10 Skeptical Principles for Evaluating the Bible

10 Skeptical Principles for Evaluating the Bible March 12, 2015

biblical analysisI recently analyzed a Jim Wallace’s “Ten Principles When Considering Alleged Bible Contradictions” (here). Spoiler: I didn’t think much of them.

But I don’t want to simply be a naysayer, so I’d like to offer my own version. Here are 10 skeptical principles for evaluating the Bible that I think are more honest than Wallace’s.

1. Don’t confuse genres

Wallace is a murder investigator, and he tries to find parallels between the analysis done by the legal system and the study of evidence in the Bible. He finds this parallel with Bible contradictions:

It’s my job, as the investigator, to determine why the eyewitnesses appear to contradict one another, even though there is no doubt the event occurred and the witnesses were telling the truth.

A murder that you’re sure happened because you’ve read the coroner’s report is quite different from a resurrection that is only a poorly evidenced story told 2000 years ago within a credulous prescientific culture.

In the case of the Bible, we don’t begin our study certain that a single word is true. It might be no more factual than the story of Gilgamesh. We have stories far removed from whatever actual events triggered them, while in a murder investigation we start with the fact of the dead body.

2. Never begin with the assumption that the Bible must be right

Making sense of the Bible isn’t easy—there are 42,000 denominations of Christianity based on different interpretations of God’s plan. The hypothesis that the Bible is wrong at a particular place needs to be one of the candidates since it sometimes makes the most sense of the evidence.

For example, consider the simplicity of the Documentary Hypothesis (that the early books of the Bible are an amalgam from four primary sources) or the Q Hypothesis (the remarkable similarities between Matthew and Luke that are not shared by Mark are explained by a written document, Q, that both authors used). Many facts are explained by few assumptions, the mark of a good theory.

If your religion demands that you begin with the conclusion that the Bible is right, you’re no longer following the evidence.

3. Science wins

For learning about reality, science has an excellent track record, while Christianity has taught us nothing. Science isn’t perfect, but it’s the best that we’ve got, and when the Bible says something that contradicts the science, what can we do but go with the discipline that delivers?

Apologists like William Lane Craig admit the value of science when he cites the Big Bang. He wants a beginning to the universe, and the Big Bang gives him that. It has the backing of famous scientists that he can quote (he likes quotes from famous scientists). Unfortunately, evolution steps on his theological toes, so he rejects it.

This nonscientist imagines himself the Judge of All Science, able to sift out the good stuff (Big Bang) from the nonsense (evolution), but with this ridiculous and ill-informed position, he has lost any standing as a commenter of science.

Laypeople like Craig and me have no option but to accept the scientific consensus where it exists. It’s not perfect, but we have nothing better.

Apologists often praise science where they can, but fall back on handwaving when the evidence is inconvenient. Beware.

4. Be consistent: use the same net to evaluate all truth claims.

Whenever you reject a pseudoscientific claim like astrology or a supernatural worldview like Islam, check to see if your reasoning would also reject your Christianity. And whenever you accept a Christian claim (the Resurrection, a Jesus miracle, the Bible’s creation story), see if your criteria would also accept similar stories from other religions. Don’t demand tough standards for the other guy but give your cherished beliefs a pass.

Prophecy is a good example. Don’t laugh at people impressed by Nostradamus or who find clues in the Bible Code or who got caught up on Harold Camping’s hysteria about the end of the world if you apply the same poor thinking to the Bible’s claims of prophecy. We all know what a good prophecy is, but Christians seem to forget that when it’s their own claims in the spotlight.

(I’ve explored prophecy claims in Psalm 22Isaiah 53, the virgin birth, and Daniel.)

5. Don’t judge competing interpretations based on your agenda. Let the Bible speak for itself.

What if the Bible seems to contradict itself? For example,

  • The Bible says that faith alone is required for salvation (Romans 3:28) but also that works are sufficient to earn eternal life (Matthew 25:31–46).
  • Jesus had a physical body after the resurrection (Luke 24:37–43). Or did he (Luke 24:31, 36)?
  • The Bible’s six-day creation story conflicts with the Garden of Eden story.

The context should be the whole Bible.

Apologists pick their way through the minefield of verses, highlighting the ones that make their case and ignoring those that don’t. I suppose they depend on their readers’ ignorance (or complicity).

Don’t make the Bible into a sock puppet that says whatever you need it to. If the Bible says contradictory things, let it speak for itself. Don’t apologize for it.

Maybe (remember rule 2) the Bible is simply wrong.

Concluded in Part 2.

A god unexamined is a god not worth believing in.
A god examined is a god not possible to believe in.
— commenter MNb

Image credit: Olga Berrios, flickr, CC


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  • Skeptical Calvanist

    5. Don’t judge competing interpretations based on your agenda. Let the Bible speak for itself.

    This is a good principle, but I do think that apologists make a good point when they suggest reading it with charity and recognizing that often not all the relevant information is there. In other words, just because it seems to contradict, if the context is somewhat ambiguous allow that the contradiction may just be apparent, and not actual.

    I see too many people that cant see the contradictory themes and narratives for the apparent contradictions in little details. You might say they can’t see the forest for the trees.

    On that note, If you ever do another post on tips for reading the Bible, I’d recommend making one something like this: Read large portions at a time, and take notes about what the story seems to be about while you do so.

    Many problems with the Bible go un-noticed because people read them one chapter at a time, often around mealtime when they are either hungry, or full and therefore somewhat less focused. Reading large portions at once and taking notes solves that.

    • Helpful reading tips, thanks.

      I do think that apologists make a good point when they suggest reading it with charity and recognizing that often not all the relevant information is there.

      Yes, I want to read the Bible fairly (though I wouldn’t say “with charity”). I realize that I’m just an amateur, and there are lots of subtleties that I don’t understand.

  • Jack Baynes

    What investigation do you conduct knowing that the witnesses are telling the truth?

    • Greg G.

      My job involves helping people troubleshoot problems with a machine and I have found I can’t assume they are telling me the truth about their symptoms or what they did that might have caused them.

  • Greg G.

    or the Q Hypothesis (the remarkable similarities between Matthew and Luke that are not shared by Mark are explained by a written document, Q, that both authors used). Many facts are explained by few assumptions, the mark of a good theory.

    I used to think that was a good theory. I argued against Mark Goodacre’s arguments. My last stronghold of resistance was why would Luke have changed the genealogy and the nativity sequences. Then I saw the problems with Matthew’s stories and could understand why Luke would have changed them.

    Then I saw The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount. by Robert I. Kirby. My conclusion is not his. When you look at how Matthew used the Old Testament verses to write prophecies, it shows that he was capable of writing material without copying verbatim. When you remove the verses that came from Mark, the Old Testament, and all those that have Jamesian ideas that were not originally attributed to Jesus (possibly why Matthew reworded them more than he did Mark), there is not much left to call Q.

    Many of the verses in Luke that match with Matthew were evidence of Q are now evidence of Luke copying Matthew.

    Then you have the Farrar-Goulder Hypothesis that Luke used Matthew without the need for a document nobody has found or referred to throughout history. That is a much neater and simpler hypothesis than the Q Hypothesis.

    • Interesting. I understand Richard Carrier is also moving in this direction (IIRC). However, I heard a recent Bible Geek podcast where Bob Price was pointing out some features where the Q hypothesis still explains things better (15-007, I believe).

      Sorry–don’t remember specifics.

      • Greg G.

        Thanks. That looks like the right program. I see it lists this question:
        “Is it true a growing number of scholars are leaving the Q
        hypothesis behind, and do you see any particular weaknesses in the
        Q-hypothesis?”

        I’ll give it a listen.

        • Greg G.

          Price’s arguments in favor of Q match my arguments from a year ago. I was glad that he didn’t use some of the arguments that assume Q is correct and asked why Luke did or didn’t do this or that.

          When he was talking about scribal assimilation, that could happen whether Matthew and Luke used Q or Luke used Matthew. It was an argument to equalize the similarities of Matthew and Luke against Mark.

          He mentioned “You say that I am” in Matthew and Luke vs “I am” in Mark but some copies of Mark have “so you say”. That doesn’t seem to favor Q over the Farrar-Goulder Hypothesis. the second Mark passage could be “scribal assimilation” but it would still require two changes in Mark to explain why Luke and Matthew match.

          About Luke turning the Magi into shepherds, I think Luke completely rejected Matthew’s Nativity and substituted his/her own. I think both used Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews for their Nativity stories but different parts for different purposes.

          For the Lukan material, a few months ago I used the list of Q material from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/q-synopsis-young.html

          For the Luke passages that have “No parallel” , I came up with the following possible origins:

          Luke 6:24-26 Reversals of Luke 6:20-23 which came from Matthew 5:3-12

          Luke 7:29-30 Agreement with preceding verses and the reversal.

          Luke 11:5-8 Matthew 7:7-11; Gospel of Thomas 94

          Luke 11:27-28 Thomas 79

          Luke 12:13-14 Thomas 72

          Luke 12:16-21 Thomas 63 but the person asking himself a question about what to do and answering it himself is something Luke likes to do.

          Luke 12:35-38 Alludes to Matthew 25:1-30, The Parable of the Ten Maidens and The Parable of the Pounds

          Luke 12:54-56 Thomas 91, Matthew 16:2-3

          Luke 14:5 comes from Matthew 12:11-12 which may come from Exodus 23:4, Deuteronomy 22:4, or Proverbs 12:10.

          Luke 14:11 Matthew 23:12 which is an expansion of James 4:10.

          Luke 18:14 Matthew 23:12 which is an expansion of James 4:10.

          Luke 15:8-10 Luke gives equal time for a woman’s version. This type of passage has led to speculation that Luke was a woman, even a well-to-do Gentile widow who lost a child.

          Luke 17:28-30 Genesis 19:1-28 imitating Matthew 24:37-39 referencing Genesis.

          Luke 22:28-30 Matthew 19:28

          I think the Gospel of Thomas preceded the other gospels, perhaps not in its complete form as we know it, and was used by them. There are so many passages that I can’t account for any other way in all four gospels that it is very unlikely that a compiler would have chosen those passages so often from the completed gospels.

          Here are some signs of Luke’s own material. Some of these came from Price himself and started me searching for the tells.

          Signs of Redaction in Luke
          Ten to one ratios.
          ◾The Parable of the Two Debtors, Luke 7:41-43
          ◾The Lost Coin, Luke 15:8-9
          ◾Cleansing the Ten Lepers, Luke 17:11-19
          ◾Parable of the Pounds, Luke 19:11-25 (starts out with ten slaves [Luke 19:13] but ends with three [Luke 19:20])
          Independent Use of the Number Five.
          ◾Elizabeth Five Month Seclusion, Luke 1:24
          ◾The Parable of the Two Debtors, One Owed Five Hundred Denarii, Luke 7:41-43
          ◾Compare with Three Hundred Denarii for Ointment in Mark 14:5
          ◾Sparrows, Five for Two Pennies, Luke 12:6
          ◾Matthew 10:29 Has Two Sparrows for a Penny.
          ◾Five in One Household Will Be Divided, Luke 12:52
          ◾Compare Matthew 10:34-36
          ◾”I Have Bought Five Yoke of Oxen”, Luke 14:19
          ◾Compare Matthew 22:1-14
          To have a protagonist with a dilemma ask a question of himself and then answer with a plan of action.
          ◾Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21
          ◾Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11b-32
          ◾Dishonest Steward, Luke 16:1-8a
          To balance miracles and lessons so that there is a second similar one with the opposite gender, the opposite between Jew or Gentile, or both, plus at least one of the pair is not from another source.
          ◾Prophetic announcement of conception
          ◾Zechariah
          Luke 1:5-38
          ◾Elizabeth
          Luke 1:39-45
          ◾Prophetic announcement of Jesus’ birth
          ◾Simeon
          Luke 2:25-35
          ◾Anna
          Luke 2:36-38
          ◾Raising from the dead
          ◾Widow’s son
          Luke 7:11-17
          ◾Jairus’ daughter
          Luke 8:49-56; Mark 5:23
          ◾Teaching the disciples
          ◾Mary and Martha
          Luke 10:38-42
          ◾Male disciples
          Luke 11:1-13; Matthew 6:9-15
          ◾Healing on the Sabbath
          ◾Crippled woman
          Luke 13:10-17
          ◾Man with dropsy
          Luke 14:1-4
          ◾Finding the lost
          ◾Shepherd and sheep
          Luke 15:3-7; Matthew 18:12-14
          ◾Woman and coin
          Luke 15:8-10
          ◾Parable on prayer
          ◾Persistent widow
          Luke 18:1-8
          ◾Tax collector
          Luke 18:9-14
          ◾At the tomb
          ◾Women
          Luke 24:1-10
          ◾Peter
          Luke 24:11-12
          ◾Deception
          ◾Ananias
          Acts 5:1-6
          ◾Sapphira
          Acts 5:7-11
          ◾Raising from the dead
          ◾Tabitha
          Acts 9:32-43
          ◾Eutychus
          Acts 20:7-12
          ◾Prophets
          ◾Agabus
          Acts 11:27-30
          ◾Philip’s daughters
          Acts 21:8-9
          ◾Powerful pagans
          ◾Simon
          Acts 8:9-25
          ◾Girl with spirit
          Acts 16:16-21
          ◾Conversion at Philippi
          ◾Lydia
          Acts 16:11-15
          ◾Jailer
          Acts 16:22-40
          Expansions of older scripture and writings.
          ◾The Good Samaritan, Luke 10:29-37; 2 Chronicles 28:15
          ◾The Friend at Midnight, Luke 11:5-8, Matthew 7:7-11
          Thomas 94
          ◾Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21; Thomas 63
          ◾The Lost Coin, Luke 15:8-9; Deuteronomy 22:1-4
          ◾Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11b-32; Deuteronomy 21:15-22:4
          ◾Dishonest Steward, Luke 16:1-8a; Deuteronomy 23:15-24:4
          Reversals of a passage
          ◾Several Reversals, Luke 1:46-55
          ◾Luke 6:24, Luke 6:20
          ◾Luke 6:25, Luke 6:21
          ◾Luke 6:26, Luke 6:22-23
          ◾Luke 7:30, Luke 7:29
          ◾Honor to the Sinful Woman vs Pharisee Host, Luke 7:36-50
          ◾Sit at Least Important Seat vs Seat of Honor, Luke 14:7-24
          ◾Lazarus vs Rich Man, Luke 16:19-31
          ◾Prideful Pharisee vs Humble Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14

