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Friday, March 30, 2012

Daniel Wallace: "There is no Protestant Ecclesiology" - Can Ecclesiology be a "Non-Essential" for Christians?

A Catholic friend sent me a link to a recent blog post titled The Problem with Protestant Ecclesiology, written by Dr Daniel Wallace, a Reformed Protestant who is a professor and Greek scholar. The post is short enough that I will be able to quote "long" portions that highlight his frank admissions that all Protestants will have to come to terms with some time or another.
I am unashamedly a Protestant. I believe in sola scriptura, sola fidei, solus Christus, and the rest. I am convinced that Luther was on to something when he articulated his view of justification succinctly: simul iustus et peccator (“simultaneously justified and a sinner”).
But with the birth of Protestantism there necessarily came a rift within the western church. By ‘necessarily’ I mean that Protestants made it necessary by splitting from Rome. Jaroslav Pelikan had it right when he said that the Reformation was a tragic necessity. Protestants felt truth was to be prized over unity, but the follow-through was devastating. This same mindset began to infect all Protestant churches so that they continued to splinter off from each other. Today there are hundreds and hundreds of Protestant denominations. One doesn’t see this level of fracturing in either Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. Not even close.
This is the kind of introduction that has the hallmarks of a Protestant who is going to abandon Protestantism sometime soon. The reality that Protestantism is horribly and scandalously divided is first accepted, followed by accepting that this problem does not exist in Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Wallace understands denominationalism is wrong and want's a solution.
“But unity in falsehood is no unity at all,” some will protest. To a degree that is true. If the unity of the church meant that we would all deny the bodily resurrection of the theanthropic person, then that would be unity against an essential of the Christian faith. But there is no thinking Christian who agrees lock, stock, and barrel with what his pastor teaches. Yet, he is a part of that church. In this respect, he has prized unity over truth. We all have to do this. If we didn’t, each Christian would be his or her own church. The fellowship would be awfully predictable and quite boring!
Here we see the root of the problem starting to emerge: Wallace takes as perfectly normal that no "thinking Christian" will agree with all of what "his pastor" teaches, since this would make each Christian their "own church". But the problem is, as many Catholics have pointed out, what is this unifying principle? Who decides what doctrines are "essentials"? The Catholic reader knows that Sola Scriptura is the real culprit here, but there is an 'intermediate step' to realizing this:
Several evangelical scholars have noted that the problem with Protestant ecclesiology is that there is no Protestant ecclesiology. In many denominations—and especially in non-denominational churches—there is no hierarchy of churches responsible to a central head, no accountability beyond the local congregation, no fellowship beyond the local assembly, no missional emphasis that gains support from hundreds of congregations, and no superiors to whom a local pastor must submit for doctrinal or ethical fidelity.
Three events have especially caused me to reflect on my own ecclesiological situation and long for something different.
The problem is succinctly and accurately stated: there is no Ecclesiology in Protestantism (i.e. there is no official understanding of what and who make up "the church"). Phrased another way, in Protestantism, ecclesiology is a "non-essential". Last year I was in a discussion with a Reformed apologist named Turretin Fan, and he admitted to me that ecclesiology was a non-essential. Since this is indeed the case, then Wallace is truly in a bind, and he's slowly starting to realize it.
First, I have spent a lot of time with Greek Orthodox folks. It doesn’t matter what Orthodox church or monastery I visit, I get the same message, the same liturgy, the same sense of the ‘holy other’ in our fellowship with the Triune God. The liturgy is precisely what bothers so many Protestants since their churches often try very hard to mute the voices from the past. “It’s just me and my Bible” is the motto of millions of evangelicals. They often intentionally forget the past two millennia and the possibility that the Spirit of God was working in the church during that time. Church history for all too many evangelicals does not start until Luther pounded that impressive parchment on the Schlosskirche door.
As with the opening paragraph, these words are the hallmark of a Protestant who is going to eventually abandon ship for Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. The state Wallace is currently in, he's torn between accepting two contradictory theses that the Sola's of the Reformation are true while affirming the Spirit of God has been active in the Church the last two-thousand years, and did not start up at the time of Luther.
Too many Protestant churches look like social clubs where the offense of the gospel has been diluted to feel-good psycho-theology. And the problem is only getting worse with mega-churches with their mini-theology. This ought not to be.
The famous last words of many an ex-Protestant.
Second, a man whom I mentored years ago became a pastor of a non-denominational church. Recently and tragically, he denied the full deity of Christ and proclaimed that the Church had gotten it wrong since Nicea. ... The congregation wasn’t sure which way was up. Doubts about the cornerstone of orthodoxy—the deity of Christ—arose. This cancer could have been cut out more swiftly and cleanly if the church was subordinate to a hierarchy that maintained true doctrine in its churches.
While this argument doesn't definitively prove hierarchy is necessary, it shows how useful it is. The reason why this problem didn't manifest itself too early on in Protestantism was because the Pretend Reformers acted like tyrannical dictators of their respective denominations. But once the early "leaders" passed away, there was nobody to take such a hard-line leadership role, and that's when (more and more) Protestants realized they were just as qualified to be a "Pastor" as the next guy. In Protestantism, there is literally no hierarchy to prevent such a "Pastor" from doing such things, since in Protestantism all positions of leadership are ultimately self appointed (reducing down to everyone having equal authority).
Third, a book by David Dungan called Constantine’s Bible makes an astounding point about the shape of the canon in the ancient church. ... Dungan mentions that for Eusebius to speak of any books [of Scripture] as homolegoumenathose twenty books that had universal consent in his day as canonicalhe was speaking of an unbroken chain of bishops, from the first century to the fourth, who affirmed authorship and authenticity of such books. What is significant is that for the ancient church, canonicity was intrinsically linked to ecclesiology. It was the bishops rather than the congregations that gave their opinion of a book’s credentials. Not just any bishops, but bishops of the major sees of the ancient church. Dungan went on to say that Eusebius must have looked up the records in the church annals and could speak thus only on the basis of such records. If Dungan is right, then the issue of the authorship of certain books (most notably the seven disputed letters of Paul) is settled. And it’s settled by appeal to an ecclesiological structure that is other than what Protestants embrace. The irony is that today evangelicals especially argue for authenticity of the disputed letters of Paul, yet they are arguing with one hand tied behind their back. And it has been long noted that the weakest link in an evangelical bibliology is canonicity.
This admission, to me, is more devastating and significant than John Piper's astonishing admission that the early Christians were disadvantaged because they lacked the complete New Testament canon. Wallace here admits the issue of the canon is historically "the weakest link" in what he should have called Sola Scriptura. He admits the alternative - which is affirming Apostolic Succession - is the only way to settle canonicity.
So, how do we deal with these matters? I once wrote a blogpost at Parchment & Pen called “The Ideal Church.” In it I said, “The ideal church can’t exist. And a large part of the reason it can’t is because we’ve made a terrible mess of things.”
If you follow that link, it has it's own (very telling) admissions. In that link, Wallace laments the fact Protestants cannot unite, yet is adamant that Sola Scriptura must be maintained. Yet when it comes to how Sola Scriptura is supposed to function, he candidly admits: "I don't have an adequate answer"! Even more astonishing is Wallace's next claim: "Frankly, every one of us is a heretic (at least with a lowercase “h”); the problem is that we don't know in what areas we are wrong." This man is a scholar of Christian teaching and this type of stuff is coming out of his mouth!
I’m not sure of the solution, or even if there is one. But we can take steps toward a solution even if we will never get there in this world. First of all, we Protestants can be more sensitive about the deficiencies in our own ecclesiology rather than think that we’ve got a corner on truth. We need to humbly recognize that the two other branches of Christendom have done a better job in this area. Second, we can be more sensitive to the need for doctrinal and ethical accountability, fellowship beyond our local church, and ministry with others whose essentials but not necessarily particulars don’t line up with ours. Third, we can begin to listen again to the voice of the Spirit speaking through church fathers and embrace some of the liturgy that has been used for centuries. Obviously, it must all be subject to biblical authority, but we dare not neglect the last twenty centuries unless we think that the Spirit has been sleeping all that time.
Any Catholic who's familiar with apologetics knows that Wallace cannot have it both ways and that something is going to have to give. He knows what's right, but he isn't willing to admit what is wrong (Sola Scriptura). I believe that time is coming sooner rather than later.

