Accommodation: God's Word in Human Words (Biblical Criticism and Inerrancy)

So I am reading God’s Word in Human Words by Kenton Sparks as it was mentioned by @Christy in another thread. I am hoping it doesn’t revert to what I consider “typical evangelical apologetics” when it comes to Biblical criticism but I am a few sections in and so far it is showing a lot of promise. He states there is a growing movement within evangelical circles in the direction of accommodation.

The introduction starts poignantly with the Church’s well known reticence to let go of geocentric ideology. We all know the story of Galileo who was convicted of heresy, sentenced to imprisonment and remained under house arrest until he died. This is a classic example where the external (in this case scientific) evidence was clearly pointing in one direction but the Church refused to admit it, instead relying on its interpretation of the Bible.

The issue from the perspective of Biblical literalists in a pre-scientific time is understandable. The earth itself does not appear to move. Not only this, but what they perceived as the inerrant and infallible word of God also taught this as you can see in 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, 96:10, 104:5 and Isaiah 45:18. As these verses show us, the earth was deemed fixed and immovable. Even in Joshua we see phenomenological language where the sun stood still. In actuality, we know it is the earth’s rotation that causes a daily sunrise and sunset. The sun does move. Well, it spirals around the milky way galaxy but this has nothing to do with the sun’s appearance in the sky for we, along with the rest of the solar system, move with the sun. So strongly was it thought the Bible and common sense teaches this that John Calvin, as he mocked the absurdity of their view, could claim that people disputing the geocentric view of things had the spirit of bitterness, were deranged, had a monstrous nature, they argue out of pure malice and were possessed by the devil.[1]

Starting with Galileo sets up Sparks segue into the issue of contemporary Biblical criticism, where many in the evangelical community strongly resist some of its most basic claims. He points out six commonly known points of interest where conservative interpretation and biblical criticism clash.

1) The Pentateuch: Conservatives belive Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Pentateuch well over 3,000 years ago and it presents accurate historical accurate narratives. Scholars believe it containes had multiple authors, was written hundreds of years after Moses is reputed to have lived, has myths, legends and a host of traditional stories.

2) Authorship of Isaiah: Conservative believe Isaiah was written in the 8th century by Isaiah whereas scholars contend it was written by several authors (prophets) over a few hundred years.

3) Authorship of Daniel: Conservatives attribute the book to Daniel (6th century BC) whereas scholars believe it to be pseudonymous, written by an unknown author(s) in the 2nd century BC.

4) The Four Gospels: Conservatives believe all four gospels are historical and their details compatible. Scholars think some of the material is not historical and they are four different portraits of Jesus that are not compatible in all details.

5) Pastoral Epistles: Conservatives believe Paul wrote all the NT epistles attributed to him, including Titus, and 1 &2 Timothy which collectively are known as the pastorals. Scholars believe they are pseudonymous works written in Paul’s name.

6) Revelation and the Parousia: Conservatives believe the second coming is set sometime in the future. Scholars believe it incorrectly predicts the second coming during the Roman period.

So my question is where do those of you subscribing to the accommodation of scripture sit on these 6 issues? Are they important or relevant? How far do you think accommodation actually goes? Are you just attributing it to pre-scientific and seemingly immoral comments in the Bible or the full monty? Do you consider any of these dealbreakers for inerrancy? What happens when accommodation enters the New Testament, the epistles and gospels? Personally, I think biblical scholars are correct on most if not all 6 of these points. A few I haven’t studied in enough detail to fully affirm or deny. I have yet to see fully where Sparks stands or how he fits inerrancy (if he does) but so far so good.

Sparks states that “historical criticism has often been a dangerous and destructive force in the life of the church” and fully affirms his evangelical nature as “committed fully to the Bible as God’s authoritative Word,” profoundly appreciates the evangelical commitment to inerrancy and declares for creedal Christianity. He wonders:

“If biblical criticism leads to false and destructive results, and if it is indeed as intellectually bankrupt as some theologians aver, then why have so many thoughtful believers entered university graduate programs with a vibrant devotion to God” only to emerge on the other side of their studies with a dead of failing faith, and with the firm conviction that historical criticism easy bests the traditional viewpoint? Do Christian graduate students easily succumb to the deceptive power of university professors? Are they really wayed to sacrifice their faith on the altar of academic respectability? Is hubris so endemic to academic inquiry that most graduate students – even Christian graduate students –arrogantly use critical scholarship to escape God’s claims on their lives? Perhaps. . . . Is it possible that the persuasive power of historical criticism rests especially in its correctness? Could it be that historical criticism—like the astronomy of Galileo—has been destructive not because it is false, but because the church has often misunderstood its implications?”

