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Source: (consider it) Thread: Epistles and Gospels
mr cheesy
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I agree that this doesn't seem to be the "smoking gun" that Bart Ehrman seems to think it is.

There are several possibilities as others have suggested - and my 2p is that there are few speakers of Aramaic, so I can't see how we could be absolutely certain that there wasn't this double meaning in the language of that era.

But generally I think it makes most sense to think that the double meaning has been used in the Greek to add colour to the story, I can't see why that's really a problem.

Or it might have been entirely accidental;

I used to know a similar double-meaning possibility in an English translation (which we needed to consult someone with a bible in another language to show it only happened in English). I can't remember what it was now.

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mr cheesy
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Oh I see what he might be getting at now. If the paradoxical phrase didn't exist in the original language, then the written text can't be an accurate record of the oral tradition.

Sorry for being thick.

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That the good in me is dead

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Lamb Chopped
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But you're not thick. The chapter functions perfectly well, both Jesus' statement and Nicodemus' amazement, even if we magically whisked away the "from above" meaning of anothen. Nothing in their interaction depends on that meaning. In fact, Nicodemus's amazement makes it clear that the meaning he has in mind (Greek OR Aramaic) is "again", and "from above" can go hang as far as he's concerned. It's only us onlookers (onreaders?) who get the extra benefit of the pun.

So if they spoke only in Aramaic, and the pun only existed in Greek, it would not invalidate the story. Nicodemus is reacting to a single outrageous meaning; the fact that John, or the Holy Spirit, chooses to layer on extra meaning when rendering it in Greek is no skin off Nicodemus' nose. The main point (again) was always clear.

Unless anyone is arguing that Jesus did not intend the "again" meaning at all?

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BroJames
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I also wonder whether the writer might have chosen anothen for again because of the varying connotations for Greek speakers of alternative words he might have chosen. E.g. ISTM that anothen has connotations of 'again' in the sense of 'anew' whereas palin, for example, if it could be used in this context, may have connotations of again as repetition of the same thing. These varying connotations may not be present in the Aramaic, but may be a significant issue when translating into Greek. (My Greek is not strong enough to be confident on this.)

I suppose, then, I'd like to know from Ehrman what Aramaic word might have lain behind the Greek, and what other Greek words might have been used to translate it. However, if he is committed to the idea of this being a pious fiction originating in Greek, he may not have explored that question

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
But you're not thick. The chapter functions perfectly well, both Jesus' statement and Nicodemus' amazement, even if we magically whisked away the "from above" meaning of anothen. Nothing in their interaction depends on that meaning. In fact, Nicodemus's amazement makes it clear that the meaning he has in mind (Greek OR Aramaic) is "again", and "from above" can go hang as far as he's concerned. It's only us onlookers (onreaders?) who get the extra benefit of the pun.

So if they spoke only in Aramaic, and the pun only existed in Greek, it would not invalidate the story. Nicodemus is reacting to a single outrageous meaning; the fact that John, or the Holy Spirit, chooses to layer on extra meaning when rendering it in Greek is no skin off Nicodemus' nose. The main point (again) was always clear.

Unless anyone is arguing that Jesus did not intend the "again" meaning at all?

Well see I wonder if the point that is being gotten at is a bit more subtle than this.

The argument is that before the written manuscripts there were oral traditions upon which they were based, and that we can have confidence that the written manuscripts accurately represent the oral traditions, which in turn would have been accurately remembered and passed on in that community.

So if - let's just say he is right for the sake of understanding his argument - we find a phrase which seems to have a pun in the earliest Greek manuscripts but that pun doesn't exist in the spoken language, then we have a problem. Either the person who wrote down the Greek has embellished it (even accidentally) from the Aramaic oral tradition; or the oral tradition has morphed from the original Aramaic into Greek - so that the written manuscripts are accurately reflecting the oral tradition, but the oral tradition has changed language and almost by necessity introduced a pun into the heart of the story; or some other explanation as others have suggested.

As we've both noted, this doesn't make much difference to the story, but maybe Ehrman's point is not about any theological change significant to the story but that it indicates something about changes (and/or errors) being introduced somewhere along the line even before we get to the the variations in manuscripts, undermining this idea of some kind of pristine oral tradition which remained unchanged until it was written down.

