9 Tactics Christians Use to Dismiss Bible Embarrassments

9 Tactics Christians Use to Dismiss Bible Embarrassments February 9, 2019

I’ve written about the Bible’s confused relationship with science and have explored Bible contradictions with a Top 20 list of the most embarrassing. Now let’s look at how Christian apologists respond to Bible contradictions and similar embarrassments.

The perfect message of an infallible god has a lot more contradictions than you’d expect. Was John the Baptist the reincarnated Elijah? Yes (Matthew 17:10–13) and no (John 1:19–21). How many donkeys did Jesus ride on Palm Sunday—one (Mark 11:7) or two (Matthew 21:7)? Who killed Goliath—David (1 Samuel 17:50) or Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19)?

You won’t be surprised that Christians have a lot of tactics with which to resolve awkward questions like these. Let’s review some of them and see how they hold up.

Tactic 1: Technically, it’s not a contradiction

This excuse splits hairs about the word “contradiction.” A contradiction, they’ll say, is a sentence X that clashes with a sentence not-X, and nothing less precise will do. The two statements must directly and unambiguously contradict each other.

They might apply this to the number of women at the empty tomb. Each gospel identifies a different number of women. For example, John says that it was Mary Magdalene, but Luke says Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James “and the other women.” Apologists will defend the Bible by saying that John didn’t say Mary and only Mary was there, so it’s not a contradiction—at least not technically.

This approach might work if the question of women at the tomb were the only problem, but there’s much more than that. And, of course, apologists always resolve the contradiction in favor of their conclusion, which is a supernatural fantasy that is about as far-fetched as it is possible to be. (More “apparent” contradictions in the four resurrection accounts here.)

While you’re haggling with them over the definition of “contradiction,” the Bible problem is ignored, which they count as a win.

What does “contradiction” mean?

To remember how we evaluate contradictions in everyday life, suppose you’re a newspaper editor. Matthew and Luke have been assigned to the Jesus beat—this is such an important story that you want two journalists working on independent articles—and they drop off their stories (their respective gospels) on your desk. How satisfied would you be?

Not very. You’d call them back and tell them to try again. This isn’t merely Luke having the Parable of the Prodigal Son but Matthew omitting it, and Matthew having the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant but Luke omitting it. Space is limited, and those editorial decisions are understandable, but it’s more than that. Did wise men visit the baby Jesus, or was it shepherds? Was Jesus whisked off to Egypt for his protection or not? Did the dead rise at the crucifixion, who first witnessed the empty tomb, and how many angels were at the tomb? Matthew and Luke disagree on each of these and more. In common parlance, these are contradictions. Relabel the problem if you want, but don’t dismiss it.

We could debate how essential these story elements are (very essential for the flight to Egypt and less so for the shepherds), but with enough of these differences, the stories become unreliable—both of them.

Tactic 2: Use or discard evidence based on whether you like where it points

Here’s an example of an apologist wanting to have it both ways, inconsistently using contradictory information as it suits his agenda. After accepting that Jesus spent two years in Egypt (a claim given only in Matthew) but dismissing the idea that he also visited India, Greg Koukl concluded:

The record that we have of Jesus’ life indicates that he was there [in Israel] for his entire life except for that brief sojourn in Egypt, which is recorded. (@ 23:44)

Let me illustrate the problem with an imagined dialogue:

Bob: Why say that Jesus went to Egypt? Matthew is the only one with that. Luke has a birth narrative, but it doesn’t mention Egypt. If the flight to Egypt actually happened, it’s hard to imagine Luke omitting that.

Greg: Luke doesn’t say, “And by the way, Jesus never went to Egypt.” Luke apparently pared down his narrative, and the Egypt journey was cut. This was an editorial choice, not a contradiction.

Bob: Luke also doesn’t say, “And by the way, Jesus never went to India.” So maybe he did.

Greg: We have a record of his life before his adult ministry in two of the gospels. There’s no mention of India, so we have no reason to consider it.

The problem here is that you can’t ignore the omission of Egypt and then point to the omission of India as important evidence.

To be clear, I’m not saying that there’s strong evidence that Jesus went to India. I doubt there is, and support for such a hypothesis would need to be put forward with data from outside the New Testament. But you must be consistent—don’t decide whether to ignore or highlight an omission in your holy book based on whether it will support your conclusion.

Continued in part 2.

How much vanity must be concealed—not too effectively at that—
in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan?
— Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great

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Image from Jenni Jones, CC license
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  • I know quite well these two first from Fundies. The first one, for example, to explain why there’re two creation stories in Genesis and the second one, of course, to justify why “the book” is both literally true and supported by science.

  • I Came To Bring The Paine

    Standard apologetics tactics; when contradictions support your position, they argue the contradictions. When contradictions undermine their position, then they change the definition of contradiction until it does support their position. The same they do with facts, evidence, and logic.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      As Socrates would do in a Platonic dialogue; when you are losing a debate, talk about horses.

  • skl

    To remember how we evaluate contradictions
    in everyday life, suppose you’re a newspaper editor. Matthew and Luke have been
    assigned to the Jesus beat—this is such an important story that you want two
    journalists working on independent articles—and they drop off their stories
    (their respective gospels) on your desk. How satisfied would you be?

    I’ve read that Mark’s gospel was the first written and that
    it was used by the writers of Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels.

    If the gospels of Matthew and Luke were meant to be essentially
    identical to Mark’s, their creation would be pointless, even ridiculous. Instead,
    it makes sense that each would have differences from the others.

    If they contained true contradictions, then one author could
    be putting into disrepute the work of the other – the other which he’s using as
    a basis for his gospel. Thus, one or both works – or maybe all
    three – would become suspect. I think the authors would have been aware of
    this. But they wrote them anyway.

    Also, the actual “newspaper editors” who put the bible
    together in the 4th century were probably among the most intelligent, most educated, and most
    scripturally-literate people of the time. I would think that if they thought the
    gospels had irreconcilable or contradictory elements then they would have made
    edits or alternatively would have just approved one (not three or four) of the gospels for
    admission into their bible. Yet they included four different gospels in their bible.

    • It’s not really hard, despite your laudable efforts. This wasn’t journalism, so contradictions weren’t relevant.

    • Raging Bee

      If the gospels of Matthew and Luke were meant to be essentially
      identical to Mark’s, their creation would be pointless, even ridiculous.

      You really think the contradictions make the Gospels LESS ridiculous?

    • Greg G.

      If the gospels of Matthew and Luke were meant to be essentially
      identical to Mark’s, their creation would be pointless, even ridiculous. Instead,
      it makes sense that each would have differences from the others.

      Of course they were different. They were meant to correct the previous gospels, not to confirm them.

      What happened to the naked boy in Gethsemane with Jesus in Mark? He disappeared in the other three. What happened to the spit miracles in Mark and John?

      • another example: John changed the day of crucifixion so that the death of the unblemished lambs for Passover paralleled the death of the perfect Lamb of God.

      • Lark62

        Yes, Matthew corrected geographical errors found in Mark and repeated in Luke.

        Mark wrote something along the line of “He went from New York to Boston, passing through Pittsburg.” Matthew knew the geography and quietly fixed it.

        • Greg G.

          Mark has Jesus meeting Legion near Gerasa, 30 miles from the sea. Matthew makes it Gadara which is only 6 miles from the sea but close enough.

          Mark 6:45-53 has Jesus heading across the sea to Bethsaida after the Feeding of the 5000 but Bethsaida was not on the other side. Matthew doesn’t give a destination while Luke has the Feeding near Bethsaida and jumps from there to when Jesus finally arrived in Bethsaida, skipping the rest of Mark 6, all of Mark 7, and a lot of Mark 8.

          In Mark 8:10, Jesus goes to the region of Dalmanutha, which is not known. Matthew changes it to Magdala. I am not sure if that place is known either.

          Perhaps Mark 10:1 is just talking about the area of the Jordan River as the borders of Judea are not beyond the Jordan.

          Mark 10:46 has Jesus leaving Jericho, going to Jerusalem, then passing through Bethphage and then Bethany when Bethphage is closer to Jerusalem than Bethany. Matthew drops the Bethany reference.

        • Lark62

          Thanks. I couldn’t remember all the details.

        • Greg G.

          You got Mark 7:31 right. Jesus left Tyre which is west of the Sea of Galilee, headed north through Sidon when the road to Galilee was to the south, then passed through the Decapolis which is east of the Sea of Galilee.

        • Mark has Jesus meeting Legion near Gerasa, 30 miles from the sea. Matthew makes it Gadara which is only 6 miles from the sea but close enough.

          I keep hoping they’ll find a manuscript referring to Gabara so it becomes the “Gabardine demoniac.”

          https://i.ebayimg.com/thumbs/images/g/UsMAAOSwrklU3div/s-l96.jpg

        • Greg G.

          Be careful, his bowtie is really a camera.

    • Conuly

      You’re using the same argument used by con artists of the sort who hold fake seances.

      • al kimeea

        those who hold real seances don’t use neon signs…

        • Conuly

          Well, “real” is an odd term. Perhaps “sincere” is the word we’re groping for?

        • al kimeea

          Heh heh. Is more accurate fer sure, but many do consider that realm real.

    • Kuno

      Or they just were aware that the Bible wasn’t meant to be read as literal truth, because they knew the books were just the written down versions of stories that have been told and re-told for centuries and millennia.

    • Rudy R

      most intelligent, most educated, and most scripturally-literate people of the time.

      Not enough intelligence to predict that 21st Century human intelligence would point out these glaringly obvious flaws.

      Are you as stupid as you lead us to believe? Or just mind-dumbingly carrying the water for Catholicism. First, religions were the seat of power in the 4th Century, so the church leaders didn’t need to address any contradictions, because their congregations weren’t allowed to read the Bible or couldn’t because they were illiterate. Second, the Gospel authors didn’t meet or know Jesus, they didn’t know each other and they wrote their Gospels in different times (not concurrently).
      So essentially, your position is, contradictions don’t matter, because the Church elders were aware of the contradictions, but still believed.

      • skl

        So essentially, your position is, contradictions don’t matter, because the Church elders were aware of the contradictions, but still believed.

        No, my position is that contradictions do matter, but that church elders apparently didn’t see as contradictions what you do.

        And I agree with epeeist, they are contraries…we are debating fiction.

        I don’t see much value in debating about stories you know to be fiction.
        But to each his own.

        • Rudy R

          Debating contradictions in Harry Potter books have no effect on human rights; debating Christianity’s book does. Thats the value.

        • skl

          Debating contradictions in Harry Potter books have no
          effect on human rights; debating Christianity’s book does. Thats the value.

          I would think you’d be working to get the government to ban the bible. Fahrenheit 451 it. Or at least to declare it a work of fiction.That might solve your problem.

        • Rudy R

          Where in any of my comments do I suggest banning the Bible, let alone, any book? Must you always debate dishonestly? If my goal was to convert theists to atheism, it wouldn’t be to burn the Bible, because it is the best evidence for the falsity of the Abrahamic god.

