22 March 2007

The Bereans, afresh

by Dan Phillips
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11)
What marked the Berean Jews? We read that they were εὐγενέστεροι (eugenesteroi) — literally "better born," but "nobler" is probably is the best translation. Like that English word, the Greek term may have a history referring to lineage, but it has come to denote a high character instead.

"Nobler" than whom? Than "those [Jews] in Thessalonica." What was wrong with them? They were dead-wed to their tradition. Their minds were so fixed on the system they'd been taught, that not even the Word of God could penetrate.

Not their minds, anyway. But it did penetrate some others' minds, and that filled them with seething jealousy. It must have burned their consciences. At some level, they knew they were rejecting the very Word of God so that they could cling to their tradition (cf. Romans 1:18). But here were some rebels, breaking rank! Turncoats! Think how that made the Tradition Rangers look. So these champions of tradition so angrily pursued Paul that he left their town. Were they done with him then? No way! They tracked him down to the next town as well.

But the Berean Jews were of a different sort. They had been brought up in the same tradition, too. But they evidently had clung to the idea that Scripture is and must remain above tradition. However, they were not going to accept just anything. They had to see it for themselves. They had to see it for themselves in Scripture.

This is why Luke commends them as "nobler," because they "they received [welcomed, ἐδέξαντο, edexanto] the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."

That last phrase intrigues me. It is εἰ ἔχοι ταῦτα οὕτως (ei echoi tauta houtos]. All the English translations basically agree in rendering "to see if these things were so," or something to that effect. But is that a good rendering? Literally it is "if it should have these things thus," or "if these things had it thus." The verb "welcomed," and this description, suggests to me a more positive orientation, as opposed to that of the Jewish rulers.

You see, these Thessalonian religious rulers just knew their tradition could not be wrong — it has such a noble heritage! it had been championed so sacrificially! its list of names was so impressive! — so there was no need to re-examine it. Not seriously, anyway, except to find ways to pick holes in the new upstart challenger. Better to believe tradition, than their lying eyes.

These were the same sorts of leaders as those who watched Jesus closely for the purpose of finding fault, of finding grounds for accusation (cf. Luke 6:7; 14:1ff.; 16:31).

And so this attitude of positive orientation toward the Word is what Luke found praiseworthy in the Bereans. If the Scriptures had it differently than their tradition, these people wanted to know. If the Scriptures had it, they wanted it. But Scripture, and not tradition, was the deciding factor.

For one more-modern application, the Roman Catholic Church's position were true, wouldn't these Bereans in fact be less noble? They are searching, assessing the Scriptures for themselves. If they saw it in Scripture, they'd accept it. But if not — forget it. But, according to the RC position, isn't Luke mistaken in saying they were "nobler" than the champions of tradition? Shouldn't the Bereans simply have submitted their consciences without question to the magisterium, as present in Paul? Besides, how could they search the Scriptures for themselves, using their own private judgment?

Yet Luke praises them for testing even Paul himself by their own search of Scripture. Luke is convinced that this will invariably lead to the Lord. The next verse says that οὖν, oun, therefore — because of this search of Scripture — many came to saving faith. They searched the Scriptures to test Paul's message, therefore they came to saving faith. It is as Luke would have expected, convinced as he was that Scripture did "have these things thus."

Many of us have experienced some of the same challenging, and freeing, power of Scripture. We were Arminian when saved. We heard about the sovereignty of God. Maybe the news repelled us, repulsed us, at first. (It certainly was repellent to me, first time I heard it unvarnished.) And yet, we searched the Scriptures, to see if it had things thus. And we're Calvinists now. Scripture overruled our tradition.

That was the end of the process, right? Our reformation ended with that change, right?

Oh, my brothers, oh, my sisters, these are terrible soul-twisters. Let us beware of merely trading one tradition for another, even if a worse for a better.

This is what I love about being Reformed. If it means anything, sola Scriptura means that Scripture alone is the arbiter of faith and practice. I am free to adopt a creed or a confession, if I am convinced that it expresses what Scripture says. But I do not thereby trade God's voice in Scripture as my master for that creed.

And so, if the confession (or whatever) doesn't line up with Scripture? If 98% of it does, but there's that niggling 2%? What then? Have I traded the primacy of Scripture for my confession, or my new "club rules" and decoder-ring? Am I "dead-wed" to a tradition?

Beware. This is one real danger to which we expose ourselves, if we are more concerned as to whether or not this or that person (or doctrine) gets to wear the "Reformed" or "Calvinist" badge, as if we owned the Reformation.

We ought to care most about the "Biblical" badge.

Or Luke would never say we were "nobler" than Thessalonian Jews, or the Roman Catholics, or any other champions of tradition, whom we criticize.

Dan Phillips's signature

79 comments:

centuri0n said...

I own the reformation.

I have the receipt to prove it.

Turretinfan said...

If labels are to have meanings, then there must be boundaries - even if they are fuzzy. "Reformed Catholics" are not "Reformed" -- The Latter Day Saints are not "Christian" -- and the Christian Scientists are neither Christian nor Scientists.

I recognize that the post is here to address someone closer to the boundary, and personally I would prefer to include him in the "Reformed" definition.

Nevertheless, too much bickering over the definition, and next thing you know, Calvin wasn't reformed.

-Turretinfan

DJP said...