37 comments:

Peter said...

The links on Eusebius and Piper were useful thank you.

CD-Host said...

Nick --

Good post. Let me give a little background on Dan Wallace and how the argument is slightly different for him. Dan Wallace is a moderately conservative textual critic, this generation's Bruce Metzger, who heads the NET bible translation ( http://net.bible.org/ ). The NET bible is a good quality evangelical bible that attempts to both address and respond to lower criticism. In other words he's conservative in the small-c sense while at the same time trying to address the evidence.

Because of his work he has deeper problems than sola scriptura. He spends his life enmeshed in the complexity of the details of the individual books. In particular he's directly and indirectly dealing with Bart Ehrman's main thesis: that the evidence shows that Orthodox corruption of scripture occurred (i.e. there was a progression to bring scripture into conformity with Catholic theology).

The problem for him is the 4 areas in which this corruption occurred are adoptionism (Jesus was made son of God), docetism (Jesus did not have a body, or Jesus’ divine nature did not die), patripassianism (Jesus is just a form of a single person), separatism (Jesus and Christ were separate entities, another form of adoptionism). All of these are rejected by "orthodox creeds". Wallace knows he is holding together a leaking bucket.

1) Scripture is the only guide to faith and morals.
2) Scripture is defined as the "original manuscripts" by which he means the best stuff lower criticism can reconstruct.
3) Heresy should be rejected and the orthodox Christology supported.

But...
X) The best stuff lower criticism can reconstruct is heretical.
So what he is trying to argue for is to modify (2) to
2') Scripture is the defined as the original manuscripts which is the best stuff lower criticism can reconstruct from orthodox sources.

But that means you have to have orthodoxy independent of scripture. Orthodoxy defines scripture, scripture doesn't define orthodoxy.

The question is he can't legitimately assert that the right definition of "the bible" is the product of the Catholic church, since if the Catholic church had the authority to write the bible then it has the authority to interpret it. And that ledge is precisely the ledge that in the late 19th century drove an earlier generation of critics towards Liberal Christianity. He's finding the truth in the old maximum, "The middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos".

Derek said...

I'm more than happy to admit that we Protestants can learn somethings from the Greek Orthodox and RCs in the Body. Of course, they and y'all can learn somethings from us as well. Wallace makes some good points, but others not so much:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/03/remember-lots-wife.html

It is just plain silly to assert Wallace is close to rejecting sola scriptura. As he said in the latest comment on that thread, "That’s about as likely as the Pope becoming Protestant."

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Derek, eighteen years ago, I was in the same position that Wallace is in now. The chances of Wallace becoming a Catholic are very good. Once you start getting deep into church history, lke I did, your chances of staying an honest Protestant vanish like a puff of smoke. The only way you can remain a Protestant after that happens is to lie to yourself and others, like the boys at Beggars All and Triablogue do. That goes double for an apostate Catholic like John Bugay.

EBW said...

Steve, I agree that Wallace's chances are very good because of his perceptions about hierarchy and truth preservation over time. All of the ingredients are there.

Anyone who stays in the shallow end of church history can see that the RCC, after Vatican II, views those "boys" and Mr. Bugay as being far from apostate catholics. They are seen as seperated brothers and even members of Christ through baptism. Your position as a honest RC is starting to vanish. Prior to VII, the "sola scrp" position was a cause of great evil (scripture alone could never lead to saving truth), but now its praised as a source of good leading to greater dialogical goods.

A love and reverence of Sacred Scripture which might be described as devotion, leads our brethren to a constant meditative study of the sacred text. For the Gospel "is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and then to the Greek".(39)

While invoking the Holy Spirit, they seek in these very Scriptures God as it were speaking to them in Christ, Whom the prophets foretold, Who is the Word of God made flesh for us. They contemplate in the Scriptures the life of Christ and what the Divine Master taught and did for our salvation, especially the mysteries of His death and resurrection.

But while the Christians who are separated from us hold the divine authority of the Sacred Books, they differ from ours-some in one way, some in another-regarding the relationship between Scripture and the Church. For, according to Catholic belief, the authentic teaching authority of the Church has a special place in the interpretation and preaching of the written word of God.

But Sacred Scriptures provide for the work of dialogue an instrument of the highest value in the mighty hand of God for the attainment of that unity which the Saviour holds out to all.
-VII Decree on Ecumenism

Thanks,
Eric

Nick said...

Hi CD,

It is interesting that you say Wallace has "deeper problems than Sola Scriptura". I sort of understand what you're getting at, but the way you describe Wallace's 'predicament' includes his embracing of Sola Scriptura. Your second half of what you said indicates Sola Scriptura is at the heart of the problem. Wallace is stuck in a circular dilemma of defining orthodoxy while having to find the old enough manuscript to tell him what orthodoxy is.



