"For understanding of the Scriptures comes in two ways: one merely from study, the other from knowing and following the Lord Himself, and there is a vast difference between the two." - Watchman Nee, What shall this man do?
Chapter 8 of the thesis starts with a number of questions (p.351):
The aim of this chapter is to answer some of these questions from the perspective of somebody who find his own experience of the reality of the God as described in the Bible (both Old and New Testament) too real to deny. The idea of revelation and inspiration of Scripture as given by the biblical texts themselves, are considered. This is in contrast to the typical (but not universal) fundamentalist view that starts with the simple assumption of biblical inerrancy and verbal inspiration. It is also in contrast to the typical critical view of Scripture that denies even the possibility of inspiration/revelation and would exclude any investigation of the possible method(s) of inspiration as illegitimate.
Before looking at the alternative, let us recap the concluding arguments from the meta-textual history of the Old Testament as found on p.425 of the thesis:
Considering the points of the argument one by one:
What is revelation? Before we can even consider the probability of the Old Testament being revelation, we will need to define what constitutes "revelation". From a traditional Christian perspective, the term implies that God cannot be known through "common sense" or by human logic. He has to reveal Himself. Concurrent with revelation, is the biblical idea that no human can see Him and live (In the thesis this is said to be contradicted by other parts of the Bible (p. 82-84); a claim that we will show later to be misleading). He can reveal Himself in different ways, through nature and the laws of nature, through dreams, visions, prophetic utterances, wonders (deeds of power), history etc. According to the New Testament (Hebr.1:1) the Old Testament is simply the written account of "God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways". "Revelation" is therefore a general term indication God making Himself known to people in different ways (but with the implicit assumption that people would not be able (or willing) to know Him without His initiative).
Connected to the idea of revelation, is the idea of "inspiration" of the Scripture. "All Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Tim.3:16) But how did the authors of the Old Testament themselves see this process? I think it is clear that just as the Old Testament consists of different genres, the method of inspiration will also differ. For this reason, I find the debates in conservative circles about the method of inspiration rather senseless. It seems fairly certain that when a prophet said: "thus says the LORD" (Ko amar YAHWEH), he meant that the words following that statement was pretty directly inspired as the Word of God. When the Torah says: "Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel."(Deut.31:9), and all through Torah we have the same formula "The Lord said to Moses...", I have to conclude that what we have in these parts of the Pentateuch claims to be the direct words of YAHWEH. Moreover, the signs that God did through Moses in saving the people of Israel from Egypt, was seen as confirmation that it was really God who sent Moses in the first place. On the other hand, the Psalms are prayers written under the direction of the Holy Spirit (since we know from 1 Sam. 16:13 & Ps. 51:11 that David was filled with the Spirit of YAHWEH), but doesn't claim to be the direct words of YAHWEH, while the historical books tell of what God did rather than what He said (but also gave the all-important context within which He said certain things). And interestingly, the "historical" scriptures repeatedly claimed that their accuracy could be checked in other sources (e.g. the book of "the Wars of the Lord", the book of "Yashar" etc.), which even if not available today, at least tells us that the accuracy of their accounts mattered to these writers. However, I do not find in these writings any claim to being inspired in the same way as the prophetic writings. The thesis really only addresses this method of inspiration, and not the prophetic or Spirit-inspired prayers/wisdom literature.
The revelation of God through history is not simply a historical review and after-the-fact "finding" of YAHWEH in the course of history (as the thesis mentions, this is also found in most of the ANE religions), but rather the fact that YAHWEH can shape the future and tells what He will do in future through His prophets. In contrast to the Moabite (Mesha) stone, for example, that simply claims that Kemosh was angry with the land (for no particular reason), the Torah of YAHWEH has a specific moral/ethical component (just as YAHWEH Himself had a specific moral character compared to the other "gods" of the ANE). And it was exactly in relation to their obedience to these teachings that the non-prophetical writers of the histories of Israel could judge and interpret the events of history. The wonders that He did in saving His people from Egypt and later through the judges and kings (when they were obedient to Him) as well as the promised punishment of exile because of their faithlessness and their return to the land of Israel because of His faithfulness, are all seen as evidence of Him being true to the promises in His Word, rather than simply being random occurrences. However, history was not the primary way through which Israel got to know YAHWEH, just as creation did not suffice as a way to get to know Him. Rather it was through His prophets and the prophetic word, that He revealed Himself, first through Moses (and the signs and wonders He did through Moses) and then through the later prophets who were to be tested by two things: 1. were they true to YAHWEH as revealed in Torah (did they prophesy in His Name)? 2. Did the word that they spoke in the Name of YHWH come to pass? (Deut.18:15-22) It is the fulfilment of prophecy and the wonders He did in saving them repeatedly, that revealed YAHWEH working in history, rather than simply the normal course of history. It appears to me that the late dating of the Pentateuch (which implies a non-Mosaic authorship of the Torah, but does not necessarily follow from a non-Mosaic authorship point of view) as well as the late dating of many of the prophets by liberal scholars, is the result of the preconceived notion that prophecy doesn't really exist and that all apparent prophecy must have been written after the fact. We will address the issue of prophecy later.
To a large extend, Moses is simply the ideal prophet (cf. Deut.18) and the revelation through Moses is not really qualitatively different from the later prophets. However, the subject of the revelation through Moses is unique in giving the Torah as a covenant to be kept by Israel (the later prophets mostly call Israel back to this same covenant, but never replace Torah with something new - although there are some indications of a future "New Covenant" [e.g. Jer.31:31-34, Eze.36:24-27]). Torah is also said to be unique in YAHWEH speaking to Moses "face to face", implying a real, continuous dialogue rather than simply prophetic utterances. But the working of the Spirit of YAHWEH (that rested on Moses and which was then given to Joshua when Moses laid his hands on him Deut.34:9) also caused other people to prophesy (Num.11:25). Even for the prophets, the revelation of YAHWEH happened in different ways. Most commonly the "Word of YAHWEH" "came" to them, (probably an internal knowledge/"voice" - see for example 1 Kings 19 where "the word of the LORD" is not the same as a "voice" that came to Elijah), but there were also visions (e.g. Is. 6), heavenly "messengers" (angels - e.g. 1 Kings 19, Gen. 19), dreams (e.g. Joseph) and interpretation of special dreams (e.g. Joseph & Daniel), and sometimes an audible voice (e.g. Ex. 20, 1 Sam. 3, 1 Kings 19: 13). I am not here arguing for or against the reality of revelation, but simply showing how the Old Testament itself describe God's revealing of Himself in Scripture.
In the New Testament there is the promise of the Holy Spirit for all believers (in contrast to the Old Testament where His work was confined to certain leaders and prophets) and even more, the promise that the Spirit will speak through them when they witness for Jesus (Acts 1:8, Mark.13: 11). This "inspiration" (theopneustos) by the Spirit can be considered as similar to the process by which the prophets in the Old Testament spoke, although, unlike Scripture, not giving any new revelation of God. (It is therefore interesting that when forming the New Testament canon, it was considered as not enough for a piece of Scripture to be "inspired"; there were scriptures that were considered as "inspired" that were excluded from the canon, because they were considered as being not "apostolic" (not written by either an apostle of Jesus or under the influence of an apostle) (cf. Tertullian). This view of scripture therefore saw the "canon" as a "measuring rod" by which any subsequent "revelation" could be measured rather than as being the collection of all "inspired" writings. This view seems to differ from the modern view held by most fundamentalists. The New Testament itself said: "Therefore, as for you, let that remain in you which you heard from the beginning. If that which you heard from the beginning remains in you, you also will remain in the Son, and in the Father."&"As for you, the anointing which you received from him remains in you, and you don't need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, you will remain in him."(1 Joh.2:24 & 27)). Why mention the New Testament? Because the role of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of the Old Testament is first made explicit in the New Testament, but also that the same Spirit that inspired the Old Testament are said to indwell all the believers in the New Testament. And from my own experience of the Spirit giving me the words to testify to Jesus, I could recognise something similar to how the Old Testament was inspired (cf. Appendix A). Some of the aspects of my experiences were: 1. Saying things without really understanding what it means at the time I say it (saying it as it is given me at that moment). 2. Being conscious of what I am saying (and being able to ponder on it afterwards) - i.e. not being in a "trance". 3. Still only fluent in the languages I know (this in contrast to the disciples' experience in Acts 2) and expressing the message in my own words and idioms. 4. Knowing things ("instinctively") about the person I was speaking to that I should not naturally know (but not everything, only things that were applicable to the conversation we were having). 5. Experiencing God's love (and disappointment/anger at sin) for the person I am speaking to... experiencing the emotions of what God meant while reading certain biblical texts. (This last point may sound like nothing much, but involved a real change in my innermost being: I never liked people very much before this, but now cared even for people that I didn't know).
