Tuesday, August 31, 2010

David Waltz fails to consider what is being studied, and thus makes a false analogy

David Waltz continues to press his charge of "inconsistency" against me by making this dubious analogy:

William Dever is to Old Testament what Lampe is to – what? What is it that Lampe studies again? David fails to complete the connection. Nevertheless he presses ahead from this posture of unsupported innuendo:
The trilogy of books pictured above from the pen of William G. Dever represents a solid consensus of recent critical scholarship that works under the premise that archeology and secular history must take precedence over Old Testament Biblical historicity. The results undermine much of the Old Testament’s historical and theological witness. Dever, and the consensus of critical OT archeologists and historians, like Lampe (as John pointed out above), “have seemingly examined each and every scrap of paper from that era, each and every inscription, each and every available public record, in order to come to his conclusions”, and his conclusions include: a pre-monarchy group of “Israelites” is a myth; an exodus of a large group “Israelites” out of Egypt to Palestine is a myth; Moses is not an historical figure; monotheism did not exist until after the Babylonian captivity; the pre-monotheistic Yahweh had a wife (and possibly wives—Mormon apologists love this kind of stuff). Once again, this is what happens when a scholar begins with the premise that archeology and secular history must take precedence over Biblical historicity.
This analogy again shows me that David Waltz really isn’t thinking in terms of specific applications here; rather, he is making generalizations (“reliance on archaeology”) without really considering the granular details of what’s being studied. And it’s in his failure to consider the details that his analogy breaks down.

In this post I'll place Dever's work into the context of Old Testament studies, and provide a brief comparison with Lampe's work within the time frame that he studies. And in a future post, I'll deal with some David's other contentions from this and previous posts.

A crash course on contemporary Old Testament studies
Jeffrey Niehaus (Ph.D., Harvard University and Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), in his Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008), notes that “there are three possible sources of parallels between the Old Testament (and the Bible as a whole) and the ancient Near East: The mutual recollection of major events that actually did occur (e.g., Creation, the Flood), the use by biblical writers of literary and legal forms already current in the ancient Near East (e.g., poetic parallelism with its stock word pairs, the second millennium B.C. International treaty/covenant form), and finally, the activity of deceiving, demonic spirits (producing parallels between supposed acts of pagan gods and the acts of God as they appear in the Bible (177).

Niehaus notes the irony that, in our day, theology is often practiced more as an academic discipline than a spiritual one. It is the case that Dever himself admits “I am not even a theist,” clarifying his beliefs: “My view all along—and especially in the recent books—is first that the biblical narratives are indeed “stories,” often fictional and almost always propagandistic, but that here and there they contain some valid historical information.”

Niehaus puts this posture into perspective:
There are almost always two ways of looking at the data. The first way is to consider them to be part of an ancient Near Eastern worldview. In that case, the biblical authors are just couching things in terms familiar to them from their contemporary thought world. The second way is to consider the parallels as rooted in truth: revealed truth in the Old Testament and the Bible, and distorted truth in the ancient Near East. We prefer the second approach because it is consistent with the claims made by the biblical writers and speakers themselves (177-178).
Thus Waltke can point to the types of “discoveries” and “consensus” that Dever is talking about, and put them into perspective:
The common idea of an evolutionary development of biblical monotheism emerging from within Canaanite religion contradicts the Bible’s own claim for the historical otherness of the true faith, including a monotheism that goes back to the patriarchs. The evolutionary model of the religion of Yahweh in the last decades has found support in recently discovered inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (in northeast Sinai, 800 BC) and from Khirbet el-Qom (near Hebron, 725 BC), which show that Yahweh had Asherah, a Canaanite fertility deity, as his consort. … On this and other evidence, the writings of even some senior scholars in the field reflect a growing consensus that true monotheism emerged only late in Israel’s history, probably in the exile as represented in Isaiah 40-55. … But this inscriptional evidence can better be interpreted to validate the biblical testimony that Israel constantly whored after the Canaanite fertility gods (cf. Deut. 16:21-22). Professors of the history of Israel’s religion who seek to topple the biblical account that Yahwistic monotheism reaches back to patriarchal times and to replace it with an evolutionary model developing from polytheism to monotheism do so with a broken reed of ambiguous textual and artifactual evidence (Waltke, An Old Testament Theology,Grand Rapids: Zondervan (2007).
This is an important distinction. So while both Lampe and Dever may appear similar methodically, to have “have seemingly examined each and every scrap of paper from that era, each and every inscription, each and every available public record, in order to come to his conclusions,” there is a vast difference between the worlds that they are studying, as well as a huge difference in the result of their work.

