Debunking 10 Popular Christian Principles for Reading the Bible (2 of 3)

Debunking 10 Popular Christian Principles for Reading the Bible (2 of 3) March 4, 2015

From Jim Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity blog, I’m critiquing the post, “Ten Principles When Considering Alleged Bible Contradictions.” Wallace is certain that his rules will wipe that atheist smirk from our faces when we correctly evaluate Bible verses. (Part 1 here.)

Christian evaluate biblePrinciple #5: Old Testament Quotes Aren’t Meant to be “Verbatim.” The New Testament often quotes the Old Testament, but these quotes aren’t always perfect. Don’t worry about that—they weren’t meant to be.

The example given is a trivial one. John 19:37 gives the phrase “They will look on the one they have pierced” as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy from Zechariah 12:10, but there the phrase is slightly different: “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” Wallace says that John never intended a verbatim quote but was simply observing that the prophecy was fulfilled.

Rather surprisingly, Wallace has no problem dropping the claim of biblical inerrancy. It’s good that we agree that God didn’t guide anyone’s hand—either that of the original author or a copyist.

But let’s pursue this. Don’t forget Wallace’s principle #2, “Examine the Text in Its Context.” So Zechariah is referring to Jesus as “the one they have pierced”? Continue reading beyond that verse and you see that “on that day” all the inhabitants of Jerusalem will greatly lament this injury. But in the gospels, only the tiny band of Jesus followers even noticed the death of Jesus. Zechariah is clearly no prophecy of the gospel story.

And is that the best example of sloppy quotes? Here’s a fun one: Matthew says that the resolution of what to do with the 30 pieces of silver, the “blood money” that Judas threw at the priests, was foretold: “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled” (Matt. 27:9–10). But the 30 pieces of silver wasn’t a reference to Jeremiah but Zechariah 11:12–13.

Worse, the Zechariah passage is no prophecy. Say that Matthew was inspired by Zechariah if you want, but it certainly gives no fulfilled prophecy. I wonder how Wallace tap dances away from this one.

Principle #6: Perspectives Are Different Than Contradictions. The Bible sometimes documents the same event more than once, and these descriptions don’t always match up. But real witnesses don’t describe an event the same way, and you don’t want collusion. Don’t confuse a different perspective with an error.

Wallace tackles a difficult contradiction, the two versions of the death of Judas. Acts 1:18–19 says that (1) Judas bought a field with his 30 pieces of silver. There, (2) he died from a fall. (3) The field was called “Field of Blood” because of this death.

But Matthew 27:4–8 has a very different story. Let’s enumerate the differences. Judas (1) returned the money to the priests. Then (2) he hanged himself. Next, (1) the priests declared the money tainted as (3) blood money, and they used it to buy a field. (3) The field was called “Field of Blood” because of the tainted money.

The stories differ in (1) who possessed and spent the money, (2) how Judas died, and (3) the origin of the name “Field of Blood.”

(And let’s not even consider what Papias said about how Judas died.)

Wallace wants to realign the facts so that both accounts are accurate. He makes clear his bias by stating that if the facts can be reinterpreted to preserve the claim of Bible accuracy, they should be.

Here’s his amalgam story. First, Judas returned the money. The priests took it and bought the field—that is, they bought the field with his money. Later, Judas hanged himself, and (whaddya know?) it was in that very field. After he was dead, he fell “and all his intestines spilled out.”

Let’s catch our breath after that impressive bit of gymnastics. It covers most of the bases, though Acts makes clear that the field belonged to Judas and that the fall killed him. There is also no resolution of the source of the name for the field. Most important, though, it’s hard to imagine two writers agreeing on Wallace’s version of the story but then going off and writing such contradictory accounts.

I’ll grant that Wallace has almost created a composite account from which these two could come, but it’s still special pleading. The more plausible explanation is two separate, incompatible accounts.

Principle #7: Consider the Viewpoint of “Earthbound” People. Sure, the Bible sometimes has primitive language to explain natural phenomena, but this isn’t because it was written by primitive people but because it was written for primitive people.

Isaiah 11:12 refers to the “four quarters [or corners] of the earth.” Does this show that the Bible authors thought that the earth is flat? No, Wallace says that this is just an expression—indeed, an expression that we still use. Even today, we say that the sun “comes up,” even though that would demand a geocentric solar system if it were literally true.

I’ll grant that the Bible’s primitive view of science doesn’t prove that an omniscient God didn’t inspire the book—but that’s sure where the clues point. We would expect people 3000 years ago to think that the earth was flat, and every clue in the Bible relevant to this question supports this assumption. There are no hints in the Bible that its ancient authors knew any more about science than their neighbors.

All Wallace is left with is, “Well, you haven’t proven the Bible wrong.” That’s true but irrelevant. It’s his job to show evidence that the Bible is right.

Concluded in part 3.

It’s like Harry Potter for people who thought
Harry Potter had too much science in it.
— Stephen Colbert

Image credit: Arallyn!, flickr, CC

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  • MNb

    “Let’s catch our breath after that impressive bit of gymnastics.”
    This is the point I stop taking an apologist seriously. The simple, honest and scientific answer is “we don’t have enough data and we very likely never will”. It’s a known unknown.

    “Does this show that the Bible authors thought that the earth is flat?”
    Perhaps not conclusively, but we know that many people, including educated ones, back then thought the Earth was flat indeed.

    “It’s his job to show evidence that the Bible is right.”
    Here I disagree, unless Wallace is a literalist. I don’t hold errors and contradictions in the Bible against the christian god. The other side of this coin though is taht christians shouldn’t use inerrancy as an argument for their god.

    • I’m not demanding that the Bible be literally right. If it were textbook right (99% right), that would be plenty.

      I’m surprised that Wallace gave up on inerrancy so easily. Maybe if I read his stuff more often I’d see that’s how he rolls.

      • Skeptical Calvanist

        I’m not convinced he has given up on inerrancy. It’s a common notion among conservative Christians that God inspired the content, but not the style of the writing. As such, if they mean the same thing, but don’t say it the same way, it’s not a problem. Some have even gone farther and said the bible is inerrant in it’s essential essence, such that the details may change over time, and even be made up, but the message and moral of the story do not.

        In my opinion, working with the proposition that the Bible is inerrant in it’s essential essence, we still run into problems for Wallace. The gospels look like they were copied from each other and changed to fit a theology instead of reporting their own version of the facts. We would expect different ways of saying the same thing more often if they were in fact independent reliable eye-witnesses. Since Wallace’s defense of Christianity depends on the gospel writers being independent witnesses, and what they wrote look like copies of each other, we have good reason to think that his hermetical maneuvers are unjustified.

