Moving to Bellingham Statement 2

Posted By on October 28, 2008

Just so you don’t need to go back and look, Bellingham Statement 1 (the revised version) went like this:

I affirm that the Bible is revelation from God produced in writing through the agency of human authors. Although there are instances in the biblical record where God apparently dictated what would become part of the biblical text (e.g., Rev 2-3, the messages to the seven churches), such instances are very rare. Rather, the normative process of producing the Scriptures was one where human authors wrote on the basis of their own abilities, education, styles, worldview, backgrounds, and idiosyncrasies apart from a divine encounter where the words of Scripture were chosen for the authors. It is therefore denied that the usual process of inspiration meant that the words of the text were given to the authors by God. Instead, human beings were, for the most part, the immediate source of the text of Scripture under the providence of God. God is, however, the ultimate source of the text of Scripture by means of His providential approval of the words of each canonical book as they existed at the end of the process of inspiration.

Now for number 2:

Statement 2: I affirm that the process of inspiration could include not only the initial composition of a biblical book but also any subsequent editorial work done on the text of that book prior to the recognition of a completed sacred canon. Both rare instances of dictation1 and the normative (non-dictation) process of producing the Scripture text could be subject to editorial activity in terms of additions, deletions, rearrangement, and repurposing.2 I believe that God oversaw any such process by means of providential influence in the decisions made by authors and editors so that the words of each canonical book met with God’s approval. Each and every book of the canon had such providential oversight throughout the process that culminated in the final form of its text.

  1. For example, see the post on the Ten Commandments.
  2. See for example the posts on this blog on the NT author’s use or alteration of OT quotations, the multiple editions of Jeremiah, and the known editions of Joshua 8.

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10 Responses to “Moving to Bellingham Statement 2”

  1. Dave Rymenave says:

    Heiser:

    A bold statement, to be sure. Did God “take over” the Biblical writer’s hand and/or mind? If so, why use a human at all? He wrote on the tablets for Moses, why not continue that practice?

    As usual, God is moving through human history WITH humanity and not completely apart from humanity. He is seperate regarding His holiness, but He has done everything possible to identify with us in every other way.

    -Dave Rymenave

  2. mga318 says:

    Some thoughts: This works very well for the OT, but there are a couple things in the NT where its a little fuzzy for this statement:

    “but also any subsequent editorial work done on the text of that book prior to the recognition of a completed sacred canon.”

    Where does the Pericope Adulterae fall here? Or the longer ending of Mark?

    It could easily be argued that these were inserted while the NT canon was still in Flux – i.e. we still have other texts being used along side the NT books such as the Shepherd of Hermas or the Didache. If “completed canon” means the collection of the 27 together, then the Pericope Adulterae would have to be both canonical and inspired.

    Thoughts?

  3. MSH says:

    @Dave Rymenave: Answers: Why use a human? Because God doesn’t have a body for one thing. Since 99% of what’s in the Bible is NOT described in any way that approximates God “giving” the words, then the better question is why God would every bother to do this at all. In which case, it’s a better question for YOU. My immediate point is that such things are rare – and even when this kind of description occurs in Exodus 20, it is subject to HUMAN editing that didn’t involve another theophany. More simply: you don’t need a divine encounter that has God giving the words of the text to have biblical inspiration.

    I’m not saying anything different than you are in regard to the second statement. My only point is that God doesn’t need to control the human authors or “give” them the words of the biblical text. That is neither required by inspiration, nor does it make sense in light of what’s in the text.

  4. MSH says:

    @mga318: Please be more specific with regard to the NT – an example might help me think about the wording (i.e., describe the “fuzziness”). In regard to the Pericope Adulterae, I’ll give two responses (since we are left in a TC lurch here). if the TC evidence is truly persuasive that the perciope is not original (probably where most text-critics are on this), then this is strictly a TC issue – an issue of scribal addition during transmission of the finalized book (something was added to the finalized product that preceded it). As such, it should be rejected as belonging in the canon. I do not see TC additions as part of an inspiration process. If the TC evidence points to it being part of that thing that was produced at the end of the inspiration process, then I’d defend it as belonging in the canonical material and worthy of transmission.

    Actually, there’s no way to coherently argue the Pericope was inserted during the composition process – for starters, you’d need TC evidence that the Pericope was as ancient as the lifetime of John, which evidence doesn’t exist.

