Thanks for stepping into the stream with me...
Here's the original statement of the problem:
"And I submit that a God who orchestrated the lives of the original scribes/authors could and should have taken equal care with the later translators, n'est-ce pas?"
Here are the summary statements (so far). To read the supporting data and argumentation, simply click on the Statement Number.
00. Introduction to the Epistemic Chain
01. The base of the text seems to have been preserved adequately as a vehicle for the subsequent steps in the epistemic chain.
02. The ambiguity throughout the chain may be deliberate.
03. This ambiguity is limited, and is uneven between the different topics (e.g. Christ's claims to be God vs. modes of baptism or church government)
04. Even if the pre-recipient steps had been divinely 'constrained', the recipient-interpretive phase would still be the wildest range of variables!
05. As history unfolds, God seems to clarify and vindicate some of the message, via archeology and literary studies. "Errors in the bible" of decades ago, turned out to be simply "errors of our presumption" in many cases!
06. The interpretation of the message has sociological dimensions (as a public arena) in a similar fashion with science.
07. The determination of the NT canon is an example of the interplay between the personal, social, and providential aspects of the "irruption" of His message in history.
(R1.) David responded with some good questions, also demonstrating a good spirit about the discussion. See his response, plus my reply.
08. The presence of difficulties for understanding MAY also be a witness to the authenticity of the text and antiquity of the writings (although TOO MANY problems, substantial inconsistencies, etc. would be a witness AGAINST a single overall Author-Inspirer).
09. The receptor problem remains immune to discoveries of archeology and linguistics--they only reduce ambiguity and uncertainty in the text itself.
10. Diversity of opinion surrounding the text and its message, is not surprising at all--all public arenas of research manifest this character. (The strength of the emotional responses at the extrema MIGHT suggest that the message has an ultimate character to it, but certainly that it 'hits a nerve' concerning man's somewhat exalted view of his importance!)
11. We probably have not lost any of the original text; the challenge, rather, is to separate out the 'chaff' from the 'original wheat'--using means of textual criticism.
12. Given ambiguity as a small percentage around the core truths (and as a higher percentage around the less-critical areas), and given a high variability of receptor capabilities, it comes naturally to ask the question "what is the barest minimum that must be understood to initiate/change one's relationship with God?" Answer: The concept of a 'minimum set' of propositions that must be accepted is probably a strange way of looking at this process...it is much more an issue of 'how must one respond as a person to the truth they are gently confronted with about God'
13. Natural language seems to be the best medium for the kind of message God would need to get to us...and the nature of lexical use and determination is such that we are always dealing with "that's close enough conceptually" In a message that deals with "infinite" persons, immortality and immorality, evil, natures, personal struggles, despair, rebellion, hubris, apathy, hope, freedom, spirit, etc., the medium used must strike a healthy balance between denotative precision, emotional concomitants, and volitional confrontation. If we build a continuum of precision, with math and logical calculus on one end (extremely precise, but with a very, very limited lexical stock--one doesn't use 'despair' or 'hope' in wffs(!) very often), and with freeform music on the other (notoriously imprecise with its cognitive content, but emotionally powerful and affective), natural language would fall right in the middle...
14. One common thread uniting the human authors of scripture is that of the unity of the race. At some level, this guarantees enough basal 'category overlap' and when coupled with the flexibility of natural language, allows some confidence in at least the POSSIBILITY of translation.
<! under construction....>
15. The personality of God and imago dei allows for cognitive (and maybe category) overlap. This will be important for having confidence that his word choices are not 'pure' accommodations to our categories.
16. Is the knowledge of God presupposed/ In-built? A starting point for ALL interpretation of data? If we interpret life in a personal context, could this personal context be God? We can obviously suppress any awareness of God into the sub-conscious, like we do many things, but it would still be 'operating on us' somehow.
17. There is so much redundancy in the data of both scripture and nature, and even between many of the steps in 'processing it'--witness how we 'correct' phonemes in a sentence. The result is NOT dependent on a single point of failure.
18. There are not a lot of miracles in the bible, but just enough to provide some 'stubbornness' of the data--resistance to re-interpretation.
19. Example: ambiguity in the life-style of Christ/ words of Christ? Although the return of Christ will be with much less ambiguity, His first, humble visit to earth was filled with data that is interpreted to the widest extremes imaginable!
