Bennema is WEST's new senior lecturer in New Testament and Union's academic dean - an
fashioned liberal in neo-liberal guise.
WEST: Multiplying errors to
itself - an analysis.
As Peter Nicholson
has described in detail, Bennema's
thesis accounts the Gospel of John as 'fiction'.
'In our understanding, the Fourth Gospel moves along a spectrum of a
mixture of (what we would call) 'history' and 'fiction', in which the
stories about Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, for example, perhaps
contain more fiction than the passion narrative in John
(Cornelis Bennema, p.16 Ch.1. The Power of Saving Wisdom
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament,
Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen. The full thesis may be found here
'John's aim in retelling the dialogue between Jesus and, for example,
Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman, was to persuade and convince his
readers not of certain historical facts
but of their significance and theological truths.' (p.16, Ch.1. The Power of
Whether it is necessary (in order to accept the truth claim of John 3)
that Nicodemus existed, or whether it is necessary that his
conversation with Jesus took place exactly as has been recorded is
perhaps more ambivalent. (p.16., Ch.1. The Power of
describing the use of the term 'fiction' and 'fictional' 'unhelpful',
Bennema is back to his old ways in his latest publications.
He regards the Gospels as narrated for effect rather than sober
factual reporting let alone inspired Truth.
This is a dangerous heresy
and certainly not fit for one in a senior teaching position in what used to be
an evangelical seminary.
The difference between his doctrine and Gresham Machen's is the difference between chaff and wheat
. (courtesy of Peter Nicholson)
Bennema is wholly uncommitted to, at times uncomfortable with
if not actually hostile to, John bar
Zebedee's authorship of the Gospel.
'Suffice it to say that the
illocution* of using the character of the
is to assert the truthfulness of what has been
In the Fourth Gospel.
That is, the
eyewitness language adds
to the plausibility of the
claim...' [emphasis added] (p.104,
footnote 2, Ch.3 The
[*Defn: An act of speaking or writing which in itself effects or
constitutes the intended action, e.g. ordering, warning, or promising.
[Empasis added] Oxford Dict.
Perlocution would have been a safer expression.]
'Although we remain agnostic whether the gospel and the epistles of
John have common authorship (an
author we call ‘John’
similarities in language, style and theology suggest that they at least
belong to the same school of thought.' [Emphasis added] fn.3 p.108 Christ the
Spirit and the Knowledge of God A Study in Johannine
Epistemology in M. Healy and R. Parry eds The Bible and Epistemology
Biblical Soundings on the Knowledge of God Milton Keynes Paternoster
'We contend that the author of this gospel is
the Beloved Disciple, who we tentatively identify as John the son of
fn.1. p.1, 'Encountering Jesus'.
Imagine a church elder, Mr.S, accused of closet bigamy was
married to?' If he replied 'I contend that the woman I have wed is my
beloved, who I
tentatively identify as my wife, Mrs.S', would his wife and church not
have proper grounds for acute concern about his level of commitment
from such a statement?
Just how tentative this proposal is in Bennema's mind can be seen from
his discussion on pages 178‑181 of the same book.
I wrote before', he writes on p. 181: 'The identity of the Beloved
Disciple remains a debatable (and perhaps irresolvable) issue. Although
we tentatively propose that John of Zebedee is the most likely
candidate, John the Elder is a serious contender.'
'I contend that the Beloved Disciple is a real historical character,
one of the Twelve, but
not the author.' p. 145, Excavating John's Gospel.
'Even if the Beloved Disciple were the author, we still have to resolve
the problem of his identity - is he a 'fictional' exemplary character
or can he be identified as John the apostle?'
Bennema's position is unstable and prone to shifting
- it is difficult to ascertain what he
will defend before professional doubters,
not just in a popular Bible Study, or when under scrutiny.
A denial of Johannine authorship is tantamount to a blasphemous denial
of Divine inspiration, and another assertion that the whole Gospel is
nothing but charming human fiction.
is this poisonous
cobra that Bennema is charmed by, and refuses to slay outright. See Bultmann's
sinful position on Johannine authorship.
'...Jesus said not unto
him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what
is that to thee?