        • Pofarmer

          Bart Ehrman notes that Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John are all primarily based on Mark. He also notes that the difference in Mathew and Luke amount to theological differences. The authors were attempting to make a point. I like the idea that part of the information between them might have come from the Gospel of Thomas. We’ll never figure everything out, but we can keep learning.

        • Greg G.

          I agree that the last three used Mark. I think Luke used Matthew and John. I think there is a relationship between Matthew and John but I can’t tell who used whom.

        • Very thorough, thanks. I haven’t gotten into this debate yet.

    • Here’s a suggestion: Maybe it wasn’t Luke copying Matthew, but an earlier variant of Luke copying an earlier variant of Matthew?

      I’ve read the suggestion that the Gospel of Marcion wasn’t a shortened copy of canonical Luke, as the early orthodox Christians claimed, but was an original version or a close variant of it, which canonical Luke extensively expanded on.

      The Gospel of the Hebrews is known to have been essentially a shorter (and probably earlier) version of Matthew, possibly with the birth narrative removed or shortened.

      So maybe Luke was copying the Gospel of the Hebrews or some near variant of it, rather than Matthew? Or Marcion or another short version of Luke copied and modified Hebrews, and canonical Luke expanded upon that?

      If we assume Hebrews was copied, rather than our current version of Matthew, possibly with a shorter version of Luke as an intermediate stage, wouldn’t that explain the parallels while solving the problem of the divergence in the nativity stories and the post-resurrection accounts? And rather than positing the speculative Q document, it only requires documents we know to have existed (Gospel of the Hebrews and maybe Marcion’s gospel).

      • Greg G.

        When it comes down to it, we don’t have the originals and Luke didn’t have the original Matthew or Mark. So Luke used a variant of each and what we have are variants.

        I don’t know what Marcion had or even if the information is available. I looked at Marcion’s history a few years ago but his theology didn’t interest me at the time. How would someone be able to distinguish between a shorter version of Luke from a shorter version of Matthew? Mark does not seem to have been really popular. Would someone who had never read Mark mistake it for a short Luke? Did the information come from an opponent of Marcion?

        It appears to me that Luke and John both used shorter versions of Mark. It is like early Christians would rip out offensive texts and chapter 7 appears to have angered some, perhaps where Jesus so much as calls a Gentile woman a bitch. Luke 8:4 to Luke 9:18 follows Mark 4:1 to Mark 6:46 closely but Luke 9:18 jumps to Mark 8:27 in mid-sentence. as if Luke was unaware of missing text.

        John 6 picks up at Mark 6:30 with the Feeding of the 5000 and continues through the Walking on Water and the trip to Gennesaret. In John 6:30, the crowd from Mark 6 asks Jesus the question the Pharisees ask in Mark 8:11-12. John seems to have been aware that something was missing and bridged the gap with the Bread of Life discourse.

        Both skip all of Mark 7 and the Feeding of the 4000. Luke’s copy must have had smaller handwriting because more text appears to be missing.

        Thank you for the suggestion about the Gospel of Hebrews. I plan to start comparing it with the gospels beginning this evening.

        • We don’t have copies of the Gospels of Hebrews and Marcion, but the church fathers wrote extensively about them and noted where they diverged from canonical Matthew and Luke, so it’s possible to do reconstructions (http://www.marcionite-scripture.info/Marcionite_Bible.htm looks like a useful starting reference for Marcion, since it references our sources).

          How would someone be able to distinguish between a shorter version of Luke from a shorter version of Matthew? Mark does not seem to have been really popular. Would someone who had never read Mark mistake it for a short Luke?

          Well Hebrews was said to be only 300 lines shorter than Matthew, and was similar enough that from what I’ve read it wasn’t considered outright heretical like Marcion’s gospel was. Tertullian’s writings on Marcion should shed some light on the differences with Mark.

          Your comment made me think about what made the Q hypothesis convincing to me, and it was that I hadn’t previously thought of a better explanation for why Matthew and Luke agree on so much non-Markan material but diverge so far from each other on the nativity and the post-resurrection appearances. But a route of Mark -> Hebrews -> Luke, or Mark -> Hebrews -> Marcion -> Luke would explain that divergence, with Matthew being a later variant of Hebrews that Luke didn’t have access to.

        • Greg G.

          The link goes 404. It looks like you missed the closing quotation mark in the href tag.

        • Greg G.

          The email notice displayed the message much better and I was able to extract the link:

          http://www.marcionite-scripture.info/Marcionite_Bible.htm

        • Stupid Disqus.

        • Greg G.

          From the page you gave the link to ( http://www.marcionite-scripture.info/Marcionite_Bible.htm ):

          …the ancient writers who quoted from it focused their attention mainly on the controversial passages where there were significant differences between the two versions.

          This answers many of my questions about whether it could have been Mark and the answer is “no”.

          Notes from Wikipedia:
          Pope Hyginus held the position from 138 to 142
          Cerdo was in Rome under Hyginus.
          Marcion studied under Cerdo.

          “Marcion responded by developing a di-theistic system of belief around the year 144,” according to Tertullian.

          That seems too late to me. To my mind, it sets the terminus a quo for Luke and that Marcion was working with an abridged Luke. I tend to date Luke as well into the second century but it seems more likely to me that Marcion’s text was quoting from Luke.

        • The idea of Luke-Acts as a rebuttal to Marcion has some appeal to me. But really I don’t know whether Luke copied Marcion, Marcion copied Luke, or both used a Proto-Luke.

          But the absence of a nativity story in Marcion might help explain why Luke does not seem to be aware of Matthew’s version. If Hebrews was also missing a nativity (see http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/gospelebionites.html ) then Marcion as an intermediate stage seems less necessary (alternatively, if Gospel of the Hebrews and Gospel of the Ebionites really were distinct, then Ebionites may have been the original source).

        • Greg G.

          I think Luke was very aware of Matthew’s nativity and genealogy but rejected them outright. Here are what I think Matthew’s sources were for the nativity:

          Matthew 1:18-25
          Josephus Antiquities 2.9.3
          Pregnant Wife and a Dream

          Matthew 1:22-23
          Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:8-10;
          “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
          Isaiah 8:8-10 provides “God with us.”

          Matthew 2:1-16
          Josephus Antiquities 2.9.2
          Slaughter of the Innocents

          Matthew 2:1-2
          Josephus Antiquities 17.2.4
          Wise men/ Foreknowledge

          Matthew 2:2
          Jeremiah 23:5; Numbers 24:17
          The King and the Star

          Matthew 2:6
          Micah 5:2
          “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel”

          Matthew 2:15
          Hosea 11:1
          “Out of Egypt I called my son”

          Matthew 2:16
          Josephus Antiquities 17.2.4; Wisdom 11:7; Exodus 1:22
          Herod Provoked to Mass Murder by Fear

          Matthew 2:17-18
          Jeremiah 31:15
          “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they were no more”

          Matthew 2:19-21
          Josephus Antiquities 2.9.4
          Joseph Has Another Dream

          Matthew 2:22
          Josephus Antiquities 17.11.4
          Archelaus Replaced Herod

          Matthew 2:23
          Judges 13:7
          Some Say “Nazirite”, Some Say “Nazarene”

          I think Luke was appaled by the idea that God would allow all those babies to be killed just to spare Jesus. Luke then used the first event in Antiquities of the Jews XVIII, the census, to make up a new nativity.

          For the genealogy, Luke accepts the line from Abraham to David because it is backed up by Ruth and Genesis. But Matthew 1:17 makes a big deal of fourteen generations from Abraham to David (David written in Hebrew represents “14” – 4 + 6 + 4), fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian Exile, and fourteen generations to Jesus. But Matthew seems to have counted the exile as a generation. Also Matthew omitted four generations from David to the exile. One of the generations was cursed: Jeremiah 36:29-31. Luke substituted a genealogy with God as number 1 and Jesus as number 77.

        • I can understand why Luke would make some theological changes, but it doesn’t really pass the plausibility test for me. Luke quotes almost verbatim from the supposed Q material in Matthew, making relatively small theologically-desirable changes when necessary; but he rejects the start and end of Matthew entirely, retaining not even a single detail? And the material he rejects happens to be exactly the material missing from the start and end of Mark? It’s possible, but it seems a bit too inconsistent an approach to his source, and a bit too much of a coincidence.

          Obviously if there were one or two intermediate stages of the kind I’ve suggested, this objection would pretty much disappear. I think it’s possible that in the attempt to connect the canonical synoptics, the role of known apocryphal synoptics has been neglected.

        • Greg G.

          Matthew used Mark which was in Greek so the original
          Matthew was in Greek. That means the gospels that were in Hebrew that are similar to Matthew were translations of Matthew. Luke’s Greek wording agrees with Matthew’s Greek where both disagree with Mark. That means Luke was using Matthew and not the gospels written in Hebrew.

          It seems less likely to me that the two gospels that have either a nativity or a genealogy would have both if those two authors came up with each concept independently. That would imply that one was aware of the other’s prequel. If the one that was aware of the other’s but didn’t use it, then it seems like a rejection of each part of the other’s prequel.

          In a response here someplace recently, I listed some tells that are unique to Luke such as an additional but similar story that includes a Gentile and/or a woman to the stories involving Jewish men. When Baby Jesus is taken to the temple, he gets raves from a prophet and a prophetess. That is typical of Luke which makes the whole nativity story seem to be a part of the whole.

          Luke may have been accustomed to Mark but intrigued by parts of Matthew. Luke 3 through Luke 6:19 follows from Mark 1 to Mark 3:19, mostly in order with a couple of Mark 6 passages included as if grouped by topic.

          Luke 6:20 to Luke 7:35 is the Sermon on the Plain which draws from Matthew. I think the passages are grouped by topic. (I will have to look at that later. I enjoy getting challenged because I look at the stuff in greater detail.) The rest of Luke 7 follows Mark 14:3-9.

          Luke 8 through Luke 9:18a follows Mark 4 through Mark 6:46 fairly closely minus the Mark 6 passages used earlier. Luke 9:18 skips to Mark 8:27 in mid-sentence. I have mentioned that elsewhere that it seems that Luke’s copy of Mark had Mark 7 missing. Luke continues with Mark until Luke 9:50 covers Mark 9:41.

