Category Archives: James White

Response to James White on Qur’an 10:94

In a short clip, spanning roughly 20 minutes long, Dr. James White sought to address my article on Qur’an 10:94. He generally had three main points of dispute:

  1. That you have to “jump” from Qur’an 10:94 to Qur’an 46:10 to understand the verse.
  2. That Qur’an 10:94 uses plural for the People of the Book but Qur’an 46:10 is singular therefore it does not apply.
  3. Islamic scholars disagree on whether Qur’an 46:10 was revealed in Makkah (earlier) or Madina (later).

On the first point, there is not a need to respond to it. One of the first rules of exegesis is to let scripture interpret scripture. I am not aware of anyone opening John 1:1, and then complaining that they have to “jump” all the way back to Genesis 1:1 for a comparison to derive further context, I don’t believe a Christian would complain that they had to “jump” (to use Dr. White’s phrase) some 43 books to understand the relation between the two passages. Perhaps he can expand on his surprise and awe of scripture being referenced in such a fashion. As per my own understanding, it is a strawman and faux criticism.

It should be noted that one often has to jump more than a dozen books or more in some cases to reference Isaiah or the Psalms when reading the New Testament, I am not aware of this being a problem until Dr. White expressed it as such.

On the second point, yes, the Qur’an does use the term “those” as in the plural but that is because there were many witnesses at that time, including but not limited to Salman al Farsi, Abdullah ibn Salam and Zaid ibn Sanah. However verse 46:10 is generally referring to one person, while Qur’an 10:94 can refer to multiple witnesses. Therefore, there is no issue here whatsoever.

On the third point, if we argue Qur’an 46:10 is earlier and is therefore a prophecy of a Person of the Book who testifies to the truth of the Qur’an, then it is a prophecy par excellence given the witnesses I mentioned above. If it was revealed in Madinah, then it confirms a truth publicly known and acknowledged, thus verifying the verse itself and the Qur’an. There is no discrepancy here and Dr. White does not seem to follow through on his own logic, he merely states he disagrees with it but does not provide any justifiable reason for making such claims.

Throughout the 20 minutes or so in which he addresses my article, he made statements regarding whether or not there is such a thing as hermeneutics for the Qur’an, while at the same time reading from a Tafseer I quoted in my article. It’s a bit like driving in my car and then asking if I have a car. In case there is any doubt, yes Dr. White, there is and it’s called ‘Uloom al Qur’an, I am fairly certain every single Tafseer books mentions this in some capacity. Perhaps you were being facetious but it came across as being quite uninformed.

and Allah knows best.

Consistent Calvinism and Textual Criticism

Can one be a consistent Calvinist/ Reformed and use Textual Criticism to affirm the New Testament…? This major Calvinist scholar says no. Herman Bavinck says as follows:

“Those who make their doctrine of Scripture dependent on historical research into its origination and structure have already begun to reject Scripture’s self-testimony and therefore no longer believe that Scripture. They think it better to build up the doctrine of Scripture on the foundation of their own research than by believingly deriving it from Scripture itself.”

Source: Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, p. 424.

Bavinck on the self-testimony of Scripture (1--424)

For more information on Bavinck, please click here for his Wikipedia page.

When I initially posted this on my personal Facebook profile, I was immediately reproached by Dr. James White. His argument varied, but it began with claiming I didn’t understand what Bavinck was saying, it then moved to the claim that Bavinck was not referring to textual criticism and finally it moved on to whether or not historical criticism includes textual criticism or not.

The point being, that Dr. White was clearly uncomfortable with this quote and the consequences it bore on his position as recently rebuked by James Simpson, Sam Shamoun and other Christians. I was most disappointed with his response, because as far as I and other Muslims viewed his comments, it seems as if he took the post personally. Beside the point, when I tried to explain that Bavinck’s quote could be applicable and inclusive of textual criticism, I included this statement:

I don’t disagree, read the page, historical-critical, it absolutely includes higher criticism, no one doubts that. Then again, no one else disagrees that there is a distinction between higher and lower criticism, any longer. There’s a bit of both involved in each discipline. Thanks for the fruitful replies though!

