Advice on reading Bart Ehrman: Always hear both sides of an Argument!

I finished reading chapter four of Bart Ehrman’s, Jesus, Interrupted, late last evening.  The chapter is entitled, Who wrote the Bible?

I have to be honest, I went to bed last night angry at every Christian pastor I have ever had in my life.  I was angry at the Baptists, the Evangelicals, the Episcopalians, and the Lutherans, both the liberal ones and the orthodox ones.  I was ready to throw out my Bible!  Why?  Listen to Bart Ehrman tell why in the following excerpt from his book:

Bart Ehrman:  Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only eight almost certainly were written by the authors to whom they are traditionally ascribed:  the seven undisputed letters of Paul and the Revelation of John, which could be labeled homonymous, since it does not claim to be written by any particular John; this was recognized even by some writers of the early church.

My views about the authors of the New Testament are not radical within scholarship.  To be sure, there are debates among scholars about this book or that.  Some very fine scholars think that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians, or that Jesus’ brother James wrote James, or that Peter wrote I Peter.  But the majority of critical scholars has long doubted these ascriptions, and there is scarcely any debate about some of the books of the New Testament, such as I Timothy and 2 Peter.  These books were not written by their putative authors.

Doubts about the authorship of writings that became the canon were raised in the early church, but in the modern period, starting in the nineteenth century, scholars have pressed the arguments home with compelling reasoning.  Even now many scholars are loath to call the forged documents of the New Testament forgeries—this is, after all, the Bible we’re talking about.  But the reality is that by any definition of the term, that’s what they are.  A large number of books in the early church were written by authors who falsely claimed to be apostles in order to deceive their readers into accepting their books and the views they represented.

This view that the New Testament contains books written under false names is taught at virtually all the major institutions of higher learning except strongly evangelical schools throughout the Western world.  It is the view taught in all the major textbooks on the New Testament used in these institutions.  It is the view taught in seminaries and divinity schools.  It is what pastors learn when they are preparing for ministry.

And why isn’t this more widely known?  Why is it that the person in the pew—not to mention the person in the street—know nothing about this?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Gary What?? Most of the books in the New Testament were not written by the apostles or disciples of the apostles, as we have all been taught since Sunday School??  There are blatant forgeries in the New Testament??

What haven’t any of my pastors or churches told me this??

When I woke up this morning, I remembered that I had had the same gut-wrenching reaction while reading Bart Ehrman’s, Misquoting Jesus.  And what lesson did I learn from that experience:  Always listen to both sides of an argument!

So here is the “other side of this argument”:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bart Interrupted: Part Four

We live in a text bound age full of litigious people concerned about copyright, intellectual property, and authorship in the modern sense. I have a friend in fact who is in fact a intellectual property lawyer. You don’t want to know all the permutations and combinations of that law. By contrast, the first century world of the NT writers was a dramatically different world. For one thing, it was largely a world of oral cultures. Perhaps 10-15% of the populus was literate, could read and write, and even less actually owned ‘texts’ or manuscripts. Furthermore, the production of texts in antiquity was a tremendously laborious process, and expensive as well. Scribes did not come cheap, papyrus and ink was not cheap, and the codex, or notebook form compilation was just coming into existence in the first century A.D. Most documents were written on a single sheet of papyrus which would be rolled up and tagged, with what I like to call a toe tag—a small identifying marker. Scribes were not mere secretaries in antiquity, they were in fact the intellectuals and scholars of their age. It you want to learn about their various roles you can read several of the chapters in my forthcoming Baylor book What’s in a Word.