I think there are holes in this argument as previously noted, but maybe this is the point being made.

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Pass me a book I've read
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That the good in me is dead

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BroJames
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Yes, but while it is possible that the Greek could be read as a pun, or at least a play on words, in fact the text gives us no reason to suppose that a play on words is intended. The Greek word is a perfectly ordinary word for again or anew.

Ehrman's argument seems to be:
  • This is a pun
  • It is a pun which works only in Greek
  • Jesus taught in Aramaic, not Greek
  • Therefore this is not a report of authentic teaching of Jesus

What many of us here are challenging is his first premise. We do not agree that there is a pun. If Ehrman's wrong about that then this periscope is not evidence for his wider thesis about St John's Gospel.

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Lamb Chopped
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Perhaps in my case better phrased as "I agree that in the Greek there is a pun which was probably not there in the Aramaic, but the pun is not integral to the story and may be wholly an accidental result* of translation into another language. This says to me absolutely nothing about the oral transmission of this story, which all took place BEFORE the pun was introduced. The only thing it might tell me (and this is iffy) is something about the mindset of the person who translated it into Greek and wrote it down."

*See the furor going on in another thread over whether it is crass to speak of a woman pastor being "defrocked," given the accidental punning connection with the term "frock" as a woman's dress.

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Martin60
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Do you need to cut out that middle 's' from periscope BroJames?

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
This says to me absolutely nothing about the oral transmission of this story, which all took place BEFORE the pun was introduced.

I would have expected that the story had been translated into Greek, including the word that could potentially be a pun, very early on. This would have been necessary to tell the story to the Gentile believers (and, probably even some of the Jews from outside Judea) who would not be able to understand Aramaic. For the majority of time between the actual conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus the oral transmission would have been of the Greek version of the story, not the Aramaic.

Though, it still tells us nothing about the transmission of the story - what John wrote could still have been a very accurate reproduction of that first translation to Greek, or a very substantial variation on it.

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Do you need to cut out that middle 's' from periscope BroJames?

Yes. Too late, sadly. I probably need to teach my spellchecker that pericope is a word.
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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
This says to me absolutely nothing about the oral transmission of this story, which all took place BEFORE the pun was introduced.

I would have expected that the story had been translated into Greek, including the word that could potentially be a pun, very early on. This would have been necessary to tell the story to the Gentile believers (and, probably even some of the Jews from outside Judea) who would not be able to understand Aramaic. For the majority of time between the actual conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus the oral transmission would have been of the Greek version of the story, not the Aramaic.

Though, it still tells us nothing about the transmission of the story - what John wrote could still have been a very accurate reproduction of that first translation to Greek, or a very substantial variation on it.

Good point. Being John, there probably was a fairly long time lapse before it got into writing. Though we don't know at what point he drew on that oral tradition--did he get it from Nicodemus himself? from Jesus? From a friend of a friend of a friend?

There's not much we can say with certainty, as John was living during the whole transmission time.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
This says to me absolutely nothing about the oral transmission of this story, which all took place BEFORE the pun was introduced.

I would have expected that the story had been translated into Greek, including the word that could potentially be a pun, very early on. This would have been necessary to tell the story to the Gentile believers (and, probably even some of the Jews from outside Judea) who would not be able to understand Aramaic. For the majority of time between the actual conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus the oral transmission would have been of the Greek version of the story, not the Aramaic.

Though, it still tells us nothing about the transmission of the story - what John wrote could still have been a very accurate reproduction of that first translation to Greek, or a very substantial variation on it.

Really, we do things like this all the time. In the US, the story is often referred to as "Nick at Night", a play on TV channel nickelodeon's name for their evening programming. Preachers often insert rhymes, puns, alliteration, and other word play into their retelling of biblical stories-- all of which are only meaningful in the preacher's language which is generally not koine Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic. Whether you enjoy these mnemonic devices or find them tiresome, it tells us nothing of whether or not the preacher is accurately portraying the biblical events. It's a natural way language is used. Puns happen.

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fausto
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
Yes, but while it is possible that the Greek could be read as a pun, or at least a play on words, in fact the text gives us no reason to suppose that a play on words is intended. The Greek word is a perfectly ordinary word for again or anew.

