WE CAN’T TRUST THE SCRIPTURES? WHAT CAN WE TRUST?

Bible

            Not a day passes where I don’t receive a comment from someone making the claim that we can’t trust the scriptures as it is loaded with inaccuracies, miss copies and myth. Though, on the surface, some apparent discrepancies DO exist, the issue doesn’t seem to be in the discrepancies, but that Christians believe that the Bible was written by GOD and therefore, the Bible should be held at a higher standard then other writings. This writing will try it answer some of the criticisms of the Holy Scriptures with the goal of proving inerrancy or at least reliability.

One valid issue brought up by critics is the apparent errors in translations. Frankly, only an idiot would believe that the translations are without error as translations are limited by human error and nuances in the languages in with they are translated. So I would be ignorant to state (as some have) that translations are perfect. There are thousands upon thousands of variants (differences) in the translations. All, are minor and in no way change the overall meaning. In fact many of the variants actually improve the ability of the reader to understand the bible. These variants are figures of speech, changes in spelling, and removal of words that are no longer needed based on the evolution of language. When a Christian says that the bible is without error, they mean the original manuscript. The biggest glaring error in translation is in the King James Version in Act 12:4 where it states:

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after EASTER to bring him forth to the people.

The minor mistake is in using the word “Easter”. Easter as a holiday was not even thought of until around 100 of years after Acts was written. This error is one of judgment more than context. In 1604 when the King James Version was translated from the Textus Receptus Greek Texts, the holiday of Easter would have been easier for European Christian readers to understand as they had been regularly celebrating it. The TRUE holiday in question was, of course, the Jewish Passover. As Christians and Jewish became more and more separated in traditions many of the Jewish holidays had been forgotten of at least misunderstood. It is also possible that the early Christians, who blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus, despised all things Jewish and simply changed the word to Easter in order to remove Jesus’ Jewishness. This is only my plausible opinion, but considering the violent treatment of the Jews by Christian Crusaders, it is very plausible (but shameful).

It seems I’ve painted myself into a corner. At one moment I am defending the transcripts and on the other I am giving proof that we can’t trust them. The fact is all translations have flaws, but we know what the flaws are because we have such a huge number of manuscripts. Granted, we do not have the original manuscript written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but we do have thousands of original copies made between 25 and 100 years from the original writings. So how do these proof texts hold up in relation to other ancient writings? The chart below will help put the biblical manuscripts in focus.

BOOK

WRITTEN

COPY DATE

YRS FROM ORIGIONAL

# OF COPIES

Caesar

100-44 B.C.

900 A.D.

1000 Years

10

Plato

427-347 B.C.

900 A.D.

1200 Years

7

Homer (Iliad)

900 B.C.

400 B.C.

500 Years

643

New Testament

40-100 A.D.

125 A.D.

25-50 Years

24,000

In a nutshell, we know what the originals said because we have so many copies to pull from. So the reason why the Bible has so many variants is that we have so much information to compare to in order to find out where the copying errors are. The fact is, no other ancient writing has so much proof of as to the original and therefore has fewer variants. In fact, the evidence is so great for biblical accuracy from the original that scholars don’t doubt the reliability at all. They doubt that the book’s supernatural accounts are true, but not that what we have is what was originally written or very close to it. However if you surf the internet you will find plenty of psudo-scholors (usually a college student with an axe to grind) stating that we can’t trust what is written because it’s been translated so many times. How many times has the Bible been translated? ONCE! The original was coped from the Septuagint (OT), Peshitta, or Vulgate (NT) and once to our modern translations. Some think that the Septuagint was translated to the King James, and the New American Standard was translated from the King James, and the New Living Translation was translated from the New American Standard. Sorry, all were translated from the earliest copies and not from one another. In fact all were translated from several of the earliest copies to insure the most accurate copy. The early translation used for the modern translation may be from a different course but none were made from another copy.

The second issue that seems problem for the bible is oral tradition. Many wrongly liken the oral tradition of the Old Testament with the Telephone Game that many of us played in school. They conclude that even in ten minutes of passing on a message consisting of only one line. The message gets so messed up that you can hardly know the original. How can we trust the Jewish oral tradition of passing on millions of lines over a period of ten thousand years? Simply put, if the oral tradition of the Jews was passed on in secret from one person to another, I would say that the criticism is valid. But the telephone game is not comparing apples to apples. First, the message was delivered to entire villages and not just one person and it wasn’t done in secret so the entire village was responsible for insuring the tradition was kept as accurately as possible. Like the New Testament there are variants, so we can conclude that the oral tradition did change the words, but not the details. Secondly, Jewish culture was built around paying attention to details and from a young age Jewish men were trained to insure they paid attention and copy things right. In fact one of the biggest stereotypes that we see about the Jews to this day is that they are savvy businessmen. This stereotype is based on being detail orientated, a trait that is instilled from generation to generation for thousands of years.

We do have some problems with the Old Testament that have to be addresses. First, what about the details where scripture and God’s General Revelation (the Cosmos) don’t line up? Is the earth actually only 10,000 years old? Obviously the earth is not 10,000 years old and in fact the Bible doesn’t teach this. The age of the earth is based on human inference and counting the timeline from the early humans described in Genesis and not actual teaching. Many good Christian people want to stick to the literal 10,000 year old earth theory (called young earth theory), I personally believe you have to ignore billions of years of evidence or call GOD a liar for making the earth seem older then it actually is. I don’t intend on going into great detail on this issue as it is another long article that is better written by a geologist or physicist. I am neither so I will avoid the topic. Briefly, the problem is not in the scripture but our interpretation of the intended message. Reading each day as a day age is perfectly acceptable translation of the wording. The scripture supports such a reading and in fact even the New Testament states that we are living in the last day. Obviously the writer didn’t mean this as an actually day but a day age. If we are to believe that the Bible teaches a literal 10000 year old earth, then we might as well stop here, and the Bible, common sense, and science part ways and we’ve found a contradiction.

Probably the biggest proof for the reliability of the Old Testament is Jesus. Since we have ample proof for Jesus and proof of his miracles, death, and resurrection we can conclude that Jesus was GOD in the flesh (I will prove this point in more detail later). Jesus quoted the Old Testament on several occasions including Genesis and Adam and Eve. A problem that might arise from this manner of reasoning is that in order for someone to believe the Bible is true they must first believe in supernatural occurrences. Since science (and most non-believers for that matter) don’t believe in supernatural occurrences meaning they have a supernatural bias, it is impossible to prove that the miracles occurred and thus the parts of the story that are miraculous are myth or story telling. Simply put, that’s not my problem, but yours. Short of playing back the DVD of Jesus’ resurrection you will likely never remove a YOUR supernatural bias. However that doesn’t change the validity of my proof. For those of us who are intellectually honest enough to consider a supernatural option, the proof is overwhelming. If you are not one who can honestly step out of your bias, then you will not accept the proof and THAT is your problem not mine. Bias is simply not scientific on any level and it is impossible to convenience anyone of anything who has a bias. You might say that I too have a bias, and to that I would respond that I do, however, my bias is acceptance of the biblical accounts unless such accounts are proven false by another medium (science) that is in the business of proving or disproving something. So it is not fair to conclude that my bias is unchangeable. I am working in the realm of plausibility. Once plausibility disappears so goes my faith and Christianity has been proven false as a whole. This can’t be said for a supernatural bias as some scientists have stacked the deck against religion. These scientists remove supernatural as an option and than challenge us to prove that what we believe is true. Faith can’t be proven, not because there isn’t proof, but because those with a supernatural bias have changed the rules so that we can’t compete. It is like asking someone to describe what cold is but telling them that they can’t talk about heat, or thermometers. Since cold is nothing but the absence of heat, the exercise can not be completed. This doesn’t mean cold can’t be proven, just that the rules of the game don’t make it possible. This type of bias (unlike mine) is unfair and destructive to reaching the truth whatever it may be. With that said, there are many Christians that hold a non-scientific bias and that IS just as destructive. These “The Bible teaches it, I believe it and that settles it” Christians are equally destructive to the cause as they look as though proof is not a necessary element of faith. This is simply not the case. Christianity, unlike other religions, is based on evidence and it is evidence that makes Christianity the fastest growing religion in the world and not blind faith.

So does the New Testament hold up to scrutiny if no bias is applied? Firstly, I find it interesting that the same people who have a supernatural bias against the Bible like to pick it apart. It seems to me that a more intellectually honest approach would be to denounce it as myth. If it’s only myth then the writers have no obligation to stay consistent from one book to another. After all the stories are independent accounts and they have no reason to be the same. After all, no one would fault J.K. Rowling for changing the detail of the castle in her popular series, Harry Potter (not to say she did). So in a sense, the reason why these people want to pick apart the bible is to prove that it’s mythical not inaccurate. Another words, they are NOT claiming that the book has been copied down incorrectly; rather they are stating that the events simply did not occur. This is a placid testimony to the accuracy of the texts.

It would be more likely that these people could prove that the Bible is loaded with errors but, of course, we see from the number of copies and the pettiness of the variants that this simply isn’t the case. So the big issue is not coping errors, but weather or not the independent accounts are accurate enough to get us to the truth even if the Bible includes such errors. Even though I believe the scriptures are inerrant (without error), I don’t think it is necessary to believe this to prove the existence of Jesus as GOD thus removing the myth argument. All I have to prove is that the book gives us an accurate, if not perfect, representation of the facts. This is the same standard you would find in a court of law and this is the standard I will use to prove my argument. In other words what are the FACTS of the case without bias? A standard a jury would use to find someone guilty of innocent.

WHAT IS THE OVERALL MESSAGE?

