Wednesday, September 14, 2011

LHP Review: True Dragons and Confronting False Doctrines

The 12 Biggest Lies: Can Facts, Logic and Truth Stand Up to Them? St. Catherines, ON, Canada: Cloud Ten Pictures, 2010. Video DVD. $19.98. (LHPN)

Dragons or Dinosaurs? Creation or Evolution? St. Catherines, ON, Canada: Cloud Ten Pictures, 2010. Video DVD. $19.98. (LHPN)

Isaacs, Darek. Dragons or Dinosaurs? Creation or Evolution? Aluacha, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2010. 216 Pages. Paper. $14.99. (LHPN)

Two videos from Cloud Ten Pictures and a companion book receive our attention in the following review.

I was very interested to receive an advance copy of the Dragons or Dinosaurs? DVD. Cloud Ten Picture's customer service was very helpful in replacing a disc that didn't play all the way through. I had offered a more private critique at that time, hoping that adjustments would be made in the final video. No content changes were made, unfortunately.

The biggest drawback to an otherwise interesting, informative, and watchable film about ancient dragons being what we now call "dinosaurs" (c. 1841) is a misplaced and misguided attack on the English Standard Version translation of the Bible (Chapter 16, et al, and in the video) by author and video host Darek Isaacs. His is a serious accusation on not merely the word choice of the ESV translators, editors, and publisher, but an accusation that they were trying to remove the word dragon from the Biblical text. 

Isaacs quotes Strong's Exhaustive Concordance as his reference. As such, it is a fine reference. He even makes note of Hebrew words (170). If one knows Biblical Hebrew, however, Strong's is NOT the strongest reference book one would use. I have real doubts if the author knows Biblical Hebrew. More in-depth Hebrew dictionaries of the Bible note two similar words, tannim and tannin. I asked Dr. Andrew Bartlelt, my seminary Hebrew professor for more information.
I don't know why the KJV translated [this] as dragon, but this tradition is noted in HALOT (Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament], with reference to passages such as Psalm 74:13 and Psalm 148:7 or Job 7:12, where the context suggests water/sea, and therefore some kind of sea monster.
Clearly, the context in Isaiah 35 is that of land and wilderness, where hyenas and jackals live, as also Isaiah 13:22, 34:13, and 34:20.
The word in these cases is tannim, the plural of tan. In Psalm 74 and other places where "sea monster" seems to be in view, the word is tannin, which is either an Aramaic plural of the same word, or quite possibly a different root, which is the singular tannin, with a plural tanninim (cf. Genesis 1:21). Others suggest that they are the same root, with different meanings in different contexts, but it seems to me that there are two different roots, but obviously easily confused. 
Again, I do not know what was in the mind of the KJV translators, e.g. whether they tried to deal with the same lexical evidence or comparison of texts, or whether they just took every instance of either form as "dragon," based perhaps on translational traditions before them.
No, Mr. Isaacs, there is no conspiracy to downgrade the original meaning of the Bible. Aramaic and Hebrew are challenging languages, even to modern scholars. It is quite possible that the KJV translators got some things wrong. I thank God for the gift of the King James Version, but do not consider it to be a divinely inspired translation. God's Word is divinely inspired. And I will go to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic to solve disputes. 

I consider the book Dragons or Dinosaurs? Creation or Evolution a moderately helpful reference for discerning readers, but not one I can recommend to the general public because of the immature level of Bible scholarship it includes. Similarly, while well-produced, well-paced, and fascinating, I will not show the video of Dragons and Dinosaurs to my congregation because of the unfounded attacks on the ESV, which are really only based on the speaker's own ignorance of Biblical Hebrew.

Sadly, I have similar concerns about the other video before us, 12 Biggest Lies. There is a market for a video like this that takes on secularism and false religion. This isn't it for me, my family, my congregation, and my school.

Why? Compelling imagery and much truth is combined with a heavy emphasis on false end times prophecy (like many of the other , much of which is derived from the so-called vision/dream of a teenage girl in a Scottish cult group in the early 1800's (rapture, dispensational premillenialism).

Second, Kevin Sorbo is a capable and winsome host, but viewers may remember him as his mythical warrior character from syndicated TV and therefore mistake his advocacy with truth here with is former TV role.

Third, I reject "decision theology" and all of its forms as an unbiblical "work" and contrary to John 15:16.

Fourth, since Jesus is our prophet, priest, king, and His body is the Temple that was rebuilt in three days, and since His sacrifice on the cross is once and for all and does not need to be repeated, the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem does NOT need to be rebuilt, nor does the ancient sacrificial system need to be restarted. Jesus is the Savior of Jew and Gentile. There are not two covenants but one in Christ.

Fifth, I object to the writings, programs, and positions of several of the speakers on the documentary. I would not want my agreement with them here to be an endorsement of their other material.

Again, with regard to this film, I would be unwilling to subject my family, congregation, or school to it, because of the false and unbiblical teachings it includes.

Resources that claim a Christian identity will be judged harshly by non-Christians. That is to be expected. They will also be subjected to a necessary high level of scrutiny for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. He must be at the center of every Christian resource. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Sometimes, after unfavorable reviews, publishers cease sending us their materials. That is their choice. Many materials we review are the result of requests by our readers and reviewers. Not all are answered or filled. Some materials are unsolicited. Due to our high backlog of materials, they become lower priorities. We do wish to be fair, but we must be true to God's Word first.

Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.