I own the reformation.

Well... that's settled, then!

David said...

Two comments:

1. More Noble, or more open minded?

These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so. (NET Bible)

Then comments in the NET bible state about "open-minded"

"tn Or “more willing to learn.” L&N 27.48 and BDAG 404 s.v. εγενς 2 both use the term “open-minded” here. The point is that they were more receptive to Paul’s message."


2. It seems you make assumptions about the Jews in Thessalonica - There seems to me no indication in the text that they were "tradition bound" in the sense that the RC views tradition. A more sensible viewing of thier response seems to me to be that they were wedded to thier interpretation of scripture and that they saw the disciples as blasphemers (thus the really huge negative response). That really has nothing to do with tradition as the RC sees it, and everything to do with interpretation of scripture.

Yes, they were wedded to thier view of scripture - but that is something different than tradition. Indeed, I think we could find many in the protestant tradition who are so wedded to thier interpreation of the bible that they are blind to the truth.

DJP said...

1. "More noble," in the sense defined by Luke and discussed in the article.

2. Really? So you think of Luke as introducing a new category of Jews than those he'd described repeatedly in his Gospel, without noting that fact? You find it more persuasive to brush aside what we know about the Jews of his day, to posit something different? And how is it different? And what is the hard evidence that demands that creation of a new category exclusive of the established one?


Interesting.

pfg blogmatron said...

Graciously edifying and welcomed. :-)

JSB said...

"Beware. This is one real danger to which we expose ourselves, if we are more concerned as to whether or not this or that person (or doctrine) gets to wear the "Reformed" or "Calvinist" badge, as if we owned the Reformation. We ought to care most about the "Biblical" badge."

Well said, Dan! Many are those who seem to worship their particular "ism" over the solid witness of Scripture. But Scripture will noodle your "ism" if you let it. I guess that's why a lot of people just won't let it.

goodnightsafehome said...

Loved the picture of the Pope :-) I hope you're not softening us all up so that he'll be a guest blogger later on? "Beware of German Shepherds." (Adaptation of Philippians 3:2)

DJP said...

But Scripture will noodle your "ism" if you let it.

I like it.

donsands said...

Encouraging post. You were being a Berean in the Scripture about the Bereans.

The Bible is precious. The Holy Scriptures are slowly but surely being thought of as just another book these days. Surely it is a book, but it's God's truth to us His people.
What a shame, that so mnay today don't revere the Holy Bible.

LeeC said...

More open minded?
I would say not. Instead I would say that they were about keeping their minds in submission to what God had told them in His Word. They were closed minded in fact.

Granted until now they did not know Christ, but they were obeying Pauls command in 2 Cor. 10:5
"5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,"

They understood that Scripture is a template that we place over our lives, and anything that sticks out...we must be willing to chop off. Until we fully conform to that template.

Phil Johnson said...

Hey, Dan, I adjusted your graphics but inadvertently messed up your Greek fonts, and I don't know how to fix them. When you get a chance, you need to re-edit all the Greek in your post.

Ooops. Sorry.

DJP said...

Gahh! No toucha my Greek!

Jacobs Well - Builders for Christ said...

re: Noble v. open minded - it is just a matter of correct translation. I think that "open minded" is a better translation. If Luke commends them as "open minded" than as "noble", then your basic supposition for this post has a flaw, because Luke never refers to them as "noble", therefore the thesolicans are not "less noble" - they are less open minded.

Re: the Bereans v. the Thesolinicans. The Bereans were more open minded to examining the scripture - from the context in Acts, more open minded than those from Thesolinica. Those from Thesolinica were, by counter example, obviously not open minded to comparing what Paul was saying to scripture. But the Thesolinicans response was not based on tradition as in the RC belief in tradition.

In the RC - tradition has little to do with scripture - tradition is seperate from scripture - such as the Pope and other religous rites.

There is no indication in the bible that I see that the Thesolinicans relyed on some sort of traditon in the RC fashion. If the Thesolinicans were observant Jews, they placed a high view of scripture, but were "close minded" and not open to testing what Paul was saying. Based on thier reaction, they likely saw Paul as a blasphemer and heretic, and then must be treated as such - but it was because of thier understanding of scripture.



And I do not think I am positing anything "new" about the Jews of his day. Those who did not believe were close minded. They were bound by their interpretation of scripture, and would not consider an alternative.

David said...

sorry for that - the JW/BfC thing is part of a googel group I belong to.

Google and blogger get confused some times.

but the above post is me, David

DJP said...

Whew! Fixed.

Good thing we're friends.

Garet Pahl said...

We ought to care most about the "Biblical" badge.

Does the interaction of the priesthood of the believer and sola scriptura mean we are supposed to have a personal hermeneutic? That's the way it comes across from the "above theological labels" crowd. They'll say "I'm not a Calvinist or Arminian, I'm a Biblicist".(the claim of Ergun Caner) Or, "I'm not a Reformed Christian, I'm a Biblical Christian". This sounds so enlightened and spiritual, but can devolve into a narrow personal theology to the exclusion of everyone or an orthodoxy so generous as to include everybody, or (in the case of Caner) a theology so kitsch it's embarrassing. It seems to me that confessions and creeds anchor the faith against a fluctuating zeitgest that subconsciously influences one's hermeneutic. And isn't there a presupposed hermeneutic involved in developing a "Biblical" hermeneutic?

