Monday, January 13, 2014

Paul Williams and "The Big Seven" - Part Four

We now come to PW’s fourth argument against the deity of Christ in Mark’s Gospel and for the increasing deification of Jesus in the later Gospels.
4) Jesus did not know the identity of a woman who touched him and had to ask his disciples for help (Mark 5:30),
Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’
But see Matthew’s redaction in 9:20-22:
Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages [sic] for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.
In the earlier Gospel of Mark Jesus is ignorant of who had touched him. This shortcoming is eliminated in Matthew’s improved version where Jesus immediately identifies the woman.
With this argument we see a return to PW’s favored method, a method he was happy to abandon in order to make the previous argument, which, for all that, still ended up being a nonstarter. One thing we learn from this is that PW determines his method on any given occasion based on the conclusion(s) he wants to reach. It hardly needs to be said, but this is not what we call good scholarship.
In the argument presently before us then, PW once again assumes Markan priority, Matthean redaction of Mark, and an ability to divine Matthew’s motives. It has already been pointed out that PW has not attempted to argue for these assumptions even though his argument hinges on them. As usual, even if we give PW a pass here, as I will again do in what follows, the argument he tries to build on these assumptions still does not work.
Even though it would hardly be problematic to say that Jesus, who is not only God but God incarnate, did not know something according to this account, for then it would only be speaking from the perspective of his true humanity, in which He also hungered, thirsted, slept, wept, and died, it is hardly necessary to take such a view, for this pericope gives a clear perspective on His divinity even as other passages in Mark do on His humanity. It is a well-known feature of Mark’s gospel that Jesus often asked questions as a foil for rhetorical and/or teaching purposes, not because He did not know the answer Himself (q.v., Mark 3:33, 5:39, 8:12, 17, 27, 29, 12:16, 23). Such questions are not proof of ignorance on the part of Jesus. Several indications in the context show that Jesus’ question in Mark 5:30 – “Who touched my clothes?” – was just this sort of question.
In the first place, the disciples in the account are nonplussed that, in spite of being pressed on all sides by the crowd, Jesus asked who touched His clothes (v. 31: “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”). In other words, the disciples were ignorant that someone touched Jesus’ clothes with the intent of being healed and that power went out from Him, but Jesus was not (v. 30: “Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth…”). This is already an evidence of Christ’s supernatural knowledge (and power), for He knows not only that power has gone from Him but that it was by means of someone touching (in faith) the hem of His garment.
Secondly, although PW takes the unusual view (at least when he thinks it is convenient) that English translations have priority over the inspired Greek text (as witness his overly bizarre insistence on this in the case of Mark 6:50), a position PW shares with some that he would put down as the worst sort of fundamentalists, most will recognize that this is entirely wrongheaded. Accordingly, if we put this poorly thought out notion to the side and look at the actual Greek text of Mark 5:32 it tells us that Jesus was not merely looking for someone in general whose identity He did not know; rather, He was specifically turning in order to see THE WOMAN who touched Him, which wouldn’t be the case if Jesus only knew that He was touched and not who it was who touched Him. This is not clear in the NRSV that PW appears to be using, which says “He looked all around to see who had done it (v. 32),” but the NASB, as well as other translations, gets the Greek right. Here it is in context:
25 A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse— 27 after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. 28 For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” 29 Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30 Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” 31 And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” 32 And He looked around to see THE WOMAN who had done this (καὶ περιεβλέπετο ἰδεῖν τὴν τοῦτο ποιήσασαν). 33 But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5)
No doubt PW will be tempted to start talking again about how the NRSV and many other translations render it in a way that helps his argument, and how the Greek text, which decidedly uses a singular feminine relative pronoun or article together with a feminine participle (ten touto poiesasan), is of no account since a lot of people on committees with official name tags sat down and agreed on the rendering PW likes, but I trust most readers will have good enough sense to see that this is as desperate as any argument can get. Far better than PW’s interpretation is on offer in Alexander’s commentary, which says:
And he looked round (about is a mere adjunct of the English adverb, to which nothing separately corresponds in Greek) to see the one, or the woman (as the article is feminine) having done (or who had done this) i.e. who had touched his garment for the purpose before mentioned. Here again it is not said that he looked round to see (i.e. discover) who had done it, but to see her who (he knew) had done it; for the very gender of the article and participle (τὴν ποιήσασαν) shows that he looked round not in doubt but at a definite and certain object. This distinction is by no means unimportant, as it sweeps away the ground of the assertion that our Lord is here described as merely feeling that some influence had gone forth from him, and then trying to discover what it was or who had been affected by it; an interpretation equally irreverent and ungrammatical. (J. A. Alexander, Mark, A Geneva Series Commentary (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, [1858], 1984), pp. 130-131.) (Italics original)
The words of the widely renowned commentator R. C. H. Lenski are also worth noting:
And he was looking around to see her that had done this, not indefinitely: who had done this. Jesus knew who the woman was. Whereas the imperfect “he was looking around” described his action, the aorist ἰδεῖν intimates that his eyes all at once rested upon the woman. She had not been able to slip away. (Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1961), p. 224.) (Bold emphasis original)

