DROWNING IN DEEPER WATERS: A Response to Nick Peters and Another Look at the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible

© 2017, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved. 

INTRODUCTION 

[N.B. READ THE FOOTNOTES, FOLKS.  THEY ARE IMPORTANT!]

 Some time ago, Truth In My Days posted an important article in three parts, “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible: Exposing the Major Weapons Levied Against the Trustworthiness of the Bible.”[1]  In it we discussed in detail how far too many evangelical scholars have been seduced into accepting liberal paradigm assumptions in three areas – historical criticism, textual criticism, and Darwinism – and in so doing have eroded the credibility of the Bible as the word of God, portraying it (deliberately or not) as a set of documents written by men in ancient times who were products of their culture and who made mistakes of facts.  The idea that the Bible is inerrant (in any meaningful sense of the word) has de facto been discarded, and its authority has therefore been severely undermined.[2]

It is not surprising that people mentioned in the article as embracing this problematic approach would object, arguing that their approach is valid.  One who has done that is Nick Peters, on a recent post[3] on his blog, “Deeper Waters.”  He should not have bothered; he should have left bad enough alone.

Before we begin, though, it is necessary to establish a couple of points.  It may seem strange that these points have to be established – and it certainly does seem strange to me – but it is regrettably obvious that this must be done.

First, truth is what corresponds to reality.  Something that does not correspond to reality is not true.  It is not true, for example, to say that George Washington issued the Emancipation Proclamation or that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Tarzan of the Apes.  It is true to say that Donald Trump is currently the President of the United States of America.

Second, an error is “a mistaken opinion or belief” (OED, p. 847), “mistaken” being “having a wrong opinion or judgment, being under a misapprehension” (OED, p.1795), and “wrong” being “incorrect, false, mistaken” (OED, P.3732).  If this is still not clear, “incorrect” is “of a state, description etc.: erroneous, inaccurate” (OED, p.1342) and “false” is “of an opinion, proposition, etc.: not in accordance with the truth or the facts; erroneous, untrue” (OED, p.912).[4]

“Inerrant,” then, means “in accordance with the truth and the facts, not untrue, true.” It is regrettable that we have had to go to such lengths to establish the meaning of “inerrant,” which should be axiomatic, but, as we will see, it is necessary to do so, lest anyone attempt to pass off as inerrant that which manifestly does not meet this definition.

Now let us consider Nick Peters’ objections [5]and see if any hold water.   What we will see will lead us into another examination of evangelical betrayal of the Bible.

INERRANCY AND DANIEL WALLACE

In our original paper, we examined the views of Dr. Daniel Wallace expressed in his interview with Lee Strobel, as detailed in The Case for the Real Jesus,[6] and concluded that

In sum, then, it seems clear that whatever Wallace offers as “inerrancy” it is not the belief that there are absolutely no errors in the Bible, that the Bible is completely free of mistakes of any kind. On the contrary, he dismisses the idea of treating the Bible “like a modern scientific and historical textbook that’s letter perfect,” deriding this as being “almost a magic-wand approach.” So he certainly seems not to believe that the Bible is “letter perfect” and so seems to be leaving room for errors in matters of science and history.

The conclusion we reached in that article has been buttressed by what we have observed elsewhere.  Regarding the putative problem about the date of Jesus’ birth, for example, we have noted in another article that Wallace says,

This text [Luke 2:2] casts serious doubts on Luke’s accuracy for two reasons: (1) The earliest known Roman census in Palestine was taken in 6-7 CE, and (2) there is little, if any, evidence that Quirinius was governor of Syria before Herod’s death in 4 BCE. In light of this, many scholars believe that Luke was thinking about the census in 6-7 CE, when Quirinius was governor of Syria … In conclusion, facile solutions do not come naturally to Luke 2:2.[7]

We noted that “While Bock will attempt to provide a ‘facile’ solution that fails, Wallace doesn’t even try; he certainly seems willing to concede tacitly that there an error here, while insisting that ‘This does not mean, of course, that Luke erred.’[8]

And regarding the error that the Nestle-Aland text has wrongly claimed to be the original reading in Mark 1:2, and which Wallace believes to be the original reading, Wallace says

New Testament scholars who work on determining the wording of the original Greek New Testament are functioning at the level of the deepest integrity when they argue that the original read “in Isaiah the prophet.” This is because they are arguing for wording that seems to communicate a mistake. They argue this in spite of their own feelings about the biblical author’s accuracy …. the vast majority do have sufficient respect for a biblical author that they will not impute to him an ostensible inaccuracy unless the manuscript testimony compels them to do so. At all points, textual critics are historians who have to base their views on data, not mere theological convictions. The rule that almost all textual critics follow is: Choose the reading that best explains the rise of the others. This means looking at the external and internal evidence in an effort to trace out both history and psychology.[9]

It seems to be a rather strange view of integrity that views the canons of textual criticism made up from whole cloth by a German Rationalist and published in 1796 as more trustworthy than the testimony of Scripture.  It does not seem reasonable to disagree with our conclusions about Wallace’s views.

Yet that is exactly what good old Nick Peters seeks to do. Let us see how he fares.  It is not a pretty picture.

First, I quoted Strobel’s question and Wallace’s answer:

Now, finish this sentence, I said. When Christians say the Bible is inerrant, they mean …
“They mean a number of things. For some, it’s almost a magic-wand approach, where the Bible is treated like a modern scientific and historical textbook that’s letter perfect.”[10]

I objected, saying, “It is typical of this sort of evangelical scholar to mock the view of inerrancy that takes it to mean ‘having no errors,’ but whether Wallace likes it or not, that is what inerrancy means. So this is not a ‘magic-wand approach’; it is the only approach consistent with the actual meaning of inerrancy.”[11]

Peters protests, saying, “Except Wallace never mocked a view of inerrancy as meaning the Bible is without errors. He went after a view of what that is.”[12]  Interesting; Peter’s first comment in response and it is already so wrong.

Peters actually says, “He went after a view of what that is,” and already we can see that he is off the rails.  As we have pointed out, there is only one definition of “inerrancy”, and that is what the word actually means: without error, in accordance with the truth and the facts, not untrue, true.  Inerrancy is not a matter of opinion, such as which is the best sport or the most flavourful food.  It has a specific definition, so there is no other “view of what that is”; any other “view” of it is not inerrancy.

So Wallace may say that Christians “mean a number of things” when they say the Bible is inerrant, but only one of those things is correct.  Indeed, it is difficult not to think that the only people who want to claim that there are other legitimate “views” of it are those who do not want to affirm actual inerrancy.

Peters seems also to have overlooked the fact that Wallace commits a colossal red herring here; he claims that “For some, it’s almost a magic-wand approach, where the Bible is treated like a modern scientific and historical textbook that’s letter perfect.”  I doubt very much that either Wallace or Peters could find even one evangelical who acts as if the Bible is “like a modern scientific and historical textbook”; as D. James Kennedy says, “It is not a scientific textbook. It is not a textbook on religion. It is not a textbook at all; it is a revelation from God!”[13]

What then is the point of such a statement?  Had Peters researched the matter, he would have known that many (I would say most) who say such a thing are poisoning the well against people who believe in genuine inerrancy; when they suggest that the Bible need not be “letter perfect” about matters of history and science and need not be treated as authoritative in these issues,[14] they are laying the groundwork to make allowance for historical and scientific errors while trying to make those who believe in genuine inerrancy look unreasonable.

Allowing for historical and scientific errors, however, is not compatible with inerrancy.  Much of the Bible is historical narrative (and that includes elements that today are considered to be in the realm of science), and whatever it affirms in these matters is “without error, in accordance with the truth and the facts, not untrue, true” – or the Bible is not inerrant.  Rejecting the idea that there are no historical or scientific errors in the Bible is most certainly rejecting inerrancy, and calling this idea a “magic-wand approach” approach is most certainly mocking.  It is exceedingly difficult to see why Peters would even try to deny this.

Peters goes on to say, risibly, “That Tors reacts in this way to something that Wallace never said is quite revealing.”  The only thing revealed herein is that Peters does not understand what Wallace was saying.

It gets worse.

