On the Ending(s) of Mark’s Gospel

In the post titled “Newsweek Tells Christians They Are Wrong”, I mentioned that one of the examples of biblical corruption brought up by Kurt Eichenwald in his anti-evangelical, anti-Bible screed was the so-called “long(er) ending of Mark” (16:9-20). Some have called the debate about this passage the most significant textual controversy in the New Testament. I pointed out that most modern Bible versions/translations have a footnote to the effect that those verses are not found in the earliest manuscripts. Of course, there are many other books about textual criticism and commentary that discuss the passage, too. This is an example of good scholarship and shows that conservative academics and Bible publishers are not only aware of this “corruption” but try their best to educate laypeople, as well. I have come across additional information on this topic, which I thought I’d relate here for the benefit of those interested in such things.

Codex Vaticanus - ending of Mark

Codex Vaticanus – ending of Mark w/ v.8

Most people who read footnotes and possibly other sources of such information are aware of a couple possible endings for the Gospel of Mark. (Note: The phrase “manuscripts according to _______” used below means that the named individual, a significant figure in the Early Church, referred to one or more manuscripts that he was aware of having a particular text.)

1) The earliest manuscripts, Codex Sinaiticus (4th century) and Codex Vaticanus (4th century), end with Mark 16:8, which says,

“And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (ESV)

Other manuscripts that end there include Syriacs (4th century), 304 (12th century), one Coptic Sahidic manuscript, Armenian manuscripts, Georgian manuscripts, Eusebius’ Canons, Hesychius, manuscripts according to Eusebius, manuscripts according to Jerome, and manuscripts according to Severus.

2) The “longer ending” (vv.9-20), which certain churches (denominations?) are very attached to, is found in the majority of texts. These include Codex Alexandrinus (5th century), Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (5th century), Codex Bezae (5th century), Θ (9th century), 33 (9th century), f13 (11th-15th centuries), manuscripts according to Eusebius, manuscripts according to Jerome, manuscripts according to Severus, Irenaeus (via a Latin translation), Apostolic Constitutions, Epiphanius, Severian, Nestorius, Ambrose, and Augustine. Aside from Irenaeus (2nd century), the patristic witnesses mentioned are no earlier than 4th century. It became the most popular ending after the 4th century and was made canonical by the Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1564). The text in question reads,

“9 [[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]” (ESV)

(Please note the double square brackets used by the ESV, which helps set it apart. The whole passage follows an obvious heading that says “[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20.]” Other translations either do something similar or put the whole thing in a footnote.)

Those are the main two. But, once in awhile, you might see reference to other endings, too.

3) The Codex Bobiensis (itk) (~400) has the following “shorter ending” tacked onto verse 8:

“But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” (ESV footnote)

4) The Codex Washingtonensis (early 5th century) and manuscripts according to Jerome include not only the “longer ending” (#2) but insert the following after verse 14:

“And they excused themselves, saying, “This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not permit God’s truth and power to conquer the evil [unclean] spirits. Therefore, reveal your justice now.” This is what they said to Christ. And Christ replied to them, “The period of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other dreadful things will happen soon. And I was handed over to death for those who have sinned, so that they may return to the truth and sin no more, and so they may inherit the spiritual, incorruptible, and righteous glory in heaven.”” (NLT)

5) A few manuscripts — sorry, I don’t have their names — incorporate the Bobiensis text (#3) with the longer ending (#2).

So, the natural questions to ask are “Where did these different endings come from?” and “Which is the real ending of Mark?”

Codex Alexandrinus - inc. part of Mark's longer ending

Codex Alexandrinus – inc. part of Mark’s longer ending

It should be noted that none of the additions flow very naturally from the text that precedes. For example, the subject of verse 8 is the women, but verse 9 suddenly has Jesus as the subject. Verse 9 also introduces Mary Magdalene as if she were a new character. The traditional, longer ending in particular is of a different style, tone, and vocabulary than the rest of Mark. For example, most everywhere else, the Gospels use the passive verb regarding Jesus’ resurrection. (I.e., The Father did the raising.) But, verse 9 begins with the Greek active aorist participle anastas (“having risen”), which indicates that Jesus raised Himself.

Whether new or transplanted from some other document, the longer ending is obviously an attempt to “fix” the abrupt ending of verse 8. While adding his own theological distinctives, its author appears to have drawn from the Gospels and Acts, which familiarity may help explain the ending’s popularity. (See John 20, Luke 24, and Matthew 28.) Unfortunately, some important details regarding Mary’s report contradict those in Luke and John, so it must be dismissed. The inclusion of additional unbelief (vv.13-14) is questionable (though it does continue one of Mark’s themes), as is the emphasis on baptism as a prerequisite to salvation (v.16). The promise of accompanying signs (e.g., speaking in tongues and protection from snakes) seems to pull from Acts 2:4; 10:46; & 28:3-6. Verse 19 seems to come from the end of Luke, and verse 20 is essentially a summary of the whole book of Acts — very odd to have in a Gospel.

The Codex Bobiensis ending appears to be a succinct attempt to show that the women had followed the angels’ instructions to notify the Apostles after all. I didn’t come across any specific speculations as to who did this, though it was probably a well-meaning scribe who made a best guess as to how Mark would (should?) have finished the piece, given what we know actually did happen. However, in doing so, one must delete the part of v.8 that says “and they said nothing to anyone”. (One Old Latin manuscript does precisely that.)

The Codex Washingtonensis ending is likely a 3rd-century marginal gloss that was added to the text of some manuscripts before the 4th century. The culprit was probably a scribe — possibly influenced by Acts (1:6-7; 3:19-21) and the Epistle of Barnabas (4:9; 15:7) — who wanted to give a reason for the Apostles’ unbelief seen in the longer ending.

“No one has made a good case for the originality of any of the various additions. The historical fact appears to be that various readers, concerned that Mark ended so abruptly, completed the Gospel with a variety of additions. According to [esteemed German Biblical scholar and NT textual critic] Kurt Aland, the shorter and longer endings were composed independently in different geographical locations, and both were probably circulating in the second century. [Esteemed American Biblical scholar and NT textual critic Bruce] Metzger says that the longer ending displays some vocabulary that ‘suggests that the composition of the ending is appropriately located at the end of the first century or in the middle of the second century.’”  — Philip Comfort, Sr. Editor of Bible Reference at Tyndale House Publishers

But, even if Mark did not write any of the above additions, could he have written another ending that got lost and we have yet to discover? After all, why would he leave readers hanging with just an announcement of the resurrection and no appearances? Why make the women look bad — afraid, confused, disobedient? It has been hypothesized that, just as Mark included the fulfillment of all Jesus’ other predictions, he would have recorded an actual appearance of the risen Christ to His disciples, too. There are grammatical reasons to think that verse 7 was supposed to end the paragraph, and verse 8 would have begun another section to end the narrative. It is also very easy to see how an early manuscript could have had this proposed ending torn off. (Would be really cool to find it, eh?)

On the other hand, nothing actually demands that Mark end his Gospel the same way the others did. Mark may very well have felt unworthy or incapable of sufficiently describing the risen Lord and/or simply wanted his readers to imagine for themselves His first post-resurrection appearance. There are also themes of secrecy and failure (by the disciples) in his Gospel that Mark may have wanted to continue. Plus, if there was an original, longer ending of Mark, it must have been lost very soon after it was first written; otherwise, history shows that “variants” tend to enter the textual stream and get preserved somewhere and show up eventually. (Of course, it must be admitted that there may be other variants for various texts that were lost to time and may be found in the future or never at all.) Unfortunately, no evidence has yet been discovered to indicate the existence of another, early, and satisfactory ending of Mark.

Codex Washingtonensis - end of Mark

Codex Washingtonensis – end of Mark

The answer to our second question, then, is that the textual evidence is strongest for Reading #1 (i.e., Mark stopped with v.8), and this is indeed the scholarly consensus. (There are, of course, still scholars who argue in favor of the authenticity of the longer ending or the likelihood of a lost ending.) The earliest extant manuscripts (that preserve this portion of Mark) and some early versions (also mentioned above) end with verse 8. Church fathers Clement, Origen, Cyprian and Cyril of Alexandria knew of no additions, plus there are those manuscripts that Jerome, Severus, and Eusebius referenced that ended with v.8. In particular, in his Quaestiones ad Marinum, Eusebius (3rd-4th centuries) states that…

“accurate copies end their text of the Marcan account with the words of the young man whom the women saw, and who said to them: “‘Do not be afraid; it is Jesus the Nazarene that you are looking for, etc. … ’”, after which it adds: “And when they heard this, they ran away, and said nothing to anyone, because they were frightened.” That is where the text does end, in almost all copies of the gospel according to Mark. What occasionally follows in some copies, not all, would be extraneous, most particularly if it contained something contradictory to the evidence of the other evangelists.”

Among those later manuscripts that do include vv.9-20, some mark them off with obeli to indicate their questionable pedigree, while others include marginal notes about the section being absent from the most ancient texts.

So, it seems pretty clear to me, at least, that the inspired autograph (i.e., original manuscript) of Mark’s Gospel almost certainly ended with verse 8. But, I see no problem with including the “longer ending” (and maybe the others) in modern translations, as long as it is made clear that those verses were added later by well-meaning but misguided scribes. The fact that the longer ending of Mark is most likely not inspired and therefore not authoritative should not be of great concern (except by backwoods snake-handlers), because it is not necessary for supporting any major, orthodox doctrines or practices. Likewise, nothing in it should be used as prooftext for a particular doctrine or practice.

The work that goes into examining the biblical texts in such detail and figures out things like this should be an encouragement to the rest of us and an assurance that we know with a very high degree of probability what the inspired autographs actually said.

