Friday 18 July 2008

Grabbe in BAR

Former AC professor Lester L. Grabbe makes the columns of the current Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) with a critique of that publication. He is described in BAR as "a leading English scholar" (in his post-WCG incarnation he teaches at the University of Hull) and describes himself in the article as "an ex-fundamentalist." Grabbe taught at Pasadena until the "cultural revolution" of 1978 that brought AC - temporarily reorganized as a Bible College - under the control of extremist leaders following the departure of Garner Ted Armstrong.

The COG world has produced a great many loud but less-than-expert, self-made Bible commentators, ranging from Bob Thiel to Art Mokarow. Grabbe has the advantage of actually doing the hard yards in the academic world, and of not being seduced by the dark arts of apologetics: as a result he has enormous credibility in the field of biblical studies, particularly intertestamental Judaism. He is the brother of the late J. Orlin Grabbe.


Anonymous said...

"...and of not being seduced by the dark arts of apologetics: as a result he has enormous credibility in the field of biblical studies...."

Does a person have to change their beliefs in order to be deemed credible?

I am not sure if the purpose of Ambassador Watch is to ridicule those who actually believe the doctrines of the Church of God, or is it to expose the hypocrisy of those who left to form and lead their own churches. There is a difference between the two. However I see both of these activities on this site.

There are many who still hold to these teachings. Is there something wrong with earnestly believing that God's desire is to call all of humanity into his kingdom?

I believe the real tragedy of the post WCG days is that many stopped believing that we are all potential members of God's Kingdom. Some have chosen not to believe in anything anymore, while some have chosen to believe in some person who claims that he has come in Christ's name, yet there does remain a remnant of people who simply and quietly do what they believe is God's will.

Are they hoodwinked, brainwashed, or foolish? Time will tell.

Robert said...

Self made Bible commentators and ex-fundamentalists sums it all up well. Actually it is only when we leave the theology of WCG do we really discover another world out there.
I don't think I could cross the floor just yet and call myself an "ex-fundamentalist" - especially when last week I was searching for a good Prophecy magazine. They are in short supply these days, remembering the days when even the great Hal Lindsey had us all hooked on the book, There's a New World Coming -- he just didn't forsee the collapse of communism. Now this was really the good old days before WCG.

Anonymous said...

"Are they hoodwinked, brainwashed, or foolish? Time will tell."

Well, considering some of the incredible beliefs that serve as the foundations of Christianity in general, one would have to really ask who are the truly hoodwinked, brainwashed and foolish - those who question and doubt, or those who mindlessly believe in an ancient document with an account each of a talking snake and a talking donkey?

Who are the reals fools here?

You say "Time will tell." Well, perhaps time has ALREADY told, and you just don't like the answer.

Anonymous said...

Robert said, “I don't think I could cross the floor just yet and call myself an "ex-fundamentalist" - especially when last week I was searching for a good Prophecy magazine. They are in short supply these days, remembering the days when even the great Hal Lindsey had us all hooked on the book, There's a New World Coming -- he just didn't forsee the collapse of communism. Now this was really the good old days before WCG”.

MY COMMENT – Robert, I don’t know which WCG you are referring to, but HWA also didn’t foresee the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War.

Here is a relevant excerpt from my unpublished essay, “My reflections on The Worldwide Church of God – 1972 In Prophecy: God’s Practical Joke?”:

In review of my Sabbath Service notes, I am struck by the things that were not said from the Worldwide Church of God pulpits. For a church that prided itself as being God’s one and only true Church, and also prided itself on its special understanding of bible prophecy, I am amazed by the events that have occurred since the failed 1972 prophecy that were never mentioned by “God’s ministers” in their prophetic sermons of the 1960s or early 1970s.

As examples, while Richard Nixon was referred to as an end time President, there were never any prophecies of Ford, Carter, and the Reagan revolution, the Bushes or even Hilliary and Bill Clinton. I don’t recall any 1960s sermons that predicted the internet, or prophesied the rise in the American prosperity. I heard no prophetic sermons foretelling the demise of the evil Soviet Union empire or warning that Islamic radicals would be a threat and someday would slam airplanes into buildings (the September 11 attackers did not look German).

We were constantly told by Garner Ted Armstrong on radio that the “pride of America’s power had been broken”. Herbert W. Armstrong stated in a Feast of Tabernacles sermon on October 4, 1971: “We are here for a purpose. The United States has no purpose. That is one reason why the country is going down”. So, there were no 1960s or 1970s prophetic sermons that predicted America would ever be successful in any future military actions. We were mis-lead by the Armstrongs and the Church to believe that America was in its prophetic decline and that America had won its last war. I remember recalling Armstrong’s words during the liberation of Kuwait during the successful 1991 Operation Desert Storm.

More importantly, there were also no sermons recorded that instructed people to plan their life for a whole lifetime – 20, 30, 40 or 50 years or more out into the future. The message of Armstrong’s Worldwide Church was always the same: 1) time is very short, 2) “The Work” must be completed, and 3) send more money to headquarters to finish “The Work”. As widely documented elsewhere, we now understand why the constant plead for money from Armstrong and his minions.

