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November 21, 2020

vs. Dr. Steven DiMattei

Dr. Steven DiMattei is a biblical scholar and author, formally trained in the New Testament and early Christianity, with M.A degrees in Classics and Comparative Literature as well. Rumor has it that he is an atheist, but I haven’t been able to confirm that on his site. He put up a website called Contradictions in the Bible. It seems inactive now (or he has lost interest or moved onto other things: who knows?), but the themes are things I really enjoy discussing and debating, and his articles are still online for all to see; thus fair game for critique — and stimulating food for thought, too. There is almost nothing I like to discuss and think about more than the interpretation of the Bible. Steven wrote in a post dated 5-7-16:

One of my reasons in choosing the word “defend” to describe my aims as a biblical scholar and author was in part to attract Christian apologists to my work and hopefully to get them to read these ancient texts on their terms and from within their own cultural contexts and to create a conversation around the biblical texts, their authors, and their competing beliefs, messages, worldviews, theologies, etc. As you can imagine this has proven quite difficult, nay impossible. Many Christian apologists and fundamentalists just cannot read, or simply identify, the text on its own terms separate from the beliefs and assumptions about the text handed-down through this collection of ancient literature’s title, “the Holy Book.”

Here  I am: an apologist quite willing to engage in conversation. It takes two. So we’ll see if Steven is willing to follow through on his stated desire. I have had my own long history (in almost 40 years of apologetics) of “difficult, nay impossible” attempts to discuss matters with many people who tend to be of a few particular belief-systems, though I have no problem talking with anyone who is civil and can stick to a topic. I don’t just say this, I have a demonstrable record of doing it, which is evident on my blog, with its 1000+ dialogues. But as I said, dialogue takes two, and I would add that it also requires a degree of at least minimal mutual respect. Steven’s words will be in blue.

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Steven makes a great deal about these alleged biblical contradictions in at least three articles:

#91. Moses’ staff OR Aaron’s staff OR God’s staff? (Ex 4:2, 7:15, 17:20, 9:23, 10:13 vs Ex 7:9-12, 7:19 vs Ex 4:20, )

#92. Does the staff turn into a snake OR a serpent? (Ex 4:3 vs Ex 7:9-10)

#105. Does Moses strike the Nile with his staff for the first plague OR does Aaron with his own staff? (Ex 7:15-18 vs Ex 7:19-20)

I think his fundamental fallacy, spread throughout these articles and many others, is thinking in “either/or” (hyper-rationalistic) terms, as opposed to the “both/and” outlook, which typifies the biblical and ancient Hebrew outlook. We shall see how this is a wrong path and frequent source of confusion in his arguments, and indeed, massively in scores of arguments about alleged biblical contradictions from all sorts of biblical skeptics (I’ve refuted these errors in particulars scores of times, myself).

Exodus 4:2, 7:15, 7:20, 9:23, and 10:13 all indicate that the staff or rod involved in producing Yahweh’s signs was Moses’ staff, perhaps even his personal shepherd’s staff. Indeed 4:2, which introduces the staff in the narrative, seems to imply that it was already on Moses’ person: “‘What’s this in your hand?’ ‘A staff.’”

However, Ex 7:10, 7:12, 7:19, 8:1, and 8:12 refer to the same staff now as “Aaron’s staff” and, more surprisingly, depict Aaron, not Moses, performing the famous rod-to-snake, err -serpent (see #92) sign. But if that weren’t enough then there is the reference in Ex 4:20 to the staff as—literally—“the god’s staff.” So whose staff was this: Yahweh’s, Moses’ or Aaron’s? [#91]

I would say, “why must we necessarily choose?” It could refer to one and the same. The Wikipedia article, “Staff of Moses” observed:

Relation to Aaron’s rod

Because Aaron’s rod and Moses’ rod are both given similar, seemingly interchangeable, powers, Rabbinical scholars debated whether or not the two rods were one and the same. According to the Midrash Yelammedenu (Yalḳ. on Ps. ex. § 869):

the staff with which Jacob crossed the Jordan is identical with that which Judah gave to his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Gen. xxxii. 10, xxxviii. 18). It is likewise the holy rod with which Moses worked (Ex. iv. 20, 21), with which Aaron performed wonders before Pharaoh (Ex. vii. 10), and with which, finally, David slew the giant Goliath (I Sam. xvii. 40). David left it to his descendants, . . .

It has to be understood also that Aaron functioned as Moses’ assistant or representative:

Exodus 4:10-16 (RSV) But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either heretofore or since thou hast spoken to thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” [11] Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? [12] Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” [13] But he said, “Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person.” [14] Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well; and behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you he will be glad in his heart. [15] And you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. [16] He shall speak for you to the people; and he shall be a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.

Hence, the phrase “Moses and Aaron” appears 64 times in the RSV, in the [Protestant 66 book) Old Testament: all but five of these instances in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. The great bulk of these in Exodus occur in chapters 4-12, then there are only four more instances in chapters 16, 24, and 40. Basically, then, the usage is almost confined to the first third of the book. It’s as if Moses gained more confidence over time and started speaking and acting on his own as time went on. Wikipedia, “Aaron” comments:

According to the Book of Exodus, Aaron first functioned as Moses’ assistant. Because Moses complained that he could not speak well, God appointed Aaron as Moses’ “prophet” (Exodus 4:10-17; 7:1). At the command of Moses, he let his rod turn into a snake. Then he stretched out his rod in order to bring on the first three plagues. After that, Moses tended to act and speak for himself.

During the journey in the wilderness, Aaron was not always prominent or active. At the battle with Amalek, he was chosen with Hur to support the hand of Moses that held the “rod of God”. When the revelation was given to Moses at biblical Mount Sinai, he headed the elders of Israel who accompanied Moses on the way to the summit. While Joshua went with Moses to the top, however, Aaron and Hur remained below to look after the people. From here on in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, Joshua appears in the role of Moses’ assistant while Aaron functions instead as the first high priest.

The initial relationship of Moses and Aaron– ordained by God — is typified in the following passage:

Exodus 4:27-30 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went, and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. [28] And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him, and all the signs which he had charged him to do. [29] Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. [30] And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.

It is not unbiblical or “unHebraic” at all for the Bible to refer to creatures as representatives of other creatures or of God Himself. I wrote in another article of mine:

Another fascinating motif in Scripture is “the angel of the Lord”: who is sometimes referred to as God Himself; other times as His direct representative. In one passage (Judges 13:15-22), we see reference to God (13:16, 19, 22), but also to the angel of the Lord as His direct representative (13:15-18, 20-21 and in the larger passage, 13:3, 6, 9, 13). The angel is honored (v. 17), they fall on their faces to worship (v. 20) and at length the angel is equated with God as His visible manifestation (v. 22). But the difference between the angel and God is highlighted by the angel being described as a “man of God” (13:6, 8) and “the man” (13:10-11).

Elsewhere, the angel of the Lord is equated with God (theophany) in Genesis 31:11-13 and Judges 2:1, but differentiated from God as well, as a representative: (2 Sam 24:16; 1 Ki 19:6-7; 2 Ki 19:35; Dan 3:25, 28; 6:23; Zech 1:8-14). Even with Moses and the burning bush, there is a reference to “the Angel of the Lord” (Ex 3:2) and yet two verses later, “God called to him out of the bush.”

We also see an equation of God’s work and the work of men who follow Him (“both/and”), in St. Paul and the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 16:20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers; . . .

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Because of this sort of “both/and” thinking, the idea that the staff or rod could be both Moses’ staff and God’s (and/or also Aaron’s) at the same time is perfectly biblical. Steven himself acknowledges at least this possibility:

Granted some of these references are to be understood metaphorically (e.g. Isa 30-32; Ezek 30:24-25), but others clearly are not, such as the reference in Ex 4:20 to “the god’s staff.” [RSV: “rod of God”] There is nothing metaphorical about this; apparently it is the rod that Moses holds in his hand (4:2-5). . . . 

Thus it is not inconceivable that Moses’ rod is some sort of divine staff, or perhaps an extension of Yahweh’s staff, . . . [#91]

A further related biblical passage bears this out:

Exodus 17:9 And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out, fight with Am’alek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.”

It is simultaneously God’s and it is Moses’ rod or staff. In biblical thinking this is not a contradiction, as shown by analogy above. God calls this same staff of Moses “your rod” (Ex 14:16) and He also refers to “the rod of Aaron” (Num 17:10; cf. 17:6, 8).

It is apparent what the Priestly writer is up to. Moses is relegated to the position of Yahweh’s mouthpiece. And this is the traditional view. It is Moses who communicates verbally with Yahweh and it is Moses who conveys verbally Yahweh’s commandments and wishes. Even in P’s plague narrative Yahweh commands Moses to tell Aaron to take up his staff and perform the sign. [#91]

If Moses can be God‘s “mouthpiece” then by the same token and by analogy, Aaron could be Moses’ mouthpiece and act on his behalf as a representative, with his rod. No problem. No “contradiction.” Nor is it a contradiction later on when Moses habitually acts on his own, with the staff, or rod (Ex 9:23; 10:13; 14:16 cf. 14:21, 26-27). The important thing is that God is in control of the whole thing and His will is accomplished through the words and actions of Moses and Aaron, as His representatives (and Aaron as Moses’ spokesman or mouthpiece or representative / assistant). Where Steven and others see supposed “contradictions” we see men of God working together in concert with God, to do His will, because God was at work in them, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13).

Steven doesn’t fully understand this, so he attempts to create yet another of his innumerable proposed “biblical contradictions” in his piece #105 (see above). Here is the complete passage that he thinks is self-contradictory:

Exodus 7:14-20 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuses to let the people go. [15] Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; wait for him by the river’s brink, and take in your hand the rod which was turned into a serpent. [16] And you shall say to him, `The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness; and behold, you have not yet obeyed.” [17] Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the rod that is in my hand, and it shall be turned to blood, [18] and the fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile shall become foul, and the Egyptians will loathe to drink water from the Nile.”” [19] And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, `Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'” [20] Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded; in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, he lifted up the rod and struck the water that was in the Nile, and all the water that was in the Nile turned to blood.

It’s quite obvious (the “both/and” biblical / Hebraic thinking that I have explained, being understood prior to interpreting this passage), that Aaron is Moses’ representative. This was already fully explained three chapters earlier. I reiterate the key part of it:

Exodus 4:15-16 And you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. [16] He shall speak for you to the people; and he shall be a mouth for you, . . .

With this interpretative / exegetical / cross-referenced understanding and background, the meaning of Exodus 7:14-20 is quite clear. When God says to Moses, “you shall say to him . . .” (7:16), it’s understood that this could or would include Aaron as his spokesman (4:15-16). In case anyone misses this aspect, God specifically tells Moses to “Say to Aaron” [the same stuff God told him to do] (7:19). Then the text summarizes that they worked in concert (“Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded . . .”: 7:20). It’s fascinating that after mentioning both, the text states, “he lifted up the rod . . ” We can’t immediately tell which one did it.  But the context of 7:19 strongly suggests that Aaron did: according to his role as assistant. There simply is no difficulty. Steven will have to strike this off of his long “dirty laundry list” of alleged biblical “contradictions” (or else explain to us how what I have argued is incorrect and false).

In case anyone missed the “arrangement” the same thing happens in the next chapter. God told Moses to warn Pharaoh of the plague of frogs (8:1-4). Then God tells Moses to tell Aaron to stretch out his hand, to cause the plague to start (8:5-6). It’s a joint effort. Even Pharaoh knows this, since it is reported, “Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron” (8:8). He addressed both of them. Moses alone answered (8:9-11). Yet the text says that Pharaoh “would not listen to them” (8:15). Then God tells Moses to tell Aaron to cause the plague of gnats (8:16), and again the narrative notes that Pharaoh “would not listen to them” (8:19). They’re workin’ together to do God’s will. It’s no “contradiction” at all. Even Pharaoh (in effect serving as a “hostile witness”) knows it, but our beloved biblical skeptics do not.

Exodus 9 continues the notice of joint effort. God sometimes says what He says to Moses alone (9:1, 12-13, 22), and also sometimes to “Moses and Aaron” (9:8). When God speaks to only one of them; it’s almost always to Moses, as the leader. Then it’s reported that “Moses said to Aaron” (16:9, 33; 32:21). The only time God speaks directly to Aaron alone in the book of Exodus, He says, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses” (4:27). The same pattern holds in Leviticus. It’s always Moses telling Aaron what God told him, except one time, where God is instructing Aaron of his duties as high priest, which is a different function altogether: one that he alone does, and not Moses (see Ex 10:8-11). Even then, Moses informs Aaron of additional instructions (10:12-15).

[W]hat Yahweh had commanded in Exodus 7:14-18 was not done. Moses did not strike the Nile with his staff. Aaron did, and with his own staff! [#105]

But Steven doesn’t comprehend what has just been explained. I don’t think it’s rocket science. It’s simply taking the Bible at face value, on its own terms. But prior (overly “critical”) bias interferes with that goal. He goes on to indulge in great speculation about how all this is supposedly designed, and is contradictory. But he never considers the factors that I bring to bear above, which are all (I think) plausible exegetical arguments as to how the text can be plausibly harmonized and synthesized. I think he needs to.

Lastly, Steven (using fallacious documentary hypothesis categories and analysis) wants to make an issue of whether the staff was turned into a snake or serpent, in his piece #92 (see above):

Not only do the Elohist and Priestly sources disagree on whose staff we’re talking about: Moses’ or Aaron’s (#91), but they also use different terms when it comes to describing the serpent or snake it turns into. In E (4:3) the staff becomes a snake (nahash[Strong’s word #5175], but in P (7:10) it becomes a serpent (tannîn) [Strong’s word #8577]. Each author chose a different term, and the Priestly writer might have even had a reason for changing nahash to tannin.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible comments on Exodus 7:10:

and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and it became a serpent: or a “dragon”, as the Septuagint version; this word is sometimes used of great whales, Genesis 1:21 and of the crocodile, Ezekiel 29:3 and it is very likely the crocodile is meant here, as Dr. Lightfoot thinks; since this was frequent in the Nile, the river of Egypt, where the Hebrew infants had been cast, and into whose devouring jaws they fell, and which also was an Egyptian deity.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible adds:

Here a more general term, תנין tannı̂yn, is employed, which in other passages includes all sea or river monsters, and is more specially applied to the crocodile as a symbol of Egypt. It occurs in the Egyptian ritual, nearly in the same form, “Tanem,” as a synonym of the monster serpent which represents the principle of antagonism to light and life.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers interprets Exodus 4:3:

(3) A serpent.—The word here used (nakhash) is a generic one for a snake of any kind, and tells us nothing as to the species. A different word (tannin) is used in Exodus 7:10, while nakhash recurs in Exodus 7:15Tannin is, like nakhasha generic term.

The third comment above provides, I think, the best answer to the false conundrum raised by Steven. A generic term doesn’t contradict a more specific term. It would be like references to the same item as “book” and “romance novel paperback”. They don’t contradict, since “paperback” is a species of “book” and “romance novel” is a type of literature in a book (whether hardback or not). Strong’s Concordance defines nahash as “serpent” and tannin as “serpent, dragon, sea monster.” We see, then, that an acceptable translation of both is “serpent”: and thus RSV renders all five of the Exodus passages in question as “serpent.”

The Amplified Bible, which was designed to bring out the literal meanings of words in context, is fascinating in this regard:

Exodus 4:3 . . . a serpent [the symbol of royal and divine power worn on the crown of the Pharaohs] . . .  ][“serpent” used for 7:9-10, 12, 15]

The second point made is as important and instructive as the first. The author of Exodus clearly uses the terms as synonyms in some sense (whether generic or not), since he utilizes nahash at 4:3 and 7:15 and tannin at 7:9-10, 12: all (except 4:3, in which God gives a “sneak preview”) referring to exactly the same incident. Thus, within three verses of each other (7:12 and 7:15), the author uses two Hebrew words for the same object. And this is supposed to be a “contradiction”? It’s not. It would be like saying “paperback” and “book.” I could say, for example, about my own books: “my first book is a paperback.” The two words refer to the same thing.

Taking a look at the many Bible translations in my library, I see that the RSV practice of using “serpent” for both 7:12 and 7:15 is followed by at least six major versions (Knox, Douay/Rheims, NASB, KJV, ASV, Jewish 1917; while NRSV uses “snake” twice). In other instances where there are different terms, they can clearly be harmonized with each other as referring to the same thing in different ways:

snake / serpent: Confraternity, NAB

serpent / snake: NEB, REB

reptile / snake: Moffatt, Goodspeed

In none of these instances is there the slightest contradiction. If we look up serpent at Dictionary.com, the very first definition it gives is “snake.” Merriam-Webster Online states first: “1a archaic a noxious creature that creeps, hisses, or stings” and then “snake.” Snake in the same source is first defined as “any of numerous limbless scaled reptiles (suborder Serpentes . . .” and in Dictionary.com first, similarly, as “any of numerous limbless, scaly, elongate reptiles of the suborder Serpentes . . .”

It’s all much ado about nothing. These are the absurd lengths biblical skeptics will go to find a (or any!) zealously sought-after, notorious “biblical contradiction.” It’s a case study in misguided zeal blinding one. Straining at gnats, Steven thinks he is milking this “rod motif” for all it’s worth and comes up with another of his so-called “contradictions”:

#103. Does Aaron perform the rod-to-snake/serpent trick in front of the Israelites OR Pharaoh? (Ex 4:30 vs 7:10)

Here he writes:

[T]oday’s contradiction is more a doublet than anything else. . . . Yahweh originally commands Moses to perform the signs in front of the people so that they believe Moses (4:5, 4:17), then he commands Moses to do them in front of Pharaoh (4:21).

And how is that a contradiction, pray tell? Signs and miracles always had this dual purpose: to embolden and strengthen the faith of the believers (e.g., Ex 4:8-9, 30-31; 10:2; Num 14:11, 22; Dt 4:34; 7:19; 26:8; Josh 24:17) and to persuade unbelievers that there was a God Who did such things (e.g., Ex 7:3, 9-10; 10:1; Dt 6:22; 11:3; 34:11). This is a common occurrence all through the Bible, and it’s not a contradiction. After Moses parted the Red Sea, the Bible states:

Exodus 14:31 And Israel saw the great work which the LORD did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the LORD; and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Moses and Aaron simply “killed two birds” (persuading the Hebrews and the Egyptians of God’s power and faithfulness) with one “stone” (signs and wonders by means of the “rod of God”).

Case closed . . .

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Photo credit: Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh (1537), by Master of the Dinteville Allegory [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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July 5, 2020

See the video by Dr. Rev. Keith Ward.
 
Ward holds to theological liberalism, which carries over into his interpretation of the Bible. He casually assumes contradictions where (in almost all cases I have seen), two accounts are complementary and not logically contradictory.
 
See, for example, one of many plausible syntheses of the four accounts of the Easter visits to the tomb.
 
I just reviewed a book that was about alleged biblical contradictions, which was filled with refutations of these sorts of pseudo-“contradictions”.
 
He says that the Gospel of John merely put words into the mouth of Jesus, as if Jesus didn’t say them. Using that “method” anyone can (arbitrarily and irrationally) get Jesus to believe whatever they want. If they don’t like something He said, they resort to the tired canard, “well, that was added later, you see. He didn’t really [wink and smirk] say that.”
 
He flat-out denies that the Gospels can be harmonized. They have different emphases; they do not contradict. He doesn’t understand Hebrew idiom (his example of Jesus saying only God is good; he thus implies that Jesus is saying He Himself is not totally good — nor God, for that matter –, which is not the case at all.
 
I don’t consider that serious Bible scholarship. In its way, it is as fatally flawed and questionable as the false fundamentalist assumptions that he (often rightly) criticizes. How ironic. And I see this tendency very often in theologically liberal or agnostic / atheist Bible analyses (as well as Muslim).
 
Now he is saying that a translation means that Jesus’ words aren’t recorded. He completely ignores biblical inspiration.
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For much related material, see my Liberal Theology & Modernism Index Page. and final section of my Bible & Tradition page, which includes refutations of scores and scores of alleged biblical contradictions.
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(originally 6-6-17 on Facebook)
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Photo credit: geralt  (12-10-19) [PixabayPixabay License]
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May 15, 2020

Ward Ricker is (as so often) a self-described former “fundamentalist” who likes to poke holes in the Bible and “prove” that it is a terrible and “evil” book, not inspired, hopelessly contradictory, etc. He describes his current belief as follows:

Some people would refer to me as an “atheist”, which is perhaps accurate, since I don’t believe in god, but I don’t particularly like the word “atheist”, since it only tells you what I don’t believe, i.e,, that I don’t believe in god or gods. It doesn’t tell you what I do believe in. “Scientist” tells you what I do believe in.

He read my article for National Catholic Register, “Atheist Inventions of Many Bogus ‘Bible Contradictions’ “ (9-4-18) and wrote to NCR the following letter. This article is my response. I informed him personally of it. First, here is his letter:

I just came across the Sept. 4, 2018, article, Atheist Inventions of Many Bogus “Bible Contradictions”, by Dave Armstrong.  It is an interesting article, in that it claims that “atheists” make unsubstantiated claims about the Bible contradicting itself, yet the article doesn’t list a single one of these unsubstantiated contradictions.  Instead, it goes into a ridiculous story about some people going to a Dairy Queen, trying to suggest that this represents the type of arguments that “atheists” use, without giving any example of an “atheist” argument that follows that same reasoning.
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In fact, Mr. Armstrong is correct; many Bible critics (“atheists” or otherwise) will use some pretty ridiculous arguments (such as saying that the Bible says Jonah was swallowed by a whale in one place and by a fish in another).  I’m surprised that he didn’t choose to list any.  But the fact that some people get carried away and make false claims doesn’t invalidate the claims that are correct.  And the fact is that there are a large number of clear contradictions in the so-called “inerrant word of god”.  I have screened out those bogus claims that some critics make and have published my own book (yes, another of those lists that Mr. Armstrong decries) of contradictions that I and others have found in the Bible that are clearly contradictions.  Would Mr. Armstrong or any of you like to challenge any of the over 400 contradictions that I list in one of the chapters of my book, “Unholy Bible,” that you can download for free at www.WardsBooks.com?  (I hope you will also read the other chapters in the book about the vile, evil and abhorrent book that is called the “Holy Bible”.)