        • UWIR

          I think that being free of errors is a rather central part of a work’s essence. If the original was free from error, and the extant copies are full of errors, then the extant copies clearly differ from the essence of the original.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          Depends on the kind of errors.

          For example, If the original said, “And Jesus Wept” and the current version said “Then Jesus Wept”, the meaning and essence is identical, while some of the words have changed.

          Further, bigger changes could also not change the essential essence. For example, perhaps the essential essence of the exodus is that they were once part of Egypt, that God was looking out for them, but that they should avoid making God angry if they wish to live, to explain where they got the commandments they live by, etc. If that’s the case, then the number of people involved may be ancillary and not essential, such that the point of the story is accurately remembered, but some of the nonessential details are embellished or changed to make it easier to remember.

          I think there are tons of problems with approaching it in this way, not least of which is to determine what is essential and what is not, but with creative hermeneutics you can find a way to believe almost anything.

        • UWIR

          I’m saying that if there are errors/inconsistencies within the work, that changes the essence.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          I agree.

          This is why they use the term essential essence instead of merely essence. I guess the essential part is up for judgement based on the hermeneutic you use (or perhaps even more subjective than that).

        • Kodie

          It’s like this girl named Unique, and her twin sister, Very Unique.

      • MNb

        Especially in Western Europe many christians are not bothered at all with mistakes like

        “bats are not birds”, “pi = 3” and “the corners of the Earth”.
        It’s all about meaning and message. In their view stuff like this doesn’t affect the “inerrancy of the Bible”. So percentages are irrelevant.

    • Skeptical Calvanist

      Wallace is an evangelical christian that holds a high view of the Bible. He holds to the Chicago statement on Biblical Inerrancy

      Article 6 of the Chicago Statement is the following:

      We affirm that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration.
      We deny that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.

      This means that he considers in the inspired word of God, and therefore inerrant. This does not mean that every part of the Bible is meant to be taken literally, or that no paraphrasing occurs, but rather that the message and information presented cannot be wrong so long as we have the originals.

      • MNb

        That leaves Wallace the option to ignore mistakes like “bats are not birds”, “pi = 3” and “the corners of the Earth”.

        • Skeptical Calvanist


          IIRC, there’s another part of the Chicago statement that describes the very high level method that is to be used to determine if something is to be read literally or non-literally, but it’s nothing a creative, intelligent, person can’t work around to achieve the results he/she wants.

          I don’t think he’s justified in doing these kind of hermetical maneuvers to ignore these apparent issues as it’s only reasonable to read the book that way if you can first prove that it is in fact inerrant.

          Since no-one can do this, the most simply explanation is that it is in fact errant and a human invention, but I’m mostly just trying to give people a glimpse of how people like Wallace justify belief in an inerrant Bible.

        • MNb

          Of course. My only concern is that when debating christians I don’t want to get accused of attacking strawmen.

  • Greg G.

    When a critic looks at a New Testament misquote of an Old Testament passage, he/she should check the Septuagint, because it may be an accurate quote from that translation. For example, in Luke 4:17-19, Jesus reads from the scripture in a synagogue. The passage he reads is Isaiah 61:1-2. Bassam Zawadi takes Luke to task for leaving out a passage about “bind up the broken” and inserting a passage about “recovery of sight to the blind”. But that is what the Septuagint says.

    That sounds like a joke though: Jesus walks into a synagogue and begins to read aloud from the Septuagint…

  • Skeptiker

    Principle #7: Consider the Viewpoint of “Earthbound” People…
    What a load of idiotic nonsense! Do you need modern advanced language to describe the Earth as round to primitive people? Wallace seems to think that the concept of roundness is so difficult for those people that his god had to forgo truth and stoop to their level of ignorance? What bullshit!

    Admit it, Wallace. The so-called cosmological model in Genesis was taken from earlier myths of neighboring civilizations.

    • Suppose he did tell them, and they forgot?

      • Skeptiker

        Please explain who is the “he” in “Suppose he did tell them,…

        and they forgot?” They forgot what?

        • I read your comment as a cry for sanity in a world gone mad. In case you haven’t noticed, life just isn’t as neat and organized as we might like. And, it was probalbly worse in the old days of yore.. Why didn’t God tell his people the world was round? Maybe he did and this piece of information was forgotten – but most likely, God was doing all he could to get a message of salvation across to them and the world being round, although very useful in today’s world, just wasn’t top on God’s list.

        • Skeptiker

          I read your comment as a cry for sanity in a world gone mad.
          You are of course free to read anything into other people’s statements. But frankly I do not know where you get the idea from; I did not have even an iota of such thought when I wrote the comment which, to me, is simple and direct.

          Why didn’t God tell his people the world was round? Maybe he did and this piece of information was forgotten.
          Such pure speculation is a waste of time and bandwidth.

          most likely, God was doing all he could to get a message of salvation across to them and the world being round, although very useful in today’s world, just wasn’t top on God’s list
          You seem to know your god’s mind and his priorities very well. You also seem to imply that your god is very limited in his power and action, a far cry from the usual claim of omnipotence and omniscience. If only a message of salvation is relevant, then most of your bible can be trashed.

        • “What a load of idiotic nonsense! Do you need modern advanced language to describe the Earth as round to primitive people?

          At most he is splitting hairs.” by a primitive people” and “for a primitive people” – all in all, much to do about nothing.

        • Susan


        • adam

        • I’ll grant that salvation is more important than “the earth is round.” The crazy thing is, many Christians will say that the Bible clearly does say that the earth is round, and the plain and simple message of salvation did not make it through. God is kind of a bungler if he can’t magically make sure that his special message to humanity got through clearly. Look at all the denominations.

        • Skeptiker

          To a Christian, it is true that salvation (which I completely reject) is more important than the fact that the Earth is round. However, the wrong cosmological model in the bible has much deeper implications; it is an extremely strong rebuttal of Christian apologists claiming that their god created the universe. My simple and straightforward question to them is: “How can a creator god be so ignorant and wrong about his own creation?”

        • You mean, how can the Bible come from an omniscient source if it can’t get the spherical earth thing right?

        • Skeptiker

          Not just about a spherical earth but the whole cosmological model as given in Genesis: hemispherical (solid) dome, stars are studded on it, Sun moves around the Earth, creation order of various celestial objects, etc. Also, the Sun can be ordered to stand still, stars can fall to Earth, etc. Primitive people may not know but there is no excuse for a creator god not to know unless he was made-up.

