Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Is it Prideful to Claim the Book of Judith has Historical Errors?

Originally posted on the aomin blog, 11/17/2008

Back in 2004 I attended Dr. White's debate with Catholic apologist Gary Michuta on the Apocrypha. The cross-examination period was the key moment in determining whose position actually made the most sense of the historical facts. One of the questions Dr. White asked Mr. Michuta was about the historical accuracy of the book of Judith. Judith claims Nebuchadnezzar reigned from Nineveh (Judith asserts Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Assyria, ruling from Nineveh). The problem Catholic apologists face is that the historical and Biblical evidence does not bear these claims out. Nebuchadnezzar was actually the king of Babylon, and did not rule from Nineveh.

Here is a brief MP3 clip of the actual question and answer from the 2004 debate. In Mr. Michuta's response, he assumes Judith is scripture, and appeals to problems of Biblical inerrancy as an answer. That is, non-Christian scholars have attempted numerous times to indict the Bible of an historical error, only to eat their words when either archaeology or textual analysis resolve the alleged error or contradiction. Michuta assumes the same is the case with the historical claims of Judith. He concludes that he isn't going to answer the question, because in actuality, it presupposes a non-Christian worldview. He treats Judith as an historical work. Since it is Scripture, any errors must be alleged errors.

In his book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, Michuta reaffirms this method of response: "The best way out of this dilemma is not to enter it at all. Biblical inerrancy is not based upon our feeble abilities to solve every problem" (p. 322). Michuta further states, "The problem at the heart of this line of argumentation [by Protestants pointing out historical errors in the Apocrypha] is one of pride. It places the intellect in the role of judge, allowing it to sit in judgment upon the Word of God" (p. 323).

But it appears it's not only Protestants who struggle with pridefully using their intellect to judge the Bible. Those in charge of The Jerusalem Bible likewise struggle with this pride. They state, "...[H]istorically he was king of Babylon and was never styled 'king of Assyria,' and Nineveh was not his capital city." I hear the complaint already, "The Jerusalem Bible was produced by liberal Catholics." Okay, well the New Catholic Answer Bible likewise seems to have a pride problem. It states, "Any attempt to read the book directly against the backdrop of Jewish history in relation to the empires of the ancient world is bound to fail. The story was written as a pious reflection on the meaning of the yearly Passover observance" (p. 442).

But the most fascinating example of pride comes from a very recent broadcast of Catholic Answers Live. Tim Staples was asked directly about the historical errors in the book of Judith. Tim answers by stating Judith is not strict history, but is rather an extended parable, and he reluctantly uses the phrase "didactic fiction." Here is the brief MP3 clip of the actual question and answer from Catholic Answers Live. I've never done a study on this, but I wonder how many Biblical "extended parables" actually contain seemingly historical facts that are in error, but get passed over because they were not meant to be correct facts. Staples position implies that if Judith is actual history, it is indeed in error.

Tim goes on to further assert that the book of Jonah is not a historical book, but is rather a "timeless story." Ironically, Michuta chastises higher critics in his book for attacking Jonah and the rest of Scripture with charges of historical error (p.323), and by doing so I assume he considers Jonah a historical and prophetic narrative. (As an ironic aside, one of the popular Catholic charges against Luther is that he denied Jonah as history).

Michuta concludes someone with humility would simply accept the canon of Scripture as given to the Roman Catholic Church:

"It takes humility to accept the canon of Scripture as given to the Church. But once we have made such an act all the glories of the Bible open up to us. we may humbly submit our intellect to the text, sitting at the Master's feet like little children, knowing that even if the power to solve all difficulties is beyond us, there is nevertheless a solution. To do otherwise would be not only anti-Protestant (since it violates Sola Scriptura), but anti-Catholic and anti-Christian as well" (p. 323).

Catholic Answers often promotes Mr. Michuta's book as the definitive source for information about the Apocrypha. I wonder if Gary Michuta considers Tim Staples "anti-Catholic" for his position on Judith and Jonah? That would be a "Catholic Answer" I'd like to have. He probably would not. I'd probably get an answer that states since Staples doesn't treat the book as history, he doesn't fall under the condemnation of "pride."