The overall message of the New Testament is that Jesus was born of a virgin, he performed miracles, he told everyone he was GOD which pissed off the Jewish leadership, so they murdered him with the help of the Romans on a cross for making these claims. He was subsequently buried in a tomb that was guarded by a rock and a bunch of Roman guards. On the third day of his death, he rose out of the tomb and appeared to at least 5000 people and then rose into heaven where he sits at the “right hand” of the father. All of the gospels teach this message. Some are silent about certain facts, but none contradict this message.

Some disbelievers try to muster up a case for the Gnostic gospels in order to show a contradictory message of Jesus. This is simply a weak argument at best. Anyone who does even a little homework beyond watching the Di Vinci Code can discount the Gnostic gospels. The Gnostic gospels were written about as being heresy as early as 150 A.D. and the early church NEVER accepted them as truly inspired. So to use them in your argument would be the same as telling me that the Koran has a different account of Jesus or that the Cat in the Hat disproves the gospel because it doesn’t mention Jesus. Since the Koran and Dr Seuss are not accepted by Christians as inspired words, that argument simply doesn’t stand up. In other words, we are only responsible to defend what we consider inspired words by GOD. If you believe there are other inspired words, then you and not I have the burden of proof to prove otherwise.

So based on what Christians believe is inspired, we have a consistent message about the nature of Jesus Christ. All biblical accounts support this message even if there seems to be some details that are not consistent. For instance, some gospels state the Jesus met with his disciples before he went to Galilee others seem to support the opposite. This might be an inaccuracy, but the point is he still met his disciples, so the nature and message is exactly the same and perhaps there is another plausible explanation for the messages.

MY BURDEN OF PROOF

So what is my burden of proof? I must prove that the scripture are (at least in the original) perfect in scope. What I mean is that I have to prove that they are perfect in the manner in which there were intended. This doesn’t mean the stories have to be exactly the same but that based on the intended reader, and the intended message the scripture tells the same story.

The detailed chart below shows the similarities in each story in the Gospels.

STORY

MAT

MAR

LUK

JOH

Prologue to the Gospel

X

X

The promise of John the Baptist’s birth

X

The salutation of Mary; Mary visits Elizabeth

X

The birth of John the Baptist

X

The birth of Jesus; the shepherds

X

X

Visit of the wise men

X

Circumcision of Jesus, presentation in the temple

X

Flight into Egypt; Herod slays the babies of Bethlehem; return from Egypt

X

Jesus at twelve years of age

X

John the Baptist and his ministry

X

X

X

X

John’s imprisonment

X

The baptism of Jesus

X

X

X

The genealogy of Jesus

X

X

The temptation of Jesus

X

X

X

Jesus’ first miracle (water made wine); Jesus visits Capernaum

X

Jesus cleanses the temple during the Passover

X

Nicodemus visits Jesus at night (“God so loved the world”)

X

Jesus remains and baptizes, through his disciples, in Judea; John the Baptist again testifies to Jesus

X

Jesus converses with the woman of Samaria

X

Jesus arrives in Galilee; his first preaching there

X

X

X

X

Jesus’ first rejection at Nazareth

X

The miraculous catch of fish; the call of the first disciples.

X

X

X

X

Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum; heals a demoniac

X

X

X

X

Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law and others

X

X

X

X

Jesus departs from Capernaum

X

X

A preaching journey in Galilee

X

X

X

The Beatitudes

X

X

The woes

X

The parables of salt and of light

X

X

X

On the law

X

X

On murder

X

X

On adultery and lust

X

On divorce

X

X

On swearing; on retaliation

X

X

On love of one’s enemies

X

X

On almsgiving; on prayer

X

The Lord’s Prayer

X

X

On fasting; on treasures

X

X

The sound eye

X

X

On serving two masters

X

X

On anxiety

X

X

On judging

X

X

On profaning the holy

X

God’s answering of prayer

X

X

The Golden Rule

X

X

The narrow gate

X

X

The test of a good person

X

X

Warning against self-deception

X

X

Hearers and doers of the Word

X

X

The end of the Sermon

X

X

The healing of a leper

X

X

X

The healing of a centurion’s servant

X

X

X

The healing of the widow’s son at Nain

X

The nature of discipleship

X

X

The healing of the paralytic at Capernaum

X

X

X

X

The call of Levi (Matthew)

X

X

X

The question about fasting

X

X

X

Jesus heals the man at Bethzatha in Jerusalem; the testimony to Jesus

X

Two blind men healed

X

The healing of a mute demoniac

X

X

X

The sending out of the twelve disciples

X

X

X

The fate of the disciples

X

X

X

X

Exhortation to fearless confession

X

X

X

Division in households

X

X

Conditions of discipleship

X

X

X

End of the discourse to the disciples

X

X

X

John’s question to Jesus

X

X

Jesus’ words about John

X

X

Woes on the cities of Galilee

X

X

Jesus’ thanksgiving to the Father

X

X

X

Comfort for the heavy laden

X

Plucking ears of grain on the Sabbath

X

X

X

X

The healing of the man with a withered hand

X

X

X

Jesus heals the multitudes

X

X

X

The call of the twelve

X

X

X

X

The woman with the ointment

X

X

X

X

The ministering women

X

Accusations against Jesus; a house divided

X

X

X

X

Against seeking for signs

X

X

X

The return of the evil spirit

X

X

Jesus’ true relatives

X

X

X

X

Jesus teaches by parables: the sower, the tares, the seed growing secretly, the mustard seed, the yeast, the hidden treasure, the pearl, the dragnet, the householder

X

X

X

X

The stilling of the storm

X

X

X

The Gerasene (Gadarene) demoniac

X

X

X

Jairus’ daughter and a woman’s faith

X

X

X

Jesus is again rejected at Nazareth

X

X

X

X

The sending out of the twelve

X

X

X

Herod thinks Jesus is John, risen

X

X

X

The death of John

X

X

The return of the twelve and the feeding of the 5,000

X

X

X

X

Walking on the water

X

X

X

Jesus’ discourse on the bread of life

X

Healings at Gennesaret

X

X

What defiles a person

X

X

The Syrophoenician woman

X

X

Healing of many; healing of the deaf mute

X

X

The feeding of the 4,000

X

X

The Pharisees seek a sign

X

X

X

X

A discourse on yeast

X

X

X

The blind man at Bethsaida

X

X

Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi; first prediction of the Passion

X

X

X

X

The conditions of discipleship

X

X

X

X

The transfiguration

X

X

X

X

The coming of Elijah

X

X

The epileptic boy healed

X

X

X

X

The second prediction of the Passion

X

X

X

X

The temple tax

X

The dispute about greatness

X

X

X

X

The strange exorcist

X

X

On temptations

X

X

X

Concerning salt

X

X

X

The lost sheep

X

X

On reproving another

X

X

X

On reconciliation

X

X

The parable of the unmerciful servant

X

Jesus goes to Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles; his discourses there —

X

A woman taken in adultery is brought before Jesus

X

Jesus declares himself the light of the world; unbelieving Jews attempt to stone him

X

Jesus heals a beggar blind from birth

X

The Good Shepherd

X

The Samaritan villagers

X

The nature of discipleship

X

X

The sending out of the seventy

X

X

X

The return of the seventy –

X

X

Jesus’ gratitude to the Father

X

X

X

The blessedness of the disciples

X

X

X

The lawyer’s question

X

X

X

The parable of the good Samaritan

X

Mary and Martha

X

X

The friend at midnight

X

The answer to prayer

X

X

The Beelzebul controversy

X

X

The blessedness of Jesus’ mother

X

The sign for this generation

X

X

X

Concerning light

X

X

Discourse against the Pharisees

X

X

X

Exhortation to fearless confession

X

X

X

X

The parable of the rich fool

X

Cares about earthly things

X

X

Watchfulness and faithfulness

X

X

X

X

The servant’s wages

X

Interpreting the present time

X

X

X

Agreement with one’s accuser

X

X

Repentance or destruction

X

Healing of the woman with a spirit of infirmity

X

Parables of the mustard seed, of the yeast

X

X

X

Exclusion from the kingdom

X

X

The departure from Galilee

X

The lament over Jerusalem

X

X

The healing of a man with dropsy

X

Teaching on humility

X

The parable of the great supper

X

X

The cost of discipleship

X

X

The lost sheep and the lost coin

X

X

The prodigal son

X

The dishonest manager

X

X

The hypocrisy of the Pharisees

X

About the law and about divorce

X

X

The rich man and Lazarus

X

On causing sin

X

X

X

On forgiveness

X

X

On faith

X

X

The servant’s wages

X

The healing of ten lepers

X

On the kingdom of God

X

X

X

The day of the Son of man

X

X

The parable of the unjust judge

X

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector

X

Marriage and divorce

X

X

Jesus blesses the children

X

X

X

X

The rich young man

X

X

X

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard

X

The third prediction of the Passion

X

X

X

Jesus and the sons of Zebedee

X

X

X

The healing of Bartimaeus

X

X

X

Zacchaeus

X

The parable of the pounds

X

X

The conspiracy against Jesus

X

X

X

X

The anointing at Bethany

X

X

X

X

The betrayal by Judas

X

X

X

X

Preparation for the Passover

X

X

X

Jesus washes the feet of his disciples

X

The traitor

X

X

X

X

The institution of the Lord’s Supper

X

X

X

Last words: the betrayal foretold; greatness in the kingdom of God; Peter’s denial prophesied; the two denial prophesied; the two swords

X

X

X

X

The way to Gethsemane; Peter’s denial prophesied

X

X

X

X

Jesus in Gethsemane

X

X

X

X

Jesus taken captive

X

X

X

X

Jesus before the Sanhedrin and others; Peter’s denial

X

X

X

X

Jesus delivered to Pilate

X

X

X

X

The death of Judas

X

The trial before Pilate

X

X

X

X

Jesus before Herod

X

The sentence of death

X

X

X

X

The mocking by the soldiers

X

X

X

The road to Golgotha; the Crucifixion

X

X

X

X

The death on the cross; the burial of Jesus

X

X

X

X

The guard at the tomb

X

The empty tomb

X

X

X

X

The bribing of the Roman soldiers

X

Jesus appears to the two men on the road to

X

X

Jesus appears in Jerusalem

X

Jesus appears to the disciples twice

X

Jesus appears at the sea of Tiberias

X

Jesus’ appearance on the mountain in Galilee

X

X

Signs to accompany believers

X

The Ascension

X

X

The disciples go out into the world to preach

X

John’s conclusion to the gospel

X

Though the above list is lengthy, it covers all the major topics in the gospels. There are approximately 247 Stories in the gospels. Only 56 of the stories are covered in only 1 book. All 56 are references to either historical items not recorded in other gospels – Like the birth of John the Baptist or different appearances that Jesus made during his ministry. These are details that do not make an overall difference of the gospel message and in fact there are many extra-biblical accounts to support these facts.