I think my statement was quite clear, when it comes to historical-critical study, there is an overlap, a bit of both higher and lower criticism. For some reason, which we all now know why, Dr. White chose to ignore that qualifying phrase of  “a bit of both” and invectively chose to represent my argument as referring to absolutely no distinction between higher and lower criticism. It’s quite obvious that isn’t what I said but it’s the position he chose to stake his claim upon, shifting the goalposts if you would, and quite disappointing for someone who seeks to understand his opponents’ points of view. I forgive him for that.

In any case, yes, historical-critical research does include higher and lower criticism, which encompasses textual criticism. In the end, this quote does have ramifications for Reformed folk who choose to view the New Testament through the eyes of history to validate variant units. I gave one such example to qualify my point which was noted by all, that Dr. White intentionally chose to ignore:

With all due respect, when using philology to develop an authorial profile to help us with stemmata, don’t we have to refer to historical information/ data in that very process?

We look for language development, basically the way someone represents language changes over time and so we can demarcate eras of language use within the written tradition and delineate forms of writing over time. To do so, especially in textual criticism, we have to be aware of the language, its form, variations, standards, etc. In conclusion, distractions aside, this quote is damning for some of the more prolific Christian apologists and the untenable positions they hold to.

and God knows best.

Textual Criticism Versus Evangelical Beliefs

There has been a trend of late where evangelical apologists are trying to normalize the cc-2018-sitenews-clashingheadsuse of textual criticism in their understanding of the New Testament. This however, leaves them in an untenable position trying to balance the divergence of textual critical axioms, arguments and evidences with those of their normative faith. This can be seen with apologists such as Dr. White, Dr. Licona and Dr. Wallace. All three are studying or have studied textual criticism to some degree and there stands a myriad of obvious issues that need be sorted out.

Consider the case of the nature of revelation itself. On a recent Dividing Line program Dr. White along with Dr. Brown chose to argue that the Greek Septuagint was stronger in its wording than the Masoretic Text and Dead Sea Scrolls were when it came to prophecies about Jesus (John Calvin notably argued the same for Paul’s use of the Septuagint and its associated divergences). The obvious issue here is that according to their own classical beliefs, the Old Testament was not revealed (and written) in Greek. Surely then, according to the confessions, it is traditionally understood that inerrancy primarily refers to the autographs. In other words, God chose the men who wrote the “books” of the Old Testament in a specific language. God chose men, again, according to their beliefs to word scripture to the best degree of accuracy and understanding possible. How is it then possible that a translation by unknown people can represent scripture better than the people that God chose to represent His teachings for Him? That does not make sense. Yet this is the position they now hold to, a position that is absolutely advantageous for Muslims doing da’wah.

Then there is the other argument of the Old Testament (as per the program responded to here), that it descended to us in various streams and that different scribes (as well as copyists) chose one variant over another because they completed the exposition of a verse better, as Dr. White referred to it, “sermonic expansion”. So there was addition to the text, addition not by the initial authors whom God chose, yet somehow this is not corruption. Odd reasoning here. Clearly cognitive dissonance at work. What then do we make of the claim that there were different streams? Yes, we agree, but did God intend to give authority to each stream? If that was the case then the later Masoretic Text would have authorial primacy and importance, rather than a translation in the form of the Septuagint that came before it, if we were to consider it with respect to chronology. Yet we find most Christian apologists referring and giving importance to the Septuagint while wholly ignoring the Latin and Samaritan texts, are those too not viable streams? Who then, gave the scribes authority to choose from those streams? Those anonymous and unknowable scribes? Again, problems arise.