Rome's authoritative statements on issues like this are rare, if not completely absent, so a Catholic apologist is able to affirm what another Catholic apologist denies. Where is Rome's infallible help on this issue? Is the book history or an extended parable? I think before any Catholic apologist ventures into an Apocrypha debate or offers a "Catholic Answer," perhaps they should at least figure out which genre the book is before they decide what is really prideful or humble.

15 comments:

Ryan said...

"He concludes that he isn't going to answer the question, because in actuality, it presupposes a non-Christian worldview."

So why did Michuta even debate White? By this reasoning, Protestants don't have to answer any Romanist Socratic questions since such presuppose a non-Christian worldview.

EA said...

"He concludes that he isn't going to answer the question, because in actuality, it presupposes a non-Christian worldview."

Michuta laments the tactic of White as being the same as atheists. Yet this is exactly the ground upon which we have to engage non-believers.

What's Michuta's solution to atheist questions and objections? Does he tell them to submit to Rome in order to believe? Or is he more patient with questions when the prospect of luring someone across the Tiber is more likely?

"The problem at the heart of this line of argumentation [by Protestants pointing out historical errors in the Apocrypha] is one of pride. It places the intellect in the role of judge, allowing it to sit in judgment upon the Word of God"

True to form, Michuta levels a charge of prideful unfaithfulness on the part of Protestants when his church's bashful Magesterium demurs to address factual discrepancies in its approved texts. No explanation or exegesis is provided, the shmoo in the pew is too benighted to appreciate the finer points of Biblical Archaeology and textual criticism. The hierarchy can't or won't explain how these details can be reconciled. "Shut up and believe", they say.

PeaceByJesus said...

Again the issue is one of authority. We ourselves need to seek to spiritually manifest more of this, in preaching from the supreme authority of the Scriptures (established as such by Divine power, not man decree), while Rome declares she is The Authority, which is really based upon her authoritatively saying she is, when speaking as the authority.

By as the Supreme Mag. has infallibly defined very little of Scripture, and no one knows how many times she has spoken infallibly, and even then her hearers engage in fallible interpretation, then such approval as the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur were, and still should be, important. But when we invoke stamped material that contradicts RC apologists, we are told that this means nothing.

I see where you commented some on this James in years past, here and here, but it is relevant in this case now, as i assume the Jerusalem Bible has the stamps, and i know the official RC Bible for America, the NAB, does, and which is where the CA Bible obtained at least some if its notes, including the disclaimer about Judith you quoted in your article.

I have summed up the liberal NAB commentary here, and conservative RCs agree it is liberal, but blame it on incorporating Protestants in the translation committee.

The problem here is that Rome's scholarship seems overall liberal itself, while even if ecumenism was the cause of NAB liberalism, which is very questionable, this "infiltration" impugns upon the proclaimed protection from error by Roman officialdom, whatever that precisely means for the common man.

PeaceByJesus said...

The hierarchy can't or won't explain how these details can be reconciled. "Shut up and believe", they say.

They leave that up to lay apologist, but which as sungenis said, "As far as the Church is concerned, I’m just another peon with an opinion.“

And as regards "Shut up and believe", Pope Pius X stated,

It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors. VEHEMENTER NOS, an Encyclical of Pope Pius X promulgated on February 11, 1906.

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11)

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

Lvka said...

Is it Prideful to Claim the Book of Judith has Historical Errors?


Not necessarily, but maybe this article might prove helpful...

PeaceByJesus said...

Interesting article Lvka, and James once said something to the effect that in arguing a point against something you should examine whether your argument can be used against your position.

Although i think there is a difference btwn the type of errors, i have often argued that the way the Divine writings became progressively established as being such was by their manifest heavenly qualities and effects, often with other supernatural attestation, and conflation (of doctrine) with what had prior been established (God confirmed the faith of men like Abraham and Moses, who wrote of it, etc.).

As regards transmission, we are stewards of the manifold grace of God, and while we fail, God has ways of ensuring His truth will get thru, come revisionists naturalists, etc. And likewise He preserves the relative remnant called His church.