I wrote somewhere here months ago to the effect that the Emergent movement is primarily the result of interpreting scripture through the paradigm of a Marxist deconstructivim. Likewise, I think the advent of modern liberal theology (and perhaps prosperity gospel too) flowed from post-Enlightenment materialism. While the general church population is clueless about what those terms mean, they accept the premises by default and interpret by default. What protections against our own unconscious personal presuppositions do we have, other than the confessions and creeds? Apart from the stance of monergistic regeneration supported therein, we are doomed to a gospel that is continuously becoming irrelevent, which is no good news at all.

DJP said...

That isn't my base readership here. If I made every possible qualification for every possible misreading—which some may think I do anyway—these would be some pretty long posts. And deathly dull, and dulled.

Garet Pahl said...

If I made every possible qualification for every possible misreading

Well, ya. The choir gets it. :-) The scope of what is "given" in this forum is broad. Just suggesting that there is more to it than then possibility of "misreadings" though. I think there is good reason not to eschew labels as "Biblical" is common subterfuge. Much the way political parties in America like to brand themselves with the constitution. It has become a rhetorical device, rather than a meaningful identifier. Of course, that can be done with anything.

Robert said...

Tradition in the way of scripture? Oy vey, I could go on-and-on about what I've seen in the SBC!
Or Frank could do it much better that I can.

Jeremy Felden said...

Dan,

Does your Bible have a table of contents? If so, where did it come from? Why is Esther in there?

Why didn't Jesus always quote from the "best and most reliable" manuscripts?

Did the Reformation reform a Church or individuals?

DJP said...

Yes.

It describes the contents.

Because it was God-breathed.

I don't know that He didn't.

It started to reform both. The church is composed of individuals.

Anything else I can help you with?

Jeremy Felden said...

Dan,

Are you saying that Esther is God-breathed, or the table of contents?

I don't recall Paul giving Timothy an exhaustive list of what was inspired.

Rhology said...

Looks like Jeremy has stopped by to rehash old Catholic Answers arguments.

DJP said...

I believe I answered in the order asked. Like I'm doing now.

Okay.

DJP said...

It rather does look that way, doesn't it, rhology?

How d'you think it's going for him?

Trinian said...

We were Arminian when saved. We heard about the sovereignty of God. Maybe the news repelled us, repulsed us, at first. And yet, we searched the Scriptures, to see if it had things thus. And we're Calvinists now.

Wait, how did you do that? Do you have a camera on me or something? What am I doing now, huh?

Rhology said...

Not great, but he could always bust out the old stalwart "The Catholic Church GAVE you your Bible, Mr. Whi-- I mean, Mr. Phillips!"

Jeremy Felden said...

epRho,

You found me out. I thought I could hide my catholicism, but you sniffed it out. My church even says a Creed where they claim to believe in the holy Catholic church!

Seriously, isn't there something between Rome and "the Bible magically appeared?"

DJP said...

Trinian—I can't think of an answer that mightn't put me on Phil's wrong side.

Garet Pahl said...

No Jer. Clearly you're up to no good popery. And I thought I knew you.

DJP said...

Seriously, isn't there something between Rome and "the Bible magically appeared?"

You'll have to find someone who believes in the latter position and ask him.

Meanwhile, I'll opt for the attitude God the Holy Spirit moved Dr. Luke to call "nobler."

Hey -- I really should write a whole essay explaining exactly what I understand that to mean!

Oh, wait....

Jeremy Felden said...

Can't wait Dan. Should be good.

Rhology said...

I read something along the lines of that recently...

And I note that Jeremy confuses "rehash old Catholic Answers arguments" with "Jeremy is a bleepety-bleep Roman Catholic! Stake and burn 'im!"

Jeremy Felden said...

Rho,

I particularly like the bit where Dan told about the Bereans rummaging about for one of Peter's letters. Equally good was his explanation of how they knew not to rely on Esdras.












:-)

Rhology said...

Jeremy,

Hmm, don't see how a ltr from Peter is relevant. The "Scriptures" of Berea would've been the OT as I'm sure you realise.

Yeah, it IS pretty funny how they (and all Jews) knew Esdras wasn't canonical. Fits the sola scriptura position pretty well - God passively directing His people to discover His Canon - doesn't it?

Garet Pahl said...

Scripture overruled our tradition

If our tradition is being a rank humanist of depraved mind scripture quickly tutors otherwise. To suggest that the traditions of self -made religion as held by a depraved mind are the same as central doctrines traditionally agreed upon by scholarly elders who exercised Biblical wisdom ages ago is a false dichotomy and sloppy thinking. If there is a niggling 2%, I better be sure my skills are and perception so honed as to exclude any personal bias or error, that I can undo the work of those who've come before me.



Love you Dan.

Jeremy Felden said...

Rho,

If God led you (passively directed you) to believe that a book did not belong in the Bible, would you cut it out?

A charismatic canon of Scripture...it has possibilities.

centuri0n said...

Jeremy:

have you lost it, bro?

I'm just curious because the Holy Spirit told the local Catholic priest to call me and ask you that.

DJP said...

Yep, Garet. Better search the Scripture.

Would somebody with infinite patience and limitless time to burn sit down with Jeremy and Garet, make sure they actually read the article, and then make sure they actually interact with what is actually argued in the article?