(H/T Which Bible Translation Should I Use?, esp. the section by Philip Comfort)

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About That Final GOP Debate…

“Hillary Clinton will do anything to gain and hang on to power, anything…. [N]ow she is trying for the White House. She is probably more qualified for the ‘Big House’, honestly. She has escaped prosecution more times than El Chapo; perhaps Sean Penn should interview her.”  — Carly Fiorina

Candidates at the "main event"

Candidates at the “main event”

Since I skipped commenting on the last couple of GOP debates, I figured I better say a couple things about this final one. This time, I watched the beginning of the “undercard” debate, then most of the “main event” (except for the last 20 minutes). At various times, I was pleased, disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, impressed, and confused. Sometimes, all at once. There were a few good soundbytes (e.g., Rubio: “Sanders would be a great president… for Sweden.”; also, the above quote by Fiorina) and times I just wished they would shut up and move on (e.g., Cruz vs. Rubio on immigration policy; or, Cruz doing his best Trump-ian whine about the moderators).

What was up with the moderators (especially Megyn Kelly) being so combative? “Gotcha” questions and snark are bad enough. But, fer cryin’ out loud, since when is the “moderator” supposed to argue with the candidates beyond matters of time-keeping and protocol? Also, as The Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway (see below) summed up:

“Let’s drop questions that ask, “Would you like to apologize?” or “Would you like to revise your remarks?” They just come off horribly. And question the assumptions to your questions. So many false and disputable claims are built into questions.”

I’m really tired of the current “debate” format….

I was a bit disappointed in my man Cruz. He had some good responses and his Trump joke in the beginning was great. I was also impressed with his boldness re ethanol in front of the pro-subsidy crowd. But, I’m afraid his negatives may have cancelled out or even out-shown his positives. So, I seriously doubt this debate gave him the push he needed to really make Trump sweat. Speaking of…

The best part was Trump’s absence. Without him being the focus of so much attention, the others got to spend more time fight… er, I mean, have exchanges on substantial policy issues. Or, as Hemingway put it, “Trump’s absence… elevated the discourse substantially.” (Charles Krauthammer and others agree.) Most of the candidates had one or more pretty good moments, in re rhetoric/performance and/or substance. (Even Kasich!) But, I just don’t have it in me to do a full analysis. So, I’d like to refer you to a few others that I thought had pretty good commentaries with which I mostly agree.

Allen West: “Here’s what I think about Donald Trump skipping last night’s debate…”

Mollie Hemingway: “6 Quick Takeaways From GOP Debate In Iowa”

Response Action Network: “Des Moines Debate Winners and Losers”

Finally, I’d like to go back to the matter of the debate format. I brought this up in a previous post, too, in which I said,

“I am frustrated with the format for these “debates”. In fact, I like Allen West’s idea:

“[O]ver a week-long period, have a format where each presidential candidate is grilled for a 45-minute period by a two-person team. That way we cut down on the ridiculous back and forth and it’s just about the candidate and the issues. Sadly, the problem is we, the American public, have turned our political scene into a reality TV show and the media plays to that all for the holy grail of ratings.”

If we can’t have that, then I’d like to see a few debates focused solely on one or two issues (e.g., military/foreign policy, jobs & the economy, illegal immigration & domestic security, “social issues”) to help us distinguish the candidates from each other. Some actual one-on-one debates might be helpful, too. For example, Cruz vs. Kasich, Paul vs. Christie, Trump vs. Fiorina, Jindal vs. Graham, etc.”

GOP candidates in "undercard"

GOP  “undercard” candidates

I would like to reiterate my favoring of a series of *real*, one-on-one debates, where two candidates each present their position to the audience on a given topic, then the candidates give timed responses and replies to each other, like in a formal debate. That way, there is less of a free-for-all atmosphere, everyone gets to address all of the issues, and the exchanges are more focused.

However, if the primary debates must continue in the current format, then randomly split the candidates into two equal groups each time. That way, 1) no one is diminished and they all get to be on equal footing; and, 2) we get a different dynamic each time, with less chance of always hearing the same pairs of people going at it. Also, please make sure each debate is clearly focused on one or two specific areas of policy (as they try to do, now). Others have suggested, and I agree, that someone other than the network anchors should moderate. We need more “objective” journalists — perhaps a liberal and conservative pair — to ask substantive, hard-hitting but non-gotcha questions, without trying to pit the candidates against one another in order to boost ratings. (If it happens, it happens.)

OK, I’m done.

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How Do the Presidential Primary Candidates Stack Up?

“Under every stone lurks a politician.”  — Aristophanes

whitehouse-ASome of you may remember back in October, when I posted a table of several (potential) candidates for Speaker of the House and their scores from several thinktanks. Well, I thought it might be both fun and educational to do the same for the Presidential primary candidates of both major parties (+ Bernie). Well, as best I could, anyway, since most scorecards are only given for legislators, and they don’t always go back far enough for a particular candidate’s years in office.

First, let’s begin with those currently serving in Congress – including Graham, even though he has already dropped out of the race — and most of those who served in the past. As before, these are the lifetime — or, barring that, most current session available — scores from the following (mostly) conservative thinktanks/organizations. (Note that I replaced the SBEC with the NTU.):

HA = Heritage Action; lifetime, 2011-present
CfG = Club for Growth; lifetime, 2005-present
ACU = American Conservative Union; lifetime, 1971?-2014
FW = FreedomWorks; lifetime, 2005-present
AfP = American for Prosperity; lifetime, 2007-present
[No more scorecards from Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBEC); old ones not archived.]
CSP = Center for Security Policy; 2013-2014
NUSA = NumbersUSA; 1989-present
CR = Conservative Review; Liberty Score is based on the top 50 votes over the past six years.
NTU = National Taxpayers Union; 1992-present

# All numeric scores based on possible 100. #

  Date 1st Assumed Office HA CfG ACU FW AfP CfSP NUSA CR NTU
Clinton (D-NY) 01/03/01 N/a 3 8.13 15 4 N/a N/a N/a F
Cruz (R-TX) 01/03/13 98 96 100 98 98 100 A+ A 97% A
Graham (R-SC) 01/03/95 52 74 87.31 70 81 33.33 D+ F 37% C+
*Kasich (R-OH) 01/03/83 N/a N/a 88.39 N/a N/a N/a N/a N/a B+
Paul (R-KY) 01/03/11 93 98 98 99 93 86.67 A- A 94% A
Rubio (R-FL) 01/03/11 91 93 98 88 98 60 D+ C 79% B+
Sanders (I-VT) 01/03/91 10 7 6.2 8 5 13.33 D F 15% F
Santorum (R-PA) 01/03/91 N/a 77 88.15 73 N/a N/a N/a N/a B+

* As per a Club for Growth paper I found on Politico.com,

“Kasich’s time in Congress was prior to the Club for Growth’s annual scorecard. However, the Cato Institute, a free market think tank, produces a biennial scorecard on the nation’s governors based on their tax and spending policies and actions. Kasich’s grades were: 2012 – “B” and 2014 – “D”. In addition, in 1992, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) began providing an annual scorecard that rates members of Congress on “reducing spending and opposing higher taxes.” Kasich scored a “B” during the first three years of NTU’s scorecard (1992-1994), and again in 1997. He tallied three “A” grades during the ensuing years and “B+” grades during his final two years in Congress (1999-2000)…. State spending in Ohio has increased significantly since Governor Kasich’s first budget, leading the CATO Institute, in 2014, to give Kasich “the worst score of any governor in the country on spending.””

Mark Twain on imbeciles in govtAs I was researching the above, I found some helpful scores for not only Senators and Representatives (inc. one almost-ran) but for the governors and others in the race who have never been in Congress — including many of those who already suspended their campaigns. First, we have the abovementioned Cato Institute (2014, libertarian). Then, we have Crowdpac (neutral), whose “[s]cores fall along a liberal/conservative spectrum, with 10L being the most liberal and 10C being the most conservative. A score of zero would indicate a political moderate.” Finally, we have the Leadership Project for America PAC (conservative), which “rates candidates in light of three broad categories: character, leadership skills and commitment to limited constitutional government. The organization also factors in vulnerability/electability issues.”

Note: For the governors, I included their years in office.

  Cato Crowdpac LPA PAC
Biden (D) N/a 4.5L F 44%
Bush (R) ’99-’07 N/a 5.1C B+ 87%
Carson (R) N/a 7.5C B- 82%
Chafee (D) ’11-’15 57 B 0.3L F 51%
Christie (R) ’10-pr. 56 B 3.4C D 67%
Clinton (D) N/a 6.5L F 37%
Cruz (R) N/a 9.5C B 85%
Cuomo (D) ’11-pr. 57 B 5.5L F 42%
Fiorina (R) N/a 7.0C B- 81%
Graham (R) N/a 4.6C C+ 77%
Huckabee (R) ’96-’07 N/a 6.7C D 64%
Jindal (R) ’08-’16 56 B 4.8C B 85%
Kasich (R) ’11-pr. 44 D 4.0C C+ 77%
O’Malley (D) ’07-’15 45 D 6.7L F 41%
Pataki (R) ’95-’06 N/a 1.1C F 56%
Paul (R) N/a 10C C 76%
Perry (R) ’00-’15 58 B 7.0C B 84%
Rubio (R) N/a 6.5C A- 91%
Sanders (I) N/a 7.6L F 39%
Santorum (R) N/a 4.8C C+ 78%
Trump (R) N/a 0.4L F 55%
Walker (R) ’11-pr. 58 B 8.8C A- 91%
Webb (D) N/a 5.4L F 57%

 

Fascinating comparisons, eh? I found the Crowdpac scores particularly interesting, and all scores for the 3 “outsiders” (i.e., Carson, Fiorina, & Trump) were especially helpful.  (Note that Trump is essentially a Left-leaning moderate like Chafee, though that shouldn’t be much of a surprise.) These tables have helped me see better how the candidates “stack up” against one another on various concerns, and I hope they serve as an aid to you, as well.