However, As regards Rome and errors, while SS types sometimes invoke copyists errors for problematic texts, which are a very small percentage of Scripture (and usually have to do with numbers), i think i read of statements by Rome in the past indicate that that she did not only hold to the originals only being inerrant, but the Vulgate as well?

And unlike her modern liberal scholarship, popes upheld Biblical inerrancy, such as in commending Jerome:

13. Jerome further shows that the immunity of Scripture from error or deception is necessarily bound up with its Divine inspiration and supreme authority.

15. Holding principles like these, Jerome was compelled, when he discovered apparent discrepancies in the Sacred Books, to use every endeavor to unravel the difficulty. If he felt that he had not satisfactorily settled the problem, he would return to it again and again, not always, indeed, with the happiest results.

Here he is in full agreement with Augustine, who wrote to Jerome that to the Sacred Books alone had he been wont to accord such honor and reverence as firmly to believe that none of their writers had ever fallen into any error; and that consequently, if in the said books he came across anything which seemed to run counter to the truth, he did not think that that was really the case, but either that his copy was defective or that the translator had made a mistake, or again, that he himself had failed to understand

25. Thus St. Jerome is in complete agreement with St. Augustine, who sums up the general belief of Christian antiquity when he says:
Holy Scripture is invested with supreme authority by reason of its sure and momentous teachings regarding the faith. — Pope Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus, Encyclical of Pope benedict XV, on St. Jerome, September 15, 1920

In the light of this, RCs would have to relegate the errors of Judith to copyist errors.

In addition to this Lvka, your promotion of homosexuality (Spiritual Struggle link at your blog) is a manifest doctrinal and moral error, and arguments for it typically negate the authority of the very source they seek to use.

But there is room at the cross for all of us who come to Christ in faith, contrite and repentant.

Lvka said...

I'm not "promoting homosexuality", dude... but I do have, however, a VERY wicked sense of humor... :-)

Lvka said...

You see, PBJ, unlike God Almighty, who's divinely-revealed Scripture are all so super-duper easy to interpret, that you don't need either Priests or Tradition to aid you in the process, the meaning of my blog-posts and videos is so inscrutably deep to the eyes of the untrained laity, that only a *(s)elect* few can truly penetrate its hidden mystery :)

PeaceByJesus said...

I'm not "promoting homosexuality", dude... but I do have, however, a VERY wicked sense of humor... :-)

So videos of lesbians “The Morning After” and such like is not promoting homosexuality?

the meaning of my blog-posts and videos is so inscrutably deep to the eyes of the untrained laity, that only a *(s)elect* few can truly penetrate its hidden mystery

A gnostic Catholic channeling tradition too boot!

You do have a sense of humor though.

Lvka said...

So videos of lesbians “The Morning After” and such like is not promoting homosexuality?


Not any more than this video is supposed to "promote atheism", or this article is supposed to "promote Protestants" (or some other such nonsense)...

Seriously, man, if you don't even get me, how on earth are you ever gonna get God's Word? :-) Do I "move in mysterious ways", or does God? And yet, you pretend to understand Him...

To paraphrase 1 John 4:20, If a man say: "I understand God", but doesn't even comprehend his brother, he is a liar: for he that understandeth not his brother whom he can see, how can he comprehend God, Whom he cannot see?

Lvka said...

Look... I know you Reformed guys employ a certain kind of exegesis (the kind that seems to liken more that of the Pharisees than that of the Holy Apostles and their early Christian followers), but I personally would seriously recommend not taking it to my blog in order to read my posts through it: It'd only prove to be counter-productive... :-)

PeaceByJesus said...

Lvka, your attempt to explain away your promotion of confusion is not helped by comparing yourself with God, who does not give an uncertain sound as to celebrating homosexual relationships.

If you are not, then you need to explain how your celebratory videos of such do not, but if you want to cling to ambiguity, then do not complain about judgments on your appearance of evil.

As for taking it to your blog, you did that when you signed in a blogger profile in which you list your "spiritual struggle" venue with its lesbian light content such as "And God Said: It's Not Good That Man Should Be Alone..."

