You are hereRegius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford Deems that Kurt Simmons Has Not Done His Homework
Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford Deems that Kurt Simmons Has Not Done His Homework
by Timothy P. Martin
We have examined Kurt Simmons’ latest attempt to negate Beyond Creation Science: How Preterism Refutes a Global Flood and Impacts the Genesis Debate. Only one issue in Simmons’ second response merits our attention. We have examined Kurt Simmons’ latest attempt to negate Beyond Creation Science: How Preterism Refutes a Global Flood and Impacts the Genesis Debate. Only one issue in Simmons’ second response merits our attention. Simmons marshals James Barr, who was professor of Hebrew at Oxford, as his keynote authority on the Hebrew of Genesis 1-11. Indeed, Simmons works the perceived authority of James Barr into his title, “Beyond Sound Hermeneutics, Part II: Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford Deems Regional Flood Theory Frivolous.” Not only is James Barr conscripted in order to give scholarly weight to Simmons’ response in the title, Professor Barr’s comments are the capstone of Simmons’ second rebuttal. Simmons ends his presentation by saying:
The following is an extract from a letter written in 1984 by Professor James Barr, who was at the time Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford. Professor Barr said,
"Probably, so far as l know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah's flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the 'days' of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know."
Thus, according to the Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, Tim is completely deceived in his wish to read Genesis figuratively. Let it be emphasized that according to professor Barr, virtually every professor at a world-class universities believes Gen. 1-11 are intended to convey the six 24 hour day creation and universality of Noah’s flood. And then he adds that those arguing as Tim does are “not even taken seriously!” In court, when a pleading or argument like Tim’s is not taken seriously it is are deemed frivolous. Sorry, Tim, case dismissed; you are out of court.
Simmons is in a hurry to have us thrown out of court. But we take this opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Let the reader determine if Simmons’ use of Professor Barr does not reveal a fatal flaw in Simmons’ response. This example in Simmons’ material raises basic questions of credibility and highlights Simmons’ irresponsible scholarship.
We would like for the reader to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Professor Barr. We also believe that once the reader knows this truth, they will see how they have been misled by Simmons’ presentation from the title onward. Indeed, if Simmons’ title and capstone argument are fraudulent, how can the rest of his response maintain any credibility?
Simmons makes it appear to the reader that Professor Barr believes what Simmons preaches regarding the plain historical literality of Genesis 1-11. He gives a strategically limited quotation of Barr from a tertiary source to bolster his case. This source also provides a longer quote in order to discredit the quote Simmons used (along with all other young-earth creationists who misuse Barr). We are perplexed why Simmons would use this quote and Professor Barr as an authority given the fact that his own source does not find the statement credible! (See for yourself http://www.geocities.com/ilgwamh/day.html).
Simmons is an author. He should know better than to build a primary argument from a third-hand source. He should also know the importance of reading what any authority actually says in detail before relying on that authority. We submit the entire letter by Professor James Barr for the reader’s examination. (This letter was provided by Answers in Genesis, Australia. It can be located at: http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/barrlett.html. )
THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
23 April 1984
David C.C. Watson, Esq.,
1300 N. Cross
Dear Mr Watson,
Thank you for your letter. I have thought about your question,
and would say that probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah's flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the `days' of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know. The only thing I would say to qualify this is that most professors may avoid much involvement in that sort of argument and so may not say much explicitly about it one way or the other. But I think what I say would represent their position correctly. However, you might find one or two people who would take the contrary point of view and
are competent in the languages, in Assyriology, and so on: it's really
not so much a matter of technical linguistic competence, as of appreciation of the sort of text that Genesis is.
Perhaps I might mention that I have another book coming out soon,
Escaping from Fundamentalism, SCM Press London, which has some discussion of these questions. Westminster Press in Philadelphia are doing the American edition, perhaps with a different title, I don't know. It comes out in this country on 1st June.
Thanks again for your letter and all good wishes,
James Barr [signed]
If Simmons had done even a brief study on the Genesis debate he would have known that this letter has been discussed for years. It has been thoroughly debunked as an argument for young-earth creationism on multiple grounds. Here are some of the reasons Simmons was severely mistaken to recruit Professor James Barr as his keynote authority on the Hebrew in Genesis 1-11:
1) The reader should note that this is a personal letter relating Professor Barr’s informal opinion. It is not a scholarly presentation. Can Simmons do no better than informal discussion in a personal letter to prove his plain-literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11?
2) This letter was a response to a question by young-earth creationist author David Watson. We do not know the question which sets the context of the letter. Why did Watson send a letter to England for such a comment? Would no one in the United States give such a response?
3) Professor Barr makes numerous guarded qualifications such as “so far as I know,” “as far as I know,” “I think what I say,” and “probably.” He goes on to state clearly that most Hebrew scholars “avoid much involvement in that sort of argument and so may not say much explicitly about it one way or the other.” In fact, Professor Barr admits, “you might find one or two people who would take the contrary point of view and are competent in the languages, in Assyriology, and so on.” The full context of the letter demonstrates how the quotation Simmons chose is highly deceptive to the reader who is unaware of the content of the entire letter. This is awful scholarship.