20. The organicity of knowledge - what has history done to our understanding - how has 'truth' unfolded? Church history and its interaction with the Word-Copernicus.
21. Example: the doctrine of the Trinity
22. Problems in the text are less 'can we resolve' but 'how best to--given the alternative solutions'. We have 'tons' of proposed solutions to all of the difficulties in the scripture and in the worldview...the issue is which (if any) of the competing suggestions are the best? And what criteria do we use?
23. The pendulum of emotions vs. intellect in Church History. The various 'mood swings' in the history of the faith have produced both aberrances and brought forth beautiful nuances of God's truth.
24. Suspension of judgment models on difficult passages. reasonableness, the Bible as a whole. In other words, if I have 100 facts IN FAVOR of a position, and ONE FACT against the position, my most reasonable course is to suspend judgment on the ONE FACT. When, however, the number of facts (or their weight) grows to a critical mass, then 'belief revision' may be in order--and may be the ethical imperative from the Lord.
25. Semantic levels in his word in history, and probably in written revelation. We know that semantic levels and concentric circles are present in the scriptures (i.e.. words, sentences, paragraphs, sections, and documents). And, we know that the progressive revelation of God forms the semantic context for subsequent revelation (e.g. the Mosaic covenant and New Covenant, The Servant Songs of Isaiah and Jesus' life). Are the same levels and interactions between the levels present in God's actions in the life of the believer? In providence? In exegesis, I can use the known 'theme of the book' to illumine the meaning of a specific sentence...can I also use the character of God andlife, to illumine everyday occurrences? Can I use my understanding of the content of the worldview to provide hermeneutical keys to the scriptures (e.g. recognizing that Ecclesiastes is a deliberate recording of a competing, but failed, worldview, and NOT as a prescriptive viewpoint)?
26. In doing theory construction/testing of systems with multiple variables, each with multiple possible meanings, we need to focus on those variables with the least 'range of meaning' or play--like in a sentence. For example, if Jesus obviously believed something (given a classical Christology, of course) that would count as weightier data than, say, contemporary theologians.
27. Can you ever COMPLETELY impose western values on the text (or eastern or animistic or whatever)? Can the text 'break out of our grid'--other works seem to be able to do so. How much ANE cultural values are REALLY there in the text? (what about social constructionism?)
28. How severe an accommodation theory can we hold to without 'losing' correspondence with reality? Does God even need to 'talk down to us'--could he have not constructed reality, language, our processing methods and categories to preclude the need for 'accommodation'?
29. What insight might speech act theory give to us about God's speech acts? Perhaps especially the issue of communicative intention?
30. Translators endeavor to preserve the deliberate ambiguity in translation, to avoid 'diluting' it.
31. God confronts me in several areas: people, circumstances, conscience--but with special focus in this objective, textual piece. I may be able to suppress natural revelation, but the cognitive dimensions of the scriptural confrontation is much more resistant to that (I can be ignorant of it, though).
32. All scripture doesn't communicate the same ideas as intensely/clearly (e.g. the good news about Jesus is more clearly taught in the Gospel of John than in. II Chronicles)
33. The Big ONE Series: Does the word of God become simply the word of man when it is translated (et. al)?
34. BOS: is this somehow a category mistake? how would it have been different if I had been in the original audience? or reading their transliterated words later?
35. BOS: a dialogical model in the context of life/history/universe
36. BOS: the old 'where is meaning?' question - in, on, through, by, under-the text?!..and all the associated spatial metaphors of meaning
37. BOS: examples: Isaiah's words quoted by Jesus, and then both read by me...
38. BOS: The prophets realized both the concreteness of their message for their day, and the ambiguity of the prophetic picture - they searched the spirit of Christ within them. (I Peter 1.10-12)
39. BOS: Like Christ, these aspects cannot be approached as an either/or...
40. BOS: Is there a kenotic aspect to the scripture?
41. What are the effects of the tendency to revise/to preserve?
42. The time gap between NT events and records is too small for large content errors.
43. God consistently confronted erroneous ideas throughout biblical history...there is no reason to suppose he would have tolerated them being 'smuggled alongside' his IMPORTANT STUFF.
44. God CHANGED categories and images when he needed to communicate his truth without distortion (e.g. propitiation, covenant, deity).
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