Then maybe quiz them on it before they comment further?

centuri0n said...

I have a stumper for the readers who have followed this onversation this far:

When Paul wrote 2Tim 3:16 and refered toa "all scripture", is there any evidence that Paul meant only the OT, or did he mean "all scripture" -- meaning NT documents as well?

This is 2Tim we're talking about, after all. And that's all the hints I'm going to give you.

Jeremy Felden said...

Frank,

Just seeing if we were wandering into solo scriptura territory.

It is possible that God gave us a Church, just not an infallible one with a magic chair.

Or should I say to the elder on his way to discipline me any minute, "Hey, go read your own Bible! I'm cool."

Jeremy Felden said...

Frank,

I think you meant 2 Peter 3:16 :-)

Rhology said...

Jeremy,

I do believe I used the word "His people."

I wouldn't qualify as "people," no.

And the words "all Scripture" don't appear in 2 Peter 3:16, so I'm very nearly infallibly sure that Frank's not referring to 2 Peter.

Sorry Dan, I'm talking to a long-winded full preterist and an Emergent guy these days, can't help you w/ this too much. ;-)

Garet Pahl said...

2 Tim 3:16, refers to the sacred writings known by Timothy since his youth as mentioned in verse 15- so that would mean OT. However, the reality of v.16 is a transcendent theme that should extended in principle to all that is traditionally cannonical.

Dan: Read it three times minimum. There is underscoring logic that is self-contradictory and that is what we are riffing on. We could just say, "Right O!" and move on, but that would be boring.

Jeremy Felden said...

Rho,

So God does not reveal the Canon to individuals, but rather to the Church. Like through councils and stuff?

Dan,

OK, enough fooling around. Is there any role for the Church and tradition as fallible authorites in the believer's life?

Rhology said...

Jeremy,

I didn't say He doesn't reveal it to individuals, but He won't reveal a DIFFERENT Canon to someone than the one that He revealed to the Church.
Thru councils? Well, I'm not sure there were a whole lotta "ecumenical" councils that got the Canon right, so I don't know if I'd say that. But if you know of a council that DID get it right, I'm open to correction.

BTW, why are you bringing up the question of the Canon on this thread?

Jeremy Felden said...

Rho,

Garet and I are from the home of Church-less Christianity. We have witnessed the havoc that has come of it. I know that if Dan pastored a church, he would write a statement of faith that would require the phone company to print it. And I would commend him for it. We might even begin to see it as Dan confessing his faith.

Over, let's say 261 years, that statement of faith might come to be seen as a tradition. Heck, it would be a tradition. If Dan is right on (as he usually is), it would be a very useful document in guiding the Danite Church away from the various precipices of unorthodoxy.

I brought up the Canon because it is an instance of God using fallible men to preserve his infallible word. It's OK to acknowledge that God uses means to accomplish his purpose. We needn't believe that Jesus penned the 1611 KJB to trust the Bible.

Alas, I am an untutored swain. But I seem to find an attitude of the Reformers of examining everything and clinging to what is good. Including traditions.

Garet Pahl said...

Rho,

The cannon didn't assemble itself. The table of contents is not self-validating, it was locked at the council of Laodicia. If tradition must submit to scripture (as it must), then we are affirming that there is at least one tradition that scripture must submit to, and that is the tradition that defines scripture in the first place. I believe tradition to be fallible, but a lot less fallible than me, and therefore a proper instructor for my faith and practice. And by default, so does anybody else who affirms that the 66 books are the inspired Word. The criteria was established, it was met, and the cannon was sealed. It is impossible for scripture to overrule this tradition, or else we have no scripture. And it's convoluted to think otherwise. Without the cannonization,we'd be weeding through a bunch of unnecessary garbage (the gnostic gospels and the apocrypha, trying to "divine" the truth on our own criteria.

Am I the preterist or the Emergent dude? I think I'd rather be the preterist.

Rhology said...

Hi guys,

--Garet and I are from the home of Church-less Christianity.
>>That is an oxymoron.

--that statement of faith might come to be seen as a tradition. Heck, it would be a tradition. If Dan is right on (as he usually is), it would be a very useful document
>>Yes it would. That's the value of having a confessional church (and this coming from a member of an SBC church!)

--We needn't believe that Jesus penned the 1611 KJB to trust the Bible.
>>OK. Don't remember saying anythg of the sort.

--But I seem to find an attitude of the Reformers of examining everything and clinging to what is good. Including traditions.
>>Indeed, and I share it. The Canon is not a tradition at its base, however, so this disclaimer seems a bit strange/disingenuous given your previous posts in this thread.


GARET: The cannon didn't assemble itself.
>>I clearly said that God revealed it.

--The table of contents is not self-validating
>>It is part of the nature of Scripture - since it's inspired, all other books are not. The inspired ones form the Canon.

--council of Laodicea
>>I asked for a council who got it RIGHT. Wiki says that they omitted Revelation from the NT and added Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy to the OT.

--we are affirming that there is at least one tradition that scripture must submit to
>>But you're also a proponent of "church-less Christianity," so, you know.

--Without the cannonization,we'd be weeding through a bunch of unnecessary garbage (the gnostic gospels and the apocrypha, trying to "divine" the truth on our own criteria.
>>But you haven't cited a "tradition" (as though trying to separate "tradition" from "non-tradition" in any worldview even remotely resembling the Roman Catholic or Eastern O-dox one weren't an impossible task) that gives us the right Canon yet.

--Am I the preterist or the Emergent dude? I think I'd rather be the preterist.
>>Nah, you're neither. But knowing what *I* know, you'd rather be the Emergent one. ;-) At least he's not a heretic.

Peace,
ALAN

Jeremy Felden said...

Rho,
One more time, and slowly:

Garet and I are from the home of Church-less Christianity. We have witnessed the havoc that has come of it.

My turn:

It is part of the nature of Scripture - since it's inspired, all other books are not. The inspired ones form the Canon.

Is it up to each of us to determine whether a book is inspired?

Garet Pahl said...

Rho,

I clearly said that God revealed it


To whom and by what means?

It is part of the nature of Scripture - since it's inspired, all other books are not. The inspired ones form the Canon.

Well duh. "How do we know they are inspired? Cause they're in the Canon. How do we know they should be in the Canon? Cause they're inspired" Very circular. You haven't thought much about this before have you.

I asked for a council who got it RIGHT. Wiki says that they omitted Revelation from the NT and added Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy to the OT.

Well who did get it right, you? How do I know your tradition is the best one? What if Revelation isn't inspired, how would we know and who made that decision? (Jeremy I never knew you wrote an epistle, you've been holding out on me all these years!)

knowing what *I* know, you'd rather be the Emergent one. ;-) At least he's not a heretic.

So RC Sproul would be the heretic and Brian McClaren wouldn't? Preterism falls well within the bounds of Biblical eschatology and the Emergent conversation is Marxism. I think I'll stick with being the preterist.

In the future I wouldn't recommend revealing that you have to look up church history at Wikipedia, either.

Sorry to sound snippy, I'm in a rush- its jazz night at the Starligt Lounge.

By His Grace, Garet

Jeremy Felden said...

Garet,

I'm actually in the Authorized Version, but, then again, so are unicorns.

centuri0n said...

Jeremy:

Nope. I meant 2Tim 3:16.
_____________

Garet:

You should re-read 1Tim before you make that statement. I think Paul knew of more Scripture than that, and thinks Timothy did, too.

centuri0n said...

1Tim 5:18 is an interesting insight into what Paul thinks is Scripture. I know I said no more hints, but that's my hint for the evening shift.

Garet Pahl said...

Will do Frank. Thanks for the hint.

Did Paul know about II Tim. before he wrote it? And how bout Hebrews, if it is a post-Apostolic author? Just wondering.

Good night.

Jeremy Felden said...

Frank,

Doesn't anyone exegete smilies anymore? You know you're headed there. Still pretty tough to get Esther in the Canon, though.

centuri0n said...

Jeremy:

Jerome didn't think so. And I don't have a hermeneutic for the internet yet.
__________

Garet:

I'll ask you two straight questions, and then you can continue your fish-flopping about what is and is not in the canon from Paul's perspective as he pens 2Tim.

[1] What two sources are being called "Scripture" in 1Tim 5:18 by Paul?

[2] One source was written much later than the other; that later source -- which books were written after it?

Rhology said...

Jeremy,

--We have witnessed the havoc that has come of it.
>>Ooops. I must be hungover from talking to Emergents. My apologies.

--Is it up to each of us to determine whether a book is inspired?
>>No. God determines that.

Garet,

--To whom and by what means?
>>To the church. By the passive witness of His Spirit of that which His Spirit breathed out, working subtlely but surely in His people.

--"How do we know they are inspired? Cause they're in the Canon. How do we know they should be in the Canon? Cause they're inspired" Very circular.
>>Yeah, it is. Kind of like "It's tradition b/c the Church says it is. How do we know the Church is what determines tradition? Tradition says so."
Sthg that helped me quite a bit in my wading thru this topic has been always to consider the alternative. I encourage you to do the same - you might just find that sola scriptura is way better than the other alternatives.

--Well who did get it right, you?
>>No, it was never up to me. But SOME people did, and that's how we have arrived at the right Canon.
I take it also by your giving up after one try that you can't answer my question of which council got the Canon right? I can't say I'm surprised.

--How do I know your tradition is the best one?
>>You may just have to exercise a bit of faith in God or do a little research on the topic of the Canon. Maybe even both.

--What if Revelation isn't inspired, how would we know and who made that decision?
>>God would have made it known (how He does that is up to Him). He would make that decision.

--So RC Sproul would be the heretic and Brian McClaren wouldn't? Preterism falls well within the bounds of Biblical eschatology and the Emergent conversation is Marxism.
>>When I said "full preterist" I meant hyper-Preterist. RC Sproul is not a hyper-preterist. This guy denies the future bodily resurrection of all people among other things. When you believe sthg that the Apostle Paul says makes your faith a "shipwreck" and "in vain", you're a heretic. Look up "Hymenaean" for more info. You might even start at wikipedia. ;-)

--In the future I wouldn't recommend revealing that you have to look up church history at Wikipedia, either.
>>You were responding to my question, I was in a hurry and briefly checked it. So sue me - and while you're at it, you could answer the question I posed related to that incident.

Peace,
ALAN

SolaMeanie said...

I rather like the way the NASB renders it:

"Noble-minded."