          Luke 10 to Luke 18:14 is the central section that has been shown to follow Deuteronomy. New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price discusses this and gives a reference to C. F. Evans. Luke uses snippets from Matthew and Mark sporadically to complement the topic. IIRC, this section is the quest to reach Jerusalem.

          Luke 18:15 picks up at Mark 10:13 and follows Mark closely to the end of Mark. The tomb scene of Matthew and Luke follow Mark with Matthew having an angel and Luke ups it to two angels, possibly referencing 2 Maccabees 3:26.

          Matthew has Jesus appear to repeat what the angel said about them seeing Jesus in Galilee, which makes a liar out of the angel. Matthew then has the story about bribery of the guards. Luke doesn’t have these unless the Road to Emmaus is a correction of the appearance of Jesus at the tomb.

          Luke 24:47-49 looks a lot like Matthew 28:18-20.

          Except for some of Jesus’ discourses, Luke doesn’t seem to follow Matthew very much unless Matthew happens to be following Mark.

          For these reasons, I think the Hebrew gospels are derivative of the canonical gospels.

        • Matthew used Mark which was in Greek so the original Matthew was in
          Greek.

          I agree.

          That means the gospels that were in Hebrew that are similar to
          Matthew were translations of Matthew.

          Not necessarily (assuming you mean our current, canonical Matthew). I think it’s just as likely that the Gospel of the Hebrews was itself originally in Greek. It then got translated into Hebrew/Aramaic, and the Greek original got expanded a little to become our current Gospel of Matthew. Parts of Matthew are suggestive of two stages of development, which would imply the existence of a shorter, earlier version of Matthew; Hebrews would fit this. Given the known existence of multiple versions of Matthew, we shouldn’t assume that our current version is the first, or that it was the version used by Luke.

          Luke’s Greek wording agrees with
          Matthew’s Greek where both disagree with Mark. That means Luke was using
          Matthew and not the gospels written in Hebrew.

          Again, totally agree, but if the Gospel of the Hebrews was originally written in Greek then it doesn’t really matter.

          I’m starting to get slightly wary that I may be gradually venturing into the realms of pedantry. I think we agree on the probability that Luke used some version of Matthew, and that version was written in Greek; it’s essentially a question of how close that version was to our current version, and what if anything was missing from it.

          It seems less likely to me that the two gospels that have either a
          nativity or a genealogy would have both if those two authors came up
          with each concept independently.

          If Luke-Acts was a rebuttal to Marcionism, as I suspect, then the addition of a genealogy and nativity would be a quite natural attempt to emphasise the relation of Jesus to Judaism and his place as a Jewish Messiah, against the claims of Marcion.

          Matthew has Jesus appear to repeat what the angel said about them seeing
          Jesus in Galilee, which makes a liar out of the angel. Matthew then has
          the story about bribery of the guards. Luke doesn’t have these unless
          the Road to Emmaus is a correction of the appearance of Jesus at the
          tomb.

          Since Luke seems to make an effort to keep all of the post-resurrection appearances in Jerusalem, it makes sense for him to remove those verses anyway, due to their referring to appearances in Galilee.

          I’ll probably take a closer look at your references later; if Luke 24:47-9 is indeed related from Matthew 28:18-20, then I think that would make a derivation from Hebrews much less likely.

        • Greg G.

          It’s way past my bedtime so I’ll try to be brief.

          I just don’t see any parts of Matthew that don’t have a source that can be explained better by adding the Gospel of Hebrews. Some of the verses where they are similar clearly came from Mark and Matthew has about 45% of Mark verbatim. That tells me that GHebrews is derived from Matthew.

          If the first two chapters of Luke were written to make Jesus look Jewish, the genealogy doesn’t work. Luke uses names like Mattathias over and over which makes it look like Jospehus’ genealogy and his tree goes back to the Hasmodeans. There is a second name also repeated in both Luke’s and Josephus’ genealogies but I’m too sleepy to continue.

          Good night!

        • The use of Hasmonean names may simply be a result of Luke trying to fill the gap between Nathan and Jesus by using names from Maccabees and Josephus, although I don’t know enough of the details of either one to be remotely sure about that. The main objective of Luke would have been to establish Jesus as a descendant of David, confirming him as the Son of David and hence the Jewish messiah, in opposition to Marcion.

          Bob Price’s review here summarizes how the conflicting depictions of St Peter in Matthew suggest an intermediate stage of development.

          http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/reviews/nau_peter_matthew.htm

          Jesus’ command in Matthew 10 not to preach to the gentiles is unlikely to have been written by the same person who put the words of the Great Commission into Jesus’ mouth at the end of the gospel, which also suggests a 2-stage development. Hebrews as a shorter and earlier variant of Matthew would be a good fit for the intermediate stage or a separate derivation of that stage. Since it is so similar to Matthew, Luke’s use of Hebrews would explain the parallels between Matthew and Luke pretty much as well as a direct copying from Matthew would. The likelihood that Hebrews lacked some of the material at the start of Matthew is something I see as a bonus; since the divergence between the early chapters of Matthew and Luke is one of the motivations for positing Luke’s use of Q rather than Matthew, the existence of a variant of Matthew without those parts (ie Hebrews) would neatly address the objection.

          The use of Hebrews as a “Jewish gospel” by Luke would also fit in with the ideas of Luke-Acts as a catholicizing document, and one rebutting the ideas of Marcion by combining his gospel with Jewish-Christian material. (Edit: after looking a bit more, I don’t think this works. There’s far too much Q material in Marcion.)

          That’s pretty much my case, and I don’t think there’s actually that much disagreement here really; it’s pretty much the same as your case, but with a slightly different variant of Matthew.

        • Greg G.

          Luke used Josephus as an encyclopedia and a muse. It is not surprising to see Josephean names being used in the genealogy. I was looking for a source with names from that part of the genealogy in Luke and guessed Josephus might have something. I was surprised that it was Josephus’ own tree, though, and there were more similarity in the names than I expected. Yes, it was all about establishing Jesus as a descendant of David but both had to use a phony genealogy.

          From the Price review:

          Thus he posits an intermediate stage between Mark and Matthew. Matthew does reflect a post- (or non-) Markan veneration and elevation of Peter,

          Could not the intermediate stage also be an intermediate stage of apostolic succession that second century groups used as their bona fides and Matthew was addressing something like that?

          You make a good point comparing Matthew 10:5 and Matthew 28:19. I have Galatians 2:7-9 associated with Matthew 10:5-6 which would apply to the disciples not going to the Gentiles. But what has Paul fired up in Galatians is that the Jerusalem apostles are no longer following that. Matthew 28:19-20 appears to be based on Mark 13:10 .

          I have presented reasons why Luke would reject Matthew’s genealogy and nativity and substitute for them. Seeing so many ideas from the Epistle of James reworked into Jesus’ discourses (The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount. by Robert I. Kirby), I think eliminates the necessity of the Q document.

          The examples of the Gospel of Hebrews that I saw could go either direction on first glance. But when the Matthew side of the parallel is much like his use of sources that he used extensively, I think it favors that Matthew came before GHebrews. Perhaps Luke was not the first author who was turned off by the problems of the Matthean genealogy and the brutality of the Slaughter of the Innocents.

        • The examples of the Gospel of Hebrews that I saw could go either direction on first glance. But when the Matthew side of the parallel is much like his use of sources that he used extensively, I think it favors that Matthew came before GHebrews.

          From the descriptions given by the Church Fathers, Hebrews and Matthew were so similar that I think it’s pretty much impossible to resolve it one way or the other until someone digs up a copy of Hebrews that we can comb for subtle clues. But it pretty neatly solves some issues that Q advocates have with Farrer-Goulder, so I think it’s likely that Luke was using a Greek language original of either Hebrews or a similar Jewish-Christian variant of Matthew.

          It would also help explain the difference in the post-resurrection stories. Hebrews probably had Jesus’ first appearance to the apostles be an appearance to James, and Luke would have wanted to replace that with an appearance to Peter first.

          I don’t think we’re really going to come to an agreement on this, because there’s not really an objective way to demonstrate which of us (if any) is right. We each find slightly different ideas more plausible and I don’t see a good way to change that, since it’s possible that either one of us is right. We’re essentially disagreeing over which variant of Matthew was used, so most of the evidence could go either way.

      • Pofarmer

        Holy crap.The amount of Biblical knowledge on these atheist sites is, quite honestly, kinda staggering.

        • Don’t tell Wick Samuel that. He’ll have to step down from his ivory tower to school you with the back of his hand.

          And to your first sentence, yes to both–holy and crap.

        • Pofarmer

          Ivory tower? Ha, ha, ha ha hahahahahahahahahaha.

        • I actually became more interested in Biblical history after I left Christianity. The Bible simply doesn’t make sense from a Christian perspective. When you look at it skeptically, the “problems” turn into illuminating facts, and you can use them to make inferences about the history of the Bible and explain why it is exactly the way it is.

          To a Christian, the differences between Matthew and Luke are an inconvenience to be rationalised away. To me, they are a way to understand the Bible’s history. That means that I can explain why Matthew and Luke are different where they are different, and similar where they are similar, while a Christian cannot. I’ve got a window into history that I simply couldn’t have as a Christian.

        • Greg G.

          Wow. Did I write that or did you? In my case, it took about 30 years from when I left Christianity before I took up an interest in the history of the Bible.

      • Greg G.

        We have only snippets of the Gospel of Hebrews preserved in the early writings. I looked at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/gospelhebrews-throck.html

        It seems to me that the Gospel of Hebrews draws from Matthew and Luke. The corresponding verses in Matthew that are Markan parallels are more like Mark. The other Matthew parallels are based on verses from the Epistle of James. There is also a passage that parallels a passage from Luke and that passage appears to be an amalgamation of Elijah’s ascension in 2 Kings 2 and Moses ascension in Josephus.

        Jerome claims to have translated this gospel from Hebrew to Latin and Greek. Mark was written in Greek and Matthew often follows Mark verbatim, so it was in Greek, too, not to mention quoting from the Septuagint. If Jerome is telling the truth, the Gospel of Hebrews may have been a translation of Matthew and Luke into Hebrew.

        Matthew 3:13
        Mark 1:9
        There is an apparent increasing uncomfortableness with Jesus being baptized for the remission of sins, as in Mark 1:4. Matthew has John ask permission from Jesus. John implies Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist without actually saying it. Luke moves the story of John arrest to immediately before Jesus was baptized. The Gospel of Hebrews amps it up further.

        Matthew 3:16-17
        Mark 1:9-11 > Ezekiel 1:1; Psalm 2:7

        Matthew 4:8
        Matthew 4:1-11 is an expansion of Mark 1:12-13 with quotes from the Septuagint Deuteronomy (6:13, 16; 8:3) and Psalm 91:11-12.

        Matthew 5:23
        James 5:16
        From the Sermon on the Mount sequence that draws on several James verses.

        Matthew 7:7
        James 1:5; Thomas 2; Thomas 92; Thomas 94

        Matthew 11:29
        James 4:6-7; Thomas 90

        Luke 24:50-53 Jesus’ ascension
        2 Kings 2 > Elijah’s ascension & Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 5.1.48 > Moses’ ascension

        I find this very interesting:

        (From The Other Bible)

        (Clement, Stromateis 5.14.96.3)

        To those words (from Plato, Timaeus 90) this is equivalent: He that seeks will not rest until he finds; and he that has found shall marvel; and he that has marveled shall reign; and he that has reigned shall rest.

        I may have to read Plato to see how many Gospel of Thomas sayings come from that writing besides Thomas 92 & 94. I think Mark invented the Bartimaeus character on Plato’s Timaeus character to represent followers of other Greek religions jumping on the Jesus bandwagon.

        • Look also at the entries for the Gospel of the Ebionites and the Gospel of the Nazareans. There seems to be some doubt as to whether they were all the same gospel, or separate gospels which the early writers were confusing together. EarlyChristianWritings settles fairly firmly in the latter camp, but I’m not so sure, and all three are referred to as the Gospel of the Hebrews. I advise looking at the quotes in all three sections and deciding for yourself what goes where.

          (ETA: Whatever the number of gospels, it is far from clear which quotes go with which gospel, and any of them could have been a source for Luke. Someone really needs to dig up a copy.)

          It seems to me that the Gospel of Hebrews draws from Matthew and Luke.

          Unfortunately it may be difficult to tell what is the source of what. The evidence for Hebrews drawing on Matthew and Luke may be indistinguishable from Matthew and Luke using Hebrews as a common source.