        • skl

          If my goal was to convert theists to atheism, it wouldn’t be to burn the Bible, because it is the best evidence for the falsity of the Abrahamic god.

          Then perhaps you should be working, instead, to get the government to teach the bible in public schools. (No pro or con advocacy, of course, as that could be unconstitutional. Just teach what’s in it.)

        • Susan

          Then perhaps you should be working, instead, to get the government to teach the bible in public schools. (No pro or con advocacy, of course, as that would be unconstitutional. Just teach what’s in it.)

          Perhaps you should stop being a disingenuous weasel.

        • Rudy R

          And perhaps you should be working, instead, to get the Roman Catholic Church to teach the Bible to their parishioners (No pro or con advocacy, of course, as that could be indoctrination. Just teach what’s in it.). Yahweh’s endorsement of slavery would be a good start.

        • skl

          No pro or con advocacy, of course, as that
          could be indoctrination.

          But they’re a religion, and so are constitutionally free to
          indoctrinate. And those who don’t like that indoctrination are constitutionally free to leave that religion. Regardless, both those who stay and those who leave see what’s in it.

        • Rudy R

          Yes, the RCC is constitutionally free to teach a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. That’s how they build their flock.

        • Susan

          But they’re a religion, and so are constitutionally free to
          indoctrinate.

          Yes, they are.

          And we are entitled to challenge that indoctrination. Many of us were indoctrinated as children. They lied to us and we weren’t really allowed to challenge it. Now, we can and the more we do, the more obvious it becomes that there is no there there.

          We don’t need to burn books to do so or get the government involved in the bible in classrooms. But you know that.

          And we know that you are a disingenous weasel committed to strawmanning and have been for years.

          I’m really very curious about what your goals are. Are you just a disciplined troll who has found the perfect subject for his visceral ecstasy?

          Why are you suggesting book-burning and government involvement in the bible? (Again. You’ve done this before.)

          You never seem to tire of lying and shitting all over discussion.

          You don’t seem to care what the responses are. You’re just there with the next christian trope (while claiming you are not a christian).

          You’re challenging no one. You ignore all decent responses and repeat the same shit over and over.

          Why?

        • MR

          What it must do to one’s soul to dedicate oneself over the years to continually be a dishonest shit, to daily deal in deceit.

        • Susan

          What it must do to one’s soul

          It’s all good if you’re lying for Jesus.

          One thing that’s really been difficult to deal with over the years is just how dishonest apologists are. That’s been the case since I was a little girl.

          They lie, evade and accuse. They can’t answer simple questions.

          It seems to be a sport for them.

          to continually be a dishonest shit, to daily deal in deceit.

          That’s skl all right. And countless others.

          I have a visceral, mammalian response to dishonesty.

          Being indoctrinated seems to mean turning that off.

        • Pofarmer

          How about Yahweh’s endorsement of abortion?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          If you were willing to have it taught along with all the OTHER major religions’ ‘holy’ books, by a non-xtian teacher, then *maybe*.

        • Susan

          I would think you’d be working to get the government to ban the bible. Fahrenheit 451 it.

          You haven’t tried the book banning thing in a while. I’d forgotten that was part of your dishonest repertoire.

          No one went for it last time either. You already know no one’s interested in banning books. You just don’t care.

          Why are you so willfully dishonest?

          What do you get out of it?

        • Pofarmer

          Some people just have to be dicks to be dicks. My middle son was playing a little call of duty this afternoon in a game called “Prop Hunt.” You become just a random object and try to hide in the map and other players try to find you. So, they’re playing, and he’s a really good prop hidden in a really good spot. Now, the props can see where the other props are on the map, but the players trying to find them cannot. You can also drop “decoy’s” of yourself to hopefully confuse the seekers. Anyway, it’s getting towards the end of the game and this one player comes and puts two big gaudy decoys right over top of middle son’s prop that stuck out like a sore thumb. There was no reason to do that. There really isn’t a “winner”. The whole team wins if one prop is left at the end of the game. So, he get’s found and “tagged” aka destroyed. There wasn’t anything in it for the other player whatsoever. It was just being an ass for the sake of being an ass.

        • Susan

          It was just being an ass for the sake of being an ass.

          Oh, yeah. I’ve always considered the possibility that skl’s just trollin’ to be trollin’.

          After all, discussions about religion are a great playground for trolls.

          But it’s so much work to go to. So many details about the arguments. Such a grasp on the standard tropes.

          Trolls don’t usually work that hard just for the sheer troll thrill.

          What that player did to your son was cheap and easy. He got a cheap, asshole thrill.

          skl’s been at this for years, pretending not to get it, ignoring all respectful responses, and repeating the same schtick over and over.

          He seems intent on baiting atheists.

        • Kevin K

          Which is why I blocked him ages ago. He’s got nothing to offer except dishonesty.

        • Susan

          Which is why I blocked him ages ago

          I don’t blame you for blocking a relentlessly disingenous weasel.

          It’s appropriate. Not worth your time.

          But it’s important that some of us linger behind and point out his history to newcomers who imagine there’s a possibility of having an honest conversation with him.

          Engaging him on his behaviour is all that it requires.

          It doesn’t take a lot of people to do that. So, enjoy the block.

          It’s an equally good decision.

        • quinsha

          Though it is amusing to watch only one side of a discussion when ski comes on. I also blocked him ages ago.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower
        • Joe

          No, my position is that contradictions do matter, but that church elders apparently didn’t see as contradictions what you do

          Their failing, not ours.

        • Rudy R

          Prime example of how skl contradicts himself.

      • Kevin K

        Are you as stupid as you lead us to believe?

        Rhetorical questions are rhetorical.

    • LastManOnEarth

      “Also, the actual “newspaper editors” who put the bible
      together in the 4th century were probably among the most intelligent, most educated, and most
      scripturally-literate people of the time.”

      Holy shit, you really have no sense of embarrassment.

    • Greg G.

      Also, the actual “newspaper editors” who put the bible together in the 4th century were probably among the most intelligent, most educated, and most scripturally-literate people of the time.

      Maybe the best-educated and the most-scripturally literate but probably not the most intelligent. Do you know why there are four gospels? Those four century educated imbeciles went with Irenaeus’ suggestion:

      The Gospels could not possibly be either more or less in number than they are. Since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is spread over all the earth, and the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel, and the Spirit of life, it fittingly has four pillars, everywhere breathing out incorruption and revivifying men. From this it is clear that the Word, the artificer of all things, being manifested to men gave us the gospel, fourfold in form but held together by one Spirit. As David said, when asking for his coming, ‘O sitter upon the cherubim, show yourself ‘. For the cherubim have four faces, and their faces are images of the activity of the Son of God. For the first living creature, it says, was like a lion, signifying his active and princely and royal character; the second was like an ox, showing his sacrificial and priestly order; the third had the face of a man, indicating very clearly his coming in human guise; and the fourth was like a flying eagle, making plain the giving of the Spirit who broods over the Church. Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these.    Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.11

      • skl

        Well, I would agree with Mr. Irenaeus on at least this much:
        If there are four different gospels then they will have differences.

        It only makes sense.

        • And if there are 7 different gospels, they would also have differences.

        • Greg G.

          If there are two gospels, there will be differences. If there were no differences, there would be only one gospel.

          If the gospels disagree, one or zero of them can possibly be true. All the others are fake news.

        • skl

          If there were no differences, there would be only one
          gospel.

          Yes! Now we’re on the same page! At least in the sense I was talking about.

          But in another sense, even if there were differences,
          there would still be only one gospel. (You won’t find “gospels” (the plural) anywhere in the bible. Only “gospel” (the singular).)

      • Golly … it all fits together now!

    • You’re still baffled because you think that journalistic integrity was the only thing driving each author’s gospel. Drop that demand and things make more sense.

  • epeeist

    Matthew and Luke disagree on each of these and more. In common parlance, these are contradictions

    Strictly not, they are contraries, i.e. one of them might be true but both could be false.

  • Cozmo the Magician


    I’m not saying that there’s strong evidence that Jesus went to India” Well to start with you would need to prove that both Jesus and India exist. I am pretty sure about India. Jesus… not so much,

  • Ficino

    Since in logic “some” cashes out as “at least one,” fundies like to think that “a” doesn’t logically exclude “two.” But then they talk about how the gospel writers were telling of Jesus’ ministry, not writing scholarship or legal briefs. So, if you’re telling of your day, and you say “A Fuller Brush salesman came to the house today,” no one thinks you mean, “Two Fuller Brush salesmen came to the house today, but to simplify things I’ll just mention the one of them.” It takes no longer to say “Two salesmen came” than to say “A salesman came.” If the teller doesn’t mention the second salesman, we naturally wonder whether something is intentionally being concealed. Hmm.. what went on with the second salesman?

    Matthew tends to double things. It is more plausible to anyone except an inerrantist to think that Matthew doubles for some rhetorical or theological reason than that the other gospel writers suppress. You can see the reason for doubling the donkeys: the prophecy talks about “an ass, on the foal of an ass.” Instead of recognizing the parallelism typical of Hebrew poetry, Matthew takes this line literally so gives us two donkeys. One fundy I read speculated that because the road was so long, Jesus didn’t want to tire out the poor foal, so he rode on the foal for a while and rode on the mother donkey for a while. This picture of switching donkeys in mid-journey, or switching several times, can’t be falsified, but it just sounds dumb. And it overlooks Matthew’s obvious desire to fit the story to the prophecy, a desire made obvious by the absence of the second donkey in the other accounts.

    • Greg G.

      And it overlooks Matthew’s obvious desire to fit the story to the prophecy, a desire made obvious by the absence of the second donkey in the other accounts.

      Or doubling is just a literary device Matthew uses.

      A Donkey and the Colt of a Donkey the Problem of Doubling in the Gospel of Matthew -or- Why Matthew Has Two Asses
      http://www.academia.edu/1353190/A_Donkey_and_the_Colt_of_a_Donkey_the_Problem_of_Doubling_in_the_Gospel_of_Matthew_-or-_Why_Matthew_Has_Two_Asses

      Matthew also pairs Jesus’ antagonists like “scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 10 times, rest of New Testament 4 times in NKJV) and “Pharisees and Sadducees” (as “Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων”, Matthew 4 times, Acts once, though the NKJV translates the Acts verse differently)

      The doubling goes down to details beyond just the subjects. Matthew also doubles verbs and adjectives, too.

      • Why Matthew Has Two Asses

        Yes, that is too good a title to omit.

        But I’ve always heard that Matthew just misunderstood the OT’s poetic device of repeating something. Does the article reject that?

        • Greg G.

          Yes, he thinks it’s likely just that Matthew doubles most everything.

          This paper was done for a class presentation but it makes interesting points.

          I have read that someone thought Matthew figured a colt might need its mother.

        • Kevin K

          That would be a foal, not a colt. Colt is just a generic term for “young male horse”. Filly is the corresponding term for “young female horse.” Yearling is a horse between one and two years of age.

        • Greg G.

          Should be “Why Jesus Has Two Asses.”