4) The reader should also notice Professor Barr’s comment as to the real issue at debate. He says, “[I]t's really not so much a matter of technical linguistic competence, as of appreciation of the sort of text that Genesis is.” This point alone shows that Professor Barr is in essential agreement with us that the fundamental question is the nature of biblical language in Genesis: it is not a question, as Simmons presents it, of those who believe the Bible (plain-literal interpretation) and those who don’t (any non-literal interpretation). We could conceivably argue that Professor Barr’s comments actually reinforce our position, but we are not naïve enough to accept Professor Barr as an authority for reasons discussed below.
5) Professor Barr rejects Simmons’ views on creation and flood. In fact, it is hard to imagine any Hebrew scholar within the Christian world more categorically opposed to Simmons’ views than Professor Barr! Gleason Archer and Hugh Ross respond to Professor Barr’s letter by saying, “The irony is that Barr’s statement comes from his attempts to discount rather than support, biblical inerrancy…” In other words, the part of the letter which Simmons quoted was intended to marginalize those who take Simmons’ approach to creation and flood. The Creation Science group Answers in Genesis claims, “Barr, consistent with his neo-orthodox views, does not believe Genesis.” Another Creation Science organization, ICR, says this about Professor Barr’s views on creation. “Liberal theologians don't accept it, as a matter of fact. One leading Hebrew scholar is James Barr, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University and former Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University in England.”
In light of these multiple sources, which warn against Professor Barr’s views of Genesis, we find it absolutely amazing that Simmons makes Professor Barr his noted authority on Hebrew! Is this the kind of extreme length preterists are willing to go to in order to argue against Beyond Creation Science? This watermark is normally invisible. This article is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Planet Preterist. If this copyright watermark is visible, please email email@example.com and report this copyright violation.
6) Even Professor Barr’s quotation that Simmons used can be proven false. Gleason Archer (a renowned conservative Hebrew scholar) and Hugh Ross explain it this way. “But the statement was wrong when made because Gleason Archer and Walter Kaiser, among many other highly reputable Bible scholars, did and do support the long-day interpretation.” In addition to this statement they offer this further explanation in an endnote:
For example, when the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy deliberated on the subject of the duration of the Genesis 1 creation days at their second summit held in Chicago in 1982, none of the Hebrew and Old Testament professors who participated concluded that the Genesis creation accounts mandated six consecutive 24-hour creation days…. The only possible defense for Barr’s statement is that he takes such a biased definition of “world-class university” that only institutions hostile to evangelical Christianity are included.
We reference again such world-class preterist scholars such as F.W. Farrar and Milton Terry. Neither accepted a 24-hour interpretation of the Genesis creation days; Milton Terry, at least, is noted as a hermeneutic authority in both Hebrew and Greek! Simmons’ attempt to rest on Professor Barr’s laurels as a Hebrew authority was preemptively anticipated and negated in our first response! We also mentioned John Wenham, Gleason Archer, and Norman Geisler as noted Hebrew authorities who do not accept 24-hour day interpretation. We could add many more to this list. We disproved Simmons’ argument before he wrote it.
7) Our final observation is that Professor Barr, Simmons’ noted authority on Hebrew and source for his concluding argument, rejects the notion of direct Divine revelation outright. Professor Barr writes, “We do not have any idea of ways in which God might straight-forwardly communicate articulate thoughts or sentences to men; it just doesn’t happen.” Professor Barr also wrote a book titled: Escaping From Fundamentalism. We have only read small snippets from this book and can tell already that Simmons would be appalled at what Professor Barr presents. Yet, Simmons relies upon Professor Barr to make his case against Beyond Creation Science. We will state it again for the reader. Shoddy scholarship and tactics of deception always reflect a weak case.
We believe the evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that Simmons has not done his homework. Simmons’ reckless scholarship on this issue endangers his otherwise commendable scholarly reputation. Simmons’ response confirms our claim in our first response that “Kurt's extreme dogmatism on this issue is matched by his ignorance flowing from his failure to diligently study all sides of the Genesis debate.” Simmons is in serious need of performing investigative research before he continues to comment on this subject. This will be our last formal response to Simmons’ material until it can be demonstrated that Simmons’ study on the Genesis debate is up to par. We encourage Simmons to continue to study the issue.
In conclusion, Simmons’ own demonstrated failure of scholarly rigor and honesty casts a long shadow of doubt upon the credibility of all his comments regarding Beyond Creation Science. We trust readers will take this issue of credibility into consideration as they evaluate Simmons’ articles.
Tim Martin (aka Middleknowledge)
Jeff Vaughn (aka JL)
 Gleason Archer and Hugh Ross, The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, David G. Hagopian, ed., (Mission Viejo: Crux Press, 2001), p. 70.
 Gleason Archer and Hugh Ross, The Genesis Debate, p. 7O.
 Ibid., p. 79.
 James Barr, The Bible in the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 123.