Not surprisingly, ancient views about ‘authorship’ are not quite the same as modern views which assume ‘individual’ authors for almost all documents that aren’t collections of essays by some group of scholars. However in ancient collectivistic cultures this was not the norm. Many, if not most ancient documents were anthological in character— a compilation of traditions from various different persons and ages through time. This was true about collections of laws, proverbs, songs, religious rituals, and stories as well. We should not be surprised in the least in reading through the book of Proverbs that all of a sudden in a book ascribed to Solomon, we have in Prov. 30 the sayings of Agur, or in Prov. 31 the sayings of King Lemuel, whoever he may have been. Or again, the psalms are compilations from various different ages, some are probably songs of David, but some are songs for or dedicated to David, some are composed by others still. It is a mistake to evaluate ancient documents as if they were just like modern documents, and this applies to NT documents as well, in various regards.

For example, the vast majority of scholars are in agreement that the Gospels we call Matthew and Luke are compilations from a variety of sources, including Mark and a sayings collection, and some unique material not found in other Gospels. Of course, this becomes puzzling to modern readers of Matthew because they rightly ask the question— why would an eyewitness apostle like Matthew need to use secondary sources for events he was present to view? Why indeed. Here is where I say to you that while we must properly answer this question, one also needs to not do what Bart Ehrman does in his chapter on who wrote the Bible when it comes to this issue—which is to suggest that these Gospels were originally anonymous, and labels were added to them later for apologetical purposes, and that when we read of who they are attributed to in an early source like Papias, we can with a wave of the hand simply dismiss such evidence. If you want to read what a historian of merit has to say indetail about the Papias’ traditions I would point you to Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, which is mostly a close reading and explanation of Papias and what he says. It does not in any way agree with Ehrman’s analysis of these early traditions. Indeed, most scholars today think there was a collection of the four canonical Gospels together at some point early in the second century in codex form which is when we get the official labels—according to Matthew etc. based on earlier traditions about the sources of these documents (see e,g, the work of Graham Stanton).

When the Gospel documents were originally written, the audiences that received them knew who the authors were and had a relationship with them. This is especially clear from a text like John 21 which informs us that while the final compiler of the Fourth Gospel is not the Beloved Disciple, nevertheless, he is the source of the traditions in this Gospel, having written them down, and “we know that his testimony is true”. The compiler of the Fourth Gospel knows the man personally, and can vouch for his trustworthiness in telling the Gospel stories. So let’s deal now with some of the flimsy assumptions made which are the basis of Ehrman’s conclusions.

1) Assumption One: The canonical Gospels were probably originally anonymous. This is wrong on two counts. First, when these documents were written down, if there were not identifiers in the document, the papyrus would have been tagged by the scribe to be able to distinguish it from other documents, and these tags regularly had the names of the author or compiler and sometimes a short title as well or instead. Second, we should not imagine that the Gospels were written for general public consumption. Publishing in antiquity was almost always an in house, small audience thing, unless we are talking about Emperor’s publishing laws and propaganda. The circles for which these Gospels were written in all likelihood knew who wrote these documents. Papias is simply basing on to us the early traditions about Matthew, Mark, and John that he heard personally from John the elder, who had know various of the eyewitnesses.

2) Assumption Two: In the case of a Gospel like Matthew which includes some 95% of Mark within it, obviously this means that Matthew had nothing to do with the content of this Gospel since it relies on earlier and even secondary sources. This sort of reasoning ignores the anthological nature of most ancient documents. All it took for a document like Matthew to be labeled ‘Matthew’ is if he was the most famous source used in the document for some of its material. And of course if the three sources used in that document are: 1) material from Mark, not an eyewitness, 2) material from Q or a sayings collection; 3) material from some other unique source scholars usually call special M material, then if either 2) or 3) came from Matthew, his name would take precedent over Mark’s in the document, especially if there very first source material in this Gospel, the birth narratives, came from Matthew. What Papias says is that Matthew had compiled some of the largely sayings material of Jesus in Aramaic or Hebrew. This sounds more like 2) above, than 3), but Papias is general enough that it could be 3) since the Greek word logia need not mean just ‘sayings’. It could mean teachings, for example or even ‘words about the Lord’.

