Tag Archives: biblical authority

Biblical authority: On Line Opinion

(The Isaiah scroll, which is a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains almost the whole Book of Isaiah. It dates from the 2nd century BCE.)

Spencer D Gear PhD

I write articles for and engage with those who make Comments to the articles in On Line Opinion. It is here that I meet those with, (1) A low or skewed view of biblical authority, and (2) A twisted understanding of biblical content concerning demon possession.

I’ll deal with two of them:

A. “Alleged biblical text”

Firstly, this poster is a constant biblical antagonist and often he gets his facts badly skewed as seen here with his statement: “In the days when alleged Biblical text was written, some 350 years after the event? Many books were left out at the behest of Constantine and or, his hand-picked minions!”[1]

This was a response to my article: Have politics changed ScoMo’s Christianity?

Notice what Alan did! He didn’t write of biblical texts with questionable dates but they were “alleged Biblical texts.”

Then he asked a question but it reads more like a narrative, “They were written 350 years after the event.” Not one example was given to prove what he wrote. Not even one book of the Bible was given as a source for his outrageous claim. Was he talking about the writing of Joshua, Isaiah, Luke or Titus?

Joshua

If Joshua was the author [internal evidence suggests so], then the date of writing the book is a fairly simple matter: it must have been written before his death and after the last event narrated in the book. Joshua was 110 years old when he died (24:29) [Madvig 1992:243].

This is nowhere near the 350 years the adversary Alan B suggests. Alan B is outrageous in his lack of biblical knowledge:

Love never ever demands obedience or blind unquestioned faith! But only asks you follow example. Never ever demands you ignore your God-given, natural instincts![2]

The God who is love (1 John 4:8 ERV) commanded (demanded) the ethical standards of the Ten Commandments for God’s OT people. Even for the NT, God’s commandments included, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:33-35 NIV; John 15:12, 17) and “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44 NIV). Both of these examples are in the imperative mood (commands) for the verbs, “love.”

So the God who is love commands His New Covenant people to love not only other Christians but also enemies and those who persecute them.

For the NT, God also provides blessings for those who keep the Beatitudes (Matt 5-7):

clip_image002

(Image courtesy Crosspoint Community Church)

Nadvig suggests some other issues with dating.

Isaiah

Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, the only text available to the Jews was the Masoretic Text (MT). At Qumran, two Isaiah MSS were discovered: IQIsaa and IQIsab. These two MSS thus were older than the MT by 1,000 years, thus dating them to before Christ. This is an important issue since the standard text of the OT is dated by the Talmud to about A.D. 100.

The Qumran texts “show a large measure of agreement with the MT, revealing extreme care with which the text of the book must have been copied by the scribes over the centuries but there are occasional interesting agreements with the LXX. The majority of variations from the MT are, however, in spelling, which make no real difference to the text” (Grogan 1986:22).

Let’s now examine a couple NT books for a timeline of authorship.

Luke

Don Stewart’s assessment was:

If Acts were written about A.D. 62, then this helps us date the four gospels. The Book of Acts is the second half of a treatise written by Luke to a man named Theophilus. Since we know that the Gospel of Luke was written before the Book of Acts, we can then date the Gospel of Luke sometime around A.D. 60 or before (Stewart 2021).

Titus

The Epistle to Titus was written in approximately AD 66. Paul’s many journeys are well documented and show that he wrote to Titus from Nicopolis in Epirus. In some Bibles a subscription to the epistle may show that Paul wrote from Nicopolis in Macedonia. However, there is no such place known and subscriptions have no authority as they are not authentic (Got Questions Ministries, Summary of the Book of Titus).

So a survey of four books, two from the OT and two from the NT, reveals Alan B is right off base with his claim the books were written 350 years after the actions described. Thus, it makes him an ignoramus concerning biblical scholarship.