Additionally there are 39 stories that are shared by every gospel. The messages in these stories are vital to the acceptance of Jesus as the divine. The section below shows only those topics that are covered by ALL gospels. It also gives you my opinion of why they are vital.

  • John the Baptist and his ministry

The story of John the Baptist is vital to establishing that Jesus was the messiah. It was widely prophesied that prior to the coming messiah, Elisha would return. John the Baptist fulfilled the return of Elisha (J.B. was a type). It is also vital because extra-biblical accounts support the ministry of John the Baptist as you will see later.

  • The miraculous catch of fish; the call of the first disciples.
  • Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law and others
  • The healing of the paralytic at Capernaum
  • The return of the twelve and the feeding of the 5,000
  • The epileptic boy healed
  • Jesus blesses the children

Jesus proved this Godhood through many signs and wonders. Though not all miracles are recorded in all books, all books have signs and wonders proving Jesus’ divinity Those listed above as recoded in ALL gospels.

  • Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum; heals a demoniac

The importance of casting out demons was to show that Jesus was from GOD. Jesus makes it clear that a demon cannot cast out itself. Using logic, if Jesus were a demon, what good would come of him to casting out his minions? This again points to Jesus Divinity

  • Plucking ears of grain on the Sabbath

Jesus came to make clarifications to the law and to fulfill its requirements. One such clarification was the reason for the Sabbath. Jesus told the Jews that the Sabbath was for the enjoyment of man and not for GOD. In other words, he told them to lighten up and stop stoning people for exercising freedom! It makes perfect sense that GOD put the Sabbath in place for us and NOT him. We need rest, and Jesus clarified this point.

  • The call of the twelve

The message of the 12 apostles is very important. Since the apostles were told to take Jesus’ message to the people after he died, it was absolutely necessary that everyone saw by whose authority they preached.

  • Accusations against Jesus; a house divided

One of the most important messages in scripture is the accusations that the Pharisees threw at Jesus. The message here is that the Pharisees were mad at Jesus for saying that he was GOD. Though many argue that Jesus never called himself GOD, the Pharisees sure thought he did. In fact this is the reason they murdered him.

  • Jesus’ true relatives

Until Jesus’ arrival, the monotheistic GOD worshiped by the Jews was ONLY for the Jews. Jesus clarified this message by showing that the Jewish GOD is the GOD of all nations.

  • Jesus is again rejected at Nazareth
  • The conspiracy against Jesus
  • The betrayal by Judas
  • The traitor
  • Peter’s denialS (THREE TIMES) Phophasied

It was long prophesied that the messiah would be rejected by his own people. His rejection in Nazareth was a type of this prophecy.

  • Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi; first prediction of the Passion
  • The second prediction of the Passion

Jesus predicted his own death. Once the prediction came to pass it became even clearer by what authority he came. He was at minimum a prophet of God other passages prove he was God is the flesh.

  • The conditions of discipleship

Jesus is clarifying the importance of discipleship. This clarification is the entire command to the church to preach the gospel. This message is hard at times, but nonetheless, we have a mission and should execute this mission.

  • The transfiguration

Another proof text of Jesus’ divinity

  • The dispute about greatness

This story has two points. First it shows that the disciples knew who Jesus was. As they were asking which one would be the greatest in heaven. Second, it’s just plain funny. Here they are sitting next to God and they are worried about who is the best. That’s just funny stuff.

  • Exhortation to fearless confession

Jesus gave instruction as to how to enter the kingdom of GOD. Repentance is a vital part of this message. He is also showing that not just anyone gets to heaven, which is his way of killing the movement of Universalism that is so popular today (even in the Christian Church).

  • The anointing at Bethany

Jesus died for the sins of humanity. This was foretold in the Old Testament. The anointing was the preparation ceremony that paralleled the slaughter of the sacrificial lamb.

  • Jesus in Gethsemane
  • Jesus taken captive
  • Jesus before the Sanhedrin and others; Peter’s denial
  • Jesus delivered to Pilate
  • The sentence of death
  • The road to Golgotha; the Crucifixion
  • The death on the cross; the burial of Jesus

The gospels are very clear in the details of the murder of Jesus. The importance of this message is that in order for those to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, they must first believe he died. The Old Testament also prophesied that the Messiah would die on a cross. These juicy details were captured by all the gospels. Many people realize the accuracy of this testimony so they try to come up with ridiculous – so called – answer to this account. (see the Jesus Seminar for these accounts).

  • The empty tomb

There is no more important a message in the bible than the empty tomb. Though many get caught up in the details as to who and how many found the tomb empty, not one seems to dispute that the tomb was indeed empty. This seems to me to be the most important detail of all.

One can easily show that the important details are shared by all the gospels and most all of the details are shared by at least two or three gospels. The most commonly shared items are the synoptic gospels with Matthew and Luke having the most in common. Many would say the reason why these two gospels have so much in common is that one was copies from the other. This may very well be the case. However, that does not destroy the validity of the testimony. Unless we are to assume that any work transposed from another diminishes the truth of the original work. First, the original work, if widely disseminated would insure that any counterfeits would immediately be detected. For instance, if I witnessed a crime and reported it to the newspaper and the newspaper wrote an account that was totally false, I would be in a position to refute the story as false and tell the truth. There is no reason to believe that the gospels that are similar with some difference were falsified because they were copied. In fact one can argue that if they were actually copies they should be exactly the same. The fact that there are differences proves that they are original in at least some part. If they are the same with wide variants over time we have so many copies that we certainly can decipher the truth. It is more likely that both are similar message for different audiences. One for the Jews and one for the Gentiles (Greeks) for instance. So the details that are dissimilar are simply there to make it easier for the reader or are only important for a certain audience like including Jewish customs for non-Jewish readers but leaving them out for Jewish readers as they know them already. A modern day example of this would be a Mexican author stating something like; “If was December 26th and we were opening up presents as in Mexico we celebrate Christmas on the 26th This would add points of clarification for an American audience who has no idea that Christmas was one day later then in the U.S. The same writing to a Mexican audience would leave out the latter part of the sentence as it is widely know.

The Complexity of the Message

It should be noted in the favor of the Bible the complexity of the Christian message. For thousands of years false religions have sprung up to “simplify” Christianity. I believe that the complexities of Christianity can be used to show its truth. It seems unlikely to me that any untrue story would place within it complex issues like the trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as a single being with three different natures but individually distinct. It is almost impossible to wrap your mind around it. In addition to this, the Bible teeters on meeting the burden of proof for Jewish tradition. A Woman’s testimony was much, much less authoritative than that of a man’s. Why would an author use women to find the body of Jesus unless they were trying to stay within the truth. It seems to me that this would be risky. Another point to be made is the unfavorable depiction of many of those in the Hall of Faith. People like David, Paul, Solomon, and many of the 12 Apostles have stories that show them as foolish and borderline idiotic. It seems unlikely that these depictions would be in a myth. To my knowledge you don’t see this about Mohamed, or Buddha (though I am far from an expert in these religions). You do in the Bible, even Jesus is shown to have apparent weaknesses when he clearly shows his fear of death in the Garden of Gatsemeny. Where do we see this in other religious works?

There are many good books that break down in a logical manner the testimonies of the New and Old Testament authors. Two that have helped me were, “Evidence That Demand a Verdict” By Josh McDowell and “Resurrection” by Hank Hanegraaff. The former is a hard read, so if you are just beginning the study of Biblical credibility, I suggest the latter. It took me a year to study McDowell’s book as it goes into great detail as to the evidence. Hanegraaff cuts to the chase.

The above tests have shown the reliability of the internal testimony of the Bible. But this is not the only method to test the reliability of scripture. Before examining extra-biblical sources, it is important to realize that the extra-biblical sources cannot be used to test the supernatural accounts in the scriptures. The fact is, the extra-biblical sources don’t cover supernatural. If they did, the extra-biblical sources would have been canonized. As the Bible is a collection historical, supernatural events of the life and times of the Jews. With that said, one source does not negate the other, it simply covers different parts of the same story. It makes sense that historians like Josephus and the Talmud would NOT account for the supernatural as these accounts are biases against the supernatural details – not unlike modern science. But like modern science, we don’t discount what is said because it has a bias, we simply look to other sources for other forms of truth. Both are valid, and unless they are contradictory, they can still both be true yet covering different details.

Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian mentions John the Baptist and Herod in his book, Antiquities, Book 18 he states:

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.”

