<< Agreed, and I am careful to avoid concluding that Apostle Paul
must have been wrong because it is only inerrantists who defend his
objectivity in Galatians 3:16...because it remains a possibility at
this early stage that the inerrantist interpretation of Galatians
3:16 is correct. >>
I'm glad for this acknowledgment.
"On the other hand, in questions of the latter type, I would regard
uniformity of opinion outside and against the view of one's
ideological or religious community to be less than decisive in
assigning the burden of proof. For example, I don't reason that
atheists bear the burden of proof to show that the universe is self-
explanatory as a materialist, physicalist system, merely because
everyone else thinks such a position is false. Instead, I think both
atheists and non-atheists who wish to argue for their position ought
to be prepared to show some evidence or make an argument for it."
<< I see what you mean. >>
"Likewise, let us assume that avowed non-inerrantist commentators on
Galatians 3, if they comment on the question at all, uniformly
regard Paul's statement as errant. Well, golly! Isn't that what we
would expect of a commentator who was avowedly non-inerrantist?"
<< Let us assume that avowed inerrantist commentators on Galatians
3, if they comment on the quesiton at all, uniformly regard Paul's
statement as correct. Well, golly! Isn't that what we would expect
of a commentator who was avowdely inerrantist?
Your axe swings both ways, mind if I use it? >>
Exactly my point: if the axe swings both ways, it becomes useless to
determine which viewpoint is the product of bias or presupposition.
"Even if you wanted to assign the burden of proof to the
inerrantist, I have delivered to you an argument in defense of an
inerrantist reading of the passage. Therefore, the alleged lack of
support for my reading from non-inerrantists is irrelevant."
<< Yes and no. Yes, the issue of whether Paul was correct or not in
Galatians 3:16 obviously cannot be decided by noting that it is only
pro-Christian commentators who agree with Paul and the rest do not.
But no, the lack of non-inerrantist support is NOT irrelevant in
spite of the fact that you have already supplied what you believe
are objective reasons for the inerrantist view on the subject. And
that's because there is not one exception to the rule that non-
inerrantist commentators disagree with Paul. >>
All you're saying here is that the lack of non-inerrantist support
is relevant because there is a lack of non-inerrantist support.
You're begging the question.
<< It is my view that the error of being too biased falls against
the inerrantist, because it is THEY that have more to lose. If non-
inerrantist commentators are wrong, and Paul was right, they have
lost nothing, for there was no "Chicago Statement on Biblical
Errancy" that they pledged allegience to, for them to be seen
falling from when they discover they were wrong. The non-
inerrantist has room to grow in case he discovers he was wrong,
because there is no "non-inerrantist manifesto" that he is
absolutely committed to, such as inerrantists are absolutely
committed to inerrancy as if inerrancy were completely and totally
This is your best point. Inerrantists do have quite a bit to lose by
acknowledging that a particular statement in the Bible is an error.
But this doesn't stop some inerrantists from acknowledging that a
particular statement in the Bible is an *apparent* error, or a
difficulty of some kind. In any case, you are now talking about
something other than which view of Galatians 3 is *true.* That needs
to be kept firmly in mind.
Your statement, however, needs to be heavily qualified, if it can be
accepted at all. Non-inerrantists who are professional Bible
commentators *all* have something of an axe to grind against
biblical inerrancy. Those who write commentaries on Galatians are
going to be familiar with the fact that Paul's use of Genesis in
Galatians 3 is controversial. We would expect those with an axe to
grind against the inerrancy of Scripture to side with those who
consider Paul's use exegetically flawed. They do have something to
lose by acknowledging that Paul's use is exegetically defensible: a
bullet in their anti-inerrancy arsenal.
Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that inerrancy and anti-
inerrancy are not positions existing 'in the wild.' Biblical
inerrancy is a position held in the context of a theological
perspective that understands the New Testament to express the true
fulfillment of the Old Testament. We're talking here about
Christian, biblical inerrancy, not the inerrancy of the Jewish Bible
as in very orthodox Judaism. To acknowledge the accuracy of Paul's
use of Genesis in Galatians 3 does far more than acknowledge that in
this one verse Paul did not make a goof. Acknowledging the accuracy
of Paul's use of Genesis in Galatians 3 entails acknowledging that
Paul's perspective on the entire Old Testament is correct, namely,
that the Old Testament points forward to Jesus Christ as the
fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. It means acknowledging that
the Old Testament really does prophesy the coming of a Redeemer of
the world and that Jesus was that Redeemer. It therefore means
acknowledging that Christianity reads the Old Testament correctly
and both Judaism and Islam do not. Oh, how intolerant! We can't have
that! Liberal, 'open-minded' scholars, even those in nominally
Christian institutions, are horrified! No, Paul *must* be understood
as a dogmatist whose handling of the Old Testament was biased by his
controversies with Jews and Judaizers. His reading of the Old
Testament must be patronizingly viewed as one biased view among
many, an option for those who wish to espouse it but not the true
meaning of the Old Testament. If these scholars are to say anything
at all about Paul's handling of Genesis in Galatians 3, they *must*
position it as something other than an accurate, hermeneutically
sound interpretation of the Old Testament. Otherwise, they would be
implicitly conceding that Christianity is the authentic fulfillment
of the religion of Abraham himself (the figure at the heart of the
Genesis texts in question). Again, they cannot concede THAT.
I conclude, then, that most if not all non-inerrantist commentators
on Galatians have about as much at stake in disputing the
hermeneutical soundness of Paul's handling of Genesis as inerrantist
commentators have in defending it.
You argued that inerrantist scholars have institutional pressures on
them to conform their reading of Galatians to the evangelical party
line, while non-inerrantist scholars have no such institutional
pressures. I can see how someone might innocently suppose this to be
so, but as someone who has deep experience with both evangelical and
liberal institutions I can assure you that you are missing the
bigger picture. The biblical scholars who get hired at liberal and
secular institutions get those jobs only if they distinguish
themselves as anti-fundamentalist, anti-evangelical (unless they're
suitably progressive, e.g., a quasi-evangelical with a liberal-
pleasing track record on the ordination of gays or other hot-button
issues), theologically and politically liberal scholars. At all
costs they must eschew a conservative Christian biblical
hermeneutic. Therefore, if Galatians 3 comes up at all, they must
side with Paul's critics. They must! I'm not saying they find fault
with Paul's handling of Genesis even though they know that he was
right; no, they really think he's wrong. They wouldn't be who they
are, or be teaching where they are, if they didn't.
<< I think inerrantists, although giving lip-service to the truth
that everybody is biased, do not as freely admit that their biases
color their handling of the evidence as non-inerrantists. That's
totally expected because for inerrantists, "inerrancy" is not
merely "the nature of scripture as I see it", but rather......"the
nature of scripture according to god." Most Inerrantists that I've
dealt with absolutely have no ability to distinguish between their
opinions and "god's word", indeed for them to acknowledge that
inerrancy is "just an opinion on scripture" sounds to them like a
negation of god's very words. >>
Again, you are not now talking about which view is true. My
experience with both evangelicals and non-evangelicals gives me a
different picture. Liberal and avowedly non-Christian scholars in
biblical studies talk very earnestly about the relativizing effects
of bias and community on the Bible and on conservative, traditional
Christianity, but seem totally blind to its effects on themselves.
If you want to see this phenomenon in action, watch any of the Peter
Jennings documentaries on the Bible. On those rare occasions when
liberal scholars acknowledge their biases, they do not then admit
that the evangelical might be right after all!
I appreciate your efforts and look forward to your responses to my
In Christ's service,
Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
Center for Biblical Apologetics