B. Kill witches, but witches do not exist.

This is a comment regarding my article, Intolerant intolerance. LEGO’s view was:

God told his followers to kill witches, but witches do not exist. The whole idea is potty and it had extremely tragic consequences for the numerous innocent victims of this stupid thinking. Ozspen seems to imply that witches do exist, so I will leave that to the judgement of our readers to judge Ozspen’s mental state.[3]

Notice what LEGO does:

  • He doesn’t reference his “no witches” source in Scripture. I’ll do that for him. “In 2 Chronicles 33:6, King Manasseh is condemned for his many evil practices, including sorcery: “And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger” (Got Questions Ministries, What does the Bible say about sorcery?)

This is under the Old Covenant where God wanted to keep His people holy.

So LEGO believes “witches do not exist.” That is nothing more than his opinion or assertion. He should go to Peru and meet with some witches to decide if they exist or not. Missionaries in this country regularly encounter the reality of witchcraft.

Then he engaged in his use of logical fallacies:

  •  “The whole idea is potty” and
  •  “it had extremely tragic consequences for
  •  “the numerous innocent victims of this stupid thinking.”

Instead of “stupid thinking,” I’m creating examples of reality in the Western world as well as Peru. The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the movement:

Wicca is a predominantly Western movement whose followers practice witchcraft and nature worship and who see it as a religion based on pre-Christian traditions of northern and western Europe. Adherents of Wicca worship the Goddess, honour nature, practice ceremonial magic, invoke the aid of deities, and celebrate Halloween, the summer solstice, and the vernal equinox (Contemporary witchcraft).

It is LEGO who is acting the potty and engaged in the “stupid thinking” that witchcraft does not exist.

Walter Martin told of an example that happened with him in Southern California, recorded by the Berean Bible Church. It was published after his death:

He discussed a call he received stating:

“We have been praying for this girl for four hours; we’re simply exhausted. Please tell us what to do.”

“What has happened so far?” Martin asked.

“Well, she is possessed by multiple devils.” “Did you get a count?”

They said “Yes. We asked them in Jesus Christ name how many they were and they told us 56.”

Martin said, “Well, that’s a good beginning. Did you get their names?”

“Every one of them named themselves (screeching) whenever we commanded them in the name of Christ.”

“Good. Have you been exorcising them one at a time?”

“Yes, and quite a few of them are gone.”

“What is the girl’s background?”

“She is involved in Satanism. We found the Satanic Bible in her bureau drawer; she has been on drugs for some time. “We also found some symbols of satanic worship.”

The story continues on about how they continued removing the demons one at a time, having the most struggle with the final one, but ultimately removing it, releasing the girl from the bondage of drugs, and how she dedicated her life to Christ and ministry. Martin concludes the story by stating:

These things happen. They are real. Denying them does not make them go away, and the skepticism of modern society has no power to dismiss them; it simply amuses them. Viruses are invisible to the naked eye, but we know they exist because we developed the equipment that enabled us to see them. We may not be able to place a demon under a microscope, but God gave us the means to see them:

1. Demons speak in multiple voices and in multiple languages unknown to the person they possess.

2. Demons exhibit superhuman strength.

3. Demons have access to private information that a possessed person could never know.

4. Demons respond to and obey authority in the name of Jesus Christ.

This experiment has been repeated countless times and it has been proved, beyond doubt, that evil, sentient beings called demons do exits. (Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Occult, 2008 Thomas nelson edition, Pgs 423-425).

Martin states:

Demons are quite literally Satan’s children; fallen angels or spirits who followed Lucifer in his rebellion against the throne of God. They worship the devil, not God.

Demons most definitely were active in Southern California. LEGO doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Works consulted

Grogan, Geoffrey W, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986.

Madvig, Donald H. “Joshua,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Stewart, Don. “When Were the Four Gospels Written?” Blue Letter Bible, accessed 4 October 2021, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/historical-accuracy-of-the-bible/question10-when-were-the-gospels-written.cfm, 2021.

Notes


[1] Posted by Alan B., Wednesday, 6 November 2019 9:50:01 AM, https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20592.

[2] Ibid., Posted by Alan B., Wednesday, 6 November 2019 2:57:05 PM.

[3] Posted by LEGO, Thursday, 28 February 2019 11:28:40 AM, https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20172&page=8.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 October 2021.

Joshua and the Bible Bashers

Did the sun really stand still?

