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4180RE: [Synoptic-L] Re: Laodicenas (was Borg on Chronology)

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  • Matson, Mark (Academic)
    May 28 4:58 PM
      One final response to a subject clearly outside of the list's focus (and I will be silent):

      1. One of your main arguments re: Markus Barth is by using The Broken Wall, not his AB commentary. They are clearly different books: one a more general audience, one a scholarly commentary. This is an argumentative fallacy; what one might say about one book by an author does not necessarily apply to another book by the same author.

      2. You suggest that the fact that The Broken Wall was written for the American Baptist Church makes in inherently uncritical. In fact the implication is the American Baptist Church as a group is somehow wildly uncritical. First, the American Baptists are entirely different than Southern Baptist.; I would place the former closer to most mainline christian denominations. But that is even beside the point. Critical material has often been written within "conservative" groups. Indeed during the period The Broken Wall was written there was a very high quality critical journal prepared by Southern Baptists: the Review and Expositer. (granted, it has in recent years lost its critical focus; but that is not true for the period when Barth was writing). This is a fallacy of reading in focus from an audience, not the text.

      3. You further imply that because Barth himself was "evangelical" (in the European sense, btw, which is far different than the use in the USA), he cannot be critical. This too is a fallacy.

      4. But most importantly, you misrepresent Barth's two volumes which show high quality of historical critical analysis. You may disagree with his conclusion, but he considers all the major scholars, considers philological material, and has an extended discussion on the criterion of authenticity. A further read of the entire commentary would show that throughout Barth considers material historically, wide comparison and full recognition of the factors involved. But to simply write him off as "uncritical" because you disagree -- well that is a fallacy too.

      5. On the issue of James and Paul: the issue turns entirely on the nature of key Pauline terms such as "justification" and "works of the law." On the latter, for instance, many (if not most) prominent Pauline scholars recognize that "works of the law" is not the same as "works." As Dunn points out, the former term is essentially the same as saying, "becoming a Jew by accepting the Torah." Thus the question is, can one be justified (transferred to salvation) only by accepting the role of the Torah (including circumcison, etc.). This issue is not what James is talking about.


      Mark A. Matson
      Milligan College
      E Bruce Brooks wrote:

      Mark recently protested (his word) two of my previous statements. It seems
      there may be something of importance at issue, and so I here repeat my
      statements, with part of Mark's protest, and then respond.

      1. I had said, in passing, "Critical opinion (by which I do not mean M
      Barth) finds Ephesians to be pseudepigraphical." And Mark responded: "Well,
      perhaps if by "critical opinion" you mean people who agree with you. BUT,
      Markus Barth's volume in AB is a brilliant critical commentary. And many if
      not most current commentators tend on the side of Pauline authorship. . . "

      Barth's commentary is undoubtedly "brilliant," it would be churlish to
      suggest otherwise, but one may still ask, Brilliant to what end? There is an
      important distinction here, which I think should not be lost sight of as we
      do our work and consider the work of others. As has been pointed out, and
      not alone in NT studies, there are two ways of approaching an ancient text:
      (a) to find out what it was doing in its own time, or (b) to explore its
      value for our present time. Both have their uses, and their respective
      publics, but they are aiming at different things, and their results should
      not be mixed.

      The usual label in NT for the former approach is "critical-historical." For
      the other, there are several labels, but the one which M Barth's editor
      applies to him is "evangelical" - meaning, I take it, an emphasis on the
      importance of the message. Thus Jitsuo Morikawa's Foreword to Barth's 1959
      Ephesians study, The Broken Wall, announces at the beginning "This is a
      study book for evangelism," and concludes with a paragraph beginning
      "Professor Barth is an evangelist at heart." The book itself was written at
      the request of the American Baptist Convention "for specific use in its own
      churches . . . Schools of evangelism, in a six weeks' study preparation for
      active witness, will use this book as their basic text." That is, message is
      the guiding concept, and immediate relevance is the watchword. The book
      itself bears this out. It begins with what it calls the "strangeness" of
      Ephesians, including the doubts raised about its authenticity, and certain
      of its doctrinal features (predestination, ecclesiasticism), and then,
      rather than proceed to deal directly with those problems, it makes a
      paragraph break and says: (p26) "But enough of pointing out the bewildering
      strangness of Ephesians! .. . Ephesians has indeed its beauty also . . ."
      And the author proceeds to point out that beauty. His answer to the problems
      of the test, then, is to talk about something else.

