Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Holding Onto Hebraisms: James Patrick Holding's Odd Take on Election and Exegesis (Part 4)
02/10/2005 - James WhiteLet's begin with the concept of "Hebrew block logic." A scan of the standard Hebrew grammars and works on syntax reveals no emphasis upon such an concept in the regularly used scholarly sources. A scan of my entire Libronics library (a rather large collection, for which I'm thankful), brought up only one reference: that in the book cited by Holding. Evidently, scholarship has managed to handle Romans 9 without reference to "Hebrew block logic" all along (unless this is a never before heard of "insight" that the entirety of the church has missed over the years). In any case, there is nothing overly new to the idea that the Hebrew mindset can differ from the Western mindset in any number of ways. That much is true. However, a few observations are in order.
First, Romans 9 is written in Greek, not Hebrew. The sources Paul quotes from were written in Hebrew, and Paul is a Hebrew, but he is communicating in Greek, and, rather importantly, providing an inspired interpretation as he goes along. Simply referring to some concept that might appear in some forms of Hebrew literature (and in this case, especially and primarily in Hebrew poetry) is utterly insufficient basis for making a connection to Paul's citation of the texts from the Greek LXX. Surely it is not being suggested that this vague, general concept is applicable to all passages of Hebrew writing, let alone that this then transfers over to the Pauline usage. Serious exegesis requires providing substantially more foundation for making such connections, and Holding offers none.
Secondly, we are informed that "Examples of this in practice are the alternate hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God, or by Pharaoh himself; and the reference to loving Jacob while hating Esau -- both of which, significantly, are referred to often by Calvinist writers." What evidence is offered that this is the intention of the original author (who is not writing poetry but history), let alone that of Paul in citing the passage in Romans 9? Does Holding recognize the incongruety of citing this in a text where Paul is, clearly, making a logical argument that is apologetic in nature? If he does, he makes no mention of it.
Thirdly, Wilson is obviously wandering into interpretation (and Holding follows) when he begins speculating about how ancient Hebrews "felt" or "sensed" things. The only way to know such things is from the written text itself, and that brings us full circle. How Holding can know Palmer was "proud" in his declaration I truly do not know, but in any case, stating that everyone on the "other side" of an interpretive situation are simply wrongly reading the text through the wrong "lens" is quite common: it just requires a lot more substantiation than Holding offers.
Finally, it is a tremendous leap from this very lightly argued assertion to the conclusion that is offered, specifically, that Paul was presenting a "paradox" that he "saw no need to explain." This simply does not make any sense in Romans 9, for Paul is not only arguing his case and answering the objection raised at the beginning of the chapter, but he takes the time to answer repeated objections against his case, something someone presenting a paradox isn't going to be doing. To overthrow the direct meaning of the Greek text of Romans 9 by a vague, unargued, unsubstantiated reference to a concept in the Hebrew language, without even proving that the Hebrew source quotations contain such a concept, is eisegesis at its height. We should be very, very wary of this kind of argumentation, since it then leads to this:
And that means that we are not obliged to simply accept Romans 9 at "face value" as it were, because it is a problem offered with a solution that we are left to think out for ourselves. There will be nothing illicit about inserting concepts like primary causality, otherwise unknown in the text.This is nothing more than the abandonment of exegesis. Holding completely fails to substantiate such a radical step as is here promolgated on the basis of an alleged element of Hebrew thought. He would have to prove that this concept is not only present in the Hebrew texts Paul is citing, but that he purposefully carries it over into his present argumentation. The argument is patently false, and must be rejected. We might well ponder why someone would have to seek to avoid taking Romans 9 at face value, i.e., in a direct fashion. The answer is known to all who have sought to present the great truths of this passage to those insistent upon maintaining their "rights" as "pots": man's imagination works overtime to find any way to get around God's truth at this point. Men who would otherwise chuckle in derision at such attempts when used by false teachers on other subjects (can you imagine anyone buying this kind of thing to get around John 1:1, for example?) will swallow them whole if it allows them to avoid seeing the Potter and His right over them, the pots.
Oddly, Holding goes on, seemingly, to speak of rabbinic interpretation in the Christian period and the alleged paradox that he has already read into Paul. No references are given, no connection made to Paul, and we are left only with the vague assertion that post-Christian rabbinic thought is "much closer to the vein than either Calvin or Arminius, by over a millennium and by an ocean of thought." How does one respond to such vague, unsubstantiated, disconnected argumentation? How is it that a post-Christian rabbi is "closer" than Calvin, who bowed the knee to Christ and taught from the pages of the same Scriptures the post-Christian rabbi rejected? We are not told. [continued]