Friday, March 29, 2024

Jerusalem or Galilee? Contradition in Res accounts?

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb." --Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, 208.M

Our atheist friend the regular on the comment section "Pixie" has an argument about the Resurrection accounts that is interesting and deserves answering:

Mark is clear that Jesus went on ahead to Galilee. This is in both chapter 14 and 16. The supposed appearances in Jerusalem contradict that. You page on harmonization fails to even mention Galilee, totally ignoring both Mark and Matthew!...Okay, I should have said oldest that we have, and therefore closest to the original. We know Luke and Matthew were based on Mark, and yet they chose to remove the claim that the women did not say anything. They (their respective communities) were adding their own embellishments, and it made more sense to have the women talk, so they changed the text.


We have a whole bunch of facts that need to be pieced together to make a coherent narrative. The author of Mark wrote what he wrote for a reason. I suggest he wrote that Jesus went on ahead to Galilee because that is what he believed, because when he was writing there were no stories of Jerusalem appearances. He wrote of the Empty Tomb because that is what the community held to, and wrote that the women said nothing because that explained why stories of the Empty Tomb were not circulating at the time.[1]

So he is saying in Mark the angel tells the women Jesus will go meet them in Galilee they should go there, That is a contradiction to all the Jerusalem-based sightings of the risen Christ, In fact the same statement is made in two Gospels:

mark 16

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.6 He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him. 7 But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”

Matt 28

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. Matthew records that they did go to Galilee and that's where he gives them the great commission.

Mat 28

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The problem is the time frame created by Luke is so tightly constructed that it doesn't allow for them to go to Galilee. He shows the travelers on the road to Emmaus meet Jesus. It tells us "on that same day":(24:13) that is Easter, the day of the resurrection, Then they invite Jesus to break bread when they get home. They realize who he is and he disappears and they get up and go back to Jerusalem and tell the 12 then and there. The journey was only about five miles. Jesus appears among them he eats in front of them, Then he leads them out to Bethany where he ascends into the sky, It all happens in one day and evening no time to go to Galilee which would be about a three day walk.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, answers the problem by asserting there's a gap at v 44, an invisible seem that separates everything after 44 as happening days later in Galilee. [2] The justification for the dividing line the Greek word "de"(pronounced "day"). The NIV translates it merely as"he said to them" some versions put "then he said..." "I maintain that it is a merely an assumption to assert that Jesus spoke Luke 24:44ff on Easter Day. The use of the Greek "de" (meaning "and," "then," or "now") to begin Luke 24:44 does not necessitate immediacy, but merely at "a time after." Witnesses do not always share things in chronological order - this includes the Gospel writers as well. The Gospels jump from topic to topic without any warnings at times (see Luke 4:1-4; Matt 4:1-11)."[3]

He wants us to assume that there's an invisible break we are just not told about. It puts several days between v43 where he eats fish and 44 where he shows his hands and feet. In the part of Texas from which I come we call this "rationalization," (one of our folksy colloquialisms). Because it's unlikely he would wait so long, he just ate to prove he is flesh and blood then why wait several days to show his hands and feet? That's bad enough but Luke lowers the boom on this answer in v50 where he leads them back to Bethany for the ascension.So they waited three days to walk down to Galilee to see his hands and feet then turned and walked back to Bethany to watch him ascend.I think in the way Luke tries to pin it down he actually does create a contradiction with the other Synoptics (Matthew and Mark).

This need not be a faith destroying problem, however, we know Luke was not an eye witness he does not claim to be. He tries to tie the account to the documentation of his research but in so doing leaves out room for other accounts he did not consult. Clearly Luke draws upon a Jerusalem based tradition (which is consistent with the Pauline circle since Paul made contact with James who stayed in Jerusalem).[4] The witnesses of the Jerusalem community omitted rather than renounced the Galilee community, but they conflated the time frame.

Remember my basic assumption is that the witnesses fanned out among the various communities. Thus, each community reflects the perspective of those witnesses in its midst. Thus John focused on Mary Madeline as the major witness to the resurrection, the others do not. John's account seems to be told from Mary's perspective but it does acknowledge that there were other women with her at the tomb too ("we don't know where they have laid him"--John 20:2). The most likely explanation for the focus on her perspective is that she is the one of the major witnesses that wound up in that community.

I am not saying the James' Church was at odds with the Galilee band. I am just saying that over time the accounts conflated the experience of the community to the exclusion of others in some way. Interestingly enough there was a very early tradition that had Peter and some others of the 12 went back to Galilee having heard of the resurrection but not having yet seen the Lord.There is a part of the apocryphal gospel of Peter that records a trace of this tradition,After the amazing resurrection scene where Jesus is escorted out of the tomb followed by talking cross, there is a much more realistic account of Peter and others going back to Galilee to fish and wait for the Lord,[5] This fragment fits much more closely the tone of fear, mystery, and silence of Mark rather than the positive "Godspell" tone of Matthew, Luke, and John.

[58] Now it was the final day of the Unleavened Bread; and many went out returning to their home since the feast was over. [59] But we twelve disciples of the Lord were weeping and sorrowful; and each one, sorrowful because of what had come to pass, departed to his home. [60] But I, Simon Peter, and my brother Andrew, having taken our nets, went off to the sea. And there was with us Levi of Alphaeus whom the Lord ...[6]

James Tabor argues that this constitutes an early independent tradition. He thinks that Luke suggests that the injunction to stay in Jerusalem was counter to the faction that returned to the Galilee.[7] We know there was some mild power struggle in the early church in which Peter and James vied to impress one another.[8]

Omission is not contradiction, It is well known that major aspects of the synoptic are left out of John and that John includes major aspects not in the synoptic; for example John includes the whole Galilean ministry not in the synoptics, "Prior visits of Jesus to Jerusalem before the passion week are mentioned in John but not found in the synoptics. The seventh sign-miracle, the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11) is not mentioned in the synoptics. The extended Farewell Discourse (John 13—17) is not found in the synoptic Gospels."[9] Yet no serious scholar tries to suggest that this is an out-and-out contradiction. It's merely a difference in sources. A difference in the "take."

Now the question arises, how do we know what in the account is genuine and what is not? This is not the hopeless conundrum the skeptic will try to build it into. Were it not possible to answer this point by means of textual criticism we would not have it as a problem in the first place.Two points enable solution: (1) We can spot the older readings as the discovery of the Pre Mark Passion Narrative (PMPN) has been consistent with MS evidence; the existence or pre mark redaction--sources of the gospel written before Mark of course not canonical but nevertheless influenced the canonical gospels. This view is now consensus.[10] for more on PMPN (see my article article "story of empty tomb dated mid first century."[11](2) we can ascertain those points upon which all witnesses agree. They all agree that the tomb was empty they all agree Jesus was seen alive again. None of the accounts including apocryphal accounts deny these points, for at least three centuries after the events. Each account is fueled by the unique perspective of the set of witnesses in that community. They do not contradict each other they are cumulative.

My Point is we can take agreement between canonical and extra canonical sources as consensus. We don't want to use them as theological guides but as historical artifacts. Like a pot shard these apocryphal works testify as to the beliefs going around in given era and given local. It can be reckoned as fairly obvious that the cross, the empty, tomb the resurrection of Jesus were early and universal, and undisputed. Two major sources of which I speak are the Gospel of Peter (GPet) and Gospel of Thomas, (GTom). There is the Epistle of the Apostles, very orthodox but attributed to middle of second century.Epistle Egerton 2. Most of these are tainted with Gnosticism and contradict orthodox theology. For this reason many Christian apologists just date them to later second century and dismiss them as false and ignore them. That's not honest because major scholarship, even by orthodox schools (such as Raymond Brown) place these works as early or as containing early influences. Some perhaps even earlier than the canonical gospels. Again they are not theologically reliable but as historical artifacts we can't overlook them.

Skeptics often argue that Mark ends with no resurrection even though clearly says he is risen and in an atmosphere of fear and secrecy. But Marks's ending is lost so we don't know what it said. But in echoing the Galilee command it acknowledges that tradition, That's even more interesting that Mark is said to be the memoirs of Peter who according to the Pre Mark redaction led the contingent back to Galilee. Matthew not only preserves the command but says they went. All gospels, both canonical and otherwise agree with the empty tomb and the resurrection. In light of these facts we can;t regard the omission of Luke, who was not privy to the original events, as a serious contradiction to events.

The truth is, Jesus met with His disciples in both places, but He did so at different times. One of the reasons so many people allege that two or more Bible passages are contradictory is because they fail to recognize that mere differences do not necessitate a contradiction...Jesus met with His disciples both in Jerusalem and in Galilee, but at different times. On the day of His resurrection, He met with all of the apostles (except Thomas) in Jerusalem just as both Luke and John recorded (Luke 24:33-43; John 20:19-25). Since Jesus was on the Earth for only forty days following His resurrection (cf. Acts 1:3), sometime between this meeting with His apostles in Jerusalem and His ascension more than five weeks later, Jesus met with seven of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee (John 21:1-14), and later with all eleven of the apostles on a mountain in Galilee that Jesus earlier had appointed for them (Matthew 28:16). Sometime following these meetings in Galilee, Jesus and His disciples traveled back to Judea, where He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives near Bethany (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12)...None of the accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances contradicts another. Rather, each writer supplemented what a different writer left out. Jesus may have appeared to the disciples a number of times during the forty days on Earth after His resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-7), while the New Testament writers mentioned only the more prominent instances in order to substantiate the fact of His resurrection.[12]

Why the dichotomy between meeting places? Who knows. Perhaps that reflects a factional split in the early church. Or maybe Jesus wanted to reminisce about his childhood before ascending to heaven. I know that sounds sarcastic but onerously what I mean is we can't know. We don't know all the things Jesus attended to during that period. He may have taken the disciples back were it all started for their own psychological needs. If it is a contradiction is it really a major one?


[1] Anonymous (aka "Pixie") Comment Section,in Joseph Hinman, "Breaking News: Liberals are not fundies; Answering Atheist assertions about folklore in Gospels," Cadre Comments blog (Jan, 7, 2018) (accessed Jan 11, 2018)

[2] Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr. "God and Stay Discrepancy," Reformed Answers (third Millennial Ministries) (no date given) (accessed 1/11/18) Nally is D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).

[3] Ibid.

[4] James was from Galilee but we know he stayed in Jerusalem because he became head of the Jerusalem church according to Josephus' "brother passage."

[5] "The Gospel of Peter," Trans Raymond Brown, Early Christian Writings. Peter Kirby Editor. (website coywrite 2001) (accessed 1/11/18)

[6] Ibid

[7] James Tabor, "The Surprising Ending of The Lost Gospel of Peter," Taborblog, published by Christian Origins website (December. 2015). (accessed 1/11/18) James D. Tabor (born 1946 in Texas) is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he has taught since 1989 and served as Chair from 2004–14. He previously held positions at Ambassador College (1968–70 while a student at Pepperdine University), the University of Notre Dame (1979–85), and the College of William and Mary (1985–89). Tabor is a fine scholar but his Jesus Dynasty book denies the resurrection,

[8] Ibid

[9] W Hall Harris III, "Two Major Differences in John and The Synoptic," from Commentary on the Gospel of John, Bible .Org Web site. (access 1/25/18) Harris is Prof New Testament Dallas Theological Seminary.

[10] Peter Kirbey, "The Passion Narrative," Early Christian Writings, website (access 1/25/18) "Nevertheless, the idea of a pre-Markan passion narrative continues to seem probable to a majority of scholars. One recent study is presented by Gerd Theissen in The Gospels in Context, on which I am dependent for the following observations." Image result for Giotto the empty tomb

[11] Joseph Hinman, "Story of Empty Tomb Dated To Mid First Century." Cadre Comments Blog, (April 2, 2017) (access 1/25/18) also published in Holding's anthology Deeding the Resurrection

[12] Eric Lyons, "To Galilee or Jerusalem?,"Apologetics Press (2004) (accessed Dec 8,2019)

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Gospel Behind the Gospels

Skeptics of the New Testament usually assume a long gap exists between the events in the gospels and the recording of the events in writing, They further tend to assume that the first source of writing about these events was the gospel of Mark. Thus they assume events were exaggerated and miracles were made up and so on during this gap period. In this essay I am going to dispel this myth by demonstrating that there were written records of the gospel events that existed before the writing of Mark's gospel. I will further demonstrate that there were multiple sources transmitting the information. Mark's was not the first gospel written but merely the first of the canonical gospels to be written. None of the early works survive in MS form but we find traces of them in copies of latter works.Nor was Mark' the first teaching of the Resurrection.

A, The circulation of Gospel material can be shown in four areas:

(1) Oral tradition

(2) saying source Material

(3) Non canonical Gospels

(4) traces of pre Markan redaction (PMR)

(canonical material that pre-date Mark, assumed the to be the first Gospel, also called Pre Mark Passion narrative PMPN).

B. Oral Tradition (in Two Major Sources)

Scholars have always recognized that the telling of the gospel stories began with the transmission of oral tradition. Of course the problem with oral tradition is that it's not written, Once written it becomes written tradition. Yet the form of the oral transmission can cling to the writing, It is possible to identify sources of oral tradition even when written down. We see oral tradition reflected in the New Testament in two major sources:

Pauline references to sayings

The great scholar Edgar Goodspeed held that oral tradition was not haphazard rumor but tightly controlled process,and that all new converts were required to learn certain oral traditions and spit them back from memory:
Our earliest Christian literature, the letters of Paul, gives us glimpses of the form in which the story of Jesus and his teaching first circulated. That form was evidently an oral tradition, not fluid but fixed, and evidently learned by all Christians when they entered the church. This is why Paul can say, "I myself received from the Lord the account that I passed on to you," I Cor. 11:23. The words "received, passed on" [1] reflect the practice of tradition—the handing-down from one to another of a fixed form of words. How congenial this would be to the Jewish mind a moment's reflection on the Tradition of the Elders will show. The Jews at this very time possessed in Hebrew, unwritten, the scribal interpretation of the Law and in Aramaic a Targum or translation of most or all of their Scriptures. It was a point of pride with them not to commit these to writing but to preserve them.[1]

In my essay "Community as author" I deal with the validity of oral tradition. At this point I give examples of the traces of oral tradition in Paul's writings: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 has long been understood as a formula saying like a creedal statement.

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

1Cr 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

1Cr 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

1Cr 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

1Cr 15:7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

1Cr 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Koster theorizes that Paul probably had a saying source like that of Q available to him. Paul's use of Jesus' teachings indicates that he probably worked from his own saying source which contained at least aspects of Q. That indicates wide connection with the Jerusalem church and the proto "Orthodox" faith.

Parable of Sower 1 Corinthians 3:6 Matt.

Stumbling Stone Romans 9: 33 Jer 8:14/Synoptics

Ruling against divorce 1 cor 7:10 Mark 10:11

Support for Apostles 1 Cor 9:14 Q /Luke 10:7

On my site I have 16 verses, found in gospels but found in Paul first. That can only mean Mark was usmg material which had been aroound since the begining. To see these passages in nice cool looking easy to read chart go to my site the religious a priori,(scroll down to the blue box)[2]

These passages indicate that Paul knew versions off Jesus' teaching and Gospel stories two decades before Mark was written, What this means is the Gospel material was being transmitted in an era decades before the writing of Mark. This material also indicates oral tradition (as with the pericopes) we can assume this material goes back to era of the events themselves since we only abouit about 18 years between Crucifixion and Paul's early epistles.

[1] Edgar J. Goodspeed, An Introduction to the New Testament, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937

[2]Joseph Hinman, "Gospel behind the gospels," The Religious a priori, website., 2010.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Sorry for eliminating post

I elemiated the post because all the side bar stuff was going to the bottom. I don't know why. I hope that fixes it. I can't fix it. I need to hear from everyone wno post here If we just goon as iswould be ok Or shall I sart a new blog?

Friday, March 15, 2024

What is the Soul?

It seems almost a universal belief among atheists on the net (with some notable exceptions) that science has explained all of consciousness, reduced "mind" to an illusory nature, a side effect of brain chemistry. Atheists argue this fantasy from the stand point of the soul or the spirit, reducing dualistic aspects of religious thought to only the material realm, thus confirming their naturalism and eliminating what they see as privative religious thinking. The problem is, this is sheer fantasy. The atheist delusion that the whole of science accepts this conclusion as fact and as a matter of course is totally contradicted by the major physicists (Pennrose) and the Nobel Laureates who support many of the new forms of dualism or quantum versions of consciousness.

Atheists argue this issue on two grounds: (1) that there is no data of any kind whatsoever supporting any sort of soul or spirit; (2) that alterations to brain chemistry seem to alter consciousness in many ways. Thus they conclude that brain chemistry is what "mind" reduce to, and there is nothing more than that and there need be nothing more than that. To answer the first point first, what atheists have in mind on the issue of soul is something like Casper the friendly ghost. They seem to think that religious thinking has not advanced sufficiently to get past the vaper notion of a by gone era. But not all religious view points understand things in is way.

"Soul," in my parlance, is a veg term which is given no consistent use in the Bible. What emerges from the Biblical text most often is the idea that "soul" is a symbolic term referring to the over all life of the individual, especially with reference to the religious sphere, the telos of the individual's life goal, the after life. This is not to say that "soul" is what lives on, except in the symbolic sense. In other words, we do not have souls, we are souls. Thus the Bible speaks of a certain number of "souls" going down into Egypt, or we speak of "lost souls" and "saving souls."

It is Spirit that I think of as the thing that lives after death. Spirit is the "life force" in a metaphorical sense. Now this doesn't mean it's a mysterious energy, for I understand "spirit" in the way that Albert Schweitzer did, as mind: Spirit = mind. Mind is an immaterial aspect of brain which produces consciousness, self awareness, and that is what lives on after death. Of course the atheist will argue that the mind is a side effect of brain chemistry, below (page 3) I present a boat load of data to show that this is simply not the case. Mind transcends brain. Of course we should be prepared to assume that mind is produced by brain function, that is "caused" by having a brain; but just being caused by the brain doesn't mean that the mind is reduced to the brain. As for living without a brain, we are talking about a state of after life. Of course we shouldn't expect minds to go running around planet earth without brains while people are still alive, but in the state of after life, where one transcends the material, why not? Some Christians might raise the issue of "resurrection body," but when Jesus was still in the flesh, after the resurrection, he told Mary he had not yet ascended to the father, and implied that his body would be transformed. Paul says he was raised a life giving spirit; he doesn't say he was a life giving spirit immediately upon raising.So perhaps in the state of after life the "resurrection body" is pure spirit? That is to say, the resurrection body is pure mind; being taken up into God's presence the mind coheres through some divine measure we know not of? That seems like the simplest solution to consider to me.

As for the issue of brain chemistry and changing brain function changes consciousness, there is a problem here between correlation and causality. There is a very strong correlation between brain damage and changes of consciousness, but there is no way to prove that this is because the mind is reduce able to the brain. If the mind is dependent upon the brain as a soft ware package is dependent upon hardware, then of course damaging the hard ware would make the soft ware inaccessible, but it would not mean that soft are is reduceable to hardware.

This idea always leaves atheists cold and usually they just ignore it on message boards. But it really does answer all the problems connected with belief in life after death and soul. It is not an entity that lives separately from the body. Its' the symbol of the over all life in relation to God. Mind is spirit, this means there is no Casper like aspect of humans that lives on after death. Mind may or may not live on after death, but as mind and we can ponder "resurrection body" another time. This makes after life something of a physical thing. If we are ideas in the mind of God this is not hard to understand. All God need to do so save our maind matrix is just think about it adhering


Monday, March 04, 2024

The Point of Religion

My original statement: "religion is justified on its own terms."

Pix: If your argument is right, then the belief that Thor controls thunder "is justified on its own terms". Do you really think that is the case?

Me: Only if you have a comic book understanding of religion. You think religion is a big bully boy in the clouds and you better do what he says then know nothing about religion. My statement boils down to there is ultimate transformative experience that resolves the issue in the human problematic and gives meaning to existence. One such example of this transformative experience is the feeling of utter dependence. That feeling justifies the need to resolve the problematic.

Atheists tend to see religion as competing strong men. They are always justopossimg individual deities against each other, Like in man's post human ampliofied the most powerful people and projected them imto skay riding status and that's all religion can ever be for atheists. Meanwhile thinking religious people moved on.

What follows is a statement I wrote so long ago the name Metacrock still seemed new. The statement was part of my page on Biblical revelation so it analyzes the religious a priori in terms of the Bible and specifically questions of the  historicity of the Bible. I think it does expand the meaning of my statement about the point of religion.

All religions seek to do three things.

All religions seek to do three things:

a) to identify the human problematic,
b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the
problematic, and
c) to mediate between the two.

But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:

1) a religious tradition reflects a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of what we find in the world.

2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic

. 3) it mediates the UTE in such a way as to be effective and accessible.

4) its putative and crucial historical claims be historically probable given the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are required within the inner logic of that belief system.

5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.

These mean that I am not interested in piddling Biblical contradictions such as how many women went to the tomb, ect. but in terms of the major claims of the faith as they touch the human problematic and its resolution.

How Does the Bible fulfill these criteria? First, what is the Bible? Is it a rule book? Is it a manual of discipline? Is it a science textbook? A history book? No it is none of these. The Bible, the Canon, the NT in particular, is a means of bestowing Grace. What does that mean? It means first, it is not an epistemology! It is not a method of knowing how we know, nor is it a history book. It is a means of coming into contact with the UTE mentioned above. This means that the primary thing it has to do to demonstrate its veracity is not be accurate historically, although it is that in the main; but rather, its task is to connect one to the depository of truth in the teachings of Jesus such that one is made open to the ultimate transformative experience. Thus the main thing the Bible has to do to fulfill these criteria is to communicate this transformation. This can only be judged phenomenologically. It is not a matter of proving that the events are true, although there are ensconces where that becomes important.

Thus the main problem is not the existence of these piddling so-called contradictions (and my experience is 90% of them stem from not knowing how to read a text), but rather the extent to which the world and life stack up to the picture presented as a fallen world, engaged in the human problematic and transformed by the light of Christ. Now that means that the extent to which the problematic is adequately reflected, that being sin, separation from God, meaninglessness, the wages of sin, the dregs of life, and so forth, vs. the saving power of God's grace to transform life and change the direction in which one lives to face God and to hope and future. This is something that cannot be decided by the historical aspects or by any objective account. It is merely the individual's problem to understand and to experience. That is the nature of what religion does and the extent to which Christianity does it more accessibly and more efficaciously is the extent to which it should be seen as valid.

The efficacy is not an objective issue either, but the fact that only a couple of religions in the world share the concept of Grace should be a clue. No other religion (save Pure Land Buddhism) have this notion. For all the others there is a problem of one's own efforts. The Grace mediates and administrates through Scriptures is experienced in the life of the believer, and can be found also in prayer, in the sacraments and so forth.

Where the historical questions should enter into it are where the mediation of the UTE hedges upon these historical aspects. Obviously the existence of Jesus of Nazareth would be one, his death on the cross another. The Resurrection of course, doctrinally is also crucial, but since that cannot be established in an empirical sense, seeing as no historical question can be, we must use historical probability. That is not blunted by the minor discrepancies in the number of women at the tomb or who got there first. That sort of thinking is to think in terms of a video documentary. We expect the NT to have the sort of accuracy we find in a court room because we are moderns and we watch too much television. The number of women and when they got to the tomb etc. does not have a bearing on whether the tomb actually existed, was guarded and was found empty. Nor does it really change the fact that people claimed to have seen Jesus after his death alive and well and ascending into heaven. We can view the different strands of NT witness as separate sources, since they were not written as one book, but by different authors at different times and brought together later.

The historicity of the NT is a logical assumption given the nature of the works. We can expect that the Gospels will be polemical. We do not need to assume, however, that they will be fabricated from whole cloth. They are the product of the communities that redacted them. That is viewed as a fatal weakness in fundamentalist circles, tantamount to saying that they are lies. But that is silly. In reality there is no particular reason why the community cannot be a witness. The differences in the accounts are produced by either the ordering of periscopes to underscore various theological points or the use of witnesses who fanned out through the various communities and whose individual view points make up the variety of the text. This is not to be confused with contradiction simply because it reflects differences in individual's view points and distracts us from the more important points of agreement; the tomb was empty, the Lord was seen risen, there were people who put their hands in his nail prints, etc.

The overall question about Biblical contradiction goes back to the basic nature of the text. What sort of text is it? Is it a Sunday school book? A science textbook? A history book? And how does inspiration work? The question about the nature of inspiration is the most crucial. This is because the basic notion of the fundamentalists is that of verbal plenary inspiration. If we assume that this is the only sort of inspiration then we have a problem. One mistake and verbal plenary inspiration is out the window. The assumption that every verse is inspired and every word is true comes not from the Church fathers or from the Christian tradition. It actually starts with Humanists in the Renaissance and finds its final development in the 19th century with people like J. N. Drably and Warfield. (see, Avery Dulles Models of Revelation).

One of my major reasons for rejecting this model of revelation is because it is not true to the nature of transformation. Verbal plenary inspiration assumes that God uses authors like we use pencils or like businessmen use secretaries, to take dictation (that is). But why should we assume that this is the only form of inspiration? Only because we have been conditioned by American Christianity to assume that this must be the case. This comes from the Reformation's tendency to see the Bible as epistemology rather than as a means of bestowing grace (see William Abraham, Canon and Criterion). Why should be approach the text with this kind of baggage? We should approach it, not assuming that Moses et al. were fundamentalist preachers, but that they experienced God in their lives through the transformative power of the Spirit and that their writings and readings are a reflection of this experience. That is more in keeping with the nature of religion as we find it around the world. That being the case, we should have no problem with finding that mythology of Babylonian and Suzerain cultures are used in Genesis, with the view toward standing them on their heads, or that some passages are idealized history that reflect a nationalistic agenda. But the experiences of God come through in the text in spite of these problems because the text itself, when viewed in dialectical relation between reader and text (Barth/Dulles) does bestow grace and does enable transformation.

After all the Biblical texts were not written as "The Bible" but were compiled from a huge voluminous body of works which were accepted as scripture or as "holy books" for quite some time before they were collected and put in a single list and even longer before they were printed as one book: the Bible. Therefore, that this book may contradict itself on some points is of no consequence. Rather than reflecting dictation, or literal writing as though the author was merely a pencil in the hands of God, what they really reflect is the record of people's experiences of God in their lives and the way in which those experiences suggested their choice of material/redaction. In short, inspiration of scripture is a product of the transformation afore mentioned. It is the verbalization of inner-experience which mediates grace, and in turn it mediates grace itself.

The Bible is not the Perfect Revelation of God to humanity. Jesus is that perfect revelation. The Gospels are merely the record of Jesus' teachings, deposited with the communities and encoded for safe keeping in the list chosen through Apostolic backing to assure Christian identity. For that matter the Bible as a whole is a reflection of the experience of transformation and as such, since it was the product of human agents we can expect it to have human flaws. The extent to which those flaws are negligible can be judge the ability of that deposit of truth to adequately promote transformation. Christ authorizes the Apostles, the Apostles authorize the community, the community authorizes the tradition, and the tradition authorizes the canon.