Cherry-Picking from the Bible: Lessons Learned from Actually Picking Cherries

Cherry-Picking from the Bible: Lessons Learned from Actually Picking Cherries June 20, 2017

Cherry picking 2017-06-17 18.39.03

I had used the phrase “cherry-picking” plenty of times, metaphorically, in relation to the Bible. But I had never literally picked cherries. However, a few years ago we planted a cherry tree in our yard, and just recently I had the opportunity to pick cherries for the first time in my life.

And so here are a few things that I learned from the experience, which I think can be applied to the metaphorical use of “cherry-picking”:

  • You need to find the good ones. Some verses are moldy, ant-eaten, or simply rotten.
  • Some verses look really beautiful from a distance, but a closer inspection reveals serious problems with them that change your perspective entirely.
  • Leave the stems on and your verses will stay fresher. But that takes more work. It is easier to simply pull them off from their context.
  • Cherry-picking takes a lot more work if you don’t just pick everything. Finding and taking just the good stuff is a more laborious process than simply collecting everything.
  • Bible verses are fine on their own, but they may be even better if you turn them into jam, or bake them into something in combination with other ingredients.

Have you ever picked cherries? If so, what do you think can be taken from that literal realm that will provide insight on the metaphorical use of the phrase?

Perhaps we should also discuss whether Jesus’ words turn out to be true. This seems to be a good tree, which produced a lot of good fruit. But it wasn’t all good fruit. Some never developed, some was moldy, some had been damaged by ants, and the list could probably go on. And so perhaps literal cherry picking sheds light on the reason why people do so metaphorically with the Bible, even those who claim that you shouldn’t do so and pretend that they themselves do not.

The truth is that the Bible is like a tree full of cherries. It isn’t all good, or all bad. And apart from the Calvinists and other Protestants who pretend that all human beings are “totally depraved,” and the Gnostics who suggested that some are inherently spiritual and others not, most Christian theology has offered its most profound insight precisely in terms of human beings not bearing only one kind of fruit or the other, but being very much a mixed bag. It is not as though all Jews are good and all Gentiles bad, not as though all Christians are good and all Muslims bad, but that we all contain a mixture of the two.

Those who recognize this about human beings will also recognize it about human literature, including the Bible. And then it will only be those who pretend the Bible is something other than a human book who will reject the things that we can learn about it from both literal and metaphorical cherry-picking.

Cherry picking 2017-06-17 18.39.15

And for those who scrolled all the way to the bottom, here is a cartoon on this theme from The New Yorker:

Cherry-Picking Deuteronomy
“Today, I’ll be cherry-picking from Deuteronomy.”



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  • Shiphrah99

    Well, as it happens, I spent much of my childhood up a tree picking various kinds of stone fruit or amidst the brambles picking blackberries. For the record, up a tree was way better than the ghastly case of poison ivy (eyelids, groin, back of knees!) I got because Mama said, “Stand here” and didn’t notice the leaves of three. Fortunately, one of my brothers saved me from an even worse case.

    I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there, but more creative minds than mine will have to deduce it. 😉

  • Al Cruise

    I have found that Love, Compassion and Forgiveness, exist outside of all Theological books, and do not need literal and metaphorical cherry-picking from those books to be understood even by a small child.

    • jamesparson

      And certain animals.

  • BrotherRog

    Excellent insights from actual lived experience! As I’ve said before, “All Christians pick and choose which portions of the they interpret Bible literally, progressive Christians simply admit this and share how we discern.” See:

    Roger Wolsey, Author, Kissing Fish

  • Brandon Roberts

    probaly cause plenty of christians (on both sides) don’t really read their bible and only know a few verses.

  • soter phile

    “…only be those who pretend the Bible is something other than a human book…”
    You mean like Jesus?

    • I presume you’re not referring to when he said that Moses gave them divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. So what do you have in mind?

      • soter phile

        Jesus constantly quotes the OT. It’s pouring off his lips. Even from the cross as he’s dying. He refers to your so-called ‘human book’ instead as “the Word of God” (Mt.4:4), of which not the least stroke shall disappear (Mt.5:17f) – and he treats it as such throughout his life, calling out any who raise mere human traditions above it (Mk.7:9). He even makes an argument from Ps.110 based off a single word. Your singular counter reference to his treatment of Moses on marriage is not a lessening of the biblical view of marriage, but a deepening of it (as is all such “you’ve heard it said…” references he makes).