3) Assumption Three: Jesus’ disciples were “lower-class, illiterate, Aramaic speaking peasants from Galilee.” (p. 106). First of all fisherman are not peasants. They often made a good living from the sea of Galilee, as can be seen from the famous and large fisherman’s house excavated in Bethsaida. Secondly, fishermen were businessmen and they had to either have a scribe or be able to read and write a bit to deal with tax collectors, toll collectors, and other business persons. Thirdly, if indeed Jesus had a Matthew/ Levi and others who were tax collectors as disciples, they were indeed literate, and again were not peasants. As the story of Zaccheus makes perfectly clear, they could indeed have considerable wealth, sometimes from bilking people out of their money. In other words, it is a caricature to suggest that all Jesus’ disciples were illiterate peasants. And Bart is absolutely wrong that Acts 4.13 says otherwise— what Acts 4.13 says is that the council is shocked at the theological capacity of Peter and John because they are ‘unlettered’. This is not the ancient word for illiterate, it is the word for not being learned, not having done formal school training, say in a synagogue.

We need to move on now and consider what Bart says about forgeries and intellectual property in antiquity, and yes indeed there was a concern about such matters in the first century A.D. though certainly not to the same degree as we find today. Bart is also right that there were also not only forgeries in antiquity, there were also pseudepigrapha of various sorts. Now the latter has to be evaluated on a genre by genre basis. By this I mean that while there was a literary convention when it came to apocalyptic works to ascribe those works to ancient luminaries or worthies (e.g. the Testament of Abraham is not by Abraham, the Parables of Enoch are not written by Enoch and so on), it was not an approved literary practice to write letters in the name of other persons without their approval or dictation. This issue has to be evaluated according to the literary type of document we are talking about. The parables of Enoch are not a forgery, they are a pseudepigraphic apocalyptic document and the conventions were well known in early Judaism about such documents.

Pseudonymous letters, sermons or speeches are a whole different ballgame. These, if they are genuine letters or sermons, can be called forgeries if there is no connection between the putative author and the actual author of a given document. Bart is absolutely right when he says “Ancient sources took forgery seriously. They almost universally condemn it, often in strong terms.” (p. 115). He is also quite right that forgeries had the intent to deceive. And he is also equally right that various of these sorts of documents were penned in the second century A.D. to add to the corpus of Christian writings for various purpose. A good example of this would be the so-called Acts of Paul and Thecla, or the Epistle to the Laodiceans. Our concern is not however with such documents, but with those from the first century A.D. (and it is only first century documents in the NT) that made it into the canon of the New Testament. Are their forgeries in the NT?

First of all, we need to bear in mind that anonymous documents are not pseudonymous documents. Hebrews for example, has no attribution of authorship internally or externally, it is an anonymous sermon. Perhaps Apollos wrote it, but in any case, the author of the document is not trying to pass it off as written by some luminary. Secondly, there are documents which are internally anonymous but had an external attribution. For example 1 John, in the content of the document says nothing about the author at all. It is a sermon, and it appears that early Christian sermons, like Hebrews, were frequently produced without internal attribution. And exception to this is James. Bart wants to argue that this is by some otherwise unknown James. The problem with this suggestion is shown by the many commentators on the book of James, and also by the content of the book, which draws on no less than 20 sayings of James’ brother Jesus. As Bauckham has shown at length, there is no reason to doubt James is by the famous James the brother of Jesus, any more than there is reason to doubt Jude, who identifies himself as James brother is by Jude, the brother of Jesus. On the other hand, Bart is right that Revelation is by one John of Patmos, who is probably not John Zebedee, nor is he the Beloved Disciple. This man was a apocalyptic prophet whose Greek and theologizing is different from that found in the other Johannine documents (see my Revelation commentary).