So what exactly is your belief on homosexual relationships, doctrinally speaking. And be assured i see us all as sinners, and that the wrangling of scripture by pro homosexual polemicists in seeking to neutralize or enlist the Bible is the major issue. Thanks

Lvka said...

but if you want to cling to ambiguity

Of course I do... :-) I'm quite a little brainosexual myself, actually... that is, I like to play around with people's minds... It doesn't bother me at all, not even a bit: quite the contrary! Ambiguity is my middle name: why do you think I called my first blog 'The Mystificator' ? :-) [But since you asked me directly, I'm not gonna lie to you, since that would be no fun...]


God, who does not give an uncertain sound as to celebrating homosexual relationships

Of course He doesn't...

Misinterpreting Scripture when it comes to this topic is NOT among your doctrinal errors...


So what exactly is your belief on homosexual relationships, doctrinally speaking.

The same as that of the Orthodox Church: that it's a sin.


comparing yourself with God

Comparatively speaking, I am incomparably or infinitely lesser than God: yet you don't even get me... while at the same time believing you understand God. [If you don't like my comparison, take it up with Saint John].
___________________________________

And now to answer the questions you didn't ask, and which are probably the MOST important: :-)

What seems to baffle and bewilder you about [some of] my posts is that they are comment-less. I simply put two or more things side by side, and that's it. In these cases, it must be kept in mind that I'm Orthodox (as my blog-title unambiguously states). Also, even my actual apologetic posts are in many cases simply a comment-less association of "quotations" (whether as text, image, video, or audio is unimporstant). I almost always merely present, seldom actually write something, and when I do, it's almost always a single short sentence. In many cases I'm either ironic, sarcastic, or facetious, not to mention a great lover of paradoxes and oxymorons. I guess you can't tell whether something on my blog is "mine", or merely a "quotation" (meant either to be accepted, OR criticized). Of course, the key is simple: it must be remembered that I'm an Orthodox.

The reason behind my homosexuality-related list of articles is simply the fact that I find the topic to be egregiously funny. The same goes for the topic of nihilism. The two aspects simultaneously coexist in my mind: their humor, and their tragedy. Another reason is that I also find taking things wildly out of context to be equally outrageously funny (almost all of my videos share this common characteristic). (Make NO mistake about it: NONE of the characters from my videos that I subversively insinuated as supposedly being gay actually are as such: except for the brunette Latina girl). On the more serious side, I wanted the reader to co-suffer with the characters and their tragic fate; to share in their pain of being doomed to not feel ANY romantic fulfilment in this life, or the next, on both sides of eternity. Christ did not redeem mankind by sitting on a fluffy cloud and dispassionately and unaffectedly telling us what to do: He became like one of us, He shared in our weaknesses and temptations [Hebr. 4:15], He shared in our pain and suffering on the Cross of Calvary: merely telling people right from wrong, though neccesary, is NOT sufficient: we must also share (at least on a simulated mental level) in their pain and weakness, and co-suffer with them. That's what I attempted to do with my posts. Neither telling homosexuals that it's ok to be gay, NOR telling them coldly, from afar, what their fate will be like, is a good thing (We MUST put themselves in their position, and from THAT place of hurt and sorrow, feeling their pain and suffering, we must address them: and this goes, of course, for ANY kind of passion or sin, NOT just homosexuality: I take this to be obvious).

Lvka said...

Here's something to go with the last paraghraph of my previous comment..

PeaceByJesus said...

Thank you for making known your parable, and be assured i do have compassion, for if i want to know what or how someone can do something, i only need to look at my own flesh in the light of its war against God (indeed, it cannot be subject to the law of God) and which either has done that same as others or could (though some things are so extreme we may not see how), but for the grace of God.

But impenitently defending and promote something such as pro homosexual activist do for that practice, esp. in controverting the Scriptures, calls for confrontation, with grace, seasoned with salt, which is what i attempted to do here by God's grace.

If heroin use were being promoted as normal and healthy then it likewise would invite reproof, but my motivation was due to the blatant wresting of Scripture that such apologists engage in.

The tactics of the activist movement works to make showing the compassion side more difficult, and is designed to place Christians and any who oppose it on the defensive.

But speaking the truth in love, let us speak the truth as sinner saved by grace to become progressively holy, and i have much to go.