        More poignantly, he regards the OT as pointing to himself (Jn.5:39-40; Lk.24:27,44) – which would be a rather amazing feat for a merely human document, especially considering authors like David wrote 1000 years prior. And yet there’s Ps.22 pouring off his lips on the cross – as a direct prophecy of that event.

        Even just a cursory perusal of Jesus’ treatment of the Scriptures puts him under *your* judgment of “those who pretend the Bible is something other than a human book.”

        The apostles also come under your shallow dismissal (2 Tim.3:16; 2 Cor.1:20; etc.), even viewing fellow apostles’ writings as Scripture (2 Pet.3:16), or even their own: “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thess.2:13)

        For any who claim to follow Christ, why would we NOT also follow his view of the Scriptures (which he treats as the Word of God and claims point to himself)? If you believe Jesus is God, whose view of Scripture needs to change: yours or his?

        • You seem to genuinely think that the things you list in your comment support your stance, and so I will try to focus in on some key details in an effort to help you to understand why they do not.

          First, you seem not to have looked at the texts you quote in their contexts, especially when the text itself quotes from the Jewish scriptures. Have you looked to see whether the “word of God” in Matthew 4:4 is a reference to a “Bible,” given that it is a quote from Deuteronomy?

          Second, have you also perhaps noticed that the devil is depicted as quoting scripture in that temptation story, and considered that the frequency of quotation from a work does not in and of itself tell us what someone’s view of that work’s authorship is?

          Third, if you wish to deny the human authorship of the Bible, you will need to argue not only against Paul, who put his name as author on his letters, but also Jesus, who not only says that Moses gave divorce despite it not being God’s ideal, but also refers to other human authors elsewhere.

          Fourth, I left to one side until close to the end for the sake of simplicity the most fundamental point, which is that you are taking what human authors wrote about Jesus, assuming that it is historically accurate, assuming that Jesus is God as per the later creeds, and then using those human statements about what Jesus is supposed to have said and done as if your argument were not both circular, and based on assumptions that you have not made even the slightest effort to examine or justify.

          Fifth, closely related to the previous point, citing very late works written in the names of people who were not their authors, such as 2 Peter, is simply illustrating that you have not taken the time to learn about this subject before making sweeping adamant assertions. Your point is that these texts do not have human authors, and yet you ignore the very strong evidence that some of the human authors of these works were not who they claimed to be. And ironically, you then invoke their purported authorship as apostles as part of a case against the human authorship of scripture! Can you not see the problem at least with this, if not the other things I mentioned?

          • soter phile

            In order of your headings:

            a) it is anachronistic to think “word of God” in Deuteronomy is a reference to the modern Bible as a whole. that is NOT what I’m claiming. reading for authorial intent – both in Gospels and the OT – it is clear that the Scriptures are being referenced in the form that they existed (ongoing at the time), and especially as God’s word delivered through human agents. Again, do you think Jesus had something other than the OT in mind when he frequently referenced “the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets” as the Word of God?

            b) yes, the Devil quoted Scripture. But note well: Satan’s misuse of Scripture didn’t stop Jesus from responding with… Scripture. He stays on point. He does not switch to *another* authority.

            You will need to clarify your point about frequency. Satan’s frequency of quotation? Or Jesus’ frequency? Are you denying that Jesus’ pervasive quotation of Scripture directly reflects his high view of the OT simply because on *occasion* Satan attempts to engage him on his own “turf”? If so, note: I am not merely arguing frequency, but also the manner in which he cites it. Certainly you aren’t arguing he was frequently quoting it in protest?

            c) i at no point deny the human authors of the text. that’s a straw man argument you have projected onto me. double agency is in view. that’s what the Bible openly demonstrates – the human character of the human authors is evident in style/genre/etc. & not violated, yet simultaneously even Jesus calls it the Word of God. BOTH. I do not expect an non-Christian to be swayed by that argument (“Jesus was God & he said…”) – but for anyone who believes Jesus is God… that is not to be lightly set aside. To do so begs fundamental questions about one’s faith & the locus of authority within that faith (Schleiermacher, Bultmann & Tillich notwithstanding).

