RE: Ramm's flood

jeffery lynn mullins (
Thu, 11 Apr 1996 12:59:35 -0400 (EDT)

On Wed, 10 Apr 1996, George Fisher wrote:

> At 09:29 AM 4/10/96 -0400, jeffrey lynn mullins wrote:
> >Peter,
> >
> >This is something that needs to be pointed out. It needs to be made
> >clear that historicity does not depend upon reporting in time-ordered
> >sequence. The events of the gospel of Matthew all happened whether all
> >of the material included in the "Sermon on the Mount" occurred at the
> >same time or not, for example. The key is that it all happened, the
> >words are of Jesus, and the events and words were not made up by others
> >after the life of Christ.
> I'm sorry, Jeffrey, but I feel strongly that this needs more than being
> "pointed out". Many biblical scholars disagree with the statement that all
> of the events in the gospel of Matthew happened, and would argue that many
> _were_ "made up" much later. If you are arguing on grounds other than simple
> faith that they must have happened, you need to state what those grounds
> were. As just one example, if you accept the account of the Ressurection as
> told in Matthew, how do you interprret the very different accounts of the
> Ressurection in the other three Gospels?
I am arguing on the grounds of the massive amount of scholarship that
would say that the Gospel of Matthew was written by an eyewitness to the
life of Christ sometime before 70 A.D., since the fall of Jerusulem is
not mentioned and the gospel has Jewish elements and traditions dating
from before the destruction of the temple and Jerusulem (See A.
T. Robertson who says that every gospel was written by "a baptised Jew
before 70 AD" or F. F. Bruce on the historicity of the New Testament
Documents, or the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible,
or Donald Guthrie's New Testament Introduction, or even the introductions
in most study Bibles such as Ryrie's or the NIV study bible).

I interpret the *slightly* different accounts of the resurrection in each
gospel to the fact that there was no collusion to make up the events and
that each is focusing on different minor facets of the events, since they
all give the same major events. I see it as if we had serveral witnesses
to an event today giving testimony in a court of law. If all the
witnesses gave the *exact* same testimony in all details, then I as a
judge would suspect collusion, but it the main story was the same and
only varied in perspective or minor non-contradictory details, then I
would believe the event described really happened. (See Simon Greenleaf's
Testimony of the Evangelists).

I disagree with those "scholars" who ignore the internal testimony of the
text which mentions first century pre-destruction on Jerusulem events,
Jewish style, archeological evidence, accounts that are seeming
embarrassments which would be counter productive to propaganda and thus
would support historicity, and the testimony on the early church fathers.
Papias, Irenaeus, and Origin all attribute the first gospel to the
authorship of Matthew. Irenaeus adds that it was written during the
lifetime of Paul and Peter. It seems to me that it is the scholars who
claim that the accounts were made up that are putting forth a theory based
upon faith with their speculations, since they go against all the internal
and external evidence, and are using outmoded theories of form and
redaction criticism that for the most part have been shown to be incorrect
from archeology, as well as from the standard canons of historicity. I am
amazed that secular historians often have no problem with the historicity
of the gospel accounts and those who call themselves Christians do. When
they reach the point of saying that the crucifixion and resurrection
accounts are made up, then they have no basis for calling themselves
Christians, and if one part of a gospel is made up, then why not the
resurrection accounts, since they are claimed to contradict (even though
they do not in that they never say that A and not-A at the same time;
many commmentaries, Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties,
Geisler and Howe's When Critics Ask, and a host of other books give very
plausible solutions to things that look like contradictions on a surface
reading of the text).

> >
> >There is an analogy in the case of interpreting "literally". The
> >layperson (and critics of Christianity, or those ignorant of Christian
> >theology) often do not understand that to have a literal hermeneutic is
> >to take poetry as literally poetry, metaphor as literally metaphor, etc.
> >It is authorial intent that counts.
> Again, I disagree -- many, many modern literary critics would argue that it
> isn't authorial intent at all that counts -- it's the interaction betweeen
> the _reader_ and the text, as delimited by the critical community (or, if
> you like, the faith community) in which the reader is situated, which counts.

Yes, but I disagree with their arguments. This is a new way of doing
hermeneutics which has been brought to the fore as of late by people in
literature using the philosophy of Gademer and Jurgen Habermas, and which
is repudiated by most in the Western analytical philosophical tradition.
This hermeneutic was never used or accepted by scholars until the end of
this century, and is still not used by analytic philosophers or
scientists, and is usually only found in literature and some history
departments of universities.

> For example, you (it seems) interpret Matthew literally; I don't.
> Consequently we get somewhat different messages from a reading of Matthew,
> both of which are meaningful (to us). We don't really have any idea at all
> what the intent of the author was, or even who really was the author.
We have some idea of who the author was based upon the testimony of the
early Church fathers, early tradition, and internal evidence from that
text that indicates eyewitness accounts. We can figure out the intent of
the author by using correct hermeneutical techniques, such as
understanding the literary genre, the culture of the times, the language
the text was written in, understanding grammar, comparing with the rest
of scripture, etc.

> For an exploration of these ideas, see Stanley Fish's book "Is there a text
> in the class", among others.
And for a refutation of the new hermeneutic, see a book by a man named
Hirsch who was a professor of literature at the University of Virginia (I
forgot the title). Also see standard hermeneutics texts, such as Bernard
Ramm's text.

> >
> >One final thought: we must determine which part of Scripture is of which
> >genre, but we dare not determine which is true and which is not, or what
> >portion of the record of Christ's words and deeds are historical and
> >which are not.
> >
> Again, I disagree -- for me it is precisely to this kind of interpretation
> that we are called. It seems to me that one of our greatest gifts as humans
> is the abililty to think analytically and intelligently. To ignore those
> abilities is (for me) to scorn one of the greatest gifts that God has given us.
I don't scorn the ability to think, but I do scorn the "Jesus Seminar"
participants who vote on which parts of the gospel give historical truth
about Jesus and his sayings and which do not based upon nothing more than
speculations. Many evangelical scholars have used analytical and
intelligent reasoning to refute the speculations of liberal "scholars",
but these scholars don't seem to pay attention to evangelical writings.

> Please understand -- I'm not saying that your statements above are _wrong_;
> they are your opinions, and are valid (I'm sure) for you, and for probably
> for many on this list. But I do feel strongly that your statements need to
> be identified as opinions, and that you must respect the fact that many
> intelligent people who consider themselves Christians have very different
> ways of interpreting scripture, and that those ways are valid for them.
Yes, those are my opinions, based upon reasonable evidence and thinking.
Differing interpretations are one thing; different opinions on the
historicity of resurrection are another. If people, even if intelligent,
believe that the gospel accounts, and especially the accounts of the
crucifixion and resurrection are not historically true, then they may
consider themselves Christians, but they are sadly deluded.

> It seems to me that one great opportunity presented by a list such as this
> is the opportunity to learn how, and why, others of different opinions feel
> as they do, and to let our own ideas resonate with those of others. In that
> way, I hope, we can all develop a deeper and richer sense of the
> multi-faceted reality of God.
> George Fisher
> *******************************************
> George W. Fisher, Professor of Geology
> Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
> Johns Hopkins University Baltimore MD 21218
> Phone: 410-516-7237 FAX: 410-516-7933
> *******************************************