius of John Candy and Steve Martin that appeals to me. I watch that movie to truly appreciate the fact that I am not out there experiencing a trip of nightmarish proportions. I'm experiencing it vicariously, yes, but with the power to instantly end the experience via the click of a remote control and go to sleep in my own bed--a power I woefully lack when I'm actually out there braving airports and delayed flights. So that movie is more than just mindless entertainment to me--it's a complex psychological experience.

I've been having the opposite psychological experience since I woke up this morning, after finding out that my daughter Chelsea has been stuck at the Reykjavik airport on her way to Norway--about sixteen hours now. She will hopefully arrive in Oslo by 2:30 a.m., barring further delays. After much time talking with relatives on the phone, communicating with Chelsea through email, and researching hotels on the Internet, she has a hotel room by the airport and will be picked up by my dad when she checks out tomorrow at noon. Hurrah for the Internet for making long distance helicopter parenting possible! 

Not that Chelsea needs helicopter parenting. She pretty much planned this year abroad entirely by herself--figuring out how to get her college credits transferred, how to get a Norwegian social security number and passport (she has dual citizenship), learning the culture and language, and following the Norwegian news. She has lived and breathed Norway for the past year. 

She has also carefully researched the Norwegian fashions. (In case anyone is wondering, Converse high tops are a must have if you are planning a trip in the near future--the more colors the better.) A couple of days before she left, after too many trips to the mall to buy and return shoes and stuff, I warned her against going to Norway with a Norwegianer-than-thou attitude, by telling her about my Italian friend back when I studied in Norway my junior year in college. His real name was Giorgio, but when he moved to Norway he exercised the exceedingly poor judgment of legally changing it to Jørgen. He wore traditional Norwegian sweaters all the time and spoke Nynorsk (the version of written Norwegian that combines dialects and which is used in more traditional parts of the country). He was far more Norwegian than those of us who were born there, and of course we thought that an Italian born-again Norwegian was too funny.

Chelsea explained that she was in no danger of becoming like Jørgen because although she had worked very hard to become as Norwegian as possible, she wouldn't look like she had tried too hard. She would look like she effortlessly blended, instead of screaming, "I am American!" 

Maybe true. But even with all the right footwear, the best laid plans of mice and men and college girls can go awry. Several months ago when we made the reservations, Chelsea didn't need a meddling mother to tell her that a ten-hour layover in Reykjavik (which has now turned to sixteen) was too long and that she should go through London instead. She loved Iceland almost as much as she loves Norway (and yes, I think the past tense is probably correct, although I haven't asked her about it).  

I just got on Flight Stats and found out that her flight out of Iceland has taken off. Yay! And it will arrive at 2:30 a.m. local time. Not so yay--especially since we left for the San Francisco Airport at 6:45 a.m. yesterday, and her trip will take a grand total of 37 hours. But at least it should be over soon.

So I think I'll take a deep breath (after I call and double-check Chelsea's hotel reservations in Oslo) and watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles again tonight.

UPDATE at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time: She is now in her hotel room and the lady at the desk was nice enough to offer to let her check out at 2 p.m. tomorrow, so she can sleep in. 

211 comments:

1 – 200 of 211   Newer›   Newest»
stranger.strange.land said...

Hello Anette, my old friend.

I know something of that parental anxiety when a daughter travels far from home. How is Rick dealing with it?

BTW, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has always been one of Sheila's and my favorites.

Craig Boyd

Anette Acker said...

Hi Craig! It's great to hear from you again. How are things?

Both Rick and I are more calm about it now. My sister lives outside of Oslo and my dad is visiting right now, so they are helping Chelsea get settled into her dorm. It sounds like she's having a great time.

Also, I went to Norway my junior year in college and did fine and Chelsea is a lot more mature than I was.

stranger.strange.land said...

Hi Anette.

I am recovering from a broken hip - had a nasty fall 2 weeks ago.

Here are 2 links to my friend's blog where he put out a prayer request when it happened:

http://calvinisticcartoons.blogspot.com/2011/07/please-pray-for-craig-boyd.html

http://calvinisticcartoons.blogspot.com/2011/07/prayer-update-for-craig-boyd.html

Craig

Anette Acker said...

Oh, no! That sounds like a nasty fall. I'll definitely pray for a speedy recovery!

Lord Beans!!! said...

Hi Anette,

I was just thinkin' about you the other day!! Hope all's well!

I'm sure your daughter is having a blast. I love Europe. It's always so much fun and I always hate to leave. Although having a young one away from home is nervewracking for a mom, be happy for her that she's probably having the time of her life :-)

Anyway, just a friendly hello, and take care.

~Micah J.

Anette Acker said...

Hi Micah!

Thank you for stopping by! I miss talking with all of you at Atheist Central (I find Ray's new commenting format overwhelming and haven't been there much since he changed it).

Chelsea is doing great. We've been talking with her through Skype, and she is definitely having the time of her life.

I hope things are going well with you.

Cindy said...

Oh my goodness. What a trip. I'm glad I didn't know about it while it was happening.

Darkknight56 said...

A bit off-topic but a recent news story talks about research being done since 1958 at Hebrew University. The article talks about how scholars show how the Old Testament changed over time even to the point where its authors were inserting prophecies after the event occurred.

While he did author books regarding the New Testament and this research project concentrated on the Old Testament, I guess this does exonerate Bart Ehrman after all. It at least supports his contention that instead of being the unchanging Word of God the bible is a human document written by human beings for human beings and with no supernatural input.

Anette Acker said...

I know, Cindy, it was a pretty crazy day, but Chelsea was fine. She was just really tired, but this got her over to Norwegian time immediately!

Anette Acker said...

Hi Darkknight56! It's good to hear from you. How are things?

The article you linked to doesn't talk about very significant changes ("those who swear falsely" versus "those who swear falsely in my name"), and it mentions one example of where prophecy appears to be added after the fact.

I think the last quote by the Orthodox Jew is interesting: "A believing Jew claims that the source of the Bible is prophecy," said the project's bearded academic secretary, Rafael Zer. "But as soon as the words are given to human beings — with God's agreement, and at his initiative — the holiness of the biblical text remains, even if mistakes are made when the text is passed on."

I agree with that position. Of course there is a human side to the creation of the Bible, but God still inspired it and clearly gets His message across. None of the copyist errors Ehrman mentioned in Misquoting Jesus were of theological significance.

(I actually find some of the modern translations of the Bible more troubling because they actually water down or change the theological message.)

stranger.strange.land said...

Also, Ehrman's thesis implies that there is a canonical standard by which copyists' texts are to be measured.

Darkknight56 said...

stranger.strange.land said:

Also, Ehrman's thesis implies that there is a canonical standard by which copyists' texts are to be measured.

The standard is the one set by Christians - that the bible is the perfect, inerrant, Word of God. Christians of many faiths are the ones who basically state that the bible is perfect so that is the standard by which Bart Ehrman is referring to.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said:

The article you linked to doesn't talk about very significant changes ("those who swear falsely" versus "those who swear falsely in my name"), and it mentions one example of where prophecy appears to be added after the fact.

The article does not say what the bible book, prophecy or event was but for argument's sake let's say it was the book of Daniel. What they are saying is that in all copies of Daniel that they either have or have access to and that were written prior to the event there is no prophetic mention of the event. However in at least some, if not all, copies of the book of Daniel that were written after the event the prophesy suddenly appears. That is significant because it is supposed to be a prophesy so it should appear prior to the event but it does not.

None of the copyist errors Ehrman mentioned in Misquoting Jesus were of theological significance.

I'm guessing you haven't read his book completely or you would know that chapter 6 covers those changes of theological importance.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Hi Darkknight56! It's good to hear from you. How are things?

I'm fine, thanks for asking. I had the pleasure of living in Europe for two years while I was in my 20's. I was able to tour Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and England while there. I'm glad to hear your daughter made it there and I hope she has a good time.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

The article does not say what the bible book, prophecy or event was but for argument's sake let's say it was the book of Daniel.

The article is talking about the Book of Jeremiah, saying: "Some verses, including ones containing a prophecy about the seizure and return of Temple implements by Babylonian soldiers, appear to have been added after the events happened." And to say that it "appears" to have been added after the events happened is not the same as saying that it has been proven.

There's absolutely no mention of the Book of Daniel in the article and therefore no point in saying anything about it for the sake of argument.

I'm guessing you haven't read his book completely or you would know that chapter 6 covers those changes of theological importance.

As we've discussed before, Ehrman has been accused of being misleading in chapters 5, 6, 7 of his book. Bible scholar Dan Wallace says in his review of the book:

"In other words, the idea that the variants in the NT manuscripts alter the theology of the NT is overstated at best.69 Unfortunately, as careful a scholar as Ehrman is, his treatment of major theological changes in the text of the NT tends to fall under one of two criticisms: Either his textual decisions are wrong, or his interpretation is wrong. These criticisms were made of his earlier work, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, which Misquoting Jesus has drawn from extensively. For example, Gordon Fee said of this work that “[u]nfortunately, Ehrman too often turns mere possibility into probability, and probability into certainty, where other equally viable reasons for corruption exist.”70 Yet, the conclusions that Ehrman put forth in Orthodox Corruption of Scripture are still offered in Misquoting Jesus without recognition of some of the severe criticisms of his work the first go-around.71"

And atheist Luke Muehlhauser calls the book "astonishingly misleading."

I just checked the book out from the library for the second time (although I have not read it cover to cover), and after reading what Ehrman has to say about the theological significance of the textual variants, I would have to agree with the above reviews. It would be very easy for a reader who is not familiar with the subject to walk away from this book thinking this is a serious problem, which is simply not the case.

On page 87, Ehrman admits that there are so many textual variants because we have so many copies, which is a good thing: "Therefore, the thirty thousand variants uncovered by Mill do not detract from the integrity of the New Testament; they simply provide the data that scholars need to work on to establish the text, a text that is more amply documented than any other from the ancient world."

So whatever individual scribes did really doesn't matter much because, with very few exceptions, scholars can reconstruct the original text.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

There's absolutely no mention of the Book of Daniel in the article and therefore no point in saying anything about it for the sake of argument.

There are a number of articles about this on the Internet. The initial article I first read did not mention any particular books. When I later went to Google news to capture a link, I grabbed one that was a bit different from my original article. The article whose link I provided to you apparently mentions a particular book. However, my point still stands whether Jeremiah or Daniel.

I think the speaker's use of the word "appears" is for diplomatic purposes. Religion can be a very touchy subject and with a lot of people it is easy to go down a random rabbit's hole at the slightest disagreement. All he wants to do is discuss the research and the work his team is doing. He doesn't want, I'm sure, to ignite any type of religious war or defend one group or another's dogma or belief; He just wants to discuss his work.

I'm not sure what you want in the way of proof. A confession by the scribe who inserted it? If we were discussing a similar event with the Koran your standard of proof would be fairly low. This isn't complex or rocket science after all.

A prophecy is a prediction of a future event. Since most prophecies don't come with a date ("In the year 2011 Darkknight will visit Anette Ackers blog...") it also seems reasonable that the priests would have written them down. It is also reasonable to assume that if the prophecies were part of a larger story they would have been included when the other parts of the story were written down.

Thus if there really was a prophecy or something to be interpreted as a prophecy it would be found in the documents written before the event. Since the prophecy in question was found only in documents after the event it is misleading, to say the least, to consider them and teach them as actual biblical prophecies when they weren't.

So whatever individual scribes did really doesn't matter much because, with very few exceptions, scholars can reconstruct the original text.

Since scribes were not only changing the text (intentionally or not) as well as adding to or deleting text from it, you can never say you have the original texts unless, of course, you have the actual very first (autograph) texts. You can reconstruct earlier text but not the originals especially when the earliest copy you have is still several generations away from the originals as these scholars are trying to point out.

and after reading what Ehrman has to say about the theological significance of the textual variants, I would have to agree with the above reviews.

I'm not really surprised since you've made it clear on numerous occassions of the low opinion you hold of Ehrman. My original point, however, is that it isn't just Ehrman who thinks documents were significantly changed; it is also Jewish scholars and historians who think so, too.

Bible.org - really?? When would they ever accept a major criticism of the bible that went contrary to their beliefs?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

However, my point still stands whether Jeremiah or Daniel.

If your point is that if none of the copies Daniel that were written before the event contained the prophecy, but the copies afterwards did, then of course that would be significant. But you can't just manufacture evidence "for the sake of evidence."

As for what I'd want in the way of evidence, I would certainly want something more than the word "appears."

If we were discussing a similar event with the Koran your standard of proof would be fairly low.

That is not true. I have always applied the same methodology to all holy books.

I'm not really surprised since you've made it clear on numerous occassions of the low opinion you hold of Ehrman.

I actually think that Ehrman is a very engaging writer and he has a good sense of humor. However, I also think he is misleading, because he gives the impression that the NT has been significantly changed (that's your understanding of what he's saying, right?) and he summarizes his evidence for theological corruption of the text as follows:

"It would be wrong, however, to say--as people sometimes do--that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the texts mean or on the theological conclusions that one draws from them. We have seen, in fact, that just the opposite is the case. In some instances, the very meaning of the text is at stake, depending on how one resolves the textual problem: Was Jesus an angry man? Was he completely distraught in the face of death? Did he tell his disciples that they could drink poison without being harmed? Did he let an adulteress off the hook with nothing but a mild warning? Is the doctrine of the Trinity explicitly taught in the New Testament?Is Jesus actually called the 'unique God' there? Does the New Testament indicate that even the Son of God himself does not know when the end will come?"

That is all the actual evidence he gives for theological corruption, and you can read Muelhauser and Wallace for a detailed response to them. But I will add that the theology of John 7:53-8:11 is corroborated by John 12:47, where Jesus says that He has not come to judge the world but to save the world.

And Ehrman's whole discussion about whether Jesus was moved with anger or compassion in Mark 1:41 (chapter 5) falls apart because all the Gospels portray Jesus as angry at times, for example, when He drives out the moneychangers in the temple, and when He calls the pharisees hypocrites: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to" (Matthew 23:13).

In other words, Jesus was angry with those who shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces and those who corrupted the temple. However, to those who came to Him for help, He consistently showed compassion.

A Student's Guide to New Testament Textual Variants says about Mark 1:41: "It is easier to see why copyists might have changed 'being angry' to 'moved with pity' than to see why they would have changed 'moved with pity' to 'being angry.' However, the evidence for 'moved with pity' is so much stronger that it is retained in the text."

Bible.org - really?? When would they ever accept a major criticism of the bible that went contrary to their beliefs?

Why don't you read what Daniel Wallace has to say and judge for yourself rather than assuming that he's biased?

Anette Acker said...

Correction: I meant to say "for the sake of argument," not "for the sake of evidence."

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

If your point is that if none of the copies Daniel that were written before the event contained the prophecy, but the copies afterwards did, then of course that would be significant. But you can't just manufacture evidence "for the sake of evidence."

As for what I'd want in the way of evidence, I would certainly want something more than the word "appears."


I'm sure the researcher used the word "appears" in a diplomatic way as both Christians and Jews are very sensitive to criticism of their holy books. He wants to keep the focus on the research and not start any kind of religious war. The topic line for that paragraph is "The Book of Jeremiah is now one-seventh longer than the one that appears in some of the 2,000-year-old manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls." So he is talking about the growth of the book over time and the only way for a book to grow is by adding text to it, 14% more in this case. "Some verses, including ones containing a prophecy about the seizure and return of Temple implements by Babylonian soldiers, appear to have been added after the events happened."

He obviously does not see them in the documents prior to the event and he sees the verses, including the prophecy, in the document written after the event. What other interpretation is there? Clearly, if the prophecy in question was in Jeremiah prior to the return of Temple implements, he would have no reason to make this statement mentioning of the prophecy.

I actually think that Ehrman is a very engaging writer and he has a good sense of humor. However, I also think he is misleading, because he gives the impression that the NT has been significantly changed

I'm sorry. I owe you a sincere apology. We have already discussed Ehrman in great detail and that was not the point I was trying to do with this current discussion. I wanted to focus on the research done by Hebrew University and not on Ehrman's research. I not only let this conversation get off-topic but greatly contributed to it doing so.

Besides, theology is not my strong point. To me knowledge of it is not essential in determining whether or not Christianity is viable. You are not a Muslim and, I assume, you have little knowledge of Muslim theology but that has no impact on whether or not you accept Islam. I can't tell you all 12 signs of the zodiac and how they inter-relate but that is not essential in deciding to reject the whole idea of astrology.

My concern is that everyone excuses the changes and mistakes by saying that God inspired the bible without ever stating what this means. What does someone mean when they say bible was "inspired"? What exactly is the interaction between God and man (or woman) when they were writing a particular book? Is that just a ready-made excuse for when someone finds a mistake then apologist can say "Oh, that was made by the scribe." and where no mistakes were found "Oh, God did that part!". What does inspired really mean and does it mean the same thing to all Christians?

Other Christians, however, state that the bible is not just inspired but each and every word was dictated by God. This group, I think, is who Ehrman is targeting in his criticism. If God dictated each and every word then scribes should not be adding, changing or deleting His text.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I'm sorry. I owe you a sincere apology. We have already discussed Ehrman in great detail and that was not the point I was trying to do with this current discussion. I wanted to focus on the research done by Hebrew University and not on Ehrman's research. I not only let this conversation get off-topic but greatly contributed to it doing so.

There's no need to apologize. :)

I don't know enough about the research by Hebrew University to discuss it, but regardless of what they found, that is the OT, not the NT, so I don't see how it vindicates Ehrman in any way. His book has to be evaluated on its own merits, and there are many scholars who are qualified to do so.

Other Christians, however, state that the bible is not just inspired but each and every word was dictated by God. This group, I think, is who Ehrman is targeting in his criticism. If God dictated each and every word then scribes should not be adding, changing or deleting His text.

Actually, Ehrman is just talking about the accuracy of the transmission of the original text, which has nothing to do with the doctrine of inerrancy. This pertains to the question of whether there were errors in the original autographs.

What does inspired really mean and does it mean the same thing to all Christians?

The short answer is that it doesn't mean the same thing to all Christians, but I might do a future blog post on the subject. However, I plan to do a post on the problem of evil first.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

The short answer is that it doesn't mean the same thing to all Christians,

If there is no agreed upon or standard definition regarding what it means then it is meaningless to say that the bible is inspired by God. It thus means that it can't be used as a defense in apologetics.

I think Ehrman's book (Misquoting Jesus) is a stepping stone towards his other book "Forged: Writing in the Name of God" where he tries to show that whole books in the New Testament weren't written by the people we think wrote them.

Anette Acker said...

If there is no agreed upon or standard definition regarding what it means then it is meaningless to say that the bible is inspired by God.

It's not at all meaningless, because at the very least it means that the theological message (the most important part) is inspired by God. The question is whether all the minor factual details are as well. That's where Christians disagree. (And the fact that Christians disagree on something doesn't mean there is no correct answer.)

It thus means that it can't be used as a defense in apologetics.

On the contrary, apologists almost never rely on inerrancy or divine inspiration in their defense, since they are trying to convince the unconvinced. Instead, they rely on critical Bible scholarship. This is why I spent so much time establishing the facts supporting the resurrection. If I had relied on divine inspiration, I could have just said, "Thus saith the Lord . . ." and let that be the end of it. But that wouldn't have been apologetics.

I think Ehrman's book (Misquoting Jesus) is a stepping stone towards his other book "Forged: Writing in the Name of God" where he tries to show that whole books in the New Testament weren't written by the people we think wrote them.

If so, it's a pretty wobbly stepping stone, for the reasons given before.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

It's not at all meaningless, because at the very least it means that the theological message (the most important part) is inspired by God.

How would you show this, though? How would you show that the theology is inspired by God?

And 'theology' is the same as 'inspired' in that everyone has their own separate opinion on what is important and what isn't. In some writings of Paul women occupy an important role in the early church while in other writings by him he says that women should not speak in church. You may not consider this to be of any great theological import but other might - who is right? A conservative Christian is going to have a different idea of what is important and a liberal Christian may have major disagreements as to what is theologically important. My point, whether talking about inspiration or theology, is that both sides can't be right.

The question is whether all the minor factual details are as well. That's where Christians disagree. (And the fact that Christians disagree on something doesn't mean there is no correct answer.)

In all my years of either being a Christian or dealing with Christians you are the only one I've ever encountered who has said basically that the bible has to be just theologically correct or inspired. Everyone else has said that the bible is 100% inerrant, not just theologically inerrant, or wholly inspired by God.

For me it is a matter of who is correct. Within Christianity there are a number of subgroups as well as subgroups of subgroups, etc, each with their own interpretation of what Christian theology is and isn't. Some believe, for example, that hell exists and is a real place while others don't. And both use the bible to support their different positions. Both can't be right; someone has to be wrong.

That is not true. I have always applied the same methodology to all holy books.

I realize you already do not consider the Koran to be an inspired holy book but if this research and its findings were in regards to the Koran instead then you are saying that you would not be using their findings as part of your argument against the Koran, correct? You would not be referring to it in any way is what you are telling me.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

In all my years of either being a Christian or dealing with Christians you are the only one I've ever encountered who has said basically that the bible has to be just theologically correct or inspired. Everyone else has said that the bible is 100% inerrant, not just theologically inerrant, or wholly inspired by God.

I think you're putting words in my mouth there. I have not actually given my position--all I've said is that Christians disagree about what exactly it means for the Bible to be inerrant or inspired. And I said that I might do a blog post on it.

If you read the article by Daniel Wallace, he gives his thoughts on inerrancy. Specifically, he cautions against the rigid attitude toward inerrancy that Ehrman had before his deconversion, which led to a domino effect where his faith completely collapsed.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

When I said "I've ever encountered who has said basically that the bible has to be just theologically correct or inspired. " you responded with:

I think you're putting words in my mouth there. I have not actually given my position

However, in many of your posts you place more emphasis on theological consistancy which is all I was trying to say.

on March 13, 2011 12:55 PM you said...

Second, I have for a long time been very confident that the Bible is theologically consistent, which is the most important thing in establishing that it is God-breathed.

Actually, I disagree. (I know - you're shocked) I would think that being historically and archeologically consistant would be the first step while theology would be the last step.

And on February 22, 2011 2:00 PM you said...

I have not found any theological contradictions in the Bible. Everything fits together like the pieces of a puzzle from the beginning to Genesis to the end of Revelation.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I believe the Bible is historically and archaeologically accurate. Please see my post called The Historicity of the New Testament, where I discuss this issue.

The fact that I often focus on the theological cohesiveness of the Bible does not mean I don't think it's historically accurate. However, we often don't have enough information to determine whether something in the Bible is historical, whereas we have all the information we need to know whether the Bible is theologically consistent.

However, as I said I'm doing a blog post on it.

Darkknight56 said...

1. Suppose the research being done by the Hebrew University regarding the insertion of the prophecy after the event is true - would that have any impact on your beliefs or would it not really matter?

2. If a similar discrepancy was found in the Koran would you use that to support your argument that the Koran is not a divinely-inspired work?

3. If the bible is theologically consistent then why is there so much disagreement between Christians regarding what is and isn't theologically correct?

4. When even sincere and well-meaning Christians disagree on the inspiration and theology of the bible, since all interpretations cannot be correct, how would you determine who is correct?

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Darkknight56,
You write:
Suppose the research being done by the Hebrew University regarding the insertion of the prophecy after the event is true - would that have any impact on your beliefs or would it not really matter?

I suppose in your mind the book of Daniel is an example, since you mentioned it earlier. But the prophecy of Daniel 9:25-26a which predicts when the Messiah (lit. anointed one governor/ anointed one) would be cut off, extends to 33 A.D., which is about 150 years later than the date liberal scholarship assigns to the book of Daniel. Therefore even by liberal standards this prophecy was not given after the fact. But because liberal scholarship presupposes such predictive prophecy impossible, they come up with lots of arguments trying to convince people Daniel did not have the Messiah in mind, and that he was writing a posteriori of other events. Thus skeptic, Chris Sandoval, in his book The Failures of Daniel’s Prophecies is forced to the unnatural conclusion that the anointed one is actually two persons, and takes the 7 weeks and the 62 weeks to run concurrently, not sequentially, etc. Quite inventive. And why? Because to take the timing literally would result in a bona fide prediction.

At one point Sandoval even blames Christian Dispensationalist and interpreter of Daniel 9, Prof. Harold Hoehner of Dallas T.S. , of having a “Palm Monday” instead of what Sandoval says should be “Palm Sunday.” The problem with Sandoval is that the gospel of Mark, the only gospel that actually accounts for all the days between the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion, shows that the Triumphal Entry was, in fact, on a Monday. (Moreover, this harmonizes with the other gospels.) “Palm Sunday” is simply an invention of church tradition. Much else could be said about the bogusness of certain of Sandoval’s other criticisms, such as his “rounding off” assumptions, etc., in a desperate attempt to explain away the prophecy of Daniel 9:25-26a.

Darkknight56 said...

Thanks for responding, Daniel, but as it was pointed out earlier in this blog, the book in question was Jeremiah. Anette correctly points out that "The article is talking about the Book of Jeremiah, saying: "Some verses, including ones containing a prophecy about the seizure and return of Temple implements by Babylonian soldiers, appear to have been added after the events happened." " and has nothing to do with any Messianic prophecies.

Now that you know this you can still answer the question whether knowing that a prophecy was inserted into the text only after the event happened would impact your beliefs or not.

Anette Acker said...

1. Suppose the research being done by the Hebrew University regarding the insertion of the prophecy after the event is true - would that have any impact on your beliefs or would it not really matter?

That's a completely hypothetical question, but it would not have much impact on my core beliefs. There is so much typology and prophecy in the OT (for example, the 70-week prophecy mentioned by Daniel Gracely) that could not have been manufactured, and I have so many other reasons for believing the Bible is the word of God, that it would take a lot more than that to seriously undermine my faith. It would simply make me rethink the doctrine of inerrancy.

2. If a similar discrepancy was found in the Koran would you use that to support your argument that the Koran is not a divinely-inspired work?

I am not aware of good reasons to think the Koran is divinely inspired. However, if the evidence for Islam were as strong or stronger than the evidence for Christianity, I would have no qualms about being a Muslim. And as I've said before, I don't hold the holy books to different standards.

3. If the bible is theologically consistent then why is there so much disagreement between Christians regarding what is and isn't theologically correct?

Christians generally agree on the central teachings of the Bible, but there are good reasons why we often disagree on peripheral issues: First, some theological questions are very difficult, like those involved in the Calvinist/Arminian debate. Finite minds have a hard time grasping eternal concepts, which means that we have have a tendency to focus on one aspect of the whole truth, to the exclusion of the other parts.

Second, when it comes to theological issues, we often want to believe some things and do not want to believe other things, which makes us prone to proof texting--or failing to interpret a passage in context.

This is true of both Christians and non-Christians. We all have volitional and emotional--as well as rational--reasons for our worldview.

One person may reject Christianity outright because the God of the Bible demands much of us, while another may be a Christian but water down the difficult teachings to the point where all that is left is cheap grace. Either way, the will or the emotions--not an honest grappling with the truth--would have governed that decision.

4. When even sincere and well-meaning Christians disagree on the inspiration and theology of the bible, since all interpretations cannot be correct, how would you determine who is correct?

If there are passages in the Bible that directly contradict a particular interpretation, that means that it is incorrect. In other words, we look at the evidence for any given interpretation.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

There is so much typology and prophecy in the OT (for example, the 70-week prophecy mentioned by Daniel Gracely) that could not have been manufactured

I'm sorry but this is total and utter nonsense. The best time to manufacture an accurate prophecy is after the event, as was done in Jeremiah. The Hebrew Bible project is by no means complete but there is no reason to think that they won't find any other "after the fact" prophecies. Those who wrote the Old Testament were successful once with the Jeremiah prophecy, there is no reason to think they wouldn't do it again.

and I have so many other reasons for believing the Bible is the word of God,

I really do not understand what this means. First the bible was to be just inspired but now it seems that you are saying that God wrote it. Which parts did He write or just inspire and which parts are not from Him or inspired by Him?

And as I've said before, I don't hold the holy books to different standards.

Yes, of course you do. In previous discussions when we were comparing events between the two books if something didn't happen in the Koran like it happened in the bible ("Were the witnesses offered a chance to retract but refused?") that was taken as an indicator that the bible was true but the Koran was false. Did those in the Koran die in the same way as the apostles? If not then the Koran is false and the bible is true? One of the other signs that you indicated that showed the bible was true was how its theology was consistent. How much of the Islam theology did you study before you determined it was not consistent? Every test you designed was done in a way so that the bible would pass and the Koran would fail because it wasn't the bible.

If there are passages in the Bible that directly contradict a particular interpretation, that means that it is incorrect.

What I was referring to were things like "Does hell exist?" Many Christian feel that the actual lake of fire exists while some now feel that God will just poof non-believers out of existence. Another example is that of Adam and Eve. Many, for example Ray Comfort, think that they were real people in a real place, etc, while others take it to be a metaphor. This can be shown by who does and who does not accept evolution. In both examples both camps can't be correct. Someone has to be wrong. If the bible is really inerrant then it only takes one example to show that it is not inerrant. An inerrant book can't contain even one error by definition. Is the bible totally inerrant or isn't it?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I'm sorry but this is total and utter nonsense. The best time to manufacture an accurate prophecy is after the event, as was done in Jeremiah.

First of all, we have not yet established that the prophecy in Jeremiah was added after the event. I was answering the hypothetical question: "Suppose the research being done by the Hebrew University regarding the insertion of the prophecy after the event is true - would that have any impact on your beliefs or would it not really matter?"

Second, unless you are familiar with the 70-prophecy you cannot say that it is "total and utter nonsense." In fact, if you understood it, you would not say that any of that could have been added after the fact.

I really do not understand what this means. First the bible was to be just inspired but now it seems that you are saying that God wrote it. Which parts did He write or just inspire and which parts are not from Him or inspired by Him?

As I said, I'm planning to do a post on this, but my position is that the word of God is 100% divine and 100% human, just like Jesus was 100% divine and 100% human.

Every test you designed was done in a way so that the bible would pass and the Koran would fail because it wasn't the bible.

That is not at all what I remember, but if you remember our discussion that way, then please find a quote which proves your point, since you are making the allegation.

It would not be at all surprising for the Koran to be theologically consistent since it was dictated by one person, during one lifetime. The Bible, however, was written by over forty authors over a period of around 1500 years, and it spans two religions.

In both examples both camps can't be correct. Someone has to be wrong.

Absolutely true, just like you and I can't both be correct about whether or not God exists.

The fact that two people believe two mutually exclusive things doesn't mean they are both wrong. It could mean that they are both wrong, or it could mean that only one person is wrong.

And given the fact that all the examples you gave are challenging for human minds and not directly related to our salvation (the Bible states clearly that God will judge in righteousness, but doesn't give a lot of details on how), it makes sense that our attempts to connect the dots on those issues will lead to different conclusions.

DagoodS said...

Darkknight56,

I’ve been lurking through this conversation. After long interactions with Anette Acker, I can confirm this is her methodology for determining theology:

Anette Acker: If there are passages in the Bible that directly contradict a particular interpretation, that means that it is incorrect. In other words, we look at the evidence for any given interpretation. [emphasis in the original]

Basically, she comes to a conclusion, and then if evidence--any evidence—can be found to support it (even arguments from silence!), the conclusion is deemed supported. The methodology’s simplicity is only eclipsed by its effectiveness toward those of similarly situated theological beliefs.

Notice there is no means provided as determination of what is a “contradiction.” (You reference to what exactly hell is, is a great example.). No provision for dealing with counter-evidence. (Is there any weighing done? What is the standard of proof?) Nothing about even determining what other interpretations are available, let alone which is better supported, let alone which is more accurate!

Take this 70-week prophecy. How does this methodology provide insight to other interpretations…such as the Jewish one? Notice it already assumes certain writings are “scripture” (i.e. the Protestant Bible) without insight as to such determination. Clearly the Jews would disagree with what “contradicts” its own Tanakh regarding the Messiah! It fails to address the Seventh-day Adventists position, or various alternative eschatologies.

All it does is take a few verses from Daniel, uses the incorrect starting point, an incorrect means of determining length of time, and arrives at the incorrect ending point…yet still one can argue it has some evidence (albeit not very good evidence) and still argue it does not contradict a certain contrived interpretation of enumerated writings designated as “scripture.”