        • Lightning Baltimore

          Pennies and dinner plates are also round. 🙂

        • True. The passage in Isaiah often cited as proof that a spherical earth is mentioned uses a term for circular, like the circular circumference or perimeter around a camp. Turns out that Isaiah elsewhere has a word for “ball” (that is, spherical), so the same book undercuts the argument.

        • Lightning Baltimore


        • Pofarmer

          If God wants people to have salvation, all He has to do is give it. The Worrld being round would have all sorts of interesting theological and practical implications that , O’m aure you’re completely unaware if.

        • FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

          Oh so you’re a troll then? Right, then.

          (Files user Greg in the TROLL DO NOT FEED Cabinet)

        • Susan

          I read your comment as a cry for sanity

          I read your comment as a typical desperate dodge of a very specific and thoughtfully constructed question.

          Please answer Skeptiker’s question. Your unwillingness and inability to respond to legitimate questions has become more embarrassing by the day.

          most likely, God was doing all he could to get a message of salvation across to them

          Poor Yahwehjesus. So constrained in its ability to make its presence and desires known. Constrained by what? It is supposed to be an Omni-being that pulled reality out of its metaphysical arse.

          But it can’t distinguish itself from the white noise of tens of thousands of god claims even, let alone all the unreal things humans have believed in over the ages. (Ghosts, vampires, fairies, vaccines that cause autism, giant alligators who live in sewers, witches who dance with the devil, those dirty Jews who put a curse on our milking cows, when the moon is in the seventh house, Elvis is alive, I was captured, probed and released back into the wild by an extraterrestrial.) I could go on for hours.

          Yahwehjesus can stay in the waiting room with all the other non-real things that humans believe are real, until you demonstrate that it is real.

        • “Constrained by what?”

          Free Will, Susan, Free Will.

        • Susan

          Free Will, Susan, Free Will.

          That’s a terrible answer, Greg. Try again.

          This time, think about it first.

        • To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember what the original question is I am suppose to be answering – can you be so kind as to rephrase in your own words. Thank you for all your courtesies, Susan.

        • Kodie

          You’re just dopey Greg, head in the clouds, fart out an answer, forget to pay attention. Why bother with you?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Why even ask ‘why bother’? There seems to be a disturbing undercurrent of optimism around here…

        • Susan

          I can’t remember what the original question is

          I’m a little concerned about that, Greg. You blockquoted a piece of it and it was two comments earlier than yours at the time.

          You seem to be in a permanent state of disconnect. Unable to navigate your way through a point. I’m honestly not saying that be insulting. Sometimes, I wonder if we’re just dealing with some brain issues here.

          You don’t have to tell me but are there issues you’re aware of that we might not be privy to?

          That would explain a lot and make me a little more patient.

          Just asking. You don’t owe me an answer.

          Here’s the comment you can’t remember but which triggered your automatic “Free Will!” response.

          Poor Yahwehjesus. So constrained in its ability to make its presence and desires known. Constrained by what? It is supposed to be an Omni-being that pulled reality out of its metaphysical arse.

          I hope that helps.

        • Scott_In_OH

          That is the most ridiculous appeal to the “free will” argument I’ve ever heard. How does it violate my free will for someone to make a clear statement?

          “The bread and wine in Catholic masses are literally the body and blood of my Son. If you don’t believe that, and if you don’t consume them weekly, then you will go to Hell.” It’s still my choice, but at least I know it’s not just some Catholic priests who made it up.

          Alternatively, “Marian reverence is the devil’s business. The only source of my truth is the Christian Bible.” It’s still my choice, but at least I know the Protestants (or some of them) are right.

          Perhaps the clearest evidence of God’s non-existence (or perhaps his indifference for or hatred of humanity) is that he emphatically did NOT make the path to salvation clear. It’s the most important thing ever, and the best God can do is write a jumbled-up book eons after humans came into existence and which humans have re-interpreted more times than I can count since it was first written down.

        • Dys

          Free will doesn’t get you out of the difficulty. Satan presumably knows God exists, yet still has the free will to reject him, right? Or does he get a special exemption so you can keep using free will as a poor excuse for divine hiddenness?

        • Cognissive Disco Dance

          Because God can’t walk get the message of salvation across and chew gum not be goofy about other things at the same time. There’s something about getting the message of salvation across that just turns God into a giant goofball about everything else for some reason.

        • Yet he still found time to tell the Israelites about the importance of not wearing mixed fabrics.

        • adam

          ” God was doing all he could to get a message of salvation across to them ”

          The why call it “God”?

        • scottie1111

          You sir, are a Delusional Christian in need of a straitjacket and antipsychotic medications. It’s frightening that you have functioning testicles to spread more Delusional Christian Spawn such as yourself. Any grown adult that subscribes to all those poorly written and pedestrian Bronze/Iron Age fairy tales has more than one screw loose. You believe you eat the flesh of a 2000 year old zombie on Sundays– seek mental help immediately. If you have Children (already), you are most certainly guilty of child abuse: you brainwash them with macabre fairy tales, emotionally blackmail them with the prospect of eternal torment, and place an execution device with a bloody delusional excuse for a man nailed to it on their bedroom walls. Do you show your children slasher movies and snuff films too? Shame on you. What kind of human being does that to children? You’re a monster and belong in jail for abusing innocent children. Jesus was nothing special nor was he an esoteric philosopher– in fact, his so called Beatitudes are nothing more than unimaginative fortune-cookie pseudo-wisdom. Christianity is humanity’s worst sick joke. It brings me great joy knowing that you’ll experience the final death rattle of Christianity in the twilight years of your life.

      • Skeptical Calvanist

        Doesn’t exactly make the case stronger. It just changes the question to this. If God was able to influence writers such that they were able to record what was true, why did he not preserve it. What else did they forget? Given this selective remembering and transmitting, why trust that it’s accurate at all?

        • What haven’t you ever played telephone? So, my remark is more of a statement about we as an finite carbon based creation trying to retain the information provided to us a by an infinite creator? And then, my comment goes further by implying that it makes it even more amazing that any message survived in tact with accuracy for thousands and thousands of years by this creation? Makes you wonder…

        • Pofarmer

          Telephone doesn’t work when things are written down.

        • Skeptiker

          information provided to us a by a finite creator
          Please elaborate on the meaning of a “finite” creator.

          even more amazing that any message survived in tact with accuracy for thousands and thousands of years
          How do you know that those messages “survived intact with accuracy…“? What are those messages?

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s all mysterious and complicated and stuff, that’s why he needs the priests.

        • Yes, the game of telephone is a good analog. People pass along the remarkable story, person to person, before it was written down. Who could take the result seriously?