As to the overall discussion, isn't the overall sentiment for believers to avoid "gulpability?" That is a condition where you hear someone teach/preach, and you sit there taking it in..."gulp....gulp....gulp," with no motivation to even try to check things out with Scripture. A good pastor-teacher is one who is joyfully willing to have his teaching scrutinized through the light of Scripture. It is the papist-type who believes that only what the Magisterium says is acceptable

Rhology said...

Ironically, often the Magisterium goes by the name of "Joel Osteen".

Garet Pahl said...

Frank,

1. Undoubtedly, Paul is referring to the OT and the Words of Christ as we see recorded by Luke.

2. My understanding is that Luke and Acts were likely written while Paul was awaiting his appeal to Caesar in Rome(many say both are framed as legal documents), which would mean that at least several, if not all of Paul's Epistles were written before the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, if not concurrently. Now, am I to take this as Paul was foreknowing what Luke would write? Or maybe, the sayings of Christ were in wide circulation due to the many witnesses still alive and recounting them? Either works for me.

We also know that Peter considered Paul's writings God-breathed(what Jeremy was referring to) and Peter was a likely informant for much of what Luke recorded.

I do not dispute these things, but embrace them whole heartedly.

My point is this, the Bible we have in our hands, the 66 books, were not handed down from heaven on golden plates. We must somewhere agree that Godly men acknowledged the authority of what had been recorded in various places and various times and said "these are of the Lord, we submit to them, these are not, we cast them aside." The scriptures do not explicitly and exhaustively tell us which books and authors are to be included, but instead gives us criteria(i.e. Apostolic authority) for what Scripture is. The Church had a role in assembling those criteria and then carefully applying those criteria. I am NOT saying Scripture gets authority from the Church, or from a council. Quite the opposite. I am saying God sovereignly moved through men, specifically His Bride the Church, who by the application of Godly wisdom gave us the Canon, or "the List". Alan can pretend that somber men with beards didn't sit around a big room and say "this is inspired, this is not", but they did.

Should Revelation be in the NT? As late as the 5th Century it's proper place was still in dispute. We all agree that it's there now because God wanted it to be and moved Sovereignly through historical events to give it to us. That's our tradition. (granted, we may not have had endure the Left Behind series if it was left out)

Some would define me as a cessationist, I certainly do not believe that there is some type of inspired, authoritative utterance that can add to what was already given in Scripture. But, I have to be willing to admit that at least the tradition of Scripture is good tradition.


Btw, it's really intimidating trying to write in the comment box with you raising your eyebrow at me every five seconds.


Alan,

You tell me who got it right. I know Eusebius(sp?)had all 27 NT books, but listed Revelation as suspect. Laodicea was the first council to approve the Canon(w/o Revelation), a NT Canon that has remained unaltered since(except of course the inclusion of Revelation). If church history memory serves me correct, it wasn't until the WCF that there was a 66 book canon. An excellent tradition if you ask me.

Turretinfan said...

Centuri0n wrote:
"When Paul wrote 2Tim 3:16 and refered to "all scripture", is there any evidence that Paul meant only the OT, or did he mean "all scripture" -- meaning NT documents as well?"

The evidence in favor of OT only is the "from thy youth" in the first part of verse 15.

The evidence against OT only is

(1) the "unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" in the second part of verse 15,

(2) the context beginning in 2:15,

(3) the apparent reference to the gospel of John in 2:19 (about the Lord knowing his own), and the explicit reference to the gospel in 1:10, and the summary of the gospel of Matthew in 2:8,

(4) the suggestion that Timothy is still young in 2:22, supported by the note that Timothy is a third generation believer in 1:5,

(5) to a lesser extent, the commmand "preach the word" in verse 2 of the fourth chapter, and

(6) don't forget the bibles and malista the parchments in 4:13.

May the Word triumph!

-Turretinfan

Jeremy Felden said...

Rho,

Guess you don't want to explain how the believer knows that a book is inspired. That's ok, epistemology is a harsh mistress.

The thing I wanted to know from all of this is whether sola scriptura means "me and my Bible" or "The rule of faith and life given to God's Church."

I personally believe that God grants believers the faith to perceive what he has inspired. That's a bit different from your terse tautologies. But that doesn't negate the fact that God has used his Church to preserve his word, including the table of contents.

I also don't see a "Church...What Church?" ecclesiology in the Reformers. Do you?

Garet Pahl said...

Frank,
I think you've successfully coined the phrase "the AWANA approach to scripture" and it makes me happy.

Rhology said...

Hey Garet,

--You tell me who got it right.
>>The people of God, over time. *YOU'RE* the one making it sound like there had to be some Big Fat Infallible Declaration from a group of people to know the Canon.
And I note that, again, you didn't answer the question - you just tried to turn it back on me though I had already answered it.

Next post, could you either answer the question or retract your statement?

--If church history memory serves me correct, it wasn't until the WCF that there was a 66 book canon.
>>Isn't it true that the NT Canon was stated in Athanasius' 39th Festal Letter in 367 AD?
And that the OT Canon was already set at the time of Christ? Add the OT to the NT and you've got the Bible, right?


Hey Jeremy,

--Guess you don't want to explain how the believer knows that a book is inspired.
>>I already explained that.