Josephus also mentions Jesus in several quotes. Because there is still debate as to the authenticity of the quotes, I have chosen to leave them out. I personally believe the quotes to be partially true, with there being a likely addition to Josephus’ works by early Christians. The doctored parts are likely those referencing Jesus as “The Christ”. It is highly unlikely that a Jew would have made mention to Jesus in this manner. Until we find more remnants of Josephus’ works, it is responsible, in my opinion, to avoid these sources.

Flavius Josephus does, however, mentions Ananias the High Priest who was mentioned in Acts 23:2 he states:

Now as soon as Albinus was come to the city of Jerusalem, he used all his endeavors and care that the country might be kept in peace, and this by destroying many of the Sicarii. But as for the high priest, Ananias (25) he increased in glory every day, and this to a great degree, and had obtained the favor and esteem of the citizens in a signal manner; for he was a great hoarder up of money

The Roman historian Tacitus In the following quote, Tactius makes mention of someone names “Christus” who is Jesus. Tactitus states:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”

The important point to this extra-biblical account is that it makes mention, in an early source, to the suffering death of Jesus, by Pontius Palatus.

Thallus, an Eastern Mediterranean writer was referenced in the writings by Julius Africanus, who wrote about AD 221, mentioned Thallus’ account of an eclipse of the sun. The original quote was written in about AD 52 ( a few years from Jesus’ death). He states:

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.”

This quote may be a reference to the event described in Luke 23. The passage describing the destructive event that occurred during the crucifixion.

Pliny the Younger mentioned Christ as well. Pliny was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Pliny wrote ten books with the last around AD 112.

They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

The Talmud is another source that adds historical reference to the Bible and it’s “stories”

“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!”

This is the most, “In your face”, extra-biblical source. The credibility of the source is also great as to historical fact. The Talmud are writings of Jewish laws. Since the Jews rejected Jesus, they would have no reason to add a lie to a book describing Jewish law and tradition. This quote does not confirm the deity of Jesus, only that he was hanged for practicing sorcery. So it confirms that Jesus did many of the things the Bible claims he did and most importantly that Jesus actually died – a claim debated by liberal, so called, Christian authors (see Jesus Seminar)

Lastly, The Greek writer Lucian mentions Jesus. He states in his writing from around AD 120:

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”

Certainly Lucian was not a believer, as he call Christians (like many today) misguided, but he also confirms in early works that Jesus was (1) a real person, and (2) he was crucified.

Mara Bar-Serapion, of Syria, wrote a letter to his son in AD 70 regarding the emulation of wise teachers. He states:

“What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burying Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”

It would be nice if we had some extra-biblical (reliable) quotes that mention the resurrection of Jesus. However, the likelihood of this is extremely unlikely to ever be found. It would be absurd to think that someone who witnessed the resurrection would be a non-believer, and anyone writing from a believer’s point of view WOULD BE CANNONIZED. Many don’t realize that the bible is not simply one book, but 66 of them put together for convenience of study. So in a nutshell, we have 66 accounts of GOD’s power. All other sources, only confirm the reliability of the biblical sources. They are other sources and disciplines that confirm details of the Bible, but they won’t ever confirm all details as the other details are covered by sources in the bible.

BIBLICAL CONTRADICTIONS AND MY BURDEN OF PROOF

Another attacked on the Bible comes from its apparent contradictions. Many critics seem to have come to some sort of special knowledge about contradictory statement contained in the Bible that clear-thinking Christians seem to have missed for over 2000 years (and longer if you consider the age of the Old Testament). What I have found is that most, if not all of these attacks come from non-believing Christians and not from inside the believing community. It seems to me that non-believing people would not care about contradictions as the Bible has no credibility to them, it is simply myth, and contradictions in myths require no scrutiny. It seems that even non-believers seem to believe that the Bible has more authority than other books, and as such it needs to be perfect. I have always taken criticism of the Bible from non-believers with a grain of salt. Since a non-believers have not likely ever read the Bible in its entirety (why would they), and thus context is never reached. Like with all writing, context is everything. With that said there are some difficulties, and some of these difficulties can not be answered perfectly, but as long as there is a plausible response, then my answer is just as valid as yours and until my answer specifically contradicts your point than both points are valid. However, non-Christians believe that my plausible answer is incorrect, not because it’s not valid, but because of the non-Christian’s bias toward supernatural things. Frankly, that’s not my problem but yours. Your bias has no baring on the validity of my answer.

Handling Contradictions

Before tackling any apparent contradictions, I think it is appropriate to make a point about my burden of proof on the discrepancies. I need not show that all items are the same; I need only show that there are no contradictions. In other words something cannot be something else in the same way at the same time. The formula that describes this is: ¬(p^¬p) (A cannot = NonA in the same way at the same time). So, Jesus cannot be born in Bethlehem and Galilee this would be a contradiction. However, three people finding Jesus’ tomb empty in one gospel and only two finding it in the other does not break the formula; because even if they are describing the same event they are describing it in a different way. In other words, I can go to dinner with three people; however there are 100 people at the restaurant. So describing the event as: “I had dinner with 3 people” is as true as is if I said: “I had dinner with 100 people”. These are not inherently contradictory but perhaps a bit confusing.

Let’s look at some of the most famous contradictions. I am more than willing to tackle any other’s you might find.

CONTADICTION #1 – The Genealogies of Jesus

Matthew 1:2-17 and Luke 3:23-38

According to some, the genealogies of Matthew and Luke are different and indeed they are.

Matthew 1:2-17

2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren; and Judah begat Perez and Zerah of Tamar; and Perez begat Hezron; and Hezron begat Ram; and Ram begat Amminadab; and Amminadab begat Nahshon; and Nahshon begat Salmon; and Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king. And David begat Solomon of her [that had been the wife] of Uriah; and Solomon begat Rehoboam; and Rehoboam begat Abijah; and Abijah begat Asa; and Asa begat Jehoshaphat; and Jehoshaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Uzziah; and Uzziah begat Jotham; and Jotham begat Ahaz; and Ahaz begat Hezekiah; and Hezekiah begat Manasseh; and Manasseh begat Amon; and Amon begat Josiah; and Josiah begat Jechoniah and his brethren, at the time of the carrying away to Babylon. And after the carrying away to Babylon, Jechoniah begat Shealtiel; and Shealtiel begat Zerubbabel; and Zerubbabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; and Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; and Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Matthew’s genealogy involves Jesus’ title “Christ”, in the sense of an “anointed” king. It starts with Solomon and proceeds through the kings of Judah up to and including Jeconiah Thus Jesus is established as blood heir to the throne of Israel through his adopted mother Mary.

LUKE 3:23-38

And Jesus himself, when he began [to teach], was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the [son] of Heli, the [son] of Matthat, the [son] of Levi, the [son] of Melchi, the [son] of Jannai, the [son] of Joseph, the [son] of Mattathias, the [son] of Amos, the [son] of Nahum, the [son] of Esli, the [son] of Naggai, the [son] of Maath, the [son] of Mattathias, the [son] of Semein, the [son] of Josech, the [son] of Joda, the [son] of Joanan, the [son] of Rhesa, the [son] of Zerubbabel, the [son] of Shealtiel, the [son] of Neri, the [son] of Melchi, the [son] of Addi, the [son] of Cosam, the [son] of Elmadam, the [son] of Er, the [son] of Jesus, the [son] of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the [son] of Matthat, the [son] of Levi, the [son] of Symeon, the [son] of Judas, the [son] of Joseph, the [son] of Jonam, the [son] of Eliakim, the [son] of Melea, the [son] of Menna, the [son] of Mattatha, the [son] of Nathan, the [son] of David, the [son] of Jesse, the [son] of Obed, the [son] of Boaz, the [son] of Salmon, the [son] of Nahshon, the [son] of Amminadab, the [son] of Arni, the [son] of Hezron, the [son] of Perez, the [son] of Judah, the [son] of Jacob, the [son] of Isaac, the [son] of Abraham, the [son] of Terah, the [son] of Nahor,

35 the [son] of Serug, the [son] of Reu, the [son] of Peleg, the [son] of Eber, the [son] of Shelah the [son] of Cainan, the [son] of Arphaxad, the [son] of Shem, the [son] of Noah, the [son] of Lamech, the [son] of Methuselah, the [son] of Enoch, the [son] of Jared, the [son] of Mahalaleel, the [son] of Cainan, the [son] of Enos, the [son] of Seth, the [son] of Adam, the [son] of God.

Luke 3 shows Jesus’ relationship to King David as the prophecy states that the Messiah will come from the line of David. Jesus is established as the legal heir to the throne of Israel.

In other word, one genealogy shows that he was of the same blood as David as prophesied through Joseph his adopted father’s bloodline, and through Mary’s bloodline he was in line to take the kingship. He is both earthly and heavenly king based on genealogy and prophecy.

When you apply the law of non-contradiction to this passage you see it is not a contradiction at all but describing genealogies from two different perspectives. In other words, Jesus CAN and IS from the Blood of David and the Son of the next king. In other words, if Judea still had a king and was not under Roman occupation Jesus would be that king.

CONTRADICTION #2 – Matthew 1:20 and 1:35 – The Angels Message

Some consider it a contradiction that Luke has the angle of the Lord coming to Mary and in Matthew the angel of the Lord comes to Joseph. Some further add that if the angel of the Lord actually came to both Mary and Joseph than in the passage in Mark where his “people” reject him is contradictory because his “people” are his family, and they thought Jesus was crazy.

Luke 1:35

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God.

Matthew 1:20

But when he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

I must say, I have trouble not laughing when I hear this one. These are two completely different stories. The angel came to both Mary and Joseph. Usually the argument concludes by showing that his “Family” thought he was crazy in Mark 3:20-21:

Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.

Nowhere in this supposed “proof text” are we told the those described as his own people are Mary and Joseph or even family members. His own people clearly describes the JEWS!