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          Wallace would argue against it. He would argue that the oral tradition was far stronger that that. Evangelicals like to give a modern example of how people remember sermons in some, though no where near all, mostly illiterate areas. The pastor will be preaching, and a leader of the congregation will suddenly stop him, and get the congregation to repeat what was said to ensure they understood it. The apologists then argue that the ensuing conversations between members will cement the core message into the collective memory of the group such that if someone says something when when passing the information wrong, the group will immediately detect that it is incorrect and correct the speaker. Kind of like how we memorize nursery rimes and immediately notice if someone got one of the words wrong.

          Unfortunately, we don’t have any evidence that this is actually how things happened in ancient Palestine. Even if this was the practice, the myriad of human biases would still result in a certain amount of key information changing over time. Further, while this may work for a small selection of memorable passages or song, to think it works to preserve the massive amount of information in the Bible is wishful thinking at best.

        • Agreed. He’d still have plenty problems without this one, but oral history is a deal breaker. So they imagine that everyone was given the Jesus story but sworn to silence until they could repeat it perfectly?

          The gossip fence is the better example.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          He holds that the Gospels are written early, by the people they are traditionally attributed to, and with the direct testimony of eye witnesses if my memory of Cold Case Christianity is correct.

          This goes against what most less partisan scholars believe who hold that none of them were written before the fall of Jerusalem and that they were written by anonymous authors.

        • Yes, he’s inspired me to do a post studying the dating of the gospels. His dating of Mark (mid-50s or something??) is very much out of line with current scholarship.

        • If the tradition is passed down so carefully, then how would Christians explain the variants of it that exist in the apocrypha? I suppose you could say that the orthodox Christians passed on their stories carefully while heretics did not, but that seems rather arbitrary to me.

        • Greg G.

          Why think the oral tradition is reliable when they couldn’t maintain it when the written word was being copied? As Bart Ehrman points out, we have more variations in the surviving copies of the New Testament than there are words in the New Testament.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          Sure, but even Bart agrees that most of these are minor and easily removed.

          The number of important variations (that aren’t spelling mistakes, obvious copying errors, etc) that affect theology are far fewer than the number words in the Bible. These still cause major problems. For example, the Johanine Comma (1 John 5:7-8) is probably a later addition and without it it becomes much harder to proof text the Trinity. Nevertheless, as Bart Ehrman himself notes in his books, only a few minor details of Christian Theology would have to change even if they removed these later additions, as any doctrinal point is based on many texts, not just one.

          Conservative Christians would maintain that the written word has been transmitted in a remarkably reliable way. Just read some of the responses by conservative Christians to Misquoting Jesus to see how they do this. Some of the things they fall back on are that the Bible was written in koine greek, and as such could have been written by less educated and skilled writers. IMO, this is like saying that mark twain was uneducated and not a skilled writer because he used common English, which is demonstrably false, but these are the kinds of defenses that are used.

        • The known manuscript changes are one thing. The real problem is the unknown ones. There’s a centuries-long gap from autographs until our copies. Who can be certain what happened along the way?

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          That’s true, however I think it’s reasonable to say that we have a pretty solid idea regarding how much has changed in these documents since they were written (or rewritten if that is what happened) by the authors.

          Of course, given they are anonymous we have no idea where they got their information from, if they took collections of existing stories and wrote them down, if one of them had a vague conception of Jesus life and made up a narrative to go along with it, and the others copied and extended it, etc.

          So while we can’t be certain, I think it’s probable that we are aware of most of the changes (even if we don’t know what they changed from) that have occurred since the books were last written or rewritten by a single author. What happened before that is a mystery (though one that Wallace avoids by asserting apostolic origin)

        • I’m not as optimistic as you are. The first 2 centuries were a pretty crazy period for the early Christian church. Lots of competing and very incompatible ideas. Lots of cross-breeding and evolution. The idea of a sacred and inviolate scripture applied to the Old Testament but not to these scribblings that became the New.

          Maybe we’re saying the same thing with different levels of confidence.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          I think we largely agree, with minor differences.

          I think that multiple gospels exist because the authors wanted to paint different pictures of Jesus with a common collections of sayings.

          However, since the gospels we have were part of the roman churches tradition early on, it is somewhat more likely that they are well preserved, simply because the roman church, so far as we know, was one of the more organized and structured churches.

          I think it’s possible the the gospels were written, and then rewritten for theological purposes in the early church, but I think that once they were settled on by the roman proto-orthodox church, we can mostly identify what’s changed since then.

          If and when they were substantially revised during these first 2 centuries is something I don’t know either, and like you I have no confidence that we have any good idea what Mark, for example, looked like in 95Ad (supposing it already existed then.)

        • Greg G.

          The Gospel of Mark is written in a chiastic format so any editing would require some respect to that. Chiastic Structure of Mark by Michael Turton concludes there is a missing verse after Mark 16:8 that is not Mark 16:9-20 of the Textus Receptus. Perhaps the missing part is a punch line that shows the author was pulling the readers’ legs.

          There is some evidence that owners of copies of Mark would tear out pages they didn’t like. There is the Great Omission after the Feeding of the 5000 where Luke 9:18 jumps from Mark 6:46 to Mark 8:46 in mid-sentence. It looks like Luke was unaware there was missing text so the previous owner of the book may have ripped out a sheet or two. Halfway between the jump is the passage where Jesus likens the Syro-Phoenician woman to a “bitch”.

          The Gospel of John follows Mark through the Feeding of the 5000, through the Walking on Water, to Gennesaret. The people ask him a few questions in John, then in John 6:30, the question is what the Pharisees asked Jesus in Mark 8:11-12. John may have added a couple of questions, knowing there was missing material. John’s copy may have been written with larger letters so there was less text removed.

          Two gospels jumping from nearby spots and landing on the other side of some common text probably means something. I think the idea that something in chapter 7 was deemed offensive but they lacked any other stories about Jesus and couldn’t ditch the whole gospel.

          If so, the ending of Mark may have been thought to offensive to include or not just tear off part of the last page.

        • adam

          “I think that multiple gospels exist because the authors wanted to paint
          different pictures of Jesus with a common collections of sayings.”

          You mean like movies and tv today tell basically the same story to a wide variety of audiences for entertainment and monetary enrichment?

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          No. That would be telling the same story about different people, with some details changed.

          i won’t speculate about their motivations.