      • Ficino

        Yeah, the dude definitely had double vision. To what end, I cannot fathom. Shoulda been in a Doublemint commercial: “double your pleasure, double your fun…”

      • Pofarmer

        Is Matthew the only 1 with 2 feedings?

        • Greg G.

          No, Mark has the two feedings, the first with 5000, the second with 4000.

          Telemauchus, in The Odyssey, attended two feasts and one of those had 9 groups of 500.

        • Pofarmer

          Haven’t been banned from a blog in a while. Guess I still got it.

        • Greg G.

          What have you done now?

        • Pofarmer

          Offended a theist on the “Global Religions” channel, who was telling us stupid atheists what we think. There are just so many polite ways to say someone is wrong before you figure they’re operating in bad faith and call them a moron. Couldn’t take it, I suppose. He even deleted all the previous comments where I was very polite and raised inconvenient questions. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/channel-globalreligions/what_do_atheists_believe_about_the_universe/

        • Susan

          He even deleted all the previous comments where I was very polite and raised inconvenient questions.

          That’s a shock.

        • Pofarmer

          I know, right?

        • epeeist

          That’s a shock.

          Absolutely, I have never seen that happen before…

        • Susan

          To his credit, he struck out his article and left the comments for atheists to explain their position.

          It took a lot of persuasion, but it was a reasonably honest response.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m still banned, and a little cheesed about it. He can provoke people, and then ban them for responding mildly in kind? How – Christian.

        • Susan

          I’m still banned, and a little cheesed about it. He can provoke people, and then ban them for responding mildly in kind?

          I’m not saying that’s OK.

          How – Christian.

          Yes. In my experience, it’s very christian.

          I’m just giving him credit for eventually striking out his claims and letting atheists explain their positions instead.

        • Clancy

          It’s just a check box on the moderation panel. No effort at all.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      Instead of recognizing the parallelism typical of Hebrew poetry, Matthew takes this line literally so gives us two donkeys.

      Understandably since the author of Matthew was reverencing the Septuagint (Greek translation) like all the other NT writers.

    • Kevin K

      Thanks for a good laugh.

    • Greg G.

      Luke liked the number 5 and the number 10 but Matthew just likes 2.

      Stolen from http://christianthinktank.com/diplopia.html This page compares verses from Mark where Matthew has inserted the word “two”, to which I added the bolding.

      •The calling of Simon and Andrew
      Mark 1:16: Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
      Matthew 4:18: While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.

      •The calling of James and John:
      Mark 1:19: And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
      Matthew 4:21: And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.

      •Two sons of Zebedee (first mention):
      Mark 10:35-37: And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.
      Matthew 20:20-21: Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

      •Two sons of Zebedee (second mention):
      Mark 14:33: And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.
      Matthew 26:37: And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

      •Two false witnesses:
      Mark 14:56-59: For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.
      Matthew 26:59-61: Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’

      •Two release candidates:
      Mark 15:6-11: Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.
      Matthew 27:21: The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

      • Didn’t Matthew also have two massive public feedings?

        R M Price had an amusing observation about the second one. The disciples play the straight man too well when they ask again, “Duhhh, but Master, how shall we feed all these people?”

        • Greg G.

          Like the Twelve Stooges.

        • Twelve Stooges.

          But to be honest, I hear they put on a helluva live show–vaudeville, comedy, music. Far better than the studio version.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Bob, Bob, Bob, you’re toying with us.

    Jeus in India
    is a treatise written by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in 1899. The treatise, which was then published as a book, puts forward the view that Jesus survived crucifixion, left Judea and migrated eastward in order to continue his mission to the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’, traveling through Persia and Afghanistan and eventually dying a natural and honourable death in Kashmir at an old age.[1][2] …

    I wonder if that was before or after Jesus came to the New World and inspired Mormonism.

    • Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Lark62

      And what did he do to piss off wifey Mary Magdalene, who (according to the gospel of D. Brown) took the kid and went west. Enquiring minds want to know.

    • al kimeea

      Right after he left Chicago

  • ThaneOfDrones

    A scientist I know tried to claim that differences in the gospel texts are evidence that they are true eyewitness accounts, as you would expect genuine eyewitnesses to genuine events to differ in their stories. This is problematic.
    If the accounts agree, that is evidence they are true.
    If the accounts disagree, that is evidence they are true.
    And so it appears that any outcome at all is evidence for the truth of the gospels. What outcome would constitute evidence against for a person with such a viewpoint>? Did I mention this guy was a scientist?

    Another problem: some variation might be expected in human accounts, but normal eyewitness accounts do not claim any supernatural guidance. Why would an omniscient and omnipotent Creator of the Universe allow his disciples to make petty mistakes that would call His glory into question, if the whole point of the gospels is to convince people that Jesus H. Christ is actually God and wants people to worship Him? Is God not willing to put any effort into preserving His message?

    • One has to wonder why the zombie uprising mentioned in one of them was conveniently forgotten, not to mention those events that happened when Jesus died on the cross that were not registered by anyone else.

    • I’d agree we wouldn’t expect them as identical accounts. However, if key details (like how many saw the risen Jesus) don’t agree, that is evidence of something off, just as it would be in a trial (to use an analogy they do).

    • Greg G.

      Three of them have verbatim passages which means there is no reason to not be identical. Some of the changes are just grammar, yet they left out key elements as if for theological reasons.

    • Brian Davis

      What outcome would constitute evidence against for a person with such a viewpoint>? Did I mention this guy was a scientist?

      I think we need to compare the cure for all of humanity’s sins (The Bible) with placebos (all other holy books). You would expect a true holy book to produce measurably different results. Are its adherents more moral? More ardent in their faith? Are their prayers answered more often than those of other faiths? Is the book’s message consistently clear to any reader? By any of these criteria the Bible is indistinguishable from a placebo.

  • Herald Newman

    Matthew and Luke have been assigned to the Jesus beat—this is such an important story that you want two journalists working on independent
    articles.

    Which brings us to an obvious problem. Matthew and Luke aren’t independent. The fact is that we have a third writer, working at an older newspaper, Mark, that wrote another Jesus story a few years before, from which huge sections of these two authors appeared to have plagiarized. Calling the synoptic gospels “independent” sources (which seems common among conservative Christian apologists) is just hogwash.

    It’s pretty clear to me that there is some inter dependencies between the synoptic authors, and that some amount of redaction was taking place. Why would later authors need to redact the word of God, unless the gospel stories were never meant to be infallible stories in the first place?

    The record that we have of Jesus’ life indicates that he was there [in Israel] for his entire life except for that brief sojourn in Egypt,
    which is recorded. (@ 23:44)

    Nowhere does any gospel ever indicate this explicitly. Koukl is just making a giant argument from silence. I might agree that this may be probable, but since nobody ever actually confirms this, and it must be inferred from the stories, and based on what the authors don’t tell us. A dubious conclusion to say the least.

  • Lark62

    They claim that the crucifixion of Jesus was the most important event in the history of the universe. Yet, the accounts don’t agree on whether this all important event occurred on the day before passover or on the day of passover. Or maybe Jesus died twice just to be sure.

    Bullshit.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      Yet, the accounts don’t agree on whether this all important event
      occurred on the day before passover or on the day of passover. Or maybe
      Jesus died twice just to be sure.

      This reminds me of this video. On what date was the Crucifixion?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp3xxy_pXZc

      • Good stuff. I wish these video series would be put into podcast/MP3 form. There are tools that strip out the audio into an MP3, but that’s a lot of work.

    • You don’t know what you’re talking about. At the time of Jesus, as well as today, there are TWO days of Passover, with TWO seder dinners on the first two days of the Feast of Unleavened bread. Go look on any Jewish calendar and you will see this is true. The synoptic gospels speak of one of those two dinners, while John was speaking about the other. There are many details to all of this as to why there are TWO, but I actually don’t see the point in discussing those. It is clear that I could explain EVERY single so-called “contradiction” and that would not make one iota of difference to you. Just understand, there ARE excellent explanations for all issues that you could bring up. Also, even if there were mistakes or problems in the Bible, that would not affect me one bit. My faith in God is based on my actual dealings with God, and my friendship with Him. Just like Abraham knew God directly, and didn’t need a book or scroll in order to follow Him, I have a direct relationship, and a huge body of experiences walking with God in many faith journeys where I saw first hand his workings in my life and the lives of many others.

      • Lark62

        No, there were not two Passover suppers. You have been lied to, and don’t have enough integrity to seek out accurate information.

        John changed the dates to fit the theological point he wanted to make.

        I bet you also believe men have one fewer rib than women. That is also a lie. All the “explanations” used to whitewash biblical contradictions are PRATTs – Points Refuted a Thousand Times. Yet christians continue to repeat these refuted points. A word for that behavior is “dishonest.”

        I was a christian for over 3 decades. I used to spout all that “personal relationship” crap too. Confirmation bias is not evidence. Members of every religion on the planet express the same certainty that they are right, and point to the same types of cosmic intervention. Like you, they have no evidence, just the warm fuzzy of blind certainty.

        What evidence would convince you that a Hindu deity exists? Come back when you have that type of evidence for your deity.

      • As you now know, from the several of us who accepted your challenge and exposed your false claim, there never were two seders in Israel, which is what we’re talking about.

        It’s about at this stage that the new Christian commenter complains about the abuse coming his way, but hey, you brought it upon yourself. Feel free to rebut points we make, but just make sure you have a solid point.

      • katiehippie

        You really thought that you were coming into this comment section and we would bow down to your ‘superior’ knowledge. You have a direct relationship with god? How come he never says anything to billions of other people? You’d think he could figure out how to be heard. He’s god, right? If you think god singles you out for special treatment, that says a lot more about your ‘humility’ than you realize.

        • Khanhminh Nguyen

          I rarely, if ever, meet a Hindu who claims to be humble and goes on a humanist group to preach apologetics. Not Jews. Not Odinists. Not Wiccans. Not Buddhists. Not Native Americans.

          Only Christians like Ken Kopelson love to find flaws in other belief systems in order to manipulate other people into worshiping their barbaric deity.

          I already read the bible, so I can tell you that Ken Kopelson’s behavior in this blog is just small manifestation of Christian’s totalitarian mindset. People like him are capable of doing worse things than bringing hell threat to non Christians.

        • katiehippie

          Yeah, I’ve got 45 years of bible study to outwit his 40 years. He has no idea who he’s dealing with.

        • Khanhminh Nguyen

          Can you recommend me which scholars are good ones besides Bart Ehrman?

        • Atheist scholars? Richard Carrier, Robert M. Price come to mind.

        • Lex Lata

          Matthew Ferguson is a personal favorite. An immensely erudite, civil, and charitable humanist at the beginning of a promising scholarly career. His blog is a must-read for anyone in the historiography and epistemology of religious claims.

          https://celsus.blog

        • God is so impotent that he can’t do his own evangelization and needs Ken K and others to do it for him, almost like he doesn’t even exist.

        • Khanhminh Nguyen

          Exactly. I am not well versed in science like you or other atheists, but I come to the conclusion about Yahweh simply by common sense.

          If this god is really there, with his immense power he could have easily shown himself to me the way he appeared to Paul or performed miracles like he did to the Hebrews.

