Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages (#1): Greg Beale

by Michael Kruger

In a prior post (see here), I announced a new blog series designed to address problematic passage in the Bible.  This new series is largely a response to the one by Peter Enns’ entitled, “Aha moments: biblical scholars tell their stories.”

The first contributor in this series is Greg Beale (Ph.D., Cambridge University).  Greg is the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and the author of numerous books.  A few notables are: A New Testament Biblical Theology, The Book of Revelation (NIGTC), and The Temple and the Church’s Mission.

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Peter Enns begins his new blog series with his own story about what caused his view of the Bible to change.  One of the “culminating ‘aha’ moments” came from his study of 1 Cor 10:4: “for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

Paul is clearly referring back to the times when God refreshed the Israelites with water from a rock during their desert wanderings (Exodus 17, Numbers 20).  However, Enns argues that Paul is doing more than just referring to the Old Testament accounts.  Paul describes the rock as

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something which “accompanied them”—a clear reference, according to Enns, to ancient Jewish tradition that the rock in the desert actually travelled along with the Israelites.

Since the Jewish tradition about a travelling rock is clearly a legend—a legend that Paul apparently took to be fact—then we have a real problem, says Enns, for the evangelical view of biblical authority.  He puts it bluntly, “no rock moved in the Old Testament, but Paul said one did.”

Of course, I have already responded to Enns’ argument in prior works (e.g., see my Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism, chapters 4 and 5). But, I shall try to summarize some of those earlier points here, but the fuller discussion should be consulted, which also interacts with Enns’s responses to my critiques.

The problem with Enns’ argument is twofold: (a) there are doubts about whether this Jewish “tradition” of a moveable rock was present in the first century; and (b) even if the tradition was present, there are doubts about whether Paul was alluding to it…

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Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages (#1): Greg Beale | Canon Fodder