Now, let us look at the problems mentioned by the thesis as it pertains to this idea of revelation. "Certain biblical theologians practised critical biblical research and disavowed supernaturalist understandings of Scripture that accepted miracle stories and references to direct divine causation at face value." (Thesis, p.365). Having experienced "direct divine causation" in my life, it is not so easy to see how one can read the bible in this manner. More-over, because faith leads to actions in which the faithfulness of God can be seen, unbelief will never put you in the place where you can experience "direct divine causation". (E.g. you will never see anybody being healed by God (or at least recognize it as such) if you never pray for the healing of sick people. This is not a presumptuous "name it and claim it" theology where you try to force God to do your will by "having faith" [which is actually closer to magic, where you try to manipulate spiritual beings to do your bidding - and forbidden by the bible]. But you can simply never expect the Bible to be real in modern times if you are not expectantly obedient to what it commands... which you will not be if you already don't believe it is from God).
While accepting the laws of natural causation and the principle of uniformity in nature, they believed that it was nonetheless imperative to continue to speak of God “acting”. (Thesis, p.365) The origin of the idea of "laws of natural causation" and "the principle of uniformity in nature" is historically pretty much based on the believe in one Creator God. This is also the view of the Bible which sees God as the author of the "laws of nature" just as much as He is the Originator of the moral laws. Although He is not bound by the laws of nature, "the laws of natural causation" and "the principle of uniformity in nature" is just as much the work of God as any miracle (cf. Col.1:16-17, Hebr.1:3 , A God of Math and Order, The long shadow of David Hume). Atheist scientists (pleading Occam's razor as justification) have to assume that the fundamental scientific laws and forces of nature just exists without any cause or explanation. By contrast, according to the biblical view (not necessarily that of most fundamentalists) the very laws of nature and natural causation is the result of God's spoken word ("through the power of His Word" - Hebr.1:3). The fallacy of false dichotomy is thus committed when it is implied that God "acting" somehow excludes the laws of natural causation.
On p.368 of the thesis:
On p.369 of the thesis:
From p.371 of the thesis:
So let us turn the internal evidence supposedly found within the Bible itself. It is indeed true that the traditional views on the authorship of the Old Testament was challenged long before the rise of historical-critical analysis. Already by 1753 Jean Astruc proposed that Moses used two different sources, one using the name "Elohim" and the other the name "YHWH". (The more probable explanation for these names simply expressing different aspects of God's relation to humankind, is generally not considered by critical scholars; Elohim the generic creator God of everything and YHWH when he is seen in covenant relationship to people. Indeed it would appear from the compound name "YHWH Elohim" in Gen.2 that the writer of Genesis made it explicit that it was the same God. Moreover, other names were also used for this God: El Shaddai, El Elyon, YHWH Tzevaot, Adonai, Adonai YHWH, YHWH Yireh, YHWH Rophe, YHWH Nissi, etc.). The four JEPD sources (and up to 39 different fragments!) were already hypothesised by 1853. What Julius Wellhausen added in the 1870's, was to use an evolutionary (and pseudo-scientific) theory of the development from "primitive" animism to the more sophisticated monotheism of Judaism. (cf. Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp.81 - 113, Moody Publishers, 2007).
Before answering the main thrust of the argument against the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, let us just clarify what the majority of conservative scholars mean by saying that Moses wrote the Torah. I have a book by Andrew Murray called "The key to the Missionary Problem". The edition I have, was printed in the 1980's. When discussing the "missionay problem", it talks about it using statistics from the end of the 20th century instead of the orginal statistics used by Andrew Murray in the orginal. Can I conclude that Andrew Murray is not the author of this book? Obviously we don't have the orginal documents of the Torah, only copies. Moreover, it is fairly certain that Torah was not written in the current "Hebrew" alphabet (square Aramaic), but (assuming Mosaic authorship) has had at least one change in alphabet. It is probable that in this copy process some of the older place names have been updated with the new names. It is only a very narrow view of what constitutes authorship that will deny Moses as author of the Torah on these grounds. It is also not the opinion of any fundamentalist scholar I know of that Moses wrote the last chapter of Deuteronomy. The traditional view is that it was probably Joshua (who might also have acted as scribe to Moses for parts of the Torah itself) who wrote Deuteronomy 34. So let us just get rid of the straw men on both sides of this argument. After answering the argument against Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch we will look at evidence for both the essential unity of the Torah (instead of being a combination of various sources) and Moses as author.
The arguments against the Mosaic authorship as mentioned by the thesis on pp.372-374...
The thesis then shows a source-critical delineation of Genesis (pp. 374-375). Interestingly, the original E (Elohist) source
has been eliminated, mostly becoming part of the P (priestly) source. This might reflect the fact that even critical scholars are
now recognising that the Names YAHWEH and Elohim are not semantically equivalent (even if referring to the same Person, they put emphasis on
different aspects of His attributes). The history of Noah and the flood (Gen.6-8) is broken up between the J and P sources with some short
bits by the Redactor (R). However, structurally the whole Flood narrative displays a chiastic structure indicating a single author
and inexplicable when breaking it into bits:
(cf. Wenham, Gordon J., 1987, The Coherence of the Flood Narrative. Vetus Testamentum 28:336-348.) Similare structure has been shown for other parts of the Torah that are being broken into bits by various versions of the Documentary Hypothesis. The lack of consensus between the different versions of the Hypothesis, is a more serious flaw than Dr. Gericke admits, in my humble opinion (revealing both the subjectivity of the methodology and especially the lack of any external evidence for the Documentary Hypothesis).
The problem is that most of the original reasons for the Documentary Hypothesis have long since been shown to be invalid. The major contribution by Wellhausen has been the hypothesis that the Israelite religion evolved by a pseudo-Darwinian process and he was the first to assign relative dates to the various sources (JEDP). However, the concept that all early religion was animistic or naturistic and that belief in Monotheism was a late arrival, is seriously undermined by Rodney Stark's "The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief" (HarperOne, 2007). He writes: "Despite decades of faulty reports that early religions were crude muddles of superstition, it turns out that the primitive humans had surprisingly sophisticated notions about God and creation." A second presupposition contributing to the believe that Moses could not have written the Torah, namely the idea that writing was not developed (or known by the Israelites) before the time of Moses, has been thoroughly falsified by recent archaeological discoveries (e.g. the Wadi al Hol inscriptions dated to c. 1800 BC). Since the thesis does not use this as an argument, I'll refrain from attacking a straw man here, but there can be little doubt that the idea of a late development of the alphabet played a big role in the scholarly acceptance of the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis when it was first proposed. (cf. Schultz, Hermann (1898), Old Testament Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark), translated from the fourth edition by H. A. Patterson. pp. 25-26)
From the thesis on p.375:
Statements of the Covenant Ex20-Lev26 Dt 1-32 Josh 24 ---------- ---------- ---------- 1 Preamble/Title - identifying author 20:1 1:1-5 24:2 2 Historical Prologue or retrospect, giving previous benefactions by suzerain 20:2 1:6-3:29 24:2-13 3 Stipulations: basic and detailed; obligations on the vassal [basic] 20:3-17; 22-26 4,5-11 24:14-15 [detail] 21-23, 25-31 12-26 16-25 4a Deposition of a copy of the covenant in the vassal's sanctuary 25:16; 34:1,28,29 31:9,24-26 24:26 (cf: Dt 10:1-5 in retro) 4b Public reading - periodic, to the people Dt 31:10-13 5 Witnesses - a long list of gods invoked to witness the covt: (in Biblical material, no other gods --so we have stones, a song, the law-book, people) 24:4 31:16-30;32:1-47 24:22 Dt 31:36 6 Curses and Blessings Lev 26:3-13; 14-20 28:1-14; 15-68 24:19-20 (Ref: K.A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, IVP, 1966)
"Expressions used almost exclusively in poetry include hapax legomena and other rare words, which tend to be concentrated in the oldest biblical texts. Generally it may be said that these items existed during the archaic period of the language, later disappearing from normal use...The occurrence of so many lexical items of this kind in a single passage is evidence of its antiquity."("Hapax legomena" are words found just once in the whole bible).
On p. 376 the Thesis claims that David did not write the Psalms attributed to him for a number of reasons. Since he doesn't give specific examples, it is difficult to answer this charge. Just a number of observations:
Next, the case of the prophets are examined. Once again, the thesis itself provide little evidence for the claim that "In most cases only a small part of the books can be reasonably associated with the prophet once believed to have written the lot", except for a reference to a book by Blenkinsopp. I have to repeat myself again and reiterate that the only possible evidence for such a claim is still the text itself, unless some new manuscripts could be found to give it credence. Having read through the 12 minor prophets recently, I find little evidence for the kind of claims made. Instead, I have seen certain patterns repeatedly in these books (especially those with a pre-exilic setting): 1. Denouncement of the sin of the people - a description of the current situation from God's eyes. 2. Call to repentance. 3. Warning of coming judgement if they don't repent, 4. but mercy if they will repent. 5. Conclusion: Promise of the future restoration of His people because He remains faithful to His covenant (even if they did not). Obviously, there will be a change in the words and "feeling" of the text as it changes from one element to the other and each prophet also has his own unique elements, but this basic pattern simply jumped out at us as we read through the Twelve. This pattern would suggest the unity of the books, rather than having the hypothesized multiple sources. So imagine my surprise to see Micah broken into similar little pieces as is done by the Documentary Hypothesis to the Torah! Does this really constitute evidence of anything? The same methodology can be applied to any piece of modern literature, even those we know to be written by a single author, and similar results can be achieved. See for example Brower, James K. The Hebrew Origins of Superman. (Biblical Archaeology Review, May/Jun 1979, 23-26). Since no reasons are given for the specific scheme presented, I really don't know if it is worthwhile to try and refute the proposed divisions of Micah. Yes, it might consist of prophesies probably made by the prophet at different times throughout his career, but why would prophesies from other sources be added and ascribed to this same prophet when it could just as well be put in its own book (compare, for example, the later short prophecy of Nahum)?? This kind of "analysis" sees the whole message of Judgement and Restoration as evidence for different writers simply because the subject matter differs: "The same prophet could not possibly have warned of judgement and spoken of future restoration! It must have been somebody else that added the later bits that promise restoration." And if there are warnings of judgement after this, "it must have been another person who added that bit"! But there is no evidence for this whole proposal. Compare the pattern of blessings and curses (and restoration) already found as early as Deuteronomy.
More-over, if we go to the surrounding ANE nations, where prophecy of some kind was widely known, it is apparent that these prophesies were normally written down as soon as possible after being spoken by the "prophet" (cf. Mari - Kitchen, K.A., 2003, On the reliability of the Old Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, p.389-393). This was the normal procedure; the process hypothesised for the biblical prophets was simply unknown. Why would Israel be any different in this respect from all surrounding nations? A single piece of evidence for this process would do a lot to give it some semblance of being convincing. What it does instead, is to show that this method of source-critical analysis has so little rigour that it can be applied to any piece of literature you wish and still give a "result" that can seem convincing.
The same pattern is seen in Isaiah and the same interpretation is given by liberal scholars: it must have been different authors. In Isaiah there is the additional problem of prophesies mentioning Cyrus by name, making it impossible to accept by those who already believe that neither God nor true prophecy exist. However, a number of Persian leaders from before the exile with the same name is now known from archaeological sources. (Kitchen, K.A., 2003, On the reliability of the Old Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, p.380). Interestingly, the great Isaiah manuscript from the Dead Sea Scrolls has a dividing blank space at the end of chapter 33 (not end of 39 as the source-critics would have it!). From that it can be seen again that Isaiah shows typical ANE (and Hebrew) parallelism:
Is. 1 - 33 (Uzziah - Ahaz) Is. 34 - 66 (Hezekiah) 1:1 Title A. 1 - 5 Judgement & Restoration A. 34 - 35 Desolation & Restoration B. 6 - 8 Biographical/Historical B. 36 - 39 Historical/Biographical & Prophesies C. 9 - 12 Words of blessing & Judgement C. 40 - 45 Words of blessing & Judgement D. 13 - 23 On foreign nations (+Jerusalem) D. 46 - 48 On foreign nations (+Babylon) E. 24 - 27 Destruction, restoration, E. 49 - 55 Restoration, destruction, deliverance deliverance F. 28 - 31 Social & ethical justice F. 56 - 59 Social & ethical justice G. 32 - 33 Restoration of the nation G. 60 - 66 Restoration of the nation
The claims made about the book of Daniel on pages 377-378 of the thesis is too vague to respond to here. This will be addressed in the next chapter. But once again, I would agree with the conclusion that if the prophets are fictitious characters, then so is the God who supposedly inspired them to speak. But I don't think there is any evidence for the claim that the prophetic scriptures were not written by the writers who name themselves in the beginning of each prophetic book. On the other hand, when looking at the the archaeological evidence on ANE views of prophecy, it would rather seem much more likely that the prophecies were written down as soon as possible after they had been spoken. In some cases even written down before they were read publicly (cf. Jer. 29:1, 30:1, 36:2). Anybody could be a prophet, and thus there is no reason for (or evidence of) "pious fraud". There is simply no reason why any "word of YAHWEH" should be written under the name of anybody else. And to the extend that the Spirit of the LORD inspired them, we can still speak of the Bible as "the Word of God", a term that is used in Scripture itself (e.g. Ps. 119).
What is problematic regarding any appeal to the autographs or “final form” of Old Testament texts is that, technically, neither of these things actually exist. (Thesis p.381) The short answer to this is that of course it exists: go to any Synagogue and you will find their hand-written Torah scroll. This is the final form of the Old Testament texts. I guess this answer might not satisfy Dr. Gericke... he would probably want to know which synagogue? The problem is really that there might be some differences between the scrolls found in the different synagogues. (Most actually does not have the whole Old Testament because of the high costs of the hand-written scrolls). There might even be a scribal error in any specific scroll in spite of all the care taken to avoid it. And this still doesn't tell us how close the specific scroll is to the original autographs. This is basically the "problem of the Old Testament texts itself". My first reaction was to ask the question: does it really matter? Is there any difference between Yahweh as depicted in the text, in His character and in His relationship to us or His expectations from us? Does it change anything of what He did, who He is or what He is saying to us in His Word? In other words: is there any significant difference? On the other hand, here we have finally an argument that seems to stand on some solid evidence. I find it significant that not one example of the "thousands of differences" are actually shown in the thesis (in most modern translations some of the more significant textual variants are indicated; however, - except to the "King James only" faction - it has very little significance).
On pp.381-383 of the thesis a list is given of the findings of textual criticism that supposedly undermine the value of the Old Testament as God's revelation.
Then on p.384 of the thesis the conclusion is drawn: If the text is not fixed, then neither can the characterisation of Yahweh-as-depicted therein be fixed. However, this conclusion doesn't necessarily follow. How will changes in spelling or updates of grammar or newer synonyms for archaic words have any influence on the characterisation of "Yahweh-as-depicted" in the text? It is rather the kind of textual variants that could potentially make this difference, but no specific example is given in the thesis that would demonstrate this kind of textual variant that might change the character of YHWH as revealed in the text.
One aspect of the text that the thesis didn't really touch on, but which are also of significance is the transmission from the original autographs until the earliest manuscripts. The reason why this question is ignored, is probably because Dr. Gericke doesn't believe that there were any original autographs. However, I believe it is important to also see that period of transmission against its background in the Ancient Near East (ANE) in order to make the case that the text of the Old Testament is trustworthy. In this regard W.F. Albright already mentioned in 1957 : "A principle which must never be lost sight of in dealing with documents of the ancient Near East is that instead of leaving obvious archaisms in spelling and grammar as later became the fashion in Greece and Rome, the scribes generally revised ancient literary and other documents periodically. This practice was followed with particular regularity by cuneiform scribes." (From the Stone Age to Christianity, 2nd ed. Baltimore, John Hopkins Press, p. 79) (See also Kitchen, K.A., 2003, On the reliability of the Old Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, p.372 for some ANE examples). In short, we will expect a certain type of updating during this period (until the text became statically fixed after the destruction of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem) which will not change the meaning of the text, but might still cause some textual variation. These kind of insignificant changes have no influence on the status of the Bible as the Word of God or on its reliability.
This argument consists of 4 separate, but connected arguments as summarized on p.353 of the thesis:
1. The (supposed) origin of Yahweh (i.e. "what" was Yahweh?);
2. The (supposed) origin of Yahwism per se (i.e. where, how, why and when did the belief in the god Yahweh first develop?);
3. The (supposed) origin of Yahwism in Israel (i.e. where, how, why and when did the people of Israel first came to believe in Yahweh?);
4. The (supposed) origin of YHWH (i.e. what was the original meaning of the tetragrammaton?).
On pp.355 - 356 of the thesis, after a whole list of alternative "origins for Yahweh" Dr. Gericke says: "According to those who hold these theories, some of which admittedly seem rather far-fetched, Yahweh was not always considered to be humanoid type of sky god and uncaused first cause that later Judaeo-Christian traditions claimed had always the case. To be sure, for all we know, maybe initially at least, the deity Yahweh was conceived of as something far less "user-friendly" than most modern biblical theists would like to believe." On this statement, just 2 remarks: 1. The term "humanoid type of sky god" is not how I (and most Judaeo-Christian traditions I know) think of God/YHWH. To me "humanoid" implies a bi-pedal material being of flesh and blood. This is manifestly not how traditional Jews or Christians think about God. 2. For most of these far-fetched "origins" of Yahweh to be even considered, the Old Testament text (which gives a totally different account) must first be assumed unreliable. As has been shown already, this assumption is all but proven. Of course, the idea that YHVH might have revealed Himself in Scripture also has to be discounted. Scripture itself assumes from the very first verse that He existed before creation and brought into being everything that exists (Gen.1:1).
Next the development of the worship of YHWH is considered. After again mentioning a whole range of theories or speculations on how people/Israel first started to worship YHWH the following statement is made on p.357: "Whatever one choose to make of such theories and no matter how far-fetched or preposterous some may prima facie appear to be, most imply that the god Yahweh used to be divinity worshipped (maybe under another name) by pagan peoples before he was adopted and adapted by the Hebrew people." Quite frankly, I don't see the problem with this statement or its implication for the reality of God's existence. That people would worship Him under different names before He revealed Himself more fully is totally consistent with the biblical narrative and in my opinion counts as a point in favour of His reality rather than against it. That pagans worshipped other "gods" in addition to Him can be expected from the biblical account of the human condition (cf. Gen.6:5 - "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.") In most pagan pantheons the idea of an original creator God persisted even if He was subsequently subverted by lesser "gods" that became the more important objects of worship in pagan religion. The development of saint veneration and Mariolatry in the Roman Catholic Church (which I believe is idolatry according to the Biblical definition) doesn't cause me to reject the reality of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, Son of God and Lord of lords or to doubt His existence. Once again, according to the Bible He was known (possibly by the Name YHWH - Gen.4:26) since the time of Adam.
The origin of the tetragrammaton ("YHWH") is next considered and various other languages mentioned as possible sources for the Name. Whatever other origins the use of this Name may have had prior to Moses, the Bible does make it clear that He has not revealed Himself by that Name before. The Name YHWH itself would seem to imply Somebody that can not be described simplistically, but could mean either "He is" or "He cause to be" ... the Name YHWH itself appears to capture some of the mystery of the Person revealed through it.
On pp.384-389 of the thesis the issue of development in religious believe is discussed. Now for the sake of using an "angel's argument" (vs the devil's advocate), let us assume for the moment that God actually exists. Would we expect anything else rather than development of religious believe if He revealed Himself? The very fact that revelation is needed if we are to know God implies that there also needs to be a process. If YHWH is God and the Bible's description of the human heart is true, is there any other possible way for Him to reveal Himself? I submit that if we wanted a neatly-packaged, well-behaved god, dogmatically well-defined and explained, it might indeed be possible to have a once-off, complete and single revelation explaining everything he is and what he expects of us right from the start. But if anything, such a "god" would not be real or even worthy of the Name "God" and definitely could not be the author of the majestic and complex creation we see around us.
On p.385 the thesis says: "As noted earlier, in the Old Testament one encounters the god Yahweh who at one time believes that there are other gods and on another occasion denies the reality of these entities. One finds the belief in creation by theomachy and creation without theomachy. There is the belief that children will be punished for the sins of their forefathers and the belief that such a morality is abhorrent. According to certain texts there is life after death in relation to Yahweh whilst other texts denies that the dead and Yahweh have anything in common. Some passages suggest that Yahweh is only the god of Israel whilst others are more universal in outlook. There are texts implying that Yahweh cannot be seen, that he knows the future, that he does not cause evil. Then there are those texts implying that all the aforementioned beliefs are wrong. One could go on forever in this fashion showing the contradictions in what the Old Testament supposedly says on just about any topic (cf. Montague.1976:02)"
This issue is addressed more fully in Chapter 8. But let us just consider the claims made here. The first one stating that Yahweh believes there are other gods and at other times denies their reality, commits the logical fallacy of equivocation. That "gods" exists as objects of worship by people is true, but it is not true that they are really equal to "God" as the term is used of YHWH Himself.