Derek,
What are some good points Wallace makes?
I say he's nearing abandoning SS because he's making claims that *logically* force one to abandon the position, even if there is an emotional component.


EBW/Eric,
I have no idea what you're getting at. You seem to be saying Catholicism is a wishy wash position that doesn't really condemn anyone or any error. If that's the case, then you're very wrong and ultimately setting up a straw man.

EBW said...

Hi Nick,

First, I was assuming that Steve doesn't have authority, from a RC understanding, to judge anyone regarding "apostate" or "catholic". This lack of authority and recent magisterial teaching reinforces this point. It is very clear that the RCC has shifted from condemnation to mercy as a preference. Some R.Catholics need to step up to these changes in order to hold fast to this RC obedience. More to the point, if being deep in history lands one in the RCC, then don't forget the shallow end of Vatican II.

According to the RCC prior to VII, Scripture alone as the sole rule of faith did not yield saving truth for anyone. Because if one denied Sacred Tradition and the teaching authority, they would be holding the truths of Scripture by opinion and not faith. The D.Ecumenism approaches this very differently, no ?

Thanks,
Eric

CD-Host said...

Hi CD,

It is interesting that you say Wallace has "deeper problems than Sola Scriptura". I sort of understand what you're getting at, but the way you describe Wallace's 'predicament' includes his embracing of Sola Scriptura. Your second half of what you said indicates Sola Scriptura is at the heart of the problem. Wallace is stuck in a circular dilemma of defining orthodoxy while having to find the old enough manuscript to tell him what orthodoxy is.


My point was that Wallace has an additional dimension.

The typical American Protestant has an English language bible which is Protestant because of:
a) choice of variants in the UBS text
b) variant selection among the various variants from UBS text
c) protestant translation.

Wallace loses all 3 of those:
a) He's working with the raw materials and thus has highly non Protestant variants that aren't yet in the "standard lists".
b) He is having to confront all the non Protestant variants that are in the standard lists.
c) He's working in Greek not English and thus doesn't have the advantage of a protective translation.

Nick said...

Eric, I think you're oversimplifying things and thus misrepresenting Catholicism. As far back as 150 years ago the Church said Protestants were "separated brethren" and Dominus Iesus came out in 2001 which clarified parts of VII stating more clearly that the fullness of truth is only in Catholicism.

I don't know where you get the idea Scripture alone yielded no saving truth. That would go directly against the fact Protestant baptism is valid, and culpability for being Protestantism is diminished based on various factors (e.g. being born into it).

Nick said...

CD,

The problem with approaching it from a "standard lists" and "variants" is that Sola Scriptura cannot answer those questions. The individual cannot know which "variant" is the right one. So it's a self-refuting position to take.

But those variants in themselves don't make Christianity invalid from an exegetical standpoint either, because no variant is so 'wide reaching' that it renders a given book unintelligible. The fact Christ lived, did miracles, died, resurrected, etc, is very clear and not critically affected by any given variant. For example, some manuscripts don't have the "Woman caught in adultery" in John 8, but even if that's not original it doesn't affect the key teachings like Resurrection.

EBW said...

Nick, It seems that my initial complaint about naming those men apostate catholics was just. The lack of authority, 150 yrs, VII and diminished culpability should prevent Catholics from making these judgments.

To affirm that Scripture alone (apart from the RC teaching office) adherents can yield saving truth is to undermine the necessity of becoming a Roman Catholic.

What is novel about VII is that Rome has figured out how to have its grace and power operative (in a saving way) outside its visible confines. This way, its mystical and spiritual aspects are present without the juridical. But this juridical aspect is necessary for salvation. Or is it ? If not, why then all the polemics ? Also, the CCC mentions being "catholic" and "fully catholic". Where is this in RC teaching prior to VII ?

CD-Host said...

The problem with approaching it from a "standard lists" and "variants" is that Sola Scriptura cannot answer those questions. The individual cannot know which "variant" is the right one. So it's a self-refuting position to take.

I don't see any evidence that Daniel Wallace tries to use Sola Scriptura to answer the question of which variant is correct. He uses lower criticism to answer the question. He never makes the assertion that sola scriptura can construct a bible. He doesn't have any problem with the "wisdom of men". He doesn't defend evangelical Christianity via. scripture but rather argues that based on the material objective evidence (lower criticism) the variants that support Christian orthodoxy have stronger support.

But those variants in themselves don't make Christianity invalid from an exegetical standpoint either, because no variant is so 'wide reaching' that it renders a given book unintelligible.

I would agree that none of them render the book unintelligible But a reasonable percentage say 5-10% of potential variants do have theological impact. That is the direction that bible studies is moving in. Consistent with the last 200 years of study, we are finding that the theological positions of the orthodox creeds were later developments. The further back one is able to go in Christian writings the more positions which are today classified as "heretical" appear to be the dominant theologies. And this leads many people who examine the evidence to believe that orthodoxy emerged from heresy not visa versa as the traditional / orthodox version of history would have it.

The fact Christ lived, did miracles, died, resurrected, etc, is very clear and not critically affected by any given variant.

Actually they are as we get to these earlier variants.
Did Christ live in the sense that George Washington lived or in the sense that Osiris lived? Was the spirit of the Christ in Jesus when he died? Was it is a physical / bodily resurrection or a spiritual one?

If the variants leaned the other way on even some of these questions, yeah that's a big problem for Dan Wallace. Say for example you knew for certain that the apostles did not believe that Jesus was born with his miraculous powers but instead was infused with them during the baptism, what effect would that have on your theology? Most Christians aren't confronted with these possibilities because they read from bibles written to exclude them. Dan Wallace lives behind the curtain.

Grifman said...

I think CDHost is very mistaken in a number of ways. First off, Ehrman thesis has been refuted by any number of biblical scholars. All of the essential Christian doctrines can be found in the earliest texts. The earliest texts are definitely not "heretical" as CDHost asserts. Scripture does give you orthodoxy.

But let's assume for a moment that he is true. He's saying that the oldest Christian texts don't support his orthodox beliefs. Then in this case, he's committing intellectual suicide.

That said, he's definitely wrong on the first point, and Wallace should have no problems based upon his study of the texts.

CD-Host said...

First off, Ehrman thesis has been refuted by any number of biblical scholars.

I haven't seen it. I've seen many who disagree with the theory of orthodox corruption and keep moving the bar. But what I see when I look at the scholarship Andreas J. Kostenberger the Heresy of Orthodoxy (which is a direct attack on Walter Bauer). Daniel Wallace is one of the people who make that claim, BTW and is one of the conservative critics. Daniel Wallace has also been playing the game at the detail level for enough years he gets that he is losing ground.