One must always determine the purpose and scope of any particular article, before one sets out to critique it. I always try to be very precise and accurately descriptive in titles for my articles. It’s one of the first things any good writer must understand (book and article titles, chapter titles, etc.). We only have 1000 words per article at NCR. I think it’s a nice length, that usually comes out to about 3 1/2 single-spaced pages in a book with a standard font size. People have short attention spans nowadays.

I was specifically going after “bogus ‘contradictions'”: that is, alleged logical contradictions that actually aren’t so, by the laws of contradiction in the field of logic (I took a logic class in college, by the way, along with several other philosophy courses). The Dairy Queen story was, precisely, an analogical example of how atheists and others who don’t properly think through the nature of a literal logical contradiction, make the claim, when in fact, there is no contradiction present at all.

Mr. Ricker may think that is “ridiculous.” I think it is necessary in order to illustrate the common errors in identifying the presence of “contradictions” that I was critiquing. The main gist of my article was to explain the nature of a logical contradiction, as opposed to refuting particular proposed examples of same in the Bible by atheists.

Sure, it would have been nice to include some actual “atheist vs. the Bible” examples, but there simply wasn’t space to do so, after I made what was my primary point in the article: illustrating how many alleged “contradictions” actually aren’t at all. This is a different issue from other examples which appear (at least prima facie) to be actual (honestly alleged) contradictions, that have to be grappled with by the defender of an inspired Bible.
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Oftentimes, that comes down to different genres in the Bible, various meanings of particular words or ideas in widely divergent contexts, translation matters, and interpretational particulars: often having to do with the very foreign (to our modern western sensibilities)  ancient Hebrew culture and modes of thinking. I know these things firsthand, because I myself have offered what I think are good resolutions or “solutions” to hundreds of proposed biblical “contradictions.”

Other times, it could simply be a matter of manuscript errors that crept in through the years. Of course, that sort of error is only in transmission, and is not part of the original text, so it wouldn’t cast doubt on the non-contradictory nature of the original transcripts of the Bible (if indeed we can plausibly speculate that it was merely an innocent copyist’s error).

I do have an article on my blog of what Mr. Ricker suggests: where I provide several actual examples from atheists: Review of The Book of Non-Contradiction (Phillip Campbell) [5-9-17]. It was 1666 words long.
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I have dealt with literally hundreds of supposed biblical “contradictions” (I’ve been engaged in apologetics writing for 39 years). One can see how active I have been in dialoguing with atheists, on my web page devoted to them. On the issue of “Bible contradictions” in particular, I devote a very long section at the end of my Bible and Tradition web page. Mr. Ricker offered a challenge for me or anyone to deal with his “list” of what he thinks are logical biblical difficulties. I like that. It shows that he is confident of his position. I admire that in people, even if I disagree with what they defend or stand for.
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I thought that Bob Seidensticker, webmaster of Cross Examined: a major atheist blog with tons and tons of feedback in the comboxes, also possessed this confidence in his own positions, since he directly challenged me 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?” This was after Bob had virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. He commented to someone else on 6-22-17: “If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.”
*
Again, Bob mocked some Christian in his combox on 10-27-18: “You can’t explain it to us, you can’t defend it, you can’t even defend it to yourself. Defend your position or shut up about it. It’s clear you have nothing.” And again on the same day: “If you can’t answer the question, man up and say so.” And on 10-26-18: “you refuse to defend it, after being asked over and over again.” And again: “You’re the one playing games, equivocating, and being unable to answer the challenges.”
*

I’m not one to decline a challenge, if I think anything constructive can be accomplished by responding to it, so I took Bob up on his offer, and to date, have written literally 40 refutations of his anti-biblical claims and argumentation. So far, not one peep of a response has been heard from him to any of them. And it sure looks like that will be the case indefinitely. His bark is infinitely worse than his bite. All talk and no action . . .

He’s not the only atheist online who waxes so confidently, but then flees for the hills at the slightest whiff of a refutation of ostensibly self-assured claims. Atheist and former Methodist minister Dr. David Madison writes for the very popular Debunking Christianity site, run by atheist John “you are an idiot!” Loftus, infamous for his literally volcanic explosions and implosions when he is forthrightly challenged (especially when such challenges come from me). I have refuted Dr. Madison’s skeptical, Bible-bashing claims 42 times as of this writing. He hasn’t been heard back from as of yet, either, and made his cramped, insulated mentality quite clear in a comment from 9-6-19:

[T]he burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked. . . . I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.
By the time he had written this rationalization of his intellectual cowardice, I had already refuted his particular arguments 35 times. I’ve also done the same with John Loftus, more than ten times. You guessed it: not one word in counter-reply. I had critiqued his book, Why I Became an Atheist: precisely because at one time (in December 2006) he directly challenged me to do so:
Deconversion stories are piecemeal. They cannot give a full explanation for why someone left the faith. They only give hints at why they left the faith. It requires writing a whole book about why someone left the faith to understand why they did, and few people do that. I did. If you truly want to critique my deconversion story then critique my book. . . . I challenge you to really critique the one deconversion story that has been published in a book. . . . Do you accept my challenge?

Eventually, after I became bored and was looking for something to do, I did just that, only to get stony silence and crickets back. This is most unimpressive. It’s now over 100 direct refutations of atheist anti-biblical arguments (there are others, too, besides these three cowards), with no replies whatsoever back from those same atheists: two of whom directly challenged me to do this very thing.

This is pretty much my universal experience with atheists. Mr. Ricker finds the same apathy and/or cowardice or non-interest among Christians. We have that in common. I don’t like to repeat work that I’ve already done, so I would propose the following to him: take on one or more of these 92 papers in which I refuted Dr. Madison, Mr Seidensticker, and Mr. Loftus (since they won’t).

Prove to my Christian readers that atheists are capable of actually defending their positions under scrutiny: not just asserting them and fleeing to the hills in terror at the first hint or sign of a vigorous Christian counter-reply. They won’t respond; maybe Mr. Ricker, having devoted a book to such things, will. In any event, I have put my money where my mouth is, and I am able and willing to 1) defend my general Christian and particular Catholic beliefs, and 2) respond to atheist challenges to same.

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Photo credit: Clare Black (9-2-09) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]
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February 12, 2020

Debate with Five Atheists. Are Christian Women Abused as “Sheep”?

This is an exchange I had on a semi-private discussion list (starting on 31 August 2010), connected with an atheist group that I was invited to (I’ve attended in-person, twice) and one I have been interacting with in writing. A thread began, where negative comments were made about the Bible and Christian women. I chimed in, and of course it was off to the dog races, then. Very little actual dialogue occurred, and I vociferously complain about that later in the dialogue. But assuredly there is a lot of substance and food for thought.

I don’t name any names, provide no link to the original thread, and have asked permission to post this, stating that if anyone didn’t want their words to be part of this, to just say so and that I would be glad to comply. But this amazing exchange is not to be missed.

Color Code:

Woman #1: words in orange

Woman #2: red

Woman #3: blue

Man #1 (head of the group): green

Man #2: purple

Me: black

* * * * *

I also had an idea you could also present (if you had not already). I know its a mostly men group, but it amazes me so many women are Christians but are treated so badly in the bible…Just an idea to do a study on how women are treated in the Bible.
* * *
Women are always second class citizens in the bible. It is probably one of the reasons many educated women steer clear of it. I have not studied religion to a great degree other than being raised Catholic. The old time nuns cured me of any religious interest ;-) Fear, punishment, retribution are things I try to avoid. I suppose one of the reasons women are viewed in such a lowly position is a sign of the times the bible was written in. Women only received the right to vote in the good old USA less than 100 years ago. I used to be viewed as property of my husband’s…..can’t even imagine that. Thank god/allah/buddha for the fearless women that went before me!!!!
* * *

Women are always second class citizens in the bible.

Really? Funny, I hadn’t noticed that after 33 years of intense Bible study. The Bible I read has Paul stating that there is no male or female in Christ. Husbands are to honor their wives and love them like Christ loved the Church (i.e., He died for us). The Bible I read shows women with great courage, being at the crucifixion, while all the male disciples except for John, were a bunch of wimps and cowards, and fled in terror (Peter having denied that he even knew Christ). Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Christ, and several women were in the forefront of that event, too, while the men were slow to believe. Jesus saved a woman from being stoned for adultery, on the grounds that her sin was not — in the final analysis — greater than anyone else’s. Even Rahab the harlot is honored, because she helped the Israelite spies. Jesus greatly honored the woman who wiped His feet with her tears and rebuked his male host.

Mary the mother of Jesus is, in fact, the very highest of all God’s creatures: far higher than any man. We Catholics believe she is sinless and immaculate (preserved from original sin from the moment of her conception; Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, actually believed the same thing, too). She is so exalted that Catholics are falsely accused of worshiping her all the time (we venerate her, which is essentially a high honor, but not worship). I am working on a book about Mary this very day. Catholics believe that God even channels the grace of salvation through Mary. Many other women are treated with great dignity and honor (e.g., Judith, Esther).

“Liberated” women have really come a long way recently, haven’t they? They learned to smoke like men, and started dying of lung cancer at the same rate that men died. Real liberation there. Now they have accepted men’s selfish lies about abortion and have learned to slaughter their own offspring before they can even get out of the womb, and call that outrage a “choice” and a “right.” Real progress there too.

The Bible, in elevating marriage to a lifelong commitment and a sacrament, protected women from much abuse. But now we have gone beyond all that. Now we are liberated and see women as sex objects and mere playthings that can be jettisoned if they are too old or undesirable. That is what our wonderful sexual revolution has brought us. Generally, it is women who suffer to a much greater extent economically after divorce (along with children). We know that; there is no question about it. It is the “puritanical” Christians who are in the forefront of the fight against pornography: the very thing that promotes these views. But the secular society thinks pornography is great: everyone has a right to indulge in it. Anyone who protests is a prude and opposed to “free speech.”

I’ll take the biblical and Christian view of women any day, thank you.

I have not studied religion to a great degree

Yeah, I can see that. Why, then, do you feel confident making uninformed statements about the supposed low biblical view of women? That is what I find quite odd and curious: the simultaneous admission of profound ignorance with, nevertheless, confident statements about what the Bible (that one has never studied much) teaches.

I used to be viewed as property of my husband’s…..can’t even imagine that.

That’s not what the Bible teaches. A lot of stupid, selfish men may have thought that, but it isn’t biblical teaching. You object to that (biblical) myth; why not also object to women regarding their own preborn children as their property, to dispose of as they wish? It’s gotten so absurd that the child is even thought to be part of the woman’s body, despite having separate DNA and (in the case of a male child) a penis. The father has no legal say at all in the life of his own child. And that is because in our mentality today, the mother “owns” the child as property: precisely as slavery functioned. The child has no rights whatever. It is even denied that he or she is a person. So the outrages and the genocide of our time are ignored, while we war against a mythical straw man “Christianity” of our own making.

You wanna go after the Bible and Christianity? There is plenty in our own secularized, “enlightened” time to critique also. But I have told the truth about that. I didn’t have to distort the facts. They are all around us: broken homes and broken women and children, and men (equally broken) reaping the dire consequences insofar as they reject traditional teachings on marriage, sexuality, and childrearing.

You wanna go down in inner-city Detroit (where I grew up) and see what the sexual revolution and the “Great Society” has done to families down there? Is that to be blamed on Christianity, too: that illegitimacy is now 75% or so and single-parent families are the overwhelming norm? We’re the ones who promoted marriage and waiting to have sex till marriage. Society wanted to reject that; so check out what is going on in the cities now to see how well secular ideas and the rejection of traditional religious morality have worked out. That’s the cutting edge.

* * *

Religion and holy books were created by MEN to control various sections of the population including women. It’s very amusing to see religious women act like sheep even in this day and age. Here are some priceless Bible quotes regarding women:

“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)

“When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)

“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.” (Leviticus 12:2)

“But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.” (Leviticus 12:5)

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (I Corinthians 11:3)

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (I Corinthians 11:8-9)

“Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:22-23)

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” (Exodus 22:18-20)

“Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.” (Judges 19:24-25)

“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11-14)

“If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;” (Deuteronomy 22:22)

“Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:24)

“Therefore the LORD himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silvers, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16)

“Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16)

“Give me any plague, but the plague of the heart: and any wickedness, but the wickedness of a woman.” (Eccles. 25:13)

“Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” (Eccles. 25:22)

“If she go not as thou wouldest have her, cut her off from thy flesh, and give her a bill of divorce, and let her go.” (Eccles. 25: 26)

“The whoredom of a woman may be known in her haughty looks and eyelids. If thy daughter be shameless, keep her in straitly, lest she abuse herself through overmuch liberty.” (Eccles. 26:9-10)

“A silent and loving woman is a gift of the Lord: and there is nothing so much worth as a mind well instructed. A shamefaced and faithful woman is a double grace, and her continent mind cannot be valued.” (Eccles. 26:14-15)

“A shameless woman shall be counted as a dog; but she that is shamefaced will fear the Lord.” (Eccles.26:25)

“For from garments cometh a moth, and from women wickedness. Better is the churlishness of a man than a courteous woman, a woman, I say, which bringeth shame and reproach.” (Eccles. 42:13-14)

* * *

Thank god/allah/buddha for the fearless women that went before me!!!!

And, of course, the early feminists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (just like most of the abolitionists), were Christians of some sort, and pro-lifers also. Ironically, though, Stanton, while campaigning for woman’s suffrage, early on wanted to oppose black men having the right to vote. Everyone has their blind spots . . . But Stanton made the same general analogy to abortion that I made above:

When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.

(Letter to Julia Ward Howe, October 16, 1873, recorded in Howe’s diary at Harvard University Library)

Susan B. Anthony referred to abortion as “child murder.”

* * *

Well, Dave it is your lucky day! I am one of the few atheists out there that are going to agree with you on the Pro-life issue, although for a slightly different set of reasons. Abortion is not a matter of “choice” and it is indeed child murder and the worst form of violence a human can commit . A woman has choice in weather or not she has unprotected sex and if she makes a ‘choice’ at that point she should be ready for the consequences such as pregnancy.

The arguments such as ‘it is not life unless it can survive on its own’ do not make any logical sense because fetuses can not protect themselves especially from their own mothers. And abortion is against evolution/nature. You don’t eat/kill your own and still expect your genes to survive and flourish.

I am not talking about the extreme cases of mother’s life in danger, rape and incest type of situations but the more general use of abortion that liberals intend to use it for…….. as a method of contraception. One thing that puzzles me the most is why and how this issue became a Left or Right and heavily politicized aspect of American life.

* * *

Bravo, [name]. That was a magnificent statement about abortion. I remember you and [name; group leader] saying you were pro-life, and I was delighted to hear it.

Generally, when I argue against abortion, I don’t quote the Bible, and use reasoning much as you have done. In fact, I actually did that in a courtroom once when I and many others were on trial for blocking abortion clinic doors. In my little speech I appealed to ancient pagan Greek ethics and Hippocrates (the father of medicine) and said that the debate goes far beyond religion and Christian views.

I spent one night in a nice jail . . . . we were sentenced to a week, but they let me out in the morning. That was my entire punishment for five arrests and about 25 times breaking the law in civil disobedience.

* * *

To take one example from the laundry list (and unfortunately I have to get back to my regular work at the moment):

“Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” (Eccles. 25:22)

But whoever came up with this chart forgot to include these passages also:

Romans 5:14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

And we Catholics believe that Mary was the means for the incarnation to be possible, which made salvation possible, and that God channels the grace of salvation through her. If that is “anti-woman” then let me proudly be part of that thinking!

At some point when I have time I’d love to explore the other passages and comment on them. It takes a ton of work and labor to interpret things properly in context and in light of overall biblical teaching (which also develops over time as well). It’s a lot like the alleged biblical contradictions thing. A million passages are thrown out: copied from some atheist (or otherwise skeptical) source. It takes ten times more labor and time to refute them (and to no avail anyway; the atheist generally disdains any such effort and simply moves on to other arguments). But I’ve done it in the past and will do so again. Only so many hours in a day . . .

Many turn out like the “prooftext” above did. By selectively citing the passage above about Eve and neglecting cross-references about Adam, a distorted picture is given. I knew this immediately, because I know the Bible, and I know this was not the whole picture.

And by the way, the very reference was incorrect. It is Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach) 25:24, not 25:22. The same book (typical of Jewish proverbial literature) also praises “the good wife” starting three verses later (26:1-4, 13-16).

* * *

Just one more before I go (couldn’t resist):

“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)

Nice try. Of course, men get burnt, too. Here are examples:

Leviticus 20:14 If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is wickedness; they shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you. [this one occurred just 22 verses earlier than the one above, but damn the context . . . ]

Joshua 7:15, 24-25 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done a shameful thing in Israel. . . . And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the mantle and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters, and his oxen and asses and sheep, and his tent, and all that he had; and they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. [25] And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones; they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones.

Stoning was also an “equal opportunity” punishment.

The only burning females in “Christian” society today (with full consent of the law and the people) are the preborn female children (about one in two) who are scalded to death by saline abortions. But we would rather talk selectively about ancient punishments . . .

* * *

Getting back to some of the “shock-quotes” from the Bible:

“When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)

An odd passage to be sure. But the claim above (now made by three women) is that the Bible is anti-woman through and through. If that is so, then why is the law against adultery and fornication (when men commit it) so strict? If it was really about letting men do whatever they want and only punishing women for free sex (the old double standard) then why is there a Leviticus chapter 18 at all? It’s almost solely devoted to blasting men who want to have sex with everyone under the sun except their wives:

1) Mother (18:7-8).
2) Sister (18:9, 11).
3) Granddaughter (18:10).
4) Aunt (18:12-14).
5) Daughter-in-law (18:15).
6) Sister-in-law (18:16, 18: “rival wife to her sister”).
7) Any kinswoman and her daughter (18:17).
8) Kinswomen’s granddaughters (18:17).
9) Neighbor’s wife (18:20).
10) Male homosexual sex (18:22).
11) Bestiality (of a man or a woman: 18:23).

The punishment for any of these transgressions is stated in 18:29: “For whoever shall do any of these abominations, the persons that do them shall be cut off from among their people.”

* * *

“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.” (Leviticus 12:2)

“But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.” (Leviticus 12:5)

This was a matter of ritual cleanliness or purification, or the ceremonial law. Why was there a difference for the period of “uncleanness” with regard to bearing male and female children? One explanation is that the male children were circumcised on the eighth day (Gen 17:12): another matter of purification and the ritual of the law. The female children were not; therefore, the mother underwent purification longer than for the birth of a male child.

Purification does not directly or intrinsically have to do with sin. Jesus Himself underwent ritual purification when He went to the temple, and He was also baptized, even though He was without sin and had no need of it whatever. He did it because it was an accepted ritual according to Jewish Law. Mary did various ceremonies, too, even though we Catholics believe she never sinned, either and was preserved even from original sin.

* * *

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (I Corinthians 11:3)

Headship is not a matter of inequality but of differential roles. Jesus was subject to His father in a sense (“the head of Christ is God”: meaning God the Father, since Jesus is also presented as God in the NT), yet they were equal: both were God. He was even subject to Joseph and Mary as a child: yet they were creatures and He was God. There is no basis for inequality in this, let alone domination or subjugation. The entire teaching is a very beautiful thing:

Ephesians 5:25, 28-30 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, . . . [28] Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, [30] because we are members of his body.

A friend of mine has a cute saying with reference to men who are stupid and dense enough to say something to their wives like “submit, woman!” He says that, according to the Bible, the wife is completely within her rights to say back to him, “get crucified, buddy!”

The wife is told simply to respect the husband and be in a certain submission to him. But the husband has to love his wife like Christ loved the Church, meaning that he has to die for her and cherish her as he does himself. This is far more difficult and more of a burden and responsibility. Inequality? I don’t see it, but if there was any present here, I submit that it is more plausible to say that the man is being treated “unfairly” since he is given a far greater burden in marriage, and a sublime goal to attain.

* * *

“Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:22-23)

This is simply dumb exegesis, if it is supposedly some proof of chauvinism and oppression of women, because the passage is metaphorical in the first place, or an instance of personification. Jezebel had been dead for centuries. Her name was used because the Jews understood her sort of sin. The warnings were for the the church in Thyati’ra. The judgment is not solely for women (I highly doubt that this church consisted solely of women), but men and women who sin in this fashion. Hence, even the passage itself indicates this in 2:23: “I will give to each of you as your works deserve” (RSV).

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” (Exodus 22:18-20)

Bestiality and idolatry here applied to both sexes, so we are left with the death penalty against witches (females). But this is no big deal because lots of categories were subject to death or severe penalties (necromancers, sorcerers, [mostly male] false prophets, etc.): not just women, by any means:

Deuteronomy 18:10-12 There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, [11] or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. [12] For whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD; and because of these abominable practices the LORD your God is driving them out before you.

Malachi 3:5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.

Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.

Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood.

In fact, four verses later, the death penalty is applied to men only:

Exodus 22:22-24 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. [23] If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry; [24] and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

And elsewhere in the law, mediums and wizards, whether male or female, were to be stoned:

Leviticus 20:27 A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned with stones, their blood shall be upon them.

“If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;” (Deuteronomy 22:22)

“Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:24)

How is this “against women,” since both the man and the woman are stoned for the adultery? This is a married woman, so the woman is expected to scream for help. Her not doing so implied consent; therefore she was deemed guilty of adultery.