Therefore, under this methodology, one can claim Daniel 9 predicts Jesus as the Messiah without providing help to anyone who questions how this prevails over other possibilities.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

That is not at all what I remember, but if you remember our discussion that way, then please find a quote which proves your point, since you are making the allegation.

If you review our discussions in of January and February you'll see that one test was whether or not the witnesses were threatened with death unless they recanted, something not recorded in regards to the Muslim witnesses to the splitting of the moon.

And given the fact that all the examples you gave are challenging for human minds and not directly related to our salvation (the Bible states clearly that God will judge in righteousness, but doesn't give a lot of details on how), it makes sense that our attempts to connect the dots on those issues will lead to different conclusions.

I don't see how you can be so vague on this question. For one thing I believe I read somewhere that Mark alone has over 20 references to the lake of fire by Jesus.

Second, you are saying that the Almighty creator of the universe is either unable or unwilling to clearly state His position on various issues. He can't even say for certain whether people are going into a lake of fire or are just going to be poofed out of existence. If He is so vague on these issue how can we be certain about anything He says anywhere in the bible.

Who do you think is right - fire or poof? If you pick one then obviously the other side is wrong, right?

...and not directly related to our salvation...

This is both irrelevant to the question of proper or correct biblical interpretation and extremely important to the question of salvation. If someone is told that they will just be poof-ed out of existence they might not have such a hesitation against committing evil but if they knew they were going to be cast into a lake of fire that might have more of an impact on some of them.

First of all, we have not yet established that the prophecy in Jeremiah was added after the event.

What more evidence would you need to show that this is what they are saying? Several Jewish (not atheistic) scholars working for over 50 years found this to be true. This is not just a matter of how one interprets a piece of text. I mean it's either there in the book before the event or it isn't.

Second, unless you are familiar with the 70-prophecy you cannot say that it is "total and utter nonsense." In fact, if you understood it, you would not say that any of that could have been added after the fact.

So if I went to several rabbis and discussed chapter 9 of the book of Daniel with them they would all agree that it was a Messianic prophesy that was fulfilled in 33 AD. After all, who better to see about this than the ones who actually wrote the book?

Daniel Gracely said...

DagoodS writes:
All it does is take a few verses from Daniel, uses the incorrect starting point...

What starting point? Why incorrect?

DagoodS said...

Daniel Gracely,

Some Christian apologists claim the Daniel 9 prophecy accurately predicts and even dates Jesus, by utilizing a convoluted and machinated calendar schematic. I wasn’t as much interested in discussing the prophecy as much as the methodology.

Under the methodology employed by Anette Acker, even such a contorted interpretation could be considered valid, as there is some (very flimsy) evidence to support it. Likewise an alternative interpretation that did not consider this an accurate dating for Jesus—under the same methodology—would also be considered valid, as there is (more substantial) evidence to support alternative interpretations..

The trouble is in the methodology itself. Without some means of weighing alternative positions, and with only utilizing the barest minimum of support—“any evidence”—we are left with no delimitation.

Anette Acker said...

Hi DagoodS. I hope you're doing well and that you had a great weekend!

I have to admit that I find it kind of amusing that you are "confirming" things about my "methodology" to Darkknight56, who has known me for much longer than you have and who was actually arguing the opposite of what you claim to have observed about me.

If you look at what he says, he is in part objecting to my tendency to not take a position when there is insufficient evidence. (He feels there should be a clear position to take on all these issues.)

For example, Darkknight56 knows from what I've said in the comments of Atheist Central that I'm basically agnostic on the issue of whether the traditional view of hell or the annihilation view is most biblical. I share the position of Ben Witherington, as expressed here and here.

And I think you misunderstood the quote that you "confirmed." I do look at all the evidence, and if something in the Bible directly contradicts a particular interpretation, then I reject it. For example, in The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis argues that God has no choice but to banish the unsaved to eternal hell because he says that a soul is indestructible. However, Acts 17:30 directly contradicts this argument because in it Paul says that God has overlooked the times of ignorance. If God can overlook ignorance, then He has a choice, and He cannot both have a choice and not have a choice. This is a direct contradiction, and although I like Lewis, I will cast my vote with the Bible. God has the power to do all that is logically possible and to do what is just.

In fact, I'm surprised that you have such a faulty view of my methodology since even during our limited interaction I repeatedly stressed that I value having someone give the opposite viewpoint and that I encourage critical thinking. It seems like you've already made up your mind about me and you're ignoring all the evidence that contradicts your conclusion.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

I am doing fine.

Darkknight56 appeared genuinely interested in how you determine which interpretation or theology was correct among competing and alternative claims. I figured I would share what I (and I as near as I can tell, every other person interacting in those conversations) observed as to your methodology.

I understand you don’t think you employ this method; I look toward what people actually do--not what they say (or think) they do. Time and time again, you gave great weight to the flimsiest evidence if it supported your position, and ignored or brushed off evidence countering your position. Simply “giving the opposite viewpoint” is insufficient; one must also learn how to weigh an alternative view and even unwillingly embrace it if it conforms to the methodology.

As always Darkknight56 (and you as well, for that matter) is free to ignore anything I say, and can determine on his/her own what method you employ. Just sharing my own observation.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

Darkknight56 appeared genuinely interested in how you determine which interpretation or theology was correct among competing and alternative claims.

I've been trying to answer that question as honestly and objectively as I can--and part of my answer is that we can't have absolute certainty on some peripheral questions.

As always Darkknight56 (and you as well, for that matter) is free to ignore anything I say, and can determine on his/her own what method you employ. Just sharing my own observation.

I appreciate your observations. However, you see things from your perspective, and you have demonstrated that you are further over on the radical side of the non-theist camp than I am in the theist camp. For example, you agree with a very small minority of scholars who considers the mention of James the brother of Jesus by Josephus an interpolation. If you are not a Jesus mythicist, you are very sympathetic to their views. You also disagree with Bart Ehrman and Gerd Ludemann and just about all other scholars that the disciples and Paul at least thought they had seen Jesus postmortem. And your post on the women at the empty tomb was, in my opinion, complete speculation based on no evidence at all.

By no means do I question your knowledge of critical Bible scholarship--however, I do want to say something about your methodology. I have mentioned several times that I can tell by the way Vinny debates that he is a chess player--he is good at moving the discussion forward. I can likewise tell that you're a criminal defense attorney because your approach often seems to be to obscure the issues. You rely on rhetoric to raise doubt or create an impression that is difficult to verify. (Undoubtedly a great strategy in your line of work, especially if your client is guilty.) And it would be very tempting for people who are already inclined to agree or identify with you to rely on your rhetorical pronouncements rather than think critically about the issues. This is why I kept asking you to substantiate your claims and why I encouraged your readers to think critically about what you say as well as what I say.

That's my observation about you. Feel free to ignore or challenge it because I will admit that I may not know you any better than you know me. This is simply what I've seen during the course of our discussions.

Daniel Gracely said...

DagoodS writes:
The trouble is in the methodology itself. Without some means of weighing alternative positions, and with only utilizing the barest minimum of support—“any evidence”—we are left with no delimitation.

Or so says the person who says the trouble is in the methodology itself, when he (or she) finds another’s approach “flimsy”, and thus authenticates his own view of neutrality by lamenting the lack of evidence for all ‘other’ views. It would be impossible for me to count the times I have seen some version of the Socratic argument you’re presenting here, namely, “All I know is that I know nothing.” The fact is, each of us, you and I included, begin with a premise that is the conclusion whenever we state something we hold as true. But then what is “true” means something different for you than it does to me, if you hold your own view to be equally valuable and valueless in relation to all other views. I would even say that what you’re defining here as “true” is different from what the word is generally held to mean in our culture. At any rate, if the most you will allow is only that which you find “logical” according to what you find “reasonable,” you will always find the supernatural “flimsy.”

But I seriously doubt that you have studied the matter of Daniel 9:25-26a with any rigor, though perhaps I complain too much here, since the same could be said for nearly all Christians. But at least consider this: that Daniel states that after 69 weeks the anointed governor (Messiah) would be cut off, and that (69 x 7 years) of 360 days each allows for the exact amount of time between the commandment given by Artaxerxes in Nisan, 444 B.C. to the Day of ‘Triumphal’ Entry in 33 A.D., (Julian dates of Monday, April 6, 444 B.C. through Monday, April 27th, 33 A.D.) the latter date being the 10th of Nisan in the Jewish ceremonial calendar, when the lamb is separated from the flock and set apart for the Passover sacrifice, to be slain four days later. And two days later is the barley wave offering of first fruits, which symbolizes the Resurrected Christ who would become the first fruits, i.e., prototype, of all who will be resurrected in Christ.

Indeed, should skeptics charge the Apostle John with being so crafty as to have figured out that if he understood Daniel’s weeks to be of 360 instead of 365¼ days, to the end that the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion and the Resurrection would all then miraculously fit Daniel’s prophecy of 9:25-26a to the very days the Old Testament symbolism pre-figured, namely, the 10th, 14th, and 16th days of Nisan, then I would hope these same skeptics would at last relieve us of the constant charge that John’s generation of early Christians was too illiterate and stupid for any task beyond conglomeratic mythologizing and haphazard compilation.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

Thank you for your impressions regarding my presentation. Always helpful to understand how others view what I say, and modify it, if I intend to communicate effectively.

Although many years ago (12+) I did quite a bit of criminal defense work, I do very little now. I focus on civil litigation—representing people being sued for money, or suing people for money. I also sit as a mediator and case evaluator regarding civil litigation, if you are interested.

However, you are quite correct my legal background is the compelling force behind the methodology I utilize when reviewing biblical and theological issues. In brief, I review all the evidence available, and all the arguments to determine what a person neutral to the proposal would declare as most likely to be true. One recognizes this is exactly what we do in our civil jury system: (1) present the evidence, (2) present the arguments from two (or more) opposing or alternate views and (3) allow a party (judge or jury) who gains no benefit nor incurs any cost to make a determination as to what most likely happened.

By employing this method, I eventually changed my position, theologically, because I saw how a person neutral to the prospect would not find the Christian apologetics I utilized as convincing. For example, a person neutral to the proposition whether Jesus intended genea to mean all humans, or just the persons he was talking to in Mark 13, after reviewing the context, Jesus’ use of genea elsewhere, the dating of Mark, the history of the Jewish war, would determine it is more likely than not, Jesus intended genea to mean within the lifetime of the persons he was talking to.

And finally, to clarify my position on a few items you mentioned:

1) I do think “who was called the Christ” is interpolated in the Josephus passage on James. However, I generally concede it as genuine for argument’s sake, because it is not that important a difference (you may notice I conceded it in our conversation). I think it worthy of an asterisk or footnote regarding the question—but not a conversation stopper.

2) I do think Paul had a hallucination of Jesus post-mortem. I think the terms of what, how, when and who—regarding the disciples—on the other occurrences are ill-defined. Did the disciples hallucinate? Was it altered state of conscious? Was it in a group? Did they believe it was an actual physical being, or a spiritual one? All these questions are not easily sorted out.

3) I hold to a historical Jesus. You are correct, I am sympathetic to the mythical position’s arguments, when they present good arguments. Paul not utilizing any of Jesus’ miracles, sermons, parables or actions (other than Eucharist) is troubling to me. Does it make Jesus a myth? No…but it raises good questions regarding what is and what is not mythical about Jesus stories. The legend development freely employed in what we see within the Synoptic gospels is troubling.

Indeed, everyone agrees myths developed about Jesus. (Unless you hold the Infancy Gospel of Thomas to be historically accurate?) The question is when, and how much. The mythicists bring these legitimate questions to the forefront. I think they take it too far…but that is my method. I don’t see a neutral jury determining it more likely than not Jesus was entirely a myth.

DagoodS said...

Daniel Gracely,

I agree we all start with premises. The concern is how much those premises are influenced by bias, prejudice, upbringing, culture, etc. It is unsurprising a person raised in a conservative Christian environment, holds to conservative Christian premises. Muslims do not “spring forth” spontaneously in Baptist churches!

How one can set aside their own biases and attempt—as objectively as possible—to determine what happened? As best we can with the information we have.

Simply put—how does one change one’s mind upon learning new information? If all we ever had was reliance on one’s own premises, and consequently one’s own bias and baggage that comes with it, one would never change their mind.

More importantly, can we change our position to one we don’t prefer? One that conflicts with our own desires, biases…even our very deepest emotional attachments?

For this reason I focus on methodology; I find adherence to a method, even when it disagrees with my wishes—ESPECIALLY when it disagrees—is the most objective I can possibly hope to be as a human. Otherwise, I will believe what I want to believe, without hope of discovering truth.

The better lawyers know how to evaluate arguments to recognize what will prevail and what will not, regardless of what the client desires to be true, or even the lawyer desires to be true. We hold to the method of what a jury would most likely determine—not what we hope a jury might say. As I said to Anette Acker, I transfer this same method over to theological study.

Again, I wasn’t that interested in discussing the 70-week prophecy, but perhaps it would be instructive regarding my position on methodology. I am interested in methods that weigh alternative claims—not merely recognize them. How does the method determine which is more likely true?

Looking at the starting point of this prophecy. Daniel 9:25 says [in part], “That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;” (NKJV). Easy as pie—look for the command to restore and build Jerusalem. Four alternatives are generally discussed:

1) Cyrus’ decree to rebuild the temple. 538 BCE. 2 Chron. 36:21-22; Ezra 1:1-4.
2) Darius’ decree to continue on temple. 522 BCE. Ezra 6:1-9
3) Artaxerxes decree to Ezra to take people to Jerusalem with treasure. 458 BCE Ezra 7:11-28
4) Artaxerxes letter to Nehemiah for safe passage and vouchers for supplies. 445 BCE. Neh. 2:1-6

(Information obtained from this article.) Unfortunately for Jesus to be a Messiah, the first three decrees are too early (subtract 483 years, and we don’t reach Jesus’ time) and the last one is too late! Further, the first two are not decrees to build Jerusalem specifically, only the temple. The third is for transporting people, not necessarily building. And the forth is not a decree to build anything at all. It is not even an order!

The question becomes—which (if any) of these decrees is the one referred to in Daniel 9? What method does one utilize to determine between these alternate possibilities? If one uses a method specifically designed to substantiate one’s one premises, one can fall into the danger of confirming the biases. (Indeed, manufacturing a calendar that no one utilized in order to conform the last possibility to Jesus is demonstration of the confirmation danger.)

Frankly, Daniel Gracely, I wondered whether you developed a methodology that weighs alternatives. If you hold to this prophetic scheme, certainly you were aware of the alternative dates. Even those of us who haven’t studied it with any rigor knew the four dates—surely you did! So while you may disagree with any date I thought it was, you would have known what I meant by “incorrect date.”

If you knew, and had weighed, the alternate possibilities, why would you have to ask what I meant by “incorrect date”?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I don't see how you can be so vague on this question. For one thing I believe I read somewhere that Mark alone has over 20 references to the lake of fire by Jesus.

Second, you are saying that the Almighty creator of the universe is either unable or unwilling to clearly state His position on various issues. He can't even say for certain whether people are going into a lake of fire or are just going to be poofed out of existence. If He is so vague on these issue how can we be certain about anything He says anywhere in the bible.

Who do you think is right - fire or poof? If you pick one then obviously the other side is wrong, right?


I don't know if you had a chance to read what Bible scholar Ben Witherington says about the annihilation view, but it doesn't say that anyone will be "poofed" out of existence. It simply says that the unsaved will not live forever. However, that doesn't mean that God doesn't administer justice, which entails appropriate punishment. And the “lake of fire” may just as easily mean annihilation, since fire consumes.

As for God being vague on this issue, I think verses like 1 Corinthians 2:9 may shed some light on the reason: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which has not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” If humans can’t conceive of what eternal life will be like (the new heavens and new earth), because it will be so different, then it makes sense that we can’t conceive of eternal judgment either.

If you add a dimension, you get a lot more possibilities, and since God exists in the eternal realm, He would have a lot more possibilities in terms of judging us justly. He won’t be stumped by the problem of what to do with Mahatma Gandhi or someone who never heard the Gospel. As Acts 17:30 says, God has the option of overlooking ignorance.

So if the question of how exactly God will judge is too complex for human minds because it involves that which “has not entered the heart of man,” then it makes sense that the Bible tells us what we need to know, but no more.

If someone is told that they will just be poof-ed out of existence they might not have such a hesitation against committing evil but if they knew they were going to be cast into a lake of fire that might have more of an impact on some of them.

I would advise someone who is in a position to make that kind of a calculation to turn to Hebrews 10:26-27 for insight: “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

Again the focus is on what we know and our level of intent. While Acts 17:30 indicates that God will overlook ignorance, there are numerous passages that state that the more we know and the more of the grace of God we have experienced, the more severe the punishment if we fall back into sin or apostasy (Hebrews 6:4-8, 2 Peter 2:17-21). We are bound to take others down with us and defraud them of eternal life, and if you consider how serious it is to wrongfully take a life, which will eventually end anyway, it would be far more serious to defraud someone of eternal life. And the punishment can be worse than death (Luke 17:2, Matthew 26:24).

So the Bible clearly tells us how to live and that God will judge justly, taking into consideration our state of mind and the impact of our sins, but it doesn’t tell us what exactly this will mean for each individual. However, it uses strong imagery, like “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” to describe what it will feel like to be excluded from the kingdom of God. So whether the traditional view or the annihilation view is correct, the Bible is clear that consequences of selling one's birthright for a bowl of stew, so to speak, will be extremely unpleasant.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi DagoodS,

From what you write, I think being a lawyer has probably been a disadvantage to your discovering truth (especially if you’re an effective rhetoritician). In some sense you can hardly be blamed for this. To pay the house mortgage, to save for your children’s future college tuitions, etc., all depend in large measure on your ability to persuade jurists. This may be why you’re more interested in the methodology of arguments than in their substance. The danger, of course, is if you have come to define the good as “successful argument leading to pecuniary ends.” On the other hand, obviously you have some genuine interest in religion, or you wouldn’t bother with a blog like Anette’s.

But to partially address your point, even professing Christians would give different responses to what lies at the root of persuasion. John Piper, perhaps the most popular Calvinist preacher today, has said man has no ultimate predication. For Piper, God’s irresistible decrees lie at the root of every human desire and “choice”. My own opinion is opposite this. It is that each of us brings ex nihilio (out of nothing) his own desires, thoughts and choices, despite our exposure to influences. That is, while God gives us the ability to think, He never gives us what to think. But, of course, a child is prone toward accepting whatever religion or irreligion is held by the parents or guardians who take care of him. That is, he trusts the parent or guardian in physical matters, and so naturally transfers that to the spiritual.

As for ridding one’s self of all biased and prejudicial thinking in order to examine impartially an idea, good luck. Practically, I don’t know if that is even possible. For example, if, before you decided which religions to compare, you had to first position your mind to an impartial state about whether or not thought of any kind were justified, how would you ever proceed even to that?

As for exactly how we think, I believe that is a mystery.

But to go to your point about methodology, I personally believe the grammatical-historical hermeneutic is the only proper approach to the bible. This means that the words in the bible should be understood even as they were understood by the contemporary culture. Even many Evangelicals go astray here, and so end up making arguments of special pleading when e.g. God is the grammatical subject (e.g. Calvinists), or to justify a particular theological doctrine the bible does not support. Let me give an example of the former kind. If a man gives a child a gift, the child might refuse it, but in Calvinism if God gives man the gift of a “new heart,” God’s giving is considered irresistible. The problem, of course, is that if “to give” means one thing when a man does it, but quite another thing when God does it, how can one know what any word means when God is the grammatical subject?

I hope to write soon to address the point about Daniel 9 and different decrees.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

For example, a person neutral to the proposition whether Jesus intended genea to mean all humans, or just the persons he was talking to in Mark 13, after reviewing the context, Jesus’ use of genea elsewhere, the dating of Mark, the history of the Jewish war, would determine it is more likely than not, Jesus intended genea to mean within the lifetime of the persons he was talking to.

This is an example of you simply making an unsubstantiated assertion. You are asserting that a neutral person would decide that your position is right for the reasons that you have given. (And how are we to know who is truly neutral? You may think that someone is neutral, while I would disagree, and vice versa. Most people read these discussions with bias, and there is no voir dire to eliminate them. Nor would we want to, of course, but it would be naïve to assume that our readers are unbiased.)

There is plenty of examples of Jesus seeming to use the word “generation” to simply mean the human race. For example Mark 9:19 says: "O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me." Was it just the people alive at the time of Jesus (in this case, He was addressing His own disciples) who were “unbelieving”? And Mark 8:38 says: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." Again, it seems like Jesus uses "generation" to mean the human race in that context.

I also gave a long list of examples where "generation" is used to mean "race," including Shakespeare: “Painter: "Y'are a dog."
Apemantus: "Thy mother's of my generation. What's she, if I be a dog?"

A point I didn’t raise before is that the immediate context of Luke 21:32-33 et al. indicates that Jesus is talking about the human race because right after He talks about “this generation” not passing away until all these things happen, He says, “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." In the context of heaven and earth passing away, it makes more sense that “generation” means the human race rather than just one generation of humans.

Another one is that Jesus answers His disciples’ question about the end of the age by saying, “See to it that nobody misleads you . . . You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars . . . but that is not yet the end . . . But all these things are merely the beginnings of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:4-8). So He essentially tells them that they should not be mislead into thinking that the end will come right after “wars and rumors of wars.”

Also, you yourself admitted that we have no precise way of dating the books of the Bible, so the “dating of Mark” is not a particularly compelling reason, especially since, as we discussed earlier, there are good reasons to think Acts (and by extension, Luke) was written earlier than it is generally dated.

It may be obvious to you that Jesus meant the people alive at the time because that’s what you’ve taken for granted for a long time, but I don’t recall you giving much evidence in support of this contention. In your post on why apologetics fail to convince, you simply said: “All those ‘possibilities’ do not sustain over the more obvious probabilities; whether Jesus actually said it or someone put those words in his mouth—they were incorrect.” Just stating that this is obvious doesn't make it so.

(It was in that post that I got the impression that you are a criminal defense attorney, especially when you said: "In every trial we bob and weave and dance and twist, showing over and over how there is another 'possibility' to the prosecutor’s theory.")

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

I don't mean to sound like I'm coming down too hard on you. I did a search of other things you've written where you made excellent points that you clearly substantiate.

Mostly I've just been trained by an atheist who used to comment on Atheist Central, and whenever a Christian made an unsubstantiated assertion, he would reply in a robotic fashion: "Please substantiate this assertion." So I always had to be on pins and needles to make I substantiated everything.

Now I'm just getting my revenge on the world--bwahahahahaha!!

Daniel Gracely said...

Thanks, DagoodS, for stating that your resource is infidel.org contributor, Jim Lippard.

First, Lippard’s statements often lack precision to a point of misleading his readers. Just one example, here. He uses the date of 538 B.C. as the first year of Cyrus’ reign. But in fact while it is true Cyrus’ first year of reign began in 538 B.C., Ezra and Nehemiah’s reckoning of it would have had the majority of Cyrus’ first year in 537 B.C. This is because, though by the Babylonian system of reckoning, Cyrus’ first year ran from Nisan to Nisan (corresponding roughly to Mar/Apr), the Jewish reckoning of Ezra and Nehemiah in the 5th century ran from the 7th month, from Tishri to Tishri (Sept/Oct). This is confirmed by papryri found on the Isle of Elephantine (in the Nile), where Jews contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah in the 5th century reckoned the reigning years of kings according to a Tishri to Tishri system. Therefore, though Cyrus entered Babylon Oct. 29, 539 B.C. (in the 8th month of Marcheshvan, Oct/Nov), his first year as reckoned by Ezra/Nehemiah would have run from Tishri to Tishri, 538/537, or from Sep/Oct 538 to Sep/Oct 537.

Prof. Harold Hoehner of Dallas T.S. uses this fact to explain what at first appears to be a discrepancy in Nehemiah. For Nehemiah states that in the [9th] month of Chislev (Nov/Dec) in the 20th year of Artaxerxes he learns of the deplorable state of Jerusalem, and then in the [1st] month of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes he asks the king to send him to Jerusalem to rebuild it. But since Chislev is the 9th month, yet the following Nisan the 1st month, how can these two months be said to be in the same year of Artaxerxes’ reign? The answer is that the Jews maintained their ceremonial year (Nisan to Nisan) for determining the proper time for their festivals, but by the time of Ezra and Nehemiah had adopted a Tishri to Tishri system for determining the reigning years of kings.

The significance of this becomes evident when trying to determine the length of the 70-year Exile. Fellow infidel to Lippard, Chris Sandoval, claims that only a 67 or 72 year Exile is possible, citing in the former estimate 605 B.C. to 538 B.C. This is because he makes the same mistake of Lippard, failing to realize that such Jews in the 6th century as Daniel and Jeremiah reckoned reigning years from Nisan to Nisan, though such Jews in the 5th century as Ezra and Nehemiah reckoned them from Tishri to Tishri. I won’t take the time here to draw out all the ramifications, but they show Sandoval to be in error in his claim that the Bible cannot account for a 70-year Exile.

The same kind of error is found on the main online website translating Babylonian and Assyrian records, where the claim is made that 2 Kings contradicts the Nabonidus Cylinder, recording the fall of Jehoiachin in Nebuchadnezzar’s 8th year, while the Cylinder records it in Nebuchadnezzar’s 7th year. The website ends by saying the contradiction has never been resolved. But in fact the entire reign of Jehoiachin (3 months 10 days according to the bible) came after Tishri but before Nisan, and so the fall of Jehoiachin, which according to the Babylonian record occurred on the 2nd of Addarus (equal to the Jews’ Adar, or 12th month) on March 17th, 597 B.C., came in the 8th year of Nebuchadnezzar by the reckoning of the 5th century writer(s) of Kings, but in the 7th year by Babylonian reckoning. In other words, the bible and the Nabonidus Cylinder actually agree.

Why isn’t any of this in Lippard or Sandoval? Could it be there is an almost subconscious bias or prejudice on their part? And would this mindset also explain why you yourself are citing the source infidel.org and not also a Christian theologian like Harold Hoehner, especially given your statement that one must take an impartial position before he can hope to discover the truth?

My next comment will deal with your claim that there was no decree in the 20th year of Artaxerxes.

Daniel Gracely said...

Correction: Although not material to my argument, a correction should be noted: It is the "Jerusalem Chronicle", not the Nabonidus Cylinder, which records the early years of Nebuchadnezzar (II). The latter records Cyrus' entry into Babylon.

Daniel Gracely said...

DagoodS writes:

1) Cyrus’ decree to rebuild the temple. 538 BCE. 2 Chron. 36:21-22; Ezra 1:1-4.
2) Darius’ decree to continue on temple. 522 BCE. Ezra 6:1-9
3) Artaxerxes decree to Ezra to take people to Jerusalem with treasure. 458 BCE Ezra 7:11-28
4) Artaxerxes letter to Nehemiah for safe passage and vouchers for supplies. 445 BCE. Neh. 2:1-6

…Unfortunately for Jesus to be a Messiah, the first three decrees are too early (subtract 483 years, and we don’t reach Jesus’ time) and the last one is too late! Further, the first two are not decrees to build Jerusalem specifically, only the temple. The third is for transporting people, not necessarily building. And the forth is not a decree to build anything at all. It is not even an order!
(emphasis non-authorial)

First, Daniel speaks of a commandment, not a decree, in Daniel 9:25. The two Hebrew words have different lexical histories, have different etymological roots, and are not strict synonyms for each other. The first three decrees in your list above are in fact specifically described as decrees according to the bible. But the fourth is not. Therefore when you say “the last one [i.e. decree] is too late” this is incorrect.

Now regarding your claim that

“And the forth (sic) is not a decree to build anything at all. It is not even an order!”

First, as just noted, Daniel stated there would be a commandment to restore and build Jerusalem; and a commandment is not necessarily a decree. Second, in fact there was a commandment issued through letters given to Nehemiah, addressed to various governors and also a letter to the king’s forest keeper. (Nehemiah 2:7-8) The first was to supply Nehemiah with safe passage to Judah, the second was to instruct that timber be provided for: (1) the gates of Jerusalem; (2) the walls of Jerusalem; (3) the house where Nehemiah would stay. Moreover, note that the commandment need not necessarily be directed at Nehemiah, but merely in regard to the restoration and building of Jerusalem. And indeed this is exactly what the contents of the letter to Asaph (the King’s forest manager) accomplish.

So when you say that the fourth was not even a decree, I would technically agree, since Daniel actually said it would be a commandment. But that you didn’t mean to split hairs here between what is a decree and what is a commandment is obvious, since (a) you don’t draw out any such distinction as I have done here, and (b) since under the impersonal pronoun “one” you refer to the last of four “decrees”.

Finally, when you say “It [the fourth decree] is not even an order!” I must ask what you suppose Artaxerxes’ letter to Asaph was, which instructed him to supply timber to Nehemiah for the building of Jerusalem’s gates and walls, if such does not constitute a command?

So about this neutrality and impartiality you are seeking—How is that going? It doesn’t strike me like it’s going well, since you and your source prefer historical revisionism where necessary to discredit the bible. Since you’re a lawyer I just have to ask…Do you really feel this approach is “neutral” and “impartial”?

My next and probably last comment here, unless I hear from you, will address your claim that none of the four decrees allow for 483 years to Christ.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi DagoodS,

In your last comment you claimed that none of the four “decrees” from either Cyrus, Darius, or Artaxerxes allows for the 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy—i.e., from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem, to an endpoint just before the crucifixion. In my opinion the 69 weeks referred to by Daniel commenced on (Julian dates) Monday, April 6, 444 B.C. (during Artaxerxes’ 20 year of reign) and ended on Monday, April 27, 33 A.D., with the crucifixion following on Friday, May 1, 33 A.D. and the Resurrection on Sunday, May 3, 33 A.D. Because this period of time is reckoned according to 483 years of 360 days each, instead of 365¼, some explanation is required. But let me say that the information here is the merest sketch of the subject that can be given, because of the constraint of blogging space. Of necessity, then, I will have to leave out entire discussion points. However, if you google my name and send me an email through my xCalvinist,com website, I will forward you a 30,000 word article I have written on the subject. I would suggest you do that if you are serious at all about surveying all sides to this question.

First, then, arguably the Scriptures show that Christ thought the Jews should have expected him on the Day of ‘Triumphal’ Entry (on April 27, 33 A.D.). This is based on a statement in the gospel of Luke, where just before his entry into Jerusalem, Christ states that the City should have known “at least in this thy day, the things that pertain to your peace…” (Luke 19:42) But since the time between the 20th year of Artaxerxes and the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem is 476 years, 24.7 days, not 483 years, why did Christ think the Jews should have expected him?

As I pondered this question earlier this year, which for some reason neither Christians nor even skeptics seemed to have raised, it seemed the only plausible explanation was that the Jews at some earlier point in their history must have observed a period of time of, so to speak, 360-day years, when they had instead expected the passing of ‘normal’ solar years. By this I don’t mean that the solar year had actually changed. Specifically, I mean that during the Exile, they observed (or should have observed) that despite Jeremiah stating the Exile would last 70 years, it lasted 69. Or, more specifically, 69 years, 2 days. This is because an Exile of 70 years in which each year is 360 days turns out to be 69 years, 2 days in ‘normal’ solar years. And so, my hypothesis is that the Jews, observing the Exile to be a year less in number, should have realized that the reason God had shortened the Exile was because he was pointing backward to the creation (which he wanted to restore), when, according to dates given in Genesis 7 pertaining to the Great Flood, years were apparently 360 days each. In my opinion a catastrophic terresetrial change took place on the earth causing the Flood, probably a meteor strike, which opened up the “fountains of the deep” mentioned in Genesis, and slowed the planet to a slower spin. Thus the Edenic-like early environment which somehow made possible 900+ year old men came to an end. Interesting enough, UK biologist and theoretician Aubrey de Grey was awarded a Cambridge Ph.D. a decade ago for a book suggesting 1,000 year human lifespans were actually possible, based on cytological rehabilitation, and de Grey was interviewed on a 60-minutes segment.
(part 2 of 2 follows)

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 2 of 2)
But the point here is that the 360-day year points to God’s intention to restore things as at the beginning of creation, through the advent of the Messiah and his power. And so the Jews were to count off 360 day years in anticipation of the coming of Messiah to restore all things. Again, this does not mean the Jews thought solar years were now 360 days. No, it simply means that, while they continued marking the lunar-solar calendar in the usual way for the purpose of observing the seasons of the year and their various festivals, a countdown of 69 weeks (173,880 days) had the function of preparing their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

Now, a further evidence of this theme of 360-day years for the purpose of a countdown, is found in the book of Daniel. For the prophet says he was studying Jeremiah’s statement about the days of the Exile, when he was visited by the angel Gabriel with a message. Gabriel told him that before Messiah would actually rule on earth, a [i.e. [another] 490 year period pertaining to the Jews would first transpire. In effect Gabriel’s statement was this: the 70 year Exile—one year for every 7 years the Jews had failed to rest the land, implies 490 years of disobedience. Yet contrary to what Daniel may have been expecting at the end of the current Exile—the advent of the Messiah in its fullest sense—another 490 ‘years’ would first pass. Yet after 483 ‘years’ Messiah would be cut off.

As it turns out, (Julian date) Monday, April 27th, 33 A.D., the day Jesus rode into the City, marked the end of the 69 weeks from Nisan 444 B.C., when the commandment was first given to restore and build Jerusalem. This Day of ‘Triumphal’ Entry was the 10th of Nisan, the very day when the lamb for the Passover sacrifice was separated from the flock, to be slain four days later. Thus Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament symbolism of the 10th, 14th, and 16th days of Nisan, in that he was publicly separated from his own on the 10th of Nisan, slain on the 14th of Nisan, and resurrected on the 16th of Nisan (symbolized in the Wave Offering of First Fruits, symbolizing Christ, the first one resurrected, of all believers who will be resurrected because of Him).

And so, when Jim Lippard states on the infidels.org website that it was Robert Anderson who “invented” the 360-day year based on the passage in Revelation about the last week being of two halves—42 months/ 1260 days, and 42 months, respectively, and when Chris Sandoval on the same website accuses Christian Dispensationalists of reading such numbers with “micrometer” precision instead of rounding them off, I must ask: But is it not John the Apostle, not Anderson, who stated these things, and who invites exactly such “micrometer” interpretation?—And was it not John who was part of the disciples who asked the resurrected Christ about the timing of his kingdom, and would have been in the position to ask Christ such things?

The fact is, Lippard and Sandoval are reduced to pleading for an interpretation for rounded off numbers, since otherwise the prophecy of Daniel is proven true. Thus they put Daniel and John between a rock and a hard place. For had these prophets used rounded off numbers they would have been accused of ambiguity, but since they give specific numbers, they’re accused of mere literary gestures.

Well, like I said before, for skeptics any explanation is preferred in place of a biblical one.

DagoodS said...

Daniel Gracely,

I apologize for not responding sooner—busy holiday weekend with friends and immediate family. Just catching my breath.

I agree it is impossible to rid oneself of ALL prejudice and ALL biases and to review a matter completely impartially. However, the simple fact is that we already engage in a method when choosing alternatives; it will already happen. Even if the method is as simple as “I’ll believe what I want, when I want.” (And I am not saying any here is doing that.)

If we already engage in a method, I desire a method:

1) Consistent;
2) As objective as possible; and
3) Provides one to change their mind upon following the method.

I realize these goals may not be the same for everyone. They are important to me. And until I find a method that is better than the one employed by the American Judicial System—something I am intimately familiar with the mechanics—I will continue with those goals.

I appreciate you going through the argument for the Daniel 9 prophecy; I was already familiar with the argument, if not some of the particulars. (Never heard the argument our solar years were 360 days prior to the Flood, for example.) I was really looking for was something else—what is the method we utilize to determine which argument is the correct one? Not the argument itself—the method.

Until we understand the method, in my opinion, the arguments are exchanges with little movement in position.

P.S. I used the iidb site because I am curious whether those discussing issues can separate the arguments from the beliefs of those making the arguments. Does a person reject what is being said because of WHO is saying it, or because WHAT is being said? I could easily have cited the same dates from plenty of Christian sites, including, but not even remotely limited to here, here or here. A Google search provides dozens of other Christian sites saying the same dates.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

When I use the term “neutral” I mean a person who has no gain or loss regardless which way is determined. In a Judicial system, the Judge or Jury neither gains a monetary award nor do they have to pay—thus they are considered “neutral” in determining what, if any, money to award. They have no gain; no loss. They are neutral.

Whether Jesus meant the Son of Man was coming back within the lifetime of the listeners or at some point in the future is, frankly, irrelevant to me. I think he was wrong either way. I have no gain, no loss either way. Arguably I would be neutral to that prospect. I understand you have reached the point of disagreeing with everything I say, so I will not press the point.

Anette Acker: It may be obvious to you that Jesus meant the people alive at the time because that’s what you’ve taken for granted for a long time, but I don’t recall you giving much evidence in support of this contention. [emphasis in original]

I am not surprised you do not recall the evidence given. It is inherent in methodologies that once we make a determination between alternatives, we (as humans) forget the other alternatives. I have often forgotten research I have done because I chose an alternative in my method and moved on.

Within your method, once any evidence (no matter how slight) is provided in support of your contention, you apparently forget all the evidence countering it. However, evidence was provided. Let me use just one (1) of your current claims as an example for the types of evidence given, but then forgotten by you.

Anette Acker: And Mark 8:38 says: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." Again, it seems like Jesus uses "generation" to mean the human race in that context.

1. Language. The Greek utilizes the specific word taute “this” meaning a particular generation. It is an adjective of distinction—“this generation” as compared to other generations. If Jesus meant the entire human race, what other “generation” would NOT be included in “this generation”?

2. Context. The very next verse, Mark 9:1, says there are some alive who would not taste death until the Son of Man comes in power. Indeed Mark 9:1 is a hotly contested verse, NOT because Jesus was talking about the entire human race, but because what did Jesus mean by people being still alive when the Son of Man came? Apologetics run replete (the most common being that the Transfiguration was the moment being discussed by Jesus) but ALL these apologetics presume Jesus was speaking about those immediate present. Indeed that is the problem the apologetics envision and defend.

3. Scholarship. I looked at three (3) Commentaries. Malina (unsurprisingly) indicates it was referring to those present. Turton (and one other) were silent. Henry focused on separating 8:38 and 9:1 for grammatical reasons, not theological ones. No commentary indicated “this generation” referred to the entire human race.

So…at this point I have evidence from the language, context and commentaries. To counter this all I have is your unsubstantiated assertion that it “seems” like Jesus meant the entire human race. For someone who appears unhappy with unsubstantiated assertion, it is ironic you utilized it here.

[I could also note Mark 9:19 was NOT addressing the disciples and “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not” is a form of oath. Like saying “until hell freezes over.” One isn’t really setting a moment in time—there are indicating the strength of the statement.]

But I fear, due to your confirmation method, you will forget these evidences as well.

Daniel Gracely said...

DagoodS writes:

I was really looking for was something else—what is the method we utilize to determine which argument is the correct one? Not the argument itself—the method.

But how do you know you are not exercising faith, and that ex nihilio, when you assume a priori it is a method, not faith, which we utilize to determine which argument is correct?

If you say, “No, it is a method, not faith, that lies behind why I think it is a method,” your argument may be consistent, but not proved. This is why I have been appealing to the substance, not method, of argument, since every viewpoint can be shown consistent with itself. If at the end of the day we merely have my assertion on the one hand and your assertion on the other, where does that get us? That is why by faith I appeal to prophecy as the method by which God shows his view superior to all others.

Incidentally, the three links you provided are imo superficial treatments of the Daniel 9 argument, and do not prove (or prove well) the superiority of God’s view.

The first held to a March 5 date for Nisan, which has been shown all but false based on 14 statements from papyri in the 5th century B.C. showing when Nisan began during certain years, with ranges from March 26 to April 24 (Julian dates). Even when one considers that the Julian calendar drifts about 6 days by the 5th century B.C., the ‘seasonally adjusted’ dates would be March 20 to April 18. Therefore March 5th is not a real possibility.

The second held to an ending date of April 6, 32 A.D., but this is a Sunday (hence the tradition of “Palm Sunday”). But the gospel of Mark, which is the only gospel which accounts for every day between the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion, shows that the Triumphal Entry occurred on a Monday. Mark’s gospel with its “Palm Monday” also harmonizes with the other gospels. Also, this same site held to a March 16th date for Nisan, which, again, is not a real possibility for reasons stated in the previous paragraph.

The 3rd site is the least credible, so I would stay away from it. For example, it claims that Ezra 7 contains a decree to rebuild Jerusalem. But as you have already pointed out, Ezra 7 does no such thing. Furthermore, it lists 27 A.D. as the baptism of Jesus, when in fact John the Baptist is said to have begun his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius, which, since Tiberius began officially to reign in Sept., 14 A.D. upon Augustus’ death in Aug., 14 A.D., makes the beginning of Tiberius’ 15th year run from Sept. 28 to Sept. 29. Simply put, John was not baptizing in 27A.D. Also, this site shows the crucifixion happening 3.5 years after the 69th week, instead of hard by it, which should be expected of a Messiah determined to fulfill prophecy. This site also has a contiguous 70th week despite John’s statement in Revelation about the last week in which there will be two witnesses able to bring all manner of plagues upon the earth as they see fit for 3.5 years, whose death the entire world will see and rejoice over, and whose resurrection after 3 days will terrify the world. This is obviously a future event which has no parallel in the years 31 to 34 A.D. I could go on, but this site is incredibly uninformed.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

When I use the term “neutral” I mean a person who has no gain or loss regardless which way is determined. In a Judicial system, the Judge or Jury neither gains a monetary award nor do they have to pay—thus they are considered “neutral” in determining what, if any, money to award. They have no gain; no loss. They are neutral.

Being neutral means more than not having a pecuniary stake in the outcome. For example, during a high profile criminal trial the jurors may have to be sequestered to keep them away from information that may affect their impartiality.

I think that can be analogized to Christian apologetics. Although I enjoy engaging in dialogue with skeptics and find that I learn from it, I avoid sites that are predominantly anti-Christian propaganda rather than information and constructive debate (*cough*Debunking Christianity*cough*--but in fairness to Loftus, his site is not just anti-Christian propaganda; he adds a healthy dollop of self-promotion to the mix). In my opinion, that renders an individual incapable of making a neutral decision, so why waste my time?

I agree with you that the courtroom model can be an effective methodology for getting at the truth (but it has its limitations). Interestingly, the Bible encourages cross-examination as a vehicle for truth: "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him" (Proverbs 18:17).

This is the approach I typically take when it comes to apologetics, and I do adjust my perspective according to whatever truth emerges during one of these discussions.

Arguably I would be neutral to that prospect. I understand you have reached the point of disagreeing with everything I say, so I will not press the point.

I actually disagree with both parts to that statement: that you are neutral (you are an atheist and an active counter-apologist) and that I have reached the point of disagreeing with everything you say. (I think you are right that Luke's mention of the fire in the courtyard is an example of "fatigue.")

Within your method, once any evidence (no matter how slight) is provided in support of your contention, you apparently forget all the evidence countering it.

I don't have to rely on memory because I can go back and quote our discussion. I said:

Setting aside the answers of Jesus to direct questions about timing (which are a slam dunk for our side), let’s recap the evidence for our respective definitions of “generation”:

The Broader Definition:

1. Shakespeare
2. The Psalms
3. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon
4. Jerome
5. Venerable Bede
6. Origen
7. St. Thomas Aquinas

The Narrow Modern Definition:

1. People reacted as if Jesus was coming soon
2. It’s possible that Jesus used the narrow definition

Is there anything you’d like to add to that list, because I think we both agree that it really comes down to evidence and not rhetoric.


And you did not respond.

I do not "recall" your argument about Mark 8:38 because you never made it before. (I never brought up Mark 8:38 as an example of Jesus using genea to mean the human race.)

Anette Acker said...

So…at this point I have evidence from the language, context and commentaries. To counter this all I have is your unsubstantiated assertion that it “seems” like Jesus meant the entire human race. For someone who appears unhappy with unsubstantiated assertion, it is ironic you utilized it here.

Even if you are right that Jesus used genea in the sense of those present in Mark 8:38, my other example of Him using it in the sense of the human race (talking about "ubelieving generation") still stands. As I have said before, there is evidence of Him using it both ways. Most of the time when Jesus uses genea, it is not clear whether He means it in the sense of the human race or those alive at the time.

[I could also note Mark 9:19 was NOT addressing the disciples and “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not” is a form of oath. Like saying “until hell freezes over.” One isn’t really setting a moment in time—there are indicating the strength of the statement.]

Jesus is referring to His disciples as "unbelieving," because in Matthew 17:19-20 the same story is told and Jesus explains to His disciples that they couldn't drive out the demon because of the littleness of their faith. In Mark, the disciples also ask why they couldn't drive it out, implying that the comment about "unbelieving generation" was directed at them.

And Jesus is most certainly saying that heaven and earth will pass away at some point in time. This is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. 2 Peter 3:10 says, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up." Isaiah 34:4, I John 2:17, and Revelation 6:14 say the same thing.

Daniel Gracely said...

DagoodS,

(1)As for “this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled,” I agree with some of your criticism of Anette’s view, which also used to be my own view, i.e., that generation meant race. Lately, I feel the contexts in the Synoptics don’t support my old view. They begin with Christ making some general remarks about how there would be persecution, but that this precedes the general end of history—a future time of almost unimaginable trouble on the earth, including cosmological threats which will distress nations, etc. If I recall right, the bible predicts 75% of the earth’s population will perish as a result of various catastrophes. There is also reference to the abomination of desolation, which I take to mean the antichrist declaring himself God, which occurs in the last years of this end-of-the-age period. Also, it seems this phrase “this generation…” ties in with the verse in which Christ said that unless those days be shortened, no flesh would survive. So I think you are right to insist on a specific generation, by which I take to mean that generation which shall witness all of these terrible things at the end of the age.

(2)As for the transfiguration and Christ’s statement prior to it, here is how I have translated the verbs based on the Tense/Voice/Mood, according to BlueLetterBible.com. Admittedly, it reads a little awkwardly in English:

Mark 9:1
…there are some who were standing here who should not consent to taste death till they should see the kingdom of God was coming with power.



were standingPerfect/ Active/ Participle

should not consentAorist/Middle Deponent/ Subjunctive (Aorist is still debated as to its meaning, but is generally translated as past tense. I follow Emer. Prof. Carl Conrad who believes the aorist is subject focused. Mid. Dep. is a confusing term, but is an action done to someone ‘passive’ yet with his consent, such as baptism, in which another performs the action, but in which it is understood the one receiving the action has consented to it. Subjunctive has a degree of uncertainty to it, unlike the Indicative)

should seeAorist/ Active/ Subjunctive (or “may see”, “might see”, “ought [to] see”.)

was comingPerfect/ Active/ Participle

The statement seems to be somewhat designedly ambiguous. Is Christ speaking of persons who stood here (Cesaerea Philippi) in the recent past but not the twelve, or of the Twelve? Perhaps Christ expressed it thus so his disciples would not immediately burden themselves with the possibility of their own martyrdom, though the saying would sink down deep into their ears. I think the “some” is because Christ knew Judas would not be included among those disciples martyred for the gospel. I think the Transfiguration would be at least part of what would be implied in the coming power of the kingdom of God.

Daniel Gracely said...

DagoodS,

After reading Anette's response, I suppose her (and my old) view could be incorporated into the mix after all, so that, per your criticism, in one sense it would, in fact, be a specific generation which would witness all the events pertaining to the last days, yet, with a nod in Anette's direction, also a generation which at that point constituted all of the human race.

Anette Acker said...

Another example of Jesus using the word genea to mean "kind" is Luke 16:8: "The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light." The word genea is here alternatively translated "generation" or "kind."

DagoodS said...

Daniel Gracely,

Anette Acker and I held long conversations regarding Jesus’ meaning of genea in Mark 13:30—whether it meant within the present people’s lifetime (pursuant to one definition under Thayer’s) or within all of humanity (pursuant to another definition under Thayer’s). The discussion started here and continued here.

However, once Anette Acker could not even agree with me that at times Jesus did use genea to mean those present, and further claimed Jesus intentionally gave the impression the Son of Man was returning in their lifetime (which is the very point I was arguing!) to provide a sense of urgency, but didn’t really mean it…well…I could see further discussion would be useless. Why substantiate every point when even those most obvious are disputed and disregarded? The links I pointed out, the authors cited, the verses quoted were dismissed with a hand wave.

I only mentioned genea here because it was representative of the methodology utilized.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

However, once Anette Acker could not even agree with me that at times Jesus did use genea to mean those present

You made that claim once before and I replied by directing you to the following response that I gave shortly after the comment you referenced:

I did not say that Jesus never used the word “generation” to mean those who were presently alive. I just see no reason why we should lean toward that definition in the examples you gave.

I don't understand why you are now repeating this claim after I corrected you.

and further claimed Jesus intentionally gave the impression the Son of Man was returning in their lifetime (which is the very point I was arguing!) to provide a sense of urgency, but didn’t really mean it…well…I could see further discussion would be useless.

I said the following:

I have already conceded that the early church believed that the return of Jesus would be imminent, but I will go a step further by saying that I think Jesus intentionally created that atmosphere of uncertainty because He wanted them to live as if His return was imminent. In Matthew 24:44, Jesus says, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

But He hints that He will not come for a long time: In Matthew 24:48, He says: “But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time.'” And in Matthew 25:5, He says: “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”


Giving an atmosphere of uncertainty because He wanted them to be ready is not the same as saying that He intentionally gave the impression that He was returning in their lifetime.

Jesus also said: "When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away" (Luke 21:9).

I only mentioned genea here because it was representative of the methodology utilized.

So far all you've established is that I have reached a different conclusion than you and you feel that I'm obviously wrong. You've paid very little attention to any of the supportive evidence--of my methodology in general and my position on Mark 13:30.

Vinny said...

Dagoods wrote: “Annette could not even agree with me that at times Jesus did use genea to mean those present.”

Anette responded: “I did not say that Jesus never used the word “generation” to mean those who were presently alive. I just see no reason why we should lean toward that definition in the examples you gave.”

Does Anette’s response actually correct Dagoods’ claim? Does Anette’s response indicate that she does agree with Dagoods that Jesus did at times use the word genea to mean those present? No it doesn’t. It does not preclude the possibility that Dagoods might yet identify such a case, but if he tries to do so, neither does it preclude the possibility that Anette would still fail to see any reason to think that Jesus meant the word that way. Therefore, Anette's response neither corrects nor contradicts Dagoods' statement.

If in fact Anette believes that Jesus ever used genea that way, she could expressly agree that he had and identify that situation. Then Dagoods’ statement would stand corrected. However, Anette doesn’t want to do that because that would allow Dagoods to compare the cases in which she agrees that he used the word that way to the cases she disputes. That would make it difficult for her to claim that she doesn’t see the reasons one might lean towards the definition that she wishes to avoid.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

Does Anette’s response actually correct Dagoods’ claim? Does Anette’s response indicate that she does agree with Dagoods that Jesus did at times use the word genea to mean those present? No it doesn’t.

You're right about that. I stand corrected.

However, Anette doesn’t want to do that because that would allow Dagoods to compare the cases in which she agrees that he used the word that way to the cases she disputes. That would make it difficult for her to claim that she doesn’t see the reasons one might lean towards the definition that she wishes to avoid.

No, that's incorrect. I was going to mention that the passage about the Queen of the South referred to the generation of those present but did not find it relevant because I have already conceded that the definition of genea includes the more narrow modern definition.

But although I looked up DagoodS's Bible references before I didn't notice that he included that one (Matthew 12:39-42), so I apologize for that, DagoodS. I think that one clearly talks about the people presently alive, while the others are ambiguous. However, Luke 16:8 clearly uses genea to mean "kind."

Vinny said...

If it is so clear that Luke 16:8 is using genea to mean "kind," why do you provide a link to the NET Bible which translates it as "their contemporaries"? Do you suppose that those translators had some liberal bias?

I also note that you don't address the argument that referring to "this" generation necessarily indicates some subset of the human race e.g., those present or presently alive, rather than the whole human race?

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

So what method did you utilize to determine Matt. 12:39-42 referred to the generation of those present but Matt. 11:16, Mark 8:12. Luke 17:25 and (of course) Mark 13:30 did not?

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

If it is so clear that Luke 16:8 is using genea to mean "kind," why do you provide a link to the NET Bible which translates it as "their contemporaries"? Do you suppose that those translators had some liberal bias?

I provide links to the NET Bible because I wanted to make it easy for readers to check the Bible references, but I really dislike that translation. I have repeatedly been frustrated with having tried to get the most precise translation possible in a blog post and then having the NET Bible say something completely different.

By the way, I don't see the world in terms of conservative versus liberal. A person with a conservative bias can be just as guilty as one with a liberal bias of watering down the Bible or treating it without reverence. And a lot of the modern translations (usually put out by evangelical publishing houses) do exactly that.

This is why I said to Darkknight56, in the context of textual variations:

(I actually find some of the modern translations of the Bible more troubling because they actually water down or change the theological message.)

Anyway, my methodology for Bible interpretation is looking at everything in context (the immediate context, the broader theological context, and the cultural context). And a correct interpretation has to explain all the evidence.

Most translations interpret genea in Luke 16:8 as "generation" or "kind." However, translations like the NET Bible and the Living Bible paraphrase it to mean "contemporaries" or "the world around them."

This makes no sense in context because 1) Jesus is not teaching us in this parable to be shrewder in a worldly sense, and 2) Christians can be very good at making money and succeeding by worldly standards.

He ends the parable by saying, "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:9). In other words, the "sons of this age" are shrewd in relation to each other, but the "sons of light" often do not live as if they really believe in the kingdom of God. Jesus is saying to use our money in ways that have eternal significance--by giving to the poor--because even from a purely selfish standpoint that is the best use of our money if Christianity is true. As Jesus says elsewhere, this means we are storing up treasure in heaven.

Anette Acker said...

I also note that you don't address the argument that referring to "this" generation necessarily indicates some subset of the human race e.g., those present or presently alive, rather than the whole human race?

Jesus is distinguishing between this age and the age to come when Jesus will come in glory with His angels, indicating that everyone will want to be on His side when that happens. But if we call ourselves Christians and yet live as if we're ashamed of the Gospel in this world, we will find ourselves on the wrong side.

In retrospect, I think Jesus always used the word genea to distinguish between the people of this world and those who will inherit the kingdom of God. I came to that conclusion after looking more carefully at Matthew 12:39-42 and Luke 16:8.

My original thought was that the Queen of the South and the men of Nineveh (who lived at a different time) were compared to the contemporaries of Jesus. But that doesn't make sense because many of the contemporaries of Jesus received Him and launched the early church. I think Jesus is comparing them to people who reject Him--however, those who rejected Him after personally hearing His teachings and observing what He did were particularly culpable.

Also, when Jesus says that this generation will not pass away until all these things are accomplished, He cannot mean the entire human race because some will be saved. He is saying that this "generation"--meaning this age and its people--will not pass away until everything has been accomplished. And that is also when heaven and earth will pass away.

The Bible does use the word genea to mean what we think of as a generation, but the context of the verses indicate that Jesus always used it to refer to the people of this world, as opposed to believers. This is also consistent with the use of the word "generation" in Psalm 24:6 and 112:2.

In Matthew 17:17-20, Jesus is frustrated with unbelief in this world, which is why He told His disciples that they had very little faith and therefore failed to help the boy.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

So what method did you utilize to determine Matt. 12:39-42 referred to the generation of those present but Matt. 11:16, Mark 8:12. Luke 17:25 and (of course) Mark 13:30 did not?

I explained my methodology in my comment to Vinny, and as you may have noticed I am now saying that Jesus never used the word genea to mean those presently alive.*

Lest you are about to tell me how shocked you are at my extreme conservatism, and that NOBODY is that conservative, I will say the same thing to you that I said to the Christians who were shocked when I stated my position on evolution and hell: Tell me where I am wrong and I will seriously consider your arguments.

*Isn't there some rule about never asking one too many questions during cross-examination? ;)

Vinny said...

Anette,

What methodology did the Living Bible and the NET Bible use when they translated genea that way in Luke 16:8? Do you think that the methodology makes no sense or do you believe that it was misapplied in this case?

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

Their methodology is to make the Bible as simple to read as possible, which means that a lot depends on the translators' judgment. Translations like the NASB, on the other hand, aim to be as literal as possible, thus eliminating a lot of second-guessing. It is said to be for those who want "straight Bible, forget the English." In other words, it's not pretty.

The NIV is a decent translation that is easy to understand and fairly precise. However, it gets some theological concepts wrong. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:17-18, the word skopountōn at the beginning of verse 18 means "while looking at," and it has great theological significance. In its attempt to achieve clarity (and short sentences) it ends verse 17 with a period and begins verse 18 with: "So." (The Living Bible does the same thing but I usually ignore it.)

Although I understand the need to make the Bible accessible to as many people as possible, translators should be a lot more careful that they don't change the meaning.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker

One too many question? Oh, no—the question (and answer) precisely demonstrates what is being sought. Remember, this whole conversation started with Darkknight56’s inquiry as to your methodology.

You have admirably demonstrated it comes down to your personal opinion. Nothing more.

Vinny astutely predicted the difficulty: if you admit even one (1) instance of Jesus utilizing genea to mean those presently living, we would ask what method is used to differentiate between that one (1) instance and the others you declared as meaning the entire human race. I strongly suspect, upon review of the verses listed, you realized no such methodology could consistently separate your one (1) instance as compared to the others. Therefore, rather than come up with a methodology, you retreated back to claiming there are no instances whatsoever.

Tell you where you are wrong? O.K….you asked:

1) You are incorrect regarding the Greek genea taute It means, and is translated “this generation” to specifically indicate those living at the time.

2) You ignore the context. The events surrounding those words (“sign of Jonah,” “persecuted in synagogue,” “rejection of Jesus,” “no sign” “some alive today”) occurred within the listener’s lifetime.

3) You fail to consider the culture. It was a “present-oriented” society—concerned with what happened in the here and now. See Malina, Social Science and Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Likewise you have no knowledge regarding the use of oaths in “heaven and earth will pass away.”

4) You dismiss the fact those who heard the timbre of Jesus’ voice, and knew the expression on his face interpreted his statements (in Aramaic) to mean the parousia would occur within their lifetime. You claim to understand Aramaic and Greek better than those who spoke it and heard him!

5) You have failed to list a single scholar who agrees with your position Jesus never meant genea to mean those presently living. It is amusing you disdain my disagreeing with “the majority of scholars” (albeit “scholars” has never been defined) regarding the Resurrection, yet here you disagree with ALL scholars (as near as I can tell—none have been listed) and find no inconsistency. Which is it—should we agree with a majority of scholars, or is it acceptable to disagree with the majority? Or even all scholars?

6) The very source you use for your position—Thayer’s Lexicon--disagrees with you, indicating Jesus did utilize genea to mean the persons living at the time. You utilize Thayer’s for one (of many) alternate definitions, and then immediately abandon it when it becomes inconvenient.

The only support provided so far is you indicating “I think…” with poor eisegesis regarding what you claim Jesus really meant and those silly Aramaic-speaking, Greek-writing disciples getting it all mumbled up. Oh… and a playwright who wrote 1600 years later. In another language.

Demonstrate you incorrect? Easily done. Get you to understand the problem isn’t the issue—it is your methodology not allowing you to change your position upon evidence provided? Apparently impossible.

P.S. I was not surprised at your deficient study (not sure I would call it “conservatism” as I know no scholar—conservative or otherwise—who holds to this position); rather I was ”shocked” you actually agreed with me for once! Luckily you sedated my astonishment by returning to your old form of disagreeing with everything I say *grin* Including disagreeing with me that you disagree with me!

Vinny said...

Anette,

I don’t see how “contemporaries” is any simpler than “kind” so I don’t see how that explains the choice in that case. Unfortunately, the notes to the NET Bible don’t say anything about the choice, but given the fact that the translators seem to be highly qualified scholars, I’m willing to bet that their reasons for making that choice are intellectually defensible. For you to blithely declare that it makes “no sense” strikes me as intellectually indefensible.

If an earlier translation was wrong, wouldn’t you want a new translation to change the meaning to get it right?

BTW, I think you are referring to 2 Cor 4:17-18.

Vinny said...

Vinny astutely predicted the difficulty: if you admit even one (1) instance of Jesus utilizing genea to mean those presently living, we would ask what method is used to differentiate between that one (1) instance and the others you declared as meaning the entire human race. I strongly suspect, upon review of the verses listed, you realized no such methodology could consistently separate your one (1) instance as compared to the others. Therefore, rather than come up with a methodology, you retreated back to claiming there are no instances whatsoever.

I have to admit that I was somewhat shocked at how quickly that prediction was borne out.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

One too many question? Oh, no—the question (and answer) precisely demonstrates what is being sought. Remember, this whole conversation started with Darkknight56’s inquiry as to your methodology.

As I pointed out before, Darkknight56 was making the opposite argument that you are making, and he was not so much inquiring about my methodology as questioning how we go about interpreting the Bible correctly if Christian reach different conclusions. Who is right? And as for me personally, he couldn't understand how I could be so "vague" about some things.

I have explained my methodology to you, and you do not seem remotely interested in knowing about it. In fact, I even agreed that using a methodology similar to cross-examination is an effective way of getting at the truth, and you ignored that. Your purpose from the very beginning seems to have been to target commenters on my blog and see if you can get them onboard in your personal criticism of me.

Therefore, rather than come up with a methodology, you retreated back to claiming there are no instances whatsoever.

Your question forced me to rethink my rationale for believing that Jesus referred to His contemporaries in the verse about the Queen of the South, and I realized that He could not have meant all His contemporaries because some of them launched the early church and were willing to die for Him.

1) You are incorrect regarding the Greek genea taute It means, and is translated “this generation” to specifically indicate those living at the time.

Please substantiate this assertion.

2) You ignore the context. The events surrounding those words (“sign of Jonah,” “persecuted in synagogue,” “rejection of Jesus,” “no sign” “some alive today”) occurred within the listener’s lifetime.

The Bible does not say that some will be alive when Jesus comes. We already discussed this issue.

3) You fail to consider the culture. It was a “present-oriented” society—concerned with what happened in the here and now. See Malina, Social Science and Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Likewise you have no knowledge regarding the use of oaths in “heaven and earth will pass away.”

Please substantiate this assertion.

Anette Acker said...

4) You dismiss the fact those who heard the timbre of Jesus’ voice, and knew the expression on his face interpreted his statements (in Aramaic) to mean the parousia would occur within their lifetime. You claim to understand Aramaic and Greek better than those who spoke it and heard him!

Please demonstrate that Jesus' listeners concluded--based on His use of the word "generation"--that He would be coming soon. And after you have done that, please explain why this was a reasonable conclusion, after Jesus told His disciples not to be misled and not to be frightened by revolutions and wars because the end will not come right away (Luke 21:9), and after He answered direct questions about the timing of His return by saying that only the Father knows.

Which is it—should we agree with a majority of scholars, or is it acceptable to disagree with the majority? Or even all scholars?

Of course it is acceptable to disagree with the majority of scholars if you give good reasons for the disagreement. I have simply pointed out to you that you fall on the radical end of the theological spectrum on most issues--more so than most atheists and agnostics. I have never seen you cross over and agree with conservative Christians, even on minor points. This is true of both you and Vinny, which is why I would like to simply agree to disagree.

6) The very source you use for your position—Thayer’s Lexicon--disagrees with you, indicating Jesus did utilize genea to mean the persons living at the time. You utilize Thayer’s for one (of many) alternate definitions, and then immediately abandon it when it becomes inconvenient.

I relied on Thayer's Lexicon to demonstrate that the meaning of genea is not limited to those presently alive.

Luckily you sedated my astonishment by returning to your old form of disagreeing with everything I say *grin* Including disagreeing with me that you disagree with me!

I don't disagree with everything you say. One of the first things I said on your blog was that I agreed with something you said on TQA. I also said that I agreed that Luke's mention of the fire in the courtyard was an example of "fatigue." You might want to consider evidence before you make assertions in the future.

Maybe the reason why it looks like I never change my mind or agree with you is because I generally think through my arguments before I make them. And once I decide to make an argument I know that I can defend it.

But before I asked my question about the synoptic problem I had just finished a day of traveling with kids the night before and I was getting ready for another road trip. So I had not thought it through carefully, and I admitted to you that I needed to familiarize myself with that subject before discussing it further.