Wallace then seemed to make it quite clear that he indeed treats the Bible just like any other book, writing,

Well, if you compare the same incident in different Gospels, you’ll notice some differences in wording. That’s fine as long as we’re not thinking in terms of quotations being nailed exactly, like a tape recorder. They didn’t even have quotation marks in Greek. In ancient historiography, they were concerned with correctly getting the gist of what was said.[15]

 Why exactly should we assess the Bible according to the characteristics of “ancient historiography,” unless we think it is not different from any other writing from the ancient world?  As I pointed out, “The Bible is not like other works of ancient historiography, because it is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)[16] (and a thinking person would realize that assessing a subject according to the rules made for a qualitatively different subject leads to all sorts of misapprehensions).

Old Nick Peters really gets his shorts into a knot on this one, carping, “Just say ‘It’s God-Breathed.’ Okay. How does that deal with the writing? Are we to think God just breathed one day and ‘Poof!’, here is the Gospel of Luke!”[17]  Then, in response to Wallace’s view that the Bible should be held to the same standards as other ancient historians such as Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus, I pointed out that “Josephus, Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and ‘any other ancient historian’ were not divinely enabled by the Holy Spirit. The Bible was, however, so it is in a completely different category from ‘any other ancient historian’s writings.’”[18] Peters responds,

If you want to see what’s wrong with this kind of approach, just consider if Tors was saying the same about the Koran or the Book of Mormon. Is Wallace treating the Bible like any other book? In a sense, yes. That’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When you treat it like any other book, you see that it is not like any other book.[19]

The mind certainly boggles at this.  Peters actually mocks the concept of Scripture being God-breathed (“Are we to think God just breathed one day and ‘Poof!’, here is the Gospel of Luke!”), griping, “How does that deal with the writing?”  He makes no effort to find the answer to this question, it should be noted; he just seems to use this as a pretext to ignore the issue.[20]  Indeed, he intimates that saying that the Bible is God breathed carries no more weight than saying it for the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon.  (This shows, perhaps better than anything else, where the type of evangelical Peters is defending is coming from, and should really put paid to any credibility old Nick may ever have had.)

Now, it should be obvious that the question “How does that [i.e. that Scripture is God breathed] deal with the writing” is not an excuse for ignoring the fact that Scripture is God breathed and if and when the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon can show ancient prophecies that were fulfilled or advanced knowledge that people at the time of writing could not know,[21] and when either is endorsed by a man who claimed to be Deity and proved His claims by rising from the dead, then we can consider whether either is God breathed.  Until then, the Bible remains sui generis.  It is difficult to see how this would not be obvious to any Christian – unless he actually believed the Bible has no more evidence for being God breathed than does the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon.

As to how does the fact that the Bible is God breathed “deal with the writing,” Peters might want to study 2 Peter 1:20-21; he might want to notice that what is written by men is explicitly stated to be spoken by God Himself (e.g. Acts 1:16, 4:25, Hebrews 3:7-11); and he might want to take Jesus’ promise seriously, wherein He said in John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  Note to Wallace: The Holy Spirit is better than a “tape recorder.”

As to Peters’ enthusiastic statement that “That’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When you treat it like any other book, you see that it is not like any other book,” as we explained in the previous article, “logically it is lunacy, for if treating the Bible like any other book leads to the conclusion that it’s not like any other book, that means the initial working presupposition that it’s like any other book is wrong and inapplicable and therefore invalidates any conclusion reached when using that presupposition.”  That is simple and obvious enough that even a reasonably intelligent child can understand it; why Peters apparently cannot is hard to understand.

Peters’ cavalier dismissal of the fact that Scripture is God breathed, and if he does not do so in theory he certainly defends doing it functionally, is troubling indeed.  But he is not finished with his gaffes.

Peters next turns his attention to the matter of the relationship between inerrancy and infallibility.  I pointed out in my original article that “inerrancy is the more foundational doctrine,” and old Nick crows,

It’s not a shock that Tors is the one who has it completely backward. Infallibility is the reason one holds to inerrancy. Derek James Brown in his dissertation on Inerrancy and ICBI quoted R.C. Sproul (You know, one of those guys who’s a framer of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy) who said

Though the words infallible and inerrant have often been used interchangeably and virtually as synonyms in our language, nevertheless there remains a historic, technical distinction between the two words.  Infallibility has to do with the question of ability or potential.  That which is infallible is said to be unable to make mistakes or to err.  The distinction here . . . is between the hypothetical and the real.  That which is inerrant is that which in fact does not err.  Again, theoretically, something may be fallible and at the same time inerrant.  That is, it would be possible for someone to err who in fact does not err.  However, the reverse is not true.  If someone is infallible, that means he cannot err; and if he cannot err, then he does not err.  To assert that something is infallible yet at the same time errant is either to distort the meaning of “infallible” and/or “errant,” or else to be in a state of confusion. (Page 25 of Explaining Inerrancy).[22]

Again, Peters is completely wrong, and he is guilty of more than simply slavishly following R.C. Sproul.  In discussions of the trustworthiness of the Bible, the historic evangelical position has been that it is “inerrant,” without errors of any sort on any matters, not on anything it teaches (theology) nor on anything it touches (history, science) in the process of teaching.

The term “infallible,” on the other hand, was coined by those who, falling for the depredations of historical criticism and “science falsely so called,” came to believe that the Bible indeed contained errors on matters of history and science, but still wanted to hold on to the idea that it was absolutely correct in theology – a cognitively dissonant idea that is simply unsustainable (John 3:12).

If Peters needs to see it from scholars, here it is from Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, jr.:

What God says must be true, for God cannot lie nor will he mislead.  Some conservative scholars have maintained that inspiration implies inerrancy – that what God authorized of necessity must contain no errors.  Others emphasize the Bible’s ‘Infallibility,” its Spirit-driven ability to achieve God’s purposes, and allow that a great amount of imprecision is present in the Bible.[23]

What old Nick has overlooked is that Sproul’s view works only with an additional proviso.  According to this view, “That which is infallible is said to be unable to make mistakes or to err,”[24] but that raises the question, “With respect to what?” Sproul’s view is correct only if the Bible is said to infallible in everything.  As we have seen, that is by no means the case in discussions of the trustworthiness of the Bible.

And how does Wallace view this?  Ironically, Peters actually quoted Wallace’s view from my own article: “My definition of infallibility is the Bible is true in what it teaches. My definition of inerrancy is that the Bible is true in what it touches.”[25]  So indeed Wallace understands and shares the distinction I pointed out.  And he insists that the idea that “the bible is true with reference to faith and practice” is a “more foundational doctrine” than the view that “the Bible is also true with it comes to dealing with historical issues,”[26] a view that, as we have seen, is unsustainable.

In sum, then, I did not have this matter “completely backwards,” as Peters claimed; I have it spot on.  Peters’ lack of acquaintance of the usage of these terms in discussions of Bibliology and his apparent inability to discern what Wallace’s view is underscore the fact that Peters simply has no place in this discussion at all.

If more evidence of this conclusion is needed, old Nick is quick to provide it.  He quotes the following from Wallace:

“You obviously have a high view of scripture,” I observed. “Why?”

“Because Jesus did,” he said matter-of-factly.

 “How do you know?” I asked.

“One criterion that scholars use for determining authenticity is called ‘dissimilarity.’ If Jesus said or did something that’s dissimilar to the Jews of his day or earlier, then it’s considered authentic,” he said. “And he’s constantly ripping on the Pharisees for adding tradition to scripture and not treating it as ultimately and finally authoritative. When he says that scripture cannot be broken, he’s making a statement about the truth and reliability of scripture.”’[27]

Peters then says, “Tors quotes multiple parts of this multiple times each time with incredulity, because, you know, incredulity makes a great argument.”[28]  It is difficult to ascribe this comment to Peters’ general incompetence; it smacks of intellectual dishonesty.  Arguing from incredulity, which is a logical fallacy, by the way, is to say that something cannot be true because one personally finds it difficult to believe, and I did no such thing.

My argument against Wallace’s claim here was to point out that

How does the ridiculous criterion of “dissimilarity” show that Jesus had a high view of Scripture? Oh, that’s right; it doesn’t. This is a non sequitur. Wallace did not answer Strobel’s question but simply jumped to another topic ….

So according to these scholars, if a 1st-century Jew says something that sounds like what we’d expect a 1st-century Jew to say, that indicates it’s not authentic, and if the founder of Christianity said things that Christians believe, then that indicates it’s not authentic. Authenticity is determined by dissimilarity! Only a madman or a Biblical scholar could assert such arrant nonsense as this with a straight face, for it is more than obvious that Christians, as followers of Jesus, would base their beliefs on what He said, so of course it would sound similar, and that 1st-century Jews said things that sounded like what 1st-century Jews said – because they were 1st-century Jews.[29]

 

If Peters cannot understand my argument here, all I can say is that I am not surprised by that fact.  But for him to act as if I made no argument but simply expressed incredulity is not intellectually honest. 

It should be noted, by the way, that the ludicrous “criterion of dissimilarity” states that we should eliminate anything “that could have been picked up from the Jewish milieu”[30]; it does not say that anytime a 1st-century Jew argues with another 1st-century Jew, what he said should be considered authentic. First-century Jews argued with each other all the time (clue: compare the Pharisees and the Sadducees).

By the way, Wallace is correct about one thing: Jesus did have a high view of Scripture (e.g. John 10:35).  But, as we have already seen, Wallace holds to the view that the Bible is true in what it teaches rather than the view that the Bible is true in what it touches.  That is not a high view of Scripture.

Peters continues to embarrass himself.  I quoted Wallace saying, “The Gospels contain a summary of what he said. And if it’s a summary, maybe Matthew used some of his own words to condense it.  That doesn’t trouble me in the slightest. It’s still trustworthy,”[31] and I pointed out that “Actually, if the writers are making stuff up and mixing the historical with the non-historical, then it is not trustworthy, as there’s no way to know what in the Bible is true and what isn’t.”[32]

Now, what I have said is axiomatic and so obvious that even a child could understand it.  But not old Nick Peters.  (Either that, or there is a whiff of intellectual dishonesty here also.)  He sniffs,

It is a mystery how one goes from ‘Saying something in one’s own words’ to ‘Making stuff up.’ Apparently, Tors can make these kinds of leaps. He then says there’s no way to know that something in the Bible is true or isn’t, but this is just ridiculous. We can know this by studying history.[33]

Let us look at this point by point, and we will get a good understanding of where old Nick is coming from.

First, he said, “It is a mystery how one goes from ‘Saying something in one’s own words’ to ‘Making stuff up.’ Apparently, Tors can make these kinds of leaps.”

Let us clear up the mystery for him: I did not make a “leap” of any sort.  I said, Actually, if the writers are making stuff up and mixing the historical with the non-historical, then it is not trustworthy.”  “IF the writers are making stuff up.”  IF.  Perhaps Peters should open up a dictionary and perhaps a textbook of English grammar and learn the meaning of the word “if” and how it is used.  If he does that, he should come to understand that my statement is not a “leap”; it is axiomatically true.

Second, while condensing people’s words is not necessarily problematic when done by a reporter, nor is using one’s own words to describe the situation, claiming that someone said something when in fact he did not say it is an error.  And while other ancient writers may not have been able to avoid such errors, in the case of the Gospel writers, Jesus’ actual words were brought to their memory by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), such errors were not unavoidable, nor did the writers make them.  Why so many evangelical scholars want to ignore John 14:26 is, as we have indicated, difficult to understand.[34]

Third, and this is the most disturbing, Peters says, “He then says there’s no way to know that something in the Bible is true or isn’t, but this is just ridiculous. We can know this by studying history.”[35]  And there you have it, folks.  According to Peters, you can’t know that the Bible is historical, unless you study external sources of history.  The fact that little of the Biblical narrative can be proven “by studying history” doesn’t seem to bother old Nick.  The problem of explaining why the Biblical narratives, unsupported, cannot be known to be historical, but secular historical sources can be is something he does not address (nor is there any indication he has even thought about it), though he is doing a good job of uncritically following Wallace into this morass.

It doesn’t even seem to occur to old Nick that the Gospel books are, even at a minimal view, historical documents that must be given the same prima facie credibility as any other historical documents.  And, given the fact that there are four Gospel books, that they are all based on eyewitness testimony (and two were written by apostles), that they were written close to the time of the events described therein, and that their manuscript attestation is considerably better than anything we have for any other ancient writing, the Gospel books are far better historical evidence for the life and career of Jesus than we have for any other ancient personage, including Augustus and Tiberius, the two Roman emperors contemporaneous with Jesus.  They are more than adequate to tell us about Jesus, and we have no need for inferior ancient documents to verify them; “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (Hebrews 7:7), not the other way around.

Yet old Nick goes on to say, “If Tors is scared to apply historiography to the Bible, perhaps it is true then that Wallace (And myself) have a high view of Scripture and Tors has a low view of it. After all, Tors apparently seems fearful that if inerrancy goes out the window, that there’s no way of knowing any truth in the Bible.”[36]  It is an asinine accusation that Peters seems to like, saying later, “While inerrantists do engage with history, and I speak as one of them, I do not think Tors does.  Tors is not engaging with history but still pushing the claim of the Bible being God-breathed …. At this point, all Tors has is assertions of faith …. If anyone is hesitant to enter history here, it’s Tors.”[37]

At this point, Peters’ article crosses into the realm of a Grand Guignol.  Tors is, in fact, not “scared to apply historiography to the Bible.”  On the contrary, I have demonstrated the actual, detailed, correct application of historiography to the Bible in my articles such as “Are the Events of Jesus’ Career the Best Attested Facts of Ancient History? A Comparison to the Attestation for Caesar’s Crossing of the Rubicon and for Spartacus”[38] and “Is Luke Wrong About the Date of Jesus’ Birth? A Case Study in How to Do Serious Evangelical Apologetics.”[39]  As can be seen in these articles, applying historiography requires tracking down the actual sources, looking critically at them in terms of credibility and what they actually say, and then reaching conclusions based on facts and logic.

In fact, although Peters claims that “inerrantists do engage with history, and I speak as one of them,”[40] neither he nor his fellow travelers do any such thing; indeed, old Nick shows no indication of even understanding how the application of historiography is to be done.  He seems to think that “apply[ing] historiography to the Bible” is opening a reference book or two written by the sort of people described in our original article and uncritically passing on whatever one finds there.  That is not “apply[ing] historiography to the Bible”; it is more in the nature of chanting a mantra.[41]

The intellectual gallimaufry of Peters becomes even more clear with his next statement: “He also asks how could readers of the Gospel assume any of it was historical? Answer. They wouldn’t. This would also be something that skeptics could look at. Want to know if it’s historical? Just send a servant or two to the area of Judea. Have them ask around. Do an investigation. This is what historians did.”[42]

One wonders why eyewitnesses of events cannot be trusted in what they say, but “historians” can be trusted when they tell us whether these eyewitnesses should or should not be trusted; it should be obvious to anyone who thinks that eyewitness testimony is preferable to the testimony of one who is not an eyewitness.[43]

And, more important, while there should be little doubt that people around the mid-1st century AD did “send a servant or two to the area of Judea” (1 Corinthians 15:1-7) who could check personally with eyewitnesses, we live a good 1,900 years too late to use that method ourselves – and according to what old Nick just said, it is the only way we can believe the Bible is historical. So we cannot believe it.  Game over.  One wonders if old Nick is even listening to himself before he makes his assertions.

It is farcical in the extreme, then, for old Nick to aver, “perhaps it is true then that Wallace (And myself) have a high view of Scripture and Tors has a low view of it.”  We have already seen that this is not even remotely true.  The view of Scripture that says it is only true in what it teaches rather than in what it touches is not a high view of Scripture.[44]

PETERS’ DEFENCE OF HIMSELF AND OF MICHAEL LICONA

In my original article, I briefly mentioned Nick Peters, denouncing an e-book he co-wrote with James Patrick Holding,[45] entitled Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation.  As I said, in this book

[Holding] and Peters attack Geisler’s Defending Inerrancy. In this e-book the authors aver that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable.”

Do note that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is that it means “no errors” i.e. the Bible is completely free of all errors, including historical and scientific errors. This is the “perception” that Holding and Peters consider dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist and not defensible or respectable.”[46]

I also objected to Peters’ ludicrous assertion that Dr. Paige Patterson (Th.M, Ph.D) is not qualified to comment on issues of New Testament scholarship and exegesis, though Peters (B.Sc.) obviously believes himself qualified to make such comments.[47]  It is strange that he does not realize that most reasonable people would not agree with him about this, but may well see Peters as a coxcomb.[48]

Characterizing my objections as “go[ing] after [Peters] and Holding,”[49] old Nick sets about trying to vitiate my claims.  He begins by averring that “I do not think the Bible does have historical or scientific errors. I guess Tors knows my view better than I do. I have no problem with the statement that the Bible is without error.”[50]

Unfortunately, Peters’ avowal here seems at odds with his book’s insistence that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable.”[51]  It seems possible to reconcile the two statements only if what old Nick means by “without error” here is actually different from inerrancy as believed by the “old guard.”