For the claim that creation by theomachy is found in the bible, I could find no evidence (and I had to look up the term :-) ). Although creation by theomachy was a common believe in the ANE religions, I could not find any evidence of it in the Bible. The following terms could possibly be connected to such an idea:
Leviathan: Ps. 74:14 ("You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters ("taninim") on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.") , 104:26 ("There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it."), Is.27:1 ("In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent ("nachash"), Leviathan the twisting serpent ("nachash"), and he will slay the dragon ("tanin") that is in the sea.") ;
Serpent: Job 26:13 ("By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. By his wind (=Spirit) the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent ("nachash").") , Is.51:9 ("Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, that pierced the dragon ("tanin")? Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over?"), Jer.46:22? ("She makes a sound like a serpent ("nachash") gliding away; for her enemies march in force and come against her with axes like those who fell trees."), Amos 9:3 ("If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent ("nachash"), and it shall bite them.");
Dragon: Is.14:29 ("Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the serpent's ("nachash") root will come forth an adder ("tzef'a"), and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent ("seraf")."), Eseg.29:3 ("speak, and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon ("tanim") that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.’"), 32:2 ("Son of man, raise a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt and say to him: You consider yourself a lion of the nations, but you are like a dragon ("tanim") in the seas; you burst forth in your rivers, trouble the waters with your feet, and foul their rivers."). If you actually read the verses, in not one of these are creation mentioned in connection to the destruction of the "Leviathan/Serpent/Dragon". All of these are found in poetic passages and speak of Yahweh's triumph over Egypt when He split the sea during the Exodus, or speak of future judgement, or simply speak of ordinary large sea creatures (e.g. Ps.104). It should also be noted that "nachash" (serpent) is the same word that is used for the serpent who deceived man into sin (i.e. the devil according to Rev.12).
"There is the belief that children will be punished for the sins of their forefathers and the belief that such a morality is abhorrent." Once again, no specific examples are given, so I'll just make a few comments. The Torah specifically states that children are not to be punished for the sins of their fathers, or fathers for the sins of their children. I have not found anywhere that it says children will be punished for their forefathers' sins. In the 10 commandments it is said that the sins of the fathers will be "visited" on their children (up to 4 generations), but this does not simply mean that the children will be punished (even if they are innocent). There is rather the idea of them being specifically examined for these same sins. A dictionary definition of the word PaKaD (translated as "visit"):
"According to certain texts there is life after death in relation to Yahweh whilst other texts denies that the dead and Yahweh have anything in common." Once again, it is difficult to comment on a vague statement like this without some examples. Throughout the bible, death is the punishment for sin; the result of the first man's sin and that of everybody since. In this sense Yahweh cannot relate to death, since He cannot relate to sin (except for punishing sin by death). On the other hand, there is the promise of future redemption, from one of the oldest books (Job, according to many scholars) to the post-exilic prophets. So I think that different terms or meanings of the same word, probably also play a role here.
That Yahweh is both the God of Israel and of all of creation (the whole universe), does not seem to me contradictory at all.
"There are texts implying that Yahweh cannot be seen, that he knows the future, that he does not cause evil. Then there are those texts implying that all the aforementioned beliefs are wrong." The texts actually say that no man may see Yahweh's (full) glory and live, not that He cannot be seen at all. If He fills the heavens and the earth (Jer.23:24), any visible manifestation of His presence must in a sense be "less" than His glory. The Old Testament text simply reflects this. "He" appears occasionally, but still "He" cannot be seen. This is in a certain sense also an example of equivocation. I know of just one text that might imply that He does not know the future and that is when the Bible says that it never even occurred to Him that the Israelites might burn their own children to "other gods". In the context of showing the sinfulness of Israel, this is more of a rhetorical device than being literal. Evil (ra') is another of those words with more than one meaning. Unpleasant things from a human perspective might be termed "bad", but morally wrong actions are also "bad". These two meanings are not the same, even though the same word is used. YHWH is the Author of the first kind of "bad", just as He is of good things, but He is never the direct cause of moral evil.
The idea of "development" or increasing revelation is therefore not strange and does not imply contradiction as Dr. Gericke appears to think. It is the hidden assumption by many "liberal" scholars that later writers were somehow ignorant of what was written earlier, that leads to the accusation of contradictions. Instead, if the (perfectly logical) assumption is made that they were aware of what has been revealed before, it follows much more naturally that their own writings were seen as either complimentary to what was written before, or as confirming and reminding the people of it or as refining and explaining it in more detail or as applying it in new circumstances. However, this development was not seen as people simply getting new ideas about God, but rather as being the result of Him revealing more of Himself.
On p.388 of the thesis: "If these scholars were a little more consistent and objective, they would not speak of the Old Testament’s view of “God”. Instead, they would aim to be more precise by assuming that all the Old Testament provides us with is a people’s views of its own god called “Yahweh”. Like the Greek, Canaanite and other religious texts, the Old Testament discourse is concerned with a specific deity. " - The big difference though, is that the God of the Old Testament (YHWH) claims to be the only, eternal God and Creator of everything. This is different from any of the other "gods" who never made this claim and to the extend that these gods would share the attributes of the God of Israel, to that extend could they be considered the same. A better example would be the equivalence that were found between the Greek Zeus and the Roman Jupiter. Even though they had different names, they were essentially the same "god". There doesn't exist any such equivalent for Yahweh; which leads us to the conclusion that if He is truly the living God, the other "gods" are not, since they don't share the same attributes. This part of the thesis ends with the conclusion: "If Yahweh-as-depicted is not real then the god Yahweh does not exist – not even as “God”." And with this I agree. However, my claim is rather that Yahweh-as-depicted is God (=El/Elohim in Hebrew).
According to Sagan (1996:11), the earth is about four and a half billion years old. The universe itself may be no younger than seventeen billion years. Moreover, if historians of primitive religion are to be believed, the worship of deities can be dated back tens of thousands of years BC (cf. Harwood 1992:01).
Then, of course, there is Yahwism. According to the Old Testament’s chronology of world history, the universe was created circa 4000 BC or roughly six thousand years ago. Taking a cue from Genesis, one might say that the worship of Yahweh began with Adam and Eve (i.e. circa 4000 BC). Then there is the text in Genesis 4:26 which seems to suggest that humans began to “call on the name of Yahweh” during the time when Adam’s son Seth begat Enosh. Since Genesis 5:3-6 informs us that Adam was 130 when Seth was born and that Seth was 105 when Enosh was born, it follows that the origin of a formalised cult of Yahweh had its beginnings at around 3765 BC."
As far as general chronology is concerned there are a number of questions that needs to be cleared up first. If the "Big Bang" is accepted as the most likely scenario leading to the current visible universe, the logical conclusion is that the earth is part of an expanding universe (this is currently the most likely hypothesis and also the one probably accepted by Sagan). In that case, given the high speeds of this event and the Laws of relativity, the question needs to be asked: four and a half billion years using which reference point? Exactly the same question can be asked concerning Genesis 1. Most Young Earth Creationists will argue that the frame of reference for Gen.1 is the earth, but with little reason, especially as it is written from the perspective of God ("Elohim") rather than from a human perspective. Moreover, there are some indications that Gen.1 is written in semi-poetic form which would make it rather meaningless to treat its time-frames as prosaic facts. It is well-known from other ANE texts that the genealogies regularly had gaps, sometimes huge. Therefore it is quite a jump to use Gen. 5 to pin-point the origin of a "formalised cult of Yahweh". In addition, there is very little even in the text itself (see also earlier in this chapter) to indicate any "formalised cult".
Next, the actual identity of Yahweh is again questioned: "Of course, once again, things turn out to be even more complicated. For when one reads through the stories of the Patriarchs, one will observe that, despite the references to a deity worshipped under the name Yahweh, it would appear that there are many other designations for him that seem to complicate matters considerably. " Why this would complicate matters is not really obvious. But the next paragraph finds the possible identification of Yahweh with El (head of the Canaanite pantheon) problematic. This issue will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 5. Here it should be mentioned again that the word "El", the name of the "high god" of Canaan, is also simply the Hebrew word for "God". That Yahweh is so designated has little relevance to the question of His reality. That many people acknowledged the existence of a (most) high God, should be considered as a point in favour of His actual existence rather than against it. Most lies contain an element of truth. Just as the Roman Catholic reverence of Mary has little to do with reality of the historical Jesus of Nazareth as depicted in the New Testament, the addition of other "gods" in the pantheon of Canaan has little to do with the reality of the true God.
