Archive for November, 2008

In response to Tony Burke’s criticism that conservative scholars’ characterization of Gospel of Thomas 114 ignored mainstream scholarship on Thomas, I had quoted from Elaine Pagels, Antti Marjanen, Stephen Patterson, and Marvin Meyer, all of whom generally agreed with the characterization that Burke disputed. In his reply, Burke asserted that “Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer…may not be the best scholars to appeal to in this debate, however, as they write often for popular audiences and their comments on the texts may suffer from the same lack of depth as the apologists I criticize.” I expressed some amazement at this statement and asked which scholars Burke thought should be consulted on the subject. In his most recent reply, Burke chose not to name one, and defended his comment by saying:

My point, however, was not that they were not accomplished scholars, but that the works that Bowman was appealing to (some of them, that is, particularly Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels) do not present a range of opinions on the topic. And my objection to the apologists’ comments on Gos. Thom. 114 is that they state only that it is misogynist, as if there are no other ways to interpret the saying. So, by “lack of depth” I simply meant that some of these other works (by Pagels, etc.) also only present one interpretation of the saying. Bowman is right, however, to object to my generalization of all four of the scholars as writing for popular audiences; Marjanen’s contribution is certainly not in the same vein.

Although I’m glad Burke acknowledges that his generalization did not apply to Marjanen, it really doesn’t apply to the other scholars either. To be fair to Pagels (imagine that, coming from this conservative!), when she wrote The Gnostic Gospels very little had yet been written about the saying. Read the rest of this entry »

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Those who have been reading this blog lately know that I am very interested in the question of whether the office of apostle is supposed to be a continuing office in the church—a claim that is central to the religion of the Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. So I was interested in a paper given at ETS last week arguing for the continuation of the office of apostle. Frank Chan, a professor at Nyack College, does not accept the LDS claim that apostles in the sense of revelational spokesmen for Jesus Christ are supposed to be living and leading the church today. According to Chan, both traditional Christians and Mormons are mistaken in defining an apostle in this sense. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m continuing my observations about ETS and SBL, though not in chronological order.

Yesterday, November 24, SBL had a special screening of The Bible’s Buried Secrets, the NOVA documentary first aired on PBS on Tuesday, November 18. After the screening of the two-hour documentary and a short break, the panel members took turns offering five-minute comments about various aspects of the film and then all took questions from the audience.

Introducing the film was Joan Branham, the wife of the film’s producer, Gary Glassman, who is the head of Providence Pictures. Branham is an art historian at Providence College. Both, of course, are based in Providence, Rhode Island, where ironically ETS (but not SBL) happened to meet last week. Branham made sure to include in her introduction a disparaging remark about the “right-wing fundamentalists” (as opposed to the left-wing fundies, I suppose) who criticized PBS for funding the documentary before they (the crazed critics) had seen it. This got some laughs from the audience, but the fact is that Providence Pictures had shown a trailer to select media and released information as to the conclusions defended in the film. Read the rest of this entry »

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Once a year, the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature hold their annual conventions back to back, usually in the same city. This year ETS met in Providence, Rhode Island, November 19-21, and SBL is meeting in Boston, November 21-24. The Evangelical Philosophical Society, in addition to having sessions at ETS and SBL, also co-sponsors an annual apologetics conference to coincide with ETS; this year it is meeting in Smithfield, Rhode Island, November 20-22.

Attending as much of these meetings as possible has been on the must-do list for me for a few years now. Read the rest of this entry »

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The case against the LDS claim that other apostles had ordained Paul to be an apostle is actually quite simple. (1) Both Acts and Paul predicate Paul’s apostolic ministry to the Gentiles on Christ’s appearance to Paul (Acts 9, 22, 26; 1 Cor. 9:1; Gal. 1:15-16). (2) Paul’s description of his meetings with apostles following his conversion (Gal. 1-2) proves that the other apostles never ordained him. (3) Paul states explicitly that his apostleship was neither directly nor indirectly conferred on him by mortals (Gal. 1:1). I shall elaborate on these points in this post, giving special attention to the arguments of LDS scholar Richard Lloyd Anderson, who tries in his book Understanding Paul to show that Paul was subject to the direction of the Jerusalem apostles and ordained under their authority. Read the rest of this entry »

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Other than the original twelve apostles and Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot, the New Testament identifies several other men as apostles, among them Barnabas, Paul, James and Jude the Lord’s brothers, and (probably) Silas (also called Silvanus). However, of these additional apostles beyond the Twelve, only in the case of Paul do we have any description or account of how he came to be an apostle. The appointment of Paul to be an apostle, then, turns out to be an important test case in determining whether apostles subsequent to the Twelve came into that office through a ritual of ordination performed by the apostles.

The standard LDS doctrine of apostles requires Mormons to assume that the apostles must have ordained Paul to his apostolic office. For example, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: Read the rest of this entry »

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Were the Twelve Apostles Ordained by Other Apostles?

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in Mormonism

A key component of the LDS Church’s religion is its claim to have an institutional office of apostle that Jesus Christ restored through Joseph Smith. The office is perpetuated from one generation to the next by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “ordaining” new apostles from time to time, so that there will always be twelve apostles (at least).

I have already shown that the New Testament does not use the word “ordain” in reference to a religious rite or ceremony in which men confer a church office on someone else. The King James Version uses the word “ordain” in its older English sense of appointing, setting forth, or ordering. Of course, as I pointed out, the Bible might speak of ordination rites without using the words “ordain” or “ordination” in that sense. The question is whether it ever does so in reference to the conferring of the office of apostle.

We can focus the question more specifically by asking whether the New Testament ever indicates, explicitly or implicitly, that an apostle received his apostolic office through an act of investiture performed by other apostles. In short, as best we can tell from the New Testament, were any of the apostles ever ordained by other apostles? Read the rest of this entry »

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Remembering Luke Wilson – One Year Later

   Posted by: Rob Bowman    in IRR

NOTE: This is a special blog entry from Joel B. Groat, the Coordinator Spanish Language Ministries for the Institute for Religious Research.

One year ago today IRR’s Executive Director and my colleague and friend of 19 years died suddenly, unexpectedly of heart failure. The last time we saw each other he hugged me goodbye—I had just returned from a ministry trip in Mexico and was off to a much needed vacation with my family to visit our daughter in Florida.  Before I was to return home, Luke would be off to a three-week ministry trip in Madagascar.  We jokingly said, “See you in a month,” neither of us dreaming that Luke would be eternally home three days before he was to leave for Madagascar.

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This is the first in a series of posts examining the LDS doctrine that God has restored the office of apostle in modern times. I will begin by examining the question of whether, or in what sense, the New Testament apostles were “ordained.”

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Tony Burke has posted on his blog a response to my recent post on women in Gospel of Thomas 114. Burke begins his response as follows:

Just to recap the discussion, I stated previously that assessments of the logion as “misogynist” were anachronistic and showed a lack of awareness of scholarship on the text. In response, Bowman excerpted a number of non-conservative scholars (including Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer) who agree that the saying is indeed misogynist. These may not be the best scholars to appeal to in this debate, however, as they write often for popular audiences and their comments on the texts may suffer from the same lack of depth as the apologists I criticize.

I expect to be at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in a couple of weeks, and I would love to get Burke in a room together with Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer to hear him defend this statement. Read the rest of this entry »

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