On the Other Hand, There is Albert Mohler…

October 16, 2013

who seems to be starting to understand some of the complexity of the issues involved in the whole “delay of marriage” issue. I still disagree with him strongly over the notion that we can identify marriage with adulthood. I still disagree strongly that delay of marriage is, in and of itself, an ethical issue. Nevertheless, Mohler had Helen Smith on his program to discuss the cultural issues in relation to delay of marriage and things. While Mohler still holds to things I think are Biblically questionable, I think he is going down the right road on this one. We could add other issues such as student loan debt, completely unbiblical and unreasonable expectations on the part of women, the interference of fathers with unbiblical standards, and a whole host of other things. It is a complex issue involving many factors, but the crippling of men at the hands of the society is a major issue, and I give kudos to Dr. Mohler for taking the time to address it!

Unmarried Movie Trailer

October 16, 2013

Well, the trailer for Unmarried, the Rise of Singleness is not out. My first impression is that it is incredibly bad, and heading down the wrong path:

The catastrophizing of the whole issue is what the trailer begins with. Mark Gungor calls it an “unmitigated poisonous disaster.” Of course, then again, Mark Gungor says things throughout this trailer that are downright absurd. I agree that it is an important issue to address, but an “unmitigated poisonous disaster????????” Kevin Swanson says we must learn the “severity of the problem,” and “if we don’t address this issue, we are done.” It is hard to even know what to say to such catastrophizing. I guess, for some people, marriage is such an idol that when people don’t get married it is a “disaster” and “severe,” and “we are done” if we don’t address it.

Then, Doug Wilson says, “Instead of the church setting the trend, we have sadly been going along with this trend.” Since when is the church supposed to necessarily be going against cultural trends? The trend right now is for people to buy tablet PC’s. Therefore, the church should be going against people bringing tablets to church with electronic Bibles. Right? It is counterculturalism at its worst. In this case, the truth is somewhere in between. It is quite true that God has called some people to marriage, and that we have problems with people heeding that call both in the church and in our culture. Just like we have a shortage of missionaries, elders, deacons, and other forms of ministry, we have a shortage of people getting married and having children. However, our goal should not be to go along with or to go against a trend; it should be to serve God. When we have a shortage of elders, we don’t create a sin of “not being an elder.” Yet, it seems, that is precisely what is done in marriage. Instead, we should be making people aware of the shortage, and ask them to seek God to see if he would have them to serve in this way.

James McDonald says “Most people are not called to singleness. The norm is marriage” I would love to see a defense of that from scripture. As Kostenberger said, it is an assumption on the part of these people that needs to be challenged. The reality is, we can’t know where God is going to call a person to serve. God gives different gifts to different people, and to demand that he give this gift to most people is absurd. Notice how, throughout this trailer, scripture is sparse. That is because these ideas are not coming from scripture; they are coming from counterculture.

Mark Gungor says, “Almost all the major ills that are facing the Christian community is directly tied to this idea of waiting as long as possible to get married.” Really? Exactly how is the Ergun Caner scandal related to waiting as long as possible to get married? How are all of the issues of abuse of power within the church related to waiting as long as possible to get married? Precisely how is the epidemic of extremely poor exegesis within the Christian church related to waiting as long as possible to get married? As I said, Gungor says absurd things throughout this trailer, but this one takes the cake.

Gungor, continuing his absurdities, says, “This porn addiction is a huge plague that has destroyed…and the number one reason the boys have gotten into this up to their eyeballs: delayed marriage.” We have dealt with this many times. This statement comes perilously close to blasphemy, and is an insult to the finished work of Jesus Christ. The Father sends the Son to die for an individual who currently struggles with a porn addiction, and the Holy Spirit is diligently applying that work to a person’s heart. However, apparently, the work of the Triune God will be frustrated because this individual doesn’t have the almighty power of marriage???????? The idolatry at this point is just blatant. The hope for those who struggle with porn or any other sexual sin is not in getting married or in marrying early; it is in the death of Christ which guarantees that this sin will be overcome. If a person clings to marriage to try to solve this problem, then it is idolatry, pure and simple. The problem is that sin does not come from your marital status-single or married; it comes from your heart. The reason why you sin is because you have a heart that loves your sin more than it loves Christ. That can be proven by the fact, if what Gungor were saying were true, we would see no porn addiction in marriage. However, we do. There are even examples of people who have gotten into porn after marriage. Marriage is simply impotent to take away sin. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can take away sin. That is why this view is so dangerous, as it goes to the very heart of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Doug Wilson says, “There has been a real cultural shift when it comes to how we value marriage, how we prize it, and how we pursue it, what we do with it.” That is true. The problem is, we cannot go too far the other way, and make an idol out of it by demanding that most people pursue it. Not getting married does *not* mean you do not value marriage, just like not becoming an elder doesn’t mean you don’t value the office of elder. Also, what does he mean by “prizing” marriage? I actually, to reference John Piper, make God my treasure. It is far more important to me that I accurately handle the word of God, and that I apply it to my daily life becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ day by day, growing in how I treat the brethren, and in how I act day by day than I do in whether I get married. That is a slap in the face to these folks, but it is true. I could care less about your marital status, and I could care less about how many children you have. I want to know if you know God, and if you care enough about his word to let him speak. We need a readjustment of our priorities here. Marriage is important, but look at what Paul says:

Philippians 3:8-9 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith

It is incredible that Paul, a man who was probably married at one time due to the fact that his position as a Pharisee who sat in on legal trials would have almost necessitated him being married, says that even his marriage he counts as but rubbish. Even marriage to Paul is something that is but rubbish so that he might gain Christ. Did Paul have a problem with “not valuing marriage?” No, Paul recognized that there are things that make marriage so pale in importance that they are but rubbish compared to Christ and being found in him “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” That is a lesson which we, as a Christian community, need to learn.

After Gungor makes another absurd comment “I think the women should be the ones screaming bloody murder” [which they have, but, as we have seen, for mostly selfish reasons], Jeff Hurt says, “Okay, you have questions; you’ve heard things; you think singleness is better-that it’s the more desirable thing-that’s what you think Paul is saying? Let’s break it down; let’s get back into the scriptures. What is the Bible saying; what is God communicating to us?” I agree; we should go back to scripture. The problem is, you have to discuss how you are going to *interpret* scripture, before you actually go into the scriptures. Hermeneutics are a major problem, and they must be dealt with first. That is why I would love to see this folks, rather than starting with statistics, start with principles of hermeneutics, linguistics, etc, examine the relevant Biblical texts, and *then* go to the statistics. The problem is, that would totally loose the punch of the entire documentary. The goal is, we have these cultural problems, now we must go back to scripture and read it in the light of these cultural problems. However, once you make it an exegetical study which you then use to examine the culture, all of the punch of this rhetoric is lost. These are serious questions I would pose to Hurt before we would even begin to do something like that, because they are questions that are logically *prior* to going to the text of scripture.

Of course, there is another issue in this film that is not even addressed, and that is something that Karen Campbell says she thinks is directly behind this, and that is the notion of militant fecundity. Think of it, if people get married young, they can have more children, and if you have more children, it is more power to conquer the world for Christ. Never mind that these children will all be sinners. Never mind that it is totally up to God as to whether or not he is going to take away that sin. However, I am aware that militant fecundity has been used in relation to several people interviewed in this video like Kevin Swanson and James McDonald. Militant fecundity is a gross misunderstanding of passages like Genesis 1:28 and Psalm 127, which we have dealt with before. Still, you have to wonder if, for some people in that documentary, it is lurking behind the things that they say. I am not ruling out that possibility.

I have thought of starting a video-cast for some time. If this movie comes out with this kind of bad material, I may just have to start doing that. A video response to a video is much better than a written response. Especially if Gungor keeps piling up those absurdities. It is amazing how many errors you can pile in to a three minute trailer!

Annihilation and Hermeneutics Part III

October 14, 2013

I have Asperger’s Syndrome. An odd way to start a post on hermeneutics, but it will become apparent as to why I am starting on this note as we proceed. [In fact, part of the reason I have not blogged in a while is because I have been quite bad recently, and I wanted to take some time off.] Asperger’s Syndrome is a mild form of autism, one of the recognized autism spectrum disorders. People with Aspergers and other ASD’s often struggle with a an area linguistic meaning called “pragmatics,” which deals with things such as conversational implicature, presupposition, speech acts, and deixis. For this reason, when I first start studying pragmatics, it opened up a whole new world of meaning in language. Here was meaning in language that was not even found in the words of the text. For example, take the phrase:

I broke a leg last week.

Where does it say in the text that the leg that you broke was one of your own? It doesn’t but the speaker clearly means it.

Now, as I got more and more into pragmatics, I started to encounter Sperber and Wilson, and cognitive pragmatics. A biologist professor friend of mine at church gave me a book on Neuroscience in order to better understand the brain and its functions. As I mentioned in a previous post, he has sort of been helping me along as I have been studying neuroscience, and its relationship to the cognitive aspects of human language. That is where I ran into autism, and, imparticular, started studying Asperger’s more closely to understand why people who have it struggle with Pragmatics, unless they specifically learn those aspects of human language. I have been very grateful to have run into people who have encouraged me to study linguistic pragmatics, not only to help me with Asperger’s, but to help other people who struggle with Asperger’s to likewise understand pragmatics, and be able to better relate to people.

However, just recently, I ran across the following article which gives surprising information about people with ASD’s. According to this study, researchers did a study on the pragmatic discourse of several males with ASD ages 6-22. What they found is that the participants in the study were able to use and recognize every element of Pragmatics. Now, nevertheless, they do not go so far as to say that there are no problems with pragmatics amongst people with ASD. In fact, that is part of the problem. Obviously, people with ASD can use proper phonology, morphology, syntax, and they can use proper semantics and, apparently, know how to use every element of pragmatics as well. Why is it that they have so many problems with pragmatics imparticular?

Their answer is worth quoting:

A standard way of finding out how something works is to see what happens when things go awry. The earliest insights into what function was performed by what parts of the brain, for instance, came from observing which abilities were impaired by lesions or trauma to the part in question. The relevance of this in the context of the present volume should be clear: For those of us who are keen to find new sources of empirical evidence and methods in philosophy, the panoply of “nature’s experiments in pathology” seems a very promising resource. Of particular interest to us is an emerging method in philosophy of language and mind: taking evidence from cognitive and linguistic breakdowns as evidence for “normal” cognitive and linguistic function. It is against that backdrop that the methodological/philosophical question of this article arises. The specific application of this deficit-based methodology that will be our focus is the use of language and cognitive deficits to help trace the boundary between knowledge of language on the one hand, and knowledge of nonlinguistic facts on the other. We begin by explaining this idea, and then we consider its apparently problematic relation to the empirical findings about pragmatic abilities in ASD given above. To those not overly steeped in Quinean indeterminism in the Analytic tradition, or postmodernism in the Continental tradition, it can seem obvious that there is a divide between knowledge of language and knowledge of facts about the nonlinguistic world. Knowledge of phonology and syntax seem to be clearly linguistic. To know, for example, that “exile” can be both a noun and a verb, and that it is pronounced /egzail/, looks to be knowledge about language—specifically, knowledge about English. In contrast, knowledge about other minds (“folk psychology”), general knowledge about history, geography, physical science, and so on, and specific knowledge about the physical and social situation in which a conversation takes place, all seem to be nonlinguistic. Continuing with the example, to know that exile is most often a punishment for a political transgression, that the reason people find it insufferable is they miss their home and their kin, and that in ancient times the Jews were exiled to Babylon, seem to be bits of knowledge about the social and mental world that are not properly linguistic. Similarly, knowing who has said “I am in exile,” where they said it, and why, are all beliefs about the speech situation that are not derived from knowledge of language. When one presses a little, however, it becomes hard to see exactly which information fits where: Is the fact that exile can be self-imposed a fact known about the word “exile” or a fact known about the state of exile? Is knowledge of the etymological history of the word “exile” knowledge of language? The answer does not come pat. It is because of such hard cases that the issue of the language/world boundary arises. An especially fraught class of cases of knowledge of language versus knowledge of the nonlinguistic world involves the semantics/pragmatics boundary.

In other words, the problem with autism in all of its forms is a difficulty conceiving of and entering into other people’s world. That can be less severe with Asperger’s, or extremely severe with full blown severe autism. However, what these authors seem to be saying is that this is the very reason for struggles in pragmatics on the part of people with ASD, because there is non-linguistic knowledge that is crucial to our understanding of meaning in language.

In other words, let us use an analogy. Let us make a distinction between a person’s ability to use oars in a canoe, and the oars themselves. A person may have the *ability* to use the oars, but if he has no oars, the boat will go left and right without steering, and the boater will look incompetent. Think of the ability to use oars as pragmatics, and the oars themselves as non-linguistic knowledge. Without that non-linguistic knowledge, even if one knows how to use that non-linguistic knowledge, the boat will steer out of control. What this points out is our understanding of meaning in language is based, not just upon the sounds, words, and phrases themselves, but upon our understanding of various worlds-knowledge that, itself, is not properly linguistic. They suggest that the semantics/pragmatics boundary is between knowledge that is linguistic [such as what you may find in semantics], and knowledge that is non-linguistic, semantics dealing with linguistic knowledge, and pragmatics dealing with the relationship between linguistic knowledge and non-linguistic knowledge. If you reject this, then, the problem is, it is impossible to explain autism, given that people with ASD have all of the major tools to form language properly.

So, how are we to understand this interface between semantics and pragmatics? The two best suggestions I have seen deal with the “pragmatically enriched said” of Recanati and the relevance theorists, and the Levinsonian notion of a pragmatic intrusion into what is said by conversational implicature. To turn a corner now, and show how all of this is relevant to annihilationism, I have a friend of mine who I met in James White’s chat channel by the name of DeoVolente. He told me that he believes that pragmatics are completely ignored in the hermeneutics of annihilationism. After thinking about it for a while, and talking to these folks, I am convinced that he is right.

I am not going to go into detail concerning these theories of conversational implicature, but they are the background to what I am going to say. The concept of conversational implicature is something I have introduced many times on this blog, especially in dealing with Matthew 1:25 and the word “until” as well as dealing with Voddie Baucham’s argument concerning the phrase “all who could understand.” As can be seen, annihilationists are not the first ones to have problems with pragmatics. Nevertheless, I will not repeat everything I wrote there. However, suffice it to say that such material will be important as we deal with the arguments from annihilationism.

For example, one of the things that these folks raised hell about [no pun intended] is the notion of the Qal stem being used as a passive. The problem is that, if you ignore the notion of pragmatic intrusion into the semantic level, it makes sense why one might say that the Qal can be passive in meaning. This is how I thought that these scholars they cited might try to argue for the notion of a Qal stem as a passive, by showing that you can find verbs where the Qal is used, and yet, the object was clearly acted upon. However, consider the verb “to go out” in English. Very clearly, in English, that verb is not a passive. Yet, note how pragmatic intrusion due to relevance can give you the meaning that someone put it out, even though the verb itself doesn’t indicate that:

John took a deep breath, and blew hard at the candle flame. Then the candle flame went out [ingressive stative].
+>The candle flame was put out. [passive]

Because of this pragmatic intrusion into the meaning of “to go out,” the meaning of the sentence is that the flame was put out, even though the text says “to go out.” Hence, the passive meaning intrudes into the semantics of the verb “to go out” due to the relevance between breathing hard on a candle flame and it going out. The question I have is how do these annihilationists or any of these scholars know that what they perceive as a passive meaning to the Qal is not, in reality, a pragmatic intrusion into the semantics of the verb? A proper division of labor between semantics and pragmatics is crucial at this point to avoid confusing issues of pragmatic intrusion with issues of the semantics of the verb itself.

However, as I have mentioned before, the other problem with conversational implicatures is that they can be defeated. A number of what annihilationists call interpretations where they are looking at the “context” are really nothing more than conversational implicatures. However, the question remains whether these alleged implicatures can be defeated by background assumptions. For example, from the last article by Glenn Peoples, he writes:

So what would we learn by taking verb stems into account, such that it would override the observations which Chris made? For one, no interesting facts about verb stems can overturn the observation that the objects of divine judgement in Isaiah 66 are described as corpses or carcasses. This is because the word translated this way is not a verb and has no stems. It is the plural form of a construct noun (בְּפִגְרֵי, “the carcasses of”). Even if we were to grant everything that Blauser says about the verb for “be quenched” In Isaiah 66:24 (and we do not), the passage, if it explains the nature of final punishment at all, still clearly supports the annihilationist view because it portrays the enemies of God as having been slain in judgement. It might seem strange that the fire would keep burning forever afterwards, but we could not conclude that the subjects of divine wrath are alive in the fire. So a foray into verb stems is not “fatal” to the position that Isaiah 66 speaks of the death of God’s enemies rather than the eternal torment.

However, what if this interpretation of the fire going out once the corpses are consumed is simply based upon conversational implicature? If that were the case, then we would have this:

Their worm will not die.
+>Their worm will not die until the corpse is consumed.

Their fire will not be quenched.
+>Their fire will not be quenched until the corpse is consumed.

Also, one might also point out that the notion that they are slain in battle, and thus not alive in the fire is something else that comes from the notion of conversational implicature:

Isaiah 66:16 For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many.
+>Once they are slain, there is no life in them, and hence we are not talking about eternal conscious punishment.

One can already see how such conversational implicatures are accepted as “context” by annihilationists. The problem is such conversational implicatures are defeasable by further context and background assumptions. For example, the background assumption of the text is clearly that this slaying is imagery [is God really going to have a literal sword that he uses to literally pierce his enemies??????] They seem to think that the slaying with the sword here is a literal piercing of the enemies of God, even though the text clearly indicates that this is imagery, as our background assumptions about God would show [since God doesn’t need a sword]. Even Calvin recognized this view is way too simplistic:

These metaphorical expressions are very customary in Scripture; for we could not comprehend this dreadful judgment of God in any other way than by the Prophets employing metaphors drawn from known and familiar objects. (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Peter 3:7.) By means of them the prophets endeavor to make a deep impression on our senses, that, struck with the true fear of God, we may not envy the wicked, for whom such dreadful vengeance is prepared. Hence we see how trivial and useless are the speculations of the Sophists, who dispute about the refined nature and qualities of that fire; for the design of Scripture is to point out to us under figures the dreadful judgment of God, which otherwise we could not imagine or understand. This is still more evident from the word “sword,” in the following verse; for it conveys the same meaning. [John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah]

As one can readily see, this is also an error in speech acts. The assumption of Peoples is that the imagery is meant to be one to one with reality. Hence, if corpses must stop burning at a certain point, so must it be with the corpses used in this imagery. If the corpses have been slain, then they are not alive in the imagery, and hence, must not be alive in reality. However, such is fallacious. The statement “The Lord is my shepherd” does not mean that God is a literal shepherd with a literal robe, and even a rod and a staff. Using People’s logic, one might even conclude that God *must* have a literal staff because, if you look at the “context,” it says “Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Imagery is meant to convey some similarities and some differences. To demand similarity in all areas is to completely violate the illocutionary force of imagery, as can be demonstrated with the statement “The Lord is my Shepherd.” However, if the background which is to be brought to this text is that the slaying and carcasses mere imagery for the defeat of God’s enemies [as one must hold unless one is going to argue that God will use a literal sword to literally pierce his enemies through], then it will defeat the conversational implicature Peoples has postulated that, once they are slain, there is no life in them. In other words, Peoples took the wrong background assumptions because he didn’t understand that this speech act was imagery. That lead to the wrong implicature.

The same appeal to background assumptions defeating conversational implicature can be made in regards to the conversational implicature that these corpses will burn until the fire goes out. James White has made an excellent argument that the eternality of hell is based upon the fact that men do not stop sinning once they get into hell. The only thing that can remove a sin nature is the blood of Jesus Christ. Hell can never take away our sin nature, and hence, we will not stop sinning in hell. In fact, with the restraint of God fully removed, one can only imagine the evil that is done in that place. However, if that is the case, then they will simply be continually piling up the wrath of God, and hence, the punishment will never end, because the sin will never end. If this is the background against which we are to read the burning of the corpses and the eating of the worms, then clearly, if those punishments are punishments for sin, they will never stop, because the sin will keep coming. Thus, the implicature that the fire will only burn until the corpses are consumed is defeated by our background knowledge of reality.

One can readily see that the acknowledgement that there is a pragmatic level of language causes major problems for annihilationism, and is, as DeoVolente said, the one area of linguistics they completely ignore. Not only do annihilationists take the wrong conversational implicatures, misunderstand the illocutionary force of various passages, but all of this is a result of not allowing scripture to define its own world. All of these things must be read against the fact that man has a sin nature, that our only hope of escape from this sin nature is the blood of Christ, and that hell, therefore, is not an escape from this sin nature. It is also recognizing the illocutionary force of things like imagery, and not confusing the illocutionary force of imagery for the horrible nature of the wrath of God with the literal way God will punish his enemies when he returns. If you do not recognize these things as background, they you will take the wrong conversational implicatures to try to get out of the plain meaning of the passage. One begins to see the relevance of me studying pragmatics in order to better understand struggles with Asperger’s, and the way in which linguistic knowledge relates to non-linguistic knowledge. It is the relationship between the linguistic knowledge and the non-linguistic knowledge that, I would say, is the achillies heel of this system also. Language is meant to relate to reality. If you do not relate what you are reading to nonlinguistic knowledge, you will always have bad exegesis.

