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April 8, 2021

The following exchange demonstrates how easy such alleged “contradictions” are to refute and “solve.” Anyone who understands how logic works and who has an open mind and desire to be objective, could have done the same.

*****

Atheist C Nault wrote the following on my blog:

Jesus’ final words on the cross before he died:

Matthew 27:46-50 & Mark 15:34-37 Jesus’ last recorded words are: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Luke 23:46 Jesus’ last recorded words are: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”

John 19:30 Jesus’ last recorded words are: “It is finished.”

These cannot all be correct. At a minimum, two of the gospels ( Luke and John) are contradictions. At a maximum, 3 of the gospels are contradictions.

When you read the gospel accounts of Christ’s tomb, there are a lot of contradictions.

***

Here is my initial reply: made by simply looking at the biblical texts, and not consulting any other theological / apologetics source:

Matthew 27 doesn’t claim in the first place that “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” was Jesus’ last saying because it states: “And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (27:50, RSV). “Last recorded” is not the same as “last.”

Mark does the same: “And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last” (15:37).

Luke 23:46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

These are His last words according to Luke and the Bible, as indicated by the final sentence. This is the cry with a “loud voice” or “loud cry” referred to in Matthew and Mark. So far, no contradictions.

John 19:30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

All one has to say here is that He said, “It is finished” right before He said what Luke records: which was indeed giving “up his spirit” and the equivalent of Matthew’s “yielded up his spirit”.

Thus, the four accounts are harmonious. It’s simply not a logical contradiction. This is altogether typical of atheist claims of biblical “contradictions.” It can’t pass the logical “smell test.” And this is why it is so easy for me to refute scores and scores of such examples, with shoddy logic of this sort being constantly employed by desperate atheists.

***

The above, is, I think, quite sufficient as a refutation. But here are two additional commentaries on this “problem” from others, that make it an even stronger and more airtight case:

Apologist Eric Lyons elaborates upon how logic works in this instance:

[S]upplementation is not equivalent to a contradiction. For example, suppose you tell a friend about your trip to Disney World. You mention that you went to Magic Kingdom on Monday. Later, you state that you went to Hollywood Studios on Monday. Have you lied? Are these two contradictory statements? Not necessarily. It could be that you visited both Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios on the same day. Similarly, the seven statements the gospel writers recorded that Jesus made from the cross (including the three aforementioned statements—Matthew 27:46; Luke 23:46; John 19:30) all supplement one another. Nothing is said about Jesus making only one of these statements. What’s more, silence does not negate supplementation. Simply because John wrote that our suffering Savior said, “‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30), does not mean that Jesus could not also have said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” after He had cried out, “It is finished,” and before His death (Luke 23:46). Nothing in John 19:30, Luke 23:46, or Matthew 27:46,50 is contradictory. We simply have three different statements that Jesus made at three different moments during His crucifixion. . . .

If a person merely gave the Bible writers the same measure of respect and benefit of the doubt he shows others with whom he communicates on a daily basis, he would quickly find that the only “falsities” are within the baseless and biased accusations made against Scripture, and not Scripture itself.

The Domain for Truth website states:

None of the three verses recording Jesus’ final words contradict one another.  Jesus could have said all three phrases as part of the last few words He uttered before His death.  In order for there to be a logical contradiction one or more verses have to say “Jesus’ only last words were ___.”  But none of the three verses states that.  Only when a passage exclude any other last words recorded by the other Gospels in the Bible would we have a contradiction.  And again this simply is not the case.

***

Photo credit: geralt (6-20-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

***

Summary: The alleged “contradictions” regarding Jesus’ last words are easy as pie to refute. Anyone who understands logic, has an open mind, and is objective and non-hostile, could demonstrate this.

***

 

March 12, 2021

Atheist and sometimes sparring partner Jonathan MS Pearce announced a book on this topic:

Here is a list of contradictions, differences and speculations found in Paul’s writings, the Gospels concerning the Resurrection accounts, and Acts, taken from Michael J. Alter’s tour de force, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry [UK]. This is a comprehensive list well worth perusing and checking out further. . . . There are 120 “Differences and Contradictions” and 217 “Speculations”. Please check the thorough work he has done on them in his magnificent book.

Mr. Alter is an adherent of Judaism, who specializes in countering Christian theology and apologetics. Pearce then listed all 120 alleged “contradictions.” I replied in the combox:

Cool! Something else for me to work on refuting. I wish there was a bit more information under each one, but can’t have everything.

He wrote back: “His book is well worth getting.” I noted:

I’ve already refuted many of these:

“Three Days and Nights” in the Tomb: Contradiction? [10-31-06]

Dialogue w Atheist on Post-Resurrection “Contradictions” [1-26-11]

Seidensticker Folly #18: Resurrection “Contradictions”? [9-17-18]

Seidensticker Folly #57: Male Witnesses of the Dead Jesus [9-14-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #13: Resurrection “Contradictions” (?) [2-2-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #14: Resurrection “Contradictions” #2 [2-4-21]

Seidensticker Folly #31: Jesus’ Burial Spices Contradiction? [4-20-19]

Madison vs. Jesus #12: Discipleship & Jewish Burial Customs [8-8-19]

Seidensticker Folly #15: Jesus’ Ascension: One or 40 Days? [9-10-18]

Death of Judas: Alleged Bible Contradictions Debunked (vs. Dave Van Allen and Dr. Jim Arvo) [9-27-07]

12 Disciples of Jesus: Alleged Contradictions Debunked [12-9-06]

Seidensticker Folly #30: Small vs. Great Commission? [10-26-18]

Seidensticker Folly #48: Peter’s Denials & Accusers [8-31-20]

I shall make [mostly, with a few notable exceptions] brief responses to many of the 120 “Differences and Contradictions” (in blue). With the help of the Google Books page for this book I can find out what he was trying to argue in the vague titles.

Differences and Contradictions

  • #1: The Year Jesus Was Crucified

Honest folks (including orthodox Catholics and traditional Protestants) disagree on this matter, and Mr. Alter surveys the debate in his book (see the Google Books link I provide above), but — in any event — Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin provided what I think is a solid and plausible case from the Bible that the date was 33 AD (or CE).

  • #2: The Controversy Regarding the Garments

Alter argues that many people (“Most of the crowd” in Matthew 21:8, RSV) laying down their garments before Jesus on Palm Sunday makes no sense because these were often the only clothes the poorer people (who were numerous) had. But he himself notes more than once that the clothing at this time in Israel usually had an inner layer (shirt or tunic) and an outer cloak (abba, or himatia in Greek). It seems a rather weak objection: lots of people spread out their “jackets” in effect. No biggie: especially not in a hot climate. I don’t see that this is immediately questionable as an accurate account on these grounds.

  • #3: Nisan 14 or Nisan 15

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin proved from the Bible that Jesus’ crucifixion and death occurred on 3 April (Nisan 15) 33 AD. See also, “April 3, AD 33: Why We Believe We Can Know the Exact Date Jesus Died” (Andreas J. Kostenberger, First Things, 4-3-14), and Lori Eldridge, “What Day of the Week Was Jesus Crucified?”

  • #4: The Last Supper as a Passover Meal

Yes it was, as shown by Fr. William P. Saunders on the Catholic Straight Answers site. See also, Jimmy Akin: “Was the Last Supper a Passover Meal?”

  • #5: The Wrong Name in Mark 14:12

Christian philosopher and historian Bill Fortenberry solves this alleged “problem.”

  • #6: The Day of the Week Jesus Was Crucified

Jimmy Akin and Andreas J. Kostenberger proved from the Bible and history that it was on a Friday.

  • #7: John Contradicts Mark

This has to do with the exact time of the crucifixion. Jimmy Akin deals with that, too.

[#8, #10, and #11 are too vague to know what the skeptical claims are and are inaccessible in the Google Book version. #9 is too involved and complex for a brief answer to suffice]

  • #12: When Jesus Spoke His Last Words

Explained by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, “Simple Harmony of the Crucifixion Accounts (NIV)”.

[#13 and #15 are vague and are inaccessible in the Google Book version]

  • #14: Contradictory Narratives Regarding the Veil

Eric Lyons of Apologetics Press ably refutes this.

[#15 to #17 are vague; not sure of the meaning of #18 and I don’t want to guess; all are inaccessible in the Google Book version]

  • #19: Topography versus Matthew: The Centurion Could Not View the Tearing of the Temple’s Veil

Matthew never claims that the centurion saw the temple veil tearing. Matthew 27:54 (RSV) states:

When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The temple veil was mentioned four verses earlier. “What took place” doesn’t have to refer to absolutely everything. It simply means (in what I submit is the obvious, straightforward, common-sense interpretation) what the centurion saw in front of him, including an earthquake and an eclipse (27:45). That’s more than enough to seem to him to be divine signs.  It’s quite a desperate argument.

[#20 is too vague to understand without further elaboration and is inaccessible in the Google Book version]

  • #21: The Differing Accounts of the Women at the Cross during the Crucifixion

This appears to be about whether the women stood “by” the cross [what is interpreted as very close] (John) or at a “distance” (Matthew, Mark, Luke). It comes down mostly to meanings of Greek words, but also to the element of time and the nature of an actual contradiction.  The “difficulty” is disposed of at The Domain for Truth website.

  • #22: The Prophetic Fulfillment Is Omitted in the Synoptics

A specific omission in one or more Gospels is an “argument from silence” and proves absolutely nothing.  This is assuredly not a contradiction, by its very nature, and thus requires no further consideration. I suppose he could say this was one of the “differences” rather than “contradictions” (per his subtitle).

If so, I reply: “then how is it relevant to your project if it doesn’t involve a contradiction?” Who cares that one Gospel mentions something that the others didn’t? Are we to believe that all four Gospel writers must be absolutely clones of each other, or else we will hear the cry of “contradiction!” every time the slightest (non-contradictory) variation of any sort appears? Without a contradiction, then biblical inspiration and infallibility aren’t weakened.

  • #23: Exodus 12:46 Is Not a Prophetic Verse
  • #24: Psalm 34 Is Not a Prophetic Verse

It’s not that simple. The fact remains that passages in the Old Testament that, prima facie, don’t “seem” to be “prophecies” were later interpreted to be just that. And the reason is that a prophecy can have a dual application. I explained — and proved — this at length to Jonathan MS Pearce, with regard to the virgin birth: in reply to one of his attempted rebuttals of some of my reasoning. He has not counter-replied as of this writing (almost three months later). He’s a very busy person (understood; aren’t we all?). I’m simply stating the fact of non-reply thus far.

There are also some passages like Isaiah 53 that we know were considered messianic by the Jews before the time of Christ, but have since been differently interpreted (largely due, we think, to reaction against Christian messianic interpretations).

[#25 is vague and inaccessible in the Google Book version]

  • #26: How Could John Know Blood and Water Exited Jesus’s Body?

By simple observation. He saw what has been verified by medical science; and this is an excellent verification of the trustworthiness and accuracy and (we also say) inspiration of Holy Scripture. A cardio-thoracic surgeon, Dr. Antony de Bono, explained it this way:

Jesus had a haemothorax, which in the stillness of the dead body, had separated out as they do into two layers: the heavier red cells below and the light watery plasma above. The haemothorax was the result of the savage flagellation.

The withdrawal of the spear would have been followed first by the red cells (blood), then by the lighter plasma (water).

The body of Jesus had been hanging on the cross, dead, for some time. Obviously the fluid must have accumulated during life by a bleeding into the chest cavity, almost certainly due to the savage flagellation.

It is well known that blood in these circumstances in a still dead body starts to separate out, to sediment, the heavier red cells sinking to the bottom leaving a much lighter, straw colored fluid, the plasma above.

When a hole is made by the spear, the red cells, which John describes as blood, gushes out first, followed by the plasma, which John saw as water.

It’s the consecutive, non-simultaneous draining of the blood first, then water, that made it easy to identify by a “lay” onlooker (with the clear fluid being accurately identified as “water”). See also, “The Science of the Crucifixion” by biologist Dr. Cahleen Shrier.

  • #27: The Distorted Emotional Context of Zechariah 12
  • #28: The Distorted Historical Context of Zechariah 12—Israel Is Saved
  • #29: The Distorted Historical Context of Zechariah 12—Prophetic Fulfillment
  • #30: The Distorted and Mistranslated Subjects of “They” in Zechariah 12:10
  • #31: The Distorted and Mistranslated Subjects of “HIM” in Zechariah 12:10
  • #32: The Figurative Subject of “HIM” in Zechariah 12:10
  • #33: The Distorted and Understood PRONOUN of “HIM” in Zechariah 12:10

Boy, he’s giving it all he’s got for this verse, huh? As with Isaiah 53, the Jews before Christ regarded this as a messianic passage (therefore, Christians are justified in applying it to Jesus, Who is the Messiah). I did a study of this passage (among many others) way back in 1982, as one of my very first apologetics projects. Here’s what I discovered:

Zechariah 12:10-12: “They will look on me whom they have pierced.” Connection with Joel 2:28; see also Mt 24:30 and Rev 1:7. Some Jews sought to give “pierced” a figurative meaning, i.e., “grieved.” This was the view of the Septuagint also. Similar interpretation was given to Zech 13:3, where it seems even more unlikely. Elsewhere, the verb daquar is never figurative; it is always literal: Num 25:8, Jud 9:54, 1 Sam 31:4, 1 Chr 10:4, Is 13:15, Jer 37:10, 51:4, Lam 4:9. The parallel verse Zech 13:7, with its mention of the sword, gives good reason to interpret the verse literally. The Palestinian Talmud and also the Babylonian Talmud interpret the verse messianically, as do Ibn-ezra and Abravanel. Many Jews attributed the passage to Messiah ben Joseph. The Jews eventually changed the divine “Me” to “him,” even though “Me” is found in the oldest, the best, and the largest number of manuscripts.

[drawn from Christology of the Old Testament and a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg [1802-1869; an orthodox Lutheran and eminent theologian], translated by T. Meyer, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 4 volumes, 1854-1858]

  • #34: Zechariah 12: Contradictory to the Olivet Discourse

Interpretation of prophecy is a very complex area, and prophecy can have dual applications and “time-compression” (what is also known as “telescoping), and (strange, to our modern thinking) a different conception of chronological elements, as I have written about:

“Difficulty” in Understanding the Bible: Hebrew Cultural Factors

Genesis Contradictory (?) Creation Accounts & Hebrew Time: Refutation of a Clueless Atheist “Biblical Contradiction”

These are known and studied phenomena of ancient Jewish thought and literature. Therefore, passages (from both testaments) can sometimes address both the first and second comings of Jesus more or less together in what we perceive as a “jumbled” fashion.

[#35 and #36 are too vague and are inaccessible in the Google Book version]

  • #37: Who Took Jesus’s Body Down from the Cross?

The Domain for Truth website does a devastating and thorough refutation of this claim of “contradiction.”

  • #38: Joseph’s Purchase of the Linen Sheets

I disposed of this in my paper: Pearce’s Potshots #15: Gospel of Matthew vs. Gospel of Mark?

[#39 is vague and is inaccessible in the Google Book version]

  • #40: Archaeological Rebuttal to an Existing Garden

I’m not sure if he is referring to the so-called “Garden Tomb” (which is of an absurdly late date) or the “garden” referred to in John 19:41 or even the Garden of Gethsemane, so I can’t reply. Much archaeological evidence (some of which I have written about) confirms that Jesus’ tomb and the site of the crucifixion are located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

[#41-42 are vague and are inaccessible in the Google Book version]

  • #43: Luke versus Luke

Here Alter claims that in Luke 23:51 Joseph of Arimathea is cleared of any involvement in the determination of Jesus’ guilt. But he claims that Acts 13:28-29 contradicts this in making a general statement, referring to “rulers” in Jerusalem (13:27): that “they asked Pilate to have him killed” (13:28). This is straining at gnats (and that’s putting it lightly), as if broad statements about groups have no exceptions. It’s like saying, “Congress asked the President to sign Bill #157.” It obviously doesn’t imply a logically necessary unanimity (which indeed almost never occurs in Congress).

Yet this is the flimsy nature of the “argument” Alter makes, despite Luke 23:51 expressly contradicting it, in informing us specifically of Joseph of Arimathea’s opinion and action.

  • #44: Conflicting Accounts

This claims that the Gospels present contradictory accounts of those visiting the tomb. I dealt with this issue in these two papers (more so the first):

Pearce’s Potshots #13: Resurrection “Contradictions” (?) [2-2-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #14: Resurrection “Contradictions” #2 [2-4-21]

  • #45: Luke Contradicts Mark

He is making claims about accounts of the burial spices. I dealt with that in my paper: Seidensticker Folly #31: Jesus’ Burial Spices Contradiction?

  • #46: Luke Violates the Yom Tov
  • #47: The Gospels’ Violations of the Yom Tov

“Yom Tov” means “holy day.” Alter’s argument was that the Friday during which Jesus was crucified was a holy day: the first of Passover that year, and so work regarding burial preparations would have been forbidden (so he argues). But there were exceptions to this (which Jesus refers to: such as rescuing a lost sheep on the Sabbath). In the Theology Web discussion, “Joseph of Arimathea Buying Linen On Passover?” it was stated:

NT scholar Harold Hoehner [stated], “The purchases of Joseph of Arimathea were proper for necessities could be obtained on the Sabbath (and on a feast day).” His source for this is Mishnah Shabbath 23.4[:] “One may await the dusk at the limits of the techoom, to furnish what is necessary for a bride and for a corpse, and to bring a coffin and shrouds for the latter.” “By ‘techoom’ is meant the distance of 2,000 ells [7,500 feet] which a man may traverse on the Sabbath, and refers to the limits of that distance.”

Burial preparation is this type of work which is exceptional and permitted even within Mosaic Law. If it was permitted on the Sabbath, then it would be on other holy days.

[I couldn’t access the Google Book after this point in the book]

[#48-49 are too vague]

  • #50: The Sanhedrin Performing Work on the Sabbath by Sealing the Tomb

This is the same invalid objection disposed of in my answer to #46-47.

[#51 is too vague]

  • #52: Mark Provides No Time to Purchase the Spices

Mark 16:1 (RSV) And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag’dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo’me, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

Luke (23:55-56) shows that the women bought spices right before the Sabbath. They could have also bought more on Sunday. Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Mark 16:1 observed:

[T]hey might buy more for the same purpose, after the sabbath was over: for this there was a particular market at Jerusalem (d); for we are a told, that

“there were there three markets, one by another; in the first of which were sold, all kinds of precious things, silks, and embroidered work; in the second, various kinds of fruits and herbs; and in the third, all kinds of spices.”

[(d) Jechus Haabot, p. 24. Ed. Hottinger. (e) Misn. Betacot, c. 8. sect. 6. & Barrenors in ib. T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 12. 2.((f) Hiichot Ebel, c. 4. sect. 1.]

