Doctoral Compromise

by Aug 5, 2008Uncategorized2 comments

I have tried to read the paragraphs below as generously as I can, but I am still saddened by them. Please do correct me if I have been uncharitable.

Here’s an example of what self-identified fundamentalists may become if we don’t learn lessons from the 20th century history of our brothers. This comes from Graham Twelftree in (historically evangelical) InterVarsity Press’s Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (emphasis mine):

4.2. Was Jesus an Exorcist? Although the view is occasionally advanced that Jesus was not an exorcist, or that it was an insignificant aspect of his ministry, there is ample evidence that he had a reputation for being extremely successful in expelling evil spirits from people. First, the exorcism stories associated with Jesus in the Gospels . . . , which recent research has shown belong to the bedrock of reliable data about the historical Jesus, are the most compelling evidence of Jesus being an exorcist.

Second, there are sayings of and about Jesus that presume his ministry of exorcism and which are also generally regarded to belong to the bedrock of historical material: the charge that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul (Mk 3:22 [par. Mt 9:34 and 12:24; Lk 11:15]); the saying that Jesus exorcised by the Spirit or finger of God (Mt 12:28 [par. Lk 11:20]) and the parable of the strong man, which is a picture of exorcism (Mk 3:27 [par. Mt 12:29; Lk 11:21–22]; cf. Gos. Thom. 35). It is difficult to be certain of the origin of Jesus’ warning to Herod in which exorcism is mentioned: “Go tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course …’ ” (Lk 13:32). But it is likely to be authentic, for it is difficult to see why such a situation and saying should be constructed.


4.3.1. Familiar Techniques. In dealing with the demons, historical investigation shows that Jesus’ technique involved a number of features. First, there was an initial dramatic confrontation between Jesus and the demon(iac). For example, in Mark 1:23 the man screams out when he meets Jesus in the Capernaum synagogue so that it is suddenly obvious that he is a demoniac (cf. Mk 5:6–7; 7:25; 9:20). The historical reliability of this feature in the story is all but assured by the existence of this feature in other literature (Philostratus Vit. Ap. 4.20) and the Gospel writers show no consistent use of it.

Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 166 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992).

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  1. Mark L Ward Jr

    Bad form, bad form… I’m commenting on my own post. But this has to be the post I look back at most frequently of all those I’ve written. It just came up in conversation last night, and I think any evangelical who wants to serve Christ’s body through some sort of scholarship needs to think carefully about the implications of this post for the issue of academic respectability.

    It is not wrong to use extra-biblical evidence or reasoning to support Scripture, but when an evangelical refuses to appeal to inspiration, we have a problem. Academic respectability has silenced the herald from repeating the message his Master has sent to the world. And Twelftree wasn’t just using evidence; he was using evidence that makes sense only in a view Scripture which denies its inspiration. I dispute that the historical reliability of any Gospel story is assured by “parallelomania” (as Sandmel put it) or by the supposed principle of dissimilarity!

  2. Mark L Ward Jr

    More bad form… I’ve come back to this post yet again in my own thinking!

    You not-so-subtly deny your divine Master’s authority when you herald His message in such a way that someone or something other than He validates His authority.