Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Act of Baptism In the Book Of Acts

           There’s a joke that goes something like this: a Church of Christ preacher said, “Give me an axe and two 38s, and I can whip any Baptist preacher on the planet.” Understanding the punch line requires an understanding of the differences between those two denominations regarding the correct biblical teaching of baptism. And adjudicating between the two claims can only be done by studying what the Bible has to say about that subject.
            The purpose of this paper is to analyze what the book of Acts teaches regarding the Christian practice of baptism. The major passages regarding baptism will be discussed, the correct interpretation offered, and their significance clearly stated. Claims regarding the relationship of baptism to salvation will be examined along with the mode of baptism and the proper candidates for baptism. This paper will not concern itself primarily with other passages but is limited solely to occurrences recorded in the book of Acts.
The Major Passages in Acts Regarding Water Baptism
            The book of Acts is the early history of the church, recording the practices and testimonies of many of the apostles. Unlike the epistles that are primarily didactic, the book of Acts focuses more upon the experiences of God’s early church. Because of this status primarily as history, the discerning reader must be careful regarding what doctrine he draws from Acts. Isolated experiences such as the casting of lots to determine a church leader or the burning of occult materials are two examples that the modern church should not necessarily emulate.
            There are several instances of water baptism1 explicitly mentioned in Acts. The pattern of what is mentioned varies slightly in each instance with some calling for repentance (2:38), others for belief (19:5), and others calling baptism itself a “washing away” of sins (22:16). Given this variation, what can be determined from the Scriptures regarding the purpose of baptism?
            The best place to look is the first occurrence of baptism of believers follows Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. Peter preaches to a number of Jews who were (or whose families were) personally involved in the crucifixion of the Lord. After Peter finished the sermon, the Holy Spirit convicted the mass of Jews present (Acts 2:37). They now asked what they should do in response to this message. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Subsequent to these acts they would receive the Holy Spirit. How did the first century person, Jew or Christian, understand the command to be baptized? Constable writes, “Baptism in water was common in both Judaism and early Christianity. The Jews baptized themselves for ceremonial cleansing. Gentile converts to Judaism commonly baptized themselves in water publicly as a testimony.”2 This cleansing has antecedents in John the Baptist’s ministry (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:7-21), and no explanation is ever given by the gospel writers. The pre-Crucifixion Jews understood the concept of baptism ceremonially. While baptism was understood ceremonially, the context of Acts 2, however, suggests something more than just a ceremonial cleansing. It is a public identification with the crucified and risen Savior. Peter is challenging those involved in the Lord’s death to public identify themselves with this Christ by participating in a public act demonstrating the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord.[3] The stories of persons in non-Western culture in particular who lost their livelihood and families after identifying with Jesus through baptism are endless. This may also be expressed as saying baptism is the public testimony that one trusts in Christ.
Thirdly, water baptism is an outward expression of the inward occurrence of Spirit baptism, an event that happens upon the conversion of the unbeliever to a believer (Rom. 8:9; I Cor. 12:12). A common mantra in Southern Baptist circles is to say that “baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace.” Although this verbiage is not found in the Scripture, it is implied in I John 5:8, where baptism is seen as a testimony of man coordinated with the testimony of God represented by the Spirit and the blood. Water baptism is external proof of the obedience of the Christian to the command of Jesus Christ (Mt. 28:19-20) that is enabled by the fact the Christian has already been baptized and sealed by the Holy Spirit upon his possession of faith (Eph. 1:14). Regardless of one’s view, “the idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in [the] NT.”[4] The epistles all assume the baptism experience on the part of the congregants (Ro. 6; I Jn 5:8). The “Christian” who refuses to be baptized may not truly be a Christian at all.
The Mode of Baptism in Acts
The mode of baptism is never explicitly covered in Acts. An inference can be drawn from Acts 8:38, where it states Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch went “into the water” (eiV to uJdwr), but whether a sprinkling or immersion occurred is not stated. Therefore, lexical evidence must be considered. And the lexical evidence is unanimous: baptism (baptizw) means “plunge, dip, wash.” [5] Had Luke intended to suggest sprinkling as an acceptable mode of baptism, it is more likely he would have used the word rJantizw, a term found five times in the NT (Heb. 9:13,19, 21; 10:22; Rev. 19:13) [6] that clearly means “sprinkle.” Other biblical references outside of the book of Acts intimate that those engaging in baptism came “up out of the water” (Mt. 3:16; Mk. 1:10) and that John was baptizing in the Jordan because “there was much water there” (Jn. 3:23). The cumulative force of the argument – lexical, theological, inferential – unanimously declare that water baptism is to be done by immersion. Although the use of pouring has deep historical roots (found in the Didache [7]), the biblical evidence is unanimously immersion.
Who Is Able?
            Whom, according to Acts, may be baptized? Christian sects disagree on this issue as well. Baptists and the Churches of Christ historically have limited the rite of baptism only to believers capable of expressing a confession of faith in Jesus Christ. The vast majority of confessional Christians, however, see sprinkling as the proper mode and permit infant baptism on the basis of an inference from Acts 16:33, where the entire family of the Philippian jailer is baptized. The suggested inference is that it is merely logical to believe that some members of the jailer’s family must be infants or not old enough to express faith. The first problem with this view is that it is an imposition on the text. To argue that there must logically be persons too young to express faith is eisegesis of the worst sort, particularly since the very next verse (16:34) says his whole household was now “believing” in God. Even those who advocate infant baptism never argue that the infant actually is capable of the volitional choice of believing. [8] This eisegesis is made possible by the covenantal assumption that baptism in the New Testament parallels circumcision in the Old Testament (Col. 2:9). A second problem from the Reformed standpoint is that it is inconsistent. This is the same theology that insists that “the whole world” (I John 2:2) does not mean every person but now insists that the household of one person must have had some children baptized. It is not an argument from silence; it uses the silence to fill in the gaps. The second problem is even greater than the first: the synthesis principle (analogia Scriptura) does not allow for this eisegesis because nowhere else in the entirety of Scripture are children baptized. The entire belief is based upon presuppositions that must seriously be questioned at face value.