Ehrman's argument seems to be:
  • This is a pun
  • It is a pun which works only in Greek
  • Jesus taught in Aramaic, not Greek
  • Therefore this is not a report of authentic teaching of Jesus

What many of us here are challenging is his first premise. We do not agree that there is a pun. If Ehrman's wrong about that then this periscope is not evidence for his wider thesis about St John's Gospel.

Ehrman's argument is not simply that the word itself with its double meaning (I don't think it's meant as a pun) only occurs in Greek; it's that the ensuing events as narrated by John also occur only because of the ambiguity of the word in Greek. It provokes confusion in Nicodemus, and a responsive clarification from Jesus, that would not have occurred if they had been speaking less ambiguously in Aramaic.

Now, of course that's only a conjecture, not a proof. Maybe they were indeed conversing in Greek. Maybe Jesus did indeed misspeak at first and say 'again' unambiguously in Aramaic, when what he really meant to say was 'from above' or 'of the Spirit'. Maybe he deliberately intended to puzzle Nicodemus by saying 'again' in order to have the opportunity to repeat his point. Ehrman is only saying that, to him, his own interpretation seems the likeliest scenario -- that the story was probably either invented or embellished in the oral phase of its life before it was eventually written down in Greek rather than Aramaic.

I would add, though, that if John or a previous source did knowingly insert an inauthentic double entendre and the ensuing conversation into the story to serve as a mnemonic device or rhetorical flourish, that is just the kind of alteration process that Ehrman supposes. Factual accuracy would have been intentionally sacrificed in order to enhance the story's power as a teaching tale, but that inaccuracy wouldn't necessarily render the story unreliable or invalid.

quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
If Ehrman's wrong about that then this periscope is not evidence for his wider thesis about St John's Gospel.

I think we have gotten way too bogged down in obsessing over this single passage. It's just one verse that he uses as an example, not the touchstone of his entire thesis. There are many other clues in all the Gospels to support a wider thesis that they were written primarily to present an interpretive portrait of Jesus, rather than to preserve a factually accurate history. Any glosses and embellishments that may have crept into the oral tradition or been added by the authors when the texts were finally written support that portrait, they don't invalidate it. (I have been told elsewhere, and rather sharply, that most shipmates agree with the wider thesis even if not with the interpretation of the one verse.)

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"Truth did not come into the world naked, but it came in types and images. The world will not receive truth in any other way." Gospel of Philip, Logion 72

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BroJames
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But I think Nicodemus's confusion is completely understandable if Jesus simply uses a word for "again" or "anew'. He doesn't use an alternative word meaning "from above" to clarify his statement. The only clarification he offers is to talk about being "born of water and the spirit".

You say that Ehrman's point is that
quote:
It provokes confusion in Nicodemus, and a responsive clarification from Jesus, that would not have occurred if they had been speaking less ambiguously in Aramaic.
I say that the confusion would still be there even if they were (as I am moderately sure was the case) speaking in unambiguous Aramaic.

I don't believe the author has inserted something which he would have perceived as creating a double meaning. Rather he has used a word with a semantic field which includes (among other things) the possible meaning of "from above", but which is broadly a good fit for the Aramaic original (linguistically, inexact matches of semantic fields between words in different languages are very common). The word is used neither as rhetorical device nor as rhetorical flourish, just the author's best guess at a good translation.

I agree that in evaluating Ehrman's thesis, it would be unfair to get bogged down on only one piece of evidence. However you offered it as
quote:
A specific example of linguistic evidence against accurate historicity
But IMHO this piece of evidence is capable of a perfectly ordinary explanation which does nothing to support Ehrman's thesis. So it is not (in my view) any evidence for the thesis at all.
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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by fausto:
quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
Yes, but while it is possible that the Greek could be read as a pun, or at least a play on words, in fact the text gives us no reason to suppose that a play on words is intended. The Greek word is a perfectly ordinary word for again or anew.

Ehrman's argument seems to be:
  • This is a pun
  • It is a pun which works only in Greek
  • Jesus taught in Aramaic, not Greek
  • Therefore this is not a report of authentic teaching of Jesus


What many of us here are challenging is his first premise. We do not agree that there is a pun. If Ehrman's wrong about that then this periscope is not evidence for his wider thesis about St John's Gospel.

