I need help understanding Peter Enns' book Inspiration and Incarnation. What kind of diversity does Enns find in the Old Testament? Does that undercut the Old Testament's Scriptural authority?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Peter Enns' 2005 book Inspiration and Incarnation attempts to bridge the gap between mainstream Biblical scholarship and Evangelical Christianity, reflecting a tension that has existed since the advent of Higher Criticism in the nineteenth century. He does this from what is sometimes termed an Incarnationalist perspective, i.e. taking the point of view that just as God took human form in Jesus to communicate with humans, so too the Bible is a human incarnation of divine thought, using human language and shaped by the limits of human understanding.

Enns uses diversity as a way of talking about the historical nature of the Old Testament, which originated in oral traditions that developed over the eighteenth through tenth centuries BC, and were written down gradually, beginning in the seventh century BC. There were three major periods of standardization of the Old Testament, the fifth century BC when scholars in Jerusalem worked to create a uniform text, the Septuagint (LXX), a Greek translation of the third and second centuries BC, and the Masoretic Hebrew text of the ninth and tenth centuries AD which is now considered authoritative.

As with any work with such an extended textual history, the Old Testament contains discrepancies in dates, names, and and other details. While atheists would argue that this undermines the authority of the Bible, Enns claims that if believers abandon the claim of plenary verbal inspiration (that God dictated the Bible word for word) and understand that the Bible is a document of spiritual authority, written by human authors in response to divine inspiration, rather than a history text, the diverse elements in the Bible can be read as showing that human understandings of God change as humans change and evolve. The Bible retains spiritual authority for Enns, but in a way responsive to the changing needs of its readers. 

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