One can also see the relationship to the first two posts as well, especially the first. The notion of the analogical nature of human language is something that is crucial to the illocutionary force of imagery. It demonstrates the necessity of things like language games to the understanding of how imagery is used. Thus, this series of articles has, in a sense, come full circle.

More than that, when we turn to passages like Matthew 25:46 and apply pragmatics, the problem becomes even more devastating. The text reads like this:

Matthew 25:46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The obvious conclusion one comes to at this point is that, just as life is eternal, punishment must also be eternal. However, annihilationists have tried to argue that “eternal punishment” here is a result noun; that is, it describes the result of the punishment, not the punishment itself. While “result noun” is a semantic category, what they are trying to say is that the meaning is parallel to the phrase “eternal sin.” That is, we are talking about not a sin that is done eternally, but a sin that has eternal consequences. TurretinFan and Chris Date have gone back and forth on this topic here, here, and here.

In this discussion, TurretinFan points out that the semantic category of “deverbal result noun” does not always refer to the results of an action at all. For example, TurretinFan gives the following example:

His back was injured during the first quarter of last night’s game. During the injury, he also hurt his left forearm.

Obviously, we don’t mean to say that during the results of the injury, he also hurt his left forearm.

Because of this, I used to think that compositional semantics were what was crucial here, but I am starting to wonder whether there is a relationship between compositional semantics and pragmatics. Date responded to this by saying that deverbal nouns are polysemous. That is one possibility, but the problem is that the notion of context and even background assumptions crucial to the meaning of result nouns. This opens up the possibility that it is not the semantics of result nouns have changed, but that there is a pragmatic intrusion into the semantics of result nouns, and, indeed, all nouns derived from verbs.

This can be seen in the discussion that ensued between Date and TurretinFan. TurretinFan argued that the context very clearly indicates that this punishment is eternal, because it is paralleled with “eternal life.” Hence, if you are going to argue that “eternal punishment” only means that the results of the punishment are eternal, then you are caught believing that “eternal life” means that only the results of life are eternal. Such is an awkward position to be in. Date, however, gives this response:

TurretinFan, however, appears to insist on a different element of the local context as the means by which we must determine whether “punishment” in Matthew 25:46 is a result or a process noun. He writes, “when ‘eternal punishment’ is placed in parallel with ‘eternal life,’ we are given an unmistakable clue that the ‘event’ or ‘manner’ sense is intended.” In other words, what determines one noun’s reading is that of its nearest neighbor. But this is not true. If a mechanic were to repair the engine of one’s car, guaranteeing that both the parts and labor will last for a year, one would naturally understand that while the parts themselves would function properly for a year, the laboring would not; the outcome of the labor would last for that period of time. TurretinFan’s test would render the guarantee nonsensical.

One can readily see where pragmatics falls in at this point. Because of the relevance of eternal life and eternal punishment, TurretinFan has seen the following implicature:

“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
+>Eternal punishment is eternal in duration in the same way that eternal life is eternal in duration.

However, Date compares that to his statement about the guarantee on the car. He compares it to an auto mechanic saying the following with the conversational implicature obviously defeated:

I guarantee that both the parts and labor will last for a year.
~+>I guarantee that the parts will be a year in duration in the same way that I guarantee that the labor will be a year in duration.

Now, why does one elicit the conversational implicature, but the other one does not? The answer is very simple: our background assumptions about reality. Background assumptions about reality can defeat conversational implicatures. Consider the following example cited by Huang in his textbook on pragmatics [p.33]:

John and Mary bought a car last week.
+>John and Mary bought a car together, not each one separately.

Yet, note that the following example, although the same in form, does not elicit the same implicature:

The Americans and the Russians tested the atom bomb in 1962.
~+>The Americans and the Russians tested the atom bomb together in 1962, not each one separately.

Why is it that, although both statements are in the exact same form, the first elicits a conversational implicature while the second does not? The answer is very simple. The conversational implicature that would be elicited by the second statement runs contrary to our background knowledge of reality. We know, given our background assumptions, that the US and Russia were enemies in 1962, and hence, could never have tested the atom bomb together. Because of its inconsistency with our background assumptions, the implicature is defeated.

Now, all of this looks quite similar to what Date and TurretinFan were arguing about. Note the implicatures again:

“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
+>Eternal punishment is eternal in duration in the same way that eternal life is eternal in duration.

I guarantee that both the parts and labor will last for a year.
~+>I guarantee that the parts will be a year in duration in the same way that I guarantee that the labor will be a year in duration.

The reason why the second statement does not elicit the same conversational implicature as the first statement is because the second statement is contrary to our background assumptions about reality. Auto mechanics do not, as a practice work on cars for a year. This background knowledge will defeat the conversational implicature that the labor will last for a year means that it will be a year in duration. However, is there anything in our background knowledge that would defeat the conversational implicature that punishment is eternal in duration? What in our background knowledge about reality is inconsistent with the notion that final punishment is eternal in duration? Nothing. Hence, in the first one, there is nothing in the context to defeat the implicature, there is nothing in our background assumptions to defeat the implicature, there are no semantic entailments that will defeat the implicature, and there is no metalinguistic negation. Hence, the implicature comes through unblocked.

What we have going on was a pragmatic intrusion into the phrase “eternal punishment.” However, such intrusions are defeasible, and the annihilationists have unwittingly picked an example where that intrusion is defeated by background assumptions. In other words, although the two texts were *semantically* parallel, they were not *pragmatically* parallel. Because of the ignoring of linguistic pragmatics, the examples that are given are simply not parallel.

As one can readily see, pragmatics is a major area of neglect by annihilationism. I must thank DeoVolente for suggesting that too me, and these series of articles have all been to build up to this notion of pragmatics. Hence, I do owe the idea for them to him. However, to ignore the pragmatics of human language is to do violence to human language. Not to mention the fact that it makes things like the verbal difficulties of autism and Asperger’s completely unintelligible. Thus, I would conclude that annihilationism’s hermeneutics are inconsistent with the way natural language operates, and thus is not exegetically sound.

Humility in the Face of Blind Incompetence-My Best Attempt

June 19, 2013

I love to teach, because I love seeing minds opened to the glorious things found in the word of God. There are so many great benefits, like when you see a student make a great argument for or against something, or when they ask you for more information on a topic, and you see them really start to blossom in their knowledge and love of scripture. However, teaching requires patience. There are times when those you are teaching ask you questions that reek of incompetence. In such a situation, the goal is to explain the background issues involved, and to help the student to understand how the issue they are raising fits in. This is what I loved about studying at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The professors cared enough about their students that, even when we said stupid things, they very patiently corrected us, showing us what the issues are, and why our statements were wrong. For those who are not good teachers, the tendency is to use words like “stupid,” “ignorant,” and to, basically, tear down the student rather than teach him. Teaching requires great patience to really labor with the student, and to help them to understand.

However, when you are teaching, there comes a time when the other party simply doesn’t *want* to learn. They treat you with disrespect, and don’t listen to a word you say. You can try with all of the patience of Job to teach them, but, if they are unwilling to learn, there comes a point in time which you have to recognize that teaching that person is futile.

The problem is that the Proverbs, not only speak of this in terms of the school master, but in terms of our daily relationships with one another. For example:

Proverbs 9:8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

Proverbs 15:12 A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, He will not go to the wise.

Proverbs 13:1 A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

Rebuke is a very very healthy thing, and being willing to listen to the person’s objections, and deal with their arguments really does strengthen your position. Rebuke does not have to be harsh, but listening to the person who is rebuking you is so important. Working together to at least come to an understanding is crucial to understanding why you hold the position that you hold.

Now, that does not mean that you have to agree with those who would rebuke your position. For example, I enjoy reading John Hobbins who has expertise in Hebrew Poetry. He certainly would not be considered a Presbyterian of the Machen/Van Til stripe, but listening to what he says is very helpful to me in working through the issues of liberalism and denials of inerrancy. I don’t agree with him, but I appreciate his perspective as someone who denies inerrancy, and is able to help me think through things on that level.

Now, more specifically, I would like to bring this to bear on Glenn Peoples, and our recent dialogues. As far as I know, Glenn is a Philosopher and Theologian. He is not a Hebraist nor is he a linguist. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t take the time to address what he has said. As you can see, in the previous posts, here and here, I do. Glenn has made some very basic mistakes in Hebrew grammar, and I even avoided using the word “incompetence.” I figure it is more important to explain why it is that his views are too simplistic. Nevertheless, one thing that has been an understatement is that Glenn Peoples is confident in his incompetence. So confident, in fact, that he has decided to publish an article, taking his incompetent understanding of Hebrew grammar to print, specifically addressing things I have written. He has also published a comment afterwards on my blog, trying to get around what is simple lack of understanding of the issues of advanced Hebrew grammar.

It would be helpful if you go and read my response to Glenn at this point. To put it bluntly, Glenn has confused a passive meaning with a stative meaning. They are not the same thing. Although they look the same in English, they are not the same thing. The top of the article begins as such:

Dr. Glenn Peoples responds to blogger Adam Blauser’s claim that in Isaiah 66:24, “fire shall not be quenched” must mean “fire shall not die out.” Before publishing this article, Rethinking Hell contacted two renowned Bible scholars, who confirmed Glenn’s analysis and conclusion that the form of the Hebrew kabhah in Isaiah 66:24 means “be put out,” thus supporting a conditionalist understanding.

Of course, I would like to know, “Who were these Bible scholars?” “What was the way in which the question was asked?” and “In what way did they confirm the “conditionalist understanding?” “Did they interact with my work?” “What were their main objections to my work?” Again, we are not told. The reason I ask in what way my question was asked is, as we have already seen, Glenn Peoples does not represent people well. It is not just in this post where I had to correct misrepresentation after misrepresentation. Someone pointed me to this post on Choosing Hats, where Peoples grossly misrepresented C.L. Bolt. Bolt pointed out that Paul’s words there show that Paul believed it was *possible* for a person to have these experiences out of the body. For some reason, Peoples thought that Bolt meant that Paul was *saying* that his experience happened outside the body! Again, total misreading of Bolt.

Also, this is a total misreading of me as well. Notice how I ended my article:

There is one more thing to clean up from Date’s article, and that is the objection that is summed up in this quote:

Similarly, Jeremiah 17:27 reads, “If you do not listen to me … I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour [‘akal] the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched [kabah].” God did not threaten that the buildings of Jerusalem would burn perpetually forever, but that, unable to be extinguished, his fire would reduce them to rubble. Amos 5:6 likewise says, “He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it will consume [‘akal] with none to quench it [kabah].”

In other words, Date’s objection is, if you say that “the fire/wrath will not go out” is the proper interpretation of both Jeremiah 17:27 and Isaiah 66:24, why do you say that the one verse is eternal fire and the other is not? This also relates to part 1 of Chris Date’s article in this series, and that is why I have chosen to address both part one of Date’s series as well as the above argument in the next post. In order to answer this argument from Date, we must discuss another aspect of meaning, that being pragmatics, and the notion of an intrusion of pragmatics into the semantic level of language. That will be the topic of our next post.

Notice how even I didn’t say that this text proves conditionalism or “traditionalism” one way or the other! My point was simply to correct an error in a word study which does not take stems into consideration. That is one of the first things you are taught when you do a word study of the Hebrew verb-namely, that you take into account the stem of the verb. Chris Date didn’t do this, and it is simply methodologically fallacious.

More than that, I have to ask whether they sent my work to them for comment. You see, it is very easy for a scholar to give his own opinion without dealing with the matter in an extensive fashion. I remember when Eric Svendsen did his seminal work on εως ου, Roman Catholics consulted scholars to ask about the translation of εως ου, never once sending them Eric’s work on the subject. How do I know that a similar thing didn’t happen here? Were they objecting to *my arguments* that כבה means “to go out” in the Qal stem? Or, were they simply asked what they thought the proper translation of the word was?

Furthermore, if these scholars are liberals and atheists who believe that the concept of eternal punishment was something that came due to development over time, and that the Bible has nothing to do with reality, then what would be the point of quoting them? There are lots of world renown scholars who I would have fundamental disagreements with philosophically on the nature of scripture. If they, for example, believe that the Bible contains historical errors, and is only trustworthy in “spiritual” things, what would be the point of quoting them?

Furthermore, it sounds as if Peoples wants to say, “These scholars have spoken. Shut up.” Well, I disagree with many scholars on lots of things. I remember interacting with Dr. Averbeck, someone who I highly respect, on the possibility of a pluperfect wayyiqtol in Genesis 2:19. He is strongly opposed to the idea of a pluperfect, but I am not. Also, most scholars would believe that a remnant of polytheism can be found in Deuteronomy 32:8-9. I argued against that here, and stand by what I said, even criticizing John Hobbins! Scholarship is all about argumentation, and no one should ever say “Scholar x has spoken; that is the end of it.” Now, maybe I am wrong about what I said about the relationship between the Qal and the Piel of this verb. However, at least let me argue my case! And don’t misrepresent me in the process! It is hard to believe that a philosopher would fall into the fallacy of “appeal to authority,” but he has.

The article begins:

Blauser takes issue with my article about the meaning of apollumi in the synoptic gospels. He grants the fact that the term means literally kill and destroy in the examples I discuss but insists that this does not literally inform the word’s meaning when it is used to describe final punishment, for it is wrong to assume that the word there carries the meaning that it universally carries in grammatically similar instances. This is because hell is an eternal matter and we can’t assume that words carry their normal meaning, the meaning they have in normal speech discussing natural matters, when we are speaking about the affairs of the age to come. I responded in the comments section over there and while the argument isn’t substantial enough to warrant lengthy comment here I shall describe it very briefly: Scripture speaks literally about eternal matters with the same language that we use in normal speech about natural affairs all the time. When it comes to apollumi—which, as I showed, in grammatically similar contexts always carries the strong meaning of literally kill or destroy—and the subject is final punishment, the only reason we would have for resisting a natural meaning for that word is if we began by assuming that there is something about final punishment that is not compatible with literal destruction. But how else are we to know what scripture teaches about final punishment if not by learning from the terms that it uses to do so?

Again, the patronizing and condescending attitude here is annoying, but I will try to ignore that, and respond to the substance of what is said here. The problem with the argument is that it ignores possible analogical relationships between language games. For example, do you “catch” a baseball in the same way that you “catch” a cold? Well, not exactly, but there are similarities. Is a strike in bowling bad in the same way it is in baseball? No, but there are similarities. What Glenn has done is taken the language game of the temporal state, and assumed a one to one relationship with the eternal state. Ignoring the possibility of an analogous relationship between language games is simply contrary to the way natural language operates.

Also, as I pointed out to him, it totally destroys the deity of Christ. Take the Greek term χαρακτηρ in Hebrews 1:3. Every other instance that word is used, it always involves temporal succession. The “copy” comes after the thing copied in every other instance. Therefore, that must mean that Christ came after the Father in temporal succession, and “there was a time when the Son was not.” I mean, we are just ignoring natural language otherwise, right? Or, perhaps, the hermeneutics Glenn is using are flawed from the get go. Again, Glenn can’t have it both ways. Either he gives up his argument from απολλυμι, or he gives up the deity of Christ, and goes further into heresy. Those are the only ways he can remain consistent with his hermeneutics.

Glenn continues:

So what would we learn by taking verb stems into account, such that it would override the observations which Chris made? For one, no interesting facts about verb stems can overturn the observation that the objects of divine judgement in Isaiah 66 are described as corpses or carcasses. This is because the word translated this way is not a verb and has no stems. It is the plural form of a construct noun (בְּפִגְרֵי, “the carcasses of”). Even if we were to grant everything that Blauser says about the verb for “be quenched” In Isaiah 66:24 (and we do not), the passage, if it explains the nature of final punishment at all, still clearly supports the annihilationist view because it portrays the enemies of God as having been slain in judgement. It might seem strange that the fire would keep burning forever afterwards, but we could not conclude that the subjects of divine wrath are alive in the fire. So a foray into verb stems is not “fatal” to the position that Isaiah 66 speaks of the death of God’s enemies rather than the eternal torment.

Of course, I never said that this passage alone can prove eternal punishment anyway. In fact, that is why I basically said to stay tuned for part III. Again, Glenn is very good at misrepresenting me, and, again, it makes me wonder how I was represented to these scholars. More than that, understanding how this passage relates to hell involves an understanding of the pragmatics/semantics interface, and how subsequent discourse can affect the pragmatics of a text. Glenn, not only did not quote the end of my article, but did not wait for me to explain things which I am going to explain in more detail in the next section. Yes, because of the possible conversational implicature that the fire will not go out until the corpses are burned, we must deal with how this theme is developed in the Hebrew scriptures themselves. That is the whole reason why I addressed this section first [the fallacy of ignoring stems in Hebrew word studies] before I addressed the notion of the semantics/pragmatics interface and its relationship to subsequent discourse-a concept that will take time to flesh out.

Blauser is simply incorrect to say that the Qal verb stem cannot convey a passive meaning of “to be (or become)” X (e.g., “to be put out”) and, as such, the argument fails. The truth is that some Hebrew verbs do indeed carry a passive meaning in the Qal stem, and כָּבָה is one of them. I’ll explain this below but I can see the error that Blauser is making, unintentionally conflating stem and meaning. The first argument looks like an illustration of the old saying that “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

Let’s face it. Glenn Peoples’ entire confusion of the stative and the passive is a perfect example of “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Of course, the problem with this argument is that stems have meaning too. Why would you have a passive verb in a stem that is inherently active, unless the meaning were altered in some way? Part of the problem with annihilation is that it is way too atomistic in its view of human language. For Glenn, the verb has meaning, and that determines the meaning of the verb in that stem. That is extremely simplistic. You mean to say that the stem of the verb has no relevance to its meaning at all? You mean to say that the fact that the Qal is simply not a passive stem is irrelevant to the meaning of the verb itself? Amazing. And, of course, we will deal with the confusion of the stative and the passive later on, because Glenn falls right through the trap of his own little bit of knowledge.

Here is the point of all of this, which Blauser does not seem to appreciate. Characteristically passive stems do not exist in order that passive verbs can exist. It’s not the case that, for example, if the Niphal, Pual, Hophal or Hitpael stems did not exist then no verbs with passive meanings could exist in Hebrew. Instead, the other stems modify the meaning of the Qal stem in the manner specified; for example, the Piel modifies the Qal and makes it intensive, and the Pual in turn modifies the Piel and makes it intensive passive, relative to the meaning of the Qal stem. It is certainly true that many verbs have no way of conveying a passive meaning except by being used in one of the passive stems. But if the verb in the Qal stem already has a passive meaning, then there would be no point in Hebrew speakers or writers developing a Niphal stem version of that verb in order to express a passive meaning.

This is why I said earlier that Blauser is conflating meaning and stem. He has assumed, erroneously, that if there is to be a verb with a passive meaning then it must be a verb in a characteristically passive stem, which is not the case at all. In short, he has grossly oversimplified, imagining that all verbs in the Qal must convey an active meaning, and presumably all verbs in all other stems are strictly limited to one kind of meaning. But are there any verbs in the Qal stem that convey a passive meaning, “to be X”?

Of course, all of this assumes that the Qal stem does not affect the verbal meaning in any way. Again, no Hebraist would ever accept this. The problem is that Peoples is citing a first year grammar here. It is often helpful to teach students the difference between the major stems by starting with the Qal, and then showing how the other stems derive from them. However, as one Biblical Hebrew grammar notes:

The idea that more complex stem formations are derivations of the Qal led grammarians to assume that the Qal forms also reflect the most basic meaning of a verb and that the meanings of the other stem formations could thus be derived from it. Although this is often the case, recent research has clearly indicated that this assumption is untenable. This is one of the reasons why the above system is no longer used in some more recent BH grammars. Cf. also Richter (1978: 73) [Van Der Merwe, Christo H.J. Naude, Jackie A. Kroeze, Jan H. A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar. Sheffield Academic Press. New York, NY. 2006. p.73]

It is quite common for young Hebrew students to think in the way Peoples is writing here, and the reason is that this is the way the verbal stems are learned. However, when you get into advanced Hebrew grammar, you have to recognize what the Qal itself does to verbs, and how that relates to other stems. In fact, sometimes there is some relation, and sometimes there is no relation. However, the relationship I have argued for here has become quite common in the study of the D stem in comparative Semitics. Even amongst those who have criticized Goetze and Jenni, they have recognized this relationship is quite common in Biblical Hebrew.

Finally, I don’t know if Peoples is saying this, but it seems like he is saying that “to be put out” is an inherent passive. If that is what he is saying, then he is simply wrong. Inherent passives only have internal theta roles, and “to be put out” can be altered semantically to include both internal and external theta roles. For example, Andrew Carnie in his textbook on Generative Syntax asks us to compare the following:

i. Stacy danced at the palace.
ii. Stacy arrived at the palace.

Now, Carnie inserts an internal theta role into each one:

i. Stacy danced a jig.
ii. *Stacy arrived the letter.

The second sentence is clearly ungrammatical, because it is an inherently passive verb, and will not take the external theta role “Stacy.” In other words, both of these sentences are grammatical:

The fire was put out.
John put out the fire.

Hence, the verb “to be put out” is not inherently passive, because it will take an external theta role.

(tamam). This verb in its Qal form commonly means “to be finished,” “to be completed,” “to be consumed” and the like. Brown, Driver and Briggs’ Lexicon (hereafter BDB) lists the Qal meanings for תָּמַם as follows:

vb. be complete, finished — Qal 1.be finished, completed; the writing of words; building of temple; fulfilled, ˊי’s command (by obedience); as auxil. + vb. fin. = completely, wholly, entirely, תַּמּוּ נִכְרָתוּ were wholly cut off; סָפוּ תַמּוּ entirely consumed; sq. ל inf. תַּמּוּ לעבור were finished in regard to, etc., i.e. were entirely passed over; להמּול entirely circumcised. 2.be finished, come to an end, cease: the year; the years of ˊי have no end; days of weeping. 3.be complete, of number. 4.be consumed, exhausted, spent: silver; strength; lead; bread; fruit; rust. 5.be finished, consumed, destroyed: people. 6.be complete, sound, unimpaired, ethically. 7. twice, very strangely, si vera l., trans.: תמנו we have completed.

Notice that virtually all of the meanings given here are passive in nature. The only meaning here that is clearly not passive (“we have completed”) is the one that the lexicographers regard as “very strange.”

A few examples in the Hebrew scriptures illustrate this.

Numbers 14:35, “I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed (יִתַּמּוּ, Qal imperfect), and there they shall die.”
Job 31:40b, “The words of Job are ended (תַּמּוּ, Qal perfect).”
Jeremiah 6:29, “The bellows blow fiercely; the lead is consumed (מֵאֵשׁתַּם, Qal perfect, combined with the noun for “fire,” so that the one word means “consumed by fire”) by the fire . . .”
Psalm 73:19, “How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed (תַמּוּ, Qal perfect) with terrors.”

There are plenty of other instances for this verb, but there is no need to belabor the point. For this verb, then, the Qal ordinarily takes a meaning that we would call passive, and it is actually the Hiphil that takes what we would normally call the simple meaning (to finish, to complete, to destroy, to use up, etc.) because the Hiphil is causative, and in this case it would mean “to cause to be destroyed.”

Of course, as I already pointed out to Peoples, he is confusing the stative and the passive. “To be finished” here is not the passive in the sense of, for example, the house having the action of finishing done to it. It is stative, in the sense that the house, as Dr. Averbeck likes to say, “stands as finished.” The stative, as I have already indicated, is part of the meaning of the Qal, along with the fientive. Why Peoples does not explore this possibility, I don’t know.

Also, I am somewhat amused at this use of Brown-Driver-Briggs. I will never forget when I was in Dr. VanGemeren’s class, and he told the class flat out “Don’t use BDB!” The reason is that BDB is a very old lexicon, based upon the source-critical views of the nineteenth century. In fact, my copy by Hendrickson Publishers is a reprint of an edition published in 1901. For example, Goetze’s work on the D stem in Akkadian and its relationship to Biblical Hebrew was published in 1942. Jenni’s study is from 1968. In other words, BDB is not taking any of the information in Goetze and Jenni into account. In fact, it is not taking any information from Ugaritic into account, as Ugaritic was not discovered until 1928. That is why the standard lexicon right now in the Hebrew Bible is really Koehler Baumgartner, because it incorporates all of this data.

Another example would be פָּתָה (pathah). Here, too, it is the Hiphil along with the Piel that take what would ordinarily regard as a simple meaning: to deceive or entice (e.g. Exodus 22:16 where a man entices (יְפַתֶּה, Piel) a woman who is not betrothed to sleep with him). This is because in the Qal, the verb takes a passive meaning: to be enticed, to be deceived, so the causative Hiphil would mean “to cause to be enticed,” or simply to entice. The Qal appears in Deut. 11:16, “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart not be deceived (יִפְתֶּה, Qal imperfect)” or Job 31:26-27, “If I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon moving in splendor, and my heart has been secretly enticed (וַיִּפְתְּ, Qal imperfect)…”

For this verb there is very little, if any, difference in meaning between the Qal and the Niphal or the Pual, because the Qal conveys a passive meaning.

Again, all of these uses, not only fit well with the stative, but also fit well with the notion that the Piel causes the state. Therefore, our heart is not to be in a state of deception. Also, Job’s heart was in a state of being enticed by the sun and the moon, which makes sense considering the fact that Job would then be saying that he was in a state of being enticed by God’s creation rather than by the creator himself. The stative fits well in all of these passages, and why Peoples did not know this, I don’t know.

ne more example, גָּבַהּ (gabhah). Yet again in the Hebrew scriptures the closest thing we have to what would normally sound like a simple meaning for this verb is actually the Hiphil, where “cause to be exalted” means the same thing as “exalt.” (Remember the Hiphil is the causal version of the Qal.) The Qal stem here means “to be exalted,” which conveys a passive meaning. A few examples will suffice to show this.

2 Chronicles 17:6, “And his [Judah’s] heart was lifted up (וַיִּגְבַּהּ, Qal imperfect) in the ways of the LORD.”
Isaiah 5:16, “But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted (וַיִּגְבַּה, Qal imperfect) in judgment . . .”
Ezekiel 28:17, “Thine heart was lifted up (גָּבַהּ, Qal perfect) because of thy beauty.”

These are in the Qal stem and carry a passive meaning. The same is true of the other examples in the Hebrew scriptures as well. The reader is invited to check further examples of all these verbs, but those considered here are enough to make the point.

Again, all of these examples fit the stative quite well. Judah’s heart was in a state of pride in the ways of the Lord. It would then speak about the state of their heart. The Lord of hosts is merely exalted once, or he is in a state of exaltation? The heart is in a state of being lifted up makes perfect sense in the third example as well.

We can now very comfortably put to rest the claim that a verb cannot convey a passive meaning (like “to be put out”) if it is in the Qal stem. Blauser was clearly unaware that a number of verbs in the Qal can and do convey a passive meaning, in spite of the Qal stem itself not being specifically passive. If they are already passive in meaning in their Qal form, they do not need a passive stem to make them convey a passive meaning. As his first argument depended on the claim that a verb cannot have a passive meaning in the Qal form, his first argument has now been fully addressed and found to be unsound.

Well, clearly, when Peoples wrote this, he was unaware that the other common function of the Qal is the stative. The problem is, this is very basic. As you can see in my response to Glenn Peoples, I actually quoted a number of *beginning* Hebrew grammars at this point. What that says about Glenn’s incompetence in the Exegesis of the Hebrew text, is striking. This is something that every first year Hebrew student learns, and Glenn is completely oblivious to it, as we will see in our response to his comment on the post itself.

In point of fact, our lexicographers give a passive meaning as the primary one for the Qal of the very verb in question here, כָּבָה. Let us return to BDB:

[כָּבָה] vb. be quenched, extinguished, go out, of fire or lamp — Qal be quenched, extinguished (c. neg.), of lamp in sanctuary; of altar-fire; of bodies of renegade Israelites (cf. גֵּיא בֶן־הִנֹּם); subj. אֵשׂ fig. of contention; fig., subj. fire kindled by ˊי; subj. wrath under fig. of fire (אֵשׁ); so of burning land of Edom; of annihilation of Yahweh’s enemies. Pi. quench, extinguish, fig. except (of extinguishing lamps, נֵרוֹת, in temple); sq.נֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל (fig. for like of David); sq. גַּחַלְתִּי (coal = family-hope) (of killing widow’s only son); sq. פִּשְׁתָּה כֵהָה dimly- burning wick (fig. of spiritually weak); implied obj. ref. to wrath of ˊי; to people and idols; sq. love אַהֲבָה (subj. מַיִם רַבִּים).

Notice that all of the meanings for the Qal stem of this verb listed here are passive. The Qal means to be extinguished while the Piel means to extinguish, according to BDB.2 We’ll look at some examples when considering the second argument.

Again, we are going back to BDB, a very old lexicon that doesn’t take into account any of the work that I have cited thus far. Here is the much more up-to-date Koehler-Baumgartner Hebrew Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament:

כבה: MHeb. to be quenched, go out, pi. and JArm.(b )pa. to extinguish; Arb. kabaw to smoulder, II to hide the fire beneath the ashes; EgArm. ? to hide (Jean-H. Dictionnaire 114); cf. כפה

qal: pf. כבו; impf. ת/יכבה to go out: אש Lv 65f Is 6624 Jr 1727 Ezk 214 Pr 2620, להבת Ezk 21

3

, נר, F S 33 Pr 3118 (בלילה sign of poverty) פשתה Is 4317, זפת Is 3410; metaph. God’s חמה S K 2217 Jr 720 S C 3425; meaning: to die Is 4317, cj. Ezk 327 (בכבותך, metaph.: to obliterate a people). †

pi: pf. כבו; impf. ת/יכבה ;ויכבו ;יכבנה; inf. כבות, כבותך; pt. מכבה:

—1. to extinguish: נר S C 297, S S 2117 (metaph.: of the king), פשתה Is 423, גחלת: S S 147 (metaph.);

—2. to quench metaph.: אהבה Song 87; expressions: ואין מכבה (Jenni 83) with no one to quench them Is 131 Jr 44 2112 Am 56; Ezk 327 rd. בכבותך (ï Zimmerli 764). †

Notice how, in Koehler-Baumgartner, the only definition given to the Qal is “to go out.” Not only that but, amazingly, it is applied to the very verse in question, Isaiah 66:24! Isn’t it interesting that, when you go to the more updated lexicon, it happens to say exactly what I said. Now, either Koehler-Baumgartner, Waltke/O’Conner, Jouon/Muraoka, Van Der Merewe/Naude/Kroeze, Jenni, and Goetze are all wrong, or Glenn Peoples is wrong.

The mark of really understanding your subject matter is that you can express it in everyday language if this is possible—and in spite of the concentration of terminology used here, this argument is fairly simple and can be stated in everyday terms.

Of course, not understanding arguments, and oversimplifying is something that likewise shows incompetence. Glenn continues to do this amazingly:

What Blauser is claiming is this. Since כָּבָה is in the Qal stem and so is active, when it refers to a thing being acted on (the object) it requires an agent who is performing the action (the subject). As always, the verb is performed by the subject rather than the object. (Indeed, this is precisely the distinction between subject and object.) So, Blauser claims, כָּבָה cannot be a verb that is performed by the object on which the action is performed. Since the verb must be active, and so can mean “put out” or “go out” but not “be put out” which is passive, it would not make any sense to think that the verb means “put out” in Isaiah 66:24, or else the sentence would not mean anything sensible: “Their worm does not die and their fire does not put out.” Their fire does not put out what? We could say “John will not put out the fire,” where there is a subject of the verb (John) and an object of the verb (the fire), but if there is no candidate for an object (so the verb is “monovalent,” having only a subject), then the meaning, says Blauser, will be “go out” and so Isaiah 66:24 means that the fire will never go out.

The conflating of case and theta role is annoying. Especially for someone accusing me of not knowing the subject matter. For example, is the theme always the direct object? The passive voice itself refutes that claim: “John is being sprayed with water.” John is the theme, but it is not the direct object, but the subject. So, while theta role is related to case, it is not the same thing as case. Now, Glenn picked a good verb to make a mistake on, as the agent of the verb “to put out” is always the subject, but I point this out because of the arrogance of the above statement. Theta roles are semantic categories, and cases are syntactical categories. You can’t conflate the two.

This of course is all well and good for verbs that do not have a meaning that is passive in nature, and which also do not have a passive form to make them passive in nature. It is true that in the phrase “their fire is לֹא תִכְבֶּה” there is only one entity in view, the fire, so this is indeed the subject. But the argument as a whole simply inherits the flaw of the first argument, namely, it assumes that there is no passive meaning to be found in the Qal stem so we are limited to considering how the verb works in the sentence with an active meaning. This is simply not how stems work. In fact, as we saw earlier, this verb in its Qal form has a primary meaning that is passive! In going through the examples that Blauser provides to demonstrate the truth of his second claim, we will see that they fail to do so, and they instead support the contention on all Hebrew lexicographers. We will see that the second claim is false and כָּבָה in the Qal stem, in practice, has a passive meaning.

You can see why it is hard to remain humble when you are dealing with these kinds of things. Here is a man who is utterly ignorant of the most basic meaning of the Qal stem, conflates the stative and the passive, and then has the gall to say that “all Hebrew lexicographers” agree with him, when, as we have seen, he has cited one lexicon that is badly outdated, and has completely ignored the more up-to-date lexicon that actually agrees with me! In fact, I should mention with BDB, James Barr was actually working on an update to BDB, but, as one of my professors told me, it was so badly outdated, that he ended up saying that he would have to write an entirely new lexicon, so he abandoned the project. This is “all Hebrew lexicographers?” Again, you see why it is hard to remain humble, and to continue to respond in a gracious fashion.

I will not go over the rest of Glenn’s post at this point. Glenn’s error of conflating the ingressive stative “to go out” with the passive “to be put out.” is enough to refute the entire rest of his post.

Now, just recently, Glenn has written a comment attempting to respond to his conflation of passive and stative verbs. He writes:

Adam, I won’t labour the point, which is fairly simple. Unfortunately it looks like in your response your position is ossifying and you’re resisting the evidence, which is unfortunate. I fear that by provoking you further I will only cause you to dig your heels in further, so this is my last comment on this particular blog entry.

In your original blog article you did not say that the verb in Isaiah 66:24 was a stative verb, and you had no reason to. All of your argumentation was designed to say that the Qal form of this verb means simply meant “to go out.” Now you say that it is a stative verb, which if true would mean that the meaning here is “to be in (or enter) a state of going out” (assuming you are correct about the meaning of the verb it its Qal form). But if you were correct about the meaning of the verb in its Qal stem, “to go out,” then the stative would be redundant here: To enter a state of going out, which does not modify the (alleged) original Qal meaning at all – “to go out.”

That being said: of course, redundancy occurs in Hebrew. But your new response is unsuccessful for two reasons

Of course, that was not what I said. What I said to Glenn was that this is an *ingressive stative,* that is, it refers to the entrance of something into a state, and that state is “to be out.” In other words, the meaning of the verb would then be “To enter into a state of being out.” So, my response is “unsuccessful,” even though he hasn’t understood it!

Finally, I couldn’t believe that when I read it. I didn’t *say* that the verb in Isaiah 66:24 was a stative?! I thought, since the stative form of the Qal is something every first year Hebrew student knows, I did not have to. What is so sad here is that Peoples is completely oblivious to a fact known by every single first year Hebrew student.

In the first place even if this instance of kabhah is a stative verb, nothing would change.

For the meaning of kabhah is the issue, and it means to be put out (to be quenched). Consult any reputable Hebrew Lexicon and observe what they say about the Qal form. Have you done this? If this is a stative form in Isaiah 66:24 then it would mean “to enter a state of being put out,” which agrees with what I have been saying: To be put out. So diverting attention to the question of whether or not this is a stative form does nothing to rebut the point. The stative verb can only modify the existing meaning. The point is that there are verbs that, in the Qal stem, have a passive meaning. This is not to say that they are in a specific form that indicates the passive voice, as you seem to think I have said – so your appeal to grammars that point out that Qal is active is slightly besides the point. Instead, this is to say that they do not need such a form. They carry a meaning that we would ordinarily call passive. I provided several other examples in my blog post (which you did not address), so you aren’t in a position to say that there are no such verbs in the Qal stem. We know that there are numerous (I will discuss some of those examples shortly). Whether the form is stative or not has no bearing on this.

Of course, not only did I quote the *standard* lexicon in the field, I also quoted many grammars as well. Also, I have addressed every passage now that Peoples has brought up. What we have seen is simply more incompetence. Also, again, “entering into a state of being out” says nothing about how that state was entered. Hence, Peoples’ translation is utterly and completely wrong.

And, as we saw above, the verb “to be put out” is not an inherent passive, so the notion that the meaning is inherent doesn’t work.

Although I didn’t ask them to do so, a colleague over at Rethinking Hell decided to pass your blog article, along with my article in response on to a couple of Hebrew experts (one of them being Professor Claude Mariottini, professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary) to see what they made of it. As it turns out, they fully agreed that what I was saying was well-known. You were not named in the article sent to them (you were called “Anonymous”). Upon reading my explanation, Professor M replied by saying “His argument is solid and correct. What Anonymous does not know is that many Hebrew verbs in the Qal have a passive meaning.” This is the issue – not whether or not the verb in Isaiah 66:24 is stative, but rather what the verb in the Qal form means. Some Qal verbs carry a passive meaning, and it is as simple as that.

So, now we get at least one scholar’s name. Now, does he deal with my quotation of Jenni and Goetze? Waltke/O’Connor maybe? No, he just says that I don’t realize that the Qal can have a passive meaning. Examples? No. Argument? No. Citations of grammatical sources? No. Of course, now I have Waltke/O’Connor, Jouon/Muraoka, Van Der Merwe/Naude/Kroeze, and Koehler/Baumgartner, and he has Mariottini and one other scholar. I am quite comfortable with that. And, of course, only one side is actually dealing with the arguments of the other side. Again, I am *really* comfortable with that. You see, what each scholar says is not the issue. The issue is who is right. If they were to send my paper on Polytheism and Deuteronomy 32 to scholars, I am sure the vast majority of them would send it back saying I am wrong. However, I am sure Peoples would have to say that I am right. The issue is truth, not what this or that personality happens to say.

Secondly, the form in Isaiah 66:24 is not stative after all.

Notice that תִכְבֶּה has the standard Qal imperfect form for Lamedh-he verbs (for other readers, that means the third consonant is a “he”). Check any standard introductory Hebrew textbook and check the verb paradigm for a Lamedh-he Qal verb, third person singular feminine. You will see the that form is identical to what we have here in Isaiah 66:24. And yet, as noted above, even if it was a stative verb it would make no difference, because the issue I raised with you is not over whether or not this is a stative verb, but rather over whether or not it has a meaning that we would ordinarily call passive.

Of course, again, Peoples is showing complete and total incompetence here. The reason why you have the exact same form here is because it *is* a lamed he verb. You see, gutterals force certain vowels, in this case, a seghol, in the imperfect. In fact, Jouon Muraoka writes:

The conjugation of ל”ה verbs in Hebrew is characterized by considerable uniformity. For: 1) the old ל”ו verbs have been absorbed by the ל”י verbs, as we have just stated; 2) in Qal, the distinction between action verbs and stative verbs is no longer recognisable; [§79b]

Again, this is something you learn in beginning Hebrew grammar, when you first study lamed he verbs. You can see why there are times when it is hard, with the attitude Peoples has, to take someone like this seriously. He is grossly incompetent in this field, and is relying on the fact that a couple of scholars disagree with me. Worse than that, Peoples adds to his problems by, again, conflating the stative and the passive by “what we would ordinarily call a passive.” Again, it looks like a passive in English, as it does when you translate Egyptian and Akkadian. However, as Hoch said in his Egyptian grammar, the meaning is entirely different.

Recall (I’m assuming you read my blog post, given your comment here) that I gave several other examples of Qal verbs that carry a passive meaning (they indicate that something was done to the subject). None of these examples are stative verbs either. Here’s a very brief review – I’ll use just a couple of examples (you can review the other examples I used in my blog post.

פָּתָה (pathah). The Qal form of the verb, I pointed out, means “to be deceived.” Of course, if you’re correct, then this is not compatible with the Qal stem, and it would mean something like “to deceive.” But is this what the word means? Not at all. Look at the example:

Deut. 11:16, “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart not be deceived (יִפְתֶּה, Qal imperfect)…”

So on the face of it, the meaning is passive, which you say is impossible for a verb in the Qal stem. But wait, is this a stative verb? Not at all, for if you were correct about the Qal always carrying an active meaning, then the stative verb would mean “to be deceiving” or to enter a state of deceiving. And clearly that is not what it means at all, for it refers to a person being deceived by another person, which has a passive meaning. And as it turns out – as we would expect – the form is the ordinary Qal imperfect for Lamedh-he verbs. So this is a Qal verb that has a passive meaning and is not a stative verb.

One of the problems with Peoples is that he has a view of language which makes the word the most basic meaning. The problem is that words have many different meanings wrapped up in them. Consider:

Bachelor: -married +male +human

There are at least three different meanings wrapped up into this one word “Bachelor.” Also, Glenn, again, doesn’t understand what the stative is. He is now confusing the fientive [in this case, “active”] with the stative! They are not the same thing. Active and passive go with the category of fientive, not stative. The stative of “to deceive” is “to be in a state of deception.” And that meaning fits perfectly with this verse.

(gabhah). The Qal form of this verb means “to be lifted up.” If you are correct, then this is not compatible with the Qal stem, so it would mean something like “to lift up.” But is that what the verb means here? No. Observe:

And one more, Ezekiel 28:17, “Thine heart was lifted up (גָּבַהּ, Qal perfect) because of thy beauty.”

And is this a stative verb? Again, no, for if the verb carried an active meaning and was a stative verb here, then it would mean “to be lifting up” or to be in a state of lifting up. And clearly that is not what it means, because it refers to a thing that is being or has been lifted up (“your heart”), which is passive. Of course, if you were to say that it is stative (contrary to its form) and means “to enter a state of being lifted up,” then you’d be acknowledging the passive meaning.

Again, this coming from a man who used this incredible language of me. The stative and the active are two different things. I am not saying it is active *or* passive, because it is not fientive. It is stative. The stative, at this point, would be “to be in a state of exaltation.” “My heart is in a state of exaltation because of thy beauty.” It is not just a one time thing. This is an ongoing state. That makes the passage far more powerful, and is far more consistent with the context.

And, what is interesting is, I didn’t read his post until *after* I read his comment! I found out that his post over at “Rethinking Hell” was posted through my traffic feed. I knew, given the tendency to confuse the stative and the passive that I struggled with, that this is exactly where Peoples was going to go. And, lo and behold, I am a prophet.

So your assessment is mistaken. In fact these Qal verbs do carry a passive meaning, and they are not stative verbs when they express this passive meaning. Here too, as with kabhah, our lexicographers give a passive meaning for the Qal form of these verbs, and here too the translators all provide an English translation that is obviously passive.
The same is true of kabhah. It has the ordinary form of a III-he Qal verb. Remember: Even if it was a stative verb, the meaning would still be passive (to be in a state of being extinguished), but there is no reason to think that it is a stative verb at all. So you most recent argument fails in two ways:

Of course, the meaning would not be “passive.” Again, Peoples does not understand the difference between the stative and the passive! And, of course they look the same in translation. Hoch said that they would, but he also said that the meaning was not the same in Egyptian and so it is not the same in Hebrew. And, all of the sudden, it is his lexicographers, not “all lexicographers.” And, as we have already seen, in lamed-he verbs, the fientive and stative forms look identical. Amazing to me that a man can use the kind of language he has used of me, when he is basing his argument on these kinds of errors!

Firstly, your claim that the verb is stative would not diminish its passive meaning at all.

Secondly, the verb is not stative anyway.

I’ll stop commenting on this blog entry now.

[Incidentally, thank you for explaining what the stative verb is, but it wasn’t really news!]

Again, all I can do is shake my head. I should be news to Glenn, because, although he thinks he knows what a stative verb is, he does not, and he demonstrates as much by trying to conflate it with the passive in the previous sentence! It is this kind of incompetence that just makes you wonder. Again, it is so hard to remain humble at this point. Glenn has way too much confidence in his own exegetical abilities. However, the scriptures point out men like Glenn Peoples very well:

2 Peter 3:15-16 just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

It is amazing to me that a heretic like Glenn Peoples, an annihilationist and a physicalist, can be so completely oblivious to his own incompetence. However, people who do this are breaking the ninth commandment against God himself, and it is easy to see why they must seek out some way to suppress the truth of eternal punishment in unrighteousness. Doing it linguistically and hermeneutically by ignoring and misrepresenting what the other side is saying is just one way to do it.

Those are hard things to say, but, the lesson we should *all* learn is that we can all fall prey to this kind of thinking. How many times has we heard “Scholar X disagrees with this argument, and so, therefore, it must be wrong.” The atheists do it all the time with Richard Elliot Freedman and Bart Ehrman. Evolutionists do it all of the time with Richard Dawkins. Also, how many of us rely on rhetoric, rather than actual argumentation? How many of us are so caught up in our interpretations, that we aren’t even willing to listen to or deal fairly with any other interpretations that are brought to us? It is a sad but true reality. We should all beware, lest we become like this.

These are hard things to deal with. It is very hard to remain humble when this kind of rhetoric is thrown your direction. There are times when you have to call someone out as incompetent, and this is one of those times. I hope I have done my best to remain humble, and to honestly present God’s truth with patience, hoping that God might grant these heretics repentance, leading to the knowledge of the truth [2 Timothy 2:25].

*As a addendum, I should make clear, I am not saying that these scholars that Peoples is citing are incompetent. I don’t know what there arguments are or would be, and would be interested in how they would argue for a passive and against a stative in these examples. However, Peoples’ arguments are clearly incompetent, and that is the main point of my post.

Annihilation and Hermeneutics Part II

June 12, 2013

To begin this second piece, I would like to look at an argument put forward by Chris Date over at Rethinking Hell. I know it is odd starting with part 2 of a two part article, but there is a method to my madness, which will become quite apparent as I go through these articles. The issue has to do with this verse, which Jesus quotes in the NT in regards to hell:

Isaiah 66:24 “Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

The issue has to do with the second phrase “And their fire will not be quenched.” It poses a problem for annihilationists, since, if the fire is not quenched, it obviously must be eternal. However, Date presents an argument that he believes refutes this interpretation. First, he points out that the word “quenched” is semantically ambiguous:

This line of reasoning, however, is based on a very peculiar definition of the word quenched. As illustrated by Donnelly’s words above, traditionalists understand quenched in this passage to mean “went out.” Yet that is not how the word is typically used. When we speak of quenching things, such as a thirst, we are talking about extinguishing it. When firefighters are called upon to quench a house fire, they don’t typically arrive on the scene only to stand idly by and watch a family’s home burn to the ground; even if it were unquenchable, it would still go out naturally after it consumes its fuel. One might, in fact, be forgiven for doubting that traditionalists ever use quench to mean “die out” in any other context besides Scripture.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the English word primarily as, whether literally or figuratively, “to put out or extinguish the fire or flame of (something that burns or gives light).”4 Other definitions include “to put out, extinguish, douse,” “to destroy the sight of (an eye); to blind,” “to oppress, crush; to kill, destroy,” and “to put (a person) down; to reduce to silence; to quell.” Most definitions of quench likewise carry some form of the meaning “to put an end to.” Only a tiny handful of its many definitions connote something like “to go out.” (And those meanings are rare or obsolete.)

After pointing out the semantic ambiguity, Date then goes on to argue that there is an ambiguity in the Hebrew word as well:

Still, though very rare, this use of the English word quench does exist. The same appears to be true in the original biblical languages. The Hebrew and Greek words translated quench primarily mean something like “to extinguish,” but they are capable of being used to mean “to go out.” For example, Proverbs 26:20 reads, “For lack of wood the fire goes out [kabah]. And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” Matthew 25:8 reads, “The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out [sbennymi]’.” So which meaning, then, is intended in Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:48 and similar texts?

Then Date gives a survey of these usages:

In some texts where kabah connects to ordinary fire the Hebrew word, our English quench, might mean something like “die out.” Aside from Proverbs 26:20, it’s used twice in Leviticus 6:12-13 to say, “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out.” 1 Samuel 3:3 says, “The lamp of God had not yet gone out.” Proverbs 31:18 says of a good wife that “her lamp does not go out at night.” Although it could be argued to mean “put out” in these texts, the consensus among major translations might be reason enough to concede that it can occasionally mean “die out.”

In other places, on the other hand, and in a variety of contexts, kabah takes “put out” as its primary meaning. A widow tells the king that she fears the execution of her only remaining son and his heir, that in so doing “they will extinguish my coal which is left, so as to leave my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth” (2 Samuel 14:7). When David wearies in battle, risking being killed by a Philistine, his men swore to him, saying, “You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish the lamp of Israel” (2 Samuel 21:17). God promises to “extinguish” Pharaoh in Ezekiel 32:7. Hezekiah tells the priests and Levites in 2 Chronicles 29:6-7 that “our fathers have been unfaithful and have … put out the lamps.” Additional uses like this include Song of Solomon 8:7 and Isaiah 43:17.

Date then argues that the consensus of translations should tell us that we should avoid the meaning “to go out” here in Isaiah 66:24:

It is interesting to note at this point that the aforementioned consensus among translators—which might prompt one to concede that kabah can occasionally mean “go out”—is the same consensus which therefore ought to prompt traditionalists to concede that it does not carry that meaning in Isaiah 66:24. Major translations almost universally render it something like “go out” when it is believed to be used in that way, such as in Proverbs 26:20, otherwise translating it “put out,” “extinguish,” or “quench.” With few exceptions, the vast majority of these translations render kabah in Isaiah 66:24 as “put out,” “extinguished,” or “quenched.” Their consensus suggests the word carries its primary meaning there.

Date then presents his argument as to how we should understand Isaiah 66:24:

It is the remaining uses of kabah which are most useful for determining whether or not the consensus among most major translations of Isaiah 66:24 is correct, for their contexts are similar: the fiery, inextinguishable wrath of God. In Ezekiel 20:47-48, God tells Ezekiel to say,

47 … Behold, I am about to kindle a fire in you, and it will consume every green tree in you, as well as every dry tree; the blazing flame will not be quenched and the whole surface from south to north will be burned by it. 48 All flesh will see that I, the Lord, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.

The meaning of kabah in this text is clearly “put out.” Whether to be taken literally or not, although the fire “will not be quenched,” it is clear that the trees which fuel the fire will not burn eternally, for the fire will “consume” (‘akal) them. When the word translated “consume” describes what fire does, it means completely burn up. Hence the text of Exodus 3:2 uses it to say that although Moses saw that “the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed [‘akal].” The bush, though burning, was not burned up completely; but the green and dry trees would be, by the unquenchable fire of God.

Similarly, Jeremiah 17:27 reads, “If you do not listen to me … I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour [‘akal] the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched [kabah].” God did not threaten that the buildings of Jerusalem would burn perpetually forever, but that, unable to be extinguished, his fire would reduce them to rubble. Amos 5:6 likewise says, “He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it will consume [‘akal] with none to quench it [kabah].”

Even traditionalists often recognize that in these texts and others, in which the fire of God is not able to be quenched, it does not mean the object of God’s wrath will burn forever, but that the fire will burn unabated until its intended destruction is complete. John Gill, for example, writes of Ezekiel 20:47-48 that it refers to “either the succession of these calamities one after another; or the force and strength of them, which should not be abated until the ruin of the city was completed … no stop put to it by all the art and power of man” (emphasis mine).56 Commenting on Jeremiah 17:27 Gill wrote that the fire would not be quenched “until it has utterly destroyed the city: this was fulfilled by the Chaldeans” (emphasis mine).7 And of Amos 5:6 he wrote, “His wrath and fury break out like fire as the Targum, by sending an enemy to invade the land, destroy it … [they] would not be able to avert the stroke of divine vengeance, or turn back the enemy, and save the land from ruin.”8

God’s burning wrath which wouldn’t be quenched, prophesied in 2 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 34:25, found its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in the subsequent chapters of both books. Still other examples could be brought to bear, but from all of these it’s evident that the unquenchable fire of Isaiah 66:24 need not refer to a fire which burns forever because its fuel is never fully consumed, but can instead—and likely does, given these parallels—refer to a fire which cannot be extinguished prematurely before it completely consumes the wicked. And since the worm that won’t be prevented by death from fully consuming the wicked is the parallel to the unquenchable fire, we have every reason to believe that’s what the fire likewise does.

Now, having gone through Date’s argument, there are a number of things to say in criticism. First, I am concerned about the oversimplification of doing a word study on a verb in a Semitic language without reference to the stems. The Hebrew verb כבה occurs in the G stem [Qal stem], and the D stem [Piel stem]. Stems can change the meaning of the verb. For example, the Hebrew verb קום in the Qal stem means “to rise,” while it means “to erect” in the Piel stem. Stems of verbs are crucial to establishing the meaning of a verb. Date’s argument does not take that into account, and I believe that not doing so is fatal to his position.

Secondly, in terms of meaning, when we are dealing with verbs we must also take into account the notion of theta roles. Valency is crucial when you are dealing with word studies across stems, because the theta roles of a verb can change with a change in stem. For example, רום [to be high up] in the Qal stem is monovalent, requiring only one argument, a theme. However, in the hiphil stem [to lift up], the verb requires two arguments, an agent and a theme. To put it another way, the phrase, “I lifted up” is incomplete, requiring an theme to complete its meaning [I lifted up the vase], but the phrase “I am high up” is complete in and of itself.

The importance of theta roles, for our purposes, is that it provides a semantic distinction between “to go out” and “to put out.” To put out requires two theta roles, and agent and an experiencer. The phrase “I put out” makes no sense, because it is missing the experiencer [I put the fire out]. However, the phrase, “the fire goes out” is complete in and of itself, requiring only an experiencer to complete the meaning. We can also distinguish between these meanings by the fact that what is going out [the experiencer] is the subject of the verb “to go out,” and it is the direct object of the verb “to put out.” Hence, the case of the surrounding words is going to be crucial to determining the meaning of the verb in a given passage.

One might object at this point that I have left out the meaning “to be put out.” The reason why I have done so is because that is a passive verb. כבה is only found in the Qal and Piel stems in the Hebrew Bible, and the Qal and Piel stems are active stems, not passive stems. Now, I should say, there is such a thing as a “Qal Passive,” but the Masorites usually pointed it as either a Pual or a Hophal [see the form of לקח at Genesis 2:23]. Hence, in the MT, whenever the Qal pointing is used, it is dealing with a “Qal active,” and that is the only form found for כבה. Also, normally one postulates a Qal passive when you find no Piel, Hiphil, Pual, or Hophal form, and yet, you find a Piel form of כבה used in the MT. Because כבה occurs in the Piel, it does have an attested Piel form, and hence, even if we were to find an instance of כבה pointed as a Pual, it would be taken as a Pual, and not a Qal passive. One other argument against this notion will be presented at the end of this paper. Hence, although “to be put out” has one theta role, it does not fit with the stems that are used. This is another reason why not distinguishing between the stems is so problematic.

Let us begin by examining the instances of כבה in Isaiah, since that is the author of our target text. We begin with Isaiah 1:31:

וְהָיָ֤ה הֶחָסֹן֙ לִנְעֹ֔רֶת וּפֹעֲל֖וֹ לְנִיצ֑וֹץ וּבָעֲר֧וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֛ם יַחְדָּ֖ו וְאֵ֥ין מְכַבֶּֽה׃

In this text, מְכַבֶּֽה is a piel stem. It is a participle, probably substantive in character, meaning something like “there is not one who quenches.” “There is not one going out” would make no sense here. Now, as to the meaning of the term, remember that the subject is important here. What precisely is going out? It certainly isn’t the person doing the quenching! The direct object here is provided by conversational implicature, in this case the direct object being הֶחָסֹן implied from the first clause. The idea would then be “There is no one to extinguish the strong one.” If this is the case, then there is an agent and an experiencer, and this would be a clear instance where כבה means “to put out.”

The next instance of this term in Isaiah is at 34:10. Here is verses 9-10 for the context:

וְנֶהֶפְכ֤וּ נְחָלֶ֙יהָ֙ לְזֶ֔פֶת וַעֲפָרָ֖הּ לְגָפְרִ֑ית וְהָיְתָ֣ה אַרְצָ֔הּ לְזֶ֖פֶת בֹּעֵרָֽה׃
לַ֤יְלָה וְיוֹמָם֙ לֹ֣א תִכְבֶּ֔ה לְעוֹלָ֖ם יַעֲלֶ֣ה עֲשָׁנָ֑הּ מִדּ֤וֹר לָדוֹר֙ תֶּחֱרָ֔ב לְנֵ֣צַח נְצָחִ֔ים אֵ֥ין עֹבֵ֖ר בָּֽהּ׃

In this verse, תִכְבֶּ֔ה is a Qal stem. Notice, though, we only have a subject, with no direct object. The subject appears to be the זֶ֖פֶת בֹּעֵרָֽה from the previous verse, since תִכְבֶּ֔ה is feminine. However, if that is the case, then what what is going out would then be the subject, meaning that it is impossible for this verb to mean “to put out.”

The next instance of this term in Isaiah is at 42:3:

‏קָנֶ֤ה רָצוּץ֙ לֹ֣א יִשְׁבּ֔וֹר וּפִשְׁתָּ֥ה כֵהָ֖ה לֹ֣א יְכַבֶּ֑נָּה לֶאֱמֶ֖ת יוֹצִ֥יא מִשְׁפָּֽט׃

Clearly, since יְכַבֶּ֑נָּה has a pronominal suffix, the verb is at least transitive. It is interesting that, just like the last example of a transitive verb we looked at, not only is the object being burned found in the accusative case, [the antecedent of the suffix pronoun being פִשְׁתָּ֥ה כֵהָ֖ה], but it is also the experiencer, whereas the 3ms pronoun in the morphology of the verb is the agent. However, this is a Piel stem, which is what we find in Isaiah 1:31. Hence, we have two Piel stems which mean “to put out,” and one Qal stem which means “to go out.”

The next instance of this term in Isaiah is at 43:17:

הַמּוֹצִ֥יא רֶֽכֶב־וָס֖וּס חַ֣יִל וְעִזּ֑וּז יַחְדָּ֤ו יִשְׁכְּבוּ֙ בַּל־יָק֔וּמוּ דָּעֲכ֖וּ כַּפִּשְׁתָּ֥ה כָבֽוּ׃

Again, let us consider the subject of the verb, and whether it is the thing which is going out. The army is being compared to flax, and therefore, it is the flax that is being burned, and thus, the subject of the verb here. However, again, if the verb has a subject, and that subject is the experiencer, then the verb must mean “to go out” and not “to put out.” However, this is a Qal stem.

So, now we can make a summary of these four instances in Isaiah. Whenever you have a Qal stem, it always means “to go out,” and whenever you have a Piel stem, it always means “to extinguish.” While this is not enough to establish a pattern because of the paucity of examples, keep that in mind as we go through these instances.

Now that we have discussed Isaiah, let us go through the rest of the prophets, so that we can get a more general sense for how this term is used in the prophets. The first instance of this word in the prophets outside of Isaiah is at Jeremiah 4:4:

‏הִמֹּ֣לוּ לַיהוָֹ֗ה וְהָסִ֙רוּ֙ עָרְל֣וֹת לְבַבְכֶ֔ם אִ֥ישׁ יְהוּדָ֖ה וְיֹשְׁבֵ֣י יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם פֶּן־תֵּצֵ֨א כָאֵ֜שׁ חֲמָתִ֗י וּבָעֲרָה֙ וְאֵ֣ין מְכַבֶּ֔ה מִפְּנֵ֖י רֹ֥עַ מַעַלְלֵיכֶֽם׃

No surprises here. It is a participle functioning very much like Isaiah 1:31. Like Isaiah 1:31 it is substantival, and, most probably, the direct object is understood to be חֲמָתִ֗י. Also, the thing going out is the experiencer, and it is the direct object, again showing that we are right in taking the meaning “to extinguish” here. However, this is, like Isaiah 1:31, a Piel stem.

The next instance of this word in Jeremiah is Jeremiah 7:20:

‏לָכֵ֞ן כֹּה־אָמַ֣ר׀ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִֹ֗ה הִנֵּ֨ה אַפִּ֤י וַֽחֲמָתִי֙ נִתֶּ֙כֶת֙ אֶל־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה עַל־הָֽאָדָם֙ וְעַל־הַבְּהֵמָ֔ה וְעַל־עֵ֥ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה וְעַל־פְּרִ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וּבָעֲרָ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, we must find the subject. The subject of תִכְבֶּֽה is clearly חֲמָתִ, especially since it is mentioned as “burning” in the previous clause. Because the experiencer is the subject of the verb, that is, it the wrath is what is not going out, then the verb can only mean “to go out.” However, this is a Qal stem. Again, our pattern theta roles and the valency of these verbs in different stems is holding. If it is a Qal stem, it is monovalent, and thus means “to go out.” If it is a Piel stem, it is bivalent, and means “to extinguish.” That pattern is still holding up in Jeremiah.

The next instance in Jeremiah is at 17:27:

וְאִם־לֹ֨א תִשְׁמְע֜וּ אֵלַ֗י לְקַדֵּשׁ֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת וּלְבִלְתִּ֣י׀ שְׂאֵ֣ת מַשָּׂ֗א וּבֹ֛א בְּשַׁעֲרֵ֥י יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם בְּי֣וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת וְהִצַּ֧תִּי אֵ֣שׁ בִּשְׁעָרֶ֗יהָ וְאָֽכְלָ֛ה אַרְמְנ֥וֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם וְלֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, our first step is “find the subject.” In this case, we look at the gender and number of the verb, and it is feminine singular. The feminine singular noun, in this instance which best serves as the subject is אֵ֣שׁ. Is the fire putting something out, or is the fire going out? Clearly, it is the latter. If that is the case, then clearly, what is going out is the subject, and the experiencer of the verb. However, again, this is a Qal stem. Thus, our pattern is still holding with one more instance to go in Jeremiah, that being Jeremiah 21:12:

בֵּ֣ית דָּוִ֗ד כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה דִּ֤ינוּ לַבֹּ֙קֶר֙ מִשְׁפָּ֔ט וְהַצִּ֥ילוּ גָז֖וּל מִיַּ֣ד עוֹשֵׁ֑ק פֶּן־תֵּצֵ֨א כָאֵ֜שׁ חֲמָתִ֗י וּבָעֲרָה֙ וְאֵ֣ין מְכַבֶּ֔ה מִפְּנֵ֖י רֹ֥עַ מעלליהם מַעַלְלֵיכֶֽם׃

Again, this structure is much like Jeremiah 4:4 and Isaiah 1:31. Again, the wrath of the Lord is kindled, and there is no one to put it out. The same analysis from 4:4 and Isaiah 1:31 would then apply here as well. However, what is interesting is that this is a Piel stem, just like Jeremiah 4:4 and Isaiah 1:31. Hence, our pattern holds through the book of Jeremiah. Whenever you have a Qal stem, the verb is monovalent, and means something like “to go out,” and whenever you have a Piel stem, it is bivalent meaning something like “to extinguish.”

Now, let us move on to the prophet Ezekiel who uses the term three times. The first is in 21:3:

וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֙ לְיַ֣עַר הַנֶּ֔גֶב שְׁמַ֖ע דְּבַר־יְהוָ֑ה כֹּֽה־אָמַ֣ר אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֡ה הִנְנִ֣י מַֽצִּית־בְּךָ֣׀ אֵ֡שׁ וְאָכְלָ֣ה בְךָ֣ כָל־עֵֽץ־לַח֩ וְכָל־עֵ֨ץ יָבֵ֤שׁ לֹֽא־תִכְבֶּה֙ לַהֶ֣בֶת שַׁלְהֶ֔בֶת וְנִצְרְבוּ־בָ֥הּ כָּל־פָּנִ֖ים מִנֶּ֥גֶב צָפֽוֹנָה׃

Again, our first step is to find the subject. Again, it is feminine and singular, and the word directly after it, לַהֶ֣בֶת, fits the bill perfectly. Now, again, what is going out would be the subject, and hence, the experiencer of the verb. All of these facts fit with the notion that the verb means “to go out.” However, this is a Qal stem, so our pattern is still holding.

The next example in Ezekiel is in the next verse 21:4:

וְרָאוּ֙ כָּל־בָּשָׂ֔ר כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה בִּֽעַרְתִּ֑יהָ לֹ֖א תִּכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, we must find the subject. The subject appears to go back to the verse above, and is the same as the subject of כבה in the verse above, namely, לַהֶ֣בֶת. However, if that is the case, then the exact same analysis would apply to this passage as it would to 21:3. However, again we have a Qal stem, and thus, the pattern is still holding.

The next example is Ezekiel 32:7:

‏וְכִסֵּיתִ֤י בְכַבּֽוֹתְךָ֙ שָׁמַ֔יִם וְהִקְדַּרְתִּ֖י אֶת־כֹּֽכְבֵיהֶ֑ם שֶׁ֚מֶשׁ בֶּעָנָ֣ן אֲכַסֶּ֔נּוּ וְיָרֵ֖חַ לֹא־יָאִ֥יר אוֹרֽוֹ׃

Here we have a twist, and that is the infinitive construct preceded by the Bet preposition with the 2ms pronominal suffix. With this pronominal suffix, we are certain as to what the subject is: the pronoun “you.” The problem is, it doesn’t make any sense in the context. Earlier, as we have seen, God can use metaphors of fire in regards to his wrath, or the object which is kindled will allow for the assignment of the definition “to go out.” However, no such context exists at this point. However, as we have seen, “When you extinguish” is incomplete in its meaning. There is no easy answer to this problem. The Targum has באכהיותי which may introduce a confusion between a Kaph and a Yod, which would then mean that the “you” is a copy error for “I” [When I put [you] out…]. That is difficult on two grounds. First, the confusion of a Kaph and a Yod is something I would say is rare. More than that, the Targums are notorious for interpretation. Someone rightly called them “The Living Bible of ancient Judaism.” Is this yod an interpretation or a reflection of the original text? Nevertheless, with all of these questions, most translations I examined seem to follow the Targum. Finally, the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia wants to repoint it to a Qal, but, aside from the contextual difficulties, unless you have a good reason, it is not good to change vowel pointing too much. There are no easy answers to this question. Hence, given the text critical problems with this verse, it is grossly unwise for anyone to use it in support of anything.

The final prophet to use כבה is Amos in 5:6:

‏דִּרְשׁ֥וּ אֶת־יְהוָ֖ה וִֽחְי֑וּ פֶּן־יִצְלַ֤ח כָּאֵשׁ֙ בֵּ֣ית יוֹסֵ֔ף וְאָכְלָ֥ה וְאֵין־מְכַבֶּ֖ה לְבֵֽית־אֵֽל׃

This is like Isaiah 1:31 and Jeremiah 4:4, and hence, I will not repeat everything I wrote there. However, again, this is a Piel stem. So, our pattern still holds.

Hence, to summarize the data from the prophets, aside from Ezekiel 32:7 which poses exegetical and text critical difficulties, whenever you have a Qal stem, the verb is monovalent, requiring only an experiencer as the subject. When you have a Piel stem, the verb is bivalent, requiring two theta roles, an agent as the subject and an experiencer as the direct object. It sounds very much like the patterns we noticed earlier when we were distinguishing between the meanings “to go out” and “to extinguish.”

Now, continuing on classic distinctions in literature, we are now going to take the rest of the poetic books with two instances from the Proverbs, and one from the Song of Songs. The first is from Proverbs 26:20:

בְּאֶ֣פֶס עֵ֭צִים תִּכְבֶּה־אֵ֑שׁ וּבְאֵ֥ין נִ֝רְגָּ֗ן יִשְׁתֹּ֥ק מָדֽוֹן׃

It is fairly obvious what the subject of this verb is as the MT actually provides a maqqeph to link the verb to the subject אֵ֑שׁ. More than that, taking בְּאֶ֣פֶס עֵ֭צִים as a temporal clause, we would have another instance of a verb with one theta role, with the subject as an experiencer which goes out. Again, this is a Qal stem, so our pattern continues to hold.

The second passage from Proverbs is Proverbs 31:18:

‏טָ֭עֲמָה כִּי־ט֣וֹב סַחְרָ֑הּ לֹֽא־יִכְבֶּ֖ה בליל בַלַּ֣יְלָה נֵרָֽהּ׃

Again we must find the subject. The only possibility for the subject in the last clause is נֵרָֽהּ. Does her lamp go out, or does her lamp put something out? Clearly, it goes out. Also, there is only a subject, again perfectly fitting the pattern we used to distinguish these two terms at the beginning of this article. Also, as far as our pattern goes, this is again a Qal stem, so our pattern still holds.

We have one more passage in the poetic literature, and that is from the Song of Songs 8:7:

מַ֣יִם רַבִּ֗ים לֹ֤א יֽוּכְלוּ֙ לְכַבּ֣וֹת אֶת־הָֽאַהֲבָ֔ה וּנְהָר֖וֹת לֹ֣א יִשְׁטְפ֑וּהָ אִם־יִתֵּ֨ן אִ֜ישׁ אֶת־כָּל־ה֤וֹן בֵּיתוֹ֙ בָּאַהֲבָ֔ה בּ֖וֹז יָב֥וּזוּ לֽוֹ׃

Again, what is the subject of כבה, or, more specifically of יֽוּכְלוּ֙ לְכַבּ֣וֹת? There is, again, only one option: מַ֣יִם רַבִּ֗ים. Now, are many waters going out? No, of course not. They are putting something out, namely הָֽאַהֲבָ֔ה, as is indicated by the direct object marker. This is a Piel stem, so, again it fits our pattern.

So, if we consider all of poetic and prophetic texts in the Hebrew Bible, what we find is that, with the exception of Ezekiel 32:7, which has a text critical problem, all texts fall into this pattern of the Qal stem fitting with the meaning of “to go out” and the Piel stem fitting with the meaning of “to extinguish.”

Now, we will turn our attention to the prose texts. The first time this word is used in prose is in Leviticus 6:5:

וְהָאֵ֨שׁ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֤חַ תּֽוּקַד־בּוֹ֙ לֹ֣א תִכְבֶּ֔ה וּבִעֵ֨ר עָלֶ֧יהָ הַכֹּהֵ֛ן עֵצִ֖ים בַּבֹּ֣קֶר בַּבֹּ֑קֶר וְעָרַ֤ךְ עָלֶ֙יהָ֙ הָֽעֹלָ֔ה וְהִקְטִ֥יר עָלֶ֖יהָ חֶלְבֵ֥י הַשְּׁלָמִֽים׃

Again, we will begin by identifying the subject of כבה. There is only one possibility for that here, and that is הָאֵ֨שׁ. Now, we again ask the question as to whether הָאֵ֨שׁ is going out, or is putting something out. Clearly, fire goes out, it doesn’t put anything out. Hence, you have the subject as the experiencer, and, again, this verb is a Qal stem. Hence, our pattern still holds.

The second occurrence of this word in a prose text is in the very next verse:

אֵ֗שׁ תָּמִ֛יד תּוּקַ֥ד עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ לֹ֥א תִכְבֶֽה׃

Again, we must identify the subject of כבה. Again, there is only one choice here, and that is אֵ֗שׁ. So, again, we have the subject which is the experiencer of “going out,” and again, this verb is found in the Qal stem. Again, the pattern holds.

The next prose texts to use this word is 1 Samuel 3:3:

וְנֵ֤ר אֱלֹהִים֙ טֶ֣רֶם יִכְבֶּ֔ה וּשְׁמוּאֵ֖ל שֹׁכֵ֑ב בְּהֵיכַ֣ל יְהוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־שָׁ֖ם אֲר֥וֹן אֱלֹהִֽים׃

Again, the first step must be to find the subject of כבה. Again, there is only one option here for the subject, and that is נֵ֤ר. Again, to lamps go out, or do they put something out? Clearly, they go out. Hence, you have the experiencer of the verb “go out” as the subject, and, consistent with our pattern, this is a Qal stem. Also, this interpretation is strengthened by a possible intertextual connection between this passage and Leviticus 6:5-6, which we examined previously.

The next time this word is used in prose is in 2 Samuel 14:7:

וְהִנֵּה֩ קָ֨מָה כָֽל־הַמִּשְׁפָּחָ֜ה עַל־שִׁפְחָתֶ֗ךָ וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ תְּנִ֣י׀ אֶת־מַכֵּ֣ה אָחִ֗יו וּנְמִתֵ֙הוּ֙ בְּנֶ֤פֶשׁ אָחִיו֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָרָ֔ג וְנַשְׁמִ֖ידָה גַּ֣ם אֶת־הַיּוֹרֵ֑שׁ וְכִבּ֗וּ אֶת־גַּֽחַלְתִּי֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נִשְׁאָ֔רָה לְבִלְתִּ֧י שום־ שִׂים־ לְאִישִׁ֛י שֵׁ֥ם וּשְׁאֵרִ֖ית עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃

Again, the first step must be to find the subject of כבה. In this case, it must be a plural noun, because the verb is plural. In the main clauses, there is a switch from third person, to first person [for the quotation], and back to third person again. Hence, the verb is most likely the same as the subject of וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ and קָ֨מָה, and hence, the subject would be כָֽל־הַמִּשְׁפָּחָ֜ה. The plural verbs would then be ad sensum, and the singular verb קָ֨מָה would simply be to match the grammatical singular of כָֽל־הַמִּשְׁפָּחָ֜ה. Again, we must ask the question. Do clans put things like fire out, or are they put out? Clearly, since they are humans, they put things out, and hence, the subject puts something out. Also, there is a direct object which functions as the experiencer which is put out, גַּֽחַלְתִּי. And, again, consistent with our pattern, this is a Piel stem.

The next time this word is used in prose is 2 Samuel 21:17:

וַיַּֽעֲזָר־לוֹ֙ אֲבִישַׁ֣י בֶּן־צְרוּיָ֔ה וַיַּ֥ךְ אֶת־הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֖י וַיְמִיתֵ֑הוּ אָ֣ז נִשְׁבְּעוּ֩ אַנְשֵׁי־דָוִ֨ד ל֜וֹ לֵאמֹ֗ר לֹא־תֵצֵ֨א ע֤וֹד אִתָּ֙נוּ֙ לַמִּלְחָמָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א תְכַבֶּ֖ה אֶת־נֵ֥ר יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Again, the first step must be to find the subject of כבה. In this case, it is easy since the verb itself gives the subject-the second person singular pronoun “you.” So, does a person put something out, or does a person go out? Well, it could be either [in the sense of a person dying], but most of the time, a person puts something out. And, consistent with this interpretation, we have a direct object נֵ֥ר יִשְׂרָאֵֽל marked with the direct object marker אֶת, and lamps most certainly do go out! Hence, the subject is the agent of the verb “to put out.” And, consistent with our pattern, this is a Piel stem.

The next instance of this term in prose is 2 Kings 22:17:

‏תַּ֣חַת׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עֲזָב֗וּנִי וַֽיְקַטְּרוּ֙ לֵאלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֔ים לְמַ֙עַן֙ הַכְעִיסֵ֔נִי בְּכֹ֖ל מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה יְדֵיהֶ֑ם וְנִצְּתָ֧ה חֲמָתִ֛י בַּמָּק֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, the first step is to find the subject of כבה. Again, there is only one option for the subject, and that is חֲמָתִ֛י. Does wrath, with fire being used as a metaphor for it, go out, or does it put something out? Quite clearly, it goes out. Hence, we have the experiencer of the verb “to go out” as the subject. Also, consistent with our pattern, this is a Qal stem.

The next instance of this term in prose is 2 Chronicles 29:7:

‏גַּ֣ם סָֽגְר֞וּ דַּלְת֣וֹת הָאוּלָ֗ם וַיְכַבּוּ֙ אֶת־הַנֵּר֔וֹת וּקְטֹ֖רֶת לֹ֣א הִקְטִ֑ירוּ וְעֹלָה֙ לֹא־הֶעֱל֣וּ בַקֹּ֔דֶשׁ לֵאלֹהֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Again, the first step is to find the subject of כבה. Again, we have a third person plural verb following another third person plural verb, probably going back to the אֲבֹתֵ֗ינוּ in the previous verse. Do forefathers put something out, or do they go out? Again, could be either, but we again have help from the context as we have a direct object, הַנֵּר֔וֹת. In this case, the verb has two theta roles, which makes it totally incompatible with the meaning “to go out” which only has one. And, consistent with this interpretation, it is much more likely for Hezekiah to be concerned about the people not burning the lamps rather than the fact that people are dying, since the concern in the context is the neglect of the law. And consistent with our pattern, we have a Piel stem.

The only instance of this term left to consider in prose and in the Hebrew Bible as a whole is 2 Chronicles 34:25:

‏תַּ֣חַת׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עֲזָב֗וּנִי ויקטירו וַֽיְקַטְּרוּ֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֔ים לְמַ֙עַן֙ הַכְעִיסֵ֔נִי בְּכֹ֖ל מַעֲשֵׂ֣י יְדֵיהֶ֑ם וְתִתַּ֧ךְ חֲמָתִ֛י בַּמָּק֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה׃

Again, the first step is to find the subject of כבה. Again, the only real option comes from the previous clause, and it is a word commonly used as the subject of כבה, and that is חֲמָתִ֛י. Again, does anger go out, or does it put something out? Also, remember, if the word means “to put something out,” the lack of a direct object makes no sense “my wrath will not put out.” “Not put out what?” is the immediate question. The sentence is totally incomplete. Hence, with as the subject as the experiencer of a verb that is monovalent, the only option is to see this word as meaning “to go out, and indeed, consistent with our pattern, this is a Qal stem.

So, now we have examined all instances of כבה in the Hebrew Bible. There is a clear, strong pattern here, and that is that whenever the subject of כבה is something that goes out [the subject is the agent of the verb], the verb only requires one theta role [an experiencer], and is in the Qal stem. However, when the subject *puts* something out, the experiencer of the verb is an accusative [i.e., is the direct object], and the verb is bivalent, and is found in the Piel stem. With the exception of Ezekiel 32:7 which is a text critical problem, this holds throughout the Hebrew Bible. The conclusion then would be that Qal stem means “to go out” and the Piel stem means “to extinguish.”

This conclusion is actually consistent with the relationship Hebrew grammarians are finding between the Qal stem and the Piel stem. For example, Bruce Waltke and Michael O’Connor in their advanced Hebrew grammar discuss the work of E. Jenni who used Albrecht Goetze’s work on the Akkadian D stem to discuss the relationship between the Qal and the Piel. They write:

Jenni begins his study by turning away from the venerable tradition behind Arabic and Hebrew grammars, looking instead to recent developments in Akkadian grammar, where Goetze established a close connection between the stative meaning of the G stem (~ Hebrew Qal) and the D stem. According to Goetze, the Akkadian D stem does not modify the verbal root, as is the case with the Akkadian sè and N stems (~ Hebrew Hiphil and Niphal). Rather, the D stem is to be associated with the adjectival use of the G stem. Among the finite forms of the Akkadian, five are important (the examples are from the root paraÒsu ‘to separate, cut’): present iparras ‘he is cutting,’ perfect iptaras ‘he has cut,’ preterite iprus ‘he cut,’ imperative purus ‘cut!’, and permansive or stative parts ‘he is cut.’9 The last of these is relevant here; the Akkadian permansive or stative verb form should not be confused with the class of stative verbs, that is, verbs which refer to a state or quality (22.2.1). The Akkadian permansive form is used when the subject has a quality or has undergone an action associated with the root. (In the latter case the form is rendered as a passive.) Goetze’s proposal associates the G stem permansive arik fit is long’ with the D stem urrukam ‘to make (to be) long.’ Wolfram von Soden, in his standard grammar of Akkadian, follows Goetze in describing the stem: “The chief function of the D stem is factitive, that is, it expresses above all the bringing about of a situation which would be designated by the permansive of the G stem, … (e.g., damiq ‘he is good’: dummuqum ‘to make good’; balit ‘he is alive’: bullutum ‘to make (to be) living, keep alive’; salim ‘he is friendly’: sullumum’to make (to be) friendly, reconcile’).”10 Thus, in von Soden’s grammar, the “intensive” concept is not used to explain the D stem.
[Waltke, Bruce K. O’Connor, Michael. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax Eisenbrauns Publications. Winona Lake, Indiana. 1990. p. 398]

Likewise, in discussing the meaning of the Piel in relation to Jenni’s work, they write:

He [Jenni] begins by insisting that each of the various stems in Hebrew is morphologically unified both in form and semantic function. Each functions in distinctive opposition to the other stems in the system. The meaning of the Piel stem is neither intensive nor causative (in the sense that it is practically equivalent in meaning to the Hiphil). Rather, it expresses the bringing about of a state. With Qal intransitive verbs the Piel is factitive: it designates without regard to the process the bringing about of the state depicted by an adjective. The object experiences this action as an “accident” (a philosophical term signifying that a quality or situation is not essential to the person or thing in question). The difference between a true factitive meaning and a declarative-estimative meaning consists in whether the effected state, described in terms of an adjective, is experienced externally (by the senses) or subjectively (in the mind). With Qal transitive verbs the Piel is resultative: it designates the bringing about of the outcome of the action designated by the base root, which action can be expressed in terms of an adjective, and without regard to the actual process of the event. The species of the resultative (metaphorical meaning, indirect action, summarizing successive action with plural objects, etc.) are to be understood in contrast to the actual action, which is presented by the base root. Denominative verbs in the Piel have either a factitive or resultative meaning. More specifically, the denominative expresses itself in terms of productive, or successive iterative, or privative verbal meanings, rather than in terms of an actual event or a causative meaning.

The Piel is associated with causation: the Piel causes a state rather than an action (as the Hiphil, for which we reserve the term causative, does). Since the object of causation is in a state of suffering the effects of an action, it is inherently passive in part. Both these features, emphasized earlier (21.2.2), comport well with Jenni’s analysis and continue that scholar’s basic project of discovering the “living” unity of the stem system. [ibid. pgs.399-400 Brackets mine]

In other words, if the Qal stem of כבה means “to go out,” then the Piel stem of כבה will mean “to cause to come into a state of going out,” or, more simply, “to put out.” What is interesting is that Waltke and O’Connor also mention examples of verbs for which we have no Qal or G stem in Hebrew, but we do in other languages. For example, in Hebrew, the verb גלח [to shave] only occurs in the Piel or D stem. However, in Arabic, you do have a G stem of this root [jaliḥa] which means “to be bald,” again consistent with the meaning “to bring about a state of being bald.”

You will likewise find this usage mentioned in Jouon/Muraoka’s grammar, although they do not believe Waltke, O’Connor, or Jenni have successfully distinguished the Piel from the Hiphil, another causative stem bringing about actions rather than states, and still believe that our knowledge of the relationship between the Qal and the Piel is still incomplete [Jouon, Paul. Muraoka, T. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew Two volumes. Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico. Roma, Italia. 2005 §52d]. While all of that may be true, our semantic analysis has demonstrated that it works for כבה, and, at very least, is consistent with way in which modern Hebrew scholarship is heading in regards to the relationship between the Qal and the Piel.

This also explains why any passive meaning “to be put out” is irrelevant to Isaiah 66:24. If “to be put out” were the meaning in Isaiah 66:24, then, on the basis of our study, you would expect to see a Pual stem, the passive stem of the Piel. For this, and many other reasons, I conclude that Date’s word study of כבה and its application to Isaiah 66:24 is in error.

Hence, we can now go back to Date’s article, and view his examples with new eyes. For example, he writes:

In other places, on the other hand, and in a variety of contexts, kabah takes “put out” as its primary meaning. A widow tells the king that she fears the execution of her only remaining son and his heir, that in so doing “they will extinguish my coal which is left, so as to leave my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth” (2 Samuel 14:7). When David wearies in battle, risking being killed by a Philistine, his men swore to him, saying, “You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish the lamp of Israel” (2 Samuel 21:17). God promises to “extinguish” Pharaoh in Ezekiel 32:7. Hezekiah tells the priests and Levites in 2 Chronicles 29:6-7 that “our fathers have been unfaithful and have … put out the lamps.” Additional uses like this include Song of Solomon 8:7 and Isaiah 43:17.

The problem is that every text on this list is in the Piel stem, except Isaiah 43:17, and even that doesn’t need to be taken as extinguish, as we have seen above.

Also, we can now deal with Chris Date’s use of the Septuagint as well. He writes:

Besides Matthew 25:8 where it may mean “die out,” and besides Mark 9:48 (because it is the verse in question), everywhere sbennymi (quench) is used in the New Testament it means “put out.”9 As we’ve seen, the best understanding of Isaiah 66:24 is that it likewise refers to a fire which, being inextinguishable, completely consumes. Lacking any indication that the meaning is being changed, it means the same thing when cited by Jesus in Mark 9:48. But what about the “unquenchable” (asbestos) fire in verse 43 and other texts?

The problem with Date’s argument here is that the verb in Matthew 25:8 and Mark 9:48 are the only examples of συβεννυμι that I can find that are middle/passive or passive forms in the NT. The real possibility exists then that, when we are dealing with these present tense middle/passive forms in Matthew 25:8 and Mark 9:48, the verb is to be understood as a middle [i.e., “the fire does not go out on its own accord”]. If these verbs are understood as a middle, it would likewise confirm all of our analysis of the Qal stem of כבה as well.

There is one more thing to clean up from Date’s article, and that is the objection that is summed up in this quote:

Similarly, Jeremiah 17:27 reads, “If you do not listen to me … I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour [‘akal] the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched [kabah].” God did not threaten that the buildings of Jerusalem would burn perpetually forever, but that, unable to be extinguished, his fire would reduce them to rubble. Amos 5:6 likewise says, “He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it will consume [‘akal] with none to quench it [kabah].”

In other words, Date’s objection is, if you say that “the fire/wrath will not go out” is the proper interpretation of both Jeremiah 17:27 and Isaiah 66:24, why do you say that the one verse is eternal fire and the other is not? This also relates to part 1 of Chris Date’s article in this series, and that is why I have chosen to address both part one of Date’s series as well as the above argument in the next post. In order to answer this argument from Date, we must discuss another aspect of meaning, that being pragmatics, and the notion of an intrusion of pragmatics into the semantic level of language. That will be the topic of our next post.

Annihilation and Hermeneutics Part I

June 5, 2013

Over on TurretinFan’s blog, I have run into a group of people who call themselves “annihilationists.” When I studied eschatology at TEDS, we studied the viewpoint, but didn’t give it much time. However, what I have found is that there is an entire website> now devoted to “evangelical conditionalism,” and entire books by men such as Edward Fudge. What is most disconcerting to me, as I have interacted with these folks, is that, although they seem to be very sincere, they tend to be “Rethinking Hell” in a very uncritical, and sometimes very careless manner.

The purpose of this post and subsequent posts in this series is to address a couple of aspects of the hermeneutics of this movement. The first is the notion of “destruction” as it is used of the human soul, and the rest, of course, is going to involve my specialty, and that is Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew.

There are many texts which Annihilationists use which involve the word “destruction.” Here is a sampling of arguments from the Rethinking Hell website:

However, once we apply such limiting criteria, what we immediately find is that the range of meaning that was present in the entire apoleia word group is now filtered out entirely, and one clear emphasis of meaning remains. This is because in every single instance of the word apollumi where these criteria are met – The example is in the Synoptic Gospels, the active voice is used and the word clearly refers to the actions of one person or agent against another, the term apollumi – setting aside Matthew 10:28 – always refers to the literal killing of a person, with not a single exception. I will list just seven representative examples, but the reader is encouraged to check this for themselves:

In Matthew 2:13, Herod wants to kill the baby Jesus.

In Matthew 12:14 the Pharisees conspired together about how they might kill Jesus.

In Matthew 21:41 (story of the wicked tenants) the vineyard owner kills the wicked tenants.

In Matthew 27:20, the elders and chief priests urge the people to have Barabbas released and Jesus killed.

In Mark 3:6, the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus.

In Mark 9:22, the parents of a boy with an unclean spirit tell Jesus that the spirit often throws the boy into water or into a fire, trying to kill him.

In Luke 6:9, Jesus asks if it is lawful on the Sabbath to save life or kill.

In each and every other instance where all these criteria are met, the meaning is the same. There literally is no semantic range in these cases. Some claims in biblical interpretation are matters of opinion and open to question, but this is not one of them. [The meaning of “apollumi” in the Synoptic Gospels]

Other passages that mention the “destruction” of the resurrected body and soul are similarly brought up, and treated in much the same way, being compared to passages which speak of the destruction of a city or a physical object.The main problem with this line of argumentation is the assumption of a one to one relationship between the destruction of earthly, physical things such as a human body, or a city, and the destruction of the non-physical soul and resurrected body, as if the two are exactly alike. For example, in the first quotation, the author cites the destruction of physical human bodies here on earth, and physical human bodies alone, but then wants to apply it to the human soul and the resurrected body. In other words, even if the two are in totally different context, you can import the entire meaning of the phrase back into a discussion of the resurrected body and the soul. Hence, words like “kill” and “destruction” are brought up in the context of the punishment of things here on earth, and applied with the same meaning in the context of eternal punishment and the resurrected body and soul in eternity.

The reason why this is problematic is because of the medieval discussion of predication of speech about God. I suppose a few words about this debate might be helpful, before we move into more recent observations about natural language based upon that debate which will demonstrate exactly how this is relevant to this argument for annihilationism. The debate really begins with Maimonides, the great Jewish scholar. Maimonides argued that God is so far above us, that we really cannot say that we know any positive statements about God. All we can really say is what God is not. For example, rather than saying that God is holy, we say that he is not evil. Rather than say that he is loving, we say that he is not hateful. Rather than say that God is powerful, we say that he is not impotent. This line of thinking actually became very popular, and would later come to be known as apophatic theology. As far as I know, within the Greek Orthodox church, there are many who subscribe to apophaticism.

Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, takes up Maimonides’ argument, and points out something that is apparent to any logician examining the argument, and that is that the double negation of a proposition is really the assertion of the truth of that proposition. For example, if I say that it is not the case that it is not raining tonight, then I am asserting that it is raining tonight. Hence, Aquinas rejects Maimonides’ argument, but does state that we have to be careful about predication of our language to God. He points out that we must not understand our use of language about God to be univocal or equivocal language, but that our language about God must have similarities as well as differences to how it is used in ordinary contexts. For example, when we say that God is good, it is similar, but different to saying that John down the street is good. When we speak of a human judge as being just, it is similar, but different to saying that God is just. The crucial element of Aquinas’ view of the predication of language to God is that it is analogous with how we use our language in other contexts.

James F. Ross, in the 1970’s, takes up this controversy again, this time in the context of reworking the quickly failing arguments of logical positivism. In this context, the concern is, if we speak about God using normal human language, we will be plucking language from its normal language game, and will be, therefore, using language without a relevant foundation for understanding what is meant by language about God. After pointing out the similarity to the medieval debate, Ross presents what he calls “the analogy hypothesis,” and states, “The hypothesis will apply to “religious discourse” because it applies to every discourse environment for which natural language is used, including “physical discourse,” “gambling discourse,” “architectural discourse” and so forth1.” Ross presents his analogy hypothesis as follows:

(1) The sets of same-term occurrences to be found within the available corpus of utterances and inscriptions in English almost universally exhibit internal multiplicity of meanings.

(2) That multiplicity of meaning is not a manifestation of simply equivocation in most cases (equivocation by chance, a casu), but manifests meaning derivation that results from meaning-differentiation-in-use. (meaning differentiation, not by a speaker’s design, deliberation, or intent, but by semantic contagion).

(3) The meaning-differentiation-in-use that can be observed within sets of same-term occurrences, exhibits certain regularities which are to be found in a significant sample of sets of same-term-occurrences.

(4) These regularities of meaning differentiation are synchronic regularities (as distinct from the diachronic regularities which are exhibited in the evolution of language and which in some cases have corresponding synchronic regularities).

(5) When the regularities exhibited by the meaning-differentiation-in-use within sets of same-term occurrences are expressed in law-like or rule-like generalizations, having “initial conditions” and “derivation conditions” to be satisfied by a pair of same-term-occurrences, we call the resulting rules analogy rules and say that the meaning-differentiation-in-use for sets of same-term occurrences in English, considered synchronically, occurs on the whole in accordance with analogy rules.

(6) A same-term occurrence t2 in a discourse context (2) that is meaning-derived with respect to an analogy rule for E from a same-term occurrence t1 that occurs in a discourse context (1) that is cognitively significant, is also cognitively significant. (Meaning derivation by analogy is cognitivity-preserving)2

Ross’ case for this is quite convincing. For example, does the word “has” mean the same thing in “John has a comb” and “John has a problem?” Well, no, but there is some relationship between the two senses of “has.” Take the word “know” in the statement “John always knows he is right, but seldom is.” Is that the same as “know” in the statement “I know Jennifer,” or the statement “I know that DOPA is the precursor of dopamine?” No, but, again, there are similarities in the meanings of “know” in each of the usages of these terms. Is “catching” a baseball the same as “catching” a cold, and is that the same as “catching” a movie? No, but there are similarities in the semantics of each usage. Even phrases such as “in Arabic” have different, but analogous meanings. Are there not differences in similarities between the statement “The letters are in Arabic” and “His studies are in Arabic?” Obviously. Hence, Ross’ examples seem to make a very strong case that the uses of words with different subject and different discourse contexts will produce analogous meanings.

Now, this poses a problem for the simple examination of the word “destroy” by annihilationists. The reason is that the context of “soul” and “resurrected body” is going to be different than the context of “body here on earth.” Hence, if the destruction is eternal in one instance, but not eternal in the other instance, it would simply be a matter of analogy. The destruction of the resurrected body and the soul would be analogous, similar but not the same as the destruction of a human body here on earth.

If you reject this, you are in serious danger, not only of destroying the way in which human language operates, but also in throwing away other key doctrines of the Christian faith. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses will argue that the Greek term χαρακτηρ in Hebrews 1:3, in every other instance, always involves temporal succession. In other words, to say x is a copy of y, one must say that x temporally precedes y. Such, obviously produces the Arian slogan “There was a time when the son was not.” However, if you allow for an analogous relationship to the notion of an impression being a copy of a seal to the Son being a copy of the father, then Arianism is not the result, since temporal succession would merely be one of the areas in which the statements “the impression is the copy of a seal” and “The son is a copy of the Father” are different. If you demand that the two mean exactly the same thing, even though the contexts are different, and you ignore the analogous nature of language demonstrated above, then Arianism is the result.

As another example, Jehovah’s Witnesses will likewise point to the fact that the Greek word πρωτοτοκος is followed by a genitive, πασης κτισεως. They will point out that, whenever you have the word πρωτοτοκος followed by the genitive, the genitive is *always* a partitive genitive. Again, if we follow this logic, then Jesus is part of creation, and we again have Arianism. This is what a failure to understand the analogical nature of human language results in. It is a hermeneutic that does violence to human language.

However, this is this very same hermeneutic that annihilationists are using to get their position. Because the context of the resurrected body and soul is different from the context of the body here on earth, to read into the text the notion of “destruction” in the way a physical body is destroyed here on earth is to beg the question. There are obvious similarities between the destruction of a physical object, or a physical body here on this earth, and the traditional understanding of the destruction of a resurrected body and soul in hell. Both involve punishment. Both involve harm and pain. If then, we say that there is a difference in that the destruction of the resurrected body and soul in hell is eternal in character, it would simply be a matter of analogy, which is exactly what Ross has already demonstrated is something that is common in natural language. Hence if the concepts of destruction between the human body here on earth, and the resurrected human body and soul in hell are analogous in that sense, one is justified in believing that the destruction of the wicked in hell is eternal, while the destruction of the human body here on earth is temporal.

Now, this is *not* meant to prove the traditionalist position. Obviously, one would have to go on to demonstrate the eternal nature of the destruction in hell. However, what it does show is that the annihilationist reliance upon passages that speak of destruction in contexts other than that of the resurrected human body and soul to prove their position is misguided, and does not prove what they want it to prove. Other contexts where words like απολλυμι is used of things other than the destruction of the resurrected body and soul are therefore utterly irrelevant to the context of the destruction of the resurrected body and soul in terms of its eternality, since an analogical relationship can be established if the destruction of the resurrected body and soul is eternal. In other words, the notion of “destruction” as being eternal in hell is perfectly compatible with the use of “destruction” in other contexts to mean a temporal action with a finite end, since that relationship exists amongst many words in both English and in Greek.

Also, given the usage of the destruction of things in the natural, temporal, world, I am concerned about an implicit naturalism in these arguments. Should we run off to instances of “life” that are found here on this earth, show that, in every instance, the “life” that is spoken of ends by death? That must mean that eternal life ends with death, and the phrase “eternal life” merely speaks of the results of the new life we have in Christ, and not the duration of that life. There is also a strong relationship between Israel’s ability to live in the land, and the eternal life we now have as Christians. Therefore, since Israel died in the land, we too will die, and our life will not be eternal in its duration. Such a hermeneutic is the death blow, not only to eternal life, but also to all of the supernatural as a whole. If we do not allow for the analogical nature of human language, then we simply cannot get beyond our own experience, even to understand God himself. All we are left with is the empirical, with no way to describe anything beyond our experience.

1Ross, James F. Analogy and the Resolution of Some Cognitivity Problems Journal of Philosophy 67 (1970):725-746. Reprinted in Brody, Baruch A. Readings in Philosophy of Religion; An Analytic Approach. Prentice Hall, Inc. Englewood, N.J. 1974. p.293.

2Ibid pgs.293-294.

Solus Pater Rears its Ugly Head Again

June 3, 2013

I have used the term “Solus Pater” [the father alone] as opposed to the great reformation principle of “sola scriptura” [scripture alone] to refer to the Christian Patriarchy movement. Again and again, it comes back to the father, and what he says. Never mind whether the father is interpreting scripture correctly, and never mind whether the person correcting him is interpreting scripture correctly. What scripture says is irrelevant to some of these folks. When the father has spoken, his word trumps even what scripture has said, and, seemingly, no one can correct the father with scripture.

That is why I have used the term “solus pater” of these folks, because the ultimate authority for these folks is not scripture; it is the father, and, more specifically, the fathers who are leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement. Now, there is truth in every error. Yes, I do think we have a problem with people not recognizing that God has set up delegated authority, not only in the home, but also in the church. However, that authority must always be correctable by scripture, and when it is not correctable by scripture, you have abandoned sola scriptura. As Francis Schaeffer used to say, scripture gives us the forms in which the Christian faith can have freedom. The reason why we have form is because we have the scriptures, and, when accurately interpreted, they are the ultimate authority. The scriptures also delegate authority underneath themselves to parents and to the church, but this structure reaches its limits when we talk about what scripture says. If scripture is being handled accurately, it is God speaking, and whenever someone disagrees with it, it is sin-whether it is a woman, a man, or a child who is accurately handling it. Hence, that gives us tremendous freedoms as well, as anyone can stand up with a Bible and say “You’re wrong.”

Recently, solus pater has reared its ugly head over on Karen Campbell’s blog. Now, I don’t agree with Karen about Scott Brown being invited to this conference as an example of the mainstreaming of the Christian Patriarchy movement. The reason is that the Christian Patriarchy movement has always been very good at political relations. They may not have good hermeneutics, but they have a lot of money to back them, and they have very good interpersonal skills. However, this comment by a guy named Michael Miller is the clearest example of solus pater I have ever seen, especially in regards to his comments about women. Here is his comment:

Dear “mom”,

Thank you so much for your pingback to our discernment conference on July 20th. While we are somewhat disturbed by your apparent contempt towards pastor Brown over an orthopraxic issue/question such as whether sunday school is Biblical; we do appreciate your letting people know that this conference is taking place. The question of whether sunday school is Biblical or not, regardless of where a believer stands on the issue, is a secondary one (although it is important). Surely it is not an orthodox issue which should cause one to treat a brother with contempt. But regardless, with the flippany and lack of theological training which occurs in sunday school, and the lack of it being an historical institution in the church; should cause all believers to question how these training programs (that is what sunday school is after all) should be conducted or whether they should be done at all. The question sister is this, who should be discipling children, and what means of grace has God given to train them. Clearly the Scriptures point towards parents, in particularly the father in this role. Not a youth pastor and not sunday school “teachers.” Sadly the teacher very rarely if ever meet the Biblical qualifications to teach or have that responsibility or authority in the church mandated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim and Titus. Usually they are simply the willing and nice, without any aptitude for teaching and with superficial theology at best, if not heresy. Who should teach according to the Scriptures? Only a few, and only those who meet very strict moral and character qualifications. That’s not me saying that, that’s the Apostle Paul. And what of James “be not many masters for we will suffer greater condemnation” and yet what do we see in sunday school? Young couples, and the elderly and Biblically disqualified teaching children theology, supposedly. The result dear sister has been chaos. Now you say, rather strawman-dishly (there is a new word for you) that Mr. Brown teaches that sunday school is the end of western civilization. That is not what the brother says. Western civilization has already fallen, it has already fell under the wrath of God. Do you not see the news dear lady? Do you not see God’s common grace pulling back from the world as it is given over to a reprobate mind and vile affections. No the issue is, how ought the church to teach children theology, in particular the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is, “fathers teach your children…” Again not Mr. Brown saying that, not me; but the Apostle Paul. That is the authority that is in question on this issue. And pragmatism like “youth group” or “sunday school” is not a Biblical argument, because only God can truly judge the eternal fruit of such ministries since our hearts can deceive us and spiritual fruit can easily be counterfeited with what appears to be religious and pious but which is, in reality, “wood hay and stubble”. So the church must go back to what the Scriptures say about these ministries. That is all Mr. Brown is saying; sola scriptural is wisdom. The man was a youth pastor for decades before he was brought, by the scriptures, to his convictions on this issue. Not his opinion, but his conviction on what the Bible teaches about this issue. Now in regards to the conference, Mr. Brown will be teaching on Biblical fatherhood. What does the Scriptures command of Christian fathers. Because, you can have all the ministerial bells and whistles in the world, but without true evangelism and the Gospel preached and lived within the home; children are in a seriously dangerous situation. So sister, who has true discernment on this issue? You, a “mom” who teaches theology supposedly, but where the Scriptures are clear that women are not to usurp authority over the man in the church. Or even further, where the Scriptures limit the role of the woman to teaching the younger women, or a pastor who, after years of struggling with the fruitless and carnal effort of modern youth groups went back the Scriptures and realized that it has much to say on this issue? Who should be listen to on discernment; you, some woman, or Phil Johnson, the executive director of Master’s Seminary who will be teaching alongside pastor Brown as a brother in Christ and co-laborer for the Gospel? Who has discernment ma’am? on this issue could it possibly be that, wise in your own conceits you are the one quite possibly who is standing against the clear teaching of Scripture? Should we listen to you, the non-descript “homeschool mom” or should we listen to the Apostle Paul. Sister, let me say this clearly, we would be seriously in error to put your teachings above the word of God. I pray that the Lord would open your eyes to this truth; much of what pretends to be Biblical teaching in the modern American church is not spiritual at all and strongly stands in direct contrast to the Word of God. And how many youth are being raised in complete contrast to saving faith and have no concept of Biblical assurance? What some .5% can even affirm basic orthodoxy from college age; have we not reason to question these practices sister? I would encourage you to come to the conference, listen to what is being said before you pass judgment. I would encourage you to study the scriptures on who should teach and who should teach children theology. Is it the unqualified Mrs. Bean the sunday school teacher, who knows nothing and is a pelagian? or the fathers of these children, supported by their Godly wives, and loving pastors and deacons who know the word of God and who meet the qualifications laid out by the Apostle Paul? Sola Scriptura sister, God is specific about His will on these things. Read Numbers, have you not seen the detail of the tent, the tent?! How much more specific do you suppose the Lord is in regards to the next generation. I urge you to reconsider yourself ma’am. and may God help His church. Sincerely in Christ, Mike M.

And here is my response:

Michael Miller,

If you are concerned about qualifications, I am actually a graduate student in Biblical Hebrew and Ancient Near Eastern linguistics. I would say your comments betray a totally unfair attitude towards Karen, and to those of us who are concerned with the hermeneutics that give rise to the NCFIC.

While we are somewhat disturbed by your apparent contempt towards pastor Brown over an orthopraxic issue/question such as whether sunday school is Biblical;

“Biblical” is a catch term that needs to be defined. For example:

Top 10 Biblical Ways to Acquire a Wife

10. Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)

9. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. (Ruth
4:5-10)

8. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim
her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)

7. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one
and carry her off to be your wife. (Judges 21:19-25)

6. Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his
daughter for a wife. (I Samuel 18:27)

5. Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. (Esther 2:3-4)

4. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his
flock. (Exodus 2:16-21)

3. When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have
seen a woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision,
simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” (Judges 14:1-3)

2. Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage.
Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years
for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen
years of toil for a woman. (Genesis 29:15-30)

1. Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you
a rib. (Genesis 2:19-24)

You see, that is one of the problems with the NCFIC. Their definition of what is “Biblical” based upon patterns and principles, which, I would argue, is utterly linguistically indefensible. That is my concern with Scott Brown. The man’s hermeneutics are grossly simplistic, and lead him to many fallacious conclusions-the NCFIC and quiverfull being just two of them.

The question of whether sunday school is Biblical or not, regardless of where a believer stands on the issue, is a secondary one (although it is important). Surely it is not an orthodox issue which should cause one to treat a brother with contempt.

In the sense that we are not kicking Scott Brown out of the kingdom for these things. We are, however, saying that his views are grossly unwise, and show a complete lack of understanding of the complexity of linguistic meaning, and that these oversimplifications have consequences when it comes to how they run their churches. That is true of almost everyone in the Christian Patriarchy Movement. When you start saying that other Christians are not holding to “the sufficiency of scripture” and are following “Darwinian” based ideas, you are going to get a response, and yes, if the person is being sloppy in their hermeneutics, someone like Karen or myself are going to point that out.

But regardless, with the flippany and lack of theological training which occurs in sunday school, and the lack of it being an historical institution in the church; should cause all believers to question how these training programs (that is what sunday school is after all) should be conducted or whether they should be done at all.

First of all, Mike, would you guys please stop this *lie* that age specific education has a “lack of it being an historical institution in the church.” Shawn Mathis has written this article wherein he proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is untrue, and Shawn has actually told me that he has ran into someone who is close to Scott Brown who said he would inform him of one of Shawn’s articles wherein he discusses these things. If you have to rely on this kind of sloppy history, what does it say about the truthfulness of your position?

