Part 2 – Is the Entire Bible “God-breathed”?
On page 141-2, of Crucifixion of the Warrior God, Boyd writes this: “While the entire Bible is ‘God-breathed’…”.
This is, at least, the fiftieth time Boyd has referenced his translation of the Greek word, theopneustos. I simply cannot move ahead in my reading and assessment of his argument for a cruciform hermeneutic without more fully addressing what I see as his misappropriation of this word and his concept of what that word means.
I’m quite frustrated by Boyd’s consistent, anachronistic use of 2 Timothy 3:16. That he states “the entire Bible is God-breathed” is purely a faith statement on his part and has nothing (or little) to do with what we can be certain that the author of 2 Timothy had in mind when he wrote these words. For one thing, the Greek word, translated as “God-breathed (theopneustos) is a hapax legomenon—that is, it appears only this one time in the entire Bible.
At the time of this writing, if Paul wrote it (i.e., mid 60s CE), as I presume Boyd believes, there was no official Jewish canon and the only books that would be later included in the Christian canon (i.e., the New Testament) that had already been written were Paul’s own letters and perhaps the epistle of James. The Gospels, Acts, the writings attributed to Peter and John and the book of Hebrews had not yet been written. All of those were post 70 CE and some of them were written as late as the last decade of the first century or first decade of the second century. That is the overwhelming scholarly consensus, outside of the most conservative evangelical and fundamental Christian writers.
So, it is dishonest, in my opinion, to state and/or imply that “the entire Bible is God-breathed.” Whatever the author of 2 Timothy had in mind would have included many, maybe even most, of the texts later canonized by the Jews (sometime in the late second century at the earliest), but not all, and perhaps Paul’s epistles. As well, it is clear that books which are not included in the Protestant Bible were accepted as Scripture by early Christians, and that’s why several Pseudepigraphical and Apocryphal texts are included in the canons of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. So, whatever the author of 2 Timothy had in mind as “Scripture” it is completely anachronistic and evangelically biased to refer to all of—and only—the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as the “Scriptures” to which the author of 2 Timothy ascribed the adjective “God-breathed.”
Yet, this is the fundamental assumption—that is, the cornerstone—in the foundation of Boyd’s entire argument, constructed for proving that a cruciform hermeneutic is the only right way to interpret both OT and NT. It is this assumption that is his justification for interpreting the NT authors’ method of interpreting the OT as normative. It is this assumption that is his justification for believing that the canon of the Protestant Bible is, in its entirety and exclusively, “God-breathed.”
However, without canonization, how can Boyd justifiably make this jump, using a statement made in the mid 60’s CE, to apply the results of a two canonization processes that weren’t formalized until the late 2nd century CE (Hebrew Bible) and the late 4th century (New Testament)? And speaking of the OT, has Boyd taken into consideration what Jerome included in his OT translation? Has he taken into consideration what was included in the oldest codex manuscripts from the 4th and 5th centuries CE: the Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus? For example, the Codex Sinaiticus includes the following books within its covers: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Sirach, and 1-4 Maccabees. Boyd rejects the canon of the Catholics as well as the various canons of the Orthodox churches and only accepts the canon of the Reformation, (15th century CE). Only the 66 books of the Protestant Bible are “God-breathed” to him, something that the author of 2nd Timothy could not possibly have had in mind.
I appreciate Boyd’s transparency, I really do. I am not confused or left wondering as to what he believes the Bible (the Protestant Bible, that is) to be. It is evident from the Preface on and I’m grateful for that. But the reason he repeatedly states his position on what is “God-breathed” is because he knows, and is honest enough to acknowledge, that believing the 66 books of the Protestant Bible are “God-breathed” is 100% necessary in order to argue for his Cruciform Hermeneutic.
Since I’ve only read 250 pages of his two-volume set, so far, I’m not yet able to evaluate whether his proposal makes sense if one does accept his “God-breathed” above assumption. But I’ve read enough to know that without accepting that assumption his arguments fail. There would be no justification for believing God influenced the diverse, ambiguous and contradictory theologies expressed in either the OT or NT. There would be no justification for claiming the NT authors’ Christocentric use of the OT should be considered normative. And, thus, there would be no justification for claiming that a Christocentric, cruciform hermeneutic is the only right way—i.e., the “God-breathed” way—for us to interpret the texts of the Protestant canon.
Boyd also implies that the early church consisted only of those who consistently interpreted Scripture in a way consistent with a Christocentric, cruciform hermeneutic. Here, too, I disagree. As many “Christian origin” scholars maintain, the early “church” consisted of various and diverse sects of believers whose teaching about the “Bible” and the nature of Jesus were, at times, clearly contradictory. The “orthodox” view is that of the “winners” – those considered themselves to be the only “orthodox” (i.e., true) church. All the rest were labelled heretics and their writings/teachings were banned. Yet, it is important to Boyd that we accept only those early church fathers who, in his opinion, viewed the OT from a cruciform perspective. I appreciate that Origen was a very important figure in the early church, but so were many other Ante-Nicene church leaders, whose writings we also have. So far, if memory serves, Boyd has referenced only Origen as supportive of a cruciform perspective. However, we know that the Ante-Nicene fathers disagreed on a number of crucial doctrines. Just like the biblical texts they referenced they, too, were diverse in their theologies. To cherry-pick only those quotations from the early church fathers that seem to support a cruciform hermeneutic while ignoring those that don’t, misrepresents the diversity of the Ante-Nicene state of the church.
The Bible (Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or other) is an anthology of various and diverse texts that were often ambiguous and contradictory in the theologies they portrayed. I can understand that some, maybe even many, evangelical Christians would find Boyd’s cruciform hermeneutic as helpful, comforting, and secure, in that it presents that there is only one correct way to interpret literally every passage in the OT – through the cross of Christ. However, I see the various versions of “the Bible,” with all their diversity, ambiguity, and inconsistency, to be quite inspiring as they are, even though they are not, in their entirety–in my opinion–“God-breathed .”