            As for Jesus quoting Moses and saying it was a concession for them, it is the same law he affirms without the least stroke passing away (Mt.5:17f). EITHER Jesus was wrong/flawed (again, a serious problem for the Christian) or he is strengthening the marital call there (Hosea comes to mind, esp.2:14). Is it God’s right to set aside his adulterous people? Yes. Does he? No. Grace! The calling is higher and humbling.

            You seem to want to create a third option, as directly stated in your next point… but that position is even more problematic…

            d) to be clear about your assumptions: i have a postgraduate degree in this field. i am well aware of the historical-critical approaches to scholarship here. to engage more deeply in the scholarship is an entire thread unto itself – though I would point you to a few immediate considerations…
            i) Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus & the Eyewitnesses.” Even if you disagree with his conclusions, much of the evidence he engages there presents substantial problems for *your* assumptions that our access to Christ is restricted to a much later date.
            ii) For a literary excursus on the problems of genre often overlooked by NT scholars (especially higher-critical assumptions that this is fabricated at a later date), CS Lewis has a great little essay called “Fern Seeds & Elephants” that is worth your time.
            iii) only in the last decade, we’ve gotten the ability to statistically analyze names by region and time. Here’s Peter Williams noting how a) in every case, the NT gets it right (which names need modifiers), and b) it is a statistical impossibility for an author outside that context to get it right. It’s merely circumstantial (not proof of divine claims), but it REQUIRES access to purported setting (i.e., early dates for all the canonical Gospels).

            As for a circular argument – everyone begins with a point of departure (naturalists included). I have (wrongly?) noted you are a self-described Christian. If we need to double back to philosophical & metaphysical arguments here, we can. But, again, if you believe Jesus is God… your critique would seem to be the pot calling the kettle black. Or are you claiming you have some alternative access to Christ other than the earliest, most well-attested documents?

            Claiming *greater* access to Jesus (2000 years after the fact) than those documents – without another authority with closer proximity – is logically untenable. Three rounds of the quest for the historical Jesus have aptly demonstrated that. If you claim to follow Jesus – THAT Jesus – what other access do you claim to have? Once you begin to undercut that authority (with some greater insight you claim about that context, 20 centuries removed from it?!), you lose any ability to know the person communicated therein – unless you want to open yourself to the fallacy of self-projection (e.g., John Dominic Crossan’s “cynic philsopher” Jesus). and that’s merely the literary approach, without reference to the question of divine inspiration.

            e) I am well aware that *some* scholars date 2 Peter late. You seem unaware that not *all* do. EVEN IF (and I don’t) one grants 2 Peter is Deutero-Petrine, the latest date argued is roughly 150 AD, which means the immediate community regarded Paul as Scripture. That STILL presents a problem for your position here. A modern analogy: even the most conservative scholars would not regard Jonathan Edwards as Scriptural. Why did the 2nd century audience do just that, when they did not do so with relevant ancient analogies such as Origen, Irenaeus, or even Ignatius? What was the distinctive? Did the Church think they were *deciding* the canon, or merely trying to react accurately to what *God* had done? Along the same lines, the Muratorian Canon puts a real snag in any claims that this was merely a post-Constantinian power grab.

            And then there’s 1 Thess.2:13, which you bypassed – almost all scholars agree is genuinely Pauline… do you throw that out as merely human as well (despite the direct point to the contrary)?

            Your summary of “my points” are reductionist straw men. Your assumptions about me are wrong. Maybe in response you’ll have a whole new set of more accurate criticisms, which I welcome – but I hope you will reconsider your shallow dismissal, not just of me, but more importantly of Christ’s view of the Scriptures.

            Your celebrated “cherry-picking” approach is a hermeneutic that (at best!) risks losing the central tenets of the Christian faith, and IMHO is the reason much of the mainline church is dying and dying rapidly. I’ve even watched it happen with friends and colleagues personally. It’s impossible to know Jesus if we are undercutting the very way he has given for us to know Him. Are you perpetuating that as a professor?

            A cherry-picked Jesus is one who merely affirms whatever I want him to affirm. A puppet Jesus. And, thus, not surprisingly… he just happens to look exactly like the way I want him to look! No repentance, no confession of sin, no need for transformation – certainly not in any areas where I strongly disagree with his Word. And that presses home the point: if your God cannot contradict you, who is the real ‘god’ in that scenario? And what happens when your articulated ‘god’ (because he can’t disagree) also offers no real hope for rescue or change? Again, no wonder people are walking away from churches that cherry-pick Jesus. A god who can’t even disagree with me isn’t a god worth worshipping and certainly can’t help me any more than a day at the beach.