Is Water Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
            Defining baptism as the outward sign of inward grace, ceremonial cleansing, or
identification with Christ is unacceptable to those who hold a view termed “baptismal regeneration.” Those who hold this view believe that it is the act of water baptism that secures salvation for the professing believer. Until the moment that person is properly baptized1 he remains lost and in his sins. The two primary proof-texts from Acts used to advocate this view are Acts 2:38 and 22:16. The former will be briefly examined because it is the more explicit of the two passages.
            Acts 2:38 is unquestionably the key proof-text used to teach baptismal regeneration. [9] It states: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Theologians have provided at least five explanations of these passages throughout church history. These are: 1) baptismal regeneration; 2) baptism as a parenthetical statement with repentance for the forgiveness of sins; 3) Spirit baptism; 4) the preposition eiV should be translated as a causal, thus, “because of” rather than “for;” 5) both Spirit and water baptism are meant as baptism shows the outward expression of the inward reality. Each view will be examined briefly.
Read straightforwardly the passage appears to teach that forgiveness of sins is inextricably bound to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Advocates of this view then deduce that without forgiveness of sins one is lost. Thus, salvation requires baptism to be fully effected. Baptism is thus the instrumental cause of one’s salvation. Without it, man does not have his sins remitted and consequently is lost. This view is advocated by the Churches of Christ.[10] There are numerous problems with this view including the following: 1) there are about 150 other passages in the New Testament indicating salvation occurs by believing that do not mention baptism at all; 2) Jesus came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) yet he never baptized anyone (John 4:2), a problem that must be explained adequately by those who hold this view; 3) in several cases in the book of Acts (3:19) forgiveness of sins is tied to repentance, consistent with Luke’s version of the Great Commission (Luke 24:47); 4) Paul was sent “not to baptize” but to “preach the gospel,” suggesting the gospel was not realized by baptism; 5) Scripture is clear that to have the Holy Spirit is to be saved (Ro. 8:9). The believers in Acts 10 at Cornelius’s household possessed the Spirit and spoke in tongues before they were ever baptized in water. This last is the strongest argument against baptismal regeneration.
A second argument suggests that the grammar in Acts 2:38 argues for repentance rather than baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This view argues that because the verb “repent” (metanohsate) is a second person plural verb, it is the primary verb of the main clause that Peter uses to address the entire crowd. The other verb, “baptize” (baptisqhtw), is third person singular and serves as the primary verb of the subordinate clause. Thus, repent addresses the entire crowd and baptism individual persons. [11] This fits the theology of Acts, but “its subtlety and awkwardness are against it” (Wallace, 370).
The third position argues that the baptism referenced is “Spirit baptism.” The problem with this view is that it violates the immediate context where the hearers of the gospel are baptized (2:41). It also suggests that Spirit baptism can only occur if believers allow it, a violation of the entire Scripture record.
            The fourth position seems to be the most common among Baptists.[12] It states that the Greek word eiV should be translated as a causal preposition rather than a preposition of purpose. In this scenario the translation is altered to, “Repent and be baptized because of the forgiveness of sins.” This view is advocated by two prominent Greek grammarians of yesteryear, Julius Mantey and A.T. Robertson. [13] But this understanding was refuted by Ralph Marcus in a scholarly exchange with Mantey.[14] Although Mantey correctly showed that eiV occurs as a causal preposition in other places (Mt. 3:11), applying this argument to Acts 2:38 seems driven more by theology than grammar.
            The final view sees both ideas communicated (Wallace, 371). This is shown by Peter in both chapters 10 and 11, most especially 11:15-16. This may be a proper way to view the entire theology of Acts; however, it is difficult to see how the Jew would necessarily have drawn this conclusion at the time of Peter’s sermon. Thus, while there is no doubt that Lukan theology as expressed in Acts would see both types of baptism, it still cannot resolve the problem that Peter is commanding them to experience a Spirit baptism on their own.
            Each view has strengths but several weaknesses. The weaknesses of each view seem more prominent than the strengths. The most likely option to the present author seems to be the grammatical argument regarding repentance. It flows naturally with the gospel of Luke’s closing statement, and it can be demonstrated to be the grounds for the remission of sins in other places in Acts (3:19, 26:20). The solution is not drawn by a singular solid argument but is determined by the cumulative force of the data.
Conclusion
            The purpose of this paper was to evaluate the teaching of water baptism in the book of Acts. The major passages regarding baptism were discussed, the correct interpretation offered, and their significance clearly stated. Claims regarding the relationship of baptism to salvation were examined along with the mode of baptism and the proper candidates for baptism. The conclusions made from this brief research study are as follows: 1) baptism is to be done by immersion and is for believers only; 2) the passages that appear to teach the necessity of baptism for salvation are modified and explained by numerous other passages; 3) even within the book of Acts, repentance – and not baptism – is seen as the primary grounds for the forgiveness of sins; 4) baptism is seen as a ceremonial cleansing, an outward sign of the inward grace, and identifying with the Savior by obedience.