          Then comes apologist’s excuse: you would not believe even if he shows himself to you.
          Right there is the judgment about my intellect and my heart.

          The fact that this god expects me to believe in him simply by reading the Bible and trusting whatever written in that book shows that he is such a weak god. It also shows that this god has a very low opinion about my characters. He doesn’t trust me even just one bit to show me some manifestation in order to convince me. It is not like I am asking for empirical evidence.

          Paul heard Jesus’ voice, saw the light, and came to his belief. I, in contrast, have to believe first before anything makes sense. This is asking for gullibility.

          Do you think this way as well, Bob, without scientific evidence?

        • Then comes apologist’s excuse: you would not believe even if he shows himself to you.
          Right there is the judgment about my intellect and my heart.

          And Yahweh’s intellect. If Yahweh is a billion times smarter than I am, he would surely know what it would take to get me to believe.

          If he exists, he gave us this big human brain to use.

        • If God existed, apologetics wouldn’t. He’d make himself available so that apologetics wouldn’t be necessary.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Addressed elsewhere.

        That’s only 2 days for the DIASPORA..and Jerusalem is *smack* in the middle of NON-diaspora judaism.

  • I am a knowledgable student of the Bible, and I can tell you that the accounts in the 4 gospels are very close, but not exact in their detail agreement. This actually gives me confidence that the accounts are not just copies of each other, and are in fact accurate witness accounts. If some event happens, and you ask 4 different people about the details of that event, you will get essentially the same story, but there may be some difference in the details. This is to be expected in a true “witness” situation. So for me, I find no problem with there be “contradictions” in the account. I will say, however, that a true “contradiction” serves to counter what is said. There is a difference between omitting some details in an account, verses stating totally opposite facts. If you and I are relaying the account of a car accident, and you say the one car hit 2 people, while I say the one car hit 3 people, that is a difference where facts are omitted, or in this case, one of the people hit is omitted. On the other hand, if you say the car didn’t hit anyone, but instead it was a truck that hit the 2 people, while I say that it was the car that hit the 3 people, that is a completely contrary set of facts.

    As to the second point, it can all be properly explained by the verse in John 21:25 that says:

    “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

    So, contrary to all the people who suppose that the gospels give a pretty complete account of Jesus’ life, they are completely wrong about that. The bible itself testifies that the accounts found in them are just a small sampling, and that there are MANY, MANY things not in those accounts. Any other events would of course be conjecture, but given what is said in John, those things CANNOT be dismissed or said to be untrue.

    • Jennny

      Just a teensy bit of advice for you from One Who Knows…’I am a knowledgeable student of the bible’..is not considered quite the bees knees you may think it is on P/NR. I suggest many many of us here knew our bibles inside out, studied theology, worked our socks off for our faith…and then from our studies, realised, some of us with horror, it made no sense. We could no longer live with the dissonances, the cruelties, the inconsistencies of That Book. We unshackled ourselves from x-tianity and feel truly free as a result.

      I also dispute the assertion that facts, after 70yrs, remained the same after much re-telling. Living in a celtic country with a strong oral tradition, I can assure you that many ancient myths and legends get changed by much re-telling over time and the hearers of one version will be quite sure theirs is the accurate one.

      • Actually, you don’t sound like you learned much from all that you did, based on the way you responded to me. I am a student of the Bible because I lived it, through many faith journeys, seeing the power of God work in my life during those amazing times. I don’t have just “book knowledge”. I know the living “WORD” personally, and have learned from Him directly over the course of the 40 years I’ve served Him.

        • Greg G.

          A person who studied Islam for 40 years is likely to say something similar. A person who studied Hinduism for 40 years is likely to say the same thing. A person who has studied Buddhism for 40 years is likely to say the same thing. You would probably feel some pity for them for wasting forty years and they would each feel the same for the others and you for having false certainty.

          It is clear that humans have a tendency to adopt the wrong religion but have a hard time admitting it, even especially to themselves.

        • Jennny

          Yes, I believed and lived out that fantasy too, I beat you by 10 years, it was 5 decades of ardent faith, but am not getting into ad hominem arguements about which of us walked more closely with the lawd. I find it demeaning generally when fundamentalists think they are the designated adult in any encounter and the rest of us are just too stupid/ignorant/hateful/angry etc to see The Light. There is a certain arrogance, that I used to have too, about that position. Happy jesusing to you is all I can say!

        • Well, you ARE wilfully making yourself hateful/angry/ignorant because you feel that you were deceived. The reason I have not also gone the way you have is because I did not put any trust in other humans, especially church leaders. I have argued with, and defended against ALL kinds of error and lies from pastors and the like. My relationship is with God directly, and when it comes to churches, I really have nothing to do with them. They have all been compromised during these “end times”. Just like Jesus asked “Will the Son of Man find faith on the earth when he returns?” I think the answer was implied in the question. “Very little if any”. All of you people are just fulfilling his prophecy about the vast falling away that would happen.

        • Jennny

          And that reminds me of Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood on how to deceive their x-tian target. It goes something like ‘Get the patient to nit-pick about doctrine so that he moves further and further away from his fellow-believers so that eventually he becomes a church of one, as no one else has his purity of doctrine.’
          I’ll be off tomorrow doing some violent ignorant hating as usual, working with some Learning Disabled adults, no hidden agenda though, won’t be jesusing them, just empowering them to serve snacks in our lovely cafe that is a haven for vulnerable folk and a mecca for tourists round here. Enjoy your day too, with your imaginary friend.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          “I was told there would be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”

          😉

        • Max Doubt

          “All of you people are just fulfilling his prophecy about the vast falling away that would happen.”

          Here’s my prophecy… You’ve come into this forum and made a complete fool of yourself by being dishonest and making assertions that you know you can’t possibly defend. And you don’t have the courage to admit you’re flat out wrong about some of your proclamations and utterly incapable of defending the rest, so you’ll run away like a little kid scared of a spider – all the while blaming the atheists for your failure to support your position, your dishonesty, and your assholiness. Of course that sort of prophecy isn’t much of a challenge because we have Christians drop in here every day playing the same stupid game you’re playing. None of them can defend their position. None of them have the human decency to admit they can’t. And pretty much all of them turn tail and run.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nope.

          YOUR KIND *perceive* us as hateful/angry/ignorant because it’s the ONLY way y’all can maintain your willing suspension of disbelief in the face of reality.

          Admit it…you’re here disputing with US as a proxy for the rational part of your mind that realizes the ‘bible’ is pretty much useless, but that your craven prerational supernatural fear will not allow you to see.

        • Lark62

          A capacity for confirmation bias and self delusion is not evidence of anything other than that you are a card carrying member of the human race.

        • epicurus

          What would your response be to a Muslim or Mormon who says the same about their book and faith?

        • I have discussed those things for many, many hours with both of those groups you just mentioned. In that time, I said a LOT, way too much to relate here.

        • epicurus

          I’m disappointed that you claim great knowlege and wisdom but when you have an opportunity to pass that on to those less enlightened, you are too lazy.

        • al kimeea

          not surprising at all

        • Lark62

          And in all that time you have produced zero evidence.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          So what?

          WE are the people you’re trying to convince.

          Bring out your EVIDENCE.

        • We’re interested in evidence here. Your personal experience doesn’t count for anything.

        • Actually, first-hand witness testimony is one of the most important kinds of evidence in any evidentiary inquiry. Certainly in any court of law, witness testimony is highly valued. Even in science, are you not aware that OBSERVATION is the main thing that separates hypothesis from theory? You will never see evidence to something that you are already predisposed to “disprove” at every turn. You are not at all rational in your thinking, and yet because of your delusion, you actually think that you are.

        • Actually, first-hand witness testimony is one of the most important kinds of evidence in any evidentiary inquiry.

          Actually, eyewitness testimony sucks. Memories can be vivid while being completely wrong.

          Even in science, are you not aware that OBSERVATION is the main thing that separates hypothesis from theory?

          Scientific evidence? Well, heck, if you’ve got that, then trot it out here. I thought you were talking about your personal interpretation of your experiences—“God spoke to me” or “I feel God’s presence” or something like that.

          You will never see evidence to something that you are already predisposed to “disprove” at every turn.

          Is your skepticism of Scientology closed minded? If not, then perhaps my skepticism of Christianity also isn’t.

          You are not at all rational in your thinking, and yet because of your delusion, you actually think that you are.

          How did we conclude that you’re thinking correctly and I’m deluded?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Witness testimony is USELESS in *science*, which is the mindset that has lifted us far beyond the dreams of the Bronze-age goatherders who wrote your ‘bible’.

          Provide EVIDENCE, that we can test for ourselves, or be properly humble and admit you have NOTHING but fervent belief and desire.

        • Max Doubt

          “… seeing the power of God work in my life during those amazing times.”

          Hold the show, preacher boy. You don’t know that I didn’t do all that work during those amazing times. After all, outside of your own head I am more powerful than the gods you imagine. Seriously. Out here in reality there is nothing your god can do that I can’t do, too, and objectively, demonstrably, many things I can do that your god almost certainly can’t.

          It’s pretty obvious you’re here to preach, not to discuss. There are forums full of gullible god believers of various flavors where your message might be better accepted. Maybe take your sermons there, and come back to this forum if you ever have any objective evidence to support the claim that a god or gods exist.

        • LOL! All of you are nothing but a bunch of snivelling little babies. Believe whatever you like. In the end, you will find out when you die who was correct. @Max Doubt, you hold it there “boy”. I’m not here to preach. I merely tell it how it is. If you hear that as “preaching” that is your problem, not mine. Who the heck can “discuss” with you, when you start off from a position of pure disregard.

        • So, taking the “you’re all poopy-heads!!” route? Not my choice, but it’s your call.

          You’ve got dozens of well-informed atheists reading your comments. If I were you, I’d stop insulting and start presenting compelling information for why your worldview is correct. Isn’t that why you’re here?

        • Khanhminh Nguyen

          I am not an atheist, and I find you really an unpleasant Christian.

          Why does your kind always use afterlife threat when you cannot convince someone else of your ideas?

          You are just as pathetic as any evangelical Christian I came across. No wonder atheists pick on your religion over others.

        • Lark62

          We win.

          Same conclusion, every time.

          First the uber-christian applies the Love Actually method of biblical scholarship:

        • katiehippie

          That escalated quickly. Tell me, is this that christian “love” we hear so much about?

        • epeeist

          All of you are nothing but a bunch of snivelling little babies. Believe whatever you like. In the end, you will find out when you die who was correct.

          Pascal’s wager, seriously? The most stupid argument for a god of any kind there is. Anyway it is a well-known fact that only non-theists go to heaven.

        • Grimlock

          Ah, someone lamenting the quality of discussions.

          You seem like someone willing to pick up a gauntlet. So here’s my challenge to you.

          Let’s decide upon some fairly well known apologetic argument. You defend the “atheistic” side, while I defend the apologetic argument. This will give you an excellent chance to demonstrate your superior knowledge and debating skill.

          What say ye?

        • Max Doubt

          “LOL! All of you are nothing but a bunch of snivelling little babies.”