          • Your initial comment here complained about my reference to the humanness of the Bible. It is not creating a strawman to think that you meant what you wrote. If you meant something more nuanced but chose to write what you did, it is extremely unfair to criticize those who thought you meant what you actually wrote.

            A cherry-picking approach is the approach Jesus himself is depicted as authorizing. There are greater and lesser commandments. When mercy and purity conflict, mercy should prevail. Anything else is simply not a Christian approach to the Bible.

            You seem to share the widespread but bizarre idea that if eyewitnesses wrote the biblical texts, that makes them the “Word of God.” That does not even vouchsafe their historicity, although it is obviously compatible with it and might, with further argument, support it. But my being an eyewitness to a variety of things does not make what I write, even about those things, the “word of God.”

            You repeatedly appeal to Jesus being God as though (1) you can bypass what the Bible actually says by assuming that independently of the Bible, and (2) the humanity of Jesus, including by definition genuine human limitations, may be cast aside by someone who adheres to the classic Chalcedonian view whenever it is convenient to do so.

          • soter phile

            again, in order of your remarks:

            1) *you* said (and it’s still there in the quote above): “…only be those who pretend the Bible is something other than a human book…” – and Jesus repeatedly and clearly says the Scriptures are much more than just a human book. your entire article strongly implies (if not explicitly states) that the Bible is merely a gathering of errant human writings, to be culled at will to find the gems (i.e., whatever you’d like to keep; build your own God) – which is very much at odds with how Jesus cites & treats the Word, much less what he directly states about the Scriptures (explicitly the OT, but the same underlying methodology to which you are objecting behind the NT canon).

            I meant what I wrote. I stand by it. At no point did I say deny its double agency. And STILL, Jesus does not share your your low view of Scripture (and possibly your corollary low Christology?). That alone should be problematic for any Christian. As it is, you’ve not directly responded to that central critique. You’ve rather attempted to obfuscate by dampening the text. Again, it makes me wonder what sort of Jesus you are left to worship. It certainly isn’t one recognizable to the NT Gospels.

            2) Jesus does not cherry-pick.
            He affirms a) the whole of the canon, even down to a single stroke (Mt.5:17f) while also b) amplifying certain themes (e.g., mercy IS an OT theme as well, despite popular memes; a fact I hope you’ll readily acknowledge).

            More problematic for your view is his apparent belief that these ancient documents (ancient in his time!) speak directly of him (Jn.5:39-40; Lk.24:27,44). His hermeneutic is best summarized: that the entire point of the Jewish faith was Jesus himself. You may strongly disagree with that hermeneutic (again, which is an astounding claim for any self-described follower of Christ), but to call that “cherry-picking” requires ignoring all that he taught about the Word of God.

            However, if you begin by dismissing the text (the classic end run of the higher-critical approach), you may call my argument circular (though I find that disingenuous), but you for your part are also left without a Jesus to worship. There’s no resulting premise for the faith – at least not one grounded in history.

            3) at no point do I argue that eyewitnesses in & of themselves make this the word of God. there are two parallel & related discussions going on here…
            a) that Jesus claims the OT is the Word of God (something you attempt to dodge by intimating we cannot trust these accounts)…
            b) …so I point out their eyewitness character & historicity.
            It is a red herring to claim I’m saying eyewitness directly equates to word of God. They are logically connected in this discussion, but as a consequence, not as synonymous claims.

            Since you won’t engage the blunt sayings of Christ in their “final form” (to use redactionist language), much less concede that Jesus DOES ascribe the label ‘Word of God’ to the Scriptures, we are dancing down a side path. But THAT in and of itself is (again) why churches that follow this methodology find themselves further & further removed from Jesus.

            4) Do you believe Jesus is God or not? I have done everything short of ask you pointblank. So there it is. Will you answer?
            a) if you do, doesn’t his view of Scripture supersede yours?
            b) if you do, why do you believe he is God?! on what basis do you believe that? (your locus of authority seems pretty amorphous at this point. At the very least, honestly admitting it brings us back to my point about the pot calling the kettle black. But more troublingly for you, any other view is demonstrably non-historical.)
            c) if you do NOT believe Jesus is God, I’m sorry I pressed you as a Christian. 1 Cor.5:12-13 calls for greater accountability within the believing community. I have treated you as a fellow Christian rather than with the gentleness Christ displayed to outsiders. I apologize if that is the case.