What then do we make of the claim that there existed actual men within the first century by the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who would be considered the initial authors? Isn’t it the case in New Testament Textual Criticism through stemmatics and philology that each Gospel is a composite work, the result of more than one author in various periods throughout history? How then can Matthew be one man and yet many, not existing at one time, but many simultaneously? Yes, I do recognize such thinking to be absurd, which is why I find it almost impossible to take anyone seriously who argues for a singular, inspired authorship, yet still accepts – at the same time – that there were multiple authors to one text as is the standard position. Yes, you are right in asking that no right thinking evangelical would accept composite authorship, yet today in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, the standard critical text that the aforementioned men believe in, contains conjectural emendations. These are instances where the textual critic has decided that their version of a passage best represents the original without any manuscript evidence for their version ever having existed. Surely, today’s evangelicals don’t hold to the position that the folks on the Nestle-Aland committee are inspired by God, so wouldn’t that then confirm they accept the words of multiple people for one Gospel, rather than one individual from the 1st century? It does, yet again we arrive at a problem.

So while I am happy that today’s Christian apologists are becoming more liberal towards the New Testament and affirming the Qur’an’s claims about their attitude to Scripture, I also mourn for the aloofness that abounds otherwise.

and God knows best.

Response to Dr. James White’s Dividing Line Show on Jan. 9th 2018

Please note – I have quoted Martin Luther in this video and he has many anti-Semitic statements towards the Jewish people. I have only quoted him to provide context for statements made in response to Dr. White. I do not endorse or encourage use of Luther’s hateful views.

See the Presentation that Dr. White is commenting on here.

For more information on the event, see this link.

For the corruption of the OT and NT, according to Islamic beliefs, see this link.

and God knows best.

Second Response to Dr. James White on John 9:38 and John 20:28

Apologies – I thought I had already posted this video to the site since it got more views than the original video that brought about the discussion in the first place! A few people duly pointed out that the second response hadn’t yet made its way to the main website and already had 4x the views of the original video. 10 days late, but here it is:

There are some interesting comments that came about due to this discussion which I’ll have to write about later on, but at the end of it all, this was a healthy discussion about New Testament Textual Criticism between a Muslim and a Christian. Not many people can fully appreciate how in-depth the discussion got, but it’s a start.

and Allah knows best.

Between Ehrman and Error

Recently on Blogging Theology I posted a video on the tenacity of the proposed ausgangstext which filled the lacuna of John 20:28. The vast majority of Muslims (expectedly) were enthusiastic about discussing the tenacity of Doubting Thomas’ alleged statement. The vast majority of Christians were not, which was also understandable. Then there were those caught in-between, educated enough to know that there had to be, or that there was more evidence behind what I had published, and there were others who were incredulous as to what that evidence could have been. Upon release of my second response video, I took a little more time, some 20 minutes and expanded on the rationale leading to the conclusions I mentioned in my first video on the topic.

Everyone knows about Dr. Ehrman’s famous statement, “copies of copies of copies of copies”. Yet the only two arguments I received in return were quite amusing. The first of which was that some people were curious as to whether Dr. Ehrman had commented on this passage or not. For some reason I have yet to discover, some Muslims’ hold on simple textual criticism of the New Testament is limited to only what Dr. Ehrman says, yet at the same time they are fully willing to simultaneously argue against his famous aforementioned quote. I duly provided a list of scholarship that not only knew of the work I gained the reference from John 20:28 on, I also provided the name of a seminary which uses the work itself, while also foregoing to mention that the scholar in question has been cited by Dr. Ehrman himself – one of the Muslims who opposed me in those comments had perhaps not yet read Dr. Ehrman’s references to this scholar (and his conclusions).

