Tuesday, September 19, 2006


My grandmother informed me that she was thinking of converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. It is really interesting that someone who is reformed like myself would have a grandmother considering Orthodoxy.

Anyway, I went to one of their Bible studies with her, and was given some literature to read. It is a book called Becoming Orthodox by Peter E. Gillquist. I must admit, I had only read one other book on Eastern Orthodoxy, that being Timothy Ware's book The Orthodox Church.

I have to say that I think Ware's book is far better. While Ware is Orthodox there is at least some semblance of scholarship and thought from him. I honestly cannot say the same for Gillquist's book. Here is an example of a really sophamoric mistake in exegesis on the part of Mr. Gillquist.

Gillquist writes with regards to liturgy:

When I do specific Bible study or prepare for sermons, I use the New King James Version (NKJV) as my text. But times like these late night sessions, I'll usually select another version for a fresh look at a familiar passage. On this night, I chose the New American Bible (NAB), a somewhat chatty and engaging translation done under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church.

I was moving through Acts and got to chapter 13, which opens with the Church in Antioch when they were sending out Paul and Narnabas. And then I came to verse two: "On one occasion, while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them." (NAB). Hold it! I thought to myself. Everybody knows the text says that they were "ministering to the Lord and fasting." There can't be liturgy as early as Acts 13.

So I grabbed my Greek New Testament from the bookshelf next to my desk. Right there, in Acts 13:2, for all to see: leitourgounton was the Greek word. You don't even need to know Greek to figure out the meaning! There is liturgy in Acts 13. It was the Protestants who had altered the translation. [Becoming Orthodox pgs. 75-76]

Now, I certainly would not say that you are not a Christian if you do not hold to the Reformed structure of services, but this is obviously not what is meant here. My first question is "where does the text say that this is the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox church?" For all we know, what is meant by liturgy here is the reformed regulative principle. That is something that Mr. Gillquist does not prove.

Second, Mr. Gillquist is committing a fundamental exegetical fallacy known as the Root Fallacy. He says that "You don't even need to know Greek to figure out the meaning." Why? The unstated assumption that is being made is that one can determine the meaning of a term in terms of its etymology into English. That is fundamentally false. For instance, we get our English word "polemic" from the Greek term polemos. Does that necessarily mean that "polemos" means "polemos" means "polemic?" Absolutely not. "Polemos" means "war." Our English word "pomp" comes from the Greek word "pempo." However, does that mean that "pempo" means "pomp?" Absolutely not! It means "to send."

However, Mr. Gillquist has also fallen into the fallacy of semantic anachronism. He assumes that the meaning of terms in todays time in a totally different language is going to be constant. That is simply untrue. For instance, the Greek term martrus originally simply meant "a witness in a court room." After the time of Christ, it meant "a witness for the gospel," and in the early church, it meant "one who gave their lives for their faith." Words change in their meaning, and it is sophomoric at very least to say that 2000 years later in an entirely different language we have the same word with the same meaning.

That certainly may be the case that the etymologically related words that are far apart in time have the same meaning [Our English verb "to pause" comes from the Greek verb "pauo," and both mean "to pause"], but to just make the assumption that they automatically mean the same thing is sophomoric.

Worse than that, he says this is the translation of the NAB. If you have Bibleworks, you happen to have a copy of the NAB. Here is how the NAB translates Acts 13:2:

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." [NAB]

Where is liturgy in this passage? I don't know if Mr. Gillquist had drowsy eyes or what, but even the NAB doesn't give that translation.

If the rest of the book is this bad, I almost wonder how anyone would ever convert to Orthodoxy because of this.

1 comment:

RedKnight said...

Do you mean your grandmother Hepler?