          This is telling the same story about a person with the same name, but with very different characters. One gospel will show Jesus as a peaceful and weak person while the next shows him as strong, in control, and sometimes angry. “Into thy hands I comment my spirit” vs “My god, my god, why has thou forsaken me)

        • Without Malice

          Crazy period is right. Luke mentions “many” gospels being in existence at the time he began to write his (which is never mentioned until mid second century). What the hell happened to these many gospels which he seemed to think were valid but not complete records of the ministry of Jesus. And since the mother of Jesus, as well as his sisters and brothers, outlived him by decades, why is it we do not know every facet of his life? The idea that the followers of Jesus would not have asked them questions concerning every little detail of God’s life in the flesh is ridiculous and I think this is the best argument there is that the whole story was made up.

        • Greg G.

          Salient Facts About the New Testament

          1. We do not have the original manuscripts of any of the books of the New Testament, but only copies – over 5,000 copies, just in the Greek language, in which these books were originally written.

          2. Most of these copies are centuries removed from the originals.

          3. All of these copies contain mistakes both great and small, as scribes either inadvertently or intentionally altered the text.

          4. The vast majority of these changes are insignificant, immaterial, and of no importance for the meaning of the passages in which they are found.

          5. Others, however, are quite significant. Sometimes the meaning of a verse, a passage, or an entire book depends on which textual variants the scholars decide are “original”.

          6. These decisions are sometimes relatively simple to make; but in other instances they are exceedingly difficult, even for scholars who have spent years working on the problem.

          7. As a result, there are many passages of the New Testament where scholars continue to debate the original wording. And there are some in which we will probably never know what the authors originally wrote.

          Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, pages 260-261

          Points 5, 6, and 7 are the important ones.

          It has been shown that variations were more common before canonization but conservative scholars seldom consider any interpolations or changes without textual evidence despite the fact that the oldest copies are just about closer to the time of canonization than to the original writing.

          I am skeptical that there even was an oral history. Various scholars have independently traced the origins of many passages from the gospels to written sources. Modern scholars seem reluctant to collate these studies to see what is from written sources and what might be from oral sources. New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price collects several of those studies and accounts for most of Mark. So much of John parallels Mark that John must be dependent on Mark. The Sermon on the Mount Site: James and the Sermon on the Mount. by Robert I. Kirby shows a relationship between Matthew and James which eliminates the need for Q (not Kirby’s conclusion) so the Farrer-Goulder Hypothesis that Luke used Matthew is supported.

        • The number of relevant manuscripts isn’t actually all that big.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          I think that this is something that conservative Christians forget when asserting the reliability of the Bible.

          They also forget that most of the early manuscripts are incomplete.

        • Right. A tiny fragment is called a “manuscript.”

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          We agree. The problem is convincing conservative scholars and apologists.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          A Christian who believes the scholarly consensus that they are written anonymously run into this problem. This is why liberal churches reject the inerrancy of the Bible.

          Wallace avoids the problem by asserting only the orthodox ones were inspired and written (directly or via an assistant) by an apostle, and the other gospels are in fact forged. This basically gets into why the books that are in the Bible are there, and while I think that this particular part of history provides plenty of evidence for why the bible is unreliable, they would argue the criteria used was conclusive.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          I get that your comment was regarding the fallibility of humanity, but mine was regarding the infallibility of an infinite God. If God wants humans today to recognize the truth of his revelation, you’d expect that he would preserve it such that it is still accurate today. If people are forgetting some of this revelation, or selectively remembering this revelation, then why think we have anything that resembles the original message?

          It’s not surprising at all that traditions and narratives that attempt to deal with big questions and record timeless wisdom would preserved first as a living oral tradition and eventually written down and preserved more rigorously. People have been preserving what they thought was important for far longer than they have been writing, using everything from paintings in caves to stone images to do so.

          What would truly be surprising is if an infinite being, having bestowed information or wisdom on a small number of people that is meant to be understood and followed by all peoples in all times, would then fail to ensure that this information was transmitted accurately.

        • Pofarmer

          He’s God, he could just reveal it again.

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          Sure, but that would be an objection to the premise that this particular revelation to this particular person was for all times and all peoples, which my point depends on. If he chose to just reveal it again at a regular basis, then why bother with holy books at all?

        • Pofarmer

          I’m just sayin’, if he saw we were getting it wrong, he could just come down and re explain it to keep everyone on the same page. This doesn’t seem to be the case, though……………

        • Skeptical Calvanist

          This isn’t directly related to your comment, but 1 Kings 19:12 among a few other verses has been used as a justification for why God doesn’t seem to talk to us in a way we can all see and understand anymore, and is used to explain why we have to trust the revelation of a small number of people as well as our personal religious experience (so long as it’s the right religious experience of course……..).

        • Pofarmer

          Well, I think there’s also a verse in one of the Timothy where it says there will be many false prophets but the true miracles will cease?

        • UWIR

          Either the Bible was written by God, or it wasn’t. Once you’re reduced to simply asserting that it was simply influenced, or whatever it is that you’re claiming (you are quite vague on this point), by divinity, it’s reduced to just another book.

        • davewarnock

          he’s quite vague on all his points. Greg’s main game is to pop in and drop some cute comment that I guess he thinks is gonna make all us atheists go- “OMG I never thought of that!” Good luck getting him to respond to an actual question with any degree of thought.

        • MNb

          “Greg’s main game”
          That’s because he has lost all other games. You quite recently entered this blog, but I can assure you it’s a regular pattern.

        • davewarnock

          yes, I am recent to this blog. I have tired of his schtick quite quickly. I no longer have the patience for such nonsense.

        • Greg G.

          A message from an omnipotent communicator would be heard correctly even if muddled by the intermediary. Isn’t that the way biblical inspiration is supposed to work? If you allow that the Bible is the product of the game of Telephone, then you should doubt it all. “Telephone” is a criticism of the Bible, not an excuse for it.

        • davewarnock

          Well you got that right. none of the messages did survive intact with accuracy. Seems this infinite God couldn’t manage to get his message of life and death to his creation, because the creation decided to play telephone with it. Too bad for all us folk bound for hell who don’t believe the message because it was so poorly written and shabbily transmitted.

        • With respect to your, I take it, humble opinion on the efficacy of the Bible, I have an army of Christians who would beg to differ. What do you have? Oh, right, your humble opinion.

        • And I have an even bigger army that says that your army is nuts.

          The bandwagon argument isn’t a winner for you.

        • But God is with our Army.

        • Scott_In_OH

          Said Osama bin Laden.

          (Should there be a new version of Godwin’s Law for each generation’s incarnation of evil?)

        • Kodie

          Your army is deluded.

        • Curiously, that’s what the other guys say as well. Oops.

        • davewarnock

          I used to be part of that army. big deal. What do I have? Are you serious?! Do you live in a bubble? Look around you! It’s a big world out there beyond your evangelical door. You should get out more.

          There are millions more people in the world who don’t think the Bible is god’s word than those who do. And just because your opinion is different from theirs doesn’t make yours right. They think God is on their side too.

