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Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture di [Hoffmeier, James K., Magary, Dennis R.]
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Is historical accuracy an indispensable part of the Bible’s storyline, or is Scripture only concerned with theological truths? As progressive evangelicals threaten to reduce the Bible’s jurisdiction by undermining its historical claims, every Christian who cares about the integrity of Scripture must be prepared to answer this question.

Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? offers a firm defense of Scripture’s legitimacy and the theological implications of modern and postmodern approaches that teach otherwise. In this timely and timeless collection of essays, scholars from diverse areas of expertise lend strong arguments in support of the doctrine of inerrancy. Contributors explore how the specific challenges of history, authenticity, and authority are answered in the text of the Old and New Testaments as well as how the Bible is corroborated by philosophy and archaeology.

With contributions from respected scholars—including Allan Millard, Craig Blomberg, Graham Cole, Michael Haykin, Robert Yarbrough, and Darrell Bock—Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? arms Christians with fresh insight, arguments, and language with which to defend Scripture’s historical accuracy against a culture and academy skeptical of those claims.

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  • Editore: Crossway (29 febbraio 2012)
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5.0 su 5 stelle a better response is needed 12 dicembre 2013
Di Paul R. Ernst - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
At a time when a high view of Scripture is under attack, even from within evangelicalism, a better response is needed.
This book provides a balanced perspective that acknowledges the problems and gives credible answers that deal with the issues. It goes beyond the stock response of "That's just anti-supernatural bias" by taking into account historical setting and literary genre

Paul Ernst
author, You Bet Your Life
2 di 6 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle Helpful 9 luglio 2013
Di Joseph G Buckley - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
Helpful in understanding the hermeneutics of some writers.
Not always true to God's Word. But helpful in discerning where some are coming from.
25 di 25 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle Historical Matters MATTER and this is a great place to start... 10 aprile 2012
Di Luke Geraty - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile
There are a lot of books that seek to expose problems in the Bible and many others that seek to defend its truthfulness. My shelves are full of books that address issues related to the historicity and truthfulness of the Bible. But there area lot of people, especially in today's postmodern culture, who tend to take a rather apathetic approach to these issues. In fact, on more than one occasion I have had friends state that it doesn't matter much whether or not the events recorded in Scripture actually happened... we just need to take the moral teachings of Jesus and the Bible and see them for what they are.

The natural question, then, is simple: does the history that is presented in the Bible actually matter to the Christian faith? What are we to make of all the current skeptics of the Bible and the advocates for its distrust?

A recent work has taken on this very issue, Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?, edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Over twenty scholars contribute well-researched essays that cover a variety of topics, including issues related to Biblical, Systematic, & Historical Theology, the Old & New Testaments, and Biblical Archaeology.

There's a lot covered here, so where do we begin? Since this is a blog review and not an academic journal, I'll keep try and cover the essential details that some of my readers will be interested in.

First, I believe the book accomplishes it's purpose. John D. Woodbridge writes in the foreword that he hopes that "this volume will strengthen the convictions of evangelical Christians who believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God (including its historical narratives), but also that it will serve as an attractive invitation to those readers who have dismissed this stance to reconsider their commitment to biblical errancy" (p. 18). As one who holds to "reasonable inerrancy," I found the essays strengthen my convictions. And as one who interacts with and has friends who would not hold to classic inerrancy, I believe this work is fairly irenic and the invitation to engage exists. Of course, time will tell if those who deny inerrancy will interact with Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?, but the invitation stands nonetheless.

Second, one of the reasons why this book accomplishes its purpose is because it's fairly wide in scope. For those familiar with the issue of the historicity of Scripture, the Old Testament presents some significant "problems" that must be carefully researched and interacted with. I found "Part 2: The Old Testament and Issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority" as well as "Part 4: The Old Testament and Archaeology" to both be excellent places to begin when engaging modern (and post-modern) critical scholarship. The sections on the various theological disciplines (biblical, systematic, & historical) as well as the section covering the New Testament were equally good, though I have found that the OT tends to receive a great deal of attention from those who take issue with any sense of "inerrancy." At least that has been my experience when interacting with people over the years. Questions regarding the truthfulness of what is found in the OT are the most common. Did Exodus really happen? Did the exodus really bring the Hebrews to cross the Red Sea (reed sea??), as the water was divided? Can we really trust the narratives found in Genesis? Over and over again, questions are raised.