Footnotes
[1] Water baptism will be referenced throughout this paper as baptism while Spirit baptism will be specifically referenced as Spirit baptism.  The passages featuring water baptism include: 2:38; 8:12, 36-39; 9:18; 10:44-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:1-6: 22:16.

[2]   Constable, “Notes on Acts,” 52-3. Cf. also Saucy, 197; Malphurs, 171.
[3]  Reformed theologian W. Robert Godfrey passionately presents one of the best arguments for baptism as identity with Christ in The Agony of Deceit when he writes, “Baptism represents not only the promise of God to wash away sin, but the sinner’s commitment to look to Jesus alone as his Savior. Baptism is the public break with the old life as a rebel against God and the beginning of the new life as a follower of Jesus. For many Americans, the drama and central importance of baptism may seem foreign to their own experience. But they should listen to the missionaries’ stories from places where it is fine to ‘believe’ whatever you want about Jesus as long as you are not baptized. Once baptized, however, family, friends, and perhaps the government see you as one who has rejected his own religion and culture,” 166.

 [4] Bruce, 77.

 [5] BDAG, 164-5; Cf. also TDNT, s.v. “baptizw, by Albreht Oepke, 1 (1974): 530-1.

 [6] Kubo, 288.

  [7]The Didache is an early document (late 1st/early2nd c.) written as a summary of doctrine. It declares (7:5) that lacking cold or warm water “pour water on the head” in the name of the Trinity.

           
[8] This view is best expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the combined expression of 17th century Calvinism, Puritanism, and British Augustinianism: “Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person. Not only those that actually do profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized” (WCF, 28:3-4 as documented in Leip, 204). The baptism of infants is also advocated in The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church (article 27). The Augsburg Confession, the standard creed of Reformation Lutheranism, states, “We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that young infants, born of faithful parents, are to be baptized” (XX). Complete copies of each of these confessions may be found in Leith, Creeds of the Churches.

[9] Within the book of Acts. A stronger proof-text, Mark 16:16, is beyond the scope of this paper.
[10]  It would no doubt surprise a number of members of the Church of Christ to discover their founder, Alexander Campbell, did not hold the view of no salvation without baptism. While he certainly felt it was the norm, Campbell also wrote: “Therefore, for many centuries, there has been no Church of Christ, no Christians in the world; and the promises concerning the everlasting kingdom of the Messiah have failed, and the gates of hell have prevailed against his church! This cannot be; and therefore there are Christians among the sects” (Campbell, 411).

 [11] Malphurs, 168; Cf. Bates, 233-4. Lenski, a Lutheran, argues this position, combines it with the ceremonial position, but then declares baptism to provide “the remission of sins” making it “a true sacrament,” 106.

[12]  The author of this paper has spent most of his 30 church attending years among Baptists, and he has heard this argument numerous times in numerous fellowships.

[13] Dana and Mantey, 104; Robertson, 3:35. Note that both grammarians are Baptists who hold to faith alone for salvation.

[14] Marcus, JBL 71 (1953)


Bibliography

Bibliography

Bauer, Walter and Danker, F.W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Bruce, F.F. Commentary on the Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.

Campbell, Alexander. Christian Baptism: With Its Antecedents and Consequents. Bethany: printed and published by Alexander Campbell, 1851.

Constable, Thomas. “Class Notes, 2010.” Available from www.soniclight.com. Accessed 5 September 2010.

Dana, H.E. and Mantey, Julius R. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1957.

Horton, Michael. The Agony of Deceit. “The TV Church,” by W. Robert Godfrey. Chicago: Moody, 1990.

Kittel, G. and Friedrich, G. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromily. 1964-1974. s.v. baptizw, by Albrecht Oepke, 1 (1974): 529-545.

Kubo, Sakae. A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago: Zondervan, 5th ed., 1975.

Leith, John. Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present. Louisville: John Knox Press, 3rd. ed., 1982.

Lenski, R.C.H. The Acts of the Apostles. Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1944.

Malphurs, Aubrey. A Theological Critique of the Churches of Christ Doctrine of Soteriology. Doctoral dissertation. Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1981.

Marcus, Ralph. “On Causal Eis.” Journal of Biblical Literature. Vol. 70, 1952.

Marcus, Ralph. “The Elusive Causal Eis.” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 71, 1953.

Robertson, A.T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934.

Saucy, Robert. The Church in God’s Program. Chicago: Moody, 1972.

Wallace, Daniel. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Walvoord, John and Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament.
              Elgin: David C. Cook Publishing, 2002


Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Response To Martin Shue, Part Two: His Tragic Misuse Of Scrivener

Having dealt with Mr. Shue's brief discussion of the Greek manuscripts, his second argument is little more than an ad hominem, a fallacy he repeats throughout his argument. During a long paragraph where Shue does elicit some important information (which will be dealt with in a later post), he also thrusts the following upon us:

1) This is a most interesting statement by Metzger. In an effort to make it appear to the unsuspecting saint that there is no Early Church Father support for the verse Metzger says “Greek Fathers”. This is interesting because at other times Metzger himself will appeal to these ‘non-Greek’ Fathers if they can be found to bolster support for his argument.

2) It is also quoted in the ’Disputation with Arius’ by Ps-Athanasius thus proving Metzger’s statement that it was not used in the Arian controversy false.

3) Once again this is Greek evidence which appears much earlier than Metzger purports when he says, “Its first appearance in Greek is in a Greek version of the (Latin) Acts of the Lateran Council in 1215.” I am not certain if Metzger is aware of the above facts or if he has just chosen to overlook them.

In the following paragraph we find:

4) Again we find a distortion of the facts by both Metzger and Wallace. Being that both these learned men write extensively on this subject one would think they would be a little more familiar with the facts of the matter.

And then in the final sentence we have:

5) Exposure has been made of the constant misrepresentation of the facts by people such as Daniel Wallace and Bruce Metzger.

