What about canonicity and other such matters? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
As we get to this chapter, Kapr finally has some matters of substance as far as criticism. He talks some about canonicity. Fortunately, he says nothing about Constantine and the Council of Nicea forming the canon so I’m going to say hopefully, based on what I’ve read so far, he rejects that one.
While there are different canons, as a classical Protestant, I plan to stick to the traditional 66 books. I also know that the book is rejecting inerrancy and I am replying to that, but I do not hang my faith on inerrancy either. Kapr also spends much time throughout the book on inspiration. I sit back and wonder “And the point is?” After all, suppose a statement in the book is true. How does it aid us to say “It is true and inspired.”?
I also freely accept that there was some editing of books. Do I think Moses wrote the last chapter of Deuteronomy that described his death? No. I suspect that was added by an editor of his work after, such as Joshua, to give a fitting close to the book. There were other editing jobs done such as changing location names to names more familiar to the audience of the time, such as how the city of Dan shows up in early Genesis even though it didn’t come until centuries later.
Kapr does say that some of the books are anonymous and that the arguments for traditional authorship do not need to go unchallenged. I agree that we shouldn’t just blindly accept what the Fathers say about authorship, but I don’t think the reasons given for rejection are convincing enough. However, let’s say something briefly about a book being anonymous.
This is really more of a canard. We have a number of Pauline epistles that say they are by Paul and that isn’t enough for a number of skeptics, and some Christians as well. Are we to think the Gospels would be treated seriously if every text explicitly said, for example, “By Matthew”? If you think so, I have some oceanfront property in Montana to sell you.
One argument that is brought forward against traditional authorship is the case of the information from Papias and how he supposedly got wrong the death of Judas. This is just more of Kapr reading an account in a literal fashion instead of considering that Papias is instead trash talking Judas. Also, Papias is just one reason given for traditional authorship on some of the Gospels.
He also says it’s unusual that different quotes from different Gospels were blended together. It might sound unusual to a modern man. It doesn’t sound unusual to an ancient where blended quotations were not uncommon even in non-Christian literature. Thus, there is nothing strange about it whatsoever.
As for Mark, Kapr writes that Mark could be chosen since the tradition says Mark wrote what was said, but not in order, and thus the early church didn’t want to attribute that to an apostle. So it looks like you have a case where the church says we don’t want to embarrass a reputation of an apostle by this, but we do think it’s good enough to include in the canon?
He also assumes there’s a reason such a thing would be an embarrassment. Why? There is no interaction also with the idea that Mark is a very unlikely figure. Mark was a person not mentioned explicitly at least in the Gospels and in Acts, is seen as causing a split between the first two great missionaries of the church because he was a Mama’s Boy who wanted to run back home in the middle of a journey. Odd source to attribute an authoritative work to.
Kapr also says that a test was the books had to be line with orthodox teachings about Jesus and says this is comparing the Bible with the Bible, but this ignores that most of what was known about Jesus at first would be through oral tradition and the books at the time would need to align with the tradition at the time. It’s not as if after the Easter event, be it a resurrection or not, that Jesus would be untalked about at all until some epistles and Gospels were written.
Kapr also says some have argued that the books were accepted without much controversy. The Holy Spirit guided the people of the church so they accepted the books that they did. Kapr argues no evangelical apologist would accept the testimony of community in another religion for their seeing their Scriptures as authoritative.
Okay. I consider myself an evangelical and I freely accept Mormons and Muslims determining what is authoritative in their communities. Note I said authoritative, not true. I really don’t see that being disputed among evangelicals either. Who else should determine what is authoritative for any community except that community?
There is also talk about inspiration outside the canon. Again, I don’t care about inspiration but truth, but I do share Kapr’s concerns about people claiming God is speaking through them or through someone else. My own pastor did a sermon about this just last Sunday. I even get concerned when someone says “When I was reading the Bible today, God showed me that….” Automatically then, if God showed it to you, it had better be authoritatively true. You’re giving your idea the backing of God. Better hope you’re right.
Thus, Kapr can go on and on about inspiration and how you could know a book was inspired and I really don’t care. What I care about is truth. I also don’t hang my doctrine of inerrancy on inspiration. I hang it instead on studying the text for years and even then, it’s not a dealbreaker for me.
Still, while I don’t find the arguments here convincing, they are at least not on the same level as many other fundamentalist atheist arguments, though I do think there is a great deal of that still in Kapr. Next time, we will get to part 2 where we examine some specific claims.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)