[#53-57 are too vague]

  • #58: Apologetic Christian Sources Do Not Believe the Veracity of the Guard Episode

“Apologetic Christian Sources” (regarded en masse) are not infallible, and we have to examine what any particular one argues. Apologist Dr. William Lane Craig, who is no dummy, and has done great work in defending the Resurrection of Jesus and the biblical accounts (arguably better than anyone else has done), thinks it is quite worthy of belief, and explains at great length why he does.

[#59 is too vague]

  • #60: It Is Possible that the Body Could Have Been Removed before the Stationing of the Guard

Yes, theoretically. But that’s not a textual question per se. It’s merely a cynical take on the entire scene of Jesus’ death and burial. So I see no purpose in debating it in this context.

[#61-69 are too vague to comment upon]

  • #70: Luke 24:49 Contradicts Matthew 28:10

Luke 24:49 And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.

Matthew 28:10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

This is apples and oranges. The disciples did see Jesus after He was risen, in Galilee (Mt 28:16-17; Jn 21:1). So Matthew is talking about post-Resurrection appearances. Luke’s passage, on the other hand, which describes what occurred after what Matthew described, has to do with the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, which happened right in Jerusalem. It’s described by the same writer, Luke, in Acts 2:1-4 (cf. language of Lk 1:35; 9:1). The following passage also ties in:

Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama’ria and to the end of the earth.”

In Acts 1:9, Jesus ascends to heaven. Likewise, in Luke 24:51, He ascends to heaven. Both passages are describing the same thing, and are written by the same author. No contradiction whatsoever. Matthew and Luke + Acts are talking about completely different things. But it’s fascinating that this couplet is somehow thought to be a contradiction, isn’t it?

[#71-72 are too vague]

  • #73: Mary Magdalene Refutes that She Believed Jesus Was Going to Be Resurrected

I’m not sure what he is driving at here. Is it because she went to the tomb on Easter Sunday, not expecting Him to be risen? If so, we have no reason to believe that she heard Jesus talking about rising on the third day. So she could have believed it, but didn’t know when it would occur. Or her eyes were closed, just as the disciples were, until the time came (see Mt 16:21-23; 17:23, and especially Lk 18:31-34).

  • #74: When Jesus Was Supposed to be Raised

I’m assuming that this is about the “raised on the third day” business. I dealt with that here: “Three Days and Nights” in the Tomb: Contradiction?

  • #75: Which Women Saw the Post-resurrected Risen Jesus on Easter Sunday?

Dealt with:

Pearce’s Potshots #13: Resurrection “Contradictions” (?) [2-2-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #14: Resurrection “Contradictions” #2 [2-4-21]

[#76-78 are vague]

  • #79: Matthew Contradicting Mark-Luke When Judas Was Paid

Matthew 26:14-15 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests [15] and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.

Mark and Luke describe him being paid later on. Matthew appears to be applying what is called in Hebrew literature “telescoping” or “compression” of time.  In his book, Hebrew for Theologians: A Textbook for the Study of Biblical Hebrew in Relation to Hebrew Thinking (University Press of America, 1993) Jacques Doukhan notes that in the Hebrew mind, “the content of time prevails over chronology. Events which are distant in time can, if their content is similar, be regarded as simultaneous.” (p. 206)

Craig Blomberg also took note of this:

Perhaps the most perplexing differences between parallels occur when one Gospel writer has condensed the account of an event that took place in two or more stages into one concise paragraph that seems to describe the action taking place all at once. Yet this type of literary abridgment was quite common among ancient writers (cf. Lucian, How to Write History 56), so once again it is unfair to judge them by modern standards of precision that no-one in antiquity required. (The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, IVP: 2nd edition, 2007, p. 216)

F. Gerald Downing, in his volume, Doing Things with Words in the First Christian Century (Sheffield: 2000, pp. 121-122) observed that the Jewish historian Josephus (37-c. 100 AD) used the same technique:

Josephus is in fact noticeably concerned to ‘improve’ the flow of his narrative, either by removing all sorts of items that might seem to interrupt it, or else by reordering them. . . . Lucian, in the next century, would seem to indicate much the same attitude to avoidable interruptions, digressions, in a historical narrative, however vivid and interesting in themselves.

Michael R. Licona, Baptist New Testament scholar and professor of theology, specializes in the literary analysis of the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies. He observed in his article, “Licona Responds to Ehrman on New Testament Reliability”:

Compression was a compositional device employed on a regular basis by historians in Jesus’s day. I provide several examples of compression and other compositional devices in my book scheduled for publication this fall, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Licona, on pages 71-72, noted that Plutarch also utilized compression in his book, Antony and that his work, Pompey omits details on the same events that are included in his Antony and Caesar.

Matthew 28:2-4 is arguably another example of the same technique. Former atheist Steve Diseb elaborates on a further instance of this in Matthew:

The Cursing of the Fig Tree . . . 

Matthew 21:17-22; Mark 11:11-15, 19-25.

Matthew — Jesus curses the fig tree. The withering of the tree appears to happen immediately after the curing.

Mark — Jesus curses the fig tree, but the withering happens much later after Jesus and the disciples have moved on; they don’t notice it until after the cleansing of the Temple.

As we have seen throughout the examples provided in this series, Matthew regularly shortens his telling of the events. Matthew decided to tell the two parts of the story side-by-side, instead of separating the curing and withering of the fig tree with the cleansing of the Temple between them. As we have seen throughout this series, Matthew tends to group things according to thematic reasons.

Erik Manning expands upon this aspect of Matthew’s literary style:

As philosopher Tim McGrew points out, other ancient historians have used this device, including Sallust, Lucian, Cicero, and Quintillian. (HistoriaeVera Historia 56-57, De Orateore 3.27.104-105, Institutio Oratoria 8.4) . . .

Luke wasn’t the only Gospel writer to use such a technique. Matthew used compression in the story of the centurion’s servant. He omits all remarks of the Jewish elders and the centurion’s friends who served as go-betweens in Luke’s account.

He compresses the story by leaving out these extra people and stages of the narrative. (Compare Matthew 8:5-13 with Luke 7:10) Some have tried to say this is a contradiction, but they just don’t understand compression.

Likewise, Matthew 9:18-26 compresses the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter. Mark gives us a much longer version of the story with two different stages of development. In the first stage, Jairus’ daughter was sick to the point of death. In the second stage, the messengers come and tell Jairus that his little girl just died.

Matthew gets to the point — the daughter dies, and Jesus raises her back to life. Matthew takes 176 words (at least in our English Bible) for what Mark takes 481 words to tell us. Ehrman has tried to complain that these accounts are also irreconcilable but they’re not when we understand that Matthew is telescoping the events.

We observe for the millionth time that the Gospel writers and ancient Hebrews were not primitive simpletons. The entire Bible is very rich in literary techniques and figures of speech. Bible scholar E. W. Bullinger catalogued “over 200 distinct figures [in the Bible], several of them with from 30 to 40 varieties.” That is a  statement from the Introduction to his 1104-page tome, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London: 1898). I have this work in my own library (hardcover). It’s also available for free, online.

  • #80: Satan Being Judas’s Motivation for Betraying Jesus

Not sure what he is driving at here: maybe the fact that only Luke mentions this. For those itching to find a “contradiction” under every rock, this is a big deal. But it’s only a worthless argument from silence. Life is filled with situations of multiple causation. Satan is one cause; Judas’ own sins are another, etc. It’s not like they are mutually exclusive.

[#81: I would need more specifics in order to reply]

  • #82: Matthew’s False Citation of Jeremiah’s Name
  • #83: The Words of Jeremiah Were Not Prophetic
  • #84: The Prophecy Attributed to Jeremiah Could Not Really Be Zechariah 11:10–13

Dealt with here: Seidensticker Folly #53: Matthew Cited the Wrong Prophet? Also with regard to #83, see: Dual Fulfillment of Prophecy & the Virgin Birth (vs. JMS Pearce).

  • #85: Acts Contradicts Matthew—Judas’s Repentance

In Matthew 27:3-4, it says in RSV that Judas “repented” and said “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” Acts 1:16-20, in mentioning Judas’ suicide, simply doesn’t say one way or the other whether he repented or not. So it’s an argument from silence, from which nothing can be determined, as to alleged contradiction. But there is also a linguistic consideration:

The Greek word is not that commonly used for “repentance,” as involving a change of mind and heart, but is rather regret,” a simple change of feeling. (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Matthew 27:3)

A different Greek word from that used, ch. Matthew 3:2; it implies no change of heart or life, but merely remorse or regret. (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Matthew 27:3)

Repented himself (μεταμεληθείς). This word (differing from μετανοέω, which expresses change of heart) denotes only a change of feeling, a desire that what has been done could be undone; this is not repentance in the Scripture sense; it springs not from love of God, it has not that character which calls for pardon. (Pulpit Commentary on Matthew 27:3)

  • #86: Acts 1:18 Contradicts Matthew 27:7 Regarding the Action Taken by Judas

I think — in light of #87 — that he actually means Matthew 27:5 and is discussing how Judas died (a longtime “chestnut” of anti-biblical polemics). I tackled and dismantled it over 13 years ago: Death of Judas: Alleged Bible Contradictions Debunked (vs. Dave Van Allen and Dr. Jim Arvo).

  • #87:  Acts 1:18 Contradicts Matthew 27:7 Regarding Who Purchased the Field

This is regarding who bought the “potter’s field”: Judas (Acts) or the chief priests (Matthew). The Domain of Truth website thoroughly refutes the charge of contradiction.

[#88 is too unspecific to reply to]

  • #89: Why the Pilgrims Failed to Recognize Jesus during the Daylight

I think he is referring to the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, after Jesus’ death (Lk 24:13-32). I’m not sure what the exact charge is. The text says that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (24:16) and “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (24:31). God kept them from realizing it was Jesus, for whatever reason. I’d like to know what Alter thinks is “contradictory.”

[#90-91 are too vague]

  • #92: Peter’s Investigation of the Tomb Challenges 1 Corinthians 15:5

This is another case of apples and oranges. When Peter went to the tomb, it was empty and he didn’t see Jesus at that time (from all we know from the accounts). 1 Corinthians 15:5, on the other hand, refers to Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances. Matthew has this occurring in Galilee (28:16), where the disciples “saw him” and “worshiped” (28:17). That is perfectly harmonious with a notion that Jesus appeared to Peter (“Cephas”: Aramaic for “Rock”) first. Likewise, the accounts in Mark, Luke, and John do not logically rule out an appearance to Peter first. So, no cigar again . . .

  • #93: The Number of Disciples Who Saw Jesus

See the answer to #75 above.

[#94-101: I would need more information to know exactly what Alter is claiming. I’ve already speculated on a number of these accusations, and may have been wrong as to what he was arguing (lacking further information) ]

  • #102: When the Disciples Received the Holy Ghost

John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

This was the (then eleven) disciples only. On the Day of Pentecost, it was a group of “about” 120 new Christians (Acts 1:15). Acts 2:4 reports that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is perfectly compatible, logically, with a notion of “the disciples first received the Holy Spirit” and then about 108 more people — present with them — did on the day of Pentecost.” Or one could hold that the act of Jesus in John 20:22 was symbolic, meant to anticipate what was soon to come, or that they received a measure of the Holy Spirit then and a fuller measure on Pentecost (suggested by the word “filled”). Any of these possible explanations are non-contradictory and plausible.

  • #103: John Contradicts John—Who Will Send the Holy Ghost?

I think he has in mind passages about the Holy Spirit in John chapters 14-16, (maybe) compared to John 20:22 as well. This poses no problem for Christians, who believe in circumincession (Latin) or perichoresis (Greek): the doctrine describing how all three Persons in the Trinity are contained in each other. So it’s no problem to say that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit or that the Father did. The Gospel of John actually states the notion of  circumincession in this regard:

John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?

John 14:16-18 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, [17] even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. [18] I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name . . .

John 15:4-5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [5] I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;

John 16:7 . . . if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

John 16:15 All that the Father has is mine . . .

Jesus, in effect, “sends” the Holy Spirit by praying to God the Father to send Him, and send Him in Jesus’ name. Jesus comes through the Spirit, too (“I will come to you” / “I in him”). It’s all interconnected. This is trinitarianism. The same sort of thing occurs when the Bible talks about Jesus’ Resurrection. Acts 5:30 says “God . . . raised Jesus” (cf. Gal 1:1; 1 Thess 1:10) while  John 2:19 and 10:17-18 say that Jesus raised Himself. In biblical / Hebraic “both / and” thinking, this is perfectly acceptable and not “contradictory” at all.

For further elaboration on this, see the section, “6. Circumincession Perichoresis: the Indwelling of the Three Persons in One Another” in my  paper: Holy Trinity: Hundreds of Biblical Proofs (RSV Edition).

[#104-105 are too vague]

  • #106: Why the Synoptic Authors Failed to Detail the Other Appearances in John

They simply are under no (logical or moral or literary) obligation to do so. Each Gospel has its own approach and emphases. And just like any other situation with multiple accounts of the same general set of events, they will differ in detail and order, etc., from each other. That’s simply the nature of multiple reports. In terms of the overall Bible (as a revelation from God), if one Gospel contains a detail that others don’t have, the others don’t have to repeat it. It’s enough. It’s the irrational “demand” that all four Gospels (in effect, judging by their rhetoric) be exactly the same, under the horrendous “fear” of being accused of “contradiction!” which is logically absurd.

  • #107: Jesus’s Command to Take the Gospel to All the Nations

I think the falsely alleged “contradiction here is what I have dealt with in my paper, Seidensticker Folly #30: Small vs. Great Commission?

  • #108: Mark versus Matthew—Jesus’s Command to Baptize

Mark combines baptism and baptismal regeneration (Mk 16:16) with the great commission to evangelize the world (16:15). Jesus doesn’t “command” them to baptize, but it’s strongly implied, since it is so closely tied to salvation.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Matthew adds the famous trinitarian formula. It’s not, of course, a contradiction; rather, different emphases (regeneration and formulaic trinitarianism in the ritual of baptism). Mark says that baptism is essential for salvation, and Matthew provides the liturgical formula for the sacrament of baptism and makes a direct command. No contradictions whatsoever (if indeed this is what Alter was driving at) . . .

[#109-110 are too vague]

  • #111: Luke 24:50–53 Contradicts John and Possibly Mark

Really? All the other attempts have failed. Let’s look at this one, too! He appears to be claiming a contradictory difference in the accounts of Jesus’ Ascension. I refuted this charge: Seidensticker Folly #15: Jesus’ Ascension: One or 40 Days?

[#112 is too vague]

  • #113: Luke 24:51 Contradicts Luke 23:43

Apologist Eric Lyons disposes of this. I explain how “paradise” here is not referring to heaven: Luke 23:43 (Thief on the Cross): “Paradise” = Sheol, Not Heaven. See also: Multiple Meanings of “Paradise” in Scripture (and Literary Genre).

  • #114: Acts 1:9 Contradicts Luke 24:43

I have no idea whatsoever what he thinks is contradictory, and so can’t comment further without knowing his full argument.

  • #115: Omissions Detailing the Ascension

Omissions are not contradictions. The claim that they are is an argument from silence. Since this comes up so often, let’s examine it more closely for a moment. Wikipedia has a good article, “Argument from silence”:

To make an argument from silence (Latinargumentum ex silentio) is to express a conclusion that is based on the absence of statements in historical documents, rather than their presence.[2][3] In the field of classical studies, it often refers to the assertion that an author is ignorant of a subject, based on the lack of references to it in the author’s available writings.[3]

Thus in historical analysis with an argument from silence, the absence of a reference to an event or a document is used to cast doubt on the event not mentioned.[4] While most historical approaches rely on what an author’s works contain, an argument from silence relies on what the book or document does not contain.[4] This approach thus uses what an author “should have said” rather than what is available in the author’s extant writings.[4][5]

An argument from silence may apply to a document only if the author was expected to have the information, was intending to give a complete account of the situation, and the item was important enough and interesting enough to deserve to be mentioned at the time.[6][7]

Arguments from silence, based on a writer’s failure to mention an event, are distinct from arguments from ignorance which rely on a total “absence of evidence” and are widely considered unreliable; however arguments from silence themselves are also generally viewed as rather weak in many cases; or considered as fallacies.

The article notes that Marco Polo never mentioned the Great Wall of China. Using the usual hyper-critical methodology applied to the Bible, this would “prove” that the Great Wall doesn’t exist (or else that he never actually visited China).

[#116-120 are too vague]

This concludes my examination. I have looked at these alleged “contradictions” and have found them all abject failures in terms of establishing what they intended to prove. Such continual abysmal failure of argument surely bespeaks a seriously deficient method and false premises (what I usually posit is the case).

***

Photo credit: geralt (4-7-13) [Pixabay /Pixabay License]

***

Summary: I examine 59 of Michael Alter’s alleged Resurrection “contradictions” from his book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry. One notices the same logical fallacies recycled over and over.

***

March 7, 2021

I’ve done quite a few of these. I thought it would be good, then (for reference purposes) to collect them together all in one place: alphabetically categorized by topic. If people would buy self-published books of Catholic and general Christian apologetics, I’d collect them in a book, but since they don’t (unless the book is massively advertised, which I can’t afford), I won’t.

In any event, you have my rebuttals here for your use, for free. Please prayerfully consider financially supporting my apostolate, if you have been aided by it, or want to support apologetics and evangelism, generally speaking. The laborer is worthy of his hire. I’m not getting rich over here: just working my tail off in defending the Bible, Christianity, traditional morality, and specifically, Catholicism. I’ve written 3,217 articles (and counting) and fifty books, as well as lots of published articles (242 at National Catholic Register, etc.). 2021 is my 40-year anniversary of writing Christian apologetics (the last 30 as a Catholic).

