Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Hath God said?"

From the earliest days of human existence the enemy has enticed men and women away from their Creator by challenging His truthfulness. It is the serpent sowing the seeds of doubt and rebellion the mind of Eve by his insidious question, "Hath God said?" Today the challenge is still being issued. Sadly the challenge often comes from within the body of Christ.

In his book The Christ of the Prophets O. Palmer Robertson writes:

But immediately upon man's creation in innocency, the serpent introduced the first lie that contradicted the truth of God (Gen. 3:1, 4-5). From that point on, the voice of the speaking serpent resonated in the utterances of the false prophets.

If the intent of Satan is to oppose the purposes of God with respect to the redemption of his people, then it is understandable that he would seek to misrepresent the truth in a way that would contradict the revelation given through the Lord's prophets.

By this method he would strike at the root of the means by which God had determined to direct the faith and life of his people. (p. 92)

Of course all of this is moot if Adam and Eve, the garden, and the fall are nothing more than Ancient Near Eastern myths erroneously included in an already error filled Bible.


Belle Geary said...

Man’s heart is evil, and we are very quick to want to believe things that feed our selfish desires. If you look at the time when Satan tried to tempt Christ, what he used was a perversion of God’s word. We as Christians’ in America need leaders who will steadfastly stick to God’s word no matter what the political or social currents are at the time. Too many “Christian” leaders get side tracked by the worries of the world, attendance, finances, popularity. Thanks for standing strong Todd.

Dave Rogel said...

"Of course all of this is moot if Adam and Eve, the garden, and the fall are nothing more than Ancient Near Eastern myths erroneously included in an already error filled Bible."

Why moot? Healthy foods are chock-full of vitamins and minerals, but that does not mean that a bowl of fresh spinach is the same thing as a vitamin A pill. And the fact that the spinach contains things other than pure, chemically-isolated vitamins does not make it unhealthy. On the contrary, it makes it delicious and enjoyable.

The difference between the Bible and other ancient near-east writings is not that one is a vitamin pill and the other is a brick. They are both food (to continue the analogy), but one is vitamin-rich and nutritious and the other is junk food. They both contain water, plant fibers, etc. (signature traits of ANE writing and reflections of a pre-scientific understanding of astronomy, etc.), but one has the nutrients (truth) and one just contains grease (empty myth).

How does a book written in xxxxBC in the ANE lose its authority and truth because it reads like a book written in xxxxBC in the ANE? In fact, how on earth would the people of that time been able to understand it if it wasn't written in a way that reflected their world-view, at least to some extent?

The Enns/Sparks line of reasoning to which this post (and many others of late) seems to be a reaction does not seek to destroy the legitimacy of the Bible, but rather to acknowledge (as is the responsibility of anyone who values objective truth, however difficult it might be at times) that humans HAVE discovered ANE literature that bears many similarities to parts of the Bible. That does NOT mean that the Bible is just another uninspired book of myths. It DOES mean that we have an obligation to recognize that perhaps these similarities represent not the truth of the Bible, but the frame on which the truth of the Bible is hung--the water and roughage in which the vitamins and minerals are immersed, if you will.

The fact that attempts to reconcile recent archaeological discoveries with our existing understanding of the Bible are met with such hostility is bizarre, when most of these attemps are being undertaken not out of a desire to disprove the Bible, but out of a love for objective truth (such as actual, tangible documents and literature from the ANE) and a faith in Christianity that is strong enough to put the Bible under the microscope, believing without fail that it will survive the scrutiny and be all the more credible for it--rather that blocking such scrutiny, out of what can only be an unacklowledged fear that it will not survive.

Todd Pruitt said...


Good to hear from you.

Of course there are similarities in certain O.T. narratives with some ANE literature. Where I disagree with biblical errantists is the assumption that the divinely inspired writers borrowed from ANE myths in order to tell a good story.

Why do those similarities mean that the divinely inspired writers were dependent upon the pagan myths? I am convinced that much of the historical critical and form critical scholars have greatly over played their hand.

Harley A. said...

