Friday, June 1, 2012

DANGER ISLAND! Examining the Deserted Island Scenarios of Free Grace Theology, Part 10

DANGER # 9: Both scenarios fail to recognize the grammatical break at the end of 1 Corinthians 15:5.

Zane Hodges says: "Keep in mind that all these items [in 1 Cor. 15:3b-8] were of 'first importance' in Paul's gospel. [No recognition of the grammatical break at the end of 1 Cor. 15:5.] Is it therefore necessary to believe all nine [items] to receive eternal life? So far, I don't know of any theological legalist who claims all nine are necessary. Instead, this type of legalist is reduced to 'cherry picking' the items he himself considers of 'first importance!'"1

Similarly, Tom Stegall says: “The succession of ‘then’ (eita) and ‘after that’ (epeita) clauses in [1 Cor. 15] verses 5b-7b forms an unbroken, chronological structure [No recognition of the grammatical break at the end of 1 Cor. 15:5.] just like the syntactically parallel ‘that’ (hoti)/’and that’ (kai hoti) clauses of verses 3b-5a. If some Christians contend that every detail of verses 3b-5a must be included in the gospel, then it is purely arbitrary and special pleading to argue that only a portion of verses 5-8 is gospel-content. If only verse 5 constitutes the gospel [out of verses 5-8], then why should a person’s eternal destiny be dependent upon the reference to Cephas (v. 5) but not to the five hundred brethren (v. 6) or James (v. 7) or Paul (v. 8)?”2

Although Hodges and Stegall obviously disagree on the content of the gospel, the similarity in their statements is that both fail to recognize the grammatical break at the end of 1 Corinthians 15:5. Notice how the so-called "crossless" gospel and the groundless gospel are “two sides of the same counterfeit coin”:3

Hodges' Shallow Exegesis

Hodges admits that Paul begins to enumerate the content of his gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3b, and that these items are “of first importance”.4 However, Hodges extends the actual content of Paul’s gospel through 1 Corinthians 15:8 while offering no exegesis to support his claim. Hodges simply declares: “In 1 Cor 15:1-8 Paul is reminding the Christians in Corinth about the content of his gospel.”5 After merely quoting 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Hodges concludes: “Clearly, for Paul, the term ‘gospel’ is broader than the essential content of saving faith.6 Such an obvious lack of exegesis is expected from first year seminary students, but not from a former professor of New Testament Greek and exegesis at Dallas Theological Seminary! Hodges arguments are exegetically unconvincing. The words of Bob Wilkin are appropriate: "Today what passes for exegesis is stating one’s opinion and then citing one or more verses. Little if any comments are made as to why the cited words prove the point. The writer or speaker assumes that merely mentioning words of Scripture is enough...Quoting Scriptures is not exegesis. Exegesis is analyzing Scripture."7

The exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that verse 5 is the conclusion of the gospel’s content, not verse 8.8 There is a grammatical break after 1 Corinthians 15:5 indicating the end of the gospel tradition. Famed New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias affirms: “it can be proved linguistically that the kerygma (which includes verses 3b from [Christos] to 5 [dodeka], as shown e.g. by the syntactic break at the beginning of verse 6) was not formulated by Paul….Up to v. 5 there are [hoti]-clauses, from v. 6 onwards main clauses”.9 Frederic Godet notes another exegetical point bearing on the subject when he states: “The [epeita], thereafter [in 1 Cor. 15:6a], separates more forcibly than the [eita], then, of ver. 5; it makes the following appearances [in 1 Cor. 15:6ff] a new step in the series, and rightly so.”10 Even "crossless" gospel advocate John Niemelä affirms these exegetical truths. Under the heading “Indicating a Content Clause” Niemelä notes that “1 Corinthians…15:3…15:4a-b, [and] 5” (but not 15:6ff) each indicate “a Content Clause”.11 The words of Matt Myllykoski are appropriate: “Most scholars have regarded vv. 3b-5 as an old traditional unit.”12 The apostle Paul confirms this gospel tradition by listing several more appearances of Christ in vv. 6-8. Ladd writes: “[The] tradition embodied in the apostolic kerygma or euangelion. Paul delivered (paredoka) to the Corinthians the gospel that he also received (parelabon), that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, that he rose on the third day, that he appeared to his disciples (1 Cor. 15:1-5). It is generally accepted that verses 3b-5 embody a primitive piece of pre-Pauline kerygma that Paul has received as a tradition from [Christ and] those who were apostles before him....Probably the appearances mentioned in vv. 6-8 were added by Paul to the tradition he received.”13 Zane Hodges has not even attempted to explain these exegetical truths that even fellow “crossless” gospel advocate John Niemelä affirms!