*****

“Contradictions” (Supposed): Examined More Closely

Reply to Atheists: Defining a [Biblical] “Contradiction” [1-7-11]

Debates with Atheist “DagoodS” (“Bible Difficulties”) [2006-2007, 2010-2011]

Review of The Book of Non-Contradiction (Phillip Campbell) [5-9-17]

Critique of Theologically Liberal Bible-Basher [6-6-17]

Alleged “Bible Contradictions”: Most Are Actually Not So [2002 and 6-7-17]

Atheist Inventions of Many Bogus “Bible Contradictions” [National Catholic Register, 9-4-18]

Seidensticker Folly #28: Lies About Bible “Contradictions” (1. Christians don’t sin? 2. Universalism? 3. “Tomb evangelism”. 4. Can human beings see God or not?) [10-23-18]

Bible “Contradictions” & Plausibility (Dialogue w Atheist) [12-17-18]

Seidensticker Folly #32: Sophistically Redefining “Contradiction” [4-20-19]

Seidensticker Folly #37: “What is a Contradiction?” 0101 [4-15-20]

Reply to Atheist Ward Ricker Re “Biblical Contradictions” [5-15-20]

Dialogues on “Contradictions” w Bible-Bashing Atheists [5-16-20]

Alleged Bible “Contradictions” & “Difficulties”: Master List of Christian Internet Resources for Apologists (Links) [7-19-10; links updated on 9-6-20]

Seidensticker Folly #69: “Difficulties” Aren’t Contradictions [1-4-21]

Atheists, Biblical “Contradictions” & the Plausibility Issue [2-4-21]

Refutation of Atheist Paul Carlson’s 51 Bible “Contradictions” [4-6-21]

General Principles / Preliminaries / Premises

An Introduction to Bible Interpretation [1987]

Atheist Bible “Scholarship” & “Exegesis” [3-18-03]

Are All Bible Books Self-Evidently Inspired? [6-19-06]

Are All the Biblical Books Self-Evidently Canonical? [6-22-06]

Were Apostles Always Aware of Writing Scripture? (6-29-06; abridged on 9-25-16)

Is the Bible in Fact Clear, or “Perspicuous” to Every Individual? [2007]

How Do Catholics Approach & Interpret Holy Scripture? [6-17-09]

Catholic Interpretation of Scripture (Hermeneutics / Exegesis): Resource List (Links) [6-28-09]

The Bible & Skepticism: Irrational Double Standards & Bias [8-6-09]

Bible: Completely Self-Authenticating, So that Anyone Could Come up with the Complete Canon without Formal Church Proclamations? (vs. Wm. Whitaker) [July 2012]

The Bible: “Clear” & “Self-Interpreting”? [February 2014]

“Butcher & Hog”: On Relentless Biblical Skepticism [9-21-15]

Dialogue with an Atheist on Bible Difficulties, Plausibility Structures, & Deconversion [6-10-17]

Why We Should Fully Expect Many “Bible Difficulties” [7-17-17]

Richard Dawkins’ “Bible Whoppers” Are the “Delusion” [5-25-18]

Biblical Interpretation & Clarity: Dialogue w an Atheist [5-26-18]

Is Inspiration Immediately Evident in Every Biblical Book? [National Catholic Register, 7-28-18]

Catholic Biblical Interpretation: Myths and Truths [National Catholic Register, 12-3-18]

Bible “Difficulties” Are No Disproof of Biblical Inspiration [National Catholic Register, 6-29-19]

Seidensticker Folly #33: Clueless Re Biblical Anthropopathism [7-24-19]

“Difficulty” in Understanding the Bible: Hebrew Cultural Factors [2-5-21]

An Omniscient God and a “Clear” Bible [National Catholic Register, 2-28-21]

Abortion

Seidensticker Folly #62: Bible & Personhood of Fetuses [11-10-20]

Abraham

Abraham & Beersheba, the Bible, & Archaeology [6-9-21]

Absolution

Resurrection #28: Remission of Sins “Contradictions”? [5-5-21]

Animal Rights

Dialogue w Atheist on Jesus, Demons, Pigs, & Animal Rights [7-5-18]

Arameans and Amorites

Arameans, Amorites, and Archaeological Accuracy [6-8-21]

Bible: Cosmology of

Biblical Flat Earth (?) Cosmology: Dialogue w Atheist (vs. Matthew Green) [9-11-06]

Flat Earth: Biblical Teaching? (vs. Ed Babinski) [9-17-06]

Bodies, Spiritual

Seidensticker Folly #26: Spiritual Bodies R Still Bodies! [10-9-18]

Seidensticker Folly #52: Spiritual Bodies R Physical [9-10-20]

Camels and the Patriarchs / Archaeology

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

OT Camels & Biblically Illiterate Archaeologists [5-24-21]

When Were Camels Domesticated in Egypt & Israel? [5-25-21]

David, King

Ward’s Whoppers #13: How Did David Kill Goliath? [5-19-20]

Disciples, Twelve

12 Disciples of Jesus: Alleged Contradictions Debunked [12-9-06]

Resurrection #26: “Twelve” or Eleven Disciples? [5-4-21]

Documentary Theory

Documentary Theory of Biblical Authorship (JEPD): Dialogue [2-12-04]

Documentary Theory (Pentateuch): Critical Articles [6-21-10]

C. S. Lewis Roundly Mocked the Documentary Hypothesis [10-6-19]

Edomites

Edomites: Archaeology Confirms the Bible (As Always) [6-10-21]

Eucharist, Holy

Madison vs. Jesus #8: Holy Eucharist as “Grotesque Magic”? [8-7-19]

Exodus

Seidensticker Folly #5: Has Archaeology Disproven the Exodus? [8-15-18]

Faith & Reason

Seidensticker Folly #66: Biblical “Evidence-Less Faith”? [12-9-20]

Faith & Works

Final Judgment & Works (Not Faith): 50 Passages [2-10-08]

Seidensticker Folly #22: Contradiction? Saved by Faith or Works? [10-1-18]

“Fools” (Calling People That)

The Biblical “Fool” & Proverbial Literary Genre: Did Paul and Peter Disobey Jesus and Risk Hellfire (Calling Folks “Fools”)? Did Jesus Contradict Himself? Or Do Proverbs and Hyperbolic Utterances Allow Exceptions? [2-5-14]

“Foreigners” / “Neighbors”

Ward’s Whoppers #9-10: Parting the Red Sea / “Foreigners” [5-18-20]

Seidensticker Folly #54: “Neighbor” in OT = Jews Only? [9-12-20]

Gadarenes / Gerasenes

Gadarenes, Gerasenes, Swine, & Atheist Skeptics (vs. Jonathan MS Pearce) [7-25-17]

Demons, Gadara, & Biblical Numbers (vs. JMS Pearce) [12-18-20]

Gerasenes, Gadarenes, Pigs and “Contradictions” [National Catholic Register, 1-29-21]

Genesis: Abraham

Isaac and Abraham’s Agony: Dialogue with Agnostic (vs. Dr. Jan Schreurs) [June 1999]

Ward’s Whoppers #5: Isaac: Abraham’s “Only” Son? [5-18-20]

Ward’s Whoppers #7-8: “God of Abraham…” / Passover [5-18-20]

Genesis: Adam & Eve

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Bishop Robert Barron: Adam Wasn’t a “Literal Figure” [9-23-11]

Defending the Historical Adam of Genesis (vs. Eric S. Giunta) [9-25-11]

Adam & Eve of Genesis: Historical & the Primal Human Pair? (vs. Bishop Robert Barron) [11-28-13]

Adam & Eve & Original Sin: Disproven by Science? [9-7-15]

Only Ignoramuses Believe in Adam & Eve? [9-9-15]

Ward’s Whoppers #4: Which Tree Fruit In Eden to Eat?  [5-17-20]

Genesis: Cain & Abel

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

“Where Did Cain Get His Wife?” [3-7-13]

Dialogue on How Cain Found a Wife [6-22-18]

Genesis: Documentary Hypothesis and Chiasmus

Pearce’s Potshots #38: Chiasmus & “Redundancy” in Flood Stories (Also, a Summary Statement on Catholics and the Documentary Hypothesis) [7-4-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #39: Ignoring Chiastic Literary Genre in Genesis [7-5-21]

Genesis & Evolution

Scripture, Science, Genesis, & Evolutionary Theory: Mini-Dialogue with an Atheist [8-14-18; rev. 2-18-19]

Genesis & History

Modernism vs. History in Genesis & Biblical Inspiration [7-23-18]

Genesis: Noah & the Flood

Old Earth, Flood Geology, Local Flood, & Uniformitarianism (vs. Kevin Rice) [5-25-04; many defunct links removed and new ones added: 5-10-17]

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts [8-18-15]

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? [9-10-15]

New Testament Evidence for Noah’s Existence [National Catholic Register, 3-11-18]

Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals [9-7-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #36: Noah’s Flood: 40 or 150 Days or Neither? [7-1-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #37: Length of Noah’s Flood Redux [7-2-21]

Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought [7-2-21]

Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia [7-9-21]

Genesis: Serpent

Exchange w Biblical Skeptic on the Genesis Serpent [6-1-17]

Orthodox Interpretation of Genesis and the Serpent [National Catholic Register, 11-19-18]

Genesis & Time

Genesis Contradictory (?) Creation Accounts & Hebrew Time: Refutation of a Clueless Atheist “Biblical Contradiction” [5-11-17]

The Genesis Creation Accounts and Hebrew Time [National Catholic Register, 7-2-17]

God: Anthropopathism

Anthropopathism and Anthropomorphism: Biblical Data (God Condescending to Human Limitations of Understanding) [1-20-09]

Seidensticker Folly #33: Clueless Re Biblical Anthropopathism [7-24-19]

God: Bloodthirsty?

Jesus’ Death: Proof of a “Bloodthirsty” God, or Loving Sacrifice? (primarily written to and for atheists) [7-21-10]

God: Creator

Seidensticker Folly #14: Something Rather Than Nothing [9-3-18]

Ward’s Whoppers #1-3: Genesis 1 vs. 2 (Creation) [5-17-20]

Seidensticker Folly #41: Argument from Design [8-25-20]

Seidensticker Folly #42: Creation “Ex Nihilo” [8-28-20]

“Quantum Entanglement” & the “Upholding” Power of God [10-20-20]

Quantum Mechanics and the “Upholding” Power of God [National Catholic Register, 11-24-20]

God: Eternal & Uncreated

Seidensticker Folly #38: Eternal Universe vs. an Eternal God [4-16-20]

God & Evil

Problem of Evil: Treatise on the Most Serious Objection (Is God Malevolent, Weak, or Non-Existent Because of the Existence of Evil and Suffering?) [2002]

God and “Natural Evil”: A Thought Experiment [2002]

Replies to the Problem of Evil as Set Forth by Atheists [10-10-06]

“Logical” Problem of Evil: Alvin Plantinga’s Decisive Refutation [10-12-06]

“Strong” Logical Argument from Evil Against God: RIP? [11-26-06]

Is God the Author of Evil? (vs. John Calvin) [Oct. 2012]

Why Did a Perfect God Create an Imperfect World? [8-18-15]

Atheists, Miracles, & the Problem of Evil: Contradictions [8-15-18]

Alvin Plantinga: Reply to the Evidential Problem of Evil [9-13-19]

God: “Evolves” in the OT?

Seidensticker Folly #20: An Evolving God in the OT? [9-18-18]

God: Existence of

Seidensticker Folly #13: God Hasta Prove He Exists! [8-29-18]

God & Free Will

Seidensticker Folly #3: Falsehoods About God & Free Will [8-14-18]

God & “Hard Hearts”

Reply to a Calvinist: Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart (vs. Colin Smith) [10-14-06]

God “Hardening Hearts”: How Do We Interpret That? [12-18-08]

God: Immutability

Is God in Time? [11-30-06]

Critique of Atheist John Loftus Regarding a Timeless God . . . And of Course, “Jittery John” Again Explodes [11-30-06]

Seidensticker Folly #34: Does God “Regret” or “Repent”? [7-25-19]

God: Judgment

Judgment of Nations: Biblical Commentary and Reflections [9-21-01]

God’s Judgment of Humans (Sometimes, Entire Nations) [2-16-07]

“How Can God Order the Massacre of Innocents?” (Amalekites, etc.) [11-10-07]

God’s “Punishing” of Descendants: Unjust? [7-8-10]

Final Judgment is Not a Matter of “Faith Alone” At All [National Catholic Register, 10-7-16]

Does God Ever Judge People by Sending Disease? [10-30-17]

Is God an Unjust Judge? Dialogue with an Atheist [10-30-17]

God’s Judgment of Sin: Analogies for an Atheist Inquirer [9-6-18]

Seidensticker Folly #17: “to the third and fourth generations”? [9-11-18]

Does God Punish to the Fourth Generation? [National Catholic Register, 10-1-18]

Madison vs. Jesus #9: Clueless Re Rebellion & Judgment [8-7-19]

“Why Did God Kill 70,000 Israelites for David’s Sin?” [4-13-20]

God & Lying

Seidensticker Folly #35: Is God an Inveterate Liar? [7-25-19]

God & Murder

Did God Command Jephthah to Burn His Daughter? [6-8-09]

Seidensticker Folly #12: God Likes Child Sacrifice? Huh?! [8-21-18]

Did God Immorally “Murder” King David’s Innocent Child? (God’s Providence and Permissive Will, and Hebrew Non-Literal Anthropomorphism) [5-6-19]

Loftus Atheist Error #6: Is God “Love” or a “Moral Monster”? [9-9-19]

Does God Cause Miscarriages?: A Farcical Exchange [8-23-20]

God: Name of

Ward’s Whoppers #6: Meaning of “Knowing” God’s Name [5-18-20]

God: Narcissist?

Madison vs. Jesus #6: Narcissistic, Love-Starved God? [8-6-19]

If God Needs Nothing, Why Does He Ask For So Much? (Is God “Narcissistic” or “Love-Starved?) [National Catholic Register, 8-22-19]

God: Omnipresence

God in Heaven & in His Temple: Contradiction? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-23-20]

God in Heaven and in His Temple: Biblical Difficulty? [National Catholic Register, 12-10-20]

God: Omniscience

Ward’s Whoppers #15-16: God & Omniscience / Worship [5-20-20]

God & Rape

Seidensticker Folly #6: God Has “No Problem with Rape”? [8-15-18]

God & Repentance

Madison vs. Jesus #7: God Prohibits Some Folks’ Repentance? [8-6-19]

Does God Ever Actively Prevent Repentance? [National Catholic Register, 9-1-19]

God & Sin

Does God “Want” Men to Sin? Does He “Ordain” Sin? [2-17-10 and 3-16-17]

God: a Spirit

Loftus Atheist Error #8: Ancient Jews, “Body” of God, & Polytheism [9-10-19]

Seidensticker Folly #71: Spirit-God “Magic”; 68% Dark Energy Isn’t? [2-2-21]

Dark Energy, Dark Matter and the Light of the World [National Catholic Register, 2-17-21]

God: Trinity

50 Biblical Evidences for the Holy Trinity [National Catholic Register, 11-14-16]

Seidensticker Folly #9: Trinity Unclear in the Bible? [8-17-18]

Seidensticker Folly #40: Craig, Trinity Definition, & Analogies [4-17-20]

God, Worship, & Praise

Why Do We Worship God? Dialogue with an Atheist [5-11-18]

Ward’s Whoppers #15-16: God & Omniscience / Worship [5-20-20]

Seidensticker Folly #47: Does God Need Praise? [8-31-20]

Seidensticker Folly #51: God and Praise, Part II [9-8-20]

Does God Have Any Need of Praise? [National Catholic Register, 9-24-20]

Golden Calf

Golden Calf & Cherubim: Biblical Contradiction? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-23-20]

Goliath

Goliath’s Height: Six Feet 9 Inches, 7 Feet 8, or 9 Feet 9? [7-4-21]

Hell

Dialogue w Atheists on Hell & Whether God is Just [12-5-06]

Herod the Great

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

Hittites

“Higher” Hapless Haranguing of Hypothetical Hittites (19th C.) [10-21-11; abridged 7-7-20]

Immigration Issues

Immigration & the Bible (w John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe) (see also the longer Facebook version) [9-18-17]

Do Jesus and the Bible Advocate Open Borders? [9-18-17; expanded on 6-21-18]

Borders and the Bible [National Catholic Register, 1-14-19]

“Israelites”

Pearce’s Potshots #27: Anachronistic “Israelites”? [5-25-21]

Jeremiah

Loftus Atheist Error #10: Prophet Jeremiah vs. Mosaic Law? [9-11-19]

Jesus & “Anxiety”

Jesus’ Agony in Gethsemane: Was it “Anxiety”? [National Catholic Register, 10-29-19]

Jesus: Ascension

Seidensticker Folly #15: Jesus’ Ascension: One or 40 Days? [9-10-18]

Jesus: Bethlehem (and Nazareth)

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: Bethlehem & Nazareth “Contradictions” (Including Extensive Exegetical Analysis of Micah 5:2) [7-28-17]

Jesus: Burial of

Resurrection #12: Who Buried Jesus? [4-26-21]

Jesus: Census

The Census, Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem, & History [2-3-11]

Jesus: Children of?

Did Jesus Have Children? (“Offspring”: Isaiah 53:10) [5-30-06]

Jesus: Christmas

Vs. Atheist David Madison #36: Matthew & Christmas [12-10-19]

Jesus: Disciples’ Forsaking of

Resurrection (?) #8: Disciples Forsaking Jesus [4-23-21]

Jesus: Divinity of

Was Jesus Confused About His Mission? [9-8-15]

Jesus Had to Learn That He Was God? [12-15-15]

50 Biblical Proofs That Jesus is God [National Catholic Register, 2-12-17]

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

Jesus: Existence of

Seidensticker Folly #4: Jesus Never Existed, Huh? [8-14-18]

Jesus & Families: Leaving of

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

Madison vs. Jesus #4: Jesus Causes a Bad Marriage? [8-5-19]

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

Did Jesus Teach His Disciples to Hate Their Families? [National Catholic Register, 8-17-19]

Seidensticker Folly #50: Mary Thought Jesus Was Crazy? (And Does the Gospel of Mark Radically Differ from the Other Gospels in the “Family vs. Following Jesus” Aspect?) [9-8-20]

Jesus: Genealogies

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: “Contradictory” Genealogies of Christ? [7-27-17]

Are the Two Genealogies of Christ Contradictory? [National Catholic Register, 1-5-19]

Jesus: Great Commission

Seidensticker Folly #30: Small vs. Great Commission? [10-26-18]

Jesus & Jewish Burial Customs

Seidensticker Folly #31: Jesus’ Burial Spices Contradiction? [4-20-19]

Madison vs. Jesus #12: Discipleship & Jewish Burial Customs [8-8-19]

Jesus & Jews & Gentiles

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #7: Ch. 7 (Gentiles) [8-19-19]

Vs. Atheist David Madison #39: Jesus the Xenophobic Bigot? (And did Jesus minister exclusively to Jews and not Gentiles at all: an alleged Gospel inconsistency)? [12-12-19]

Did Jesus Minister Exclusively to Jews and not Gentiles? [7-2-20]

Did Jesus Heal and Preach to Only Jews? No! [National Catholic Register, 7-19-20]

Jesus: Last Words on the Cross

Jesus’ Last Words: Biblical “Contradictions”? [4-8-21]

Jesus: “Many NT Jesuses”?

Seidensticker Folly #56: Many Jesuses in the New Testament? [9-13-20]

Jesus: “Mean”?