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In Search of the Best Bible Translation

“To articulate God’s unchanging Word in the way the original authors might have said it had they been speaking in English to the global English-speaking audience today.” — Preface to NIV 2011

Most people — at least, in “the West” — know that there are several different versions or “translations” of the Bible, and most who read it with any (semi-)regularity have their favorite. We all have our reasons, and some feel quite strongly. For some, they’ve only ever read one translation. Others have spent a lot of time using several versions and probably have at least a basic familiarity with Hebrew and/or Greek, such that they can make informed evaluations of various characteristics. Most of us are somewhere in between.

I have been aware for sometime, of course, that there are many different issues to be addressed in translating the Bible to English (or any other language), but I have never spent much time digging into any of them. And I won’t be addressing them here. (Well, not this post, anyway.) But, I recently decided it was time to get a new Bible, so I began doing some reading up on the various popular English translations.

Which Bible TranslationOutside of the “woodenly literal” translation one might find within a Hebrew/English or Greek/English interlinear, English translations range along a spectrum of “formal equivalence” (aka “word-for-word” or “essentially literal”) to “dynamic equivalence” (aka “thought-for-thought” or “functional equivalence”), with those on the latter end becoming increasingly paraphrasitic and less accurate. Over the years, I have owned some on both ends (e.g., KJV –> Living Bible) and in the middle (e.g., NIV 1984), and they all have their pluses and minuses.

The first book I chose to give me more insight and information into this topic was Which Bible Translation Should I Use?, edited by Andreas Kostenberger and David Croteau. Within the book, experts from the translation teams of four different translations — English Standard Version (ESV), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), New International Version (NIV 2011), and the New Living Translation (NLT) — present their case and give explanations of why they used the wording they did for 16 predetermined passages, as well as why they think it was as good or better than the other three. They all try their best to communicate God’s Word to English-speakers, but each team has its own translation ‘philosophy’ and approach that they try to adhere to as much as possible. Matters of form & readability, linguistic precision, textual variants, gender-inclusivity, theology, and interpretation/application are addressed by all.

Going into this, I admit to having a preference for the “essentially literal” translations. (Most recently, I have been using a New American Standard Bible (NASB), though I often compare my old NIV, too. As a rule, I avoid paraphrases like The Message.) So, I resonated strongly with the following statement by Wayne Grudem of the ESV team, as he discussed the quote above:

“The goal of translation is not understanding how the authors might say something today but understanding how they actually said it back then. I respectfully disagree with the philosophy of translation as expressed in the NIV’s preface. As a Bible translator, my goal should not be to try to imagine how Moses or Isaiah or Paul might say something if they were here today. I want to listen in on how exactly they said it back then. It seems to me that the NIV’s philosophy here leans too far in the direction of a dynamic equivalence translation.”

I was already pretty sure I wanted an ESV, and after reading Grudem’s section of the book, I am even more sure. On the other hand, Douglas Moo makes some fair points in the NIV’s defense:

“There is a reason the NIV has been the most popular English Bible for decades; it follows a ‘mediating’ translation approach that pays careful attention to the form of the original while putting that original into natural, comprehensible English. When we work on the NIV, we do pay attention to the form of the original, and we try to retain that form in English — but only if it is significant and if it is possible to do so while still using natural English….

[T]he Bible is full of cultural baggage and language that simply cannot be put into simple modern English without unacceptable loss of meaning. Yet readability must be a factor in the decisions translators make, recognizing that many people will not have access to the help they need to understand the text.”

HCBS Study Bible - hc and imit leatherNow, I have been aware of Holman as a publisher, and I own a couple of their “QuickSource” guides. But, it has only been of late that I took note of the Bible they publish, and I have been really impressed by what I read both by Holman (re their approach to the task of translation and the team they assembled) and by people who have been using the HCSB. They fall somewhere between formal equivalence and ‘mediating’ on the spectrum, striving to retain the best of both. While being predominantly in the “essentially literal” camp, they recognize the limitations of both source and receptor languages that can blunt the “naturalness of expression”. Thus, they strive for what they call “optimal equivalence”. Here is how the HCSB’s Ray Clendenen summarized it:

“Optimal equivalence shares functional equivalence’s commitment to naturalness of language. But it differs from functional equivalence by also treating as desirable the essential characteristics of formal equivalence. The priority for optimal equivalence is communication, which includes truth and comprehension. The message of the text and its purpose must come through.”

As I progressed through the book, I gained a better understanding of all four translations. I probably would not get an NLT, but I see where the NIV is coming from, even if I don’t always agree with their choices. Not surprisingly, the ESV and HCSB agreed on a lot, with most of their differences being fairly minor. I’d say I agreed with the ESV team’s reasoning half the time and with the HCSB’s the other half.

I find this a fascinating subject and plan to read a few more books on it. Should be fun! Meanwhile, I have ordered my first ESV, my first HCSB, and a new “integrated” NIV (2011). Maybe in a few months I’ll post more on the topic….

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Immigrant Advantage in the Struggle for the American Dream

I came across a fascinating New York Times opinion piece a few weeks ago. That in itself is quite unusual, since I don’t read the Times, it being known for its liberal-progressive bias and me being known for my disdain for that sort of thing. But, something else I was reading apparently made note of it and I saved the link. As it happens, the article was originally published roughly 20+ months ago. But, the topic is still quite relevant to today, what with the issue of immigration — both legal and illegal — being on many people’s minds.

reaching out a handThe author of the article, Anand Giridharadas, is a 30-something of Indian descent who was born in Ohio. The topic is that the census data indicates foreign-born immigrants to the United States — specifically, naturalized citizens — appear to have an edge that native-borns don’t, when it comes to achieving personal & professional success. He has some ideas about why this is so, something which in aggregate he calls simply “the immigrant advantage”, and I think he is onto something.

He begins with some statistics…

“From Mississippi to West Virginia to Oklahoma, native-borns are struggling to flourish on a par with foreign-born Americans. In the 10 poorest states (just one on the East or West Coast: South Carolina), the median household of native-borns earns 84 cents for every $1 earned by a household of naturalized citizens, compared with 97 cents for native-borns in the richest (and mostly coastal) states, according to Census Bureau data. In the poorest states, foreign-borns are 24 percent less likely than native-borns to report themselves as divorced or separated, but just 3 percent less likely in the richest states. In the poorest states, foreign-borns are 36 percent less likely than native-borns to live in poverty; the disparity collapses to about half that in wealthier states like New Jersey and Connecticut.”

Now, while the statistics themselves are quite interesting, it is the observations and analysis later in the article that intrigued me and are what I wanted to focus on.

“[L]et’s first acknowledge the obvious: Most naturalized citizens — nearly half of America’s roughly 40 million immigrants — arrived by choice, found employer sponsors, navigated visas and green cards. (We’re not talking here of immigrants who never reach citizenship and generally have harder lives than American citizens, native- or foreign-born.) It’s no accident that our freshest citizens have pluck and wits that favor them later.

BUT I also think there’s something more complicated going on: In those places where mobility’s engine is groaning and the social fabric is fraying, many immigrants may have an added edge because of their ability to straddle the seemingly contradictory values of their birthplaces and their adopted land, to balance individualism with community-mindedness and self-reliance with usage of the system.”

Giridharadas relates an interesting example of such an immigrant who, despite difficult beginnings and a personal tragedy, was able to use a combination of hard work and self-reliance, the kindness of friends & family when necessary, and some government financial aid to rise above and achieve his dreams.

“In places bedeviled by anomie, immigrants from more family-centered and collectivist societies — Mexico, India, Colombia, Vietnam, Haiti, China — often arrive with an advantageous blend of individualist and communitarian traits. I say a blend, because while they come from communal societies, they were deserters. They may have been raised with family-first values, but often they were the ones to leave aging parents. It can be a powerful cocktail: a self-willed drive for success and, leavening it somewhat, a sacrificial devotion to family and tribe. Many, even as their lives grow more independent, serve their family oceans away by sending remittances.”

Latino immigrants at their coffee shop

Latino immigrants at their coffee shop

I have seen this first-hand — well, sort of second-hand — within my extended family, as well as in friends and co-workers I had back in my NJ days.

“What’s interesting about so many of America’s immigrants is how they manage to plug instincts cultivated in other places into the system here. Many are trained in their homelands to behave as though the state will do nothing for them, and in America they reap the advantages of being self-starters. But they also benefit from the systems and support that America does offer, which are inadequate as substitutes for initiative but are useful complements to it.”

That’s a great observation. The “trick”, I suppose, is in determining the proper balance. Too many native-borns these days are socialized to think that the State (i.e., government) is looking out for their best interests and that they can and should depend on it for… well, too much. Thus, we get the “entitlement” generation(s) — i.e., those who think they are entitled to <enter laundry list here> — and a neverending abuse of the welfare system, never satisfied with the assistance and always looking for, even demanding, more. Unfortunately, a lot of illegal immigrants and “refugees” worm their way into American society and demand these benefits as soon as they get here. On the one hand, it’s wrong and despicable; on the other, can we blame them for having certain expectations? As a nation, we have brought this upon ourselves.

“In an age of inequality and shaky faith in the American promise of mobility through merit, we can learn from these experiences. Forget the overused idea popularized in self-help guides that native-borns must ‘think like an immigrant’ to prosper, an exhortation that ignores much history. Rather, the success of immigrants in the nation’s hurting places reminds us that the American dream can still work, but it helps to have people to lean on. Many immigrants get that, because where they come from, people are all you have.”