Exactly ! The fatal flaw is the assumption that the similarity in the Biblical accounts and the ANE texts is due to Biblical authors borrowing from these texts. Where are the footnotes? And isn’t it interesting that you never hear that maybe a non-Biblical writer borrowed from Moses. And it does turn the Bible into a mixture of myth and truth – and all of creation has been waiting for the past few generations of scholarship to sort the truth from the myth. The problem is that we now have many versions of which bits are true and which aren’t. So now, I need the next generation of scholars to critically read all of the criticism and further refine, I suppose ? It simply flies in the face of credulity...

Dave Rogel said...


The argument (if I understand it correctly) is not that the OT texts were "dependent upon" (Todd) or "borrowing from" (Harley) other ANE texts--from Text A to Text B--but that they both took some of their basic assumptions (their cosmology, for example) from the prevailing beliefs of that time and geographical area. That's quite different from the OT writers specifically looking to pagan myths for inspration, which I do not think anyone is suggesting they did. Furthermore (borrowing from Enns' "Incarnational Analogy"), the notion that there is a human element to the Scriptures should not be scandalous to Christians who accept the mystery of Christ, who was 100% man and 100% God. It is questionable (heretical, in fact) to challenge this duality with regard to the person of Christ, but the when same attributes are applied to the spoken word of God, weapons are drawn. The Father revealed himself through Christ not in the form of a unique, never-before-seen organism with golden wings and eyes of fire, but as common man. On a hot summer day, Jesus probably smelled bad. He sweated. He was not a frozen statue with a halo, holding one finger to the sky forever speaking platitudes. He was quite human, and by the logic used in the errancy debate, Jesus' human-ness would spoil it all and make Him no loger God. But that's not the case. Jesus was BOTH. And we have now been blessed with a connection to God that would not been possible had He not been "one of us".

That said, to jump from saying that the Word (uppercase) is fully human and fully God to saying the same of the word (lowercase) shouldn't seem so odd. Had God reached out and spoken to Israel in a scientifically-accurate manner, either a.) they would have dismissed as a lunatic the prophet through whom God had spoken, or b.) they would have believed the words, but been distracted by the then-foreign concepts of correct astronomy and may have missed the POINT of it all. The POINT of the creation story in Genesis is not to explain how the stars and planets work, but who made them and why--that God is sovereign and with words from His mouth He created all that is. That message is not compromised by the fact that there are scientifically-questionable details which reflect the world-view of the time. To have gone into a long corrective explanation to the Israelites about gravity, nuclear fusion, etc. would have only confused them. And it's not the point. God knew what He was doing, and He made it clear to Israel that He was God, the creator of the universe. That's the point. And "human errancy" does not detract from God's perfect message in the Bible.

Todd Pruitt said...


Actually some of those in the current debate DO say that the biblical writers borrowed from ANE myths.

As has been pointed out very well by such scholars as Greg Beale, John Frame, Don Carson, Lane Tipton, Richard Gaffin, etc Enns' incarnational analogy applied to Scripture is problematic. For one thing it is not an analogy that Scripture makes. Incarnation is unique to Jesus, the living Word of God.

It is one thing to say that Jesus sweat when it was hot and experienced physical pain. It is heresy to suggest that Jesus not truly man. It is quite another thing however to suggest that Jesus' humanity led him to err or sin. But Enns uses the incarnational analogy not simply to suggest that man was involved in the process but to suggest that Scripture actually errs.

The biblical writers never claim that God's Word is fully God and fully man. Quite the contrary in fact. The Bible tells us that no prophecy is from man but came from God. The Bible tells us that the biblical writers were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The incarnational analogy is simply too flawed to serve as a proper analogy for Scripture.

Clearly the biblical texts reflect the style, personal history, and perspective of the human writers. No evangelical scholar disputes this in the slightest. The difference is that some tease out that reality to mean that those writings must therefore contain error. The traditional orthodox understanding that corresponds to the Bible's own self attestation is that the miracle of inspiration carried those men along so that what they wrote was what God guided them to write.

Now, Dr. Enns says that the writers did indeed write what God guided them write (other O.T. scholars deny this). Enns however claims that some of what God inspired the writers to record was error such as what we find in the pre-monarchical writings.

Part of the problem is that Dr. Enns does not interact with the mountain of evangelical scholarship that deals quite well, and in my mind quite convincingly with those supposed problems.