His overall goal for the work: “I would like to consider the possibility that historical criticism—in spite of its potential faults and negative import—might offer a relatively accurate portrait of Scripture that will be of theological value once the church correctly understands its insights.”



I’m glad you have posted this. I am 40% of the way through the book. It strikes me that as scholarship helped us with accepting that the Bible wasn’t intended as a modern text, it can be helpful in understanding it in many other ways. Also, Sparks shows that Lewis’ and others’ prejudice that higher criticism comes at the Bible from an entirely naturalistic presupposition is mistaken–reading the Bible in context does not presuppose miracles don’t exist. Finally, as I had to realize that scientists were honest with what they knew, this book has helped me realize that the vast majority of scholars are honest with the data. Sparks approaches criticism as Christian scientists approach evolution–with a goal to enrich, rather than destroy, faith.
It’s worth reminding myself that Sparks is Pete Enns’ current boss, I believe, in his Eastern University.
I look forward to more discussion. Thanks.


I agree. The scholars I read are usually very good, competent and balanced, despite being caricature by conservative apologists. Even Crossan gets a bad rep because of his affiliation with the Jesus seminar but he is actually a phenomenal scholar and you can get lost in his literary skills. I just disagree with him on a lot of source presuppositions so that throws off many other interpretive issues. The Catholic scholars I read hold no punches in Biblical criticism but they also want to enrich rather than destroy the faith. They believe in some of the miracle accounts and think others were created.

As far as miracles go, I don’t think one can historically reconstruct miracles so that is a problem area. History is about what is most probable and miracles, by definition, are the most improbable of all events. They really go beyond what history can reconstruct. I am not denying miracles. I only accept some miracles by Jesus because I have been saved by him and believe he is God’s Son. But if that were not the case, for me, the NT miracles would go straight into the trash bun with all other accounts of miracle workers from antiquity. So presuppositions about miracles certainly come into play, more so for some exegetes the others, but the apologetical claim that the results of historical criticism are built around a rejection of miracles is pure nonsense. Not to mention that many if those rejecting miracle claims will still try to explain where the miracle comes from and often do not espouse total fabrication.

I loved the quote that comes after Sparks concludes humans will never possess “incorrigible and indubitable” knowledge and that exegetes are “thoroughly shaped” by their communities:

"The two preceding points suggest a third. If we find ourselves satisfied with the quite adequate communication experiences in our everyday life, and if that discourse serves us tolerably well, then why should we expect or even demand—as many conservative evangelicals do—an inerrant Bible? One answer might be that God authored the Bible and that we simply expect more from God than from human beings: God does not err, therefore the Bible contains no errors. On one level, I believe that this reasoning is sound. Yet I do not believe that we can so easily overlook that God has chosen to speak to human audiences through human authors in everyday human language. It is therefore possible that God has selected to speak to human beings through adequate rather than inerrant words, and is it further possible that he did so because human beings are adequate rather than inerrant readers? Might is be the very height of divine wisdom, of inerrant wisdom, for God to speak to us from an adequate human horizon rather than from his divine, inerrant viewpoint? Before we presuppose what kind of discourse God must offer us, perhaps we should carefully consider the discourse itself to see what he has done in Scripture.” Pg 55



Well put. I think Dr Lamoureux @dol has read this, too. I look forward to discussion.

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I see this very clearly after making it through chapter 3 on Assyriology. I think this is a tremendous way to introduce historical criticism (“nothing other than reading a text in light of its context”) and demonstrates that critical scholars do not “approach the biblical text with more skepticism than other ancient texts” as commonly thought. They utilize the same methods and rationality most of us post-Englightenment thinkers applaud.