While Lampe relied on perhaps hundreds of inscriptions and thousands of primary source documents, and thus was able to reconstruct a remarkably complete and multi-faceted picture of the world he was studying, Dever and those like him are forced to work with “ambiguous” evidence and, because of the nature of Old Testament studies, they inevitably use their “evidence” in only one of two categories: that of either validating the Old Testament testimony, in which case their conclusions contradict the one reliable literary source that exists for that era (i.e., the Old Testament), or of coming to an opposite conclusion, which runs clearly counter to the literary testimony (i.e. the Old Testament).

There is another key difference. I’ll pick that up (and others) in another post.

9 comments:

Ken said...

Excellent beginning refutation of David's argument.

He actually seems to be open to Dever's atheistic and Evolutionary theories.

It seems to be adding in another side-track to the specific issues of

1. Lampe and early church history and Rome,

and

2. the difference between the "God-breathed" quality of the Scriptures
vs. the normative human only quality of history.

(both OT in the case of Dever and NT in the case of Lampe, since both are God-breathed, they automatically trump what the critical scholars say about the history in them); (God-breathed-ness vs. normative history are two different products in quality)

As to the normal, historical quality of history, in the case of Lampe, it is mostly about post-canonical history of the early church. (by post canonical, I mean after the 27 books were written, (48-70 or 96 AD), not after they were discerned and collected all under one "book cover".

John Bugay said...

Hey Ken -- It's good that you pointed out some of these other issues. I have a couple more posts (at least, Lord willing) intended to go in these directions.

Specifically, I'm going to address the two particular "errors" that Lampe seems to point out, and how these weigh on his Romans 16 argument. (It is actually better for him if, from an inerrancy standpoint, they don't exist; it could be said that he is simply being the good scholar by treating them as if they did exist).

And also, I'm going to tie that into the fact that Lampe barely at all relies on the New Testament for his conclusions, and also look at the comparison with the "Bauer thesis."

David Waltz said...

Hi John,

An interesting response to my new thread at AF; you begin with:

==David Waltz continues to press his charge of "inconsistency" against me …==

Me: Thank you for accurately representing what I actually wrote—I do not believe that you are “dishonest”, nor as the grandmaster of misrepresentation, Steve Hays, recently penned, that you are guilty of “hypocrisy”—I believe, once again, that you are sincere, yet inconsistent in your use of liberal, critical scholarship.

==William Dever is to Old Testament what Lampe is to – what? What is it that Lampe studies again? David fails to complete the connection.==

Me: My goodness, how many times do I have to repeat the common connection/element between OT/early history of Israel critical scholars and NT/early history of Christianity critical scholars; yet one more time, here is that common connection/element:

The premise/presuppostion that archeology and secular history must take precedence over Biblical historicity.

And Nick, raises another important point that is germane:

==When someone puts their stakes on one horse, they need to stick with that horse. One cannot selectively cite a scholar, especially if the scholar is liberal and you are conservative - this is precisely what the JWs are famous for (e.g. their work against the Trinity quotes from "authorities" like "The Paganism in our Christianity," which just so happens to also say the Bible is full of pagan and other errors, but this latter detail is ignored.)

This is why certain of the Early Church Fathers were venerated as Saints/Doctors, since their testimony was considered genuine and reliable guide for early Christianity. When one throws away this distinction, they've made secular historians their authority rather than a living testimony of Christians led by the Spirit.== (LINK).