Stegall's Shaky Foundation

Similar to Hodges, Stegall also fails to recognize the grammatical break at the end of 1 Corinthians 15:5. There are several things to notice about Stegall’s statement (quoted above): (1) It is not correct for him to say that the succession of clauses in verses 5b-7b “forms an unbroken, chronological structure”.14 The truth is, there is a grammatical break at the end of verse 5 (as Jochim Jeremias and other New Testament scholars have noted).15 (2) In light of this exegetical truth, Stegall’s question “if only some portion of verses 5-8 is part of the gospel…then isn’t this being arbitrary as well?”16 should actually be answered in the negative. It is not being arbitrary to include only verse 5 in the gospel out of verses 5-8 because there is a grammatical break at the end of verse 5 separating the former appearances in verse 5 from the latter appearances in verses 6-8. (3) Stegall goes on to ask: “If only verse 5 constitutes the gospel [out of verses 5-8], then why should a person’s eternal destiny be dependent upon the reference to Cephas (v. 5) but not to the five hundred brethren (v. 6) or James (v. 7) or Paul (v. 8)?”17 Ironically, Stegall answers his own question about why a person’s eternal destiny should be dependent upon the text of verse 5 but not verses 6-8 when he says that “only verse 5 constitutes the gospel”!18 Unfortunately, Stegall refuses to accept this exegetical truth. Instead, he bases his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:5 on unanswered theological questions!19 This is quite a shaky foundation and one of the reasons why his saving message is referred to as “the groundless gospel”.

And so we see that both Hodges and Stegall fail to rightly divide 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 because e.g. they fail to recognize the grammatical break at the end of 1 Corinthians 15:5.20 In other words, both men fail to accurately handle the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) in regards to the conclusion of the gospel.


ENDNOTES:

1 Zane C. Hodges, "The Hydra's Other Head: Theological Legalism," Grace In Focus (September-October 2008), p. 4.

2 Tom Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009), p. 566, italics his.

3 Lou Martuneac, “AVAILABLE NOW: What to Expect, 4,” In Defense of the Gospel blog, http://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2010/05/available-now-what-to-expect-4.html (accessed June 1, 2012). Although Lou is writing in regards to the "crossless" gospel and Lordship Salvation, the same reasoning holds true in regards to the "crossless" gospel and the groundless gospel.
 
4 Zane C. Hodges, "The Hydra's Other Head: Theological Legalism," Grace In Focus (September-October 2008), p. 3, italics his.

5 Ibid, p. 3.

6 Ibid., p. 4, italics his.

7 Bob Wilkin, "Quoting Scripture Is Not Exegesis," The Grace Evangelical Society blog, June 12, 20??, http://www.faithalone.org/wordpress/?s=biases (accessed June 2, 2012).

8 While 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (and more generally vv. 1-11) give the context of Paul's gospel, it is 1 Corinthians 15:3b-5 which gives the content of Paul's gospel (note the four parallel hoti content clauses and three kai coordinating conjunctions in vv. 3b-5). For further discussion see the article "Getting the Gospel Right," pp. 3-4 (in the PDF file).

9 Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1955), p. 129.

10 Frederic Godet, Commentary On The First Epistle To The Corinthians, 2 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957), 2 Vol., Vol. 2, p. 334.

11 John Niemelä, “For You Have Kept My Word: The Grammar of Revelation 3:10,” Chafer Theological Seminary Journal 6 (January 2000): pp. 29-30.

12 Matt Myllykoski; Ismo Dundererg, Christopher Tuckett, and Kari Syreeni, Editors, Fair Play: Diversity and Conflicts in Early Christianity (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 66.

13 George Eldon Ladd, Donald A. Hagner, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1953), p. 427, ellipsis added. 

14 Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, p. 566. 

15 For further discussion see the article “Getting the Gospel Right,” pp. 4-7 (in the PDF file). Also see the article “First Among Equals Theology,” etc. 

16 Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, p. 566, ellipsis added. 

17 Ibid., p. 566 

18 Ibid. 

19 For more information and further discussion see the article “Getting the Gospel Right,” pp. 4-10 (in the PDF file). Also see the article “The Strange Beliefs of Stegall’s System”. 

20 I purposefully use the phrase “rightly divide” as an allusion to 2 Timothy 2:15, which says: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (NKV) 

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