He goes through Gilgamesh and how scholars were able to use a later form to reconstruct information about its composition and history that later discoveries determined was correct. Then comparing and contrasting the Assyrian Annals and Babylonian Chronicles and how scholars view them differently. The Uruk Prophecy and how and why scholars consider it vaticinium ex eventu and so on. It really put the method of Biblical (historical) criticism on display by showing how carefully and unassumingly ancient scholars apply historical criticism to other texts outside the Bible. They are very sober in their treatment of these texts and are not out to get them. They simply want to understand them and reconstruct ancient history.

I don’t know how convincing many evangelicals will find it but I thought this tactic was brilliant. I think this chapter was solely about bridging a gap of mistrust between evangelicals and the historical-critical method . As he wrote at the end of the chapter, “Indeed, I must confess that I do not know of any Biblical scholars–even evangelical biblical scholars–who would be wholly uncomfortable with either the basic methodology of Assyriology or its conclusions about ancient Mesopotamian literature.”

His summary listing what he went through in the form of 8 observations that occur when applying critical methods to Mesopotamian texts was a nice end as well (pg 71).

Chapter 4 looks to simply trace out the problem of Biblical criticism for traditional reading. Well-worn ground for me. I think the meat of the book will begin in chapter 5.

His other book on unsavory Old Testament incidents just arrived in the mail. I’ll probably follow this one up with that based on how things are going.


Yes, it was like a light going on for me, too. He took his time, but did not waste words–it just takes time to convey the picture clearly.

In retrospect, my cynicism, while borne out of ignorance, is somewhat like conspiracy thinking–not taking people’s intentions at face value. It is a bit humbling. I feel bad for my (mental) aspersions on their character. It hits me harder as I run into Covid deniers speaking badly of Fauci, Gates and so on, because I (inwardly) thought that way, too. There is a lot I can learn, to the benefit of my faith, I think. .

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This work does look interesting, and thanks for Sparking my interest to bring it up higher on my reading list. In fact I was just reading its introduction online.

It is interesting that higher criticism was already playing a role back during the Renaissance. Sparks writes about Valla and how he brought his Latin expertise to bear to show how a document (“Donation of Constantine”) was really a later work and not originated with Constantine at all.

As it seems Sparks points out, we are probably all beneficiaries of scholarly analyses up and down the ages already, even if not all of it (or even a majority of it) was not “faith-friendly”. He points out that just because something may be true - that doesn’t mean that all the implications drawn from it (for or against faith) are true. So a lot of truth (biological evolution for example?) has still shaken and cost a lot of people on the faith front. Just as a moving earth did back in Galileo’s time.

Not having read (much) of Sparks yet - I guess my attempts on your six items from his introduction might be premature. I will venture this sweeping comment on my own behalf though: In general, I’m no longer as threatened as I might have been at one time by the thought that some gospel, epistle, or prophetic work might not actually have been penned by its name-sake label. To me - whether it’s John himself that I’m trusting to have followed Spiritual guidance in penning his name-sake gospel, or whether it was predecessors coming shortly after who still were right there in the early church - in either case, there is still a dependency on the Spirit to deliver the needed material. I would be more concerned if one of the epistles or books was jarringly different in its message and exhortations than all the others. That is what would cause me the greater doubts.


One reason for the concern among evangelicals goes something like this:

A famous critic, who at one time was an enthusiastic disciple, described how the hilarity of the Life of Brian was so outstanding, it cracked him up. It was just an unbelievably funny comedy, He couldn’t control his laughter when Jesus started singing on the cross.

As for number six I think it was accurately predicted and already happened. I hope to fairly preteristic ideas though I want to read some books on the view that it’s just symbolism for a recognized repeated pattern of evil riding up snd toppling again and again.

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I think I remember reading from Metzger or Aland that Jerome and Augustine were pretty savvy textual critics. In fact, they used some of the same reasoning at times as modern textual critics. Some others were hit or miss like when Origen disputed the reading “Jesus Barabbas” as a heretical addition on the grounds that Jesus is not an appropriate name for a sinner.

One of the things Sparks stressed in chapter two is that how we interpret passages has changed over the years. Allegorical interpretations along with literal were very big in the early church.