          Jerome claims to have translated this gospel from Hebrew to Latin and Greek.

          I think it likely that Hebrews was originally in Greek, and the Hebrew (/Aramaic) translation became more widespread due to its use in Jewish Christian communities. Jerome then retranslated it back into Greek, not knowing the original of the Hebrew version he was reading was itself Greek.

        • Greg G.

          Unfortunately it may be difficult to tell what is the source of what. The evidence for Hebrews drawing on Matthew and Luke may be indistinguishable from Matthew and Luke using Hebrews as a common source.

          It is difficult to determine who copied whom. But if Matthew is known to copy Mark verbatim and a passage in Matthew matches Mark very closely, it seems pretty obvious that Matthew got the verse from Mark and that if the other gospel has a Matthean addition to it, then the other gospel had to have taken it from Matthew. If most of the passages are 50-50 but one shows a definite direction, then it follows that all of them probably go that direction.

          I think it likely that Hebrews was originally in Greek, and the Hebrew (/Aramaic) translation became more widespread due to its use in Jewish Christian communities. Jerome then retranslated it back into Greek, not knowing the original of the Hebrew version he was reading was itself Greek.

          I agree but I think the Greek original was probably mostly Matthew with some Luke.

          From Gospel of the Ebionites, the examples given look like Matthew taking the passages from Mark and the Markan verses are typical of Mark’s construction.

          The passage from Luke is full of material from Luke which looks like typical Lukan construction to me.

          From Gospel of the Nazoreans:

          Matthew 12:10: “And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him.”

          To Matt. 12:10 cf. Gospel of the Nazaraeans (in Jerome, Commentary on Matthew 12:13)–In the Gospel which the Nazarenes and the Ebionites use, which we have recently translated from Hebrew to Greek, and which most people call the authentic [Gospel] of Matthew, the man who had the withered hand is described as a mason who begged for help in the following words: “I was a mason, earning a living with my hands; I beg you, Jesus, restore my health to me, so that I need not beg for my food in shame.”

          This tells me that the Gospel of the Ebionites and the Gospel of the Nazaraeans were probably the same but the bit about the authentic Matthew distinguishes it from the Matthew we have. Our Matthew was written in Greek originally because of its dependence on Mark and the Septuagint. These two Gospels and you might toss in the Gospel of the Hebrews were probably translated versions of the original Matthew. Papias said that Matthew wrote something that his group had trouble translating because it was in Hebrew or Aramaic. Who knows what it was but it made everybody think Mattew was written in Hebrew and was the original gospel. When they started looking for it, they thought this trinity was the original Matthew. That is probably how it got its name. They also concluded that Mark was an abridged version of the original Matthew.

          I had that opinion of how Matthew and Mark got their names and why tradition was Matthean priority. These few hours of reading supports that idea, but I’m open to other interpretations of the evidence. I may form my own opinions but I prefer to steal them from people smarter than me.

        • a passage in Matthew matches Mark very closely, it seems pretty obvious that Matthew got the verse from Mark

          How certain can we be that it wasn’t the other way around–Mark being a summary/distillation of Matthew?

        • Greg G.

          What convinces me the most is where they don’t match up. It seems more likely that Matthew would omit the naked boy in Gethsemsane, eliminate spit miracles, make miracles instantaneous, alter verses like those that suggest Jesus needed to be baptized for the remission of sin, reconcile verses that suggest Jesus lived in Capernaum instead of Nazareth, ruin allusions that work in Mark but not in Matthew and such.

          The name Bartimaeus teaches the readers that “bar” means “son of” and later the readers are given “Abba, Father” to associate those words. Then we meet Barabbas and we know that he is also the “Son of the Father” adding the scapegoat scenario to the Passion sequence. Matthew has a diminished role for Bartimaeus, pretty much an uncredited cameo so the Barabbas story loses its meaning.

          It makes sense that Matthew would alter those thing for theological reasons. When we turn it around, we are faced with why Mark would have added and altered those things while omitting the Sermon on the Mount, for example.

        • Interesting, thanks.

        • The passage from Luke is full of material from Luke which looks like typical Lukan construction to me.

          If this is indeed taken from Luke, it seems odd to me that it would apparently exclude the detail of John being related to Jesus. I don’t know if the Ebionites had any reason to do this, but from my limited knowledge they did not.

          I also find it somewhat implausible (but not impossible) that the Ebionites or a related group would have made any direct use at all of the Gospel of Luke.

          The names of John’s parents are also present in the Mandaean Book of John (the Baptist), which suggests to me that they did not originate with Luke but came from an earlier tradition. So that detail does not necessarily imply a copying from Luke’s Gospel.

          I don’t know enough to assess the type of language used in the passage, so you may know better than me if the phrasing is particularly Lukan.

          This tells me that the Gospel of the Ebionites and the Gospel of the Nazaraeans were probably the same but the bit about the authentic Matthew distinguishes it from the Matthew we have.

          I little further reading is starting to convince me that most of them were reading the same gospel, but Epiphanius had something different. He even mentions the Nazareans having a gospel which is different to and more similar to Matthew than the version he is reading. (Quoted here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/gospelhebrews-mrjames.html “They have the Gospel according to Matthew quite complete, in Hebrew: for this Gospel
          is certainly still preserved among them as it was first written in
          Hebrew letters. I do not know if they have even removed the genealogy
          from Abraham to Christ.”) Either gospel could have been used as a source for Luke, though Epiphanius’ one would be more help in solving the problem of divergence in the early chapters between Luke and Matthew.

          When they started looking for it, they thought this trinity was the original Matthew. That is probably how it got its name.

          I have vague memories of hearing that the name “Matthew” is similar to the Aramaic for “disciple”. It might just be a Greek-speakers’ misunderstanding of “Gospel of the Disciples” or something similar.

        • Greg G.

          Well, I had quite a bit here but shifting the orientation of my phone made the page rewrite and it was all lost. I’ll have to get to it in the morning on my laptop.

          I need to sleep to celebrate Pi Day tomorrow. I’m going to stuff some pie in my pie hole at 3/14/15, 9:26:53, AM and PM.

        • Greg G.

          I think John the Baptist is a character invented by Mark. Several characters seem to be based on a character from another writing but seasoned with an OT reference or two to make them kosher, so to speak. When we meet a historical character, Pilate, IIRC, the OT allusions relate to Jesus.

          Legion is based on the Cyclops from The Odyssey. MacDonald gives many coincidences between the stories but I think he missed the most obvious one. The Cyclops name is Polyphemus, which means “famous” because it literally means “many talk about” (“poly-” and in polygon and “=phemus” as in blasphemy). Mark has the demonaic say, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” The Greek word for “many” is “polys.” “Legio” is a Latin word for many soldiers. It is apparent why he chose that word when you look at the verse in Greek. The word for “said” is “lego” and is the word immediately before “Legio”. It’s like Mark was really trying to tell his readers that Legion represents Polyphemus. It would be as obvious to a Greek reader in the first century as John Goodman’s eyepatch in O Brother! Where Art Thou?“. Then add descriptions derived from:

          Isaiah 65:4
          who sit inside tombs,
          and spend the night in secret places;
          who eat swine’s flesh,
          with broth of abominable things in their vessels;

          Psalm 107:10
          Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
          prisoners in misery and in irons,

          Bartimaeus is like Tiresias, the blind seer from The Odyssey. “Timaeus” is the name of a character of Plato. His description comes from excerpts of Isaiah 35:5-8 (LXX):

          “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened”

          “then shall the lame man leap like a hart”

          “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the holy way”

          John the Baptist appears to come from the Sumerian god “Enki”, aka “Oannes”, who is like a centaur but as a fish instead of a horse. He taught civilization to men by day on land and returned to the water at night. The name “Oannes” transliterates to “Ioannes” in Greek which transliterates to “John” in English. The transliteration chain through Hebrew to English would be “Jonah”, but that’s another story. So Oannes is reversed to rejecting civilization and taking people into the water. Then add quotes and allusions to Malachi 3:1; Exodus 23:20; Isaiah 40:3-5; Leviticus 11:21; 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4. Voila!

        • I think John the Baptist is a character invented by Mark.

          I completely disagree on this. The reference to him in Josephus provides a non-Christian confirmation of his existence, and I haven’t seen any good evidence of Josephus using Christian sources in his work.

          Equally important is the place of John the Baptist in the Mandaean religion, which I believe to be a continuation of the original cult of John the Baptist. The Mandaeans’ complete rejection of Jesus (similar to that of early Christian-era Jews) is difficult to reconcile with the idea of their beliefs being entirely derived from a Christian source.

          Ritual washing and immersion is a common enough practice throughout the world, including in the Jewish tradition. John’s baptism would be a natural development of that, and the idea of development from the Oannes myth seems tentative in comparison. John was a common enough name in the Mediterranean that I don’t think it requires any explanation.

          In my opinion, Christianity was an offshoot of the cult of John the Baptist. This would explain why Jesus is given the title of Nasorean, which is the title used among priests of the Mandaeans. The Gospels’ depiction of John was largely a rebuttal to John’s followers, emphasising that Jesus was more important than John. This makes sense of several statements about John, including the use of Isaiah to depict John as merely preparing the way for Jesus rather than being important in his own right.

        • Greg G.

          I used to think Josephus may have read Mark. But then I looked a little closer at the evidence and I now think the John the Baptist passage, the James, brother of Jesus, and the Testimonium Flavianus are forged.

          The John the Baptist passage looks very clumsy. From Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.2:

          Accordingly he[JtB] was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death.

          The place that Josephus mention Macherus was the previous paragraph:

          So Antipus, when he had made this agreement, sailed to Rome; but when he had done there the business he went about, and was returned again, his wife having discovered the agreement he had made with Herodias, and having learned it before he had notice of her knowledge of the whole design, she desired him to send her to Macherus, which is a place in the borders of the dominions of Aretas and Herod, without informing him of any of her intentions. Accordingly Herod sent her thither, as thinking his wife had not perceived any thing; now she had sent a good while before to Macherus, which was subject to her father and so all things necessary for her journey were made ready for her by the general of Aretas’s army; and by that means she soon came into Arabia, under the conduct of the several generals, who carried her from one to another successively; and she soon came to her father, and told him of Herod’s intentions

          The forger must have only read the first mention of Macherus and not the one that said it was under control of Herod’s ex-father-in-law who defeated him in battle. That is a clumsy thing to have written.

          The passage about John begins with “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” and ends with “Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.” The forger seems to be borrowing to imitate Josephus. From two chapters later we have “And thus did God punish Herodias for her envy at her brother, and Herod also for giving ear to the vain discourses of a woman”. It seems unlikely that Josephus would write about God punishing Herod for killing a Holy man by having his army defeated but then say that Herod was punished by God by having everything taken from him just for listening to his wife. So that is two clumsy things, totaling three.

          Mark 1:4 says that John’s baptism was for the remission of sins. The later gospels seem embarrassed by that once they have Jesus as holy from the beginning. Matthew has John ask to be baptized by Jesus but Jesus says it is OK. The Gospel of John has John describing what happened in Mark but doesn’t actually say he baptized Jesus. Luke just hppened to move the report of John’s arrest from Mark 6 to immediately before the verse that says Jesus was baptized. If Jesus was adopted by God at baptism, Mark is OK but the theology changed before the next round of gospels so it was embarrassing. So we find:

          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

          So we find the perfect negation of Mark in Josephus. How did that get in there? That is the fourth clumsy item.

          The paragraph prior to the JtB passage ends with “So Herod wrote about these affairs to Tiberius, who being very angry at the attempt made by Aretas, wrote to Vitellius to make war upon him, and either to take him alive, and bring him to him in bonds, or to kill him, and send him his head. This was the charge that Tiberius gave to the president of Syria.” The first sentence of the next paragraph is “So Vitellius prepared to make war with Aretas, having with him two legions of armed men; he also took with him all those of light armature, and of the horsemen which belonged to them, and were drawn out of those kingdoms which were under the Romans, and made haste for Petra, and came to Ptolemais.”

          There is no real reason to put the JtB passage here. It is like it was inserted here because the gospels associate Herod with JtB.

          It appears to me that this insertion was forged around the time the later gospels were being written. Origen attests to it in the third century.

          I think baptism-like rituals were probably common.

          I think the early Christians thought of Jesus having been on earth, not as a teacher or a preacher, centuries before and that Jesus was coming back as the Messiah during their lifetimes.

        • Even if Josephus really didn’t mention John, you still need to explain the Mandaeans, including explaining why they venerate John the Baptist but view Jesus as a deceiver, and why they use terminology that points to a first-century-Jewish origin.

        • Greg G.

          Ehrman’s Lost Christianities describes how diverse early Christianity was. There was a Gospel of Judas Iscariot where Judas and Jesus were in cahoots to bring about the crucifixion. An infancy gospel describes baby Jesus as like one of the Children of the Corn.

          The Epistles have no teachings of Jesus but Mark has some and the other Gospels supplement those. John the Baptist has more to say in the later gospels and may have gained dialogue in other writings.

          2 Peter 2:16
          16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.

          The author of 2 Peter must know of people who thought early Christianity was “cleverly devised myths”.

          Islam has a different idea about Jesus, too.

          From those, it is not hard to imagine that there were some writings that Jesus was actually bad and that John had better teachings. Just as no modern Christian denomination actually mirrors any second century version of Christianity, I doubt modern Mandaeans have the same beliefs as the first Mandaeans.

        • From those, it is not hard to imagine that there were some writings that Jesus was actually bad and that John had better teachings

          As diverse as early Christianity was, they all had some level of reverence for Jesus. It’s not hard to see how someone viewed as a human prophet by some could become deified by others. That doesn’t really allow extrapolation to the idea that a sect could start off revering Jesus and develop that reverence into the exact opposite belief.

          The far more obvious parallel is to the Jewish anti-Christian writings, where we see a similar reaction: Jesus viewed as a false prophet corrupting earlier teachings, as with the Mandaeans.

          Just as no modern Christian denomination actually mirrors any second century version of Christianity, I doubt modern Mandaeans have the same beliefs as the first Mandaeans.

          Perhaps not, but their beliefs and writings can still give us useful insight into the earlier sect, just as the New Testament and even the Koran can preserve indications of the state of earlier Christianity.

          The existence of a sect of John the Baptist separate from Jesus is attested in the Gospels (Matthew 11, Luke 7, possible Acts 18:25 and 19:2-3). They are described as having customs that differed from those of Jesus’ disciples (Mark 2:18 and synoptic parallels). If John is just an invention who is supposed to make way for Jesus, why would he be depicted as having an independent following? The gospels should have Jesus completely taking over John’s movement.

          The existence of this sect is also attested in pseudo-Clement:

          http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf08.vi.iii.iii.lx.html

          According to Origen, the Jews of his time viewed John the Baptist as a figure separate from Christianity, suggesting he was part of a separate movement. “For the Jews do not connect John with Jesus, nor the punishment of John with that of Christ.” (Contra Celsus Book I Chapter 48)

          http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04161.htm

          And of course the reference in Josephus, if it’s not an interpolation as you suppose. If it is one, I find it odd that a Christian would interpolate a reference to John but not insert any mention of Jesus (since this reading is attested by Origen, and the Testimonium Flavianum was likely inserted later than this). The incompatibilities between this account and the one in the gospels suggests a non-Christian origin, whether or not it is an interpolation.

          I find it implausible to suppose that this sect has been entirely invented by Christians, for no obvious purpose and leading to theological problems that the gospel writers had to deal with; only for that sect to be, entirely coincidentally, later replicated in reality. And of all the places where such a sect could have developed, it happened to be among the Levantine Aramaic-speakers who John was said to have preached to; fortuitously ensuring it would be more easily mistaken for the original sect.

          Assuming the Mandaeans are a genuine development of John’s original sect answers several questions about early Christianity and about Mandaeanism itself. It fits fairly neatly into what we already know about Christianity, without creating any obvious problems. With both early references and an extant Aramaic-speaking movement, it’s difficult to imagine what more evidence one could reasonably ask for the proposition that a sect of John the Baptist existed. And as far as I can tell, there’s no real evidence against it.

  • SteveK

    >> “Unfortunately, evolution steps on his theological toes, so he rejects it.”

    The NAS maintains that there is no incompatibility problem between religion and evolution – and I suspect Craig knows this very well – so Craig is likely rejecting a popular non-scientific view of evolution that the NAS would also find to be problematic.

    “Acceptance of the evidence for evolution can be compatible with religious faith.”
    http://www.nas.edu/evolution/Compatibility.html

    • Greg G.

      Of course, any scientific findings can be compatible or incompatible with religious faith but that is dependent on the religion.

      • SteveK

        True. You have to wonder about Bob sometimes.

    • ajginn

      Interesting. So given that the Bible states that all animals ate plants before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, how does this square with evolutionary theory that predator and prey have engaged in an evolutionary arms race for hundreds of millions of years? What plants did T-Rex eat? The black widow? The lamprey?

      • SteveK

        I have no idea.

        • ajginn

          Well, at least you’re honest about that. I can’t see any way that Christianity and evolution can co-exist. Do you believe that T-Rex only ate plants before the Fall? If so, why all the six-inch daggers in its mouth?

        • I’ve heard some Creationist (with Ken Ham’s Creation Museum?) say that the big teeth were to open coconuts.

          See? Everyone was helping each other in Paradise.

        • ajginn

          Yes. The T-Rex opened coconuts and threw them in the ocean for the lampreys to suck the juicy goodness from the innards. Seems legit.

        • Scott_In_OH

          Yes. The T-Rex opened coconuts and threw them in the ocean

          Ha! I’m imagining T-Rex heaving coconuts way out into the ocean–with those itty-bitty arms.

        • Kodie
        • T-Rex can’t do pushups …

        • SteveK

          From a naturalistic perspective, I can see how you arrived at this conclusion.

        • ajginn

          Actually, I was an evangelical Christian for over thirty years. I taught Bible studies to all ages for over twenty years. I was chariman of deacons at my Southern Baptist church on two occasions.

          I arrived at this conclusion by confronting the logical and philosophical knots that one must tie oneself in to take the Bible seriously about what it says and accepting that it is just another collection of ancient myths. That was a long and painful process, but I am better and happier for it. I no longer have to defend the indefensible.

          Now, if Adam and Eve were the product of hundreds of millions of years of evolution (in contrast to what the Bible explicitly says about their special creation), how does one account for original sin? Where did it come from? If Adam and Eve weren’t really the first humans, that implies that there are other lines of humans that are not infected with original sin, correct?

        • SteveK

          >> I arrived at this conclusion by confronting the logical and philosophical knots that one must tie oneself in to take the Bible seriously about what it says and accepting that it is just another collection of ancient myths.

          You do realize that this is a theological knot, not a philosophical or logical knot (or a scientific one)? Those areas can help us untangle the theological knot before us, and this is what you see going on with all the various explanations. You’re doing it now. The sooner you realize that, the better. What’s clear is that the theological details surrounding the creation event aren’t exactly clear.

        • ajginn

          OK. I get it. You’re not going to answer a single question I posed or even attempt to. I guess we’re done here.

        • SteveK

          Yep.

        • So what are you going to do with this? Just double down on Christianity?

        • SteveK

          I’ll treat it as one of the many curious questions I have about reality and move along to other things.

        • I have questions about reality. Science answers many of them very well but still has unanswered questions.

          Let’s consider Christianity. We have no evidence that your approach to answering the tough questions has ever delivered. It’s told you about heaven, kind of. Different Christians interpret the Bible’s statements about heaven differently, and of course Christianity’s view of the afterlife differs from the other guys’ definition.

          And that’s just one thing. The Trinity makes no sense. God appears to be a homicidal maniac in the OT. And so on.

          You’re pretty easy going to look at this train wreck and declare that it’s a reliable source of information.

        • SteveK

          I get it, Bob. You don’t think Christianity is true.

        • MNb

          Do you? And when it gets hard you shrug it off “and move along to other things”? Sorry, I think that very unsatisfactory.

        • SteveK

          I do think it’s true.

        • That’s a conclusion, not a presumption. Show me compelling evidence that points in a different direction, and I’ll happily go along.

        • SteveK

          Yes, it’s a conclusion. As I said, I get it.

    • MNb

      That might be the case, but then still that theology is wrong.

      • SteveK

        How so?

        • MNb

          Because it contradicts a well established scientific theory and science always wins. It’s the header of point three.

        • SteveK

          I commented on that point above and so did Craig. There is no necessary contradiction. There is disagreement.

        • MNb

          You can’t disagree with a scientific theory. You accept it or you contradict it, even if it’s on a tiny point. Now that’s OK – but when you do it with theology you lose by default.

        • SteveK

          Not sure what you’re getting at. Once again, per the NAS, there’s no conflict. Maybe if you tell me what you’re talking about specifically and I can comment on it.

        • MNb

          OK, maybe Ken Ham is a better example. He rejects Evolution Theory because of his particular theology. No matter what NAS says (and with “perhaps” above I already indicated that I’m not going to contradict it directly), Ken Hams views contradict science. Who wins and why? Is Ken Hams theology correct or incorrect and why? I have an answer (and no prizes for guessing it, though I’m ready to explain you the why), but what about you?
          Now if you have formulated an answer apply it to WLC and Plantinga.

        • SteveK

          Ken’s problem is his alone. I don’t know what he believes and I really don’t care to be tasked with digging it up. I suspect it’s one of those disagreements that I alluded to above.

          At the end of the day I’m not worried about anything science has to say about evolution because it has nothing to say about God.

        • So then you accept what science says about evolution?

        • SteveK

          I accept the science, sure. I don’t necessarily accept all the metaphysical interpretations of what people think the science means.

        • So evolution is correct.

        • SteveK

          I don’t know how to make it any more plain to you, Bob. I accept the science. If you have a specific question, ask.

  • Wick Samuel

    The Bible says that faith alone is required for salvation (Romans 3:28) but also that works are sufficient to earn eternal life (Matthew 25:31–46).

    Matthew records words preached by Jesus under the old covenant, Paul in Romans under the new.

    Question for you Bob: when did the new covenant start?

    ============

    Jesus had a physical body after the resurrection (Luke 24:37–43). Or did he (Luke 24:31, 36)?

    Jesus was real (he was not an apparition, or a ghost, or a vision) but had a resurrection body, that’s consistent.

    ============

    The Bible’s six-day creation story conflicts with the Garden of Eden story.

    Gen 1 tells the story of creation, Gen 2 the story of two humans.

    Two different accounts, different perspectives on the same events.

    ============

    Be consistent: use the same net to evaluate all truth claims

    Couldnt agree more, its amazing the way the historical method is completely discarded when atheists examine the bible, suddenly its “pictures or it didnt happen”.. amazing… good point.

    • Question for you Bob: when did the new covenant start?

      The Abrahamic covenant was replaced by the Mosaic covenant on Mt. Sinai.

      Jesus was real (he was not an apparition, or a ghost, or a vision, but had a resurrection body, that’s consistent.

      Wrong again. In Emmaus: “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” He was a ghost.

      Two different accounts, different perspectives on the same events.

      Wrong again. I gave you a link. Follow up to see the incompatibilities.

      its amazing the way the historical method is completely discarded when atheists examine the bible

      I’ve not noticed this. Tell me more.

      suddenly its “pictures or it didnt happen”.. amazing

      And they demand this for Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great? I’ve not seen this either. Show me.

      • Wick Samuel

        The Abrahamic covenant was replaced by the Mosaic covenant on Mt. Sinai

        🙂
        the NEW covenant, when was that instituted?
        Old covenant: works
        New covenant: faith

        (also note, the Mosaic covenant didnt replace the Abrahamic covenant)
        ========

        He was a ghost

        sorry, no. that was why the food thing, not a ghost..

        =========
        different accounts, I know you’re looking for something to find fault with, but that is just simply the truth. Two different accounts of the same events from two different perspectives

        =========

        And they demand this for Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great?

        you must be fatigued..

        the point is they DONT demand that for other historical figures but do for Jesus. Question is why the different standards?

        • MNb

          Beg your pardon? Fyi: no historian of Antiquity accepts any supernatural claims about Alexander the Great (being the son of Hercules, if I recall correctly) as historical. They are treated for what they are: stories, myths, fiction, whatever you call it – a product of human fantasy.

        • the NEW covenant, when was that instituted?

          A quiz? No thanks.

          that was why the food thing, not a ghost..

          “that was why the food thing”? That doesn’t help me.

          It was a ghost. Do you need another quote?

          Two different accounts of the same events from two different perspectives

          Yeah, God’s only human. A guy can make a few mistakes, right? We’re all friends here.

