Posted by: Tim | September 18, 2008

Carson on (many) Biblical Scholars

Well it’s actually Green-Armytage quoted by Carson on p50 of his Pillar commentary on the Gospel of John. I found the quote to bear far too much resemblance to the debates I find in Bible commentaries (regarding arguments usually coming from the more liberal scholars, being refuted by the more conservative scholars with good common sense). Here’s the quote:

“The observations of Green-Armytage (quoted also by Robinson, Red, p. 356) are a bit cheeky and reductionistic, but bear repeating:

‘There is a world – I do not say a world in which all scholars live, but one at any rate into which all of them sometimes stray, and which some of them seem permanently to inhabit – which is not the world in which I live. In my world, if The Times and The Telegraph both tell one story in somewhat different terms, nobody concludes that one of them must have copied the other, nor that the variations in the story have some esoteric significance. But in the world of which I am speaking this would be taken for granted. Ther no story is ever derived from facts but always from somebody else’s version of the same story. … In my world, almost every book, except some of those produced by Government departments, is written by one author. In that world almost every book is produced by a committee, and some of them by a whole series of committees. In my world, if I read that Mr. Churchill, in 1935, said that Europe was heading for a disastrous war, I applaud his foresight. In that world, no prophecy, however vaguely worded, is ever made except after the event. In my world we say, ‘The first world-war took place in 1914-1918.’ In that world they say, ‘The world-war narrative took shape in the third decade of the twentieth century.’ In my world men and women live for considerable time – seventy, eighty, even a hundred years – and they are equipped with a thing called memory. In that world (it would appear) they come into being, write a book, and forthwith perish, all in a flash, and it is noted of them with astonishment that they ‘preserve traces of primitive tradition’ about things which happened well within their own adult lifetime.’ ”

(Carson sources it from H. N. Green-Armytage, John Who Saw: a Layman’s Essay on the Authorship of the Fourth Gospel, Faber and Faber, 1952, pp12-13)

I read this quote in Sunday’s message on the Introduction to the Gospel of John. Some in the congregation appreciated it but I think some weren’t sure what to make of it, probably because they don’t spend a a lot of time buried in Bible commentaries like I did last week, (and they are probably glad they don’t after having heard this quote!).

What do you think? Can you relate to this quote?


  1. Thanks Tim for posting this quote so that I can read it in detail. I am one of those in the congregation that appreciated the quote. Although I don’t spend as much time in commentaries as Tim and others do, I have spent enough time in commentaries and in the higher Christian education setting to share the feeling of the ‘disappearance at times of logic and common sense’ when it comes to interpretation of Scripture. It was refreshing and encouraging to hear a highly respected prolific author and experience professor offer this quote. A quote like this does a lot to remove the cynicism and distrust that a layman like me feels about those who ‘seriously study the Word.’

  2. Very good, indeed.
    I translate this excellent commentary of John into Portuguese some time ago. Because the Introduction was translated by another person, I didn’t see this quotation till know. And now I understand why Carson in the body of the commentary is so ironic, even sarcastic, about the opinions of many critical scholars.

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