However, you continued to try to get mileage out of that for the remainder of our discussion about other things by constantly bringing it up. By your unfair tactics you did everything in your power to try to make it a matter of pride for me not to agree with anything you said about the synoptic problem, and yet I still conceded your point about "fatigue." So you have absolutely no reason to complain.

BTW, when have you ever agreed with me, or conceded anything during any of our discussions?

Vinny said...

I relied on Thayer's Lexicon to demonstrate that the meaning of genea is not limited to those presently alive.

I am curious as to how it would be possible to substantiate anything in an argument with you when you only recognize standard reference works as being authoritative when they support your arguments. If Thayer cannot be relied upon to determine how genea is being used in particular situations, how he can be relied upon to determine the various ways in which it can be used?

Of course it is acceptable to disagree with the majority of scholars if you give good reasons for the disagreement.

The question is what constitutes a good reason Anette. Both Dagoods and I believe that it is foolish for a person to think that they have a good reason for rejecting the consensus of scholars if they have not carefully examined the reasons that the scholars have for reaching the conclusion that they do. For example, I disagree with those scholars who consider it a fact that James converted because the risen Christ appeared to him, but I understand the basis for their conclusion. I know what evidence they have and what their arguments are You, on the other hand, have no problem declaring that the NET Bible’s translation of Luke 16:8 makes “no sense” without having (at least as far as I can tell) the slightest idea why those scholars thought that “contemporaries” was better than “kind.”

Daniel Gracely said...

Vinny writes:
I am curious as to how it would be possible to substantiate anything in an argument with you when you only recognize standard reference works as being authoritative when they support your arguments.

To bring such an accusation, you imply you yourself recognize as authoritative standard reference works when they support and do not support your own arguments. Is that the case? Or are you saying you feel all standard references are always in agreement with you, or that you do not bother with them at all? (By “authoritative” I assume you mean correct.)

Frankly, no one should consider himself a serious student who never finds he disagrees with the lexicons or the translations, since they have some serious problems. Indeed, often these two are in synergistic relation to the other, creating at times a tautological justification. At any rate, since every real thinker will (doubtless) at times come to conclusions that challenge the standard ‘wisdom’ of the lexicons and translations, of course it will seem like every real thinker never recognizes reference works unless they support his own thinking! For that is the case with every original thinker.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

I attempt to behave better in other people’s blogs. I often fail. At my blog, I am more at home with the rough-and-tumble arguments. If I have become an unruly guest, or the boorish nuisance impinging on other commentator’s enjoyment, please say so, and I will happily wander off to other pastures.

I am concerned Darkknight56 apparently abandoned this conversation. And more than a little guilty. I can only hope it was from their boredom and not my intrusion.

Alas, you have asked some questions, so we will travel this road a bit longer.

I understand another person’s style was to parrot, “Please substantiate your position.” While it may seem to be a way to engage these conversations, it is probably not the best tactic to take with me. Just saying…feel free to ignore it. I’ll go through the points [paraphrased]:

1) Substantiate the Greek for “this generation.”

I used my Greek New Testament (Aland, 4th Edition), confirmed it by comparing translations on Blue Letter Bible, and then reviewed Thayer’s Lexicon. I also read commentaries by Henry, Wallace, and Malina. I reviewed Schnelle.

To counter this, the sole source you presented regarding the actual Greek is Thayer’s Lexicon. A source agreeing with my position!

2) Context.

You indicated your method for Bible interpretation was (in part) to look at the “immediate context.” I would think, then, you would have realized these phrases come from different passages and their immediate context. In numerous instances, the events indicated and surrounding the words “this generation” refers to events occurring within the listener’s lifetimes.

“Sign of Jonah will be given to this generation.” The “sign of Jonah” equates to Jesus’ Resurrection. Occurring within the listener’s lifetime. The immediate context would indicate “this generation” to mean those present. Mark 13 provides a long litany of items. All occurring within their lifetimes. All followed by “this generation.” I encourage anyone to read the passages, noting the events both before and after the statement, and when those events occurred.

3) Substantiate “present-sense” culture.

Uh…I’ve read Malina’s Social-Science & Commentary. Further, the honor/shame society is confirmed by scholars such as Wallace, Licona, and Habermas. If one is steeped in internet apologetics, this is also embraced by JP Holding and Richard Carrier.

As for Patron/Client, this is substantiated by just about every Roman historian I know. I am uncertain how I can site a work that says something, and you indicate, “Substantiate it.” The commentary says what it says. Have you read it?

4) Anette Acker: Please demonstrate that Jesus' listeners concluded--based on His use of the word "generation"--that He would be coming soon.

Hmmm…a tough one. I guess I will rely upon Anette Acker who said (when discussing this topic):

” I have already conceded that the early church believed that the return of Jesus would be imminent, but I will go a step further by saying that I think Jesus intentionally created that atmosphere of uncertainty because He wanted them to live as if His return was imminent.”

Need I cite more?

Anette Acker: And after you have done that, please explain why this was a reasonable conclusion,…

Oh, I quite agree it turns out to NOT be a reasonable conclusion. Indeed, this is exactly why the later works (composed by persons who did NOT hear Jesus and were AFTER Paul and Mark had already been written) created apologia to explain away the delayed parousia.

[cont'd]

DagoodS said...

5) Name a single scholar supporting your position.

You provided no scholar, I see.

Never seen me “cross over and agree with conservative Christians, even on minor points”? Er…what about Dr. Wallace and the Synoptic Problem? (Which you ironically mention in your same comment!) Or are you saying Dr. Wallace does not qualify as a “conservative Christian”?

Frankly, I am only interested in a person’s theological position to understand the possibility of bias. It is not whether they are “conservative” or “liberal” or “radical” or “Libertarian” or “divorced” or “left-handed” or anything else (unless it impacts bias)—it is the quality of the argument when presented to a neutral party. THAT is what I am interested in.

6) Thayer’s Lexicon.

As near as I can tell, the only source you utilized for Greek. According to you:

a) Thayer’s is correct regarding genea.
b) Thayer’s is incorrect regarding genea.

You don’t see the incongruity in those two statements? I understand--for your argument you only want us to see the first item, but you are ALSO indicating, by virtue of your position, the second item. Within our method, we are unable to ignore the incongruity. How can you cite the same (and only) work as being both authoritative regarding a Greek word and NOT being authoritative on the same Greek word without any substantiation of your own?

(Daniel Gracely—I understand what Vinny is saying. I think his statement, “If Thayer cannot be relied upon to determine how genea is being used in particular situations, how he can be relied upon to determine the various ways in which it can be used?” was the point. It is not that Anette Acker disagrees or agrees with Thayer—it is that she disagrees and agrees with the exact same point in Thayer, telling us to rely upon it as authoritative when it differentiates definitions of genea. and to disregard it as non-authoritative when it differentiates definitions of genea.)

Vinny said...

Ooooohhh! Synergistic relations and tautological justifications!

I agree that a real thinker/serious student will come to conclusions that challenge the standard wisdom from time to time, however, there is a difference between challenging standard wisdom and simply rejecting it on an ad hoc basis. In order to challenge standard wisdom, it is necessary to understand and address the reasons why standard wisdom is what it is. Simply asserting that standard wisdom makes no sense does not bespeak serious thinking or real scholarship.

Moreover, I have no problem with someone agreeing with a standard reference on one point and disagreeing with it on an unrelated point. My problem is with someone citing the reference as authoritative on a particular issue while denying its conclusions on the same issue.

DagoodS said...

[Note: My first comment was swallowed by blogger's lovely spam filter. Thinks I'm Korean spam link, it does!]

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Vinny,

Sounds like a few words were unfamiliar to you, so here are their definitions from thefreedictgionary.com:

Synergistic: 1. acting together


Tautological: 2. Logic An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false; for example, the statement Either it will rain tomorrow or it will not rain tomorrow.


Don’t be bashful about asking questions. It takes a while to get up to speed.

Vinny said...

Careful there Daniel. A guy can dislocate his shoulder patting himself on the back like that.

Daniel Gracely said...

Vinny,
Sorry that you mistook that gesture for what was trying to remove your slime.

Having read all three accounts of Jesus' discourse, do I understand that you and DagoodS disagree that Jesus himself distinguishes different times—i.e., the beginnings of persecution he foretold that would affect his disciples, from the last days which he said would witness such things as great cosmological disturbances that (imp.)would distress nations, the abomination of desolation, and so forth, and that these latter days are these that would occur during a single generation?

If so, that would be an unnatural reading.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

I agree that a real thinker/serious student will come to conclusions that challenge the standard wisdom from time to time, however, there is a difference between challenging standard wisdom and simply rejecting it on an ad hoc basis.

There is nothing ad hoc about the way in which I used Thayer's. During our discussion on DagoodS' blog, all I sought to establish was that the word "generation" could be used more broadly than the people presently alive--to disprove DagoodS' positive claim that Jesus was wrong.

I did that by giving a list of sources that support a broader definition. Thayer's was one of them (see above in the comments for the list).

In other words, I established that Jesus was not necessarily wrong. At most He was ambiguous. I also relied on unambiguous statements by Jesus to direct questions about timing, where He makes it clear that He does not know, but the end will not come right away after the war, the Gospel must be preached to all nations first, etc.

In this conversation, on the other hand, the question has been about whether I believe that Jesus ever used the word "generation" to mean the people presently alive. I did not rely on Thayer's for that determination. I relied on the Gospels themselves and the Psalms--primary authority. Jesus quoted the OT extensively and therefore would have been aware of the Psalms.

And Thayer's includes my definition:

"1. fathered, birth, nativity

2. that which has been begotten, men of the same stock, a family

a. the several ranks of natural descent, the successive members of a genealogy

b. metaph. a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character esp. in a bad sense, a perverse nation

3. the whole multitude of men living at the same time

4. an age (i.e. the time ordinarily occupied be each successive generation), a space of 30 - 33 years"

I am using it in the sense of 2b and I'm giving sound reasons for it based on the Bible itself.

You, on the other hand, have no problem declaring that the NET Bible’s translation of Luke 16:8 makes “no sense” without having (at least as far as I can tell) the slightest idea why those scholars thought that “contemporaries” was better than “kind.”

Here's a review of the NET Bible:

"The method of translation used in the NET Bible in its present form (2006) is inconsistent, but in general it is less literal than the New International Version. The translators have for the most part employed a dynamic equivalence method, in which they have tried to use expressions in "common language." This method gives the version a simple and contemporary English style, which may be appreciated by some readers; but it does tend to degrade the accuracy of the translation."

Please explain to me how the passage makes sense if "contemporaries" is the correct one and why you think we should go with a small minority of translations that are generally not considered very accurate (and they do not attempt to be literal).

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

I attempt to behave better in other people’s blogs. I often fail. At my blog, I am more at home with the rough-and-tumble arguments. If I have become an unruly guest, or the boorish nuisance impinging on other commentator’s enjoyment, please say so, and I will happily wander off to other pastures.

You are not an “unruly guest.” However, I do think that based on what you consider rough-and-tumble arguments on your blog, we have different standards. I understand that people can choose their words carelessly or become frustrated or too adamant (I certainly do, even though I try not to). However, I draw the line at personal attacks or any kind of bigotry. On Atheist Central, I fought anti-atheist bigotry when I saw it, and I avoid sites like Debunking Christianity in part because of all the anti-Christian bigotry. When the discussion turns into an “us against them” slamfest rather than disagreement between friends, I no longer enjoy it and want no part of it.

I am concerned Darkknight56 apparently abandoned this conversation. And more than a little guilty. I can only hope it was from their boredom and not my intrusion.

I don’t know why Darkknight56 left, but I’m glad you brought him up because he is a good example of what I consider within the bounds of acceptable rough-and-tumble. He is an atheist and we see things very differently. So there’s been some rough-and-tumble as we try to get our points across.

But there’s never been any doubt in my mind that we’re friends, and when you addressed him the way you did, I knew that he wouldn’t turn on me. And that turned out to be true.

I understand another person’s style was to parrot, “Please substantiate your position.” While it may seem to be a way to engage these conversations, it is probably not the best tactic to take with me. Just saying…feel free to ignore it.

I understand, and I apologize for doing that.

Anette Acker said...

I used my Greek New Testament (Aland, 4th Edition), confirmed it by comparing translations on Blue Letter Bible, and then reviewed Thayer’s Lexicon. I also read commentaries by Henry, Wallace, and Malina. I reviewed Schnelle.

I think we also have different standards for what it means to substantiate an assertion. What I’m asking you to do is not to prove to me that you are well read and have done your homework. I already know this. Demonstrate to me (and readers) that you are right about this. Simply giving us a list of commentaries (secondary authority) tells us nothing about whether you are right. Why are these authors correct and what is their rationale? It would be impractical to expect us to track down your sources and wade through them all just for the purposes of this discussion.

“Sign of Jonah will be given to this generation.” The “sign of Jonah” equates to Jesus’ Resurrection. Occurring within the listener’s lifetime. The immediate context would indicate “this generation” to mean those present. Mark 13 provides a long litany of items. All occurring within their lifetimes. All followed by “this generation.” I encourage anyone to read the passages, noting the events both before and after the statement, and when those events occurred.

The mere fact that Jesus is addressing people who are presently alive and talking about His resurrection does not mean “this generation” means those presently alive. Your logic simply does not follow. However, I do agree that people should actually read the passages, paying attention to all the details and not reading presuppositions into the text.

Uh…I’ve read Malina’s Social-Science & Commentary. Further, the honor/shame society is confirmed by scholars such as Wallace, Licona, and Habermas. If one is steeped in internet apologetics, this is also embraced by JP Holding and Richard Carrier.

Please see my above response about secondary authority.

As for Patron/Client, this is substantiated by just about every Roman historian I know. I am uncertain how I can site a work that says something, and you indicate, “Substantiate it.” The commentary says what it says. Have you read it?

I have not read the commentary. Had you previously said something about the patron/client relationship? How does the above statement prove to me or a reader that you are right about Jesus’ use of the word “generation”?

Anette Acker said...

4) Anette Acker: Please demonstrate that Jesus' listeners concluded--based on His use of the word "generation"--that He would be coming soon.

Hmmm…a tough one. I guess I will rely upon Anette Acker who said (when discussing this topic):


This is incorrect. I specifically mentioned in our previous discussion that there is no reason to think that the early Christians got their expectation that Jesus would come soon from His use of the word “generation.”

Anette Acker: And after you have done that, please explain why this was a reasonable conclusion,…

Oh, I quite agree it turns out to NOT be a reasonable conclusion. Indeed, this is exactly why the later works (composed by persons who did NOT hear Jesus and were AFTER Paul and Mark had already been written) created apologia to explain away the delayed parousia.


Please do not cut my words off in mid-sentence and take me out of context. My full statement was: “please explain why this was a reasonable conclusion, after Jesus told His disciples not to be misled and not to be frightened by revolutions and wars because the end will not come right away (Luke 21:9), and after He answered direct questions about the timing of His return by saying that only the Father knows.”

5) Name a single scholar supporting your position.

You provided no scholar, I see.


I referenced the Bible, which interprets itself. I focused on the actual words of Jesus and the use of “generation” in Psalm 24:6 and 112:2 to mean, as Thayer’s translates genea in 2b: “b. metaph. a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character esp. in a bad sense, a perverse nation”

Never seen me “cross over and agree with conservative Christians, even on minor points”? Er…what about Dr. Wallace and the Synoptic Problem? (Which you ironically mention in your same comment!) Or are you saying Dr. Wallace does not qualify as a “conservative Christian”?

That was not what I meant. I’m sure you agree with Francis Collins on evolution too. The question was whether you ever concede points made by Christians that many other atheists would disagree with.

I also noticed that you never gave me an example of conceding a point I had made.

(I addressed your point about Thayer's in my response to Vinny.)

DagoodS said...

I'm on a small vacation with limited Internet access. I'll try and respond on Monday. Thanks for your patience.

Anette Acker said...

No problem. Have a great time!

Vinny said...

Daniel,

“Slime” seems like a pretty harsh word to use, don’t you think? I wouldn’t have described your comment with anything more pejorative than “pretentious.”

The problem with your comment is that using “synergistic” and “tautological” in the same sentence is oxymoronic. It is true that construed very broadly, “synergism” refers to things working together, but its precise use refers to things working together in a particular way. Let’s look at Merriam-Webster’s definition: “synergism: interaction of discrete agencies (as industrial firms), agents (as drugs), or conditions such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects.” As your definition indicates, “tautology” refers to situations where two statements are combined to form a statement that is empty or vacuous. Thus, a synergistic relationship is one in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts while a tautological relationship is one in which the whole is actually less than what either of the parts were individually.

I’m ever so sorry that you felt slimed, but perhaps you should avoid using big words when you don’t know what they mean.

Vinny said...

In this conversation, on the other hand, the question has been about whether I believe that Jesus ever used the word "generation" to mean the people presently alive. I did not rely on Thayer's for that determination.

I realize that you didn’t Anette. However, if you thought that Thayer’s constituted valid evidence of the different ways that genea can be used, then you must have had some notion that Thayer himself (and/or the editors of the subsequent editions) had some expertise in the way the word was used. If you believe that he possessed that expertise, then how do you justify rejecting his conclusion that Jesus did in fact use the word to mean those presently alive?

Vinny said...

Please explain to me how the passage makes sense if "contemporaries" is the correct one and why you think we should go with a small minority of translations that are generally not considered very accurate (and they do not attempt to be literal).

I think the meaning is pretty much the same either way you translate it. Worldly people make sharper deals than godly people. It’s just a question of whether they make sharper deals only with other worldly people or whether they make sharper deals with their contemporaries which would include both worldly and godly people. If one of the points is to tell godly people that they shouldn’t expect to drive the same kind of hard bargains that worldly people do, then I think the latter makes as much sense as the former.

As I understand Thayer’s, “contemporaries” and “kind” both communicate valid meanings of genea. I don’t see how either one is any more literal than the other. Moreover, if it is a case of simplicity, it seems to me that “kind” is simpler. Therefore, I suspect that there are other reasons behind the NET Bible’s decision in this case. Without knowing what those reasons were, I would not be so arrogant as to declare that they made no sense.

Daniel Gracely said...

Vinny asks:
“Slime” seems like a pretty harsh word to use, don’t you think?

Being the first to respond with sarcasm to someone aiming for accurate description while not intending pretense, is what is harsh.

Vinny writes:

As your definition indicates, “tautology” refers to situations where two statements are combined to form a statement that is empty or vacuous. Thus, a synergistic relationship is one in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts while a tautological relationship is one in which the whole is actually less than what either of the parts were individually.

… perhaps you should avoid using big words when you don’t know what they mean.


Words? Meanings? Says who?

Your assumption that a tautological relationship that is “empty” and “vacuous” and therefore less than what either of the parts were individually, shows me you don’t know where real power lay for most academicians. For you seem ignorant of the thesis-antithesis principles of Hegelian dialecticism that has dominated the Western Academy for the last 150+ years, in which its disciples find a higher mission in deconstructing the meaning of words down to their zero point. In effect, less is more, so nothing is everything. And that, Vinny—that coercion of the other fellow to accept the meaninglessness of words in the name of meaning, until he loses all hope for a meaningful construct that would, among other things, include a discussion about his immortal soul—is raw, empty, vacuous, wonderfully intoxicating power for those promoting the Void.

Yet this Void leads not to despair (according to some) but, being One, eliminates Otherness and thus the things between which tension could exist, like good and bad behavior or like heaven and hell. That is what makes the Void marketable. And so some play their cards right—professional academicians teaching the dialectic to students half or one-third their age before retiring to collect pensions and free health insurance for the rest of their lives. They instructed so little, and so are rewarded so much.

This dialectic of Hegel is worth looking at a little closer. For the thing that is often missed is the fact that what appears to be the thesis and the antithesis are not really a thesis and an antithesis at all, once both are revealed. But we don’t know this when the ‘thesis’ is put forward. For at that point all seems well—the ‘thesis’ is composed of what certainly looks like normal words put forth with their normal meanings which normal people would understand in the normal way. “A cat is not a dog,” for example. But then comes the ‘antithesis,’ “Yet all felines are canines.” And so we have no idea what any of these words can mean (including the predicate to be), though because of the psychological association that real words carry in the real world, we cannot help but think of a real cat and a real dog when we see or hear the words “cat” and “dog” (especially when, upon our objection to the antithesis, the Hegelian see-saws backward to his thesis to assure us he has real cats and dogs in mind). And so, not until the second thought—the ‘antithesis’—makes its appearance, is the real power of Void-promoters revealed. (Less is more; nothing is everything.)
[part 2 of 2 follows]

Daniel Gracely said...

[part 2 of 2]
To some extent secular academicians embracing Hegel have their no less clever ‘Christian’ counterparts. Here I think of the Calvinist theologians who claim to know what “regeneration” means in the Bible. This can be looked up in Thayer, himself a Calvinist, or Calvinist-leaning. As shown by his extra-biblical examples, like the restoration of Cicero to his former fortune and title, all the extra-biblical examples listed show the idea of restoration/restitution. But lo and behold, the biblical appearances of this word are confined to two, and Calvinists have decided that in the book of Titus it means God unilaterally and irresistible creating a new heart in an old sinner, in order that he choose exactly as God decides. Not quite the definition one might have expected. But the conflation between the divine mind and the human mind has been effected all the same. “After all,” we are told, as extra-biblical examples which should have served as the lexical control group are scraped from the bottom of the Hegelian’s shoe, “the Bible is its own best interpreter.”

And so in Thayer, at least in this instance (but there are other), we have an assumed justification of what the Calvinist KJV translators rendered. The proof comes after Thayer explains the primary meanings he gives, stating “hence, moral renovation, regeneration, the production of a new life consecrated to God, a radical change of mind for the better (effected in baptism…)" while admitting in the next sentence: “Commonly, however, the word denotes the restoration of a thing to its pristine state, its renovation…” (boldened emphases mine). Do I really need to say that the reason Cicero’s fortune and rank were restored to him after his exile was not because his was a production of a new life consecreated to God, a radical change of mind for the better, effected by baptism?

And so, when I said that

“Indeed, often [lexicons and translations] are in synergistic relation to the other, creating at times a tautological justification”

you were right at least to note this is oxymoronic. For every oxymoron is ironic, and it is certainly ironic that translations influenced the lexicons with the result that lexicons justified the translations. But the irony isn’t realized until we actually hear the lexicons speak up. And so this is the synergy of two things working cooperatively together, creating a ‘foundation’ of destruction neither one separately could have hoped to have lain. And it’s tautological justification is quite clever, since, as just noted, we have no idea there will be an absence of checks and balances about the meanings claimed, until the lexicons make their appearance. Thus in the case of Calvinism, the result is words that readers assume are normal, until or unless it is realized such words have been pressed into service to form deconstructed meanings underpinning doctrines of meaninglessness.

So about those big words. I am unfortunately all too familiar with them. But at least there is that proper and true thesis in Proverbs 18:21 to which one can repair, even if it doesn’t put one in the pink:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

Vinny said...

Bravo Daniel! Bravissimo! That was a sockdolager!

I figured that you might make some sort of claim that you had been referring to a synergism that is expressed in the degree of vacuity or emptiness that the lexicon and translation achieve when working together, but I never could have anticipated the disquisition on the influence of Hegelian dialecticism. Nor would I have guessed that you would equate a Calvinist’s lexicon to deconstructionism. Those are masterstrokes of pompous obfuscation.

Nevertheless (and you probably knew that there would be a “nevertheless” or a “however”), you are just digging yourself a deeper hole. It is obvious from the definitions you offered that you never had any such idea in mind when you used "synergistic." More importantly, “synergism” is still not the right word to describe the interaction, because lexicons and translations are not discrete agents or agencies like drugs or industrial firms. They are inherently intertwined. Each begets the other. Lexicons and translations are two different sides of the same coin. Synergism is the interaction of things that are capable of acting independently while lexicons and translations always depend upon one another.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

How can I demonstrate to you (and readers) ”genea”--as recorded in the gospels—at times meant “those presently living” or “this generation”? The readers already agree and I cannot convince you as your methodology does provide for it.

First, readers agree Jesus occasionally utilizes genea to mean “within your lifetime.” Every person commenting on the issue (including Commentaries, Lexicons and Greek New Testaments) indicate such. I haven’t found any who agree with your position. Why must I demonstrate what is already explained by those more qualified to make the argument?

Second—this discussion’s point—I will never be able to demonstrate this to you. Under your methodology, your opinion (contrary to everyone else’s position) is correct because you have rationalized it to yourself. Even if every Greek scholar, every Commentator, every biblical scholar, and every lay person disagrees with you—you can still claim I have not demonstrated my argument because you disagree with it. And under your methodology, this makes you correct.

I agree it would be impractical to ask readers to track down my sources; wading through them for a minor point. Here you have taken an extreme minority position; one would think you should be at least familiar with the (vastly) majority opinion to the extent I wouldn’t need to reiterate my sources. And that you might bear a smidgen of burden to prove everyone else incorrect regarding the Greek language.

Do I ever concede points made by Christians that “many other atheists” would disagree with? That depends on what qualifies for “many other atheists.” (And “Christians” for that matter, as far broader than the original question regarding “Conservative Christians.”) Some items claimed as contradictions, I do not think are. This may differ from “many other atheists” but may differ with all “Christians” too. I hold to a historical Jesus—that help?

Look, at the basic core there is a difference in approach. Non-theists treat the Bible as separate books, generated by human minds, with natural explanations. Conservative Christians treat the Bible as generated by one mind—God’s—a cohesive unit and with supernatural explanations. It is no surprise, absent some very minor points, I mostly agree with the non-theist side. Further, because there is such a large range of possibilities, just about any position will be adhered and decried by “many other atheists” and “Christians.” Not sure how picking sides in minor issues matters.

It is the reason I didn’t continue with your sentence on Luke 21. You look at the New Testament as a cohesive unit, and what one book says MUST be interpreted by the other. I look at them separately--by author, chronology, and intended recipient—and therefore if a later book (Luke) is attempting to explain away the delayed parousia by modifying the early book (Mark), I don’t hold the position the later book is quoting Jesus verbatim. Luke is putting words in Jesus mouth, to rationalize a perceived problem. Therefore, I felt no obligation to “demonstrate as reasonable” a position requiring a cohesive collective—a position I do not hold! (And that wastes time, as you wouldn’t ever agree to it anyway.)

As for Thayer’s, I notice you only quoted a portion of Thayer’s on genea. Perhaps it a coincidence you only quoted the parts supporting what you want to say, and skipped those contradicting your position. You may say you relied upon “the Gospels themselves”—but the Gospels were written in Greek. In order to rely upon them, we look to the Greek they were written in.

I didn’t provide an example of conceding a point you made. Alas, these internet interactions tend to focus on differences more than similarities. The next time you cause me to change my position—I will point it out.

DagoodS said...

Daniel Gracely: Having read all three accounts of Jesus' discourse, do I understand that you and DagoodS disagree that Jesus himself distinguishes different times—i.e., the beginnings of persecution he foretold that would affect his disciples, from the last days which he said would witness such things as great cosmological disturbances that (imp.)would distress nations, the abomination of desolation, and so forth, and that these latter days are these that would occur during a single generation? [emphasis in original]

Not sure precisely clear what you are asking. I am stating Mark 13 was written (in apocalyptic form) to claim Jesus said the Son of Man would come during “this generation”—meaning within the lifetime of those present.

Daniel Gracely said...

Vinny writes:
Nor would I have guessed that you would equate a Calvinist’s lexicon to deconstructionism.

I equated certain words, not the entire lexicon. You might have noticed that if you had read my comment more carefully.

But since you don’t think Calvinism is a form of literary deconstruction, obviously you’ve never read any of the irrational statements in the Westminster Confessions (or the writings of any Calvinist, for that matter) who constantly doublespeak about God determining the choices of human freedom while at the same time establishing it, or of man having “liberty” to choose between bad and good, yet no “freedom” to choose the good (i.e. a ‘choice’ of one thing). I guess I’m a little surprised you don’t realize that any system of thought that promotes irrationalism does it solely through the deconstruction of language. It doesn’t matter what guise it comes in—Calvinism, modern literary deconstruction (Derrida: “my friends, there are no friends”), or Barth’s theological method. For example, Barth insists that the meaning of scriptural words for humans is never identical to the meaning as that which is held in the mind of God, regardless of how broad or narrow the point of consideration is. Yet (says Barth) God uses the word of Scripture to speak to us. (Popular Calvinist, John Piper, in Beyond the Bounds supports the same argument in what he and his co-authors call analogical language.) But I contend that if meaning is never identical in the most narrowly defined sense, then no meaning can be shared, and therefore no communication is possible (despite Barth’s assurance that it is). At the last, ‘words’, so called, might be bandied about by Barth and by Calvinists, and for sure they will evoke psychological associations of theological concepts. But no actual meaning is conveyed, once all their statements are taken into account. Words have become emptied of meaning and therefore are mere sounds. Anyway, it strikes me how really unfamiliar you must be with what constitutes irrationalism in philosophy.

But admittedly, in the end all disagreements of the kind we’re having is a disagreement about the meaning of words. This is why I tried to transcend the impossibility of my proving you inconsistent according to your own principles, even as you would not be able to prove me inconsistent according to mine, hence the reason I tried to move the discussion into specifics regarding the Daniel 9 prophecy of the coming anointed one. But it doesn’t seem you or DagoodS are particularly interested in that subject.

Finally, I’m amused at your wily attempt to make one of the definitions of synergism the gold standard for all, by claiming that lexicons and translations are not “discrete agents or agencies like drugs or industrial firms.” How much like them must they be, Vinny? Let me guess… whatever examples I provide will not be like them enough for you. And, oh, how they ought to be, since obviously your opinion transcends that of chief editors of standard dictionaries.

For the record, the freedictionary.com states that “discrete” means “Constituting a separate thing.” Well if lexicons and translations are not separate things, I’d like to see a thesaurus that imagines they are synonyms for each other!
[part 2 of 2 follows]

Daniel Gracely said...

[part 2 of 2]
Also for the record, thefreedictionary.com gives the definition of synergistic thus:

synergistic [ˌsɪnəˈdʒɪstɪk], synergetic [ˌsɪnəˈdʒɛtɪk]
adj
1. acting together
2. (Business / Commerce) (of people, groups, or companies) working together in a creative, innovative, and productive manner

Kindly note that definition #1 is the most commonly used definition, and that things acting together do not have to be like drugs and industrial firms anymore than they must be like any other two or more things in this universe which are capable of acting together. Again, your attempt to insist on the interaction of drugs and/or the cooperation of industrial firms as the gold standard to determine how two things must act together is just silly. You obviously do not understand how dictionaries work. For a thing to be synergistic does not mean it has to include definitions 1. AND 2. above. I find it surprising that either you don’t know that or won’t admit to that.

And even if you were to find a dictionary that listed drug interactions and industrial firms cooperating with one another as definition number 1., and “acting together” as definition number 2., this would prove nothing for your case. This is because the number 1. definition does not mean that in every context it is the most befitting definition, but merely that it is the one most commonly represented in the language.

Anyway, it would certainly be a waste of my time (and anyone else’s) to continue trying to debate words with someone such as yourself who isn’t even willing to let standard dictionaries speak for themselves.

My friend, you are no friend.

(And you’re no friend of dictionaries, either.)

Daniel Gracely said...

Vinny,
This morning, after comparing the one source (Merriam-Webster) you listed, which IMO in some sense practically slides under the radar the subtle definition of “synergism” to be “…or…conditions…”(see below), I see why you might have downplayed the “or… conditions…” and argued the relatively confining way you did. So I’ll admit I was somewhat hard on you and apologize for that, assuming M-W was the only source you consulted among the ones listed below. However, other dictionaries are better at showing the plainer and more general meaning of synergism, and hence synergistic. And you yourself admitted to how broadly synergism could be defined. But apparently we have different ideas of what "conditions" constitutes, and therefore what a broad definition should mean. Nothing in any of the definitions below, including the one in M-W, conflicts with my argument. Also, noting the freedictionary, note how M-W (at least M-W online) completely omits citing synergism’s use in the context of Christianity, which pertains to the idea that works and grace can be combined for salvation (see Pelagianism).

