Alleged Bible Contradictions and Bible exegesis

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by kendemyer, Sep 15, 2004.

  1. kendemyer

    kendemyer
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    I had a difficulty with a Bible passage that puzzled me for about 20 years. It was raised by a literature professor, who appeared to be either a Bible skeptic or at very least a armchair somewhat liberal theologian. The professor who if memory serves gave us a series of assignments which asked us to look into about 200 alledged Bible contradictions ( I solved 199 of them to my complete satisfaction using the principles I learned in my various previous classes [law, logic, English, etc. ] but the last one was persistent!). I firmly believe I just solved the persistent alledged Bible contradiction last night due to coming across some material in a commentary and then reading some additional material the next day (see: post #8 and especially post #10 at http://www.theologyweb.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19949 ). I believe I solved it by applying sound Bible exegesis principles.

    I think before anyone alledges a Bible contradiction in a debate forum they need to show they have done the following:


    Here is a highlight of Fischer's rules taken from Josh McDowell's "The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict:

    (1) The burden of proof for a historical claim is always upon the one making the assertion.

    (2) Historical evidence must be an answer to the question asked and not to any other question.

    (3) "An historian must not merely provide good evidence, but the best evidence. And the best evidence, all other things being equal, is the evidence which is most nearly immediate to the event itself."

    (4) "Evidence must always be affirmative." Negative evidence is no evidence at all. In other words, I think Fischer is saying that an absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. I would think this is especially true of ancient history. Please see this thread on Bible archaeology: http://www.christian-forum.net/index.php?showtopic=185

    (5) The meaning of any historical evidence is dependent upon the context from which it is obtained from.

    (6) "An empirical statement must not be more precise than its evidence warrants."

    (7) "All inferences from historical evidence are probabilistic."

    (see: Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict, page 674, 1999, Mark MCGarry, Texas Type and Book Works, Dallas, TX, ISBN 0-7852-4219-8)


    </font>[/QUOTE]There is a proverb, "First socks then shoes." Another proverb is "The easy way is the hard way and the hard way is the easy way." Let me explain. When a skeptic does not do his homework and do the adequate preparation to build a real case he can't legitimately expect to win his case. In my estimation, the Bible skeptics build flimsy cases and armed with some very fundamental Bible exegesis principles I believe Christians can get them thrown out of court. Now when I took the class above I have no prior knowledge of Bible exegesis principles although I took some related coursework that was very helpful which I mentioned above (logic, law, English, etc). Yet I was still able to handle every single indictment against the Bible and only this one instance even got to court despite my knowledge of fundamental Bible exegesis principles. At the same time armed with a knowledge of Bible exegesis I certainly believe that this one case that managed to get to court (due to my then lack of specific knowledge of Bible exegesis principles) has no real merit.


    In short, I would say the skeptics are spinning their wheels here. Because many Christians would rather face a devouring lion than face attempts to be knawed on by many weak and diseased rats (this is a paraphrase of a line spoke by a person mentioned in a history class who name currently escapes me that I thought was very humorous). I personally do not believe I have seen any lions brought forth by the Bible skeptics. In fact, in every single case the skeptics never even give a brief review of Bible exegesis principles so it could easily be argued that many may not even be aware of them.

    In short, I agree with Bernard Ramm the archeologist who said:

    Here is a very important question. What is the Bible's batting average in terms of being right in the long run on historical matters? I you look at the forward the a new Oxford Bible Commentary edited by John Barton and John Muddiman you will find that they take a "chastened historical criticism" approach. Is Barton or Muddiman a Bible inerrantist? No they are not. But I think it is fair to say that they are admitting that the Bible's critics have been proved historically wrong in many cases. If you do further research you will see this was accomplished though archeaology and other methods.

