Conversing With a Caller on the Dividing Line of Oct. 23, 2007
In two separate articles I have already responded to the main points made by Dr. James R. White in the Dividing Line broadcast of Oct. 13, 2007. Here I respond to his conversation with a caller. A gentleman who was at the debate called in to speak to James, and three important points came up in the ensuing discussion. My comments are as follows:
The Story of Achan
As already seen, one of the points which some Christian scholars raise against the theory of penal substitution is about the injustice involved in crucifying the innocent to free the guilty. In response, James said in essence that I do not understand the idea of corporate justice as is known from the Bible. I was puzzled. James explained this with reference to the story of Achan. After the Battle of Ai, Achan had not turned over to the public treasury all of the spoils taken from the enemy. As a punishment for Achan’s withholding from the state treasury, Achan, his sons, his daughters, his cattle, his donkeys, and his sheep were stoned and then burned by the congregation under the direction of Joshua. As a result, the Lord turned from his fierce anger (Joshua 7:24-26).
When James mentioned this I volunteered that I did not know the story. He seems now on DL to delight over the fact of my ignorance. I do not mind this, for it is good now and again to remember that what I know is only a little. But it would also be important for James to recall what my response was to this story and to the corporate justice James thinks it establishes. My retort was that this too is injustice. Therefore this could not be used as an answer to the injustice of the cross as a means of Atonement. I added that if I point to one example of injustice and James points to another we now have two examples of injustice. Two wrongs do not make a right. In sum, James has succeeded in showing me an example of injustice in the Bible of which I had no previous knowledge.
Wasn’t Paul’s Religion Easy on the Gentiles?
During the debate I argued that the reason Paul’s religion became widespread in contradistinction to that of the original disciples of Jesus was that Paul’s religion was easier on the Gentiles. It did away with the requirements of circumcision, Sabbath observance, and dietary laws. This is such a truism that it was strange to hear James and the caller convincing each other that I am wrong on this score.
The proof against my case, according to them, was that Paul was stoned at Lystra (Acts 14:19). But this hardly proves that Paul’s religion was not generally more attractive to Gentiles for the reasons already explained. In fact, the brief description in Acts does not show what Paul preached to the folks at Lystra prior to this stoning. On the contrary, it is clear that they understood little of Paul’s religion, for they were making sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas, taking them to be gods despite the fervent plea of the two Apostles.
The reason given in Acts for Paul to be stoned is not related specifically to something Paul said, but to the fact that some Jews, newly arrived, stirred up the crowd against him (Acts 14:19). But notice that later Paul returned to Lystra to strengthen the disciples there (14:21). So, obviously, he did have some followers there. It seems that when the dust of debate settles it is his religion that wins over Gentiles much more than the religion of the Jews or of the Jewish Disciples of Jesus who were hand-picked by Jesus himself.
Did Peter Write the Second Letter of Peter?
Against the hypothesis that Peter and Paul were at odds with each other is the Second Letter of Peter which ostensibly is from Peter. The letter regards Paul as a brother, and his writings as Scripture. But Christian scholars, both ancient and modern, generally hold that this is not an authentic letter of Peter. This means that someone wrote it using Peter’s name in order to lend it greater authority and to show that Paul is acceptable to Peter.
In support of the pseudonymous nature of 2nd Peter, I cited Bruce Metzger with the specific qualification that I know him to be a scholar for whom James has high regard. James wanted to argue with the reasons for this conclusion, and asked me to state them. I offered to read the list from Metzger’s book. But James changed the subject to now deal with the First Letter of Peter.
As I have explained, scholars differ about 1st Peter. Some think Peter wrote it; others think that, like 2nd Peter, it is pseudonymous. Obviously, one can dispute the authorship of 1st Peter, but that of 2nd Peter is settled among the scholars. What James really needed to deal with is the fact that 2nd Peter, though stating plainly that it is from Peter is actually from someone else who wrote it after Peter’s death as though he were Peter. And the scholar I cited in support of this was not Bart Ehrman, hence there is no reason to drag him into this. It was Bruce Metzger. Let’s deal with him.