The Enns of All Controversy

Peter Enns is expected to release parts of his 38 page response to the Board of Westminster Theological Seminary today. I don’t think that most people understand the gravity of the subject however. Many, many students who respect Enns are making the issue extremely difficult since they weigh in on every new turn of events. Almost every blog I read, written by a student of WTS, is in defense of Enns and is based on allegiance to Enns and not on objective theological analysis. Having sat in on some of Enns’ classes I am not sure what is so appealing about his teaching. He isn’t teaching historic Reformed theology. Rather, he teaches a modified form of Covenant Theology that sounds remarkably like the New Perspective on Paul’s understanding of the discontinuity between the two Testaments. Enns’ dependance on Second Temple literature in the interpretation of the NT can be seen in his review of Charles L. Quarles Midrash Criticism: Introduction and Appraisals. This can be found in the Fall 2000 edition of the Westminster Theological Journal. Enns writes:

This relative paucity of interaction with secondary literature becomes evident at a number of key points. Perhaps the most significant problem concerns the definition of midrash. This remains a debated point in the discipline, and Quarles is well aware of this. However, there seems to be repeated confusion concerning midrash as a specific literary genre and midrash as an interpretive and exegetical technique. Quarles follows such scholars as Wright and Porton in maintaining that the genre midrash was either unknown or at least not widespread during the time in which the Gospels were purported to have been written. This is essentially true, but this does not mean that midrashic interpretive techniques were not widely and routinely used. There is an ample corpus of material to which the Gospels could be compared, not in terms of genre, but in terms of technique. In fact, the very nature of so much of Second Temple literature is the creative, “nonhistorical” manner in which it tells its stories.

This is not say that the Gospels are fictions woven out of whole cloth. But Quarles seems to be content to conclude that the Gospels are historical in a more or less modern sense of the word mainly because he has demonstrated that a precise generic midrashic parallel to the Gospels does not exist. But this does not settle the genre question, nor does it settle the issue of the “historical” nature of the Gospels, the defense of which is Quarles’s primary motivation for writing this book. There is still the very large and important question of ancient historiography to reckon with, of which there are ample Second Temple examples. Quarles feels that it is necessary for Gundry and others to demonstrate “that the nonhistorical genre which the [Gospel] writer allegedly used was familiar to the writer and his readers” (31) in order to make their case. Perhaps, but Quarles must face squarely the fact that the four Gospels do exhibit characteristics of the Second Temple hermeneutical context in which they were written.

I am also shocked at the disrespect many show to Peter Lillback, President of WTS, who has written a paper explaining the hermeneutical issues surrounding the Enns’ controversy. I am amazed at how arrogant many of these students seem. I am not sure whether many of these students are trying to make a place for themselves in academia or whether they are just ignorant of the history of Reformed hermeneutics (which, interestingly, Lillback has addressed in the paper they all take issue with). May God grant humility and sobriety to all ministers of the Gospel and future ministers of the Gospel. My only plea would be for a careful study of the doctrine of the sufficiency and perspecuity of Scripture.
You can find the WTS documents together with Lillback’s paper here. You can find

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