Archive for March, 2016

Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity – One Point of Contrast

March 28, 2016

Qin Shi Huang (260 – 210 BC) is the most prominent of the Chinese emperors. He united China through conquest, began the Great Wall of China, and had the Terra Cotta warriors built. He’s significant to Confucianism – and especially the textual transmission of Confucius’ works – because toward the end of his reign he engaged in a process of burning books and burying scholars. The scholars that were allegedly buried alive were apparently Confucian scholars, and Confucian works were apparently largely destroyed by the Emperor’s decree.

The Qin dynasty ended shortly after Qin’s death, and was replaced by the Han dynasty. In A.D. 9, Wang Mang (45 BC – A.D. 23) usurped the throne from the ruling family and set up his own short-lived dynasty. During Wang Mang’s reign, it was alleged that some of Confucius’ writings had been rediscovered. Wang Mang apparently used these texts in an attempt to support his own reforms.

Robert Greene (in “The 48 Laws of Power,” p. 397) explains it this way:

Reigning from A.D. 8 to A.D. 23, the Chinese emperor Wang Mang emerged from a period of great historical turbulence in which the people yearned for order, an order represented for them by Confucius. Some two hundred years earlier, however, Emperor Ch’in had ordered the writings of Confucius burned. A few years later, word had spread that certain texts had miraculously survived, hidden under the scholar’s house. These texts may not have been genuine, but they gave Wang his opportunity: He first confiscated them, then had his scribes insert passages into them that seemed to support the changes he had been imposing on the country. When he released the texts, it seemed that Confucius sanctioned Wang’s reforms, and the people felt comforted and accepted them more easily.

Burning Books, by Matthew Fishburn similarly reports:

The first recorded state-sponsored book burning is the destruction ordered by Grand Councillor Li Ssu in Ch’in China in 213 BC. The country had been newly unified under Ch’in Shih-huang-ti, and he signified his rule with the order to burn the books of any historian or partisan of the defeated Shih or Shu. The Emperor is also known for beginning construction of the Great Wall, and even forced people convicted of protecting books to work on its construction; condemning, as Borges incisively commented, ‘those who adored the past to a work as vast as the past, as stupid and as useless’. This was not, as Lois Mai Chan has emphasized, unmediated destruction. There were exemptions for all manner of practical or scientific works and, just as importantly, even the objectionable books were preserved in imperial archives and allowed to be kept by the official scholars. As is often the case with such suppression, it is difficult to assess the extent of the initial destruction, but it is certain that this centralization of the written record increased the devastation when the Imperial Archives were attacked and destroyed in 206 BC. The association between censorship and aridity has its symbol in the legend that grass never grew on the spot where the books of the scholars were burned.

(p. 2)

While there is controversy (apparently to this day) about the nature and extent of Qin’s burning of books, and of Wang Mang’s (or others’) possible editing or forging of Confucian writings, these controversies were all made possible by the fact that Qin had control of the geographic area where Confucius’ works circulated, and the means for effectively destroying those works.

This parallels the history of the transmission of the Qur’an. The first caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr, is said to have collected the Qur’an in A.D. 634. Nevertheless, various versions of the Qur’an were apparently circulating during reign of the third caliph, Uthman (reigned A.D. 644 – 656). Uthman created a standard text of the Qur’an and had the other copies burned. This was possible because Uthman had control of the geographic area where the Qur’an circulated and the means for effectively destroying competing copies.

There is, however, no close parallel in Christianity. Christianity rapidly spread copies of books of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) beyond the reach of the Roman Empire. Christianity had no centralized earthly ruler and by the time emperors like Constantine or Roman bishops tried to operate in such a capacity, the text of the New Testament was so well established and widespread that any attempt to edit or control the text would have been ineffective. While this uncontrolled transmission of the text may seem messy it is one of the means by which we can have confidence in the text today, without the need for a continued prophetic witness.

P.S. For your interest:

There is considerable debate about which, if any, of these books were directly written by Confucius himself. The main source of his quotations, the Analects, was not written by him. As with many other spiritual leaders such as Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus, or Socrates, our main source of Confucius’ thought, the Analects, was written down by his disciples. Some of the core canon is argued to have been written by Confucius himself, such as the Spring and Autumn Annals. There is considerable debate about this, however.
This factor is further complicated by the “Burning of the Books and Burying of the Scholars”, a massive suppression of dissenting thought during the Qin Dynasty, more than two centuries after Confucius’ death. The emperor Qin Shi Huang destroyed a great number of books, possibly destroying other books written by Confucius or his disciples in the process.
The current canon of Four Books and Five Classics was formulated by Zhu Xi. Many versions contain his extensive commentaries on the books. The fact that his specific version of the Confucian canon became the core canon can be seen as an example of his influence in Confucianism.
Other books are not included in the current canon but once were. The major example is the Xun Zi.

