Pages 5-7: summer 1992
SARAH'S "POWER" TO CONCEIVE: A RESPONSE
I am delighted to take in hand to review Farrell Till's article "Sarah's
'Power' To Conceive." With appreciation for the space afforded me in The
Skeptical Review, I encourage Mr. Till to open the scope of his paper to
defend his ONLY recourse after he rejects the Bible--agnosticism. Let his
readers see what he offers in return.
The task before me as far as the "Sarah" article is concerned needs to be
emphasized. The Bible, always on the defense in Till's prosecuting paper, has
the presumption of INNOCENCE and CORRECTNESS of CLAIMS unless Till can
PROVE or demonstrate otherwise. The burden of proof in this case is upon
Till's shoulders, since the burden of "impeaching the credibility lies with the
objector." This I say to let the readers know that my task herein is not to
offer proof that the Bible is of divine origin, for that is the PRESUMPTION.
Till grips the laboring oar in this one, and my only occupation shall be to
show that he does not use it well enough to overthrow the Bible. And I must
add, after watching Farrell pull a few licks, that the flotation is too heavy
for his puny arms. But he won't be lonely in his failure, for many have
worn themselves out in the same effort.
First, Till uses an article from Bible Review by Pieter William van der
Horst to bring a case against Hebrews 11:11. Till reads van der Horst and
announces that his "convincingly documented" article proves the Bible is in
error. Evidently, Till was more convinced than the author himself who did
the research, for van der Horst's piece was punctuated by the following:
"Leviticus 12:2 seems to indicate that a woman can produce semen.... We
cannot avoid at least the possibility that the author of Leviticus 12:2 meant
what he seems to have written.... The rabbis took this passage to imply (p.
38).... This makes it highly probable (p. 39)...." Regarding Hebrews
11:11, van der Horst said, "It seems evident that the author could easily
have had knowledge of the widely current double-seed theory." Thus, Till,
who says he reads logic textbooks as a pastime, runs from theory to "con-
vincingly documented" and then to, lo and behold, this move: "It proves the
Bible is not inerrant" (final paragraph). Professor, can you not do any
better than that? Why, even atheistic logician Antony Flew would be ashamed
of you for this. From "possibility" to "seems to" to "prove." Your enamored
readers will certainly be disgusted with this breach of logic. I suppose next
you will be proving that since Sarah is in Hebrews 11's great hall of faith, a
female authored the book!
A word also about Till's statement that Bible Review "respects scholarship
above tradition." Of course, I am familiar with this silly twaddle. If it is
skeptical and questioning, it is "scholarly." If it defends the Bible, it is
"bibliolatry"--an idea that someone out here actually worships God's book.
Pshaw! Till would do well to avoid allowing these foolish ideas to seep into his
head and leak from his pen.
SARAH'S SEMINAL EMISSION
The chief point of van der Horst's attack is Hebrews 11:11, where the
phrase katabole spermatos, "power to make a deposit of semen," seems to
indicate that the writer of Hebrews "had knowledge" of a widely current
double-seed theory and was implicitly subscribing to it when he described
Sarah as having a seminal emission" (BR, 2-92, p. 39). The Greek says
"laying down of seed," which is the act of a male, not female, in the repro-
It is amazing to me that neither van der Horst nor friend Till mentioned,
let alone dealt with, the several possible translations offered by textual schol-
ars. The single item that they both mentioned was the translation that makes
Abraham the subject of the verb (NIV, NRSV, GNB). Till pronounced this as
an example of translators who "have hidden from their readers the Hebrew
writer's obvious error." Till may be a master BErater, but he is not much of
a DEbater, at least in this case. Will he tell us why this could NOT be a
LEGITIMATE TRANSLATION? Bruce Metzger indicates that the UBS textual
committee "understood the words aute Sarra steira to be a Hebraic circumstan-
tial clause, thus allowing Abraham (v. 8) to serve as the subject of elaben
(by faith, even though Sarah was barren, he-- Abraham--received power to
beget)." Metzger also footnotes Matthew Black in this regard (textual commen-
tary). These scholars have offered a possible solution, but Till and his
source pass over it with silence! But then van der Horst finds one commenta-
tor, Ceslaus Spicq, who says, "Some ancient Greek authorities believed that
women did emit semen," and THIS solution has become wonderful in their
eyes! Why? Who cannot see bias? Readers may applaud this great "scholar-
ship," but if the Bible is to be proven false, let them demonstrate this is
EXACTLY WHAT THE HEBREW WRITER HAD IN MIND. And while they busy
themselves to patch up this case, consider that there are also other possibili-
ties regarding Hebrews 11:11.