Sunset, Sky, Sea, Ocean, Setting, Sun, Golden Glow

(image courtesy pixabay)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

When people doubt the Word of God, even in the church, Joshua’s account of the sun stopping (Joshua 10:12-14) takes a beating. Gregory W. Dawes does it in his challenge of history to religious authority (Dawes 2001).

1. Gregory Dawes disputes biblical authority

Who is Gregory Dawes and what is his theological persuasion? At the time of writing this book, Dawes was a lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand (Dawes 2001: rear cover). He is now associate professor of philosopher at the University of Otago.[1]

The pitch for his book is summarised in the conclusion:

It seems that there is something wrong with the believer’s claim to religious authority. If this is the case, then the problem with which our authors have been dealing is a pseudoproblem, not because of the historian’s assumptions, but because of the theologian’s. The simplest explanation would seem to be the sceptical one. There is no way of reconciling Christian claims to religious authority with the knowledge and methods of the discipline of history. The historical viewpoint of our age undermines claims to biblical authority, while the Jesus of history is not a figure who can be reappropriated for out own time (Dawes 2001:368).

Therefore, after studying the ‘doubting Thomases’ of modern theology, Dawes concludes with some of them as a sceptic of biblical authority.

Dawes doubts the validity of miracles: ‘How can we be certain that an event is both beyond the productive capacity of nature[2] and that it is performed by God (rather than some other supernatural power)? It is hard to see how this can be done outside of the framework of a particular set of religious beliefs’ (Dawes 2001:105).

1.1 William Lane Craig’s definition of miracles is:

…. contra the Newtonian conception, miracles should not be understood as violations of the laws of nature, but as naturally impossible events. Contra Spinoza, admission of miracles would not serve to subvert natural law, and the possibility that a miracle is a result of an unknown natural law is minimized when the miracles are numerous, various, momentous, and unique. Contra Hume, it is question-begging or invalid to claim that uniform experience is against miracles (Craig 2020).

2. Origin of recent challenges to biblical authority

Generally, you won’t find it in the Early Church Fathers. Here are a few example of what they thought of the Bible:

clip_image002Saint Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335 – 394), ‘We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words. (On the Holy Trinity, To Eustathius, emphasis added)

clip_image004Irenaeus (d. 202), ‘We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith (Against Heresies, 3.1.1, emphasis added).

clip_image006Athanasius of Alexandria (296–373), after he had outlined the books of the Bible stated:

These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.’ (Festal Letter 39, 6–7, emphasis added)

clip_image008St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), ‘For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics[3] and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine. (Augustine, Letters, 148. 4.15, emphasis added).

From this sample of four early church fathers, we see that they had a high regard for the authority of the canonical Scriptures.

2.1 Why the confrontation of biblical authority?

The challenge to biblical authority came through ‘the new astronomy’ of the seventeenth century with people like Johann Kepler. This challenge, says Dawes, ‘was the heliocentric cosmology set forth by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) which called into question the accepted picture of a geocentric world’ (Dawes 2001:10). In other words, the old-fashioned (biblical) earth-centred world was challenged by the Copernican sun-centred universe.

To draw attention to the so-called, out-dated biblical view, the miracle that Joshua experienced of the sun stopping was used. Dawes wrote: “The text here is Josh. 10:12-14, which suggests that the sun revolved around the earth, not vice versa” and The Book of Mormon “corrects the biblical cosmology” (Dawes 2001:10).

2.2 Book of Mormon ‘corrects’ Bible?

The Book of Mormon (Helaman 12:15) reads: ‘And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun’.

The verses from Joshua that have taken a beating by the sceptics (secular or religious) contain this kind of language:

‘Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.’ And the sun stood still and the moon stopped until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day (Josh. 10:13 ESV)

How is it possible for the sun to be stopped when it does not revolve? In our scientific day, we know that the earth revolves around the sun. Was the Bible wrong in its statement about standing still? That’s the view of those who doubt God’s word and want to make light of supposed errors in the Bible.

3. How could the sun and moon stop?

Is there an explanation that does justice to the Bible’s integrity and does not cause Christians to close down the use of their minds?