* * *

The Bible is not particularly sexist against women—it is a product of its times. When the prevailing Israelites took 32,000 female virgins as booty [pun definitely intended] in a war (Numbers 31) —this was not a slam against women per se…it was simply recognition of how things were done.

Captured people became slaves.

When the author of 1 Timothy was prohibiting women from wearing gold, it was a reflection of what it meant for a woman to wear gold in that culture. 1 Tim. 2:9. Similarly, when Paul (1 Cor. 14:34-35) indicated he didn’t want women to speak in church, this reflected his Roman preference of a woman’s place in assembly.

The problem, of course, is when someone holds these writings as providing some prescription on our society, some 2000 years later, that we see conflict appear. Unfortunately there have been many, many people who have successfully utilized these ancient cultural norms to exert power over other people—including females.

* * *
There is another humorous irony here that I can’t resist pointing out. Note that this thread began with three women bashing not only the Bible as a supposedly chauvinist, misogynist, sexist, anti-female set of documents, but (far beyond that) also bashing some one billion or so Christian women, in the most sweeping terms:

“it amazes me so many women are Christians but are treated so badly in the bible”

“Women are always second class citizens in the bible. It is probably one of the reasons many educated women steer clear of it.”

“Religion and holy books were created by MEN to control various sections of the population including women. It’s very amusing to see religious women act like sheep even in this day and age.”

[Name] even made the accusation far more broad, and extended it to virtually all religious women of any sort (so that the total number of women being criticized is in the several billions). At least [name] made some sort of qualification (but not much of one in context).

So we have the amazing spectacle and irony of toleration and equality being touted in the name of intolerance and looking down female noses at one billion (or several billion) women! In falsely condemning Christianity on an altogether flimsy basis, y’all end up committing the same exact shortcoming that you condemn: you look down on a billion (or billions) of women at the same time you excoriate religion for supposedly doing so.

Thus, here I am, a male practitioner and follower of one such holy book (the Bible) that is unjustly accused of being so anti-female, defending a billion (or billions) of women from the outlandish charges being leveled against them by three “enlightened” women: that they are gullible dumbbells who don’t know any better; sheep, mindless followers of patriarchal religion; too dense and clueless to even know that they are doing so (and educated women know better and so avoid being religious). Yet my religion — and I as a follower of it — are supposed to be the ones who are anti-women?

Huh???!!!!!

* * *

Your passion on this subject is very much appreciated.

Cool! There is something to be said about that, but I’m much more interested in truth than passion for its own sake. If I’m passionately wrong (or if you are), it does little good.

However, it would be useful if it is directed towards the very religious system that you defend so vehemently and improve the lives of the billions of women that you seem to be concerned about rather than direct it at us who merely made observations of your system abusing those women for centuries.

This is a circular argument. You haven’t proven anything of the sort. The original claim was that the Bible itself is the cause of such abuse. You brought out a laundry list (and I’d love to learn the original source of it) to try to “prove” that. I have been a vocal critic of men who abuse Christian teachings in order to abuse women, for many years now. But note that I don’t think that Christianity itself or the Bible is the cause of it. It has to be distorted. Anything can be distorted or misunderstood, but we have to make the necessary distinctions. Case in point: I have already shown with several of the passages that you brought forth, that they were being taken out of context and poorly understood.

“committing the same exact shortcoming that you condemn”? “look down on a billion (or billions) of women”? “outlandish charges being leveled against them by three “enlightened” women”. Anyone can use caustic language to deflect the evils committed by the religion they believe in.

You have it exactly backwards. I’m using (what I sincerely believe to be) truthful language to defend the religion I believe in, that is not the way you are portraying it. If you want to oppose sin or abuse or neglect or cruelty or any number of unsavory things along those lines (including abortion, in your case), I’m right along with you. But I don’t agree that Christianity itself causes any of the things you detest (as I do). You seem to see the root cause as institutional religion. I see it as the sin that is present in each and every human being’s heart. The only difference is in degree.

It remains true that all three of you took a very low view of the integrity of Christian women, and (for you) religious women, period. I think this is most unfair, and a sort of prejudice. Sorry; that is how I sincerely see it. It doesn’t mean I think you are “bad” people. I’ve met you, and I think you’re very friendly. I have nothing against you. I’m referring solely to the statements made at the beginning of the thread.

Imagine, for example, my wife (or even [name’s] Christian wife) reading the things that were written about Christian women. Do you think they would offend her? It’s not even necessary to make these kinds of statements in the first place, about gigantic groups of people, as if they can apply to that many as a generalization. It’s absurd. Then when I object to them and defend millions upon millions of Christian women you say I am trying to “deflect the [supposed] evils” of Christianity? You see nothing wrong whatever with the sort of sweeping language that you three used?

But this type of counter allegation is totally new and extremely entertaining to me :-)

I’m glad I made you smile. I love it when people can take criticism graciously. That reflects well on you.

So you put our “enlightened” criticism on the same level as the oppression of women by religion?

No; I think secularism and so-called “enlightened” thought is far worse than what you think religion does. I’m defending Christianity. I’m not defending Hinduism or Islam or any other religion. So whatever goes on there is not my task to defend. If you want to go after the Untouchables and the caste system of Hinduism, then we are in agreement. Gandhi did the same. If you want to detest and abhor women being stoned when they refuse to abide by a prearranged marriage, as in some Islamic societies, then I am as outraged at that as you are. But I’m not defending that. I can even agree that many religious systems literally enshrine or institutionalize evil. But I disagree that Christianity is one of those.

Very clever strategy

That’s odd. I didn’t see it as a “strategy” at all, let alone “clever.” I simply spoke what I feel is the truth.

but it doesn’t follow logic because our criticism did not result in millions of deaths and starvation and bodily injury where as religion did and still does.

On what basis do you make these claims? What religion did this? Starvation in the present time usually results from political despots who are quite secularized. We know that Stalin starved ten million Ukrainians in the 1930s. That didn’t flow from “Christianity” but from personal evil and Communism. Mao wasn’t acting in the name of religion when he murdered 60 million. We agree on abortion. That is upward of 100 million worldwide. Those are actual documented figures. Where are yours?

Yes, I can speak in ‘broader’ terms than most Americans because I have lived amidst more than a billion (seems to be your favorite number) people and been exposed to many more religions besides Christianity. I have seen the tears of religious women that were frequently abused by their spouses and in-laws physically and mentally but would not divorce because their religion would not approve of it.

Christianity teaches that any woman in such an abusive situation is not obliged to stay there. That’s what we teach. If Hinduism or something else teaches differently, then let them defend that. I think it stinks. You claimed that the Bible taught this . . .

I heard the agony of the women who had to undergo a forced abortion of a female fetus because her family and religion considered the birth of that child a bad omen.

And you claim that that is somehow Christian and biblical teaching, too? You seem to be forgetting what the original claims were, that I am objecting to. You’re switching horses in mid-stream.

I keep hearing from women that have husbands that cheat on them and even indulge in incest but are too afraid to change the situation for fear of religious consequences.

And how does that have anything to do with what I as a Christian and Catholic believe? How is that extrapolated to the entire class of Christian and other religious women, because you have seen these horrid cases?

You don’t have to be an expert on religion and its texts to see how it is affecting the lives of people following it.

I wish you would meet some Christian women who are very happy and fulfilled in their lives. I’d love for you to meet my own wife sometime, so we can start changing these negative stereotypes that you appear to be laboring under. But she is pretty shy. I don’t know if I could convince her to attend a meeting. Maybe sometime just us three could meet, and have a good heart-to-heart conversation. If you think Christianity is so terrible for women, you need to talk to someone like her. And I know scores and scores of women friends and acquaintances who are as fulfilled in their Christianity as she is. You need to meet some of them. It’s not good to believe inaccurate things about folks.

Even the most well-intentioned religious text can be misinterpreted and misused by people for their own advantage.

Exactly. Then you fight the abuse, and don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, as you three did. We can agree on most things that are bad or evil or undesirable, and agree in opposing them and doing something about them. And we can do so without blasting entire groups of human beings. I don’t see what good comes of that. It creates ill will and discord. People have to be approached on an individual basis.

It is self destructive if you allow yourself to be a victim of such a system by continuing to follow it even after experiencing the negative effects first hand.

The thing in dispute is what the “system” is in the first place. You say Christianity is institutionally responsible for much of this, and I am denying that and giving reasons and providing facts for why I do.

To point this aspect of the lives of religious women out doesn’t make it an outlandish charge.

The outlandishness wasn’t in decrying bad stuff but in wrongly identifying the cause and in characterizing religious women in sweeping terms. No one deserves to be treated like that. It’s just as wrong as when black people are negatively characterized, or Jews or Arabs or Mexicans, or Chinese: this kind of thing does no good at all. It’s as silly as it is destructive of good relations and good will.

* * *

A couple of thoughts, Dave, with regards to your claims about “looking down noses” and intolerance.

Okay, shoot.

A person can honestly believe that religion is crafted in a way to serve the interests of those in power without being snooty or intolerant. You can debate whether IN FACT the Christian religion was crafted by powerful people to serve powerful interests (largely male dominated societies). But I see no point in talking about the internal mind states of anybody that might hold to that view. It’s a legitimate opinion. Challenge it, but what does being snooty have to do with it?

Okay, so when [name] writes, “It’s very amusing to see religious women act like sheep even in this day and age” or “your system abusing those women for centuries” or about “religion” causing “millions of deaths and starvation and bodily injury” (undocumented), you don’t see that as the slightest bit prejudicial language? You . . . see nothing whatever objectionable in that sort of language?

You don’t comprehend that a Christian (especially a Christian woman) would see these as somewhat bigoted statements? This goes far beyond a reasoned critique of a thought-system. She is judging millions of people who accept the system and charging them with profound mindlessness. Even the touch of noting that it was “amusing” adds to the condescension. Go ahead and defend what was written, then. I’d love to see what you come up with.

I’m not saying that [name] or the other two women are bigots! NO! I’m saying they are better than this, and ought to admit that the statements were extreme and unreasonable. We all make statements that are too extreme. I made some, you called me on it, and I admitted it and apologized. They don’t have to stoop to that level to engage in critiques of Christianity or other religions: by attacking the women in them en masse as gullible dumbbells.

I wrote about this weeks ago when the notorious former member was saying that no scientist could possibly be a theist, and then putting up comics saying that most or all Catholics are child molesters. You agreed and asked him to leave. So I know you are open to considering these issues of perception and relationship with theists. It’s part of what your group is about. That’s one reason I was invited, and why you are also having a Muslim apologist be a guest speaker.

And I wrote around that time, that Christians tend to see atheists as evil people, and atheists tend to see Christians as dummies. The former member even said what I wrote almost made him cry. Both are wrong; both are unreasonable and prejudiced attitudes. Reality is not nearly that simple. And people from the two groups won’t even be able to be friends (the only way anything good will ever be accomplished) as long as these stereotypes and prejudices prevail on both sides. It’s always tough to admit that we may have a part in some of those, but that’s the only way progress can be made.

I asked my wife at dinner how these statements made her feel, and whether they were examples of “prejudice.” She immediately laughed and agreed. She laughed (rather than becoming angry) precisely because the statements are so ridiculous. We Christians hear these things all the time, and Christian and pro-life and conservative women are routinely mocked by the media and academia. Look, for example, how Sarah Palin is treated. It’s old news, and we get used to it and laugh it off, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

I genuinely do not feel superior to religious people as a result of my lack of religion because I recognize as a person that fully embraced religious beliefs until only recently, that smart well-meaning people can be persuaded of religious claims.

I know you believe that, and I commend you for it. It’s common sense and self-evident, too (“I used to be religious and I wasn’t an imbecile and a dummy when I was; therefore, it stands to reason that there are many Christians and religious people who are as I was just a few years ago”). But then on the same grounds you should object to the characterizations that were made of Christian and religious women en masse.

This despite what some might consider to be transparent errors or backwards thinking reflected in the Bible. I also understand how there are a number of causes which can compel a person to believe a proposition that perhaps is irrational. Emotional pressures, conditioning, societal pressures, etc.

You have to explain it somehow. I view almost all of these matters as primarily defects of worldview and the reasoning process somewhere along the line. You think that of Christianity; I think it is the atheist system of thought. But I try to avoid personal stuff, and I would never dream of making a statement like:

“It’s very amusing to see atheist women act like sheep [or, alternately, “like evil witches”] even in this day and age.”

That would go over real big in this group, wouldn’t it? Try to imagine for just a second how it would have been if I had stated that. But instead, Christian women are the recipients, and so here we are arguing about whether that should be said in that way or not.

I do feel fortunate that I’ve managed to extract myself from that, but I know that in a parallel universe I’m continuing on with religious thinking, and I’m not a moron. So to those that do regard themselves as superior in their lack of religion I look at them as people that do lack understanding in the human condition. If they understood humanity better they would recognize that they are not really so different.

But you see nothing in any of the statements that began this thread that are remotely of that nature, that you and I can agree is unhelpful? If there were some vocal Christian women who were part of this group, you could see what they thought of it. Instead, I have to defend them from the foolish accusations.

But calling the Bible the way that you see it is not intolerant.

It wasn’t just the Bible: it was the women who follow biblical teaching and Christianity. It was made personal and prejudicial in that fashion. The very fact that one gender was singled out and pilloried is classic prejudicial behavior. It’s as absurd as it is irrational and unfactual. One can never make a sensible generalization about a group so huge. We’re talking about maybe 40-45% of all the people in the world, if we go after “religious women” as a class, as amusing “sheep,” etc. How absurd is that?

To tolerate means to allow for views with which you disagree.

And we don’t do that by making fun of one billion Christian women and a couple more billion religious women of other faiths, do we?

So disagreement is a necessary prerequisite to tolerance. We absolutely tolerate the Bible. You do not.

No, I tolerate atheism.

You agree with the Bible, so you cannot be tolerant toward the Bible. That’s like saying I tolerate the sight of a beautiful woman or I tolerate bacon cheeseburgers. No, I think they’re both great, so tolerance does not enter the picture.

* * *

Dave, let me start by quoting George Salmon, who wrote the following in the intro a famous book that you well know:

These lectures were not written for Roman Catholics and I do not expect them to fall into the hands of any except of those who deal in controversy and who perhaps may take up the volume in order to see if it contains anything that needs to be answered. If any such there should be I beg of them to remember that they are overhearing what members of another communion say when they are quite by themselves and therefore that they must not be offended if they meet the proverbial fate of listeners in hearing some things not complimentary.

Now, I know you’re not a fan of Salmon, but let me tell you something. Leaving aside the validity of his basic arguments he makes a number of points that show simply that he understands what humans are like and what they do. When people think they are amongst themselves they might talk about those outside the group in a way that, if those outside were to hear it, would be regarded as very rude. It’s important to be gracious if you find that you overhear such a statement. The fact of the matter is we don’t always recognize that Christians are present. When I’m talking amongst liberals and/or Muslims I talk in a way that makes fun of right wing war mongers. That’s just having fun. When I’m face to face with a right winger I would speak differently. They do the same thing when talking to me, and that’s fine. I’m sure when you are amongst your Catholic apologetics friends you make fun of Protestants and atheists in a way you wouldn’t to their face. No problem. We all do it.

* * *

That is true as a “rule” of human nature. The trouble is that no one made this point when the language was objected to. They dug in (including yourself) and defended it even further. Certain things are simply wrong. I think this is one of them. If classifying 40-45% or more of the human race in a most uncomplimentary fashion is not an example of a prejudicial remark, I swear I don’t know what one is at all. And I think I do.

Moreover, [name] made her first comments after I commented, so she knew full well I was “there” and interacting with the sentiments. She even upped the ante: extending the criticisms to all religious women as a class of people, not just Christians. Thus, the notion of talking differently when not in the presence of an “outsider” wouldn’t apply there. She’s a straight shooter just as I am. This is her opinion.

Nice, job, by the way of skirting all of my direct questions.

Like I said, I like [name]. I’ll always appreciate her courtesy and graciousness at that first meeting at her house (and yours, and that of others, too. I was very impressed with the group). I don’t see this as a character issue at all, or a judgment of her as a person. I’m simply saying that such sweeping language is inappropriate and false and ought to be reconsidered. We all do it at times. I do it; you probably do, too. Everyone does at one time or another. But it doesn’t do anyone any good. Just because we all fall into it at times doesn’t make it right.

If my wife were to attend a meeting in the future, she now knows what is thought of Christian women. Is that any way to start out? It’s just bad human relations policy and bad logic, too. Christians and atheists have got to get past the stereotypes about each other if there is any hope of any mutual understanding to be achieved at all. I’m the eternal optimist and idealist. I think we can do better. I believe it is possible, with communication and friendship and mutual respect built up. But at times I do despair of it ever happening.

* * *

Can a woman administer communion in a Catholic Church?

Yes; happens every week in most Catholic churches (and there are altar girls and female readers, too). It’s called “extraordinary minister of holy communion.” Some of these ministers also give holy communion to the sick in hospitals, etc. I saw one of them when my late father was in the hospital. Women (and non-ordained men) can also administer baptism in emergency situations. And the sacrament of marriage is regarded as self-administered, so the wife-to-be participates in that as well.

Can a woman become a bishop, cardinal or pope?

No. But they can become doctors of the Church (those considered to be preeminent teachers of the faith): St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Thérèse de Lisieux; and saints. Mary is God’s highest creature, and venerated and honored above all human beings. Bishops and popes will be kissing her feet when they get to heaven. She is infinitely above them in the hierarchy. But no one cares about that, and its implications for the Catholic view of women. I already mentioned Mary early on in this thread.

What is the basis for your answers to those questions?

For the first answer, it is the fact of what happens at Masses. Simple enough . . . The second is based on difference of gender roles, but not inequality, as I have already shown. Ordained offices are not the only things for anyone to do in the Church. I’m not ordained; I’m a lay apologist. I have a different role. But it is one that the Church encourages and considers important. Women have roles that are distinct from priests, bishops, and popes.

The dumb, illogical conclusion is to arrive at the notion that role differentiation must necessarily be inequality and subjugation of women. That is the casual “deduction” of radical feminism, but it’s ludicrous. Why would we place the three doctors of the Church and Mary in the positions they are in (along with many venerated female saints) if that were the case?

When 1 Peter 3:1 says, “Wives, likewise be submissive to your husbands…”—what does ”likewise” refer to? Like….what? (The Greek is homoios meaning, “likewise, equally, in the same way.”)

Obviously, it has to refer to what came before (I know context might be a novel concept to atheist exegetes, who routinely ignore it). And that was the “example” (2:21) of Christ suffering without returning the favor. And so Peter applies the analogy to the wife who is unfortunate to find herself married to a husband who does “not obey the word,” who can positively affect him by “reverent and chaste behavior” (3:2), to “be won without a word” (3:1).

It’s like [name’s] wife! If she practices her faith and follows the example of Christ, maybe [name] can be won back one day. If she puts up with his atheism, doesn’t make a fuss, is longsuffering, prays for him, maybe one day [name] will be moved and touched by that and come back to the faith. It’s entirely possible. Stranger things have happened. I know many former atheists myself. I’m a former “practical atheist” (one who lives as if God didn’t exist or make any difference in life).

Suffering and persevering like Christ is not, of course, confined to females or wives, but is highly recommended for all Christians. Hence in 3:9 it states, “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless . . .” (cf. 3:14; 4:1). There are many more passages elsewhere along these lines (e.g., Rom 8:16-18).

Now, since I was courteous enough to reply to your questions, maybe someone will interact with the ton of counter-replies I made. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? If we did that we would actually be in danger of falling into dialogue (!!!), rather than mutual monologue. Or is it supposed to be a one-way thing: with me answering all the questions, and mine being summarily ignored? That seems to be the fashionable thing to do these days. Just talk right past the other guy . . .

But I don’t have time (at least not today) to play Bible hopscotch and ring-around-the-rosey, by going through 7000 supposed “Bible difficulties.” There is rarely if ever any serious discussion of either single passages or the biblical teaching as a whole (systematic theology). And that is because most atheists (the ones I’ve encountered anyway) aren’t interested in that. It doesn’t go with the plan. It ain’t part of the game. They merely want to poke holes and mock and scorn the Bible and Christianity. They approach the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog.

It’s self-justification and rationalization: “I reject the Bible (and along with it, Christianity) because the Bible is so patently ridiculous. It is because of passages a, b, c, d, ad infinitum, ad nauseum . . .” And then if a Christian dares to suggest and demonstrate that said passages were misinterpreted, context butchered, idioms or meanings of words vastly misunderstood, rudimentary, elementary exegetical and hermeneutical principles spat upon and and scornfully dismissed, the atheist wants no part of that conversation . . . they always know more about the Bible than the Christian who has intensely studied it for years (33, in my case).

We see that in this thread by the fact that no one gave a damn about all the counter-exegesis I provided concerning the supposed sexist texts in the Bible. That’s not according to the plan. We mustn’t learn what the Bible actually teaches. It’s more fun to proof-text and quote out of context. If one passage says that sin came from Eve, the game is to ignore the two that said that all sin came from Adam. It’s much more fun to selectively present and provide half-truths, to keep people ignorant and complacent. The goal is to prove sexism, so if I disprove supposed examples of that, it has to be ignored, because the truth of what the passage actually means in context might be revealed, and that is a naughty no-no. Then Christianity might start making sense to those who now despise it.

Then Christians might not be regarded in the following fashion (quoting an atheist blog I happened to run across):

Look, we think theism is wrong. As wrong as a geocentric solar system. As wrong as a 6000-year-old, flat earth, global-flood, demon-possessing, Mary-in-a-Grilled-Cheese, geocentric solar system. Which, like people wearing tin-foil hats to protect themselves from government rays, we would normally laugh off and let live their lives in peace.