Second, Moulton and Milligan have shown from papyrus readings that
katabalaios is used in the sense of a "store-place" where deposits are made.
(Lexicon, p. 324). Although it is true that F. F. Bruce believes this to be
"the highest degree improbable" as to its usage in Hebrews 11:11, it remains
A third possibility, and the one that I personally believe to be the case
here, is that the word seed is used in the sense of "progeny" or "posterity"
(see Heb. 11:18; 2:16; or Gen. 4:25). Katabole is used 11 times in the NT,
and upon each occasion, it is translated "foundation" except in this passage
(Wigram-Green, New Englishman's Greek Concordance, p. 471. See also
Berry's Lexicon, p. 52). Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich's Lexicon reads "re-
ceived power to establish a posterity" (p. 409). Therefore, instead of being
a stumbling block to inerrancy, at 11:11 we read, "Sarah received power for
the 'establishment of posterity'" (offered by Cremer's Biblical and Theological
Lexicon, p. 121; Vincent's Word Studies. Vol. 4, p. 520; Thayer's Lexicon,
p. 330). Do you see, readers, how simple it is to answer Till? This possibili-
ty at Hebrews 11:11 commends itself even more when we remember that the
word seed, beginning in Genesis 3:15, is "regularly used as a collective noun
in the singular.... Thus the word designates the whole line of descendants
as a unit..." (Harris, Archer, Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old
Testament, Vol. 2, p. 253). If Till would be careful of such simple lessons,
he might save himself much trouble in his little paper.
A fourth solution is to understand the phrase in question as an instru-
mental of association or dative of accompaniment (Leon Morris, Expositor's
Bible Commentary, 12:119; Bruce Metzger, NICCommentary, p. 302; Ralph
Earle, Word Meanings of the NT; F. F. Bruce, Ibid., p. 302; see also Dana
and Mantey's Greek Grammar, pp. 90-91). This renders the passage, "By
faith he--Abraham--also, together with Sarah, received power to beget a
child when he was past age, since he counted him faithful that promised."
Of course, readers of TSR will be surprised to find these easy alternatives,
for, listening to Till, one would think that there is no solution to any of his
questions. Thus, this is a new way of thinking for Till supporters.
Till referred to his debate with Bill Jackson in which this verse was
used by Jackson to show scientific foreknowledge. Till ridiculed this by
pointing to an Egyptian hymn to the sun god, which, antedating Genesis,
spoke of the "germ in woman." Thus, Till concluded, there is no foreknowl-
edge in Genesis. I marvel at how easily one can pluck the skeptical game-
cock's feathers, but see.