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #8: Ch. 9 (“Mean” Jesus) [8-19-19]

Jesus: Messianic Prophecies of the OT

Isaiah 53: Ancient & Medieval Jewish Messianic Interpretation [1982; revised 9-14-01]

Psalm 110: Examples of Jewish Commentators Who Regard it as Messianic / Reply to Rabbi Tovia Singer’s Charges of Christian “Tampering” with the Text [9-14-01]

Isaiah 53: Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Is the “Servant” the Messiah (Jesus) or Collective Israel? (vs. Ari G. [Orthodox] ) [9-14-01, with incorporation of much research from 1982]

Reply to Atheist on “Fabricated” OT Messianic Prophecies (ProfMTH”‘s Video Jesus Was Not the Messiah – Pt. I) [7-1-10]

Reply to Atheist on Isaiah 53 & “Dishonest” Christians [7-2-10]

Reply to Atheist on Messianic Prophecies (Zech 13:6, Ps 22) [7-3-10]

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]

Jesus & Money

Vs. Atheist David Madison #42: Jesus vs. Financial Responsibility? [12-19-19]

Jesus: Mustard Seed

Seidensticker Folly #25: Jesus’ Alleged Mustard Seed Error [10-8-18]

Jesus: Nativity

Pearce’s Potshots #11: 28 Defenses of Jesus’ Nativity (Featuring Confirmatory Historical Tidbits About the Magi and Herod the Great) [1-9-21]

Jesus the “Nazarene”

Jesus the “Nazarene”: Did Matthew Make Up a “Prophecy”? (Reply to Jonathan M. S. Pearce from the Blog, A Tippling Philosopher / Oral Traditions and Possible Lost Old Testament Books Referred to in the Bible) [12-17-20]

Jesus the “Nazarene” Redux (vs. Jonathan M. S. Pearce) [12-19-20]

Jesus: Palm Sunday: Olive and Palm Branches

Resurrection Debate #4: No “Leafy Branches” on Palm Sunday? [4-19-21]

Jesus: Parables

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #5: Chapter 4 (Parables) [8-16-19]

Jesus: Passion of

David Madison: Synoptics vs. John Re Jesus’ Will & Passion? [8-22-19]

Jesus: “Prince of Peace”

Madison vs. Jesus #11: He’s Not the Prince of Peace? [8-8-19]

Jesus: Resurrection

The Resurrection: Hoax or History? [cartoon tract with art by Dan Grajek: 1985]

“Three Days and Nights” in the Tomb: Contradiction? [10-31-06]

Dialogue w Atheist on Post-Resurrection “Contradictions” [1-26-11]

Seidensticker Folly #18: Resurrection “Contradictions”? [9-17-18]

Seidensticker Folly #57: Male Witnesses of the Dead Jesus [9-14-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #13: Resurrection “Contradictions” (?) [2-2-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #14: Resurrection “Contradictions” #2 [2-4-21]

Refuting 59 of Michael Alter’s Resurrection “Contradictions” [3-12-21]

12 Alleged Resurrection “Contradictions” That Aren’t Really Contradictions [National Catholic Register, 4-7-21]

Resurrection (?) #6: “Three Days and Three Nights” [4-21-21]

Resurrection #15: Luke & Jesus’ Galilee Appearances [4-28-21]

Resurrection #17: Women Who Saw the Risen Jesus [4-29-21]

Resurrection #18: “Touch Me Not” & Mary Magdalene [4-29-21]

11 More Resurrection “Contradictions” That Aren’t Really Contradictions [National Catholic Register, 5-8-21]

Jesus: Second Coming

Dr. David Madison vs. Jesus #3: Nature & Time of 2nd Coming [8-3-19]

Seidensticker Folly #58: Jesus Erred on Time of 2nd Coming? (with David Palm) [10-7-20]

Jesus: Sermon on the Mount

Atheist “Refutes” Sermon on the Mount (Or Does He?) [National Catholic Register, 7-23-17]

Jesus: Thieves Crucified With Him

Resurrection (?) #7: Crucified Thieves Taunting Jesus [4-21-21]

Jesus: “Turning the Other Cheek”

Jesus Didn’t Always Turn the Other Cheek (Proverbs) [7-6-19]

What Does “Turn the Other Cheek” Mean? [National Catholic Register, 7-20-19]

Jesus and Unbelief

Resurrection #27: Jesus’ View of Unbelief & Evidence [5-5-21]

Jesus and the Women at the Crucifixion

Resurrection (?) #9: The Women at the Crucifixion [4-23-21]

Job

Ward’s Whoppers #14: Who Caused Job’s Suffering? [5-20-20]

Who Caused Job to Suffer — God or Satan? [National Catholic Register, 6-28-20]

John the Baptist

Dialogue w Agnostic on Elijah and John the Baptist [9-24-06]

Seidensticker Folly #27: Confusion Re John the Baptist [10-9-18]

Jonah

Catholics and the Historicity of Jonah the Prophet [6-27-08]

Joseph (Patriarch)

Pearce’s Potshots #28: Pharaoh Didn’t Know Joseph?! [5-26-21]

Genesis, Joseph, Archaeology, & Biblical Accuracy (+ A Brief Survey of Evidence for “The King’s Highway” in Jordan in the Bronze Age: Prior to 1000 BC) [6-8-21]

Joseph of Arimathea

Dialogue w Atheist: Joseph of Arimathea “Contradictions” (??) (Lousy Atheist Exegesis Example #5672) [1-7-11]

Resurrection #11: “All the Council” / Joseph of Arimathea? [4-25-21]

Joshua & the Sun

Seidensticker Folly #39: “The Sun Stood Still” (Joshua) [4-16-20]

Judas

Death of Judas: Alleged Bible Contradictions Debunked (vs. Dave Van Allen and Dr. Jim Arvo) [9-27-07]

Resurrection #19: When Was Judas Paid? [4-30-21]

Resurrection #20: Motivation of Judas’ Betrayal [4-30-21]

Resurrection #21: Chronology of Judas’ Evil Plans [5-1-21]

Resurrection #22: Did Judas Repent Or Not? [5-2-21]

Resurrection #23: How Did Judas Die? [5-3-21]

Resurrection #24: Judas & the Potter’s Field [5-3-21]

Last Things (Eschatology)

Debate with an Agnostic on the Meaning of “Last Days” and Whether the Author of Hebrews Was a False Prophet [9-13-06]

Biblical Annihilationism or Universalism? (w Atheist Ted Drange) [9-30-06]

“The Last Days”: Meaning in Hebrew, Biblical Thought [12-5-08]

Love of Enemies

“Love Your Enemies”: Old Testament Teaching Too? [9-7-20]

Luke: Gospel of

Gospel of Luke Bashing Examined & Found Wanting (vs. Vexen Crabtree) [2-12-21]

Lust

Vs. Atheist David Madison #40: Jesus: All Sexual Desire is Lust? (Replies to some of the most clueless atheist “arguments” to ever enter the mind of a sentient human being . . .) [12-18-19]

Mark: Gospel of

Dr. David Madison vs. Jesus #2: Weird & Fictional Mark 16? [8-3-19]

Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #1: Intro. & Overview (Gospels as “Con Job”? / Parables & Repentance / Old Testament Sacrifices & Jesus / “Weird” Mark 16 / Why Jesus Was Killed) [8-13-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #2: Chapter 1 (Why Did Mark Omit Jesus’ Baptism? / Why Was Jesus Baptized? / “Suffering Servant” & Messiah in Isaiah / Spiritual “Kingdom of God” / Archaeological Support) [8-14-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #3: Chapter 2 (Archaeological Support / Sin, Illness, Healing, & Faith / “Word” & “Gospel”) [8-15-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #4: Chapter 3 (Unforgivable Sin [Blaspheming the Holy Spirit] / Plots to Kill Jesus / Rude Jesus? [“Who is My Mother?”]) [8-16-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #6: Chapters 5-6 (Supernatural & Miracles / Biblical Literary Genres & Figures / Perpetual Virginity / Healing & Belief / Persecution of Jesus in Nazareth) [8-18-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #9: Chapter 10 (Christian Biblical Ignorance / Jesus vs. Marriage & Family? / Divinity of Jesus) [8-20-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #10: Chapter 11 (Two Donkeys? / Fig Tree / Moneychangers) [8-20-19]

David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #11: Chapter 12 (Jesus Predicts His Passion & Death / Judgment Day / God’s Mercy / God as Cosmic Narcissist?) [8-21-19]

Pearce’s Potshots #15: Gospel of Matthew vs. Gospel of Mark? [2-7-21]

Groundless Gospel of Mark Bashing Systematically Refuted (vs. Vexen Crabtree) [2-9-21]

Mary & Jesus

“Who is My Mother?”: Beginning of “Familial Church” [8-26-19]

Did Jesus Deny That Mary Was “Blessed” (Lk 11:27-28)? [11-19-19]

Did Jesus Denigrate Calling Mary “Blessed?” [National Catholic Register, 12-24-19]

“Who is My Mother?” — Jesus and the “Familial Church” [National Catholic Register, 1-21-20]

Seidensticker Folly #50: Mary Thought Jesus Was Crazy? (And Does the Gospel of Mark Radically Differ from the Other Gospels in the “Family vs. Following Jesus” Aspect?) [9-8-20]

Mary: Sinless

“All Have Sinned” vs. a Sinless, Immaculate Mary? [1996; revised and posted at National Catholic Register on 12-11-17]

Jason Engwer and a Supposedly Sinful Mary (Doubting Jesus’ Sanity? / Inconsiderate (?) Young Jesus in the Temple / “Woman” and the Wedding at Cana) [11-16-20]

Matthew: Gospel of

Seidensticker Folly #53: Matthew Cited the Wrong Prophet? [9-11-20]

Pearce’s Potshots #15: Gospel of Matthew vs. Gospel of Mark? [2-7-21]

Gospel of Matthew Bashing Refuted Point-by-Point (vs. Vexen Crabtree) [2-10-21]

Moses

Did Moses (and God) Sin In Judging the Midianites (Numbers 31)? [5-21-08]

Righteous and Sinful Anger in Moses: Smashing the Tablets and the Rock at Meribah [5-22-08]

Ward’s Whoppers #9-10: Parting the Red Sea / “Foreigners” [5-18-20]

Moses & Aaron & Their Staff(s): Biblical Contradictions? (vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei) [11-21-20]

A Bible Puzzle About the Staff of Moses and Aaron [National Catholic Register, 1-14-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #29: No Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt? [5-26-21]

Moses, Kadesh, Negev, Bronze Age, & Archaeology [6-10-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #34: Atheist Throws a Screwball Pitch (Part II of “Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt”) [6-12-21]

Did Moses Exist? No Absolute Proof, But Strong Evidence (Pearce’s Potshots #35, in Which Our Brave Hero Classifies Moses as “a Mythological Figure” and I Reply!) [6-14-21]

New Testament: Citation of the Old Testament

Old Testament Citations in the NT Defended (Jn 7:38) [7-4-10]

Pacifism

Pacifism vs. “Just War”: Biblical and Social Factors [April 1987]

Passover

Ward’s Whoppers #7-8: “God of Abraham…” / Passover [5-18-20]

Paul & Atheism

St. Paul: Two-Faced Re Unbelief? (Romans 1 “vs.” Epistles) [7-5-10]

Paul: Knowledge of Jesus

Seidensticker Folly #24: Paul’s Massive Ignorance of Jesus (?) [10-5-18]

Paul & Lying

Pearce’s Potshots #16: Does St. Paul Justify Lying? [2-12-21]

Paul: “Pluralist”?

St. Paul: Orthodox Catholic or Theological Pluralist? [12-28-18]

Paul & Romans

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #1: Chapter 1 (Virgin Birth / God in Creation / Human Rebelliousness / Paul’s Loving Tolerance / God’s Forgiveness / Paul on Sex & Marriage / God’s Just Judgment) [8-22-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #2: Chapter 2 (God’s Fair Judgment / Soteriology / God Knowing Our Thoughts / Chosen People) [8-26-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #3: Chapter 3 (Pauline / Biblical Soteriology: Faith and Works, Grace and Merit / Hyperbole [“No one is good”]) [8-27-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #4: Chapter 4 (Development: Law & Grace & Faith / Circumcision & Abortion / Eternal Salvation & Damnation in the Old Testament) [8-27-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #5: Chapter 5 (Conversion & Apostolic Credentials / Pre-Pauline Evangelism / “Rogue Apostle”? / Falsely Alleged Fears / Universal Atonement / Foolishness of the Cross / Unspiritual Persons) [8-28-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #6: Chapter 6 (Baptismal Regeneration / Is Paul a Killjoy? / Paul & the Last Days) [8-28-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #7: Chapter 7 (Stock Atheist Insults / Flesh vs. Spirit / Did Paul Wallow in “Personal Torment”?) [8-29-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #8: Chapter 8 (Meaning of “Flesh” / Original Sin & Man’s Rebellion / Paul’s Triumphant Solution / Paul & Greek Culture) [8-29-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #9: Chapter 9 (“Hardening Hearts” and Hebrew “Block Logic”) [8-30-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #10: Chapter 10 (“Circumcision of the Heart” & the Law / “Being Saved” in Ancient Jewish Scripture) [8-30-19]

David Madison vs. Paul and Romans #11: Chapter 11 (“Scary” & “Vindictive” Yahweh? / Endless Stupefied Insults of God / Judgment Explained Yet Again) [8-30-19]

Peter: Denials of

Seidensticker Folly #48: Peter’s Denials & Accusers [8-31-20]

Philistines

Pearce’s Potshots #33: No Philistines in Moses’ Time? [6-3-21]

Polytheism & the Bible

Seidensticker Folly #19: Torah & OT Teach Polytheism? [9-18-18]

Loftus Atheist Error #8: Ancient Jews, “Body” of God, & Polytheism [9-10-19]

Do the OT & NT Teach Polytheism or Henotheism? [7-1-20]

The Bible Teaches That Other “Gods” are Imaginary [National Catholic Register, 7-10-20]

Seidensticker Folly #70: Biblical “Henotheism” [?] Redux [1-31-21]

Prayer

Seidensticker Folly #7: No Conditional Prayer in Scripture? [8-16-18]

Should We Pray for All People or Not (1 John 5:16)? [9-5-18]

Biblical Prayer is Conditional, Not Solely Based on Faith [National Catholic Register, 10-9-18]

We Can’t Demand That God Directly Communicate to Us or Answer Prayer Exactly as We Want Him to (and God’s non-answer is no reason to leave the faith) [blog combox, 2-23-19]

Madison vs. Jesus #10: Universal Answered Prayer & Healing? [8-7-19]

Proverbs

Ward’s Whoppers #17-21: Proverbs Allow of Exceptions [5-21-20]

Salvation

Seidensticker Folly #29: Repentance: Part of Salvation [10-26-18]

Seidensticker Folly #64: A Saved Dahmer & Damned Anne Frank? [11-24-20]

Science & the Bible / The Universe

Seidensticker Folly #21: Atheist “Bible Science” Absurdities [9-25-18]

Seidensticker Folly #23: Atheist “Bible Science” Inanities, Pt. 2 [10-2-18]

Loftus Atheist Error #9: Bible Espouses Mythical Animals? [9-10-19]

The Bible and Mythical Animals [National Catholic Register, 10-9-19]

The Bible is Not “Anti-Scientific,” as Skeptics Claim [National Catholic Register, 10-23-19]

Vs. Atheist David Madison #37: Bible, Science, & Germs [12-10-19]

Vs. Atheist David Madison #38: Who is Insulting Intelligence? (. . . with emphasis on the vexing and complex question of the ultimate origins of matter and life) [12-11-19]

Seidensticker Folly #36: Disease, Jesus, Paul, Miracles, & Demons [1-13-20]

Slavery & the Bible

Biblical Inspiration & Cultural Influences: Contradictory? (emphasis on slavery) [8-10-18]

Seidensticker Folly #10: Slavery in the Old Testament [8-20-18]

Seidensticker Folly #11: Slavery & the New Testament [8-20-18]

Souls

Seidensticker Folly #8: Physics Has Disproven Souls? [8-16-18]

Ten Commandments

Seidensticker Folly #16: Two Sets of Ten Commandments? [9-10-18]

Ward’s Whoppers #11-12: Ten Commandments Issues [5-19-20]

Tomb of Jesus

Resurrection #14: When Was the Stone Rolled Away? [4-27-21]

Resurrection #16: Peter & John at the Empty Tomb [4-28-21]

Women

Dialogue: Sexist, Misogynist Bible and Christianity? (Debate with Five Atheists. Are Christian Women Abused as “Sheep”?) [9-20-10; abridged a bit on 2-12-20]

“Zombies” (Matthew 27:51-53)

Seidensticker Folly #45: “Zombies” & Clueless Atheists (Atheist Neil Carter Joins in on the Silliness and Tomfoolery as Well) [8-29-20]

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Photo credit: geralt (8-18-16) [PixabayPixabay License]

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Summary: I’ve done quite a few rebuttals of falsely alleged biblical “contradictions”, so I thought it would be good (for reference purposes) to collect them all together in one place, categorized by topic.

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Last updated on 9 July 2021

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February 22, 2021

[book and purchase info.]

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I. INTRODUCTION

Time and again, in discussing the Bible’s teachings I hear the reply, “But that’s only your interpretation” as if no certainty can be obtained as to what the Bible affirms, especially in particular matters. Diversity of opinion is often presumed to prove that there is no correct interpretation.

First of all, in approaching the Bible, one must either accept or reject the Bible’s own claims: that it is the Word of God: God’s Revelation to mankind, written by men under divine inspiration. If this proposition is rejected, the Bible, hopefully, will at least be regarded as a unified collection of books that are united thematically in terms of theological outlook.

Otherwise, Bible interpretation will be practically futile, if not impossible, since the very appellation “Bible” would be a misnomer. Assuming then, that the Bible is considered as a unity, with some sort of common thread running through it, a rational method of interpreting this lengthy and sometimes difficult document will be necessary.

It will do no good, intellectually, to read the Bible with the intent of forcing it into an outlook and worldview totally foreign to the biblical writers, such as eastern monism, occultic mysticism or existentialism. Nor will it be of any benefit to form opinions on the Bible without reading enough of it to even have a bare acquaintance with its contents or stylistic colors. And above all it is supreme folly, from a literary standpoint to read Scripture with a hostile attitude.

The Bible will by no means be understood by people with any of these mentalities any more than a person’s viewpoint can be comprehended by talking with him briefly, once or twice, and going by hearsay, or by quarreling violently with him.

It’s amazing how many people think they know all about the Bible, when they haven’t read 1% of it.  One wonders why this is; would anyone, for example (besides a drunk person), comment “authoritatively” on Homer, Plato, or Shakespeare without having read their books? It is my firmly held conviction that if a person reads the Bible with a truly open, unbiased mind, ready and willing to let it speak for itself, its message, broadly speaking, will be abundantly clear.