          Obviously your juvenile tactic of name calling doesn’t advance the conversation. But you have set the bar, so how about you don’t complain about other people’s mode of conversation, ‘kay, asshole?

          “@Max Doubt, you hold it there “boy”. I’m not here to preach.”

          Yes, you are. You’re making unsupported declarations and assertions about the existence of magical beings, then you’re framing the rest of what you say as if that god character you imagine actually exists as part of the reality we all share. That’s preaching.

          “I merely tell it how it is.”

          How it is? There is nothing the god you imagine can do outside your head that I can’t do, too. And there are many things I can do that your god pretty obviously can’t. You don’t seem able to objectively distinguish between what you think is a god and any other figment of your imagination, so other people have no good reason to consider it something else. That’s how it is. Outside your own imagination your god is utterly powerless.

          “If you hear that as “preaching” that is your problem, not mine.”

          If you enter a conversation and talk about a character if it’s real, as if it has some objective effect on the state of the universe, you should be prepared to demonstrate that the character actually exists. If you can’t do that, you can’t reasonably expect anyone else to accept the character as real. And when you continue to make assertions about it as if it is real, you’re preaching.

          “Who the heck can “discuss” with you, when you start off from a position of pure disregard.”

          No disregard here. You’re talking about something that allegedly has some effect on the workings of the universe, but you apparently can’t show that the thing even exists. You haven’t objectively differentiated the thing from any other figment of your imagination. When you talk about mythological characters as if they’re real, and the rest of the people in the conversation are talking about them as characters in stories, characters that only “exist” in imaginations, you and we are having different conversations. You came into this forum making your own conversation – preaching – from a different place than what everyone else is talking about. The disregard is yours. Own it.

        • There is nothing the god you imagine can do outside your head that I can’t do, too. And there are many things I can do that your god pretty obviously can’t.

          Max Doubt for omnipotent deity!

        • al kimeea

          always

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Max Doubt is a useful position, at the very least….

        • Sophotroph

          So, that went about as expected.

          Atheist says perfectly reasonable thing on atheist blog.

          Ignorant Christian who thinks he has all the answers shows up to explain (like we’re five) how we got his religion all wrong.

          Christian is shown to be considerably less knowledgeable about his own religion than resident atheist community.

          Christian then retreats to “You’ll all be sorry one day!” when he realizes he’s outmatched and can’t save face, consoling himself with pleasant thoughts of his detractors being tortured for eternity.

          Bonus idiot points for “I’m not preaching! I’m just telling it how it is!”

          Thanks for following the flowchart so (snrk) faithfully. It’s such a help. Otherwise, we’d have to risk actually having an adult conversation where you learn something.

        • al kimeea

          and he slipped into his kilt before pulling out his dirk

        • bamboodread

          “You wait until I tell my daddy,” says little Ken

        • For your hellfire threat, Ken, I think *you* should be the one to suffer.

          I charge you with the task of meditating on all the people you know who are not “saved” to your satisfaction. Rather than running around the Internet tossing out glib, bullying threats to salvage your arguments, may you see flames in the eyes of unsaved loved ones, and hear screams in the laughter of children. You need to feel your own callous threats, feel them until you’re weeping into your pillow night after night, unable to sleep, unable to dismiss the imagery until you confront the sheer evil and brutality of the god you would have us worship.

        • Khanhminh Nguyen

          Without the afterlife threat, I guess Christians can never be decent people.

        • Sounds like a classical lose-lose situation.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Why should I believe YOU?

      • As I understand it, the changes in oral stories were sometimes deliberate. One aspect of the story might be emphasized with one audience, and then the story would be tuned to another audience the next week.

    • Greg G.

      The early epistles say nothing about a preacher/teacher from Galilee who went arond performing miracles. The miracles of the gospels appear to be borrowed from the literarure of the day, in way that indicates successive copying from one another. So the similarities are accounted for while the differences appear to be theological.

      The car accident analogy fails once again. When did the wreck happen? The Synoptics clearly say it was after the Passover meal. John clearly says it was before Passover. Which was it?

      • You, like so many others, are gentiles trying to comprehend the ways of Israel. Well, instead of making silly assumptions, perhaps you should set yourself down and learn from the Jews, for they can explain so much to you. In answer to your question about the Passover seder, I suggest you look at any Jewish calendar. You will notice that the Feast of Unleavened Bread is initiated with TWO nights of Passover, with TWO seder meals. This has been the case for a very long time, well before the days of Jesus. Because of this fact, it then became possible for Jesus to BOTH eat the Passover with his disciples (recorded in John TWICE), and also to be crucified after he ate the Passover meal but DURING the time of the actual Passover sacrifices. So, actually, the car accident analogy works out perfectly, since you are making many wrong assumptions about the Passover, and the practices of the day.

        • Lark62

          Killing a living thing to appease a capricious, invisible deity is blood sacrifice.

          In various forms, blood sacrifice was practiced by human cultures throughout millennia and around the globe.

          In every case, blood sacrifice is barbaric, absurd, ludicrous and down right silly.

          The Aztec belief that it was necessary to cut out the beating heart of a human to make the sun rise was barbaric, but at least they had evidence that the sun actually did rise the next day. Jesus’ supposed lousy weekend for the imaginary forgiveness of sins is among the sillier blood sacrifice beliefs.

          Look in the mirror and say out loud “I believe in a deity that required blood sacrifice.”

        • Bronze Age customs die hard, I guess. It’s kinda quaint that modern Christians want to preserve those ancient customs. It’s like they want to live in Williamsburg in a recreated past.

        • Blah, blah, blah. You clearly do not understand the gospel message, and you are trying to relate things that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

        • Lark62

          LoL. I understand the “gospel message” just fine.

          “Deity angry. Something gotta die.” is blood sacrifice. And blood sacrifice is both barbaric and silly.

          “Jesus died for your sins” is good old fashioned, garden variety blood sacrifice, and is every bit as barbaric, cruel and silly as any other blood sacrifice practiced by any other ignorant tribe.

          1 Cor 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

          1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

          Romans 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins

          So how about you explain how killing a semi mythological man-god so that Yahweh can forgive humans for being human is not blood sacrifice.

          I anxiously await your mansplaining brilliance.

        • Khanhminh Nguyen

          Christians like sadistic forgiveness and make it sound nice and loving.

        • katiehippie

          What always gets me is that god is letting himself die to appease himself. And blaming us.

        • Herald Newman

          Well, God is perfect, so he can hardly be expected to take the blame for his incompetence our willful desire to sin, now can he? 🙂

        • katiehippie

          ‘Cept that he created us that way and made the rules and everything.

        • Greg G.

          I suggest you start reading at John 13:1 where it says that “it was before the Passover”. It is best if you use a red letter New Testament to see that Jesus talks almost continuously until the end of John 17. John 18:1-3 says that when Jesus stopped talking, he crossed the Kidron and was promptly arrested. Then he was tried and crucified. John has the Jews worrying about not being clean and missing out on the Passover meal. John also insists it was Preparation Day.

          You will have to provide evidence about there being two seder meals. The OT is quite clear that there is one Passover meal and that the leftovers are burned.

        • Just look at ANY Jewish calendar, and you will see there are TWO.

          You can also consider the following which shows that John can be reconciled with the synoptics:

          https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/churchman/106-04_323.pdf

        • Greg G.

          Just look at ANY Jewish calendar, and you will see there are TWO.

          I dealt with that above. The second seder is for the Diaspora. There was never a reason for it in Jerusalem.

          You can also consider the following which shows that John can be reconciled with the synoptics:

          https://disq.us/url?url=https%3A%2F%2Fbiblicalstudies.org.uk%2Fpdf%2Fchurchman%2F106-04_323.pdf%3AnO7LQ3z8SygL_c7SxsSbeeIYGOQ&cuid=2306652

          The guy didn’t seem to notice that John 13:1 to Jesus’ arrest in John 18 is a continuous narrative, all in one night.

          From page 329 of your linked document:
          It is probably in this sense that Pascha should be understood in Jn. 13:1, which would mean
          that on the evening before the Feast day Jesus knew what was going to happen.

          That means Jesus did not eat the feast. Didn’t you read it?

        • Lark62

          Some preacher or apologist made up that explanation, out of whole cloth. Others followed, blindly and confidently repeating it without a smidgen of fact checking. They can do this because the faithful never fact check, or even bother to open up one of their dozen copies of the Holey Buybull to read the relevant section for themselves.

          You missed the memo –
          never, ever use these nonsense explanations with an audience that is likely to ask whether the story passes the laugh test. Much less an audience willing and able to do a bit a research to determine the credibility of the tale.

          Read the account in John for yourself, and compare it to the versions in the other gospels. And engage the brain before operating the mouth.

        • instead of making silly assumptions, perhaps you should set yourself down and learn from the Jews, for they can explain so much to you.

          I applaud your humility.

          While we’re all sitting at the feet of our betters, be sure to ask the Jews about the predictions of Jesus or the Trinity in the Old Testament. They’ll quickly correct you that there aren’t any.

          You will notice that the Feast of Unleavened Bread is initiated with TWO nights of Passover, with TWO seder meals.

          So there were two Days of Preparation? They killed lambs and ate them on one day and then did the same the next day?

        • When you’re dealing with a pack of lions, you don’t just lay down and allow them to eat you. My humility comes from the fact that I trust God for everything, and look to him as the source of life itself. Humility does not mean that I must allow you and the others here to insult, spit on, and act wickedly without being challenged in the strongest of terms.

          By the way, I don’t need to ask “the Jews” since I am one, well-trained since childhood in the Torah, and I can tell you emphatically that most of my fellow Jews are blind as bats. But there are many Jews who DO understand, and they will be happy to instruct you.

          And YES, they had two passover seder meals, as they do even to this day. They did this since ancient antiquity because of the phrase “between the evenings”, which in Hebrew made it unclear on which day they should kill the offering. To solve this, they just held two Passovers back-to-back. I’m not going to explain it all here, but the answer is available to anyone that is truly wanting to know.

        • When you’re dealing with a pack of lions, you don’t just lay down and allow them to eat you.

          We’re not trying to eat you, we’re throwing you a rope to save you.

          My humility comes from the fact that I trust God for everything, and look to him as the source of life itself. Humility does not mean that I must allow you and the others here to insult, spit on, and act wickedly without being challenged in the strongest of terms.

          Then challenge away. Are you saying that reason and evidence will lead us to your worldview? If so, then present it.

          By the way, I don’t need to ask “the Jews” since I am one, well-trained since childhood in the Torah, and I can tell you emphatically that most of my fellow Jews are blind as bats.

          So I should “set [myself] down and learn from the Jews” . . . except that the Jews are useless.

          Hmm. A Christian koan, perhaps?

          But there are many Jews who DO understand, and they will be happy to instruct you.

          So conventional Judaism is useless and will lead you astray, but there are some (those who agree with you) who would be valuable teachers.

          How conve-e-enient.

          And YES, they had two passover seder meals, as they do even to this day.

          I’ve participated in Passover seder meals, and there was just one of them.

          I’m curious about this 2-meal custom. Can you point me to a reliable source that says what you’re saying?

        • I’m sure you can Google information about the 2 passover seder meals.

        • Greg G.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover_Seder
          Passover Seder From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

          Jews generally observe one or two seders: in Israel, one seder is observed on the first night of Passover; many Diaspora communities hold a seder also on the second night.

          https://reformjudaism.org/practice/ask-rabbi/why-do-some-jews-have-one-seder-and-others-have-two-seders
          Why do some Jews have one seder and others have two seders?

          The question of holding one or two seders has to do with timing from when the Torah was written. When the Torah was written, the beginning of the new month was determined by observing the moon. This was done in Jerusalem. Word of the new moon did not always arrive in other cities outside of Israel in time to observe the holiday. For communities outside of Israel, the practice developed of observing an extra day of Yom Tov on major holidays to be sure those communities were in sync with Jerusalem. This led to holding two seders in the Diaspora.

          https://www.thoughtco.com/the-origins-of-the-seder-2076949
          The Origins of the Seder

          There is no question that the Seder, which is celebrated on the first night of Pesah or on the first two nights in the Diaspora – is the central ritual of the holiday of Passover.

          So the Jews do not practice the second seder in Israel. There was never any reason for it in Jerusalem.

          You need to find a better apologetic than that.

        • OK, I did.

          My source was:
          https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/527614/jewish/Why-Do-We-Still-Celebrate-Holidays-for-Two-Days-in-the-Diaspora.htm
          It says you’re wrong.

          All Jewish holidays are celebrated for two days (not just the Passover), but only in the Diaspora (the region outside Israel). Since the Last Supper/Crucifixion story comes from Jerusalem (which, you’ll remember, is very much inside Israel), your “yeah, but they’d be celebrating two Passover meals anyway” fails.

          Here’s the background on this curious custom. (I’d preface this with, “But you know all this already,” but you apparently don’t, so maybe it’s useful for you as well.) Now, the Jewish calendar is fixed, so everyone can know far in advance when to celebrate the holidays. But before the 4th c. CE, when this change was made, each month started with the new moon. Each month could be 29 or 30 days long, and the start of the month was decided by the Sanhedrin. Since many holidays start on the evening of that first day of the month, it was important to communicate that information quickly. This wasn’t a big deal within Israel, but what about to the Diaspora? They used bonfires to communicate the ruling from the Sanhedrin to distant Jewish settlements.

          But those danged Samaritans had different views, and they lit bonfires according to their own schedule, which confused things. Since the only question the bonfires answered was which of two days the celebration should be on, the resolution was that, in the Diaspora, they should celebrate both days.

          Curiously, the original edict to celebrate on two days hasn’t been (and arguably can’t be) rescinded, so those in the Diaspora are technically obliged to follow it.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          . Humility does not mean that I must allow you and the others here to insult, spit on, and act wickedly

          That is an odd way to describe legitimate rebuttals of your post. Do you always react so uncharitably to those who disagree with you?

        • You comment: “By the way, I don’t need to ask “the Jews” since I am one, well-trained
          since childhood in the Torah, and I can tell you emphatically that most
          of my fellow Jews are blind as bats. But there are many Jews who DO
          understand, and they will be happy to instruct you.

          Then you may be aware that the greater majority of Jews fully reject any claim of Jesus in regard to the possibility that he had been Messiah. Since I am already aware of this fact- I will need none of them”to instruct” me.

          But, perhaps, YOU could befit from their “instruction” in this regard?

          Judaism’s view of Jesus
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism%27s_view_of_Jesus

          The New Testament is very like other derivative literary works that also take the example of Jewish Tanakh, and try to solder-on (or weld on) a continued religious “story”. There is the Koran, and the Book of Mormon. Many others are sure to follow.

          (The Church of Scientology has “their own” story, but it normally requires never-ending payment of several thousand dollars to obtain it bit-by-bit.)

        • QUOTE: “I can tell you emphatically that most of my fellow Jews are blind as bats“UN-QUOTE

          Its quite common for those of one particular religious persuasion to disparage others that differ in belief, or custom. We call this: “Pot calling the kettle black” . . .
          meaning they all are based on religious make-believe . . . siting on a similar campfire, and receiving a carbon layer deposited around the base.

          http://www.fakingnews.firstpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/black-kettle.jpg

      • As usual, you’re faster on the draw than me. The cosmos can ignore my raising the “when did Jesus die?” redundantly.

    • Herald Newman

      I am a [knowledgeable] student of the Bible,

      What seminaries, or other learning institutions, have you attended? What degrees have you earned, and what were the specialties of these degrees?

      This actually gives me confidence that the accounts are not just [copies of] each other, and are in fact accurate witness accounts.

      And yet you go against what the majority of scholars of the NT have to say about this. The general consensus among NT scholars is that the authorship of the gospels is unknown, and does not represent eyewitness accounts, nor the accounts of associates of eyewitnesses. The fact is that nobody knows who wrote the gospels, when exactly they were written, or where they were written.

      If some event happens, and you ask 4 different people about the details of that event, you will get essentially the same story, but there may be some difference in the details

      Except that you have a huge problem here. There is clearly interdependence between the synoptic gospels, because there are passages share the exact same content. The current view of the majority of scholars is that the author of Mark wrote first, and that the authors of Matthew and Luke borrowed larges amounts of content from this source, redacting and altering the stories to fit their theological agenda. There are a number of scholars who think that even the author of John borrowed some of the synoptic content for his gospel.

      Even if it is testimony, it’s clearly got an element of collusion behind it.

      • It’s ridiculous to point to Matthew and Luke as eyewitness accounts when they copy bits of Mark, sometimes verbatim. That’s not really what an eyewitness does.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          Luke even proclaims that he/she is not an eyewitness, that his/her account has been assembled from the contributions of others.

    • Kevin K

      Sigh…really? Witness accounts? You mean someone reported to Luke that there were angels, and someone else reported to Matthew that they were supernaturally ordered to go to Egypt? Who would that “witness” be? The same person or a different person who reported that his mother thought he was insane?

      “Witness”. Heh. Name them.

      • John. Next…

        • Lark62

          Fail, there is no evidence as to who wrote the gospel attributed to John.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          ‘John’ is the *claim*, NOT the *evidence*…

    • I am a knowledgable student of the Bible

      OK. Keep in mind that many of the atheist commenters are as well.

      I respond to the “this just what you’d expect from eyewitness testimony!” in an upcoming post.

      “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

      Which counts for pretty much nothing. The Scientologist or Hindu might make the same two-sentence claims for their religions, but I doubt you’d give them a second look.

      Any other events would of course be conjecture, but given what is said in John, those things CANNOT be dismissed or said to be untrue.

      Right—we won’t give you what is said in John, especially since that last chapter was pretty clearly tacked on later.

      As for interesting contradictions, here’s one: the gospels differ on what day Jesus was crucified. Said another way, was the Last Supper the Passover meal or was it held one day earlier?

      The gospels differ.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      This is to be expected in a true “witness” situation.

      Things you do not expect to find in a true “witness situation:

      Accounts of events and conversations for which there were no witnesses.

      Lack of first-person narration.

      Intact verbatim paragraphs from some other “witness” account.

    • Polytropos

      Since you’re a knowledgeable student of the Bible, maybe you can answer a question that’s always bugged me: the Gospel of Luke says Jesus was born at the time of Quirinius’ census, in 6 CE. But Luke’s Gospel also says Herod the Great was king at the time of Jesus’ birth, and he died in 4 BCE. How are these facts to be reconciled?

      • What you have mentioned here is one of those sticky difficulties that requires us to look more deeply, and not just expect simplistic answers. As the following article points out, things are quite murky when it comes to historical dates and events in the first century. It’s not that answers can’t be arrived at, but simply that answers may be a bit involved. Here is a summary of the case as I see it. It is up to you whether this satisfies you or not. I would suggest that if you throw out your entire faith because of this little snag (even though there IS an answer), you might want to consider how strong your faith was/is to begin with. For me, it would take a LOT more than a technical controversy over dates to thwart my faith. Honestly, at this point, I’m even fine with actual mistakes in the Bible, because I know overall, it presents truth since I have put it to the test over many years, and found that God himself is quite real and faithful.

        https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/does-luke-contradict-himself-on-when-jesus-was-born

        • Polytropos

          It’s interesting to read your take on this. I had always thought the latest we could push Herod’s death out to was 1 BCE, but I’m not an expert in Judean history. Like yourself, I have no problem with the idea that the author of Luke simply got his history a bit wrong.

        • Huh? Why would you think that Luke got his history wrong? Maybe it was Matthew.

        • Herald Newman

          Maybe it was both of them!

        • It would be funny to read a collection of “accounts” about WW1, and WW11, written by the gospel writers.

          Luke would have the German Army marching fully into Paris in WW1, possibly with corporal Hitler leading the 2nd Bavarian Mixed Landwehr Brigade.

          Mark, just to be different, fully omits any mention of WW1 and starts off with WW11.

          Then, Matthew might have 500 zombies, and Patton’s 761st Tank Battalion, entering Berlin before the Red Army did (WW11).
          But, then it would only be that 761st Tank Battalion (made up primarily of African-American soldiers, who by federal law were not permitted to serve alongside white troop) who could be persuaded to fight alongside zombie troops.

          But, Matthew would even record the actual thoughts of Starlinjust like a gospel narrative detailing a private conversation between Pilate and his wife, or like a gospel recording of a solitary 40 days temptation of Jesus in the wilderness!

          Finally John. Just to be different, John tells us of the Red Army conquering Japan so the US does not have to use their Atom Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (there being just one ONE bomb- the Trinity Test one July 16, 1945, because the US did not receive the cargo of U-Boat (German submarine) U-234 due to it being sunk.)

        • Grimlock

          “history”

        • Greg G.

          John 7:40-43 gives a conundrum of how someone from Galilee could be the Messiah who was supposed to be descended from David and from Bethlehem. Matthew tried to answer that by contriving a genealogy and a birth narrative. His birth narrative was derived from Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. He borrowed the birth narrative for Moses from volume 2 and brought King Herod into it from volume 17. He attributed the fear of a prophecy to Herod for the baby killing, which is why the pharaoh feared the new born Israeli boys, whereas in Exodus, the pharaoh wanted to reduce the population. There is no warning in a dream to the father in Exodus but there is in AJ 2. There appears to be many elements borrowed from AJ 17 in one of the Herod stories, too.

          Matthew made a big deal about there being three sets of 14 generations, probably because “DaViD” equals 14 in Hebrew numerology. But he omitted four names from the OT genealogies from the second set and there are only 13 names in the third set as if he counted the Exile as a generation.

          Luke also used Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews a lot. He may have rejected Matthew’s genealogy for the above reasons. He probably objected to the baby killings so he turned to the first event in AJ 18 for a plot device for his birth narrative.

        • What you have mentioned here is one of those sticky difficulties that requires us to look more deeply

          Why is it a sticky difficulty? Only if the obvious conclusion (the Bible has contradictions) is unpleasant for you. Your agenda is showing.