Me: Should one be so quick to dismiss the early bishop/presbyter lists complied by faithful Christian apologists and historians? (E.g. Hegesippus, St. Irenaeus, Eusebius, et al.) in favor of archeology and secular history? Is archeology an ‘exact’ science? Is ancient history an ‘exact’ science? More importantly, do differing presuppositions significantly effect the conclusions that one arrives at via archeology and secular history?

Sorry John, presuppositions matter, they matter significantly. Lampe believes that “the phenomenon of fractionation” among the “house communities” (i.e. house churches) had serious consequences on theology: “In Rome of the second century we find evidence of breathtaking theological diversity”; that “‘orthodoxy’ was finally victorious over the many other tendencies has, in my opinion, also social-historical reasons”; “Behind ‘orthodoxy’ stand the mass of uneducated Christian folk…The victory of orthodoxy was thus also a ‘majority decision’”; “For the mass of Christian folk, for the ‘simplices’, the ‘economic (οικονομία) Trinity and the christological usage of the Logos concept were suspect; modalistic ideas were favored by them”.

Last night before going to bed, I conducted a bit of online research, finding other works of Lampe in English that reveal some very odd conceptions of his. For instance:

“The writer of Revelation nonchalantly ignored the hierarchical structures that had also emerged in the Christian congregation by the end of the first century [as witnessed by the Pastorals]. Prophecy was the only church office he wanted to acknowledge in the earthly Christian congregation (cf. 10:7; 11:18; 19:10; 22:6, 16).” (Peter Lampe, “Early Christian House Churches: A Constructivist Approach”, in Early Christian Families in Context, ed. David L. Balch. Carolyn Osiek, p. 82.)

Anyway, sincerely hope I have helped clarify my take on the matter.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello John,

I attempted to post my response to your opening post in the combox; the post appeared for a couple of minutes, but then vanished (seems Blogger technical problems are not being fixed).

Rather than contend with Blogger’s continuing anomalies, I am posting my response over at AF:

http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2010/08/john-bugays-latest-response.html


Grace and peace,

David

John Bugay said...

David, I got your response via email. Again, not sure what is happening. I'll post it up here when I get a chance.

John Bugay said...

David Waltz has left a new comment on the post "David Waltz fails to consider what is being studie...":

Hi John,

An interesting response to my new thread at AF; you begin with:

==David Waltz continues to press his charge of "inconsistency" against me …==

Me: Thank you for accurately representing what I actually wrote—I do not believe that you are “dishonest”, nor as the grandmaster of misrepresentation, Steve Hays, recently penned, that you are guilty of “hypocrisy”—I believe, once again, that you are sincere, yet inconsistent in your use of liberal, critical scholarship.

==William Dever is to Old Testament what Lampe is to – what? What is it that Lampe studies again? David fails to complete the connection.==

Me: My goodness, how many times do I have to repeat the common connection/element between OT/early history of Israel critical scholars and NT/early history of Christianity critical scholars; yet one more time, here is that common connection/element:

The premise/presuppostion that archeology and secular history must take precedence over Biblical historicity.

And Nick, raises another important point that is germane:

==When someone puts their stakes on one horse, they need to stick with that horse. One cannot selectively cite a scholar, especially if the scholar is liberal and you are conservative - this is precisely what the JWs are famous for (e.g. their work against the Trinity quotes from "authorities" like "The Paganism in our Christianity," which just so happens to also say the Bible is full of pagan and other errors, but this latter detail is ignored.)

This is why certain of the Early Church Fathers were venerated as Saints/Doctors, since their testimony was considered genuine and reliable guide for early Christianity. When one throws away this distinction, they've made secular historians their authority rather than a living testimony of Christians led by the Spirit.== (LINK).

Me: Should one be so quick to dismiss the early bishop/presbyter lists complied by faithful Christian apologists and historians? (E.g. Hegesippus, St. Irenaeus, Eusebius, et al.) in favor of archeology and secular history? Is archeology an ‘exact’ science? Is ancient history an ‘exact’ science? More importantly, do differing presuppositions significantly effect the conclusions that one arrives at via archeology and secular history?