Sparks : "How could God command us to love our enemies in the New Testament when, in the Old Testament, he was praised for dashing babylonian infants against rocks (Ps. 138:8-9)? For Augustine and other early fathers, Old Testament texts like this did not have a literal or plain meaning at all. They were allegories from the ground up. In this particular case Augustine believed that the “infants” of Babylon were not literal children but rather the “vices” of the Babylonians.” Pg 28 God’s Word in Human Words | Augustine, Exposiitons on the Book of Pslams (NPNF 1 8:632)

True. If you believe a text is inspired by God it doesn’t matter who wrote it. It will serve his intended purpose regardless. Now there is a difference between the gospelsand epistles for some though. The gospels never identify their authors. The titles are all secondary additions to the text. Epistles do identify their authors at times and in the eyes of modern scholars, incorrectly at times. Some find it problematic for a book to claim to be written by Peter or Paul and not actually be written by them.

I think jarring is relative to each of us. For me the love your enemies of Jesus and a lot of what I see in the Old Testament is jarring. I just can’t see them meshing but it will be interesting to see how Sparks treats it.

I find John vs the Synoptics perplexing if not fully jarring since they all teach us to follow Jesus as God’s Son or more than that. But in my mind their Christologies are a bit different which is where the real issue comes into play for me. I see red flags in regards to creedal Christianity and things like the Trinity if John is a reframing and we subscribe to accommodation. Once we admit this and basic findings of Biblical criticism, the idea of interpreting scripture in light of scripture certainly becomes a lot more problematic. Each book needs to be allowed to speak on its own terms, in its own context and not forced to harmonize with another work. I think it is a harder, though not impossible, to find a Jesus that is fully God in the onotological sense and the triune nature of God in this framework. Curious to see if Sparks addresses this.



Does that mean you believe the book of Revelation was written pre-Temple destruction and referred to it? And that the second coming has already happened?


In a nutshell. I believe that the “destruction” of the world was about the destruction of the Jewish temple. As for the second coming I don’t have a opinion on it really. Have not studied it out. But I believe Matthew 24, Daniel, and Revelation all ties in together.

Even things like where Paul wrote in 1 corinthians 7:29-31 , “But this I say, brothers, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the present form of this world is passing away.

There Paul seems to be talking about the passing away of the world.

Or when Jesus said in matthew 16:28 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Seems like Jesus believed some standing there would still be alive when they saw him coming in his kingdom.

I also have to consider places like in Isaiah 65 where the new heaven and earth are mentioned along with there being death there. I think those verses often fall to the same problem as genesis 1-11 in that literalism is applied as the correct interpretation.

I’m under the impression many believe that Matthew 24 was written prior to the destruction of the temple or that it at least contained something similar to what Jesus said which was that it would be destroyed. The same message seems to be in revelation.

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Or prophets in the early Church thought the end was night as Jesus marked the beginning of the resurrection of the dead. I trace this sequence as follows:

First stratum (40-60 CE): Paul must console upset Christians at Thessalonica who are concerned that some brothers and sisters are dying before Jesus has returned. (1 These 4:13-18). A very imminent return was thus expected here. Paul tells the Corinthians Jesus was the first-fruits. Paul uses a harvest metaphor for the return of Jesus. I would suggest an imminent return here as well. At any rate, Crossan was correct to pick up on how strained a harvest metaphor becomes 2,000 years later.

Second stratum (60-80) Mark is written has has some standing here will not test death. In Mark this “some” may be applied to the transfiguration but it seems forced together. But at any rate, my understanding is that once many of the first generation apostles and eyewitnesses started dying off, the belief became “Some will still be alive.” Mark may even be writing at the end of this incident and using the transfiguration as an explanation for it as the temple was destroyed and Jesus had not yet returned. Matthew follows suit (marian priority) and I can’t remember what Luke has.

Third Stratum: 80-100CE) in the Gopel of John belief then evolved that at least “one will be alive until” until Jesus returns. John 21: “Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”” John 21 is redacted second ending and this part of it I believe is an apologetic for mistaken beliefs regarding the timetable of the second coming.