Or, put another way, it seems that we as a society would do well to remind ourselves of some of that “Old World” family- and community-mindedness, while recognizing that it does not need to dull one’s sense of initiative and self-reliance.

There you have it! I would also like to point out something else. Often when discussing immigrants living & working in America, we think in terms of two extremes: either a) isolated ethnic communities or b) total assimilation without anything distinctive left. But, what is described here is a “third way”, where successful, naturalized citizens can embrace the principles of freedom, etc., in their adopted land and live & work harmoniously alongside others from diverse backgrounds. It is this blending of certain values, practices, and other distinctives which allows so many immigrants to thrive and achieve the American Dream.

As a bonus, here is an article you might enjoy from Entrepreneur magazine: “How Six Immigrant Entrepreneurs Transformed Dreams Into Businesses”

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Newsweek Tells Christians They Are Wrong

Newsweek‘s cover story is exactly what happens when a writer fueled by open antipathy to evangelical Christianity tries to throw every argument he can think of against the Bible and its authority. To put the matter plainly, no honest historian would recognize the portrait of Christian history presented in this essay as accurate and no credible journalist would recognize this screed as balanced.”  — Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary and Boyce College

[Prefatory note: This is the (semi-)Christmasy post that was delayed a couple weeks. Blame George Lucas, JJ Abrams, & Disney.]

Continuing a time-honored tradition among skeptics and atheists, especially around this time of year (and Easter), Newsweek published a major article informing Christians — conservative ones, at least — where they go wrong in regards to the Bible. OK, it actually came out last Christmas (2014), so maybe I’m a little slow in responding and many others beat me to it. Still, the nice thing is that it is still relevant today, and I can put out a “Christmas” post (of a sort) with some substance. Though the article isn’t specifically about Christmas, there is a section that mentions the Nativity and the Three Kings/Wise Men. Nice how that works out.

Newsweek-on-the-BibleThe article in question was authored by Kurt Eichenwald, Senior Writer for Newsweek and former investigative journalist, who has an impressive resume, though mostly in business and financial matters. In his screed, Eichenwald rails against the ignorance, inconsistency, and bias of Christians, while seemingly oblivious to his own. He marshals many “evidences” — somewhat scattershot, though within sections — to cast doubt on the authenticity and reliability of the Bible and seeks to denigrate those who credulously believe in it, while not really knowing the truth about it. Sound familiar? Eichenwald claims not to be demeaning the Bible or evangelicals, using a “Just the facts, folks. Don’t shoot the messenger.” defense; but, it seems quite obvious from his tone and bias that he means to do just that. Even while making the occasional valid point, his attitude of smug superiority permeates. Not internet-troll snarky, but still…

Let’s be honest here, though. There is a lot of truth in several of Eichenwald’s initial pronouncements. For example, there are indeed many “Christians” — certainly of the “cultural Christian” type, but also of the devout Jesus-follower type — who don’t know their Bible as well as they should. (Guilty as charged, here.) We are inconsistent in our Christian walk and can be rather judgmental at times. (Some more than others.) Yes, many of us have innocently confused artistic renderings with actual Biblical information. And, we often don’t know the events of church history or the reasoning behind orthodox theology or formation of the canon, the methods of textual criticism, sound hermeneutics or responsible exegesis — assuming one is even familiar with the terminology. Of course, Eichenwald is counting on this, even while he betrays his own ignorance and reliance solely on liberal/skeptical “modern Bible experts” (i.e., Bart Ehrman, Richard Elliott Friedman, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Jason David BeDuhn; elsewhere, John Shelby Spong, John Hick, Sir Anthony Buzzard & Charles F. Hunting, etc.). If he has engaged with conservative, evangelical scholarship on any of these matters, it certainly isn’t apparent in this one-sided diatribe.

The author also has a particular bone to pick with political conservatives — especially leaders like Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Michele Bachmann — who use the Bible to “justify” their socio-cultural and political positions, who dare ask God to “save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats” and “pray for the country’s salvation.” I agree that some Christians can occasionally misuse Scripture in their socio-political warfare, but I generally disagree with Eichenwald in the particular misuses and dangers involved. (Probably because I am one of them.) Furthermore, he tries to make a political statement/accusation by equating the GOP with evangelicals, which clearly ignores both the known diversity within the Republican Party and the broad spectrum of political associations among Christian evangelicals.

As for the broader message of the piece, however, Eichenwald greatly overstates his case. First, he opens with condescension, insults, and slander (“God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians… religious rationalizers”), accusing Christians of being not only biblically illiterate but hate-filled and anti-science. These are caricatures for which he gives no example or explanation, though, based on comments elsewhere in the article, I’m guessing he refers primarily to the issues of homosexuality and creationism. His subsequent arguments against the authenticity of historical Christian orthodoxy and understanding of the Bible are similarly ridiculous and one-sided. In fact, any apprehension I had that there might be something particularly worrisome or unexplainable in the article vanished when the author commenced his critique with that old trope of the biblical skeptic, the “telephone game” of biblical translation.

“At best, we’ve all read a bad translation — a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.”

Such hyperbole is meant to shock us, but it is laughably inaccurate and a gross misrepresentation of the facts. While it is true that the original manuscripts (aka “autographs”) have not been found, and the average pew-sitter may not realize this, it isn’t as big a deal as Eichenwald makes it out to be. Focusing on just the New Testament, Dan Wallace gives some background information on the manuscripts in question:

Manuscript-evidence1“Although we know of some translations, especially the later ones, that were based on translations in other languages of the Greek text (thus, a translation of a translation of the Greek), this is not at all what scholars utilize today to duplicate as faithfully as possible the original wording. No, we have Greek manuscripts — thousands of them, some reaching as far back as the second century. And we have very ancient translations directly from the Greek that give us a good sense of the Greek text that would have been available in those regions where that early version was used. These include Latin, Syriac, and Coptic especially. Altogether, we have at least 20,000 handwritten manuscripts in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic and other ancient languages that help us to determine the wording of the original. Almost 6000 of these manuscripts are in Greek alone. And we have more than one million quotations of the New Testament by church fathers. There is absolutely nothing in the Greco-Roman world that comes even remotely close to this wealth of data.”

So, scholars like Dr. Wallace who are well-versed in textual criticism have plenty of source material (plus additional archaeological and historical information) to study and compare, when determining what the autographs most likely said. They are not reliant on questionable translations of translations of copies of copies, ad infinitum. Regarding the comparison with the “telephone game”, Wallace continues:

“[T]he transmission of scripture is not at all like the telephone game. First, the goal of the telephone game is to see how badly the story can get misrepresented, while the goal of New Testament copying was by and large to produce very careful, accurate copies of the original. Second, in the telephone game there is only one line of transmission, while with the New Testament there are multiple lines of transmission. Third, one is oral, recited once in another’s ear, while the other is written, copied by a faithful scribe who then would check his or her work or have someone else do it. Fourth, in the telephone game only the wording of the last person in the line can be checked, while for the New Testament textual critics have access to many of the earlier texts, some going back very close to the time of the autographs. Fifth, even the ancient scribes had access to earlier texts, and would often check their work against a manuscript that was many generations older than their immediate ancestor. The average papyrus manuscript would last for a century or more. Thus, even a late second-century scribe could have potentially examined the original document he or she was copying. If telephone were played the way New Testament transmission occurred, it would make for a ridiculously boring parlor game!”

Question: If all we have is bad translations of imperfect and/or intentionally altered copies, how is it that Eichenwald (or his “experts”) are supposed to know what the originals said?

Part of Eichenwald’s problem may be in thinking that the King James Version (KJV), from which he often picks his examples of odd words and questionable translations, is the “gold standard of English Bibles”. That may have been true a century of two ago, and certainly there are people today who prefer it — there are even “KJV Only-ists” on the fringe who believe the KJV itself was inspired. But, most scholars (and many laypersons) nowadays recognize that we now have earlier texts and better translations of those texts than those that the KJV was based on. Also, contrary to Eichenwald’s claim, the KJV’s translators did not use the Latin Vulgate as their primary source. They used Greek texts for the New Testament and Hebrew & Aramaic texts for the Old Testament. (Even Wikipedia gets this right!)

From here, Eichenwald tries to make much hay over the fact that there are a few biblical passages that were added later by enterprising scribes. In other words, they probably cannot be attributed to the traditional authors of the books where they appear, nor do they therefore belong in the “inspired” scriptures. In pointing this stuff out, he seems to think that only the liberal scholars he uses are familiar with textual criticism. After all, that discipline is how these sorts of things are discovered. But, even if there are some “average” Christians who are unaware of these issues, conservative scholars have known about these things for just as long and have been noting them as such in new translations.

Jesus Christ and the Adulteress, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1532)

Jesus Christ and the Adulteress, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1532)

For instance, Eichenwald first highlights the Pericope Adulterae, in which Jesus is presented with the woman found guilty of adultery. Many (most?) versions nowadays include a note saying the passage is only found in late manuscripts or something like “The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11.” He brings up the “long ending of Mark” (16:9-20), which supposedly gives additional information about Jesus’ early, post-Resurrection appearances. These verses also do not appear in the early manuscripts, as is noted in modern translations. Similarly, Eichenwald mentions the Comma Johanneum (I John 5:7), which in the KJV has additional text that is often used in support of the doctrine of the Trinity. But, it shouldn’t be, because it is not found in any Greek manuscript before the 16th century. (A footnote in my Bible told me that!) While it may be true that some Christians aren’t aware, the fact that conservative textual critics and Bible publishers note these issues for laymen is a mark of honest scholarship.