Third, the scholars that contribute to Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? are well selected. Those who write on the theological issues are well suited (e.g., McCall, Cole, Thompson), as well as those in the OT sections (e.g., Averbeck, Bergen, Monson), and the NT (e.g., Yarbrough, Blomberg, Bock, Schnabel, Davis). I was more familiar with the NT authors, as each of them is well known in the NT world, but found each essay representative of the best that evangelicalism has to offer.

Fourth, and this is really connected to the quality of the contributors, the essays are very well researched. It's safe to say that readers will walk away with a long list of "further reading" sources. Plus, the fact that this book uses footnotes (instead of the hell-inspired end-notes) makes for simpler scholarly reading. The sources and extra information is right there at the bottom.

For me, stand out essays in each section were as follows:

Part 1: Biblical, Systematic, and Historical Theology
Graham A. Cole's "The Peril of a "Historyless" Systematic Theology." Every systematician should be required to read this essay. Exegetes who are frustrated with lazy proof-texting will be encouraged to read a theologian emphasizing the importance of taking history seriously. He writes that "this gospel (news) is an interpretation of history. At its core is an interpreted event: Christ died (event) for our sins (interpretation). Systematic Theology done without sufficient sensitivity to this news is full of peril" (p. 68). Excellent.

Part 2: The Old Testament and issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority
For me, a tie exists between Robert B. Chrisholm Jr.'s "Old Testament Source Criticism: Some Methodological Miscues" and Richard L. Schultz's "Isaiah, Isaiahs, and Current Scholarship."

Chrisholm effectively counters the various theories related to the Documentary Hypothesis as it's step-children views as he points out the problematic methods that many source critics follow. According to Chrisholm, where you begin greatly affects (determines?) where you will end up. This is to say that critics who approach Scripture with a strong biases regarding the "source" can easily end up manipulating the text (and its meaning).

Schultz's essay on the debate regarding the authorship of Isaiah was very informative and helped strengthen my resolve to stand upon a single author perspective. The assumption of so many OT scholars regarding the multiple authors of one of the most quoted OT books in the NT needs to be challenged, and this essay does a great job of doing it. He largely interacts with two scholars, John Halsey Wood and Kenton Sparks, and point by point responds to their criticisms of holding to Isaiah being written by a single author. These two essays will prove to be invaluable resources in the future to come.

Part 3: The New Testament and Issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority
There's another tie in this section, only this time it's between three essays. Craig L. Blomberg's "A Constructive Traditional Response to New Testament Criticism," Darrell L. Bock's "Precision and Accuracy: Making Distinctions in the Cultural Context That Give Us Pause in Pitting the Gospels against Each Other," and Eckhard J. Schnabel's "Paul, Timothy, and Titus: The Assumption of a Pseudonymous Author and of Pseudonymous Recipients in Light of Literary, Theological, and Historical Evidence" are all first-rate essays that address extremely important issues when it comes to NT studies.

Blomberg's essay on how to respond to issues related to New Testament criticism is extremely balanced. He concludes by suggesting that those who are on what I'd call the "left side" of the theological spectrum (theological liberals) need not adopt "radical approaches" regarding the New Testament and that those on the "far right" (theological fundamentalists) need not "anathematize" scholars who suggest and explore different options as proposed solutions to NT "problems." These are good suggestions. One need not jump to "liberal" presuppositions in the quest of understanding some of the issues related to the NT's history and authenticity. There are a lot of solutions to many of the alleged discrepancies. And yet just because someone suggests something that is a bit "unorthodox" (new!) does not mean we should ostracize that scholar and remove him/her from every evangelical organization he/she is a part of . As Blomberg writes, "If new proposals (or at least proposals that are new for otherwise evangelical scholars) cannot withstand scholarly rigor, then let their refutations proceed at that level, with convincing scholarship, rather than with the kind of censorship that makes one wonder whether those who object have no persuasive reply and so have to resort simply to demonizing and/or silencing voices with which they disagree" (pp. 364-5). Amen!

Bock's essay on the Gospels is fairly introductory, but should be ready by anyone who is involved in attempting to harmonize the Synoptics or John or for those attempting to better understand the issues related to how they either fit together, compliment each other, or contradict each other. His essay is a good introduction to understanding how the Gospels relate to each other. Beginning with explaining the basic difference between reporting the "voice of Jesus" (ipsissima vox) in contrast to the exact words of Jesus (ipsissima verba), Bock briefly addresses a number of concerns related to the "consistency" between the four Gospels. It's a good introduction for those with basic questions.