The arguments presented are shockingly circular just to pick a well known example of a supposed refutation: Docetism is not attested in the mid-first century [in Smyrna] but only surfaces in rudimentary form at the end of the New Testament period. This is evident from the letter to the church at Smyrna in the book of Revelation, which contains no reference to Docetism (Rev. 2:8–11). If Docetism had been present in Smyrna at that time, the letter most likely would have addressed it. The lack of reference to Docetism in Revelation suggests that this teaching most likely arose between the time Revelation was written and Ignatius’s writings. If so, Docetism was not the original form of Christianity in Smyrna.

While of course any fair read of Revelations itself would note that the Jesus presented:
* Communicates to John via. an Angel. No discussion of having worked with him for years.
* Is best understood via. the prophet Zachariah (i.e. no claim to direct knowledge)
* Rev 1:13 14:14 the author of Revelations attributes to himself Jesus appearing like a Son of Man i.e. the author doesn't seem aware of the gospel theology that Jesus "said" these things directly to John.
* Rev 12:1-6 where the heavenly child is snatched up right after birth, showing no knowledge of the nativity theology.

Other explanations for why the the author of Revelations doesn't mention those heretics in Smyrna preaching docetism come to mind besides it not existing in Asia Minor.

I'd also disagree with your assumption that the earliest Christian/proto-Christian texts we have are the scriptures. The Sophia literature (Wisdom literature) is older. You can see examples of this in your Catholic bible: Sir 1:1-18; 4:11-19; 6:18-31; 14:20-15:10; 24:1-31; 51:13-30; Wis 7-9; Baruch 3:9-38. Though the Odes of Solomon, which some Orthodox include in the canon take this even further. 11Q13 is from about 100 BCE likely well before you see this theology fully developed in Hebrews. Sethian literature for which we can construct an excellent timelines dates back to almost 200 years before they encounter (proto-)Catholic Christianity etc...

I'm not exactly sure how I'm committing intellectual suicide by asserting that Wallace is losing the argument because the evidence is against him.

Grifman said...

I'll make a few comments:

1) Even ignoring the circular argument, the argument still stands. There is no evidence for docetism at Smyrna before Ignatius mentions it. It is not mentioned in Revelation - that point still stands. I looked up every reference to Smyrna in Ehrman's book and he never makes the claim that it existed before Ignatius. So, where's the beef?

2. I'm not certain what the relevance of your comments about Revelation are but that said:
- Jesus speaks directly to John in Rev 1:12-19
- Why should Jesus mention working with John? That wasn't relevant for the message he wanted to send. You're making up an issue where one doesn't exist.
- I don't know what you mean by talking about Zechariah
- I'm not clear what you mean by "gospel theology" but as I noted Jesus does speak directly to John in Revelation
- With respect to Rev 12:1-6, no time frame is mentioned - you're reading that into the text. The "child" is still the child of the woman, whether he is 2 years old or 40 years old, just as I, an adult, am my parents' child. Since we and the audience would know roughly how old Jesus was when he ascended, there's no need to mention this. Nativity theology is not shown because it is not relevant to the point being made. In addition, the vision is largely symbolic so you'd hardly think it would match the details of the nativity. Again, you're creating a problem where none exists.

Perhaps you can give other reasons for docetism not being mentioned but what positive evidence can you give for them existing at this time in Asia Minor?

The other texts you mention are "Christian". They are before Christ even appeared! Sure, they may have some similar theological ideas, but so does the OT. Christian documents are those written by Christians expressing Christian beliefs. You can't just redefine the meaning of "Christian" just because you want to.

Lastly you commit intellectual suicide because if the original texts are not "orthodox", then what is your orthodox belief based upon? On the one hand you say you believe X but on the other hand you say that the texts (and hence the authors) did't believe X. If you're a Catholic and believe that the Church transmitted the deposit of faith from the Apostles to their successors the bishops and popes then you've got a problem because it now appears that, no, this didn't really happen.

Nick said...

(1) My point is that he cannot use SS to tell him which variant is correct, and that fact is damning to the SS doctrine. In other words, he cannot tell what Scripture is in the first place and must discern this via human reason.

(2) I would have to see some examples of "theological impact". Can you give at least 2 examples of this?

(3) The questions you ask can all be answered by plain appeals to the textual evidence. For example, if Jesus didn't literally resurrect, then the whole NT makes no sense. It's like Muslims saying Christ wasn't crucified and thinking Christians tampered with the text, not realizing that doctrine affects literally every page of the NT.

CD-Host said...

I'm going to do a little judo here to avoid going off track. We are discussing the problem of Daniel Wallace. You had said that scholars had refuted it, and I had countered those arguments were circular. I had given an example of a well known "refutation" from Kostenberger that Wallace has cited, and showed how it was circular. That is he was assuming the author of Revelations agrees with Kostenberger's theology even when the text itself seems to demonstrate a docetic theology. You are responding to my argument with a circular argument that that assumes that the author of Revelations and his community holds to an orthodox theology. An example of the circularity of the counter argument. So in addressing your points I'm going to focus on how you are assuming the point in question. That is you are assuming adoptionism and docetism were not the dominant theology of the 1st century in an argument on that very question.

There is no evidence for docetism at Smyrna before Ignatius mentions it. It is not mentioned in Revelation

My argument was the reason it was not mentioned by Revelations is because the author of Revelations holds that theology himself. That was the point of the examples I gave. Revelations is an example of this very theology.

Let me give an example from Daniel Wallace himself of his concern about circularity on this question. The problem the translation in Romans 1:4 ὁρισθέντος
Wallace renders this as "who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power" because this is clearly what the Greek says. Traditionally this is rendered, "who was declared the Son-of-God-in-power" because traditionalist "know" that Paul didn't support an adoptionism / docetism, and don't want to have Paul saying that. And even Wallace agrees that this sort of reasoning is question begging (though he does believe Paul is orthodox in his theology).

. I looked up every reference to Smyrna in Ehrman's book and he never makes the claim that it existed before Ignatius. So, where's the beef?

Ehrman isn't responsible for the broader timeline. He doesn't do that sort of work as a textual critic though he's popularizing it. Kostenberger as I mentioned was responding to Walter Bauer, who provided the broader theory that Ehrman's work advances. If you own the book you can see Ehrman identifies himself with this school of thought.

