Saturday, January 22, 2011

The first three chapters of Darek Barefoot's book are online


Landon Hedrick said...


Have you looked into this argument that Barefoot is making? What do you think of it? I'd be interested in getting your take.

Victor Reppert said...

It looks like a special case of the undesigned coincidences argument, in a way. I haven't worked my way through it far enough to see what I think.

Darek Barefoot said...


You did not direct your inquiry to me, but for your benefit and that of others I can briefly illustrate my argument.

Christians have often seen some resemblance between the experiences of Joseph in Genesis and Jesus in the Gospels and Acts. Joseph was conspired against by his own brothers due to their jealously of his relationship with his father. The brothers thought they had rid themselves of Joseph forever, only to learn later that he was alive, that he enjoyed a position of authority and glory, and that their own survival lay entirely in his hands. The resemblance to Jesus in these respects is fairly obvious.

General resemblances between various historical and/or fictional narratives are notoriously subjective and easy to draw. However, what if we require that key correspondencies, such as those between Joseph and Jesus, be referrable to specific "identifiers"? For example, is there specific warrant in the Hebrew Bible for calling Joseph's kidnapping and sale in to slavery a figurative "death" or shedding of blood (cf. Gen 42:22; Acts 5:28)? Is Joseph's exaltation in Egypt described in such as way as to be directly comparable with that of Jesus after his resurrection (cf. Gen 45:9; Acts 2:36). And so on. This procedure limits subjectivity.

How deep and pervasive are Christological correspondencies that are validated by specific identifiers? Could these be the result of creative fiction by the four evangelists and other NT writers or simply arise through common cultural psychology? These questions can only be answered by weighing the evidence cumulatively, considering the historical circumstances, and taking into account what can reasonably be expected from literature in general.

My contention is that when all the evidence is weighed, the breadth and specificity of prophetic foreshadowing in the Bible has no anaolog in other literary traditions and speaks for divine inspiration.

Landon Hedrick said...


Thanks for the quick summary. So, essentially you're arguing that there are parallels between Old Testament stories and the stories that were written about Jesus, and those parallels are best explained by the hypothesis that God inspired the writing of the scripture. Is that a fair way of putting it?

What seems problematic to me is the move from "there are these really interesting parallels" to "the creator of the universe inspired the writing of these documents so that these parallels would be there." Clearly you'll want to rule out the possibility that these parallels are mere coincidences. I'm sure that's one of the things you do in your book (i.e. argue that such a possibility is extremely improbable).

But if mere coincidence is really that improbable, I have to wonder why Christian apologists sometimes write off parallels between the Gospels and non-Judeo-Christian sources (e.g. Roman characters, or whatever) as a few insubstantial coincidences. In other words, I sorta thought that when people show these similarities between Jesus and, say, Homer's epics, that the typical response is going to be: those are a few superficial coincidences, not enough to show borrowing. Well maybe if the parallels are as good as those other scholars (e.g. Dennis MacDonald) say they are, then we should conclude that Homer was inspired by God too.

Another thing that strikes me as a reasonable view is the possibility that stories about Jesus were written intentionally to parallel certain Old Testament stories like you say. But that seems to be something a mere mortal author could do--not something we'd have to posit God for. I guess there have been scholars who argue that the Gospels have a lot of these parallels because the Gospels were written in order to (for some reason or other--maybe symbolic reasons) mimic those old stories in certain ways. So I suppose you want to rule this possibility out as extremely improbable too.

Do you have a quick summary for how you make this move from "there are these parallels" to "God intended things to be that way"? I'm having a hard time seeing how you can rule out those other possibilities as so improbable that a theory of divine inspiration is in fact the better explanation. Maybe one would have to read your entire book to get that argument though. (Note, I say all of the above not having much of a background in this stuff.)

Anonymous said...

What are Derek's qualifications?

Not saying the book is bad if he doesn't have any, but I was just wondering - it would be a pointer towards the quality.

Darek Barefoot said...


There is a chapter in my book entitled "Typology and Coincidence" in which I take up MacDonald's book _The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark_ as an example of how easily literary parallels can be drawn when there are few controls. MacDonald's method is quite elastic.

I evaluate biblical typology according to five criteria, which are developed in the book:

1) General resemblance between sketches and apparent fulfillments

2) Presence in the tradition of key symbol identifiers

3) Economy of distribution of typological material

4) Integration (interrelatedness) of coded sketches

5) Purposefulness of type coding within the tradition

No. 2 above is a stringent qualifier that is absent, for example, from MacDonald's fairly loose appeal to similarity.

In the example I gave earlier, concerning Joseph, we might speculate that Joseph's absence from his family was a kind of "death" from which he later returned to their lives almost miraculously. That is simple thematic resemblance. However, as I noted, we actually find an identifier that refers to the brothers being guilty of Joseph's blood (Gen 42:22), which constitutes a kind of objective peg on which to hang the symbolism of Joseph's exile.

Of course, I chose the example I did for brevity and simplicity. Identifiers in greater numbers in relevant contexts emerge and coalesce in the course of my book, which runs to 317 pages minus the subject and scripture indexes.

Naturally, the question of whether the NT writers could have manufactured typological alignments is a critical one. But note that the simple identifier I cited above concerning Joseph occurs in Genesis, not in the New Testament. Further, is it plausible to argue that the evangelists manufactured the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in order to correspond to the experiences of Joseph? Perhaps, but that kind of argument becomes more difficult to make as the density and coherence of the evidence mounts.

I cannot reproduce the entire cumulative case here, but anyone who takes the trouble to read the book will find that possible psychological, cultural, and accidental explanations get careful attention.

Included in the book is a falsification procedure for anyone who is game to refute my thesis that divine inspiration (or divine orchestration) is necessary to account for the preponderance of the evidence.

Anonymous said...


Babinski made some remark to the effect that arguments of the sort you present have had their day. So are there any classic texts that argue along lines similar to yours?

Victor Reppert said...

That sounds like a chronological snob appeal to me.

Darek Barefoot said...


Actually, I have never seen a developed argument of the kind I make in my book, which is the reason I wrote it. Of course, it could be out there and I just have not run across it.

I should quickly add that there has been a great deal of typological speculation and/or study from ancient times until now. Some of the more notable scholarly treatments are:

Typology of Scripture, 1989 (first published 1900), by Patrick Fairbarn

Typos: The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New, 1982, by Leonhard Goppelt

Typology in Scripture, 1981, by Richard M. Davidson

However, none of these works pursue the subject in an apologetic direction as I have attempted to do.

Anonymous said...

This book looks like it is offering an argument similar to yours.

Some more interesting stuff here:

Darek Barefoot said...


Your first reference is to a book that is a compendium of biblical types and metaphors. The book has an introduction that lists various arguments in support of the divine inspiration of Scripture, among which are the transcendence and mysteriousness of its contents, its antiquity, fulfillment of prophecy, etc.

The listing of books at the second cite includes more compilations and interpretations of biblical types and metaphors.

My book analyzes biblical types in the context of foreshadowing techniques to be found in literature generally. In the process, I develop criteria under which extra-biblical literary traditions can be compared to the Bible to determine with some objectivity whether foreshadowing in the Bible falls within naturalistic expectations or whether it represents something unique.

As I say, I have never seen this done elsewhere. In order to compare my book critically with other works on the same general subject, it might be necessary to read it first.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading it now. Brilliant idea to do what he has done. It is excellent. If the Bible is the word of God, these patterns are in there for a reason. We shouldn't leave their recognition, and the drawing out of their signifcance, to modern literary criticism.