From: george murphy (email@example.com)
Date: Mon Sep 30 2002 - 10:02:42 EDT
Both Wayne and Walter have posted similar comments about use of theological
terms and arguments on the "Did Peter Walk on Water? thread. As one who is
responsible for some of the
material which has provoked complaint, let me respond, first to Wayne & then to
> I respond to two recent posts
> Bob Schneider wrote:
> I strongly believe that anyone reading Matthew or other biblical texts
> will be able to derive much that would enlighten his mind or "the eyes of
> his heart" (Eph. 1:18) and bring him the message of salvation to his great
> benefit; millions have over the centuries. But we all would gain a much
> deeper appreciation, and perhaps greater spiritual fruits, if we were
> willing to benefit from the work of devoted scholars who can teach us, for
> example, how to recognize and interpret a midrashic text in a gospel or an
> I did not for a moment mean to say, suggest, or
> in any way imply that the study of scholarly texts
> is foolishness. In one of my posts on Jonah I had
> suggested that it would be wise to take a few
> courses on theology before getting worked up on
> interpretation of scripture.
> However, "haggadic midrash" strikes me as a bit
> obscure. Church libraries in Japan are typically
> small, so maybe this is the fault of lack of
> resources, but I had to look pretty hard to find
> NT references to it and they were all as clear as
> mud on its specific role. My own commentaries have
> less than a paragraph on the subject. I am not a
> theology major, nor do I sense any call whatsoever
> to be one. If anything, my mission would be to
> show that Christians can do good science, at least
> as good as any atheist. At this level of difficulty,
> I surmise that it becomes an exercise
> approaching mastering the literature in some narrow
> disciple of biology. I simply do not have time for
> such exercises in biblical studies --- period.
The term "haggadaic midrash" was used in a passage that I quoted from
Gundry. Perhaps I should have explained briefly what it meant then.
to do so in response to Wayne's earlier post. In any case, I appreciate the
difficulty that a non-specialist may have in encountering technical
especially in a location where there are few resources.
I would point out, however, that the internet makes a lot of resources
available. A quick look at Google gave something like 12000
"haggadah" and 67000
"midrash" sites. Admittedly one would have to do some hunting among
them to get
an idea of what "haggadaic midrash" might mean but it's not
I'm pretty old fashioned about such matters & woudl suggest looking at
the corresponding articles in _The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible_ or a
But of course the question is deeper than that.
A person doesn't have to be theologically sophisticated to know,
believe the Christian message: Karl Barth said that "Jesus loves me, this I
know, for the Bible tells me so" was his most profound theological discovery!
But not all Christians are called to be teachers of things regarding the faith,
and those who are need to have some theological understanding. If one is going
to do apologetics in a scientific context, one needs to have a decent knowledge
of both science and theology. Think of all the damage done by people who are
well-trained in scripture (or think they are!) & know little about science but
still think they can discuss issues of creation & evolution &c.
but not theology can be just as dangerous. Of course it takes time & energy to
become reasonably knowledgeable in more than one discipline but that's just the
way it is.
> So first is leaving theological pronouncements at an
> inaccessible level where I cannot even assess whether
> they are true or false. I realize that it is a challenge to write
> these kinds of things, but one
> should not assume that everyone on this list has a
> Ph.D. in their own particular area of expertise either. Nor is even a
> Ph.D. and years of experience likely to
> be adequate in a lot of cases.
I can understand the frustration that leads a person, on encountering a
phrase like "haggadaic midrash" to say "What in hell does that mean?" But it
seems kind of odd to go further and say, "I don't know what that means so it's
> The second point is whereas
> I suppose I shouldn't expect translators
> to point out delineation's for me, I cannot
> see any obvious way to trim the message
> of Mt 14:22-33 in such a way that I don't
> end up hacking off the whole thing. Whereas
> the subject of the thread is _Peter_, I cannot
> see the fine lines of separation between Jesus
> and Peter clearly, and if I keep working this
> way, where does that lead me? Since I confess
> a faith in Christ as God crucified and raised,
> I must certainly reject hacking off the whole
> thing, but what then?
First, it is not obvious that faith in Christ crucified and risen
requires one to believe that Jesus walking on the sea was an actual historical
event. I think it's most likely that it was but that's not essential to the
faith. But waiving that, I suggest that the clear line of separation you're
looking for is present just in the fact that Mk - who is almost certainly Mt's
source for the first part of the text - as well as John have nothing
walking on the water. This ought to at least raise the question of whether or
not that latter part of the text is a theological elaboration of the original
story by Mt or whether he had some independent historical source. As far as
getting some insight into scripture is concerned, whether or not one
answer that Gundry or anyone else gives to that question seems to me not as
important as a willingness to ask the question.
> At least without a clear picture of how I am
> supposed to do this kind of fine razor job, I
> am inclined to go on faith, even if it challenges
> my scientific and intellectual faculties to do so.
The job that is required is not as "fine" as you suggest. Once one is open
to the possibility that scripture contains different kinds of accounts from
different viewpoints, many of the things that previously seemed quite
jump out at you.
Walter Hicks wrote:
>I brought up this question to the list, because I wanted to see how many could
>call this text "true" and then turn around and say that it never
>and is not historical. That is just an opinion poll. However, what
>you have said
>below goes well beyond that.
>The difficulty as I see it, is that you have just ruled out any possibility of
>we poor non theologians ever studying the Bible and getting the
>Not only must one study under a scholar, but you imply that only
>who agree with you are qualified to interpret the scriptures.
>I have a number of Bibles with references and Commentaries to assist in Bible
>study. Frankly, the theological opinions often presented on this
>(like that below) are rarely found in any commentary that I have ----
>and I get
>my references from Christian bookstores in liberal Kennedyland. My primary
>reference for New Testament is the Tyndale Commentaries. It totally disagrees
>with the view that the text we have been discussing is non-historical and does
>not offer any suggestion at all that is a midrash. Yet, if others on this list
>suggest it is historical in nature, we get a lecture about our lack of
Some of what I said above applies here.
I have found some of the Tyndale commentaries helpful though they do lean
heavily in the direction of insisting that everything in scripture is
historically accurate. I don't think it's a good idea to get one's biblical
interpretation only from one kind of source with a uniform point of view.
For those who can get ahold of it, I would suggest reading
_The Bible: Now I Get It!/ A Form Criticism Handbook_ (Doubleday,
1979). It has
a lot of cartoon-like illustrations & looks at first glance like a kiddie book
but it isn't. Whether one agrees with it or not, I think this will
help give the
non-expert some insight into modern biblical criticism.
I would also suggest that one of the Bibles you use for study (I would even
say the primary one) be the Oxford Annotated edition of either the RSV or NRSV
with the Apocrypha.
>What is a poor engineer or scientist to do? If ASA is truly a "Big
>many members of the Christian Faith may abide, then where would describe the
>relative position of the viewpoint below with respect to the ASA center of
>gravity (to use some "scientific" lingo ;-)?
I think Bob Schneider's comments (snipped here) are
left-of-center in the
ASA but not in the church catholic. I'd put myself in pretty much the same
position theologically. I know that a lot of people in the ASA regard me as
quite "liberal." OTOH in wider religion-science discussions such as those at
Templeton conferences, as well as in the religious circles I frequent
I'm often seen as quite conservative.
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Interface"
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