4th Stratum post 100 CE: The redactor of John says this was confusion all along. Jesus did not say this. His words were mistaken. Also in the pseudonymous 2 Peter, what many scholars feel is the latest of all NT works (ca 125) and represents, chronologically, the closing of our canon, read:

2 Peter 3: 3-10: 3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

I see an apologetic here for scoffers who are real and object against Christians on these grounds while the author is still hanging on to the idea of the end times. Christians today now focus on the end part: Jesus’ statement applied to the transfiguration and a day is like a thousand years so we have no idea when the second coming will be. Needless to say, I find that exegesis dubious.

One cannot imagine a linear and uniform progression of belief in all Christian communities like this and there are a few wrinkles. But to me this scenario does seem to suggest that for many early Christians there was initially an expectation of an imminent return by Jesus and since he delayed, they had to explain this fact and as more decades passed by, change their explanations and then finally concede he will come whenever He is ready.

I am not sure if the imminent return goes back to Jesus or early followers in the church. I do not think Jesus was omniscient but attributing a mistake about God’s salvific timetable to the early church seems more desirable than attributing it to Jesus. But this raises interesting discussion about historical Jesus methodology by historical critics. Either way, this belief was early and fairly common enough to be found developing throughout several unconnected works for almost the next 100 years. I think the belief in Jesus’ resurrection started it all. The end is here. The rest of us our next type of deal.



I guess so far I have seen no evidence to consider anything D a better option than some form of preterism. Even tracing back the fire destroying the world seems to be linked to conditional immortality and how fire is just a metaphors for destruction and restoration.


I don’t do much evaluating of end-time beliefs or any such theology. My view of scripture isn’t really conservative enough to try to tie it all into a consistent whole like that. I just don’t think every passage in scripture needs to be or even should be harmonized. We might just end up with a chimera instead of a cogent eschatology. Not to mention I don’t think all prophecy is fulfilled. God made some promises to David that he didn’t keep. Sparks starts chapter 4 with this and Psalm 89’s lament on why God didn’t do as it was said he would.

As far as preterism goes, I just have trouble with the second coming occurring ca 70CE. I think John comes a little later and the redaction of it closer to the end of the first century. The apologetic shows that author and his community had no idea Jesus returned. I find the same thing with 2 Peter in the early second century. Hard to imagine how these whole communities missed it. Wouldn’t we also have to push the book of Revelation and 1John (2:26) to pre-70 as well for some parts of preterism to work?

Not to mention, a whole bunch or Patristic writers and 2nd century works seemed to have missed the second coming as well. The Didache, Epistle to Barnabas, Irenaeus, Tertullian etc. The PDF below goes through some views.

Preterism seems to be a rather new theology which makes me a bit suspicious of it. I could be wrong but why does no one in the church seem to know Jesus returned for 1500 years? Now preterists certainly might pick up on something others might miss such as the problem with Matthew 10:23 “Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” For me I think this view recognizes part of what I think is the very imminent eschatology in the church and tries to harmonize it all together.


Just finished chapter 3 (thought I was in #4 but the introduction didn’t count). Sparks went at traditional understandings of the OT pretty hard. I was aware of some of the issues but I spend most of my time on the NT. Wow, things are actually a bit worse than I thought. Saw some really good stuff on the creation narratives compared to Gilgamesh and so on. The different authors of the Pentateuch and so on.

He also laid out good arguments against Pauline authorship of the Pastorals except for one. Some have stated p46 didn’t include them and I endorsed this as well but there is a lot of argumentation (there wasn’t enough room vs the scribe noticeably began writing smaller, etc) surrounding it but the bottom line is much simpler: the ending of p46 is lost so we have no idea what was or wasn’t there. Kurt and Barbara Aland in their NT text mentioned this as do many others and Brent Nongbri more recently in God’s Archaeology. p46 is the earliest collection of Paul’s letters in the record commonly dated to around the year 200 (plus or minus 50 years). The University of Michigan which houses some of p46 wrote:

"As mentioned, 86 of 104 original leaves survive today. The missing leaves account for pages 1-13, 16-19, 186-189, and 192-205. The contents of the first three of these gaps can easily be determined because they fit into a portion of the codex whose contents are known. However, the final fourteen pages of the codex have given scholars some difficulty. It seems fairly likely that, along with the damaged portion of page 191, four of these (pages 192-195) would have contained 2 Thessalonians. The remaining ten pages are too small a space to hold the Pastoral Epistles; it is always possible that these pages were simply blank, or perhaps that extra pages were added to hold the Pastoral Epistles. Since the end of the codex is lost, the true answer will never be known.”