And so, as remarkable as it is, a passage PW hoped would prove that Jesus was “ignorant” actually stands forth as yet another example from the Synoptic Gospels, and Mark’s Gospel at that, of Christ’s supernatural knowledge. This observation puts Mark’s longer account in perfect alignment with Matthew’s shorter account, with both attesting to Christ’s prior knowledge of the identity of the woman. Accordingly, PW’s claim of Mark’s “shortcoming” being eliminated in Matthew’s “improved version” is long on rhetoric and short on reality. In light of this, the reader is invited to consider whose ignorance has been exposed or brought to light by this passage: the Lord Jesus Christ's or Paul Bilal Williams'?


After writing this article a friend of mine, Dr. Edward Dalcour, who is an exemplary Christian apologist and whose proficiency in Greek well exceeds my own, pointed something out to me that I missed. Here is his insight in my own words.

The term peri-blepw, used in Mark 5:32 (Gr. periblepeto, “He looked around”), is used only six other times in the New Testament. All occurrences of this word, with the exception of Luke 6:10, are found in Mark (i.e. 3:5, 3:34, 9:8, 10:23, 11:11). In addition, all occurrences in Mark (and the one occurrence in Luke), except for Mark 9:8, relate to the Lord Jesus Christ. So this is obviously a very important term for Mark, and it has special relevance to Jesus.

The importance of this appears in what follows: the six times the word is used for Jesus it denotes a looking around in observation, not in ignorance or discovery. Furthermore, in all of its occurrences, including Mark 5:32, i.e. the passage in question, it is in the middle voice, which indicates the personal interest for the thing or person(s) upon which Jesus is “intently gazing.”

This fits perfectly with the fact that it is followed by idein, ἰδεῖν, an infinitive of purpose, which is to see “the [one] having done this,” which I have already pointed out is feminine in Greek. In other words, Jesus was not casting about looking for some vague object or as yet unidentified and unknown person, but was turning for the express purpose of intently gazing upon the woman who touched his clothes. So much for PW's argument.


sorpotal said...

If Muslims could understand theology They would not be Muslims

Radical Moderate said...

Brilliant what else can be said but brilliant

Mary said...

Jesus was fully God and also fully human. Jesus Himself said he was not the Father. Now, Jesus is in a resurrected body and fully with the Father in the glory and relationship He had, as he put it, "before the world began." He is also our Judge and the bridge between us and the Father.

Derek Adams said...

Great Post Anthony, Eddie thanks for contributing (I loved your cross ex with Osama).

If Matthew is trying to "fix" the ignorance of Jesus presented in Mark, and transform Jesus into a wiser character, why then does Matthew keep the statement of ignorance uttered by Jesus in Matt 24:36?

And if Mark intends to portray Jesus as ignorant, why does Mark (like Matthew) present Jesus with innate supernatural knowledge (Mark 2:8; Matthew 9:4) if the point of Mark is to have a Jesus who is deficient in knowledge and ignorant, then why would he allow an exception that completely disproves the idea that he does not possess supernatural knowledge?

Is PW simply arguing "On more occasion than not, in Matthew we see Jesus possessing extraordinary knowledge and more rarely in Mark do we see any knowledge"

However a quantity is out of the question, not only because it's not a linguistic reality in either gospel but frequency of course, does not determine a Christology or an argument, because if Jesus even one time displays supernatural knowledge (in Mark) this implies he could have it again at any time (including the verses in question), therefore Mark does not wish to deny or reduce Jesus role in supernatural activity.

Also if Matthew is aware that Mark has a supernaturally wise Jesus, (since he clearly adapted this and other stories), then how is Matthew evolving the Christology of Jesus by simply having more occurrences of the exact same phenomenon and activity that takes place in Mark, I thought he was meant to be increasing the deity of Jesus, not the examples that prove the humanity of Jesus! This could mean we have a Jesus who more frequently uses his gift from above, but yet this fully reassures Jesus supernatural knowledge only comes from a divine source, and not himself, this doesn't at all present a larger ontology of the deity of Christ which is the crux of the argument.

Further while in Mark 2:8 Jesus possesses supernatural knowledge in his spirit, regarding the reasoning of their evil hearts, in Matthew 9:4 the spiritual awareness is omitted, thus if anything, it is rather Matthew who does not appear to deify the knowledge of Jesus, but (possibly in contrast to Mark) REDUCE the knowledge of the spirit to more of a human intuition, some translations could support this:

But PERCEIVING THEIR THOUGHTS, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? (Matt 9:4 [HCSB])

WHEN Jesus SAW THEIR REACTION he said, “Why do you respond with evil in your hearts? (Matt 9:4 [NET])

We also have examples, where Matthew fails to magnify on what Mark has said at all:

But, KNOWING THEIR HYPOCRISY, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” (Mark 12:15 [ESV2011])

But Jesus, AWARE OF THEIR MALICE, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? (Matt 22:18 [ESV2011])

No significant upgrade or downgrade exists, Matthew is found once again not increasing any picture of Christ.

As usual the problem with Muslims like PW, is their argumentation is unclear, vague, ambiguous, and not meaningful like the book that they worship. They posit a vague thesis that could be transformed in either direction and expect us to do the homework for them, rather than present a sound coherent argument.

Jonas ola said...


Wow..! This is realy brilliant, amazing! I looovveee when u refutted all the arguments brought up by muslim apologist, with hard evidence & philosophically unique..! Thanks & glory to God for persons like all of u...

By the way mr Wood, I've been following ur blog for quite some times now. I'm just wondering if u had provide any rebuttals to dr Zakir Naik's arguments regarding the bible in debate with dr William Campbell (quite some years ago though). I've been searching in Answering Islam site but can't find it. If u had, can u please kindly provide the link? I really want to look for the explanation...

Thanx in advance. God bless u all...

Derek Adams said...

Earlier in line with Rogers previous post I asked:

"If Matthew is trying to "fix" the ignorance of Jesus presented in Mark, and transform Jesus into a wiser character, why then does Matthew keep the statement of ignorance uttered by Jesus in Matt 24:36?"

I forgot to mention, how utterly implausible it is to argue that Matthew magnifies Mark in this instance, when Matthew has LOWERED Markan Christology elsewhere, note:

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but ONLY (μόνος) the Father." Matthew 24:36

However the Markan account excludes μόνος (only):

“But as for that day or hour no one knows it – neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son but the Father." Mark 13:32

Greek Grammarian and NT Scholar, Daniel Wallace makes a valid observation:

"Since Matthew’s christology is regularly elevated above Mark’s... the very addition of μόνος with reference to the Father in Matt 24.36 would mean that Matthew’s christology IS ACTUALLY LOWER THAN MARK'S in this one instance if the longer reading is retained."

Wallace is going against the grain here by arguing for the shorter reading of Matthew which excludes: "οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός “nor the son”.

However since PW likes to stick with the majority of translations (or the closet to the consensus view point), it must be pointed out that Wallace's observation about the longer reading is completely valid, Matthew has lowered Markan Christology, by qualifying "nor the Son but (ONLY) The Father". Which is a much more emphatic and stronger affirmation of the Son's ignorance compared to the Markan Account.

However if Matthew is lowering Markan Christology here, but raising his ignorance elsewhere, this disproves the theory subscribed to by PW and blows it out the window.

But on the odd chance that PW agrees with Dan Wallace that the shorter reading of Matthew is authentic, then we have no explicit statement where Jesus denies his knowledge of the last hour, in Mark or Matthew.

In regards to Mark: In the fourth century, Basil of Caesarea (d. 379) offered a philological solution to the problem. He argued that the Greek words in Mark 13:32 do not teach that the Son was ignorant. He noted that a literal, word for word translation of the verse reads, “But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, if not (ei me) the Father.” From this philology Basil reasoned that Jesus was in effect saying: If I were not one with the Father, even I would not know the time of my Second Coming. Basil commented, “But the saying of Mark…we understand in this way: that no one knows, neither the angels of God, but not even the Son would have known, unless the Father had
known, that is, the cause of the Son’s knowledge is from the Father.” According to this
interpretation, Mark 13:32 is not a statement about the Lord’s ignorance, but the exact
opposite. It is a statement about Christ’s divinity and omniscience.
Basil’s argument has several positive qualities. First, it is based on the Greek text itself. Ei me in Greek can mean “if not.” In fact, the words ei and me are often translated “if” and “not”, as in the NASB and NIV translations of John 9:33 which both read: “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (italics mine). Basil’s interpretation also entirely erases the problem of Christ’s supposed ignorance.

Derek Adams said...

Now as for Matthew, the shorter reading that Wallace endorses is translated as:

"24:36 “But as for that day and hour no one knows it – not even the angels in heaven 53 – except the Father alone ."

Here "monos/μόνος" is contrasted with the angels and people on earth, but not especially the Son.

"Alone" in context thus is a contrast between God and heavenly and earthly creatures, between them and God, God alone knows the last day and hour. However Jesus does not rank or classify himself among the creatures of earth, or the angels of heaven, meaning it is to ambiguous to take from this verse that Jesus's empathetic affirmation of God alone (in contrast to creatures) excludes Jesus, Jesus is deliberately not including himself nor specifying where he is on the scales here.

If someone insisted that Jesus is part of the first category being mentioned "no one knows it" this could easily refer to the limitation of Christ's humanity as a man like all others, as opposed to Christ's divinity.

Anthony Rogers said...

(In light of Derek's comments)

I am Anthony Rogers and I approve of this message.

God bless America!


Samuel Green said...

Thanks Anthony