          But tell me: how do you tell distinguish between two stories that are incompatible and two that are from “different perspectives,” since you make clear that they look the same.

          you must be fatigued..

          … of you giving me bullshit arguments and then avoiding the consequences, yes. You say that atheists discard the historical method when they examine the Bible? That they demand “pictures or it didn’t happen”? Show me.

        • Greg G.

          There were no covenants. It is fiction.

          How do you know a ghost cannot eat food? In other tales of humans going to the land of the dead, they were told not to eat or drink anything while there or they would not be able to return to the world of the living. It is a fictional story.

          Historians discount all the supernatural claims from historical accounts. I’m pretty sure that that when there are earlier accounts of a story given to other people and then are credited to another figure later, they doubt that the latter account is real. This is a double standard they apply to Jesus’ favor, otherwise everything in the gospels disappears, miracles and all.

        • the point is they DONT demand that for other historical figures but do for Jesus. Question is why the different standards?

          I have exactly the same historical standards. I accept the existence of the persons, and the plausible claims with sufficient evidence, and I reject the supernatural claims in all three cases.

          You have the double standard. Why do you accept the supernatural claims about Jesus, but reject those about Alexander? Why do you reject the claim that Alexander was the son of a god, but accept the similar claim made of Jesus?

        • Wick Samuel

          What was the view that Alexander was divine based on?

          The view that Jesus was resurrected is based on eye witness accounts that they had seen him. The view that he is divine is based on the resurrection account.

        • MNb

          “eye witness accounts that they had seen him”
          There are no such eye witness accounts. There are claims that there were such eye witness accounts. Second hand information is not allowed in court, an analogy you accept when it suits you, but now undoubtedly will reject. Thus you will confirm what Ophis said about the double standard.

        • Wick Samuel

          incorrect,
          Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John are all eye witness accounts.

          see also 2 Peter 1
          For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty

          you can claim you don’t believe them, but you can’t claim that they aren’t purporting to be eye witness accounts

        • you can claim you don’t believe them, but you can’t claim that they aren’t purporting to be eye witness accounts

          The tacked-on last chapter of John makes a vague claim in that direction. I don’t remember any other gospel claim of eyewitness authority.

          And why would that be interesting anyway? The Gospel of Peter and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas both declare that they are eyewitness accounts. Do you care? Is that compelling?

        • And do you even know who wrote 2 Peter?

        • Wick Samuel

          Simeon[a] Peter, a servant[b] and apostle of Jesus Christ

        • “Although 2 Peter internally purports to be a work of the apostle, most biblical scholars have concluded that Peter is not the author, and instead consider the epistle pseudepigraphical.”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorship_of_the_Petrine_epistles#Clues_in_support_of_pseudepigraphy

          Now who’s uneducated about the basics of the subject?

        • Wick Samuel

          if you reject Peter’s authorship of 2 Peter (which of course I dont), then you still have 1 peter 3:21, Matthew, Mark and John.

        • 1. You might want to either acknowledge beforehand the weaknesses in your argument (2 Pete being pseudepigraphical) or avoid mocking others’ imagined ignorance.

          2. Show me in Matt., Mark, and John where it makes clear that the author is an eyewitness (besides John’s added-on last chapter).

          3. Explain how “I totally saw this!” tacked onto an account makes it an authentic eyewitness account.

          4. Explain how the book avoided change over the centuries.

          5. Explain how your dismiss eyewitness claims in other noncanonical gospels.

        • you can claim you don’t believe them, but you can’t claim that they aren’t purporting to be eye witness accounts

          I can and do. Neither Matthew nor Mark gives any indication of their authorship; the tradition that their authors are St Matthew and St Mark comes from the second century AD.

          Bob has mentioned the vague claim in John, which I interpret as claiming that the ultimate source of the stories is an eyewitness, not that the author himself is a witness. As with Matthew and Mark, the attribution to John comes from the second century.

        • MNb

          Fail. Historians of Antiquity accept that the Gospels aren’t eye witness accounts.

          http://www.bible.ca/ef/topical-the-gospel-from-oral-tradition-to-the-written-text.htm

          Once again you reject science because of your belief system – this time history. Thanks.

        • powellpower

          wow…

          this is really sunday school gold.

          Please read up on christian scholastic biblical studies before you start sprouting kindergarten knowledge. I have said something to that effect in one of the replies to you. Seriously, you will find that amongst NT christian scholars (as in scholars that do believe in Jesus, not just secular NT scholars) it is a minority that believe that Matt Mark and John are eye witnesses accounts.

          The only leeway you have here is definition of eye witnesses account but I would simply say that lets defer the definitions to the experts.

        • The view of Alexander was based in part on the claims of Alexander himself, and of the eyewitness Callisthenes.

        • Wick Samuel

          why are you rejecting the supernatural claims in all three cases?

          again, that’s an assumption of naturalism, how do you justify that?

        • Show us how it’s done. When the Muslim or Hindu tells you about the supernatural claims in his religion, you don’t (dare I say it?) assume naturalism, do you?

        • why are you rejecting the supernatural claims in all three cases?

          again, that’s an assumption of naturalism, how do you justify that?

          Why do you reject them? Do you really believe every claim of miracles and supernatural events throughout history? As far as I can tell, the only difference between me and you is that you make an exception for the claims in one particular religious tradition, and I do not.

        • MNb

          Good question, but irrelevant here. You accept some supernatural claims and reject some others. The closest you came with a standard is “there are claims of witness accounts”. Do I need to explain why it fails?
          OK. I claim that my late father had 500 witness accounts of invisible fairies tending his garden. I won’t give you the names and adresses, I won’t tell you who they are. I won’t tell anything about them.
          Will you accept my claim? No? Then I don’t have to accept Paulus’ claim that there were 500 witnesses.

    • MNb

      “Two different accounts, different perspectives on the same events.”
      Doesn’t explain away, but rather confirms the contradiction.

      http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/accounts.html

      “In the first creation story, humans are created after the other animals.”
      “In the second story, humans were created before the other animals.”

      Have fun with this list:

      http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/by_name.html

      • Mister Two

        Actually, in the second story, only the man is created before the animals, and the woman is created after. It’s a split creation of the humans.

    • MNb

      “Couldnt agree more”
      If you’d practice what you preach you would start your investigation of “invisible elephants exist” at the exactly same starting position as “God exists”. But when we ask you to do so you say it’s a false analogy, because of “the assumption that there is an equal amount of evidence”. Thus you admit you use different nets to evaluate those two claims.
      Intellectually dishonest – how unsurprising.

    • adam

      Covenant?

      • Wick Samuel

        do you understand the difference between the old and new covenant? Do you understand why Jesus said that?

        Amazing how little so many atheists know about the basics of Christianity..

        • pianoman

          you’re one of hundreds of commenters who come on these sites and make statements about what any of us understand. so many religious people claim so many interpretations of so many passage in the bible. All of you feel your understanding is better than anyone else and yet there is not a lot of commonality among you.

          It doesn’t give us any confidence to even trust your view of what a particular passage means over any other. christians, for example, can’t even come to a consensus on which sect of their religion is supposed to be the “true” one.

        • Wick Samuel

          you feel that there is large disagreement among Christian denominations regarding the old and new covenant?
          there isnt, it’s a very basic thing, Christianity 101.

          you can’t use the excuse that there are different interpretations of certain passages to not do any investigation yourself to understand the basics.
          If you remove differences in eschatology, and differences regarding the way in which a Christian walk should be conducted, you’ve eliminated 98% of the doctrinal differences among Christians.

        • pianoman

          there are disagreements about a lot of thing among christianity. I was raised a christian and it was listening to some of the bickering about who was the “correct” christian is what started me asking questions.

          how do you eliminate all those differences? and how did you come to the conclusion that your christianity was correct?

        • Wick Samuel

          If you remove differences in eschatology, and differences regarding the way in which a Christian walk should be conducted, you’ve eliminated 98% of the doctrinal differences among Christians.

        • pianoman

          i would almost expect 100% of the differences to be eliminated if it was true.

          So how do you know your 2% is correct then?

        • Wick Samuel

          you mean, how do I know the 2% isn’t correct?

          The 2% would be the reformed theology camp, which even if they ARE correct, has zero bearing on resurrection, atonement, grace by faith, etc.. all it bears on is who will respond and who won’t. It’s a disagreement on what Gods sovereignty “requires”

        • powellpower

          Pretty interested to know how you came up with the 98%.

          So are there 100 statements that you proclaim to be true and all denomination disagrees with 98 of them and all of them happens to be “regarding the way in which a Christian walk should be conducted”, while the 2 of them perhaps relate to the immaculate mary and the last of them talks about only one god and no trinity?

          Or is it some arbitrary nonsense where you just pulled out of your arse. Why 98%? why not 95% then? why not 99% because you are shy to give a better score?

          You know what? I think my argument is 116.37% more effective than yours.

        • MNb

          How does that 98%? From your thick fat thumb, as usual?

        • Do you understand the difference between iambic and dactylic pentameter? Between Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric columns?

          Amazing how little so many Christians know about the basics of culture.

          Wait … what’s that you say, Wick? You say that that’s irrelevant to the topic at hand and that obnoxious little quizzes to show how smart you are aren’t helpful?

          Well, that’s true. But you started it.

        • Wick Samuel

          – an atheist makes a claim that there is a contradiction in scripture

          – I point out that there is no contradiction, the confusion stems from the atheist having no clue on the context of the two statements

          – Bob claims.. I’m not sure what.. that the context isn’t important?

          if you want to attempt to take shots at scripture, you need to understand that context of it. End of story.

          If I’m going to take shots at some architectural document discussing columns, YES, I need to understand the difference between Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric columns. If I don’t, anything I say should be regarded as coming from a position of ignorance regarding the topic.

        • So another rearguard action then? You can’t address issues directly so you declare that your opponent doesn’t have standing so you get to be the winner?

          Face the argument and respond. When the argument fails, admit it.

        • Wick Samuel

          please explain what argument I haven’t addressed.

          A response of “your to stupid/I can’t be bothered/go see for yourself” just means you don’t have one and just want to be able to say something disparaging.

        • Your rule that concludes that Gen. 1 and Gen. 2 are the same story.

        • Wick Samuel

          – Different accounts of the same events.
          – Gen 1 covers all of creation, Gen 2 focusses in on “Day 6”
          – clearly the author(s) who penned/assembled the two accounts into 1 book thought there was no contradiction between them.

        • Your rule seems to be, “Tweak things to support my conclusion of God.”

          Is that it? If not, tell us what your fucking rule is. Are you embarrassed by it?

        • please explain what argument I haven’t addressed.

          You haven’t given your standards for assessing non-Christian supernatural claims and claims of inerrancy, despite being asked numerous times. Hence the claim that you have a double standard remains unaddressed.

          More generally, I’ve also made numerous arguments which you have failed to address, but those are less pertinent to this branch of the conversation.

        • Philmonomer

          – an atheist makes a claim that there is a contradiction in scripture

          -I point out that there is no contradiction, the confusion stems from the atheist having no clue on the context of the two statements.

          Yup. I suspect all contradictions everywhere are merely in the eye of the beholder. To the true believer, there are no contradictions. None in the Bible, in the Koran, in the Book of Mormon, etc. That is because your book is free of contradictions–it’s the other guy’s book that is full of them.

          Why no contradictions? Because any such contradiction is merely a failure to understand the Truth, and the Truth can explain it.

          Here is why there are no contradictions in the Koran:

          http://www.islamic.org.uk/internalc.html

          [Edited: I cut out a youtube video here.]

          Here is why there are no contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Bible:

          http://en.fairmormon.org/Latter-day_Saint_scripture/Supposed_contradictions/Contradictions_in_LDS_scripture_table

          The whole finding “contradictions” is a fool’s errand. There aren’t any. There never can be.

        • The Muslim rule of abrogation says that if there is a contradiction in the Koran, the later (chronologically written) bit wins, thus eliminating the contradiction.

          “The first rule of Fight Club is there is no Fight Club.”

        • Greg G.

          But don’t they assume that the later bits are in the back and the early bit are in the front? This is despite the fact that the suras are arranged by size to make it easier for the scribe to make the story end before the pages of the book run out. It’s like the order to line up in a circle, alphabetically by height.

        • Philmonomer

          Fascinating. I didn’t know that. I found this:

          “Quranic injunctions themselves may be abrogated, as has happened in a few cases. An
          example of this abrogation is 24:2 which abrogates the punishment of adultery, (q.v.)
          stated in 4:15-16. A study of the Quran shows first, that only a limited number of Quranic
          verses have been abrogated, and second, that the abrogation pertains to legal and
          practical matters only, and not to matters of doctrine and belief.”

        • There’s a “2 hour Koran” online somewhere with all the abrogated and redundant stuff removed (there’s a lot of the latter). The compiler appears to be pretty conservative, so I’m not sure it’s 100% trustworthy, but a helpful addition nonetheless.

        • If I’m going to take shots at some architectural document discussing columns, YES, I need to understand the difference between Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric columns. If I don’t, anything I say should be regarded as coming from a position of ignorance regarding the topic.

          Should we apply this principle to your statements on the origin of the universe, despite you evidently not being familiar with the relevant physics?

        • adam

          So what is your claim about the quote?

          That Jesus is LYING?

        • He is merely using an idiosyncratic meaning of the phrase “not destroy”.

    • Mister Two

      Nope… in Genesis 2, the plants were in the ground but had not sprouted for 2 reasons. First, it had not rained. Second, there was no man to tend to them. So the man was created, but then it was decided that he shouldn’t be alone, so the animals were created. When it was determined that they weren’t good enough companions, the woman was created. For the narrative to work, it must be in the order 1) man, 2) all animals, 3) woman. But in Genesis 1, the 5th days sees the sea creatures and birds, then the 6th day begins with the creation of the land animals. Most importantly, once all of the animals have been created, the humans are made last as the pinnacle of the creation event. Here, it is imperative for the humans to be created after the animals.

      So the order is absolutely essential in both narratives, yet the order is different. They cannot both be true.

      • Wick Samuel

        Gen 2 is a look at “Day 6”, that’s the important thing to understand.
        Different hebrew words used for vegetation, Gen 1 refers to vegetation in general, Gen 2 to cultivated (farming).

        • No, the important thing to understand is that you’ve been shown the differences and you ignore them, returning to your argument as if it hasn’t already been poked full of holes.

          And since you look at these two remarkably different accounts and declared them different only in perspective, not in substance, you have yet to outline for us the rules that we can apply to other situations like this. Without such rules, we can do nothing but assume that this is ad hoc on your part, a desperate attempt to salvage your conclusion.

        • Wick Samuel

          I haven’t “ignored” anything, rather I have simply given you the biblical context. What you mean to say is “you remain unconvinced that the things we believe are contradictions, actually ARE contradictions”

          The rule would be to read the bible and understand the context..

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, what you’ve done is pulled a satisfying answer out of your thumb which contradicts biblical scholarship.

        • No, what we need from you is some evidence that this isn’t just an ad hoc argument to get you out of a bind.

          You look at the 2 creation accounts that scholars tell us were written by different people at different times, and you tell us that they’re actually talking about the same thing. Well, of course, that’s what you would say if you were a puppet to this mute god, determined to be its apologist and say whatever you need to, sensible or bullshit, to get you out of a spot.

          So show us that this isn’t the case. Give us a general rule that we can apply in any situation to any religious books so we can apply it both to this situation and any similar situation.

          Your rule seems to be, “Assume that the Bible is correct.” You say that’s wrong? OK, give us a better one.

        • Wick Samuel

          I don’t know who wrote the two different accounts, or at what time, tradition says Moses, and there are internal hints supporting that case.

          Clearly, they are two different accounts of the same events, Gen 1 the entire creation, Gen 2 focuses in on “day 6”.

          Clearly who ever put these two accounts in the same book (or if it was one person who wrote both) thought it made sense to have them both there and didn’t see one as contradicting the other.

        • They’re 2 contradictory accounts. I gave you a link to a post that summarizes the incompatible differences.

          They’re both there because they were treasured by the compiler of the book.

        • Wick Samuel

          Clearly who ever put these two accounts in the same book (or if it was one person who wrote both) thought it made sense to have them both there and didn’t see one as contradicting the other.

        • You may reject contradictory accounts, but don’t imagine that every other compiler would.

        • powellpower

          It is actually rather painfully obvious who actually has knowledge about what bible scholars think about Genesis. If one actually still says that Moses wrote Genesis I automatically think that the person has only been taught in Church sunday school and that’s it.

          Unfortunately, even christian scholars agree that it is unlikely that Genesis had one author, or at the very least Genesis in its current format seen in NKJV, ESV, NIV and KJV.

          Perhaps Moses did write Genesis in the long past, but the current is the extremely bastardized version that has been edited, cut and pasted from various sources by various groups at various times.

          The funny thing is this: all these ain’t new information. Just like 2 Peter being pseudepigraphical and deutero-pauline epistles. A large portion of Christian scholars do agree with these and they do teach that in biblical colleges (at least the one where I came from. Mine even taught that David’s empire didn’t exists and his wealth was grossly exaggerated by the bible, but of course they did round it up by asking “what is it to you” as though it doesn’t matter). The curious question is why aren’t these things taught in churches? Most pastors should know them but obviously they are not saying all these because they think that the masses cannot take such “heresy”.

          So yes, back to topic, it is funny to see someone who is obviously not read beyond the “church traditions” telling others to do their homework.

        • He’s like a car that is nothing but rust. If you took away the bluster and unwarranted confidence from Wick’s posts, I fear you’d be left with nothing.

        • Greg G.

          “I’d kick the shit out of him but what would I do with his clothes?” A guy I went to high school with used to say that.

        • “You could give Jerry Falwell an enema and bury him in a matchbox” — Christopher Hitchens

        • Wick Samuel

          so, your theory is that he/they included them, even though the believed they contradicted one another.

          and, you think that makes sense as a theory.

        • Yup. A compiler must think of his audience. If different groups (say, the Northern Kingdom and Judah) are going to accept a book, it had better satisfy each group.

        • Wick Samuel

          so, they put in conflicting accounts to satisfy diff groups 🙂

          I would call that quite possibly the worst argument I have ever heard advanced on the Gen 1, Gen 2 discussion.

        • without any evidence. Or is “offends Wick” evidence enough?

        • This standard omits by definition the possibility of any contradiction in any book.

        • Another question for you: Are there any contradictions in the Koran? If so, why did the compiler leave those contradictions in there?

        • Greg G.

          There is an instruction that the priests were to read the Torah aloud to the people once every seven years. Perhaps there was a group of refugees who were used to hearing a different story than the locals. None would be able to remember everything so blending the text of the refugee’s religious texts in a way that would not alarm the locals, and vice versa, the priests could still pull off the requirement to read it aloud without starting civil unrest.
          Genesis 1 has an all-powerful cosmic god while Genesis 2 has a god that interacts with individual humans. Blending the different accounts created an all-powerful cosmic god with one that is concerned on the individual level.
          You can see it in many places in the Torah. There is at least four sources being combined by redactions. One way to distinguish the different accounts is by the name they use for God and whether it is about a cosmic god or a local god.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          From what I can tell both Gen 1 and 2 is using the plural of elohim (god/s) throughout. Gen 1 even clarifies what “made in the image” means (male and female, gods with penises and vaginas making people modeled after themselves and their genitals).

        • Greg G.

          Both the Priestly account and the Elohim account use that term for God. That is where you have to pay attention to how the God is interacting.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I have read the term is used elsewhere in the Bible as plural for pagan gods. Perhaps you could further explain what you mean by “how… interacting.”?

        • From memory, one version uses “jahve elohim” and the other just “elohim”. “Jahve elohim” reverts to plain Jahve in the rest of the Pentateuch after this chapter, suggesting a half-arsed attempt at harmonisation by the redactor, establishing at the start that Jahve and Elohim are supposed to be the same guy.

        • Rudy R

          You won’t allow yourself to believe there are contradictions in the Bible, because to do so, would start you on the path of questioning the veracity of the entire Bible. It’s not clear why it made sense for anyone to place the two different accounts together in the same book. What is clear is that most Bible scholars believe Moses didn’t write the Torah and that it was written by several unknown authors, during different times, so it makes more sense that scripture throughout a book didn’t jive.

    • RichardSRussell

      Question for you Bob: when did the new covenant start?

      I generally adhere to Ray Hyman’s rule about answering questions like this: Before beginning your search for an explanation, first determine whether there’s anything to be explained.

      In pertinent point, where is this so-called “new covenant”? Can I find it on Wikipedia? What does it consist of? Who ever agreed to it?

      • You can’t read Wick’s mind? You lose!

        I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

        • Compuholic

          Judging from his comments I think that sometimes even Wick himself doesn’t know what is on his mind.

      • Wick Samuel

        can’t believe there is anyone even peripherally involved in a discussion on Christian theology that would ask such a question.

        Question: does it not bother you at all that you are entirely unfamiliar with that which you purport to debunk? amazing, how is it possible to hold such strong views against something that you know next to nothing about?
        The Law, the purpose of the Law, the propitiating work of Jesus on the Cross, grace through faith. If you don’t understand the fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity, what are you even doing trying to talk to a Christian?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Covenant

        • RichardSRussell

          I beg your pardon? What on Earth ever made you think that this was a blog about Christian theology?

          And you call me oblivious? Wow!

        • Wick Samuel

          I didn’t claim this was a Christian blog, what I said was “what are you even doing trying to talk to a Christian?”

          as in, why are you asking questions like this?
          “In pertinent point, where is this so-called “new covenant”? Can I find it on Wikipedia? What does it consist of? Who ever agreed to it?”

        • RichardSRussell

          I was “asking questions like this” for the exact reason I stated above, “Before beginning your search for an explanation, first determine whether there’s anything to be explained.”

          Where is the thing to be explained? Where? Where is this “new covenant”? Where, for that matter, is the “old covenant”? Where is there any covenant at all?

          I was on my union’s bargaining team for nearly 20 years. I can point to actual physical documents that I helped to negotiate. Each and every one of them involved the bargaining teams coming to a tentative agreement, signing off on it, shaking hands on the deal, and then submitting it to the members (union side) and Legislature (state’s side) for ratification. Only then did the TA become a binding covenant.

          Where’s the Biblical equivalent of that? Who ever agreed to it? Sure as hell not me!

        • you are entirely unfamiliar with that which you purport to debunk?

          Said the guy who didn’t know (or at least acknowledge) that 2 Peter was pseudepigraphical.

    • Cognissive Disco Dance

      Couldnt agree more, its amazing the way the historical method is completely discarded when atheists examine the bible, suddenly its “pictures or it didnt happen”.. amazing… good point.

      Yeah pretend like you don’t know why it’s hard to believe magic Bible stories. You’re totally shocked, shocked I tell you, that it’s hard to believe magic Bible stories.

    • “Matthew records words preached by Jesus under the old covenant, Paul in Romans under the new.”
      So Jesus was preaching the old covenant, and Paul was preaching the new? I thought Jesus invented or caused the new covenant, not Paul. I don’t understand this.

      • (Why is your Santa facing away? Was he bad?)

        • He’s a bad Santa who’s trying to moon us! 🙂

          But do you REALLY want to know why? Here’s a picture of his evil face.
          Sorry, you technically don’t have a soul anymore. Bummer! 🙁

        • Some things you just can’t un-see.

  • LinCA

    I find that when I try to falsify the hypothesis that the bible is a collection of Iron Age folklore, compiled and edited (over and over again) by men with an agenda, I can’t find a single argument that does.

    If it looks like a duck, …

  • trinielf

    I am glad that today I better understand the culture, historical context, limited knowledge of those Hebraic people living in Northern Palestine 3000 years ago who came from a polytheistic tradition and choose Yahweh as their primary deity (as he was a war God) in their desperate goal to become a great nation.

    In times of prosperity and peace, they always slipped back into polytheism. Whenever their ass was handed to them in battle by the far greater empires around them, they felt it was Yahweh punishing them for not being devoted only to him and re-affirmed their commitment to him. The Babylonian Exile cemented this for the last time and they became 100% monotheistic, out of deep regret, shame, desperation for favor. That was when they wrote most of the Old Testament to affirm this.

    Once I understood their experience is THEIR experience and realized it has NOTHING to do with MY experience, nor should I put THEIR experience above that of any other culture as ABSOLUTE truth, it was very freeing.

    A people’s epic retelling of their “Birth of a Nation”, often with a mythological mix of fantastical events with bits of actual history, is JUST THAT. It is sad it has been given prominence to the point of erasing other people’s cultures and their ancestral stories, because of Christian colonialism.