A RESPONSE TO MARTIN SHUE

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of dealing with those who espouse the KJV Only view is the inevitable attack upon individuals as if making such an attack proves anything about who is right concerning the argument. Having already shown Mr. Shue's deficient response to Wallace in regards to the eight late Greek manuscripts, it should not surprise the reader that Mr. Shue's rapid volley of claims regarding church fathers is misleading. Shue  suggests that Metzger is trying to mislead his reader by claiming Metzger's statement only refers to Greek Fathers and no mention is made of non-Greek Fathers whom Metzger himself appeals to in support of his own argument. Shue then begins a rapid volley of claims of citations none of which he provides support for!! His list sounds like an unattributed plagiarism of Michael Maynard's claims in A History of the Debate of Over I John 5:7. But many of the "Fathers" that he lists as "Fathers" are not "Fathers" at all. And several others beg many questions that Shue does not even attempt to answer. The Council of Carthage was NOT a Church Father, it was a church COUNCIL. Pseudo-Vigilius and Pseudo-Athansisus were also not Church Fathers; they are noncanonical works that were not even written by those whose names are on them. Pseudo-Athanasius is a sixth century document and the date of Pseudo-Vigilius is unknown. How can Shue claim this is an "early" quotation when he doesn't even know when it was written?

In essence, Shue focuses upon non-Greek scholars who were primarily well-versed in Latin. That the corruption was an early one isolated to the Latin language has never been seriously contested. Yet why does not Shue provide the actual quotations from these works? I doubt he has ever even seen them; he is most likely regurgitating the claims that others have made. Tertullian used the word Trinity. The fact that the doctrine or even the term existed is not evidence that I John 5:7 existed at that time as the doctrine of the Trinity is not dependent upon I John 5:7.

Shue's most amusing blunder occurs when he lists Pseudo-Athanasius and gives it a sixth century date. That information is correct, but just three sentences later he claims the Comma "is also quoted in the ’Disputation with Arius’ by Ps-Athanasius thus proving Metzger’s statement that it was not used in the Arian controversy false." But Shue never explains the obvious problem in his logic: how in the world could a sixth century pseudigraph have been used in a fourth century controversy? The real Athanasisus did not write Ps-Athanasius, and it was not quoted during the Arian controversy. The fact somebody wrote a fictional tale later that Shue opted to pass on as an authentic argument reveals more about Shue's paradigm than about Metzger's facts.

The second most amusing error Shue makes is when he claims a Homily by an unkown author cites the Comma Johanneum in 381 AD. We should therefore expect to read the following:

εν τω ουρανω ο πατηρ ο λογος και το αγιον πνευμα και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη

But what does Shue quote?

εις κεκλεται ο πατηρ και ο υιος και το πνευμα το αγιον: δει γαρ τε αποστολικε χωρεια παραχωρεςαι τεν αγιον τριαδα εν ο πατηρ καταγγελλιε. τριας αποστολο μαρτυς τες ουρανιου τριαδος

So that there's no mistaking it, let's see how EXACT this 'quote' truly is by making the exact wordings the same color:

1) εν τω ουρανω ο πατηρ ο λογος και το αγιον πνευμα και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη
2) εις κεκλεται ο πατηρ και ο υιος και το πνευμα το αγιον: δει γαρ τε αποστολικε χωρεια παραχωρεςαι τεν αγιον τριαδα εν ο πατηρ καταγγελλιε. τριας αποστολο μαρτυς τες ουρανιου τριαδος

Can anyone looking at these two quotes possibly believe they are anything even resembling verbatim quotes of one another? One would not even have to know Greek to note the variation. Two other words, martus and ouranious, have different cases of the same root.

Now let's consider this for just a moment: there are 25 Greek words in this disputed clause. We'll give or take a word or two on the basis of the article (which itself is a separate discussion proving the Latin interpolation of the passage). Of the 25 words, only SEVEN are verbatim or about 35% and NEVER more than four in a row!! How Shue can possibly claim that quotation 2 is a quotation of number 1 is never explained. Of the 31 words making up what Shue claims is a quote, only seven appear in the Comma. There is not even agreement between these two quotes upon whether the word should be "Son" or "Word." This is not a quote, Mr. Shue, this is desperation on the part of CJ advocates. (I will deal with this quote in more detail on a future post).

Shue again chides the scholarship of Metzger and Wallace by suggesting they are just not very well read on the verse. Shue states the following:
Wallace next cites Metzger as writing, “The passage is absent from the manuscripts of all ancient versions (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic) except the Latin:”. Again we find a distortion of the facts by both Metzger and Wallace. Being that both these learned men write extensively on this subject one would think they would be a little more familiar with the facts of the matter. These facts are not hidden and can be found by anyone willing to do a little research. The Comma is in fact found in some of the Armenian manuscripts. F. H. A. Scrivener reported this fact in his book “Plain Introduction” (cf. p. 403). Now even the newest UBS critical text has updated this information and admits that the passage is in fact found in some Armenian manuscripts.

Set aside the insulting rhetoric that is Shue's first three response sentences. What does Wallace say on the issue? Wallace quotes Metzger and notes the passage is absent from the manuscripts of ALL of the ancient versions and then lists them. Shue then pulls out what he calls a "fact" from Scrivener's text critical volume and cites the page where we suddenly find that the Comma "is found in some of the Armenian manuscripts." With this subtle shift, Shue is misleading the reader by not telling them he has bait and switched his terms. Ironically, Shue distorts what Scrivener says THREE DIFFERENT TIMES!!
Shue cites page 403 of Scrivener's work, so we must turn there.
Of course, we have a problem: Shue doesn't bother to mention WHICH edition of Scrivener's work has this. Nor does he mention the volume (it's a two volume set) Nevertheless, let's take a look at Scrivener's fourth edition, volume 2. (Shue's reason no doubt is because he never researched any of this himself; he simply passes on claims without verifying them). But since this has page 403 and addresses Armenian manuscripts, let's look at what Scrivener actually said:
"The disputed clause is not in any manuscript of the Peshitto, nor in the best editions (e.g. Lee's): the Harkleian, Sahidic, Bohairic, Ethiopic, Arabic do not contain it in any shape: scarcely any Armenian codex exhibits it, and only a few recent Slavonic copies.."