--epistemology is a harsh mistress.
>>So apparently is interacting w/ answers you receive from interlocutors.

--whether sola scriptura means "me and my Bible" or "The rule of faith and life given to God's Church."
>>None of the posters on TeamPyro nor I would say "me and my Bible." The Scr make clear that the writings are for the Church AND the individual.

--I personally believe that God grants believers the faith to perceive what he has inspired.
>>I agree. Given that, I guess I find some of your questions strange.

--That's a bit different from your terse tautologies.
>>How so?
And as for tautologies, may I suggest the following:
"I personally believe that God grants believers the faith to perceive what he has inspired."
"But that doesn't negate the fact that God has used his Church to preserve his word, including the table of contents."

Remember, what are the alternatives?

--But that doesn't negate the fact that God has used his Church to preserve his word, including the table of contents.
>>No argument here.

--I also don't see a "Church...What Church?" ecclesiology in the Reformers. Do you?
>>No.

Garet Pahl said...

*YOU'RE* the one making it sound like there had to be some Big Fat Infallible Declaration from a group of people to know the Canon.
Rubbish. I stated that at the Council of Laodicea, a group of men agreed on what was inspired NT.

And I note that, again, you didn't answer the question - you just tried to turn it back on me though I had already answered it. No. I am suggesting the answer is more complex. You either seem to think somebody did give us the canon, of whom you approve and I would like to know who qualifies in your mind to do that. Or, it just appeared. I am suggesting that the Canon we have assembled out of tradition expressed and confirmed at Laodicea as an authoritative Church ruling that had meaning, and still does.

Next post, could you either answer the question or retract your statement?
The one that I'm "making it sound like". That is unclear.

Isn't it true that the NT Canon was stated in Athanasius' 39th Festal Letter in 367 AD?
Um, yes Athansius includes 27 books and 7 apocryphal ones. Are you suggesting that Athanasius' was the final arbiter of the the traditional NT canon?

And that the OT Canon was already set at the time of Christ?
Not as we have it.

Add the OT to the NT and you've got the Bible, right?
Which ones. The KJB included apocryphal books. The current table of contents in my ESV reflect the WCF.

Jeremy Felden said...

Rho,

--You tell me who got it right.
>>The people of God, over time

Sounds like...tradition? God working through his Church?

Glad we finally agree.

Rhology said...

Hey Garet,

RHOLOGY: *YOU'RE* the one making it sound like there had to be some Big Fat Infallible Declaration from a group of people to know the Canon.
--Rubbish, I stated that at the Council of Laodicea, a group of men agreed on what was inspired NT.
GARET FROM BEFORE:
"The cannon didn't assemble itself. The table of contents is not self-validating"
"we are affirming that there is at least one tradition that scripture must submit to, and that is the tradition that defines scripture in the first place."
GARET FROM THIS SAME POST:
"I am suggesting that the Canon we have assembled out of tradition expressed and confirmed at Laodicea"

>>That's what that sounds like to ME, but I could be wrong.

BTW, I pointed out that the Council of Laodicea got the Canon *wrong*.

--I am suggesting the answer is more complex.
>>It may not be really simple, but there are right and wrong ways to be complex.

--You either seem to think somebody did give us the canon
>>God did.

--I would like to know who qualifies in your mind to do that.
>>God.

--Um, yes Athansius includes 27 books and 7 apocryphal ones.
>>For the **NEW TESTAMENT**?

--Are you suggesting that Athanasius' was the final arbiter of the the traditional NT canon?
>>Didn't say that.

RHOLOGY: OT Canon was already set at the time of Christ?
--Not as we have it.
>>You're mistaken about that for many reasons.

RHOLOGY: Add the OT to the NT and you've got the Bible, right?
--Which ones. The KJB included apocryphal books. The current table of contents in my ESV reflect the WCF.
>>Repeating myself is getting tiresome.
OT = known at time of Christ
NT = known at time of 39th Festal Letter
Add 'em together and they're the TOC in your ESV.

Peace,
ALAN

Garet Pahl said...

Alan,

Your answers: "God"

I think you're suggesting that because the various books were in existence- we had the Canon. Fine. And we would have the Bible we have today even apart from the men who assembled and agreed what constituted it- therefore Rome has a false gospel. If that is your position you are welcome to it.

BTW, I pointed out that the Council of Laodicea got the Canon *wrong*.
How can we know this? I agree Revelation was under dispute (and remained so for a LONG time). But SOMEWHERE there was a criteria that insists Revelation is God breathed.

Rhology said...

Hey Garet,

Rather, since God inspired SOME books and not others, the Canon has existed from eternity past.

--And we would have the Bible we have today even apart from the men who assembled and agreed what constituted it-
>>That statement makes no sense - we both agree that God *used* men to assemble it.

--therefore Rome has a false gospel
>>Oh no, not at all. They have a false gospel b/c they add works to grace, making grace no longer grace.

--If that is your position you are welcome to it.
>>Thanks. :-) But you haven't correctly stated my position yet.

--How can we know this? I agree Revelation was under dispute (and remained so for a LONG time).
>>Well, you answered your own question. They didn't accept Revelation.
It's not like I'm trying to say that the C of L was worthless, but they weren't the end-all be-all of Canon establishment. We can agree on that, can't we?