CONTRADICTION #3 – Matthew 2:1 and Luke 2:4 – The Birth of Jesus

A group called the Jesus Seminar are responsible for this myth. Apparently Jesus was born in both Bethlehem and Galilee.

Matthew 2:1

2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise-men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying,

Luke 2:4

2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; to enroll himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child. And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered.

Not sure what to say about this apparent contradiction. It seems to me that someone has a good imagination and poor reading skills.

CONTRADICTION #4 – The Birth of Jesus

Luke 2:2 and Matthew 2:1

In Matthew 2:1 Jesus was apparently born during the reign of Herod who died in 4 B.C. However Luke states that he was born during the great census which, according to Josephus, occurred when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Quirinus was not made governor of Syria until about 6 A.D., ten years after Herod’s death.

This is, in my opinion the most difficult apparent contradiction to explain because it takes more than just reading the Bible to explain it.

It seems there are several possible explanations to this issue:

1. Luke is wrong

2. Matthew is wrong

3. Josephus is wrong

4. There was more than on Census

5. There was more then one Herod

6. There was more then one Quirinus

To find the truth to this apparent contradiction, it takes a reading of Archeological texts, and Jewish historians and not just the Bible. However prior to giving the plausible answer to this issue, let’s first look at the ramifications of all 6 of the possible explanations.

Luke and/or Matthew are Wrong

This would build a case for an error in the biblical text. However, the error is minor. The error is in regards to the detail as to who ordered the census. The big issue is not who ordered the census, but that Jesus was born during this time to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. This fulfills the prophecy.

Josephus was Wrong

Josephus is the source of most extra biblical accounts of Jewish and early Christian life in biblical antiquity. However, it is important to realize that Josephus was NOT necessarily a historian, but a Jewish Army General who cowardly decided NOT to take his life (after his collogues did) after the Jewish rebellion and instead became a spy of Roman and a traitor to his own people. These facts do not in anyway reduce the accuracy of his writings. He was still a Jew and as a Jew he would have been trained in historical accuracy. However, it should be taken into account that he was in no way non-bias as his life depended on a happy Rome.

There was more than one Census

Although on its face we seem to have a difficulty here, there are several pieces that we must consider before jumping to the conclusion that Luke and Josephus were speaking about the same event. Indeed, it seems that Caesar Augustus was the type of leader who ordered many censuses in his day. Records exist to show that Roman-controlled Egypt had begun a census as early as 10 B.C. and it was repeated every 14 years. And Augustus himself notes in his Res Gestae (The Deeds of Augustus) that he ordered three wide-spread censuses of Roman citizens, one in 28 B.C., one in 8 B.C. and one in 14 A.D. In between there are several other censuses that happened locally across Rome. Luke’s account corroborates the idea of multiple censuses for Judea when he writes “This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Certainly, the word “first” implies that where was more than one census happened.

We have at least three censuses in the area of Judea – one in 8 B.C., one starting around 2 B.C. and one in 6 A.D. The only point that is really in question, then, is whether Luke was mistaken in ascribing this census to the time when Quirinius was in the role of Syrian Governor. Since Quirinius wasn’t governor of the Syrian province until after Archelaus was deposed, critics claim Luke misidentified the census as the smaller one, which happened some 8-10 years after Herod died.

There was more than one Herod

There were definitely different Herods, but Herod the Great is the undisputed leader during this time.

There was more then One Quirinus

Though it is unlikely that we have more than one Quirinus, it is very likely that Quirinus had more then one roll. We know that Quirinus was an influential character in the Roman Empire before and during the life of Jesus. As an influential Roman, it is likely that he was given the roll as census taker prior to this reign as Governor of Syria. Justin Marty in his Apology supports this view. Marty states that Quirinius was a “procurator”, not a governor of the area of Judea. As Gleason Archer writes, “In order to secure efficiency and dispatch, it may well have been that Augustus put Quirinius in charge of the census-enrollment in Syria between the close of Saturninus’s administration and the beginning of Varus’s term of service in 7 B.C.” It was doubtless because of his competent handling of the 7 B.C. census that Augustus later put him in charge of the 7 A.D. census. Archer also says that Roman history records Quirinius leading the effort to quell rebels in that area at exactly that time, so such a political arrangement is not a stretch.

If Quirinius did hold such a position, then we have no contradiction. The first census was taken during the time of Jesus birth, but Josephus’ census would have come later. This option seems to me to be entirely reasonable.

This Timeline shows the probable timeline for the census recorded in the New Testament. Since we don’t know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, it is shown between 6 B.C. and 3 B.C. Some scholars have his birth after the death of Herod (3 B.C) however we have no reason to believe this date is true. My personal assessment is August/September 5 B.C.

Admittedly I wish we have more extra-biblical support for the census theory. Though the support is not overwhelming, it is still a fair and reasonable conclusion to come to that the census recorded by Josephus is not the same census as the Census recorded by Luke. It is also a fair assessment that Rome would likely put someone like Quirinus in charge of more than one census. Even to this day it is not unlikely to see someone given responsibilities based on past successes. It is reasonable to believe this is the case here.

CONTRADICTION #5 – Is It an Eye for an Eye or Are We Supposed to Turn the Other Cheek?

I get this apparent contradiction all the time, and frankly it’s laughable. Like most apparent contradictions, it shows the ignorance of the contradictor.

The simple answer to the question is, YES. How can this be, they seem to be contradictory statements? They aren’t. First, we need to read the context in which they were stated and to whom they were stated. In the Old Testament the law states that one was to be paid back for ill-doings by retribution. The law was given to the Jews who lived under a theocracy. In other words the Law and religion are the same. In this context, we see that the law that the Jews followed, “An Eye for An Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth”, is exactly the same principle that our modern government uses today. However, because we no longer live in a theocracy, it is the government’s responsible to enact punishment on the ill-doer and NOT the church (generally speaking).

In the New Testament, the context had changed. Jesus was speaking to people who lived under the occupation of the Romans. In this context he states that we are to turn the other cheek. However, the Old Testament principle is still in affect, it is acted out by the governing bodies at that time. When Jesus states, “Turn the other cheek”, he is addressing the persecution that believers go through in the name of Christ. He is simply stating that we are not to respond to insults with insults as this would defeat our bigger cause. This statement has nothing to do with a governing body’s ability to punish. With that said, I don’t believe the New Testament teaches people not to defend themselves. It is speaking of insults not punches, many disagree with me on this point.

Simply put, this is no more a contradiction than saying that the freeway is contradicting it’s self for having a speed limit that changes from one part of the road to another. The speed limit changes as conditions permit.

BIBLE CONTRADICTION #6 – ANGRY FOREVER OR NOT?

“For I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever.” (Jeremiah 3:12)
“Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn forever.” (Jeremiah 17:4)

I think in order to answer this one; we need to get the entire passage and not just the commonly quoted portion.

Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith Jehovah; I will not look in anger upon you; for I am merciful, saith Jehovah, I will not keep [anger] for ever. Jeremiah 3:12

And thou, even of thyself, shalt discontinue from thy heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger which shall burn for ever. Jeremiah 17:4

I have to honestly mention that I am not an expert on Jeremiah, but I don’t think I need to be to remove the apparent contradiction. First, in neither passage is GOD stating that he will or will not be angry at every person forever under any circumstance. In other words this is not an absolute statement that is for every person. So with that said, who is GOD speaking to in these passages? In Jeremiah 3:12, He is speaking to Israel. On the other hand, in Jeremiah 17:4 He is speaking to Judah. We know that Jeremiah 17:4 is specific to Judah because Jeremiah 17:1 states:

The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, [and] with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the tablet of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;

So even if I am not entirely clear on the context of Jeremiah’s rant, I can easily see from reading the ENTIRE PASSAGE that GOD is speaking to different people.

We can see to this day that the nation of Israel is still (again) on the map and prospering while Judah is no where to be seen – whipped from the earth forever.

BIBLE CONTRADICTION #7 – WHY DID JESUS COME?

And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world.” (John 9:39)
“I came not to judge the world” (John 12:47)

Again, this is an issue of reading only a portion of the passage.

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

AND

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

In the first passage, Jesus is simply stating that He is not judging a man based on his deeds – today. That judgment will occur in the last days. At death.

In the second passage, he is referring to the judgment of those who are hearing or seeing the message. This is not HIS judgment but that of the person hearing the message. He is basically saying that the blind and weak will be able to JUDGE the truth better than the religious institutions of the day. I suggest you read the entire chapters fully as the context becomes very apparent.

BIBLE CONTRADICTION #8 – DOES GOD HAVE A FACE?

“Jacob said, ‘I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'” (Genesis 32:30)
“No man hath seen God at any time.” (John 1:18)

This is nothing more that a figure of speech. God doesn’t have a face, and He cannot be seen with human eyes. When Jacob says he saw God face to face he is saying that he has a personal, intimate relationship with God. Not that he literally saw God’s face. God has manifested Himself in many ways (burning bush, man, etc.) but since He doesn’t actually have a face, this sentence is Anthropomorphic. In John 1:18, John is stating a fact. No man has actually seen God, but His existence is all around us.

No contradiction here, just a figure of speech.

BIBLE CONTRADICTION #9 – WHO’S THE MAN?

“And Jesus coming spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
“the whole world is under control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)

Simply stated, Jesus (God) has power over all things. He has the power to relinquish evil from the earth. Jesus states that he chooses not to remove Evil from the world because by doing so, he would be removing the good as well. (The Wheat from the Chaff). So what Jesus is saying is that the world is controlled by the Devil, but Jesus is the ultimate authority.