 Now let's compare. Wallace and Metzger state that the Comma Johanneum is not in any ANCIENT version - and it isn't. It is not in ANY Armenian manuscripts of the first ten centuries. Better yet - yes, the ARE some Armenian manuscripts that contain it but ALL of them post-date Erasmus's TR and are back-translations to match the Greek text. The same can be said for Shue's importing of the first Armenian Bible in 1666. Now we may ask why Shue should be taken seriously here. Surely he knows that ANY Bible that post-dates the insertion of the Comma into the TR is no argument at all - and most certainly he MUST know that manuscripts from the 16th century are not "ancient." Consequently, we find that Shue has distorted the argument. He pulls a bait and switch. Since the Armenian version IS an ancient version, he merely asserts that because some late manuscripts contain the insertion that it actually appears in the ancient version. I'm not sure if Shue is aware of these facts or has simply chosen to ignore them.
Shue's second misrepresentation of Scrivener is more egregious than his first. Let's see how Shue makes his case:
There are many Latin mss., of those that contain the Catholic Epistle of 1 John the vast majority contain 1 John 5:7. Many of these dating back to at least as early as the 4th century. It can also be found in the Latin Vulgate; of which, Frederick Scrivener wrote, “it is found in the printed Latin Vulgate, and in perhaps forty-nine out of every fifty of its manuscripts”.

Now - let's see what Scrivener ACTUALLY SAID in context. Let's note this is on page 403 of the same version of his work:
“it is found in the printed Latin Vulgate, and in perhaps forty-nine out of every fifty of its manuscripts, but not in the best"

Did you notice the difference? Scrivener was NOT praising the testimony of the Vulgate. In fact, he was merely reciting the evidence but then noting it at a 180 degree variance with the way Shue distorted what he said.
Shue's last distortion of Scrivener is just as bad as the first two. Note Shue's quote and then let's see the part he chose to edit:
This is so evident that even Frederick Scrivener, who adamantly opposed the Comma, was compelled to say, “If these two passages be taken together (the first is manifestly much the stronger), it is surely safer and more candid to admit that Cyprian read ver. 7 in his copies, than to resort to the explanation of Facundus, that the holy Bishop was merely putting on ver. 8 a spiritual meaning (Plain Introduction, p. 405).” I couldn’t agree more with the words of Dr. Scrivener!

Now having turned to page 405, we read something a little bit different than what Shue just said:
If these two passages be taken together (the first is manifestly much the stronger), it is surely safer and more candid to admit that Cyprian read ver. 7 in his copies, than to resort to the explanation of Facundus, that the holy Bishop was merely putting on ver. 8 a spiritual meaning; although we must acknowledge that it was in this way ver. 7 obtained a place, first in the margin, then in the text of the Latin copies, and though we have clear examples of the like mystical interpretation in Eucherius (fl. 440) and Augustine (contra Maximin. 22) who only knew of ver. 8."

Once again Scrivener EXPLICITLY STATES that the way verse 7 got into the text is because of a spiritual meaning on verse 8. In fact, the only place where Scrivener disagrees with Wallace and Metzger is regarding WHO PRECISELY did it. Scrivener opts to see Cyprian as quoting the Comma but from a prior spiritual interpretation.

Now why was any of this necessary? Why did Shue have to misrepresent Scrivener?

My suspicion is that it's because Shue has probably never read Scrivener at all. He has read the popular level KJV Only works that always distort the reality. Because he so desperately wants to believe the worst about new version proponents, he simply passes on distortions that others have told him. I cannot imagine that anyone who actually READ Scrivener's work could be unaware of the fact that Scrivener was VERY CLEAR about his view as to how the Comma got into the manuscripts as a Latin corruption.

I couldn’t agree more with the words of Dr. Scrivener!

Please note that Shue quotes this only about Scrivener after he has not accurately quoted him. I couldn't agree more with Scrivener myself - I John 5:7 originally crept into the manuscripts as a theological spin. Whether it was Cyprian or someone else who did it first is immaterial at this point. But these words ring hollow when we read Shue's final attempt at finishing off Wallace and Metzger:

The question then becomes, why does Mr. Wallace continue to espouse this “spiritual meaning/theological spin” hypothesis when this allegation has been refuted for centuries? One can only wonder if the reason behind this charade is not to further conceal the actual evidence and to further mislead the unsuspecting saints.

Shue never stops to ask this obvious question, either: why in the world would Daniel Wallace, a Trinitarian, want to conceal evidence of the Trinity?

And perhaps Mr. Shue ought to ask that question of Scrivener. After all, Scrivener held virtually the same view as Wallace regarding I John 5:7, disagreeing only upon where this mystical interpretation began. When Shue says "this allegation has been refuted for centuries," where did he ever PROVE this to be true? His only witness he called forth, FHA Scrivener, testifies in favor of Wallace on this issue. And who exactly is conducting a charade to "conceal the actual evidence and to further mislead the unsuspecting saints?"
The verdict on that one is clear: Martin Shue, and not Daniel Wallace, is the one who is concealing "the actual evidence" and misleading "the unsuspecting saints."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Response To Martin Shue, Part One

Martin Shue's discussion of the Comma Johanneum is worthy of examination if only as a curiosity. There are a couple of points worthy of praise. The first is the attempt to actually deal with evidence surrounding the issue. While Shue is incorrect regarding what he sees as significant within the data, it is the evidence to which all critics whether advocates for or against the authenticity of I John 5:7 must appeal. The second is his embedding of Wallace's article within his own for ease of research regarding that particular article.

