Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 2, 1950

Reviewing Professor Dungan

Harry Pickup, Sr., Tampa, Fla.

The enemies of Jesus Christ have ever sought to throw unjust criticisms at the Word of God, and to present it in as unbecoming a light as possible. Such is to be expected from those bent on destruction—declared and undeclared, as the case may be, with those who seek to wreck the faith of devout believers in Christ and His Holy Word. We're not too much surprised when the wolves (modernists) in sheep's clothing (as devout preachers of the truth) appeared among "us" with some new "slants" on hitherto unrevealed exegeses. One thing, however, which is a distinct surprise to many, is the fact that sometimes the very ones who (apparently, at least) try the hardest to allay such teaching make some of the most glaring mistakes.

One of the standard text-books which is used in most of the colleges—including those operated by members of the church of Christ—has as its chief design an unfolding of correct and scriptural methods in the proper understanding of the Bible. The book referred to is Hermeneutics, A Textbook, by Prof. D. R. Dungan. Professor Dungan is the author of "Modern Phases of Skepticism" and other books, and has, without doubt, made a great contribution to the educational world in the volume referred to. It is an excellent work on exactly what its title implies: hermeneutics. I suppose most gospel preachers have read the book and many of them have copies in their libraries. While the arrangement is certainly not the best and many of the chapters are clumsily worded, it still represents the best material available on the subject it covers.

Without a doubt the author made every effort to lead the student to correct exegeses, but in spite of the fact that he does a good job of it in the main, there are some statements to which I desire to call attention that are definitely untrue and should be deleted as such by those who study or teach the work. Obviously it will not be possible to cover the entire book in a short article, but sufficient material will be considered and constructively criticized to enable the reader to make his own corrections as he reads or teaches the book.

On page 24, section 12, line 4, from the bottom, he says, "There are many harsh and seemingly brutal things in the Bible that would be modified by a clear and just translation." This statement seems to be about as uncalled for as anything could be. The author is trying to build up his case on the idea that a correct translation would conduce towards a reliable exegeses, but there is no reason for the statement he made. Of course no examples were given, and we are left in doubt as to just what are the "harsh and seemingly brutal things in the Bible" that a more correct translation would clear up. Remembering having heard modernists display the "harshness" and "brutality" of God when He was talking to Moses about destroying the rebellious Israelites at Sinai, and again the same spirit which God was supposed to display when He sent Saul to destroy the Amalekites, it may be that Professor had reference to those. But then again, he may not. He simply made the statement, apparently, to tie the subject of his paragraph to the comment which followed and I doubt if he could find an example which would even satisfy himself when he surveyed it. It is an erroneous statement. I believe the most casual student of the original language knows that the Hebrew and Greek, instead of "modifying" the "harsh and seemingly brutal things in the Bible," are brutally frank in revealing the mind of God on any subject which calls for such treatment.

One of the most glaring mistakes in the work appears on page 156. The discussion concerns the Value and Use of History and Biography in the Interpretation of the Scriptures. Topic (1) asks the question: "Was he an inspired man?" Everyone knows that much of the Bible is a record of the sayings of uninspired, and, at times, even evil men. Many words of the devil appear in the writings of the Word of God. But Mr. Dungan is not talking about that. Here is what he says: "Generally God gives the inspiration, and leaves the man to present the thought in the words he chooses. But at other times it was impossible for men to hold the thoughts that God had to communicate... But it is fair to say that most of the Bible has been given by men who were inspired, but who were left to do the work according to their own methods of expression."

How does that strike you as a sample of modernism? How many gospel preachers have read that statement in Dungan's book and passed over it without giving it a second thought? I am sure that many felt exactly as did I when I read it the first time. Do the teachers in the Bible schools which are operated by our brethren point out these fallacies in their courses in Hermeneutics? I hope so. I am sure this is done at Florida Christian College where the book has been used for the past two semesters. Such statements should not be allowed to pass uncorrected. God did not leave the writers of the Bible to their own choice of words and phrases. Paul states that the things which he spoke were "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but the Holy Ghost teacheth ... "(I Cor. 2:13), and Peter tells us that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (I Pet. 1:21).

On page 157 the professor goes on to point out that this fact (that God only inspired the thoughts and not the words) accounts for the difference in "style" between the writers. I have heard some very interesting lectures on the "style" of the different writers of the New Testament—and even the Old. Now, if we mean that Paul's work was definitely to the Gentiles and that such writings attributed to him bear the marks of one commissioned to do just the job he did, well and good. But be it remembered that Paul wrote down exactly what the Holy Spirit dictated—verbal inspiration—to cover the case in point. When I hear someone in one of these fancy lectures on the "style" of the writers venture the opinion that such and such a thing "sounds like the great apostle to the gentiles," I am tempted to say "It sounds like the Holy Spirit to me!" Oh yes, I know (just in case somebody is wondering) that Paul wrote part of the New Testament, and Peter part and John some, etc., etc. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason Matthew was "fond of certain expressions," and Luke liked to use certain "phrases" was simply because those were the expressions God dictated when he used those particular men to convey His messages to the people.