Mostly what we see in the rest of the article is a frustrating mix of irrational expectations, misunderstandings (e.g., of the Gospel, of the Levitical law), oversimplifications & misrepresentations (either through ignorance or intentional straw men), conspiracy theories, and other logical fallacies. Another tired, standard claim of skeptics that appears in the article is that early Christianity was rife with confusion and arguments over doctrine, so who’s to say that the “official canon” is any more accurate or authoritative than the Gnostic gospels and other apocrypha? This is clearly an appeal to the Bauer Thesis, as championed by Ehrman and other liberals/skeptics, which has long been invalidated. Even Ehrman has somewhat conceded this. (See, for example, The Heresy of Orthodoxy, by Kruger and Kostenberger.)

Yet another falsity is the assertion that the newly-crowned and supposedly “Christian” Emperor Constantine influenced (perhaps even coerced) what books ended up in official New Testament canon. This is a claim unsupported by history, though it is often connected to the First Council of Nicea (AD 325), which was assembled at Constantine’s request. (Blame fiction like The Da Vinci Code for perpetuating such notions.) Interestingly, Eichenwald doesn’t say anything further to connect Constantine with biblical canonicity, though he does assert an imaginary 5th-century “vote” to determine which Gospels would be included. When he speaks about the Nicene Council and resultant Creed, he acknowledges that the primary subject was the deity of Jesus Christ, though he is sloppy in his characterization of both the issue and the circumstances.

Eichenwald also makes a few weird claims, inferences, exaggerations, etc.: e.g., the book of Romans teaches against debating; a Christian will go to Hell for being inconsistent; I Timothy inveighs against females going into politics; Jesus vs. “family values”. These are quite odd, and I just don’t know if Eichenwald is intentionally taking things out of context to misrepresent biblical teaching, or if he is truly ignorant of how far off the mark he is.

Not surprisingly, the Newsweek article has some sort of criticism against “creationism”, as inferred earlier. It begins by saying, “Few of the Christian faithful seem to know the Bible contains multiple creation stories.” And that is absolutely correct. However, contrary to what Eichenwald seems to think, nothing demands that all those creation accounts cover all the same events, in the same way, with the same themes, and from the same perspective. I know that Eichenwald thinks they should, because he right away points out the differences between the first two “creation stories”, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, advising us that “Careful readers have long known that the two stories contradict each other.” He explains:

“[B]iblical scholars have concluded that two Jewish sects wrote many of the books [of the Pentateuch]. Each prepared its version of Old Testament, and the two were joined together without any attempt to reconcile the many contradictions. These duplications are known as ‘doublets.’”

He goes on to give similar examples of seeming contradictions in Gen. 6 & 7 and quotes one of his (liberal) biblical scholar sources, Richard Elliott Friedman, for support.

I have a couple of comments on this. First, Genesis 2 does not actually claim to be an account of the creation/formation of the world. Rather, the differences between the first two creation accounts can more reasonably and easily be explained as a shift in perspective and focus, such that they should be read as complementary passages. Dr. Hugh Ross explains:

Jacques_Christophe_Valmont_Bomare_Adam_naming_the_animals_400“While Genesis 1 focuses almost entirely on the physical creation — what God made or made happen and in what order, Genesis 2 begins to elaborate on the why, or purpose, of creation. The Genesis 1 storyteller describes the unfolding scene of the six creation days from a vantage point somewhere just above Earth’s surface, but below the clouds, as God prepared a suitable habitat for humanity. Genesis 2 zooms in on a small portion of Earth’s surface (Eden) and what occurred from the vantage point of one human being (the first human) in that locale, walking and awakening to the sights and sounds all around.

Genesis 2 elaborates on who we humans are in relation to God and to the rest of creation, including each other. It describes the extent of our authority and responsibility. Given the strong emphasis on chronology in Genesis 1, a reader may have difficulty adjusting to the nonsequential arrangement of physical details in Genesis 2. Its summary parenthetical reference back to the chronological account performs a literary function, bringing some cohesiveness to the two passages.”  — Navigating Genesis, p. 95

Second, Friedman (and, thus, Eichenwald) clearly espouses and relies on the Documentary Hypothesis for these claims. This “higher critical” theory, also known in its current form as the (Graf-)Wellhausen Hypothesis or JEDP Theory, is a favorite method for liberal “Christians” and skeptics to cast doubt on the authenticity and reliability of the Old Testament. In a nutshell, the theory looks at various questions of style and vocabulary in the first five books (i.e., the Pentateuch) and concludes that various pieces of those books were written by at least four distinct authors during different periods, centuries after Moses. Matt Slick of CARM.org has put together a brief examination and refutation of the theory. If you want a more scholarly — yet still accessible — treatment, Gleason Archer’s A Survey of Old Testament Introduction contains quite a bit of material explaining the theory’s history, weaknesses, and fallacies, including a separate chapter on “Variations and Doublets as Criteria for Source Division”.

The Newsweek article also touches on controversy and “contradictions” in the Bible regarding Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. (Besides the timing of when this article was published, this is the connection to Christmas that justifies my calling this a Christmas post — though, of course, a few points are more Easter-y.) The first instance of this is in the midst of the Constantine/Nicea section, where Eichenwald tries to get a lot of mileage out of the fact that Christians moved their Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday — supposedly “to satisfy Constantine and his commitment to his empire’s many sun worshippers” –, that the word “Sunday” does not appear in the Bible, and that the December 25th date for celebrating the birth of Jesus had pagan origins. As usual, these are not nearly the “gotchas” that he thinks they are. (I addressed some of these concerns in my blogpost “Is December 25th Pagan? (Part 2 of 2)”.)

Later, the “No Three Kings?” section goes into things like the differing accounts of the Nativity events, misunderstandings by modern believers about inns and houses and numbers of Magi, supposed “problems” with the genealogies, etc. I spoke to some of these concerns in “Are The Gospel Accounts of the Nativity Contradictory?”. The author then expresses similar doubts and dismay about the Gospel accounts about Jesus’ trial, death, and resurrection… How long was Jesus’ conversation with Pilate? How many women went to Jesus’ tomb? How many angels were there? Eichenwald sees irreconcilable contradictions; I see accounts by different people that can be reconciled and integrated into a coherent whole. I wrote about this in “Bible Contradictions at the Empty Tomb (Part 1 of 2)” and “(Part 2 of 2)”.

There are many other things Eichenwald brings up in his article which I don’t have time to get into, but he finishes with the ever-popular “Judge Not”:

“Jesus said, Don’t judge. He condemned those who pointed out the faults of others while ignoring their own.”

Unfortunately, Eichenwald only understood part of the message about judging, though this is a common mistake by Christians and non-Christians alike. As it happens, I also have a 2-part blogpost on this topic, with Part 1 addressing it from a practical, nonsectarian angle and Part 2 specifically looking at the relevant Bible verses for the doctrine brought up in the article. I encourage you to hop over there to give that a read, then come back here. I’ll wait…. (In my opinion, Eichenwald is the guilty party here.)

Large full bookcase, second hand bookshop, fictionNow, I don’t fault Eichenwald for asking questions and encouraging biblical literacy. As I’ve said, I agree that it is an area many everyday Christian believers could improve upon. I’m also sure that he is an intelligent man and, when he wants to be, a thorough investigator and fair analyst of facts. But, if a nobody like me, with only a modicum of familiarity with the subjects at hand and spending just a few hours researching over the past few weeks, can find scholarly, historically orthodox sources that clearly and reasonably counter his claims, it makes me wonder if Eichenwald’s investigative skills are a bit rusty. Or, perhaps he didn’t want anything to get in the way of his skeptical and subversive narrative.

By the way, Eichenwald says he is not promoting any particular theology, purporting only to be admonishing the “unwashed masses”. Or, as he put it, the intent was to “shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others.” But, in his efforts to present a corrective on many Bible- and theology-related issues, he does at least imply a particular theology, which in many cases is indeed contrary to traditional Christian orthodoxy and, thus, an attack on the beliefs of laymen and scholars alike. Just wanted to point that out, as others have.

“Christians seeking greater understanding of their religion should view [this examination] as an attempt to save the Bible from the ignorance, hatred and bias that has been heaped upon it.”

Eichenwald berates conservative Christians — i.e., “fundamentalists” — for being moralistic, judgmental hypocrites who ignore biblical context and history, who make the Bible say what they want it to and Jesus into whomever they want Him to be. (I have already acknowledged that there is a kernel of truth to that, in some cases.) Unfortunately and ironically, he is guilty of doing exactly what he exhorts Christians not to do, and he doesn’t even realize it. Even more sadly, the average non-Christian (and maybe some Christian) reader of the Newsweek article in question would rather believe this baloney unreservedly than put forth the effort to seek out and fairly consider the other side.

If you, dear reader, want to read some of those explanations and counterarguments for the many topics in question from a conservative, largely evangelical perspective, I recommend searching out articles, books, and podcasts from scholars like: Craig Blomberg, Daniel B. Wallace, Michael J. Kruger, Darrell L. Bock, Paul Copan, Norm Geisler, Bruce Metzger, Gleason Archer, Richard Bauckham, Vern Poythress, James R. White, Michael Brown, Ben Witherington, just to get you started. A few of these gentlemen responded to Newsweek/Eichenwald with articles of their own, although the various topics had been dealt with in various media long before Eichenwald’s article appeared. Following a lengthy Twitter exchange with Eichenwald, White did two 90-minute video responses to the Newsweek article, where he goes through and addresses virtually every claim & accusation made therein (some in more depth than others), repeatedly encouraging Eichenwald to call in to the show to present scholarly evidence and explanations to back up his claims. (Eichenwald never called in, but in a subsequent Twitter exchange, he basically ignored White’s challenges.) You should watch it.