    • MNb

      “their desperate goal to become a great nation”
      As you already indicate rather a desperate attempt to survive as a small nation between two more powerful and hungy nations: Egypt and Assyria/ Babylonia. YHWH was part of their deterrence policy.

      • trinielf

        I agree it was about survival while sandwiched between far greater empires. But they also wanted to become GREAT. Their story of their nation has that theme of Manifest Destiny and a Divine Right to the lands of other people and a mandate to grow their population till it was as numerous as the grains of sand. All of which they utterly failed at doing and kept getting occupied, conquered, enslaved and/or exiled.

        Even today, that is still the story. They are in a territory surrounded by enemies. The only difference between then and now is then it was just THEIR problem, other nations totally outside that region didn’t know and/or care about this. Now its the WHOLE WORLD’s embroiled in this thing to some extent and its like a never ending suck hole. When will it END?

        • MNb

          Ask Luxemburg.

    • Wick Samuel

      Books of the OT written before the Babylonian exile: All of them, except for the ones that chronicle the exile, or are from prophets post exile.
      I’m curious where your confidence in your story came from?

      • Nice correction! You initially made a specific list but have fuzzified that now. So basically all the books were written before the exile except for the ones that weren’t? OK, I can buy that.

        Daniel was written after. The second and third parts of Isaiah are also postexilic. (Just wanted to get those few examples out there. That’s what comes to mind at the moment.)

      • trinielf

        A lot of the Old Testament was revised and supplemented by the unknown authors “D” and “P” to reflect an entirely monotheistic point of view, just before and after the Babylonian exile. You can research the Documentary Hypothesis if you like.

        However, regardless of who wrote it when, we do know it was written by men, with primitive views, telling a very subjective birth of a nation story complete with the same mythological nonsense that ALL birth of a nation stories come with.

        • Wick Samuel

          You don’t understand what the “Documentary Hypothesis” actually is.

          The theory is not that the “Old Testament was revised and supplemented”, rather that it was “stitched together ” from previous written sources. This view continues to lose support amongst scholars.

          “revision to change text to a monotheistic view” is not, in any sense, part of the documentary hypothesis. Where did you get that idea from?

          The documentary hypothesis (DH), sometimes called the Wellhausen hypothesis, proposes that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors (editors). The number of these narratives is usually set at four, but the precise number is not an essential part of the hypothesis.

        • trinielf

          I understand it pretty well and thanks for adding another aspect of it about the stitching together of various writings.

          Biblical archaeology, history and anthropology of that era are revealing that the Hebrews were not strictly monotheistic and there were competing religious interests among them. Monotheism only really cemented during the Babylonian exile. So any supplementing of older writings have that view.

          We also know it is a syncretic religion and it borrowed from older myths and beliefs, particularly from Sumer . Digs show the temples are derivatives from the Canaanite temples at the time. The main difference being their primary deity Yahweh was appeased with animal blood sacrifices whereas other deities like Molech and Asherah, also required human blood sacrifices.

          The entire blood sacrifice thing though is all part of the same blood magic superstition common to that culture, which we today know is ridiculous and unethical.

          The bottom line is, there is absolutely NO REASON to treat THIS culture and their subjective view of the world in a supremacist and absolute manner.

        • Wick Samuel

          “Stitching together” IS the DH, there is nothing else to it. DH doesnt claim a post exilic supplementation in any way shape or form. The Pentateuch, the books that the DH is concerned with, are nearly universally acknowledged to have been written in their current form, prior to the exile.

          The bible records Israels worship of Baal, Ashtoreth and and others before the exile, that claim is supported by archaeology. That worship of other gods was the reason for the exile.

          Please consider reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_hypothesis

        • trinielf

          Well aware of the conflict between the Northern and Southern kingdoms Wick. Thanks. And indeed, the Hebrews felt strongly that their deity Yahweh was punishing them for giving other deities favor. As with most struggling nations trying to be empires, when they are victorious in committing genocide, they believe their deity has rewarded them. When they lose battles or are conquered, they feel their deity has punished them for not giving it enough attention or exclusive attention.

        • Wick Samuel

          Didnt say anything about any conflict between N and S Kingdom, Documentary Hypothesis has nothing to do with that.

          If you’re trying to claim that they invented God, you would have to explain how the prophets predicted the exile before it happened, predicting the duration of it, and the return and rebuilding of Israel. And you would have to explain Jesus.

        • trinielf

          You mentioned the worship of other gods in the Northern Kingdom, which was one contributing factor to the conflict between N and S. So being aware of the conflict means being aware of the contributing factors.

          Of course the Hebrews did not invent gods and goddesses. Such concepts are far older than their particular ethnic group. Every culture and ethnic group had their deity concepts. There is no truthful reason to believe in any specific one, other than one’s own subjective, emotional or cultural connection with such belief systems.

          Prophesies are a dime a dozen and not unique to the Hebrews or their religion either. The Hopi Indians had some rather impressive prophetic visions as well, most of which have come to pass. Divine insight or visionary imagination who knows? Even the science fiction writers of yesteryear have seen many of their imaginings fulfilled.

          However most prophesies can be easily explained as informed forecasts, just as political scientists make informed forecasts today about wars and foreign events, many of which come to pass. Other prophesies are deliberately self-fulfilled. Even the writers of the Gospels alluded to Jesus deliberately doing things to fulfill prophetic writings about a messiah. Clearly, the Jews were not convinced he was such, though many were.

        • Wick Samuel

          1. People in both the northern and southern parts of Israel worshiped other gods before the separation into Northern and Southern kingdoms
          2. that mutual idol worship had NOTHING to do with the dissolution of the kingdom, which occurred because the north didnt want to pay heavy taxes demanded under Solomon.
          3. None of that has anything to do with the documentary hypothesis.

          ========
          Jesus deliberately fulfilled prophesy, yes, he knew He was the Messiah.

          Prophecy like you’ll be “exiled to babylon but will return” is a whole lot different than “some people will experience hardship next year.

        • 3. The different holy books of the N and S kingdoms (the E and J sources) weren’t identical, and yet they had to be merged into the final result. So I would think that their difference does enter into the Documentary Hypothesis, at least peripherally.

        • trinielf

          The relationship between the mostly polytheistic North and semi-polytheistic South and the Documentary Hypothesis has to do with the assertion of absolute monotheism to Yahweh appearing as later interjections.

          I cannot honestly claim to know what Jesus knew or thought based on the Gospel accounts which were not written by him. However I can honestly claim people believed him to be the Messiah and so presented him as such in their writings of him.

          We will be exiled to Babylon and will return is not that remarkable actually. The signs were clear it was going to happen. The hope of return is only natural, whether it happens or not. A fulfilled hope is not necessarily a prophesy. Bob Marley put forth that Africa will unite. We see this happening. People predicted a black president and even made movies with one, etc. etc. In hindsight, many things can look like fulfilled predictions. It makes us unaware of how many predictions are not fulfilled at all.

        • Wick Samuel

          Both N and S were guilty of idol worship

          DH is a theory of stitching the bible as we know it now from various existing sources. It, in no way shape or form, has anything to do with redacting the bible from deism to theism.

          Bob Marley put forth that Africa will unite. We see this happening.

          We must be watching different news.

        • trinielf

          I believe I said as much about the North being mostly polytheistic and the South being less so. The strong Yahwehists were in the Southern Kingdom and eventually their religious perspective prevailed. As they say, history is written by the winners. However both sides had their fair share of primitive blood superstition and barbarism to their gods whether Yahweh or not.

          I did not mention anything about redacting the bible from deism to theism. The bible is clearly theistic.

        • DH doesnt claim a post exilic supplementation in any way shape or form.

          When were they compiled into one?

        • This view continues to lose support amongst scholars.

          Tell me more. What’s the consensus view of Bible scholars? Of liberal scholars?

          I ask about the distinction because it’s clear that religious position makes a difference. When you look at the dating of the authorship of the gospels, for example, the typical answer is 70AD or after for Mark, and after that for the others. But then with conservative scholars, they often handwave that Mark is in the 50s. I’m not saying that I know they’re wrong, but I fear that bias is a factor in this discipline.

        • Wick Samuel

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_hypothesis#Weakening_of_support

          I definitely think bias comes in to play, on both sides. That’s why I typically stick with wikipedia as a citation source, as it represents the secular viewpoint and no one is going to accuse me of selection bias.

  • Wick Samuel

    Real principles for evaluating the claims of the Bible

    1. Don’t start off with the assumption (believing without proof) that God is not real. Starting with a neutral belief is the best way you are going to follow the evidence where it leads, it has the highest probability of success by far.

    2. If you encounter something that you believe must be an error, recognize that your understanding may be incomplete. Many people view the Genesis 1 account of creation as occurring on 6 consecutive days, never realizing if it is read in that manner that the Sun was created on day 4, rendering sun rise/fall on the first 3 days inexplicable. Clearly the author didn’t intend for it to be read in that manner. If you have questions on the content of the Bible, ask! Do your homework!

    3. Recognize that you are reading a translation of 66 books written by 40 people over a span of 1500 years finishing up almost 2000 years ago. Legitimate differences on translated text exist.

    4. Learn to recognize unreliable sources of information and stay away from them.
    – Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe that a person has to understand Christianity to critique it (actually a very common attitude), Not a good source of information.
    – Likewise well meaning people like Ken Ham will tell you that if you don’t accept a particular translation as true you are calling God a liar. Not a good source of information.
    Anyone that claims no intelligent person could believe other than they do, is not a good source of information.

    5. Pursue reliable sources of information, get the best both sides has to offer. Listen to scholarly debates and when you do, be sure that you clearly understand what each side is saying. Be capable of stating each position accurately even if you don’t agree with it.

    Be open to the possibility that God may be real. Do your homework. Stay away from people that urge otherwise.

    • MNb

      Don’t start off with the assumption (believing without proof) that invisible elephants are not real. Do your homework. Stay away from people that urge otherwise.
      Like you.

    • If you have questions on the content of the Bible, ask! Do your homework!

      Did you do this before you rejected the holy books of the other religions?

      (You did explicitly read and critique the other holy books, right?)

      Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe that a person has to understand Christianity to critique it

      Dawkins may well understand Christianity better than you understand Shinto. Do you reject Shinto? If so, perhaps you can see why Dawkins would feel empowered to reject Christianity.

      Be open to the possibility that God may be real.

      And you follow this with respect to the other thousands of gods?

    • “Starting with a neutral belief” implies viewing all gods, religions and supernatural claims equally. For some reason you have argued against this several times.

    • trinielf

      There seems to be a conflation of Deism and Theism here.

      One can be entirely open to the possibility of a Higher Form of intelligent life in the universe. After all, the universe is VAST.

      It still does not mean you must or will be able to accept that “Yahweh” is that Higher Form of intelligence in the universe and that the bible contains THE ABSOLUTE STORY of mankind.

      Clearly it is the story of ONE ethnic/cultural group of people and THEIR take on their own story, later followed by the additions of a fringe offshoot of Christianity and their take on resolving that story to justify their ideology.

    • thatguy88

      “Be open to the possibility that God may be real. Do your homework. Stay away from people that urge otherwise.”

      We are open to the prospect of a god existing. However, we need to see evidence. The Bible simply isn’t this “evidence” that you’re claiming. As for the “do your homework” part, it seems there are more atheists, non-theists, and secularists that did their “homework” and know Christianity and the Bible than most Christians do. So no, just because somebody believes doesn’t mean that they “did their homework” compared to somebody who doesn’t believe. And why should you have to urge people to stay away from those who “urge otherwise”? Are you encouraging segregation from non-believers? That’s not very “Christian” of you.

    • Scott_In_OH

      1. Don’t start off with the assumption (believing without proof) that God is not real.

      I didn’t. I started off believing God was real, Jesus was His Son who died for my sins, and that I had a deep, personal relationship with Him.

      2. If you encounter something that you believe must be an error, recognize that your understanding may be incomplete.

      This worked for me for many, many years. I just assumed I wasn’t seeing the whole picture. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to potential contradictions, but when I saw them, I focused on the core principle–God is Love–and assumed the rest would become clear later.

      One day, I allowed myself to consider if the world (with its multi-billion-year history, its wars and natural disasters, its lying televangelists, its child-raping priests, its unanswered prayers) made more sense if there WASN’T a god, at least not the one I’d believed in. The answer was yes. Everything I see in the world, good and bad, makes more sense if there isn’t a god.