I liken this to a prison. If you’ve ever worked in a jail or prison or spent time in one (God Forbid), it is apparent that the prison is run by the prisoners. The prisoners are usually broken up into gangs and each gang controls certain aspect of prison life (Drugs, Prostitution, Etc.). With that said, the guards are in ultimate control. They can, at any moment, snuff out the life of an inmate. The Guards have to pick their battles, and Jesus is saying the same thing.

CONTRADICTION #10 – FEAR OR LOVE WHICH IS IT?

We should fear God (Matthew 10:28)
We should love God (Matthew 22:37)
There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18)

This is funnier than anything. I laughed the first time I heard it, not because it’s ignorant, but because it’s a funny use of scripture.

These statements are all true. We should absolutely Fear God, and we should also love God. So what about the last one? Is John stating that there is no fear in love? Here’s the entire passage:

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John is talking to believers. John is telling believers that they have salvation from punishment and that they need not fear judgment. The passage is not stating that we should not fear God, but we should not fear judgment as we are saved and should feel freedom and not fear in our salvation.

CONTEXT AND MISREADING

The best advice I ever received regarding the Bible is to never read a Bible verse. Reading just a verse in scripture leaves you open to misinterpretation. Even my first state (“Never read a Bible verse”), out of context, could be deciphered to mean never read the Bible. But in context, it is clear that I am saying just the opposite. I am stating that you should read the ENTIRE BIBLE. The Bible has 66 books with over 774,736 words; you can read just about anything into it. Not only is this not courteous to those of us that are students of the Biblical texts, but it also makes you look stupid. I have found that there are some genuine difficult passages to explain, but MOST apparent discrepancies are simply ignorant responses from people that simply don’t want to accept what the Bible has to say. I ask that you be intellectually honest with yourselves. If you choose not to believe, then say you think the Bible is false, but don’t try to prove your case by taking a book that has lived up to scrutiny for thousands of years, and act like you have found something that scholars have not.

In the several years as a Christian, I have yet to have a single objection from anyone who has ever read the Bible. So read the Bible with an open mind. Remove your naturalistic bias and see what the evidence points to. If you conclude that evidence is bunk, so be it\

Lastly, I am tired. I am tired of defending my position to someone who has no idea what my position is. It seems that I am supposed to have all the answers but my critics don’t have any burden of proof. Frankly I am tired of people who are students of the DaVinci Code and think that they have the answers. I am tired of the College student who hears from a teacher that the Bible is false and accepts it without any research or reasonable thought and I am tired of those who tell me to prove my case but then fix the game with rules that make it impossible for me to win. These people say, prove that Jesus is GOD, but you can’t use the bible or anything supernatural. This is like telling me to prove that one plus one equals two without using math. Religion is the science dealing with the SUPERNATURAL. Even though we deal with the supernatural, we are scientists nonetheless. Just because I don’t understand quantum physics, or chemical titration doesn’t mean that there false! I don’t go up to a Chemist and tell him Prove that adding an acid to a base makes a neutral (titration) without using chemicals! If I did the chemist would tell me he can’t. He would think I am ignorant for not understanding his discipline. Yet, this is exactly what other scientific disciplines do to me. It not fair, and frankly I’m tired of it.

I HOPE YOU TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE TO CHALLENGE ME ON THIS. HELP ME TO FIND THE APPARENT INCONSISTENCIES AND I WILL DO MY BEST TO ANSWER THEM.

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    • hokku
    • November 17th, 2007

    You wrote:
    “All [translation discrepancies]are minor and in no way change the overall meaning. In fact many of the variants actually improve the ability of the reader to understand the bible.”

    Really? What about the difference between “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” verses “the Word was a God?” You don’t think that affects the understanding of who Jesus was? Or what about “To the Son he says, God is your throne forever” versus “To the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever?” What about the FOUR different endings of the Gospel of Mark found in the manuscripts, and the fact that the earliest manuscripts of Mark do not have an ending with post-resurrection appearances? What about the difference between calling Jesus the “firstborn of all creation” or the “firstborn over all creation,” or “preeminent over all creation”? You don’t think it is important whether Jesus is a created being or not?

    How about “All scripture is given by inspiration” versus “every inspired scripture”? You don’t think that has any bearing on the doctrine of inspiration? How about “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” versus “When God began to create the heavens and the earth.” You don’t think that affects whether creation was from nothing or from pre-existing matter? How about the vague and misleading “expanse” versus the clearly solid “firmament”? You don’t think it is important that the Hebrews thought the firmament — the sky — was SOLID?

    As for the greatly discrepant genealogies of Jesus given in Matthew and Luke, you write:

    “In other words, one genealogy shows that he was of the same blood as David as prophesied through Joseph his adopted father’s bloodline, and through Mary’s bloodline he was in line to take the kingship.”

    The problem, of course, is that nowhere is it stated that the genealogy is traced through Mary, and inheritance in Judaism was not traced through the female line, but the male.

    As for the discrepancies concerning the birth — and there are many — in Matthew there is no census that brings Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. They seem to already live there in a house. The only reason they go to Nazareth after the return from Egypt, according to the story, is that they fear retribution. And by the way, have you noticed that while Matthew has them off in Egypt, according to Luke they are off to Jerusalem for a sacrifice, then back home to Nazareth? Yet in Matthew there is no indication that Nazareth, not Bethlehem, was their home. And of course in Luke, there is no journey to Egypt.

    One could go on and on. Compare the two accounts line by line. Then stop to ponder that Mark has no birth stories at all, nor does John. And the only two that DO have them are so discrepant that neither can be trusted.

  1. Having studied under both Chassdic and Orthodox Sephardic rabbis for over 5 years, I can say this: The Jews themselves do not even take the Bible literal.

    Thats pretty sad when the guys who wrote it dont take it literal, but those who ‘adapted’ it do. (please, I do know the Christian argument, or rather first line of defense if confronted with an idea like this: I was also a Christian missionary, etc.)

    Part of the issue is the lack of understanding of Jewish culture in general, which happened back with Paul. A lot of things which were, just Jewish, did not quickly translate over and lost its relevance to the gentile audience.

    Such as the fact that Jesus spoke in parables. Why?
    Because its Jewish thing…
    Bereshit (Genesis) is the account of creation, and is by no means taken literal.
    It is taught on Pshat level. (P.R.D.S. or Pardes…paradise. Each letter is a different level of understanding.)

    For the Christian, it would suffice it to say that the Genesis account is the “Parable” level.

    We tend to forget that its only in modern times that a lot of the keys of the Bible are being revealed through modern technology & science, such as Quantum Mechanics.

    Did we expect Jesus to tell a bunch of fisherman and prostitutes (which were not afforded the same education as today) about Quantum Mechanics? (we just are not delving into it.)

    So point is simple. Forget the Word of God having mistakes. In Judaism this would be the obvious, so the next best thing is that its parables. And even more thats why there is the talmud to help make sense out of the mistakes.

    At least there honest about the inconsistencies and try to smooth it over through thought.

    I do agree with the teaching of allegories, as it has for me really hit home, so to speak.

    This argument, as well as any other, can go on for eternity. But are we missing the point?

    There is a lot we take for face value, and there is a lot we assume.
    We have already put God on our level to think we understand “Him” and that way our egos are fed all the more.

    Its not a problem that there are inconsistencies. Instead of trying to prove they dont exist, explore what this may actually be telling us.

    A lot of our reluctance to search is based on fear.
    God is not angry at you, or me…on the contrary. He loves us and love is giving the other space – even if it is to walk a path contrary to what we would have them.

    Peace

    dAlen

    • schooloffish
    • November 18th, 2007

    I WILL BE GLAD TO RESPOND TO ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS, HOWEVER YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO PROVIDE ME WITH SOME SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES BEFORE I CAN ANSWER THEM ALL. I CAN’T ANSWER ASSERTIONS….

    QUESTIONS: Really? What about the difference between “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” verses “the Word was a God?” You don’t think that affects the understanding of who Jesus was?

    RESPONSE: Most definitely it does. The problem is one of addition and a poor translation by a rejected Christian group (cult) called the Jehovah Witnesses. As I state in the paper. Most of the cults of Christianity are based on a desire to simplify the Christian message. This is an example of what I was referring to. In an attempt to simplify the trinity, the Jehovah Witnesses have added the word “A” where it simply doesn’t exist. The passage in question John 1:1 state
    En arche en ho logos kai ho logos en pros ton theon. kai theos en ho logos.

    Translated the sentence says:

    In beginning was the word and the word was with GOD and GOD was the word.
    The Jehovah Witnesses, on the other hand, add the word “a” where it simply doesn’t exist.
    Another problem with this translation is that the Bible is strictly monotheistic so any attempts to read more than one God into it would be to negate hundreds of passage that say the opposite. Certainly the Jewish, early Christians, did not think of the passage this way. It is only the Jehovah Witnesses who have predicted the end of the world many times without success that stick to this incorrect interpretation.

    QUESTION : What about the FOUR different endings of the Gospel of Mark found in the manuscripts, and the fact that the earliest manuscripts of Mark do not have an ending with post-resurrection appearances?

    RESPONSE: The long ending of Mark is tricky. First and foremost, the fact that we are debating over the authenticity of Mark is based on the fact that we have so many copies. Here’s what I believe. I tend to believe that the additions of Mark were likely added later and were not with the original manuscript. I DO believe that they are authentic, and are likely from another manuscript of Mark or oral tradition. With that said, I reject using the additions of Mark for proving my point. You are correct in stating that if you remove the long ending of Mark you lose the resurrection. However we still see accounts of the resurrection in Matthew 28:9-10, Luke 24:13-43, and John 20 and 21. So if we only saw the resurrection of Jesus in Mark, I would say you have a point. It should also be noted that vitally every modern translation has a note in it that states that the long ending of Mark is not found in the earliest manuscripts.