    Many skeptics, though not all, approach the whole debate between skeptics and Christians as if it were a "tabla rasa" debate that started just recently. I would submit there is a long pedigree of Bible statements being proved true and a long pedigree of skeptics assertions being overturned. I cited the comments of the John Barton and his co-editor in the recent Oxford Bible Commentary to support this claim ("chastened historical criticism"). If you want further elaboration of this issue I suggest the following essay: "The Bible: Tested, True, Triumphant") at: http://www.adam.com.au/bstett/BWilliamsvsAnon71to73.htm
     
  2. Helen

    Helen
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    Am curious about the Bible passage itself. Could not find it in your post and am not willing to slog through another forum looking for it. Could you tell us what you are referring to here instead of doing what you did above?

    Thanks.
     
  3. kendemyer

    kendemyer
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    Dear Helen,

    I know from previous threads that you are a polite and reasonable discussant at this board. I also very much appreciate your post because it appears as if I gave the wrong post #'s at the link I gave. Actually the solution was given at post #'s: 12-14, and 32 at the thread given at: http://www.theologyweb.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19949

    Now seeing as you have been such a paragon of reasonableness and courtesy in the past, I would be happy to cut and paste the material for you to the Baptist board:

    The Bible verse is Acts 7: 16


    Post #'s 12-14:




    kendemyer
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    09-07-2004, 06:03 PM #12

    Eureka!
    Grade: Ungraded

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Eureka!

    I thought my previous commentary was not fully satisfying regarding Stephen's speech and the harmonization of the alledged Bible contradiction.

    Last night I read what I believe was a particularly informative piece of commentary in the 1991 edition of "The Believer's Study Bible". I wish to pull it from my computer disk and place it here but I want to clarify some things in regards to copyright law and TWEB's policy regarding copyrighted material placement. I think it does a great job in explaining the question that people raise about this verse. I highly recommend it. I have some things to attend to and if I do not get back to this matter a librarian should be able to tell you how to obtain this Bible. My copy is on the Nelson's Electronic Bible Reference library. I personally believe if someone combines the MacArthur Study Bible information with the "Believer's Study Bible" commentary all the alledged discrepancies are very reasonably explained regarding Acts chapter 7.

    Lastly, here is a website that offers a harmonization of the verse via the Greek from the late Bible scholar J.W. McGarvey whose knowledge of New Testament Greek was very excellent according to this website. My Greek is too poor to evaluate it though. Here is the link: http://www.apologeticspress.org/rr/rr2002/r&r0212c.htm Perhaps a resident TWEB Greek scholar can examine it.

    (the link stipulates that it may not be reprinted on the web).

    My experience is those who alledge Bible contraditions are often guilty of doing inadequate Bible exegesis.

    Here are some useful guidelines:


    Quote:




    The rules of exegesis:

    Gordon D. Fee, in his New Testament Exegesis, p 27, states simply, “Exegesis…answers the question, What did the biblical author mean? It has to do both with what he said (the content itself) and why he said it at any given point (the literary context). Furthermore, exegesis is primarily concerned with intentionality: What did the author intend his original readers to understand?”

    Before we can determine what a given text might mean for us today, we must establish what it meant for its original audience.
    This is the process of exegesis. In this article, we will lay out the fundamental rules, of which there are eight. In future articles, we will elaborate on each one from a nuts & bolts perspective. The rules listed are taken directly from Prof. Fee’s excellent book (p. 32), mentioned in the paragraph above.


    Rule No. 1: Survey the historical context in general.

    Rule No. 2: Confirm the limits of the passage.

    Rule No. 3: Become thoroughly acquainted with your paragraph or pericope

    Rule No. 4: Analyze sentence structures and syntactical relationships.

    Rule No. 5: Establish the text.

    Rule No. 6: Analyze the grammar.

    Rule No. 7: Analyze significant words.

    Rule No. 8: Research the historical-cultural background.

    taken from: http://www.godward.org/archives/BS%...%20exegesis.htm






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    kendemyer
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    09-07-2004, 09:43 PM #13

    Re: The tomb bought by Abraham, and the tomb bought by Jacob
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    TO: Jaltus

    If memory serves you are proficient at Greek according to a person at TWEB. Is the link I cited in my last post sound regarding the Greek?