We need to remember a fundamental of biblical interpretation. The Bible speaks in everyday language as it seems to us – it’s called phenomenological language. In its pre-scientific language, the Bible speaks to the common people. Just as we speak of the sun ‘rising’ and ‘setting’, so does the Bible (see Psalm 50:1). Meteorologists today speak of the times of ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’.[4] This is how we commoners see and understand it, even though it is technically incorrect.

4. Responsible assessment of Joshua 10: Sun standing still

How do we explain the sun standing still, according to Joshua 10? The God of miracles who created the world is capable of doing that and he doesn’t have to explain it to us because of his all-powerful nature and operation (omnipotence).

However, that is hardly an answer that will satisfy doubting Australians. Did God stop the earth’s rotation for 24 hours or is there another solution? Here are some other factors to consider:[5]

clip_image010Take a look at what Joshua 10:13 states: ‘So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day’.

clip_image010[1]The last sentence of this verse reads literally, ‘The sun did not hasten to go down for about a whole day’.[6]

clip_image010[2]Therefore, the earth’s movement was retarded so it took 48 hours rather than 24 hours for the earth’s circuit of the sun.

Or, could the Hebrew, dom, be like the English onomatopoeia , ‘be dumb’,[7] thus indicating ‘the sun was to remain hidden – hence “silent”— during the violent thunderstorm that accompanied the troops as they fled before the Israelites down the Valley of Aijalon’.[8]

In Egyptian, Chinese and Hindu sources there have been ‘alleged stories about a long day’ but they ‘are difficult to verify’.[9]

clip_image010[4]Since a hail storm accompanied this event (Josh 10:11), it is reasonable to conclude the Hebrew dom should be translated as ‘was dumb’ or ‘silent’. Therefore, ‘the sun did not “stop” in the middle of the sky, but its burning heat was “silenced”’.[10]

The information in Josh 10:11 adds fuel to this interpretation, ‘The Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites’ (NIV). So, ‘Joshua’s long day’ is really ‘Joshua’s long night’.[11]

5. Conclusion

In my view,

the best solution is this. Joshua prayed early in the morning, while the moon was in the western sky and the sun was in the east, that God would intervene on their behalf. God answered Joshua and sent a hailstorm. This had the effect of prolonging the darkness and shielding the men from the searing rays of the sun. The sun, therefore, was ‘silenced’ in the middle of the sky and the moon ‘did not hasten to come’.

What a day to remember, for on it God went out and personally fought for Israel—and more died from the hailstones than from the weapons of the army of Israel.[12]

6.  Works consulted

Craig, W L 2020. The Problem of Miracles:  A Historical and Philosophical Perspective. Reasonable Faith (online). Available at: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/scholarly-writings/historical-jesus/the-problem-of-miracles-a-historical-and-philosophical-perspective/ (Accessed 2 March 2020).

Dawes, G W 2001. The historical Jesus question: The challenge of history to religious authority. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Kaiser Jr, W C, Davids, P H, Bruce, F F & Brauch, M T 1996. Hard sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

7.  Notes

[1] See Greg Dawes 2020. Academia (online). Available at: https://otago.academia.edu/GregDawes (Accessed 2 March 2020).

[2] Dawes referred me to Craig’s (2020) definition of ‘miracles’.

[3] He wrote of the general church, i.e. Christians.

[4] See Australian Government: Geoscience Australia 2010. Compute Sunrise, Sunset & Twilight Times (online). Available at: http://www.ga.gov.au/geodesy/astro/sunrise.jsp (Accessed 2 March 2020).

[5] I obtained these points from Kaiser et al (1996:186-188).

[6] Kaiser et. al. (1996:186)

[7] ‘Onomatopoeia’ ‘refers to the use of words which sound like the noise they refer to. ‘Hiss’, ‘buzz’, and ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ are examples of onomatopoeia’ (Collins Dictionary 2020. s.v. onomatopoeia).

[8] Kaiser et. al. (1996:186).

[9] Kaiser et. al., (1996:187).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kaiser et. al. (1996:188).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 02 March 2020.