--But SOMEWHERE there was a criteria that insists Revelation is God breathed.
>>Where?
And what's wrong w/ God passively bringing His people to recognise that which is God-breathed and which is not?

Peace,
ALAN

Garet Pahl said...

the Canon has existed from eternity past
Really? This statement has more in common with Islam than Orthodox Christianity.

they weren't the end-all be-all of Canon establishment. We can agree on that, can't we?
I'll agree to that. In re-reading I realize I overstated my own position with the word "locked", "established" would have been better. I do not intend to defend a position I do not hold.

God passively bringing His people to recognise that which is God-breathed and which is not
These passive actions by God, in which people actively recognize truth, are what we call "traditions".


Let me give you what I have tried to say ineloquently, in the eloquent words of Doug Wilson:

The cry of "Scripture alone," misunderstood as it is, does not eliminate our traditions. It just makes them hard for us to see. A modern church cannot base everything it does on "Scriptures solitaire" without any reference to the testimonies of the historic Church. For one of the central testimonies which the church has given, and which the historic Protestants continue to give, is that the 66 books of the Bible are the only ultimate and inerrant Word of God. Take that testimony away, and you are left with various lone individuals clutching a leather-bound book for some mysterious reason. Better not ask them why--that would be asking for a private tradition, and traditions are bad.
Tradition is what the church necessarily hands down to subsequent generations. An essential part of that tradition must be a definition of the ultimate and inerrant standard which will serve as the only criterion for judging the rest of the traditions. And the only tradition which gives that place of honor to sola Scriptura is that of the historic Protestant faith.

Rhology said...

Hey Garet,

No, the Islamic doctrine of the Qur'an more closely matches the Christian doctrine of the pre-existence of the Logos, Jesus Christ.

I'll agree to your explanation of the word "tradition" if we understand that the UNDERSTANDING of the Canon BY PEOPLE is a tradition. But the Canon itself is established by God from eternity past.
If you disagree, could you speculate on when it was (chronologically) that God decided the extent of the Canon? Thanks.

What I'm reacting against in your postings is this idea:
GARET: then we are affirming that there is at least one tradition that scripture must submit to

>>Wrong. Only Scripture is God-breathed, and we are to judge tradition by the Scripture (Mark 7:1-13).
Don't cross that line and we have no problem; frankly, I'm kinda tired of writing responses. ;-) But I'm afraid you ARE flirting w/ that line, and I don't want to let it go unchallenged.

--Doug Wilson quote
>>Very cool.

Peace,
ALAN

Garet Pahl said...

Very cool.

Very right. I recommend reading it more carefully.

I am happy to conclude this thread, but I'm not flirting with that line of interpreting the Word via papal edicts. I am suggesting that you're presuppositions are faulty, for your own view of the Canon is a tradition in and of itself.

It's been fun.

Any thoughts Jer?

Jeremy Felden said...

No.

Rho and I agree. God works through his Church. We were just talking past each other because of a primary/secondary cause problem.

Garet Pahl said...

Jer: Undoubtedly.

Alan:
I whole heartedly agree that there is not a speck of dust that does not answer to the sovereignty of God and therefore no-thing occurs apart from his decree, 66 books included. However, we exist in space time as does the Canon, therefore your chronology question is absurd. By that rationale papists could claim (and some do) that encyclicals and edicts have existed since eternity past because they exist and are therefore authoritative. An authority by cosmology if you will.
Our tradition is that some guy in a funny hat doesn't speak for God; God speaks for himself through 66 books, but most ultimately in His Son, the climax of Revelation. You can *pretend* as a good SBC fella that you follow no traditions, but as Doug Wilson said that just makes your tradition harder to see.

Nothing but love and peace to you Alan. Keep up the fight of faith.

By His Grace, Garet

Turretinfan said...

In support of Rhology's "eternal canon" argument:

Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

Those "works" include the Bible.

-Turretinfan

DJP said...

This comment thread strayed far afield.

To summarize:

The Bereans were commended, in the Word of God, as "nobler," specifically and precisely because they directly searched the Scriptures for themselves, to find if what Paul the apostle preached was true. This is what led them to saving faith.

Tradition may be a useful servant, but it is no master. The best application of the heart of the Reformation is to search the Scriptures, and hold all tradition as being under its final judgment.

Or Luke would never say we were "nobler" than the Thessalonian Jews, or the Roman Catholics, or any other champions of tradition, whom we criticize.

Jeremy Felden said...

Dan,

I am glad we are clear that traditions are useful. I love it when you use them on the leaky-Canon folks.

We may come to any interpretation we want to privately, but we confess our faith corporately. That is why it was so vital for the Bereans to search the Scriptures. They needed to know what their synogogue was going to teach next week! If we have a "Martin Luther moment" it must be for the edification of the body.

The creeds and confessions were the work of a great many Biblicists. If we disagree with a vital 2% of our confession, we owe it to the church to bring it to the elders so that we may purify our doctrine. I believe that this should only been done when we are sure that our exegesis isn't at least 2% off.

If I think there are too many very's in the Nicene Creed, it doesn't give me the right to stick my fingers in my ears:

When someone disregards the regula fidei, or the testimony of the early church, or the traditional interpretation of Scripture, or the corporate judgment of the church, they are creating a kind of schism that ought never to be, but has crept into the mindset of current evangelicalism as Sola Scriptura. It is nothing of the kind.