Ehrman's argument is not simply that the word itself with its double meaning (I don't think it's meant as a pun) only occurs in Greek; it's that the ensuing events as narrated by John also occur only because of the ambiguity of the word in Greek. It provokes confusion in Nicodemus, and a responsive clarification from Jesus, that would not have occurred if they had been speaking less ambiguously in Aramaic.

But, as mentioned above, that's simply not the case. The story and subsequent confusion is just as evident with either "again" for "from above"-- either way it is a cryptic sentence, apt to produce the "huh?" reaction. Which is precisely the sort of cryptic statement we frequently see Jesus making-- "first is last, in order to gain your life you must lose it". Most of the time the apostles just seem to roll with it (much like the students in my class who nod glassy eyed) but thankfully we have Thomas-- and here Nicodemus-- to say "Lord, we have no idea what you're talking about!"

The question of why Jesus sometimes choose to speak in these cryptic ways is probably the subject for another thread. But the Greek word play is not at all necessary here for the events to play out precisely as presented, and again, very typical of exchanges with Jesus-- especially when he's talking with rabbis, scribes, or pharisees.


quote:
Originally posted by fausto:
I think we have gotten way too bogged down in obsessing over this single passage. It's just one verse that he uses as an example, not the touchstone of his entire thesis. There are many other clues in all the Gospels to support a wider thesis that they were written primarily to present an interpretive portrait of Jesus, rather than to preserve a factually accurate history. Any glosses and embellishments that may have crept into the oral tradition or been added by the authors when the texts were finally written support that portrait, they don't invalidate it. (I have been told elsewhere, and rather sharply, that most shipmates agree with the wider thesis even if not with the interpretation of the one verse.)

I have only read brief snippets of Ehrman's work, so let the reader beware: but my general impression of Ehrman is a big yawn. He often strikes me as a typical fundamentalist who is exposed to some of these things that have been part of scholarly discussion-- even evangelical scholarly discussion-- for decades, if not centuries: "There were other gospels accounts! There are scribal glosses! Oh noes!"

Coming from a fundamentalist background, it can be shocking, I know. But it's not really news, and it doesn't really change the way anyone but the more rabid inerrantist would read the Bible. I suspect Ehrman's work, then, is primarily a ministry to those on the fringes of fundamentalism who may be beginning to see the cracks in the wall of inerrancy and wondering what to do with that, or if it's possible even to hang onto faith. I'm not sure how good a job he's doing of speaking to that crowd, but that's not really for me to say. But if he has a mission field, I would say that is probably it.

Again, with the caveat I've only read snippets so take the above para with a grain of salt.

[ 14. September 2016, 00:14: Message edited by: cliffdweller ]

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fausto
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I'm not sure Ehrman considers himself to have a ministry or a mission. I think he probably sees himself purely as an academic with particular interests in critical text analysis and "historical Jesus" research. In the lectures I have heard, he has been careful to say that he does not mean to attack anyone's faith and that others applying equal rigor can reach different conclusions about the text with integrity, since he was reading it (in these lectures at least) purely for its value in reconstructing the "historical Jesus", not for its value in faith formation. In effect he is trying to find the line between what we can know with a reasonable degree of objective certainty about Jesus and what we must subjectively believe about Jesus. (As Paul says, "faith is the evidence of things not seen.") For that narrow purpose, he says, you have to evaluate each passage of text critically for its likely historicity. He has a set of tests he uses to try to assess historical reliability -- but he is also careful to say that if his tests don't confirm the likely factuality of a particular passage, that doesn't mean that what it describes didn't actually happen; it only means it can't be objectively confirmed by a historian's criteria that it did.

[ 14. September 2016, 01:15: Message edited by: fausto ]

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cliffdweller
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Sure-- that's pretty much what all biblical scholars do and have done for centuries. The very few times I've heard him (which are very few so may not be representative) he's had an air of "This is shocking! You won't believe what I've discovered!" and then what he goes on to say is completely non-shocking and nothing particularly new. So I have a tendency to dismiss him, but need to remember simply that he has a particular audience (fundamentalists) for whom this is new.