The real issue when it comes to pseudeigrapha in the canon is whether documents like 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, the Pastoral Epistles, 2 Peter are pseudepigrapha. Bart thinks they are, and I think they are not. For the record, the commentators are about evenly divided on most of these books with the exception of 2 Peter, which most take to be a pseudepigrapha. In fact 2 Peter is a compilation document which draws on Jude in its second chapter, and on a testimony of Peter in the first chapter, and perhaps some Pauline material as well in 2 Pet. 3. As a compilation document it is attributed to its first and most famous source Peter. There is a Petrine testimony about the Transfiguration in 2 Pet. 1, that likely goes back to Peter himself. The compiler of the document does not see or present himself as an author. He follows the ancient tradition of attributing the compilation to its most famous contributor, as we saw was true for Proverbs, Psalms, Matthew as well.

But what about those Pauline letters? Let me remind the readers that Paul certainly used scribes. We see this in various of the ways Paul ends documents. For example, in Gal. 6 he says he is now taking up the pen and writing a bit in his own hand, which clearly implies he has been using a scribe to compose the letter. Or in Rom. 16 we have a greeting from the scribe Tertius whom Paul used for that document. In the Pastoral Epistles Paul tells us “Luke alone is with me” which explains why the Pastorals reflect so much Lukan vocabulary and style. ‘Authorship’ in the ancient world was a term that basically meant ‘a document which comes from the mind of X and faithfully reflects his views/message, whoever actually composed the document’. If an author had a faithful scribe who knew his mind on an issue, he could simply tell the scribe—compose a document on X on wax, I will review it, then you may copy it out on a papyrus, with possible changes. There was a sliding scale between on the one end using a new or hired scribe to simply take dictation for most of the document and on the other end of the spectrum using a trusted colleague who knew one’s mind to compose a document. Paul and Peter (using Silas, see 1 Pet. 1) used such scribes to convey their thoughts for them. When one examines these NT letters carefully, and takes into account the ancient conventions about composing such letters, I see no reason to conclude any of these documents are forgeries, particularly on the basis of style, which is a function of personality and personal preference if one is a skillful writer, and it depends on the type of letter one is writing as well. Rhetorical style was chosen according to the situation. Furthermore, a skillful scribe could choose to write in verbose Asiatic Greek rather than Attic Greek if he chose (cf. e.g formal English English to American slang). When we take these things into consideration, as we should there is no reason to come to the conclusions Bart does about forgeries in the NT.

The early church, as we begin to see already in Papias, was confident that their ultimate source documents went back to apostles, prophets, eyewitnesses and their co-workers, which is why these 27 documents are in the NT. They were composed by Paul (with help of scribes and co-workers), Peter (1 Peter with help of Silas probably), Mark, Luke (both co-workers of both Peter and Paul), the 4th Evangelist (drawing on Beloved Disciple written sources. The Beloved Disciple composed 1-3 John himself), the compiler of Matthew, James, Jude, perhaps Apollos in the case of Hebrews, John of Patmos, and at the very end of the NT period, the compiler of 2 Peter, drawing on Petrine and other materials.

In short, the NT can be traced back to about 8 people, either eyewitness apostles, or co-workers of such eyewitnesses and apostles. Early Christianity’s leaders were largely literate, and some of them, like Paul and the author of Hebrews, were first rate rhetoricians as well (see my little primer NT Rhetoric).

 
 
GaryYes, I kept my Bible!


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18 thoughts on “Advice on reading Bart Ehrman: Always hear both sides of an Argument!

  1. The more you put forward on Bart Ehrman here, the more I am thinking this:

    He exhibits “Confirmation Bias”

    “Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses.[Note 1][1] People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

    Abby

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  2. St. Paul's instructions to Timothy:

    ” Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” 2 Timothy 4:9-13

    Bring me the books — and above all the parchments. . .

    Abby

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  3. Atheists and agonists accuse us Christians of the same error.

    I believe that there is enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (in my mind) the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, since he rose again, he IS God, and since he is God, his story is true…his Word is inerrant.