This is the disciple
which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know
that his testimony is true.'
perhaps Dr Bennema considers this statement to
be fiction too?
intimate dependence upon and emulation of explicitly
panentheistic interpretations of wisdom literature.
is a pagan cross of deism and pantheism - it is loosely defined as
'God and the world are inter-related: the world being in God and God
being in the world')
'In other words, 'salvation' can be understood as an intensification of
that work of the Spirit that is already immanent to a person, namely,
the mediation of life and wisdom, and this saving work of the Spirit
was sometimes/oflen experienced as bringing new qualities of
understanding, life and relationship with God. This 'panentheistic'
model of salvation is explicitly present in Wisdom of Solomon and
Philo, and to a lesser extent in Qumran and Sirach?
The strength of our model is the strong coherence or continuity between
the interrelated role of Spirit and Wisdom in both creation and
salvation; the same Spirit and Wisdom that are at work together in
creation are also co-operating with one another in salvation.' (p.96,
Power of Saving Wisdom
'In chapter 2, as a possible conceptual background for aspects of
Johannine pneumatology, the representative Jewish wisdom writings are
selected (Proverbs, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Philo and some Qumran
literature) and their nexus of Spirit-W/wisdom–‘salvation’ examined.
From this investigation it is concluded that Wisdom is the source of
life/salvation, in that Wisdom’s revelatory teaching contains saving
wisdom-knowledge-truth that leads to (eternal) life/salvation,
and the Spirit is the agent of salvation, in that the Spirit mediates
this life to people. It is suggested that sapiential Judaism
understood ‘salvation’ as an intensification of that work of the Spirit
that is already immanent to a person, namely, the mediation of life and
wisdom. This saving work of the Spirit was sometimes/often experienced
bringing new qualities of understanding, life and relationship with
God. Hence, a model of salvation is proposed [by CB] in terms of
various degrees of intensity and/or quality of divine Spirit and
W/wisdom. By virtue of their creation, people have Spirit, a certain
measure of wisdom, and the cognitive ability to process wisdom (the
‘mind’). ‘Salvation’, then, is a sufficient increase in measure and
difference in quality of endowment of Spirit and W/wisdom.'
(Cornelis Bennema, PhD
synopsis Tyndale Bulletin 52.2 (2001) 295-296
'Nevertheless, the tendency of the Jewish wisdom tradition to
present the Spirit as panentheistic (esp. in Wis. and Philo) is not as
much endorsed by the author of the Fourth
Gospel as perhaps assumed
Power of Saving Wisdom)
the final evaluation, the Fourth Gospel is ambiguous in depicting the
Spirit as the principle of the physical life and in indicating degrees
of intensity and quality of Spirit. In the Fourth Gospel, the concept
of degrees of intensity and quality of wisdom would be more
sustainable, and the concept of the Spirit as facilitator of cognitive
perception, understanding and life is manifested most obviously. Hence,
a soteriological model in terms of degrees of intensity and quality of
Spirit and W/wisdom does not seem entirely sustainable on the basis of
the Fourth Gospel.'
Power of Saving Wisdom)
last sentence is hardly a blistering rebuttal of the portrait of
syncretistic relationship between John and the Apocryphal
panentheism which hitherto CB has so carefully woven
4. A tendency
to view Christ's own spirit as the Holy Spirit. A strange neo-Apollinarianism with a panentheistic twist
(not as per Apollinarius'
semi-Eutychian position, Christ's human soul replaced by the
eternal Logos - a definitive stance of this nature carries far
both for the person of Christ and the nature of the Godhead).
5. As is now
common to WEST,
These are quotes citing graphic examples of
syncretism, from the chapter by the invited Jesuit contributor -
Director of the Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religion in
Chennai, for the first SAIACS 2010 consultation.
Cornelis Bennema edited the papers.
'Indian and Christian Changing Identities in Modern India'
This teaching is not evangelical.
The College that
endorses such teaching is no longer evangelical. (Nor even
claims to believe, 'We accept the
Holy Scriptures, as originally given, as the inspired, infallible and
inerrant word of God'
look like hollow words used only to deceive the simple.
More detail and analysis
may be found here, WEST: Multiplying
Errors to Itself
Last modified 26/5/16