Sarah's "Power" to Conceive: A Response
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 [ref003]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: "[ref004]Leviticus 12:2
seems to indicate that a woman can produce semen.... We cannot avoid at
least the possibility that the author of [ref005]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 [ref006]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
"convincingly 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 [ref007]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 reproductive
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 scholars. 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 circumstantial 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 commentary).
These scholars have offered a possible solution, but Till and his source
pass over it with silence! But then van der Horst finds one commentator,
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
"scholarship," 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 possibilities 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 [ref008]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 [ref009]Heb. 11:18; [ref010]2:16; or [ref011]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 "received power to
establish a posterity" (p. 409). Therefore, instead of being a
stumbling block to inerrancy, at [ref012]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 possibility at [ref013]Hebrews 11:11
commends itself even more when we remember that the word seed, beginning
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
instrumental 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
foreknowledge in Genesis. I marvel at how easily one can pluck the
skeptical gamecock'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. [ref015]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, [ref016]Genesis 3:15 will
be the burr under Till's saddle on this one, but he will have to endure
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
monotheistic, 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 [ref017]Genesis 3:15.
Here, in the ancient writings of Moses, the first announcement of the
gospel is found, called the Protevangelium. Satan, in the form of a
16:20 is an allusion 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 promise. 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 [ref019]Hebrews 11:11. It
deals with Sarah's faithfulness to "him that promised," which he
says flatly contradicts [ref020]Genesis 18:9-15
where "Sarah laughed to herself" when she heard the promise.
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 [ref021]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 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 readers 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" ([ref022]7:16; [ref023]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 emailing [ref024]Jftill@aol.com or by writing to P.O. Box
717, Canton, IL 61520-0717.
File contributed by [ref025]Farrell Till; page
maintained by the [ref026]Internet Infidels.
[ref030]Copyright © 1995 [ref031]Internet Infidels.
HTML Reproduction Rights Reserved.