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Lamb Chopped
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Just a brief note on a tangential topic, not to be pursued further because of its Dead Horse status--but since there seems to be a perception on this thread that inerrantists are = to fundamentalists, let me assure you that is not the case. Nor does that position require lack of nuance or education. I mention it only because I wouldn't want anybody reading this thread to think inerrantists as a whole are surprised to learn there are glosses, variants, etc. in the texts. Shutting up now.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
Just a brief note on a tangential topic, not to be pursued further because of its Dead Horse status--but since there seems to be a perception on this thread that inerrantists are = to fundamentalists, let me assure you that is not the case. Nor does that position require lack of nuance or education. I mention it only because I wouldn't want anybody reading this thread to think inerrantists as a whole are surprised to learn there are glosses, variants, etc. in the texts. Shutting up now.

Would you not agree that they're related tho-- that the two tend to go together? I haven't met any inerrantists who aren't also fundamentalists, and very few fundamentalists who aren't also inerrantists? Remembering that inerrancy ≠ infallibility (cuz then we'd be talking about me, and that would be just awkward....)

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Lamb Chopped
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Looks around anxiously, fearing the tromp of Hostly hooves--

No, actually inerrantism was the historic position of most mainline denominations up until quite recently, historically speaking. Some of us dinosaurs (like the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod) still maintain the historical position. The real difference between the likes of us and the fundamentalists is IMHO education. Our pastors as a rule are expected to get four years of graduate school at a minimum (though there are some rare exceptions) and study at least Greek and Hebrew; those who go on to take a second master's degree and the PhD will add at least one or two more languages. An LCMS pastor is NOT supposed to be an ignoramus, or to be incapable to understanding the difference between the autographs and the various textual streams that have come down to us; the existence and meaning of textual variants; the roles of history and culture, and the impact archaeology has had on our understandings; and so on. Nor are they supposed to behave as if church history began yesterday, or even with Martin Luther. That is not to say that you won't find bad examples out there, but they are not in my experience common. (Sort of hard to get through that much education without something sinking in.)

I give the example I know best simply because I can't do the same for Presbyterians, Methodists, etc. etc. not being familiar enough with those set-ups. But I am closely acquainted with at least one inerrantist mainstream Methodist pastor, and I am fairly sure I know others who are Episcopalian and Baptist. And of course there are always the Roman Catholics.

In the U.S., at least, in my experience the fundamentalists tend to be of the Holiness and Pentecostalist persuasions, or else to be non-denominational. And few of their ordinary church pastors seem to have done much tertiary or graduate education.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
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mr cheesy
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I'm not sure any of these terms really mean very much because those using them actually mean different things by them. Fundamentalist seems like a particularly useless term as fundamentalism depends on your viewpoint - and one can clearly be a fundamentalist about different fundamentals!

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Pass me a book I've read
Pass me a fresh cut flower
And ask me what I dread
That the good in me is dead

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Moo

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I'm not sure any of these terms really mean very much because those using them actually mean different things by them. Fundamentalist seems like a particularly useless term as fundamentalism depends on your viewpoint - and one can clearly be a fundamentalist about different fundamentals!

AIUI the original meaning of fundamentalist was one who subscribed to the five fundamentals, which were presented the basis of faith in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, I cannot find a statement of the five fundamentals at the moment.

Moo

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Moo:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I'm not sure any of these terms really mean very much because those using them actually mean different things by them. Fundamentalist seems like a particularly useless term as fundamentalism depends on your viewpoint - and one can clearly be a fundamentalist about different fundamentals!

AIUI the original meaning of fundamentalist was one who subscribed to the five fundamentals, which were presented the basis of faith in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, I cannot find a statement of the five fundamentals at the moment.

Moo

Yes, this came out of the Presbyterian church following the "fundamentalist-modernist controversy". (brief history)

But the point really is how the terms are used now. And I think Mr. C is correct-- it is (as used today) a rather subjective and relative term. And in many circles (including the Ship) a pejorative, so we get that "irregular verb" thing going on ("I'm orthodox, you're conservative, he's fundamentalist..."). It definitely seems to me that Lamb and I are using the term differently, no doubt due to our different contexts. The distinction between "inerrancy" and "infallibility" may also come into play, and have similarly slippery distinctions.

All of which, as Lamb suggests, is probably getting us into Dead Horse territory-- although the tangent was helpful to clarify what each of us is (and is not) saying.

[ 14. September 2016, 13:52: Message edited by: cliffdweller ]

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fausto
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
Yes, this came out of the Presbyterian church following the "fundamentalist-modernist controversy". (brief history)

Everything but the first few paragraphs of that article is blocked behind a subscription paywall.

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Martin60
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The Doctrinal Deliverance of 1910 (The Five Fundamentals) passed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA:

The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
The virgin birth of Christ.
The belief that Christ's death was an atonement for sin.
The bodily resurrection of Christ.
The historical reality of Christ's miracles.

1 2/2 is most problematic. Most. Except in the most deconstructed sense.
2, 4 & 5 yup.
3 in every sense

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by fausto:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
Yes, this came out of the Presbyterian church following the "fundamentalist-modernist controversy". (brief history)

Everything but the first few paragraphs of that article is blocked behind a subscription paywall.
The preview contains all you need for this tangent

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Mamacita

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[This was the OP of a thread which is now being merged with this one. Mamacita, Host]

quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
In my experience, those that profess a "high view of scripture" appear to favour the epistles (particularly the theology of Paul) over the Gospels.

For example. Mudfrog has interpreted Luke through Paul.

How does that work? Seems very strange to me.

Is it simply a bias that Luther inculcated into the Protestant tradition? Because Luther certainly favoured the theology of Paul over the theology of the Gospels. This is understandable of course. He saw Paul's theology of justification by grace for the purpose of including the gentiles as relevant to his own condition where he felt he was never good enough (something I can certainly relate to and am grateful to Luther for raising the point)

But it seems like to interpret Christ and the Gospels through the Epistles is getting things a bit ass backwards. And makes a mockery of a "high view of scripture".



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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Yes, I've come across this too (and have been guilty of it myself).

I'm not sure that it is a conscious decision, rather that folk with a more "rationalist" or "modern" approach to things favour Paul's logical discourses over the story-telling of the Gospels. It also chimes in well with the week-by-week expository preaching technique they often like, whereas the Gospels may appear to be more "bitty".

What these folk forget - and what perhaps wasn't popularly recognised until fairly recently - is that the Gospels aren't the naive or random accounts that they appear to be, but are carefully edited narratives which wish to present certain pictures and make certain points.

The converse of this is the tendency I have have observed in MOTR churches, both Anglican and URC, to always focus on the Gospel reading in ministry and ignore the Epistles entirely.



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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
One factor here is that chronologically the epistles came first, almost all before the writing of Mark's gospel.

Yes, the actual life of Jesus came first; but then the Apostles and other missionaries travelled about preaching on what that meant, the 'theology' (though not in a narrowly academic sense) which could be derived from Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The epistles are that teaching written down in instructions to various groups. Romans in particular is a kind of theological primer. The teaching would probably be illustrated, especially by eyewitnesses like Peter, with stories from Jesus' life and quotes of his actual words.

Then the gospels were written to preserve the eyewitness evidence of Jesus' actual words and examples of his miracles and other deeds. As they're written to supplement the already well-known epistles, they don't spend a lot of time going over again the stuff in the epistles, but try to add to it.

Also I suspect much of what we find in the epistles comes in fact from Jesus, but from the key period the gospels don't cover in detail, that is between the resurrection and the Ascension, when over forty days Jesus "...appear(ed) to (the disciples) and discuss(ed) the interests of the kingdom of God" (Acts 1; 3). An example of this is also mentioned in Luke, when the risen Jesus meets two disciples on the Emmaus road and "starting from Moses and through all the prophets, He explained to them in all the Scriptures what referred to himself".

That intense period of instruction effectively gave the Apostles a structure or framework to link together everything Jesus had taught and done, and explaining the death and resurrection in ways difficult before the event. The epistles contain that kind of exposition about the meaning of Jesus. The gospels then 'flesh out' that framework with the examples from Jesus' life.

Gospels and epistles are not contradictory but complement one another, and we should use both together.