That’s me! My theism is the equivalent of flat-earth, young earth, geocentrism, and Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich. Be gone with nuance, all fine and necessary distinctions. Just like what was said about Christian women in this thread!

The issue still remains that there were prejudicial sentiments expressed in this thread. I would like to see them either defended or retracted.

* * *

It’s been a while, huh? [we used to engage in debates some years ago now]

While I agree people may take portions of the Bible out of context, and apply it incorrectly, resulting in sexism, we cannot ignore portions that do not treat women so favorably.

This is the closest to an acknowledgment that fanatically cynical Bible citation has occurred in this thread. I’ll take it! It looks like it is the best I can hope to expect.

Again, this is applying a 1st Century Roman & Judean social system upon our modern cultural norms, and sometimes the pieces don’t fit. The Bible was written in the sexism of its time;

The time was certainly sexist; on that we agree. We disagree on whether the Bible literally adopted the immoral sexism that was prevalent.

only when we try to apply it to 21st Century do the incongruities arise. It doesn’t make the Bible itself sexist (any more than the Iliad, or King Arthur or Acts of Paul sexist)—just a human work written within its time.

Right and wrong are not culturally or time-relative. But at least you offer some refreshing nuance in a thread where there has been absolutely none, where the Bible and women are concerned.

I asked those questions to show how the Bible does list prescriptions that appear sexist to our culture.

“Appear” is the operative word.

As to my first question (who administers communion in the Catholic church)—I did not know women could do so. I thought (obviously incorrectly) only priests could. Thank you for that information. I had a different experience in my Protestant upbringing.

Protestant churches would generally not do that if they didn’t allow female pastors.

However, as to my second question (can a woman be a bishop, cardinal or pope) you gave a synonymonic (just made the word up on the spot!) argument that women aren’t bishops, cardinals and popes because they don’t have the “role” of bishop, cardinal or pope.

Right. I don’t have the role of a breast-feeding mother or a child-bearing mother. Should I go around protesting that I am deprived and unequal because I can’t do those things? My oldest son couldn’t be a priest (or join the military) because he has Asperger’s Syndrome. The same would apply to my second son because he is bipolar. Overweight or deaf people or those with bad vision cannot be in combat. There are lots of things people can’t do. And there are some things that are gender-exclusive. Why that is regarded automatically as oppression and inequality is one of the mysteries and comic farces of our peculiar age.

I was looking for something a bit deeper—why don’t they have the role? The problem here is rooted in the Bible, in that it only provides such offices to males. Women need not apply—they are not allowed.

Great. So you actually want to learn about why we believe as we do instead of just putting it down and condemning it. That’s a start. Good for you.

Worse, if (as you appear to argue) they have the intellectual chops to perform the roles—what is it specifically about being female bars them from the role?

See the resources listed in the paper above.

If Mary is venerated higher than the Pope, what prevents a female from filling the pope’s role?

The nutshell answer is that Christ was a male, and the priest literally represents Christ in the Mass (at the consecration he is like Christ at the Last Supper). That’s the main reason. To use a rough analogy, if they were to do a movie biography of you, would they get Angelina Jolie to play you, or would they get a guy? And would Angelina have a basis to complain that she didn’t land the role, and cry about how unfair and unjust that is?

1 Peter 3:1 is a particularly troubling verse.

Although spouse abuse was technically forbidden by Roman law, there are hints it occurred with little prohibition unless it was extreme. Augustine mentions seeing bruises on the mothers of his childhood friends. Herodes Atticus had his freedman kick his wife to death, and when prosecuted, got off partially because he claimed he didn’t mean the beating to be that violent. Of course, we know of Nero kicking his own pregnant wife to death.

Wife abuse was not viewed with the same social anathema as today.

That’s right, but such monstrosities were not sanctioned by Christianity.

The verse states, “Wives, in the same way, be submissive (hypotasso) to your husbands…” I agree with you—to understand why it says “in the same way” we need to look to the previous verses. Look for where the author previously talked about a person being hypotasso. (submissive).

Uh-oh. In looking a few verses earlier, we see the author telling slaves to be submissive to their masters. 1 Peter 2:18. Even if they beat the slave when the slave was “doing well.” (agathopieo) 1 Peter 2:20. (Note also, there is no honor for taking a beating if the slave “deserved it.”) Notice that in 1 Peter 3:6, the author equally tells the wife to “do well.” (agathopieo)

Christians don’t like the obvious connection…but there it is. Wives submit to husbands, just like slaves submit to masters. Even when they beat you unjustly for doing well. Nothing about leaving an abusive husband.

Not in that text, but elsewhere, it is clear that the “master” has no New Testament grounds for beating and cruelty:

Ephesians 6:8-9 knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. [9] Masters, do the same to them, and forbear threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Colossians 4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

The wife is an equal, not a slave. Submissiveness is a notion that goes beyond the master-slave relationship. We know that because, as I mentioned before, even Jesus was submissive to his earthly parents and God the Father.

Jesus’ subjection to the Father is seen in such verses as John 14:28: “. . . for my Father is greater than I,” 1 Corinthians 11:3: “. . .the head of Christ {is} God,” and 1 Corinthians 15:28: “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” When the Father is called the “head” of the Son (1 Cor 11:3), this also does not entail any lessening of the equality between the Son and the Father. The Bible also talks about wives being subject to their husbands (1 Pet 3:1,5), even while the two are equals (Gal 3:28, Eph 5:21-22), and indeed, “one flesh” (Matt 19:5-6).

Likewise, one Person of the Godhead can be in subjection to another Person and remain God in essence and substance (Phil 2:6-8). Luke 2:51 says that Jesus was “subject” to Mary and Joseph. Yet no orthodox Christian of any stripe would hold that Jesus was lesser in essence than His earthly parents! The same Greek word for “subject” in Luke 2:51 (hupotasso) is used in 1 Corinthians 15:28, and in 1 Peter 2:18.

I know some apologists attempt to tie 1 Peter 3:1 back to the bit about Jesus, to avoid the problem of the Master/slave comparison, but that doesn’t help, because the verses are discussing Jesus physically suffering unjustly, but still doing his duty. It is the same problem. (and amplifying the extent of the author’s meaning by how much one should submit under how much unjust suffering.)

No; that parallel is more apt because it is immediately prior, and that is how language and syntax works. Moreover, the analogy is more exact and corresponding point-by-point. 1 Peter 2:20 (suffering unjustly) is tied into the next verse, about Jesus:

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Then the parallelism is to:

1) a person suffering heroically and unjustly,

2) bearing witness to others,

3) so that they can start to live a righteous life and be saved in the end:


1 Peter 2:23-24
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. [24] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:1-2 Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, [2] when they see your reverent and chaste behavior.

If Christ is the example, and the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians), then there are no grounds for thinking that a husband can beat his wife, based on the New Testament. I don’t see Jesus going around beating anyone up. Do you?

The analogy you try to make is incomplete, because it doesn’t have element #3 above. The servant who suffers unjustly is “approved” (2:19) and has “God’s approval” (2:20). There is nothing about the master being won over. The parallel there is between Christ in 2:24 and the wife in 3:1. Therefore, the “likewise” applies more to the excerpt about Jesus Christ by virtue of proximity and also the more exact analogy.

Paul expresses the same scenario of the wife helping to save the husband, but he makes it reciprocal: it could be the husband helping to save the unbelieving wife, too:

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. [13] If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. [14] For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. [15] But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. [16] Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

So, nice try, but no cigar.

If the Christian wants to claim sexism is a result of people applying the Bible improperly, I point out 1 Pet. 3:1 and wonder if they are claiming it should be applied “properly.”

I do. I just showed you how.

As to the rest of your fuss, to the extent it applied to me (awww…you quoted a portion of my blog…how sweet of you! :-),

That was you!? What a coincidence!

all I can say is, “Welcome to the Internet!”

Like I said before, I am an idealist who thinks that things can be done better. I think atheists and Christians share rudimentary ethics in common. Logic works the same for both of us. Love of facts and truth need not be different. I refuse to accept the hogwash that passes for “dialogue” on the Internet. I don’t care what the medium is. That is not a sufficient excuse. I’m a writer; an author, and write for a living. Obviously, I think people ought to be able to intelligently express themselves in writing, to be cordial with those who disagree, and to give them the courtesy of addressing their arguments. You ignored my earlier exegetical arguments (as did everyone else) and started in with something entirely different but at least we have some semblance of interaction now (for which I shall be eternally grateful).

You can’t say I didn’t directly address your argument. You may not like my answer (I predict that you won’t!) but you can’t deny that I made one, and that it had substance to it; agree or disagree.

Sometimes people don’t answer all your questions. Sometimes they present information in ways you don’t like. Sometimes you may present information in ways they don’t appreciate.

Yeah, and sometimes one who desires, as I do, a true socratic dialogue (which is as rare as a tax-cutting Democrat) gets sick and tired of that, and can therefore choose to do something else. You came the closest. This latest exchange was actually a fairly decent dialogue. You presented your case and I gave my reply, which I think is adequate to dispose of the charge.

Human differences…they sure make it fascinating.

Yep. My emphasis is on what we have in common, though. That’s why I think Christian-atheist dialogue is actually possible, by agreeing on what we do agree on and proceeding from there, as in all constructive dialogue. Dialogue is a bit more difficult when one enters into it thinking that many (all?) theists are as dumb as flat-earthers, ain’t it? You say that is “the Internet”. I say it is plain dumb and stupid. I don’t care if it is written online or in the sand at the ocean, or in braille or with spray paint. The medium is irrelevant. The opinion is stupid and untrue. That’s “harsh”? It should be. The more silly and foolish and outrageous a statement is, the more appropriate it is to harshly rebuke and refute it.

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For some excellent, in-depth reading on related topics, see:

Good question…did/does God order wives to ‘obey’ their husbands? (Glenn Miller; includes exegesis of 1 Peter 3:1)

Women in the Bible (Glenn Miller, of the superbly helpful Christian Thinktank website)

Good question…Does God condone slavery in the Bible? [Old Testament] (Glenn Miller)

Good question…Does God condone slavery in the Bible? [New Testament] (Glenn Miller)

Also of note is the fact that “servants” in 1 Peter 2:18 is the word oiketes (Strong’s word #3610), or “house-servant” or “domestic” rather than “servant” with the more literal meaning of “slave” (doulos: Strong’s word #1401; translated as “servant” 120 times in the KJV, and often as “slave” in the RSV and NRSV). Oiketes appears only here and in Luke 16:13; Acts 10:7; and Romans 14:4. It is related to oikonomos, from which we get the word “economy” (the root term oikos meaning “home” or “house”). It’s not too much of a stretch to think of oiketes, therefore, as akin to “housewife.”

As Glenn Miller noted, it is never said of the oiketes that he or she “obey” (masters). Wives are not commanded to do that. The word used is “submit.” Since Jesus submits (hupotasso) to Joseph and Mary (creatures that He created) and submits to His Father (with Whom He is equal, in the Bible and Christian theology), obviously that is not a matter of inequality.

Thus, the attempted analogy (slave wife) is already greatly weakened, since it is a house-servant being referred to, rather than an outright slave. Even the latter was not the same in the ancient near east, as it was in the South in the 17th-19th centuries (i.e., chattel slavery). So a one-to-one comparison is not apt or accurate, for this and several other reasons I have noted. Marriage is not a master-slave relationship in Christianity. Miller goes into this in great detail in the two papers listed above.

And I have already shown that the analogy is not just to the oiketes but also to Christ in the section immediately preceding 1 Peter 3:1.

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It’s also instructive to view the entire section of 1 Peter 2-3, in order to see the symmetrical teaching about submission and servanthood. It’s not just about wives, but about everyone (including even Jesus Himself):

1 Peter 2:13-14 (Governments and Institutions) Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, [14] or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.

1 Peter 2:16 (God) . . . live as servants of God.

1 Peter 2:17 (All Men, God, Emperor) Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

1 Peter 2:18 (Servants [i.e., domestics] and Masters) Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing.

1 Peter 2:21, 23-24 (Jesus Serves Mankind and Submits to God the Father) For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. . . . [23] When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. [24] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:1-2 (Wives to Husbands) Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, [2] when they see your reverent and chaste behavior.

1 Peter 3:6 (Sarah to Abraham) as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. . . .

1 Peter 3:7 (Husbands “Honor” Wives, the “Joint Heirs”) Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.

1 Peter 3:8-9, 14 (All Towards All) Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind. [9] Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing. . . . [14] But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

1 Peter 3:15 (Believers to Christ) but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. . . .

1 Peter 3:16-17 (Suffering for the Sake of Others; Turning the Other Cheek) and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. [17] For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong.

1 Peter 3:18 (Christ’s Dying for Mankind was the Supreme Example of Service) For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;

1 Peter 3:21-22 (Jesus Submits to the Father; Angels and “Powers” are Subject to Him) . . . Jesus Christ, [22] who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

The feminists want to have a cow about the terminology of “weaker sex” (“weaker” = asthenees: Strong’s word #772)? Is this yet more biblical male chauvinism and sexism? Hardly. It’s nothing that is not applied to men and masses of people, or even to apostles and to God Himself (!). Like the character trait of servanthood it is also widely extolled, as a positive, not a negative thing. The apostle Paul repeatedly uses it:

Applied to God

1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Applied Humble Origins Used by God for His Purposes

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; [27] but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,

Applied to Paul Himself (Using Sarcasm) as a Laudable Trait

1 Corinthians 4:9-13 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. [10] We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. [11] To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, [12] and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; [13] when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.

Paul uses the cognates astheneo (Strong’s word #770 — in blue below) and asthenia (Strong’s word #769 — in red below) similarly:

1 Corinthians 2:2-5 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. [3] And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; [4] and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, [5] that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 13:3-4, 9 since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. [4] For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God. . . . [9] For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. What we pray for is your improvement.

The author of Hebrews expresses the typically Hebraic and biblical paradox of being strong via weakness (similar to the servant of all being the greatest):

Hebrews 11:32-34 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — [33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, [34] quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

Ephesians, chapters 5 and 6 offers a similar pericope devoted to universal and particular servanthood:

Ephesians 5:1 (Imitate God, as Children) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Ephesians 5:2 (Imitate Christ, Who is God, in Love) And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:10 (Please the Lord) and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:17 (Do God’s Will) Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:21a (Subject to One Another . . . ) Be subject to one another . . .

Ephesians 5:21b (. . . Because of Reverence for Christ) . . . out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:22-23a, 24b, 33b (Wives to Husbands) Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife . . . [24] . . . so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. . . . [33] . . . and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:23b-24a (Church to Christ) . . . as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. [24] As the church is subject to Christ, . . .

Ephesians 5:25 (Husbands to Love Wives as Christ Loved the Church, Dying for Her) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Ephesians 5:28-29a, 33a (Husbands to Love Wives as Their Own Bodies) Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, . . . [33] however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, . . .

Ephesians 5:29b-5:30, 32 (Analogy: Christ Loves the Church, His Body) . . . as Christ does the church, [30] because we are members of his body. . . . [32] This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church;

Ephesians 5:31 (Husband and Wife Are One Flesh) “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Ephesians 6:1-3 (Children to Obey and Honor Parents) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. [2] “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), [3] “that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”

Ephesians 6:4 (Fathers Shouldn’t Provoke Children to Anger) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:5 (Slaves and Masters) Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ;

Ephesians 6:6-8 (Analogy: Serving Christ) not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, [7] rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, [8] knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.

Ephesians 6:9 (Masters Not to Abuse Slaves / Servants, Because of God’s Love) Masters, do the same to them, and forbear threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

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Quick review for our studio audience.

The Bible is a product of books reflecting the cultural norms of their times. Those standards are antiquated and no longer applicable to our current culture. The Bible’s books are neither the demon decried by many skeptics, nor the angel ascribed by many believers. They are simply human works of their time. Unfortunately, some people hold these cultural norms continue to be applicable to our current society, causing some clashes.

We have been discussing one of those clashes—the treatment of women. Specifically, I have focused on women being denied positions in the Catholic Church, and the prescription of 1 Peter 3 not allowing an abused woman to leave her husband.

Pressing on…

Women can’t be bishops, cardinals or popes.

Dave Armstrong,

I asked what prevents women from obtaining these positions. You indicated genders have different roles; something that doesn’t really progress the conversation, leaving us with the question, what prevents women from have the role of bishop, cardinal or pope.

You indicated you were prevented from the role of breast-feeding or child birth by your “role” as a male—but the difference is obvious. You are physically limited from performing those roles. Are you saying there is a physical limitation of women preventing them from being a bishop, cardinal or pope?

[Humorously, the only limitation I could think of was the production of sperm—something women cannot do. Yet because your religion requires bishops, cardinals and popes to be celibate, you take away that possibility by your own mandates!]

I appreciated the articles you linked to—I wondered if you understood it only made your position worse. Look, I was willing to argue the reason these roles were denied women was due to an outdated adherence to the misogyny of authors who wrote almost 2000 years ago. Instead, the articles linked indicated not only was it the misogyny of the Bible, additionally the Church (through Early Church Fathers, traditions and papal declarations) has continually re-affirmed that misogyny over and over and over for the past 2000 years, up to as recently as 1994!

In other words, I was willing to leave it at the Bible, these articles say, “Oh, no—it is much more. We have introduced numerous other ways in addition, and continue to do so to prevent women from being in these roles.”

I didn’t see any physical limitation listed in these articles. However as I read through them quickly, I may have missed it. If I did, please feel free to point it out.

1 Peter 3

As you recently pointed out, the author of 1 Peter is going through a number of prescriptions for the recipients, and from 1 Pet 2:13 – 3:7 is discussing submission to authorities. He starts off talking about submission to governments (2:13-17), then talks about slaves to masters (2:18-20), gives a parenthetical statement about why one should submit—namely Jesus as an example—and concludes with wives submitting to husbands (3:1-7).

[Quick aside. Whether 2:18 is referring to slaves, servants, maids, butlers, groomsmen, landscapers, etc. is quite beside the point. It is clear whatever they are, the master can beat them, even unjustly, and they are to still submit to the master. This curious rabbit trail as to whether they were “servants” or “slaves” misses the forest for the trees—it is NOT about whether they were slaves or servants—it is about their being beaten and remaining submissive.]

The problem, of course, is the author saying, “In the same way, wives need to submit to their husbands, even if they don’t obey the word’ implying even if wives are being beaten (like the slave) they are to submit (like the slave) to their husband (like the master.)

You originally indicated (typical apologetic trick) that “in the same way” was referring to the parenthetical statement on Jesus. This doesn’t help, of course, as Jesus also was beaten and still submitted. So we have the same problem.

But then you point out the article by Glenn Miller that says…EXACTLY WHAT I SAID! He relates 1 Peter 3:1 back to the master/slave situation of 2:18! Exactly what I said. (Otherwise we wouldn’t need this whole discussion about slaves, now would we?)

Thanks for finding an article you apparently subscribe to that supports what I said.

[Another aside. The idea the woman situation correlates to Jesus as compared to Master/slave because of three correlations rather than two is another apologetic trick. Why pick only those correlations? And who says the author is even intending to have whatever has “more” numbers as to what he intends to correlate? ]

Curiously, Glenn Miller attempts to avoid this situation by stating this did not apply to “abusive situations” yet provides no support for this assertion. There is no evidence for me to address, as none is presented. (Note, he does refer to a situation where a woman divorced her husband for repeated infidelities, and correctly states women were technically allowed, under the law, to divorce their husbands for almost any reason, including abuse. But there are numerous situations where biblical books give greater restrictions than those actions allowed by law, and Glenn Miller fails to make any demonstration why this, too, couldn’t be the same.)

Dave Armstrong—there really isn’t anything more to say. I think its pretty clear; doesn’t mean it will persuade someone set against it. That’s fine—what makes horse races.

You are welcome to have the last word. Unless you say something new or that lurkers are interested in a response, I am done.

[Name]’s final post (that [name] loved and lauded to the skies) left me the choice between being an advocate of wife-beating in practice and in the Bible, or being a dishonest, special pleading sophist, because I vehemently deny that what [name] claims is clear biblical teaching is what the Bible teaches at all. When those are the choices one is given (the two cages or rubber rooms they are forced into), constructive discussion has long since ceased to exist, because the opponent in effect “demands” that one be an evil or at the least, deliberately dishonest person.

True discussion becomes literally impossible under those loaded conditions. I refuse the choice and deny and reject both things. [Name] thinks I can’t do that. Great; then [name] has exploded any possible discussion. His choice (and [name]’s), not mine. I think even he knew that because he said he was done in the thread, and that insinuates that he believes I can’t possibly give any reply that would be worth any more of his time, because, well, I’m either violently evil or dishonest, and his position is self-evidently true (or at least infallible after he states and argues it). Makes perfect sense if one adopts the absurd and fact-torturing premises involved . . . But the inconvenient fact is that I don’t accept them.

I have to argue with the teenagers I teach everyday as I try to teach them reliable vs. unreliable sources in science discussions. I was not going to do it with a grown man, supposedly educated, in my leisure time.

I often get egotistical students who like to monopolize in the classroom. I have to restrict them to a response/question limit of 3/class period. It works well. Organizers can we have a “Dave Armstrong free” thread or at least a limited one?

And no, I don’t want to tell any member not to post. Dave is welcome to post here. Dave also is courteous enough that if you tell him you’d prefer he not participate in a thread that you start I know he’d respect that.

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Related Reading

Is Catholic Male-Only Priesthood Inherently Sexist? [2007]

Woman-Hating Catholic Church?: Reply to an Atheist [10-1-15]

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Dialogue with a Traditionalist Regarding Deaconesses (vs. Dr. Peter Kwasniewski) [5-13-16]
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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and two children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
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My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2700 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
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See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
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(originally posted on 9-20-10; abridged a bit on 2-12-20)

Photo credit: St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897): Doctor of the Catholic Church [public domain]

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July 16, 2019

[see the Master List of all twelve installments]

Paolo Pasqualucci (signer of three of the endless reactionary-dominated “corrections” of Pope Francis), a Catholic and retired professor of philosophy of the law at the University of Perugia, Italy, wrote “‘Points of Rupture’ of the Second Vatican Council with the Tradition of the Church – A Synopsis” (4-13-18), hosted by the infamous reactionary site, One Peter Five. It’s an adaptation of the introduction to his book Unam Sanctam – A Study on Doctrinal Deviations in the Catholic Church of the 21st Century.