            However, from ALL your other statements here, it certainly seems that ‘C’ is not the case… so in response…

            No, I do not bypass the Scriptures. I find them self-authenticating. And – worthy of note – I’m simply reflecting to you what Jesus himself says about them there, and more importantly about himself. He directly and repeatedly claims to be God. If you agree, but you doubt the Scriptures, where are you getting that idea?

            Also, I do not deny the (later) Chalcedonian affirmation of what is found in the Scriptures – he’s fully divine AND fully human, yet without sin. “Genuine human limitations…” yes, and yet the high priestly prayer of Jn.17! Unique access to the Father.

            Again, I think you have a very low Christology. I am in no way casting aside his humanity. On the contrary, his humanity is a great affirmation of our humanity in that the “fullness of God” (Col.2) could live in human form without violating our humanity. It’s an incredible affirmation of the purpose for which we were designed.

            Similarly, the life he lived perfectly was not one in which his perfection was achieved because he asserted his divinity to overcome what we could not in our humanity; if so, in that moment, whatever part of our humanity was violated would not be redeemed (as Gregory of Nazianzus said: whatever wasn’t assumed, wasn’t healed). No, he lived a fully human life, the God-man: born of a virgin, growing “in stature and wisdom”, yet without sin, dying a death he did not deserve, and conquering death itself in the resurrection, before ascending back to his rightful place.

            Again, all those things are found throughout the NT, if one actually believes that those “words of men” are rather (as Paul said) “the Word of God.” That is the Chalcedonian reflection of the Word Incarnate in the written word – making the Scriptures BOTH the written Word of God and written by humans. That’s preposterous to non-Christians, but that is certainly how Jesus (the One found in the Gospels, the only historical Jesus we know) reads Scripture. It did not violate his humanity to be born, to affirm the OT as the Word of God, to perform miracles, or to die in our place; nor is it an end run through his divinity to claim those things.

            After all, supposedly you believe Jesus is God.
            You just seem to want to dodge his stated view of his Word.

            SUM: why all this dodging? Jesus clearly believes what you call merely the words of men is the Word of God. If you worship him, if you call him Master, why don’t you submit to his understanding of his Word? What are you afraid would have to change in your life and why has it become more important than Christ’s Word?

          • I have seen this tactic before and yet it never ceases to puzzle me. You ask a question for the first time – about a matter that I have not merely blogged about but have written two entire books about – and then accuse me of “dodging.”

            You also simply assume that the contents of the Bible are historical without applying the methods of historical investigation to them, but then say that if I question or reject the historicity of certain sayings attributed to Jesus on the basis of historical arguments and the application of mainstream historical methods, somehow I am the one whose faith will be left without a historical basis.

            Being new here might explain the altar call aimed at a Christian whose testimony about his born again experience is easily found on this blog. But what would explain your assumption that someone who is being more honest about what the Bible says and is must not be a Christian?

          • soter phile

            Tactic? I responded purposefully to each of your points – including referencing multiple scholars and historical evidences throughout this thread. You did not engage any of those responses. Instead, you seem to prefer to move the goalposts in the conversation to methodology.

            Many other scholars have written books also – citing evidence that directly contradicts your views. I invoked those scholars, yet you continue to say I “assume… without applying the methods of historical investigation.” that’s simply a refusal to acknowledge the argument i’m making, much less engage the points therein.

            as for “being new here” – I guess you mean on your particular blog. I’ve interacted via Patheos for some time. correspondingly, “cherry-picking” is not a new topic to me either, but rather is pervasive in mainline institutions – which, as has been my point from the beginning, is central to why they are dying.

            as for my “altar call” (i sense a pejorative label here), if you are “born again”, wonderful – IF you mean what Jesus means. however, this article rather clearly and explicitly describes a demeanor of jettisoning Jesus’ teaching whenever one finds it inconvenient or directly challenging, even more so if distasteful… so what *do* you mean by “born again”?
            a) That you had a paradigm shift and your new, self-projected Jesus just happened to match your new paradigm?
            b) Or rather that you are actively and continually coming under his hand?
            The former is just more nuanced self-projection & so much sophistry in the name of Jesus – but the latter… that Bible describes as increasingly letting his Word mean more than ‘my word’, surrendering more & more to him (mortification and vivification), which is *impossible* in a hermeneutic that begins by making “my word” more important than His.