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Mamacita

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# 3659

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
In the EOC, there are two separate books used in the services: a Gospel Book, and the Epistalarion. The epistles can be read in the church by tonsured readers or even laymembers, whereas the gospels are only read by a deacon or priest, with much pomp, and constitute the culmination of the first half of the service (ministry of the word or whatever the technical title is -- high church westies will be familiar).

Further in our exegesis we filter the epistles (and the OT) through the gospels rather than the other way around. In particular through the Gospel of John.

I defy anybody to say we don't take a high view of scripture.



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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by cattyish:
Coming from snakebelly low traditions (Scottish Baptist by upbringing, via Free Church of Scotland and happy-clappy-independent to Church of Scotland) the idea of a "high" or "low" approach to reading the Bible is a new one on me. I suppose I see people reading their favourite bits, the bits they agree with or if they're brave getting out the tricky parts for an airing.

Most folks I know have a certain tolerance for Paul. My favourite septuagenarian calls him 'that mannie Paul' as only a Scottish teacher can spit out a phrase. Personally I have tended to value the Sermon on the Mount over the Epistles just from my personal preference, and I find Paul's instructions sometimes annoying and sometimes reassuring.

Cattyish, considering the readings for Youth Group tomorrow.



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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Those with a 'high view of scripture' see the Bible as having one overall message; it may be 66 books with all the different authors but it is One Book. When you say, therefore, that I have interpreted Luke through Paul that would only be accurate if you also allowed that I would also interpret Paul through Luke when the occasion arose.

Scripture interprets Scripture and illumines itself.

I don't see any book or collection of books as being in any way opposed to other books. It's a whole.



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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by Latchkey Kid:
I think the use of 'a high view of Scripture' is an intentionally divisive denigration of a different hermeutical approach of someone who also loves Scripture.



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Mamacita

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# 3659

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quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:


What these folk forget - and what perhaps wasn't popularly recognised until fairly recently - is that the Gospels aren't the naive or random accounts that they appear to be, but are carefully edited narratives which wish to present certain pictures and make certain points.

The converse of this is the tendency I have have observed in MOTR churches, both Anglican and URC, to always focus on the Gospel reading in ministry and ignore the Epistles entirely.

Bingo to both points.


quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
One factor here is that chronologically the epistles came first, almost all before the writing of Mark's gospel.

Yes, the actual life of Jesus came first; but then the Apostles and other missionaries travelled about preaching on what that meant, the 'theology' (though not in a narrowly academic sense) which could be derived from Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The epistles are that teaching written down in instructions to various groups. Romans in particular is a kind of theological primer. The teaching would probably be illustrated, especially by eyewitnesses like Peter, with stories from Jesus' life and quotes of his actual words.

Then the gospels were written to preserve the eyewitness evidence of Jesus' actual words and examples of his miracles and other deeds. As they're written to supplement the already well-known epistles, they don't spend a lot of time going over again the stuff in the epistles, but try to add to it.

Also I suspect much of what we find in the epistles comes in fact from Jesus, but from the key period the gospels don't cover in detail, that is between the resurrection and the Ascension, when over forty days Jesus "...appear(ed) to (the disciples) and discuss(ed) the interests of the kingdom of God" (Acts 1; 3). An example of this is also mentioned in Luke, when the risen Jesus meets two disciples on the Emmaus road and "starting from Moses and through all the prophets, He explained to them in all the Scriptures what referred to himself".

That intense period of instruction effectively gave the Apostles a structure or framework to link together everything Jesus had taught and done, and explaining the death and resurrection in ways difficult before the event. The epistles contain that kind of exposition about the meaning of Jesus. The gospels then 'flesh out' that framework with the examples from Jesus' life.

Gospels and epistles are not contradictory but complement one another, and we should use both together.

This is quite a fascinating reflection Steve. Thank you. Its not one I've heard before.

I think my main disagreement would be the suggestion that the Gospels are not theological expositions about the meaning of Jesus (as Baptist Trainfan suggests above).

I also think there's a chronological problem. While many of the epistles were certainly earlier than the gospels (primarily Paul's) they were written to specific communities so it's hard to know whether they would have been circulated widely before the Gospels were written.