Nonetheless, the second argument I received was that no other variant of John 20:28 existed post p66, although I did point out that this was the case in Codex Bezae, as minor of a variant as it is, the challenge that not one variant exists has thoroughly been debunked (for those unread, the manuscript was eventually edited by a scribe).

bezae1

Following from this ignorant argument, was the case that since we know what every text post p66 said, then we must know what p66 itself said. This again, coming from those who agree with Dr. Ehrman’s aforementioned statement. We are therefore left with the following problem. Hence the title, Between Ehrman and Error. We have the following from the gracious Dr. Ehrman (emphasis mine own):

My point has always been (for example, in Misquoting Jesus) that we can’t know with absolute complete certainty what was said in each and every passage of the NT. That point – which I think cannot be refuted – is principally directed against fundamentalists who want to claim that every word of the Bible is inspired by God. How can we say the words were inspired if we don’t know in a lot of cases what the words were???Source.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to these questions.  But they shouldn’t be ignored, as they ALWAYS are (in my experience) by people who want to assure us that we “know the original text in 99% of all cases.”   Really?   Which original?

If it were just up to me, I would say that the “original” is the first form of the text that was placed in circulation.  But since that in fact is not the oldest form of the text, maybe we shouldn’t call it the original. – Source.

One very interesting piece of evidence for this view involves a fact that is not widely known outside the ranks of the professional textual critics.  It is this:  new papyri manuscripts – relatively very old ones – do show up all the time (several in the past few years).  Whenever a new papyrus turns up, it almost NEVER contains a textual variant that is completely new.  The variants are almost always variants that we know about from our later manuscripts.  This shows, the argument goes, that variants were not created later.  Our later manuscripts preserved variants, they didn’t create them.  And this shows, it is argued, that all of the earlier variants are to be found even in the later manuscripts.

This is a terrific argument, and very interesting.  On the surface, it seems pretty convincing.  But in fact, in my view, it does not actually show that we have the original reading or that we can know that we do.  I will explain why in the next post. – Source.

I don’t think our New Testaments are likely ever to change much.  And I don’t think we know in a lot of places what the originals said.  Where’s the contradiction?  I’m not saying that we *know* that we have the original text in 99.9% of the passages of the NT.  I’m saying we *don’t* know – for a wide variety of reasons that I haven’t gotten into very much here.   But I’m emphasizing the word “know.”  We simply don’t know.

Do I *suspect* that most of the time we are pretty close or even there?  Yes, that would be my guess.  But it’s just a guess based on scholarly assumption and suspicion. – Source.

During those 300 years, Mark was being copied, and recopied, and recopied, by scribes.  Until we get our first full copy.  Can we know that this copy from 300 years later was 99% like the version that came directly from the pen of the author?  Of course we can’t know.  How would we know?Source.

Between Ehrman and Error. It’s really as simple as that. Dr. Ehrman used the word “guess”, I used the word “guesswork”. Dr. Ehrman used the word “suspicion”, I used the word “speculation”. Dr. Ehrman repeatedly points out that we cannot know what the original text said. He repeatedly points out that most variant units are decided on guesses and suspicion. So the question begs itself, how far are the conclusions in my video, different from that of Dr. Ehrman’s himself?

The problem presents itself, as he described regarding Mark, we don’t know what version of what copy we received. Given that basic, common sense principle, extend that to John 20:28, given that p66 is our earliest and we have no intermediate text (that is, the text between what the original author(s) wrote and the text of p66 itself), and that it has a lacuna or gap for the famous, “and my God” – then there is no way of certainty of knowing what p66 itself said or what the intermediate text(s) said, what the archetypal text said, or what the autographic text said. To require that we must need a variant before being able to dispute what a missing text says, is essentially self-refuting, the gap itself presents us with a problem, we don’t know what it said and we don’t know if any of the intermediate texts said something variable. We simply cannot know, just as Dr. Ehrman says.

So between Ehrman and Error, I agree with him, we cannot know, it involves guessing and suspicion. Those who disagree, disagree with the very goodly Dr. they appealed to in the first place and are as such, in error.

and Allah knows best.

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