    QUESTION: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” versus “When God began to create the heavens and the earth.” You don’t think that affects whether creation was from nothing or from pre-existing matter?

    RESPONSE: First, let me state that I am a old earther. I do not believe that the earth is 10,00 years old. With that said, the literal translation of the passage is Bereishit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz. Which would literally be translated as, “The head of or beginning filled God the heavens and the earth”. I think it would be accurate to translate this in either way. It certainly doesn’t necessarily support the literal 6 day creation. With that said, of all the translation and with all the Hebrew Scholars overlooking the manuscripts, only one translates the words, “When God began to create heaven and earth” (Jewish Publication Society). This in itself does not contradict the fact that GOD created it simply shows that before GOD created he existed. Since all Christians believe that GOD is timeless we all believe this statement to be true. You have chosen to read into the translation what you want from it by inferring that this single translation shows that God uses evolution to create (I suspect that is your point). So YOU have the burden of proof to show that your single translation is better then my 20. So in other words you have to debunk the preponderance of the evidence working against you. Can you?

    QUESTION: How about the vague and misleading “expanse” versus the clearly solid “firmament”? You don’t think it is important that the Hebrews thought the firmament — the sky — was SOLID?

    Firmament is defined as extended surface (solid), expanse, firmament (of vault of heaven supporting waters above).

    You are correct that the Hebrews thought that the firmament was solid. So what? The Bible never says that the heavens were solid. Humans thought the world was flat and that the Sun revolved around the earth. Many of those who believed this were Christians, and they used the bible to support their incorrect conclusions. GOD’s general revelation is as important as his special revelation (Bible) and his special revelation shows that the word isn’t flat, that the Earth revolves around the Sun and the Firmament is NOT (at least now) hard. The bible never made any of these point, people did.

    QUESTION: The problem, of course, is that nowhere is it stated that the genealogy is traced through Mary, and inheritance in Judaism was not traced through the female line, but the male.

    RESPONSE: Not sure what you point is here. The passages show that Jesus is in line for the throne from both his Mother and adopted father. His linage from Mary shows that he comes from the same BLOOD as David which fulfills prophecy. This earthly kingship comes from his adopted father.

    MORE TO COME AS SOON AS YOU GET ME SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES ON THE OTHERS.

    • schooloffish
    • November 18th, 2007

    Dallen

    I agree that is it not necessary to prove that the Bible is without error get the message that God is trying to give us. However, I also don’t agree that Science has given us any reason to doubt the Bible. Quantum Mechanics doesn’t tell us anything about the creation of the universe out of nothing, nor does it explain consciousness, or morality. The problem is not science but that people choose to reject supernatural as a possible alternative. Don’t get me wrong, science should look for natural causes, we all should, when no natural cause can be found, supernatural cause should be a possible alternative. This is not the case. Scientists say we are irrational for finding a plausible alternative. I make decision based on evidence, and the Bible is the best evidence for the way thing truly are.

    I think your best point is the need for context. Jesus was, for the most part, talking to Jewish people in a Jewish country with Jewish laws. We tend to forget this when we are reading for context. In fact one of the biggest proofs for Jesus as GOD was the Jewish reaction to his teaching. They were pissed because they knew he was saying “I Am God”. Had this been said in today’s world, we’d ignore him as a wacko, but back then it was serious stuff.

    you are correct that the Jewish people to this day don’t believe the Bible. This is not surprising, if you read the Bible, they didn’t believe it when they were actually living it (see Genesis). This is not a slam of the Jewish people, we’d likely have the same reaction.

    I would love to have you comment some more on your knowledge of Jewish culture. I am fascinated with the group, and am always egar to learn from an expert.

    • hokku
    • November 18th, 2007

    You wrote, referring to John 1:1:
    RESPONSE: Most definitely it [translating “the Word was a god”] does. The problem is one of addition and a poor translation by a rejected Christian group (cult) called the Jehovah Witnesses…In an attempt to simplify the trinity, the Jehovah Witnesses have added the word “A” where it simply doesn’t exist. The passage in question John 1:1 state
    En arche en ho logos kai ho logos en pros ton theon. kai theos en ho logos.

    Translated the sentence says:

    In beginning was the word and the word was with GOD and GOD was the word.
    The Jehovah Witnesses, on the other hand, add the word “a” where it simply doesn’t exist.”

    Uh-oh — someone doesn’t know his Greek Grammar. There is no word “a” in greek — no written indefinite article, so one could hardly expect to find it! That does not mean there is no indefinite noun indicated, however, which is why we find the word “a” repeated countless times in English translations.

    There are two possible translations of the Greek of John 1:1. The usual translation “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word DOES NOT reflect the Greek text, because the first instance of “god” in Greek has a definite article (‘ho’ Theos) but the second instance DOES NOT. That means it has to be treated either as an anarthrous noun indicating quality (thus the translation “the Word was divine” OR it may be translated as is commonly done with Greek nouns lacking the article — by use of the indefinite article in English, “a” — thus the JWs preferred translation “the Word was a God.” Oddly enough, the is some support for this in the versions,namely in the Sahaidic Coptic translation, which translates the Greek into Coptic as “a god.” Which is correct? It depends on one’s theology. So this is very definitely an instance when translation makes a great deal of difference, as do the other instances I mentioned. And even you have to admit translation does make a difference in this example, which in itself destroys your original premise — that the translation differences are insignificant. They are not at all insignificant, and had great bearing on the history of Christian doctrine.

    Now, on another point. You wrote:
    You are correct in stating that if you remove the long ending of Mark you lose the resurrection. However we still see accounts of the resurrection in Matthew 28:9-10, Luke 24:13-43, and John 20 and 21. So if we only saw the resurrection of Jesus in Mark, I would say you have a point.

    The problem the absence of post-resurrection stories in Mark presents is both interesting and useful. It shows us, first of all, that the writers of Matthew and Luke could not follow the Markan framework in writing their stories, and because of that the post-resurrection narratives of Matthew and Luke diverge wildly. The same thing results from the fact that the Markan framework has no birth stories at all — Matthew and Luke had to come up with their own, and again, their two stories diverge wildly.

    So what we see here is that as long as Matthew and Luke had the Markan framework to follow, their narratives, with edition and revisions and additions, went along pretty much the same general lines. But where there was no “pattern” to follow, they greatly diverge — so much so that there is virtually no possibility of reconciling Matthew’s account of the massacre of the innocents and the flight to Egypt with Luke’s tale that Joseph and Mary just went to Jerusalem for a ritual and then back to Nazareth.

    So the fact that Mark has no birth narrative and no post-resurrection narrative means that Matthew and Luke each had to tack a prologue and an epilogue onto the Markan pattern, and that enables the careful reader to see how unreliable their accounts are. And if we throw John into the mix, we find even more divergences.

    Now another point. You wrote:
    With that said, of all the translation and with all the Hebrew Scholars overlooking the manuscripts, only one translates the words, “When God began to create heaven and earth” (Jewish Publication Society). This in itself does not contradict the fact that GOD created it simply shows that before GOD created he existed.

    Actually, that pointing and translation of the Hebrew is as early as Rashi. The important thing for the careful reader to note, however, is that Rashi’s pointing of the Hebrew, interestingly enough, puts the Genesis story into much the same pattern as ancient Near Eastern creation myths that presume a creation beginning in an environment of darkness and water — elements existing BEFORE Creation. So this could be used to support precisely the opposite of creation ex nihilo — creation out of something instead of out of nothing, and it also shows that the Genesis myth is not all that different from other Creation myths of the region. There is even the suggestion of polytheism remaining in the plurality of Elohim (literally “gods” rather than “God”) and in the words “let US create man.” So this is a potentially very significant difference in translation, again contrary to your original premise.

    On another point your wrote:
    “You are correct that the Hebrews thought that the firmament was solid. So what? The Bible never says that the heavens were solid.”

    The problem is that the firmament is heaven in Genesis — they are one and the same. Genesis teaches that the sky is solid. As Genesis 1:8 clearly says, “And God called the firmament [Hebrew raqia] heaven [Heb. shamayim]. And then God creates lights and puts them in the firmament of the heavens [Heb. be-raqia ha-shamayim]. You cannot separate the firmament from the heavens.

    The last point you made said this of the genealogy of Luke as compared to that of Matthew: “Not sure what you point is here. The passages show that Jesus is in line for the throne from both his Mother and adopted father. His linage from Mary shows that he comes from the same BLOOD as David which fulfills prophecy.” This earthly kingship comes from his adopted father.

    It seems like you are trying to argue TWO things here, neither of which answers the real problem. First, there is no evidence at all that the Lukan genealogy is that of Mary. It traces the line of Jesus through Joseph. Now, IF you argue it is the genealogy of Mary, there is, as I said, no support for that; and if on the other hand you argue that it is the genealogy of Joseph, then it diverges in many significant ways from the genealogy of Joseph given by Matthew. So either way you run into major difficulties.

    Now, as for all the other translation variants I mentioned, we can go on to those if you wish, or you can deal with the issues raised here before doing so.

    In any case, it seems to me that your basic premise regarding translation variants has already been disproved; you wrote: “All…are minor and in no way change the overall meaning. In fact many of the variants actually improve the ability of the reader to understand the bible.”

    I think the inaccuracy of that statement has already been abundantly demonstrated.

    • schooloffish
    • November 19th, 2007

    You are correct in stating that I am no Greek expert, Frankly, it’s all Greek to me. However, you will notice that I stated that “The Jews were (are) strictly monotheistic” any translation the shows a polytheism was and is flatly rejected” It simply doesn’t fit within the scope of the passage

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him [should this say them?], and without Him [them] not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him [them] was life, and the life was the light of men.

