Madison Malarkey #44: Gospel Gish Gallop Garbage

Madison Malarkey #44: Gospel Gish Gallop Garbage December 30, 2020

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  I have replied to his videos or articles 43 times as of this writing. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (from 8-1-19 to 12-29-20). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, the atheist author, polemicist, and extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the ultra-insulting Debunking Christianity blog. Dr. Madison made his cramped, insulated mentality clear in a comment from 9-6-19:

[T]he burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked. . . . I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.

John “you are an idiot!” Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, so that he and Dr. Madison could avoid replying to yours truly, or even see notices of my replies (er, sorry, rants, rather). Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue.

Presently, I am replying to his article, “Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 4: The perils of comparing the gospels” (10-16-20).


The Gish gallop is a term for an eristic technique in which a debater attempts to overwhelm an opponent by excessive number of arguments, without regard for the accuracy or strength of those arguments. The term was coined by Eugenie Scott; . . . It is similar to a methodology used in formal debate called spreading. During a Gish gallop, a debater confronts an opponent with a rapid series of many specious arguments, half-truths, and misrepresentations in a short space of time, which makes it impossible for the opponent to refute all of them within the format of a formal debate. In practice, each point raised by the “Gish galloper” takes considerably more time to refute or fact-check than it did to state in the first place. The technique wastes an opponent’s time and may cast doubt on the opponent’s debating ability for an audience unfamiliar with the technique, especially if no independent fact-checking is involved or if the audience has limited knowledge of the topics. (Wikipedia, “Gish gallop”)

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus comes out of nowhere to be baptized in the Jordan River, . . . 

Mark simply chose to start the story from the vantage-point of the average Jew at that time, observing that this man named Jesus had appeared on the scene after being unknown. Dr. Madison wants to make an issue of this: as if it is a supposed contradiction with other Gospels. It’s not. The four evangelists offer stories and accounts of the same overall events from different perspectives: emphasizing selected things as they choose and please.

Many atheists seem to possess this goofy, silly notion that all four of them must be exactly the same, or else (if not!) they are allegedly endlessly “contradictory.” Well, that’s a dumb and groundless presupposition in the first place, and in fact the Gospels do not contradict, as I have demonstrated innumerable times, as have many other Christian apologists and theologians. And in fact, almost all of the alleged “contradictions” brought up by anti-theist atheist polemicists are simply not contradictions, from the criteria of logic itself.

Here Jesus is portrayed as an apocalyptic prophet . . .

Yes; as He is in all four Gospels. But there are, as I said, different emphases, so this is a relatively minor point.

he promises those at his trial that they will see him coming on the clouds of heaven.

Yep, just as He does in Matthew 24:30 and 26:64 and, in effect, Luke 22:69, where the clause, “Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (RSV) is obviously the same reference as Mt 26:64: “Son of man seated at the right hand of Power”: just without the added mention of the “clouds.” All three passages clearly allude to Daniel 9:12-14: one of the most famous messianic passages. There is no rule or requirement that every Gospel writer must cite complete prophecies and can never cite part of them.

And (need I mention it?), such selective citation does not mean there is logical contradiction, merely as a result of differential citation. It’s like people citing different portions of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. They don’t contradict. Anyone even slightly familiar with American history knows what’s being cited. That’s how it was with messianic prophecies.  Jesus in the Gospel of John expresses the same notion (both the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His Second Coming) but in a different, more personal way (expressed to His twelve disciples only, at the Last Supper): 

John 16:5, 10  But now I am going to him who sent me . . . [10] . . . I go to the Father . . . [i.e., “at the right hand of the power of God”] (cf. Jn 7:33; 8:21; 14:2-4, 12, 28; 16:7, 17; 17:11, 13)

John 14:18, 28 I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. . . . [28]. . . I will come to you . . . 

Mark also portrays Jesus as an exorcist.

So do the other two Synoptic Gospels. Mark mentions (in RSV) “demon[s]” or “demoniac” etc. 17 times, but Matthew mentions these words 19 times, and Luke, 24 times.  But there is also the description of “unclean spirit”: which Mark references 13 times, Luke 5 times, and Matthew twice. Luke also uses “evil spirit” twice (and four more times in Acts 19, but we won’t count those). So the grand total, including all three terms are:

Luke: 31

Mark: 30

Matthew: 21

Thus, we can say that Mark emphasizes this element a bit more — being much shorter than Luke (which is fine and dandy), but it’s certainly no “contradiction” compared to Matthew and Luke.

Moreover, he puts far less emphasis on Jesus’ teaching role; Mark says that people were astounded by his message, but little of the content is provided.

This is untrue, and it’s amazing that Dr. Madison could claim that it is. We can observe the term “astounded” used once in Mark (6:51), “astonished” (five times), and “amazed” (eight  times). In all but three of the 14 cases, or 79% of the time in Mark, preceding context makes it clear what they were amazed / astonished / astounded at. Jesus taught them either by word or by deed (miracles send quite a “message” too!):

Mark 1:22: unspecified

Mark 1:27: Jesus had cast out a demon (1:23-26)

Mark 2:12: Jesus had forgiven the sins of a paralytic and healed him (2:3-11)

Mark 6:2: unspecified

Mark 6:51: Jesus has just walked on the water and stilled the wind (6:48-51)

Mark 7:37: Jesus had just healed a deaf man with a speech impediment (7:32-36)

Mark 9:15: unspecified

Mark 10:24: Jesus had just taught about the relation of riches to serving God, in his encounter with the rich young ruler (10:17-23)

Mark 10:26: this is the same reaction as in 10:24, for the same reason. He had added: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (10:24-25)

Mark 10:32: Jesus had said to them specifically that they would “receive a hundredfold . . . and in the age to come eternal life” as a reward for their great sacrifices in being His disciples (10:27-31)

Mark 11:18: Jesus had just cleared the temple of the moneychangers and explained that the temple was for “prayer” rather than “robbers” (11:15-17)

Mark 12:17: Jesus had just taught about paying taxes and “rendering unto Caesar” (12:13-17)

Mark 16:5: the dead Jesus was no longer in His tomb (16:5), then the angels says, “do not be amazed” (16:6) 

How odd, then, that Dr. Madison thinks “little of the content is provided.” Granted, it’s another fairly minor point, but it does illustrate Dr. Madison’s relentless quest to find supposed “contradictions” where there are none, and how he is consistently wrong, even on smaller issues. No one (except an apologist like myself) would have neither time nor desire to “check” him on this matter (which is precisely the desired result of the unsavory Gish gallop method of “argumentation”). But this is why I do what I do. I have both time and desire to deal with all of these things, so that others, reading, can get on with far more important matters, and not let Dr. Madison’s nonsense be a stumbling-block to them.

By some estimates, its story of Jesus could have taken place in just two or three weeks . . . 

By comparing it to the other Gospels, it becomes clear that this isn’t the case.

Matthew, indeed, proved to be a master of invention. Other cults felt that virgin-birth was an appropriate credential for their sons of god, so Matthew decided to add that to Jesus; he goofed when he used a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14 to slip virgin birth into his story.

I dealt with and disposed of this objection:

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: “Mistranslation” of “Virgin”? (Isaiah 7:14) (with Glenn Miller) [7-26-17]

Dual Fulfillment of Prophecy & the Virgin Birth (vs. JMS Pearce) [12-18-20]

But Matthew added troubling Jesus-script (10: 37), unknown to Mark; how does this rank on any scale of moral teaching? “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” We can infer from this that, by Matthew’s time, cult fanaticism was trending in the Jesus sect. As we shall see, Luke made this text worse. . . .  Moreover, he [Luke] felt that Matthew 10:37, was too mild, i.e., “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…” He changed Jesus’ words to: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (14:26) You have to hate your own life. 

This is classic cult fanaticism; today we recommend deprogramming for people who get suckered in.  The devout are rightly shocked by Luke 14:26 and assume that surely it’s a misquote. But this verse provides insight into Luke’s agenda: he didn’t want people in the Jesus cult who had divided loyalties. Of course, this text has been a challenge to professional defenders of the faith: How to tone it down? The editors of the English Standard Version use the heading, “The Cost of Discipleship,” for this section, instead of, say, “Jesus the Cult Fanatic.” Most decent Christians would reject hatred of family as a “cost” of discipleship. 

Dealt with already:

Dr. David Madison vs. Jesus #1: Hating One’s Family? [8-1-19]

Madison vs. Jesus #5: Cultlike Forsaking of Family? [8-5-19]

When Luke got to work on his gospel, he knew that Matthew had to be corrected as much as Mark did. 

Right. Now, I dare to ask (sorry for being rational and logical): how could anyone possibly “know” such a thing, unless Luke expressly stated it? This is, of course, the fallacy of the argument from silence.

What a dumb idea—he must have thought—having Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Egypt, so he deleted that from his birth narrative.

See my previous paragraph. This is the “dumb idea” here: not what the Bible describes about Jesus’ infancy.

But he had the even dumber idea of an empire-wide census that required people to travel to the home of their ancestors to sign up. No other historian of the time mentions any such thing; major chaos would have resulted from such a decree. 

Dealt with here:

The Census, Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem, & History: Reply to Atheist John W. Loftus’ Irrational Criticisms of the Biblical Accounts [2-3-11]

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: Herod’s Death & Alleged “Contradictions” (with Jimmy Akin) [7-25-17]

Luke did include the Sermon on the Mount, but he shortened it, broke it up, altered the wording—and said it took place on a plain.

Dealt with:

Sermon on the Mount: Striking Topographical Facts (9-16-15)

His Jesus had been present at Creation, so he [John] left out the virgin birth; . . . 

This is beyond idiotic. All four Gospels teach the divinity / Godhood of Jesus (the incarnation). They all teach that He is eternal, and the Creator. The virgin birth doesn’t contradict the deity of Jesus. It’s simply the way that God became man. See:

Jesus is God: Hundreds of Biblical Proofs (RSV edition) [1982; rev. 2012]

Holy Trinity: Hundreds of Biblical Proofs (RSV edition) [1982; rev. 2012]

Deity of Jesus: Called Lord/Kurios & God/Theos [10-24-11]

Seidensticker Folly #55: Godhood of Jesus in the Synoptics [9-12-20]

Mark had claimed that Jesus taught only in parables (4:34), but John has no parables.

But Jesus does talk (as recorded in the Gospel of John) in many metaphorical or proverbial (non-literal) ways that bear resemblance to the synoptic parables. For example:

John 2:19-21 (RSV) Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [20] The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” [21] But he spoke of the temple of his body.

John 3:8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.

John 4:13-14 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (see also 10:1-10, 12-18, including Jesus calling Himself “the door” three times)

John 11:12-14 But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” [11] Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, “Our friend Laz’arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.” [12] The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” [13] Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. [14] Then Jesus told them plainly, “Laz’arus is dead;”

But before we even get to that, one must properly understand Mark 4:34: “he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” This does not teachthat Jesus [all the time] taught only in parables.” And it doesn’t because we have to understand whether the statement was referring only to the immediate context or to all of Jesus’ teachings whatever. It’s patently obvious by reading the Gospels, that Jesus did not always teach in parables. So that isn’t even in question. Only a totally biased skeptic and apostate like Dr. Madison could even think that it is. He must twist his mind into a pretzel to believe such a ridiculous thing.

Secondly, even when Jesus used parables a lot, it doesn’t follow that He could never use other teaching methods (it’s not a mutually exclusive situation). Mark 4:34 could simply mean, “Jesus often included a parable when He taught.” The Bible uses a lot of hyperbole as well. Even in this passage, it says, “privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” But that’s not literally true, either. It’s only broadly true. So, for example, Jesus said to His disciples: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (Jn 16:12). In another instance, when Jesus started explaining that He was to be killed, and that this was God’s plan, Peter didn’t understand, and disagreed. Jesus rebuked him, but didn’t further  explain:

Matthew 16:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. [22] And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” [23] But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (cf. Mk 8:31-33)

Here’s another similar example:

Luke 9:44-45 “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” [45] But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

This was not a parable, but rather, a literal a prophetic statement about what was to happen, and Jesus did not explain it to His disciples.

There is no Eucharist in John’s; instead he washed the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. 

It’s not stated, but we know that it took place, because this was the Last Supper, which was the Jewish Passover (a meal), incorporated into the new understanding of the Eucharist, instituted by Jesus. Since the three Synoptic Gospels mentioned the institution of the Eucharist, John didn’t necessarily have to. He concentrates on other things Jesus said during the last Supper. What Dr. Madison seems to think is a “contradiction” and a big concern, is none at all.

John also left out the Sermon on the Mount, . . . 

Technically, he didn’t “leave out” anything. He wrote exactly what he wanted to write in his account. If three accounts of something already exist, why have a fourth? Sometimes John also records events from the Synoptics, but he is under no obligation to do any of that. Only atheists seem to have this ludicrous idea that all four evangelists must always write exactly the same about everything, lest it is one of their endless pseudo-“contradictions.” Because of this warped, illogical, irrational mentality, Dr. Madison can write a ridiculous statement such as this, in conclusion:

With these examples, I’ve just scratched the surface. A careful study of the gospels—especially using a gospel parallels version—shows that, right from the start, the authors of the Jesus story couldn’t get the story straight, and it was a blunder to publish the four conflicting accounts side-by-side. Given this mess—so many different ideas from which to pick and choose—it’s hardly a surprise that Christians are so deeply divided. The bigger blunder, of course, was conferring “Word of God” status on these ancient novels. That’s an added layer of magical thinking.

The Bible truly describes people like Dr. Madison:

Proverbs 15:2 . . . the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Proverbs 15:14 The mind of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

Proverbs 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to himself.

Ecclesiastes 10:13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is wicked madness.


Photo credit: netkids (3-22-16) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]


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