Schnabel takes Pauline pseudonymy up in his essay. A great deal of NT scholars do not believe that the apostle Paul wrote the "Pastoral" epistles (Timothy and Titus). Exposing the assumption that "majority" equates to correctness, Schnabel closes his essay by writing that "as the evidence that has been surveyed demonstrates, there are good reasons to accept the Pauline authorship of these three letters." Space limitation prevents me from detailing his detailed reasoning, but I assure you that this essay is critical, scholarly, and detailed. It may be one of the best short (21 pages) essays on the subject.

Part 4: The Old Testament and Archaeology
The last section of Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? is admittedly an area I am least familiar with. I have some books on biblical archaeology, but it's most certainly my weakest area of knowledge. Maps make me dizzy and excavations sound boring unless mummies are involved and they are starring Brendan Fraser. Yet while I'll quickly acknowledge this is not my area of expertise, I understand that it is huge for biblical studies... HUGE! There have been some extremely important archaeological finds that have substantially given support to the historicity of the Bible. This is often tied up with apologetics (the defense of the faith), but also impacts our understanding of Scripture too.

That being said, each of the four essays from this section were interesting, informative, and well written. I found John M. Monson's "Enter Joshua: The "Mother of Current Debate" in Biblical Archaeology" quite fascinating to read because I simply was unaware of how controversial Joshua was. Monson's essay does a great job of discussing the importance of understanding the genre and how that needs to be carefully understood in how we interact with the material and both internal and external evidence. The Joshua is an "Ancient Near Eastern Text" that must be understood in light of its literary contributions according to the ancient world's "rules," not our own.

Over all, Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? provides top notch essays from well respected scholars that provide an excellent example of evangelical scholarship interact with critical issues related to the Bible. Do historical matters matter? Yes. Yes they do. And since they matter, this is a great book to utilize in the search for truth. Apologetic, irenic, comprehensive, and inviting... Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? will get you started in your quest for a better understanding of why we can trust Scripture and why it is not unreasonable to remain "evangelical."

9 di 10 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle A fine resource 27 marzo 2012
Di ta ethica - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile
Hoffmeier, James K. and Dennis R. Magary, Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 542 pages.*

Every generation sees the rise of fresh (or recycled) criticism against the authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures. In our generation, such books by Peter Inns (Inspiration and Incarnation) and Kenton Sparks (God's Word in Human Words) are some of the recent publications criticizing and in some cases attacking the "evangelical" high view of Scripture.

In response to such books as these, James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary, both professors at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, have assembled an impressive, international team of scholars to respond to modern and postmodern criticism of the Scriptures in a massive collection of over twenty essays spanning 500+ pages.

The book is divided into four main sections:

Biblical, Systematic, and Historical Theology
The Old Testament and Issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority
The New Testament and Issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority
The Old Testament and Archeology
Instead of summarizing each chapter, I will highlight some of the noteworthy chapters in this book and I will conclude with a few overall comments of commendation and criticism.

In the first section, a noteworthy chapter is Hoffmeier's on why the historical Exodus is essential for theology. In this chapter, Hoffmeier demonstrates how the historical Exodus has its fingerprint all throughout the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and the New Testament. This historical event is the theological definition and center point for the people of Israel and the coming of Christ, and to deny the history of the Exodus is to destroy the foundation of Israel's story, calling, purpose, and the richness of the New Testament story.

In the second section, two noteworthy chapters are Chisolm's chapter on methodological miscues of source criticism, giving a detailed analysis of the Flood story (considered the best example among critical scholars of J and E sources being spliced together to form a quasi-coherent narrative) and VanGemeren/Stanghelle's chapter on the authority and inspiration of the titles found at beginning of some of the Psalms in the Psalter.

In the third section, readers will be drawn to Blomberg's chapter on responding to New Testament criticism and "problems," such as reconciling the different Passover accounts among the Gospels, along with Schnabel's chapter on pseudonymity in the Pastoral Epistles of Paul.

In the fourth and final section, the chapter on the conquests in the book of Joshua and archaeology was balanced and helpful, especially as it is one of the most contentious debates among scholars today.

Overall, I found the book to be helpful and fairly good throughout. Readers will undoubtedly be drawn to some chapters more than others based on their interests, but there is enough here to satisfy any reader wanting to read good contributions from conservative, Biblical scholars offering counter-critiques and responses to higher biblical criticism.