That the patriarchs would worship Him differently before the Torah was given to Moses than how He was worshipped after the covenant of Sinai can only be expected. However, the law given to Moses does not contradict the earlier revelation given to the patriarchs, but rather expands it. For example, some things that were permissible earlier, are no longer allowed because of the danger of idolatry. The Mosaic covenant was made with a whole people, rather than the covenant made with the individual patriarchs. We do not find that things that were forbidden to the patriarchs were now allowed. Nothing of the previous revelations were taken away, but more were added. This is a classical example of progressive revelation.
Jos.24:2 explicitly refers to Terah, the father of Abraham (and Nahor) as serving other gods. That his great-granddaughters, having grown up in Haran, would still have teraphim is therefore not strange at all (although later Jacob/Israel had them get rid of these as well). For Abraham to start serving the Most High God was a change from the custom of his ancestors. So how does this imply that the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) served any other gods?
It was already pointed out above that Ex.6:3 made no claim about Yahweh being worshipped, but simply that He had not revealed Himself by that Name before. The name of Jochebed is therefore irrelevant.
On pp.362-363 of the thesis a number of "scientific" dates are given (without any indication of where the dates come from or how accurate they are). Assuming that the dates are correct, it would still appear that the earliest archaeological evidence of religious activity (the Neanderthals) could easily be compatible with the biblical account of the 3rd generation from the first humans already praying to Yahweh. There is little indication of polytheism at this early stage, at least. " Yahweh stands unmasked as a human creation who has no idea of history before the second millennium BC. He is blissfully unaware of just how late an arrival his alleged revelations actually are." (p.363 of the thesis) This is simply wrong. There is little historical evidence from before the second millennium BC and therefore little to compare the Bible with. The little we do have (mostly from the Sumerians) tend to agree with the bible rather than contradict it. (Klein, Jacob. “The Birth of Kingship.” Archaeology Odyssey, Jan/Feb 2001, 16-25. http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSAO&Volume=4&Issue=1&ArticleID=9 (accessed 1/4/2012)) The patriarchal narratives also show a greater correspondence with the Bronze Age rather than the Iron Age as claimed in the thesis. E.g. it would appear that the ages of the pre-flood kings in the (Bronze Age) Sumerian king lists corresponds to the ages in the pre-flood genealogies, but using a base 60 numerical system instead of the base 10 system of the Hebrews (See John Walton, The Antediluvian Section of the Sumerian King List and Genesis 5, The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 207-208) Not only that, but the bible is actually fairly clear in identifying Nimrod, a non-semite (son of Cush) from the land of Shinar (Sumeria) as the first empire builder after the flood. This agrees with the known history of Sumer as the first "empire". But the main problem with the statement about Yahweh "who has no idea of history before the second millennium BC" is that silence is assumed to be ignorance. I have written very little on ecology or computer science so far in this "anti-thesis". It would be wrong to conclude from this that I am ignorant on ecology or computers.
Overall, the "problem of too-recent origins" is really a non-issue. That God revealed Himself before the covenants with the patriarchs is matter-of-factly assumed by the Biblical narrative (E.g. Enoch and Noah). That the universal "El"/"Elohim" is the same God as the personal "Yahweh" who revealed Himself to Moses is also assumed. That all of earlier history is not recorded is irrelevant to the reality or not of the revelation by Yahweh. These issues will be considered in more detail in Chapters 3 and 4 on the history and cosmology of the Bible.
The thesis (p. 364): The people of these far-off places had their own religions long before Yahwism even arrived on the religious scene. None of these people knew anything about the one and only Yahweh of Israel notwithstanding the deity's own delusions of universal recognition (cf. Mal 1:11-12). Even worse, if the Old Testament is anything to go by, neither does Yahweh seem to know anything about them. As mentioned above, no mention does not equal no knowledge. At the same time, the mentioning of unknown continents and peoples would have been simply meaningless to the people of Israel, to whom most of the Old Testament were addressed. In addition, the knowledge of One true God, the Creator of everything, has survived in various peoples all over the world. Even though there is knowledge of such a God in most religions, there is also a sense of separation that is just as universal (and explained in the Bible). The day-to-day religion will therefore mostly be concerned with appeasing other gods/spirits, since it is assumed that the Creator no longer cares (or in ANE polytheistic systems are even replaced by the newer "gods").
It seems to me though, as if the real problem for dr. Gericke is that God revealed Himself to specific individuals rather than to everybody (and later to their descendants, once again only a single people from among all the peoples/nations). And once again God doesn't act as expected by Jaco Gericke! What is not considered is that the Bible gives a very good reason for why all people no longer knew God personally (Gen.6:5 - "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." - see also Gen. 8:21; Job 14:4; 15:14; Ps. 51:5; Jer. 17:9). This is at heart also the reason why most far-off places either forgot about the God their forefathers once knew, or simply turned their backs on Him and rather served more approachable gods or spirits.
Israel is never depicted in the Bible as being more special/better than any other people. This is actually what we might expect if their religion was simply made up by themselves... that it would somehow depict them as chosen because they were special. But on the contrary, He made a covenant with them, on the grounds that He saved them from slavery and that they should live according to His rules in return. Israel, strategically placed in the world, between the two earliest civilisations, acted as a representative of all mankind ("a kingdom of priests" - Ex.19:6). And still they were not obedient. Would it really have been a "better" way of revelation if all peoples had had the same experience of redemption as Israel? If they, the descendants of chosen and faithful individuals, were not willing/able to continue in obedience, would a world-wide revelation make any difference? In short, the "scandal of particularity" is irrelevant to the question of YHWH's existence, except in so-far as the way in which it is depicted in the Old Testament, would rather serve as evidence against it being a human-made idea.
According to the devil’s advocate, the entire history of Old Testament interpretation in its various cultural contexts can be reconstructed from an anti-realist perspective. Such a viewpoint reveals that the collapse of realism with regard to the ontological status of Yahweh-as-depicted in the text is not a phenomenon restricted to the post- Enlightenment period. To be sure, throughout the history of interpretation, those who have read the text have experienced some sort of tension between their own views of divinity and the representation of Yahweh in the Old Testament texts. (p.389 of the thesis). My one comment on this is that "my own views of divinity" are really not relevant, since they are (should be) formed by the Old Testament itself. On the other hand, progressive revelation makes sense to me, so I am not surprised that later Bible writers would update Scripture with their own experiences and new revelations from God.
As far as the supposed repressed anti-realism in the LXX translation is concerned, it should simply be mentioned that the accepted orthodox version of the Tanach (at least in Jerusalem) remained the proto-masoretic Hebrew text. The Greek translation was also aimed at the wider Greek-speaking world, where idols (statutes of "gods") were common, which explains why they tried to avoid much of the anthropomorphic language of the Hebrew Old Testament. It was not so much because that the actual message were changed, but very much because people who are in a different situation than the original hearers of the message are much more likely to misunderstand it. E.g. for an Israelite who grew up with the idea that depicting YHWH in any form (including as a human) is forbidden, and knowing the Exodus history of YHWH appearing in the form of a pillar of fire and cloud, it would be less easy to misunderstand anthropomorphic language than for somebody growing up with images of "gods" depicted with humanoid bodies. It is also probable that the Septuagint translators used a less accurate text for their translation which might simply be the result of copyist errors rather than any theological re-interpretations or repressed anti-realism. The thesis also says on p. 391: "Many obviously unfulfilled prophetic predictions were rewritten to lessen cognitive dissonance and salvage realism." Once again, it is difficult to respond to a broad claim like this without any specific examples... prophecy itself will be examined again later (see also some Messianic prophecies).
The Targums were both interpretation and translation into the common language of the Jews at the time. They were never really considered as authoritative nor did they replace the Hebrew Old Testament. And the Samaritan Pentateuch is known to be a polemic against the Jewish Torah, with evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls of deliberate changes having been made by the Samaritans.