          Fact is, you can’t all be right- but you CAN all be wrong. And (in my humble opinion) I think you are.

        • Fact is I think we can all be right. Why not. And I mean “we” the theists, the “believers”, the ones with “hope and faith and love” that there does exist a higher power, a creator, and that he is revealed in the sacred writings and within our heart and minds. We can be all be right, and you Partner, can be very wrong.

        • davewarnock

          well, partner, if your sacred writings are opposed to each other as far as describing your higher power and what he has spoken to his creation, then no, partner- you can’t both be right. And btw, you “believers” don’t have an exclusive on hope and faith and love- I have plenty of that myself, partner.

        • Now, wait just a cotton pickin’ minute, here, Partner, are you admittin’ you have hope and faith? Not sure you missed my life is like a box of legos comment – if you have hope and faith – on what are using them? According to my way of thinkin’ there Partner, the best true use of those two items is to have hope and faith in the Lord, Almighty, can I have you say, Alleluiah!

        • davewarnock

          your little act is wearing thin. trolls bore me. moving on- nothing more to see here

        • 90Lew90

          Never heard that kind of sermon in a Catholic church. Never.

        • I never claimed to be a Priest.

        • 90Lew90

          No you were just aping some ‘gospel’ shit you heard. That’s the sum total of your faith. You’re at your most authentic when you try to crack a joke. Ha-ha-bonk.

        • you may get me better than anyone.

        • Kodie

          Your way of thinking is fear, confusion, and delusion….

          Could you two stop talking like cowboys?

        • Kodie

          That’s not god, that’s just you. You can be very deluded.

        • Skeptiker

          Greg: “Fact is I think we can all be right. Why not. And I mean “we” the theists, the “believers”…
          Muslims and believers of other religions do not think that you are right. How can all believers be right? Example: Muslims reject your claim that Jesus is god.

        • “How can all believers be right?” The answer is because that believing is right.

        • Skeptiker

          The answer is because that believing is right.
          I gave you an example contradicting your claim. Why don’t you refute it instead of spewing mumbo jumbo. If you keep on evading issues, why bother posting here. I begin to suspect that you are nothing more than a troll (like what davewarnock said in another comment).

        • Kodie

          There goes someone who didn’t read to the end of the paragraph.

        • Zaoldyeck

          What does ‘believing is right’ mean? How did you come to verify that opinion?

          How can Thor and Zeus and Allah all mutually exist simultaneously? Were ancient greeks ‘correct’ or ‘right’ in their belief?

        • Dys

          “Believing is right” doesn’t mean anything…it’s just a deepity to go along with Greg’s descent into post-modernist vagueries.

        • Pofarmer

          I think the cogent question is if “Believing is right” then why do Believers kill each other for being wrong?

        • Dys

          Because they don’t all buy into hippy God?

        • Kodie

          Because god is with all their armies.

        • scottie1111

          You’re being generous. He’s a delusional Christard, lying for Jesus. He has a Bronze and Iron age world-view: ‘modern’ doesn’t have meaning for him.
          If that’s him on his avatar, you can see the Christard shit-eating-grin of hopeless delusion on his face. Making a cursory assessment of his age tells me that he’s young and idealistic, and thinks he knows everything already.

        • MNb

          “Fact is I think we can all be right. Why not.”
          Yeah, why not. Belief is not about logic and empirical evidence anyway. Also fuck consistency and coherence. You’re an excellent example of this attitude.

        • powellpower

          I didn’t know truth is a popularity contest.

          Oh wait, it is a popularity contest. There is really a Muslim army that is armed (not metaphorically) that is willing to use violence to let you see that they are correct.

      • Without Malice

        I suppose forgetting is a possibility when you consider the fact (according to the bible anyway) that the Jews forgot where they put the Book of the Law once they got to the Promised Land and no one gave it any thought until it was (according to the bible) found in the temple during the reign of King Josiah. Of course even this story is far fetched. I don’t anyone ever heard of the Book of the Law until Ezra drank his magic potion and wrote it all down from memory once he got back to Israel. And even then it didn’t do much good and the people of Israel remained polytheist until the Maccabees took over and began to enforce the law at the point of the sword.

        • Pofarmer

          And how and when did they manage to lose the Ark of the covenent?

      • Otto

        Then they (and therefore the Bible) can’t be trusted to accurately communicate the message of god.

  • 90Lew90

    I’ll not go into how I came to be researching this in the past few days, but in the UK, it’s quite easy to donate your body for scientific research after you die. That’s going in my will before close of business on Friday. Forms available online. Burial invites hokum and I’ll have none of that. Cremation is expensive and also invites hokum and I’ve already put more than enough smoke into the atmosphere. Sign a form (I already carry a donor card, but a whole body is much more useful), you get picked up, and intrepid young scientists with an interest in human health get to take a damn good (useful) look at you. I’m doing it. Sorry if this seemed a bit morbid but really it’s not. I think it’s a great option. And no, I’m not planning on checking out any time soon. No concern necessary.

    • The buzz around here is that when you want to donate organs, you must get your family to understand your wishes. It would sure seem like signing a donor card is enough, but hospitals won’t risk a lawsuit with a family member who’s adamant that grandpa not get used to help someone else.

      But yeah, make sure you stick around many more years. You have a lot to contribute.

      • 90Lew90

        Thanks for writing back. Yeah, you would think a donor card would be enough, particularly since time is crucial and if your organs are to be of any use they have to be whipped out of you pretty quick after you’re gone. Time doesn’t matter so much if you’re donating your entire body.

        Reading the tributes by medical students to donors and their friends and families helping them to learn just brings home what an all-round Good Thing it is to do. One such can be found here:

  • Who writes the headlines for these blog posts?

    • Yo!

      • Cool. Just curious if editors titled them like has been traditionally done in newspapers.

        • You imagine a much larger operation. We bloggers are pretty much on our own, though Patheos does provide some helpful support.

        • Cool, thanks. I’m learning more and appreciate what you do. I’ll let it go. Peace.

  • Dys

    Sounds like all of Wallace’s “principles” just stem from assuming the bible is completely true, and creating excuses when it isn’t to preserve the belief.

    • That is what it looks like. The puzzle then is, is Wallace doing his best but not actually doing a great job? Or does he really see the holes in his argument?

      I suppose he might figure that he “knows” that he’s right, so he’ll just put together his best possible case, ignoring that it doesn’t stand up well against the atheist arguments.