Sorry John, presuppositions matter, they matter significantly. Lampe believes that “the phenomenon of fractionation” among the “house communities” (i.e. house churches) had serious consequences on theology: “In Rome of the second century we find evidence of breathtaking theological diversity”; that “‘orthodoxy’ was finally victorious over the many other tendencies has, in my opinion, also social-historical reasons”; “Behind ‘orthodoxy’ stand the mass of uneducated Christian folk…The victory of orthodoxy was thus also a ‘majority decision’”; “For the mass of Christian folk, for the ‘simplices’, the ‘economic (οικονομία) Trinity and the christological usage of the Logos concept were suspect; modalistic ideas were favored by them”.

Last night before going to bed, I conducted a bit of online research, finding other works of Lampe in English that reveal some very odd conceptions of his. For instance:

“The writer of Revelation nonchalantly ignored the hierarchical structures that had also emerged in the Christian congregation by the end of the first century [as witnessed by the Pastorals]. Prophecy was the only church office he wanted to acknowledge in the earthly Christian congregation (cf. 10:7; 11:18; 19:10; 22:6, 16).” (Peter Lampe, “Early Christian House Churches: A Constructivist Approach”, in Early Christian Families in Context, ed. David L. Balch. Carolyn Osiek, p. 82.)

Anyway, sincerely hope I have helped clarify my take on the matter.


Grace and peace,

David

natamllc said...

David,

over at Triablogue it is written:

Apparently Waltz can only keep one idea in his head. He thinks it’s hypocritical if we don’t treat every religion equally.

Is this the source by which you claim Steve Hays charges John Bugay with hypocrisy?

In your "Hi John" citation here, I read this:

Me: Thank you for accurately representing what I actually wrote—I do not believe that you are “dishonest”, nor as the grandmaster of misrepresentation, Steve Hays, recently penned, that you are guilty of “hypocrisy”—I believe, once again, that you are sincere, yet inconsistent in your use of liberal, critical scholarship.

Can you help me understand why it appears from both there is a contradiction about who is the hypocrite?

David Waltz said...

Hi natamllc,

You posted:

==David,

over at Triablogue it is written:

Apparently Waltz can only keep one idea in his head. He thinks it’s hypocritical if we don’t treat every religion equally.

Is this the source by which you claim Steve Hays charges John Bugay with hypocrisy?==

Me: NO. Ken in the combox of one of my AF threads provided the following link:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/08/last-waltz.html

In the opening paragraph we read:

==David Waltz, who is to religion what Solomon was to women, is charging John Bugay and James White with hypocrisy because they cite liberal scholars in opposition to Islam or Roman Catholicism, but reject liberal scholars in opposition to Scripture.==

Me: YET ONE MORE TIME: I do not believe, nor have I ever said that John Bugay has committed hypocrisy (and the same applies to James White in the context of my statement); inconsistent, yes; hypoctrical, no.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hypocrisy

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inconsistent

Steve Hay’s purposefully changed what I said; an all too common trait with the grandmaster of misrepresentation.

And BTW, I do not believe, nor expect, that anyone I have been dialoguing with should, “treat every religion equally”—that simply is not true.


Grace and peace,

David

natamllc said...

David

thank you for the information but,....?

Can you address the question I have raised?

I see that you say you do not find any hypocrisy in John.

Well, to surprise you, I do!

That may be what you are missing?

Anyone who has been touched by and filled with the Holy Spirit sees clearly their personal hypocrisy!

That is what is so amazing about the abundant Grace and Gift of Righteousness that comes solely from the Hand of God alone!

This is truly the bedrock of imputation!

Imputation walks on both sides of the street! It is a glorious doctrine because one has to see what Christ became so we can be imputed His Righteousness which is the sole Righteousness that gains us access through One Spirit to the Eternal Life and fount of God the Father, Christ the Lord and the precious Holy Spirit!