Since the Samaritan community accepted only the Pentateuch – and one with a very different view of what Yahweh allegedly said and did – they considered all the prophets apart from Moses (their version of him of course) to be sorcerers and liars. As a result, they insinuated that the particular version of the deity Yahweh who appeared to and spoke through the later canonical prophets did not really do so and therefore did not exist. (Thesis, p.392). This was also the viewpoint shared by the Sadducees in New Testament times and answered by Jesus as being the result of ignorance... not knowing Scripture (e.g. the promise that God will raise up prophets) or the power of God. It was in a very real sense the ancient version of "liberal theology" or what I would call "effective atheism". -- Where the character and power of God is so constricted that people act and speak as if He does not really exist, even though they would claim to believe in His existence. In essence I agree with the thesis that by excluding the prophets, the Samaritans were truly implying that in their opinion "the deity Yahweh who appeared to and spoke through the later canonical prophets did not really do so and therefore did not exist." I do not see this as having any more relevance on the actual existence of YHWH than the report by Ps.24 of early atheism: "The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”".
As far as the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical texts of the Old Testament are concerned, I can only say that there is a reason why they were not included in the Jewish canon. It should also be kept in mind that we have very little textual evidence for their Hebrew originals and everything said above on the Greek translation of the Old Testament itself also holds true for the Greek version of these texts.
Then, at the end of p.393 the thesis claims: " The way particular New Testament writers handled the texts of the Old Testament shows that these are people for whom the original literal sense of the texts no longer has the power to convince." All I can say is that there is no indication anywhere in the New Testament that the literal texts of the Old Testament were in any way not accepted as true. The thesis even continues on the next page: "As Harwood (1992:208) suggests, the way in which the gospel authors read their own beliefs about God, His messiah, sin, salvation, life after death, morality, etc. back into the Old Testament can be taken as indicative of repressed anti-realism. Though Jewish exegetical conventions of the time made it possible for them to do so, this changes nothing about the fact that the Old Testament texts did not mean what the New Testament writers claimed it did." My question here is simply: Who decides what the Old Testament texts meant? There is bound to be a difference in understanding its meaning between somebody who believed that the Old Testament is actually the inspired Word of the living God (see discussion above on revelation) and the understanding of that same text by somebody who does not believe that God exists at all. The reader who excludes the possibility of predictive prophecy, will simply exclude any meaning of the text that implies predictive prophecy as well. (E.g. in this view Is.53 simply cannot be about Jesus, even though it appears to be about the future "servant of YHWH" and there is no other credible alternative interpretation). It has to be about a contemporary (or past) figure, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. While a lot of New Testament prophetic "fulfilment" is much wider than what we would consider as "prophecy" today, it also does not mean that they did not believe the literal, plain meaning of the text. (E.g. though they might believe that all those who believe in Messiah Jesus becomes children of Abraham though faith (and so fulfilling God's promise to Abraham of Gen.15), this does not mean that they did not believe that there were also many physical descendants of Abraham in (partial) fulfilment of the same promise).
On p.394 of the thesis: "As Armstrong (1993:92) implies, the way the Jesus of the kerygma spoke of Yahweh is indicative of a man who can no longer bring himself to believe in the deity as depicted in many an Old Testament text. One needs only to consider how Jesus thought of Yahweh as a loving father who had very little to do with evil and who did not really meant what he said concerning food taboos, Sabbath rest, ritual impurity, attitudes toward enemies, equality in god-forsaken Sheol, the political Davidic messiah, etc." Are we talking about the same Jesus here? The One who said: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."? The same Jesus who would answer His enemies from the Scriptures (Old Testament) whenever they confronted Him? The same Jesus who when He was asked which is the greatest commandment, quoted from Deut.6 and Lev.19? Who blamed the Pharisees: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Matt.23:23) or "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. ... Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (John 5:39-40, 45-47) The same loving Father as depicted by Jesus in John is also the one of Whom it is written by John: "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. ... Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not life, but the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:18-20, 36)
On p.395 of the thesis: "The same repression of Yahwistic atheism can be seen in the ideas of James who claimed that the real God was beyond both change and the need to tempt people. His deluded belief that Yahweh rewarded Job for his “patience” shows someone who actually considered the Old Testament god too unorthodox to be real, hence the need to update him considerably by distorting the plain sense of the “perfect law”" Here is what the book of Job itself says: "After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job's prayer. And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning." (Job.42) Job's "patience" was not so much simply accepting his circumstances (as it seems Dr. Gericke understands the term), but was rather the fact that he did not give up on God... e.g. Job 23:2-7: "Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what He would answer me and understand what He would say to me. Would He contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; He would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with Him, and I would be acquitted forever by my Judge." The God of the Bible is not a God of "easy answers". When He answers Job, it is not in the way we would expect. There is no explanation about Satan and the real reason behind Job's sufferings, but simply a deeper revelation of Who God is.
A bit later on the same page the thesis claims: "When it comes to Paul’s view of Yahweh as the universal Lord and Father of all mankind who allegedly planned the atoning death of the Messiah since the beginning of time to save even the gentiles, one can only respond by saying “you could have fooled me!” Moreover, Paul’s quotation and interpretation of texts from the Old Testament not only involve a distortion of details and economy with the truth but an amount of eisegesis and reinterpretation that is remarkable. It would seem that virtually in each case the texts of the scriptures have outlived their original purpose and usefulness. " You could have fooled me! :-) The earliest Messianic promises already included the nations ("gentiles")... e.g. Gen.22:18 (if this does not refer to the Messiah, to whom does it refer? - the seed of Abraham in whom all nations will be blessed). More-over, Paul explicitly states that the eternal plan of God was hidden until the right time, when Messiah was revealed. He does not claim that this mystery is found clearly in the Old Testament. With regards to the rest of the claims of "economy with the truth" and eisegesis, simply claiming it does not make it so. I think I would rather trust Paul's interpretation of Scripture than that of many modern "theologians". In addition, the thesis does not take cognisance of the difference between Jewish believers (who were circumcised) and gentile believers (who were uncircumcised). Acts 15 makes it clear that it was not expected of gentile Christians to enter the covenant of the circumcision, not because there is anything wrong with the Torah (cf. Rom.7), but because nobody has been able to keep Torah without sinning (cf. 1 Kings 8:46). The time of the promised New Covenant, where the Torah is written on their hearts by the Spirit of God, had arrived.
To be honest, it makes little difference if early Christianity and Judaism had anti-realist tendencies (188.8.131.52 on p.396 of the thesis). "Early" (after first century AD) Christian writers (and even Jewish writers like Philo) were influenced strongly by Greek philosophy, especially Platonism. This whole philosophy had a general disregard for the material, created universe (the "realist" view of the devil's advocate). This is just as true for later theologians and philosophers. In short, the unbelief of any so-called "christian" has little relevance to reality. There has always been people who did not believe in the existence of God (cf. Ps.14:1); it is nothing new in spite of what Dr. Gericke seems to believe. "False brothers", people pretending to believe, is also nothing new. And even one of the original apostles had his moments of doubt (John 20:24-28)!
On p.400 Dr. Gericke quotes Grant: 'Later on, by the time the nineteenth century would come around, the study of myth that began here during the renaissance would lead to an unexpected discovery. As Grant (1998:21) observes, “By attempting to show the mythical and mostly fictitious nature of the religion of others we have discovered the mythical and fictitious nature of our own.” This realisation was, as suggested, not immediately apparent to everyone.' What is interesting to me, is that some people who really made a study of mythology (and history) came to just the opposite conclusion. For example C.S. Lewis said: "I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. And yet the very matter they set down in their artless, historical fashion ... was precisely the matter of the great myths. If ever a myth had become fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. ... Here and here only in all time the myth must have come fact: the Word, flesh; God, man." ... "I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this." Or K.A. Kitchen: "The ancient Near East did not historicize myth (i.e. read it as imaginary “history”). In fact, exactly the reverse is true—there was, rather, a trend to “mythologize” history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms."