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Top 10: The Threequel

tenopenerMy long-time readers may remember that last year about this time I gave a “Top 10″ list of some of my favorite AVftR posts, and that list was itself a sequel to a similar list from our 5-year anniversary post. One benefit (for me), of course, is that it is fairly easy for me to put together during the holidays. Another benefit is that relatively newer readers are exposed to a few more posts that they may have missed, unless they dug around a bit on the site, since some of them date back a few years. So, here we are again, and I present for you another list of ten “top posts” on various topics that are somewhat evergreen. Hopefully, you will find some more articles that you can benefit from, and maybe I’ll get a little more traffic, as well. ;)

“Those Dang Tetrapod Tracks” (2 parts)

“A new discovery in Poland (see here or here) places the oldest tetrapod several million years earlier than the supposed transitional forms that biologists have been touting as proof of fish evolving into land animals. Naturally, this has caused quite a few excited ripples throughout the scientific community, with evolutionists in general insisting that the discovery isn’t really a problem and Darwin-skeptics pointing out that it really is a problem — possibly even a game-changer. But, everyone agrees that this is a significant find which could lead to further, revolutionary discoveries and advancement in knowledge of the era in question. Before delving into the new find itself, let’s get a little background on the prevalent theory….”

“Can Someone Be Pro-Life and Support Capital Punishment?”

“As you may have guessed or inferred from other statements I’ve made, I am strongly pro-Life. Many Christians (especially Catholics) and non-Christians believe that a consistent “pro-life” stance requires one to be against the death penalty, as well as against abortion. “All life is precious,” after all. Sometimes they will say that Jesus was all about love & forgiveness and we should be, too. They might quote “turning the other cheek” and decry the evils of answering violence with violence, etc. (The same sorts of arguments are often used for pacifism in general, of course, though that’s outside of the scope of this article.) I would like to respond to this type of reasoning, sometimes called the “seamless garment” argument, by focusing on the basics of the pro-life argument and the pro-death penalty argument….”

“Bible Contradictions at the Empty Tomb” (2 parts)

women at the tomb“One of the common complaints about the Gospel accounts is that there are ‘contradictions’ in those events covered by more than one book. I have already posted about this in regards to the Christmas story. Now, I’d like to do something similar with the Resurrection story — specifically, re the Empty Tomb. Since this is another excerpt from the ‘My Conversation with Michael the Heathen Gnostic’ dialogue I had a few years back, I’ll start it off with Michael’s challenge, which was originally coupled with the one regarding the Nativity scene….”

“Politically Incorrect Facts about the Texas Revolution”

“If you listen to guys like Howard Zinn and others of the ‘anti-America’ crowd, you’ll hear a lot of complaining about America’s ‘imperialist’ ambitions and the way the American government and society have horribly treated various (usually) non-white groups, stolen their land, etc. The 19th-century notions of American expansionism and ‘Manifest Destiny’ — i.e., that the United States (particularly white people) were meant (perhaps divinely so) to spread across North America — comes up a lot. Understand, I’m not dismissing it or saying that it was all good, either…. There were indeed some nasty people who did some nasty things; bad policies and bad decisions were made; in some cases, lives were lost. But, I’m afraid that revisionists of recent decades have twisted things to make it sound a lot worse, attribute sinister motives where there often were none, and portray American settlers moving westward as greedy, racist land-grabbers and generally as bad eggs. That’s my sense of it, anyway….”

“Heroes Are Human, Too”

“I remember when, many years ago, I first found out that the cast of the original Star Trek series did not always get along and a huge part of the problem was William Shatner’s ego…. When I started to read beyond the high-school sketches of America’s Founding Fathers, I discovered that they, too, were, shall we say, less than perfect. They fought and argued, sometimes resorting to not only ad hominem attacks but libel and slander in the local newspapers. It was at least as nasty as what goes on now. Some of them insisted on keeping slavery legal; even a few of those who were anti-slavery still owned slaves (e.g., Washington & Jefferson). Some of them could be unfaithful, duplicitous, stubborn, irascible, petty, and even mean. Yeah, a ‘great’ group of guys. But, why should we expect them to be any more perfect than we are? …”

“Pros & Cons of Online Debates and Discussions”

“Among the various books I have in progress, lately I’ve been reading Arguing with Friends: Keeping your friends and your convictions by Paul Buller. It’s a relatively thin book, but I only read 2 or 3 pages at a time, so it’s slow going. (OK, I admit it; it’s bathroom reading.) It is packed with strategic, tactical, and practical advice on how to have debates & discussions (with friends and co-workers) that are challenging and productive, while remaining friendly and respectful…. At one point, Buller stresses that involved conversations about such important — and often complex — topics really should be done face-to-face, in person…. For some (myself included), there are many more opportunities to have these conversations — even with friends and associates — online than in person. So, in order to sort of balance out Buller’s points, I decided to counter with a few of my own regarding the benefits of having debates & discussions online….”

“Defining Patriotism and Acts Thereof”

“I came across two or three articles discussing one aspect or another of the results of a new Fox News national poll. Among other things, the poll asked respondents — 1018 randomly chosen registered voters, nationwide and across the political spectrum — if they felt that certain activities were ‘acts of patriotism’. While I appreciate the intent of many of my compatriots’ answers, I have to say that I disagree with a lot of them on several of these. (And I consider myself pretty patriotic!) Here are the acts of interest and their respective ‘Yes’ percentages…”

“A Local Flood Interpretation of Genesis 7″

noah-ark-evelyn-patrick1“In my Facebook travels, not long ago I came across the following request (not challenge) by a Young-Earth Creationist named Randy on the Genesis Debate Forum:

I’d really like to know how a localized flood interpretation is possible through Genesis 7:18-24 NASB

[He then cited the passage.]

He got a few answers, but they were incomplete and unsatisfying, and he left the group…. [P]art of the problem is that a full explanation requires addressing many elements of the passage and probably a longer response than most are willing to put together. I wasn’t able to respond then, but I’d like to answer Randy, now. So, before addressing the passage as a whole, let’s look at some of those words that tend to cause confusion or about which modern readers often make assumptions. As we do, please realize that biblical Hebrew had a rather limited vocabulary, with only a few thousand words, so most of those words had multiple, literal definitions/uses….”

“Facts Are Stubborn Things”

“We all, at some time or another, are guilty of jumping to conclusions, of believing something without adequate evidence, of accepting a particular accounting of events, because it satisfies our suspicions or even a broader worldview. If that account is later shown to be false, our willingness to admit we were wrong and accept the facts as they are now understood is a measure of our intellectual honesty….

One recent example of this was the fatal shooting by a (white) policeman of an unarmed (black) man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. With racial tensions already high in the nation, largely due to the somewhat similar shooting of Trayvon Martin two years prior, many people latched onto the story by supposed eyewitnesses that said Brown was mercilessly gunned down after raising his hands in surrender….”

“On Jesus’ Death” (4 parts)

“One of the most controversial truth claims of Christianity is that of the physical, bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, before examining the truth of the Resurrection itself, at least two other facts need to be established. First, we must look at the likelihood that the biblical Jesus of Nazareth was indeed crucified…. So, we shall consider secular evidence for Jesus’ crucifixion. We shall also examine the “Imposter Theory”, “Swoon Theory” and other naturalistic explanations, as well as the effects of the injuries Jesus experienced during his trials and on the Cross. Second, there is the matter of Jesus’ burial, specifically in the fresh-cut tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, which was sealed and guarded, yet later found empty. We shall look at a couple of the favorite theories of skeptics and their problems, as well as evidence that Jesus was buried in the manner described by the Gospels….”

OK, that’s a pretty fair cross-section. If you have any friends that you think might enjoy this blog, think of this post and others like it as “samplers” by which you can introduce them to us.

Have a Happy New Year! See y’all in 2016!

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A Biblical Argument for Animal Death Before the Fall

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”  — Romans 5:12-15 (ESV)

Dr. David W. Snoke, physicist

Dr. David W. Snoke, physicist

When I posted a citation from Chapter 1 of David Snoke’s A Biblical Case for an Old Earth several weeks ago, one of my readers asked for more posts from & about this book. As it happened, I got sidetracked with two or three other books and only recently returned to reading Snoke… on occasion. I also mentioned this book in my recent “So, You Want to Learn about Old-Earth Creationism” post.

Chapter 3 is about animal death (specifically, before the Fall of Man), since that is a HUGE issue for Young-Earth Creationists and one of the biggest stumbling blocks for Christians (and some unbelievers) to accept an Old-Earth Creationist position like mine and Snoke’s. The following citation is from the section “Death Came into the World”, wherein Snoke addresses an issue I am quite familiar with, as you may be, yet he articulates it in a way (and with a couple additional considerations) that I found fresh and insightful.

The above passage is often used to argue that all animal death started only after the fall — after all, doesn’t Romans 5:12 say “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin”?

This passage clearly teaches that Adam was one, real, historical man, not a symbol. But what kind of death came into the world when he sinned? Romans 5:12 goes on to say, “death spread to all men because all sinned.” This passage clearly refers primarily to the death of humans, not animals.

Let us look closely at the story of how death came into the world. In Genesis 2:17, God say, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Did Adam die physically on that day? No, he lived another nine hundred years or so (unless one is willing to equate that ‘day’ with an ‘age’). Then did God lie, and prove Satan correct when he said, “You will not die”? No — on that very day Adam died spiritually. Adam lost his soul. [Note: Just to be clear, Snoke here is using the phrase in the vernacular (i.e., being "cut off" from God; see below) and not to mean that Adam became soulless, which is impossible.] This was the primary death; physical death was a later consequence.