    Second, what is the extent of your knowledge of the Greek?

    Sincerely,

    Ken


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    09-08-2004, 12:32 AM #14

    Re: The tomb bought by Abraham, and the tomb bought by Jacob
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kendemyer




    TO: Jaltus

    If memory serves you are proficient at Greek according to a person at TWEB. Is the link I cited in my last post sound regarding the Greek?




    It is quite sound. In fact, that is the translation used by Joseph Fitzmyer in his The Acts of the Apostles in the Anchor Bible Commentary series, and I don't think anyone wil question his exegetical skills.


    Quote:




    Second, what is the extent of your knowledge of the Greek?




    I have an undergrad degree in Classical Greek, a Master's of Divinity, I am working on my Ph D in New Testament (I will be a Ph D candidate come January, which means only my dissertation left, assuming I pass my comrehensive exams) and have taught both introductory Greek and a class of Advanced Exegesis at the graduate level.


    Post #32

    TO: ALL

    re: Acts 7:16

    I did not come here to debate but to leave some material I prepared for someone else since I did previously indicate I would offer it

    Before I leave the material I do think that it complements the link I gave before which Jaltus, TWEB's resident Greek scholar, semed to favorably comment on. Here is the link I gave before regarding the Greek: http://www.apologeticspress.org/rr/rr2002/r&r0212c.htm

    Please pay close attention to Acts 7:7 commentary before reading the Acts 7: 16 commentary.

    Here is the promised material for the Stephen's speech harmonization taken from:

    The Believer’s Study Bible™

    Copyright 1991 by the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies

    THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERS, Nashville


    I will quote some material from the above source:


    "Harmonization of Stephen’s Speech and Its Old Testament References.....


    Acts 7

    7:7 Is "this place" (word to Abraham in Gen. 15:13) Mt. Gerizim or Mt. Horeb? [Note that neither Mt. Gerizim nor Mt. Horeb is actually named.]

    Alleged O.T. Discrepancy

    "This mountain" (word to Moses in Ex. 3:12) is Mt. Horeb.

    Resolution of the Texts

    Stephen apparently conflates or "telescopes" two separate texts (later in v. 16, he will telescope or conflate two separate incidents). This was a popular method of recounting history in Stephen’s day. The statement is true as we recognize that in one breath Stephen alludes to two different texts. Further, the fact is that they did worship God both in "this place" (Canaan, Gen. 15:13–15) and on Mt. Horeb (Ex. 3:12)......


    Acts 7

    7:16 Abraham bought a tomb in Shechem.

    Alleged O.T. Discrepancy

    Abraham bought a tomb in Machpelah (cave/field)near Mamre, which is Hebron; Jacob bought a field in Shechem (Gen. 23:17, 18; 33:19; Josh. 24:32).

    Resolution of the Texts

    Though this is possibly the most difficult of the alleged discrepancies, a proper understanding of the recounting of tradition by the Semitic people is the key.

    (1) Some would argue that Jacob bought the Shechem burial ground in the name of Abraham.

    (2) The use of the plural in Acts 7:16 ("they") tips us off that Stephen is conflating or telescoping several familiar accounts into a summary statement. Though admittedly strange by our standards, this would have been well understood and accepted by Stephen’s hearers as an accurate statement.


    Acts 7

    7:16 Jacob and his sons (including Joseph) were buried in Shechem, but nothing is said about the burial of Abraham

    Alleged O.T. Discrepancy

    Abraham and Jacob were buried in Shechem, but nothing is said about the burial of Jacob’s other sons (Gen. 23:9–20; 25:8–10; 33:19; 49:30, 31; 50:13; Josh. 24:32).

    Resolution of the Texts

    See above, resolution (2). That argument holds for this point also, though the complementary nature of the accounts, and the possibility of Stephen’s utilizing extrabiblical tradition, is clearly evident. Interestingly, Josephus informs us of a tradition that says the brothers of Joseph were buried at Hebron."

    Sincerely,

    Ken
     

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