Daniel Kirk, Richard Bauckham, and Rule-Proving Exceptions

Consider this today’s “quote of the day.” It is from Daniel Kirk, and comes from a post about a subject of great interest to me, namely the relationship between Jewish monotheism and early Christian Christology:

Bauckham makes an interesting case for God’s exclusive sovereignty. But at the end he cites the Son of Man from the Parables of Enoch as someone other than God who exercises God’s sovereign rule over the earth. Bauckham calls this “the exception that proves the rule,” but it made me wonder when we get to call something that falls outside our preferred paradigm an exception that “proves” the rule rather than “shows us that the rule has important exceptions that might undermine the force of the argument.”

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  • Yup. More like an exception that disproves Bauckham's rule.

  • Hooray for Daniel Kirk, I should add.

  • Thanks for the reminder about your post, Jared, although I think that the burden of proof lies with you… 😉

  • With folks like McGrath, Stark, and Kirk out there, even the most highly educated scholars from an Evangelical background like Bauckham and Wright, can't get away with trying to pass off their apologetic concerns as if they equaled "biblical studies." Good job guys! As Jason Barr mentioned on Thom's facebook page, "Bauckham would have been better off to simply note that ancient Judaism was hardly of one mind about pretty much anything, and then proceed along the lines of trying to show why New Testament documents follow this trajectory and not that one." Same with Wright and his book on the resurrection of Jesus. He would have been better off simply to note that ancient Judaism wasn't of one mind concerning resurrection, as even Wright himself hinted at in his book, and as scholarly colleagues reminded him.

  • CONTINUED from directly aboveAs Hurtado pointed out in his review of Wright's book on The Resurrection:…One curious matter to mention is that, whereas on one page Wright agrees that 'there was a wide spectrum of belief in second-Temple Judaism regarding the fate of the dead.' (p. 201), a few pages later he contends that, except for those like the Sadducees who resisted the idea, 'resurrection had been woven into the very fabric of first-century Jewish praying, living, hoping and acting' (p. 204), and that in Jesus' time 'most Jews believed in resurrection,' although there remained a certain diversity about what the resurrection body would be like (p. 205). /snipPart Four (chaps. 13-17) is a detailed analysis of the canonical Gospels' accounts of Jesus' resurrection…One question that readers may judge less than adequately handled is whether the variations among the Gospel narratives reflect 'only minor development' (p. 611) in traditions about Jesus' resurrection in the first century.SOURCE "Book of the Month" section, a review of N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of Godby L. W. Hurtado (New College, University of Edinburgh) The Expository Times 115:3 Dec. 2003, p. 83-86.

  • John C. Poirier

    Part of the problem is with the phrase "exception that proves the rule". This is an old phrase, and when it was coined, "proves" meant "tests" rather than "confirms". Over the years, the meaning of "proves" has shifted, rendering the phrase nonsensical, but somehow people think it's still logical (although it isn't). Exceptions don't *confirm* rules — they *test* their strength.

  • Thanks John – that helps make sense of the puzzling turn of phrase, and why it once seemed to make more sense than it makes to us!

  • Ian

    I'd say the dividing line (in literary cases) is if they are self-consciously exceptions. For examplea) Embarrassment – is the exception mitigated or described with embarrassment.b) Unification – is the exception intended to be understood as a non-exception, i.e. to make a theological point that the exception really done still hold (in this case that the Son of Man really is God).c) Mechanics – is the mechanism for the exception described or rationalised in a way that assumes the rule.My totally naive rookie reading of Enoch suggests (c) is correct in this case E.g. 68:39 has"He sat upon the throne of his glory; and the principal part of the judgement was assigned to him, the son of man."A statement of assignment, which suggests that the writer is convinced of the rule and seeks to provide a mechanism.Or have I totally missed the point?

  • Thanks for this comment, Ian. What rule would you say that 1 Enoch 68:39 is indicating agreement with? If anything, I'd suggest it is indicative of a "rule" that God was believed to be able to share his sovereignty with a representative or agent. 🙂

  • Ian

    Yes, exactly. Please read this with the caveat that I'm a rank amateur here. The original thesis (of Baukham – again with another caveat that I have only read the commentary you linked, not his original) was that: Sovereignty belongs to God alone. So then a passage such as 68:39 seems to me to be both an exception (the son of man is exercising sovereignty), and a reinforcement of the rule. The latter because of what you say: the son of man gets to do that because a) all sovereignty is Gods, BUT b) God can assign this to his agents.Surely this suggests that the writer or redactor shares the understanding that sovereignty is God's alone. And so, it meets the criteria of an "exception that proves [maybe I'd say reinforces] the rule".

  • Ian

    Oh, I just replied to your reply, but it isn't showing. Is it held for moderation, or did it get gobbled?

  • Sorry, it was indeed caught in Blogger's spam filter. I wish the e-mails would indicate when a comment ends up there, so that I could deal with it promptly!