The concept of “spiritual death” is common in Scripture. The Bible often contrasts the dead heart with the living heart (Ezek. 11:19, 39:26). Jesus talks of people as “dead” though they are physically alive (Matt. 8:22), as does Paul (Eph. 2:1).

This kind of death is unique to humans. Only humans have the image of God (Gen. 1:27). The primary meaning of the death that came into the world when Adam sinned is therefore the spiritual death of alienation from God.

This spiritual death had the consequence of physical death — for Adam and Eve. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, they no longer had access to the Tree of Life. God specifically mentions this as a reason for exiling them (Gen. 3:22). Without the Tree of Life, they could not live forever.

Notice the significance of this: Adam and Eve had to eat from a special tree in order to have eternal life. Without the tree, they could not live forever. Did the animals eat from the Tree of Life? As far as we know there was only one [such] tree, and it was located in the Garden (or Adam and Eve could have found one somewhere else), so animals outside the Garden clearly could not eat of the Tree of Life.

Hyena w/ "leftovers"

Hyena w/ “leftovers”

If physical death was impossible to any animal life before the sin of Adam and Eve, then why did Adam and Eve need to eat from a special Tree to have eternal life? Would not all animal life, including Adam and Eve, have already been immortal? The discussion of the Tree of Life seems to me to clearly indicate that eternal physical life was a special blessing given only to humans, not to animals. This is further supported by passages like Ecclesiastes 3:18-20 and Psalm 49:12,20 that state that part of the curse on unbelievers is that “he is like the beasts that perish.” In other words, animals naturally die, but humans should be different.

Above, I argued that perhaps animal death was an object lesson for Adam so that he would have some idea of what God meant when he said “in that day you shall die.” If I am now arguing that the death Adam experienced on that day was spiritual, do I negate that argument? No — unless there were examples of spiritual death around for Adam to see. The physical death of the animals could serve as a visible token of the spiritual reality, as well as a concrete reminder of the physical death Adam would eventually suffer as a consequence of the spiritual death. The distinction between spiritual death and physical death need not have been sharp in Adam’s mind. Just as hell may be worse than fire, so the spiritual death Adam died was worse than the physical one, and using the latter as an illustration of the former can be quite proper.

Jesus undoes the work of Adam by bringing life where Adam brought death. How does Jesus do this? Does he give eternal life to all the animals? There is nothing in Scripture to warrant that belief, much as we might like to say that “all dogs go to heaven.” No — Jesus brings spiritual life to humans right away, as Adam brought spiritual death right away, and Jesus brings physical immortality for humans as a consequence, just as Adam lost physical immortality for humans as a consequence.

Just as the symmetry of Romans 5:12-19 has been used to argue that just as Jesus was one historical man, so Adam was one historical man, one can also use the same symmetry to argue that Adam did not bring animal death unless Jesus brought animal life. Did Jesus die for every dog, ant, and bacterium? No — he shared in our humanity to die for “all men” (Rom. 5:18), not the animals.

So, what do you think? Obviously, this argument only addresses one of several YEC arguments/concerns regarding suffering, disease, predation, and death in general. But, I think Snoke makes some great points and lays it out quite nicely. I am curious what both YECs and non-YECs think of this argument and how they might respond. Care to offer some thoughts? (As always, please keep it civil and respectful.)

Just f.y.i., I will likely have another post or two about this book somewhere down the road….

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Sowell Sets Us Straight on “Trickle Down” Economics

This is sure to come up in the elections, especially by Hillary and Bernie, so listen up….

I always thought that “trickle down” economics was a snarky reference to some aspect of Reaganomics. Turns out, I was only half right. While prepping this post, I discovered that Ronald Reagan’s disillusioned budget director, David Stockman, later told a journalist, “It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down,’ so the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.’ Supply-side is ‘trickle-down’ theory.” Thus did Reagan’s ideological adversaries seize upon equating the two, and they were so effective that the idea persists to this day. But, it is a simplistic caricature of the theory behind supply-side economics, used to smear any tax cuts that somehow benefit “the rich” and/or “big business”. As the preeminent economist Thomas Sowell explains below, “trickle down” isn’t even a real theory.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell

There have been many economic theories over the centuries, accompanied by controversies among different schools of economists. But one of the most politically prominent economic theories today is one that has never existed among economists — the “trickle down” theory. Yet this non-existent theory has been attacked from the New York Times to a writer in India. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech writer Samuel Rosenman referred to “the philosophy that had prevailed in Washington since 1921, that the object of government was to provide prosperity for those who lived and worked at the top of the economic pyramid, in the belief that prosperity would trickle down to the bottom of the heap and benefit all.” The same theme was repeated in the election campaign of 2008, when candidate Barack Obama attacked what he called “the economic philosophy” which “says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.”

Whether in the United States or in India, and whether in the past or in the present, “trickle down” has been a characterization and rejection of what somebody else supposedly believed. Moreover, it has been considered unnecessary to cite any given person who had ever actually advocated any such thing.

The phrase “trickle down” often comes up in discussions of tax policies. As noted in Chapter 18, tax revenues have in a number of instances gone up when tax rates have been reduced. But any proposal by economists or others to cut tax rates, including reducing the tax rates on higher incomes or on capital gains, can lead to accusations that those making such proposals must believe that benefits should be given to the wealthy in general or to business in particular, in order that these benefits will eventually “trickle down” to the masses of ordinary people. But no recognized economist of any school of thought has ever had any such theory or made any such proposal. It is a straw man. It cannot be found in even the most voluminous and learned histories of economic theories.

What is sought by those who advocate lower rates of taxation or other reductions of government’s role in the economy is not the transfer of existing wealth to higher income earners or businesses but the creation of additional wealth when businesses are less hampered by government controls or by increasing government appropriation of that additional wealth under steeply progressive taxation laws. Whatever the merits or demerits of this view, this is the argument that is made — and which is not confronted, but evaded, by talk of a non-existent “trickle-down” theory.

More fundamentally, economic processes work in the directly opposite way from that depicted by those who imagine that profits first benefit business owners and that benefits only belatedly trickle down to workers.

When an investment is made, whether to build a railroad or to open a new restaurant, the first money is spent hiring people to do the work. Without that, nothing happens. Even when one person decides to operate a store or hamburger stand without employees, that person must first pay somebody to deliver the goods that are going to be sold. Money goes out first to pay expenses and then comes back as profits later — if at all. The high rate of failure of new businesses makes painfully clear that there is nothing inevitable about the money coming back.

Oil workers in North Dakota

Oil workers in North Dakota

Even with successful and well-established businesses, years may elapse between the initial investment and the return of earnings. From the time when an oil company begins spending money to explore for petroleum to the time when the first gasoline resulting from that exploration comes out of a pump at a filling station, a decade may have passed. In the meantime, all sorts of employees have been paid — geologists, engineers, refinery workers, and truck drivers, for example. It is only afterwards that profits begin coming in. Only then are there any capital gains to tax. The real effect of a reduction in the capital gains tax is that it opens the prospect of greater future net profits and thereby provides incentives to make current investments that create current employment.

Nor is the oil industry unique. No one who begins publishing a newspaper expects to make a profit — or even break even — during the first year or two. But reporters and other members of the newspaper staff expect to be paid every payday, even while the paper shows only red ink on the bottom line. Similarly, Amazon.com began operating in 1995 but its first profits did not appear until the last quarter of 2001, after the company had lost a total of $2.8 billion over the years. Even a phenomenally successful enterprise like the McDonald’s restaurant chain ran up millions of dollars in debts for years before it saw the first dollar of profit. Indeed, it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy more than once in its early years. But the people behind the counter selling hamburgers were paid regularly all that time.

In short, the sequence of payments is directly the opposite of what is assumed by those who talk about a “trickle-down” theory. The workers must be paid first and then the profits flow upward later — if at all.

[from Basic Economics, 4th ed., by Thomas Sowell]

So, it seems to me that there is a sense in which “trickle down” is accurate — i.e., the poor and middle-class do benefit after the “wealthy” and/or businessperson invests in a business, which is why many tax rules favor such people. But, the employees get paid first (along with suppliers/vendors, I suppose.) Don’t fall into the “trickle down” trap that assumes there is an actual “trickle down” theory or that laissez-faire capitalism is intrinsically designed to make the rich richer at the expense of the poor and middle-class. As Professor Sowell has made clear, it just ain’t so.

P.S.  Just f.y.i., I wrote about capital gains here.

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So, You Want to Learn about Old-Earth Creationism…

“Increasing our understanding of truth constitutes a large part of our assignment here on Earth…. As scientists discover more and more about the realm of nature and everything within it, including ourselves and our beginnings, we can be certain that the evidence for its divine design as well as for the divine inspiration of Scripture will grow in quantity and quality. The basis for such certainty lies in the pattern observed over the centuries, decades, years, and days right up to the writing of this book: advancing research, both biblical and scientific brings an ever-increasing accumulation of evidence buttressing reasons to believe. Let’s keep on learning.”  — Dr. Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis, p.222

Navigating Genesis - coverSometimes, I am asked to give reading recommendations (and sometimes I just volunteer them) about apologetics, often about Old-Earth Creationism (OEC) in particular. The individual might be someone relatively new to the OEC camp who needs a better handle on the various issues & positions, or s/he might be a non-OEC who earnestly wants to understand the view better. (As I have noted before, many people are unaware that a distinctly OEC school of thought exists. For others, it gets blurred with Theistic Evolution (TE) or the modern Intelligent Design (ID) Theory.) Either way, I first recommend that they access the free materials (i.e., articles and podcasts) at the websites of “Reasons to Believe” (RTB; Hugh Ross et al.) and “Evidence for God from Science” (Richard Deem). Imho, those are the best, solidly & specifically OEC resources online.