Jesus speaks directly to John in Rev 1:12-19

See Revelations 1:1-2. "John" is pretty clear God sends a revelations about Jesus Christ (ἀποκάλυψις ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ) by sending an Angel to his servent John. The context you are talking about happens within the Revelation it is not the means by which the Revelation is transmitted. I.E. it is the contents of the story of what the character "John" whom the author identifies with himself saw. The author isn't claiming he spoke with Jesus but rather that at some future date the faithful will hear the voice of Jesus....

Why should Jesus mention working with John? That wasn't relevant for the message he wanted to send. You're making up an issue where one doesn't exist.

Because he is claiming authority. And his claim to authority is that he got a revelation from an angel. A far better claim to authority would be years working with the man. I've heard rumors of Obama's campaign strategy, I've been personal present for my company's business strategy. I have much stronger claim to authoritative speaking about the later rather than the former. If I am trying to establish authority I make my strongest claim. The author of Revelation's claim to authority is a vision.

CD-Host said...

(part 2)



I don't know what you mean by talking about Zechariah

Zech 12:10 is where the pierced, first born narrative that is looked upon comes from. This is the source of the theology for the imagery of Rev 1:7. He's quoting the LXX's rendering of Zech 12:10b here.

With respect to Rev 12:1-6, no time frame is mentioned - you're reading that into the text.

Are you seriously going to advance that argument, that John is going to skip the entire ministry of the child?

So after I bought the groceries I went home, put the food away away and watched TV. ... What you saw me somewhere else that day? Well you are reading that timeline into the text. The groceries were on two separate trips. On one day I bought groceries. Then a few weeks later, on the day in question I went out bought lunch ate it where you saw me, brought home the leftovers put that food away and watched TV. Totally consistent with my original story.

This BTW is what I mean by question begging. In and of itself that verse doesn't disprove that the author of Revelations believes in an earthly ministry but it certainly leans in that direction.

but what positive evidence can you give for them existing at this time in Asia Minor?

Ignatius agrees that it exist at that time. Cerinthus exists, has a following and teaches an adoptionism / docetism theology (Adv. Haer., III.3.4). Those shouldn't be points in dispute. The question is who came first, which views originated from the other?

Since we and the audience would know roughly how old Jesus was when he ascended, there's no need to mention this. Nativity theology is not shown because it is not relevant to the point being made. In addition, the vision is largely symbolic so you'd hardly think it would match the details of the nativity. Again, you're creating a problem where none exists.

Now do you see how question begging this response is. How do you know anything about Jesus' ministry or even believe there was a ministry in the sense you mean? You are assuming a lot about their theology, views that we know were not universally held.

CD-Host said...

My point is that he cannot use SS to tell him which variant is correct, and that fact is damning to the SS doctrine. In other words, he cannot tell what Scripture is in the first place and must discern this via human reason.

Let me break this out a bit
a) Sola Scriptura (strong version) = theological truths should be derived and defended solely from the contents of scripture.

b) Lower criticism (strong form) = it is possible to construct scripture from ancient manuscripts and resolve discrepancies based upon evidence using linguistic techniques that are commonly applied to other document reconstructions.

I'll assume you agree with definitions (a) and (b), if not we'll stop there. Given that I don't see a contradiction. For Wallace what scripture says is determined by human reason, what God wants of us is determined by scripture; reason determines the contents of revelation the revelations themselves contain information about the supernatural. The same way that literacy (being able to read the bible) is also a prerequisite for Sola Scriptura.

Where I can see a contradiction is if you demand:

c) Doctrine of certainty = We can know with absolute certainty God's will and orthodox theology is unassailably correct.

But Wallace doesn't hold position (c). Wallace doesn't argue that Ehrman is tautologically incorrect but rather incidentally incorrect. Wallace believes that the evidence favors his position not that were the evidence weighted the other way one should still believe him over Ehrman.

(2) I would have to see some examples of "theological impact". Can you give at least 2 examples of this?

Sure take the Romans 1:4 conversation below. Assume for a moment the weight of evidence showed that Paul in fact did not believe that Jesus was eternally God but was an adopted son. That's the end of trinitarianism.

Another example is and one that would be even much more powerful is the point about an earthly ministry below. Assume for a moment that many of the first century Christians had believed in teachings about Jesus but not believed in teachings of Jesus, like we know the Gnostics did. That kills apostolic authority, everyone's visions are now on an equal plane. That's not to say there can't still be "right" and "wrong" answers, but they are right or wrong based on authority but rather based on some other criteria. A math teacher or professor teaches truth, but the truth comes from the math not from their title or position. This is an idea that has already been fully absorbed by most forms of Protestantism, an idea which when originally argued was probably the most important area of disagreement between the Gnostics and the Catholics. Guys like Wallace hold the Catholic position, but pay lip service to the Gnostic position. More and more though (and this was point of his post) the Wallaces of the world are preaching to congregants who in a consistent way hold the Gnostic position. Already most people in American Protestantism can't argue the creeds are binding but rather they incidentally happen to be true based on the bible. That is in effect the 19th century Adventist position is becoming the American Protestanti position, and I'd guess we are no more than two generations away from the creeds being held to be suspect by a majority of American Christians. Today a majority reject the idea of a bodily resurrection even when told this is a creedal belief, which means IMHO a de-facto belief that the creeds are false, while not quite being willing to declare this de-jure.

CD-Host said...

For example, if Jesus didn't literally resurrect, then the whole NT makes no sense.

First off when we talk about the period of time when the New Testament books are being written, tautologically nothing like the New Testament exists in anything like its current form. The communities that write the New Testament can't be the communities whose theology comes as a reaction to a set of books being standardized i.e. a theology influenced by the New Testament.

Either by the time, or very quickly after something that is structurally like the New Testament starts to circulate Catholicism (or at least proto-Catholicism) is the dominant form of Christianity. The debate between Ehrman and Wallace is about the (proto-)Christianity that existed 200 BCE - 200 CE, after that time there isn't much disagreement Ehrman, Wallace and an orthodox Catholic.

Let me link to a post from my blog which discuss the multi Christianities idea sects to the Reformation. This was my attempt to try and present in a general way the kind of map we would expect to see for the timeline of Christian development once more evidence is in. The argument between Ehrman and Wallace is whether something like that is how Christianity originated or rather something like the presentation in Acts is how Christianity originated.

Grifman said...

Ok, I better understand your arguments about circularity. But that said, there are other ways to skin the cat . . .