    I stick to me original premise that the variants are minor. It seems you are dealing with translation interpretations not copying errors. These misinterpretation are why we have a body of scholars to insure the best possible interpretation based on the original language and Jewish and early Christian culture.

    hokku, you know your stuff and you are quite the challenge. Feel free to continue to comment. I would like to move toward the issues of the difference in the Gospel accounts (as mentioned in your posts). Since I have a life and and job, it will likely take me a few weeks to throw up the next post.


    Seems to me like you might have written a book on this subject 🙂

    • hokku
    • November 20th, 2007

    You say the Jews were monotheists, and thus any evidence of polytheism simply “doesn’t fit within the scope of the passage.” Actually the early Hebrews were at various times polytheists and henotheists, and we still find abundant evidence of that in the Bible. Even the 1st commandment presupposes the existence of other gods, just as saying, “you shall prefer no cereal above oatmeal” presupposes the existence of other cereals. And of course archeology offers plenty of evidence on Hebrew polytheism.

    Now on to your misunderstanding of the beginning of John, which you interpret as:
    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him [should this say them?], and without Him [them] not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him [them] was life, and the life was the light of men.”

    Now, as already stated, the conventional translation does not accurately reflect the intent of the Greek, which distinguishes between “ho theos” and the creator as “theos.”
    The problem you are having is that you do not have any background in Jewish thinking of the time. As I often say, one cannot really understand John without understanding Philo — Philo of Alexandria, that is. According to Philo, there is first of all the “high” God who is removed from things; this is the equivalent of the “Father” in the language of Jesus. Then there is a second God, who is an emanation of the first — his Logos — his reason or wisdom. It is the Logos who engages materiality, the Logos who is the creator, according to both Philo and John. This Logos, being an emanation of the High God — the Father — is divine by nature, Philo’s “second God.”

    This is commonplace in early Christian theology, which considered Jesus to be not only Logos but also the creator. Read with that understanding, the prologue to John makes sense. In the beginning was the Logos [Word] and the Logos was with “ton Theon” (the High God) and theos [divine or “a god” both can make sense here] was the Logos. All things were made through him [the Logos] and without him nothing was made.”

    In short, it maintains the distinction between “ho theos” and the Logos, who is “theos” — the distinction between Jesus as the incarnate Logos and his Father.

    You wrote:
    I stick to me original premise that the variants are minor. It seems you are dealing with translation interpretations not copying errors.

    Actually, both are abundant and both at times have very significant implications for interpretation and theology, as in the examples I have mentioned. And of course I am dealing with “translation interpretations,” because that is what you stated — you wrote, “There are thousands upon thousands of variants (differences) in the translations. All, are minor and in no way change the overall meaning.” So yes, there are lots of variants in the translations, and many, as I have shown, have very significant effect on the overall meaning. But if you want to talk variant READINGS, what you call “copying errors,” then the same thing can be said about those! Not only are there numerous variant readings pertinent to the deity or lack thereof of Jesus, but we also find such examples as a WHOLE BOOK of the Bible which is found in longer and significantly shorter versions in the manuscript evidence (Jeremiah — see the Dead Sea Scrolls evidence). And of course I have already mentioned another prominent and significant example — the fact that the earliest and best manuscripts of Mark have no post-resurrection appearances of Jesus at all! I could multiply these examples if you wish, but I think you already get the point.

    And in any case, you said you want to go on to discuss the differences among the gospels. So start with the “hard” parts. Look at the birth narratives and at the resurrection stories from burial to ascension as reflected in the gospels, and in the latter case in Acts and 1 Corinthians as well. They illustrate quite well the unreliability of the accounts when compared one with another line by line, event by event.

    I look forward to your explanation of these discrepancies, and meanwhile, thanks for your hospitality.

    • hokku
    • November 20th, 2007

    One additional point:
    Your attempted solution to the huge discrepancy between Matthew and Luke (one of several) regarding the Quirinian census completely overlooks the problems of assuming that there WAS a census during the reign of Herod. Herod did his own taxing and ruled his own kingdom, and paid his tribute to Rome. So why would ROMANS be doing tax collecting when Herod was still king? Not logical.

    There is a logic to a Roman census under Quirinius in 6-7 c.e., however, because at that time the region changed from Herodian rule to being a Roman province, after the Romans banished Archelaus and took direct control –thus the reason for a census and taxation by the Romans.

    Thus the most logical assumption, given Occam’s Razor, is that Matthew and Luke simply told (made up) different stories about the birth of Jesus, and that one or both are quite mistaken about the date (leaving aside for the moment questions about whether a Jesus as described in the Bible ever really existed).

    Such a conclusion is heavily supported by the multiple discrepancies in the birth narratives, which differ so greatly that practically the only matters on which they agree are that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of parents called Joseph and Mary. But of course that immediately raises the further issues of whether Bethlehem was selected as the birthplace in order to “fulfill” what was viewed as supposed prophecy, and whether the names Joseph and Mary were chosen ultimately because Joseph was the seer who dreamed dreams and went down to Egypt and Mary (“Miryam”) was the sister of Moses.

    Note that in Matthew, Joseph and Mary seem to be residents of Bethlehem, so there is no need of a census to get them there (illogical by Roman standards in any case to have people return to the village of a distant ancestor); in Luke, however, Joseph and Mary are residents of Nazareth, so to get them to Bethlehem, Luke has to come up with an excuse — voila! The Quirinian census. But in Matthew, Joseph and Mary only come to reside in Nazareth out of fear of going back to Bethlehem, after their sojourn in Egypt that is completely overlooked by Luke, and for which Luke offers no chronological space.

    Again, the simple explanation is that Matthew and Luke (pseudonyms for whoever wrote them)were working from something like the version of Mark we have — a story of Jesus with no account of his birth and no account of post-resurrection appearances. So neither Matthew nor Mark had a Markan framework to follow in both instances — so each fabricated his own birth story and resurrection story, thus the minuscule agreements in each and the major discrepancies that reveal the real nature of the documents.

    • schooloffish
    • December 21st, 2007

    Polytheist – I would agree that there is definite evidence in the Bible for Monotheism. the most apparent instance, that comes to mind is in Genesis when the Hebrews requested the construction of the Golden Calf to worship. Clearly the Hebrews had carried some of the traditions of the Egyptian religions. However, the reaction of Moses (the spokesperson for GOD) clearly shows the motivations of early Judaism was NOT polytheistic. Moses and GOD were pissed, and GOD killed many of the offenders on the spot that very day.

    Another example of a monotheistic focus of Judaism is the Jews desire to kill Jesus and eventually his followers. Remember the Jews killed Jesus because he was claiming to be GOD. There response was “There in one ONE GOD”.

    Saul or Paul, prior to his conversion, stoned Christian belivers for preaching the Jesus was GOD.

    The shows historical instances of Polytheism, but I don’t think it is intelligently honest to say that it approves of it, or that true Judaism allows it.

    You can find So-called-Christians that Jesus was an Alien. However, Fundamental Christianity certainly doesn’t believe that.

    • hokku
    • December 21st, 2007

    You are confusing the theology of later OT revisionists with early Hebrew belief and practice. It is only later that the OT is revised toward monotheism, giving the mistaken impression that was always the case. Even archeologists will tell you it obviously was not. It would do you some good to take up reading the documentary history of the OT. It would help to clear up a lot of your misunderstandings.

    • schooloffish
    • December 21st, 2007

    The original article pertains to the reliability of scripture. I have no burden to prove extra-biblical accounts or assertions of historical revisionism. You, being a scholar (I mean this as a compliment not sarcastically) on such matter are more than welcome to defend your position of OT revisionism in this forum. In fact if you write an article on it, I’ll publish it as it’s own distinct article.

    Are you by chance an expert in the Russian Orthodox Church or do I have you mixed up with another with the same name?

    • hokku
    • December 21st, 2007

    you wrote:
    “The original article pertains to the reliability of scripture. I have no burden to prove extra-biblical accounts or assertions of historical revisionism.”

    Well, you have no burden to prove anything unless you wish to convince someone else of your viewpont. But if you are dealing with the reliability of “scripture,” it is impossible to do in a convincing manner without an analysis of the textual and manuscript history of “scripture,” and that reveals an interesting story that does nothing to support reliability.

    As for historical revisionism, we can easily see that not only in the OT, but also in the NT, specifically in the Synoptics and the Lukan and Matthaean revision of the basic Markan framework. It is all an interesting matter, and it is unfortunate that so many Christians know so little about the real nature of the writings they consider authoritative. The knowledge is out there, and all it takes is a willingness to explore it.

    By the way, happy holidays and the best to you in the New Year.

    • schooloffish
    • December 21st, 2007

    My viewpoint doesn’t include NT and OT revisionism, that’s your viewpoint and thus you not I have to prove it. You very eloquently avoided my questions.

    Marry Christmas to you too.

    • hokku
    • December 21st, 2007

    You wrote:
    “My viewpoint doesn’t include NT and OT revisionism, that’s your viewpoint and thus you not I have to prove it.”

    That is precisely my point. Your viewpoint does not include NT and OT revisionism, and that contributes to your mistaken notion of biblical reliability. And that is precisely why I suggest you do some serious study in that area. Even the manuscript tradition and its variant readings point out obvious revisionism in many cases, and that is just one small instance.

  2. It’s not us that don’t believe the Scriptures, it’s you who doesn’t understand them. All you understand is traditions of man

    • schooloffish
    • June 7th, 2008

    Hi Roy, I can make assertions too without any facts too:

    “Jesus was 1000 feet tall, and had blue hair”. The question is not who can make an assertion, but rather can these assertions be backed up with evidence. What reason do I have for believing your point of view (whatever it may be)?

  1. February 6th, 2008

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