Then Luther and Calvin is considered. Although I know that Luther had a good think about the canon (the authoritative Scriptures by which every other revelation can be judged), as far as I know he did not exclude any of the books in either the Old or the New Testaments and neither did the Lutheran church afterwards. Calvin's idea of God accommodating Himself to us in Scripture is dismissed as "conveniently ignoring the fact that... the deity himself...believed that the world was constituted in this manner". A chapter and verse reference to show this would have been convenient. A few possible understandings of the Scripture in Gen.1 is possible. That the ancients would probably have understood it according to their own world-view is likely. That this necessarily how the Creator understood and meant it, does not follow, especially if other interpretations are equally possible. But more on this in Chapter 4.
The anti-realism stance of the Deists are then considered, but their views are really just as irrelevant as Mohammed, since their "Christian God" can not be found in the Bible. That the Deist controversy implied "that realism with regard to the depiction of Yahweh was no longer tenable", is simply not true unless you agree with the Deists already. That is why it was a "controversy"! To use the discredited theories of Wellhausen and friends, who created their theories of the development of religion and how the Bible came into existence out of thin air, with no knowledge of archaeology or the real Ancient Near East history and culture, does little to convince that they had anything meaningful to say about the realism of Yahweh-as-depicted-in-the-text. Where I will agree though, is that many found their arguments convincing enough that they did loose their faith in God. I would also agree that Darwin finally made it possible to be an atheist while still being intellectually fulfilled.
That the neo-orthodoxy was unable to answer the growing "anti-realist" theology of the 20th century, does not surprise me, since they already accepted so much of the same basic premises. Then on p.407 Hebrew mind vs. Greek worldview is briefly discussed and the conclusion drawn that you need to make the "ideology of the text" normative, else the ontological status of its history and theology will collapse. On this just two remarks. First, if we truly want to understand what the text means/meant who do need to enter the Hebrew mindset, since all of the Bible (including most of the New Testament) was written by Hebrews. This is not because otherwise you will no longer believe it is true, but because otherwise you will probably misunderstand its meaning. Secondly, all western societies, including us as individuals, are largely influenced by Greek thought. Our science, being analytical, assuming that if you understand the parts you also understand the sum of the parts as the whole, the very existence of various disciplines functioning largely in isolation from each other (e.g. "higher criticism" functioning in total isolation from the results of archaeological studies) comes from Greek thought. The very existence of philosophy as a discipline that can be isolated from theology, comes from the Greeks. Compare this view to the Biblical and other ANE "Wisdom Literature". Humanism. Democracy. Our debt to the Greeks are huge. This does not mean that a Greek mindset is wrong. It simply means that we should be aware that we share this mindset with most of the Western world and that it is different from the Hebrew mindset of the original writers of the Bible. It also means that what we think on a first reading of any Biblical text to be "the plain meaning" of the text, might not be what would have been the "plain meaning" to the original readers. The fact that they had a high-context culture (where a lot of assumptions were simply left unsaid and implicit) compared to our low-context culture where everything has to be unambiguously and rigorously defined and explained, is another example. The typical use of hyperbole understood as a regular figure of speech, compared to our preference for cold and clinically precise language use. The importance of faith as a relational act of trust versus our typical view of faith as a belief in (cold) facts. Modernism is very much an outflow of Greek thought, just as post-modernism is to a large extend due to the influence of oriental (Buddhist, Hindu and New Age) worldviews. Neither corresponds to the Biblical (Hebrew) worldview. Where this becomes an issue regarding the reality of God's existence, is when we misunderstand Scripture by assuming it was written in the same culture as the one we live in and then create for ourselves contradictions and problems that does not really exist in the original context. This is a very common mistake of both fundamentalists and "anti-realists". Indeed, the apparently common method of interpreting Scripture as if the writers (and readers) were unaware of the existence of other, previously existing, Scripture, is probably also the result of our Greek heritage of breaking things up into parts (analysing it) instead of looking at the whole.
The thesis describe a bunch of new philosophical, theological, scientific and other believe systems from the 20th century that implied disbelieve in the God of the Old Testament. From my perspective, these are mostly demonstrations of 1 Cor.1:20 - "Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" Where things become interesting for me is when the thesis mentions post-modernism as if it is a valid philosophy by which to find truth. As a scientist, I realize that the scientific method has its limitations. But I also realize that post-modernism with its denial of the existence of objective truth, would remove any validity to science. While it is a reaction to overreaching positivist claims, the fact remains that in reality there are true facts and truth exists even if we are not always able to find it or prove it beyond doubt (which is what earlier epistemologists hoped to do). Gödel demonstrated that we always need to make some assumptions and that for any consistent mathematical system there will be true facts that it is unable to prove. But post-modernism provide no answer to this dilemma. It may sound intellectual, but for any operational science, it is a useless philosophy. Fortunately most scientists happily continue in their modernist mind-set with no regard for the implications of post-modernism for science. There is no place in science for "my truth" and "your truth" which can be contradictory, but still both be true! Hopefully, something better than post-modernism will come along before scientists need to deal with the full implications of what post-modernism would mean. The only positive aspect that I can see to post-modernism is that it emphasizes that nobody is truly without bias and totally objective. But it does not follow that therefore objective truth does not exist and we need not strive to be objective in our scientific endeavours. Rather, it reminds us that we should examine ourselves and be aware of our own biases in order to try and minimize their effect on our science.On p.414 the thesis gives a pretty good conclusion on post-modern claims when it says that it is self-refuting.
At the bottom of p.409 Dr. Gericke explains that the debate between "maximalists" and "minimalists" can be ascribed to the rise of post-modern views. While it is certainly true that most "minimalists" hold to a post-modern view (and most "maximalists" to a more modernist and scientific view), his view that it is the question of Yahweh's existence that lies at the root of this debate, is flawed. Many, if not the majority, of "maximalist" archaeologists, are secular Israeli's with no belief in the existence of a God. Rather, they argue that the bible should be handled like any other textual archaeological artefact. Moreover, very few of the "minimalists" are actually active archaeologists at all, but rather "Biblical Scholars" that use their unfounded theories on the origin of the Bible to try and fit the archaeology to their views instead of viewing both text and material artefacts as independent witnesses that can help clarify and understand the history of the Ancient Near East. This would include realizing that although the Bible is not a modern history book, much of it is written as a theological reflection on the actual history and therefore valuable as a historical source. Of course, since I believe that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, I would go further and say that it is also a reliable and true historical source. But this is not necessarily the view of a "maximalist". They would simply state that the best way to understand archaeological remains is to use historical texts in addition to just the material remains, including the Bible, whereas the minimalist point of view mostly considers the Bible as useless for ANE history (and some would even insist that we have no such history at all).
Though Dr. Gericke mentions a whole list of historical repressed anti-realism, this whole section provides little substantial evidence against the reality of Yahweh's existence except for basically saying that some who claimed to believe in God, did not really do so.
Next the thesis lists a number of possible objections or anti-realist tendencies by conservatives (where I would see myself according to the definition given in the thesis). These include:
The next part of the thesis chapter discusses the anti-realist tendencies in critical scholarship. I will not answer that here, since I agree with Dr. Gericke that this is ultimately an untenable position to hold and necessarily entails a lot of cognitive dissonance where people struggle to believe in spite of what they "know"/"fear" in their hearts to be true.
Let us recap the concluding arguments from the meta-textual history of the Old Testament as found on p.425 of the thesis:
To recap my answers to this argument: