Inerrancy Memes

Inerrancy Memes June 6, 2018

As I emphasized in recent posts, the reason that I abandoned biblical inerrantism is that it is not merely unbiblical, but anti-biblical. It silences all but at most one of the diverse voices within the Bible, and denies or explains away rather than accepts the evidence that the Bible itself provides for its own human fallibility. I have said more about that in quite a number of other posts over the years. And so, having spent so much time talking about this topic lately, I think I should share reminders of some things I’ve written about biblical inerrantism in the past.

One objection to alternatives to biblical inerrancy is that one is simply left with a slippery slope – and so please do see my previous blog posts about slippery slopes! I really do think that the scare tactic – be as conservative as possible or you will end up at the other extreme – is at best dishonest and at worst a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the other hand, I made a meme about the frequent lack of effect of biblical inerrancy:

I also wrote a related blog post about the lack of effect of inerrancy (as well as some positive implications of not adhering to it). I blogged about inerrancy as an attack on the Bible and its use to defend sin.

I shared things that Fred Clark wrote about inerrancy’s broken promise and quoted Theodore Vial. I explained why sooner or later you have to choose between the Bible and inerrancy, and shared other quotes on the topic. I discussed whether inerrancy can be a “biblical doctrine” and also how biblical contradictions relate to inerrancy. I turned Fred Clark’s words about inerrancy as a “dirty trick to play on the Bible” into a meme:

See also my discussion of a book by G. K. Beale about inerrancy. And here’s one more meme with a quote from something I said about inerrancy:


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  • John MacDonald

    Inerrancy is like maintaining faith in a spouse, even though every indication, including the promptings of friends, suggest your spouse is cheating.

    • soter phile

      I think you say more here about your view of God than you do about inerrantists.

      • John MacDonald

        What do you make of the fact that Jesus and God are liars? For instance:

        Jesus lied when he told his family that he wasn’t going to the feast, but then went “in secret:”
        -[Jesus said] Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up unto this feast. … But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. John 7:8-10

        Even God lies by putting lying spirits in the mouths of his prophets:
        -And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him … I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so. 1 Kings 22:21-22

        • soter phile

          These are minor objections – of which (ironically) Christians themselves have both asked & answered repeatedly over the last 2000 years.

          For example (note: I’m not recommending this site, just giving an example):

          Christians have long asked the hardest questions of the Scriptures (and answered them) – long before modern historical-critical studies. And these objections largely want to use the minor considerations to avoid the clear implications of the major point of the text: who Jesus is and what it means for us.

          • John MacDonald

            But if Jesus was a liar, and God was a liar, then maybe the disciples thought they were doing God’s work lying about seeing the risen Jesus. We know there was justified lying going on, like the early writers who forged Christian documents that Dr Ehrman points out in “Forgery and Counterforgery.”. Who knows what was going on? Maybe Cephas and the boys were hallucinating, or maybe they did indeed encounter the risen Christ. There is no way to know. As I said, there is humility in reading.

          • soter phile

            I don’t think you read those links. At no point did I concede that Jesus was a liar.

            Ehrman also claims the Gospel of John was removed by centuries from the original context, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary…

            a) the Pool of Bethesda in Jn.5, which was verified archeologically, and demonstrates at least access to a firsthand knowledge of pre-AD 70 Jerusalem (when it was destroyed) – if not evidence that he was an eyewitness himself. note well: for decades critics cited it as evidence that John did not know Jerusalem… until they dug it up exactly as he described it in the 19th century.

            b) the statistical study of names & their modifiers (a very recent ability of scholarship to match context & common names), in which case all four Gospels get it right EVERY time (note well: Ehrman’s extra-canonical Gospels all fail this test)

          • John MacDonald

            I read your link. It was silly. Jesus is clearly a liar, and so is God in the passages I cited.. I am perfectly aware apologists have an answer for everything, no matter what degree of textual contortions are required. Anyway, I’ve presented my thoughts. Perhaps someone else will tag in to continue the dialogue. And I’m not sure why you expect me to click on the links you provided when you didn’t click on the one I provided?

          • soter phile

            dismissing your opponents carte blanche is not justifiable, especially when evidence is presented.
            note well: one must ‘contort’ the text to avoid the clear intended point of the NT Gospels – that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior, the Messiah, etc. to conclude he was “clearly a liar” from *within* the text is a failure to engage the authorial intent.

            i visited your link. there is nothing new or revolutionary there. it certainly does not engage the conservative scholars being mocked on this blog entry, much less the evidences they discuss in light of the text. case in point, when I referenced NT Wright before, you claimed he was merely a fringe apologist – and yet even scholars on the opposite end of the spectrum respect his work (Crossan, for instance, conceded the empty tomb in his debate with Wright).

          • If you think Ehrman or any other scholar dates the Gospel of John centuries after the time of Jesus, you have badly misunderstood something…

          • John MacDonald

            Yes, that too!

          • soter phile

            “We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently in thousands of ways.” Bart Ehrman, “Misquoting Jesus”, p.7.

            I do recall reading that he at one point (possibly in a debate) he said he thought John was possibly as much as 19 generations removed from the eyewitnesses, though I have not been able to find that after a quick search. Nonetheless, he does date it at least as late as AD 140, which is over a full century after Christ’s death (and notably not leaving much time for P52; and seriously problematic considering the accurate description in John of the Pool of Bethesda, which was destroyed in AD 70).

            Here are some more of his comments from debates, along similar lines:

            And interestingly enough, it appears Ehrman has retracted some of his earlier claims, even conceding the synoptics do teach a divine Jesus:
            “…in doing my research and thinking harder and harder about the issue, when I (a) came to realize that the Gospels not only attributed these things to him, but also understood him to be adopted as the Son of God at his baptism (Mark 1:9-11), or to have been made the son of God by virtue of the fact that God was literally his father, in that it was the Spirit of God that made the virgin Mary pregnant (Luke 1:35), and (b) realized what “adoption” meant to people in the Roman world (as indicated in a previous post), I finally yielded.”

            SUM: you might press the word “centuries”, but the point still holds. his late dating for John requires ignoring the clear evidence to the contrary. And I do find it revealing that of all the points I’ve made here, that is the only one to which you chose to respond.

          • Realist1234

            I suspect Ehrman is referring to ‘complete’ copies of manuscripts, in which case he is correct. I think he agrees with many scholars who think John was written in the AD 90s, though personally I dont think any good reasons have been given to negate the view it could have been written before then. Interestingly in John’s gospel, the author makes reference to the pool of Bethesda, and writes as if the pool is in existence at the time of writing (he uses the present tense). But I understand it would have been pretty much destroyed in AD 70.

            As CH Dodd has said regarding the dating of the Gospels:

            “… much of the late dating is quite arbitrary, even wanton, the offspring not of any argument that can be presented, but rather of the critic’s prejudice that, if he appears to assent to the traditional position of the early church, he will be thought no better than a stick-in-the-mud.”

          • He was clearly referring to manuscripts and not when the work was written, and even within that context he clearly says that it is not all but only the majority of copies that are distantly removed from the time of composition.

          • Realist1234

            Indeed, though there are fragments of copies from before then, just not complete copy manuscripts.

          • John MacDonald

            Would you agree with Ehrman that, for instance, Matthew invents material about Jesus to present Jesus as the New and Greater Moses? For instance, Ehrman writes:

            [T]he beginning of Matthew’s Gospel shapes the stories about Jesus to make Jesus appear to be a kind of “second Moses.” Like Moses, Jesus is supernaturally protected at his birth when the ruler (Pharaoh/Herod) seeks to destroy him; like Moses he goes down to Egypt as an infant; like Moses he comes up out of Egypt to the promised land; like Moses he passes through the waters (the parting of the Red Sea; the baptism); after which he spends time in the wilderness being “tested” (40 years; 40 days); after which he goes up on the mountain to receive/deliver the Law (Mount Sinai; Sermon on the Mount). The story of Jesus has evidently been “shaped” in light of the author’s knowledge of the story of Moses in order to say something: Jesus is the new Moses.

            Dr. McGrath also has an excellent article that he has shared on this site in the past about the literary relationship between Moses and Matthew’s Jesus. When it comes to theological matters, I’m a McGrath inerrantist, lol.

          • Realist1234

            I certainly agree there were similarities between some aspects of Moses and Jesus. But I do not see why that should mean that Matthew just ‘invented material’ to portray Jesus as a new Moses. It should also be noted that it isnt just Matthew who writes about some of the events you mentioned: Jesus’ baptism, 40 days in the wilderness (it should be noted that both Elijah and Moses fasted for 40 days). It seems to me Matthew saw the similarities in some aspects of Jesus’ life with that of Moses, and presented them as such, particularly given Matthew’s predominantly Jewish readers and hearers. But numerous authors in the NT compare and contrast Jesus with Moses, eg John. Indeed it is Moses himself who was told that a prophet would arise in the future, to whom the people should listen, and the NT authors saw that being fulfilled in Jesus.

          • John MacDonald

            Except that the reductionist typology along the lines of Price is that, for instance, Matthew is not simply imitating the infancy account of Moses from the Hebrew Scriptures, but that Matthew is imitating the account of the nativity of Moses in Josephus. Price comments that:

            “On the whole Matthew seems to have borrowed the birth story of Jesus from Josephus’ retelling of the nativity of Moses. Whereas Exodus had Pharaoh institute the systematic murder of Hebrew infants simply to prevent a strong Hebrew fifth column in case of future invasion, Josephus makes the planned pogrom a weapon aimed right at Moses, who in Josephus becomes a promised messiah in his own right. Amram and Jochabed, expecting baby Moses, are alarmed. What should they do? Abort the pregnancy? God speaks in a dream to reassure them. “One of those sacred scribes, who are very sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king that about this time there would a child be borne to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through the ages. Which was so feared by the king that, according to this man’s opinion, he commanded that they should cast every male child into the river, and destroy it… A man, whose name was Amram, … was very uneasy at it, his wife being then with child, and he knew not what to do… Accordingly God had mercy on him, and was moved by his supplication. He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted him not to despair of his future favours… ‘For that child, out of dread for whose nativity the Egyptians have doomed the Israelites’ children to destruction, shall be this child of thine… he shall deliver the Hebrew nation from the distress they are under from the Egyptians. His memory shall be famous whole the world lasts.’” (Antiquities, II, IX, 2-3) It is evident that Matthew has had merely to change a few names. Herod the Great takes the role of the baby-killing Pharaoh, and he is warned by his own scribes (along with the Magi) of the impending birth of a savior, whereupon he resolves to kill every child he has to in order to eliminate the child of promise. Joseph takes the place of Amram, though the precise cause of his unease is different. Mary takes the place of Jochabed. A dream from God steels Joseph, like Amram, in his resolve to go through with things. The rest of Matthew’s birth story is woven from a series of formulaic scripture quotations. He makes Isaiah 7:14 LXX refer to the miraculous virginal conception of Jesus. It is likely that he has in this case found a scripture passage to provide a pedigree for a widespread hagiographical mytheme, the divine paternity of the hero, which had already passed into the Christian tradition, unless of course this is the very door through which it passed. It is revealing that Matthew’s Magi learn from scribal exegesis of Micah 5:2 that the messiah must be born in Bethlehem. This is the same way Matthew “knew” Jesus was born there–it had to be! The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt comes equally from exegesis, this time of Hosea 11:1, which allows Matthew to draw a parallel between his character Joseph and the Genesis patriarch Joseph, who also went to Egypt. Matthew also seems here to want to foreshadow the death and resurrection of Jesus. Note that Isaiah 52:9-10 makes the exodus from Egypt into a historical replay of God’s primordial victory over the sea dragon Rahab, equating Egypt with Rahab. Matthew also knew that Jonah was swallowed by a sea monster at God’s behest, and he saw this as a prefiguration of Jesus’ descent into the tomb (Matthew 12:40). The flight into Egypt has the child Jesus already going down into Rahab, the belly of the sea beast.

          • Realist1234

            And so it goes on. It is perhaps inevitable that Price et al twist everything to fit in with their view that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist. So they assert that Luke used Josephus, and now it’s Matthew, despite the fact that few if any reputable scholars believe that, and based on the assumption, without any evidence, that both Luke and Matthew were written no earlier than the late 90s AD. Im not spending any further time on patent nonsense.

          • John MacDonald

            That typology is going on in the New Testament is generally understood, quite apart from whether one is a mythicist or not. And you do realize, don’t you, that a large number of critical scholars, including Dr. Ehrman and Dr. McGrath, say that the report that Jesus was born in Bethlehem is fake news. Ehrman says “my argument was that both accounts are implausible (wisemen following a star; census for the whole world to be registered under Caesar Augustus; etc.) and that they are hopelessly at odds with one another. So neither one is historical.” Jesus was born in Nazareth.

          • John MacDonald

            Here are Prof. Ehrman’s thoughts on the date of composition of the Gospel of John (posted May 7, 2012):

            “But John is so developed theologically, that it certainly appears to be the final one written. Some scholars have argued for an early second century date, but it is usually thought that John wrote sometime near the end of the first century, say in the 90s. In part that’s because the issues that he is dealing with (Jewish rejection of the Christian message) can be easily located then AND (these two arguments have to be given together, not treated separately) because he does *not* deal with the Christological “heresies” that are in evidence, say, in the polemics of Ignatius (docetic Christologies and the like). So he was probably before Ignatius but after the Synoptics – so near the end of the first century.” see:

  • Also, a central problem with inerrancy is that it such a connotative word, so connotative that it has become propagandistic. Heck, some Evangelicals claim to hold to inerrancy, even though they admit that thousands of errors exist in the Bible’s manuscripts, even though they agree that Genesis isn’t journalistically accurate history, even though they agree that science has shown that the universe is billions of years old, etc. Many even admit that we don’t have the innerrant manuscript. That disappeared in history.

    Holding to an inerrant view of the Bible, basically, means one is stating one isn’t a liberal.

    One of our former ministers–when I asked him how in the world he could claim to believe in inerrancy when he clearly didn’t–said that he knew that the word meant for members of their church that he took the Bible seriously.

    So even though he actually didn’t think the Bible was inerrant, he was conveying to the members that he relied on the Bible.

    I remember back in the 1970’s, Evangelical leaders such as Josh McDowell stated that Peter must have denied Christ more than what people thought, because otherwise the two different gospels couldn’t be accurate.

    And other Christian leaders emphasized that there had to be two cleansings of the Temple because one is at the end of Jesus’ ministry in the Synoptics but the other one in John is at the end. Etc.

    Now some Evangelical scholars, who hold to inerrancy, think there was only one cleansing, and that John moved it to the start of his gospel because he wasn’t trying to write a chronological journalistic biography.

    • It’s pronounced “sibboleth.”

    • Realist1234

      Those who hold to inerrancy generally only afford that to the manuscripts as originally written, rather than copies as we have them today. Clearly there are minor differences between the copied manuscripts.

      Re Peter’s denials, although some have tried to argue he denied Jesus more than 3 times, I find that hard to sustain from the general thrust from all 4 Gospels. Indeed at the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him 3 times, no doubt referencing his 3 earlier denials.

      But there are only minor differences between the accounts of Peter’s denials. In Mark’s Gospel, some manuscript copies have the rooster crowing ‘twice’ whilst others dont. Given that the other Gospels only record 1 crowing, including Luke and Matthew which supposedly used Mark, then 1 crowing is probably correct. All 4 Gospels have the denials being made to a servant girl or girls, and to a group, though likely with the group a single individual would have made the initial accusation, with others then joining in.

      As for the cleansing of the Temple, I think it’s quite possible there were 2 different events, one at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and one 3 years later. Not only are they placed at different times, but the descriptions are not the same. Noone is arguing that the Gospels show absolutely everything that Jesus said and did, and each writer would have his own reasons for including or excluding different events, for example depending on their audience or indeed on the witnesses they spoke to.

      ‘…and that John moved it to the start of his gospel because he wasn’t trying to write a chronological journalistic biography.’

      – interestingly, one of the earliest church fathers, Papias, writing probably around AD 110, seemed to view Mark’s Gospel as the one not in chronological order, but rather represents primarily the memoires and teaching of Peter, written down as he retold them. Rather Papias seems to view John’s Gospel as being more in order, chronologically.

  • soter phile

    A stack of straw men does not make for a substantive argument.
    Even if you disagree with someone, you should still be able to articulate their position in a form they would find recognizable.

    One is left to wonder if James McGrath has simply never sat down with conservative scholars – or if he chooses to ignore their self-espoused views in favor of purposefully misrepresenting their position.

    • John MacDonald

      Then what is the conservative point of view, as you see it?

      • soter phile

        Etymologically: those who wish to ‘conserve’ Scripture’s authorial intent.
        Theologically: God’s Word is more authoritative than me
        Practically: which is more normative in my life… my experience or Scripture’s teaching?

        Anticipating a popular objection: “it’s just *your* experience of Scripture…”
        a) begs the question (assuming a purely subjective viewpoint when the subjective-objective divide is the very thing under debate)
        b) ignores two millennia of shared central tenets of the Christian faith (e.g., the Apostles’ Creed).

        • John MacDonald

          In a way, reading is an exercise in humility. We can see this, for instance, in the field of Historical Jesus studies. Since the modern quest for the Historical Jesus began, a plethora of interpretive models have been proposed: apocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, Cynic philosopher, Jewish Messiah, Euhemerized mythical being, prophet of social change, etc. When we take this embarrassment of riches as a clue, it becomes apparent that interpretive frameworks (1) account for the evidence, (2) explain away apparently recalcitrant evidence, (3) but are not exclusively “true” in any objective sense (although hermeneutic models can certainly be falsified by the evidence – the Christ Myth Theory being one of these).

          • soter phile

            Humility? It seems to me the skeptic’s hypocrisy is the inability to turn that skepticism on oneself.

            I often find conservative scholars wrestling with their own eisegetical inclinations; I rarely find it among the Jesus Seminar, Bultmann, Tillich, Ehrman, etc. Case in point, Crossan’s “cynic philosopher” thesis – which he basically had to retract when the tidal wave of scholars (from all sides of the spectrum) pointed out this was rather a self-projection.

            On the contrary, if three rounds of the so-called “quest for the historical Jesus” have taught us anything, it’s that the only access we have to the historical Jesus of Nazareth is in the earliest, most well-attested manuscripts (i.e., the NT Gospels).

            As for the ’embarrassment of riches’, you reminded me of Daniel Wallace’s quick perusal of why we can trust the NT:

          • John MacDonald

            I said, in hermeneutics, we provide an interpretive model that explains the evidence, explains-away any apparent recalcitrant evidence, and that thereby we arrive at falsifiable theories – sometimes more than one. You think hermeneutics accomplishes more than this?

          • soter phile

            I think the fact that Jesus’ own repeatedly demonstrated hermeneutic is at odds with most of the models you cited is more than germane for any follower of Jesus. To overlook that incredibly relevant fact is to ignore that God’s Word itself asserts the primary grid through which it should be viewed.

            If by “recalcitrant evidence” one means adiaphora, ok. If instead (as the author of this blog often does) one means central tenets of the faith (not only demonstrated throughout Church history, but redundantly taught across the NT…), then absolutely not.

            Again, it is a disingenuous discussion of hermeneutics to fail to recognize that the higher-critical schemes begin with what many have called “a hermeneutic of suspicion” – but that suspicion ironically is not extended to the critic himself.

          • John MacDonald

            soter phile said “Again, it is a disingenuous discussion of hermeneutics to fail to recognize that the higher-critical schemes begin with what many have called “a hermeneutic of suspicion” – but that suspicion ironically is not extended to the critic himself.”

            – What results when the postmodern critic turns suspicion on herself?

          • soter phile

            when she is honest, what frequently results is an awareness that the so-called ‘leap of faith’ is not merely the circular point of departure for the religious – but also must be admitted is the circular point of departure for any finite, subjective agent.

            if she admits that, how can she not also admit an inherent ‘bias’ or limitation – especially when to accept the teachings of Scripture prima facie would require radical, world-revolutionizing change for her as an individual… and in many cases, that is absolutely NOT something she is willing to consider.

            otherwise, she might conclude, as Sheldon Van Auken did:
            “I saw a gap between me and Christ. How was I to cross that gap? If I was going to stake my whole life on the risen Christ, I wanted proof, I wanted certainty, I wanted letters of fire across the sky, but I got nothing. But then one day I realized, My God, there was not only a gap before me but there was a gap behind me as well. There would have to be a faith step either way. I suddenly realized I couldn’t prove that Christ was God, but (by God) there was no certainty he wasn’t! This was not to be borne! I now realized that I couldn’t reject Jesus without faith. There was only one thing to do [once I saw that gap before me and behind me], I flung myself over the gap toward Jesus.”

          • John MacDonald

            It’s interesting how much you think you can reliably infer from texts. Tell me something, from reading my responses to you, can you infer whether I am a male, or a female, or transgender, or young, or old?

          • soter phile

            that’s a poor analogy. if we had 2000 years of evidence, including scholarship, history, eyewitness discussion, over 5000 manuscripts, archeology etc… then maybe that would be a fair analogy. the bible is the most read, most heavily scrutinized book in history.

            your question is like the “telephone game” critique frequently levied. in the telephone game, each new ‘hearer’ cannot check back with the original. but in scholarship, that’s precisely what one does. as the Reformers said, 1500 years after Christ: “to the sources!”

            the only source you are offering is a few comments on a random blog across a few hours.

          • John MacDonald

            Dr. Richard Carrier, in Element 14 of his book “On The Historicity of Jesus,” says that the two reasonable secular explanations for the resurrection appearances reported in the Pauline Corinthian Creed/Poetry is either the people were schizotypals who were hallucinating, or they were lying about seeing the risen Jesus. I outline the Noble Lie Theory of Christian Origins in a blog post here: . What do you think of the hallucination hypothesis, or the Noble Lie hypothesis? In other words, what do you think a secular person, who doesn’t believe in the supernatural, is to make of the earliest resurrection reports (in Paul’s epistles)?

          • soter phile

            So ‘group hallucinations’ is the best critique one can offer?
            That’s a very thin response to Paul’s list of eyewitnesses (over 500, with several names included), written within 20 years (if not less) of the events (1 Cor.5:3-8). Many of the eyewitnesses would certainly still be alive to corroborate. He’s inviting fact-checking – especially within the Hellenized world of the Pax Romana, in which correspondence & pilgrimages back to Jerusalem were a norm.

            And consider: virtually all other miraculous claims of the major religions were private, not public. Yet Jesus appeared to many people over many days.

            As such, “The Noble Lie” would require a very LARGE number of people going to their death for a lie they concocted. That doesn’t match the human experience.

            Much better is Yale scholar Kenneth Scott Latourette’s comment:
            “Why among all the cults and philosophies competing in the Greco-Roman World did Christianity succeed and outstrip all others? Why did it succeed despite getting more severe opposition than any other, why did it succeed though it had no influential backers in high places but consisted mainly of the poor and slaves? How did it succeed so completely that it forced the most powerful state in history to come to terms with it and then outlive the very empire that sought to uproot it? It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity, there must have occurred a vast release of energy perhaps unequaled in our history. Without it, the future course of the Christian religion is inexplicable… Why this occurred may lie outside the realms in which historians are supposed to move.”

          • John MacDonald

            Nope. The 500 is hearsay. The Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed/Poetry is just Cephas and the 12:

            That Christ died for our sins
            in accordance with the scriptures.
            and that he was buried;

            That he was raised on the third day
            in accordance with the scriptures,
            and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

          • soter phile

            “the 500 is hearsay”? he’s not in a court of law. he’s writing a letter to a group of people, inviting corroboration for any who might be skeptical. that’s a significant historical problem for the skeptic. it requires yet another layer of conspiracy be concocted to avoid Occam’s razor.

            as for “just Cephas & the 12” – he names several, not least of which is James (probably Jesus’ brother, the one who throughout the Gospel of John mocked him for claiming to be the Messiah, but as of Acts 1, becomes a follower… because he met the risen Jesus).

            And as for “pre-Pauline poetry”, note well Philippians 2:5-11. Clearly this is a pre-existing hymn of theological claims. Very few critical scholars context genuine Pauline authorship, placing this (at the latest) in the early 60s. Again, the theological complexity that has arisen within the time of supposed living eyewitnesses is a significant problem for those who would claim such developments were much later (as if to imply such claims were utterly divorced from Christ’s teachings himself).

            And then consider a greater problem with your “noble lie” thesis: virtually all of the first Christians were Jews. While Jews did belief in a resurrection… it was ONLY at the end of time. The idea that an individual would be resurrected in the middle of history is preposterous. As a concocted lie, it would have been utterly dismissed as preposterous. If they were making something up, why make up a lie that would be dismissed out of hand by their immediate audience?

            If you actually want to pursue the scholarship here, NT Wright has written extensively (read: 900 pages or so) in his tome of scholarship: “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” He deals rather extensively with the evidence & how untenable such objections are in light of the historical realities.

          • John MacDonald

            NT Wright hardly represents the consensus of critical scholars. He is a fringe apologist.

            Earlier you said when you were defining your position that: “Etymologically: those who wish to ‘conserve’ Scripture’s authorial intent.”
            – What do you think the Scripture’s authorial intent was – in your opinion?

          • Realist1234

            Can I presume you dont believe Jesus was physically resurrected? If so, how do you explain the eyewitness testimony and the fact that those first witnesses were prepared to die based on their witness to his resurrection, rather than deny Christ?

          • John MacDonald

            As I said, I give my take on these issues here: . I agree with Carrier on this point. Either it was hallucinations, or noble lies, or a combination of both. I reject supernatural explanations from the point of view of probability. If a body went missing a couple weeks ago, we wouldn’t conclude it was raised from the dead.

          • Realist1234

            ‘If a body went missing a couple weeks ago, we wouldn’t conclude it was raised from the dead.’

            – thats right but then the Gospel authors and Paul dont just say that. They claim there were hundreds of witnesses to His resurrection. The empty tomb was just the beginning…

          • John MacDonald

            The 500 is hearsay. From a secular point of view, the resurrection appearances can be explained as hallucinations, or fraud (like in the case of Joseph Smith), or a combination of both. How would you explain the appearances from a secular point of view? Or, as I said, maybe they encountered the risen Jesus. Who knows?

          • soter phile

            To point us to Christ (Jn.5:39-40; Lk.24:27,44; 2 Cor.1:20; etc.)
            & bring us into union with him (165x “in him”; Eph.5:29-32; Hosea; Rev.19-22; etc.).

            [I responded to this at length earlier, yet my comment has disappeared. why?]
            Also: note well – even scholars as far left as Crossan respect NT Wright enough to concede the resurrection appearances in public debate with him. Being on the opposite end of the spectrum doesn’t make the evidences he cites any less compelling.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m getting your comment in my profile feed, but it’s not showing up in the regular public screen.

          • soter phile

            Curious. Thanks for letting me know.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s fixed now.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s actually amazing how many things we take for granted in interpretation. For instance, do you infer from my profile here that my name is actually John MacDonald? There’s no reason to infer that. John MacDonald was the first prime minister of Canada, and so I might just be using his name as a pseudonym because I’m a proud Canadian. Or, maybe I’m an American who did a project on Sir John in university and am just a fan!

            And, there’s polysemia and ambiguity in language. Haven’t you ever experienced miscommunication? For example, American Philosopher John Searle gives the following idea: “I walked by the store and saw a cuddly dog in the big, beautiful window. I wanted it.” Searle asks, does “it” refer to the cuddly dog or the big, beautiful window? The problem with texts is that we often can’t interrogate the author as to what she meant. Can we ask Mark what he meant?

            Hermeneutics is like the movie “Clue.” Clue is a murder/mystery starring Tim Curry of “The Rocky Horror Picture Shoe” fame. It is based on the popular game (of the same name). In the movie, we are presented with the murder and the evidence, and the audience is left to infer who did it. Then at the end of the movie, four plausible scenarios are presented as to who the culprit is. Interpretation is often like this, such as inferences drawn in Historical Jesus studies concluding Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, or cynic sage, or …

          • soter phile

            you said: “Hermeneutics is like the movie ‘Clue’…”
            Note well: your lens is entirely anthropocentric… but this is an explicitly theological conversation.

            As Soren Kierkegaard pointed out, you have forgotten the “infinite qualitative difference between humanity and God.”

            Yes, if theology were merely a human project – then yes, Clue might be a fair analogy. And if that’s the way progressives view it, please understand why conservative critics have called that a different religion – a man-made one. Even Barth (for all the debate over his view of the Scriptures) recognized that “no one can rightly speak of God except himself.” Otherwise, we fall prey to Feuerbach’s critique: ‘all theology is anthropology’ (i.e., it’s all just self-projection).

            In short, you want to apply a purely bottom-up approach to a top-down faith.
            You would talk about God as if humanity is the judge of his thoughts rather than the recipient of his revelation.
            But Humanity is not the center of Christian understanding (1 Cor.2:6-16).

            Jesus says “I am the Way/Truth/Life… no one comes to the Father except through me” – and progressives would have us engage in redaction criticism rather than deal with the offensive and saving reality of God that Scripture presents. It is not ‘trouble with communication’ that is the problem – unless you mean trouble within the hearer. It is a refusal to submit oneself to Jesus’ claim to define Reality itself… and all the authority that comes with such a claim. Only the desperate would follow such a claim, right? Yes. That’s where Christianity begins. I cannot save myself, much less rule my own life.

            “Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn.6:68)

          • You want the real explanation as to the origin of the gospels?

            The Pentateuch is a fraud, so the gospels have white lies. It’s King Jesus like it’s Pharaoh Ramses – that’s why both Herod and Jesus are “King of the Jews” – because one of them has no claim to divine authority.

            For all intents and purposes, I am Jesus and my word is God’s word.



        • Then how do you suggest humans deal with passages such as Exodus 21: 20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”

          How can the Bible be inerrant if it defends slavery, even the abuse and physical harm of slaves, even calling a slave one’s “money”?

          Slavery is inherently evil.

          • soter phile

            you said: “how can the Bible be inerrant if it defends slavery…”
            now at least you are admitting your rendition of inerrancy. I’d dismiss it, too, if that’s what I thought it taught.

            i’d invite you to consider that possibly you’ve (unintentionally?) made inerrantists monolithic. We are not all slavery defenders (despite a few well-known Doug Wilson types). as a matter of fact, most of us find slavery abhorrent & join the fight to end modern slavery (did you know there are more slaves now than ever before in human history?).

            here are some examples (if you’re actually willing to engage rather than caricature) that engage your mistaken premise:

            on slavery:
            [note well Peter Williams lecture on the second link]

            on overall biblical hermeneutics:

          • Thanks for responding.
            However, I don’t understand your response. How can you claim that slavery is inherently evil, if Exodus 21:20 is inerrant?!

          • soter phile

            Like I said before, that should tell you that your understanding of inerrancy doesn’t match what its adherents believe. If you’re willing to find out, check those links I gave. What’s on display is not merely the immediate exegetical answer, but also the underlying hermeneutical approach – despite its repeated misrepresentation in this blog.

    • One is left to wonder whether you have simply never listened to James McGrath sufficiently to know that he studied conservative scholars extensively because he was a conservative himself, and so the views he argues against are not the views of other people whom he may have people whom he may have ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented. They are views that he himself embraced, adhered to, and advocated in the past.

      • soter phile

        Considering your memes above, either…
        a) you never actually understood the position you claimed to espouse as a ‘conservative’ (as they are unrecognizable caricatures, and no wonder you rejected them)… OR…
        b) you are purposefully misrepresenting them.

        case in point, “inerrancy is only ever used to defend sin…”
        it is precisely because conservatives believe the Word that they call for repentance – including and especially one’s own, whether preacher or scholar. that is the one of (if not THE) main theme(s) of Jesus’ preaching – and notably a theme you RARELY hear in a progressive church.

        I’d encourage you to read Gordon Fee’s “Reading the Bible for All It’s Worth” or Geisler’s “Inerrancy”.
        At least then you could give a critique of views conservative scholars actually advocate, instead of these caricatures.

        • I have read both books, and Fee and Stuart’s I have not only read multiple times but have used as a textbook. What in Fee and Stuart do you consider relevant to the topic we are discussing?

          Conservatives do not call anyone to repent of the idolatrous approach to the Bible, and to the aggrandizement of the human authority of both the authors and the interpreters of scripture that goes along with it.

          • TrevorN

            The trouble with this thread is that there is an “inerrant” (sic) poster contributing to it.

          • soter phile

            Thanks for yet again demonstrating the point.
            No, inerrantists aren’t claiming they are inerrant.
            (We err often. AND we invite others to call us to repentance through God’s Word.)
            We are claiming God’s Word is without error.

            But again, such self-congratulatory misrepresentation is present in all the above memes.
            And it certainly is a convenient way to distract oneself from hearing what God’s Word says.

          • error

          • soter phile

            read my answer below in the other thread.
            if you really want to hear from inerrantists, follow the links to their website.
            If you’re willing to watch the Peter Williams talk directly on this topic, here’s the youtube link:

          • soter phile

            Do your really think Fee would see *any* of your memes as an accurate representation of his position?

            The fact that your own students haven’t pointed out that your memes do not match those author’s positions makes me wonder if the spirit of your classroom invites genuine discussion or makes it clear that one must ‘parrot the prof to get an A.’

            you said: “Conservatives do not call anyone to repent of the idolatrous approach to the Bible…”
            a) ‘bibliolatry’ is not their position. again, such conservatives would not find your representation of them recognizable.
            b) when your hermeneutic is called idolatrous by conservatives (and it is), does that lead you to repent or object to their logic? you’re failing to engage the underlying commitments. it’s just labeling.
            c) worthy of note: I *often* hear conservatives calling each other out on their hermeneutics, misuses of authority and self-aggrandizement – from WITHIN their own camp. I have *rarely* heard self-styled progressives do that within their own camp. and I spent most of my academic career among progressives at progressive institutions.

            one may mock conservatives for their view of Scripture, but a call to repentance *within* conservative circles is not unusual. that lens is not merely turned outward – unlike progressive circles where it seems the only critical lens is the one turned toward conservatives or injustices, but certainly not inwardly. even to invoke repentance (again, Jesus’ primary theme alongside the kingdom) – especially an inward repentance – requires having an authority higher than oneself, and that’s unacceptable territory for most progressives.

            the very “aggrandizement” you accuse conservatives of asserting is the claims found within Scripture about its own authors – not least of which in Jesus’ own megalomaniacal statements about himself AS he affirms the OT human authors having written God’s Word.

          • I have been so baffled by this comment that it has taken me a while to reply. I am well aware that sinners regularly fail to recognize their sinfulness, and even find ways not only to justify it, but to persuade themselves that it is a virtue rather than something detrimental to their spiritual well being. And so I fail to see how the unwillingness and in some cases inability of conservatives to see themselves as others see them is a response to the point.

            You clearly have no idea what goes on in my classrooms either in a university context or in the Sunday school class I teach. You may be surprised to learn that most students have no idea that I make memes, never mind what is in them. No one has ever received an A for parroting me, and indeed, I emphasize that I’d rather see intelligent disagreement with me than unquestioning following of my lead any day. And in the non-sectarian university context in which I teach, I do not within a classroom setting call them to repent of sin, but invite them to critically investigate. Within that context, I emphasize that they are free to change their minds, whatever their starting point, or to end up seeing things much as they always did, but I want by the end of the semester for their views to be their own conclusions, rather than assumptions they inherited from others.

            I’m not sure why you would either expect Fee to agree with me, or view him as a target of my criticisms. Care to clarify?

  • Alan Christensen

    Looking through these memes I realized that inerrancy–and this may be its biggest shortcoming–doesn’t make people more loving, which is one of the Bible’s clearest tests of whether one knows God! (see I John 4:7-8)

    • soter phile

      Inerrancy doesn’t make one more loving. Jesus does.
      Problem is: if you think Jesus’ words are error-ridden, it’s highly unlikely you’ll let his definition of love correct yours.