So to say the Gospels were written to supplement the Epistles is not really a claim that I think will historically wash.

As for the Epistles coming directly from Jesus via the apostles during the period between the resurrection and ascension, the majority of the epistles are Pauline and he never met Jesus.



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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:


Further in our exegesis we filter the epistles (and the OT) through the gospels rather than the other way around. In particular through the Gospel of John.


The Gospel of John hey? That I didn't know. I think Anglicans primarily filter through the synoptics (except during High Seasons). The difference might be quite interesting to see.

Is there anything obvious you can think of in terms of filtering things through John vs via the synoptics? #justcurious



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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
by Evensong;
quote:
So to say the Gospels were written to supplement the Epistles is not really a claim that I think will historically wash.

As for the Epistles coming directly from Jesus via the apostles during the period between the resurrection and ascension, the majority of the epistles are Pauline and he never met Jesus.

Sorry, I perhaps wasn't quite clear enough....

As I see it, the Apostolic preaching would be about an essentially theological understanding of what Jesus had done/achieved, illustrated by examples of Jesus' life and teaching. The epistles reflect that way of going about things. In later compiling written gospels, it was less necessary to explain the 'theology' and more important to include as much as possible of Jesus' life and day-by-day teaching. The gospels didn't explicitly supplement the epistles as such; but they supplemented widespread 'teaching explaining Jesus' of the kind also recorded in those epistles.

Yes I know Paul didn't meet Jesus during Jesus' life and before his ascension - though

a) he was also far from ignorant of Jesus' life and teaching. And
b)he did in fact meet Jesus on the road to Damascus - and I assume Jesus knew what he was doing dragging this Pharisaic scholar into the apostolic team....

My point is that much of what we find in the epistles probably derives from that period of intense explanation and connecting things up when the risen Jesus met with the disciples to equip them for their mission. It is a different kind of material to the gospels, but in my opinion no less directly from Jesus than the pre-resurrection material on which the gospels concentrate.

Paul combines that material with his academic understanding from his pre-Christian life, which made him perhaps uniquely able to bridge the gap from a Jewish Messianism to a global faith for all. He gives a unique perspective to the way Jesus fulfilled the OT and also how that works for Gentiles. But the Pauline epistles are also in that area of 'explaining Jesus' which the gospels did not need to repeat when presenting the life and teaching of Jesus.



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Mamacita

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:


Further in our exegesis we filter the epistles (and the OT) through the gospels rather than the other way around. In particular through the Gospel of John.


The Gospel of John hey? That I didn't know. I think Anglicans primarily filter through the synoptics (except during High Seasons). The difference might be quite interesting to see.

Is there anything obvious you can think of in terms of filtering things through John vs via the synoptics? #justcurious

Not at this early hour. Mumble mumble John 1 and the Logos; mumble mumble John 6 and the bread of life; mumble mumble the (interminable) Last Supper discourse and the role of the apostles and later their successors the bishops.


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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
As I see it, the Apostolic preaching would be about an essentially theological understanding of what Jesus had done/achieved, illustrated by examples of Jesus' life and teaching.

I'm not sure we have enough information to make that conclusion (or, conversely any other conclusion).

Acts gives us a few examples of apostolic preaching. But, the nature of the record suggests that there are recorded because they were significant and specific, and quite possibly not representative of the normal practice of the apostles. Generally, Acts simply says they "preached the word" or "the gospel of Jesus Christ".

Early in Acts what is recorded usually starts with something like "you know about Jesus, what he did and said, how he was put to death. We are witnesses that God raised him from the dead". Later on the message doesn't really change, but it appears that the message includes more about what Jesus said and did, for example in Acts 13 Paul includes John the Baptist in his account in a way reminiscent of the opening of the ministry of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, presumably the further from Judea the apostles go the less well known the stories of Jesus are. On the Areopagus Paul starts his message in a different way, but still ends up talking about Jesus crucified and raised. It looks to me like the preaching of the apostles was very much centred around the story of Jesus - what He said and did, how He was sentenced to death though He had done no wrong, how God raised Him from the dead, and in Jewish settings particularly linking that to the prophets of the Old Testament. At least in what we might term evangelistic settings - we have even less information on what the apostles taught to those who had already become Christians.

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