THE JANNES-JAMBRES SYNDROME
THE JANNES-JAMBRES SYNDROME
Is there no limit to what bibliolaters will resort to in order to defend
the inerrancy doctrine? We thought we had heard just about every
desperate grasping for straws possible on this subject until we received
the October 1990 issue of the _Christian_Courier_. On a front-page
article entitled "The God of Infinite Knowledge," editor Wayne Jackson,
who is also a staff writer for Apologetics Press of Montgomery, Alabama,
made this incredible attempt to prove the inspiration of the Bible:
How did Paul know the names of the magicians who opposed Moses ([ref003]2
Tim. 3:8)? This information is nowhere found in the Old Testament.
Obviously the God of history inspired the writing of this epistle to
The passage Mr. Jackson alluded to in this "argument" says in its
entirety, "And even as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these
(ungodly men) also withstand the truth; men corrupted in mind, reprobate
concerning the truth."
As invariably happens when a bibliolater formulates an inerrancy
argument, Mr. Jackson assumes far more than his "evidence" warrants. For
example, Paul (or whoever wrote 2 Timothy) identified Jannes and Jambres
only as opposers of Moses; he did not specify that they were the magicians
who had opposed Moses. Since Moses (if we are to believe the Bible) was
often opposed during the wilderness trek by unnamed adversaries, one might
as well, in the total absence of any historical record of who Jannes and
Jambres were, identify them as the leaders of one of those many rebellions
as to say that they were pharaoh's magicians who opposed Moses during the
inflicting of the plagues. If not, why not? We will gladly give Mr.
Jackson space in our next issue to explain how he knows that Paul meant
for us to understand that these men were pharaoh's magicians rather than
some other adversaries of Moses.
If he accepts the invitation, he should be able make a good case for
his claim that Paul was referring to pharaoh's magicians, but in building
that case, he would reduce his "argument" for inspiration to nothing. As
Mr. Jackson correctly said, the names Jannes and Jambres were "nowhere
found in the Old Testament," but there was a widely circulated tradition
in both secular and apocryphal writings that they were pharaoh's
magicians. They were mentioned in _The_Gospel_of_Nicodemus_, _The
Acts_of_Peter_, and _The_Acts_of_Paul_ and were frequently
referred to by early writers like Pliny, Apuleius, and Numenius. In these
writings, various claims were made about them. One source (_Yalkut
Reubeni_) said that they were proselytized and left Egypt in the Hebrew
exodus; another (_Tikkunim_) claimed that they persuaded Aaron to
make the golden calves while Moses was on Mt. Sinai. In _Old_Testament
Pseudepigrapha_, James H. Charlesworth, a leading authority on
apocryphal literature, said this of Jannes and Jambres:
The names of Jannes and Jambres appear with considerable frequency in
ancient and medieval sources, and traditions about their activity and fate
are extant in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Greek, and Latin.
Christian, Jewish, and pagan writers found occasion to refer to these two
magicians at the Pharaonic court who plied the art of magic in opposition
It is now beyond doubt that in antiquity there existed, on the one
hand, traditions about Jannes and Jambres, and on the other, a book that
detailed some of their exploits. Not yet entirely clear, however, is the
precise relationship between the loose traditions and the written
composition (Vol. 2, p. 427).
Obviously, then, a widely known oral and written tradition that Jannes and
Jambres were pharaoh's magicians existed before and during the time that 2
Timothy was written. To say that a simple reference to this tradition
constitutes wonderful proof that the Bible was inspired of God is typical
of the superficial thinking that characterizes most arguments used to
defend the inerrancy doctrine. Upon careful scrutiny, they are invariably
found to be empty of substance.
Even in the absence of the body of tradition that identified Jannes
and Jambres as pharaoh's magicians, there would still be no proof of
divine inspiration in [ref004]2 Timothy
3:8. As noted earlier, without tradition to aid in interpreting this
passage, one could never know if the writer was referring to pharaoh's
magicians or to two of the many other adversaries Moses had to confront as
leader of the exodus. Furthermore, without the tradition, the writer
could have whimsically used just any names, and there would have been no
criterion to use in evaluating the accuracy of the information. If, for
example, a writer should say that Jeeter and Joomer were the leaders of
the rebellion against Moses at Meribah ([ref005]Num. 20:2-13),
would this prove (since the names of these leaders are "nowhere found in
the Old Testament") that the writer was inspired of God in so saying or
would it prove nothing more than maybe he had just made up the names?
We'll just let Mr. Jackson and those who may have been impressed with his
argument try to escape the cutting edge of Occam's razor on this point.
The real tragedy in this matter, however, is not that bibliolaters
like Mr. Jackson would have no more intellectual pride than to offer such
superficial arguments as this one in support of the inerrancy doctrine but
that so many of their readers will gullibly accept them without critical
analysis. It is a syndrome that enables Bible fundamentalism to survive
in an era that should have laid the inerrancy doctrine to rest long
FREE SUBSCRIPTION: A free one-year subscription to _The_Skeptical_
Review_ can be obtained by emailing [ref006]Jftill@aol.com or by writing to P.O. Box
717, Canton, IL 61520-0717.
File contributed by [ref007]Farrell Till; page
maintained by the [ref008]Internet Infidels.
[ref012]Copyright © 1995 [ref013]Internet Infidels.
HTML Reproduction Rights Reserved.