Skeptic Tank Text Archive File

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Pages 5-7: summer 1992 SARAH'S "POWER" TO CONCEIVE: A RESPONSE Bill Lockwood 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. PRELIMINARIES 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- ductive process. 1 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 an alternative. 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. GENESIS 3:15 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, 2 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 endure it. 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 "ultimate reality": 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 3 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 this? 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). ******************************** FREE SUBSCRIPTION: A free one-year subscription to The Skeptical Review can be obtained by writing to P. O. Box 617, Canton, IL 61520-0617. 4

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank