Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Lessons" from Breshears misses a couple of steps, one about bloggers netting income by "gossip", another about his contribution to Driscoll's errant use of Targum Neofiti to claim Jews believed in a Trnity before the birth of Christ

Breshears' commentary was, for the most part, a standard-issue Star Wars summary crawl but there was a misstep near the end.

A final lesson is being written as I write. Even as MHCC will discontinue operations in a few weeks, the Mars Hill churches are in process of replanting, many with a lot of continuity of their leadership teams and congregations. Many of those leaders have privately pondered and publicly repented. In a context of vulnerability, trust can be rebuilt and the work of the gospel go on. While bloggers continue to build their income with disparaging gossip, the people hope in the power of gospel centered transformation, hoping in the sense of the confident expectation of good based in the character of the God of Exodus 34:6-7

Bloggers continue to build their income with disparaging gossip?  Which bloggers, exactly?  Wenatchee The Hatchet has never monetized this blog since its birth and is not chomping at the bits with adding advertising.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has also spent quite some time transcribing Driscoll's teaching on the subject of spiritual warfare straight from the multi-hour primary source.  If quoting Mark Driscoll accurately and in context and studiously citing primary sources (whether sermon download, sermon transcript or published works by ISBN number) constitutes "gossip" then Breshears has painted with too broad a brush.

If anything Wenatchee The Hatchet may have at times been more scrupulous about what to claim and how to source it than Gerry Breshears.

After all, at least according to Mark Driscoll in March 2008 in the Doctrine series
God Is
Part 1 of Doctrine
Pastor Mark Driscoll
March 30, 2008
Now, what I want to share with you now is super exciting to me ‘cause I’m a total – I’m kind of a geek. And I really like – I really like the Bible and I like learning things I did not know. And I learned something this week that I did not know. It comes from Dr. Gerry Breshears, who’s a dear friend of mine and my co-author on Vintage Jesus and some other books. He’s the head of theology at Western Seminary in Portland. And what he showed me was – he sent this to me, it’s called the Targum Neofiti. It’s from roughly 200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. [emphasis added]

Now, let me tell you what a targum is, okay? A targum was an accepted Jewish translation and reading of the Old Testament, okay? And the Jewish scholars would translate, read the Old Testament and they would write them down as accepted targums. Now this targum – again, think is through – is 200 years before the birth of Jesus, more than 200 years before the Christian church in its present form came into existence, 500 years before something we’ll get to call the Council of Nicea where the Christian theologians officially declared the doctrine of the Trinity as true orthodoxy. Hundreds of years prior, here is the Targum Neofiti.

Genesis 1:1-2, it declared, “In the beginning, by the Firstborn” – who’s that? That’s Jesus. That’s the same language we find in the New Testament. Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and he is the firstborn – that’s preeminence. That’s prominence. That’s rulership over all creation. “In the beginning, by the Firstborn” – Jesus – “God” – that’s the Father – “created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” I can show that there were Jews who were waiting for the coming of Jesus Messiah who loved and studied the Bible – 200 years before the coming of Jesus interpreted Genesis 1, the opening line of the Bible, and Genesis 2 to be Trinitarian. That the Father through Jesus Christ, the preeminent firstborn Son, along with the Holy Spirit created everything. Trinitarian.
At the risk of quoting self again.:

To all that the scholars Robert Cargill, Christian Brady, and Scott Bailey could be said to have replied "No", "No" and "Hell no" respective to their usual blogging tones. Brady, in particular, as an Aramaic targum scholar, has been in a good position to point out that Driscoll (and Breshears) claim the rabbinical commentary on Genesis was written in the second centure BCE when it is generally accepted as written in the second century CE.  I.e. 2 centuries BC is four centuries too early for something scholars agree was written in the 2nd century AD, for folks who are old school.  Driscoll opens out the gate misrepresenting (at best) or lying (at worst) when the commentary on Genesis was written. 

Brady closed his friendly post with:

Feel free to offer other comments on the video. For the first time I have actually left comments on a YouTube video because I think this is so egregious. And for those who don’t know me as well and to be open and clear, I do believe in the Trinity, I just abhor bad sermons and errors.  [emphasis mine]

To the extent that Mark Driscoll credited Gerry Breshears with a "discovery" that the Targum Neofiti predated the birth of Christ, and no less than three scholars obliterated the historical and textual claims Driscoll leaned on and credited to getting from Breshears, one of the lessons that may be learned is that one should be cautious about learning lessons about Targums from Gerry Breshears.  In addition to making a claim that bloggers have generated income by blogging "gossip" another claim that Breshears may have an even harder time backing up is that the Targum Neofiti predated Christ. 

To be sure, Breshears' overall overview covers a lot of ground that is confirmed, it's just that the conclusion marred the overall thing, and the overall thing did not sufficiently address a history of Breshears' contributions which did not elevate the doctrinal discourse within the history of MH.  But, as someone put it, it can be much easier to observe the faults of others than our own and that may be why diversity in the body is needed.

Meanwhile, if a blog turns out to be a practical way to preserve what has been said on the record for the record then preserving as large a chunk of the public ministry of Mark Driscoll within the context of Mars Hill seems like an appropriate contribution to the public discourse. Later this week, health and time permitting, a continuation of Driscoll's 2008 spiritual warfare as not just a doctrinal statement but a possible political manifesto within the leadership culture of Mars Hill.  But we'll see how that works out.


David Odell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

while the comment was removed by the author it raised a point worth mentioning. Did Breshears himself in some way directly sign off on the disprovable claim about the Targum Neofiti?

Yep when in 2010 he published Doctrine in co-authorship with Driscoll.

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe
Copyright (2010) by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
ISBN: 978-1-4335-0625-3
PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-0626-0
Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-4335-0627-7
ePub ISBN: 978-1-4335-2311-3

page 19

It gets even more interesting when we look at how ancient Jewish rabbis understood this passage as they did their interpretative translation of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic, the common language of the people. They did a word study of “beginning” (re’shit in Hebrew) and found that it is used in synonymous parallelism with the Hebrew word for “firstborn” (bekor in Hebrew) four times in the Old Testament.37 This would mean that the two words, “beginning” and “firstborn,” can have the same meaning. Thus, their translation of the opening words of the Bible includes both words:

In the beginning, by the firstborn, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.38

In this important translation, predating the birth of Jesus Christ by approximately two hundred years, we find three divine persons—the Firstborn, God the Father, and the Spirit—at work in creation.

footnote 38 refers to:
Gen. 1:1–2 in the Targum Neofiti.

Now it's worth noting that Christian Brady dismantled the historical credibility of the Driscoll/Breshears claim within the year the claim was made.

Scott Bailey tore it apart the year before Doctrine was published as a book

Doctrine was published April 2, 2010

There was plenty of time for Breshears to have retracted what he was credited as saying. For that matter, there was time enough for all those guys who should have known better and endorsed the book with the error anyway (Frame, Grudem, Trueman, et al) and have addressed that problematic claim before the book saw print.