  • Miguel de la Pena

    Some insight into the Jeremiah/Zechariah “sloppy quote”…

    In Jesus’ day the books of the prophets were headed by Jeremiah, not Isaiah as it is today. Quotations were identified by the name of the first book of the group, rather than the specific book within the group. Matthew combines both prophecies together, but only mentions Jeremiah because he was the major prophet and had foretold what Matthew intended to stress-the purchase of the field. 

    … no tap dancing needed.

    • Interesting, thanks. Do you have a reference? I’d be particularly interested in a historian rather than an evangelical scholar.

      • Miguel de la Pena

        No reference. I’ve heard a couple of different pastors explain this and found it online.

        • I’m guessing you can imagine my hesitation. There is no contradictory or embarrassing passage in the Bible that apologists can’t come up with some bullshit to paper over the problem. I’ve long since stopped trying to get one to admit that there’s a problem.

          Anyway, that’s an interesting data point. I’ll be on the lookout for that argument.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Have you considered that this is so because there may actually be a reasonable resolution for what appear to be any contradiction or difficult passage in the Bible?

        • I’ve considered this but rejected it. The unrealistic contortions by apologists determined to support their mute and impotent god for so many of these cases convinces me that they’re simply supporting their preconceptions. This isn’t an honest search for the truth but a shoring up of a conclusion already made before we start.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          You’re welcome to your opinion that each explanation is unrealistic, but taking the Jeremiah/Matthew example here, it sounds quite realistic to me. I understand questioning people’s motives for responding to, or understanding, these things but i see two problems with this. First, they can still be right and second, the same can equally be said for the atheist (despite claims of a position of neutrality).

        • taking the Jeremiah/Matthew example here, it sounds quite realistic to me.

          And it would to me, too, if I knew that this was the consensus of unbiased scholars. I’ve seen far too many apologist arguments that turn out to be bullshit. I respond negatively when they make me dig into it and I have to find the flaws.

          No, I don’t think your concerns about my bias are founded here. If it’s the consensus of a wide range of biblical scholars, I’m there.

        • Jack Baynes

          Was God incapable of inspiring clear and well written scripture?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I’m assuming that’s a rhetorical question. Because if we agree that the God you’re asking about exists, the rational question would be ‘why were things written this way’.

        • And there’s the problem. We don’t presuppose that God exists, but we look at the Bible to see if it’s plausible that it’s an accurate summary of the history of the world and its supernatural creator.

          Not really.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Right, you presuppose there is no God. Do you believe either philosophical perspective impacts the verifiable truths regarding the Bible’s accuracy?

        • “No God” is the default. I listen to the argument for God, and if it’s not persuasive, I fall back on the default.

          Perhaps you’ve seen how it works with courtrooms? “Innocent” is the default. The jury listens to the evidence, and if the prosecution’s case is not persuasive, they fall back on the default.

        • Rudy R

          And I’m willing to bet that Christians wouldn’t want to be convicted of a crime from evidence as flimsy as the Bible.

        • I’m sure you’re right, and yet this idea that putting the Bible/gospel on trial, through modern jurisprudence, would vindicate it is popular. For example, see A Lawyer’s Case for God by Jim Jacob (messianic Judaism) or Religion on Trial by Craig Parton (Lutheran?) or the “Cold Case Christianity” blog.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Right, because it makes total sense to use 2000+ year old documents regarding evidence of a crime committed today.

        • Rudy R

          Not my point, but certainly Christians wouldn’t want to be convicted from evidence based solely on a 2000+ year old document.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Certainly? So, if decisions are made in court rooms not based on having 100% of the information, but enough to draw a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt, it would seem that most Christians wouldn’t mind.

          Either way, i think i get your example, you just worded it so poorly that it still makes little sense.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I get that you’re looking to justify your presupposition, but I’m asking whether one perspective or another affects the legitimacy of facts regarding the Bible’s accuracy.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s not a presupposition, for most, it’s a conclusion.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Indeed. For both sides.

        • Greg G.

          I began with the two presuppositions: 1. God exists. 2. Good evidence is better than bad evidence.

          All I found was bad evidence and excuses for the bad evidence.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Cool, thanks for sharing.

        • Jack Baynes

          Yes, if God exists, why did he not write it more clearly?
          If it was divinely inspired, why does it not look divinely inspired?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Now, you’re asking why God didn’t write it clearer and also if it was divinely inspired why doesn’t it look so? Are you asking about if God wrote it or if inspired men wrote it, which one?

          Either way, I’m not sure. Can you describe what you believe a divinely inspired book should look like?

        • Flawless, for starters.

        • Jack Baynes

          I assume that when an omnipotent God inspires his followers to write scripture for him, he would make sure that they did not contradict each other. And it would be clear they were not contradicting each other, you would not have to jump through rhetorical hoops to explain away apparent inconsistencies.

        • Kodie

          Inspiring fallible sinning humans to write something down to share, in a language that might be difficult to translate in the future, omniscient foreseer god would have to know this would cause more problems than it would solve. If he has any reasons to choose this avenue of incompetence, like sending the least educated people of modernity to spread this message to atheists, it has to be that he doesn’t exist, and if he does, he’s insecure in his limitations.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          One man’s hoops are another man’s consideration of context. By hoops I’m assuming you mean explanations that you aren’t happy about.

        • Greg G.

          Can you describe what you believe a divinely inspired book should look like?

          How about something like the World English Bible? It has vowels, spaces between words, and punctuation. It has some mouseover icons that give cross references and footnotes. I recently saw a site with Greek writings where you could click on any word to get the meaning of the Greek word. A divinely inspired writing would not have idioms specific to the original language so it could be translated to any other language verbatim with no loss of meaning. It would not attempt to encode information through puns of that particular language.

          It does no good to inspire writings that are written on degradable materials so that it rots away. A solution would be divinely inspired copies of the original. Such a writing would not need threats about adding to or deleting parts of the text as the divine inspiration would make it impossible to do either.

          But if the deity can divinely inspire people to write a message, the deity could simply inspire everybody directly without a quill and parchment conduit. The very fact that writings are divinely inspired should be proof that there is no such thing as divine inspiration.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Cool criteria you’ve created. I’m surprised you didn’t include a mode where it is read to anyone in any language at the volume of each individual’s preference and in the voice of Morgan Freeman, or whoever the listener wanted; that would be cool too.

          Your last sentence doesn’t make any logical sense though. Just an observation.

        • MNb

          Containing information that no contemporary human being possibly could have (germ theory is one example) would be awesome.
          Written twice independently in two totally different cultures at two geographical areas far apart would be awesome as well. Let’s say the story of Jesus including the preaching, the claim to be the son of god, the painful execution (not a crucifixion though – that was a Roman hobby) and the resurrection popping up at a lost tribe in Amazonia or the interior of New-Guinea would be very awesome. Because we agree that an omnipotent god could pull it off twice easily, don’t we?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          That would be neat.