I also thought Sparks was less detailed and a bit easier on the Gospels but if he is writing to get evangelicals to cross a divide this makes sense. Coming out swinging at the Old Testament is one thing, but the Gospels is an all out declaration of intellectual war. That needs to be broached more cautiously. For what he did cover, he didn’t pull punches and he did a good job of it. He pointed out some of the differences between John and the Synoptics and how scholars view Matthew as presenting Jesus as a new and greater Moses in his infancy narrative which is not historical. He referenced how Matthew changed Mark in one incident based on Markan priority and so on.

I also agree with him that there is good evidence 1 Cor 14:34–35 is an interpolation attempting to bring it in line with the Pastorals (which I see as misogynistic). Interpolations in the pauline Letters by Walker is a good source for these.

I am really interested to see how he resolves some of the issues he brought up, including propaganda, ethical issues like slavery and so forth:

“These difficulties, and others like them, bring us to the heart of the problem raised by biblical criticism. Biblical criticism suggests that the Bible does not speak with one divine voice but offers instead a range of human voices with different judgments and opinions on the same subjects. As one brave evangelical, Christopher Wright, has described it, “We are listening, not to a single voice, not even to a single choir in harmony, but to several choirs singing different songs with some protest groups jamming in the wings.” At face value, Scripture does not seem to furnish us with one divine theology; it gives numerous theologies. Any decent solutions to the problems presented by modern biblical criticism will need to explain how the Bible can be trusted as an authoritative text when it reflects diverse theological perspectives, which differ not only from one another but also from our modern theological judgments on matters like slavery.” pg 121

“Nevertheless, to be a scholar–even a Christian scholar–means that we should consider the possibility that parts of the Bible , particularly those dealing with priestly, and political power, may well have originated as pieces of ideological propaganda. The presence of this sort of material in the Bible , were we to admit it, would seem to raise serious theological questions about certain traditional preconceptions of Scripture. How can it be that God’s reveals Word contains misleading Judean political propaganda? If it does, how do we put those parts o the Bible to faithful and fruitful theological use. These are very important questions that I will attempt to answer.” Also from pg 129:

I am resisting the urge to read ahead and see the answer. At any rate, chapter 3 did not disappoint and the set out a big mountain to climb over.


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He also said that they who believe in him will never die. He died. What the heck? He said things with deeper meaning than we understand. On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.’” 39He was speaking about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.
Here, the author explains what He meant. He never intended that we talke every word literally. That doesn’t mean we don’t have His words. The authors didn’t have to make up a thing. They often admitted they were clueless regarding what He meant. They were forthright. “We had no idea what this Guy was trying to tell us.” Their confusion shows up in their writing freely. Pete cried like a big baby. These guys were the most transparent bunch of knuckleheads imagineable. Earthly leaders don’t promote themselves by leaving their PR in the hands of total boobs. Jesus did. They were incredibly naive, incompetent and average.

The mother of Zebedee’s children (James and John) came to Jesus with her sons. She got down on her knees before Jesus to ask something of Him. 21 He said to her, “What do you want?” She said, “Say that my two sons may sit, one at Your right side and one at Your left side, when You are King.” Who would include a scene like that? At least she wasn’t trying to secure a favor from this guy to seat her boys in the highest positions once He began to rule! Her boys weren’t man enough to ask? They were grown men. I picture her taking each by his ear lobe and dragging them before Christ!