That said, however, Shue's argument falls woefully short when it comes to actually dealing with the substance of the lacking textual data in I John 5:7. Shue's arguments can be summarized by the following points (or claims):

1) The Comma appears in more Greek manuscripts than textual critics state.
2) Bruce Metzger and Daniel Wallace mislead their readers.
3) There are other evidences of the Comma Johanneum besides Greek evidence.
4) Cyprian actually read the Comma in his Latin copies.

Each of these will be dealt with seriatim. The point will be in bold, the quotation of Mr. Shue's remarks in italics, and my remarks in plain text.

1) The Comma appears in more Greek manuscripts than textual critics state.

Wallace immediately states that “the Comma occurs only in about 8 MSS.”. Obviously Mr. Wallace is referring to the Greek mss. only. I would like to point this out lest it be made to appear that there are LITERALLY ‘only about 8 MSS.’ which contain the Comma. There are many Latin mss., of those that contain the Catholic Epistle of 1 John the vast majority contain 1 John 5:7. Many of these dating back to at least as early as the 4th century. It can also be found in the Latin Vulgate; of which, Frederick Scrivener wrote, “it is found in the printed Latin Vulgate, and in perhaps forty-nine out of every fifty of its manuscripts”. So, the ms. evidence is far greater than 8. And even if we did take this to mean the Greek mss. it is still not correct. Though the actual count is somewhat disputed, each side claiming or denying certain mss., it is agreed upon by both sides that there are certainly more than just 8 Greek mss. that contain the phrase.

The quotation of Wallace alleging that he "states that 'the Comma occurs in only about 8 MSS'" is carefully parsed so as not to deal with the strength of his argument. The issue is NOT whether the Comma appears in eight manuscripts or even "only" eight manuscripts. The issue is that in reality in only appears IN THE TEXT in four of them and - Shue never deals with this - "all of them quite late." Rather than dealing with the sparseness of data, Shue simply shifts gears and invokes the Latin evidence. He claims that there are many manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate that contain this passage, which is true, but it is also irrelevant. Why? Because a manuscript of a VERSION like the Latin Vulgate does not constitute a witness to the original Greek text; it only constitutes a witness to the Latin Vulgate, a late fourth century document that underwent a series of revisions and later (many centuries later) introduced the Comma that was not contained in it originally. Shue quotes Scrivener's speculation, but Shue does not mention the rest of what Scrivener said about the passage. He does briefly note (later in the paper) Scrivener's rejection of the Comma, but he never interacts with the "why" of Scrivener's rejection.

His last sentence represents one of the darker moments in the practice of King James Only textual criticism. Shue states that actual count of manuscripts is disputed but then attempts to split the difference by deposing Wallace from both sides. Shue alleges that there is agreement from both sides that there are "certainly more than just 8 Greek mss. that contain the phrase."

It is here that Shue reaches his greatest deficiency. This is not rocket science or evolutionary theory. The phrase is either in the manuscript or it is not. At this point if Shue wished to argue this way he should have listed the readings of each manuscript. If he had done this then he would be in a position to make the claim he did. But Shue's reference that there are more than 8 Greek manuscripts is a King James urban legend that began in May 1979 . A New Jersey pastor named C.J. Drexler informed Dean Burgon Society President D.A. Waite that there are at least 20 manuscripts that contain the Comma. Waite circulated this as a fact in his May 1979 edition of the Dean Burgon News. It circulated the next year in Thomas Strouse's, "A Critique of D.A. Carson's 'The KJV Debate: A Plea For Realism.'" And it was entirely wrong. Because there were different numbering systems in the 19th century, there was no standardization. Although numbers are now standardized and assigned by the New Testament Institute at Munster, this was not the case in the days of Tischendorf. Consequently, Drexler arrived at this figure by using the same manuscript according to different numbering systems. These were merely repetitions and not new manuscripts that so-called critics of I John 5:7 had hidden from view. This deficiency most certainly does call Shue's scholarship into question. Michael Maynard even carefully distanced himself from this claim in his book "A History of I John 5:7." But Maynard never stated what resolution was made; he only noted that Waite and Strouse no longer make this claim. The bottom line is that at the time of Shue's writing there were 8 Greek manuscripts, all of them very late, and half of them in the margin. In this very important evaluation of textual evidence, Wallace is correct while Shue is misleading.

A Look At The Greek Text With - And Without - The Comma Johanneum

It is a simple fact in this day and age that most Christians cannot read Greek, the parent language of the New Testament. The blessing of today is the fact that the Bible has proliferated into literally thousands of langauges over the last 2,000 years or so. But reading the Greek makes the reader aware of some nuances of translation that skip by the casual reader of Scripture. But let's show the comparison of what the Bible looks like - in Greek - when the Comma Johanneum is included in the text as well as when it isn't. The visual might be surprisng to some readers.

GREEK NEW TESTAMENT WITH COMMA JOHANNEUM (1550 Stephanus TR, I John 5:6-8)

ουτος εστιν ο ελθων δι υδατος και αιματος ιησους ο χριστος ουκ εν τω υδατι μονον αλλ εν τω υδατι και τω αιματι και το πνευμα εστιν το μαρτυρουν οτι το πνευμα εστιν η αληθεια οτι τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τω ουρανω ο πατηρ ο λογος και το αγιον πνευμα και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη το πνευμα και το υδωρ και το αιμα και οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν

GREEK NEW TESTAMENT WITHOUT COMMA JOHANNEUM (Nestle-Aland 27)

 ουτος εστιν ο ελθων δι υδατος και αιματος ιησους χριστος ουκ εν τω υδατι μονον αλλ εν τω υδατι και τω αιματι και το πνευμα εστιν το μαρτυρουν οτι το πνευμα εστιν η αληθεια οτι τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες το πνευμα και το υδωρ και το αιμα και οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν

Kind of hard to tell exactly what has been changed where, isn't it? So this time let's take a look at the words added or subtracted (depending on your view) in red.