Pope Benedict XVI, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, stated that the authority of Vatican II was identical to that of the Council of Trent:

It must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points . . .

Whoever accepts Vatican II, as it has clearly expressed and understood itself, at the same time accepts the whole binding tradition of the Catholic Church, particularly also the two previous councils . . . It is likewise impossible to decide in favor of Trent and Vatican I but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so-called ‘traditionalism,’ also in its extreme forms. Every partisan choice destroys the whole (the very history of the Church) which can exist only as an indivisible unity.

To defend the true tradition of the Church today means to defend the Council. It is our fault if we have at times provided a pretext (to the ‘right’ and ‘left’ alike) to view Vatican II as a ‘break’ and an abandonment of the tradition. There is, instead, a continuity that allows neither a return to the past nor a flight forward, neither anachronistic longings nor unjustified impatience. We must remain faithful to the today of the Church, not the yesterday or tomorrow. And this today of the Church is the documents of Vatican II, without reservations that amputate them and without arbitrariness that distorts them . . .

I see no future for a position that, out of principle, stubbornly renounces Vatican II. In fact in itself it is an illogical position. The point of departure for this tendency is, in fact, the strictest fidelity to the teaching particularly of Pius IX and Pius X and, still more fundamentally, of Vatican I and its definition of papal primacy. But why only popes up to Pius XII and not beyond? Is perhaps obedience to the Holy See divisible according to years or according to the nearness of a teaching to one’s own already-established convictions? (The Ratzinger Report, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1985, 28-29, 31)

For further basic information about the sublime authority of ecumenical councils and Vatican II in particular, see:

Conciliar Infallibility: Summary from Church Documents [6-5-98]

Infallibility, Councils, and Levels of Church Authority: Explanation of the Subtleties of Church Teaching [7-30-99]

The Bible on Papal & Church Infallibility [5-16-06]

Authority and Infallibility of Councils (vs. Calvin #26) [8-25-09]

The Analogy of an Infallible Bible to an Infallible Church [11-6-05; rev. 7-25-15; published at National Catholic Register: 6-16-17]

“Reply to Calvin” #2: Infallible Church Authority [3-3-17]

“On Adhesion to the Second Vatican Council” (Msgr. Fernando Ocariz Braña, the current Prelate of Opus DeiL’Osservatore Romano, 12-2-11; reprinted at Catholic Culture) [includes discussion of VCII supposedly being “only” a “pastoral council”]

Pope Benedict on “the hermeneutic of reform, of renewal within continuity” (12-22-05)

The words of Paolo Pasqualucci, from his article, noted above, will be in blue:

*****

7.   Paragraph 11.2 of the Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation Dei Verbum may be interpreted as if implying the denial of the dogma of the absolute inerrancy of the Sacred Texts, because it affirms that “the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.” The expression “without error” can in fact be interpreted as referring only to the “truth” revealed “for our salvation” [nostrae salutis causa]; that is, only regarding religious and moral precepts only.

Here my work is done for me, in an article by Fr. Brian W. Harrison (himself a traditionalist), entitled “The Truth and Salvific Purpose of Sacred Scripture, According to Dei Verbum, Article 11″ (Roman Theological Forum, July 1995). He thoroughly demolishes the above interpretation of the text, in this marvelous piece of traditional defense of Vatican II.

His stellar and in-depth work on this question is a wonderful illustration of a maxim that I would apply to this entire series of mine: “Yes, there were theological liberals / modernists / dissidents at Vatican II, but God saw to it that their nefarious efforts to undercut Catholic tradition and orthodoxy failed, and that the final texts were orthodox.” Here is a prime example of that very thing. God was and is in control, and the liberals were a tiny minority.

All of the words below are his (I won’t bother to indent everything), excepting the very end, where I cite footnote 5 from Dei Verbum 11.2; footnotes will be in green, and incorporated into the flow of the text. Line breaks imply a break in the text:

*****

In the Vatican II Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, we find in article 11 a relatively short but very vital sentence regarding the consequences of the Bible’s divine inspiration. It is significant that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in reproducing this sentence, places it in the context of a section (“Inspiration and the Truth of Sacred Scripture,” Nos. 105-108) which begins by stressing the Bible’s divine authorship over its human authorship. The first words in No. 105 are italicized: “God is the author of Sacred Scripture.” The sentence of Dei Verbum, §11, which interests us is then quoted in No. 107: “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”

[ . . .]

In other words, the Council is saying that our salvation is the purpose God had in mind in giving us biblical truth – and this is certainly what the Church has always taught.

[ . . .]

The other last-minute change agreed on by the Commission is not only less obvious, but has been sadly neglected in the commentaries of liberal post-conciliar theologians. Nevertheless, this amendment – or rather, group of amendments – is of vital importance. Further quotations from the Fathers and the Church’s Magisterium were included in footnote 5 at the end of the key sentence, 10 in order to provide an authentic interpretation.

[Footnote 10: This is note 31 in W.M. Abbott (ed.), The Documents of Vatican II (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967), p. 119.]

These quotations, as will be shown, make it clearer than ever that Vatican II cannot legitimately be understood as being open to the view which the German-speaking bishops had previously advocated, namely, that Scripture can err in matters of science and history. I say “clearer than ever,” because, even before these final additions were made, the quotations already included in footnote 5 from the great biblical encyclicals Providentissimus Deus of Leo XIII (1893) and Divino afflante Spiritu of Pius XII (1943) plainly rule out Scriptural errors in these or any other matters. These already-existing footnote references are worth considering. From Divino afflante Spiritu the following passage had already been quoted:

The first and greatest care of Leo XIII was to set forth the teaching on the truth of the Sacred Books and to defend it from attack. Hence with grave words did he proclaim that there is no error whatsoever if the sacred writer, speaking of things of the physical order, “went by what sensibly appeared” as the Angelic Doctor says, speaking either “in figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even among the most eminent men of science.” For “the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately – the words are St. Augustine’s – the Holy Spirit, Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things – that is, the intimate constitution of visible things – which are in no way profitable to salvation”; which principle “will apply to cognate sciences, and especially to history,” that is, by refuting, “in a somewhat similar way the fallacies of the adversaries and defending the historical truth of Sacred Scripture from their attacks.” Nor is the sacred writer to be taxed with error, if “copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible,” or, “if the real meaning of a passage remains ambiguous.” Finally, it is absolutely wrong and forbidden “either to narrow inspiration to certain passages of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred,” since divine inspiration “not only is essentially incompatible with error but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and constant faith of the Church. 11

[Footnote 11: Encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu, 30 September 1943, EB 539 (emphasis added). This is §3 of the English translation used here, found in Rome and the Study of Scripture (Grail Publications, 1953), pp. 79-107, which is reproduced in Claudia Carlen (ed.), The Papal Encyclicals 1939-1958 (McGrath Publishing Co., 1981), pp. 65-79. I have altered this translation in one expression, rendering intimam adspectabilium rerum constitutionem more literally as “the intimate constitution of visible things.”]

It is certainly arguable that by the last sentence in this quotation Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius XII who is quoting and confirming him, are in effect proclaiming that the absolute freedom from error of Sacred Scripture – including its treatment of science and history – is an infallible, de fide teaching of the ordinary Magisterium. 12

[Footnote 12: Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, §25.]

The footnote to Dei Verbum, §11, which we are considering also referred already – that is, before the final amendments – to the paragraph EB 124, from Providentissimus Deus, which, in addition to the points quoted by Pius XII in the above passage of Divino afflante Spiritu, contains another admonition which is also highly pertinent to the conciliar debates over the difficulties raised by apparent errors in scientific or historical matters:

For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which he had in saying it – this system cannot be tolerated. 13

[Footnote 13: This is from §20 of the English translation in The Tablet, 83 (January 6, 1894), reproduced in Carlen (ed.), op. cit., volume with 1878-1903 encyclicals, pp. 325-339. Before Leo XIII published his magna carta for biblical studies, the papal Magisterium had never intervened explicitly regarding the precise extent of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, with the result that there was honest uncertainty about this even among a few great and orthodox theologians. No less than Cardinal Newman, in 1883, became involved in a famous debate in the pages of The Nineteenth Century, after venturing the opinion that the least important statements in Scripture might not be divinely inspired, and hence, not immune from error. An Irish bishop-theologian, Dr. Healy, rebutted Newman on the basis of the consensus of the Fathers and Doctors. Today nobody has heard of Healy, but it was recognized after the publication of Providentissimus Deus that on this point he had been right and Newman wrong. Cf. J. MacRory, “The Nature and Extent of Inspiration,” The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol. XVI, March 1895, pp. 193-208.]

What, now, were the additional authoritative statements included in the final version of the Vatican II footnote which made it even clearer, as we have said, that the Council was not to be understood as allowing for the view that Scripture can err on certain matters? As regards science, the main additional reference was to the paragraph EB 121 of Providentissimus Deus, part of which had already been cited indirectly in the footnote by virtue of its inclusion in the paragraph EB 539 from Divino afflante Spiritu which we have reproduced above. But, as well as what Pius XII had selected from that paragraph of his predecessor’s encyclical, it contains a passage in which Leo XIII confirms St. Augustine’s explicit negation of the possibility of any scientific error in Scripture:

No real dissension will ever arise between the scientist and the theologian, provided each stays within the proper bounds of his discipline, carefully observing St. Augustine’s admonition ‘not to assert rashly as known what is in fact unknown.’ But if some dispute should arise, the same Doctor sums up the rule to be followed by the theologian: ‘If they have been able to demonstrate some truth of natural science with solid proofs, let us show that it is not contrary to our Scriptures; but if they maintain anything in any of their treatises which is contrary to Scripture (that is, to the Catholic Faith), let us believe without hesitation that it is completely false, and, if possible, find a way of refuting it.’ 14

[Footnote 14: “Nulla quidem theologum inter et physicum vera dissensio intercesserit, dum suis uterque finibus se contineant, id caventes, secundum S. Augustini monitum, ‘ne aliquid temere et incognitum pro cognito asserant.’ Sin tamen dissenserint, quemadmodum se gerat theologus, summatim est regula ab eodem oblata: ‘Quidquid, inquit, ipsi de natura rerum veracibus documentis demonstrare potuerint, ostendamus nostris Litteris non esse contrarium; quidquid autem de quibuslibet suis voluminibus his nostris Litteris, idest catholicæ fidei, contrarium protulerint, aut aliqua etiam facultate ostendamus, aut nulla dubitatione credamus esse falsissimum‘” (EB 121 – present writer’s translation).]

The other added reference from Providentissimus Deus is the passage EB 126-127. In the first of these two paragraphs Pope Leo cites Augustine and Gregory the Great to the effect that God takes full responsibility for everything written in Scripture, so that “those who claim that anything false can be contained in authentic passages of the Sacred Books either pervert the Catholic notion of divine inspiration, or make God Himself the author of error.” 15

[Footnote 15: “Consequitur, ut qui in locis authenticis Librorum sacrorum quidpiam falsi contineri posse existiment, ii profecto aut catholicam divinæ inspirationis notionem pervertant, aut Deum ipsum erroris faciant auctorem” (Providentissimus DeusEB 126 – present writer’s translation).]

In the second paragraph, EB 127, the Pope refers to an obvious corollary of this absolute freedom from error, namely, the necessary absence of self-contradiction in Scripture. Vatican II thus makes its own Leo XIII’s appeal for exegetes to continue following the example of the Fathers and Doctors in painstakingly striving to reconcile apparent contradictions which might be found in the Bible. This is further unmistakable evidence that the Council’s teaching on the truth of Scripture does not allow for the existence of historical errors in the Bible, because the majority of apparent or alleged contradictions within Scripture are in fact to be found in its historical books. The key sentence reads:

All the Fathers and Doctors were so utterly convinced that the original versions of the divine Scriptures are absolutely immune from all error that they laboured with no less ingenuity than devotion to harmonize and reconcile those many passages which might seem to involve some contradiction or discrepancy (and they are nearly always the same ones which today are thrust at us in the name of modern scholarship). 16

[Footnote 16: “Atque adeo Patribus omnibus et Doctoribus persuasissimum fuit, divinas Litteras, quales ab hagiographis editæ sunt, ab omni omnino errore esse immunes, ut propterea non pauca illa, quæ contrarii aliquid vel dissimile viderentur afferre (eademque fere sunt quæ nomine novæ scientiæ nunc obiiciunt) non subtiliter minus quam religiose componere inter se et conciliare studuerint” (EB 127 – present writer’s translation). It is sad to note that the accuracy of Pope Leo’s parenthesized remark was unwittingly verified by the spokesman for a whole group of bishops at Vatican II (cf. n. 4 above).]

[. . .]

In short, when we take into account the official explanations of the text, Pope Paul VI’s intervention and the reason for it, and the significance of the footnotes, the true meaning of Dei Verbum, §11, becomes clear. We cannot take the reference to “salvation” as implying that some things affirmed by the inspired writers in Scripture are not there “for the sake of our salvation,” and so may contain errors. Rather, the Council means to reaffirm the perennial teaching of the Popes, Fathers and Doctors, namely, that every affirmation of those writers – on any subject whatever – has God for its principal author, and is therefore endowed with both the qualities under discussion: necessary truth and salvific relevance. Even seemingly unimportant statements of fact (many historical details in the Old Testament, for instance) are there “for the sake of our salvation”: not because, when taken in isolation, they always tell us something we must know or practice in order to gain eternal life (faith and morals or “revelation” in the strict sense); but because cumulatively they make up larger narratives which teach us the story of God’s interaction with his chosen people, culminating in the sending of His Son as the incarnate Savior. In this sense, all biblical history is salvation history.
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[. . .]
*
[I]t goes without saying that the teaching of article 11 of Dei Verbum on biblical inerrancy needs to be considered in conjunction with what is said in article 12 about the importance of discerning the inspired writer’s true intention and the literary genre he is employing. If there are solid arguments drawn from literary criticism to show that a non-historical genre is being used in a particular book or passage – for instance, the expression of didactic teaching in the garb of narrative prose – then, clearly, not all the individual propositions in such prose have to be defended as historically true. However, this principle of ‘non-historical genres,’ like the use of narcotic drugs, is something which should be resorted to only sparingly and in small doses if it is not to be transformed rapidly from a procedure which promotes health into one which destroys it.
*
[. . .]
*
Closely related to the question of literary genres is that of what Vatican II means, precisely, by emphasizing that it is only what the biblical writers truly “affirm” which is guaranteed to be free from error. “Affirm” as opposed to what? Certainly the Council cannot mean (as some commentators seem to suppose) that only what the inspired authors “affirm,” as opposed to what they merely “state,” is immune from the possibility of error. The absolute and categorical rejection of all error which Leo XIII and Pius XII insist upon, along with their insistence that inspiration cannot be “narrowed to certain passages,” in effect rules out the opinion that, while an inspired author cannot indeed err when he makes an affirmation (assertio), he may lapse into error when he makes a mere statement (enuntiatio); that is, when he writes that something is, was, or will be the case with less emphasis or deliberation than is characteristic of a full-fledged affirmation. For God is equally the author of all Scripture, and He can no more be the author of erroneous statements than of erroneous affirmations. God does not – indeed, cannot – make minor mistakes in passing, or when He is speaking of matters of secondary importance. . . .
*
[I]n the paragraph immediately preceding that sentence on biblical inerrancy whose meaning we are discussing in this essay, the Council recalls that the Magisterium has explicitly disqualified, as a proposed means of solving apologetic problems, any appeal to an alleged distinction between a biblical author’s “affirmations” and his mere “statements.” In clarifying what we are to understand by the de fide truth that the books of the Old and New Testaments, “entire and in all their parts … have God as their author,” the conciliar Fathers refer us in the footnote to two decisions (of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1915 and the Holy Office in 1923) which state that, according to “the Catholic dogma of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Sacred Scriptures, … everything affirmed, stated, or implied by the sacred writers must be held as affirmed, stated or implied by the Holy Spirit.” 49
*
[Footnote 49: “… dogmate item catholico de inspiratione et inerrantia sacrarum Scripturarum, quo omne id, quod hagiographus asserit, enuntiat, insinuat, retineri debet assertum, enuntiatum, insinuatum a Spiritu Sancto.” Cf. DS 3629, EB 420 (415 in 1994 edn.) and EB 499, respectively, cited in n. 1 to Dei Verbum, 11, (emphasis added in translation). (The latter passage cites and reaffirms the former.) Apart from these strictly dogmatic considerations, the practical exegetical difficulty of determining with any certainty which of an author’s propositions should be considered “affirmed,” and which merely “stated,” would in any case render this distinction wide open to abuse. To the addictive habit of ‘genre abuse’ among Catholic exegetes we should soon have to add that of ‘affirmation abuse.’]
*
This is also implicit in Vatican II’s express assertion in the main text (quoting Leo XIII) that although the inspired writers acted as “true authors,” they wrote down “all those things and only those things which God wanted.” And God could no more “want” a false “statement” to be written down than a false “affirmation.” . . .
*
[W]hen physical or historical matters are in question, one cannot require from the Bible, as a condition of its inerrancy, the same kind of precision in detail, or exactitude in terminology, as one would require in a textbook of natural science or history – particularly a modern academic text.
*
[. . .]
*
The teaching of Vatican Council II in Dei Verbum, 11, is thus in complete harmony with the traditional Catholic understanding of the revealed truth that the books of Scripture are inspired by God and free from all error. When properly understood, this teaching also clarifies the hermeneutical criteria which need to be kept in mind in order to defend this dogma in its traditional sense. It is unfortunate and ironic that some scholars who are quick to claim the backing of Vatican II for their opinion that the biblical authors sometimes err (at least in their ‘statements’ if not in their ‘affirmations’ or ‘teachings’) are found to defend this opinion by appealing to that very text which anticipates and refutes it: the text, that is, which reminds us that, since biblical truth was given to us “for the sake of our salvation,” and not in order to teach us natural science or history for their own sakes, Sacred Scripture cannot fairly be judged to be in error when it sometimes presents historical or scientific truth in a less complete, less detailed, more popular, or more imprecise (i.e., merely approximate) fashion than would be acceptable in modern texts dedicated formally to those disciplines.
*****
Footnote 5 from Dei Verbum 11.2:
5. cf. St. Augustine, “Gen. ad Litt.” 2, 9, 20:PL 34, 270-271; Epistle 82, 3: PL 33, 277: CSEL 34, 2, p. 354. St. Thomas, “On Truth,” Q. 12, A. 2, C.Council of Trent, session IV, Scriptural Canons: Denzinger 783 (1501). Leo XIII, encyclical “Providentissimus Deus:” EB 121, 124, 126-127. Pius XII, encyclical “Divino Afflante Spiritu:” EB 539.
*
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Photo credit: Page from the Epistle to Titus in a Gutenberg Bible (c. 1455). The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford [Wikimedia Commons /  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license]
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May 24, 2019

I made a statement: “Atheist knowledge of the Bible and exegesis (generally speaking) is abominable.”

Atheist “Grimlock” replied: Fun fact: If the average atheist’s knowledge of the Bible is abominable, the average Christian seems to be even worse off. (At least in the US.) [source from Pew Research]

I do love me some empiricism.

This is a major reason why I do what I do: I’m an educator. But at least Christians approach the Bible with respect, which makes it a lot more likely that they will figure out its true meaning: a lot more than those who approach it like a butcher approaches a hog, or a lumberjack, a tree. So I reject a view that holds that they are more ignorant of the Bible (as an entire class) than atheists. It’s a joke. And I know so for certain, from my own long experience in dialogue.

People have differing levels of understanding in all human groups. What is objectionable is the atheist who comes in, guns blazing, thinking they know so much more about the Bible than Christians do. Atheists generally pride themselves for being the “rational” and “scientific” people and constantly imply that Christians are neither. Hundreds of examples of that exist in my own dialogues alone.

Lastly, many atheists (especially the ones who love to pick at and mock the Bible and claim that it is filled with alleged “contradictions”) come from fundamentalist Christian backgrounds (I never did, myself). Invariably, when they attempt to interpret the Bible, they do it with that inherited fallacious and ignorant way of doing so, from fundamentalism (hyper-literalism and virtual ignoring of linguistic, contextual, cultural, and literary genre factors). Thus, they generally make two major mistakes:

1) They assume that all Christians are anti-intellectual fundamentalists, as they once were.

2) They assume that anti-intellectual hyper-literal, “wooden” biblical interpretation is the only sort that exists, or is the “mainline” approach.

Related Reading:

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

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

“Former Christian” Atheists & Theological Ignorance [7-21-10]

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

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

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

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

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

Alleged “Bible Contradictions”: Most Are Actually Not So [6-8-17]

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

Reason, Science, & Logic Not the Exclusive Possessions of Atheists (+ Double Standards in How Christian Conversions are Treated, Compared to the Often Chilly Reception of Critiques of Atheist Deconversion Stories / Atheist “Exegesis” of the “Doubting Thomas” Passage) [7-24-17]

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

Atheist Botched Biblical Exegesis: Example #4,974 [7-23-17; expanded on 7-3-18]

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

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

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

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

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

Biblical Knowledge of Atheist “DagoodS” as a Christian (Specifically, the Biblical [and Patristic] Teaching on Abortion) [12-13-10; expanded on 3-14-19]

Reply to Flimsy Atheist Biblical “Exegesis” #145,298 [4-5-19]

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

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(originally on Facebook, 7-5-18)

Photo credit: The Dunce (1886), by Harold Copping (1863-1932) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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April 5, 2019

An atheist mentioned Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties and commented, “How could God’s word have ‘difficulties?’ What on earth was difficult about God’s revelation to mankind [?]. I mean, he’s God, right?”