          I’ll talk about “interpret difficult passages in terms of easy ones” in part 3 on Wednesday.

          if you throw out your entire faith because of this little snag (even though there IS an answer), you might want to consider how strong your faith was/is to begin with.

          ?? No, the issue isn’t this one little snag; it’s the mountain of evidence that the Bible was written by ordinary men and that it documents the evolution of a Bronze Age religion that evolved over time (like they all do).

          For me, it would take a LOT more than a technical controversy over dates to thwart my faith.

          Oh, come on—that’s not true. Your selling yourself short! No difficulties with dates would shake your faith.

        • Tim Ellison

          Yes your essay is great Bob. The point is that there is a bunch of us who follow Jesus who think the bible is a human book. That is why it has a ton of contradictions. This does not mean that it cannot serve up social criticism.

        • Yes, the Bible is a human book! I agree–that does explain the contradictions.

          Sure, it can provide social criticism, but has it? We didn’t get “slavery is immoral” from the Bible. We didn’t get democracy or civil rights from the Bible. The Church is always being dragged into modern social thinking, not leading the charge (as you’d expect from a divinely inspired book).

          Since we agree to a large extent about where the Bible comes from, maybe you should explain where the supernatural fits into this.

        • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

          As a divinely inspired book, the bible and all religious texts make little sense. As purely human books, the Bible and religious texts like it lack any vocal confirmation from anything supernatural, which would also highlight the lack of need to rely on the texts. The supernatural would be communicating directly! Instead, we only have people pointing to texts they claim we don’t have to rely on given their God(s) supposedly exist and is not an invalid(s).

        • bamboodread

          Don’t worry; we are used to liars for jesus

        • The Gospels are an ancient multi-version urban legend and nothing more. They are not acceptable as evidence for the existence of miracles or gods.

        • Yes. Because its all a collection of mythic tales, there is no compulsion for any “account” to have to be in agreement with any other. Just like there are different versions of the stories of King Arthur and the round table.

      • Lark62

        Ah, come on. Anyone clever enuf to rise from the dead can figure out a way to be born twice.

        /s

        • Greg G.

          He wants everybody to be born again.

        • Grimlock

          Well, if he was born twice, that’d certainly explain the two birth narratives.

    • LastManOnEarth

      Oh, you poor boo. This ends sadly.

    • Joe

      How are they witness testimony when the stories were written decades later (at best) by people who weren’t witnesses, and feature no testimony?

    • “I am a knowledgable student of the Bible…”

      You don’t sound like one. There are opposite facts. In Matthew 28, the women run and tell the apostles that Jesus has risen. In Mark 16 we see the same thing. Luke 24, same thing. But John — not so! John says the women went and told the apostles that someone had taken the body! In John, Peter and John run to the tomb believing the body has been taken. Luke says Peter ran to the tomb when he was told Jesus had risen. The problem here isn’t that one author says it’s Peter and John and the other only mentions Peter. That’s no big deal. Rather, we have two conflicting accounts of what spurred them to run to the tomb — one saying they had been told of the resurrection, and the other the sprint to the tomb took place before anybody ever heard anything about a resurrection. Both things cannot be true.

      • @EstherOReilly

        Hi there. You might not see this comment, but I wanted to just quickly jump in here because I’ve actually been enjoying a book called Easter Enigma, by John Wenham, that does a close study of these and many other questions around the Resurrection. I actually disagree with some of his conclusions, but he’s a very engaging writer. An important point he makes is that looking for ways to harmonize different accounts of the same event is not a desperation tactic used only by religious fundamentalists. Rather, it’s perfectly common praxis in the disciplines of history and law. Substantial agreement with circumstantial variety is exactly what authentic eyewitness reportage from multiple perspectives looks like.

        Taking a closer look at the specific questions you bring up here, I want to tease out some other facts that I think can bring clarity. First, the different perspectives of the different gospel authors matters here. Luke is writing as an outsider who wasn’t there during the events reported. He is gathering the reports of different people after the fact to piece together what happened. One reason you can tell he’s making a kind of “composite” is that he says all the women (he names at least three) brought the news to “the eleven and all the rest.” But if you look at the geography of the city and the chain of events as Jesus’ passion and death unfold, it’s clear that not all of his disciples wind up in the same place after they scatter. Peter and John and a couple of the women wind up in John’s house, while the other eleven are scattered around the city, with some of them probably going the opposite direction as the guards back to Bethany. So when Luke says that the women told everyone what had happened, he’s likely referring to the cumulative spread of the story as they go around in the course of the day finding all the disciples to spread the word. We also know from Luke that Mary Magdalene was in the party and that Peter ran to check the tomb out for himself.

        However, a higher-resolution look at the events from somebody closer to the facts could make clearer exactly who knew what and when, or whether (perhaps) not all the women were together all the time. This is what we have in John. Before we look at that, a quick note about Matthew and Mark: We don’t have the original ending of Mark. It appears to have been lost. For that reason, I don’t try to accommodate the apparently tacked-on and not original ending. As for Matthew, while it names only two women, this doesn’t exclude other women from being with the party–probably these were the two from whom Matthew was getting his report. In fact, we know there were other women at the cross–Luke names one of them, Joanna. Jesus’ aunt, Salome, was also there. So our best indication is that there were multiple women coming to the tomb, more than two.

        What’s unique to John is the experience of Mary Magdalene and the details of her conversation with Peter and John. I’m willing to grant that either Matthew or Luke weren’t aware of these specific details, which led them to think or imply that Mary Magdalene stayed with all the other women for the whole time. But that doesn’t really bother me. It would be a minor and natural slip, and if John is in fact the author of John, it makes sense that John would have a higher-resolution perspective on that very part of the events.

        As it is, here’s how it looks to me that things unfolded: The group of women approached the tomb and saw the stone rolled away. Mary Magdalene immediately split from the party and ran to tell Peter and John that someone had taken the body. Meanwhile, the other women saw the angel and realized what had actually happened, then met Jesus on the way back. At that point they scatter to look for the disciples. Maybe they meet Peter and John on the way and pour out the rest of the story, making them even more confused. Peter and John then come to the tomb and draw their conclusions, then go back home. Mary Magdalene, lagging far behind and maybe spending some time trying to find someone else to talk to first, then makes her own trip to the tomb. If she met Peter and John coming back they wouldn’t have anything to report except that they had found the tomb empty and Peter wasn’t sure what to think, so this wouldn’t really ease her mind.

        But after she goes to the tomb herself, she has her individual experience of the angels and the risen Jesus. At that point in time, not that long after the other women had their experience, she would then be in the same position as they were, so for the rest of the day it would make sense to say that “Mary and the other women” were spreading the news that Jesus had risen, like Luke does.

        That’s my best shot at pulling the different strands together. I want to stress again that I’m not wedded to biblical inerrancy here, so that’s why I allow for a slip like Matthew or Luke’s possibly not knowing about Mary Magdalene’s separate perspective. This is just the kind of organic harmonization that responsible historians do.

        • This is just the kind of organic harmonization that responsible historians do.

          But that’s the question, isn’t it? It’s a bold assumption to take it as history. If you’re simply saying that it’d be interesting to make that assumption and then see how the various threads can all be woven together in a reasonably coherent story, OK, sure. But if you step back and see that these accounts all have the supernatural in them, then that assumption of historicity is suspect. What if, instead, it’s legend or fan fiction or religious fable? That would recommend a different approach.

        • @EstherOReilly

          I agree that supernatural elements can lower prior probability, but a sufficiently top-heavy likelihood ratio can overcome a very low prior in a Bayesian analysis. You seem to be implicitly calling on Hume’s argument against miracles here, but he’s been refuted in the most recent literature. Check out the Stanford article on miracles or Earman, Hume’s Abject Failure for more details.

        • Then explain how one should treat a miracle claim. Examples: Sathya Sai Baba raised someone from the dead in the 20th century. Joseph Smith talked to an angel in the 19th century. Paul saw a risen Jesus in the 1st century.

          Evaluate these. Is only the last one is historical?

        • @EstherOReilly

          I apply the same filter to all miracle claims. I ask questions like how close the original reports are to the events, whether they appear to be circulated to the benefit of a powerful group, whether the people spreading it are doing so for their own self-interest, whether they confirm a pre-existing belief system, whether the reported events are trivial, etc.

          I take Joseph Smith’s claim of talking to an angel to be very weak, since it was a private experience, no public corroborating evidence to speak of or other things Smith did to prove he was legit. Smith didn’t even claim to be a miracle-worker. Mormonism as a religion seems to have been driven by the engine of his personal charisma, not to mention a strong element of self-interest for young men in particular. The details around the golden plates are also very fishy. So it doesn’t pass my filter.

          I looked up the Sai Baba claim, but since we have documents flatly denying that the man in question was ever even dead, including a letter from his attending physician, that seems dead in the water, no pun intended. Details here:

          http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/23/dbbook/3resur.htm

          By contrast, I think there’s a strong cumulative case to be made, subjecting the gospels to the same filter, that they are authentic eyewitness reportage and that Jesus’ resurrection was a historical fact. This makes the prior probability that Jesus would have appeared to Paul quite high in my estimation. The circumstances around Paul’s conversion and subsequent ministry are also very difficult to explain away otherwise. But that would take a while to unpack. I do recommend this debate for further discussion of whether it can be rational to believe in miracles:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueq47CEqNFw&

        • This makes the prior probability that Jesus would have appeared to Paul quite high in my estimation.

          Yeah, cuz people die and then appear in visions to other people all the time.

          The circumstances around Paul’s conversion and subsequent ministry are also very difficult to explain away otherwise.

          Stop assuming it’s history from the start and the problem vanishes.

          Why do you evangelize? I’m sure it’s for non-supernatural reasons. Why couldn’t Paul jump into his ministry for non-supernatural reasons as well?

        • MR

          I apply the same filter to all miracle claims. I ask questions like how close the original reports are to the events….

          That’s just standard apologetic rhetoric. I can never quite believe people when they say they actually do this. It’s more likely they read this is what you should say. This just doesn’t ring convincingly true to anyone who is trying to look at things objectively. If the gospels had never been seen before and were suddenly found today, no one would simply believe them. There’s nothing inherently true in the gospels. Most Christians believe because we were taught to believe by people we love and trusted. It’s hard to let that go.

        • Even today, Christianity is sustained by people indoctrinated as children. The conversion route is rare. Christianity would fade away quickly if it had to make its case to strangers.

        • @EstherOReilly

          “Yeah, cuz people die and then appear in visions to other people all the time.”

          Read more carefully. I was saying that if the gospels are, in fact, accurate reportage of historical events, and if we have good evidence for this independent of the record of the appearance to Paul in Acts, THEN this would significantly raise the prior probability that Jesus appeared to Paul in Acts. I realize you DON’T accept that the gospels are accurate reportage, but I was saying that since *I* do, I bring that to the table as relevant background information when I come to assess the particular claim that Jesus appeared to Paul. Sure, I *could* try to talk about the prior as if I did *not* have good reason to believe the gospels, but why would I deliberately tie one hand behind my back like that if I have a record like the gospels that could be directly pertinent to the question at hand? If I have good reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead, that would kind of raise the probability that someone would have a vision of him later, as opposed to someone’s having a vision of him if he were dead. This was all I was saying. It should not be controversial.

