Thursday, September 4, 2014

Loose Quotation

“Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, ‘At such and such a place shall be my camp’” (2 Kings 6:8).
This way of speaking shows that quotations were not always direct. The king of Syria wouldn’t have actually verbalized the words “such and such a place” as he was detailing his plans. This is simply the writer’s way (informal by modern standards) of recording the basic gist of the king’s proposal. The exact place the king wanted to go is not relevant to the writer’s purpose.

Consider a similar example:
“Then Hushai said to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, ‘Thus and so did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel, and thus and so have I counseled’” (2 Sam. 17:15).
Hushai obviously would have said a lot more to the priests about the counsel that he and Ahithophel had given Absalom, but those details have already been recorded earlier in the chapter. So the words “thus and so” are sufficient to communicate what Hushai is reporting, even if he likely wouldn’t have said exactly those words.

Of course, neither of these examples should be considered as errors in the text. It’s simply a looser style of quotation that’s more concerned with summarizing what was said than with recording speech verbatim. We do this sort of thing all the time in colloquial English. Biblical authors did it in their writings. Which is one reason why the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy rightly denies that inerrancy is negated by “a lack of modern technical precision.”
“We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.”

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