*****

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. The Bible itself teaches that authoritative teachers are necessary to properly understand it.

3. 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.

4. Most of the rationale of explaining “Bible difficulties” is not from a perspective that they are real difficulties, but rather, to show that purported difficulties really aren’t such. They are usually based on illogical thinking or unfamiliarity with biblical genre, etc. Many alleged biblical “contradictions” simply aren’t so, by the rules of logic.

5. The Foreword of the book by Kenneth S. Kantzer explains its rationale: “[T]he faith of some troubled souls is hindered by misunderstanding the Scripture. They are confused by what seems to them to be false statements or self-contradiction. We need, therefore, to clear away such false obstacles to faith.” (p. 8)

*****

In another discussion, I wrote:

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, that is the Supreme Court, In Christianity, it is the Catholic Church, following a consistent tradition of interpretation through the centuries. Protestants reject that authoritative interpretation and adopt sola Scriptura, and so create for themselves all sorts of self-defeating problems and unsolvable dilemmas (I’ve written three books about that: one / two / three).

It’s not that the Bible is profoundly unclear. I have always found it to be clear on any given topic I explored. But one has to have a basic knowledge of how to interpret it. The ancient Hebrews thought about things very differently than the Greeks, and that way of thinking must be learned and understood.

The Bible is crystal-clear about Jesus being God, and the Holy Trinity. I compiled several hundred prooftexts about that in the early 80s. yet there are many religious groups that reject the Trinity.

That’s why we need authoritative interpretation and the notion of orthodoxy: to have a way to determine truths and stop all the relativistic competing interpretations.

The Bible, though inspired revelation, was still conveyed to us through the work of human writers.

My position is that it can be understood relatively easily for the most part by the common man (with just some basic knowledge of interpretation pointers), but that (for various reasons), human beings in fact have come to disagree about some of the major doctrines in it, and thus, a final say is needed, as in many areas of life. The buck’s gotta stop somewhere.

There were always authoritative teachers in the Jewish and Catholic and Orthodox traditions. It was only Protestantism that rejected that.

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(originally 7-17-17 on Facebook)

Photo credit: My book, published by Catholic Answers in 2012. See full book and purchase information.

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February 5, 2019

This is an installment of a series of replies (see the Introduction and Master List) to much of Book IV (Of the Holy Catholic Church) of Institutes of the Christian Religion, by early Protestant leader John Calvin (1509-1564). I utilize the public domain translation of Henry Beveridge, dated 1845, from the 1559 edition in Latin; available online. Calvin’s words will be in blue. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

Related reading from yours truly:

Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin (2010 book: 388 pages)

A Biblical Critique of Calvinism (2012 book: 178 pages)

Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love” (2010 book: 187 pages; includes biblical critiques of all five points of “TULIP”)

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IV, 19:4-13

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Book IV

CHAPTER 19

OF THE FIVE SACRAMENTS, FALSELY SO CALLED. THEIR SPURIOUSNESS PROVED, AND THEIR TRUE CHARACTER EXPLAINED.
OF CONFIRMATION.

*

4. Nature of confirmation in ancient times. The laying on of hands.

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It was anciently customary for the children of Christians, after they had grown up, to appear before the bishop to fulfil that duty which was required of such adults as presented themselves for baptism. These sat among the catechumens until they were duly instructed in the mysteries of the faith, and could make a confession of it before bishop and people. The infants, therefore, who had been initiated by baptism, not having then given a confession of faith to the Church, were again, toward the end of their boyhood, or on adolescence, brought forward by their parents, and were examined by the bishop in terms of the Catechism which was then in common use. In order that this act, which otherwise justly required to be grave and holy, might have more reverence and dignity, the ceremony of laying on of hands was also used. Thus the boy, on his faith being approved, was dismissed with a solemn blessing. Ancient writers often make mention of this custom. Pope Leo says (Ep. 39), “If any one returns from heretics, let him not be baptised again, but let that which was there wanting to him—viz. the virtue of the Spirit, be conferred by the laying on of the hands of the bishop.” Our opponents will here exclaim, that the name of sacrament is justly given to that by which the Holy Spirit is conferred. But Leo elsewhere explains what he means by these words (Ep. 77); “Let not him who was baptised by heretics be rebaptised, but be confirmed by the laying on of hands with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, because he received only the form of baptism without sanctification.” 

It may be granted that Pope St. Leo the Great was talking about the special case of the Donatists, not all Catholics.

Jerome also mentions it (Contra Luciferian). Now though I deny not that Jerome is somewhat under delusion when he says that the observance is apostolical, he is, however, very far from the follies of these men. And he softens the expression when he adds, that this benediction is given to bishops only, more in honour of the priesthood than from any necessity of law. 

Here is what St. Jerome wrote (it’s always good to read a thing rather than a mere report of a thing: especially from a hostile party):

Don’t you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the invocation of the Holy Spirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law, as for instance the practice of dipping the head three times in the layer, and then, after leaving the water, of tasting mingled milk and honey in representation of infancy; and, again, the practices of standing up in worship on the Lord’s day, and ceasing from fasting every Pentecost; and there are many other unwritten practices which have won their place through reason and custom. So you see we follow the practice of the Church, although it may be clear that a person was baptized before the Spirit was invoked. (Against the Luciferians, 8 [A.D. 379] )

Here are the opinions of many Church fathers on confirmation:

St. Hippolytus

The bishop, imposing his hand on them, shall make an invocation, saying, ‘O Lord God, who made them worthy of the remission of sins through the Holy Spirit’s washing unto rebirth, send into them your grace so that they may serve you according to your will, for there is glory to you, to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit, in the holy Church, both now and through the ages of ages. Amen.’ Then, pouring the consecrated oil into his hand and imposing it on the head of the baptized, he shall say, ‘I anoint you with holy oil in the Lord, the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.’ Signing them on the forehead, he shall kiss them and say, ‘The Lord be with you.’ He that has been signed shall say, ‘And with your spirit.’ Thus shall he do to each. (The Apostolic Tradition 21–22 [A.D. 215] )

St. Cyprian

It is necessary for him that has been baptized also to be anointed, so that by his having received chrism, that is, the anointing, he can be the anointed of God and have in him the grace of Christ. (Letters 7:2 [A.D. 253] )

Pope Cornelius

And when he was healed of his sickness he did not receive the other things which it is necessary to have according to the canon of the Church, even the being sealed by the bishop. And as he did not receive this, how could he receive the Holy Spirit? (Fabius; fragment in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 6, 43:14 [A.D. 251] )

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

After you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, there was given chrism, the antitype of that with which Christ was anointed, and this is the Holy Spirit. But beware of supposing that this is ordinary ointment. For just as the bread of the Eucharist after the invocation of the Holy Spirit is simple bread no longer, but the body of Christ, so also this ointment is no longer plain ointment, nor, so to speak, common, after the invocation. Further, it is the gracious gift of Christ, and it is made fit for the imparting of his Godhead by the coming of the Holy Spirit. This ointment is symbolically applied to your forehead and to your other senses; while your body is anointed with the visible ointment, your soul is sanctified by the holy and life-giving Spirit. Just as Christ, after his baptism, and the coming upon him of the Holy Spirit, went forth and defeated the adversary, so also with you after holy baptism and the mystical chrism, having put on the panoply of the Holy Spirit, you are to withstand the power of the adversary and defeat him, saying, ‘I am able to do all things in Christ, who strengthens me’. (Catechetical Lectures, 21:1, 3–4 [A.D. 350] )

Serapion

[Prayer for blessing the holy chrism:] ‘God of powers, aid of every soul that turns to you and comes under your powerful hand in your only-begotten. We beseech you, that through your divine and invisible power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you may effect in this chrism a divine and heavenly operation, so that those baptized and anointed in the tracing with it of the sign of the saving cross of the only-begotten . . . as if reborn and renewed through the bath of regeneration, may be made participants in the gift of the Holy Spirit and, confirmed by this seal, may remain firm and immovable, unharmed and inviolate. . . .’ (The Sacramentary of Serapion 25:1 [A.D. 350] )

St. Ephraem

[T]he oil is the sweet unguent with which those who are baptized are signed, being clothed in the armaments of the Holy Spirit. (On Joel 2:24 [ante A.D. 373] )

Pacian

He would likewise be permitting this to the Apostles alone? Were that the case, He would likewise be permitting them alone to baptize, them alone to baptize, them alone to Confer the Holy Spirit . . . If, then, the power both of Baptism and Confirmation, greater by far the charisms, is passed on to the bishops. (Epistle to Sympronian, 1:6 [A.D. 392] )

Pope Innocent I

That this power of a bishop,however,is due to the bishops alone,so that they either sign or give the Paraclete the Spirit . . . For to presbyters it is permitted to anoint the baptized with chrism whenever they baptize . . . but (with chrism) that has been consecrated by a bishop; nevertheless (it is) not (allowed) to sign the forehead with the same oil; that is due to the bishops alone when they bestow the Spirit, the Paraclete.(To Decentius, 3 [A.D. 416] )

St. Augustine

Or when we imposed our hand upon these children, did each of you wait to see whether they would speak with tongues? and when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so perverse of heart as to say “These have not received the Holy Ghost?”
(Tractate 6 on the Gospel of John).

For more, see:

Confirmation (Catholic Answers)

Confirmation (Joe Gallegos)

“Confirmation” (Catholic Encyclopedia)
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This laying on of hands, which is done simply by way of benediction, I commend, and would like to see restored to its pure use in the present day.

That’s a start. There is plenty of biblical support for it (as there is for all the elements of confirmation).

5. This kind of confirmation afterwards introduced. It is falsely called a sacrament.

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A later age having almost obliterated the reality, introduced a kind of fictitious confirmation as a divine sacrament. They 

“They” being at least ten Church fathers, including St. Augustine, as I have documented . . .

feigned that the virtue of confirmation consisted in conferring the Holy Spirit, for increase of grace, on him who had been prepared in baptism for righteousness, and in confirming for contest those who in baptism were regenerated to life. This confirmation is performed by unction, and the following form of words: “I sign thee with the sign of the holy cross, and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” All fair and venerable. But where is the word of God which promises the presence of the Holy Spirit here? Not one iota can they allege. 

Really? That’s odd that Calvin could think that. I guess he doesn’t know his Bible very well:

1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward.

Acts 8:17-20 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!

Acts 9:17 So Anani’as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 13:2-4 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleu’cia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them;

How will they assure us that their chrism is a vehicle of the Holy Spirit? 

Just as it was for Samuel, when he anointed David. Anointing with oil is often associated with some sacred purpose in Holy Scripture (Ex 28:41; Lev 16:32; 1 Sam 10:1; Is 61:1; Lk 4:18; Acts 10:38).

We see oil, that is, a thick and greasy liquid, but nothing more. 

That’s the problem: Calvin too often denies the supernatural power of God and the power of physical things to convey grace. It is a Docetic tendency (the antipathy to matter as a means of grace).

“Let the word be added to the element,” says Augustine, “and it will become a sacrament.” Let them, I say, produce this word if they would have us to see anything more in the oil than oil. But if they would show themselves to be ministers of the sacraments as they ought, there would be no room for further dispute. The first duty of a minister is not to do anything without a command. Come, then, and let them produce some command for this ministry, and I will not add a word. If they have no command they cannot excuse their sacrilegious audacity. 

All the elements of confirmation are amply supported by Scripture, as I have shown in a long paper. Here is a summary of what Scripture supports:

1) The Holy Spirit can “descend” upon persons.

2) The Holy Spirit can be “given” as a “gift” to persons by God the Father.

3) The Holy Spirit can be “received” by persons.

4) The Holy Spirit can be “poured out” to persons.

5) The Holy Spirit can “fall on” persons.

6) A person can be “baptized” with the Holy Spirit.

7) A person can be “filled” by the Holy Spirit.

8) A person can “receive” or be “filled with” the Holy Spirit by means of the human
instrumentality of laying on of hands.

9) A person can be “sealed for the day of redemption” by the Holy Spirit, as a “guarantee of our inheritance.”

10) A person can be anointed with oil in order to be commissioned or set apart or consecrated.

11) A person can be anointed with oil in order for the “Spirit of the Lord” to come “mightily upon” them.

12) Authoritative persons (popes, apostles, prophets) preside over this giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit.

13) And these authoritative persons in the Church do this by the laying on of hands (Peter, John, Paul).

14) And they do this by anointing with oil (Samuel and David).

15) We know from other evidences in Scripture that bishops are the successors of the apostles.

For this reason our Saviour interrogated the Pharisees as to the baptism of John, “Was it from heaven, or of men?” (Mt. 21:25). If they had answered, Of men, he held them confessed that it was frivolous and vain; if Of heaven, they were forced to acknowledge the doctrine of John. Accordingly, not to be too contumelious to John, they did not venture to say that it was of men. Therefore, if confirmation is of men, it is proved to be frivolous and vain; if they would persuade us that it is of heaven, let them prove it.

I have done so. The Church has long since done so. But since when is Church authority or the authority of the Church fathers of any use to Calvin if only he disagrees with anything he sees from either source?

6. Popish argument for confirmation answered.

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They indeed defend themselves by the example of the apostles, who, they presume, did nothing rashly. In this they are right, nor would they be blamed by us if they showed themselves to be imitators of the apostles. But what did the apostles do? Luke narrates (Acts 8:15, 17), that the apostles who were at Jerusalem, when they heard that Samaria had received the word of God, sent thither Peter and John, that Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, who had not yet come upon any of them, they having only been baptised in the name of Jesus; that after prayer they laid their hands upon them, and that by this laying on of hands the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit.

How is that a disproof of confirmation? It is exactly the same thing: laying on of hands in order for a person to receive the Holy Spirit. The state of life of a young person coming of age is analogous in this instance to a new convert.

Luke repeatedly mentions this laying on of hands. I hear what the apostles did, that is, they faithfully executed their ministry. It pleased the Lord that those visible and admirable gifts of the Holy Spirit, which he then poured out upon his people, should be administered and distributed by his apostles by the laying on of hands. I think that there was no deeper mystery under this laying on of hands, but I interpret that this kind of ceremony was used by them to intimate, by the outward act, that they commended to God, and, as it were, offered him on whom they laid hands. 

As usual, Calvin wishes to water down the power and essence of the physical act and means, just as he does with the Eucharist and baptism.

Did this ministry, which the apostles then performed, still remain in the Church, it would also behove us to observe the laying on of hands: but since that gift has ceased to be conferred, to what end is the laying on of hands? 

For confirmation and extreme unction and ordination.

Assuredly the Holy Spirit is still present with the people of God; without his guidance and direction the Church of God cannot subsist. For we have a promise of perpetual duration, by which Christ invites the thirsty to come to him, that they may drink living water (John 7:37). But those miraculous powers and manifest operations, which were distributed by the laying on of hands, have ceased. 

According to whom? Certainly not the Bible. If Calvin thinks that the laying on of hands no longer conveys the Spirit or ordination or healing, then he has a huge problem with the Bible, and a lack of faith. The problem is altogether his, not ours. Here again, he rather spectacularly exhibits his radical lack of faith in the miraculous.

They were only for a time. 

Scripture nowhere states that they were to cease. When folks try to come up with some, any biblical rationale for this notion, it is some of the worst eisegesis imaginable.

For it was right that the new preaching of the gospel, the new kingdom of Christ, should be signalised and magnified by unwonted and unheard-of miracles. 

Indeed; they were greater then for this purpose, but they did not cease.

When the Lord ceased from these, 

How do we know that He did? Calvin assumes what he needs to prove. He argues against the miraculous as atheists do today.

he did not forthwith abandon his Church, but intimated that the magnificence of his kingdom, and the dignity of his word, had been sufficiently manifested. In what respect then can these stage-players say that they imitate the apostles? 

In every respect or aspect or element that confirmation involves.

The object of the laying on of hands was, that the evident power of the Holy Spirit might be immediately exerted. This they effect not. 

Not every passage of the reception of the Holy Spirit indicates spectacular manifestations. The Day of Pentecost itself was a very specific, one-time occasion: the point after which all Christians were to be filled with the Holy Spirit. St. Paul’s own case (Acts 9:17-18) was not spectacular. In Acts 8:17-18, some sign is perhaps implied by Simon’s reaction, but nothing is explicitly stated.

Nor must we conclude that because this primitive sort of confirmation was often accompanied by tongues in the apostolic period, that it must always be at all times. We may believe that miracles were more manifest in apostolic times without having to necessarily discount the essence of the rites and ceremonies with which they were associated. The signs and wonders are (quite arguably) not essential to the rite.

Why then do they claim to themselves the laying on of hands, which is indeed said to have been used by the apostles, but altogether to a different end?

It’s not an altogether “different end”: the goal in both cases was receiving the Holy Spirit. Calvin’s arguments are often proportionately weak, to the degree that he has an innate hostility to the thing he is critiquing. His arguments on this score lack basic logic and cogency.

7. Argument confirmed by the example of Christ. Absurdity and impiety of Papists in calling their oil the oil of salvation.

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The same account is to be given were any one to insist that the breathing of our Lord upon his disciples (John 20:22) is a sacrament by which the Holy Spirit is conferred. But the Lord did this once for all, and did not also wish us to do it. 

Catholics don’t disagree with that, which is why we don’t imitate the practice.

In the same way, also, the apostles laid their hands, agreeably to that time at which it pleased the Lord that the visible gifts of the Spirit should be dispensed in answer to their prayers; not that posterity might, as those apes do, mimic the empty and useless sign without the reality. 

It is Calvin who absurdly claims that the practice is an “empty and useless sign.” Just because he lacks faith in what is demonstrated by biblical example, and in God’s power, doesn’t mean that everyone has to be so faithless. Why should we have to suffer from his limitations and shortcomings?

But if they prove that they imitate the apostles in the laying on of hands (though in this they have no resemblance to the apostles, except it be in manifesting some absurd false zeal), 

Laying on of hands has all sorts of biblical and apostolic warrant. We’ve seen passages above regarding the Holy Spirit. The same applies to ordination (Acts 6:1-6; 13:1-4; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). I have no idea what argument Calvin thinks he is making here.

where did they get their oil which they call the oil of salvation? Who taught them to seek salvation in oil? 

1 Samuel 16:13, with Samuel and David, would be a clear example of something like that. Anointing and salvation are sometimes conjoined. For example:

Habakkuk 3:13 Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, for the salvation of thy anointed. . . .

Priests in the Old Covenant were anointed for the purpose of consecration (Ex 28:41; 40:15; Lev 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22; 8:12; 16:32; Num 3:3; 35:25). Even the tabernacle and the altar were anointed (Lev 8:10-11; Num 7:1, 10, 84, 88). The righteous (by strong implication, the saved) are anointed in some sense by God (Ps 45:7; Heb 1:9; 1 Jn 2:20), as are God’s “servants” (Ps 89:20). Prophets (pretty holy people; certainly among the saved) are described in the same way (Ps 105:15). Jesus Himself was described as “anointed . . . with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:38). So there is a definite correlation there.

Who taught them to attribute to it the power of strengthening? 

The Bible writers. Unfortunately, that seems insufficient for Calvin.

Was it Paul, who draws us far away from the elements of this world, 

He does?

and condemns nothing more than clinging to such observances? 

Where?

This I boldly declare, not of myself, but from the Lord: Those who call oil the oil of salvation abjure the salvation which is in Christ, deny Christ, and have no part in the kingdom of God. 

This doesn’t follow. Scripture calls baptism the water of salvation (Jn 3:5; Acts 2:38-41; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; cf. Mk 16:16). What’s the huge difference?

Oil for the belly, and the belly for oil, but the Lord will destroy both. For all these weak elements, which perish even in the using, have nothing to do with the kingdom of God, which is spiritual, and will never perish. 

More antipathy to matter . . . Christ’s blood was matter. In Romans 5:9 St. Paul said that “we are now justified by his blood.” In Romans 3:25 he refers to “an expiation by his blood.” Ephesians 2:13 is similar: ” in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.” In Hebrews 9:14 it states that “the blood of Christ” will “purify your conscience from dead works.” Also, 1 Peter 1:18-19:

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, [19] but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

The incarnation involved matter. What does Calvin have against it? He is reviving remnants of the ancient heresy of gnosticism. Where does he get off saying that spirituality is all about spirit and not about matter, as if the latter is inherently a bad thing and can never be mixed with the former? His thought is radically unbiblical.

What, then, some one will say, do you apply the same rule to the water by which we are baptised, and the bread and wine under which the Lord’s Supper is exhibited? 

Calvin does, because for him, neither is salvific, even though Scripture says that both are. He would rather place his own arbitrary tradition above Scripture and Sacred, Apostolic Tradition.

I answer, that in the sacraments of divine appointment, two things are to be considered: the substance of the corporeal thing which is set before us, and the form which has been impressed upon it by the word of God, and in which its whole force lies. In as far, then, as the bread, wine, and water, which are presented to our view in the sacraments, retain their substance, Paul’s declaration applies, “meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them” (l Cor. 6:13). For they pass and vanish away with the fashion of this world. But in as far as they are sanctified by the word of God to be sacraments, they do not confine us to the flesh, but teach truly and spiritually.

This is clear (and convincing) as mud, like most of Calvin’s sacramental thinking . . .

8. Papistical argument, that Baptism cannot be complete without Confirmation. Answered.

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But let us make a still closer inspection, and see how many monsters this greasy oil fosters and nourishes. Those anointers say that the Holy Spirit is given in baptism for righteousness, and in confirmation, for increase of grace, that in baptism we are regenerated for life, and in confirmation, equipped for contest. And, accordingly, they are not ashamed to deny that baptism can be duly completed without confirmation. 