Scripture is clear about precisely those tenets which Christians hold in common: monotheism and the love of the one God for us, the way to salvation, the sinfulness of human beings, the centrality of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, and as the God-man, judgment, Jesus’ and our own bodily resurrections to eternal life, a lofty set of ethical principles etc.  No particular interpretive or hermeneutical skill is needed to recognize these basic biblical affirmations.

If there is any one maxim which sums up the whole endeavor of Bible interpretation, I think it is this: The Bible must be studied and read like all other literature is studied and read. Scripture contains many types of literary forms — such as historical narrative, poetry, and legal contracts. These forms must be read according to their intention and purpose. No one writes a love letter in formal legal language and no one reads one as if it were a legal contract; the intent and form is entirely assumed beforehand. Likewise, poetry about nature in the Bible is not usually meant to be taken literally, or as a scientific hypothesis (e.g. “and the trees clapped their hands” — Isaiah 55:12).

Interpreting the Bible “literally”: that dreaded and disparaged practice perceived as a “hallmark” of “fundamentalists” lacking in intellectual capacity, means determining literary forms and their purpose in the Bible and reading accordingly. It does not mean ignoring all poetry, metaphors, parables, hyperbole, etc., and interpreting such passages with a wooden literalism.

Ironically, those trying to discredit the Bible are guilty of this practice much more often than are the so-called “fundamentalists” whose methods they despise. Such hyper-literalism would lead to God having physical “wings” (Ps 17:8) and commands to pluck out our eyes (Mt 5:29) and move mountains into the sea (Mt 21:21). Many alleged contradictions in the Bible are easily solved simply through identification of the form and purpose of each individual section.

Certain principles of reading lie at the center of all interpretation whatsoever. They apply equally to legislative, theological, philosophical, and common everyday language. Serious critical analysis is impossible without them. The Jewish rabbinical schools used these rules, and so did Jesus, Paul the apostles the Church Fathers, the master theologians of the Middle Ages and later, such as Aquinas; Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and all the great Bible scholars of the last two centuries who regarded the Bible as a unified entity.

After an overview of the different literary types in the Bible we will examine the “Six Rules of Interpretation” which underlie all intelligent, productive Bible study. The rules have a universal application, but they will be discussed in terms of biblical application.

II. LITERARY FORMS IN SCRIPTURE

1) Historical Narratives 

Narratives are the most common form in the Bible; can be read at face value and “literally,” just like any other historical accounts are read. Includes lists, genealogies, uttered statements, prayers, etc. (Genesis; Ex 1-19, 31-40; Joshua through to Nehemiah, the Gospels, Acts)

 2) Legal Contracts

This literature deals with technicalities of laws and covenants and their application. (Ex 20-30; Lev 11-22, 26-27; Deut 11-30)

3) Manuals of Religious Rituals

Descriptive of ceremonies that are usually symbolic of deeper meanings. (Lev 1-7, 23-25; throughout legal literature)

4) Logical Argument

Same purpose and intent as in philosophical discourse in general. (Romans 1-3; 1 Cor 1-2; Acts 17:22-31; Mark 14:1-6)

5) Letters or “Epistles”

These are personal letters of counsel, exhortation, and practical religious instruction, written to churches. (Romans through to Jude; mostly written by Paul the apostle)

6) Poetry

Most common form after narrative. Every book of the Bible probably has some poetry, but the following books are nearly entirely poetry: Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job, Lamentations. Hebrew poetry uses parallelism rather than rhyme (Ps 33:6, 34:13, 46:7, 95:6; Prov 10:4, 13:1, 19:5, Mt 5:42), hyperbole, or exaggeration (Ps 1:2, 18:29, 42, 42:3, 137:9), and heavy use of visual images intended to stimulate our imagination and feelings as well as thinking (Ps ch. 1, 18:2, ch. 23, 102:26; Is 40:11, 45:9; Ezek 34:31; Matt. 23:37). Five notable sub-categories of poetry can be identified:

A) Satirical and Cynical Memoirs — Ecclesiastes.

B) Romance — (also an allegory of God and His people) — Song of Solomon.

C) Proverbs — Proverbs, some of Ecclesiastes; short, pithy, memorable, general observations about life (as in Confucius’ sayings). They are not absolute and are unconcerned with exceptions to the rule; they are intended to be applied according to situations.

D) Parables / Allegory — Intended to teach the listener by presenting interesting illustrations, from which can be drawn moral and religious truth. (Mt 13:1-53, 20:1-16, 22:1-14; Mk 12:1-12; Luke 15:11-32, 16:1-9)

E) Prophetic / Apocalyptic Literature — Largely poetic and similar to “preaching”; points to actual happenings in the future, and usually serves as a warning directly from God through the prophet, His messenger. Apocalyptic writings refer especially to the end of the world, Armageddon, the Last Judgment, etc. (Isaiah through to Zechariah; Revelation, Mt 24)

III. THE SIX RULES OF INTERPRETATION (HERMENEUTICS)

1) Rule of Definition

Any study of Scripture must begin with a study of words, which have the same meaning in the Bible as they have in any other document, and in the society in which they were used. The New Testament writers used Koine or “common” Greek, which was the language of the common man. Translations seek to render Hebrew or Greek words into their equivalents in English. Some translations, it should be noted, are more literal than others, and some are paraphrases, which translate thoughts rather than words. No translation is perfect: some meaning is always lost.

In order to intelligently understand biblical words, it is very useful to obtain a Concordance, which traces English words through Scripture and gives the original word translated. Even better, Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries and Lexicons can be purchased which require no knowledge of these languages. They define precisely the meaning of the original words, which can have different definitions according to context (just like English words). Also, it can be determined how many words are     translated into one English word, which is a common occurrence in translations. Of all the rules, this one is probably abused the most. Yet it is very elementary.

2) Rule of Usage

It is important furthermore, to learn how words were used and understood at the time and place that they were spoken or written. Old Testament words are to be interpreted according to Hebrew usage, and New Testament words in terms of the 1st century Greek-speaking world. Jesus was a Jew spoke primarily to and moved among Jews, and used idioms and phrases plainly comprehended by Jews. This must be taken into consideration; all the writers must be interpreted in this way. Bible Commentaries and Lexicons are good resources for applying this principle.

3) Rule of Context

This rule is probably violated most, after rule no. 1. Verses are pulled out of a text and interpreted in isolation, apart from their surroundings. Many passages derive all their force from the connecting thoughts before and after them. The original Bible didn’t even have verse numbers, which, for all their utility, have unfortunately contributed to the tendency of quoting out of context. Most people are familiar with religious fanatics or cults that place an undue emphasis on one verse (also a violation of Rule no. 6). The best way to avoid this pitfall is to simply read whole passages in order to arrive at a better understanding of the thrust and intent of individual segments.

4) Rule of Historical Background

The culture in which each book was produced must also be somewhat understood. This means some knowledge of: Jewish history and culture from at least the 2000-year period from Abraham to Jesus. The Bible was written in various cultural milieus, and the writers reflect their surroundings. They also exhibit expected personality distinctives.

The intelligent reader will seek to know as much as possible the thoughts of the authors, rather than reading into texts the bias and outlook of his or her own thoughts and times. In this regard Commentaries and Bible Dictionaries or Encyclopedias are very helpful, as well as standard historical sources. Archaeology has also provided much insight.

5) Rule of Logic

The Bible writers presupposed the basic rules of logic, and Scripture is to be interpreted as we interpret any other volume, by a reasonable and rigid application of the same laws of language and grammatical analysis. A good dose of common sense wouldn’t hurt either, since when it comes to the Bible and its interpretation, it seems like fools come out of the woodwork from all directions. The mastering of rudimentary logic will suffice here, accompanied by the willingness to treat the Bible in the same way, and with the same standards as other books: fairly and logically.

6) Rule of Unity

If the Bible is perceived as a unity, then passages within it must be construed with reference to the whole. Misunderstanding or ignorance of this rule is the cause of countless unnecessary and/or absurd assertions about what the Bible teaches. Scripture is, first and foremost, a book of salvation; of God’s dealings with human beings, and of His desire to transform our characters and natures in a positive way.

Each book in the Bible contributes to the whole and fulfills a specific purpose. To a large extent, the Bible interprets itself, by the comparison of Scripture with Scripture (exegesis), on the basis or similar subject matter. If this method is utilized, each passage will be more clearly understood within the context of the whole Bible, and much confusion and lunacy will be avoided. Concordances, Topical Bibles (which arrange passages by topic) and books on Systematic Theology or particular doctrines will serve as a great aid in this endeavor.

IV. CONCLUSION

In light of the above, many major differences of opinion about the Bible can be explained as due to one or more of the following factors:

1) Ignorance of the text of the Bible.

2) Ignorance of the principles of interpretation, which apply to all literature.

3) Inconsistent application of correct principles of interpretation.

If a person will apply the “Six Rules” correctly and consistently, read with an open mind, and accept the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit, which is God (John 14:26, 16:13), he can attain an intelligent and informed understanding of the Bible. Finally, it’s good to bear in mind the important role of Church history, Bible scholarship, and teachers at local churches in assisting and guiding individuals in their search for the true meaning of the Scriptures.

It is certainly prideful folly to disregard all interpretation that has come before (a “Rule of Precedent” if you will).  No young scientist, for example, starts from scratch in trying to understand the natural world. He always accepts the validity of the rich history of prior scientific discovery. People who isolate themselves and come up with a novel “special revelation” of what the Bible says tend to go off on a tangent and some even go on to start up the dangerous sects or “cults” that we hear about in the news.

The Bible is not an esoteric “mystery book” which refuses to reveal its “secrets” to all but the most diligent; nor does it require a Ph.D. degree or perfect saintliness of its readers. It does require a fair amount of reading, an open mind, and a little effort in learning basic rules. It is no waste of time to learn such things, and there is nothing to lose. Anyone who learns to correctly read this magnificent “Book of Books” will reap immense profit and benefit to their souls and spiritual life.

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(originally written in 1987 as an evangelical Protestant)

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Summary: The Bible is not an esoteric “mystery book”. But it does require application of rules of Bible interpretation, a fair amount of study, an open mind, & a little effort in learning basic rules.

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February 10, 2021

The Purposes and Goals of Contra-Atheist Christian Apologetics

Sporkfighter” is a friendly and fair-minded atheist who asked me some good questions underneath my article, Groundless Gospel of Mark Bashing Systematically Refuted (2-9-21). Here are my replies, with a short second round as well. It became an excellent opportunity to explain the wider goals and motivations of apologetics. His words will be in blue.

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Question: Who are you writing for?

1) Christians: for their existing faith to be strengthened by seeing the weakness of opposing arguments and the strength of our own.

2) For Christians who are wavering in their faith (who would be adversely affected by the material I refute) and perhaps considering leaving it and/or becoming an atheist: to be strengthened by seeing the weakness of opposing arguments.

3) For those wondering about the doctrines of biblical inspiration and infallibility.

4) For fair-minded, honest atheists: to show that these atrocious arguments are embarrassing for atheists to put out: and ought to be rebuked from within their own community.

5) For the atheist who actually thinks these are unanswerable arguments.

6) For the atheist who might be on the fence and is considering forsaking atheism.

7) For atheists or anyone else who think that Christian theology is held only by gullible, infantile ignoramuses, who hate science and reason.

8) For anyone who thinks that Christianity is fundamentally irrational and opposed to reasonable explanation or defense.

9) For the sake of truth itself (i.e., what I, to the best of my ability, have come to believe is truth).

10) For the sake of open and honest discussion between opposing viewpoints: believing that dialogue is a means to obtain truth.

Are you writing to give Catholics support for their beliefs?

Inasmuch as Catholics are in the category of Christians, yes. But I’m also offering support for things where Protestants , Orthodox, and Catholics are in full agreement. I don’t argue about Catholic distinctives when defending Christianity against atheist attacks (I don’t consider it appropriate or prudent): unless they hit upon a specifically Catholic belief. Nothing in my reply here or in others like it should cause the slightest pause for any traditional, conservative (trinitarian / Nicene Creed) Christian. In fact, I could have written this when I was an evangelical Protestant (1977-1990).

Are you writing to convince non-Catholic Christians that Catholicism it one-true or the most-true path to salvation through Jesus?

No; per my previous reply. I do that in many other papers, but in this context it’s inappropriate. The word “Catholic” appears once in the entire article, and it is simply in referring to a “Catholic apologist” who made a general Christian apologetic point: precisely as I am doing here. So why do you keep bringing up Catholicism, as if it were relevant to my paper? It’s odd.

Are you writing to convince non-Christian theists that Christianity generally and Catholicism specifically is the path to the true God?

In a way, the first thing (in an indirect / roundabout sense), but it’s not my direct goal. The latter is addressed in hundreds of other papers of mine.

Are you writing to non-believers, trying to convince them that there is a God, that the Pope in Rome is his representative and the Catholic Church His…marketing arm?

See my previous two replies.

If it’s the first, okay. If it’s the second, okay. If it’s the third, I don’t see how your approach beginning and ending in the Bible can end up convincing anyone by never addressing their own traditions and their own reasons for believing.

It’s a specific argument; not the whole ball of wax. The question at hand is”: “Is Mark trustworthy as a document?, or is it so full of contradictions that the author has no credibility and no one (as a result) could possibly believe it was inspired by God.” I “defeat the defeaters, as Alvin Plantinga often says. It’s not defending the entire Bible (let alone all of Christianity or more specifically, Catholicism). It’s simply showing that these particular objections fall flat and achieve nothing whatsoever to tear down the Gospel of Mark.

If it’s the fourth, the best you’ll ever get a Bible full of events that could have happened without external evidence that they did happen.

Again, this is a “reactive” enterprise. I am showing how these objections fail. You’re way ahead of the game and have to realize the intent of any particular apologetics project. I’m happy to clarify.

I’m in the fourth group, and I just shake my head at the effort you go through to show the Bible can’t be proven false.

It’s not claiming the entire Bible can’t be proven false (though I do believe that). It’s showing how these arguments against Mark are a bunch of hot air and are irrational. It’s meant to give folks pause who are mightily impressed by these ludicrous pseudo-“arguments.” Then there are hundreds of other possible arguments and objections to address (most of which I have dealt with, in my 3180 articles on my blog, and 50 books). The argument for Christianity and the Bible is a cumulative one, consisting of scores and scores of individual arguments, adding up to the conclusion that Christianity is true and atheism false.

Does it really matter if you can explain why apparently differing details in the four Gospels don’t leave the Bible hopelessly internally contradictory?

Yes, but it’s just one piece in a large puzzle. Does it really matter to you that your fellow atheists make such terrible arguments? Are you able to admit that any in this piece are in fact, disproven by my replies? You haven’t said one word about my actual arguments. Instead, it’s all “meta-analysis.”

At best, you have a fantastic tale that “could have happened” with no evidence that it did happen.

People are convinced by an accumulation of considerations, which they feel all point in one direction: the truth of Mark or the Bible or of Christianity. If I make them curious here and persuade them of anything, then they will be game for future attempts at persuasion: all the way up to a possible conversion to Christianity or Catholicism specifically, or to a serious doubting of atheism, or a strengthening of a weak or wavering Christian faith. It’s all good. It’s what I was put on this earth to do (what we call a “calling” or “vocation”).

If you want to convince people outside your tradition, first, why, and second, you need evidence from outside your tradition.

Exactly! I am using reason as that common ground that both sides accept. I never say, “accept x, y, or z simply because Christians / the pope / Christian tradition says so.” I say, “accept it because it appears by virtue of reason to be true,” or “it may be true, given the weakness of opposing arguments” or “it appears to be more plausible than atheist alternatives.”

If you want to convince people inside your tradition, why? They’re already convinced.

It’s strengthening their existing faith, and providing support in reason for their faith, so it can be held more boldly and confidently, and more efficiently and successfully shared with others. Christians are under attack from all directions. There is a need for certain folks in our community to help support the faithful through efforts like this and many others of a different nature (such as social service or prayer, etc.).

If you find the academic challenge interesting, that would be the answer that makes the most sense to me.

I do enjoy that as well. But I find these atheist “objections” so weak, I would hardly even classify them as “academic.” They purport to be academic or semi-academic. Most of them would be laughed off of the stage of any truly academic setting. I’m not an academic or scholar. But I do claim to engage in semi-academic / “thinking man’s” lay apologetic endeavors. And I have held my own in dialogue with many scholars.

Excellent and comprehensive reply. I’m still looking for evidence that any supernatural realm of any kind exists before I wrestle with the details. Picking apart Christianity as a way to support my position would be pointless, because there’s always another tradition or faith to knock down, and another, and another.

Glad you like it. I would say that it sure looks like — according to cutting-edge science — an immaterial “spirit” of some sort, something wildly different from what we have up till now understood as “matter”, exists (to the tune of 95% of the entire universe). Most atheists have been telling us for centuries that it didn’t. You may have seen my recent paper on this: Seidensticker Folly #71: Spirit-God “Magic”; 68% Dark Energy Isn’t?

In other words, even science is leading us rapidly into new realms of “spirit” or “whatintheworldisthis?” stuff. Perhaps that is your gateway into the “supernatural realm of any kind.”

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Photo credit: geralt (2-1-21) [Pixabay Pixabay License]

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February 5, 2021

It’s a very common motif in anti-theist atheist polemics, to say that the Bible appears to be very complicated and inscrutable (and, they wrongly think, ubiquitously contradictory). This shouldn’t be the case — so they argue — if indeed it is a divinely inspired document from an omniscient God, meant to communicate to all human being at all times.

One atheist, Eric [see our closely related dialogue immediately prior to this], stated it this way in an atheist combox, in discussion with me on one particular passage:

This undermines the whole message and credibility of the text [Matthew 28:2-4] – a text which is supposedly inspired by God and intended for a broad audience. It should not take an expert delving into Koine Greek verb tenses to communicate the correct timing of an earthquake. If that’s required, something has gone wrong. Either the text is badly written, or the expert’s bias is causing them to reject a more straightforward reading. . . .

I agree insofar as you and I are not living in the first century Near Eastern / Semitic / Mesopotamian culture (specifically, Israel) with its Greek and Roman influences, and a strong local history of Judaism and ways and modes of thinking therein. Since we are not in those “shoes” and because of time and vast language and cultural differences, it’s necessary for us to enter into that mindset through study of the culture, including recourse to language tools that also bring out the nuances in the Greek. For the people back then, many such things would have been quite clear which are unknown or obscure to us.

I don’t see that this is even arguable. I assert that it’s self-evident. The Bible was specifically written for this target group. The rest of us are quite capable is using our heads to figure out “difficult”: texts and indeed, there are many available excellent tools to help us to do that (now with the Internet, more readily available than ever).