ουτος εστιν ο ελθων δι υδατος και αιματος ιησους ο χριστος ουκ εν τω υδατι μονον αλλ εν τω υδατι και τω αιματι και το πνευμα εστιν το μαρτυρουν οτι το πνευμα εστιν η αληθεια οτι τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τω ουρανω ο πατηρ ο λογος και το αγιον πνευμα και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη το πνευμα και το υδωρ και το αιμα και οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν

The red letters constitute the difference in views between advocates of the Critical Text and those who espouse the TR underlying the KJV. Next time I will begin a response to Mr. Shue's claims regarding the Comma Johanneum.

Martin Shue and The Comma Johanneum

Martin Shue is one of a small number of writers who argue that the Comma Johanneum (I John 5:7 as it appears in the King James Bible) is authentic Scripture. This particular post will have his argument as he himself has laid it out in response to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, NT professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. This article - other than not quoting the entirety of Wallace's article - is quoted in its entirety. Or it may be accessed as originally written by clicking HERE.

In my studies of 1 John 5:7 I came across the following article by Daniel B. Wallace, Ph.D. In fairness to Mr. Wallace I would like to post his entire article instead of just quoting from it as many do. This way I will not be accused of using Mr. Wallace’s quotes out of context or inaccurately. Below in the shaded area is his entire article as found on his website.

(Wallace's article can be read in its entirety HERE).

I think myself happy this day to be able to respond to Mr. Wallace’s claims in his article. I shall endeavor to rebut his claim that Cyprian did not quote the Comma Johanneum before 258 AD. I shall also seek to prove that several of his statements, which Mr. Wallace states as fact, regarding the Comma are false. I trust that the following will be beneficial to both sides of the debate and will perhaps clear up some of the myths surrounding Cyprian and 1 John 5:7.

I would concur with Wallace that it would indeed be significant if Cyprian did in fact quote the Comma in the early third century. I would also agree with Wallace that all we need to establish is that Cyprian “quote(d) a version of 1 John that had the Trinitarian formula of 1 John 5:7 in it”. In the ensuing paragraphs this is exactly what I shall prove. But as Wallace points out “a little background is needed”. We proceed to examine the evidence set forth by both Wallace and Metzger.



Wallace immediately states that “the Comma occurs only in about 8 MSS.”. Obviously Mr. Wallace is referring to the Greek mss. only. I would like to point this out lest it be made to appear that there are LITERALLY ‘only about 8 MSS.’ which contain the Comma. There are many Latin mss., of those that contain the Catholic Epistle of 1 John the vast majority contain 1 John 5:7. Many of these dating back to at least as early as the 4th century. It can also be found in the Latin Vulgate; of which, Frederick Scrivener wrote, “it is found in the printed Latin Vulgate, and in perhaps forty-nine out of every fifty of its manuscripts”. So, the ms. evidence is far greater than 8. And even if we did take this to mean the Greek mss. it is still not correct. Though the actual count is somewhat disputed, each side claiming or denying certain mss., it is agreed upon by both sides that there are certainly more than just 8 Greek mss. that contain the phrase.


In the next portion of his article Wallace quotes from Bruce Metzger. Metzger is quoted as writing, “(2) The passage is quoted in none of the Greek Fathers, who, had they known it, would most certainly have employed it in the Trinitarian controversies (Sabellian and Arian). Its first appearance in Greek is in a Greek version of the (Latin) Acts of the Lateran Council in 1215.” This is a most interesting statement by Metzger. In an effort to make it appear to the unsuspecting saint that there is no Early Church Father support for the verse Metzger says “Greek Fathers”. This is interesting because at other times Metzger himself will appeal to these ‘non-Greek’ Fathers if they can be found to bolster support for his argument. The fact is the Comma Johanneum is cited by Priscillian (385 AD), Cassian (435 AD), Ps-Vigilius (date unknown), Ps-Athanasius (6th century), Fulgentius (510 AD)(see John Gill), Ansbert (8th century), Jerome (4th century), Tertullian (3rd century), Athanasis (350 AD), Council of Carthage (415 AD), Vigilius of Thapsus (5th century), Cassiodorus (6th century) and Victor Vitensis, who records that the passage was “insisted” upon in a confession of faith that was drawn up by Eugenius Bishop of Carthage and authorized by no less than 460 bishops in 484 AD. In addition to those already listed there are numerous other Early Church Fathers that cite the verse without doubting its authenticity. Of special note I would like to mention that the passage appears in the Greek Synopsis of Holy Scripture (4th century). It is also quoted in the ’Disputation with Arius’ by Ps-Athanasius thus proving Metzger’s statement that it was not used in the Arian controversy false. The passage is also cited in an isolated Homily by an unknown author, in the Benedictin edition of Chrysostom (tom. xii. pp. 416-21). The date of this Homily has been fixed to 381 AD. This is yet another Greek witness for the Comma of the fourth century. The Homily reads in Greek, “eis kekletai ho Pater kai ho Uios kai to Pneuma to Agion: dei gar te apostolike choreia parachoresai ten Agian Triada, en ho Pater kataggellie. Trias Apostolon, martus tes ouraniou Triados.” Once again this is Greek evidence which appears much earlier than Metzger purports when he says, “Its first appearance in Greek is in a Greek version of the (Latin) Acts of the Lateran Council in 1215.” I am not certain if Metzger is aware of the above facts or if he has just chosen to overlook them.