            So, by your own description, you remain the locus of authority in your own life. (Interesting that you don’t see that as circular logic). And a God who cannot contradict you – especially in places where you think his word is just “wrong” – is no god at all. It is merely a foil for conjured divine approval of one’s preconceived predilections. So much for repentance and change. So much for deliverance from broken motivational structures. So much for a power outside of me that actually rescues me from myself. No, if that’s what you are calling “born again,” that is completely disingenuous and directly contradicting the book you are ironically quoting. That’s not “being more honest about the bible says.” That’s studying the Scriptures that testify about him but refusing to come to him to have life (Jn.5:39-40). “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mk.12:24)

            Might one still be a Christian and have a broken hermeneutic? Sure. Thank God for his grace to idiots like us. But it’s hard to know the One who speaks through his Word when you busy yourself with throwing out anything he says that you don’t like. You can’t know the person to whom you refuse to listen, much less surrender to the God you are busy editing.

          • The tactic I was referring to was your claim in your summary that I was dodging answering a question that you had not posed to me. There has been no shifting of goal posts. If you thought that you could have a conversation with me and not have me raise issues about your very different way of approaching the Bible, your ignoring of issues of method and approach, and other such matters, then you were mistaken. In the future, you might want to familiarize yourself with what someone has written before beginning a conversation with them online, if you find my desire for precision, analysis, and rigor in any way objectionable.

            I object to your claim that others who disagree with you are the locus of authority in their lives, while you presumably simply read what God has said and believe it without your own interpretation or authority coming into it. That is what is disingenuous.

          • soter phile

            No, the “all this dodging” I had in mind was your refusal to address the main question I’ve repeatedly given you: namely, Jesus views the Scriptures as God’s Word… why don’t you? Even a quick perusal of this thread would show that has been my repeated theme.

            It is shifting the goalposts to avoid answering that question. It’s a direct question. Instead of answering it, you kept introducing red herrings.

            As I said before, I am aware of hermeneutical methods & approaches. Shall we argue over Wellhausen’s scheme? How about the Jesus Seminar? Schleiermacher? Bultmann’s demythologizing, or Tillich’s God as “ground of being”? How about Barth’s neo-orthodoxy? At least with Barth you get an argument for God’s Word as a top-down authority. Redaction criticism vs. final form?

            To be blunt, your article was sufficient to demonstrate your convictions about the Scripture’s relative authority (or selective lack thereof) in your life and teaching. If you don’t also discount Mt.18:6-9 as rotten cherries to be cast aside, Christ is pretty harsh about those who would lead his children away from him. That should humble all of us with higher degrees who would presume to teach.

            I’m not talking about those who would disagree with *me* on secondary matters. I’m pointing out how Christ himself (whom you claim to worship) regarded the Scriptures. Forget me. I’m just some guy who wrote on your blog. Did Jesus say that or not? It’s not *MY* claim that matters – but *HIS.* I’m not pointing to myself – I’m pointing to HIS words. Is he the locus of authority to correct your view of Scripture (that directly contradicts his view!), or do you hold a separate authority to selectively dismiss what he’s said?

            You are celebrating cherry-picking – which is an open admission to jettisoning whatever you don’t like of what Jesus himself regards as God’s Word. To claim otherwise IS disingenuous.

            Again, the main question I’ve posed to you throughout this thread:
            if you claim to worship Jesus as God, and he regards the Scriptures as God’s Word, why don’t you?

          • You only got around to trying to turn the main question into the last points late in the discussion, presumably in an effort to pretend that you can determine who Jesus was a priori, or worse simply assume it, and then use that as a basis for bolstering your preferred view of the Bible. But surely that is completely circular, since you are also assuming the Bible to be something specific when you then use it to bolster your view of Jesus. You cannot do that and expect to be persuasive.

            But even apart from that problem, the Bible itself – even if used circularly, but honestly – testifies clearly to its own humanity, and to the humanity of Jesus, such that trying to twist and distort either or both into something that does not reflect human perspectives, frailties, and limitations is going to set you up against the Bible and Jesus.

            To put it another way, if you claim to honor the Bible and Jesus, then how can you at the same time be willing to force them to conform to your dogmas, rather than accepting the evidence that they provide?