To note just three example of multiple hundreds: you think that a modern American or European is supposed to have knowledge at their fingertips about first-century Jewish burial customs, involving spices for anointing, linen cloths, and whether a Jew could purchase burial linen cloths on the Sabbath or Passover? Obviously we will not. I don’t know about you, but certainly didn’t know a thing about it till I read commentaries, historical accounts etc. (I cited someone who consulted the Talmud regarding the linen in my latest paper) explaining it. These three aspects were part of the case against the Resurrection accounts.

You seem to think that they should all be readily evident in their meaning and nature to the modern reader (otherwise we are entitled to question that the Bible is inspired revelation: it being so frustratingly “complicated”). I totally disagree. Many of these bogus proposed “contradictions” involve things precisely of this nature (and I know, having dealt with many hundreds of them myself): points of ancient Hebrew culture, nuances in the Greek texts of the New Testament, etc.

Because the usual atheist skeptic (the professional ones, at any rate) goes barging into the biblical text like a bull in a china shop, thinking they understand it better than Christians like myself who have devoted their lives to studying the Bible, they oftentimes miss these finer points, where commentaries and historians, even archaeology, can provide much helpful background cultural and linguistic information, that we require, being so far removed from the original literary and cultural context.

Eric continues:

[Your] argument is consistent with the Bible being written by mere humans, for the limited crowd in front of them. It may even be consistent with a divine message of imminent apocalypse. However it is not consistent with a message written or inspired by a perfect communicator, sending His message to all people throughout the ages.

Another point that hurts your position, in my opinion, is that we have many many bible translations, going from hundreds of years ago all the way up to modern ones. And as far as I know, none of them or very few of them locate the timing of the earthquake in the past like you do. If, as you say, proper ‘positioning’ of the reader in the mindset and language of the author leads naturally and rationally to your interpretation, then why isn’t your interpretation the norm for all translations? It’s one thing to say I, Eric, am reading it wrong. Fair enough. It’s quite another to say that practically the whole body of experts in biblical translation are reading it the same wrong way.

It’s not just the language (literal or figurative, etc.) but how Hebrews thought, which is often very different. This is an example, and my hypothesis (which is all it is) makes sense if a few things about Hebrew thinking are explained.

In the book, Hebrew for Theologians: A Textbook for the Study of Biblical Hebrew in Relation to Hebrew Thinking (Jacques Doukhan, University Press of America, 1993), the author notes that in the Hebrew mind, “the content of time prevails over chronology. Events which are distant in time can, if their content is similar, be regarded as simultaneous.” (p. 206)

Likewise, Thorleif Boman, in his book, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1960), devotes 61 pages to the topic of “Time and Space.” He noted that for the Hebrews, “time is determined by its content . . .” (p. 131). He observed also:

[W]e, too, characterize time by its content. We speak of wartime, peacetime, hard times, time of mourning, feast time, favourable time, office hours, bad year, etc. . . .

Thus, in part, the chronological times were named and characterized in accordance with their content in the Old Testament; day is the time of light and night is darkness (Gen. 1.5; Ps. 104.20). (p. 140)

This ties into another Hebrew (and sometimes Greek) literary device or form that is called “compression” or sometimes, “telescoping.” In his book, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP: 2nd edition, 2007, p. 216), Craig Blomberg took note of this:

Perhaps the most perplexing differences between parallels occur when one Gospel writer has condensed the account of an event that took place in two or more stages into one concise paragraph that seems to describe the action taking place all at once. Yet this type of literary abridgment was quite common among ancient writers (cf. Lucian, How to Write History 56), so once again it is unfair to judge them by modern standards of precision that no-one in antiquity required.

F. Gerald Downing, in his volume, Doing Things with Words in the First Christian Century (Sheffield: 2000, pp. 121-122) observed that the Jewish historian Josephus (37-c. 100 AD) used the same technique:

Josephus is in fact noticeably concerned to ‘improve’ the flow of his narrative, either by removing all sorts of items that might seem to interrupt it, or else by reordering them. . . . Lucian, in the next century, would seem to indicate much the same attitude to avoidable interruptions, digressions, in a historical narrative, however vivid and interesting in themselves.

Michael R. Licona, Baptist New Testament scholar and professor of theology, specializes in the literary analysis of the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies. He observed in his article, “Licona Responds to Ehrman on New Testament Reliability”:

Compression was a compositional device employed on a regular basis by historians in Jesus’s day. I provide several examples of compression and other compositional devices in my book scheduled for publication this fall, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? (Oxford University Press, 2016).

[Dave: In Licona’s book — mentioned above — on pages 71-72, he noted that Plutarch also utilized compression in his book, Antony and that his work, Pompey omits details on the same events that are included in his Antony and Caesar]

. . . a very large majority of the differences in the Gospels are best explained in view of the compositional devices employed in the writing of ancient historical/biographical literature; those prescribed in the extant compositional textbooks written by Theon, Hermogenes, Quintilian, Aphthonius, and others, and those we can infer from observing patterns in how the same author using the same sources reports the same story writing around the same time but does so with differences. . . .compression was a common compositional device and is easily identified . . .

Now, Eric and other atheists will probably respond at this point: “See?! That’s so blasted complicated! Who could figure all that out? And this supports our point that the Bible is often obscure; therefore not inspired by ‘God.’ ”

But that’s true for us today: 2000 years removed, and not familiar with these techniques common to historiography at that time. This precisely backs up my point of view expressed earlier in this dialogue:

I agree insofar as you and I are not living in the first century Near Eastern / Semitic / Mesopotamian culture (specifically, Israel) with its Greek and Roman influences, and a strong local history of Judaism and ways and modes of thinking therein. Since we are not in those “shoes” and because of time and vast language and cultural differences, it’s necessary for us to enter into that mindset through study of the culture, including recourse to language tools that also bring out the nuances in the Greek. For the people back then, many such things would have been quite clear which are unknown or obscure to us.

To reiterate: the Bible was originally written for people in a certain cultural, historical, and “literary” context. It was easily understood by them. For those of us removed from that context, it’s required to delve into scholarly aids such as the ones I cited, in order to comprehend various things that are unfamiliar to us in our time and culture.

Yes, we have to use our noggins and think and research a bit, but that’s normal. No one said that the Bible was as easy to interpret as Aesop’s Fables or The Iliad. But it’s able to be understood through the usual means of teaching and explanation that are true of anything whatever.

I should add, too, that even for the ancient Hebrews (who understood things such as what we’ve been discussing far better than modern American / European people), teaching aids were required to fully understand the Bible, as the Bible itself indicates:

1) Exodus 18:20 (RSV, as throughout): Moses was to teach the Jews the “statutes and the decisions” — not just read it to them. Since he was the Lawgiver and author of the Torah, it stands to reason that his interpretation and teaching would be of a highly authoritative nature.

2) Leviticus 10:11: Aaron, Moses’ brother, is also commanded by God to teach.

3) Deuteronomy 17:8-13: The Levitical priests had binding authority in legal matters (derived from the Torah itself). They interpreted the biblical injunctions (17:11). The penalty for disobedience was death (17:12), since the offender didn’t obey “the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God.” Cf. Deuteronomy 19:16-17; 2 Chronicles 19:8-10.

4) Deuteronomy 24:8: Levitical priests had the final say and authority (in this instance, in the case of leprosy). This was a matter of Jewish law.

5) Deuteronomy 33:10: Levite priests are to teach Israel the ordinances and law. (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:3; Malachi 2:6-8 — the latter calls them “messenger of the LORD of hosts”).

6) Ezra 7:6, 10: Ezra, a priest and scribe, studied the Jewish law and taught it to Israel, and his authority was binding, under pain of imprisonment, banishment, loss of goods, and even death (7:25-26).

7) Nehemiah 8:1-8: Ezra reads the law of Moses to the people in Jerusalem (8:3). In 8:7 we find thirteen Levites who assisted Ezra, and “who helped the people to understand the law.” Much earlier, in King Jehoshaphat’s reign, we find Levites exercising the same function (2 Chronicles 17:8-9). In Nehemiah 8:8: “. . . they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly [footnote, “or with interpretation”], and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”

So the people did indeed understand the law (8:12), but not without much assistance — not merely upon hearing. Likewise, the Bible is not altogether clear in and of itself, but requires the aid of teachers who are more familiar with biblical styles and Hebrew idiom, background, context, exegesis and cross-reference, hermeneutical principles, original languages, etc.

Felix Lopez, one of my Facebook friends, observed along these lines:

We rely on experts for just about every aspect of our lives even indirectly and unconsciously most of the time. Ever since infancy we relied on others to teach us English, math, and practical wisdom, etc. We trust scientists for various facts and theories. We rely on historians to do similar investigations of the past for secular texts and events. Why should the subject of theology and the Bible be any different? Should we abandon everything we’ve learned in other subjects and claim none of it existed?

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Photo credit: geralt (5-8-19) [PixabayPixabay License]

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February 4, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” .

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I am replying to the post on Jonathan’s site, “Contradictions in the Resurrection of Jesus Accounts” (1-31-21): a guest-post written by one David Austin. This is my second reply. The first dealt with the 18-point chart. Now I tackle the text after it. David Austin’s words will be in blue.

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Paul has no mention of an empty tomb; Just Jesus was “buried”.

Acts 13:28-37 (RSV) Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. [29] And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. [30] But God raised him from the dead; [31] and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. [32] And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, [33] this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, `Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.’ [34] And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way, `I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ [35] Therefore he says also in another psalm, `Thou wilt not let thy Holy One see corruption.’ [36] For David, after he had served the counsel of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers, and saw corruption; [37] but he whom God raised up saw no corruption.

[“tomb” was mentioned in 13:29, then Paul says Jesus was “raised him from the dead.” That’s an “empty tomb” is it not?: by straightforward logical deduction. Jesus wasn’t there anymore, and “for many days he appeared” (13:31). Inexorable conclusion: empty tomb!] There are many many more references to Jesus’ Resurrection in Paul:

Acts 17:2-3 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, [3] explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

Acts 17:30-31 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”

Acts 26:22-23 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: [23] that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles.”

Romans 1:4 and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

Romans 4:24 . . . It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,

[see also: Rom 4:24-25; 6:4-5, 9; 7:4; 8:11, 34; 10:9; 1 Cor 6:14; 15:3-8, 12-17, 20; 2 Cor 4:14; 5:15; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:20; Phil 3:10; Col 2:12; 1 Thess 1:10; 2 Tim 2:8]

Normal practice with crucified victims was for their bodies to rot on the cross, and then thrown into a mass grave.

It’s pretty impossible to argue that there could be no conceivable exceptions to this “normal practice” ever. So it’s much ado about nothing. But Protestant apologist Timothy Paul Jones offers an excellent rebuttal to this argument (fashionable among atheists and skeptics): “Is it Possible That Jesus’ Body Was Left on the Cross?” (4-6-12).

According to Paul, if the Resurrection had not occurred, then Christians’ faith is in vain. One would, therefore, expect the Resurrection to be the best corroborated event in the NT, but, as you can see, in the above chart, this is NOT the case. If there are contradictions, this means at least one account  (& maybe more) is incorrect. 

That’s why I wrote this paper and the one before it. I believe I refuted all 18 alleged contradictions, so there is nothing to the charge. And if indeed contradictions aren’t demonstrable, as I contend, then it means that the atheists coming up with such bogus nonsense have a serious problem with 1) logic and [possibly] 2) reading comprehension. They certainly don’t — on the whole — have a clue about biblical exegesis. I’ve shown that over and over in my refutations of atheist “exegetes”: who approach the Bible (as I always say) like a butcher approaches a hog.

The four Gospels are anonymous; The “authorship” of these writings was a 2nd Century addition and was merely speculation by the early Church. The gospels were written in Greek, but it is generally agreed that Jesus & the Disciples spoke Aramaic and were “unlettered”.

Tax collectors for the Romans were in fact, literate and well-educated. Thus, Matthew very likely would have known Greek and Latin. We learn from Colossians 4:14 that Luke was a medical doctor. Wyatt Graham observed:

Consider for example the testimony of a bishop named Papias [c. 60-c. 130 AD] who lived while some disciples of Jesus still lived. For example, he had access to John the elder and Ariston, who were disciples of Jesus. He also knew of the daughters of Phillip who lived nearby to him (Acts 21:8–9). And Papias records the words of one of Jesus’ disciples by the name of John the Elder regarding Mark’s Gospel:

And the elder used to say this: “Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately everything he remembered, though not in order, of the things either said or done by Christ. For [Mark] neither heard the Lord nor [accompanied] him, but afterward, as I said, [accompanied] Peter. (Frag. Pap. 3.15; I modified slightly Holmes’ translation) . . .

Papias also records that Matthew wrote the Gospel according to Matthew (Frag. Pap. 3.16). So, Papias lived while disciples of Jesus still lived, and he also lived when the Gospels were being written (or was born around this period). And it is Papias who affirms that Peter committed his preaching to words through Mark’s hand (through the testimony of John). And it is Papias who affirms that Matthew, an apostle of Jesus, wrote the Gospel according to Matthew.

As for Luke as the author of the book bearing his name, see: “Who Wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts” by Brian Chilton (7-2-17), and by the same writer: “Who Wrote the Gospel of John?” (9-3-17). Chilton thinks that John dictated his Gospel.

Matthew & Mark have the women being instructed for the Disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee.

So what? Unless they say something like “this is the only time they saw the risen Jesus” there is no contradiction. It gets very tiresome having to reiterate elementary logic over and over.

Matthew has the Disciples’ one & only sighting of Jesus on a mountain in Galilee.

This is an absolutely classic and “textbook” example of the dumbfounded and intellectually dishonest methodology of atheist Bible-bashers: seeing “contradictions” under every rock. Nothing in the text of Matthew even remotely hints at this being the “one & only sighting of Jesus.” That’s simply a groundless, completely arbitrary extrapolation from David Austin’s brain with nothing to back it up.

The original manuscripts of Mark end at Chapter 16 verse 8 (Frightened women run from the tomb and tell no-one). . . . Since the women, in Mark, don’t tell the Disciples about what they were told, we can only speculate whether they ever met Jesus at all.

I dealt with this claim concerning the supposed non-canonicity of Mark 16:9-20 in the previous paper. But even if one accepts the shorter version of Mark 16, I wrote about 16:8 in another paper on this same topic:

1) The last clause gives no indication of how long they “said nothing.” It may not have been very long at all. We can only guess or speculate. 2)  “Said nothing” with no indication of how long the silence was, is not the same thing as saying that they never mentioned it to anyone, ever.

Luke & John contradict Matthew. Luke has two Jesus meetings with the Disciples, prior to a locked room meeting, (ie. With two Disciples on the road to Emmaus, and a meeting with Peter {time & location unspecified}) followed by a meeting with all Eleven Disciples in a room in Jerusalem. At this meeting, Jesus specifically tells them NOT to leave Jerusalem until “clothed in power from on high” (ie Pentecost). No 2nd meeting in Jerusalem or Galilee meeting.

Unlike Luke, John has the 1st sighting of Jesus by Ten Disciples in a locked room in Jerusalem, followed by two more appearances to them; 2nd in Jerusalem to Eleven and 3rd at the Sea of Tiberias to seven (This appearance specifically noted as the 3rd, hence NO prior visit to Galilee, “Road to Emmaus” or separate meeting with Peter). . . .  Paul’s Corinthians 15:3 states that the first appearance of the resurrected Jesus was to Cephas (Peter), but according to the Gospel accounts the first witness(es) would be Mary Magdalene & the other Mary, Mary Magdalene alone, or Cleopas & another un-named Disciple, not Peter. 

For a quite sufficient explanation, see the article, “To Galilee or Jerusalem?” by Eric Lyons, at the excellent Apologetics Press website. Here is the heart of his argument:

The truth is, Jesus met with His disciples in both places, but He did so at different times. One of the reasons so many people allege that two or more Bible passages are contradictory is because they fail to recognize that mere differences do not necessitate a contradiction. For there to be a bona fide contradiction, not only must one be referring to the same person, place, or thing in the same sense, but the same time period must be under consideration. . . .

Similarly, Jesus met with His disciples both in Jerusalem and in Galilee, but at different times. On the day of His resurrection, He met with all of the apostles (except Thomas) in Jerusalem just as both Luke and John recorded (Luke 24:33-43; John 20:19-25). Since Jesus was on the Earth for only forty days following His resurrection (cf. Acts 1:3), sometime between this meeting with His apostles in Jerusalem and His ascension more than five weeks later, Jesus met with seven of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee (John 21:1-14), and later with all eleven of the apostles on a mountain in Galilee that Jesus earlier had appointed for them (Matthew 28:16).

Sometime following these meetings in Galilee, Jesus and His disciples traveled back to Judea, where He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives near Bethany (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12). None of the accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances contradicts another. Rather, each writer supplemented what a different writer left out. . . .

Still, one may ask, “Why did Jesus command His apostles to ‘tarry in the city of Jerusalem’ on the day of His resurrection until they were ‘endued with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49), if He really wanted them to meet Him in Galilee?” Actually, it is an assumption to assert that Jesus made the above statement on the same day that He arose from the grave. One thing we must keep in mind as we study the Bible is that it normally is not as concerned about chronology as modern-day writings.

Frequently (especially in the gospel accounts), writers went from one subject to the next without giving the actual time or the exact order in which something was done or taught (cf. Luke 4:1-3; Matthew 4:1-11). In Luke 24, the writer omitted the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in Galilee (mentioned by both Matthew and John). However, notice that he never stated that Jesus remained only in Jerusalem from the day He rose from the grave until the day He ascended up into heaven.

See also an article from the always superb Christian Think Tank site, by Glenn Miller, entitled, “Do the Resurrection accounts HOPELESSLY contradict one another?” He includes the following summary of  Protestant theologian and exegete Murray Harris’ chronological schema of post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus: 

1. Mary Magdalene followed Peter and John to the tomb, saw two angels inside, and then met Jesus (John 20: 11-17; cf Mark 16:9).

2. Mary (the mother of James and Joses) and Salome met Jesus and were directed to tell his brethren to go to Galilee (Matt. 28:9-10).

3. During the afternoon Jesus appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus. They then returned to Jerusalem to report the appearance to the Eleven and others (Luke 24:13-35; c£ Mark 16:12-13).

4. Jesus appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15 :5).

5. That evening Jesus appeared to the Eleven and others (Luke 24:33), Thomas being absent (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23; 1 Cor. 15:5; cf Mark 16:14).

6. One week later Jesus appeared to the Eleven, Thomas being present (John 20:26-29) .

7. Seven disciples had an encounter with Jesus by the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee (John 21: 1-22).

8. The Eleven met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16-20; cf Mark 16:15-18).

9. Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people (Luke 24:44-49; 1 Cor. 15:6).