Amenhotep IV, the pharaoh of the "Amarna Revolution," in whose reign
this was composed, lived in the late bronze age (c. 1400-1300). Amenhotep
(Akhnaton) lived at the last of this age (c. 1364-1347, B. W. Anderson,
Understanding the OT, p. 52). While it is true that liberal scholars date the
exodus circa 1250 B.C., when did the exodus actually occur? I know that
friend Till would like to date it, and consequently Moses' life and writings, in
the 13th century B. C. In so doing, he would be joined by a host of stu-
dents who begin with the naturalistic assumption that biblical data cannot be
counted upon--a thing that not even our court system would do to criminals
on trial. But the Bible gives its own chronology of these events and dates
the exodus in the 15th century B. C., almost two centuries prior to the
dynasty of Akhnaton, in whose reign the poem in question originated. The
dating from Solomon's era and later gives much less variation for dating, and
the general consensus is that the 4th year of Solomon was 966 B.C. First
Kings 6:1 is the text that informs Till that it had been 480 years prior to 966
that Israel had exited Egypt. This places Moses' exodus and writings at about
1446/45 B.C., about 100 years prior to Amenhotep's birth! Hence, Genesis
3:15 will be the burr under Till's saddle on this one, but he will have to
But while Till lingers with Akhen-Aton a while, perhaps he will try his
hand at telling us why this ancient Egyptian hymn appears to be monotheis-
tic, so much so, that some have argued that very thing. Could it be that
the exodus, having occurred in Egypt's recent history, influenced Egyptians
to consider the one true God of the universe? The possibility is interesting.
Farrell, let this ancient pharaoh teach you a lesson as he addresses the
How manifold it is, what thou has made!
They are hidden from the face (of man).
O Sole god, like whom there is no other!
Then didst create the world according to thy desire,
Whilst thou wert alone....
Yes, I enjoy discussing with Till, he brings so many wonderful things to
my attention, for it might have been years before I pulled these ancient Near
Eastern texts from my shelf! But more on Genesis 3:15. Here, in the an-
cient writings of Moses, the first announcement of the gospel is found, called
the Protevangelium. Satan, in the form of a serpent (Rom. 16:20 is an allu-
sion to the verse), would be bruised under the feet of the "seed of woman."
"One such seed is the line of woman as contrasted with the opposing seed
which is the line of Satan's followers. And then surprisingly, the text
announces a male descendant who will ultimately win with a crushing victory
over Satan himself" (TWOT, Vol. 1, p. 583). No wonder the Jews from the
earliest of times, as per their Targums, recognized this as a Messianic prom-
ise. Can Till explain the fulfillment of a multitude of intricate prophecies,
beginning with this one, without recourse to the divine? "Can he draw out
Leviathan with a hook?"
FAITHFULNESS OF SARAH
Farrell ferrets out even another error in Hebrews 11:11. It deals with
Sarah's faithfulness to "him that promised," which he says flatly contradicts
Genesis 18:9-15 where "Sarah laughed to herself" when she heard the prom-
ise. Why, I was humored more than Sarah at this effort by Till.
Till, will you allow Sarah to change her mind? By what logical insight do
you equate Hebrews 11:11 with Sarah's laughter? Yes, readers, Till at one
time preached the gospel of Christ but changed his mind about the whole
thing and now accuses God of "temper tantrums." But he will refuse to allow
(see Sarah, p. 15) Sarah to change her mind. If Till knew as much about
the female gender as he should, for he is married, he would know women
have the right to change their minds! But I suppose this is the amount of
grace that flows from an agnostic. You can expect no more.
Yes, you can count on "fundamentalists" to continue to proclaim the
complete inerrancy of God's Word, and the more I read such stuff as TSR
passes out seeking to dethrone the Bible, I can only wonder why more read-
ers do not grow tired of Till's "leaps of logic." (1) Sarah laughed. (2)
Sarah had faith. (3) Therefore, her laughter was her faith. Come now, Till,
will you not bone up on your logic? I suppose we have: (1) Till preached the
gospel in pulpits of the churches of Christ. (2) Till founded TSR. (3)
Therefore, Till preached skepticism in the pulpits. Who cannot see through
Till wrote to me privately that I should not include a statement herein
about my prayers for him to return to the way he once knew, but in this
request, he agrees unwittingly with the Bible. Jeremiah the prophet was
instructed by God regarding his fellow apostate Jews: "Pray not for this
people... for I will not hear thee" (7:16; 11:14). Therefore, as much as I
would like to pray for Till's speedy recovery from his spirit of delusion, I
have God's word forbidding it to be done, and now Till agrees with the
Father above that I should refrain. Well, Farrell, that is a start.
(Bill Lockwood's address is 211 North 5th, Marlow, OK 73055).
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