Regrettably for Peters, Humpty Dumpty’s famous dictum – “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less’”[52] – applies only in Wonderland, not in the real world.  In the real world, there is only one genuine definition of inerrancy, as we saw in the introduction: “Inerrant” means “in accordance with the truth and the facts, not untrue, true” – in other words, “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard”, the very thing old Nick calls “dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist.”[53]

This becomes much clearer, in fact, when Peters goes on to say, “I have a problem with a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism and 21st century ideas rather than writing styles of the ancients.”[54]  What he derides as “a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism” (you know, the Bible means what it actually says) is actual inerrancy, and he has “a problem” with that.  So whatever old Nick may mean by believing the Bible is without error, it is not inerrancy.

Consider Matthew 27:51-53, which makes the propositional statements (in the very same fashion in which it describes the crucifixion of Jesus immediately before this passage and the resurrection of Jesus immediately after):

Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:51-53)

The statement is very clear: OT saints were raised from the dead after Jesus died on the cross and came out of their graves after His resurrection.  If these saints were raised from the dead and came out of their graves, there is no error here.  But if they were not raised and did not come out of their graves, then what the Bible says here is “of an opinion, proposition, etc.: not in accordance with the truth or the facts; erroneous, untrue” (OED, p.912)That makes it an error.

According to Dr. Michael Licona, the saints were not raised from the dead and did not come out of their graves; it was just a “poetic” insertion by Matthew, or the inclusion of a legend, as Matthew was aping the practice of the writers of Greco-Roman bioi, who “often included legend.”[55]

Incredibly, old Nick tries to defend Licona’s drivel, saying, “This might sound like an odd notion, but to refute someone’s interpretation, you have to show the text does not mean what they take it to mean.”[56]  It is no surprise that Peters has it backwards yet again.  Since this is not Wonderland, an “interpretation” does not get an initial presumption of validity simply by being put forward; it is the one who says that a statement in the midst of a historical narrative and indistinguishable in style from the surrounding passages is not historical who has the onus probandi – and Licona has not come even remotely close to meeting it.  Had old Nick stayed with philosophy longer, he might have understood that.

Furthermore, the problem is that this is not a matter of “interpretation.”  Licona is quite upfront about the fact that Matthew said that the saints were raised from the dead and came out of their graves; Licona simply denies it happened.  He says that Matthew’s propositional statement in Matthew 27:51-53 is “not in accordance with the truth or the facts; erroneous, untrue,” and that, folks, makes it an error by definition.  Yet again, even a reasonably intelligent child can see that, even if people blinded by the lust to “treat the Bible like any other book” cannot.[57]

And the gambit of saying that mixing legends into a writing as if it were fact is not an error if everyone did it in those days?[58]  As long as the propositional statement is “not in accordance with the truth or the facts,” it is undeniably an error.  Pretending that an error is not an error if historians in that culture routinely committed that error does not change the fact that it is an error and so the gambit is not an alternate form of inerrancy.  What it is is epistemological relativism.  (If old Nick stayed with philosophy long enough, he would know what that means.)  The fact that our scholars have latched onto liberal presuppositions to the point that they would even embrace epistemological relativism is truly deplorable.

Peters is still not done.  I mentioned in my original article that Peters “is married to Mike Licona’s daughter” – which full disclosure should require.  Old Nick objects, saying, “Why yes, I am married to Mike’s daughter. Apparently, this is being waved around to promote the ‘Bias’ charge.”[59]  Yet again, Peters shows himself to be careless with facts, as I never accused him of bias.

In fact, old Nick protests a little too loudly, saying, “All Tors needs to do is contact Mike and be assured from Mike that we have many disagreements, even on the New Testament, and I do not walk in lockstep with him.”[60]  That does not, of course, prove that Licona does not influence Peters’ thinking, as in the selfsame article, Peters tells us that he changed his major from philosophy to New Testament – and he did it “when Mike Licona told me he thought my stuff on NT was really good.”[61]

It is a moot point, however, as I did not accuse Peters of bias.  Why he defends the views he does is irrelevant; all that matters is that the views he defends are very wrong.

Peters is not quite done embarrassing himself.  As we noted in the previous article, he

details Patterson’s qualifications, including the following – “A graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, Patterson also completed Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees in theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary” – but then asserts that “While these accomplishments can be all well and good, there is a striking omission from it. There is absolutely nothing here about being trained in NT scholarship and exegesis. Being a competent and even skilled theologian and/or philosopher does not make one an expert on NT scholarship and/or biblical exegesis.”

One wonders whether Peters has any idea about the sort of courses one takes in Master’s and Doctoral programs in seminary; in case he doesn’t, he should find out that it certainly includes courses in “NT scholarship and exegesis.”[62]

Old Nick does not seem to be at all aware how ludicrous his attack on Dr. Patterson is seen to be by any thinking person.  Dr. Patterson, who has done such great work defending the Bible, is being told by a small-time blogger with a “Bachelor of Science in Preaching and Bible from Johnson Bible College” that he is not qualified to comment on the issue of inerrancy, though the small-time blogger with the bachelor’s degree obviously feels that he himself is qualified to comment on this issue, for he freely does it.  Any thinking person would find the hubris of this small-time local blogger to be repugnant.

As I have pointed out before, academic qualifications do not determine how well one can understand the Bible or apologetics, or the origins and nature of the Bible itself.  That requires careful study, independent thought, and a grasp of facts and logic; old Nick, however, seems to think we should slavishly follow only those specifically trained in New Testament studies, as if we are under the authority of a new magisterium, the fraternity of scholars, but only those with a doctorate in New Testament studies.  It is as if “ordinary” Christians, and even those with academic credentials, cannot possibly understand these things, no matter how much study they may do; they must loyally submit their will and intellect to the scholars with doctorates in New Testament studies and meekly and uncritically accept their diktats from on high.  That approach is more suitable for a cult than for Christianity.

Such a deranged idea should not even require an argument against it, but for the sake of old Nick we will point out that for every scholar with a doctorate in New Testament studies who affirms the resurrection happened, there is at least one (or more) scholars with doctorates in New Testament studies and with academic qualifications equal to (or better than) those of Peters’ champions who affirm that the resurrection did not happen – and they do so on the basis of the same evidence.  So much for going with a magisterium of scholars with doctorates in New Testament studies.  That should have been obvious to any thinking person – from the beginning.

But not to Peters, and it may be his hubris that prevents him from thinking straight.  He actually says, “Does Patterson publish regularly in journals of New Testament scholarship? Is he cited by New Testament scholars? If not, then he’s stepping out of his field”[63] but then goes on to say, “I also am quite sure that the evangelical scholars will go with my work far more than Geisler’s, particularly since I’m the one who interviews them.”

Think about it, folks; according to old Nick, Dr. Patterson (Th.M, Ph.D) has no cachet on inerrancy because he does not “publish regularly in journals of New Testament”  and is not “cited by New Testament scholars,” but “evangelical scholars will go with [Peters’] work far more than Geisler’s,” even though he himself does not “publish regularly in journals of New Testament”  and is not “cited by New Testament scholars” – and holds only a Bachelor’s degree, and not in New Testament studies.

I do not think any scholar who is not related to old Nick will “go with [his] work,” though they may appreciate having him as a cheerleader and for providing a platform through his podcasts.  Peters seems to be living in a fantasy world of his own.

Finally, Peters issues a correction about his major.  In my original article, I said that Peters “is currently working on a Master’s degree – in philosophy.”[64]  Old Nick tells us this information is out of date: “look at anything since 2009 and realize people can change majors, which I did when Mike Licona told me he thought my stuff on NT was really good.”  According to his website, to which he directs us, “Nick Peters is currently working on his Master’s in New Testament at North West University in South Africa via a distance program.”[65]  This doesn’t materially alter anything I said; Peters has no more academic qualifications than he had when I wrote my article.

CONCLUSIONS, AND ANOTHER LOOK AT THE EVANGELICAL BETRAYAL OF THE BIBLE

This article began as a response to Nick Peters’ post, “A Response to John Tors On Inerrancy,” on his blog “Deeper Waters,” though it ended up extending into another look at the topic of my original article “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible: Exposing the Major Weapons Levied Against the Trustworthiness of the Bible.”  It underscored yet again the real battle for the Bible going on in evangelical circles today, and showed that what I argued in my original article is true and of vital importance.

Regarding Nick Peters, we looked at his objections and found them all to be bogus, and have answered them in full.  Peters himself seems to be an uncritical fanboy of the sort of scholars we discussed in that earlier article; he seems to follow all of their liberal paradigm assumptions and ends up treating the Bible “like any other book.”  His statements that the Bible can be trusted only so far as historical studies supports it is ill considered, as is his de facto view that only the magisterium of New Testament scholars is qualified to pronounce upon the origins and inerrancy of the Bible.  These views should be summarily dismissed, as should his view of “inerrancy,” which is based fundamentally on epistemological relativism.

In sum, old Nick can be safely ignored by all.  His approach is damaging to the church.  Fortunately, he is a small-time blogger and podcaster, and it is unlikely that he will have much influence, and certainly not on those who are not already inclined to follow the destructive path outlined in our original article.

Regarding the broader issue of “The Three-headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible,” old Nick has reinforced what we have said previously.  In a different post, he champions the approach of Licona, saying (in reference to The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach,[66] the book in which Licona claimed that Matthew 27:51-53 was a “poetic” addition, and the rising of the Old Testament saints did not actually happen):

So let’s get this straight. We have what has been the most in-depth defense of the resurrection of Jesus meant to silence skeptics and we’re going to go against it because it went against a secondary doctrine of Inerrancy supposedly? We are going to implicitly say that Inerrancy is more important than the resurrection? Are our priorities out of whack? …. What Licona did was he met the skeptics on their own turf and he fired a massive attack into their camp.[67]

Peters is palpably enthused, but he has – predictably – not thought this through carefully.  Could old Nick tell us which “skeptics” have been “silence[d]” by Licona’s book?  Didn’t think so; the same skeptics are saying the same old things, denying the resurrection.  How then was it a massive attack, if it has failed to silence, let alone convert, even one “skeptic”?[68]

In reality, the book is not at all “the most in-depth defense of the resurrection.”  On the contrary, Licona tried to play by the rules established by liberals, so that, for example, he has paid virtually no attention to the “eyewitness test” in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7[69] (which is one of the best evidences for the resurrection)[70]; Licona has thrown conservatives and, most likely, the open-minded under the bus to play by liberal rules, and has nothing to show for it except the cheering of his fanboys (including old Nick, of course).  As we noted in our previous article,

It is noteworthy that, in writing this book, Licona seems to be trying to put forth a case that can engage liberal scholars, so he includes only “what could count as historical ‘bedrock,’ a datum which is at once beyond serious dispute and for which any serious historical hypothesis must account …. ‘bedrock’ is established by two criteria – strong historical evidence and a nearly universal acceptance among contemporary scholarship.[71]

As Licona puts it,

 

In our case there is a collection of facts pertaining to the fate of Jesus that a nearly unanimous consensus of scholars on the subject agree on.  These scholars span a very wide range of theological and philosophical convictions and include atheists, agnostics, Jews and Christians who make their abode at both ends of the theological spectrum and everywhere in between.[72]

Yet it should be obvious that atheists and agnostics and Jews and liberal “Christians” will only agree to such facts as do not necessitate an admission that Jesus rose from the dead, so Licona was on a fool’s errand from the beginning.  By downplaying or ignoring relevant facts that support the resurrection because (surprise!) liberals and atheists and such will not agree to such powerful evidence against their views, Licona has weakened (“condemned with faint praise,” as the saying goes) the case for the resurrection and, as far as anyone knows, has failed to convert even one of the “atheists, agnostics, Jews” and liberal “Christians.”  It calls to mind the infamous quote from the Vietnam War regarding the city of Bến Tre, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”  It didn’t work then, and it isn’t working now.[73]

No wonder the church in the western world is in open retreat in every area.[74]  Not surprisingly, old Nick claims that it is inerrantists (the kind who actually believe there are no errors in the Bible) who are causing harm, not those who allow for all sorts of errors in the Bible but simply proclaim that they are not errors:

Of course, it’s bizarre to say Mike is the next Bart Ehrman. In fact, the more likely scenario is someone in Geisler’s camp would be the next Bart Ehrman since Ehrman was one who put too many eggs in the Inerrancy basket and not just Inerrancy, but a literalist Inerrancy. If Geisler thinks that that is not a problem, I’d like him to meet the several ex-Christian atheists that I’ve met online who in large part left Christianity because they had the Inerrancy doctrine called into question when they in reality held to a modern view of Inerrancy, like Geisler’s.[75]

It doesn’t seem to occur to Peters to wonder what would have happened to these “ex-Christian atheists” had they come across an apologist who accepted inerrancy and gave them solutions to their difficulties, instead of coming across the type who said, “Yeah, there are errors in the Bible, but don’t worry about it.  Yeah, the Bible is wrong about creation but, hey, trust it on the resurrection anyway.”

What if they had come across an apologist who pointed to the early eyewitness testimonies in the Gospel According to Matthew, the Gospel According to Mark, and the Gospel According to Luke, written eight, ten, and fifteen years after the ascension of Jesus, and the relatively early Gospel According to John (AD 64-65), all containing the personal testimonies of people who had seen Jesus killed and then saw Him alive again in unmistakeable fashion?[76]  What if they had come across such an apologist instead of one who told them “The canonical Gospels probably contain some traditions that go back to the original apostles, although these may be identified with varying degrees of certainty”[77]Perhaps those “ex-Christian atheists” would still be Christians.

The truth of the matter is that we did not have an exodus from Christianity in the days when Christians believed in inerrancy.  That did not start until liberal scholarship began to attack the historicity of Christianity and did not spread to the evangelical church until evangelical scholars began to follow the liberal lead like rats following the Pied Piper, accepting all manner of liberal paradigm assumptions and undermining the reliability of the Bible, and, with that, of Christianity.[78]  As John Grayston correctly says,

Critical scholarship has been with us for many years but only more recently years [sic] have its results been more widely disseminated. Television programmes, newspaper articles and sensationalist paperbacks have popularized the idea that the Bible cannot be trusted. While most churchgoers will be largely unaware of the issues surrounding source criticism, they may have heard that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, that there were two, three, or more ‘Isaiahs’, and that Paul did not write all the letters attributed to him. Evangelical scholarship has moved on the critical issues. Thirty years ago, for example, it was assumed among Evangelicals that Daniel was written in the sixth century. John Goldingay now assumes a second century date and asks ‘How could Evangelicals ever have thought anything else?’ Many evangelicals will still respond, ‘Quite easily and with very good reason’, but the diversity does not disguise the shift. For many who do not have a detailed understanding of the issues the result is an undermining of Scripture.[79]

And as Ed LeBlanc correctly says,

Biblical authority has collapsed in mainline liberal Protestant denominations and is collapsing in evangelical churches at an alarming rate. In mainline Protestant denominations, that rejection is based on a common consensus that the Bible is a flawed and very human set of documents. The writings are errant and thus lack the full and complete inspiration of God. Because of this belief, that the Bible is more human than divine, it is subject to the judgment of Man in determining how far its authority and reliability can go. In reality, biblical authority in mainline circles no longer exists as it is always trumped by the authority of human wisdom and the need for ancient scriptures to accommodate the desires and whims of modernity.[80]

LeBlanc could not be describing old Nick and his heroes any better if he actually knew them.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the completely wrongheaded and dangerous approach adopted by old Nick Peters is to look at his handing of Genesis 1.   He says:

This is why when it comes to evolution, I stay out of the debate. I am not a scientist and I do not speak the language. If you think evolution is false and want to argue it, here’s what you do and I don’t think even the staunchest evolutionist will disagree with me on this point. Go do your study and preferably a degree in a science that is related to the field, such as biology, and study the arguments for and against and make your own arguments and present a case from the sciences that refutes evolution. If evolution is bad science after all, the way to refute it is with good science.[81]

And there you have it, folks.  You are a Christian – you believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be, God the Son and Saviour; you follow Him and you know that He proclaimed Scripture to be the word of God (Matthew 4:4), that it cannot be broken (John 10:35), and that it must be fulfilled (passim) – but if you want to know about origins, don’t bother to study the word of God, to investigate it with your knowledge of Hebrew and exegesis, because none of that matters.  You need to get a degree in science so that you can assess the indirect inferences of secular men and decide about origins.  What is the authority here: the word of God or secular science?