10. He appeared to James (1 Cor. 15 :7) .

11. Immediately before his ascension, Jesus appeared to the Eleven near Bethany (Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Cor. 15:7; cf Mark 16: 19-20).

Assuming the women had gone to anoint the body, how did they expect to gain access to the body with the stone in position, and guards barring the entrance? (Note: Only Matthew mentions guards at the tomb) Protestant apologist William Lane Craig adequately refutes this:

Would that have kept the women away? Well, maybe so, but only if they knew of the guard. But did they know? When you read Mark and Matthew’s accounts of the women’s observation of Jesus’ interment (Mark 15.46-47; Matthew 27.57-61), what you find is that the guard was not posted on Friday when the women watched Joseph inter the body in the tomb. The guard was something of an afterthought on the part of the Jewish authorities, who went to Pilate on the following day (Saturday) to ask that the tomb be sealed and a guard posted before it.

Saturday was, of course, the Jewish Sabbath, and Luke records of the women that “On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23.56). Like the male disciples, they may have remained in seclusion all that day (cf. John 20.19). So there’s no reason at all to think that when the women set out for the tomb at early dawn on Sunday morning, they expected to find that the tomb was guarded and sealed. That’s why “they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?’” (Mark 16.3). They didn’t know if anybody would be there. So I see no problem in affirming the compatibility of Matthew’s guard story with the women’s intent to anoint Jesus’ corpse.

As to the stone, Fr. Charles Grondin proposes two possible solutions to the proposed “difficulty”:

The women had seen where Jesus had been placed (Mark 15:47) but might not have stayed long enough to see the stone rolled in front of the tomb, and they asked the question recorded in Mark 16:3 only once they saw the stone from a distance. . . .

The woman expected to encounter other people either along the way or in the vicinity who could roll it back for them—for example, the gardener (John 20:15).

Why was stone rolled away if Jesus could enter locked rooms? Maybe for some-one to remove the body?

Orthodox Christian Network answers this:

There can hardly be any Christian believer who doesn’t know that an angel descended from heaven and rolled away the stone from the entry to the tomb where the Creator of life lay dead, without breath. Very few, however really know why the stone was rolled away. Most people confuse two things which are independent of each other: the Lord’s exit from the tomb and the rolling away of the stone.

In other words, they think that the angel came down and rolled away the stone so that the Lord could emerge, that when He did so there was an earthquake which terrified the guards to such an extent that they ‘became as if dead’. This is not only what ordinary Christians believe, but even what some of those who preach the Gospel think. In many icons of the Resurrection, in fact, both Byzantine and Western, we see the angel taking away the stone and the Lord emerging from the tomb, while the guards, terrified at the sight of Him, fall down as if dead.

This is historically inaccurate! If you study the Gospel of Matthew carefully, you’ll see that the Lord had emerged from the tomb before the descent of the angel, the rolling away of the stone, and the earthquake which occurred at the same time. The stone was rolled away, not so that the Lord could emerge, but to demonstrate that He’d already done so.

If Mary’s tomb visit (in John) was earlier than the visit in Matthew, why did she not encounter any guards?

Because, as John 20:1 states, she “saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” An angel had already removed the stone and as a result, “the guards trembled and became like dead men” (Mt 28:4). Presumably they also fled as a result (likely for fear of their lives, for the penalty for not properly guarding something was death in Roman law); therefore, Mary didn’t see them.

Matthew & John say the women/woman met Jesus at the tomb, but Mark & Luke says there was NO such meeting.

Where do Mark and Luke say there was no such meeting? They don’t. So this is just another non-contradiction that atheists somehow conjure up as an authentic one. To not mention something is logically not the same as denying the same thing. The latter would have been a contradiction if Mark and Luke actually did it.  But they didn’t, so it isn’t. But it’s another classic example of atheist special pleading.

The women in Luke see two men inside the tomb BEFORE Peter inspects the empty tomb, but John says that Mary Magdalene saw two angels inside the tomb AFTER Peter & Beloved Disciple had inspected the tomb.

So what? Angels could have been there both times.

The ascension of Jesus is only mentioned in Luke, apparently on the same day as his resurrection (contradicted in Acts [supposedly also written by “Luke”] which says Jesus remained on earth for forty days).

I answer that in this paper: Seidensticker Folly #15: Jesus’ Ascension: One or 40 Days? [9-10-18]

How did the chief priests and Pharisees know that Jesus would be resurrected after 3 days when the Disciples didn’t seem to understand this?

Two Bible commentaries (writing about Matthew 27:63) provide answers:

It appears, then, that though they had deliberately stirred up the passions of the people by representing the mysterious words of John 2:14 as threatening a literal destruction of the Temple (Matthew 26:61Matthew 27:40), they themselves had understood, wholly or in part, their true meaning. We are, perhaps, surprised that they should in this respect have been more clear-sighted than the disciples, but in such a matter sorrow and disappointment confuse, and suspicion sharpens the intellect. (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

after three days I will rise again: now, though he said to his to his disciples privately, Matthew 16:21, yet not clearly and expressly to the Scribes and Pharisees; wherefore they must either have it from Judas, and lied in saying they remembered it: or they gathered it either from what he said concerning the sign of the prophet Jonas, Matthew 12:40, or rather from his words in John 2:19, and if so, they acted a most wicked part, in admitting a charge against him, as having a design upon their temple, to destroy it, and then rebuild it in three days; when they knew those words were spoken by him concerning his death, and resurrection from the dead: they remembered this, when the disciples did not: bad men have sometimes good memories, and good men bad ones; so that memory is no sign of grace, (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

Who witnessed this meeting when guards were sent to secure the tomb? Who witnessed the meeting between the guards and the chief priests when a bribe was suggested?

Simply because we can’t determine either thing from the texts alone, doesn’t mean or logically follow that there were none, or that this person or persons could not have communicated it to Matthew. Matthew may have also received it by direct revelation from God (under the Christian view that the Bible is inspired writing and God’s revelation to mankind). In any event, this is not a “contradiction”; only an unknown (two different things). But certainly plausible hypotheses exist.

Paul says Jesus appeared to “The Twelve” but if Judas Iscariot was no longer a Disciple, there would be only eleven of them left for Jesus to appear to, not twelve.

Protestant apologist Eric Lyons provides the rebuttal:

Numerous alleged Bible discrepancies arise because skeptics frequently interpret figurative language in a literal fashion. They treat God’s Word as if it were a dissertation on the Pythagorean theorem rather than a book written using ordinary language. . . . The simple solution to this numbering “problem” is that “the twelve” to which Paul referred was not a literal number, but the designation of an office. This term is used merely “to point out the society of the apostles, who, though at this time they were only eleven, were still called the twelve, because this was their original number, and a number which was afterward filled up” (Clarke, 1996). Gordon Fee stated that Paul’s use of the term “twelve” in 1 Corinthians 15:5 “is a clear indication that in the early going this was a title given to the special group of twelve whom Jesus called to ‘be with him’ (Mark 3:14).

This figurative use of numbers is just as common in English vernacular as it was in the ancient languages. In certain collegiate sports, one can refer to the Big Ten conference, which consists of 14 teams, or the Atlantic Ten conference, which is also made up of 14 teams. At one time, these conferences only had ten teams, but when they exceeded that number, they kept their original conference “names.” Their names are a designation for a particular conference, not a literal number.

In 1884, the term “two-by-four” was coined to refer to a piece of lumber two-by-four inches. Interestingly, a two-by-four still is called a two-by-four, even though today it is trimmed to slightly smaller dimensions (1 5/8 by 3 5/8). Again, the numbers are more of a designation than a literal number.

Biblical use of “the twelve” as a designation for the original disciples is strongly indicated in many Gospel passages. Jesus Himself did this: “Did I not choose you, the twelve . . .?” (Jn 6:70). He didn’t say, “did I not choose you twelve men.” By saying, “the twelve” in the way He did, it’s proven that it was a [not always literal] title for the group. Hence, John refers to “Thomas, one of the twelve” after Judas departed, and before he was replaced by Matthias (Jn 20:24). Paul simply continues the same practice. It was also used because “twelve” was an important number in biblical thinking (40 and 70 are two other such numbers). For a plain and undeniable example of this, see Revelation 21:12, 14, 21.

Luke contradicts himself in 3 places during this Resurrection account :- a) Early text states the women meet 2 men inside the tomb, but later says the women met 2 angels there. b) Early text has “only” Peter inspecting the empty tomb, but later text has “some” Disciples going to the tomb.

These two are simply not contradictions, as shown last time.

Early text has Jesus’ body being wrapped in a cloth, but later, the Disciples see cloths in the empty tomb. Matthew, Mark & Luke say Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body in “a clean linen cloth” (ie one cloth), but John says “linen cloths, as per Jewish tradition. John has the Disciples, when inspecting the empty tomb, seeing a separate cloth that covered Jesus’ head, & Luke mentions the Disciples seeing cloths

Ethan R. Longhenry explains:

[O]ne particular detail is associated with Peter and John’s visitation to the tomb in John 20:4-7 . . . : the othonion, the linen cloths, were lying on the ground, and the soudarion, normally a handkerchief but also used to cover the head of a corpse (cf. Luke 19:20John 11:44Acts 19:12), was in its own place and rolled up. They were the only things left in the otherwise empty tomb.

Today we tend to dress up the dead in their best clothing or in some sort of clothing most special to them. In first century Judea it was customary to wrap the dead body in strips of linen cloths (othonion) and covering the face with the soudarion.

So this is two different things (apples and oranges). It’s not a “contradiction” (as I have by now explained umpteen times) because the head napkin is not mentioned by all accounts. The latter’s existence is not expressly denied (which would be a contradiction). It would be like the time I wore a suit and also my fedora to a wedding. Someone might say, “Dave was dressed up in his nicest suit” and another could say, “Dave was wearing his ‘gangster’ pinstriped suit and also a cool hat.” Both are true, and they are not contradictory. I was wearing a [pinstriped] suit, and I was wearing a hat, and I was wearing both.

When will anti-theist atheists hellbent on opposing the Bible at every turn, ever comprehend these elementary things? This is far from rocket science. Dumbfounded atheist attempted biblical “exegesis” — besides often being hysterically funny —  seems to be an ongoing proof of Romans 1:21-22 (RSV): “. . . they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools,”

NB: Mark has Joseph of Arimathea buying a linen cloth. How could he buy this cloth when all shops were closed for Passover?

Theology Web hosted a discussion on this non-issue (“Joseph of Arimathea Buying Linen On Passover?”) in which one of the commenters shredded this “gotcha” question:

The imagined issue here is that it was illegal to work and to buy or sell goods on Passover per the following passages: [cites Ex 12:16; Lev 23:6-7; Neh 10:31]

Joseph, who was prominent on the council, would appear to be publicly breaking Jewish law by buying linen on Passover, and he couldn’t do it on the Sabbath (which was the next day) either. There appear to be a number of solutions to this issue though. So, starting with NT scholar Harold Hoehner, “The purchases of Joseph of Arimathea were proper for necessities could be obtained on the Sabbath (and on a feast day).” His source for this is Mishnah Shabbath 23.4[:] “One may await the dusk at the limits of the techoom, to furnish what is necessary for a bride and for a corpse, and to bring a coffin and shrouds for the latter.” “By ‘techoom’ is meant the distance of 2,000 ells [7,500 feet] which a man may traverse on the Sabbath, and refers to the limits of that distance.”

Hoehner also cites Gustaf Dalman’s Jesus – Jeshua: Studies in the Gospels (1929), where Dalman points out that these were extenuating circumstances. A criminal who had been hung (crucifixion was a type of hanging) had to be buried by nightfall to prevent the land from being defiled and burial on the Sabbath was likely not permitted. The body couldn’t lay out in the hot Judean environment for two days. It had to be buried,

See related papers:

Dialogue w Atheist on Post-Resurrection “Contradictions” [1-26-11]

Seidensticker Folly #18: Resurrection “Contradictions”? [9-17-18]

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Photo credit: geralt (1-23-21) [PixabayPixabay License]

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February 4, 2021

This exchange with atheist Eric came about after he analyzed my recent post,  Pearce’s Potshots #13: Resurrection “Contradictions” (?), in which I responded to a “laundry list of 18 alleged contradictions in the biblical accounts, in a neat little chart.” He responded in a combox on the web page of Jonathan M. S. Pearce, called A Tippling Philosopher. His words will be in blue. I will add further exchanges here if they take place in that venue.

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Allow me to summarize his arguments for you [replying to Jonathan M. S. Pearce]:

#s 1-4, 8-18 … You can’t prove logical contradiction in these cases, since it’s possible each gospel omits story-relevant events and appearances recorded in the other gospels. So to use #3 as an example, Mary visiting the tomb before dawn (John) vs. during dawn (Mark) could be explained by her visiting the tomb twice.

#s 5-7, 17… while the plain meaning of the text in these cases might be contradictory, “close examination” hinging on verb tense or alternate word usage or somesuch can be used to remove the contradiction. To use #5 as an example, if we interpret Matthew’s earthquake and stone-rolling to have occurred in the past rather than the standard plain text interpretation of it occurring when the women visit, this removes the contradiction with the other gospels who don’t report any earthquake and have the stone already rolled away when people show up.

#17 appears in both lists because it requires both: it requires passages typically considered to be describing the same event to be describing two different events, and it requires a “close examination” of the verbiage of ‘receive the holy spirit’ vs. ‘filled with the holy spirit’ to say the different verbiage must mean they are talking about different things.

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To this layperson, 2, 9, 11, 15, and 18 don’t pose any major challenge to the narrative; these are ‘simple omissions’ where either some minor detail isn’t mentioned or where one gospel ends earlier in the narrative than another. I would agree with Mr. Armstrong that these are not examples of contradiction. However the rest of Mr. Armstrong’s responses are unconvincing to me, as they take an apologetic approach of trying to reason backwards from the ‘non-contradictory’ conclusion to find some interpretation which would be consistent, rather than letting the text speak for itself and concluding contradiction or non-contradiction based on what it says. “You can’t prove a logical contradiction” is not a convincing rebuttal to apparent prose contradiction.

Thanks for your interesting reply, Eric (and please call me Dave!).

Mary visiting the tomb before dawn (John) vs. during dawn (Mark) could be explained by her visiting the tomb twice.

As I showed, this is not even speculation. The same text actually asserts and documents it, as I noted in my reply to #3:

[I]n fact, in the Gospel of John the text does show Mary visiting alone (20:1), then running to tell the disciples the tomb was empty (20:2), and then after “the disciples went back to their homes” (20:10), being outside the tomb again, weeping (20:11) and then seeing the risen Jesus (20:14-17) and then going to the disciples and telling them she saw Jesus risen (20:18).

So it’s not a matter of “could be explained . . .” The text itself does explain that she was there at least twice. Surely, my other replies can be specifically discussed also, rather than being subjected merely to a sweeping “meta-analysis.” When you provided a more specific reply, as in this example of Mary Magdalene visiting the tomb twice, we see that I have a solid answer to it, which was already in my paper (so that you ought to concede this point). Always two sides to every coin . . .

To this layperson, 2, 9, 11, 15, and 18 don’t pose any major challenge to the narrative; these are ‘simple omissions’ where either some minor detail isn’t mentioned or where one gospel ends earlier in the narrative than another. I would agree with Mr. Armstrong that these are not examples of contradiction.

Thank you. This shows that you are interested in serious discussion.

rather than letting the text speak for itself and concluding contradiction or non-contradiction based on what it says.

This gets to the common atheist tactic in biblical discussions of immediately claiming that all (or nearly all) Christian explanations are “implausible” or special pleading and suchlike. You assume what you need to prove, in thinking that all these texts are self-evident before we even get to closely examining them in context, checking the Greek and relevant cross-references, etc. But that issue is a very complex one. What different people find plausible or implausible depends on many factors, including various premises that each hold.

It’s just as wrong and illogical for the atheist to use “implausible” as the knee-jerk reaction to everything a Christian argues about texts, as it is for the Christian to throw out truly implausible or unlikely replies. Both things are extremes. Neither side can simply blurt out “implausible!” or “eisegesis!” without getting down to brass tacks and actually grappling with the text and its interpretation in a serious way. We can’t — on either side — simply do a meta-analysis and speak about replies rather than directly engage them.

Agree or disagree with me, I have undeniably engaged each point (as I have also done in my even more in-depth follow-up reply to the text after the 18 bullet points: soon to be published). To prove that any of my 18 explanations are “implausible” requires more than merely asserting that they are. Bald assertion is not argument. It’s proclamation. Now granted, I did offer only brief replies to some, and noted that the argument of silence, etc., is what was in play, so that it was a non-issue. But you granted that I made a valid point in five instances, which is 28% of the entire list of 18, and so, not insignificant in the overall analysis.

But as for plausibility in general, Protestant apologist Glenn Miller noted about it:

“Plausibility” is a notoriously subjective concept, and one that engages epistemologists to no end. Oxford dictionaries define “plausible” as “seeming reasonable or probable”, but this will not get us very far. What seems “reasonable” to one may seem unreasonable to another. “Reasonable” could entail simply the notion can I can make a “rational” argument–one in which a conclusion is supported by some appeal to accepted premises or evidence. In the case of “reasonable”, all one has to do is demonstrate that the explanation under question is POSSIBLE, given what we know about the situation and players in the scenario under study.

“Probability” is, however, of somewhat more strength, but is still very loaded. Probability would need to be greater than 25-30%, say, for something to be considered ‘plausible’, but even the determination of some “threshold” percentage will be difficult in historical events. Given this somewhat ambiguous criterion, let’s examine two skeptical passages to see how this ‘plausibility’ criterion plays out.

[he then does fabulous lengthy refuting examinations of skepticism from Dr. Robert Price and Farrell Till]

apparent prose contradiction

This is clever, but it is woefully insufficient. Grammar and interpretation of statements often becomes as complex of an issue as plausibility. But in any event, logical contradiction is an entity in and of itself, and there is an entire field behind it (logic) that is regarded as a subset of mathematics, as much as philosophy. Many times in atheist polemics, “contradiction!” is thrown out about as much as “my opponent is lying!” is thrown out in political campaigns. It’s gotten to the point where it often means nothing at all, and is easily refuted with just a few moments of closer scrutiny. I’m pretty sure there is something in the famous ancient Chinese book, The Art of War, to the effect of “never underestimate your opponent.”

[“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”]

Atheists do this all the time, and it leads them to many foolish and unsubstantiated conclusions, because they are so determined to make the Christian out a fool and an imbecile at every turn. Such extreme bias often leads to shoddy reasoning; jumping the gun, excessive “protest” (a la Queen Gertrude’s line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet), etc. I don’t think you’re doing that here, which is why your counter-reply is so refreshing to see.