Wallace next cites Metzger as writing, “The passage is absent from the manuscripts of all ancient versions (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic) except the Latin:”. Again we find a distortion of the facts by both Metzger and Wallace. Being that both these learned men write extensively on this subject one would think they would be a little more familiar with the facts of the matter. These facts are not hidden and can be found by anyone willing to do a little research. The Comma is in fact found in some of the Armenian manuscripts. F. H. A. Scrivener reported this fact in his book “Plain Introduction” (cf. p. 403). Now even the newest UBS critical text has updated this information and admits that the passage is in fact found in some Armenian manuscripts. Additionally, the first printed edition of the Armenian Bible, which was published in 1666 by Bishop Uscan, contains the Comma. It is also reported by Dr. Scrivener that “only a few recent Slavonic copies” do in fact contain the Comma. I will be the first to admit that it is hard to keep up with all the evidence when dealing with this issue of textual criticism but for such respected men as Daniel Wallace and Bruce Metzger to not be aware of the above facts is perplexing. Especially when so many read their books and articles and, as can be seen by the clubs, hang on to every word that flows from their pen (or in this day I should say ‘keyboard’).

 
I will now move on to his arguments concerning whether or not Cyprian quoted “a version” of 1 John 5:7. Mr. Wallace makes a lot of accusations about Cyprian putting a “theological spin” on 1 John 5:7 thus intimating that Cyprian did not actually read the Comma in his copy. Most of his statements are pure conjecture and cannot be proven in any way. It would be easy for me to make such hypothetical allegations as: “theological spin”, “What is evident is that Cyprian’s interpretation”, “Apparently, he was prompted”, “it was a natural step”, “obviously his interpretation”, “Trinitarian interpretation was superimposed on the text by Cyprian”, and my favorite is his concluding remarks, viz. “Thus, that Cyprian interpreted 1 John 5:7-8 to refer to the Trinity is likely; but that he saw the Trinitarian formula in the text is rather unlikely.” I would thank Mr. Wallace for giving us his opinion as to what Cyprian was “likely” or “unlikely” to have both read and thought. However, it is this type of ‘scholarship’ that has landed us in the mess that we are currently in. I can assure you that what Mr. Wallace points out as conjecture will be used by another as FACT. We pass on!

 
Since Cyprian wrote the disputed passage in Latin I feel it necessary to list Cyprian’s words in Latin. Cyprian wrote, “Dicit dominus, Ego et pater unum sumus (John x. 30), et iterum de Patre, et Filio, et Spiritu Sancto scriptum est, Et tres unum sunt.” (The Lord says, "I and the Father are One," and again, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost it is written: "And the three are One."). This Latin reading is important when you compare it to the Old Latin reading of 1 John 5:7; “Quoniam tres sunt, gui testimonium dant in coelo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt.” Cyprian clearly says that it is written of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--”And the three are One.” His Latin matches the Old Latin reading identically with the exception of ‘hi’. Again, it is important to note that Cyprian said “it is written” when making his remarks. He never indicates, depsite Wallace’s claims, that he is putting some sort of “theological spin” on 1 John 5:7 or 8. There is no other verse that expressly states that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are ‘three in one’ outside of 1 John 5:7. If Cyprian was not quoting 1 John 5:7 the question must be asked and answered: What was he quoting?

 
The matter becomes even more devastating for Wallace when we take into account another of Cyprian’s many statements. When considering issues such as this one before us it is necessary to lay on the table as much of the evidence as one can. Often many of the facts are purposely kept silent due to their damaging testimony. Cyprian writes in another place, “et sanctificatus est, et templum Dei factus ets, quaero cujus Dei? Si Creatoris, non potuit, qui in eum non credidit; si Christi, nec hujus fieri potuit templum, qui negat Deum Christum; si Spiritus Sancti, cum tres unum sunt, quomodo Spiritus Sanctus placatus esse ei potest, qui aut Patris aut Fillii inimicus est?” (If he was sanctified, he also was made the temple of God. I ask, of what God? If of the Creator; he could not be, because he has not believed in Him. If of Christ; he could not become His temple, since he denies that Christ is God. If of the Holy Spirit; SINCE THE THREE ARE ONE, how can the Holy Spirit be at peace with him who is the enemy either of the Son or of the Father?) Here again we see Cyprian stating that “the three are One” (i.e. the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This I feel is important because it gives us another reference in Cyprian’s writings testifying to the fact that he was not merely putting a “theological spin” on 1 John 5:7/8. The fact is 1 John 5:7 was found in Cyprian’s copies.

Admittedly, the second quote is not near as ‘strong’ as the first but when the evidence it presented, without all the conjecture, only one seeking to hide something can ignore the fact that Cyprian knew full well the wording of 1 John 5:7 as found in our Authorized Version. This is so evident that even Frederick Scrivener, who adamantly opposed the Comma, was compelled to say, “If these two passages be taken together (the first is manifestly much the stronger), it is surely safer and more candid to admit that Cyprian read ver. 7 in his copies, than to resort to the explanation of Facundus, that the holy Bishop was merely putting on ver. 8 a spiritual meaning (Plain Introduction, p. 405).” I couldn’t agree more with the words of Dr. Scrivener! The question then becomes, why does Mr. Wallace continue to espouse this “spiritual meaning/theological spin” hypothesis when this allegation has been refuted for centuries? One can only wonder if the reason behind this charade is not to further conceal the actual evidence and to further mislead the unsuspecting saints.

I hope in this short confutation of Wallace’s article that 1) More light has been shed on the evidence in favor of the Comma Johanneum and 2) Exposure has been made of the constant misrepresentation of the facts by people such as Daniel Wallace and Bruce Metzger.

The New Blog

This blog will cover issues in New Testament Textual Criticism. It is hoped that kind and godly interaction and edification may take place. Thank you for finding and reading this blog, and I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Bill Brown