      The same, though in greater detail and for a different audience, seems to me
      to be on view in the 1974 AB commentary. Again there is an introduction
      mentioning the doubts about authenticity, this time in more detail. But the
      methods by which the doubts were raised are impugned; thus, the question of
      directionality between Ephesians and the undoubtedly related 1 Peter is said
      on p1/23 to be effectively insoluble ("If only criteria were available for
      determining which one of two documents as similar and as subtly different as
      Ephesians and I Peter came first!"). And the insolubility of this and all
      other directionality problems is supported in n78 by a reference to Farmer's
      challenge to Markan Priority, as casting all determinations of relative date
      in doubt. This is not a use of critical methods, it is a denial that
      critical methods work.

      There are useful observations in Barth's commentary, among them the
      similarity of themes between Ephesians, Hebrews, and John (of course not
      new, as pointed out by Abbott in 1897, but heartily welcome nonetheless).
      These are given several pages in Barth, and those pages conclude with this
      judgement: "But too little is as yet known or proven. The dates of Hebrews
      and John's Gospel are highly controversial. These writings may stand in a
      very complicated and distant relationship to Ephesians, but except that they
      offer interesting parallels of vocabulary, thought-form, and message, they
      make no contribution to identifying the author of Ephesians. Their authors
      may have known nothing of Ephesians may have known nothing of either of
      them." (p27). And then again Barth turns away from the whole subject, with
      this opening sentence: "It is time to turn to more commonly accepted
      presuppositions, and their possible implications for dating Ephesians and
      tracing its author."

      It will seem to some of us that, however the relations between Ephesians, 1
      Peter, Hebrews, and John may work out, or even whether there *are* any such
      relations, the establishment of a common world of thought between
      Ephesians, Hebrews, 1 Peter and John in fact goes far to establish the
      authorship of Ephesians, in the sense that it tends to disestablish Paul as
      a possible author. They imply a Zeitgeist in which Paul as we know him
      elsewhere can have no part.

      As I began by saying, there is a line in here somewhere, and those who would
      draw that Zeitgeist conclusion would seem to be on the other side of that
      line from Markus Barth.

      As for the position of current commentators on Pauline authorship of
      Ephesians, no doubt a majority could be found in favor. That does not affect
      the difference between the two approaches to the texts.

      Now here is the second point.

      2. I had mentioned "James, which directly opposes Paul's faith/works
      dichotomy in Romans." Mark responded: "This posits two things, erroneously
      in my opinion: a). that James was written with Paul in mind. My sense is
      that James is mostly traditional (Jewish) ethical hortatory material, and
      certainly is not a response; and b). that Paul actually writes with a
      Lutheran faith/works problem. I think the current literature on Paul
      (Sanders, Dunn, Wright, etc) would frankly call that into question."

      Taking these in reverse order, Paul most assuredly does not write in a
      Lutheran vein, and it needs no Ed Sanders or other giant of the field to
      tell us so. For Paul to do anything of the kind would be grossly
      anachronistic. It is however quite historically possible that Luther thinks
      in a Pauline way. The centrality of sola fide in Luther's worldview, and his
      detestation of the Epistle of James in particular (which, to put it mildly,
      does not preach that doctrine) are presumably well known. To Luther, James
      was insubstantial, a thing of straw, and presumably because it did *not*
      preach the Gospel as he knew it. So far, so consistent.

      The root question, however, is not a Lutheran but a historical one: whether
      James (in the 1c) opposed the Gospel as Paul knew it (also in the 1c). It is
      nothing to the point that James contains, or even mostly contains,
      traditional ethical/hortatory material. The point is what James is doing in
      the relevant passages. I proceed to assemble the relevant passages. Here,
      first, is what I characterized as Paul/s "faith/works dichotomy in Romans:"

      Rom 3:20-24. "For no human being will be justified in his [God's]
      sight by works of the law since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But
      not the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although
      the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God
      through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no
      distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they
      are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in
      Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be
      received by faith.

      To which I would compare:

      James 2:18. "But someone will say, You have faith and I have works.
      Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my

      Now here is Paul's own historical example of how faith is sufficient for

      Rom: 4:1-3. "What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather
      according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has
      something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture
      say? Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."

      And here is James again:

      James 2:20-24. "Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that
      faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by
      works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was
      active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the
      scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God and it was reckoned
      to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God. You see that
      man is justified by works and not by faith alone."

      There are approximately two views to be taken of these passages in James.
      (1) James is putting forth standard paraenetic material, and has nothing
      particular in view other than general edification of the masses; or (2)
      James is attacking a specific error known to him. To decide between the two,
      we can invoke rhetorical science. Is the phrase "Do you want to be shown,
      you foolish fellow," proper to general ethical exhortation? Or to the
      diatribe form, an assault on an erroneous position held by a specific

      My suggestion would be the latter, and I also have a hunch about whose error
      James had in mind.
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