Secondly, yes, there are many bad Sunday School teachers, and many bad youth leaders. However, let me point out some of the really bad teachings in the Family Integrated Churches:

-Patriarchy [in the Vision Forum sense]
-The notion that women cannot run for public office
-The notion that the Bible calls women to be homemakers
-The Quiverfull Movement
-The notion that any model other than the Family Integrated Church is based on “unbiblical, evolutionary, and secular thinking.”
-The notion that you can’t vote for someone, unless they are a Christian
-The notion that you must stone incorrigible children, not recognizing that the law provides *maximum* penalties, not penalties which must be enacted every time an offense is given
-The Stay at Home Daughters movement of the Botkin’s
-Kinism
-Southern Confederate Idealism
-The Interpretive Maximalism of James Jordan and Peter Leithart
-The notion that delay of marriage is a sin
-The notion that there is some sanctifying power in marriage
-The assault on anything other than homeschooling [including Christian day school]

Now, the absurdity of those comments rivals *anything* taught in Sunday Schools and Youth Groups. The real issue here is how we treat the Bible. The problem with both the Family Integrated Churches as well as the Sunday School and Youth Group teaches who don’t know what they are doing is their hermeneutics. When you fix the hermeneutics, and you train these teachers to actually teach how to *properly* handle the text of scripture, you fix the problem.

The question sister is this, who should be discipling children, and what means of grace has God given to train them. Clearly the Scriptures point towards parents, in particularly the father in this role. Not a youth pastor and not sunday school “teachers.”

Of course, the problem is that the scriptures also point to the *church* to teach all of those under their authority, which would include the children. While I don’t necessarily agree with designating one pastor to handle the youth, I do recognize that God has given teachers to the church, as James himself said, and I recognize that one of the functions of the authoritative position of elder is to teach. Hence, the problem you have is that both the church and the parents are commanded to teach. In fact, the NCFIC itself affirms this very fact. In the context of dealing with misconceptions of the NCFIC, they write:

The NCFIC believes that that the church can only relate to family members through the father.

False. We do not believe that the church must always work through or communicate through a father. We believe that the church has authority to discipline and instruct every individual believer in the family not just the head of the family, or through the head of the family.

So, the Bible commands the church to teach and the Bible commands fathers to teach. There is no problem here, as the two statements are not self-contradictory. There is only a problem if you isolate the command for parents to teach their children from the command for the church to teach. In fact, a denial of the responsibility for both to teach is, I would argue, replacing sola scriptura with solus pater, because there is no way to correct the teaching of the father.

Sadly the teacher very rarely if ever meet the Biblical qualifications to teach or have that responsibility or authority in the church mandated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim and Titus. Usually they are simply the willing and nice, without any aptitude for teaching and with superficial theology at best, if not heresy.

And, of course, we could say the same thing about the NCFIC. Ever heard of something called “kinism?” Southern idealism? I am not saying that you hold to those things, but my point is that there are people in family integrated churches who hold to these things. Age integration, and getting rid of the authority of the church to teach children is not the answer. The answer is to train teachers how to accurately handle the scriptures. A father who teaches with bad hermeneutics is every bit as dangerous as a youth minister who has bad hermeneutics. The issue is how we handle the text of scripture to begin with, not whether discipleship is age integrated or age specific.

Who should teach according to the Scriptures? Only a few, and only those who meet very strict moral and character qualifications. That’s not me saying that, that’s the Apostle Paul. And what of James “be not many masters for we will suffer greater condemnation” and yet what do we see in sunday school? Young couples, and the elderly and Biblically disqualified teaching children theology, supposedly. The result dear sister has been chaos.

Let me put it this way, it is not just moral and character qualifications, but it is also competency. You can’t simply look at two passages, and assume that those are all the qualifications. For example, Peter says the following:

2 Peter 3:15-16 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

So, what is the solution? The solution is not “age integration,” but it is to be taught and stable. What does it say when the NCFIC completely rejects and entire field of linguistic meaning in their argumentation, namely the field of pragmatics? All of the absurdities I mentioned above are the result of rejecting this particular field of linguistic meaning. It sounds like you are no better taught than are the Sunday School teachers who don’t know what they are doing. Handling the text of scripture is a big responsibility, and a person who is in a position of teaching needs to know how language works, and be able to deal with it accordingly. And yes, I would say that Scott Brown is woefully incompetent in that area.

Now you say, rather strawman-dishly (there is a new word for you) that Mr. Brown teaches that sunday school is the end of western civilization. That is not what the brother says. Western civilization has already fallen, it has already fell under the wrath of God. Do you not see the news dear lady? Do you not see God’s common grace pulling back from the world as it is given over to a reprobate mind and vile affections. No the issue is, how ought the church to teach children theology, in particular the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is, “fathers teach your children…” Again not Mr. Brown saying that, not me; but the Apostle Paul. That is the authority that is in question on this issue.

And, the apostle Paul also says that he has given some to be teachers in the context of service to the church. Please, do not be reductionistic here. Yes, I agree, western society is in shambles. However, the solution is not “age integration,” and the solution is not patriarchy, as fathers themselves are sinners. The solution is the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that message can only come forth if we have a hermeneutic that allows God to speak for himself rather than reading the text through the light of cultural problems. The apostle Paul’s authority *is* at issue here, and the question is whether or not you are going to allow *all* that Paul says to come through, or selectively leave out the texts that talk about the church being given teachers.

And pragmatism like “youth group” or “sunday school” is not a Biblical argument, because only God can truly judge the eternal fruit of such ministries since our hearts can deceive us and spiritual fruit can easily be counterfeited with what appears to be religious and pious but which is, in reality, “wood hay and stubble”. So the church must go back to what the Scriptures say about these ministries. That is all Mr. Brown is saying; sola scriptural is wisdom.

First of all, just because something is pragmatic does not mean it is wrong. Again, false dilemma. However, even worse, I *have* made a Biblical defense of age specific ministries based upon the field of pragmatics back when the movie Divided first came out. I have had only one person from the family integrated churches try to respond to it, and that person was fully refuted, given that they misrepresented the concept of speech acts, and given that they had to be arbitrary, and admit that they used a different hermeneutic for other issues than they used for these issues.

The problem is not that, given my view, scripture is insufficient; the problem is, given my view, Scott Brown’s hermeneutics are insufficient. We dare not confuse the sufficiency of scripture with the sufficiency of our hermeneutics. If there is a pragmatic level of language, if there is such a thing as the illocutionary force of a speech act, then the “sufficiency of scripture” argument is doesn’t work, because one can show consistency between age specific ministry and the illocutionary force of the scriptures.

The man was a youth pastor for decades before he was brought, by the scriptures, to his convictions on this issue. Not his opinion, but his conviction on what the Bible teaches about this issue.

The problem is that this can be turned around on Scott as well. Do you not thing that being a youth pastor, and becoming angered and what is going on in many youth groups today might influence the way in which he reads the text? It would be naive to say otherwise. You see, being a former youth pastor doesn’t make Scott a disinterested observer. Quite the contrary, it means that there is a real danger that he is reading these things into the text, as can be demonstrated by simply looking at the texts he uses to get this alleged pattern. Understanding the Ancient Near Eastern background of all of those texts, rather than imposing the modern problems of the weak teaching in youth groups and fathers who do not teach back into the text, shows that the scriptures simply do not view age integration vs age specific discipleship as significant in any way. It is an issue that has been made up due to our cultural problems, and read back into the text.

So sister, who has true discernment on this issue? You, a “mom” who teaches theology supposedly, but where the Scriptures are clear that women are not to usurp authority over the man in the church.

The problem is, when the scriptures are being handled properly, it is not the woman who is speaking, but it is God himself who is speaking. So, when you do not listen to a woman who is accurately handling the word of God simply because she is a woman, *you* are usurping the authority of God himself, setting yourself up as if you do not have to listen to your own creator. That is why I have said that this movement is an attempt to replace sola scriptura with solus pater. If we are truly practicing Sola Scriptura, then anyone can stand up with a Bible and say “you’re wrong,” no matter what position of authority the person to whom they are speaking has. If they are accurately handling the word of God, it is God speaking, and to ignore God speaking is the height of idolatry.

Or even further, where the Scriptures limit the role of the woman to teaching the younger women,

Sorry, not seeing where the scriptures *limit* their role to that. Again, if they are accurately handling the word of God, it is God speaking, and anyone who is unwilling to listen to God speaking is usurping God’s authority. I can certainly see where women cannot hold official *teaching offices* in the church, such as elder or pastor, but that has to do with the authoritative preaching of God’s word, and the leadership of the church, and not whether or not a woman can teach a man. That is made clear in the context of 1 Timothy 2, where Paul goes on to enumerate the qualifications for elder after he says that he does not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, thus limiting what he is saying to the context of the eldership.

<blockquoteor a pastor who, after years of struggling with the fruitless and carnal effort of modern youth groups went back the Scriptures and realized that it has much to say on this issue?

Or, someone who went back to scriptures, and read into them the problems he was having in youth ministry? Again, it is naive to think that Scott Brown’s experience in youth ministry has nothing to do with how he is not handling the text of scripture. It seems to me that I should be very careful to believe someone who has shown himself to have this background, and to have very bad hermeneutics.

Who should be listen to on discernment; you, some woman, or Phil Johnson, the executive director of Master’s Seminary who will be teaching alongside pastor Brown as a brother in Christ and co-laborer for the Gospel? Who has discernment ma’am? on this issue could it possibly be that, wise in your own conceits you are the one quite possibly who is standing against the clear teaching of Scripture?

It depends. Who is handling the scriptures aright? Trust me, presidents of seminaries are not immune to bad interpretations of scripture, and I have caught several of them in errors. Doesn’t make them bad interpreters of scripture, but it does mean that they are not always right. BTW, as far as I know John MacArthur’s church where Phil Johnson is an elder, has age specific ministry, which is interesting that you would even bring Phil Johnson into this debate. Could it be that, given your lack of training in hermeneutics, that *you* are the one who is wise in *your* own conceits? That you are blindly following celebrities, rather than going back to scripture to test whether these things are so? Arrogance is a dangerous thing in hermeneutics. Trusting in celebrities is a dangerous thing in hermeneutics. So, the answer to who is right is to be found in the scriptures, and in order for the message of scripture to come through, you must have sound hermeneutics, which doesn’t bode well for the NCFIC.

Should we listen to you, the non-descript “homeschool mom” or should we listen to the Apostle Paul. Sister, let me say this clearly, we would be seriously in error to put your teachings above the word of God. I pray that the Lord would open your eyes to this truth; much of what pretends to be Biblical teaching in the modern American church is not spiritual at all and strongly stands in direct contrast to the Word of God.

We should listen to the apostle Paul, but not your interpretation of the apostle Paul, because it is wrong, and leaves out an entire level of human language that you had to use to write this post. Do not confuse your interpretation of Paul with what Paul said. Interpretations must be proven, and I don’t get the feeling that you or anyone in the patriarchy movement have any idea of the complexity of human language, and what it takes to adequately prove an interpretation as valid.

And how many youth are being raised in complete contrast to saving faith and have no concept of Biblical assurance? What some .5% can even affirm basic orthodoxy from college age; have we not reason to question these practices sister?

Isn’t it interesting that you have all of the absurdities listed above being taught in your own circles. Someone sent me a survey one time that 85% of homeschooling families believe that man is made right before God by his works, and not by faith alone. That is disturbing. Parents teaching their children is not the answer. The answer is to go back to the word of God and handle it competently. We are just not doing that as a church, and we are suffering the consequences. *That* is what we need to fix, and until it is fixed, nothing will change. “Age integration vs Age specific ministry” is nothing but a side show. The real problem is bad hermeneutics which do not allow the gospel to shine through.

I would encourage you to come to the conference, listen to what is being said before you pass judgment.

Michael, I have listened to Scott Brown speak many times, and I follow his blog. The man is incompetent in his handling of scripture. He mostly relies upon historical figures, even when their interpretations have been refuted by new evidence from the Ancient Near East, or discoveries in the field of linguistics. I don’t attribute malice to the man. There is a great quote from Napoleon Bonaparte that Shawn Mathis posted one time here: “Don’t attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.” That is true in Scott Brown’s case. I have made up my mind on that from reading his comments, and listened to him speak on this topic, and from studying this field at the graduate level myself, and thus, knowing the literature. I consider the man to be simply incompetent in this field.

I would encourage you to study the scriptures on who should teach and who should teach children theology.

I would encourage you to rethink your interpretation on who should teach and who should not teach children theology. Interpretation is crucial here, and to blindly assume your interpretation is correct without justification is naive at best and dangerous at worst.

Is it the unqualified Mrs. Bean the sunday school teacher, who knows nothing and is a pelagian? or the fathers of these children, supported by their Godly wives, and loving pastors and deacons who know the word of God and who meet the qualifications laid out by the Apostle Paul?

What about the unqualified man who teaches absurd things about patriarchy on the basis of ignorance of the patriarchal system of the Ancient Near East? What about the man who reads things like Age Integration into a text that had no concern for the topic at all? What about men who have become elders on the basis of politics, and are grossly incompetent for the task? More than that, what if Mrs. Bean is able to refute them with scripture? Who do you listen to? I say, I listen to the scriptures through Mrs. Bean, and I reject what the others have to say, no matter what their position of authority is. *That* is what sola scriptura means.

Sola Scriptura sister, God is specific about His will on these things. Read Numbers, have you not seen the detail of the tent, the tent?! How much more specific do you suppose the Lord is in regards to the next generation. I urge you to reconsider yourself ma’am. and may God help His church. Sincerely in Christ, Mike M.

Again, I don’t believe you hold to Sola Scriptura. If you did, you would recognize the nature of God speaking, and would not treat those who seek to correct your errant understanding of scripture in the way you have in this post. Those who hold to sola scriptura care about what scripture says above all, and are willing to listen to God speak. From what I can see, you care more about position of authority than whether what that position of authority says is consistent with scripture. That is dangerous, and a complete abandonment of sola scriptura. Scripture is the ultimate authority, and anytime scripture is ignored, even if it is because a woman is saying what scripture says, you are overthrowing its authority.

Secondly, when I was at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I had a friend who studied under D.A. Carson. She told me something Carson said one time that has stuck with me. That is that evangelicals have a tendency to confuse the notion that the Bible was written *for* us with the notion that the Bible was written *to* us. Your statement about the temple detail is a perfect example of that confusion. The reason why God gave the Israelites such detail is because he was writing *to* them. We cannot demand that God write *to* us, and address the issues we want him to address. Worst of all, we cannot read the scriptures as if they were written to us because we want them to address the issues we want them to address. Such leads to a total abuse of scripture. Before we can decide what scripture says about a given issue, we first need to understand what it meant to the people to whom it was written. Only after we do that can we then understand its significance for today. To confuse those two things is very dangerous.

Worse than that, when we seek to first understand what it meant to the original audience, something interesting happens. We begin to see the concerns of scripture in its own context, and some things we think are important [such as age integration] start to pale in importance. Problems such as not being able to understand the gospel, and having bad hermeneutics start coming to the forefront. Finding what it meant before we find what it means acts as a control, so that we don’t read what we want to be important back into the text. I fear that is the foundational error of the entire NCFIC hermeneutics, and it is very dangerous.

So, I would call on you to rethink your entire hermeneutics. I would challenge you to read books on the topic, and to read books by professional linguists. I would recommend Yan Huang’s excellent textbook on pragmatics as a start. I would also recommend textbooks on Discourse Analysis as well. Also, I would recommend texts on Ancient Near Eastern background, as I would books on Hebrew law such as anything by Christopher J.H. Wright. Read, study, learn, and then apply what you have learned to these ideas. I have, and once you do, you find that there really is a real danger in taking authority over scripture. I pray that God would change your heart, and give you a desire for truth rather than authority. I leave you in God’s hands for that.

God Bless,
Adam

Now, I never heard a response to that. I would love to have a back and forth on this topic, but I doubt that will happen. Solus Pater was very clearly demonstrated in that post. It doesn’t matter whether the woman is handling the text of scripture properly. The woman is not to teach, and so, we must completely disregard what the woman has said. Of course, because scripture is God-breathed, whenever it is being handled properly, it is not the person speaking, but it is God speaking. However, we don’t have to listen to it, because it is a woman who is pointing out what God has said. It is the ultimate overthrow of sola scriptura, and we must see it for what it is.

Now there is another clear example of solus pater, and that from an unexpected source: Voddie Baucham. Normally, Voddie is one of the more mild proponents of the Christian Patriarchy movement. However, in this video, he says things that are simply absurd from any Biblical perspective, and, again, are an overthrow of sola scriptura for solus pater:

Voddie Baucham on Corporal Punishment and Shyness in a Young Child from Under Much Grace on Vimeo.

The first think I want you to notice is Voddie’s use of “Your world revolves around me.” The authority of scripture has just been thrown under the bus with that statement. No, the toddler’s life revolves around God and his word, as does the life of the parent. When you make the world of the toddler revolve around yourself, you are setting yourself up as an idol, and demanding that this child commit idolatry. The parent’s job is to train the child to know God and his word, and not to make his world revolve around himself. It is pure, unadulterated idolatry to suggest anything else.

Next, where in the world is Voddie getting the idea that Ephesians 6:1-4 presents stages in the correction of a child? Here is the text:

Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. 4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Tell me, where in this text is there anything about “stages?” Again, complete and total eisegesis. I have said it many times, like his mentor Albert Mohler, when Voddie deals with issues all Christians agree on, he is very good. However, when he tries to get cute and “countercultural” with his exegesis, there is hardly anyone worse.

As far as spanking goes, Voddie is completely misunderstanding the concept of the rod in the Ancient Near East. The rod was used as a *teaching* tool. Look at the text again:

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

This is a common theme in the book of Proverbs, namely that discipline [מוסר] drives away folly [אולת]. However, this rod is spoken of as a “rod of *discipline*,” [שבט מוסר] that is, a rod used to teach and disciple a child. If the rod is not being used to teach the wisdom of God, then the rod is not being used properly. In fact, in Egyptian Hieroglyphic, the determinative for a “teacher” is a man holding a rod. The two were intimately linked in the mind of an Ancient Near Easterner, and to connect it with what the father wants rather than the wisdom that begins with the fear of the Lord is a total abuse of this passage.

More than that, the book of Proverbs do not present universal truths. Try reading Proverbs 22:6 in a universal sense. If you do, it will contradict Isaiah 1:2. Anyone here want to suggest that when God raised up sons, he did not do so properly? The intent of the Proverbs must be understood in the light of their own world. For example, this statement must be understood in the light of the Lord being the one who gives wisdom-not the parents. It must be understood in the light of the Lord being the head of creation, establishing it by wisdom. More than that, it must also be understood in the context of the other elements of discipline spoken of by the book of Proverbs. There are many different ways to discipline a child-the rod being one of them. Understanding precisely how to use the rod and other instruments of discipline is an issue that requires, well, wisdom. It requires a practical understanding of the situation at hand, and how it relates to the world of the text.

To see how that works itself out practically, Voddie uses the example of the shy child. His parent tells him to say “hello,” but he goes and runs behind the leg of the parent. Voddie’s entire argument hinges upon this notion of this being “disobedience,” and a violation of the fifth commandment. The problem is, again, Voddie has not understood the fifth commandment in its context. Even the ten commandments have, as their foundation, the notion of the total Lordship of Christ as found in the first four commandments. In other words, as Christopher Wright said, the Torah provides us with a value system, and each scenario must be evaluated in terms of the value system of scripture, with God as the ultimate standard being first and foremost.

Let us use another example. Let us say that a child is bothering his parent, and the parent tells him to go outside. However, the child just stays there, and doesn’t listen. The father tells him again, and, again, the child doesn’t listen. Then, the father thinks that he must spank this child, so he walks over, goes to take the child over his knee, and while he is doing that, he looks up, and to his horror is a copperhead snake right at the doorway. Had that child listened to his father, and went outside, he would have been dead. Now, the child disobeyed his parent, but for good reason. He did so in order to obey the command to protect human life, which the Bible clearly views as more important than whether or not the parent is obeyed. This, of course, has interesting implications for marriage as well, especially when it comes to some of these teachings, such as militant fecundity, which can be threatening to the life of a woman. The authority of the father must be understood, not only in terms of the actual commands given in scripture, but the value systems given in scripture. When the father sets himself up over the value system found in scripture, even if he is not asking someone to contradict a black and white command, he has sinned.

Let us return to Voddie Baucham’s scenario. There is one fact that struck me the moment I heard all of this, and that is that Voddie Baucham used to be a football player. He is a *huge* man physically, and he is *not* someone you would want to get in a fight with in a back ally. Do you not think that a little child might be the slightest bit afraid and intimidated in such a situation? And if he is afraid, do you not think he is obeying the Biblical command to protect his own well-being by hiding behind his parent’s leg? You see, if the rod were actually used for what it was supposed to be used for, in this situation, the child would need reassurance that everything was okay, and that no one was going to harm him. Such would be the kind of discipline and teaching he would need at that moment. However, recognizing such would mean thinking of what God has said first, and not making the child’s world revolve around you.

We also have to deal with other problems as well such as autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. There are some children who may be highly intelligent, but may have certain neurological disorders, such as autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes it hard for them to interact in social situations. In such a situation, the child is not being “disobedient” or “rebellious;” the child has a disorder, and that disorder makes him unable to comply with the command itself. In such a situation, spanking the child teaches them nothing, since the treatment for autism and Asperger’s is ongoing, and not something that can be cured by spanking a child once. It would be like a parent telling a child with schizophrenia to stop having hallucinations, and then spanking him when he doesn’t stop having those hallucinations. Such is utterly foolish, and does not recognize where the child needs to be taught, and how the child needs to be taught, again, completely ignoring the rod as a tool of discipline, not a tool to get the child to do what you want him to do.

One error leads to another here. Solus pater is adopted, and then, the world of the parent becomes ultimate, instead of the world of the text of scripture. That leads to an error in how to use the rod, and, more specifically, how the Lordship of Christ relates to honoring your father and mother, and obeying them. Children are to obey their parents *in the Lord,* not in the parents themselves. We honor our father and mother in the context of having no other gods before Yhwh. Hence, we place obedience to parents in the context of the rest of the values of scripture, and if obeying your parents causes you to commit idolatry, or if obedience to parents is something that is just not possible at the current time, because the child is ill in some way, then, obviously, obedience to parents would contradict the other values of scripture.

In sum, parents must make the world of the child revolve around the world of scripture, not the father. To do so is a gross violation of sola scriptura. It is pure idolatry. It is easy to understand why this is being done. We do have a lack of respect for God’s delegated authority today. It is a sad thing to see, but that does not justify raising the delegated authority to a position of authority over scripture. Fathers are sinners, and fathers can abuse authority. If the scriptures are not there to correct them, then there is no telling the evils that will happen.

If you Want to Bang your Head Against the Wall…

May 5, 2013

listen to this debate. The whole debate starts out with the post hoc fallacy. Children are leaving the church, and that must be due to age specific ministry. Of course, you might as well say that the sun is rising, and that must be because roosters crow, since they happen at the same time.

Secondly, while there were hints of a challenge to Scott Brown’s hermeneutics, the “patterns and principles” approach Scott Brown takes was never addressed. It is true that the “Biblical pattern” for Baptism is the baptize outside, but that needs to be pressed. You need to come up with many other examples as well to point out the absurdity and arbitrariness of the hermeneutic itself.

Also, I don’t believe that the other two gentlemen provided a counter-hermeneutic to what Scott was proposing. You have to show how you get from the text to the proper application of the text, in a way that makes sense, and in a way that can be used consistently to get from the text to the application. That will provide a counter hermeneutic, and a counter exegesis, and you can keep pointing back to that whenever Scott asks for scripture.

Furthermore, when you consider the notion of pragmatics and speech acts, what the callers were saying makes a lot of sense. Again, the intent of the text is to get the church to teach. Of all the callers who turned out well, there was a clear pattern of youth groups who taught the word of God. The question was posed at the end as to whether you would want to bring an unbeliever into youth ministry, and my answer would be that it depends upon the faithfulness of the minister and the teens involved as to whether or not the are committed to the teaching of scripture.

Finally, I am saddened again that Brown and others in the NCFIC keep perpetuating this myth that age specific ministry only began in the last 150 years. It is a lie, and people like Shawn Mathis have already exposed it as a lie. Not only that, Shawn has pointed out that they have even used flagrant misquotes to argue their position. This needs to stop. We need to be honest with history, and point out that age specific ministry is an ancient practice. That doesn’t make it right, but we need to stop perpetuating this myth that it is a “Darwinian” concept. I can understand how that rhetoric is effective in the homeschooling community, since homeschoolers tend to not like public schools, and hence, trying to attach the public school’s Darwinian ideas with the church will have rhetorical force. However, it is a lie, and an utter and complete falsehood. We need to be concerned with truth, not rhetoric to win people over.

More on Pragmatics and the NCFIC

April 29, 2013

As most people know, I have used pragmatics to deal with the Family Integrated Churches for a long time. Imparticular, I have been using speech acts to show that the patterns and principles approach to application of scripture is totally insufficient to deal with the application of scripture. The field of pragmatics is a problem for their hermeneutics, because it is so focused on what is said that the pragmatic level is completely ignored.

Yesterday, as I was poking around on the NCFIC website, and I found an article by Voddie Baucham which, again, illustrates more problems with pragmatics in the hermeneutics of the NCFIC. However, this time, it is a misunderstanding of conversational implicature. Now, we have dealt with conversational implicature in the past, dealing with Roman Catholic misuses of Matthew 1:25. As I have said before, conversational implicature goes back to Paul Grice, and the notion that individuals cooperate with one another, and assume certain things when they communicate. Hence, you have what has come to be known as the “cooperative principle” and its several sub-principles. I wrote about this in an earlier post:

Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged[1].

Grice then lists four maxims which help us accomplish this:

1. Quality-Make sure that your contribution is something you believe to be true, and not something you believe is false or which you are unsure of.

2. Quantity-Make sure you are as informative as is required, and not more informative than is required.

3. Relation-Make sure your contribution is relevant.

4. Manner-Be clear by avoiding ambiguity, prolixity, and disorder[2].

In Neo-Gricean theories, some of these principles were collapsed into one. For example, in Horn’s version, all of these maxims are divided into Quantity [Q] and relation [R] maxims, while in Levinson’s Neo-Gricean theory, they were divided into Quantity [Q], Informativeness [I], and Manner [M].

These principles help us to avoid a major problem in language. Consider the following example given by Huang[3]:

John has had nine girlfriends.
a. John has had at least nine girlfriends.
b. John has had exactly nine girlfriends.

The sentence “John has had nine girlfriends” is subject to the interpretation found in both a and b. We could treat this sentence as semantically ambiguous, but the problem is that such an interpretation runs the risk of falling prey to Occam’s razor[4]. The difficulty also is that there are other words that are likewise subject to this kind of interpretation such as “all” or “some.” If someone says, “Some of the candy in the bag is purple,” in terms of strict semantics, this does not rule out the possibility that *all* the candy in the bag is purple. If all the candy in the bag is purple, then some of the candy in the bag is purple. This is a major problem since, as Huang suggests, it would turn a dictionary into an exercise in proliferation[5]. The same analysis can be give to our text:

Joseph kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son.
a. Joseph kept her a virgin at least until she gave birth to a son.
b. Joseph kept her a virgin only until she gave birth to a son.

Huang, in discussing this problem, suggests that this problem can be solved by a division of labor between semantics and pragmatics. He suggests that, semantically, we can assign the meaning “at least” while getting to “only” or “exactly” through the use of pragmatics, and, imparticular, conversational implicature[6]. The reason has to do with Grice’s Quantity maxim, namely, that a speaker must not be more informative than is required. Thus, one can say that, both in the case of the number 9, and the word “until,” the reason the speaker doesn’t say “exactly nine” or “only until” is that, to do so, would be superfluous. We assume that speakers mean “only” or “exactly” precisely because we assume that they are giving us sufficient information. The same thing goes for the word “some.” If someone says, “Some of the candy in the bag is purple,” we assume that they are giving us sufficient information, and we likewise conclude that only some and not all the candy in the bag is purple.

I had this experience at work recently. A customer and I were looking to see if a particular camera came with a SD card, and we found the word “contents” and then a list [camera, charger, instruction manual, etc.] but we did not find “SD card” on the list. Hence, she went over, and started looking at the SD cards. Why? Because she assumed that the list contained *only* the things written under the “contents.” She assumed this based upon the fact that the person who wrote the list was being sufficient in his communication. [https://otrmin.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/revisiting-matthew-125-in-the-light-of-gricean-and-neo-gricean-implicature/]

Because we assume that speakers are following Grice’s principle of Quantity, we don’t have to sit there and say “But it doesn’t say *only* some of the candy in the bag is purple!” or “It doesn’t say *only* nine girlfriends. We assume that, in each case, the speaker is giving us sufficient information, and thus, by Q-implicature, we assume that John has had *only* nine girlfriends, and that *only* some of the candy in the bag is purple. In fact, as Stephen Levinson notes that “in many cases the [quantity] implicatures can be glossed by adding only to the propositional content of a sentence1.”

This is important, because, not only do we use this kind of implicature all of the time, it also helps us more economically deal with human language rather than throwing it into proliferation. However, again, when we deal with men like Voddie Baucham, there is a tendency to make a one to one correspondence between words and meaning, and a one to one correspondence between language and reality, both of which the field of pragmatics has shown. If there is no meaning beyond what is said in the above cases, as Huang noted, we are in serious danger of making language an exercise in proliferation. Yet, in this article by Voddie Baucham, we see that very thing. Baucham says that he is addressing the Nehemiah’s Nursery Argument. He presents it as follows:

In an effort to address this issue, some pastors have employed what I like to call the “Nehemiah’s Nursery” argument. These men feel the need to justify their use of separate spaces for children by appealing to Nehemiah 8 as “biblical” support for their practice. Unfortunately, this passage does not settle the issue. In fact, the passage in question, the broader Old Testament context, and several New Testament examples all serve as evidence against reading the concept of separating children in a nursery during worship into the words of Nehemiah.

The Passage in Question

The first problem with the “Nehemiah’s Nursery” argument is the fact that the passage in question does not suggest that children are to be segregated into nurseries during corporate worship.

“And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” (Nehemiah 8:1-4, ESV)

A careful examination of what Nehemiah said, and what he did not say will make it clear that it is a stretch to argue for the modern practice of segregating children from corporate worship from this text.

Baucham’s response to this argument is very telling:

The first problem with the Nehemiah’s Nursery argument is the fact that it goes beyond Nehemiah’s words. Nehemiah is emphasizing who came to the assembly. He is not making a statement about who didn’t come. The text reads, “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard.” Is the phrase, “and all who could understand…” meant to exclude some? Or is Nehemiah merely emphasizing the fact that everyone came? He does not say, “only those who could understand.” He says all (läOk◊w). Every major English translation renders läOk◊w as all in verse two. The Nehemiah’s Nursery argument would be much stronger if Nehemiah had written, _JKAa (only) instead of läOk◊w (all).

Of course, as we have already seen, this is a major problem in pragmatics. Must Nehemiah write down the word “only” every time he means it? As we have already seen, this would turn language into an exercise in proliferation. Also, if Nehemiah means only to say that “everyone came” by the phrase “and all who could understand,” the the statement is unnecessarily prolix. Why include the notion that they could understand if it doesn’t add anything to the meaning? This whole paragraph turns language in to a superfluous exercise in proliferation. For example:

Exodus 25:14 “You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.

Where does the text say that the ark was *only* to be carried by these poles? And yet, most people recognize the violation of this commandment by the Israelites in 2 Samuel 6 which lead to the death of Uzzah.

Numbers 1:50 “But you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings and over all that belongs to it. They shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it; they shall also camp around the tabernacle.

Where does the text say that Moses should appoint the Levites *alone* over the tabernacle of the testimony?

Numbers 3:12 “Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine.

Again, where does it say anything about the Levites *alone* being taken?

Joshua 6:17 “The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.

Where does it say that all that is in the city belongs *only* to the Lord?

I could keep going, but you get my point. To demand that *any* author in *any* language write “only” whenever he is giving sufficient information would turn language into an exercise in proliferation. Also, in some of these instances, men were *killed* for not recognizing the conversational implicatures in these verses! It is simply a horrible argument to suggest that “it would make the argument stronger” if “alone” were here. Yet, Voddie writes:

What Nehemiah said is important. However, what he did not say in this passage may be even more important. Nehemiah informs the reader as to who came to the assembly, but he does not say who, if anyone, was absent. That must be implied from the text. Therefore, making pronouncements about who is not welcome in corporate worship based on this passage is a tricky proposition. To do so is essentially to make an argument from silence.

No, if you that people are intending to be sufficient with the information they are giving, then it is not an argument from silence. As I showed above, to not follow the Gricean maxim of quantity utterly destroys any ability to make sense of the Hebrew Bible, and I would argue that it is impossible to make sense of any human language. When Voddie follows a recipe for making cookies, does he look at the ingredients in the recipe, and say “Well, it doesn’t say *only* these ingredients, so I am going to add some beef to the cookies.” Of course not. He uses *only* what the recipe requires, even though it doesn’t say “only.”

Nehemiah Did Not Say “Children”

Nehemiah could have been referring to children, but not necessarily so. It is true that Nehemiah could have been referring to the absence of children in the assembly. However, it is not necessary to read the text this way. There is no precedent in the Old or New Testament for children being excluded from the general assembly of God’s people. In fact, quite the opposite is true. There are numerous instances where men, women and children are present in public assemblies and worship (see: Deut. 31:12-13; Ezra 10:1; Matt. 18:1-5; 19:13-15; Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20).

Of course, I don’t think we are talking about the general assembly here. I think we are talking about the retraining of the people in the law of God after they had abandoned it during the exile. The “teaching” element of the context of this passage should determine how we read it. This passage would then refer to discipleship, which would be heavily relevant to the NCFIC.

I don’t think using this passage in the context of a nursery is helpful. Voddie puts this argument into its weakest form, and then tries to say “well, what about those who are mentally incapacitated.” If we reformulated the argument, not to nurseries specifically, but to discipleship in general, then the argument would have much more bite. It would show that there could be a separation between those who are capable of understanding and those who are not in Nehemiah’s day.

The rest of Voddie’s post is, again, totally missing the significance of the list of children in passages like Deuteronomy 31. The reason children were there is because this was the seven yearly official reading of the covenant obligations, and the children are part of the covenant. In Ezra 10, there is public morning for the sin of God’s covenant people, and since children were part of the covenant people, and hence, when the covenant people mourned, so would the children. Again, nothing in the text is intending to give any kind of directive as to how the assembly of God’s people must be handled. I deal with all of these things and the other texts Voddie brings up in this article, where I show that, carefully considered against the context in which these texts are found, the intent of the text is *not* to provide a directive for how discipleship must be done. However, again, one has to look beyond simply what is said to what the text is intending. That is why I will continue to criticize the NCFIC’s lack of attention to pragmatics. Suffice it to say that the text of scripture does not provide us with any directive on whether discipleship should be age specific or age integrated. That whole issue was simply not a concern of the writers of scripture.

Finally, the only way that this text would “stretch credulity” is if one assumes that the pragmatic level of language does not exist, and one misuses other texts of scripture to try to make the Bible command something it just simply does not by again ignoring the pragmatic level of language. Why the NCFIC is so intent upon completely ignoring an entire field dealing with linguistic meaning, I don’t know. Throwing out the Gricean maxims of communication, in my mind, stretches credulity, because doing so turns language into an exercise in proliferation. It also really stretches credulity when you go to other passages dealing with things obligatory to all in the covenant, and apply them to all instances of discipleship. However, what is more disturbing about this post is that there really is a sense in which Voddie demands a one to one relationship between what is said and meaning with this post. Voddie says that this is “what Nehemiah did not say.” What is said is only one element of linguistic meaning. It is intimately related to the pragmatic level, but you simply can’t chop that level of meaning off, and expect to still accurately handle what the text says.

1Levinson, Stephen C. Pragmatics; Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics. Cambridge University Press. 1983 pgs. 106-107; brackets mine.

Thoughts on Bloggers and Scholarship

April 28, 2013

There has been a lot of chatter about blogging and the internet. The internet has changed things quite a bit. I love the anonymity of the internet due to my Asperger’s, but I also love that you never know who is on the other end. I have had scholars, professors, graduate students and also lay people come and leave comments on my blog. I appreciate all of them very much, whether you have agreed or disagreed. That is one of the things I like about blogging; you don’t have to let anyone know who you are, and you can still interact with people who may like or even disagree with what you are saying. It also means that you have to be careful what you say, because you never know who will come and leave a comment on your blog!

However, many people have noticed a danger, and that is that, when you get on the internet, often times people don’t know how to distinguish between the good material and the bad material. Let’s face it, “someone is wrong on the internet” is all too true. There is a lot of garbage on the internet. I will be more specific, and say that there is a lot of garbage about Biblical Hebrew on the internet. Mystical garbage, fallacious word studies, and misunderstandings of the background and culture of the Ancient Near East in general litter the internet proving all kinds of weird doctrines and teachings. One of the sheep from the church can get hold of that, and all of the sudden he is lead astray. Or, worst case scenario, the one sheep that was lead astray then leads other people astray, and soon you have a little cult.

Yet, I believe that not everyone who blogs is like that. One of the fallacies that often saturates discussions like these is the ad hominem fallacy. The actual definition of an ad hominem fallacy is when a person attacks the man rather than his argument. Someone makes an argument from the Bible, and the reply is “Well, that can’t be right, because he struggles with sexual sin!” However, the ad hominem that is often used at this point is “Well, he can’t be right because he’s just an internet blogger!” Aside from falling badly into the ad hominem fallacy, this also falls badly into the hasty generalization fallacy. “There is a lot of garbage on the internet, therefore this must be garbage too.” Well, I suppose I might as well say that, since part of my body is fingers, that therefore all of my body is fingers! These are known logical fallacies that have been documented in the logic books for quite some time. Yet, these fallacies are used to dismiss arguments that are found on blogs all of the time.

I would say that there is some good, and some bad on the internet. Some of the blogs I frequent are that of TurretinFan, who does a lot of work in Roman Catholicism, Amir Larijani who, although he can sometimes let out an expletive, is very good in economics and culture, and Karen Campbell, who has done a lot of work in the Christian Patriarchy Movement. I trust these folks, even though they are bloggers on the internet, as they have shown themselves to have academic integrity. However, I have found other websites completely useless, laden with conspiracy theories about translators and fallacious views of language.

Carl Trueman addresses this problem in this article. I do disagree with Trueman on some things. For example, I don’t think that a Phd is having a “basic academic union card.” Some master’s programs are harder than many Phd programs. I remember some of my fellow students who went to SBL said that many of the Phd students there from other schools couldn’t believe how rigorous our program was, and that was just for a MA! However, there are harder MA programs than the one I was involved in, and there are some simply brutal Phd programs as well. Now, obviously, in this field, a Phd is almost a necessity to find a job, so it is not wise to stop at a MA. Still, the point is that the letters in front of your name don’t necessarily mean anything in terms of your skill level. Programs vary, and depending upon which schools you attend for your MA and Phd, you may have it harder in the MA program than the Phd, and it may be the case that your Phd work will be far harder than your MA work.

Also, as far as “refereed publications which then enjoy currency among qualified peers outside the person’s immediate circle of epigonous friends,” there is a lot of garbage in scholarly journals as well. I will never forget one of my friends returning from SBL, and telling me a story about a paper she went to hear. It was simply titled “A Literary Critical Look at the David/Jonathan Narrative.” She said that the whole thing was nothing more than a deconstruction of the David/Jonathan narrative to try to say that David and Jonathan were homosexuals. She even said that the room was full of homosexuals and lesbians, and that one girl from the audience of that reading was making eyes with her all weekend.

I also have personal experience with this. I remember when I took apart an article for Advanced Hebrew Grammar, and the whole article was terrible. All of the arguments from Semitic languages were completely wrong, and I took the Hittite portions to Dr. Younger who has studied Hittite, and he started laughing when I was presenting the arguments to him! The guy missed page numbers, and even missed the title of one of the entries he was citing, confusing Tarsus and Tarshish! What a mess it was. Yet, almost every popular book now on end times cites this academic journal article as if it were credible. Also, of the three blogs I linked to above, none of them have these qualifications, and yet, I still trust them, and still listen to what they have to say. You can be faithful and honest with the information you present even though you are not published in journals and don’t have a Phd.

Other than that, however, Trueman is right about the distinction between the right to speak and the right to be heard. I approach it a little different. I am willing to hear what someone else is saying until they show that they have not done the work necessary to understand the issue. Give people a chance to categorize their writing into something worthwhile, or something incompetent. I think that he is also right that we should not take upon ourselves the word “scholar” or anything of the sort. Self-publicity in that sense is dangerous, although it may be very tempting when you are talking to someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. We should be people who love the truth, and the reason we do scholarship should never be for self-promotion, but it should be to edify the body of Christ with his truth. Now, as someone with Asperger’s I can sometimes go to the other extreme, but that is another story for another day. However, for now, suffice it to say that we need to have the truth in view when we blog, or when we write in scholarly journals.

More than that, I would simply point out to scholars something that James White has said many times, and that is that scholarship is not something you buy; it is something you do. When you do scholarship, whether it is at the level of writing a blog, or whether it is at the level of an academic journal, we should not ever think that we have a free pass because of who we are. We should always be open to criticism, and open to interacting with antagonistic argumentation. Our goal should be to seek truth in whatever we write, speak, or tape. One must simply present the truth. Now, that is easier said than done, as it can require quite a bit of research. However, that is what scholarship is all about.

Now, what about people who are reading things on the internet? I think the problem is that we have a church that is not discerning. Not only do we have a celebrity culture where men are exalted to the point where questioning them is a mortal sin, but we also have people who don’t know the basics of how to do proper hermeneutics. First of all, we need to realize some things. Men like John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Tim Keller, John MacArthur, etc. make mistakes. I have caught them making certain mistakes. Now, does that mean that everything they write is trash, therefore? Of course not. It does mean that we cannot exalt these men to the position of infallibility, and then wonder why someone can refute us later on down the road. Also, we can’t exalt these men to the position of celebrity because they are fallible human beings. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to maintain that critical attitude I spoke of above when you have hundreds of followers who will believe whatever you have to say. They are human beings too, and not only do they make errors, but they can fall into this trap as well. We can unknowingly lead them into this kind of sin when we treat them like celebrities.

What needs to be done instead is that people need to learn to properly interpret the Bible. I would say that the blogosphere would produce much better quality if they were critical of their own writings and the writings of their celebrities using proper hermeneutics. I only half exaggerate when I say, if there is one piece of advice I would give to people who are concerned about this it is: “Sell all you have, and buy a hermeneutics textbook.” A church that can’t listen to God speak is a church that will keep falling into these traps. Unfortunately, I don’t see a revival of interest in hermeneutics in the church anytime soon.


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