One point of critique: when compiling a one-volume book such as this, there seems to be two options: aim for depth or breadth. You cannot have both in a one-volume book without the book becoming unmanageable in size. With the book containing over twenty chapters spanning around 500 pages, I found that space constraints often limited many of the chapters as far as depth and detailed analysis (most chapters were around 20 pages, some less and some more). It seemed that an oft-repeated refrain throughout many of the chapters mentioned the limitations of the article's scope and depth due to page constraints. A few chapters were so short that I wondered whether they should have been included in the first place. The benefit of the "breadth" approach is that so many topics are covered within the four sections, appealing to the various interests of the reader, but this "breath" at times comes at the cost of sacrificing "depth" which hurts the strength of the book.

But overall, this is a fine book that most will find helpful and informative.

*A review copy graciously provided by Crossway.
9 di 11 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle A Sound Defense of Traditional Approaches to Scripture 27 aprile 2012
Di Nate Claiborne - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile
Just a little over 4 years ago, Kenton Sparks wrote a book called God's Words in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. The book weighs in at over 400 pages and is not for the faint of heart. It is similar in purpose to Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation in that it is posing problems for biblical inerrancy by showing specific instances in the Old Testament (and the New's use of the Old) that appear to undermine the concept (or even possibility) of inerrancy. While God's Words in Human Words was primarily an academic book written to teachers and church leaders, a more popular form of the book Sacred Word, Broken Word: Biblical Authority and The Dark Side of Scripture is set to be published here in a few weeks.

In the midst of all of this, a group of scholars, primarily from the Department of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, grew concerned about the content and purpose of Sparks initial book. What started as a colloquium at TEDS grew into the collection of essays now published as Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? The purpose, as the editors explain is "to offer thoughtful, substantive responses to questions raised by critical scholars, regardless of their theological orientation, rather than ad hominem retorts" (21). From what I've gathered in reading through the book, I would say they've succeeded rather well in their aims.

Before getting to that though, a little more stage setting is in order.

The Issue at Hand

I haven't read Sparks book myself, however, it had been published prior to my fourth semester Hebrew class. I navigated the issues he brings up, but only dealt with his presentation of them indirectly. I am familiar with his general modus operandi (which is similar though not identical to Enns, who I have read) and even apart from reading Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? I do not find it persuasive as an approach to biblical interpretation. This is mainly because I do not see his hypothesis as the best way to account for all the available data, but also I see it methodologically problematic if you're committed to Christian orthodoxy.

My general impression is that both Sparks and Enns mean well, but they appear to me to be both epistemologically misguided and theologically off-track. Had I been less trained philosophically and not well-studied in ancient Near East backgrounds and literature, I might have found them both to be more appealing. But as it is, I think both Sparks and Enns are selling the birthright of a sound approach to biblical interpretation for the stew of a higher critical approach that is at odds with traditionally Christian ways of reading Scripture.

That being said, this isn't necessarily an issue that I think is an open and shut case. Inerrancy is a sticky issue, and may not be the best word for the concept people are invoking when they use it. Also, it is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and also gets used to abuse people from time to time (e.g. Mike Licona). In short, inerrancy can certainly be misused, but I'm not so sure its out-lived its usefulness. Without digging too far into that on-going discussion, I think inerrancy is a theologically sound concept, but I think it is one that needs to be well nuanced to account for the data. I also do not think that it is a concept that is disproved simply by what appears to be a relevant counter-example in the biblical text (which coincidentally is also true of scientific theories).

Paradigms in Conflict

In my mind, the best way to conceptualize the issue is one of paradigms. In the same way that science is paradigm driven, biblical studies is too. A reigning paradigm in a field of study is not disproved or rendered in adequate because counter examples exist, but rather the tension is allowed to remain while issues are worked out. Both Sparks and Enns are writing as scholars who changed their predominant paradigm and are offering an apologetic to those still on the side they left. To them, the counter examples had the cumulative effect of destroying the paradigm. This led to Sparks and Enns adopting the higher critical paradigm, but retaining their theological convictions. The result is a kind of awkward middle ground where evangelical scholars find their paradigm inadequate, and liberal scholars find their theology unpalatable.


This is an issue I don't want to explore too far here, but just want to use the issue of paradigms to point out who Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? is really for. If someone has effectively switched paradigms to the higher critical paradigm, the evidence presented in this book will probably not convince them to switch back. It is however evidence that needs to be assimilated in some way. So, if you find yourself in agreement with the proposal and paradigm of authors like Sparks and Enns, you need read this book and make sure you're accounting for the data these scholars bring to the table.

If on other hand, you do not think Sparks and Enns are generally persuasive, and find yourself concerned that people seem to be jumping the shark on traditional Christian paradigms for reading and interpreting Scripture, you'll find this book helpful. Speaking as someone who has taken classes that covered most of the material in this book, if you haven't been to seminary recently, and don't plan on going anytime soon, this is quite the resource to have in your library in place of that educational experience. Granted, a 500+ page book won't make up for not having taken several semesters worth of classes on the same topics, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to summarizing a defense for the traditional paradigm.