For the record, here are 5 online dictionary sites I consulted this morning:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/synergistic

syn·er·gis·tic (s n r-j s t k) adj. 1. Of or relating to synergy: a synergistic effect.2. Producing or capable of producing synergy: synergistic drugs.3. Christianity Of or relating to synergism. syn er·gis ti·cal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

synergistic [ˌsɪnəˈdʒɪstɪk], synergetic [ˌsɪnəˈdʒɛtɪk]
adj
1. acting together
2. (Business / Commerce) (of people, groups, or companies) working together in a creative, innovative, and productive manner
[from Greek sunergētikos, from SYN- + ergētikos, from ergon work; see ENERGY]


http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/synergy

the combined power of a group of things when they are working together which is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/synergy?region=us
noun
· the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects:
· the synergy between artist and record company

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/synergism
syn·er·gism
noun \ˈsi-nər-ˌji-zəm\

Definition of SYNERGISM
: interaction of discrete agencies (as industrial firms), agents (as drugs), or conditions such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects



http://www.yourdictionary.com/synergy
synergy

noun
1. combined or cooperative action or force
2. synergism
Origin: ModL synergia < Gr, joint work < synergein, to work together < syn-, together + ergon, work
Related Forms:
· (si nʉr′jik) adjective
Webster’s New World Dictionary; Copyright © 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio.
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

I think the meaning is pretty much the same either way you translate it. Worldly people make sharper deals than godly people. It’s just a question of whether they make sharper deals only with other worldly people or whether they make sharper deals with their contemporaries which would include both worldly and godly people. If one of the points is to tell godly people that they shouldn’t expect to drive the same kind of hard bargains that worldly people do, then I think the latter makes as much sense as the former.

So you’re saying that the point of the parable is that godly people should not make sharp deals, and they are less likely to make sharp deals than worldly people? If this is the message, why did Jesus praise the dishonest steward? And what is the purpose of the last statement, the “moral” of the story? “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9).

As I understand Thayer’s, “contemporaries” and “kind” both communicate valid meanings of genea. I don’t see how either one is any more literal than the other. Moreover, if it is a case of simplicity, it seems to me that “kind” is simpler. Therefore, I suspect that there are other reasons behind the NET Bible’s decision in this case. Without knowing what those reasons were, I would not be so arrogant as to declare that they made no sense.

The NET Bible and the New Living Bible aim for contemporary wording (which is simpler for contemporary readers to understand). Their primary focus is not accuracy, like with the NASB and the ESV.

And if you can't tell me what reasons the NET Bible gave for their choice of the word "contemporaries," then it doesn't advance the discussion to say that they probably had good reasons for it. We need to know what the reasons are before we can evaluate them. I see no reason to simply trust in the good judgment of the translators--especially since they are so often inaccurate.

Anette Acker said...

I realize that you didn’t Anette. However, if you thought that Thayer’s constituted valid evidence of the different ways that genea can be used, then you must have had some notion that Thayer himself (and/or the editors of the subsequent editions) had some expertise in the way the word was used. If you believe that he possessed that expertise, then how do you justify rejecting his conclusion that Jesus did in fact use the word to mean those presently alive?

Not necessarily, because even without Thayer I established that "generation" is used more broadly in the Bible--and in popular culture in the past--than just to mean the people presently alive.

(Since you know which of his definitions of genea Thayer went with for Matthew 24:34, would you mind quoting it?)

Psalm 14:5: "There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous."

Barnes Notes' commentary says: "For God is in the generation of the righteous - The word "generation" here, as applied to the righteous, seems to refer to them as a "race," or as a "class" of people. Compare Psalm 24:6; Psalm 73:15; Psalm 112:2. It commonly in the Scriptures refers to a certain age or duration, as it is used by us, reckoning an age or generation as about thirty or forty years (compare Job 42:16); but in the use of the term before us the idea of an "age" is dropped, and the righteous are spoken of merely as a "class" or "race" of persons."

Psalm 24:6: “Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.”

Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.”

Venerable Bede says about Jesus' words about this generation not passing away: "By generation He either means the whole race of mankind, or specially the Jews.''

Jerome says: "By ‘generation’ here He means the whole human race, and the Jews in particular. And He adds, ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,’ to confirm their faith in what has gone before; as though He had said, it is easier to destroy things solid and immovable, than that aught should fail of my words.”

In Catena Aurea: St. Matthew, by Thomas Aquinas, he quotes Origen as saying: "Yet shall the generation of the Church survive the whole world, that it may inherit the world to come, yet it shall not pass away until all these things have come to pass." There is also a brief discussion about generation here not meaning "men then living, but of the generation of the faithful," referencing Psalm 24:6.

Anette Acker said...

Correction:

If you believe that he possessed that expertise, then how do you justify rejecting his conclusion that Jesus did in fact use the word to mean those presently alive?

Not necessarily, because even without Thayer I established that "generation" is used more broadly in the Bible--and in popular culture in the past--than just to mean the people presently alive.


Yes, I do think Thayer had the expertise of Greek to know the various ways in which genea was used. However, it doesn't follow that he had the expertise in theology to know which is the correct use in this particular instance. And even if he had the expertise, I don't agree with everyone who has expertise in theology, nor do they agree with each other. I have given reasons, backed by evidence, for my conclusion.

Vinny said...

Anette,

I think part of the point may be that the godly person who deals fairly and honestly with others is not going to be as free to drive as hard a bargain with others as worldly people. For example if a godly person owned the only well in the village that hadn’t gone dry in a drought, he would either share the water with his neighbors or make it available at a price they could afford. If a worldly person owned the same well, he would charge whatever the market would bear even if it meant that some of his neighbors lost their livestock or crops. I will admit that I find that parable confusing.

The NET Bible and the New Living Bible aim for contemporary wording (which is simpler for contemporary readers to understand). Their primary focus is not accuracy, like with the NASB and the ESV.

I suspect that the translators of the NET Bible might argue that a literal translation that fails to communicate the meaning of the passage to the modern reader is less accurate than one that accurately communicates the meaning. I doubt that they would say that accuracy was not their primary focus.

In fact, the NET Bible says that when it goes for functional equivalence in the text, it provides the more literal translations in the notes. Since there is no such note concerning “contemporaries” in Luke 16:8, I would have to conclude that the translators did not view “kind” as more literal.

And if you can't tell me what reasons the NET Bible gave for their choice of the word "contemporaries," then it doesn't advance the discussion to say that they probably had good reasons for it. We need to know what the reasons are before we can evaluate them. I see no reason to simply trust in the good judgment of the translators--especially since they are so often inaccurate.

This has been my point all along. You claimed that the NET Bible’s translation made “no sense.” I said that it’s arrogant to declare that their decision makes no sense if you don’t know their reasons.

I have never suggested that you simply trust their good judgment; however, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they acted in good faith. I don’t think that they acted arbitrarily, even if they might have been mistaken.

Vinny said...

I can think of two reasons why someone would use a word like “synergistic” to describe two things that work together: (1) he thinks that the word communicates something about the way the two things work together that simpler words don’t capture; or (2) he thinks that using big words makes him sound smart, i.e., he is pretentious. You seem to unable to decide whether you intended it to mean working together in a broad sense or the more narrow sense that “synergistic” communicates. That leads me to conclude that you actually used it simply because it sounded impressive.

Webster’s defines “deconstruction” as “a philosophical or critical method which asserts that meanings, metaphysical constructs, and hierarchical oppositions (as between key terms in a philosophical or literary work) are always rendered unstable by their dependence on ultimately arbitrary signifiers; also : an instance of the use of this method.” While I do not find Calvinism persuasive, I don’t see deconstruction as being its methodology.

Vinny said...

Yes, I do think Thayer had the expertise of Greek to know the various ways in which genea was used. However, it doesn't follow that he had the expertise in theology to know which is the correct use in this particular instance. And even if he had the expertise, I don't agree with everyone who has expertise in theology, nor do they agree with each other. I have given reasons, backed by evidence, for my conclusion.

Whose theology should guide the translation? Should it be Calvinist, Roman Catholic, or Lutheran? Shouldn’t you determine your theology based on what the words mean rather than determining what the words mean based on your theology?

Lowell said...

Hi Anette,
As of late, I prefer to lurk rather than post, but I want you to examine what you have said.

Yes, I do think Thayer had the expertise of Greek to know the various ways in which genea was used. However, it doesn't follow that he had the expertise in theology to know which is the correct use in this particular instance. And even if he had the expertise, I don't agree with everyone who has expertise in theology, nor do they agree with each other.

Anette, are you being intellectually honest? Are you reading presuppositions into the text?

You just said that you don't care what expertise a person has because they may not have an expertise in theology. But in your very next statement, you don't even care if the person has an expertise in theology if they don't agree with you.

I have given reasons, backed by evidence, for my conclusion.

True, but you start with the conclusion and then you look for evidence to back it up. You discard anything that doesn't support your conclusion.

I also want to point out that Darkknight56 has neither agreed nor disagreed with DagoodS's description of your methodology. But please realize that if Darkknight56 were to agree with DagoodS, that wouldn't mean Darkknight56 has turned on you.

And I certainly have not turned on you. Just examine what you have said.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

I meant to say "hermeneutics," not "theology." Hermeneutics is defined as "the art of Bible interpretation," and this is a good definition because some people just seem to have a knack for it, even if they lack a seminary degree. It involves knowing the Bible, thinking about it logically but not in an overly rigid way, paying attention to the details, and seeing the big picture. It means the ability to examine these questions objectively without presuppositions.

The three people who come to mind who I consider to be gifted at hermeneutics are John Piper, a Calvinist, Sid Neumeyer, one of my pastors who is a former nuclear physicist and has no seminary training (not a Calvinist), and an agnostic at Atheist Central named Steven J.

You may then ask why they reach such different conclusions, but I don't think they do. They often reach similar conclusion even though their overall world views are different.

DagoodS said...

Curious, considering John Piper disagrees with your position that every time Jesus is recorded saying genea it mean the entire human race. Even John Piper agrees there were occasions it meant those alive at the time

Vinny said...

Anette,

I am curious to know how one goes about determining that a knack which does not require any formal knowledge or training is in fact being exercised objectively and free from presuppositions. That sounds to me like an entirely arbitrary methodology that leaves one free to believe whatever he or she wants.

Anette Acker said...

Lowell,

You just said that you don't care what expertise a person has because they may not have an expertise in theology. But in your very next statement, you don't even care if the person has an expertise in theology if they don't agree with you.

I think I addressed this point in my response to Vinny, but let me know if I didn't.

True, but you start with the conclusion and then you look for evidence to back it up. You discard anything that doesn't support your conclusion.

What evidence have I discarded? DagoodS has said that he doesn't need to back up what he says with evidence, so there is no evidence for me to discard.

If you can give evidence that contradicts my conclusion I will definitely change my mind. As I said, that is my methodology when it comes to Bible interpretation, or anything else, for that matter.

I also want to point out that Darkknight56 has neither agreed nor disagreed with DagoodS's description of your methodology. But please realize that if Darkknight56 were to agree with DagoodS, that wouldn't mean Darkknight56 has turned on you.

True, and I would not have thought that Darkknight56 had turned on me if he had agreed with DagoodS about my methodology.

But I think you're missing the broader context here. We were talking about what we consider acceptable rough-and-tumble on our blogs. I spent several months commenting on DagoodS's blog, where I experienced a constant barrage of ad hominem attacks. People were taking aim at me rather than my arguments.

When I finally decided that enough was enough, DagoodS followed me here and targeted Darkknight56 with his comment about my methodology. By itself this was no big deal, but in the context of what had transpired before, and the fact that DagoodS could not back his allegation with evidence, this came across to me like yet another personal attack. He didn't seem to want to talk about any of the issues--he wanted to talk about me and what he perceived as my character flaws.

I said what I did about Darkknight56 because I knew that he would not tear me down personally to score points. We disagree pretty vigorously and I'll readily admit that I have not been the most patient person in the world during our discussions. But he's friendly, forgiving, and considerate, so it is easy to give him the benefit of the doubt during our discussions that nothing is intended to be personal. It's all what I consider acceptable rough-and-tumble, because it would be hard to walk on eggshells around each other when we have different world views and we are trying to get at the truth.

However, I consider it a whole different ball game when people are tearing each other down. I try not to do it to other people (and I want it brought to my attention if I do) and I don't see why I should put up with people doing it to me. Ad hominem attacks are also fallacious and can lead some lurkers astray by distracting them from the actual arguments. So if people resort to ad hominem attacks, I neither enjoy the discussions nor do I find them constructive.

And I certainly have not turned on you.

I know that you have not turned on me. You are free to give me constructive criticism, since you have always done so in a considerate and thoughtful way. (But I do hope you will back up what you said with evidence.) You also seem open to hearing my perspective.

P.S. There is something going on in my life right now that requires a lot of my time and focused attention, which is why I've been taking a long time to get back to people. So I don't know how involved in this discussion I can continue to be.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

Curious, considering John Piper disagrees with your position that every time Jesus is recorded saying genea it mean the entire human race. Even John Piper agrees there were occasions it meant those alive at the time

So why don't you quote Piper so we can examine his methodology?

BTW, I'm not a Calvinist, so I don't agree with Piper on everything.

And it goes without saying that I don't agree with Steven J. on everything. However, we play by the same rules (i.e., use the same methodology) when we discuss the subjects on which we disagree, whether the subject is Bible interpretation or apologetics.

Lowell said...

Anette,
There is something going on in my life right now that requires a lot of my time and focused attention, which is why I've been taking a long time to get back to people. So I don't know how involved in this discussion I can continue to be.

No worries. I hope all goes well.

Currently, I try to avoid lengthy discussions. I prefer to listen rather than speak. I just wanted to draw your attention to what you said to Vinny because it struck me as odd coming from someone that talks about avoiding presuppositions.

I am not focusing on the correct translation for genea. I am just focusing on what you said to Vinny.

To paraphrase you, you said that an expertise in Greek is unimportant in determining the correct use of genea because one would need an expertise in hermeneutics.

Immediately following that statement, you said that it actually isn't important if a person has an expertise in hermeneutics if that person doesn't agree with you.

Like DagoodS said, "Under your methodology, your opinion (contrary to everyone else’s position) is correct because you have rationalized it to yourself."

Vinny said...

A few months ago, I asked you some questions about a hypothetical Hindu who said that prior to examining the evidence for the Big Bang theory, he knew that there was no way he would ever accept it because he had a holy book that told him that the universe had always existed. When he did get around to examining the evidence, he concluded that it did not support the Big Bang theory just as he had expected.

I would like to add to my hypothetical now by suggesting that in any discussion of the Big Bang theory, this Hindu man is always able to make some sort of evidence-based argument for his position and against the Big Bang theory, without resorting to theological justifications.

My hypothetical Hindu might claim that his conclusions are based on an objective and unbiased analysis of the evidence, but there is good reason to doubt that claim. The problem is that he has described a thought process in which his analysis of the evidence is necessarily controlled by the theological conclusions he has already reached.

I think that Lowell is trying to get at the same point now that I was trying to get at then: you have described a methodology that makes theological considerations the primary determinant of your conclusions. You insisted then as you do now that you follow the evidence, but your own description of your thought process belies that claim.

Vinny said...

Anette,

As far as I can tell, the only way to prove to you that Jesus meant that some of those present would live to see the Second Coming would be to travel back in time to ask Jesus whether that is what he meant. There is nothing else I can think of that would preclude you from claiming that this isn’t what genea means there or anywhere else that the New Testament has Jesus using the word. Unfortunately, this methodology is not practicable.

The only practicable methodology is to examine all the appearances of the word in ancient manuscripts to determine its potential meanings. Cases where more than one interpretation is possible can be compared to cases where the context makes the meaning unambiguous. Since I don’t have the skills to do this myself, I have to rely on the consensus of scholars who have done extensive research in the field and who have had their conclusions tested by peer review.

This methodology is not flawless. It may reach the wrong conclusions in cases where an author intended one meaning, but used a word in a way that is similar to the unambiguous cases where some other meaning was intended. Nevertheless, this methodology offers the best hope for objectivity and the best chance to identify and alleviated the effects of biases and presuppositions. It is less arbitrary than relying on some “knack” for hermeneutics which doesn’t depend on formal training or expertise.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

No rush on getting back. Real life often intervenes in these conversations. Hopefully all is well.

I am dismayed you reiterate an accusation I haven’t presented any evidence.

I have.

For your sake I will briefly refer to the evidence again.

1. Greek. Jesus is recorded stating “generation” (genea) modified by the limiting adjective aute “this” as compared to pas or “all” as in Luke 1:48.

2. Context. The events surrounding the statement, and the events referred by the statement occur within the listener’s lifetime. E.g. “Sign of Jonah,” “Jesus suffering,” Fall of Jerusalem, “Some living today.”

3. Reaction. The earliest Christians—those who actually heard Jesus speak or received information from others who had—interpreted Jesus as indicating the Son of Man would come within their lifetime. The earliest writers (Paul and Mark) indicate it. The later writers (Luke and 2 Peter) must explain the delay to Christians questioning it. [Something you originally agreed, but now I’m not sure where you are at.]

4. Thayer’s Lexicon entry on genea. All the entry—including clauses, cites and portions parsed out when you indicated Thayer’s was authoritative regarding genea.

5. Commentaries. I referred to Malina’s scholarship on the culture’s “present-sense,” Udo Schnelle, and Henry’s commentaries.

I understand you have written replies to these evidences; I understand you prefer to re-label some evidence as “speculation.”

They are still evidence.

Look, if Shakespeare (writing 1600 years later in a different language) is “evidence;” then certainly the actual Greek words are evidence. If the Venerable Bede’s commentary is to be considered evidence—why not Bruce Malina’s Commentary as well? If Thayer’s Lexicon is evidence--isn’t Thayer’s Lexicon evidence?

You are free to claim the evidence I have presented is insufficient, or is weak, or fails to preponderate; but please stop saying I haven’t presented any. That is not true.

Anette Acker: I spent several months commenting on DagoodS's blog, where I experienced a constant barrage of ad hominem attacks. People were taking aim at me rather than my arguments.

I’ll let the readers decide how much ad hominem was involved. Many times I observed people engaging with your methodology—and your method is so intertwined into who you are—a perception developed this was an attack on you. Because your method is so dependant on your beliefs, any question or issue with it is seen as a question or issue with YOU—not just the method.

For example, Darkknight56 questioned how you determined which, among many, interpretation is correct. After having watched the conversation, I provided my observation, plainly stating s/he was free to ignore anything I said.

You now indicate you perceived this as a “personal attack” and I was claiming it a “character flaw.” I think it is a flawed methodology, yes. I don’t think it a character flaw. Yet I see—for you—this is one and the same. Your method IS you; any statement questioning the method becomes, in your mind, an accusation of defect in you personally.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker: So why don't you quote Piper so we can examine his methodology?

I confess, my first thought is, “Why bother?” Even when I demonstrate John Piper disagrees with your claim Jesus always meant “the human race” when utilizing genea--it won’t make a difference. You relied upon Thayer’s as authoritative regarding the alternative definitions on genea--yet when I pointed out Thayer’s disagrees with you, it was abandoned for not being expertise on hermeneutics. Now you claim John Piper is gifted in hermeneutics and when I demonstrate he disagrees with you, I presume you will likewise abandon him as well. Indeed you have already pre-intimated an “out” by stating “And even if he [Thayer] had the expertise, I don't agree with everyone who has expertise in theology [hermeneutics], nor do they agree with each other.” And, “BTW, I'm not a Calvinist, so I don't agree with Piper on everything.”

If history is any indication you will—just like Thayer’s—promptly part with poor Piper.

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, pg. 51-52: “What does it mean when Jesus says, ‘The Queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it…?’ Up to a point Jesus was willing to dialogue with the wise men of his day.”

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, pg. 61: “Jesus was astonished at this in his generation, ‘To what shall I compare this generation? It is like Children sitting in the marketplaces.’ (Matthew 11:16)”

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God pg. 134: “…in Luke 17:24-25; ‘As the lightening flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.’ There is the first coming of the Messiah to suffer and the second coming in glorious triumph”

What Jesus Demands from the World pg. 79: “Fourth, when the Pharisees, who had no love for Jesus (or God, John 5:42) said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you,’ Jesus replied in a way that shed light on the nature of a loving God. He said ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (Matt. 12:39) Why does he call them ‘adulterous’ for seeking a sign?”

[It should be noted Piper states on pg. 194 that this adultery was directed at both those present—the Pharisees—and as a spiritual allusion to Israel rejecting Jesus.]

See Also Desiring God pgs. 330-331

See Also The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright. pg. 154.

Piper repeatedly equates genea in these situations as referring to the people of that time. Not the entire human race.

Vinny said...

Anette,

I would also take exception to the idea that you “experienced a constant barrage of ad hominem attacks.” I will admit to losing my patience at having to revisit issues that we had thoroughly discussed in the past such as Ehrman’s position on the historicity of the empty tomb and the distinction between “creed” and “tradition.” Nevertheless, the majority of the discussion was cordial and substantive points were addressed in detail.

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi DagoodS,
Thanks for your patience, as I’ve been vacationing this week, entertaining my in-laws (yesterday), and wanting some time to study all three versions of the ‘Olivet Discourse’ before responding to what I think “this generation” refers to in Mark 13.

But the most puzzling feature of Mark 13, for me at least, has not been per se figuring out what “this generation” should mean (that is, if one looks only at Mark 13), but whether or not Luke’s version of the Discourse can be harmonized with the Mark and Matthew accounts, which seem fairly similar to each other. The chief problem from the Christian standpoint of attempting harmonization is that Luke seems to point to the same events as in the other synoptic gospels, but then states that the Jews would be disbursed into the nations until the time of the Gentiles are complete ( the point of which [completion] can be deduced from Revelation 11:1-3ff (in context) to be the mid-point of the 70th week spoken of by Daniel), whereas the Mark and Matthew accounts show these same events, or what seem to be the same events, all occurring after the Abomination of Desolation is set up in the temple and therefore after the Jews have returned to their land.

According to Daniel in the O.T. and John in the N.T. book of Revelation, the Abomination of Desolation occurs at the mid-point in the last full seven years of this age (Daniel’s 70th week). The confusion (as skeptics would call it), or the appearance of confusion (as Christians would call it) explains why critics like Bart Ehrman (re: the various gospel accounts of crucifixion events) complain about Christians mashing together accounts in an effort to bring harmony to them, rather than plainly recognize they are contradictory. Christians, however, do not share Ehrman’s presupposition that the gospels are haphazard compilations unconcerned with harmonization. Rather, Christians assume the biblical authors were Spirit-led to the point of inerrancy, and that therefore one ought to assume harmonization is possible. That’s the divide which makes it impossible for the skeptic who shall remain a skeptic, and the Christian who shall remain a Christian, to go from one side to the other in either case.

For the Christian, then, the differences in the synoptic accounts of the Discourse may be explained along the lines of a teacher who seems to reiterate points, but is actually speaking of more or less similar events leading to similar results during two different epochs in history. Yet each synoptic gospel spends some time on both epochs (the near and the far). The difference, I believe, is that Luke’s focus during most of the beginning half (or so) of the Discourse is about events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., while Mark and Matthew’s accounts make some preliminary remarks about the immediate future, but then spend most of their time talking about the last epoch of history from the mid-point of the 70th week and events forward.

A passing question in all of this is why God would create Scriptures along such lines, since it seems to lead to confusion. Why not just have one gospel writer write it all out in strict chronological order and be done with it?
[part 2 of 6 follows]

Daniel Gracely said...

[part 2 of 6]
Part of the answer, I think, is the need for an affirmation of text by more than one author. For as far back as the Old Testament the Bible says in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses every word is established. I personally think this principle points back to the agreement among the Persons of the Godhead about what words (and therefore statements involving words) mean. I also think the “two witnesses” rather than three, indicates not just human judicial proceedings, but also to the theoretical event of one of the Persons of the Godhead becoming the Enemy of the other Two, or in the event that Two of the Persons forsake what all Three had aforetime agreed about the meaning of words, so that the majority of the Two Persons would establish what words mean, insofar as having the power to enforce it.

But my point in all this is to show why there ought to be more than one witness—one gospel writer—recording the discourses of Jesus. For if all the gospel writers had written exactly the same account to the exact same jot and tittle, this would strike the more skeptical reader that only one gospel writer had actually written the account, with other writers merely copying it. And so IMO the Bible, conceding the hardness of heart of skeptics (but not just them, but people in general), is always pushing the bounds of harmonization, knowing the person who really seeks God shall find Him. For as the Lord says in the O.T. “You will find me when you shall seek me with all your heart.”

Now, the spark that ignites the Discourse seems to be Jesus’ remark about the hypocritical religious leaders who make long prayers while devouring widows’ houses. (Mark 12:38ff) Jesus then observes the monies people put into the Temple treasury, and remarks that the widow who cast in two mites gave more than all the others, since she gave everything she had. This all but implies that this widow was reduced to such poverty because her house had been wrongfully confiscated by hypocritical religionists. Yet as Jesus and his disciples are leaving the Temple, some remark on the beauty of the Temple buildings and the costly gifts which adorn it. This may have been a side-on challenge to Jesus, pointing out that widowed poverty could never produce such wonders dedicated to God. Perhaps it was even their attempt to argue that the end result of hypocritical action seemed to justify its means, or, if not, that the end served to honor God despite the actions of hypocrites that had made possible the beauty of the Temple. To this Jesus simply points out that in the future no stone will be left upon another.

Now at first I had thought I would cover every verse in all three synoptic accounts to show in each case whether I thought a verse referred to Jesus’ contemporary generation (CG) on the one hand, or on the other hand the future generation (FG) that would witness the final cataclysmic events (covering about 3.5 years) closing out human history prior to Christ’s reign on earth. But such lengthy comments would lose most readers’ interests, so I have only done it for Luke. Before I give this below, let me at least state that IMO “this generation” refers to those alive at the mid-point of the 70th week in all three synoptic accounts, i.e., those who are about to witness a time of trouble upon the earth which is unprecedented from anything before it, and which shall never be matched in the future for its horror.
[part 3 of 6 follows]

Daniel Gracely said...

[part 3 of 6]
LUKE 21:6-36

Note: CG = contemporary generation of Jesus; FG = future generation in the distant future. Also, note that Jesus is speaking to his disciples as representative of believers, not as the Twelve. The text is given in the KJV, though my study mainly involved the NASB. My notes are interspersed between the text, which is boldened.

21:6As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
[verse 6]
FG, with Jesus looking far into the future of which the near future (a form of destruction in 70 A.D.) prefigures it to a lesser degree, which he will soon discuss at length, beginning in vs. 12;

21:7And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
[7]
I don’t think the disciples know whether Jesus is speaking about a near or far future. (In fact, Jesus addresses both.) This seems plain by their subsequent question to the resurrected Jesus about whether the time of the Kingdom is now at hand (Acts 1).

21:8And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. 21:9But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. 21:10Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: 21:11And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
[8-11b;]
these verses refer to the beginning of birth pangs which is near the FG, but not immediately before it. (note the last clause in vs. 9) This is characterized by people coming in Jesus’ name claiming (lit.) “I am” (not per se, “I am Christ”, since they merely come in the name of Christ), i.e., the one speaking, though despite his claim that he speaks in Jesus’ name, he does not, yet says “The time has drawn near” (technically not “is near”, since in Gr. eggizo is the perfect tense). Harold Camping is an example of someone falsely coming in Jesus’ name and claiming the time has drawn near. Thus technically Camping is declaring he is the “I am”, a name reserved only for Elohiym, since he conflates himself with Christ as the one speaking for God, and makes it clear only his (Camping’s) followers can speak for God according to their loyalty to his (Camping’s) view. There have been other deluded persons on this point, such as William Miller in the 1830s and 1840s, leading to the Great Disappointment and the eventual founding of the Seventh Day Adventist Movement.

Moving on, the wars, earthquakes, and famines in vss. 9-11 also mark the beginning of birth pangs, according to Mark and Matthew, but neither of these gospel writers include Luke 21:11b about there being signs in the heavens. Thus I think Christ was simply crescendo-ing his remarks about the beginning of birth pangs to describe (1) the ‘birth labor’ itself, i.e., an unprecedented Tribulation; and (2) signs in the heavens immediately following the Tribulation, before entering a section of his narrative in which he speaks of the things that will come before (see v. 12).

But as regards signs in the heavens, note that Revelation describes the antichrist’s false prophet as being given power to perform great signs, including even bringing down lighting from heaven in the presence of men. (Rev. 13:13) But these are not the only signs during the FG, since catastrophic phenomena in the heavens will also occur immediately after the Tribulation. Thus Christ refers to all these signs in the heavens in Luke 11:b, a subject to which he returns in vss. 25-26ff, and which speaks of the (3.5 year) Tribulation and its Aftermath, the latter the time of Christ’s return to earth.
[part 4 of 6 follows]

Daniel Gracely said...

[part 4 of 6]
21:12But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. 21:13And it shall turn to you for a testimony. 21:14Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: 21:15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. 21:16And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.21:17And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. 21:18But there shall not an hair of your head perish. 21:19In your patience possess ye your souls. 21:20And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21:21Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 21:22For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 21:23But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 21:24And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
[12-24]
CG, since Jesus opens this extended section stating that “But before all these things…” The descriptions that follow are similar or match the same kind of events that will earmark the last days, including the persecution of believers described in detail in Mark (esp. 13:14ff) and Matthew (esp. 24:15ff), except that in Luke the abomination of desolation is not mentioned by name, though the time of marking it, is. This is seen in Luke 24:24 where we are told the Jews will be disbursed among the nations until the time of the Gentiles is completed, a completion which Revelation 11:1-3ff shows to be the mid-point of the 70th week.;

21:25And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;21:26Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
[25-26]
FG, since this describes the Tribulation period, which Christ had alluded to in the last clause of vs. 11;

Daniel Gracely said...

[part 5 of 6]
21:27And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
[27]
FG, as it speaks of Christ’s return at the end of the 70th week. Note Matthew 24:29 which states “But immediately after the tribulation (see Mt. 24:21) of those days” in which the Son of Man will come in the clouds (impl. to the earth).

21:28And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. 21:29And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 21:30When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 21:31So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 21:32Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 21:33Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.21:34And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 21:35For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.21:36Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
[28-36]
the fig tree’s development of leaves near summer is given as a simile to when Christ will be near, at the door.

Since temporal divisions are given in all three gospels dividing the end days from the portion of time before it, the most natural reading of what “this generation” means which shall witness “these” things, IMO simply refers to the latter days. This especially seems to be the case since the contexts in all three gospels show that the statement about “this generation” is followed with “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words should not pass away,” a reference to the days immediately subsequent to the Tribulation in which the very powers of the heavens will be shaken. Now, one might object that such a statement about heaven and earth passing away is merely a summary of all that Jesus had spoken about, and that therefore “this generation” must mean a generation spanning everything mentioned by Jesus in the Discourse. But this is not a natural reading of the text. For under such an assumption Jesus would have had to have in mind such events as the Jews being disbursed to ALL the nations as well as ALL the nations being reached with the gospel. But this is hardly something one would expect of Christ—since it requires us to believe that One who was savvy enough to shame his aggressive and ambitious interrogators until they dared not ask him further questions before the people, would also imagine with the greatest naiveté that such a Dispersion and Spreading of the Gospel to ALL nations could take place within a single generation.

Also, Thayer in effect notes that the Greek words translated “this” and “these” may be used to refer to a specific context in which “that” and those” has been previously established. In fact, this is something which also occurs in English, in which a large text can have subdivisions of thought in which in a latter section “that” or “those” are referred to, to which “this” or “these” may afterward in the same subsection be understood to constrictively refer back to nothing prior to the same subsection, even betimes if the word “all” precedes the “this” or “these.”. Even so, “this generation” should not be thought to invoke all the phenomena occurring before the “that” and “those” which marks a subdivision within a larger overall text, OR, too, if (in the case of Luke, if I recall right) the “that” and “those” do NOT appear, yet a major event nevertheless breaks up the temporal sense of the passage so that “this” and “these” would naturally lead the reader to assume the reference is not to something before the break.
[part 6 of 6 follows]

Daniel Gracely said...

[part 6 of 6]
Still, if one would contend with the reasons I offer here, he is back to what one presumes is shown in the synoptic recordings of the Discourse. In which case the question persists (at least for him): Should one accept or deny that “this generation” refers to all the events, or just those events marked by “those” days, i.e., by the event or events which (regardless of the appearance of “that” or “those”) the context shows is demarcated in the Discourse from earlier points?