1) I asked what evidence there was that docetism existed before (when the Revelation was written) Ignatius mentions it. You then referred back to Ignatius, saying that that isn't disputed. But that's not what I asked you. So again, what evidence do you have that docetism at Smyrna existed prior to Ignatius' mention of it. And don't tell me Ignatius again :)

2) You say that Jesus didn't speak directly to John in Revelation but that this was mediated through an angel. I disagree. The angel is said to have revealed the prophecy of what is going to happen (Rev 1:1-3, and Rev 22:6). This clearly means the prophetic sections of the book, not the section where Jesus speaks to the churches in Asia Minor. Those aren't future events.

This can be seen by referring to the section where Jesus speaks to John, starting in 1:9, where there is no mention of an angel. John gives a specific place (Patmos) and time (day of the Lord) and says that Jesus spoke to him while he was "in the Spirit". If an angel were involved, John would have mentioned the angel while he was "in the Spirit" but instead he moves straight to Jesus talking to him with no angel involved.

If the entire thing were a vision, it would be strange to have a vision of himself on Patmos on the Lord's Day "in the Spirit" having another vision. That's a vision within a vision and makes no sense.

It makes more sense for the part mediated by angel to include those sections of Rev where the angel(s) specifically are mentioned. The vision of Jesus on Patmos makes no sense as a vision mediated by an angel. So yes, Jesus clearly speaks directly to John in starting in Rev 1:9.

If not, then you'll need to explain how a vision within a vision makes sense given that the location/time indication given by John indicates a real event, not something occurring within another vision.

3) There are a number of references to a real physical Jesus in Rev that are hard to square with a docetic POV:

Rev 1:5 Jesus firstborn from the dead (he died)
Rev 1:5 freed us by his blood (blood implies physicality)
Rev 1:7 seen by those who pierced him (implies physical body)
Rev 2:8 died and came to life again (actually lived/died)
Rev 5:5 Lion of Judah, Root of David (implies physical descent)
Rev 5:6,12 Lamb who was slain (he died)
Rev 5:9 more blood (physicality)
Rev 12:5 was born to a woman (physical birth on earth since only later was he taken up into heaven - can't be taken up unless you were on earth)
Rev 12:2 woman in pain at birth (implies physical birth)
Rev 22:16 explicitly calls himself "Root and Offspring of David" (again, physical descent)

Grifman said...

More follow up here:

I also want to expand on Rev 12. You say that the woman and child imply docetism because there is no mention of Jesus earthly ministry. But why even have a birth then? And why is he born on earth and then transported to heaven? I'll also note that for the most part docetic teachings accepted that Jesus had an earthly ministry, they just differed on the nature of that earthly appearance (was it physical or did he just "appear" to be so). So this really isn't a point for docetism at all.

And lastly, docetic writings about Mary and Jesus birth talk about her feeling no pain (because Jesus is spiritual not physical). Yet in this case, the woman is mentioned as experiencing pain which is opposite of that docetic POV. Given that these two points are opposite of docetism, at best you can say that the failure to mention the earthly ministry in detail is a curiousity, not a point for docetism.

As for the authority claim, the angel is not his primary claim to authority. His readers didn't see the angel or hear it - they have no way of knowing whether what he is saying is true or not. At best the angel is a secondary authority (if they believe his story). His primary authority has to be based on something else. That's what makes Rev interesting. John doesn't claim to be an apostle or to know Jesus. All he does is say that he is "John". This makes it appear that his audience already knows him and accepts his authority because he really doesn't spend much time explaining who he is to everyone. So which John could merely state his name and expect to be known?

Grifman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grifman said...

Lasly, assuming that you are an orthodox Catholic, you still haven't explained how you aren't committing intellectual suicide. If the original texts don't give us orthodox Christianity, what is your belief then based upon? Still waiting on an answer to this

CD-Host said...

So again, what evidence do you have that docetism at Smyrna existed prior to Ignatius' mention of it. And don't tell me Ignatius again :)

Let me just point out Ignatius dates it back to John. But if you want to reject his statements.

Hippolytus dates the Nicolaitans back to the first century. The book of Revelations (Rev 2:6-15) mentions them as well. Epiphanius mentions Nicolas (from Acts 6:5) as their founder, as does Clement of Alexandria.

As I mentioned earlier we have a full literary reconstruction of the Sethians going back to 100 BCE. They are in the 2nd generation of their religion during 1st century.

Marcion originated in Asia minor a student of Cerdo.

Valentinus learned from Theudas who was a direct student of Paul's presumably Theudas was from Asia minor since Valentinus was.

I could keep going but I think the evidence is rather clear. There is far less evidence for orthodoxy than there is for heresy in the religions of Asia minor.

As far as the angel the chain I'm arguing for is:
God -> Jesus Christ -> angel -> prophet -> churches -> world. Rev 1:1-2 gives the opening chain. Rev 1:4-5 indicates this book is a letter to be read in churches, etc...

John talks about this book as the word of God but this sort of belief in a mediated revelation is common in both Judaism and Christianity. He even uses "in the spirit" i.e. he was engaging in prophecy not taking dictation from Jesus. Hoping the links work: Rev 19:10; Num 11:25-29; Luke 1:67; Acts 2:18,;Acts 19:6; 2 Cor 12:1-10; Eph 3:5; 2 Pet 1:21l 1John 4:1 you see the spirit leading to prophecy being used this way.

As for the vision within a vision... John has a vision given to him by an angel, The vision contains acts and speech of Jesus. The context of the entire book is the vision.

CD-Host said...

As for the list I'm not sure you understand Docetism / Adoptionism. You seem to creating a bit of caricature and responding to that.

At the highest level there is a Jesus that is seen as mythical. Think about the treatment of Melchizedek in 11Q13, Sophia or something like the Jesus of Hebrews who exists in a heavenly sanctuary acting on in heaven a more perfect version of what happens on earth. I can find you plenty of quotes of Zeus or Ares bleeding and dying and being hit with swords presumably you don't believe that in a physical material sense that happened, and neither did Greeks. Osiris dies and Isis has sex with his dead body to give Horus life, Egyptians themselves saw this as metaphor a reality beyond material reality. What is important about this mythical view is that the gods do not exist in a specific earthly place and time. It is this view that Ignatius is arguing against in letter to the Trallians 9,"who was truly born, and did eat and drink. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; He was truly crucified, and [truly] died". My argument is that the author of Revelations is from this school. He believes that Jesus will come but doesn't seem aware of the gospel theology that Jesus did come. I also happen to think Paul is of this school. And this is the theology that over time develops into modalism. But that takes us down another road which has nothing to do with Wallace.

Later during the 1st century there is simple adoptionism in its most basic form. The idea there is generally something along the lines that the Christ spirit descends on the man Jesus, he gains divine powers and insight and then at some point the spirit leaves the body. This is the idea the Ehrman whom you seem to be familiar was focusing on, the variants like Luke 3:21-2. as a quote of Ps 2:7. That Jesus is begotten at the baptism not his conception. This is the theology of Mark, you see it in many Gnostic sects. The reason the nativity narrative is added to earlier Luke. You don't BTW see it in Marcion who does seem to hold to a material Jesus but doesn't have any clear theology his followers split into different camps regarding the nativity (Tertulian against Marcion III.11). From this you can have a spiritual Jesus (i.e. Christ spirit) taking action for example mocking the material Jesus being crucified. And I think this is the kind of docetism you are arguing Revelations doesn't advocate, and I agree with you. That theology develops, IMHO, mostly after Marcion and in response to Marcion and I date Revelations before Marcion.

Finally there seems to have developed a theology that Jesus was divine from birth, and was both fully supernatural and fully natural. It is this last school that evolves into the theology of the hypostatic union and the close variants like you see in Nestorianism.

CD-Host said...

I also want to expand on Rev 12. You say that the woman and child imply docetism because there is no mention of Jesus earthly ministry. But why even have a birth then? And why is he born on earth and then transported to heaven?

It ties the earthly struggles of the church into the heavenly struggles. Let's look at the story line.

1) Rev 12:1-6 A cosmic woman gives birth to a messianic figure who is threatened by a cosmic dragon, but is taken to a higher heaven while the woman flees to a place of refuge.

2) Rev 12:7-17 the dragon loses the battle and is cast down to earth (note the earlier parts are not on earth) where he persecutes the other children (Christians).

3) The dragon has earthly incarnational aspects Rev 13:1-9 the best of the sal and Rev 13:11-18 the beast of the land.

4) The heavenly figure is worshipped by the followers Rev 14:1-14

5) Those that worship the heavenly figure will be redeemed via. a divine deliverance / judgement.


This theology that the earthly battles that Christian face are really spiritual battles, reflections of battles in the supernatural realm is what you see throughout Paul's writings as well. I have a post that addresses this theology of heaven (though in this case from Paul) Venus translation vs transculturation.

The importance of being born in the lower realms is that it allows for a later judgement / incarnation. The lamb needs to be an image of the divine for the judgement to be delivered in the angelic sense rather than through human warfare. That is that faith and prayer not military means will lead to redemption. The lamb needs to be somewhat material, i.e. from the lower realm of heaven so that he can rule. That's what ties him to the messianic prophecies. Too far up and he can't, even in a spiritual sense, be from the House of David.

CD-Host said...

Well that's easy, I'm not an orthodox Catholic, I'm an atheistic theosophist, like a GRS Mead. An atheist who is entranced with the beauty of Christianity. I do admire quite a bit about Catholicism and like discussing it. Heck I'm not even an X-Catholic; I was, when I was Christian, a good old fashioned evangelical Baptist.

In the end though I suspect one could hold that the Christianity of 50 CE simply can not be practiced in today's world. It couldn't have survived much beyond its very particular historical culture. It was fundamentally Hellenistic Jewish in a way that American Protestantism is fundamentally American. There wouldn't be a Christianity as anything more than a historical curiosity if that religion had remained the dominant form of Christianity. Going further I think it is very reasonable to believe the one of the main reasons that there is a western culture today is because the people of the dark ages were Catholic, I'm not sure that the west would have survived those centuries without Catholicism.

But may not. Maybe one couldn't deny apostolic succession to the degree I have and still be an orthodox Catholic... a liberal Catholic perhaps but certainly not orthodox. Personally I could never get past infallible on areas of faith and morals, and it is quite likely my skepticism about the historical claims was why.

Grifman said...

"Let me just point out Ignatius dates it back to John. But if you want to reject his statements."

Where does he say this? I searched every one of his letters and I can't find it. I did a search on "John" in every letter he wrote and there was no mention of this going back to John. Maybe I missed it? If so, then tell me where, thanks.

"I could keep going but I think the evidence is rather clear. There is far less evidence for orthodoxy than there is for heresy in the religions of Asia minor."

We're not discussing the extent of heresy, we're talking about docetism in John. Let's not try to confuse things by pulling in extraneous points. That's too close to the old "throw it all on the wall and see what sticks" schtick.

Regarding Jesus speaking to John, you fail to interact with any of my points. You fail to explain where is the angel when John mentions a specific time/place for Jesus speaking to him. And if John is already having a vision of the angel, why does he say he has another vision mentioning a specific time/place? Why doesn't he just plainly say, "The angel told me that Jesus has this message for me", etc. You fail to mention how a vision within a vision makes any sense.

And yes, visions with angels were common in scripture, but that really doesn't disprove my point as to what John plainly states here. And God also speaks directly to man in any number of verses (he speaks to Moses, to Joshua, the prophets, etc). So that is not unheard of either.

"As for the list I'm not sure you understand Docetism / Adoptionism. You seem to creating a bit of caricature and responding to that."

Nope, I understand what docetism is but part of the problem is that it is rather "shifty" and can mean different things at different times, as you note in your more detailed descriptions. It's also not a caricature as you admit further on that I am dealing with one type of docetism, just not the specific version you are discussing.

"My argument is that the author of Revelations is from this school. He believes that Jesus will come but doesn't seem aware of the gospel theology that Jesus did come."

The problem for you is that you are now engaging in a circular argument. I gave you examples of verses in John that denote Jesus physical existence. You say that these verses don't mean this because they have to be interpreted in a docetic way (blood isn't really blood, death isn't really death, etc). But they can only be interpreted that way if John is docetic, the very thing you are trying to prove. You're now begging the question. I haven't seen you prove that John is docetic yet.

Also, the death, piercing, and resurrection are consistent with the gospels. Piercing specifically ties in to crucifixion. How do you explain this if the writer of John believed that Jesus never existed on earth and was never crucified? What is this "piercing" then, and why?

Also, you did not deal with the aspect of physical descent. Jesus is described as the Lion of Judah, the Root/Offspring of David. That all ties back to a physical existence and birth, and is very, very Jewish and not docetic at all.

So far, I really haven't seen any evidence from you that Revelation is docetic that I haven't countered. The only other point you've mentioned is Rev 12 and even then "it only leans in that direction".

Grifman said...

"A cosmic woman gives birth to a messianic figure who is threatened by a cosmic dragon, but is taken to a higher heaven while the woman flees to a place of refuge."

The problem is that the scene apparently shifts to earth. "Higher heaven" is you reading into the text. It does not say that. And the "place of refuge" is a desert. As far as I know, there are no deserts in heaven. Desert implies an earthly location.

That said, this entire passage is highly symbolic (as is much of Rev) and too much can be made of saying "such and such" is the definitive meaning. I have no doubt that their can and are multiple layers of meaning in much of the book.

Grifman said...

Ok I misunderstood some of your comments above about the Catholic Church, my bad.

CD-Host said...

Where does he say this? I searched every one of his letters and I can't find it. I did a search on "John" in every letter he wrote and there was no mention of this going back to John. Maybe I missed it? If so, then tell me where, thanks.

Against Heresies III.3.4b

We're not discussing the extent of heresy, we're talking about docetism in John.

Actually that's exactly what we are discussing.
1) This started with me mentioning that Daniel Wallace was losing ground in the day to day battles over the bible to those lower critics who supported heretical interpretations, and cited Ehrman Orthodox corruption of scripture as an example.

2) You said that those had been refuted.

3) I said those refutations were circular and gave an example of Kostenberger's which depend on the idea that Revelations made no mention of heresy of Smyrna.

4) I said that the author or Revelations himself seemed to on the adoptionism/docetism axis.

But moving up the line the extent of the heresy is the topic.

Regarding Jesus speaking to John, you fail to interact with any of my points.

Lets assume the Author of Revelations is John and denote by John1 this guy. John1 gets a vision via. a prophecy. He interprets this as communication from an angel. Telling him things the angel learned from Jesus and Jesus learned from God.

Except for the introduction John1 would have us believe that the Book of Revelations contains the vision. The Revelation itself contains a character John2, that John1 identifies with himself. John2 witnesses all sorts of end of days prophecies.

John1 never believes that Jesus spoke with him but rather communicated via. an angel as per scripture in prophecy. Neither John1 nor John2 is having a vision of an angel. John1 is claiming to have a vision transmitted by an angel, he isn't having a vision of an angel.

Why doesn't he just plainly say, "The angel told me that Jesus has this message for me", etc. You fail to mention how a vision within a vision makes any sense.

That's what he does say. He says "I was i the spirit of prophecy and this angel sent me a vision where ABC happened included Jesus speaking DEF..."

And yes, visions with angels were common in scripture, but that really doesn't disprove my point as to what John plainly states here.

I agree the commonness doesn't disprove your point. John's reference to a term used by scripture for angelic communication is what disproves your point which is why I gave a list of verses where that same idea containing the same wording is used.

The problem for you is that you are now engaging in a circular argument. I gave you examples of verses in John that denote Jesus physical existence.

No you didn't. You gave verses from John that denote Jesus existed at least at a lower heaven, as I pointed out by examples of other "gods" that had similar physicality. None of the activities imply physical existence in a Hellenistic mindset. They do in a modern mindset which views the spiritual realm as wholly non material. And I gave you a link to my blog article that discuss this, so for example in Paul a tree growing in a garden in the 3rd heaven.

What implies physical existence in Hellenistic literature is tying events to a earthly place & time (both). For example when Luke says "In the time of Herod king of Judea" he's doing the time piece, "and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea" he's doing the place piece. It is language like that which has canonical Luke as orthodox. You see this sort of language from later church fathers all the time, you don't see it much if at all until the 2nd century.

CD-Host said...

You say that these verses don't mean this because they have to be interpreted in a docetic way (blood isn't really blood, death isn't really death, etc). But they can only be interpreted that way if John is docetic, the very thing you are trying to prove. You're now begging the question.

No I'm not. The evidence I gave for John being docetic was not those verses. The ones I've given so far as positive evidence were:
Rev 1:9 (communicates with Jesus via. prophecy making no claim to having formally worked for him)
Rev 1:13, 14:14 (not tying "son of man" to Jesus' ministry)
Rev 12:1-6 (Jesus character is born and immediately snatched up no hint of a ministry)

You gave those list of verses as a refutation. To be a refutation they would have to be verses which could not be interpreted in a docetic way. Something like the Luke verses. Heavenly Judea cannot exist in the time of king David.

Also, you did not deal with the aspect of physical descent. Jesus is described as the Lion of Judah, the Root/Offspring of David. That all ties back to a physical existence and birth, and is very, very Jewish and not docetic at all.

First off let me just point out, there is no question that Judaism is docetic in its conception of how God communicates and still is. There is no question that during the Hellenistic period some Jews had a docetic conception of a messianic savior, though the influence of Christianity has made that theology off limits now. The argument for an orthodox Christianity is that Christians did not have a Jewish theology because they had recently encountered Jesus in a quite physical way. If you argue that Revelations is a typical Jewish apocalypse, you have a docetic conception unquestionably. You need to argue it is non Jewish because the author of Revelations unlike a Jew believes that the messianic savior character had recently been running around.

CD-Host said...

Heavenly Judea cannot exist in the time of king David.

Sorry that should have read Heavenly Judea cannot exist in the time of king Heod.

CD-Host said...

"Higher heaven" is you reading into the text.

First off all the text rev 12:7 places the war against the dragon in heaven. If the dragon existed in the material world he wouldn't have to incarnate as the beast of the sea and beast of the land to persecute physical Christians. The dragon exists at the same level as the mother and the boy.

Moreover the method of the dragon fighting with the woman is rather mythic... opening his mouth and spitting out a great flood, and then the earth opens its mouth and saves her...

A material battle would involve raising money for arms, recruiting troops....

And the "place of refuge" is a desert. As far as I know, there are no deserts in heaven. Desert implies an earthly location.

No a desert does not imply an earthly location. Horus and Set battle in a desert and Isis divides it. The is unquestionably a mythic heavenly desert in Hellenistic theology. And that desert is in fact given a definite place (Egypt). What it is lacking is a definite time it happens in the far past when the world was young...

That said, this entire passage is highly symbolic (as is much of Rev) and too much can be made of saying "such and such" is the definitive meaning.

Exactly! Symbols battle in the heavens, real humans battle on the material earth. The issue is for your theory to be true, the woman is the Gospel Mary, a material earthly woman having a real physical child and actually going to a real physical desert. I agree they are all symbols. And that's a serious problem for an author you are claiming knew Mary and Jesus in an invite them out to dinner kind of way.

Nick said...

I'll try to catch up with the nearly 20 new comments when I can. At the moment I'm trying to decide whether the comment format should be switched back. I like "threaded" format but not everyone else does, and I don't like how the comment box size is restricted to about 15 lines.

Nick said...

I'm not sure where things left off here. Any specific questions/comments you wanted me to talk about?