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See follow-up discussion: “Difficulty” in Understanding the Bible: Hebrew Cultural Factors [2-5-21]

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Photo credit: BarbaraALane  (3-5-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

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February 2, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” .

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I am replying to Jonathan’s paper, “Contradictions in the Resurrection of Jesus Accounts” (1-31-21), which is apparently actually written by one David Austin, but in any event, wholly endorsed by Jonathan. It starts out with the usual laundry list of 18 alleged contradictions in the biblical accounts, in a neat little chart. This stuff makes the anti-theist atheist Bible bashers drool. They love it.

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Most of these sorts of “alleged contradictions” are simply recycled from some prior standard “playbook” atheist volume, which may even be a few hundred years old. I highly doubt that most atheists actually sit reading the Bible, to come up with these bogus “contradictions.” That’s why most of these things never cross most Christians’ minds (including my own): because you have to work very hard to notice them in the first place.

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Atheists most assuredly do not love it, however, when Christians refute their bogus biblical claims. I have done so scores of times, and it’s almost always so easy — usually involving the simplest of logical errors — that I have come to enjoy these challenges quite a bit; gives me something fun to do. Answering all 18 points in the chart only took me a few hours. Readers can view the chart at the link above. I shall respond to each point by number below.

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1) “Women at Tomb“: Not contradictory because in questions of numbers of people said to do something or be somewhere, etc., an actual logical contradiction requires exclusionary clauses such as “only x, y, and z were there and no one else” or “only three people witnessed incident a.” None of the Gospel texts do that here; hence, no demonstrable contradiction (see Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1-10; Jn 20:1). Some atheists who concede this logical shortcoming will nonetheless (rather desperately) go on to argue that it is still a “contradiction” in some sense because, after all, the texts don’t all say exactly the same thing

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Unfortunately, that’s not how logic works, and it is ridiculous and downright unrealistic to “demand” that four separate accounts written by as many people must report what was seen in identical fashion; otherwise, the ubiquitous atheist cry of “contradiction!” will raise its ugly and obnoxious head.

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2) “Guards at the tomb“: Not a contradiction merely because Matthew mentions this and the other three Gospels don’t. Arguments from silence prove nothing. A true contradiction would require one or more of the other three to say something like “the tomb was unguarded.” That‘s a direct contradiction. It would be nice if once in a while atheists could actually produce one of those. As it is, they make fools of themselves all the time with these pseudo-“contradictions” that aren’t at all. It’s embarrassing.

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One would think that logic (like fresh air, cute puppies, and the joy of ice cream) is something where Christians and atheists could readily agree with each other. But sadly, that’s not the case: at least not in the “1001 biblical contradictions” sub-group of anti-theist atheists. They wouldn’t know a real contradiction from a hole in the ground.

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3) “Time of women’s visit“: the descriptions in RSV are “toward the dawn . . . [they] went to see the sepulchre” (Mt 28:1) [David Austin describes it as “day was dawning”], “very early . . . they went to the tomb when the sun had risen” (Mk 16:2), “at early dawn, they went to the tomb” (Lk 24:1) — clearly no contradiction so far — “; then we have: “Mary Mag’dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark” (Jn 20:1). A plausible resolution is to posit that John describes an earlier visit of Mary Magdalene only. She then would have gone back with other women (since she is mentioned in all four accounts — as the chart notes in #1 –, but alone only in John 20:1).

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The inevitable atheist objection might then be: “well, then why didn’t the text say it was an earlier visit?” Because it doesn’t have to. It’s a silly demand. They would simply be describing different visits to the tomb. It would be like my saying, “my daughter got up and ate breakfast” [and shortly after I went off to work], and my wife [stay-at-home mom] saying [referring to the same morning], “my daughter and her brother ate brunch together.”

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Though the two accounts don’t reference each other, they don’t contradict at all.  Our daughter ate two meals; one being alone and the other not. But in fact, in the Gospel of John the text does show Mary visiting alone (20:1), then running to tell the disciples the tomb was empty (20:2), and then after “the disciples went back to their homes” (20:10), being outside the tomb again, weeping (20:11) and then seeing the risen Jesus (20:14-17) and then going to the disciples and telling them she saw Jesus risen (20:18).

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4) “Reason for visit“: Matthew says two women “went to see the sepulchre”; that is, they wanted to see if it was left as it was when Jesus was laid there: in order to apply burial spices. What other reason would there be? Mark and Luke mention the intent to anoint Jesus’ body.  Matthew doesn’t contradict that. It simply (arguably) describes it in different terms. John gives no reason, but again, the logical thing is to assume it is referring to anointing of the body. They wanted to get it done as soon as the sun came up. It was Jewish ritual. In April 2019 I refuted atheist Bob Seidensticker (one of 71 unanswered times) regarding Jewish burial spices. I made a humorous (but quite apt) analogy in that paper, relevant to this section:

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First of all, just because John does not state the reason why Mary went to the tomb, it doesn’t follow that no reason existed. This is not a contradiction. . . . One might say, by the same token: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Bob Seidensticker went to the bathroom”. Did he go there for “no reason” too? Or is it reasonable to assume that he must have had some reason, which was not stated in this particular description, but also is not that difficult to surmise? Maybe an additional account (say, Bob’s diary) could conceivably inform us that he went to empty his bladder, comb his hair, and brush his teeth (and perhaps also to spend a minute admiring a sophist in the mirror).

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Austin noted twice that John stated that the body was already anointed. But it’s plausible to hold that the women thought it was hastily or insufficiently done after the crucifixion, for lack of time, since it was getting dark. So they went again (after the Sabbath day was over). It’s just another trumped-up faux-“contradiction” that is not at all.  One wearies of this. Believe me, as an apologist who deals with this all the time, it’s far beyond frustrating by now. On the other hand, I’m delighted to have these golden opportunities to demonstrate the bankruptcy of anti-theist attempts to tear down the Bible and Christianity.

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5) “Stone rolled away“: Matthew seems to mention it as occurring in the women’s presence; the other three Gospels portray it as having already happened when they got there. Catholic apologist Karlo Broussard ably tackles this one:

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Once again, the objection makes a false assumption—namely, that Matthew is intending to assert that the women witnessed the angel rolling away the stone. But a close examination of the text proves otherwise. First, as A. Jones argues in A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, the entire passage concerning the angel, the stone, and the guards who “trembled and became like dead men” (Matt. 28:2-4) seems to be a parenthetical statement. It’s unlikely that the women would have conversed with the angel while the guards laid there as if dead.

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Furthermore, the details concerning the angel and the stone are introduced with the Greek conjunction gar: “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for [Greek, gar] an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it” (28:2, emphasis added). Such an explanatory conjunction is used to introduce a clarification of a previous part of the sentence. For Matthew, the angel rolling away the stone is his explanation for the earthquake, not to assert that the women witnessed a stone-moving spectacle.

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This answer could be further supported by Matthew’s use of an indicative mood in the aorist verb tense of ginomai: “And behold, there was [Greek, egeneto] a great earthquake” (28:2, emphasis added). The aorist verb tense in the indicative mood usually denotes the simple past. So a possible translation is “an earthquake had occurred,” implying the women didn’t witness it. Even the angel’s descent can be described as having already occurred, since the aorist participle katabas (“descended”) can be translated with the English past perfect: “for an angel of the Lord had descended” (28:2; ISV, emphasis added). (“Biblical Resurrection Reports Are Not ‘Hopelessly Contradictory’ “, Catholic Answers, 7-11-17)

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6) “Earthquake“: Only Matthew mentions it, but this is explained in the explanation provided for #5 above. It was a past incident.

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7) “Angels/men seen at the tomb“: Again, the explanation in #5 accounts for the uniqueness of Matthew’s account (angel sitting on a rolled-away stone). The various reports of angels’ actions are not necessarily contradictory at all. Angels are (in the biblical view: believe it or not), extraordinary supernatural creatures, and they do lots of appearing and disappearing. Austin makes an issue out of Matthew and John referring to “angels” but Mark and Luke calling them “men.” But he notes that in Luke they were later referred to as “angels” (24:23).

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And that’s because both terms are used for angels. In Genesis 19, for example, “two angels” visit Lot (19:1), but in the same passage they are also called “men” twice (19:10, 12) and then “angels” again (19:15) and “men” again (19:16). In Judges 13, this interchangeability is striking, with reference to an “angel”  (13:3, 6, 9, 13, 15-18, 20-21) and “man” (13:6, 10-11): referring to the same being.

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8) “Did women/woman enter tomb?“: Mark and Luke say they did. Matthew and John don’t. But to contradict the other two reports, they would have to outright deny that it happened. And of course they don’t do that, so (sorry, guys!), no contradiction is present. Matthew strongly implies that they did, however, because the angel says to them, “Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead . . .” (28:6-7).

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9) “Did disciple[s] visit tomb?“: John says Peter and John (“the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved”: John’s humble terminology to refer to himself); Luke says “Some of those who were with us [i.e., apostles: 24:10, 13] went to the tomb” [24:24]. It doesn’t specify Peter, as Austin claims, but it might be taken as strongly implied by “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (24:34). No contradiction so far (by the same logical criteria I have repeatedly explained, here, and many times to atheists in the past).

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Matthew doesn’t specifically say, but it says that the women “ran to tell his disciples” (28:8). Now what would you do if you were Jesus’ disciples — in despair over His crucifixion — and were told that He had risen from the dead? Of course, you would run to the tomb to see, which is exactly what Luke and John report, and which Matthew surely strongly insinuates. Austin presupposes the view that Mark 16:9-20 is not actually part of the Gospel. For a great refutation of that, see Dave Miller: “Is Mark 16:9-20 Inspired?” Apologetics Press, 2005 [link] ). But either way, Mark 16 (long or short) doesn’t specifically say that a disciple went to the tomb. But it doesn’t deny it, either, so it is the good ol’ notorious argument from silence again. So: no problem in the final analysis.

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10) “Did disciple[s] enter tomb?“: John says Peter and John did; the others say nothing (argument of silence and thus, no contradiction). To not mention something is not the same as a denial. If I don’t mention that the sun came up this morning, it doesn’t follow that I denied it. If I forget to say “I love you” to my wife one day, I highly doubt that she will conclude that I don’t, based only on that. This kind of “reasoning” is just dumb. It’s unworthy of any thinking person.

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11) “What did disciple[s] see?“: Luke and John saw “linen” cloths in the tomb. Matthew and Mark are silent; so no contradiction. Atheists seem to not realize that the four Gospels are obviously complementary to one another. No single one of them is required to report every jot and tittle of an event. They differ (but don’t contradict) just as any four witnesses of a crime usually will report or emphasize different aspects of the truth of what occurred, and perhaps miss some details that other witnesses saw. All of them together, if consistent, verify each other’s claims.

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Likewise, what one Gospel doesn’t mention is usually mentioned by another. In fact, this silly chart bears strong witness to that, even in its dumbfounded opposition to biblical inspiration and harmony. I’m sitting here (as always) having my faith in biblical inspiration strengthened, because the critical objections are so ridiculously weak and non-substantial. This is the blessing of apologetics.

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12) “Did women/woman meet Jesus?“: Since Mark and Luke are silent on this aspect, they can’t contradict. Austin attempts to make hay out of the women grabbing Jesus’ feet and worshiping Him in Matthew, but Mary Magdalene later being told “not to touch” Jesus in John 20:17. A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament explains this:

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Touch me not (mh mou aptou). Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet (ekrathsan) and worship (prosekunhsan) as we read in Matthew 28:9 . The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness (A T Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, John 20:17).

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Almost all more recent English translations reflect this more specific (prolonged, more intense) sense of touch: *

RSV: hold

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TEV / NIV / NRSV / Beck: hold on to

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NAB: holding on to

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ESV / NKJV / Weymouth / Barclay / Goodspeed / NEB / REB / Jerusalem / Knox / Amplified: cling

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NASB / Williams / Wuest / Moffatt: clinging

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So (guess what?), no contradiction again.

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13) “What did Jesus say to the women/woman?“: Mark and Luke are silent; Matthew and John say two different, but not contradictory things. So to be contradictory, one or both would have to say, Jesus said only [whatever]. But they don’t.

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14) “Where was 1st Jesus appearance to Disciples?” Mark doesn’t say. The others don’t indicate that their account was the “first” appearance (Austin baldly assumes this to be the case), so different harmonious chronologies are entirely possible to construct (and a “contradiction” impossible to undeniably construct).

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15) “Where was 2nd Jesus appearance to Disciples?” Matthew and Mark are silent, and so irrelevant. John doesn’t specify that there were no visits in-between the two he mentions, and “first and second” can only apply to his version itself (not to the other Gospels), even if we assume that the two mentioned are directly chronological. The same factors apply to Luke’s account.

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16) “Where was 3rd Jesus appearance to Disciples?” Only John mentions a third in his own account, but this doesn’t prove that it is the third time, period. My replies to #14-15 apply here too. These challenges get easier the more they continue! It’s pretty tough to come up with 18 fake biblical “contradictions”; not even one having any validity or force. Whoever devised this list surely flunked logic (assuming he even took it: and that’s a huge assumption).

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17) “When did the Disciples receive the ‘Holy Spirit’?“: Matthew, Mark, and Luke are silent. But as Austin notes, Acts [2] places it 50 days later (and most Christians believe Luke wrote Acts). John 20:22 has Jesus visiting ten disciples (minus Thomas and the fallen Judas) and bestowing on them (“receive“) the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 is a completely different public event, with tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. There is no contradiction present. Here they (disciples and any others, too) are described as being “filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4). Apples and oranges. An apple doesn’t “contradict” an orange.

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18) “When & where did Ascension happen?“: only one mentions it, so how can it be a contradiction? Acts appears at first glance to conflict with Luke (which would be a self-contradiction), but there are adequate explanations for this. I have already dealt with this topic. *    

[to be continued]

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Photo credit: geralt (8-18-16) [PixabayPixabay License

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January 4, 2021

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . . 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But b10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like his own behavior: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 68 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob reiterated and rationalized his intellectual cowardice yet again on 12-21-20: “I love people who can make cogent arguments against mine or point out data I hadn’t considered before. What I dislike (and ban) are $#&*%@s who . . . refuse to learn/adapt . . . ignore compelling arguments against their position, and so on.”

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, follow this link: Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

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In his post, “Stupid Christian Argument #40: Interpret Difficult Passages in Light of Clear Ones” (1-2-21; update from 7-21-16), Bob wrote:

This argument is an attempt to wriggle away from Bible verses that make God or Christianity look bad or that contradict each other. “Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones” is advice from Josh McDowell’s New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (page 48).

McDowell makes clear that difficult isn’t actually the issue—it’s contradictions that are the problem.

Nice try. McDowell is talking about biblical passages difficult to interpret. That’s altogether different from an assertion that a contradiction is necessarily present. Bob simply blithely assumes that biblical contradictions are everywhere. Hence, he starts this ludicrous article out by writing, How can Christians maintain their belief when the Bible is full of contradictions . . .?” Imagine if I said that about atheism?: “How can atheists maintain their belief when atheism is full of self-contradictions?” I do actually believe that, and think I have demonstrated it many times, but simply saying it [to an atheist] is no argument in and of itself. It has to be proven.

And so Bible-Bashing Bob, of course, thinks he has demonstrated biblical contradictions times without number. And I myself have refuted his nonsense 68 times (this one being the 69th). Proof’s in the pudding. Any serious argument will be able to be defended against criticism. And so, of course, Bob defends his argu . . . . er, sorry, I misspoke. Bob never defends his arguments against my critiques. Does that suggest that they are strong and beyond refutation? No, not at all. Quite the contrary. Bob continues:

The mere existence of what McDowell euphemistically calls “difficult” passages is a problem that few apologists admit to. How could verses conflict in a book inspired by a perfect god, even if some argument could be found to harmonize them? If conflicting verses exist, doesn’t that make the Bible look like nothing more than a manmade book? How could God give humanity a book that was at all unclear or ambiguous? 

This is shallow, unreflective thinking. I can think of a number of sound, logical reasons why such a book would exist:

1. The Bible is a very lengthy, multi-faceted book by many authors, from long ago, with many literary genres (and in three languages), and cultural assumptions that are foreign to us.

2. The Bible purports to be revelation from an infinitely intelligent God. Thus (even though God simplifies it as much as possible), for us to think that it is an easy thing to immediately grasp and figure out, and would not have any number of “difficulties” for mere human beings to work through, is naive.

3. The Bible itself teaches that authoritative teachers are necessary to properly understand it:

Nehemiah 8:1-2, 7-8 (RSV) And all the people gathered . . . and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. [2] And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding, . . . [7] . . . the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. [8] And they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly; and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading

Mark 4:33-34 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; [34] he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything

Acts 8:27-31 “And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship [28] and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. [29] And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’ [30] So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ [31] And he said, ‘How can I, unless some one guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”

2 Peter 1:20 “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” (cf. 2 Pet. 3:15-16)

Moses was told to teach the Hebrews the statutes and the decisions, not just read them to the people (Exod. 18:20). The Levitical priests interpreted the biblical injunctions (Deut. 17:11). Ezra, a priest and a scribe, taught the Jewish Law to Israel, and his authority was binding (Ezra 7:6, 10, 25-26).
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4. All grand “theories” have components (“anomalies” / “difficulties”) that need to be worked out and explained. For example, scientific theories do not purport to perfectly explain everything. They often have large “mysterious” areas that have to be resolved.

Think of, for example, the “missing links” in evolution. That didn’t stop people from believing in it. Folks believed in gradual Darwinian evolution even though prominent paleontologist and philosopher of science Stephen Jay Gould famously noted that “gradualism was never read from the rocks.”

Even Einstein’s theories weren’t totally confirmed by scientific experiment at first (later they were). That a book like the Bible would have “difficulties” to work through should be perfectly obvious and unsurprising to all.

5. Many proposed “Bible difficulties” are based on illogical thinking or unfamiliarity with biblical genre, etc. Many alleged biblical “contradictions” simply aren’t so, by the rules of logic.

6. Christianity is not a simpleton’s religion. It can be grasped in its basics by the simple and less educated; the masses, but it is very deep the more it is studied and understood. Thus, we would expect the Bible not to be altogether simple. It has complexities, but we can better understand them through human study, just like anything else.

7. All complex documents have to be interpreted. When human beings start reading them, they start to disagree, so that there needs to be some sort of authoritative guide. In law (by analogy), that is the Supreme Court. The U.S. Constitution might be regarded as true and wonderful and sufficient, etc. But the fact remains that this abstract belief only lasts undisturbed as long as the first instance of case law in which two parties claim divergent interpretations of the Constitution. 

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Photo credit: jc_cards (4-17-11) [PixabayPixabay License]

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