In my opinion the more natural reading is the latter, and that the events of the Discourse hardly suggest a timeline that would accommodate a single generation. Yet because Christ does in fact remark that a single generation will witness all “these” things, this implies a surprise of some sort, though IMO (for reasons already given) the surprise is told to us by Christ himself, when he states that those days will be so terrible that unless they are shortened, no flesh will survive. Thus Christ is speaking of a single generation witnessing all of these terrible things, yet in some measure surviving. According to Revelation, I believe the number that survives of this generation is not more than one third.

But if one still contends, I would point out that Christ should not be thought deluded about “this generation” covering all the events listed in the Discourse, since he himself is the embodiment of the true and fulfilled prophecy of Daniel who predicted accurately Messiah’s coming and his cutting off after 69 ‘weeks’. This is why I keep stressing the need to go beyond one’s presuppositions about lesser points (e.g., what “this generation” means) to determine what it is that proves a view superior, and all that descends from it true. In my view it is fulfilled prophecy, such as that given in Daniel 9:25-26a. And having studied this, skeptical arguments like those by Jim Lippard and Chris Sandoval leave a lot to be desired. I have written a book on the subject of Daniel 9:25-26a called Are All Religions the Same?: Daniel 9 and the Coming of the Messiah. I am still editing it, but can send it free via email to any of you who might be interested. It is far too long to include here (30k words). Goggling my name will bring you to my website and email.

Daniel Gracely said...

Vinny writes:
“You seem to unable to decide whether you intended it to mean working together in a broad sense or the more narrow sense that “synergistic” communicates.

Narrow sense? As in the specific business sense of drugs interacting or companies working together? When ever did my opening argument appeal to that “narrow sense”??!!

“Webster’s defines “deconstruction” as…”

Webster, Webster, Webster. Is Webster your god? But I thought you had no gods.

Vinny said...

Daniel,

Your opening argument didn't appear to appeal to that narrow sense at all, and in response to my sarcasm, you only offered the broad definition of working together. However, when I cited the more narrow definition, you laid down your Hegelian smokescreen and claimed that your usage conformed to that definition as well. Then you switched back to arguing the broader sense.

Webster's is not my god, but it is the hard copy dictionary I have on my desk and the on-line dictionary that I have bookmarked in my browser. I try to stick with a single source so I avoid flipping from one dictionary to another in an effort to find the definition that best justifies the argument I happen to be making at the time.

Daniel Gracely said...

Vinny,
Dictionary-wise I think we would all do better than to rely too often on just one source.

you write:
Your opening argument didn't appear to appeal to that narrow sense at all, and in response to my sarcasm, you only offered the broad definition of working together. However, when I cited the more narrow definition, you laid down your Hegelian smokescreen and claimed that your usage conformed to that definition as well. Then you switched back to arguing the broader sense.

My “Hegelian smokescreen”, as you call it, also fit the broad definition. But guess I’ll end my part of this exchange by agreeing with you on at least one point:

Your sense is the narrowest.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

I was not referring to you when I said "a constant barrage of ad hominem attacks.” (Obviously I was also not referring to the lurkers who addressed me--they were all very friendly.) For the most part my discussions with you have been cordial and substantive. However, toward the end you did seem to start taking aim at me rather than the issues. You yourself made some comment about letting the proprietor of the blog set the tone. At the time I was not happy with you, because I expected more from you, and I know that you are very capable of exploring the issues in a substantive and logical way.

Most of the ad hominem attacks from DagoodS were not particularly insulting, and many were just directed at apologists in general. My big annoyance with ad hominem attacks are that, like other fallacies, they obscure the truth. If lurkers are told that apologists are the equivalent of a defense attorney with a guilty client, then the well has been poisoned, because everything we say will be perceived as just a "defense strategy." All this focus on my methodology is another fallacious distraction from the arguments--nobody has as of yet identified evidence that I have discarded, so there is nothing wrong with my "methodology." If it is about my suspected motives rather than my arguments, then that is an ad hominem attack. Hence it is fallacious, although certainly not something I would go cry myself to sleep over.

But I do want to stress that I'm not upset with anyone. Although it was a form of debate that I don't like, I didn't take it personally.

As I said before, I have something else that requires my attention right now, so if I don't reply to people, I am not ignoring them. But I did want to tell you and DagoodS that there are no hard feelings.

Vinny said...

All this focus on my methodology is another fallacious distraction from the arguments--nobody has as of yet identified evidence that I have discarded, so there is nothing wrong with my "methodology."

You asserted that the NET Bible's translation of Luke 16:8 made "no sense" without knowing what the reasons were for the decision. There is something wrong with that "methodology."

Vinny said...

Christians assume the biblical authors were Spirit-led to the point of inerrancy, and that therefore one ought to assume harmonization is possible. That’s the divide which makes it impossible for the skeptic who shall remain a skeptic, and the Christian who shall remain a Christian, to go from one side to the other in either case.

That is certainly the problem. The skeptic applies the same criteria to the New Testament writings that he would apply to any other ancient work and the same criteria that he would expect any objective observer to apply to any ancient work. Based on those criteria, he concludes that the gospels are no more credible than any other ancient mythological writings. The Christian, on the other hand, starts with the unverifiable assumption that the Bible is the unique work of a supernatural actor and applies unique criteria which are specifically calculated to confirm the supernatural character of the writings. The Christian knows that there would never be any justification for anyone who did not share his theological presuppositions to ever apply such criteria to the Bible or any other ancient writing.

DagoodS said...

Daniel Gracely,

Thank you very much for your extensive reply; it was pleasurable reading.

Daniel Gracely: Rather, Christians assume the biblical authors were Spirit-led to the point of inerrancy, and that therefore one ought to assume harmonization is possible. That’s the divide which makes it impossible for the skeptic who shall remain a skeptic, and the Christian who shall remain a Christian, to go from one side to the other in either case. [emphasis in original]

I agree this is a vast divide. Perhaps not “impossible” as there are some Christians who do go to the other side—moi--and presumably vice versa. But still very rare. This is the reason I harp on methodology; if we are not even agreeing on our approach to the issue, it is little surprise we would disagree with the presentation, argumentation and eventual conclusion. I do think there is room to agree on methodology (otherwise I wouldn’t bother discussing it). At least understanding the other side’s approach, and their argumentation within that approach can be illuminating.

My position, in brief, is that Mark 13 was written in apocalyptic genre near or after 70 CE. Following the motif, Mark placed words in a historical setting, claiming they were prophetic, and then listed a number of events confirming the veracity of prophecy, to lend support to the future claims. As if to say, “See how this prophet was correct about things we know? Certainly they will be correct about things we do not.” My view is supported by Mark 13’s reference to Daniel—an equally apocalyptic book engaging in the same activity.

It would be like my claiming to “find” a book written in 1920 “predicting” America would elect a black President, immediately followed by economic downturn. And only a “voice from south” would provide salvation upon America turning from its wicked ways. Then I would claim “See? This book was accurate about Obama and the recession—we should support Rick Perry. The book was right 4/5 of the way, surely it will be correct the remaining 1/5.” Of course I….er….”the book”….would intersperse the prophecy with fire, brimstone, dogs and cats living together and dire warnings if we don’t straighten out. The usual apocalyptic grab bag.

Mark does the same. Writing in 70 C.E., Mark places a prophecy in Jesus’ mouth back in 30 CE, predicting (remarkably accurately) the events leading up to 70 C.E. and then stating the next thing to happen is the Son of Man coming in Glory. Of course, this is immediately followed by a warning and exhortation they must be vigilant because it is happening soon, or else they will be caught sleeping. (Mark 13:32-37) Again, typical apocalyptic.

Matthew copies Mark (with slight modifications); Luke copies Mark (with slight modifications.)

Now, I understand your position is the three (3) Olivet Discourse accounts include the actual words of Jesus, but some accounts do not record words the other accounts did. And, keeping in mind the Premillennial eschatology supported by Daniel and Revelation, there are some events listed within the Discourse Jesus predicted within the listener’s lifetime (or “Contemporary Generation”) and some events have yet to occur (“Future Generation.”) I realize I have capsulated your position, and if I left out an important point, or misspoke, please correct it.

You then go through Luke’s narrative, listing what events would be categorized as “Contemporary Generation” and those designated “Future Generation.” Of course, the question immediately presents itself: What method do we use to determine which event falls in which category?

[cont'd]

DagoodS said...

Even presuming arguendo Jesus was dividing these events into two categories—how can we tell which is which? Do we review it as a First century Mediterranean? As a 21st Century scholar? As a preterist? I would argue it should be reviewed within its own time—as a First Century Mediterranean. If one argues Jesus was secretly communicating “across the generations” to have us later generations divine the REAL intent, I could see where such a person arrives at a different conclusion.

I think you are correct; it would be incumbent upon my position to demonstrate the events listed could occur within the listener’s lifetime. (Indeed, I claim they DID all occur prior to 70 C.E., except the Coming itself immediately preceded by typical sun blotted out, etc. in Mark 13:24-25.) If these events could (and did) occur prior to 70 C.E., I question what method do we utilize to differentiate between Contemporary and Future. Couldn’t one argue every single event was Contemporary, but the only one in the Future was the Son of Man Coming? Why can’t the 2000 year break be right before Jesus’ return? Why does it have to be before earthquakes or the destruction of Jerusalem?

If you don’t mind, I will go through the same verses in Luke 21, indicating why the events occurred within the generation, even before 70 C.E. (I won’t repeat the entire verse, I will paraphrase.)

Vs. 6 “not one stone on another” – refers to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. (Although one could argue there were still technically one stone (at least) on another, this is hyperbolic statement, common within the period. Like cutting off a hand if it leads you to temptation—Jesus was using hyperbole. Not literalism.)

Vs. 8. False Christs. Already happening in the early church. See 1 John 2:18-22, 4:2-3.

Vs. 9-10. Wars. Nations rise against Nation. Already happening within the Jewish wars, as well as other wars from 30 C.E. to 70 C.E., Such as Aretas IV.

Vs. 11. Earthquakes, famines, pestilence. Typical apocalyptic fare. (Aren’t there ALWAYS earthquakes, famines and pestilence anyway?) During the 40 years, these events occurred per natural course, such as the famine under Claudius. Acts 11:28

Vs. 11. “Signs in the sky.” I am of two (2) minds on this one. Mark 13 quotes Isaiah 13:10 regarding the sun being darkened, and the stars fall, etc. Matthew copies Mark quoting Isaiah, Luke does not fully. It is possible Luke shortened the quote, and substituting a synopsis.

Another possibility is Luke is copying Josephus’ account regarding the fall of Jerusalem. Josephus records a star hanging over the city like a sword, a comet lasting a whole year and chariots among the clouds as portends of Jerusalem’s doom. I have never been quite convinced Luke copied Josephus (as argued by some skeptics), yet occasionally I come across these bits and pieces that make me wonder. DID Luke copy Josephus here?

Again, though, this is typical. Anything can be determined a sign—a harvest moon, a blood red sky, etc.

[cont'd]

DagoodS said...

Vs. 12-24. We agree (for the most part) this is all Contemporary Generation. I would highlight a few items. Notice Luke specifically states Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies. (vs. 20) Jerusalem was under siege (surrounded by armies) immediately prior to its destruction. In 70 CE. It is at this point, Luke indicates the [abomination of] desolation is approaching.

And, the abomination occurs when the temple (and sacrifice) is eliminated. Further, Luke recommends those in Judea (Ioudaia) flea in vs. 21. This is very relevant. While we tend to think of Israel as a cohesive whole, at that time the Hebrews were divided into three (3) separate countries—Judea, Galilee and Perea. The Romans marched through Galilee, and were attacking Judea. To a first Century reader, this was a direct reference to only one (1) of the countries—Judea. If any of this was to apply to future generations, we would need Judea—NOT Israel—reestablished.

Unless one starts to say Judea is symbolic for Israel. Making the methodology suspect because we now have more work determining what is symbolic, what is literal, and what is being symbolized.

And the Judeans (not the Galileans, or Pereans) were led away captive.

Vs. 25- 26. Signs in the Sun, Moon, Stars. Distress of Nations. The seas roar. Men’s hearts fail. Notice how these are all very “gray” and typical apocalyptic indicators. What “signs?” Aren’t nations always in distress? Don’t the seas always cause damage—i.e. tsunamis, storms, tides, etc.? Don’t men’s hearts always fail? These are types—items one could include about any period of time (including 30 – 70 CE) and be interpreted by those willing to believe.

Even today we hear about how a Hurricane or an Earthquake is a “sign” to Washington D.C. to do something.

Vs. 27. Son of Man coming.

Every single event is either nebulous enough it could occur anytime, or refers directly to events occurring between 30 – 70 C.E.

There is one more item that should be addressed:

Daniel Gracely: For under such an assumption Jesus would have had to have in mind such events as the Jews being disbursed to ALL the nations as well as ALL the nations being reached with the gospel

Two points:

1) The Greek word for “all”-->pas--does not always mean “each and every single one.” It can mean a great number. When Jesus says the Judeans would be led into captivity to “all (pas) nations” he is not indicating they must be led to Uganda, Madagascar, Vatican City, and every single nation existing. It is an indicator of “a whole bunch.”

Same with the Gospel being preached to “all nations.” It is a great number—not every single one.

For an example of this, Matt. 3:5-6 says Jerusalem, “all” of Judea and “all” the region surrounding the Jordan were baptized by John the Baptist. Does that mean every single individual in Judea was baptized? Of course not--pas is designating a “great number.” See Also Matt. 9:35, 13:32, 21:10, 27:25; Mark 1:5, 7:3; Luke 23:44; John 8:2 for examples where pas does not mean “each and every one” but rather “a great number.”

2) To a First Century Mediterranean person, the “world” consisted of the Roman Empire. While it was understood there were other peoples and other countries (what Rome was expanding into)—the only relevant consideration was for the land, peoples and governments within the Roman system. If a person said, “all the world”—they meant “all the Roman world.” See, for example, Luke 2:1.

By 70 CE. the gospel had spread through much, if not most of the Roman Empire. True, only a missionary here or there for an entire area like Spain or France.


Personally, I think the stronger argument (and I didn’t go through the reasons I disagree with Premillennium eschatology) remains with Mark 13 being an apocalyptic statement, written with the intention the recipients would understand all the events would occur within their lifetime. Including the Son of Man coming in power.

Vinny said...

For under such an assumption Jesus would have had to have in mind such events as the Jews being disbursed to ALL the nations as well as ALL the nations being reached with the gospel. But this is hardly something one would expect of Christ—since it requires us to believe that One who was savvy enough to shame his aggressive and ambitious interrogators until they dared not ask him further questions before the people, would also imagine with the greatest naiveté that such a Dispersion and Spreading of the Gospel to ALL nations could take place within a single generation.

I am always bemused by arguments like this.

The Bible is filled with incredible and fantastic prophecies. The events that Jesus predicts in this discourse are “unprecedented” and “almost unimaginable.” Nevertheless, there is no prophecy that the Christian believes to be too fantastic to occur exactly as described in God’s word.

That is of course, unless the prediction is inconsistent with a particular Christian’s apologetic in a particular circumstance. Jesus couldn’t possibly have predicted that all these events would occur within the generation that was living at the time if that violates the Christian’s common sense notion of how long it would take. It is absurd to think that Jesus would have been so naïve as to think that these unprecedented events could have taken place within an unprecedentedly short time frame. Jesus was much too savvy to think that.

Isn't that what’s known as special pleading?

DagoodS said...

Discussing methodology is not a fallacious distraction. Indeed it is often the root problem and the issues themselves only the symptoms. Arguing over the issues will never resolve the underlying differences.

For example, I have watched countless interactions over inerrancy. The Christian apologist and the skeptic approach the matter from two very different methods, and spill billions of gallons of (figurative) ink never understanding they will never agree. The apologist uses the method “any logical possibility to resolve a conflict” and under that approach is quite correct, the Bible is inerrant. The skeptic, however, uses, “more likely a contradiction than not” and under that approach is equally correct the Bible contains contradictions and errors.

So take any subject—Judas’ death, post-resurrection appearances—and the apologist will (using their method) go through the logical possibilities, resolving the conflicts, and feel they have won the argument. The Skeptic, however, will go through the differences, demonstrate how unlikely such differences could occur absent a contradiction, and feel they have won the argument.

Back and forth. Back and forth—each approaching the issue from two different stand points, neither comprehending the why they are unable to convince the other.

In my opinion, the only way to progress is to recognize the dissimilar methods, and begin to understand why the other person approaches topics the way they do. (Even better would be to debate which is the better method…but baby steps…baby steps. I have a hard enough time getting apologist to even recognize methodology, let alone talk about which one to utilize.)

In our present situation, we were talking about determining the correct interpretation of the Bible. I utilize the method “what a neutral party would determine is more likely, based upon the facts and arguments.” Anette Acker, you utilize “whatever conforms to my theological interpretation.”

Until we understand these are two different methods, generating two different results, reviewing evidence in two different ways, we will never communicate effectively. You will approach an issue—here it was genea--looking to demonstrate how to conform the evidence to your method. And feel, as long as you do so within your method, you have prevailed. I approach the issue looking as to how neutral persons would determine the issue, and as neutrals agree, feel as if I prevailed.

The good news—we both won! The bad news? We only “won” within our own method, and lost within the other’s.

Equally, this affects how we deal with counter-evidence. I look to Shakespeare and determine neutrals would not find Shakespeare to be compelling on defining a Greek word. You look to Thayer’s and if it fails to conform to your theology, dismiss portions as not being an expert in hermeneutics.

I hoped the contrast would be seen and understood. It appears I have failed, if you find it a “fallacious distraction” and a “personal attack.”

Lowell said...

Hi Anette,
I am still curious about what you think of your previous statement.

Yes, I do think Thayer had the expertise of Greek to know the various ways in which genea was used. However, it doesn't follow that he had the expertise in [hermeneutics] to know which is the correct use in this particular instance. And even if he had the expertise, I don't agree with everyone who has expertise in [hermeneutics], nor do they agree with each other.

Do you find anything odd with claiming an expertise in hermeneutics is needed to determine the correct translation for genea and then saying you would dismiss the conclusion of someone gifted at hermeneutics if his conclusion does not agree with yours?

Do you consider yourself gifted at hermeneutics?

What else besides an expertise in hermeneutics is needed to determine the correct translation? In other words, what would you use to disagree with someone gifted at hermeneutics?

Do you think your statement demonstrates an instance where you have started with a conclusion and then looked for the evidence to back it up?

I don't have a followup. I am not trying to convince you of anything. I am just interested in your view.

Anette Acker said...

Lowell,

Do you find anything odd with claiming an expertise in hermeneutics is needed to determine the correct translation for genea and then saying you would dismiss the conclusion of someone gifted at hermeneutics if his conclusion does not agree with yours?

No, I see nothing odd about it, because I can determine that someone is gifted at hermeneutics without agreeing with his or her every conclusion. It depends on why they have reached their conclusions. DagoodS and Vinny both asserted that Thayer reached a different conclusion than I did, but neither of them gave the basis for his conclusion.

I said that another aspect of my methodology is that I believe cross-examination is an excellent way of getting at the truth. So a person may be gifted at hermeneutics but has never been asked hard questions on a particular point.

For example, John Piper is a 5-point Calvinist who wrote the excellent book Future Grace, which was in large part about surrendering to (i.e., not resisting) God's grace. However the five points of Calvinism are (TULIP): Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.

This is the question I really would have wanted to ask him: Who is the target audience of the book? Every person is either elect or non-elect, and according to TULIP, the elect cannot resist "irresistible grace." The non-elect, on the other hand, must resist it because they are "totally depraved." So why write the book at all?

One might as well write a book called, Eat Food, and give excellent reasons to eat (if you don't eat you die, food can be delicious, etc.), but in the final analysis everyone who can eat actually does. So it would be a pointless book.

Of course I never got a chance to ask Piper this question, but his answer would, in large part, determine how I regard Calvinism. I think his book is very biblical, but I can't logically square it with TULIP.

Can you please explain why you keep insisting that I should agree with Thayer's conclusion without knowing his rationale? I honestly don't understand your point. Do you mean to say that if you agree with someone on one point, you agree with him or her on everything, no questions asked?

Do you consider yourself gifted at hermeneutics?

No, I try to use good hermeneutics. It is something I strive for.

What else besides an expertise in hermeneutics is needed to determine the correct translation? In other words, what would you use to disagree with someone gifted at hermeneutics?

I may disagree if there are holes in their logic, they fail to substantiate their assertions, or they fail to account for all the evidence.

Do you think your statement demonstrates an instance where you have started with a conclusion and then looked for the evidence to back it up?

No.

Lowell said...

Can you please explain why you keep insisting that I should agree with Thayer's conclusion without knowing his rationale?

I am not insisting that. I am not focusing on the correct translation for genea. I have seen you, Vinny, and DagoodS go round and round on the same point, and I am not interested in getting involved with that.

I am focusing more on your methodology which I don't find to be a "fallacious distraction".

And some of the things you have said in defense of your position seemed odd such as citing Shakespeare. It seems as if you have started with the conclusion and looked for anything to back up your position.

Insisting that Thayer needed an expertise in hermeneutics and then saying that an expertise in hermeneutics wouldn't even matter jumped out as bizarre to me.

Do you mean to say that if you agree with someone on one point, you agree with him or her on everything, no questions asked?

We're only discussing one point. You are the one that said an expertise in hermeneutics is needed in determining the correct use of genea. If you can still disagree with someone gifted in hermeneutics on that one point, then obviously something else is needed for that one point.

I think the fact that those living at the time have since passed away is the real reason you insist the author of Mark meant something other than "those living at the time". I can't get inside your head, so I don't know, but your statements don't add up.

I honestly don't understand your point.

If I still haven't made myself clear, that is fine. I will drop it.

Anette Acker said...

Lowell,

I would be fine with dropping it at this point because I don't think the issue is my methodology. When DagoodS first brought this up, I addressed his points about my methodology. I said that I look at all the evidence and if a piece of evidence contradicts my conclusion, I modify my conclusion. I said that I consider cross-examination an effective vehicle for getting at the truth, and I mentioned that Steven J. and I play by the same rules when we debate (i.e., we utilize the same methodology).

All these responses were largely ignored. That's when I came to conclude that the issue was not my methodology and why I called the whole discussion a "fallacious distraction."

I said this because it appears that the real problem with my "methodology" is that I am a Christian/apologist and that I am presumed to want to believe something and find evidence to support it. You might notice that in his last comment DagoodS used the example of Judas' death to support his claim that "the apologist" will resort to any logical possibility to resolve a conflict--a subject that I've never discussed. In fact, in my most current post at the time I admitted that Luke gives a slightly different account of where and when Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin. So are we talking about me or "the apologist," whoever that is?

This is a fallacious distraction because it is not much different from a Christian dismissing an atheist's arguments and concluding that the real reason he's an atheist is because he's angry with God or he had a dysfunctional relationship with his father. It's about the person rather than the arguments and it's a conclusion reached without supporting evidence.

DagoodS has on occasion argued that Christians should actually listen to atheists and not make assumptions based on the Christian's presuppositions, and I couldn't agree more. But I would respectfully submit that it should be a two-way street.

And some of the things you have said in defense of your position seemed odd such as citing Shakespeare. It seems as if you have started with the conclusion and looked for anything to back up your position.

In the original discussion on DagoodS' blog, the context made it clear why I brought up Shakespeare, Thayer, the Psalms and other sources. DagoodS had made the argument that the "obvious" probability was that Jesus was wrong when He said that all these things would be accomplished before this generation passed away. Why is this the obvious conclusion when the word "generation" was used far more broadly in the past, whether in Greek, English, or Hebrew? Why is it obvious that Jesus used today's modern definition of "generation"?

Normally, it is considered uncharitable to conclude that someone is wrong if his or her words can reasonably be interpreted in two different ways--one correct and one incorrect. Not only can the words of Jesus about this generation reasonably be interpreted as correct, but that interpretation is consistent with His other words: that only the Father knew when He would return, that the Gospel would have to be preached to all nations first, that the end would not come right after the "wars and rumors of wars" (the Jewish revolt), etc.

Vinny said...

Normally, it is considered uncharitable to conclude that someone is wrong if his or her words can reasonably be interpreted in two different ways--one correct and one incorrect.

Can you foresee the future Anette? Do you personally know anyone who can foresee the future? Would you be charitable in interpreting Nostradamus, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, the Psychic Hotline on TV, or the daily horoscope in the newspaper in order to credit them with the ability to accurately predict the future?

I think not.

This is a perfect example of the way you interpret the Bible by a special set of rules that you would never apply anywhere else. Nothing could better illustrate the problems with your methodology.

I suppose I am being uncharitable though.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

Do you think that Jesus was correct when He said that the Gospel would be preached to all nations? I assume you do, since that has in fact happened. I also assume that you think it was just luck and not that it was a true prophecy.

Likewise, the question of whether Jesus was incorrect when He said that this generation will not pass away until all these things are accomplished can be discussed without any reference to the supernatural. And I have in fact discussed this issue without invoking the supernatural. I have relied on what Jesus was actually reported to have said as well as sources He frequently referenced (the Psalms). And I demonstrated that the word "generation" has not always been used in the exclusively narrow modern sense--in Hebrew, Greek, and English.

Vinny said...

Anette,

The question of whether or not Jesus was correct cannot be addressed without first deciding what he meant. If we don’t know what he meant, we cannot say whether he is correct. Your interpretation of what he meant is based on the assumption that he correctly predicted the future. Would you follow that methodology when interpreting any other prophecies than those found in the Bible? If so, which other prophecies would you interpret that way?

Vinny said...

Actually, I am not sure whether Jesus was correct about that or not because it does not appear to me to be prophesied as an independent event. Rather, the gospel being preached to all the nations is part of a series of events that Jesus predicted. Don't they all have to take place before we can say that he was correct?

Lowell said...

Anette,
It is difficult to talk with you (or even listen to you) because you are not interested in what an author or Jesus actually meant just as long as there is a way to take their words and make them fit your beliefs.

So it is just as well that you are participating less in these types of discussions.

I was just curious if you ever read DagoodS's thirteen-part deconversion story titled My Deconversion Story?

There is a link to it along the right-hand side of DagoodS's Thoughts from a Sandwich blog under Links I use. It is long, and it doesn't get straight to the deconversion specifically, but I think it would be of value to you.

There is a different tone than the one you experienced on DagoodS's blog even in the comment section. (That is my opinion anyway. Your opinion may differ.)

In his posts he talks about evaluating evidence through the eyes of a neutral person and uses the example of Judas's death. He also talks about his life as a Christian and his experience as he deconverted.

If it is something you haven't read, and if you think it would be something you're interested in, I would recommend reading it.

DagoodS said...

Lowell,

Thank you, that was very kind. Occasionally it is a good reminder for me to review where I came from.

Anette Acker,

I apologize for the tone I have taken with you. There are two reasons for this attitude; both my fault. Both not very good excuses..

First, I have less patience in these discussions. I feel as if I am repeating the same things over and over and never getting anywhere. I should learn to be more precise, concise, and articulate.

Second (and this is sheer snobbery. No other word for it) I tend to hold lawyers to a higher, expected standard. It absolutely baffles me one could obtain a legal education and retain certain theistic positions. Of course, I have run across other lawyers who do (and are far more conservative than you). I project my own legal experience onto lawyers and should not. We are human, with the same variety of emotions, reasoning, biases, prejudices, etc. as anyone else on any other topic. There are both conservative and liberal lawyers; Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Communists, anarchists and ever other –ism or –ist available.

Again, I apologize. I hope all is well with you and your family.

Anette Acker said...

No offense taken, DagoodS!

All is well here. Thank you for asking.

Anette Acker said...

Lowell,

I was just curious if you ever read DagoodS's thirteen-part deconversion story titled My Deconversion Story?

I read the first couple of chapters yesterday and found them interesting and well written, but have not yet gotten to the part where he talks about his deconversion.

In his posts he talks about evaluating evidence through the eyes of a neutral person and uses the example of Judas's death.

Do you think atheists are neutral, Lowell? I have to strongly disagree with this. Everybody is biased in some way and will process information within his or her conceptual framework. Many atheists will evaluate the claims of Christianity with a mindset that completely precludes the possibility of the supernatural. This renders them incapable of examining the evidence for or against Christianity in a neutral way.

You're going to be hard pressed to find a neutral person. Even doubting Christians are biased for or against Christianity, probably depending on whether or not they are seriously considering deconversion. You can tell by their confirmation bias. What do they read and whose opinions do they seek out? We may think we are neutral, but none of us are.

Since you and I are biased people with very different viewpoints, if we wish to get closer to the truth we have to be willing to examine the evidence and make radical paradigm shifts where necessary. Otherwise, we are only defending our own perceptions of reality, which could be flawed.

It is difficult to talk with you (or even listen to you) because you are not interested in what an author or Jesus actually meant just as long as there is a way to take their words and make them fit your beliefs.

I'm sorry that you feel that way because I try very hard to be intellectually honest. That is why I specifically invite people above the comments to challenge what I say. And I have for a long time been in the habit of trying to interpret the Bible without presuppositions. I started doing that in the aftermath of my crisis eighteen years ago.

I would be very interested to get specific examples of when I've done what you are alleging I do. The subject of Judas' death keeps coming up, which is one I have not discussed. How is that evidence of my intellectual dishonesty?

You said that my treatment of Thayer's Greek Lexicon indicates intellectual dishonesty, but I have asked DagoodS and Vinny for Thayer's rationale for his alleged conclusion that Jesus meant the people presently alive and have not gotten a response. I don't know his rationale. As for my point about "generation" being used more broadly in the past than today, I have established that with or without Thayer.

My main purpose in the discussion on DagoodS' blog was to challenge the claim that Jesus was a failed apocalypse preacher by giving evidence that the word "generation" had various different definitions. And the other statements of Jesus indicate that He didn't know the time of His coming, it would not happen right after the fall of Jerusalem, and that the Gospel would have to be preached to all the nations of the earth first. This is very different from Harold Camping's precise prediction. And so far everything Jesus said has in fact happened, including the preaching of the Gospel to all nations.

I understand that you're tired of that subject, but unless you can be specific, you are not communicating to me what you think I'm doing wrong. As for your suspicions about my motives, you correctly stated in another comment that you cannot get inside my head. So you have to settle for critically evaluating what I actually say and whether or not the evidence supports my position.

If your objection is that I'm always defending Christianity, the reason for that is that I genuinely believe it is true, and if something is true, then the evidence will always be consistent with it. If I believed it was false, I would not be a Christian.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

Imagine a future civilization defining English language absent dictionaries. They notice we use the word “set” with 119 (!) different meanings. To define “set” and its many variant definitions, they would utilize the same methodology we have in 1000’s of languages and millions of words—review the context.

Context allows us (and them) to understand different meaning of “set” in:

“Set the Table.”
“Game, Set and Match.”
“Set of positive integers.”

Same way we review Hebrew dowr and notice times (in context) it means those alive at the time (Gen.6:9; 7:1), or one’s descendants (Gen. 17:9) or all humans (Psalm 45:17). The translators realize this is the same multiple definitions we use for the English word ”generation” and therefore translate dowr to “generation”--anticipating the reader to understand which meaning to use, dependant on context.

Same way we review Greek genea and notice times (in context) it means a single descendant (Matt. 1:17), all humans (Luke 1:48) or those alive at a certain time. (Acts. 13:36, Luke 11:30). The translators realize this is the same multiple definitions we use for the English word “generation” and therefore translate genea to “generation”--anticipating the reader to understand which meaning to use, dependant on context.

There is nothing “modern” about the multiple definition of dowr, genea or “generation.” Context reveals these words have multiple uses for 1000’s of years.

The method—using context to determine which meaning a word is using—is so prolific and basic we hardly think about utilizing it. The reason one can read sentences using “set” and not need the dictionary to determine which definition is being used—the context tells us.

Any other ancient writing we would translate dowr or genera to “generation” determining which of the multiple meaning to use by context.

BUT…The Bible has theological significance. And, good or bad, genea causes perceived theological difficulties. Now, for the first time, people abandon the method used in every other instance, and rationalize by apologia we should not use the same method we do everywhere else, in order to support their personal opinion.

As I stated before (see above), when I use the term “neutral” I refer to people neutral to the discussed concept; how to translate genea in New Testament verses. (Not theist vs. non-theist.)