  5. Mike says:

    (this is mga318) Your comment clears things up in terms of what you meant, but I’m not sure if Statement 2 says the same thing because your statement allows for editing after the initial composition. Let me try to make what I’m say a little more clear.

    1) Your statement allows for editing between the initial composition of the completion of the canon.

    2) The PA appeared in NT texts after all the books were written but before they were recognized as a 27 book NT canon.

    Thus:

    3) Is the completion of the canon:
    A. the completion of all the individual books
    Or
    B. is it their recognition as a canon by the church.

    Option A disallows the PA from being inspired, but B leaves it open since the canon is not closed and post-composition editing is allowed.

    Is that more clear?

  6. MSH says:

    @Mike: I’ve posted your comments in here to better answer them. See ** for my reply.

    You wrote:

    1) Your statement allows for editing between the initial composition of the completion of the canon.

    ** right. The data of Qumran (not to mention editorial evidence within the canon as we have it) requires that editing be part of the inspiration process. I believe that (a) there was an end to that process and (b) the thing produced at the end is what ought to be considered inspired and thus part of the canon.

    2) The PA appeared in NT texts after all the books were written but before they were recognized as a 27 book NT canon.

    ** Where is your evidence for the PA prior to its quotation as Scripture within the believing community and its appearance in early canon lists? John is quoted in the Muratorian Canon (170-180 AD). I’d need you to put forth evidence of its existence before the second century for me to consider your point as requiring some adjustment with my statement. Here’s an excerpt from Metzger’s textual commentary on the PA on the manuscript:

    “The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming. It is absent from such early and diverse manuscripts as P, ? B L N T W X Y ? ? ? 0141 0211 22 33 124 157 209 788 828 1230 1241 1242 1253 2193 al. Codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it is highly probable that neither contained the pericope, for careful measurement discloses that there would not have been space enough on the missing leaves to include the section along with the rest of the text. In the East the passage is absent from the oldest form of the Syriac version (syr, and the best manuscripts of syr), as well as from the Sahidic and the sub-Achmimic versions and the older Bohairic manuscripts. Some Armenian manuscripts?? and the Old Georgian version?? omit it. In the West the passage is absent from the Gothic version and from several Old Latin manuscripts (it, , ). No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it.”
    Metzger, B. M., & United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (187). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

    Mike

    Thus:

    3) Is the completion of the canon:
    A. the completion of all the individual books
    Or
    B. is it their recognition as a canon by the church.

    Option A disallows the PA from being inspired, but B leaves it open since the canon is not closed and post-composition editing is allowed.

    Is that more clear?

  7. Jesse says:

    I apologize for “threadnomancy”

    “I believe that God oversaw any such process by means of providential influence in the decisions made by authors and editors so that the words of each canonical book met with God’s approval.”

    Stupid questions time: What happens to a “non-approved” work? Are we to assume that the guys who formulated the canon got “everything” right? Was there a coherant reason to accept some gospels over others? Was it a good call to leave Enoch out?

    - Jesse

    • MSH says:

      My comments were about editorial process of creating the final form of a book, not canonicity. I believe that if God was concerned with the *final* result he’d make sure that the editorial process worked to his liking.

      Few ever thought Enoch “in” (Tertullian and Origen, to some extent; apparently one sect at Qumran). But any providence-based approach would presume the Spirit led a majority to a conclusion (and supporters of Enoch admitted that [in writing] later in life and gave up on the idea). For me, it’s a useless question. It confuses using material and being influenced by material (in terms of worldview) with canonicity. A work doesn’t need canonical status to influence the thinking of a biblical writer.

      • Jesse says:

        That’s fair enough (the useless bit I mean). Lets be honest, Enoch has now influenced my worldview just by my reading it… sadly so has a lot of Christian pop psychology and I should probably purge that.

        I have been catching up on this subject, several years after the fact (sorry) can I please see the latest Bellingham Statement and your response to John Robbins? The links are dead, and the suspense is killing me.

        This has been a rabbit trail I have been trying to run myself since I started asking questions about Sola Scriptura, the canon, and the way envangelicals/charismatics handle it. Approaching the actual editorial process is an interesting take, and quite unique. Thanks

        Jesse

        • MSH says:

          I liked the “parallel” illustration of the Christian pop psych stuff – it’s actually a very useful illustration.

          Do you mean John Hobbins? If the links are dead, I’m presuming John has deleted something or moved it – ?

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