But, when it comes to books, sometimes my advice differs, based on what the person’s particular background and concerns are. I’ve mentioned a few of these in other posts, but I have been doing some more thinking about this lately and decided to lay out some recommendations for my readers. Of course, I am limited to those which I have read and/or am familiar with as of this writing. Also, in full disclosure, I hold to a concordist/Day-Age view, so my recommendations lean in that direction. I can’t help it. That is what I believe to be the best approach/position, so that is primarily what I want others to learn. In fact, the reason I don’t usually recommend other OEC(?) websites is because they tend to be non-concordist and/or lean towards Theistic Evolution, though I don’t mind mentioning them to others that are already solidly OEC. (For more books, written by those who hold to different positions, both within and outside of the broadly OEC camp, see parts 3a and 3b of my “Primer on Origins Views for Christians”.)

The Core:

For any Christian, central to the issue of any discussion on what view to take on creation/evolution/ID is how one is to interpret and understand the first few chapters of Genesis. Thus, the first book I usually recommend someone read is Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1-11 (2014) by Hugh Ross. In this book Ross lays out how one can read the accounts of Creation, the Fall, Noah & the Flood, the Tower of Babel, etc., faithfully integrating the message of both the Bible and nature (through scientific investigation) without compromise or hermeneutical gymnastics. The book that was most instrumental in my becoming an OEC was this book’s predecessor, The Genesis Question (1998/2001). So, a cheap copy of that one might hold you over. But, Navigating Genesis is more up-to-date and contains a lot more information.

More Than a Theory - coverI would follow that up with Hugh Ross’ More Than a Theory: Revealing a Testable Model for Creation (2009), which gives an overview of the various aspects of the RTB Creation Model developed by Ross with Fuz Rana and the rest of the “scholar team” at RTB. Importantly, it points out testable features of the model and explains what predictions it makes in contrast to nontheistic naturalist models, Theistic Evolutionist models, and Young-Earth Creationist models. If a copy is not available, one might alternatively consider Creation as Science (2006), Ross’ initial effort to produce such an overview with predictive tests. (It was published under Navpress, before RTB switched over to Baker Books.)

Now, if one is a Young-Earth Creationist or was at one time and/or deals with YEC believers a lot (family, church, work, online), then there are two more books I highly recommend. First, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy, 2nd ed. (2015) by Hugh Ross. The 2004 edition is fine, too, and was itself a replacement for Ross’ Creation and Time (1994). But, the new edition of A Matter of Days has over 50 pages of new content and is worth the higher price. Second, Mark S. Whorton’s Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth (2005) is a much needed supplement, as it addresses the hot-button issue of suffering, death, and the Fall. To that end, Whorton identifies and examines two creation paradigms: the Perfect Paradise Paradigm (held primarily by YECs) and the Perfect Purpose Paradigm (held by many non-YECs).

Second Stage:

The next few books I recommend depend upon the individual’s particular interests and concerns. For example, if s/he has an affinity for (or at least an interest in) the physical sciences, I suggest reading The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God, 3rd ed. (2001) and/or Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (2008), both by Hugh Ross. As an astrophysicist by training, Ross is truly in his element here, but he also incorporates biblical/theological insights. I have had people tell me that one of these was their favorite Ross book or even the one that convinced them of the OEC position.

On the other hand, if one’s preference is the life sciences, maybe with a particular interest in theories about how & when the first life originated on Earth, then I recommend Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off (2004) by Fuz Rana and Hugh Ross and The Cell’s Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator’s Artistry (2008) by Fuz Rana. As you can well imagine, biochemist Rana (and the ever-impressive Ross) present tons of information and multiple reasons why materialistic explanations for biochemistry and the emergence of life just don’t work and why the God of the Bible is the best explanation there is.

Who Was Adam, exp - coverFinally, for those who are especially curious about the origins of humanity and where the various apes and hominids fit in from an OEC perspective, the obvious recommendation is Who Was Adam? A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Humanity, 2nd ed. (2015) by Fuz Rana with Hugh Ross. The first edition in 2005 was great, but the recently-released “10-year update” contains an additional 120 pages (plus notes), wherein Rana (with Ross) revisits his earlier discussion (with predictions) along with the latest research on the fossil record, genomics, and other studies. Not surprisingly, the conclusion is that the idea of a historical, biblical Adam and Eve is well-supported by the scientific data.

Supplemental:

The above recommendations should give you a solid grounding in the biblical and scientific arguments for an Old-Earth Creationist take on origins. (Specifically, a Day-Age concordist one, when it comes to many of the details.) But, there are several other books that can be of great assistance in understanding the various issues and positions taken. While it is an older text and therefore a bit dated in its science, I would be remiss if I did not begin by advocating Bernard Ramm’s 1954 classic, The Christian View of Science and Scripture. In emphasizing the need for a harmony of science with Scripture, Ramm addresses several issues of theology, disciplines of science, and differing views on the interpretation of the Creation Days.

If you are looking for something a bit more introductory in nature, I enjoyed Bruce and Stan’s Guide to How It All Began (2001) by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, which was later re-released as Creation and Evolution 101: A Guide to Science and the Bible in Plain Language (Christianity 101®) (2004). It’s a fun read that presents many of the basics. I believe both authors are OECs, but there isn’t a push for the old-earth position. I believe the same can be said for the Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Creation (2008) by Mark S. Whorton & Hill Roberts. John C. Lennox has authored a number of apologetics-oriented books in recent years, and perhaps the most popular is Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science (2011). It is small but informative, thought-provoking, and well-written. Everyone I know of who has read Lennox’s books (or heard him speak) love them & him.

As many of you know, there are two or three Christian publishers who put out a series of books that pit different views on a particular topic, with different contributors representing each view (e.g., Zondervan’s “Counterpoints” series). So, naturally, there are a few that are pertinent to the “origins debate”, and I’ll suggest a couple now. One of the first books I read when I was trying to figure out all this stuff was Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Counterpoints) (1999) ed. by J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds. As with all such “X Views” books I’ve read, it was a bit disappointing in some respects, but overall it was a good and helpful read. Same can be said for The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation (2001) ed. by David G. Hagopian, which I also recommend. (Note: Hugh Ross and the late Gleason Archer represented the Day-Age position in the latter book.)

The Creationists, exp - coverSometimes it is hard to grasp all the (sub)issues involved, and sometimes it is helpful to get a more fully-orbed view of the “debate”. One way is to look into the history of the subject, so you really should at some point read The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition (1992/2006) by Ronald L. Numbers. I read the original (~440 pages, including end notes), which was a fascinating and comprehensive account of the various people and organizations involved in anti-evolutionism and the creationist movement. The expanded edition contains another ~180 pages and delves into the recent Intelligent Design Movement, as well. Similarly, Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? (2003) by C. John “Jack” Collins is a great resource for getting that “big picture”. As per J.I. Packer, “Collins maps the entire interface between faithful biblical interpretation and questions of all sorts posed in the name of the sciences. Interesting, fair-minded, shrewd, and clear from start to finish….”

The more you get into this whole discussion/debate about “origins”, the more confusing it can be to keep straight the various approaches to the issue(s) in general: young-earth vs. old-earth vs. theistic evolution vs. evolutionary creation vs. ??? It would be nice if there was a way to identify the different camps writ broad and the major areas in which they differ. Several people have tried to do something like that, but I recommend Gerald Rau’s Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything (2012). It isn’t OEC-specific, since that is only one of the six models Rau identifies, but it is a must-read. For the “short version”, check out Part 2 of my Primer.

If you have an interest in geology (or feel a need to learn something about it as relates to “origins”), then I recommend two books by Davis A. Young: Creation and the flood: An alternative to flood geology and theistic evolution (1977) and Christianity and the Age of the Earth (1982/1988). They are packed with great info. More recently, Young co-wrote a larger volume with Ralph F. Stearley entitled The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth (2008), which I hear is excellent. (Young has another book that expands on the Flood, but I don’t know enough about it to recommend. Also, in later years, Young abandoned the OEC position in favor of some form of Theistic Evolution.) Daniel Wonderly has a couple books on geology, too, but I haven’t read them.

Oh, yes. I must not neglect to mention A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (2006) by David Snoke. I started the book a few months ago but got sidetracked and have only recently resumed reading it. It is great to get another take on the OEC case from Scripture (though he tackles some science early on), and Snoke does a wonderful job. Other comments/reviews I have read about it were also positive.

Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men - coverFor those who have a particular curiosity about UFOs and extraterrestrial lifeforms, you need to read Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials (2002) by Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples, & Mark Clark. The authors discuss the requirements for advanced life (as also addressed in more depth in other books mentioned), the dangers of space travel (especially at or near lightspeed), the problems with large-scale conspiracies, and the RUFO Hypothesis.

If you are wondering why I haven’t recommended any Intelligent Design books, it is because I see that as a separate topic, which I will address in one or more future posts. But, for a brief commentary on what modern ID Theory is and where it fits into the creation/evolution debates, I refer you to the aforementioned Part 2 of my Primer.

So, that’s my recommended list. I am sure that many of my OEC friends would suggest something similar, though with their own prioritization and favorites. Others would be quite different, especially if coming from an accommodationist perspective. But, I honestly think that, if you begin with “The Core” and work your way down, you will get a solid foundation in a popular approach to Old-Earth Creationist thought on matters of Scripture, science, and theology, as well as become much more informed on the “debate” in general.

Happy reading!

P.S.  I have also briefly addressed several issues from an OEC and/or ID perspective on this blog. A handy list of them can be found here.

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