(source)

See also:

In AD 9, Wang Mang usurped the throne and created the Xin Dynasty. The Western Han dynasty had ended after 198 years of consecutive rule.
Wang Mang hoped to gather support from the peasantry be introducing reforms. Wang Mang announced the discovery of books written by Confucius, which were supposedly discovered after Confucius’ house, was destroyed more than two hundred years ago. The discovered work supported the same kind of reform that Wang Mang sought.
Wang Mang defended his policies by quoting from the discovered books. Following what was portrayed as Confucian scripture; he decreed a return to the golden times when every man had his measure of land to till, land that in principle belonged to the state. He declared that a family of less than eight that had more than fifteen acres was obligated to distribute the excess amount of land to those who had none.

(source)

Further Evidence of Jesus’ Divinity from the Modern Versions

March 7, 2016

Jude 5 provides another evidence of Jesus’ divinity in the modern versions. In the KJV, Jude includes the following pair of pericopes:

Jude 3-7
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

In this version, Jude is stating the “the Lord” saved the people out of Egypt.

Moreover, the KJV leaves some ambiguity as to what “Lord” refers to there, because of some ambiguity in the expression “only Lord God, our Lord Jesus Christ.” While that expression is itself an affirmation of Jesus’ divinity, a reader might mistakenly view the “and” as suggesting that “only Lord God” refers to the Father, while “Lord Jesus Christ” refers to the son, instead of recognizing that both refer to the son.

By contrast, in the ESV, the pericopes are as follows:

Jude 3-7
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

In the second pericope, it becomes unequivocal that Jesus is the one who saved the people out of Egypt and keeps the fallen angels in the place of darkness, things that require Jesus’ pre-incarnate personal existence.

It’s not just his pre-incarnate personal existence, though. The redemption from Egypt is the key identifier of YHWH as the God of Israel in the Old Testament:

Exodus 20:2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Exodus 29:46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God.
Leviticus 11:45 For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
Numbers 15:41 I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 5:6 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Joshua 24:17 For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
Psalm 81:10 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Daniel 9:15 And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

This is why it is no small thing for Jude to identify Jesus as the one who brought up Israel out of Egypt.

The interesting thing about this example is that while the ESV strengthens the identification of Jesus as God in the second pericope, the ESV arguably weakens the identification of Jesus as God in the first pericope. After all, the word “God” is no longer used in the expression, even though it is more clear that both references to “Lord” are to Jesus.

This argument for Jesus’ divinity works in either version, and does not depend on the text one chooses. If one chooses the Textus Receptus, keep in mind that the Greek is this:

… καὶ τὸν μόνον δεσπότην Θεὸν, καὶ Κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ τοῦτο, ὅτι ὁ Κύριος λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας, …

First, the construction “τὸν μόνον δεσπότην Θεὸν, καὶ Κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν” is an example of the Granville Sharp construction, and consequently both “μόνον δεσπότην Θεὸν” (only master God) and “Κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν” (our Lord Jesus Christ) refer to the same person.

Even setting aside Granville Sharp’s Rule, and assuming for the sake of argument that δεσπότην Θεὸν referred to the Father as distinct from Christ, the term used in verse five is Κύριος, the term used of Jesus in the immediately prior pericope. In other words, while the KJV obscures the fact that there are two different words for Lord used in verse 4, there are two different words for Lord used there, and it is the latter one – the one used for Jesus – that is then used again in verse 5. Thus, even if verse 4 itself does not provide that Jesus is God, verse 5 provides that Jesus is God, even in the KJV (assuming one is willing to refer back to the Greek).

The NA28 Greek text (the current “critical text”) reads: “… καὶ τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι. Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας … ” Those seem to be the readings followed by the ESV translators, although actually in this case I think that the ESV translators adopted the “Jesus” reading before the Nestle-Aland editors adopted it.

In case you were wondering, the New World Translation does its best to further obscure this testimony to Jesus’ divinity. The translation the NWT provides is: “… who prove false to our only owner and Lord, Jesus Christ. Although you are fully aware of all of this, I want to remind you that Jehovah, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, … ”

Nevertheless, the 1969 Kingdom Interlinear provides evidence of the selective translation going on:

Notice that on the interlinear side the word for “Lord” in “Lord Jesus Christ” is the same word as is used in the very next verse as being the “Lord” who brought the people out of Egypt.  The NWT translators selectively translated the latter one as “Jehovah,” because they recognized that it was a reference to YHWH.  However, in the original Greek it becomes clear that this is referring to the person of Jesus Christ mentioned in the immediately previous verse.

-TurretinFan

You can find the two previous articles in this series here: (John 14:14)(Mark 9:29)


%d bloggers like this: