Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Cleaning-Up Hazardous Materials" - first impressions

Yesterday I received my copy of Cleaning-Up Hazardous Materials by Kirk DiVietro (Published by the Dean Burgon Society). I have thus far read to P. 88. I had some reservations about this book. First of all, when there are these debates, it often happens that there is a great deal of ad hominem argument. Gail Riplinger is expert at this herself, and Hazardous Materials is full of this method of argumentation. Thankfully DiVietro avoids ad hominem and engages with Riplinger's actual argument. Obviously P. 88 is not a very long way into the book, but it is apparent that the main target of his criticism is Riplinger's strange view of inspiration, which sees inspiration as ongoing, and sees the original languages as no longer relevant to modern Christians, who are instead pointed to inspired translations in their own tongues.

DiVietro helpfully points out the proper use of lexicons (as opposed to their abuse), which is not to correct the Bible, but to understand it. We have all heard someone say "the Greek really means...", followed by a translation that is followed by no English translation, not even the New World Translation of Jehovah's Witnesses, in that place. The lexicon can only show the semantic range of a word (i.e. its various possible meanings), only one of which is actually valid for the context. To take an example from English, the word "Ball" may mean either a spherical object or a posh party. It cannot mean both, and to read both meanings into any single usage would be absurd (the fallacy of "illegitimate totality transfer").

DiVietro aso takes exception to Riplinger's view that all lexicons must be written by saved people, pointing out that this would also mean that all interpreters for missionaries must be converted - an impossible requirement for a missionary making contact with an unreached people group! He points out that lexicons are not above the Bible, they are fallible human works (and hence need revision at times) giving lists of the usage of words. I have pointed out before that, if you insist on proof positive that every lexicographer and translator on a modern Bible version is saved, logically you must be able to provide proof that every AV translator was saved. Can you? Can anyone? I doubt it, seeing as there was a drunkard and a number of persecutors among the AV translators! (for documentation see earlier posts).

There are errors in the book, and DiVietro apologises for these. He was badly injured during a mission trip to Iraq. Still, the statement on P. 65 that "When the world spoke Latin, the Roman Catholic Church continued writing in Greek. Once vulgar language developed and people no longer understood Latin, they continued writing in Latin" is not correct. The Roman Catholic Church (despite its claims) did not exist in the early centuries, and Greek writing was, by the fourth century, mostly restricted to those areas that today are the home of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Roman Catholic Church historically spoke Latin, which is why it regarded the Latin Bible as the only authoritative version.

Despite the odd error, I have rather enjoyed the book so far. I pray Dr. DiVietro will recover enough to issue a revised second edition. A full review will follow. DiVietro himself will have to answer his critics, not me. I'm far too busy being the pastor of a small inner-city congregation in the Midlands.

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