I envision a trial where 1000 language experts all testify meanings of multiple definition words are determined by context. 100 experts in Greek testify genea--even when Jesus uses it—at times meant those alive at the time. As determined by context. A dozen preterists—Christians who believe the Son of Man did come within the generation—show it has nothing to do with non-theistic bias.

In contrast to all this evidence, Anette Acker, you present two (2) witnesses. The first—Thayer—to show genea has multiple meaning. (Something never contested.) However, on cross-examination, YOUR expert—Thayer—agrees within the context, Jesus in Mark 13:30 meant those alive at the time.

You were left in the difficult position of disagreeing with your own expert. Then you claimed Thayer was not an expert in the real question—hermeneutics. Therefore you call an expert in hermeneutics—John Piper. Again, on cross-examination, your own expert DISAGREES with you, and says Jesus DID use genea at times to mean those presently alive.

You are left with eisegetical argument. As the Standard Jury instruction states, “Counsel’s argument is not evidence.”

A neutral jury, in face of overwhelming evidence on one side, and only argument on the other, would determine at times Jesus used genea to mean those presently alive.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

First, do you know that we have been arguing about this since May and it's now November? That's a scary thought! Do you think we need psychotherapy?

Second, if Thayer and Piper were my experts, then I would have had a chance to prepare them for trial by asking them hard questions. In other words, I would have been able to challenge them about Jesus' use of the word "generation" and see how they would answer.

For example, I would ask why they think that Jesus is condemning the entire generation of those who established the early church and were willing to die for Him. I would ask why those alive at the time (specifically His disciples) were more "unbelieving" than other generations. And I would ask them to explain the parable of the dishonest servant if genea is used to mean contemporaries.

I have had no such opportunity. Piper has made some throwaway comments about Jesus' use of the word and may not have thought hard about it. I used to comment on his blog several years ago and although he never replied to comments he did a couple of times write follow-up posts that indicated that he had thought about what I had said. Would he modify his position on this subject if challenged?

I have no idea what exactly Thayer has said about Jesus' use of the word, why he said it, or how he would respond to my questions.

So unfortunately we are left with the fact that nobody has answered my questions, including you. And that's where your courtroom analogy breaks down, because in a debate you do have to deal with my arguments, the Standard Jury Instructions notwithstanding. I get to cross-examine you and vice versa. Neither of us has the opportunity to examine witnesses.

Third, I'm planning at some point to write a post on the use of the word genea in the parable of the dishonest steward and why it doesn't make sense to interpret it to mean "contemporaries."

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

Actually, I was slightly encouraged I even responded. It means I still hope to convince you. *grin*

As to your questions regarding Thayer and Piper, I would think that obvious. Context. The same way we determine millions of other words with multiple meanings in dead languages. The same way the other people who study the Greek language make the determination—context.

The same way we do over and over and over and over and over…until the person encounters a theological problem and then all of sudden this time-honored, trustworthy method is abandoned to rationalize away the problem.

I am unclear why the use of genea would be condemning by using it in apocryphal genre. It was meant to admonish/encourage those presently living to “keep the faith” as it were. Because of the imminent nature of the Son of Man’s coming.

You should also review the meaning Thayer categorized genea in Luke 16—it was not “those presently living.”

I am sorry, I thought it clear why Thayer (and every other Person who knows Greek that I could find) differentiates the various meanings of genera in the passages—by context.

There are people living (besides Thayer) who know Greek—have you “cross-examined” (and I understood that to mean ‘ask”) them?

Anette Acker said...

So what are your answers to my questions, DagoodS?

Vinny said...

Anette,

I am neutral in the sense that I evaluate the supernatural claims of Christianity in the same way that I evaluate the supernatural claims of Mormonism and the supernatural claims of Scientology. I use methodological naturalism. It is the same method that you use when you evaluate any supernatural claim other than those made by your own religion.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

I think you mean that you are an ontological naturalist, not a methodological naturalist. Methodological naturalism is a limitation on the scientific method. Science can only study nature, not the supernatural. But methodological naturalism does not attempt to answer the question of whether anything exists beyond nature.

However, our discussions pertain to the question of whether anything exists beyond nature, and if you approach those discussions with the conviction that nature is all there is, then you are an ontological naturalist. That means you are not neutral. Your conceptual framework precludes the possibility of the supernatural.

Actually, you have a trick you use, and I haven't yet figured out if you're trying to trick me or yourself. If I say something like I did above, about you seeming unable to accept the possibility of the supernatural, you will insist, with a note of mild indignation, that you are open to the possibility of the supernatural. But you avoid facing the question by simply employing methodological naturalism in discussions where the question is whether something supernatural took place (resurrection, prophecy, etc.).

The problem is that methodological naturalism has no place in discussions like these. It is a self-imposed limitation on science, so although it is a perfect tool for the scientific method, it cannot address the questions under our consideration. You know that methodological naturalism cannot answer these questions, so when the logic and the evidence gets too close to the supernatural for your comfort, you just pull out your methodological naturalism trump card and you're done. :)

Vinny said...

Anette,

No, I don’t mean that I am an ontological naturalist. I don’t profess to be an atheist and I don’t profess to know that there is nothing beyond the natural. Methodological naturalism is the process by which I infer causes from evidence. It uses known processes of cause and effect to infer explanations for observed evidence.

I think you are wrong about the nature of these discussions. The question isn’t whether anything exists beyond nature. The question is whether it is possible to objectively determine the truth of a specific set of claims about the supernatural that purports to be founded on divine revelation and whether it is possible to determine that any such specific set of claims is superior to any other.

As I understand Dagoods’ deconversion story (as well as many others I have read), the problem didn’t start with doubts about the existence of the supernatural. The difficulty lay in his inability to justify his belief in a particular set of exclusive claims about the supernatural. Only after he recognized the futility of trying to objectively defend particular claims about the supernatural did he conclude that no claims about the supernatural could be defended. I don't think that allowing for the possibility of the supernatural wouldn't solve any of the problems that Dagoods has with Christianity's claims.

I have not gone as far as Dagoods. I am open to the possibility of the supernatural. I have been a theist in the past and I can easily imagine being one again in the future. I do feel mild irritation that I have to repeat this so often, but I wouldn’t say that I feel indignation. The problem is I don’t know how to objectively determine that a supernatural event took place. I don’t have a method of evaluating the mutually exclusive competing claims of various religions regarding God’s suspension of natural law. I don’t know of any criteria by which I can distinguish a supernatural tale that is the product of wishful thinking, ignorance, gullibility, prevarication, delusion, or want of critical thinking from one that is the product of the intentional act of a supernatural being. This is particularly difficult when it comes to ancient supernatural tales.

You are correct that methodological naturalism cannot answer the question of whether the supernatural exists, but until you can suggest some method of determining which supernatural claims are true, it is the only method I have of applying logic to evidence. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, you don’t like to talk about methodology. The notion that I “pull out” methodological naturalism when I become uncomfortable is absurd. I use it all the time just as do you whenever you are evaluating any question that doesn’t pertain to your specific religious beliefs. When you evaluate your own beliefs, you privilege with ad hoc arguments that only apply to the truth claims which you believe to be supernaturally revealed based on your subjective experiences. This doesn’t get close enough to the supernatural to make me uncomfortable.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

Since I can't read your mind, I don't know what makes you "uncomfortable" or what motivates you in general. That was mostly tongue-in-cheek and was certainly not intended to offend you. However, I do try to understand you well enough to know how to relate to you and determine if we're at a stalemate and should just agree to disagree.

I'm remembering specifically a time when we had just finished a discussion on Bayes' Theorem on DagoodS' blog, and you abandoned that discussion without any indication of whether you agreed, disagreed, or whether you just got tired of the discussion.

Then you immediately hopped over to TQA and told another theist that no tool existed for evaluating supernatural claim. Now, I had just finished arguing that Bayes' Theorem is a tool for evaluating the probability of a supernatural claim. I assume you disagreed with me, but why? That's when I first decided that maybe we see things too differently to have constructive dialogue. I think your prior probability of anything supernatural is so low that almost no evidence is sufficient.

You are correct that methodological naturalism cannot answer the question of whether the supernatural exists, but until you can suggest some method of determining which supernatural claims are true, it is the only method I have of applying logic to evidence.

I think I've made it very clear that Christian faith is never 100%. It is a question of probability and incremental confirmation. I have spent a fair amount of time comparing the evidence for Christianity to the evidence for Mormonism, etc. You were there when I did that, and yet you act as if I've never dealt with this issue.

You have at times indicated that if you witnessed a supernatural event you would believe. So are you relying on your subjective experiences then? My faith is based on experience, logic, and evidence, all combined. Does this mean I have 100% certainty? No, but the confirmation keeps going up all the time.

And what happens if, against all odds, I'm wrong? I would have "wasted" my life practicing a religion that commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, that imparts peace of mind, and that encourages honesty and critical thinking. As Matthew Henry has said, "A holy, heavenly life, spent in the service of God, and in communion with Him, is the most pleasant, comfortable life anyone can live in this world." I have far more evidence than I need to take such a risk!

But I'm not attempting to make such a decision for anyone else. John Earman says in his preface: "I find much that is valuable in the Judeo-Christian heritage, but I find nothing attractive, either intellectually or emotionally, in the theological doctrines of Christianity." I appreciate his honesty.

I'm not trying to cram my religion down anyone's throat, I'm just trying to understand what motivates you. It does not make sense to me that you see no difference between the weight of the evidence for Christianity versus Mormonism.

Do you just enjoy debating Christians for fun? Are you trying to change our minds? Why don't you explain this to me s-l-o-w-l-y and clearly so I can stop irritating you by trying to understand you. But if you just give me a dunce cap and put me in the corner, I can guarantee you that the subject will come up again.

Vinny said...

Anette,

I’m pretty sure that if I went back through our past conversations, I could come up with a list of points that you never addressed, too. In fact, when I took a look at the discussion of Bayes’ Theorem over at Dagoods’ blog, I see you leaving the discussion without addressing a number of points I made. I also see you citing Earman and the McGrews, but I thought Dagoods and Larry did a good job picking those arguments apart. If you think that some specific point we discussed earlier is relevant to this discussion, I would be happy to address it if you would cite it. I don’t know how to address your generalized assertions about how you remember the discussion going.

One of the specific points I recall that I made concerned Mormonism. You argued that “the Joseph Smith incident can easily be dismissed as a hallucination. He was in his bedroom full of sleeping brothers at the time, and they had no idea that the Angel Moroni had been talking to Joseph all night.” If we must allow for the possibility of supernatural explanations, however, we have to allow for the possibility that an angel could supernaturally appear to Joseph without disturbing his brothers. You want me to allow for the possibility of the supernatural when evaluating your religion while you reject it when evaluating others.

I know you like to quote Earman and the McGrews, but Bayes’ Theorem is a tool of methodological naturalism, which we have agreed cannot be used to determine the existence of the supernatural.

Vinny said...

Anette,

According to your holy book, if you are wrong, you are to be the most pitied of all people. 1 Cor. 15:19. If there is a God, I think that he gave me a mind with which to reason about the world in which I live. Failing to use that gift to the best of my ability seems quite risky to me.

Lowell said...

Vinny,
[You are correct that methodological naturalism cannot answer the question of whether the supernatural exists…]

Can you help me out here? I understand methodological naturalism cannot answer the question of whether the supernatural exists, but do you agree with Anette that science cannot study the supernatural, that it is an inherent limitation on science?

I am having trouble understanding the word supernatural. It is almost by definition used for things that do not exist, which would explain why science is limited when studying it. What does it mean if something is “beyond the natural”?

If spiritual beings were interacting with us, would they still be considered supernatural?

If the best explanation for epilepsy was demons possession, and exorcisms were the most effective way to treat people, would demons be categorized as supernatural or would they be part of our natural understanding of the world?

If angels were amongst us preaching the good news of the risen Christ, would angels be supernatural or would they be part of the natural world?

If it could be proven that we have souls, souls would be just another part of our natural selves, wouldn’t they?

Would the word supernatural be best reserved for actions of God that violate natural laws, such as, miracles performed by Christians or answered prayer? But some miracles and prayers could be studied, right?

And if God were to speak to us as a voice from heaven, that wouldn’t be considered supernatural, would it?

Vinny said...

Anette,

I think I have multiple first hand accounts of the appearances of the Angel Moroni and the Golden Plates. I think I also have contemporary first hand accounts of the lives of the people who claimed to witness those appearances and the hardships they underwent for their beliefs. For Christianity, I have no idea how many times removed most of the accounts are from the events they purport to narrate.

I do see differences in the evidence for Mormonism and the evidence for Christianity. However, I don't what differences make a difference. I don't know what differences are characteristic of religious beliefs that are based on intentional acts by real supernatural beings and those that that are based on wishful thinking, ignorance, gullibility, prevarication, delusion, or want of critical thinking.

I'm not trying to put a dunce cap on you, but I'm pretty sure that whatever I say about my motivation won't make much difference to you because you'll figure that I'm trying to trick you or trick myself.

Vinny said...

Lowell,

I think of methodological naturalism as reasoning based on the natural laws we infer from the processes of cause and effect that we observe in the world around us.

If we see a fingerprint on a gun, we can infer that a particular person handled that gun because we understand the natural processes by which the pattern on the human finger can come to appear on an object and we believe that these processes act consistently. If we thought that such these patterns appeared on objects randomly or by divine fiat, fingerprints on a gun wouldn’t be evidence of who handled it.

If demons and angels and souls acted in consistent and predictable ways and we could determine the rules which constrain their actions, I think we might say that they were part of the natural world.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

I know you like to quote Earman and the McGrews, but Bayes’ Theorem is a tool of methodological naturalism, which we have agreed cannot be used to determine the existence of the supernatural.

No, methodological naturalism is a self-imposed limitation on science, but the use of Bayes' Theorem is not limited to science. There is no reason to impose such a limitation on Bayes' Theorem. John Earman and Tim McGrew are philosophers of science, and they have no problems using Bayes' Theorem to evaluate the probability of a supernatural event.

If we must allow for the possibility of supernatural explanations, however, we have to allow for the possibility that an angel could supernaturally appear to Joseph without disturbing his brothers. You want me to allow for the possibility of the supernatural when evaluating your religion while you reject it when evaluating others.

Of course it's possible, but if there are plausible naturalistic explanation, then it's not very probable. Hallucination, dream, or lie are all plausible explanations. And my discussions about the resurrection were all about challenging non-Christians to come up with plausible naturalistic explanations for the historical evidence. This is something I have discussed numerous times.

Anette Acker said...

I'm not trying to put a dunce cap on you, but I'm pretty sure that whatever I say about my motivation won't make much difference to you because you'll figure that I'm trying to trick you or trick myself.

Back when you first commented on my blog, I did a search on "Vinny" and the google words "sherwin-white," which I think led you to my blog. And the first blog that shows up is Layman's Terms, where you say to Robin Goodfellow:

As far as why I do this, I have been a happy agnostic for many years. I have no objections to religion per se and I see nothing foolish about believing in God. However, in my community, there are evangelical Christians who believe that the local school curriculum should conform to their particular literal interpretation of the Bible rather than the peer reviewed scholarship that comes out of leading research universities in the fields of biology, psychology, climatology, history, and sociology. In this country, there are evangelical Christians who believe that public policy towards homosexuality, the ecology, health care, and a host of other issues should be decided based on what they see as the Bible’s position on the question. This country even initiated a foolish war in part because some evangelical Christians (including perhaps the President of the United States) believed it to be a necessary part of some eschatological scheme.

I have no objection to religious faith, but I think that people who insist that matters of their personal faith be taken as objective historical or scientific facts are compelled to distort both history and science. In America, I think these distortions have either driven or enabled some very poor public policy decisions. I write because I think it is important to challenge that kind of thinking, plus I enjoy a good argument.


I did not for a moment think that you were trying to trick him or yourself. That explanation fits perfectly with your actions.

I'm not saying that you were lying or trying to trick me when you said that you can easily see yourself as a theist in the future, but I think a much more accurate description of you right now is a "happy agnostic" who enjoys a good argument. Would you say that's correct?

So why should I go to a great deal of trouble trying to change your mind?

If there is a God, I think that he gave me a mind with which to reason about the world in which I live. Failing to use that gift to the best of my ability seems quite risky to me.

The problem is not your mind but your will. But your will is the one thing God will never take from you. It is yours to surrender or withhold.

If you don't mind me saying so, it looks to me like you see what you want to see. You think Larry and DagoodS picked apart my arguments. Fair enough. But I replied to each of Larry's points and he left the discussion without a rebuttal. So how exactly did he slice up my arguments? And how are you using your mind by rooting for your own team and conceding nothing to the "opposition"?

If you want to please God by putting your mind to good use right now, you can always go through my discussion with Larry and provide the rebuttal to my final points.

Or not. I don't really care. I'm not trying to judge you or "declare victory." I'm trying to decide if it's worth my time to try to change the minds of people who resist everything I say.

The discussions were definitely worth it when I was still learning something new, but now I'm mostly rehashing the same arguments, and I'm wondering if it's time to move on to something more productive than throwing words into a black hole.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

I am not precisely certain what questions you are asking, so if I have this wrong, please point out the correct questions:

Anette Acker: For example, I would ask [Thayer and Piper] why they think that Jesus is condemning the entire generation of those who established the early church and were willing to die for Him. I would ask why those alive at the time (specifically His disciples) were more "unbelieving" than other generations. And I would ask them to explain the parable of the dishonest servant if genea is used to mean contemporaries.

It is straightforward regarding Thayer. The problem is in the word “why” or “explain.” It is not a translator’s job to explain why a writing states something—the translator’s job is to accurate translate. Not to be an advocate for one position or another. Not to modify what is being said to please either party.

It is to accurately state what is precisely being stated. Thayer studied Greek—including the New Testament writings, Early Church writings and other contemporary writings. From that he developed a dictionary. In translating the Gospels, Thayer is not attempting to advocate for why Jesus said something, or trying to align a statement with another gospel, or align a claim with a certain doctrine. He reiterates what precisely was said.

As for Piper, I think I rest on Lowell’s point. After this last comment, it doesn’t matter what I claim, you will simply dismiss it with some assertion that Piper wasn’t thinking when he wrote whatever I quote..

I copied Piper’s words. If you think Piper didn’t think about what he was writing, and that is your response, why should I continue to promulgate Piper’s position? You will just keep saying, “He didn’t think about what he was writing.” More in the next comment.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker: But I replied to each of Larry's points and he left the discussion without a rebuttal.

This attitude permeates the discussion, so I thought it needs to be addressed. Simply “replying” to a point is insufficient—the reply must contain at least sufficient evidence or argument to be equal to the original response (if not more persuasive.) “Replying” for the sake of stating a reply is not enough.

The fact we do not respond can be indicative of many things, but often it is that the reply is insufficient to overcome the original claim. Let me provide an example.

You have used (if I recall correctly) exactly one (1) source for the Greek Translation of genea--Thayers. I pointed out your sole source disagrees with your position.

My claim: “Thayer’s indicates Jesus utilizes genea, at least on occasion, to mean those presently living.”

Your reply: “Yes, I do think Thayer had the expertise of Greek to know the various ways in which genea was used. However, it doesn't follow that he had the expertise in theology [hermeneutics] to know which is the correct use in this particular instance.”

The reply does not overcome the claim. We are talking translation—not doctrinal apologia. By admitting Thayer has the expertise to accurately translate genea “in the various ways” it was used, your reply admits the original claim made. Normally, I wouldn’t bother making any additional response—the reply was (in my opinion) clearly insufficient to overcome the claim.

But it gets worse…

You offered three (3) people who are “gifted at hermeneutics” to explain away Thayer’s; the only person I have ready access to their writings is John Piper.

I looked up Piper’s writings and found numerous instances where Piper disagrees with you.

My Claim: “Piper indicates Jesus utilizes genea, at least on occasion, to mean those presently living.”

We now have the Greek translator (who you agree is an expert) disagreeing with you and John Piper (who you claim is gifted in hermeneutics) disagreeing with you.

Your reply: “Piper has made some throwaway comments about Jesus' use of the word and may not have thought hard about it.”

Actually, if you looked up the numerous quotes I gave, these were NOT “throwaway comments”—they were integral to the point he was making at the time. Worse, your reply to your own claimed “gifted at hermeneutics” is that, gifted although he may be, apparently he doesn’t think too hard about what he is saying!

“Piper doesn’t think too hard” is not a sufficient reply (in my opinion) to the claim he disagrees with you, and doesn’t warrant a response. Just because I do not rebut your claim your own expert “doesn’t think too hard” shouldn’t lead you to believe I either agree with your reply, or believe it was sufficient in response.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker: Of course it's possible, but if there are plausible naturalistic explanation, then it's not very probable [emphasis added.]

And this is what I see as key (so you will forgive the shouting)--plausible TO WHOM?

In my many discussions with apologists (and this has been no exception) I bring up the methodology of presenting evidence and argument to a “neutral Jury.” The immediate response (as here) is, “There IS no such as a neutral—everyone is biased.” While I agree with the basic concept, at least I am attempting a method to be as objective as humanly possible—I answer the question, “Plausible to whom?” with “a person neutral to the determination being made.”

What I don’t see are apologists attempting to come up with a method with equal (or better) objectivity. Anette Acker, throughout our discussion you have talked about your use of evidence, and what you look at, and what you believe. Presumably, you answer the question, “plausible to whom?” to be….”Anette Acker.”

If all we are doing is reviewing the evidence and arguments to confirm our own biases—to substantiate it is plausible to ourselves—these discussions are futile.

So I ask you—“plausible to whom?”

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

I never claimed that I sliced up Larry's arguments. Vinny did, however, claim that you and Larry sliced up my arguments. Is it too much to ask Vinny to demonstrate how?

You still haven't answered the questions I would have asked Piper and Thayer if I had the opportunity to prepare them for trial.

Anette Acker said...

To be clear, DagoodS, I'm looking for your answers to my questions, not what you think Thayer's or Piper's answers would be. As you know, it is impossible to cross-examine someone who is unavailable for comment. That's why the hearsay rule is so important.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

I will be happy to answer your questions.

1) For example, I would ask why they think that Jesus is condemning the entire generation of those who established the early church and were willing to die for Him.

I am uncertain what is meant here and fear providing an answer not conforming to the question asked. Are you talking about the condemnation in Mark 8:12, 38 (as modified in Matt. 12:39-42 and Luke 11:29-51)?

Common in language, terms such as “all” or “this generation” were not meant to be taken literally as “EVERY SINGLE ONE” or “EVERY PERSON ALIVE AT PRECISELY THIS MOMENT.” These statements are condemning contemporaries of the Gospel writers who fail to become Christians when presented with evidence. A bit of “you’ll get what’s coming to you, and it will be even worse, ‘cause you actually heard the Son of God and you were alive during his Resurrection.”

The author is making the point “this generation” (i.e., those alive in the first half of the First Century) were provided with first-hand evidence Jesus was the Christ—more than Ninevah. And therefore will be more condemned than those who did not. See e.g. John 20:29

2) I would ask why those alive at the time (specifically His disciples) were more "unbelieving" than other generations.

I presume this is from Mark 9:14-29 (as modified by in Matt. 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-45). I have no argument with Thayer typifying it as using genea to mean a group of people with the same endowments or character— the general unbelief of humanity.

(Although I would go further to indicate this was a useful means to explain why certain sicknesses were not being cured. Blame the person doing the praying as not having enough “belief.” A handy tool explaining away the God’s absence that is still going strong 2000 years later!)

3) And I would ask them to explain the parable of the dishonest servant if genea is used to mean contemporaries.

Luke 16:1-13. A curious parable that when we review with our 21st Century mindset, makes the steward appear “dishonest.” Malina notes that due to the amounts involved, it is possible these were debts owed by entire villages, and by forgiving the debts, the client (steward) obtained such honor for the patron (rich person) it was worth the loss of funds. Alas, this is speculative—it is very probable we are too removed to understand what this meant to the culture of the time.

As to genea, I would agree with Thayer it was meant a group of people with the same pursuits or character—here being selfishly shrewd.

I guess I’m missing what is remarkable about these questions. We are not saying genea ALWAYS means “those alive at the time.” You and I both agree with Thayer’s expertise in determining the varying ways genea is being used—I have no disagreement with Thayer on any of these three questions (assuming I got the first one correct.)

Vinny said...

I'm not saying that you were lying or trying to trick me when you said that you can easily see yourself as a theist in the future, but I think a much more accurate description of you right now is a "happy agnostic" who enjoys a good argument. Would you say that's correct?

No. I would not say that one description is much more accurate than the other. I think that they are both reasonably accurate statements that reflect aspects of my thinking at the time they were made. I also think that they both reflect the current state of my thinking.

Vinny said...

Vinny did, however, claim that you and Larry sliced up my arguments. Is it too much to ask Vinny to demonstrate how?

I actually said that they “picked apart” your arguments. And yes, it is too much to ask. You were the one who brought up the earlier discussion without providing any details of the arguments that took place. You were also the one who abandoned that discussion, not me or Larry. While I feel no obligation to demonstrate or defend any arguments that I did not make, I will share the general impressions I have after reviewing that discussion.

What Larry did there was demonstrate that he was very well versed in Bayes’ Theorem and probability theory and that you weren’t. As a result, your argument consisted entirely of citations to authorities who you were not equipped to critique. In addition, Dagoods showed that the McGrews application of Bayes’ theorem depended upon the assumption that the gospels constitute reliable historical accounts.

This led you to defend the McGrews’ reliance on alleged facts which are supported by an alleged scholarly consensus. In connection with this defense, you misrepresented Bart Ehrman’s position on the historicity of the empty tomb story. When I pointed out that you were repeating a claim that I had previously addressed, you made some further inaccurate claims about Ehrman’s lectures and books. Eventually you took offense at my characterization of your arguments and you abandoned the discussion.

I am puzzled as to why you would want to rehash this discussion as it is one in which I think your arguments fared particularly poorly. I can’t help but wonder whether you are hoping that I will repeat some pejorative comment about the quality of your arguments. You seem to be looking for some justification for avoiding further discussions and I suppose and perhaps that would provide it.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

Thank you for answering my questions (those were the correct Bible quotes). I will get back to that later, but first I will reply to Vinny.

Vinny,

I can’t help but wonder whether you are hoping that I will repeat some pejorative comment about the quality of your arguments. You seem to be looking for some justification for avoiding further discussions and I suppose and perhaps that would provide it.

The last thing I would do would be to try to get you to say something pejorative to have an excuse to avoid further discussion.

However, I am trying to get away because I feel overwhelmed with all the comments and different arguments thrown my way by different people. It's taking up too much of my time.

If it was possible to do this in moderation then I probably would enjoy it, but I don't see that as a possibility. I am usually the only Christian debating at least three (often more) skeptics, and the discussions seem to go in many different directions. Do you understand why I would feel overwhelmed and why I'm asking myself whether it's worth it?

I want to make sure that you understand that I'm not trying to avoid talking with you personally. But I talk with you more than anyone else, so when I need a break you're usually the one who hears about it. Sometimes you hear about it when I'm at the point of exasperation. I do tell you exactly how I feel, however, and I would never pull a manipulative ploy like trying to get you to insult me so I would have an excuse to get away.

But how I feel right now (and have been feeling for some time) is that the cost-benefit ratio of these long discussions is way out of whack for me. And I have to figure out what to do about that and where to go next.

Vinny said...

Anette,

When you do things like challenge me to defend some argument that Larry made on Dagoods' blog several months ago, I don't think you should be surprised that these discussions go in so many directions.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

I think you make a good point about Matthew 12:29-42, and I think you're right. In fact, it was the passage that I originally said appeared to use genea to mean those presently alive. If you agree with me in my original interpretation of the three passages, why did you say the following?

Vinny astutely predicted the difficulty: if you admit even one (1) instance of Jesus utilizing genea to mean those presently living, we would ask what method is used to differentiate between that one (1) instance and the others you declared as meaning the entire human race. I strongly suspect, upon review of the verses listed, you realized no such methodology could consistently separate your one (1) instance as compared to the others. Therefore, rather than come up with a methodology, you retreated back to claiming there are no instances whatsoever.

You are using the exact same methodology that I used: context, logic and common sense, and arrived at the same conclusion. So why did you say that "no such methodology could consistently separate your one (1) instance as compared to the others"?

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

Are you now agreeing Mark 8:12 (as modified by Matt. 12:39-42 and Luke 11:29-32) utilizes genea to mean those presently alive?

If so, a consistent methodology (utilizing context in reviewing the audience, the events surrounding the text, the modifiers and intention of author), would likewise demonstrate Mark 13:30 (Matt. 24:34 & Luke 21:32) equally utilizes genea to mean those presently alive.

We embrace context method in Mark 8:12 and use the same context method in Mark 13:30. What I was saying was that one cannot be consistent and use context in Mark 8:12, 38 and then abandon context in Mark 13:30.

Having answered your questions, I am still curious as to your answer to my question: plausible to whom?

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

If so, a consistent methodology (utilizing context in reviewing the audience, the events surrounding the text, the modifiers and intention of author), would likewise demonstrate Mark 13:30 (Matt. 24:34 & Luke 21:32) equally utilizes genea to mean those presently alive.

Not it does not, for reasons I have already given: First, in Mark 13:2, Jesus mentions the collapse of the temple. The disciples indicate in 13:4 that they expect the end to come soon afterwards. Jesus replies by correcting them in Mark 13:5-8, saying many things will have to happen first but they are just the beginning of birth pangs.

Second, He says in Mark 13:10 that the Gospel must first be preached to all the nations, something that had not happened in 70 AD but has happened now.

Third, He says in Mark 13:32 that He doesn't know when He will come again. Only the Father knows.

When Jesus says "you," He is referring not only to His present disciples, but also to all His future disciples who will read those words.

You have already conceded that genea can be used in different ways depending on the context, and that Jesus, in fact, used it in different ways. So there is no reason to conclude that Jesus' use of that word in Mark 13:30 made Him a failed apocalypse preacher.

Having answered your questions, I am still curious as to your answer to my question: plausible to whom?

To our old law school friend, The Reasonable Person.

Vinny said...

Anette,

I had forgotten all about Layman’s Terms and that particular discussion. I enjoyed rereading it. For awhile after that I would check in now and again to see whether they were discussing something that interested me. I eventually quit checking and removed it from my bookmarks. There are several apologetics blogs like that where I have been involved in one or two vigorous comment threads (often with Dagoods involved) that eventually petered out, after which I eventually stopped looking. On the other hand, there are blogs like yours and Tough Questions Answered where I find myself returning because the bloggers tend to rehash particular issues and because they invite skeptics to dispute their claims.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker: You have already conceded that genea can be used in different ways depending on the context, and that Jesus, in fact, used it in different ways.

Perhaps I read too much into this, but the word “conceded” made me laugh out loud. I have consistently and constantly claimed genea (and dowr and “generation”) have multiple meanings. As words commonly do. I have been consistent and constant when genea means those presently alive, and when it does not.

I observe vacillation between the position Jesus never meant genea to mean those presently alive, to Jesus once meant genea to mean those presently alive, then back to never and now (I think) we are back to….once? Or is Mark 8:38 is twice? (And if one holds Matt. 12:39-42 and Luke 11:29-32 are different occasions than Mark 8:12 depending on one’s inerrancy doctrine, would that be thrice?)

Anyway, it made me chuckle to think I have now “conceded” the same position I have had for lo these many months!

And yes, I am (and have been) aware of your arguments why Mark 13:30 genea meant the entire human race. Obviously I do not think these arguments prevail, but that’s what makes horse races.

Anette Acker: So there is no reason to conclude that Jesus' use of that word in Mark 13:30 made Him a failed apocalypse preacher.

Indeed you are correct. Preterists would claim the prophesy was both 1) to occur when those present were alive and 2) fulfilled. My position is that Mark was inventing the entire prophecy within Mark 13 using apocryphal means, and concluding (in typical apocryphal admonishment) with an immediate expectation. If Jesus never said it, he isn’t a failed prophet.

The Bible, I have found, becomes so much more interesting when we lose the doctrinal dependency, worrying, “Oh, Noes! We can’t have Jesus be perceived as wrong about anything!” and instead look to author’s intention.

Me: “Plausible” to whom?
Anette Acker: To our old law school friend, The Reasonable Person.

That’s a bit of a puzzler. The “reasonable person” standard (f/k/a “reasonable man”) is a legal fiction to determine what a person would do in a situation; not what one would be persuaded. We use it for the jury to ask themselves, “Would a reasonable person drive 70 mph when there is an inch of ice on the ground?” Or “would a reasonable person drop a 2 ton safe from an office building?” A violation of the reasonable man standard will find the defendant guilty or liable.

That puzzles for three (3) reasons:

1) Because it is about a legal duty for action—not belief.

2) Because we understand this is a legal fiction. It is a type—an ideal. There is no one person who qualifies as “reasonable” but it is what we hope to achieve. Yet when I point out my methodology of utilizing a neutral (another legal type or ideal) I am immediately dismissed because “there is no such thing—we all have bias.” There is no such thing as a “reasonable person” either, yet the law manages to make determinations from it.

Why can you use the legal fiction of “reasonable person” to make determinations, yet it is seen as ludicrous to use “neutral person?”

3) Because this is a legal concept, and the closest thing the legal system offers for making determinations in disputed matters is by submitting it to neutral parties. If we are going to use the legal system in our method, why use something that doesn’t quite fit—“reasonable person”—instead of using something having a perfect match—neutral determinate?

I guess I was surprised, after being taken to task for using a method of determining what a neutral party would decide, that you would then chose to use a less applicable legal concept.

DagoodS said...

Vinny: There are several apologetics blogs like that where I have been involved in one or two vigorous comment threads (often with Dagoods involved) that eventually petered out, after which I eventually stopped looking

Aye…there’ve been some laughs, eh? We could probably put together quite a list. I followed that one blog where the Pastor panicked and deleted your comment, closing all comments after a simple question. Remember? Or that guy who said the exact opposite on his own blog and berated me for “misquoting” him, until I gave his exact quotes with the citations?

Good times.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

That’s a bit of a puzzler. The “reasonable person” standard (f/k/a “reasonable man”) is a legal fiction to determine what a person would do in a situation; not what one would be persuaded.

I was in a rush this morning and I realized I got it wrong as soon as I remembered that he also goes by The Reasonably Prudent Person. But that "publish" button is always just so unforgiving.

Perhaps I read too much into this, but the word “conceded” made me laugh out loud. I have consistently and constantly claimed genea (and dowr and “generation”) have multiple meanings. As words commonly do. I have been consistent and constant when genea means those presently alive, and when it does not.

I went back and reread our conversation in "What the Large Print Giveth, the Small Print Taketh Away," and if that was your position then, you did not make it clear.

My recollection is that you started saying that genea has multiple meanings some time during this discussion. And if I'm wrong about that, then you still haven't explained what you meant by:

I strongly suspect, upon review of the verses listed, you realized no such methodology could consistently separate your one (1) instance as compared to the others.

Your implication was that there is no consistent methodology that allows me to determine that Jesus uses genea to mean those presently alive in Matthew 12:39-42, but uses it in a different sense elsewhere. But now that's exactly what you're saying.

Please don't think that I would hold it against you if you ever conceded points or modified your position, though. Rather, I would be quite impressed! It might even make it possible for us to have an actual dialogue(!) instead of just speaking past each other.

But . . . since such a ludicrous thought makes you laugh out loud, there's probably not much hope of that. *sigh*

When you and Vinny co-author your on-line memoirs, you'll probably ask him, "Remember that crazy woman who accused me of conceding a point? That's going in the book for sure!"

Good times indeed! :)

The Bible, I have found, becomes so much more interesting when we lose the doctrinal dependency, worrying, “Oh, Noes! We can’t have Jesus be perceived as wrong about anything!” and instead look to author’s intention.

Of course that makes it more interesting because then you can decide what you want it to mean. But you've never explained why, if Mark was written right after the fall of Jerusalem and the author expected Jesus' immediate return, he has Jesus say that He is not coming right away (Mark 13:5-8)?

Obviously I do not think these arguments prevail, but that’s what makes horse races.

But even horse races can get boring after watching them for six months, so I think we should call it quits here.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

On the other hand, there are blogs like yours and Tough Questions Answered where I find myself returning because the bloggers tend to rehash particular issues and because they invite skeptics to dispute their claims.

Thank you, Vinny. I have really enjoyed our discussions.

And the discussions with you as well, DagoodS.

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker,

1) “Reasonably Prudent Person” is 100% synonymous with “Reasonable Person”—it means the same thing. It is a legal fiction as to how a person acts with legal consequences; not what they think. “Reasonable” does not mean “reasoning” as in pondering out a position—it is comparing the accused actions with society’s expected norms for a similarly situated person. (We expect a blind person, for example, to act as a “Reasonable Blind Person;” not a “Reasonable Person.”)

It may be possible to mash out an analogy to “Reasonable Person” to utilize in a method comparing competing claims to determine plausibility; but again, why use one legal concept poorly suited to the task when another legal concept—neutral determinate—is strongly and precisely suited? Like using a kitchen knife to pry something up when a crowbar is conveniently at hand. Sure, one can use a kitchen knife to pry with—but a crowbar is designed explicitly for the purpose.

2) Mark 13 is an apocalyptic prophecy. As such it (as typical) lists doom and gloom events. Mark 13 starts off with Jesus saying, “There will be false christs and wars. But this is not the end; this is just the beginning.” (vs. 7-8) Jesus goes on to list numerous other events. I am uncertain why you think this means Jesus was claiming he would not be coming soon after the fall of Jerusalem. Vs. 7-8 is Jesus warming up--throwing in the parenthetical statement about the first few events being the beginnings of the Messianic Pangs. The rest (abomination of desolation, fleeing Judea, etc.) are the remaining signs. They still all occurred prior to 70 CE, and therefore Jesus would still consistently be claiming the Son of Man would return within the lifetime of those present—since all the other events already had as well.

I hesitate recommending Thayer’s to telos because we all know how much trouble Thayer’s genea caused! *grin*

3) I went back over every comment on genea. I have been consistent from the first mention to today on two things:

1) genea has alternate meaning and at times means “those presently alive;”
2) The verses I claim it means “those presently alive.”

However, in reviewing our conversation, I see you and Vinny talked about Luke 16, and it was right after that I commented, “I strongly suspect, upon review of the verses listed, you realized no such methodology could consistently separate your one (1) instance as compared to the others.”

When I stated “the others” I was thinking only of the conversation between you and me--“the other verses I had listed.” I hadn’t listed Luke 16, therefore in my mind I wasn’t even remotely considering it at that moment. But I can easily see where it would be just as likely to read, “the others” to mean ALL the instances genea was used—including the Luke 16 reference.

I apologize for the confusion. I normally try to be careful with my wording, but as I said, since I wasn’t even thinking about Luke 16, I wouldn’t have even considered it to be something I needed to be careful about!

In looking back, I gloomily noted this all began with Harold Camping’s first prediction of the Rapture. Enough time has passed, he made another that equally failed. Yet we do still seem to be running in the same circles.

I am still uncertain whether you grant genea, when attributed to Jesus, ever meant “those presently living” and if so, which exact verses (including the synoptic equivalent) the meaning would apply. I am even foggier how the “Reasonable Person” assists with which contextual interpretation is plausible. If this one (1) small point--in a whole list of arguments surrounding the Mark 13 passage—remains unclear, what chance of our discourse progressing?

Thus, I bid adieu. This will be my last comment, unless there is a question someone believes was overlooked.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

“Reasonably Prudent Person” is 100% synonymous with “Reasonable Person”—it means the same thing. It is a legal fiction as to how a person acts with legal consequences; not what they think.

I know that, and as I said, I realized that my quick reply didn't answer your question as soon as I remembered that "the reasonably prudent person" (which is more descriptive) is another word for "the reasonable person." This occurred to me shortly after hitting "publish" and running out the door.

Your original question was "plausible to whom," and I believe I used the word in the context of the resurrection evidence. I gave the short answer I did in part because I hesitate to get into another subject.

But my approach to the resurrection was to go through all the possible naturalistic explanations for the "minimum facts." These hypotheses would not normally be considered plausible to a reasonable, unbiased person, and most skeptics even reject them.

You and Vinny generally avoid those hypotheses and focus on denying facts that are accepted by most scholars. For example, I read your discussion with Clay Jones where you wouldn't even concede that the disciples and Paul thought they had seen Jesus postmortem. You also gave a much later date to the 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 tradition than I've heard anyone else do. (I quoted a list of skeptical scholars who date it to within a few years of the death of Jesus, and Habermas says, "Overall, my recent overview of critical sources mentioned above indicates that those who provide a date generally opt for Paul's reception of this report relatively soon after Jesus’ death, by the early to mid-30s A.D.") So you take a more extreme position than most skeptical scholars.

I don't want to open up that can of worms again, but obviously those at the extremes of their positions are not neutral. And I do find people who are capable of making concessions against their interests or bias to be most reasonable. It is a sign that constructive dialogue is possible even if agreement is never reached.

There's an agnostic at Atheist Central named Steven J. whom I've mentioned before. He is very well-informed and a good thinker. But he told me a few months after I started commenting there that he probably wouldn't reply to my comments because I don't make egregious mistakes of fact or logic and he didn't expect that we would change each other's minds. I was glad to know where he stood--I knew that he used to be a Christian and his comment indicated that he would not go back. He was just there to challenge Ray Comfort.

However, he continued to say things that needed challenging (and a lot of people read Atheist Central), so I continued to reply to him. We did end up having a number of discussions during the time I commented on AC. Of course I knew that I would not convert him, but he was one of the only skeptics I've ever talked to who made occasional concessions. In fact, when you and Daniel Gracely were talking about the 70-week prophecy I went back and reread a discussion we had on that topic, and I noticed that he voluntarily conceded that the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes didn't really fit the prophecy either. That was not an argument I had made.

I would not call Steven J. neutral, but I would definitely call him reasonable, although I realize that this has nothing to do with the legal fiction, "the reasonable person." (I don't know if he's reasonably prudent or negligent in his daily life.)

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

However, in reviewing our conversation, I see you and Vinny talked about Luke 16, and it was right after that I commented, “I strongly suspect, upon review of the verses listed, you realized no such methodology could consistently separate your one (1) instance as compared to the others."

Vinny and I were not talking exclusively about Luke 16. I simply mentioned that it is clear in Luke 16 that Jesus does not mean those presently alive and he brought up the NET Bible. However, that was an aside. His point was that I did not have a consistent methodology for interpreting the word differently depending on the context.

You implied that you agreed:

"So what method did you utilize to determine Matt. 12:39-42 referred to the generation of those present but Matt. 11:16, Mark 8:12. Luke 17:25 and (of course) Mark 13:30 did not?"

And you agreed even more vigorously when you congratulated Vinny on his astuteness in concluding that "upon review of the verses listed [meaning the ones you listed], you realized no such methodology could consistently separate your one (1) instance as compared to the others.” (Note the use of the plural in "verses" there.)

I am still uncertain whether you grant genea, when attributed to Jesus, ever meant “those presently living” and if so, which exact verses (including the synoptic equivalent) the meaning would apply.

Luke 11 and Matthew 12. I think it could go either way, but I'm willing to concede that it means those presently alive, and I originally reached that conclusion for the same reasons you did. And I think your point about Jesus not referring to every single member of that generation is convincing.

Thus, I bid adieu. This will be my last comment, unless there is a question someone believes was overlooked.

I believe that now would be an excellent time for you to admit that there is nothing wrong with my methodology, since I used the exact same approach you did. I would also like you to concede that you changed your mind, since I think it's pretty clear.

However, I'll show you clemency and let you bid adieu if you find it difficult to do so.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

2) Mark 13 is an apocalyptic prophecy. As such it (as typical) lists doom and gloom events. Mark 13 starts off with Jesus saying, “There will be false christs and wars. But this is not the end; this is just the beginning.” (vs. 7-8) Jesus goes on to list numerous other events. I am uncertain why you think this means Jesus was claiming he would not be coming soon after the fall of Jerusalem.

Jesus is not listing doom and gloom events as a warning that this is just the beginning. Mark 13:7 says: "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come." He is telling them not to be alarmed because the end will not come yet.

They still all occurred prior to 70 CE, and therefore Jesus would still consistently be claiming the Son of Man would return within the lifetime of those present—since all the other events already had as well.

The Gospel had not yet been preached to all nations on the earth, which is consistent with Genesis 22:18 (to Abraham, "through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me"). But it has happened now, so Jesus was correct about that, as was Genesis, for that matter.

Vinny said...

Anette,

One of the things I found most interesting when I reread that discussion at Layman’s terms was a concession that one of the Christians made there regarding the appearance to the five hundred. Apologists like to claim that Paul never would have made a claim like that if it wasn’t true because it could be so easily disproved. I have often pointed out that daring people to check facts is something that liars do all the time. I was very impressed with one of the Christians over there who conceded that “Paul wouldn’t have dared to say it if it wasn’t true” wasn’t a very strong argument. I don’t believe that I have seen any other Christian ever concede that.

One of the things that I have noticed about you is that even when you seem to be conceding points, it doesn’t stop you from repeating the same arguments later. For example, you said that I had convinced you that “creed” and “tradition” could not be used interchangeably, but that didn’t stop you from doing it again when you thought it would help your argument. I thought I had persuaded you that the quote from From Jesus to Constantine didn’t accurately reflect Bart Ehrman’s position on the historicity of the empty tomb, but that didn’t stop you from resurrecting the same quote later on to support the same point.

So while you may think that you are much more open to changing your position when the evidence is against it than Dagoods and I are, I haven’t seen much evidence that the changes really stick.

Vinny said...

I don't want to open up that can of worms again, but obviously those at the extremes of their positions are not neutral.

I think that would make you obviously biased on several points including Jesus use of the word genea.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

For example, you said that I had convinced you that “creed” and “tradition” could not be used interchangeably, but that didn’t stop you from doing it again when you thought it would help your argument.

It had absolutely no impact on my argument. I originally used the word "tradition," because you had convinced me that it was more correct, DagoodS replied by saying "Creed," I again replied with "tradition," and he kept saying "Creed." Finally, I decided that DagoodS must not consider the distinction significant, so I also said "Creed."

When you brought this up, I talked to you about it briefly and then dropped it because it simply is not worth arguing about.

I have conceded points to you, like "Vinny is correct that the apologists were careless in their choice of words. One of them put a word in quotations that Sherwin-White never used, another one changed a word to mean the opposite, and a third used generally imprecise language." I have made corrections to things I have said, both to you and to DagoodS. However, you may have thought you convinced me that Ehrman didn't mean what he said in From Jesus to Constantine, but you didn't. He never said he didn't mean it--he just said he hadn't flip-flopped, something I have conceded. I made a concession to Ehrman, even if I didn't make one to you on this point. Still, it's not an important point or worth arguing over.

I have also made concessions voluntarily, like I did in the post where I admitted that Luke gave a different time and place for the interrogation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin than the other authors.

So while you may think that you are much more open to changing your position when the evidence is against it than Dagoods and I are, I haven’t seen much evidence that the changes really stick.

I am fine with you thinking that I don't change my position when the evidence is against it. I have no intention of arguing about it.

Anette Acker said...

In fact, you may have noticed that I used the word "tradition" when referencing 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 a couple of hours ago. I specifically remembered our discussion and decided that it was probably the most accurate because it is the word used by most of the scholars commenting on this issue.

Vinny said...

Anette,

If you don't want to argue about who is willing to concede mistakes, then don't bring it up. However, if you are going to make comments about skeptics who are more willing to make concessions than Dagoods and I are, isn't it perfectly legitimate for me to ask questions about willingness to make concessions?

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

Maybe it wasn't the most diplomatic approach to make comparisons like that, but my point was to distinguish between neutrality and reasonableness. As I said, I would not call Steven J. neutral, but he is reasonable.

And I was giving credit where credit was due, just like I did when I said that DagoodS is well read in critical Bible scholarship, and that I can tell that you are a chess player by the way you move the discussion forward. You don't fail to notice what I have already said, nor do you generally make discussions go in circles. In fact, I said that you do this better than just about anyone I've talked with.

But even though I wouldn't call you closed-minded, neither can I say that you're in the top, say, fifty most open-minded skeptics I've talked with. ;)

Let me use the example that I raised before about our discussion of Bayes' Theorem on DagoodS' blog. We had just finished it when I gave you the chess player compliment, in part because it's true and in part because you were upset with me. So I thought maybe I should try the Dale Carnegie approach rather than the "You are wrong!" approach.

Well, the Dale Carnegie approach was no more effective with you than the "You are wrong!" approach. That's when you left that discussion and hopped over to Tough Questions Answered, where the first thing you said was that we have no intellectual tools to assess the probability of the supernatural. I had just finished making the argument that Bayes' Theorem is such a tool, and you certainly had not refuted my argument. So the fact that without further research or reflection you said that no such tool existed gave me the impression that you knew which answer you wanted, and that you were not too concerned about whether it was correct.

And I said to you on TQA:

"Maybe it's hard for you to see how a non-religious person can be just as closed-minded as a religious person, but it all comes down to how we approach evidence. Your hypothetical Hindu is closed-minded because there is no way he will ever accept the Big Bang. And if you can neither accept nor refute my argument that Bayes' Theorem is a tool for evaluating supernatural claims, then you are just as closed to what I have to say as DagoodS told me he was. Will you admit that? It would be very helpful to me if you would answer this question completely honestly."

Note that I did not call you or DagoodS closed-minded, but just closed to what I have to say. There is a difference. You can be open-minded on other subjects, but if we're at a stalemate then it makes sense for us to agree to disagree. That was my point there.

BTW, Larry never came close to establishing that the McGrews made mistakes in their use of Bayes'
Theorem, or that their results were misleading.

If you don't want to argue about who is willing to concede mistakes, then don't bring it up.

You are welcome to give me your impression of me, but that doesn't mean that I'll feel compelled to argue. If you have evidence, then I'll certainly consider that, but if not, you are still entitled to your opinion. (In fact, there's criticism you could give me that I'd fully agree with without the need for evidence.)

Vinny said...

Anette,

The reason I never addressed your argument regarding the applicability of Bayes’ Theorem to supernatural claims is because I didn’t want to be mean.

The fact of the matter is that you didn’t really make an argument at all. All you did was quote Earman and the McGrews. When Larry asked you for “a summary of the salient points of the argument (especially the justification of individual probabilities, and most especially the justification of prior probabilities),” you couldn’t answer. All you did was suggest that he read the McGrews’ article. As Larry aptly pointed out, “If you can't summarize an argument, you don't understand it.”

I have not studied mathematics formally for awhile, but I took graduate courses in statistics and econometrics in the early 1990’s at the University of Chicago. As an undergraduate, I majored in physics and finance and I took math classes through differential equations. In addition, I have spent twenty-five years trading financial derivatives, which depends a great deal on the application of probability and statistics.

I don’t tell you all this to brag, but to let you know that while I might not be prepared to formally refute Ehrman and the McGrews, I am confident that I can tell the difference between someone who knows something about Bayes Theorem and probability theory and someone who is just trying to bluff their way through an argument by quoting material that they don’t understand.

I’m not prepared to assert that Larry conclusively established that the McGrews made mistakes in their use of Bayes' Theorem, although I might if I took the time to brush up on my probability and statistics theory. However, I am prepared to assert that that the issues he raised were absolutely valid ones that would have to be addressed as part of an argument on the applicability of Bayes Theorem to miracles. The fact that you couldn’t address them shows me that you were just quote mining Earman and the McGrews.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

When Larry asked you for “a summary of the salient points of the argument (especially the justification of individual probabilities, and most especially the justification of prior probabilities),” you couldn’t answer. All you did was suggest that he read the McGrews’ article. As Larry aptly pointed out, “If you can't summarize an argument, you don't understand it.”

That last quote was a nice sound bite, and I can see why someone who knows what he wants to believe would stop paying attention at that point, but I replied to that by saying that the argument was too fact-intensive. And to summarize it would not explain why it is persuasive.

I replied by saying:

"If you can't summarize an argument, you don't understand it.

OR the argument is so fact-intensive that it doesn’t lend itself to easy summary. The Bayes factors are the testimony of the women, the testimony of the disciples, and the testimony of Paul. However, that summary is meaningless without the detailed discussion of why their testimony is persuasive."

I also spent some time explaining to Larry how the McGrews treated the prior probabilities, which was the very point that Richard Carrier misunderstood when he read the article. And I most certainly understood that.

The reason I never addressed your argument regarding the applicability of Bayes’ Theorem to supernatural claims is because I didn’t want to be mean.

That was not the reason since Larry had no part in the first discussion I referenced, but if you don't want to be mean then please respect my wishes to agree to disagree. Or say what you want, and I just won't reply.

Judging from the frequently with which I incur your wrath, I think that would be the best for both of us.

DagoodS said...

Ms. Acker,

I hoped to end on a positive note, providing the “concession” (you achingly need!) that it was my fault for being unclear. Apparently insufficient. Very well, you desire responses….

Anette Acker: I believe that now would be an excellent time for you to admit that there is nothing wrong with my methodology, since I used the exact same approach you did

P1: You assert my method allows me to decide the Bible means what I want it to mean.
P2: You assert you use the “exact same approach” I do.
C: Ergo, you believe your method allows you to decide the Bible means what you want it to mean.

The logic is irrefutable.

Seriously—make up your mind. First you disparage my method but then you desperately desire agreement we use the same. If my method is so terrible, why insist the world think it is the same one you use?

I continue to see non-objective and inconsistent confirmation methodology that doesn’t adequately provide means to change one’s mind to a non-preferred position. Only you can decide whether that is “wrong.”

I am still baffled how “Reasonable Person” could ever be used within competing claims. Frankly, despite protests, after reading the recent exuberant praise for the “reasonableness” of unlinked, uncited, unknown Steven J, and how you repeatedly couple “reasonable” with “unbiased” (whereas the legal “Reasonable Person” has nothing to do with bias), it appears to me you did think “Reasonable Person” legal standard had to do with ability to draw conclusions, or be accommodating. Only after I pointed out the error (and you looked it up) did you realize your mistake and you now attempt backtracking.

You still haven’t explained how what a person does provides an adequate method to determine plausibility as to what a person is persuaded.

And before you complain I am not taking you at your word regarding what you meant…remember this entire response is because YOU will not take MY word for what I meant in a quote. Don’t be surprised if people treat you the same way you treat others.

We certainly do not use the same approach: I find Mark 8:12’s genea to mean “those presently living” and therefore Matthew’s copying Mark (Matt. 12:39) and Luke’s copying Matthew (Luke 11:29) to equally mean “those presently living.” Of course my method has the same alternative meaning--they are copying the word and its meaning from Mark!

Your method (which I cannot fathom) claims the copied geneas have one alternative meaning, but the genea they copy from has another! I haven’t seen a method provided allowing copies of the same word in the same instance in the same context have a different meaning than the original.

[cont’d]

DagoodS said...

Anette Acker: I would also like you to concede that you changed your mind, since I think it's pretty clear.

[Presumably whether Jesus ever used genea to mean something other than “those presently living.”]

I wasn’t going to do this. I really wanted to end our interaction on a positive note. You seem headstrong against it. O.K.

As I said, I went through every comment on genea. And from those comments created a blog entry , quoting and giving linked citations so any person can click on and immediately confirm what was actually stated. (I did this Wednesday, but then decided to not provide a link. “End on a positive note,” I thought, “Admit causing confusion. Take the blame and walk away.”)

If you look at the outline, one notices the very first time I mention genea it was to indicate, as part of the argument surrounding Mark 13:30, that throughout the New Testament, at best, Jesus used genea both ways: (a)human race or (b)those presently living and we must use context to determine which was meant within each instance.

From the very first words on the subject, I stated Jesus used genea in at least two ways—the way you were claiming--“human race”--and the way I was claiming--“those presently living.” Because the conversation quickly degenerated to your claiming Jesus never (your emphasis on “never”) used genea to mean “those presently living,” I didn’t concern myself with any alternatives other than “those presently living.” I didn’t concern myself with verses where genea meant descendents, or the entire human race, or people with similar characteristics.

Thereafter my sole focus was to point out instances where Jesus’ use of genea meant “those presently living” against your unrelenting instance Jesus never used genea that way. An unyielding position where you were forced to disagree with your Greek expert—Thayer, disagree with your hermeneutics expert—Piper, and disagree with every single other person, commentator, Greek expert, and scholar I could find.

If the only way you can scrap together some dignity in this debacle is attempting to claim I changed my mind regarding Jesus’ use of genea I might be tempted but for a huge obstacle holding me back.

It is not true.

Not from the first comment. Not from any comment thereafter. Not a single verse where I said, “Jesus used genea to mean “those presently living” and I now claim the same verse meant another alternative definition.

There is one small possibility, if it pleases you. You originally claimed in Mark 9:19 and Matthew 17:17 genea meant the entire human race.

I assumed that was the meaning based upon your supposed study and citing Thayer’s. It is only subsequently when I realized you hadn’t studied Thayer’s that I looked up your own source and discovered you hadn’t relied upon it accurately that I then changed my position from your misstatement regarding genea meaning “the entire human race” to Thayer’s accurately indicating genea in Mark 9:19 and Matthew 17:17 to mean “people of a certain characteristic.”

Of course, the fact I changed my mind on a peripheral issue because I originally ill-advisedly relied upon your ability to understand your own source may not be the comfort you are looking for.

*shrug* At this point maybe it is.

There. I answered your questions.

Vinny said...

That was not the reason since Larry had no part in the first discussion I referenced, but if you don't want to be mean then please respect my wishes to agree to disagree.

I was mistaken as to which discussion over at Dagoods you were referring. I am afraid that I neglected to click on the most recent link you provided because I simply assumed that we were still addressing the discussion in the comment thread to Argument from Silence on Dating of Acts. I also appreciate the link to TQA since I was never quite sure which discussion over there you were referring to.

If you would read my comments on the TQA post Do We Believe in Miracles Due to the Evidence or Due to Our Desire to Believe?, you will see that I do not make the claim that we have no intellectual tools to assess the probability of the supernatural. I was very careful to say that “I lack any intellectual tools that would enable me to determine whether a supernatural event has occurred.” "I know nothing about the processes by which such events occur." "I don't know how to assess them as the most likely explanation."

I specifically phrased my comment in terms of the intellectual tools that I possess because I was aware that you had made the claim that such tools existed and I did not wish to make the claim that none could possibly exist (although I continued to have my doubts). However, since your claim that such tools existed did not in any way equip me to apply them, it was entirely accurate and honest for me to say that I did not possess them.

The reason I made no further comment on Journey Beginning was in fact because I did not want to be mean. As you will recall, I had asked you whether you were aware of any critiques of the McGrews’ thesis. I did this because I wanted to see how well versed you were in Bayes' Theorem and probability theory before I went to the effort of digging out my old textbooks and brushing up on the subject myself. Your response was to direct me to a long comment thread over at Victor Reppert’s blog that was pretty much completely irrelevant to the question I had asked. That was sufficient to show me that trying to discuss Bayes’ Theorem with you would only have been a further waste of time. However, in order to be polite, I simply let the matter drop rather than seeking to demonstrate the limits of your knowledge as Larry later did.

Over at TQA, I gave a very specific example of how my ability to draw inferences from evidence depends on the consistent functioning of natural law. I have used that argument a number of times and I have always been willing to discuss and defend it in detail. I think it is quite clear and as far as I can recall, you have never addressed it. I cannot imagine why you think that there was anything inappropriate about me using it as a result of anything you said on Dagoods’ blog.

I am perfectly willing to respect your wishes to agree to disagree if you want to let the matter drop. However, as long as you keep trying to rehash previous discussions in order to demonstrate some shortcoming of mine, I will continue to respond, particularly when you inaccurately report the content of those earlier discussions. I will try to be as polite and respectful as I can, but I will set the record straight.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

I specifically phrased my comment in terms of the intellectual tools that I possess because I was aware that you had made the claim that such tools existed and I did not wish to make the claim that none could possibly exist (although I continued to have my doubts). However, since your claim that such tools existed did not in any way equip me to apply them, it was entirely accurate and honest for me to say that I did not possess them.

Thank you for making that clear.

Anette Acker said...

DagoodS,

Frankly, despite protests, after reading the recent exuberant praise for the “reasonableness” of unlinked, uncited, unknown Steven J

I couldn't possibly have linked to my discussions with Steven J. because they are gone from the Internet. Suddenly one day, without warning, Ray Comfort changed his commenting system and my 500,000 words of dialogue on his site were permanently gone, along with all the other comments.

However, a few months before, I had started feeling an urgent sense to do what I had put off for the past year and-a-half: to copy all my comments and discussions into a Word document. I finished two weeks before the floodgates of Ray's decision swept everything away.

Vinny said...

Anette,

Since you brought up the discussion on Clay Jones blog, I will tell you what my thinking there was as well. I am perfectly willing to concede that it is more likely than not that Paul actually had an experience that he interpreted to be an appearance of the risen Christ. However, the fact that I think it more likely than not doesn’t make it a sure thing. There is some possibility that he invented the experience in order to gain status within the community in the same way that some of Joseph Smith’s followers claimed to have been witnesses to an appearance of Moroni or claimed to have seen the Golden Plates. I would not assign a high probability to this possibility but neither do I think it trivial.

Clay Jones appeared to me to be using an approach which I think illustrates one of the basic fallacies of the “minimal facts” approach. The skeptic is asked to concede that a particular “fact” is more likely than not to be true. Once the skeptic concedes this, the fact is taken for granted throughout the rest of the argument and alternative possibilities are disregarded. You can see this when Mike Licona refers to his selected facts as “historical bedrock.” The problem is that the fact does not become unassailable bedrock by virtue of being conceded. It never acquires a higher probability of being true than it had in the first place. For example, if I assign a 10% probability (just to pick a number) to Paul inventing the appearance in order to gain status. That probability persists in every argument in which the validity of that fact is relevant.

Suppose now that we have ten facts which each have a 90% chance of being true. Assuming arguendo that each fact’s probability is independent; the odds that all ten of the facts are true are less than 35%. Thus, there is almost a two out of three chance that at least one of the facts is false. Therefore, when we ask what theory best accounts for the available evidence, a theory that depends on all ten facts being true may well not be the best one. A theory that is robust enough to withstand one or two of them being false may be much better.

I am not entirely certain what Dagoods thinking in the discussion with Jones was, but my intent was not to concede that any particular fact was more likely than not true without obtaining a corresponding concession from him that for each fact, there was some non-trivial possibility of falsity. That was why it was important to explore the evidence and alternatives at each one of Jones’ steps. I don’t think there is anything extreme about that and I would have had no trouble moving forward with the discussion if Jones had been willing to make that concession.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

Your response was to direct me to a long comment thread over at Victor Reppert’s blog that was pretty much completely irrelevant to the question I had asked. That was sufficient to show me that trying to discuss Bayes’ Theorem with you would only have been a further waste of time. However, in order to be polite, I simply let the matter drop rather than seeking to demonstrate the limits of your knowledge as Larry later did.

I do want to admit that sending you to Victor Reppert's blog was a mistake because I had completely forgotten that they were just critiquing a general tutorial on Bayes' Theorem by Richard Carrier, attempting to demonstrate flaws in his understanding of it. It had nothing to do with the McGrews' article. I had focused mostly on the discussion on Lydia's blog, where she explains their treatment of the prior probability (which was what Carrier had criticized), and where Carrier apologized.

That's the only time I have attempted to bluff my way out something in any of our discussions, and I should have admitted my mistake. As you can see from that discussion, I'm terrible at bluffing. Saying that Carrier could have written a critique of the article was a brain-cramp explanation for why I sent you to Reppert's blog.

However, I did not bluff at all in my discussion with Larry. I replied to all of his questions, like how Earman and the McGrews treated the prior probability and how the McGrews treated the question of independence between the disciples. I also replied to his point that if I couldn't summarize the argument for him I didn't understand it. And then Larry left the discussion. If there are problems with those explanations, nobody has pointed them out, so it's still hard for me to see how Larry took apart my arguments.

Having said that, I am far from knowledgeable about Bayes' Theorem, and I cannot answer the question of whether the McGrews set their Bayes factors too high. I've been meaning to talk about that to a friend who has published a scholarly article where he applies Bayes' Theorem to an unrelated question of historical NT studies.

But since you have a background in statistics, it seems you would be better qualified than me to research the question of whether Bayes' Theorem is an intellectual tool to evaluate supernatural claims, as claimed by Earman and the McGrews.

(Continued)

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