Salvation being a lifelong process, and one of growth of sanctification, we would fully expect this. One doesn’t simply rest on baptism, as if it were like a Protestant one-time altar call, which saves for eternity.

How nefarious! Are we not, then, buried with Christ by baptism, and made partakers of his death, that we may also be partners of his resurrection? 

Yes, but relationship with God has to grow and be maintained, as indicated in many passages, especially from St. Paul.

This fellowship with the life and death of Christ, Paul interprets to mean the mortification of our flesh, and the quickening of the Spirit, our old man being crucified in order that we may walk in newness of life (Rom 6:6). 

Then why does Paul continue to talk of an ongoing suffering for Christ?:

Romans 8:17 (KJV) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

2 Corinthians 1:5-7 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. [6] And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. [7] And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

2 Corinthians 4:10-11 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. [11] For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Galatians 6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Colossians 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

What is it to be equipped for contest, if this is not? But if they deemed it as nothing to trample on the word of God, why did they not at least reverence the Church, to which they would be thought to be in everything so obedient? 

Calvin talking about respect for Church tradition is about like a shark counseling respect for a dead fish that he is about to devour.

What heavier charge can be brought against their doctrine than the decree of the Council of Melita? “Let him who says that baptism is given for the remission of sins only, and not in aid of future grace, be anathema.” 

We don’t deny that it imparts ongoing graces, so this is a non sequitur.

When Luke, in the passage which we have quoted, says, that the Samaritans were only “baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16), but had not received the Holy Spirit, he does not say absolutely that those who believed in Christ with the heart, and confessed him with the mouth, were not endued with any gift of the Spirit. He means that receiving of the Spirit by which miraculous power and visible graces were received. 

This is eisegesis. The text doesn’t inform us of this little detail that Calvin dreams up.

Thus the apostles are said to have received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), whereas Christ had long before said to them, “It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Mt. 10:20). 

The disciples are obviously in a different category than a group of Samaritans. So Calvin’s attempted analogy doesn’t fly. In any event, the disciples acted very differently after the Day of Pentecost. They went from a disorganized, demoralized, cowardly group, to bold proclaimers of the Gospel, who turned the world upside down and (save John) died for their faith as martyrs.

Ye who are of God see the malignant and pestiferous wile of Satan. What was truly given in baptism, is falsely said to be given in the confirmation of it, that he may stealthily lead away the unwary from baptism. 

More illogical “either/or” thinking and gross caricature of Catholic doctrine . . .

Who can now doubt that this doctrine, which dissevers the proper promises of baptism from baptism, and transfers them elsewhere, is a doctrine of Satan? 

Anyone who can read a Bible minus Calvin’s jaded, heretical interpretive lens . . .

We have discovered on what foundation this famous unction rests. The word of God says, that as many as have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ with his gifts (Gal. 3:27). 

That”s right. That is regeneration. But Calvin denies that. So who is he to lecture us about the benefits of baptism. We believe there are far more than he believes himself. No one could fail to be amazed by the inner contradictions and lack of cogency in his views on baptism and all the sacraments.

The word of the anointers says that they received no promise in baptism to equip them for contest (De Consecr. Dist. 5, cap. Spir. Sanct). The former is the word of truth, the latter must be the word of falsehood. I can define this baptism more truly than they themselves have hitherto defined it— viz. that it is a noted insult to baptism, the use of which it obscures—nay, abolishes: that it is a false suggestion of the devil, which draws us away from the truth of God; or, if you prefer it, that it is oil polluted with a lie of the devil, deceiving the minds of the simple by shrouding them, as it were, in darkness.

It is the stated lack of faith in God’s power and the miraculous (as Calvin has expressly stated) that leads men into darkness, not confirmation, which gives them a fuller measure of the Holy Spirit.

9. Argument, that without confirmation we cannot be fully Christians. Answer.

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They add, moreover, that all believers ought, after baptism, to receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, that they may become complete Christians, inasmuch as there never can be a Christian who has not been chrismed by episcopal confirmation. These are their exact words. I thought that everything pertaining to Christianity was prescribed and contained in Scripture. 

Why would he think that? We believe that all Catholic doctrines can be verified by Scripture either directly or indirectly, or by deduction (material sufficiency), and that no Catholic doctrine is out of harmony with Scripture, or contradicts it, but we don’t believe that all things are explicitly laid out in Scripture (as Protestants habitually do, in their belief in sola Scriptura). And we believe this because Scripture itself teaches us this:

John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

John 21:25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

1 Corinthians 11:2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.

Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

2 Timothy 1:13-14 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; [14] guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Now I see that the true form of religion must be sought and learned elsewhere than in Scripture. 

No; it must be in conformity with Scripture. The Church is the interpreter of Christian doctrine, in line with Sacred Tradition and apostolic succession. It is Calvin who has consistently failed to offer biblical support for his novelties, and failed to grapple with Catholic support for our theology. Not far above, for example, we saw how Calvin stated that miracles have ceased. certainly such a notion is nowhere found in Scripture. There is no indication whatever that miracles were to cease altogether or in large part.

Yet Calvin believes this, with no biblical warrant. With confirmation, to the contrary, there is a great deal of biblical support, of all its particulars and elements. They don’t have to all be together in one place to be believed. Even the biblical proof for the Holy Trinity is not of such an explicit nature, that it can be found all in one place, wrapped up in a neat little package. Deductions and much deeper study have to be made.

Divine wisdom, heavenly truth, the whole doctrine of Christ, only begins the Christian; it is the oil that perfects him. By this sentence are condemned all the apostles and the many martyrs who, it is absolutely certain, were never chrismed, the oil not yet being made, besmeared with which, they might fulfil all the parts of Christianity, or rather become Christians, which, as yet, they were not. 

It is blatantly obvious that Calvin has no inkling of the place of sacramentalism in the Christian life. He only begrudgingly accepts baptism and the Eucharist as sacraments, but even then, only in a gutted, redefined sense. So obviously, he will fail to grasp confirmation and the other four sacraments. He pits matter against spirit, so these rites make no sense to him, and he can only put them down. What he retains is made only an empty symbolic gesture.

Though I were silent, they abundantly refute themselves. How small the proportion of the people whom they anoint after baptism! Why, then, do they allow among their flock so many half Christians, whose imperfection they might easily remedy? 

Corruptions in practice do not disprove the doctrine itself.

Why, with such supine negligence, do they allow them to omit what cannot be omitted without grave offence? Why do they not more rigidly insist on a matter so necessary, that, without it, salvation cannot be obtained unless, perhaps, when the act has been anticipated by sudden death? When they allow it to be thus licentiously despised, they tacitly confess that it is not of the importance which they pretend.

Because (insofar as real and not exaggerated abuses occurred) men are sinners. This is why we need grace and the sacraments in the first place: to aid us poor sinners and help us to be saved and to get to heaven. God thought more than just preaching was required to do this. Supernatural power was also necessary.

10. Argument, that the Unction in confirmation is more excellent than Baptism. Answer.
*
Lastly, they conclude that this sacred unction is to be held in greater veneration than baptism, because the former is specially administered by the higher order of priests, whereas the latter is dispensed in common by all priests whatever (Distinct. 5, De his vero). What can you here say, but that they are plainly mad in thus pluming themselves on their own inventions, while, in comparison with these, they carelessly contemn the sacred ordinances of God? Sacrilegious mouth! dare you oppose oil merely polluted with your fetid breath, and charmed by your muttered words, to the sacrament of Christ, and compare it with water sanctified by the word of God? 

How eloquent. Calvin could at least condemn all the fathers who agree with the Church, if he insists on demonizing confirmation. But that would be too honest; too real, and would go against his pretensions of having the fathers always on his side. Before we go further, however, let us look at an official Catholic declaration on confirmation, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, rather than going by Calvin’s nonsense and vain imagination of what he falsely believes the sacrament to be:

1303 From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

– it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;
– it unites us more firmly to Christ;
– it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
– it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
– it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.[St. Ambrose, De myst. 7, 42]

What terrible, sacrilegious beliefs! Has anyone ever observed such outrageous impiety?! About baptismal graces, the same source states:

VII. THE GRACE OF BAPTISM

1262 The different effects of Baptism are signified by the perceptible elements of the sacramental rite. Immersion in water symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal. Thus the two principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit.65

For the forgiveness of sins . . .

1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.66 In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.

1264 Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati); since concupiscence “is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.”67 Indeed, “an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”68

“A new creature”

1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,”69 member of Christ and co-heir with him,70 and a temple of the Holy Spirit.71

1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
– enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
– giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
– allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.

Incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ

1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: “Therefore . . . we are members one of another.”72 Baptism incorporates us into the Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”73

65 Cf. Acts 2:38; Jn 3:5.
66 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1316.
67 Council of Trent (1546): DS 1515.
68 2 Tim 2:5.
69 2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:4; cf. Gal 4:5-7.
70 Cf. 1 Cor 6:15; 12:27; Rom 8:17.
71 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.
72 Eph 4:25.
73 1 Cor 12:13.

Thus it can readily be observed that Catholicism is not denigrating baptism in any way, shape, or form, over against confirmation. We feel no need so absurdly pit one thing against another, as Calvin so often has a great need to do, for some odd and inexplicable reason. Confirmation (so the Church teaches) is not even strictly necessary for salvation; nor is baptism incomplete without it.
*
Hence the Catechism states in #1306: ” without Confirmation and Eucharist, Baptism is certainly valid and efficacious . . .” Once again, then, we see how Calvin has distorted what Catholics believe. He wouldn’t be Calvin if he didn’t do so, and anti-Catholicism would not be the irrational, slanderous thing that it is.

But even this was not enough for your improbity: you must also prefer it. Such are the responses of the holy see, such the oracles of the apostolic tripod. 

I don’t see any documentation. Would it put Calvin out to provide that once in a blue moon?

But some of them have begun to moderate this madness, 

Nothing is more “madness” than falsehoods, because the devil is the father of lies. How often he is ultimately behind Calvin’s thought has been undeniably evident throughout this critique. But I don’t accuse him of the knowing, deliberate deception that he constantly accuses Catholics of.

which, even in their own opinion, was carried too far (Lombard. Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 7, c. 2). 

Lombard taught that there are seven sacraments. If indeed he thought there were excesses in confirmation, then that could only be in practice, since he accepted it in and of itself, and since in this same section he stated that it was instituted by the Holy Spirit through the instrument of the apostles (see, Catholic Encyclopedia“Confirmation”). That hardly bolsters Calvin’s antipathy to the sacrament.

It is to be held in greater veneration, they say, not perhaps because of the greater virtue and utility which it confers, but because it is given by more dignified persons, and in a more dignified part of the body, the forehead; or because it gives a greater increase of virtue, though baptism is more effectual for forgiveness. But do they not, by their first reason, prove themselves to be Donatists, who estimate the value of the sacrament by the dignity of the minister? 

No, because Catholic statements of this sort are invariably nuanced and meant in a specific sense. Those who neither accept nor understand Catholic thought often then misinterpret what is being stated. No doubt that is what is occurring presently.

Grant, however, that confirmation may be called more dignified from the dignity of the bishop’s hand, still should any one ask how this great prerogative was conferred on the bishops, what reason can they give but their own caprice? 

When the Council of Trent proclaimed definitively on the sacrament of confirmation, it did not appear to make it superior to baptism at all. It offered just three canons on the question, but provided fourteen on baptism.

The right was used only by the apostles, who alone dispensed the Holy Spirit. Are bishops alone apostles? Are they apostles at all? 

Bishops are the successors of the apostles, as can be shown from the Bible itself.

However, let us grant this also; why do they not, on the same grounds, maintain that the sacrament of blood in the Lord’s Supper is to be touched only by bishops? Their reason for refusing it to laics is, that it was given by our Lord to the apostles only. If to the apostles only, why not infer then to bishops only? But in that place, they make the apostles simple Presbyters, whereas here another vertigo seizes them, and they suddenly elect them bishops. 

I would suspect that it is because of the one-time solemnity of confirmation as a re-dedication of one’s life to God, and because of the uniqueness of receiving the Holy Spirit in fuller measure. Bishops use the ceremony of laying on of hands to ordain priests (the power of ordination), so perhaps that is the rationale here: the laying on of hands by a bishop is also the means of the sacrament of confirmation, where one receives further power from the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, Ananias was not an apostle, and yet Paul was sent to him to receive his sight, to be baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17).

And to have his sins remitted (Acts 22:16: a fact that Calvin conveniently omits). Doctrines develop. We wouldn’t expect to see every particular later adopted by the Church to be explicitly present in the Bible itself. If that is true even for Christology and the theology of the Trinity, how much more should we expect it to be the case for sacramental rites?

We see Church authority and Sacred Tradition and bishops in Scripture. We see the “right” of the Church to set policy, in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). This is all that is necessary for the Church to later determine that bishops alone administer this sacrament (unless they delegate the responsibility to a priest).

I will add, though cumulatively, if, by divine right, this office was peculiar to bishops, why have they dared to transfer it to plebeian Presbyters, as we read in one of the Epistles of Gregory? (Dist. 95, cap. Pervenis).

Because that is within their power and prerogative, just as Jesus delegated His authority to His apostles and said, “he who receives you receives me” (Matt 10:40; cf. Jn 13:20). If even Jesus can delegate His authority through representatives, certainly bishops can do the same, as they have far less authority than Jesus in the first place. But by analogy and Jesus’ own example, they can do so.

11. Answer continued. Argument, that confirmation has greater virtue.

*

How frivolous, inept, and stolid the other reason, that their confirmation is worthier than the baptism of God, 

I deny the premise; Calvin has not sufficiently established that the Church even teaches this. I have provided strong indications that it does not at all.

because in confirmation it is the forehead that is besmeared with oil, and in baptism the cranium. As if baptism were performed with oil, and not with water! I take all the pious to witness, whether it be not the one aim of these miscreants to adulterate the purity of the sacraments by their leaven. I have said elsewhere, that what is of God in the sacraments, can scarcely be got a glimpse of among the crowd of human inventions. If any did not then give me credit for the fact, let them now give it to their own teachers. Here, passing over water, and making it of no estimation, they set a great value on oil alone in baptism. We maintain, against them, that in baptism also the forehead is sprinkled with water, in comparison with which, we do not value your oil one straw, whether in baptism or in confirmation. 

So now Calvin denigrates oil, as if somehow it has less worth or value in and of itself than water? I suppose it is as silly and expected as any of his other numerous false dichotomies.

But if any one alleges that oil is sold for more, I answer, that by this accession of value any good which might otherwise be in it is vitiated, so far is it from being lawful fraudulently to vend this most vile imposture. They betray their impiety by the third reason, when they pretend that a greater increase of virtue is conferred in confirmation than in baptism. By the laying on of hands the apostles dispensed the visible gifts of the Spirit. In what respect does the oil of these men prove its fecundity? 

By scriptural testimony.

But have done with these guides, who cover one sacrilege with many acts of sacrilege. It is a Gordian knot, which it is better to cut than to lose so much labour in untying.

In other words, split off from whatever we disagree with, causing schism. That is Calvin’s and Luther’s and Zwingli’s and the Anabaptists and the English “Reformers'” solution, as if such a thing can be sanctioned to the slightest degree from Holy Scripture, which everywhere condemns division and schism.

12. Argument from the practice of antiquity. Augustine’s view of confirmation.

*

When they see that the word of God, and everything like plausible argument, fail them, they pretend, as usual, that the observance is of the highest antiquity, and is confirmed by the consent of many ages. 

This, in fact, is true, as has been shown.

Even were this true, 

It is true (which is probably why Calvin expends little energy trying to refute the patristic evidence: he knows it is a hopeless endeavor).

they gain nothing by it. 

This is great sophistry: knowing something is the case (so that no argument can be made against it), one simply acts as if it doesn’t matter, anyway, if it is true.

A sacrament is not of earth, but of heaven; not of men, but of God only. They must prove God to be the author of their confirmation, if they would have it to be regarded as a sacrament. 

That is easily done by Scripture, where all of the essential components of confirmation are evident. Since God is the ultimate author of Scripture, this shows that it is in compliance with His will.

But why obtrude antiquity, seeing that ancient writers, whenever they would speak precisely, nowhere mention more than two sacraments? 

This is an extraordinary claim, since it is easily refuted. The claim is that only baptism and the Eucharist are referred to as sacraments by the fathers. St. Augustine refutes this himself (if we must get legalistic about use of the actual word “sacrament”):

[T]here remains in the ordained persons the Sacrament of Ordination; and if, for any fault, any be removed from his office, he will not be without the Sacrament of the Lord once for all set upon him, albeit continuing unto condemnation. (On the Good of Marriage, 24:32 [A.D. 401] )

He uses the word also of Holy Matrimony:

Undoubtedly the substance of the sacrament is of this bond, so that when man and woman have been joined in marriage they must continue inseparably as long as they live, . . . (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:10:11 [A.D. 419] )

In marriage, however, let the blessings of marriage be loved: offspring, fidelity, and the sacramental bond. . . . The sacramental bond, which they lose neither through separation nor through adultery, this the spouses should guard chastely and harmoniously. (Ibid., 1:17:19)

Perhaps St. Augustine was given to imprecision. In any event, Calvin got his facts wrong. His own favorite Church father puts the lie to his claim.

Were the bulwark of our faith to be sought from men, we have an impregnable citadel in this, that the fictitious sacraments of these men were never recognised as sacraments by ancient writers. 

We have seen quite otherwise. The proof’s in the pudding.

They speak of the laying on of hands, but do they call it a sacrament? Augustine distinctly affirms that it is nothing but prayer (De Bapt. cont. Donat. Lib. 3 cap. 16). 

In this section, Augustine uses the word “sacrament” in a broader sense; nevertheless, in context, he agrees exactly with what Catholics mean by the sacrament of confirmation (all its essential components):

1) The Holy Spirit is “given.”

2) The Holy Spirit is received by the laying on of hands.

3) This reception occurs in the Catholic Church only.

4) The reception need not be accompanied by miracles.

Here is the complete section 16 from the Schaff (Protestant) translation of the Church fathers:

But when it is said that “the Holy Spirit is given by the imposition of hands in the Catholic Church only, I suppose that our ancestors meant that we should understand thereby what the apostle says, “Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” For this is that very love which is wanting in all who are cut off from the communion of the Catholic Church; and for lack of this, “though they speak with the tongues of men and of angels, though they understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though they have the gift of prophecy, and all faith, so that they could remove mountains, and though they bestow all their goods to feed the poor, and though they give their bodies to be burned, it profiteth them nothing.” But those are wanting in God’s love who do not care for the unity of the Church; and consequently we are right in understanding that the Holy Spirit may be said not to be received except in the Catholic Church. For the Holy Spirit is not only given by the laying on of hands amid the testimony of temporal sensible miracles, as He was given in former days to be the credentials of a rudimentary faith, and for the extension of the first beginnings of the Church. For who expects in these days that those on whom hands are laid that they may receive the Holy Spirit should forthwith begin to speak with tongues? but it is understood that invisibly and imperceptibly, on account of the bond of peace, divine love is breathed into their hearts, so that they may be able to say, “Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” But there are many operations of the Holy Spirit, which the same apostle commemorates in a certain passage at such length as he thinks sufficient, and then concludes: “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.” Since, then, the sacrament is one thing, which even Simon Magus could have; and the operation of the Spirit is another thing, which is even often found in wicked men, as Saul had the gift of prophecy; and that operation of the same Spirit is a third thing, which only the good can have, as “the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:” whatever, therefore, may be received by heretics and schismatics, the charity which covereth the multitude of sins is the especial gift of Catholic unity and peace; nor is it found in all that are within that bond, since not all that are within it are of it, as we shall see in the proper place. At any rate, outside the bond that love cannot exist, without which all the other requisites, even if they can be recognized and approved, cannot profit or release from sin. But the laying on of hands in reconciliation to the Church is not, like baptism, incapable of repetition; for what is it more than a prayer offered over a man?

Let them not here yelp out one of their vile distinctions, that the laying on of hands to which Augustine referred was not the confirmatory, but the curative or reconciliatory. His book is extant and in men’s hands; if I wrest it to any meaning different from that which Augustine himself wrote it, they are welcome not only to load me with reproaches after their wonted manner, but to spit upon me. 

Spitting is unnecessary; all I need do is ask readers to see if the above contradicts my summation of it.

He is speaking of those who returned from schism to the unity of the Church. He says that they have no need of a repetition of baptism, for the laying on of hands is sufficient, that the Lord may bestow the Holy Spirit upon them by the bond of peace. But as it might seem absurd to repeat laying on of hands more than baptism, he shows the difference: “What,” he asks, “is the laying on of hands but prayer over the man?” 

Indeed it is; so what? He is teaching that the Spirit is received in a special sense in this manner. I don’t see Calvin retaining any such ceremony or sacrament. So why does he think Augustine (who believed in all seven sacraments) supports his case?

That this is his meaning is apparent from another passage, where he says, “Because of the bond of charity, which is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, without which all the other holy qualities which a man may possess are ineffectual for salvation, the hand is laid on reformed heretics” (Lib. 5 cap. 23).

That doesn’t overcome what has been established above. It may not be confirmation as we know it in every minute particular, but it is similar enough to be seen as corroborating evidence for the general principle. That is the case (in fact, usually the case) for many doctrines in the fathers; it is nothing by any means unique to confirmation. St. Augustine, in this additional section of On Baptism; Against the Donatists, that Calvin refers to, makes reference to a letter from St. Cyprian (to Pompeius).

The editor (probably Philip Schaff) even mentions in a footnote: “Cyprian, in the laying on of hands, appears to refer to confirmation.” So even though the same editor doubts, like Calvin, that St. Augustine refers to confirmation in this portion, he contends that another father over a hundred years earlier, did do so. Yet Calvin insists that it was a nonexistent rite in the early Church.