          Paul was a passionately zealous anti-Christian Jew on the fast track to a very plum position in the Sanhedrin before his conversion. He already had a deeply rooted religious faith, and he had every pragmatic reason *not* to convert to this small new religion which flew directly in the face of the Jewish establishment. Post-conversion, he got [squints at notes] flogged, jailed, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and more. No cushy job or other nice things though.

          “Stop assuming it’s history from the start and the problem vanishes.”

          What’s the antecedent of “it” here? If you mean Paul’s conversion and ministry, that’s historical fact. It has to be explained somehow.

        • Khanhminh Nguyen

          Do you know that in my country during Ngo Dinh Diem’s government, numerous Buddhists were murdered by his Catholic family for refusing to stop celebrating the Buddha’s birthday. A monk burned himself to death to protest this brutality. There is actual documentation that this incident happened. Compared to the book of acts, this incident has much better evidence..

          If you want to use a man’s persecution story to bolster your religion, there are tons out there that do not belong to Abrahamic traditions.

          If the American media cover these stories in depth as it does Christianity and they are given the same attention, I bet Christians like you will not act like your narrative is unique and it has to be true accordingly.

        • I was saying that if the gospels are, in fact, accurate reportage of historical events

          If the Gospels are historically accurate, then you win. Show that this incredible claim is true.

          I realize you DON’T accept that the gospels are accurate reportage, but I was saying that since *I* do, I bring that to the table as relevant background information when I come to assess the particular claim that Jesus appeared to Paul.

          Ah, but I bring to the table the fact that you’re wrong.

          Does that mean that I win?

          If I have good reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead

          Then present that information! That you believe you have compelling arguments counts for nothing.

          Paul was a passionately zealous anti-Christian Jew

          Or so he says.

          he had every pragmatic reason *not* to convert to this small new religion which flew directly in the face of the Jewish establishment.

          Huh?? People believe religious nonsense for all sorts of reasons. We could think of a dozen natural explanations for Paul’s conversion to Christianity, just like there are dozens of natural reasons that people adopt new religious beliefs today. The unlikeliest one is still far likelier than that the supernatural claims in the Bible are correct.

        • @EstherOReilly

          You didn’t ask me to assess the general claim that Jesus rose from the dead, you asked me to assess the claim that Jesus appeared to Paul. The latter doesn’t automatically follow from the former. That’s why I separated the two, while noting that they’re (obviously) connected.

          The case for general gospel reliability has many converging strands and moving parts. I don’t have the bandwidth to present all of it in a back-and-forth here, but I would recommend as a great starting-point for some of the evidence a book by Peter Williams called Can We Trust the Gospels? Williams accessibly pulls together a variety of evidences that the gospels were written by people close up to the time of the events recorded, who were attempting to give an accurate account of the things they wrote about. This effectively undercuts Ehrmanesque theories of much later legendary accretion. There are also free lectures on YouTube about internal evidences, external corroborations, and more.

          I can’t tell if you’re actually calling into question that Paul was a zealous Jew and a fierce persecutor of Christians before his conversion. I don’t see why you would, considering that this is an accepted fact among all scholars with a reputation to lose on this topic.

          Your broader insistence that *any* natural explanation, however strained, sloppy, or unsatisfactory, must automatically be preferred to *any* supernatural explanation, is simply out of touch with how probabilistic modeling actually works. You’re confusing antecedent with posterior probabilities. That’s Hume’s blunder again, which, as I already mentioned, has been soundly refuted in the theoretical literature on Bayesian modeling and miracles. I refer you again to that literature, if you actually want to be caught up on this. Here’s a good place to start. Can’t go wrong with the Stanford Encyclopedia. Happy reading!

          https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/miracles/

        • You didn’t ask me to assess the general claim that Jesus rose from the dead, you asked me to assess the claim that Jesus appeared to Paul.

          I see that they’re different. Is one more believable than the other? They’re both 10-out-of-10 on the insanity scale to me.

          The case for general gospel reliability has many converging strands and moving parts. I don’t have the bandwidth to present all of it in a back-and-forth here

          By contrast, I have written a number of posts at this blog arguing against this. You’re welcome to dig those up.

          I would recommend as a great starting-point for some of the evidence a book by Peter Williams called Can We Trust the Gospels?

          I doubt Williams rebuts the points I make in those posts I just alluded to.

          This effectively undercuts Ehrmanesque theories of much later legendary accretion.

          How much later would it need to be for “legend” to make sense to you? For me, very little. You could find something in today’s paper about an event yesterday that’s factually wrong.

          There are also free lectures on YouTube about internal evidences, external corroborations, and more.

          I’m familiar with these.

          I can’t tell if you’re actually calling into question that Paul was a zealous Jew and a fierce persecutor of Christians before his conversion. I don’t see why you would, considering that this is an accepted fact among all scholars with a reputation to lose on this topic.

          I’m saying that a natural explanation for Paul’s conversion to a new religion is far, far, far, far, far, far more likely than the supernatural explanation that Jesus really rose from the dead, really appeared to Paul, really was the son of God, and so on.

          Your broader insistence that *any* natural explanation, however strained, sloppy, or unsatisfactory, must automatically be preferred to *any* supernatural explanation, is simply out of touch with how probabilistic modeling actually works. You’re confusing antecedent with posterior probabilities. That’s Hume’s blunder again

          Yeah? Find someone who converted from Christianity to some other religion, then find what their rationale was—the new religion makes more sense, it’s the religion of their family or friends, they had some relevant spiritual experience, the new religion helped them when they were in a low point in life, and so on. These kinds of religious conversions happen millions of times per year. They’re very common.

          Contrast that with Jesus rising from the dead, which has happened very few times or even (dare I say it?) has never happened.

          Now tell me how I’m out of touch when I prefer the naturalistic explanation.

        • @EstherOReilly

          I’m sorry, but in Paul’s case the historical context and his own profession of the circumstances around his conversion really don’t leave you with the option that he was a sincere convert who just imbibed some codswallop. Either he made up his story out of whole cloth, in which case he was a fraud (which doesn’t square with what would have been in his own interests, besides which he wasn’t alone on the Damascus road and specifically names people like Ananias who could confirm or deny his story), or he had a hallucination (case for this is really weak), or he was telling the truth. That exhausts the space here.

        • Sure, take “he made it all up” as a hypothetical explanation. That’s less likely than Jesus died, was resurrected, and appeared to Paul as a spirit?

        • @EstherOReilly

          Right, well this is the part where we talk about the likelihood ratio in a Bayesian analysis of all this. But you don’t seem interested in mathy kinds of things, so I guess I’ll sign off here. The Stanford article will help though, if you ever feel like taking a look.

        • Susan

          as been soundly refuted in the theoretical literature on Bayesian modeling and miracles

          I don’t see that it’s been “soundly refuted’ in your link.

        • @EstherOReilly

          The link points to, among other resources, Earman’s work Hume’s Abject Failure (which, among other things, vindicates contemporaries of Hume himself who correctly intuited his fatal error while lacking modern tools to model it at the time). It is true that there are a couple voices like Robert Fogelin who have attempted to protest that Hume has not been defeated. I have read Fogelin’s paper, as well as a rebuttal effectively showing why Fogelin is completely off the mark. Rescuing Hume from himself is, at this point in time, a lost cause. Earman, it should be noted, has no religious interest in the matter. He is an agnostic who simply wants to set the record straight. Those inclined to follow in Hume’s train would do well to get up to speed here. Also, have a look in the Stanford article at the section on Bayes’ Theorem. It’s not overly difficult to follow and neatly explains Hume’s misstep.

    • Damien Priestly

      Yeah right…Zombies in Jerusalem is a perfect example of something that CANNOT be dismissed or said to be untrue…

      Matthew 27:52–53
      -> “…and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”

      Yep, your dead Grandma and Grandpa made a Passover appearance,…how could anyone doubt this? Makes Jesus rising look like small potatoes. No biggie, like you say — this is “just a small sampling, and that there are MANY, MANY things not in those accounts.”

    • Quiz Show (Bible Contradictions)

      The two contestants (Craig & Ken) give contradictory answers so they are BOTH winners – the bible truly is a fabulous literary work.

      fabulous [fab-yuh-luhs]
      adjective
      1 almost impossible to believe; incredible.
      2 Informal . exceptionally good or unusual; marvelous; superb: a fabulous bargain; a fabulous new house.
      3 told about in fables; purely imaginary: the fabulous exploits of Hercules.
      4 known about only through myths or legends.

      https://youtu.be/RB3g6mXLEKk

  • Tina S.

    Every time a Christian gets cornered with a question they cannot answer, they rarely say they just don’t know. Instead, they use the old, “well I believe the bible is true” and just stop right there. If they don’t like something they read in the bible, they say it’s just a guideline, if they like it, it’s the law. I was a Christian for over 40 years and I know these tactics because I once used them too! Just admit you don’t know and move on. The bible has been rewritten numerous times, so nothing is actual fact, it’s hearsay.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    If they believe that the Bible should be taken literally, then, they probably believe Trump’s Lies. Ask these deluded folks if they want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, they will say, “Yes,” and so sell it to them for about $50,000., if they pay you that $50 K, add it to your retirement money and invest it.

  • Philip Buczko

    If Jesus fled to Egypt then the bible teaches us that it is an eighty year round trip so JC would have started his ministry when he was in his forties assuming they didn’t stay in Egypt for too long.

    • Grimlock

      Yeah, but Google Maps would beg to differ.

      • Greg G.

        But remember that Google Maps didn’t have voice recognition back then. (I am stealing this joke from another commenter in this forum.) It was , “No Siri, I said ‘THE DEAD SEA’, not ‘THE RED SEA’!”

    • I heard the 40 years was just Moses refusing to ask directions.

      • . . . coupled with a great hoard of very stupid people- who agreed to wait decades in the desert when fertile land was just a couple of weeks journey away?

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “The two statements must directly and unambiguously contradict each other.”

    OK, done.

    Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

    Proverbs 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

    • Psalm 14:1 King James Version (KJV)

      14 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they
      have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

      (Matthew has his response to that opinion:)

      Matthew 5:22 King James Version (KJV)

      22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a
      cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his
      brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall
      say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire
      .

      • C_Alan_Nault

        Actually, Matthew 5:22 isn’t Matthew’s response. According to the Bible, Matthew 5:22 is quoting what Jesus’ response is.

        Which is odd, because Jesus contradicts his own teaching & calls people fools several times….

        Matthew 7:26 Jesus says that anyone who hears his words and does not do them is a fool.
        Matthew 23:17-19 Jesus twice calls the Pharisees blind fools.
        Matthew 25:2, 3, 8 Jesus likens the maidens who took no oil to fools.

        I guess it’s a case of god saying “It’s wrong unless it is ME doing it, do as I say, not as I do”.