I remember Herbert Armstrong once wrote an article to church members instructing them to prepare themselves for a decline in their personal standard of living. In Co-worker letters and service notes, members were constantly badgered for money – over and above their various tithes. But for many outside the sect, standards of living improved during the prosperity of the 1980s and 1990s. Certainly, as well chronicled on the internet, Herbert Armstrong’s personal standard of living did not decline during his ministry from the 1960s forward. Armstrong and his minion’s massive miss-use of money extorted from members is a matter recorded by many in writings on the internet. While Armstrong lived the opulent life style of the super rich, he was telling rank and file members to prepare for a decline in their personal standard of living. The word “hypocrite” certainly comes to mind.

End of Excerpt


Anonymous said...

Harmstrongism has never produced any Bible Scholars. How can you be scholarly when you mock education.

Harmstrongism and the training of all the splinter cult members is based upon nothing more than Herb's six moth study in a poorly stocked public library.

Meredith certainly is not educated in biblical matters. Hoeh certainly wasn't because he has been discredited countless times.

Blackwell was a supposed scholar on church history, yet he white washed and made so many preposterous claims that he has been discredited also.

Hulme, certainly is not a scholar. Fred Coulter certainly is not. There is NOTHING inspired about his 'bible.'

Anonymous said...

Richard, Amen

larry said...

Yes, some of the basic beliefs of Christianity (the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection from death, even talking snakes and donkeys) all seem incredulous. But they are no more incredulous than our very existence as sentient beings with free will. That existence, in itself, is highly improbable in the grand scheme of things. And who here will argue that we do not exist?

God requires that some issues be handled on faith and faith alone because....the entire Government of God is based on faith, the belief that God is ALWAYS true to his word and ALWAYS puts the best interests of others ahead of Himself.

Lucifer forgot that lesson and it caused a catastrophe. I see on this board, evidence of too many who have allowed their personal issues (which may or may not be valid) with the Church to cause them to lose any and all faith in The Almighty God that they may have once had.

And that is indeed very sad.

Unamused said...

So basically you have to hate God and any COG group in order to be a credible scholar? Well at least every one here is objective. :P

Anonymous said...

FYI, Grabbe's comments in BAR are in fact an excerpt from "Some Recent Issues in the Study of the History of Israel," published in Understanding the History of
Ancient Israel
, edited by H.G.M. Williamson, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp.60-63. Here are Grabbe's comments:

"As an ex-fundamentalist I am rather sensitive to arguments by conservative evangelicals which use the trappings of scholarship but which in my opinion cloak fundamentalist motives. But I think John Emerton was right when I heard him say that even in such cases we should answer the actual argument and not just dismiss it because of the presumed motive.

"Sadly, there is a convenient catalyst for personal attacks, the magazine The Biblical Archaeology Review. When BAR first appeared in the 1970s, I welcomed it. There was and is room in the market for a well-done popular journal of archaeology. Like many I subscribe and read it regularly. But in recent years it seems to have lent itself to those wanting to make person[al] attacks on other scholars, and some have found the opportunity too tempting to ignore and ended up saying things they would not dream of saying in an academic journal.

"A BAR article early in 2005 appeared to report on a conference on the history of ancient Israel, organized in Rome by the well-respected scholar of the ancient Near East, Mario Liverani. There were widespread differences in point of view and a robust debate took place. You would not know this from Shanks's article, which was along the lines of, "Isn't it awful the terrible things they are saying about the Bible?" His knowledge was of course entirely based on paper drafts placed on a website, not from anyone of his staff being present at the conference (the conference had in fact taken place two years earlier in March 2003). And it was a case of selective quotation, without any attempt to present context or full argumentation. The impression left on any readers without background knowledge was completely unfair and distorted.

"Such articles have me completely puzzled by the editorial policy of BAR. I understand the editor himself is not particularly religious, yet he seems at times to pursue an almost fundamentalist agenda. I once thought this might have to do with his audience, which seems to contain a significant conservative evangelical contingent. The editorial policy could then be seen as a way of appealing to this audience. But as time has gone by I have wondered if there is not something much more personal to it all. The trouble is, personal agendas do not usually make good editorial policy."

Anonymous said...

P.S. The BAR article to which Grabbe refers was "Debate: Minimalists on Parade," in the Jan./Feb. 2005 issue. The subhead is, "An academic conference in Rome highlighted the positions of scholars who think the Bible has little or no reliable history."

I don’t remember if I read that article or not, so I can’t tell if it included any personal attacks as Grabbe alleges. Anyway, BAR is certainly not fundamentalist, nor must one be committed to biblical inerrancy to see that so-called Bible minimalism is irrational and unscholarly, a form of closemindedness. A good scholar treats ancient texts fairly rather than approaching a subject with a presumption that the texts should be regarded as having nothing of historical value unless verified by external sources. Anyway, it’s good at least that Grabbe seems to be honest about his bias and apparently recognizes his reactionary tendencies related to his past commitment to Armstrongism.

Anonymous said...

Okay, one more P.S. The above quote from BAR should have included a few ellipses. Grabbe's complete article is available for free download here:

Anonymous said...

Gavin, how about putting a link to in your aplocogetics sidebar?