It seems very clear which one it is as we consider the extreme lack of thought on this matter by old Nick (either that or outright hypocrisy), as elsewhere he writes, “I am not [a young-earth creationist]. I hold more to John Walton’s view on Genesis 1.”[82]

Now, Walton denies that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days, as the Bible clearly teaches[83]; “The Genesis account , he claims, refers to a literal seven day period in history, sometime after the material creation, when God assigned the cosmos its real intended functions, prior to his taking up residence in it as his temple.”[84]  But Walton does not have a degree in science, the prerequisite Peters demanded, so why does he accept his view over the plain meaning of the Biblical text?  Why is Walton qualified to proclaim on this issue without that all-important science degree?  By Peters’ own standards, he should not “hold more to John Walton’s view on Genesis 1.”

Unless, of course, Peters defaults to the indirect inferences of secular men over proper Biblical exegesis.  And he seems to do so though he himself does not have a degree in science, and neither does any of his heroes.  What Licona, Wallace, and Blomberg, and their fanboys J.P. Holding and Nick Peters collectively know and understand about real science could probably be inscribed on the back of a postage stamp.

And so what has been done by the approach championed by old Nick and his heroes?  What has been achieved by the ilk of scholars described in our original article?  Here it is:

Once upon a time, we had four independent, early, eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ career, miracles, death, and resurrection, which were trustworthy and compelling.

Now, thanks to our scholars, we have one Gospel book written decades after the fact by someone named “Mark” who used sources (his Gospel book “probably contain[s] some traditions that go back to the original apostles,” though we cannot identify them with certainty).  Mark does not record that Jesus rose from the dead, as his Gospel book ended at 16:8.

Besides that, we have Matthew and Luke, written in the 60s, or 70s, or 80s, which are not independent but copies and redacted Mark and other sources, most notably Q, which also had no resurrection account.  And John is from the 90s, too late to be eyewitness testimony.

So instead of four independent, early, eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ career, miracles, death, and resurrection, which were trustworthy and compelling, we have two late, anonymous documents that may or may not include apostolic traditions, and two later ones that are just copied from the first two.

That, folks, we are told, is the “assured results of historical scholarship,” widely promoted as genuine scholarship by our evangelical champions.  And we wonder why the church in the western world is dying.

And it seems to me to be only a matter of time until liberal scholars point out that the very reasons Licona gives for seeing Matthew 27:51-53 as “poetic” or “legendary” (or even “apocalyptic) all also hold for the resurrection account of Jesus in Matthew 28, and so that resurrection should also be considered not factually real but “poetic” or “legendary” or “apocalyptic”; it’s the style, you know (and it’s okay for Matthew to add a resurrection of Jesus to the resurrection-less account he copied from Mark, since of course the Jewish audience would know it was not meant to be taken literally).[85]  There is no resurrection account, in fact, until the Gospel According to Luke, written by a Gentile who, alas, didn’t understand Jewish apocalyptic and actually thought Matthew meant the account with “wooden literalism.” Silly fellow!

Have they done that yet?  No, but that should inspire no confidence, however, as it is a basic principle of strategic warfare not to interrupt or annoy the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself – as so many of our scholars are doing to us.  When – and if – evangelicals come to their senses and stop following the scholars of the type described in our original article, then the liberal scholars will act – with a vengeance, using the weapons our scholars have given them.

There is your choice.  You can believe that the word of God is errant while calling it inerrant; you can practise epistemological relativism.   You can consider that proper exegesis of the Bible is not the way to know the truth but is trumped by the pronouncements of secular scholars – or by evangelical scholars who follow them like rats following the Pied Piper.  You can swallow liberal paradigm assumptions like a fish swallowing a lure and congratulate yourself on how clever and sophisticated you are.

Or you can believe that inasmuch as Jesus is all He claimed to be, we must believe Him in all things, including His view of Scripture as the word of God.  We can accept that “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160a) – regardless of whether it can be proven by secular methods or not; it is proven by Jesus’ testimony – and that “Your word is very pure; therefore Your servant loves it” (Psalm 119:140).  If any disagree, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

Those who agree with former can line up with the scholars of the ilk described in our first article and with their fanboys.  For the rest, have nothing to do with those in the former group: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).

 “God is not a man, that He should lie.”[86]

You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you.”[87]

See you on Judgment Day.

APPENDIX

In his blog post,[88]Nick Peters made various claims and charges that require responses, but some did not fit into the flow of our main article, so they are addressed herein.  Peters’ comments are prefaced with “Re:” and are italicized; my responses are in regular type.

Re: My ministry partner, J.P. Holding, has updated his page on Mark 1:2 in response to some of what Tors says. I will thus not be responding to criticisms of Holding unless they involve me directly.”[89]

Holding’s update to his page utterly fails to rebut anything I said.  His update has been demolished, as can be seen at our article “Mark 1:2 Revisited: A Response to James Patrick Holding”, at http://www.truthinmydays.com/mark-12-revisited-a-response-to-james-patrick-holding/.

Re: Anyone can look at the Gospels and notice that there are differences in wording. Are we to think Peter said radically different things when he made his great confession of faith to Jesus? Or, are we to think that he made a statement and the writers recorded the gist of it? (Note Tors. We don’t have the exact words anyway because Jesus was going around speaking in Aramaic and the Gospels are in Greek.)”[90]

There are certainly differences in wording among the Gospel books, but that does not mean the words of Jesus were replaced by the Gospel writers who “recorded the gist of it.”

First, as Peters notes, Jesus spoke mostly in Aramaic, while the Gospel books were written in Greek.  But old Nick does not seem to realize that when translating from one language to another, it is possible in many cases to make different choices of wording so that they are different in the target language, but all of them accurately portray the original language.

For example, consider the French sentence “Cette voiture est très vite.”  That could be translated exactly into English in any of the following ways:

This car is very fast.

This automobile is extremely quick.

This automobile is very quick.

This car is very speedy.

This car is very quick.

This automobile is extremely speedy.

This automobile is very fast.

This car is extremely quick.

This automobile is very speedy.

This car is extremely speedy.

This car is extremely fast.

This automobile is extremely fast.

That is twelve different ways[91] to translate one French sentence, and every one of them is exactly correct.  That explains some of the differences in wording among the Gospel accounts.

Furthermore, there is no reason to think each conversation is recorded in full.  In conversations, questions may have been asked more than once, in different words, and answered more than once, in different words.  The different Gospel writers might have recorded different parts of the conversation.

Sometimes a conversation or disquisition may be quite long, and different Gospel writers may have recorded completely different parts, so that there is no similarity at all in the parallel passages.  For example, consider the following excerpt from Winston Churchill’s famous “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech of June 4, 1940:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.[92]

Now, one writer could say that, “In his speech in the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, Churchill said, ‘We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air’” and another could say, “In his speech in the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, Churchill said, ‘our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.’”  Though referring to the same speech, the statements given would be completely different – but it would be because each writer stated different parts of the same speech; neither of them “recorded the gist” of what Churchill said.

Third, we need to remember that, as an itinerant preacher bringing the same message to people all around Israel, Jesus would no doubt have a set of teachings, parables, stories, and other logia that He would say many times at many different places, probably never exactly the same way twice, and adjusted for His audience.  Sometimes differences in wording are due to the fact that two writers are recording different occasions when Jesus used the same logia, but He did not use them in in exactly the same way.

Consider, for example, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-7:29 and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:17-7:1.  Here is an example of Jesus addressing the crowds on two different occasions, using many of the same logia but by no means all, and varying them somewhat.[93]

These three reasons are quite sufficient to explain the differences in the wording of the same (or similar) speeches in the various Gospel books.  It is a fact that in most cases we have a Greek translation of an Aramaic original, but it is the Greek text that is God-breathed Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), so those Greek words were chosen as the Holy Spirit decided and are therefore inerrant.

The utter silliness of old Nick is shown in his apparently-meant-to-be-sarcastic question, “Are we to think Peter said radically different things when he made his great confession of faith to Jesus?

Here is Peter’s great confession in the various Gospel books:

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)

Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20)

How are these radically different?  All of the words in Mark and in Luke are in Matthew.  Peter made two points: (1) Jesus is the Christ; and (2) Jesus is the Son of the living God.  Mark and Luke include only the first point, and Matthew includes both – though perhaps he did not include the entire answer.  Perhaps what Peter said was, “You are the Christ of God.  You are the son of the living God,” and each writer included only part of what Peter said.

Whether this latter suggestion is correct or not is a moot point, as the text does not show any “radical” differences in the answer, and they all fit together.  There is therefore no reason to think that Matthew (or any other Gospel writer) made up words of Jesus and then claimed He actually said them.  That would be an error.

This fact makes another apparently-meant-to-be-sarcastic question from old Nick to be truly ridiculous:

Re: “We have to wonder what Tors is thinking here. Does he think someone would come up to Matthew and say “Hey Matthew. What are you writing?” “I don’t know. It’s in Greek.” Is it just awful to think that Matthew told a story in his own words? Perish the thought![94]

It seems that this unutterable genius that is Nick Peters does not realize that Matthew, as a tax collector, had to know Greek and had to be good at it.   He really needs to do his homework.

And it is not “awful to think that Matthew told a story in his own words”; that is what he did throughout his Gospel book.  But it is “awful” (and wrong) to think that Matthew made up a speech in his own words and then claimed that Jesus had said it, when He had not, in fact, done so.  Again, that would be an error.

RE:Fortunately, we see that Tors has said that a British scholar has said we treat the Bible like any other book to show it’s not like any other book. Sadly, he says that this has been shown to be inappropriate, but with no clue where or even who this scholar is. At this point, all Tors has is assertions of faith.”[95]

Actually, I didn’t make that statement; I was quoting old Nick’s hero Daniel Wallace.  If there is a fault in not naming the scholar, it is his, not mine.

The name of the scholar is irrelevant, however, for his approach is indeed inappropriate, and I explained why.  Here it is yet again:

Logically it is lunacy, for if treating the Bible like any other book leads to the conclusion that it’s not like any other book, that means the initial working presupposition that it’s like any other book is wrong and inapplicable and therefore invalidates any conclusion reached when using that presupposition.[96]

This is so obviously true that even a reasonably intelligent child should understand it, and it is entirely unclear why old Nick, on the other hand, does not. (This time I have included bolding and underlining that may help him follow the chain of logic.)

And anyone who has read my article and thinks that all I have is “assertions of faith” does not seem to have the slightest idea of the difference between “assertions of faith” and actual evidence.

Re: I seriously doubt Dan Wallace will want to spend much time with Tors so I will take them on for him.[97]

“If so, then either of [Geisler and Patterson] are free to respond to the criticisms that I have made of their approach. Nothing has been said by them so far. Geisler ignored a challenge that was put on his wall by someone else from Holding and banned the person who put it up.”[98]

Interesting; in old Nick’s fantasy world, scholars of course rightly ignore me but naturally should not ignore old Nick (or his friend Holding) but should respond.  The possibility that Geisler does not respond to Holding for the same reason that Wallace does not respond to me does not seem even to occur to him.

In fact, I have no reason to think that Wallace has any idea that I wrote about him; he is no doubt a very busy man.  But if he will not “want to spend much time with Tors,” he has been well advised; it is another maxim of strategic warfare not to enter into a battle one cannot possibly win.  And he cannot win this one.

 


[1] Tors, John. “The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible: Exposing the Major Weapons Levied Against the Trustworthiness of the Bible (Part 1)” at http://www.truthinmydays.com/the-three-headed-monster-and-the-evangelical-betrayal-of-the-bible-exposing-the-major-weapons-levied-against-the-trustworthiness-of-the-bible-part-1/.  The other three parts can be accessed from each preceding part or accessed directly.

[2] The issue has been discussed in detail in our article series in Footnote 1, and it is not necessary to recapitulate it here.

[3] Peters, Nick. “A Response to John Tors On Inerrancy.” At http://www.deeperwatersapologetics.com/?p=10101 (Accessed March 21, 2017).

[4] Brown, Lesley. Ed. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. 2 Volumes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.  (Italics added.)  This is the OED.

[5] Strangely, in light of the many areas examined in our paper, Peters responds to only two points.  One is an attempt to defend Daniel Wallace’s view of inerrancy.  The other, not surprisingly, is an attempt to defend his own approach.

[6] Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus. A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007, pp.74-80

[7] Cited in Tors, John. Is Luke Wrong About the Date of Jesus’ Birth? A Case Study in How to Do Serious Evangelical Apologetics (Part 1). (Bolding added.)  It is ironic that Wallace thinks that Luke’s claim in Luke 2:2 “casts serious doubts on Luke’s accuracy”; it never seems to occur to him to question the accuracy of secular source of historical information related to this matter.

[8] Tors, ibid.  The putative problem is fully solved in my article.

[9] Cited in Tors, John. Why There is an Error in Mark 1:2 in Your Bible: Another Example of the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible (Part 1). Bolding added.  Note that Wallace is not basing his view on “data”; he is slavishly following a text-critical rule made up by a German rationalist more than two centuries ago, and which is wrong. See Tors, John. “A Primer on New Testament Textual Criticism (in Manageable, Bite-sized Chunks).” At http://www.truthinmydays.com/a-primer-on-new-testament-textual-criticism-in-manageable-bite-sized-chunks/

[10] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[11] ibid.

[12] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[13] Kennedy, D. James. What if Jesus had never been born? Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994, p. 105

[14] Wieland, Carl. “But the Bible’s not a science textbook, is it?” Creation 22:2 (March 2000)

[15] Cited in Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2) (Bolding and underlining added)

[16] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2) (Bolding added)

[17] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[18] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[19] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[20] In this, though, he is simply following the lead of those evangelical scholars described in my earlier article.

[21] See, for example, Tors, John. “Evidence of Divine Authorship of the Bible in Job 26.” at http://www.truthinmydays.com/evidence-of-divine-authorship-of-the-bible-in-job-26/

[22] Peters, op.cit.

[23] Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, jr. Introduction of Biblical Interpretation. Revised and Updated. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004, p.145.  (Bolding added.) Klein et al go on to describe “limited inerrancy,” which does not seem to be essentially different from “infallibility.”

[24] Cited in Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[25] Cited in ibid. (Bolding and underlining added)

[26] Wallace interview in Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus. A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007, p.75

[27] Cited in Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[28] ibid.

[29] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

 

[30] Carson, D.A., Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, p.23.  “Anything that was likely to have been introduced by the early church” should also be eliminated according to this criterion.

[31] Cited in Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[32] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[33] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[34] The differences in the wording of quotations in the Gospel books is discussed in the appendix.

[36] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.  Actually, if there are errors in the Bible, it does not mean that “there’s no way of knowing any truth in the Bible,” but it certainly does make every one of its assertions open to question; Once again, old Nick either resorts to a straw man or he exhibits a remarkable lack of understanding of an obvious fact.

[37] ibid.

[38] Tors, John. “Are the Events of Jesus’ Career the Best Attested Facts of Ancient History? A Comparison to the Attestation for Caesar’s Crossing of the Rubicon and for Spartacus.” At http://www.truthinmydays.com/are-the-events-of-jesus-career-the-best-attested-facts-of-ancient-history-a-comparison-to-the-attestation-for-caesars-crossing-of-the-rubicon-and-for-spartacus/

[39] Tors, John. “Is Luke Wrong About the Date of Jesus’ Birth? A Case Study in How to Do Serious Evangelical Apologetics.” At http://www.truthinmydays.com/is-luke-wrong-about-the-date-of-jesus-birth-a-case-study-in-how-to-do-serious-evangelical-apologetics-part-1/. (Posted in two parts.)

[40] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[41] The fact that Wallace does likewise is shown in Tors, Is Luke Wrong? (op.cit.).  He accepts the claim that secular history shows that Quirinius was not governor of Syria until AD 6 and takes it for granted that the problem is with Luke (though he hopes new evidence will one day come to light and clear Luke of making an error), making no effort to check the secular sources to see if they actually say that Quirinius was not governor until that year, and assessing their credibility against that of Luke.

[42] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[43] Of course, Peters could argue that we need to be sure that the eyewitnesses were not lying, but that is more than cancelled out by the possibility that the historians are themselves lying.  Many historians today say that the Gospel books are eyewitness accounts and many more say they are not – and they are all basing their claims on the same pool of evidence.  Someone is lying.

[44] In my previous article, I said, “[Wallace’s] implication seems to be that inerrantists do not want to examine the Bible too carefully, because, as these wise evangelical scholars know, there are indeed errors, and so inerrantists want to ignore facts in order to hold to their doctrine of inerrancy. This is a ridiculous implication.”  Peters tries to save “these wise evangelical scholars” here, claiming that what I said here about Wallace “is a ridiculous implication, and it’s a good thing Wallace doesn’t hold to it. Wallace is instead saying some inerrantists do seem afraid that they will find errors that won’t stand up to scrutiny.”  On the contrary; genuine inerrantists (unlike the type Peters is defending) actually do believe there are no errors in God-breathed Scripture and so do not fear finding any errors; they are quite confident that the Bible will stand up to any fair scrutiny.  Moreover, given that Wallace has already embraced an erroneous reading in Mark 1:2 and had in effect admitted that Luke 2:2 is in error (though vapidly claiming that “This does not, of course, mean that Luke erred” because, hey, maybe someday there will be the discovery of new historical evidence [that] can lead to a solution of the problem” (cited in Tors, Is Luke Wrong? (op.cit.),) it is clear that my original analysis was correct.

[45] For a good discussion of where James Patrick Holding is coming from, see our original article and also Tors, John. “Mark 1:2 Revisited: A Response to James Patrick Holding.” At http://www.truthinmydays.com/mark-12-revisited-a-response-to-james-patrick-holding/

[46] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[47] ibid.

[48] FYI, OED p.537, definition 1.

[49] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[50] ibid.

[51] Cited in Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[52] Carroll, Lewis (Charles L. Dodgson). Through the Looking-Glass. Chapter 6.

[53] Cited in Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[54] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[55] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[56] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[57] That also gives the lie to old Nick’s preposterous attempt to defend Licona elsewhere, when he says, “Now if Geisler does make an exegetical argument one day that Licona sees and makes him say ‘I am convinced now that Matthew is treating this as a historical event, but I think he was wrong’ then I and Holding and others will certainly say that that is a denial of Inerrancy. That has not happened yet.”  (Peters, Nick. “Is Inerrancy an Essential?” At https://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/is-inerrancy-an-essential/. (Accessed March 24, 2017.)  Inasmuch as Licona has no magical mindreading powers, let alone time-transcendent ones, the only thing that counts as to whether there is an error here or not is what Matthew actually wrote, which is that these events happened, and if they did not happen, it’s an error.  Whether or not Licona is “convinced” that Matthew meant what he wrote is as irrelevant as it is possible to be.

[58] It is difficult to see what else Peters could have been trying to get at when he griped about “a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism and 21st century ideas rather than writing styles of the ancients.”  A fact is a fact in the 1st century AD and the 21st century AD, and a propositional statement that is not in accordance with the facts is an error in the 1st century AD and the 21st century AD.  The appeal to “writings styles” rather than to accordance with actual facts certainly sounds like an appeal to epistemological relativism.

[59] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[60] ibid.

[61] ibid.

[62] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[63] That is a non sequitur; a man’s knowledge is not determined by whether he chooses to publish or not.  (If old Nick had stayed in philosophy, he might know what a non sequitur is and actually recognize one instead of making one).  And the origins and nature of the Bible are the field of all Christians, not just of a magisterium.

[64] Peters, op.cit.

[65] ibid.

[66] Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010.

[67] Peters, Nick. “The Future of Biblical Scholarship.” At http://www.deeperwatersapologetics.com/?tag=jim-richards. (Accessed March 25, 2017).  It should be noted that between the two sections I quoted above, Peters wrote, “In fact, the book didn’t even call Inerrancy into question. By that standard, any time Licona said an event is ‘Highly probable’ or something of that sort, we should have raised the alarm. After all, how could an event be ‘probable’? It’s part of the ‘Word of God.’”  Old Nick has finally gotten one thing correct; indeed, an alarm should have been raised, for what Peters describes is a denial of inerrancy.

[68] Of course, if Peters knows of any, he is free to tell us.

[69] Detailed in Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[70] That is probably why liberal scholars don’t like it.  And if liberal scholars don’t like it, then it should of course be excluded from “the most in-depth defense of the resurrection” – if we were living in the Bizarro world.

[71] Cited in Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[72] Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010, pp.279-280

[73] Peters thinks that “In fact, this is the approach of a minimal facts technique where the Bible is treated the way liberal scholars treat it and we STILL have the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. Once you establish the resurrection, Inerrancy becomes much easier to establish” (Peters, “Inerrancy,” op.cit).  But you do not have that conclusion; after “destroying the town the save it” (like Godzilla stomping on Tokyo) with regards to the credibility of the Bible, the best Licona can conclude is that “Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the best historical explanation of the relevant historical bedrock” (Licona, Resurrection, op.cit.. p.610).  It is not certain, nor is it the only possible explanation one can reach and isn’t necessarily the right one; it is simply the one Licona thinks is the “best” – and in real life the “best historical explanation” isn’t necessarily the correct one, and it can only be held provisionally, since new evidence can always be brought to light.  I guess Romans 10:9-10 will have to be changed to “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your mind that the best historical explanation based on the evidence we now have is that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

[74] This has been too widely documented to be open for debate.  See, for example, Keller, Tim. “Why Is Christianity on the Decline in America? (April 9, 2012) https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-is-christianity-on-the-decline-in-america

[75] Peters, Nick. “Is Inerrancy An Essential?” At https://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/is-inerrancy-an-essential/

[76] Matthew and John were apostles of Jesus, writing their own accounts.  Mark was an agent of Peter, writing Peter’s account, which can be accepted as Peter’s eyewitness testimony (see Binnings, Pamela Ewen. Faith on Trial. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishing Group, 2013.)  For the dates, see Wenham, John. Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992, as well as the testimony of Eusebius in Chronicon and Historia Ecclesiastica, and see also the family-35 colophons (http://www.standardbearers.net/uploads/The_Gospel_Colophons_and_the_Synoptic_Problem_Dr_Floyd_Nolen_Jones_ThD_PhD.pdf).

[77] Licona, op.cit., p.276

[78] Detailed in Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[79] Grayston, John. “The Bible and Spirituality: the Decline in Biblical Literacy among Evangelicals and the Future of the Quiet Time.” Anvil 19:2 (2002), p.100

[80] LeBlanc, Ed. “The Decline of Biblical Authority.” (January 9, 2016).  At https://edleblanc.ca/2016/01/09/the-decline-of-biblical-authority/ (Accessed March 26, 2017.)

[81] Peters, “Inerrancy.” op.cit.

[82] Peters, Nick. “Here Comes Inerrancy Again.” At https://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/here-comes-inerrancy-again/ (Accessed March 26, 2017.)

[83] Tors, John. “Is a 4.6-Billion Year-Old Earth Compatible with Biblical Inerrancy? A Response to Norman Geisler.” http://www.truthinmydays.com/is-a-4-6-billion-year-old-earth-compatible-with-biblical-inerrancy-a-response-to-norman-geisler/

[84] Statham, Dominic. “Dubious and dangerous exposition: A review of The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton, Intervarsity Press, IL, 2009.” At http://creation.com/review-walton-the-lost-world-of-genesis-one (Accessed March 26, 2017.)  See this article for a demolition of Walton’s view.

[85] Detailed in Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2)

[86] Numbers 23:19a

[87] Psalm 50:21b

[88] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[89] ibid.

[90] ibid.

[91] More could be constructed.

[92] Churchill, Winston. “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” Speech (June 4, 1940.) The International
Churchill Society
, at http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/128-we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches (Accessed March 29, 201.7)

[93] Indeed, some scholars have become so enthralled by liberal paradigm assumptions of Markan priority and literary dependence that this fact does not even seem to occur to them – or they dismiss it out of hand for no valid reason at all.  For example, blatantly disregarding Luke’s own testimony that he is recording what “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” delivered to him (Luke 1:2), I. Howard Marshall proclaims blithely that “Luke has taken over from MK. the details regarding the sort of people who were following Jesus, but has not been bound by his scenery” i.e. Luke is describing the same speech as in Matthew 5:1-7:29 but is arbitrarily changing the setting, perhaps based on a possible “introduction to the sermon in the Q material.” (Marshall, I. Howard. Commentary on Luke. NIGTC. Exeter: The Paternoster Press and Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978, p.241).  Marshall then expends more words explaining how Luke sliced and diced and changed and recombined his “sources”; Pavlov’s dog could not do better.  This is simply another example of how “evangelical scholarship” is toxic to inerrancy, and, more generally, to Biblical authority.

[94] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[95] ibid.

[96] Tors, The Three-Headed Monster (Part 2). (Bolding and underlining added.)

[97] Peters, “Response,” op.cit.

[98] ibid.

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