But, they sure loved him. They paid a great price to follow him. Who would make up a story like this and die for it, knowing they made up the whole thing. All they had to do was deny him and they could have saved themselves from terrible persecution.
And this whole scene was exploding before their very eyes. There was tremendous interest in this cat named Jesus. Herod was dying to meet him. Someone must have mentioned something about him to the old boy that fueled his interest. Yet, Jesus was the biggest nothing around. What did He have to attract anyone to himself? Why him? And who, Who, put those words in his mouth? The most famous, powerful, mysterious, studied words in all of history flowed from his lips effortlessly. Could anyone produce a fictional account that would change the world like this? How was it done? His fame grew and spread and in no time Nero burns huge numbers of them 30 years into their new found walk with God.

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I can understand the fundamentalist push-back against all this - they will point out that this simply leads to wholesale dismissal of any/all parts of scripture that someone doesn’t care for, because after all - maybe Paul didn’t really write that anyway, right? And that may be a valid concern about run-away eisegesis. And on the other hand, the scholarly assurances also serve as a valid warning about trying to build doctrinal castles around one particular “turn of words” in one or two epistles. Those may provide valuable textural detail for the time, whether or not it actually came from the pen of Paul or one of his contemporaries. But it’s the whole structure (the tree and not just bits of bark that so claim our attention) that should drive our biblical understandings.

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If the Bible is God’s authoritative Word, then What/Who is Jesus Christ, The Word (Logos?) John 1:1-4, 14.

Well, I don’t particularly worry about what fundamentalists think anymore. I am worried about those their views might influence and people who look at this passage and see at is a stumbling block to faith. Fundamentalists and most evangelicals don’t truly understand the textual uncertainty involved with reconstructing the Bible. Sparks is probably right in that they are enamored with a cartesian dualism that seeks indubitable truth for their religious claims. That is why they push back on Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 including the garden story and global flood.

There is two reasons fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals don’t like interpolation here:

[1] These fundamentalists tend to think if there isn’t textual evidence for a diverse reading it isn’t likely or should not be given much credence. But competent Biblical scholars have long recognized the existence of many interpolations that occur before our extant manuscript record which comes 100-200 years later for most NT works at least (I can’t comment on OT textual criticism because honestly I don’t care to study it).

[2] Because it is viewed as a pastoral type interpolation. Most scholars think the pastorals represent a more misogynistic outlook than found in Paul. In conservative eyes not only MUST Paul have authored the Pastorals since they claim to be written by him, everything in them cannot err and MUST be ENTIRELY consistent with everything else he wrote. In other words, a priori ground make this view an impossibility. In other words, they offer an assumption on what they interpret to be the nature of scripture rather than a competent textual argument. We can’t have an egalitarian Paul and a misogynistic Paul in the pastorals. Somehow we have to force fit these competing ideologies together.

William Walker writes:

“It would appear, however, that the ideas expressed in 1 Cor. 14.34- 35 are indeed non-Pauline and even anti-Pauline—more so even than those in 11.3-16. Even the immediate context in ch. 14 apparently assumes that women are included among those who speak in church (note the ‘all’ in vv. 5, 18, 23, 24, 31, and the ‘each one’ of v. 26). More importantly, 1 Cor. 14.34-35 contradicts Paul’s avowed egalitari- anism as articulated in Gal. 3.27-28 (that is, in Christ ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’); his surprisingly even- handed discussion of sex, marriage and divorce in 1 Corinthians 7;60 and the very positive and non-discriminatory manner in which he speaks of women with whom he has been associated in the work of the church.61 Indeed, it stretches the imagination to think that this Paul might also have written (or approved) the sentiments expressed in 1 Cor. 14.34-35! Thus, the ideational evidence suggests that 1 Cor. 14.34-35 is likely non-Pauline in the double sense of non-Pauline authorship and non-Pauline insertion in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.”

That is from Interpolations in the Pauline Epistles. But competent scholars are sober and realize the limitations of these judgments which fundamentalists and conservatives give them no credit for. Walker went on to write:

“As in the case of linguistic evidence, however, extreme caution is required in the use of ideational evidence for interpolation. First, the same author may (and Paul certainly sometimes does) express different ideas, depending upon the intended audience, subject matter, situation, pur- pose, or even which section of a letter is under consideration; more- over, an author’s ideas, like his/her vocabulary and literary style, may change with the passing of time. Second, significant conceptual differ- ences may simply be an indication that the author is incorporating alien material into his/her own work.”