The essays are broken into four categories, and we can look briefly at each in turn. While I could probably spend a good couple hundred words on each essay, I'm just going to give a quick overview from here on out. While the bulk of this review could have been focused on the "what" each essay covers, I've decided instead it was more important to dig into the "why" that comes with this book.

Biblical, Systematic, and Historical Theology

In the first section of the book, we've got 5 essays laying out the paradigmatic issues that need to be addressed before looking at the biblical evidence. The first chapter presents Thomas McCall's discussion of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to interpreting Scripture in general before relating his findings to the nature of critical biblical scholarship. It functions as a kind of opening manifesto for rest of the book, and is followed by Graham Cole's essay on the importance of a historically grounded systematic theology. The third chapter is Mark Thompson's defense of the concept of inerrancy, which he grounds in the doctrine of God. He addresses the difficulties with the concept, but points out what I noted above, difficulties themselves do not destroy the position but call for humility in dealing with them. One such difficulty, the historicity of the exodus, is dealt with in the following chapter by James Hoffmeier. Another difficulty, the supposed lack of historical precedent for the concept of inerrancy is dealt with in the final chapter in this section by Michael Haykin who shows what Irenaeus had to say on the issue.

The Old Testament and Issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority

The second section, as well as the third move to deal with specific issues related to interpreting the Old and New Testaments respectively. If one is familiar with the notorious areas of discussion higher critical biblical studies, you'll see all the usual suspects for discussion here in this section. There are essays on source criticism in general, particular applications to the Pentateuch, Psalms, Isaiah and prophecy in general. There are also essays on the historicity of Daniel in Babylon and the difference between cultural memory and actual past as it relates to the Old Testament. In all, you've got all the right discussions taking place in this section and the chapters engage the issues well.

The New Testament and Issues of History, Authenticity, and Authority

When it comes to the New Testament section, you have a similar grasp of the important issues and essays to cover those topics. Two of the essays are more general in nature. First is Robert Yarbrough's reflections on how God's Words in Human Words is a kind of "shift story." He then shows how Sparks' "conversion" isn't really a new story, and there are also examples of scholars telling a "shift story" in the opposite direction (higher critical to evangelical). The following essay is Craig Blomberg's response to some higher critical charges in New Testament studies, some of which are directed at him personally. We then have Darrell Bock using case studies in the Gospels to demonstrate the distinction between precision and accuracy. The next essay covers the issue of pseudonimity as it relates to the authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, and the final essay digs into the archaeological evidence for Paul's presence at the island of Cyprus.

The Old Testament and Archaeology

In the final section, we dig even further into archaeological evidence, but this time at it relates specifically to the historicity of the Old Testament narratives. Here again, the major issues are brought to the table. First, we have the Joshua conquest narratives, followed by issues surrounding early Jewish monotheism. The final two essays relate to the nation of Judah's actual existence, first in general, and second as it relates to the united monarchy period. And with that the book comes to a close.


While the book is formulated in response to Sparks' book, he is never vilified, and from what I can see, Sparks is the one who is generally guilty of disparaging rhetoric in this particular discussion. As Craig Blomberg's notes in his essay, "he uses impassioned language, especially related to authors' motives, that goes well beyond what any historian can ever know and that shows that he is particularly exercised on this topic" (346). In distinction, none of the authors in this particular book exhibit excessive zeal to beat down the opposing position. The scholars responding in this book are gracious with their words and do not spend extensive space in their essays attacking Sparks' person or ideas. Rather, they simply point out places where his book misses the mark, either by overlooking important counter-evidence, or force fitting evidence to fit the higher critical paradigm he has decided to use. In general though, the essays do not have the feel of being formulated specifically in response to Sparks. Rather, without have read or even heard of Sparks, most readers will benefit from these essays. Sparks is generally brought in tangentially, and the essays read like scholars talking about their particular expertise on a given topic and only bringing in Sparks' work where necessary.

Like I said above, I think this is a great resource. I'm not particularly optimistic about it convincing people to change paradigms from a higher critical approach, but do feel that it covers the issues well enough to allay concern on the part of people who have heard of Sparks or Enns work and wonder if they might be on to something in their approach to Scripture. The downside to this book may that it is not really written for a popular level audience like Sparks' upcoming book is, but taken as a resource for teachers and church leaders on this topic, I don't think this book can be beat.
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