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4 myths about the doctrine of inerrancy

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The controversial doctrine of inerrancy maintains that the Scriptures, when correctly interpreted, are without error in the original manuscripts. ("Error" here is typically understood to involve only errors in substance, not errors in grammar, spelling, or style.) Many Christians consider this doctrine to be naïve and misguided. Such a negative judgment, however, is often based on one or more of the following four myths.

Myth #1: The doctrine of inerrancy was invented by modern fundamentalists.

The doctrine of inerrancy was expressed as early as the 5th century by Augustine:

I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I mys…

An Error in the Case for Christ

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Last night I watched The Case for Christ, a film adaption of the bestselling book. Based on a true story, the film depicts the spiritual and intellectual journey of Lee Strobel, a journalist who struggles to disprove Christianity in the wake of his wife's unexpected conversion. The film is very well done, and it offers some substantive information about the critical investigation of the resurrection of Jesus.

However, I would stress here that the film barely scratches the surface of the case for Christ. For a much more robust treatment of the historical evidence for the Christian faith, I would encourage you to peruse the library of video lectures I have assembled here.

Moreover, I did find one significant error in the film which deserves mention. In an interview with an archaeologist turned priest, the following dialogue occurs:

Strobel: I understand that a number of people claim to have seen Jesus after his crucifixion, and some of them even wrote it down. But ... how can we be …

Jesus the slave master

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I recently came across a wonderful tale in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. We are told that after Easter, the disciples gathered in Jerusalem to devise a strategy for spreading the gospel throughout the entire world. They decide to divide up the world by lot, and the region of India falls to Thomas (who is identified in the text as Judas Thomas). Thomas, however, refuses to go. Jesus even appears to Thomas and commands him to go to India, but Thomas still refuses. In response, Jesus finds a slave trader from India.

Now the Lord seeing [the slave trader] walking in the market-place at noon said unto him: "Wouldest thou buy a carpenter?"
And he said to him: "Yea."
And the Lord said to him: "I have a slave that is a carpenter and I desire to sell him." And so saying he showed him Thomas afar off, and agreed with him for three litrae of silver unstamped, and wrote a deed of sale, saying: "I, Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter, acknowledge that I have sol…

How I Studied for the Comprehensive Exams

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I recently completed my comprehensive exams in the Biblical Studies Ph.D. program at Asbury. Several students who took the exams before I did gave me helpful tips for preparation, and several students who are taking the exams after me have asked for my input. Here is a summary of my experience with the exams.

1) Coursework Phase 

Context and Method Exams:

During this time I began reading through the books on the core reading list. I typically did not take notes, because I felt this would slow me down too much. In a few instances I did write brief summaries of the books. If I had it to do over again, I would have started with the list of key topics (see below) and used this as an outline for taking notes.

Language Exam: 

I simply read Greek and occasionally Hebrew for my devotional reading.

2) Meeting with Exam Committee 

I made sure to obtain written confirmation that everyone agreed on the basic format of the exam. These were the parameters we set:

Language (Dr. Bauer):
Translate 1 passa…

Evangelical Hypocrisy

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My take on the "New Perspective on Paul"

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In the latter part of the 20th century, E. P. Sanders and James Dunn ignited a revolution in biblical studies known as the "New Perspective on Paul." I will first summarize this revolution and then offer a brief critique.

The New Perspective

Paul has traditionally been read as proclaiming the doctrine of salvation by grace over and against his Jewish peers, who proclaimed a doctrine of salvation by works. Sanders, however, argues that first-century Judaism was not a religion in which salvation was based on works. As Sanders explains, in first-century Judaism "the intention and effort to be obedient constitute the condition for remaining in the covenant, but they do not earn it." Entrance into the covenant is based on grace. (Sanders labels this "covenantal nomism.")

However, if Paul's Jewish peers did not actually teach salvation by works, then why does Paul attack them as if they did? Dunn answers this dilemma by arguing that Paul has been misunderst…

Can historians consider the possibility of miracle?

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Some argue that true historical criticism entails an a priori rejection of the supernatural. In an influential 1913 essay, Ernst Troeltsch laid out 3 principles which he believed undergirded the historical method:
Probability: History can only give us probability, never certainty. Analogy: The past is analogous to the present. Correlation: All events exist in an unbroken chain of cause-and-effect. According to Troeltsch, the latter two principles were incompatible with the notion of a God “capable ... of extraordinary activities which break through and abrogate the ordinary operation of the system.” Rudolf Bultmann likewise stated, “The historical method includes the presupposition that history is ... a closed continuum of effects” which “cannot be rent by the interference of supernatural, transcendent powers.” 

Other scholars, however, have rejected this understanding of historical criticism. While Troeltsch’s first principle is widely accepted, the latter two have been heavily cri…