        • MNb

          Yup – would be.
          That raises the question why it isn’t. You know my answer.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          If your answer is because it wasn’t divinely inspired, I’d say your conclusion doesn’t logical follow. At best you’d be able to say you don’t know.

        • MNb

          I didn’t claim it was a conclusion that logically followed from the observation, ie by means of deduction. It is an inductive argument though. As such it’s a bit more than just “we don’t know”.

        • Ignorant Amos

          That is called apologetics. It has a history as long as the books themselves.

          Disputes regarding biblical consistency have a long history. The church father Origen replied to the writer Celsus, a critic of Christianity, who had complained that some Christians had remodelled the Gospel to answer objections, admitting that some had done so.

          Have you considered that this is so because there may actually be NO reasonable resolution for what appear to be any contradiction or difficult passage in the Bible?

          Can you reasonably resolve the many other biblical contradictions in the Bible? I’m guessing you will have a go, but you will need to do some unreasonable.complicated pretzelmania manoeuvres to get there. If your excuses are unreasonable for some contradictions, who can say they are unreasonable for the others? That’s right, scholars who study the Bible.

          Scholars like…

          Bart D. Ehrman is an American New Testament scholar, currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a leading scholar in his field, having written and edited over 25 books, including three college textbooks, and has also achieved acclaim at the popular level, authoring five New York Times bestsellers. Ehrman’s work focuses on textual criticism of the New Testament, the historical Jesus, and the development of early Christianity.

          He began studying the Bible and its original languages at Moody Bible Institute, where he earned the school’s three-year diploma in 1976.[4] He is a 1978 graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, where he received his bachelor’s degree. He received his PhD and M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied underBruce Metzger. He received magna cum laude for both his BA in 1978 and PhD in 1985.[5]

          Ehrman became an Evangelical Christian as a teenager. In his books, he recounts his youthful enthusiasm as a born-again, fundamentalist Christian, certain that God had inspired the wording of the Bible and protected its texts from all error. His desire to understand the original words of the Bible led him to the study of ancient languages and also textual criticism. During his graduate studies, however, he became convinced that there are contradictions and discrepancies in the biblical manuscripts that could not be harmonized or reconciled. He remained a liberal Christian For 15 years but later became an agnostic after struggling with the philosophical problems of evil and suffering.

          Ehrman has taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies. He was the recipient of the 2009 J. W. Pope “Spirit of Inquiry” Teaching Award, the 1993 UNC Undergraduate Student Teaching Award, the 1994 Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Award for excellence in teaching.

          If you are really interested in thinking outside your box, you can read more about this expert here…

          His book on the subject of contradictions in the New Testament…

          “Jesus Interrupted”

          …is a good place to start.

          The Human Story Behind the Divine Book In this New York Times bestseller, leading Bible expert Bart Ehrman skillfully demonstrates that the New Testament is riddled with contradictory views about who Jesus was and the significance of his life. Ehrman reveals that many of the books were written in the names of the apostles by Christians living decades later, and that central Christian doctrines were the inventions of still later theologians. Although this has been the standard and widespread view of scholars for two centuries, most people have never learned of it. Jesus, Interrupted is a clear and compelling account of the central challenges we have when attempting to reconstruct the life and meaning of Jesus.

          Ehrman is not the only scholar you could look at, but he writes well, for the most part, for the layperson.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Considering your first question, i think the example from Matthew described above easily answers it.

          Thanks for the info on Ehrman, I’ll check him out some time.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Bruce Metzger certainly disagrees.

        For the benefit of your interlocutor…

        Biblical scholar Bruce M. Metzger mentions several internal inconsistencies in the New Testament in earlier manuscripts that later scribes attempted to correct:

        “In the earlier manuscripts of Mark 1:2, the composite quotation from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 is introduced by the formula “As it is written in Isaiah the Prophet”. Later scribes, sensing this involves a difficulty replaced “As it is written in Isaiah the Prophet” with the general statement “As it is written in the prophets”. Since the quotation Matthew(27:9) attributes to the prophet Jeremiah actually comes from Zechariah(11:12f), it is not surprising that some scribes sought to mend the error either by substituting the correct name or by omitting the name altogether. A few scribes attempted to harmonize the Johannine account of the chronology of the Passion with that in Mark by changing ’sixth hour’ of John 19:14 to ‘third hour’ (which appears in Mark 15:25). At John 1:28, Origen altered Bethany to Bethabara in order to remove what he regarded as a geographical difficulty, and this reading is extant today in MSS. 33 69 and many others, including those behind the King James version. The statement in Mark 8:31, that ‘the Son of man must suffer many things…and be killed and after three days rise again’, seems to involve a chronological difficulty, and some copyists changed the phrase to the more familiar expression, ‘on the third day’. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews places the golden altar of incense in the Holy of Holies (Heb. 9:4), which is contrary to the Old Testament description of the Tabernacle (Exod. 30:1-6). The scribe of Codex Vaticanus and the translator of the Ethiopic version correct the account by transferring the words to 9:2, where the furniture of the Holy Place Is itemized.”

        In the 2nd century CE, Tatian produced a gospel text called Diatessaron by weaving together all four gospels into one. The gospel compilation eliminated all the discrepancies that exist between the four gospels. For example, it omits the conflicting genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. To fit in all canonical material, Tatian created his own narrative sequence, which is different from both the synoptic sequence and John’s sequence.

        So, right from the get go Christian patriarchs could see that there was a bit of a balls up looming and made attempts to right the problems.

        • Greg G.

          I’m giving this a 21 Up Arrow Salute.

        • But … it’s the inviolate word of God!

        • Ignorant Amos

          Or maybe God is Edward Nigma.

    • Ron

      In Jesus’ day the scriptures weren’t kept in modern book form—they were contained on individual scrolls. So why would Matthew attribute something written by a minor prophet (whom he later identifies by name in Mt 23:35) on one scroll to a major prophet contained on another?

      Nor is this even logical. Who would attribute an Abe Lincoln quote to George Washington just because the latter came first in the chronological succession of US presidents?

      • Miguel de la Pena

        Well, there were two things mentioned – the field (Jeremiah) and the silver (minor prophet) mentioned at the same time. So, yeah, that’s why. In the later reference you mentioned, are there also two prophets being reference or only one?

        You seem to have jumped the gun with your reference to logic followed by a bad example. You’re saying that because we don’t reference history the same way Jews did two thousand years ago, the passage is illogical. That’s silly.