St. Cyprian’s letter referred to (Epistle LXXIII: to Pompey) provides (more than once) an explicit sanction of something altogether like confirmation:

Or if they attribute the effect of baptism to the majesty of the name, so that they who are baptized anywhere and anyhow, in the name of Jesus Christ, are judged to be renewed and sanctified; wherefore, in the name of the same Christ, are not hands laid upon the baptized persons among them, for the reception of the Holy Spirit? Why does not the same majesty of the same name avail in the imposition of hands, which, they contend, availed in the sanctification of baptism? For if any one born out of the Church can become God’s temple, why cannot the Holy Spirit also be poured out upon the temple? For he who has been sanctified, his sins being put away in baptism, and has been spiritually reformed into a new man, has become fitted for receiving the Holy Spirit; since the apostle says, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” He who, having been baptized among the heretics, is able to put on Christ, may much more receive the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent. Otherwise He who is sent will be greater than Him who sends; so that one baptized without may begin indeed to put on Christ, but not to be able to receive the Holy Spirit, as if Christ could either be put on without the Spirit, or the Spirit be separated from Christ. (5)

But further, one is not born by the imposition of hands when he receives the Holy Ghost, but in baptism, that so, being already born, he may receive the Holy Spirit, even as it happened in the first man Adam. For first God formed him, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For the Spirit cannot be received, unless he who receives first have an existence. But as the birth of Christians is in baptism, while the generation and sanctification of baptism are with the spouse of Christ alone, who is able spiritually to conceive and to bear sons to God, where and of whom and to whom is he born, who is not a son of the Church, so as that he should have God as his Father, before he has had the Church for his Mother? (7)

13. The ancient confirmation very praiseworthy. Should be restored in churches in the present day.

*

I wish we could retain the custom, which, as I have observed, existed in the early Church, before this abortive mask of a sacrament appeared. It would not be such a confirmation as they pretend, one which cannot even be named without injury to baptism, but catechising by which those in boyhood, or immediately beyond it, would give an account of their faith in the face of the Church. And the best method of catechising would be, if a form were drawn up for this purpose, containing, and briefly explaining, the substance of almost all the heads of our religion, in which the whole body of the faithful ought to concur without controversy. 

Catholics (and Lutherans) are known for their catechisms, not Calvinists. But of course, the entire confirmation process is of this nature, too, insofar as there is usually a great deal of instruction associated with it.

A boy of ten years of age would present himself to the Church, to make a profession of faith, would be questioned on each head, and give answers to each. If he was ignorant of any point, or did not well understand it, he would be taught. Thus, while the whole Church looked on and witnessed, he would profess the one true sincere faith with which the body of the faithful, with one accord, worship one God. 

In other words, Calvin, typically, can comprehend only verbal, rational instruction. He is lost to mystery, sacrament, and the supernatural. Everything is in his head only. So we have the instruction and the power and miracle of the Holy Spirit coming in fuller power, whereas Calvin wants to have only the former and not the latter. In so doing he takes away the very power that will help the budding disciple carry out his resolve and walk with God, learned in classes of systematic theology.

Were this discipline in force in the present day, it would undoubtedly whet the sluggishness of certain parents, who carelessly neglect the instruction of their children, as if it did not at all belong to them, but who could not then omit it without public disgrace; there would be greater agreement in faith among the Christian people, and not so much ignorance and rudeness; some persons would not be so readily carried away by new and strange dogmas; in fine, it would furnish all with a methodical arrangement of Christian doctrine.

That’s all fine and dandy, but it is not the essence of confirmation, which is the coming in greater power of the Holy Spirit, equipping the saints for ministry.

***

(originally 12-17-09)

Photo credit: Historical mixed media figure of John Calvin produced by artist/historian George S. Stuart and photographed by Peter d’Aprix: from the George S. Stuart Gallery of Historical Figures archive [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

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December 12, 2018

Lousy Atheist Exegesis Example #5672

*****

Words of “DagoodS” words will be in blue.

* * * * *

If I’ve seen this tendency in atheist “exegesis” once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. I have noted over and over in my critiques of atheism how our non-believing friends cannot for the life of them approach the Bible with fairness and objectivity.

They will see the slightest difference in two texts and assert “contradiction.” They will blithely, with complete arbitrariness, assert later interpolation or mythical, imaginary scenes made up or cynically interjected for partisan/polemical purposes. They will casually claim that a biblical writer was lying through his teeth: without any shred of hard evidence that this is the case. Anything but accept the biblical texts at face value . . .

The following is an absolutely classic example. It come from my friend “DagoodS”: whom I have met twice in person. We get along fine and seem to even like each other. I have nothing against the man personally. But I have much against the way he exegetes the Bible, and the massive illogical progressions he makes in his assumptions, arguments, and conclusions drawn from same. My analysis is not a personal condemnation; it is a logical examination; an exercise of reason and critical scrutiny.

DagoodS plays his favorite “see how the Bible contradicts itself for the thousandth time?” game in a post called “Independent Witness in Gospel of John – Part 2” (11-8-10). He starts out asserting the cynical conclusion he wrongly thinks he has demonstrated in his article:

How does the Gospel of John differ from the other three canonical Gospels?

The simple fact: these accounts contradict each other. They contain different details (including different statements, additional items, and fewer items), as well as a general demonstration of increased mythology. . . . 

These contradictions are instructive on four points: . . . 

The more important the issue, the greater we scrutinize the motive behind the contradiction. 

Alright; so he believes there are contradictions in John, over against the Synoptic Gospels, and he adds the nice editorial touch of “increased mythology” as well. Now, let’s look at the example of Joseph of Arimathea: one that he thinks is evidence for his conclusion of logical “contradiction,” and see how compelling his case is. First, let’s look at the four relevant passages that he brings to bear (RSV):

Matthew 27:57-60 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathe’a, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. [58] He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. [59] And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, [60] and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed.

Mark 15:43-36 Joseph of Arimathe’a, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. [44] And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. [45] And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. [46] And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

Luke 23:50-53 Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathe’a. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, [51] who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. [52] This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. [53] Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid.

John 19:38-42 After this Joseph of Arimathe’a, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body. [39] Nicode’mus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight. [40] They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. [41] Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. [42] So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Here is how DagoodS describes the four passages (I’ve added spaces between the passages not in his original):

Mark 15:43 states Joseph of Arimathea was a council member, waiting for the kingdom of God.

Matthew 27:57 demotes Joseph out of the council, making him a “rich man;” but elevates him to a disciple of Jesus.

Luke 23:50-51 places Joseph back on the council, but continues with Mark’s “waiting for the kingdom of god.”

John 19:38 doesn’t speak to Joseph’s income, nor being a council member, but John does go back to Matthew’s position Joseph was a disciple.

Now I shall examine his argument a bit:

Matthew 27:57 demotes Joseph out of the council, making him a “rich man;” but elevates him to a disciple of Jesus.

This is sheer silliness. Even allowing for a certain polemical license of expression, the insinuations he makes are completely absent from the text itself (which is, of course, not exegesis, but eisegesis: reading into the text prior assumptions which aren’t actually there). Matthew isn’t “demoting” anyone; he simply highlights a different fact: that Joseph was a rich man (rather than saying he was a council member: both aspects denoting importance and position in society).

There is no logical criteria that I can imagine that would absolutely require Matthew to mention the fact that Joseph was a council member. But DagoodS for some strange reason thinks he “demotes” Joseph; he does not, just because he didn’t mention that tidbit of information. This is the usual atheist effort to force contradiction into the picture when there clearly is none at all. Matthew hasn’t said one way or the other whether Joseph was a member of the council. He doesn’t have to.

A true contradiction would be, for example, one passage saying that Joseph was a council member and another expressly denying it. This doesn’t occur, so it is plain as day that there is no contradiction with regard to his being a council member; period. Case closed. Two of the passages mention that he is; the other two don’t mention it. They don’t have to in order to satisfy cynical, skeptical atheists that a contradiction isn’t present. The laws of logic themselves take care of that.

He also says that Matthew “elevates” Joseph to the status of disciple of Jesus; implying that this contradicts the other passages. Again, it clearly does not. Matthew isn’t “elevating” Joseph over against the other accounts. John mentions the same thing. The other two Gospel passages note that he was a “good and righteous man” (Luke) who was “looking for the kingdom of God” (Mark and Luke both).

In the New Testament, those who were categorized in such a way were invariably Christians or soon to be (e.g., Acts 11:24, describing Barnabas: “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith”). Therefore, all four passages say essentially the same thing; they merely use different terminology. In the overall New Testament worldview and backdrop, this is evident, but when one microanalyzes and eisegetes texts, and does so cynically, to tear down the trustworthiness of the biblical accounts, all of that is missed. DagoodS’ “evidence” is, therefore, an utter non sequitur.

Then he says, “Luke 23:50-51 places Joseph back on the council, . . .” No, Luke (like Mark) mentions that he is on the council; period. It is not in relation to the statements of the other Gospels: as if they would deny this. No one denies the fact; two assert it, the other two are silent. This is very shoddy “reasoning” (not even worthy of the description “reasoning” — in my opinion).

Then DagoodS seems to think it is an egregious error for John not to mention Joseph’s income or status as council member. But one can plausibly argue, I think, that Joseph’s status, at least as a rich person, if not a council member, is strongly implied in John, because he is asking for the body of Jesus. Why?: to bury His body, of course. But one can’t simply bury a body anywhere. In this case, the place was a tomb, hewn out of rock (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and implied in John by the definition of a tomb).

These were private property, generally used by persons of some means, who were able to afford them. It’s no different today: rich people often have elaborate mausoleums of rock, while poorer folks go into the ground with a usually humble marker. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to posit that Joseph owned the tomb in question. In Matthew it states that it is his own tomb, which makes perfect sense.

The entire argument is sheer silliness. To give an analogy, imagine the following four statements about John F. Kennedy, made in April 1960:

1) There came a rich man from Boston, named John F. Kennedy, who was the Democratic nominee for President.

2) John F. Kennedy, a respected member of the Senate, who was the Democratic contender for the Presidency.

3) Now there was a man named John F. Kennedy from New England. He was a member of the Senate, and ran for President.

4) After this John F. Kennedy, who decided to attain to the office of President of the United States . . .

Now, are these four statements contradictory? No, of course not. Would anyone in their right mind even think to claim that they were? No. It would never cross anyone’s mind (including DagoodS’ own mind). Everyone knows they are not because they simply highlight different facts about Kennedy. Two say where he was from (in different terms: city vs. larger area). One said he was rich; two said he was a Senator. All four said he ran for President (just as all four gospel passages indicate that Joseph was a righteous man and/or a Christian).

They don’t have to be identical to not be contradictory or to save the people who wrote them from being accused of fudging facts or manipulating them. This is the usual atheist fallacy in biblical exegesis. The four descriptions can mention different things about him (rich, Bostonian, Senator, Presidential nominee). They can use different terms (ran for, contender, nominee, attain to the office of). They’re all consistent with each other and non-contradictory. I am particularly amused by Dagoods’ assertion of “a general demonstration of increased mythology” in John. The only “mythology” here is fictional, imaginary “contradictions” that do not exist in fact.

Yet when it comes to the Bible and the atheist obsession with tearing it down at all costs, (to justify and rationalize their own disbelief in its inspiration or at least trustworthiness as history) all of this plain common sense and logic goes out the window and all of a sudden “contradictions” are dreamt up and created out of thin air.

But DagoodS goes beyond even these silly, irrelevant assertions. He editorializes with complete arbitrariness:

What we start to see is a pattern where Matthew tends to disagree with Mark. Luke attempts to combine combination of Mark and Matthew. John appears to pick and choose from Matthew and Luke (or both).

At least he is honest enough to candidly admit yet another major hostile presupposition of his:

John’s use of Joseph is a strong indication this story was (at least in part) dependent on another source. Primarily because Joseph is a fictional character created by Mark.

Right. Who could possibly doubt it?

In a combox comment for the same post, DagoodS comes up with one of his innumerable arbitrary theories (this time about Luke’s alleged biases):

[O]ne can see why Luke chose Mark over Matthew here. Luke has a recurring theme throughout his Gospel against being rich. While Mark and Matthew mention polemics against rich people, they do not to the extent Luke does. Luke has nothing good to say about rich people.

This is untrue. It’s unwise to make sweeping statements of this sort unless one is very sure of their truthfulness. DagoodS apparently missed reading the story of Zaccheus, a rich man who is presented quite favorably:

Luke 19:2-10 And there was a man named Zacchae’us; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. [3] And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. [4] So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. [5] And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchae’us, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” [6] So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. [7] And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” [8] And Zacchae’us stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” [9] And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. [10] For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Further, Luke tends to write against Jews in Gentile cities (see Acts) but is not quite so harsh within Palestine. Luke is the only author to record Pharisees helping Jesus (Luke 13:31) as well as including Gamaliel’s support. Or at least neutrality. (Acts 5:34-40). 

Wrong again. DagoodS is very sloppy in presenting his alleged “facts.” Nicodemus was certainly a friend of Jesus, and he appears in John only. He is described as “a man of the Pharisees, named Nicode’mus, a ruler of the Jews” (Jn 3:1), and a disciple of Jesus: “who had gone to him before, and who was one of them” (Jn 7:50), and also as helping to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (Jn 19:39). Joseph of Arimathea himself was more than likely a Pharisee as well, since the Sanhedrin at that time was dominated by them.

But Nicodemus poses no problem for DagoodS (even if made aware of this objection) because, of course, he always has the “ejector seat” arbitrary solution of rendering anyone a fictional character when it suits his purpose. Hence in another post he wrote:

[T]he various accounts are contradictory . . . We will first complete our discussion regarding the contradictions in John to demonstrate the apologist comes to a point they must choose how John could possibly be historical . . . Myth development, lack of historicity and agenda-driven writing explain these problems easily. Claiming every account is factually and historical accurate causes one whiplash and strained explanations. . . . Christian’s wouldn’t dare make up a story regarding a council member. But…er…what about Nicodemus? Mark, Matthew and Luke forget to mention him. If Mark, Matthew and Luke were compelled to mention Joseph (because the apologist claims it is true) why didn’t they fell the same compulsion with Nicodemus? If Nicodemus is not true, then John made him up. Why couldn’t the others have made up Joseph of Arimethea for the same reasons?

DagoodS also seems blissfully unaware that the early Christians themselves were from within the Pharisaical tradition, which is why Jesus said that their authority was binding even for Christians (Matthew 23:2-3), even though they were too often hypocrites. Jesus followed many Pharisaical traditions Himself, and Paul referred to himself as a Pharisee three times (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Philippians 3:5).

For Luke, the trade-off between Mark’s council-member Joseph as compared to Matthew’s rich Joseph resulted in choosing Mark’s account. Interestingly, Luke goes out of his way to emphasize Joseph did not agree with Jesus’ conviction. Luke prefers a neutral or slightly supportive council member over a rich person. 

Since his premises are wrong, (as just shown) the conclusions he draws from them also are wrong.

* * *

If John truly was independent from the Gospels, he may have utilized Nicodemus, but he never would have known to use Joseph. He never would have heard of him! The ONLY way for John to even know about Joseph is through the Synoptics.

Is that so? The “ONLY” way, huh? How about the little inconvenient fact that John was actually present at the cross during the crucifixion (Jn 19:26: “disciple whom he loved”; the description John habitually uses of himself: cf. Jn 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20)? Jesus was talking to John right before He died (19:26-27). Shortly after He died, the body had to be buried, because of the Sabbath. Therefore, John would have seen Joseph himself (19:38 ff.). Yet DagoodS claims that he could “ONLY” know of the man at all by means of the Synoptic Gospels. That is sheer nonsense. DagoodS seems to not even be aware that John was present at the cross. Hence he writes in a second paper (linked below):

. . . making the abandonment of Jesus complete by all persons.

DagoodS always has the convenient “out” of the invention of falsely alleged mythology in the biblical texts, or claiming later interpolation, or deliberate corruption, or denying that John actually wrote the Gospel by that name, etc. There is always an easy out. So he thinks . . . One mustn’t interpret the texts at face value and try to harmonize them. That would never do. That’s a naughty no-no. It’s Rule #1 in Atrocious Atheist Eisegesis.

DagoodS then proceeds to play his same silly game with the four burial accounts:

Mark 15:46 says Joseph laid Jesus in a tomb. Matt. 27:60 says it was Joseph’s new tomb. Luke 23:53 agrees it was new (no one had ever been in it) but retracts from saying it was Joseph’s.John 19:41 follows Luke, saying it was a new tomb, no mention of it being Joseph’s. Again, we have the authors either not completely stating the facts, OR disagreeing with each other. Again, the inerrantist could claim it was “Joseph’s new tomb” but only Matthew provides the full description. Mark (our earliest source) left out the fact it was new and Joseph’s, Luke and John both leave out the fact it was Joseph’s.

The same fallacies are so utterly apparent again in this example, that I need not point out any particulars. It’s self-evident that contradiction is not present. DagoodS goes on to his wrongheaded conclusion, based on wrongheaded illogical progression all the way through his “argument”:

Time and time and time again, we see discrepancies in these accounts. One, two or a few may cause us to scratch our heads. But when it becomes almost every single detail, we question the accuracy for the reasons state above: lack of credibility and reliability.

There was certainly no “discrepancy” in the above accounts. DagoodS trumps them up, but (with all due respect) his attempt badly fails. He thinks this is an example of biblical contradiction. But it is not. It just isn’t. Either DagoodS failed Logic 0101 (I took five philosophy courses in college including logic) or his mind is so severely biased in this instance that logical thought — that he does indeed understand — is completely overwhelmed by the severe bias. The man is no dummy (he’s an attorney). He knows better: way better than this. But his bias blinds him.

DagoodS puts the argument in even more ludicrous terms in an earlier paper (“Women at Empty Tomb” — 2-23-10):

A minor excursion here is helpful to demonstrate how myth development is demonstrated in the gospels. In Mark, Joseph is a council member, “waiting for the Kingdom of God” and puts Jesus in a tomb. Matthew removes Joseph’s status as a Sanhedrin member, refers to him as a rich man, but now Joseph has become a disciple of Jesus, and Jesus is laid in Joseph’s personal tomb. (Matthew 27:57-60) Luke reinstates Joseph as a council member, adds he was a “good and just man” as well as indicated Joseph dissented from the conviction of Jesus. Luke states the tomb had never been used. (Luke 23:50-53) John also agrees the tomb has never been used, agrees with Matthew (against Mark and Luke) that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, and adds Nicodemus as a co-conspirator with Joseph. (John 19:38-41).

He proceeds from the ridiculous to the downright laughable and surreal:

In first century Palestine, burials and tombs were family matters. A person would be buried in a family tomb; the family was expected to perform the burial rites. Mark is writing a story of abandonment. Christ has already predicted all will abandon him. (Mark 14:27) Who would be expected to normally bury Jesus? His father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary. Mark is deliberately emphasizing Jesus’ own family abandoning him in the end. In case we are too thick to get it, he introduces “Joseph of Arimathea” to play the part of Jesus’ father Joseph, and two Mary’s to play the part of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Not convinced? What are the chances Joseph, Jesus’ dad, is unavailable and the name of the person who is available also happens to be named Joseph?

The chances of Joseph, Jesus’ father being unavailable are very good, seeing that he was dead at the time! He is never mentioned during the ministry of Jesus, which is why Christian tradition has always held that he was dead by then (he was mentioned when Jesus was twelve, at the Temple, but that was about 21 years earlier).

Dagoods — appropriately, after such a poor performance — drowns in his own “reasoning” again because he himself notes that “burials and tombs were family matters. A person would be buried in a family tomb.” Yes, exactly. But he wants to argue for “abandonment” from the family (not accepting that Joseph was dead). Mary the mother of Jesus was at the cross. She certainly didn’t abandon her Son. Ten disciples (and Judas) did, but not Mary.

So His surviving parent was with Him in His horrible death agony. But she could hardly have been expected to bury Him quickly, with the Sabbath approaching, since the family burial site would have been in Nazareth, not Jerusalem (about 65 miles away). So with darkness fast approaching after Jesus’ death, would DagoodS expect a grieving mother to transport the body of her Son 65 miles away to the family burial site? What, on a high-speed train? Super-fast camels? Angels, maybe? I guess so; otherwise, why would he protest so loudly in his anti-biblical polemics about the burial process? Why can’t he see the obvious? Does he not know that Jesus was from Nazareth, in Galilee? He knows; he is simply being illogical again in his zeal (we do detect a distinct theme). We know that he knows, because he wrote elsewhere:

[T]ombs were family affairs in the First Century, and if Jesus’ family did have a tomb, it would have been in his home town in Galilee. It would be perfectly natural to use this nearby cave for a temporary tomb (because of the oncoming Sabbath,) . . . 

This being the case, a quick solution was arrived at: Joseph was a rich man and disciple of Jesus, who had his own tomb nearby, and he offered it for use: a thing perfectly sensible, plausible, and understandable (i.e., unless one has a hostile bias against it from the start). This is no more contradictory or unable to be believed as a true historical account than the other so-called discrepancies or contradictions in the descriptions of Joseph of Arimathea.

DagoodS then lays his unfounded biases bare, in his candid admission:

This is a strong example Mark’s author was deliberately modifying facts…making things up…to make a point. Mark loves to use the unexpected—role reversal. We see this theme replete through Mark.

Discrepancies and contradictions are indeed present here, but they are to be found, rather, in the illogical, shoddy thought processes and eisegesis of DagoodS rather than in the biblical texts under consideration.

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See also the follow-up dialogue: Reply to Atheists: Defining a [Biblical] “Contradiction” [1-7-11]

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(originally 1-7-11)

Photo credit: Joseph of Arimathea, in the church “Gross St. Martin”, Cologne, Germany. Photograph by Raimond Spekking (9-30-06) [Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0 license]

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