You might find this interesting. I’ve taken the reading that my group has done on the Summa over the last ten years and started a podcast – Radio Free Aquinas. Mostly, I carve off one question per episode and walk through the objections, responses and arguments against the responses.
On Good Friday, I decided to take on Bart Ehrman’s claim that the Gospels contradict each other as to the hour of Jesus’ death and the day on which he was crucified in light of Thomas’ writing in Part III, Question 68.
You might be interested in seeing how the Angelic Doctor fares against the Doctor from the University of North Carolina.
There are, it seems to me, two mistakes fundamentalists can fall into with regard to Scripture. One is to attempt to make it The Perfect Book according to the anal-retentive standards of a flat-footed literalist. So, for instance, tying oneself in knots trying to “harmonize” things that the sacred writers are themselves fairly loosey goosey about produces reams of nonsense that prove only that the harmonizer needs to cut back on the caffeine.
Take, for instance, the Eucharistic Institution Narratives:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:22-24)
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20)
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
These are accounts of an incident that, by definition, only occurred once in the life of Jesus. The foolish reader will will be scandalized that they vary slightly in ways that are not strictly reconcilable to the reader who reads with the insistence that every single solitary word of the gospels is supposed to be the transcript of a tape recording of the events recounted. Such a fool will say, “Who even knows *what* Jesus every really said?”
A sensible reader will come away from reading these extremely similar accounts concluding that the story recounted here is very obviously a historical memory of a real event told in such a way as to capture the core of what occurred. He will also conclude (if he really is paying attention) that, as Fr. Robert Barron puts it “The Gospels have been accurately characterized as ‘passion narratives with long introductions'” and that it is therefore utterly foolish to conclude that this particular memory–which lies right at the heart of the only real news the messengers of that community had to give and the thing that drove them out to tell the entire world of their experience–is something they can’t remember. Quibble all you want about whether Jesus said “Blessed are you poor” or “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (though it’s likely he said both). But if there is anything that is historically certain, it is that Jesus took bread, broke it, give it to his disciples and said “This is my body” and took the cup saying, “This is my blood”. That gesture, and his crucifixion, and his disciple’s conviction that he was raised from the dead and that they had seen him are historical facts or no historical claim in the world is a historical fact.
There is nothing sillier than taking a massive historical fact and then trying to nibble it to death with dumb quibbles about details. It’s like people claiming that because eyewitnesses differ on the number of shots fired at Dealey Plaza, therefore JFK never existed or was never assassinated. The ne plus ultra of this kookiness is seen in the people who (seriously) argue that no planes hit the World Trade Center because (surprise) eyewitness accounts of that moment differ.
The Bible is not written to be the Big Perfect Book of Everything. It is written to relay firmly, faithfully and without error those truths God wished us to know for the sake of our salvation. Eyewitness accounts which do not record “ipssissima verbi” (the exact tape-recorded words) are not “contradictory”. They get at the gist of what happened. They can leave out details that don’t concern the author or his readers and include details that do (as, for instance, when both Paul and Luke record that Jesus said the cup is the “new covenant” and not merely the “covenant” in His blood. But varying details do not (except for flat-footed fundamentalists) “prove” the story is worthless. They merely prove that the witnesses are human beings telling about an intensely important memory in a human way. The only thing more foolish than trying to enforce a foolish hyper-consistency on such testimony is to lose your faith when you fail to do so.