Walker also writes (sorry, the Greek won’t copy and past properly but I can screenshot if desired) :

“I have already suggested that the literary form or genre of 1 Cor. 14.34-35 appears to be characteristically post-Pauline and even pseudo- Pauline. In addition, certain other linguistic, ideational and situational features of the passage that appear to be non-Pauline are found in pseudo-Pauline writings. In particular, this passage bears a close resemblance to the pseudo-Pauline 1 Tim. 2.11-12. Both employ the verb sTTixpETTEiv to enjoin silence on the part of women; both require that women be ‘submissive’ (using the same linguistic root: uTrordaasiv in 1 Cor. 14.34 and uTroxayrj in 1 Tim. 2.11), presumably to men, an idea that is also present elsewhere in the pseudo-Pauline writings;63 and both suggest that men should be the teachers of women, not vice versa. In addition, the use of the adjective aioxpos” in 1 Cor. 14.35 is similar to that in 1 Cor. 11.16, which is also regarded by some as a non- Pauline interpolation, and the adjective appears elsewhere in the New Testament only at the pseudo-Pauline Eph. 5.12 and Tit. 1.11. Moreover, although it is not elsewhere suggested in the authentically Pauline writings (except perhaps in 1 Cor. 11.3-16, which may be an interpolation) that the role and status of women were regarded as a problem during Paul’s lifetime, there is ample evidence of this in the pseudo-Pauline writings, which contain strong restrictions regarding the status and role of women. Such evidence suggests that 1 Cor. 14.34-35 may have been written (and added to Paul’s Corinthian letter) sometime after the death of the apostle and, indeed, that it may have originated in the same circles that produced some of the pseudo-Pauline literature."

Fundamentalists are certainly free to disagree with Walker but I’m not buying into a unsophisticated critique that this is a flimsy interpretation built around removing from Paul what one doesn’t want. In fact, Walker keeps it in the canon! He moves it to the Pastorals. This does not alleviate any difficulties for Biblically based Christians. This is not a case of us believing what we want. It born out of a carful exegetical study of Paul and all the works purporting to be written by him. Walker goes through a litany of issues in discussing this and comes up with a hard to swallow pill:

“Initially, it might appear difficult to argue that the literary style or form of 1 Cor. 14.34-35 is non-Pauline. Elsewhere, however, both G.W. Trompf and I have suggested the presence in certain New Testament writings of a specific literary form or genre that appears to have been developed for the express purpose of ‘keeping women in their place’. Characteristically, this form consists of three elements: (1) a general statement, assertion or command regarding the proper status, role, attire and/or demeanor of women; (2) a reason or justification (theological, historical, rational or pragmatic) for the statement, assertion or com- mand; and (3) a ‘mitigation’, ‘softening of the blow’ or ‘saving phrase’ to make the statement, assertion or command less offensive to women. Examples of this form are to be found at 1 Cor. 11.3-16; 14.34-35; Col. 3.18-19; Eph. 5.22-33; 1 Tim. 2.8-15; Tit. 2.4-5; 1 Pet. 3.1-7.56 Signi- ficant for the purposes of the present study is the fact that all of these examples except two appear in pseudo-Pauline or non-Pauline writings. The two exceptions are 1 Cor. 11.3-16 and 14.34-35. In Chapter 5, I will argue that 1 Cor. 11.3-16 is a non-Pauline interpolation.”

Just as we have to face the moral issues in the Old Testament, we also have to deal with why misogyny was allowed to creep into our canon in the name of Paul, who seems to have been closer to Jesus in this regard. Luther suggested axing James from the canon did he not? Is it too early to suggest the Pastorals were a mistake? Not actually written by Paul! Or can we co-exist with books towards the closing of our new dispensation bringing misogyny back and undoing the more radical and egalitarian teachings of both Jesus and Paul? I don’t think there are easy answers to this issue on any side. The idea that God needed to correct behavior in baby steps over time is not consistent with more misogynistic ideology coming back in towards the close of our canon. I am truly hoping Sparks can shed some light on these types of problems.

I’d go further and say the forest, not the tree or its bark. But point well taken. I think hermeneutics centered around Jesus are probably on the right track.


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