Monday, February 01, 2010

Ridderbos, Jannes and Jambres

In Inspiration and Inspiration, Peter Enns questions whether the actual names of Pharoah's magicians in 2 Tim 3:8 were Jannes and Jambres, or whether this in fact represents a Second Temple tradition. It's interesting to find Ridderbos coming to the same conclusion as Enns.

...In some respects, the Jewishness and Rabbinical background of New Testament writings are clear enough. If the second letter to Timothy speaks of Jannes and Jambres as men who withstood Moses, we cannot recognise in them the Egyptian magicians of the court of Pharoah, until we come across these same names in certain late Jewish writings with a plain reference to those magicians. Elsewhere, when Paul speaks of the mediation of angels in giving the law on Sinai (Gal 3.19), or when, wishing to indicate Christ's exaltation above all other spiritual powers, he list a whole series of kinds of angels (Col 1.16); or says that the promise was given 430 years before the law (Gal 3.17) - these are all expressions whose background we are not able to find in the Old Testament or elsewhere in the New Testament, but which only become clear to us from the late Jewish writings. How must we now view this? Must we say that because Paul, the apostle of Christ, who was led by the Spirit, calls the magicians of Pharoah Jannes and Jambres, these must have been their real names? Although there may have been those in times past who would have answered this affirmatively, it would not be easy to mention anyone who takes this standpoint today, at least among those aware of the way these names were probably brought into vogue in Jewish literature.

Now, of course, the concrete significance of this last example is particularly slight. From the point of view of faith no one is interested in the names of Pharoah's magicians. Nevertheless... [this example] is not without importance. It lets us see that inspiration can also mean connection with certain Jewish or non-Christian elements, without these elements at the same time being brought under the sanction of inspiration and thus belonging to the normative character of Scripture.

Studies in Scripture and Its Authority, 31-32