    I believe our modern Bibles such as the ESV are much closer to the inerrant Word than say the King James, but I still do not believe that they are “inerrant”, if the definition of inerrant is the same as what I learned as a fundamentalist: the existing Greek manuscripts, from which are English language Bibles were translated, are inerrant.

    I do not believe that the existing Greek documents, in their written words themselves, are inerrant. I do not understand how anyone can believe this when there are so many blatant alterations. Maybe there are multiple definitions of “inerrant”.

    I believe that the message, the teachings, the doctrines, the basic story or theme being taught in each book of the Bible are inerrant. I am not saying that I am now a Gospel Reductionist. I am not. I believe all the OT stories and miracles as well as those in the NT. However, some stories have been embellished. For instance the story of the Pool of Bethesda. None of the oldest manuscripts contain the statement that an angel comes down and stirs the water, the sign for people to step into the water, the first person doing so, will be healed. This is another scribe alterations. This statement was not said by the original author of that particular Gospel, therefore this statement was NOT said by God, proving that my Bible is NOT inerrant in the sense that every word contained between the leather covers is the very words of God.

    My Bible contains God's Word, but not every word in my Bible is literally God's Word.

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  4. “..if the definition of inerrant is the same as what I learned as a fundamentalist..”

    I think this is the (main) struggle for you. I hope you can come to peace about what we do have.

    “Atheists and agonists accuse us Christians of the same error.”

    Yes they can.

    I am a sinner and will be until I die. But I know God and I am trying my hardest not to listen to the devil (like in the Garden). But even though Adam and Eve did listen to him, God told them “I am going to rescue you. All is not lost.” This “All is not lost” part is what the devil has been working on since then. To make us believe there is no promise — and that we belong to him. That is a lie.

    I can't even claim to be a Bible scholar with what I do have. But I'm not going to worry about that. I can only stick with the side that I trust. That is all I've got. I am in Christ through my Baptism and He forgives me through that and Holy Communion. I am part of His Body, the Church. I trust what I hear on this side. http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/John+17/

    “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. . .

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8

    The whole Christian world accepts and uses the Bible that we have. Including the Roman Catholics and the Greek Orthodox. They believe that it is God's Word. They teach from it.

    Who am I to say that is not good enough?

    God bless you.

    Abby

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  5. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God but not in the sense that every word and sentence printed in my Bible actually came out of God's mouth in human words. Some did not. Some were added to the Bible by scribes. The Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church knows about this. It is the definition of “inerrancy” that is the problem, not our Bible.

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  6. Please don't think I am disagreeing with you. I think I can hear the problem you are discerning correctly. Sometimes I might just ramble on too much. 🙂

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  7. “I believe that there is enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (in my mind) the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, since he rose again, he IS God, and since he is God, his story is true…his Word is inerrant.”

    I love that … I can sign up for that 🙂

    Abby

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  8. Abby,

    It is human to exhibit confirmation bias—whether Christian, skeptic, Republican or pro-2nd Amendment. The question is the strength of argument; it may be confirmation bias, but if the argument is sound, it still carries weight.

    There are Christian responses to every skeptical claim; there are skeptical responses to every Christian claim. Every one. The question is NOT whether a response is available—it is—nor whether it exhibits confirmation bias—it may. The question is: What argument is stronger?

    This is the reason I constantly focus on methodology—by what means do we weigh competing claims and determine which is more likely despite our bias in favor or against one of the propositions

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  9. Interesting excerpt from a post by another orthodox Lutheran blogger today:

    2 Peter 1:16 is an intriguing piece of scripture as it claims to be eyewitness testimony to the transfiguration. Peter claims to have been there, seen that, and now we have to decide whether or not to trust the account. “We did not follow any cleverly devised myths.”

    Let me take just a moment to say a word about this before trying to bring everything together. We know how many world religions got their start. We know what most of them teach. Islam started when the Muhammed wrote down the Koran. Buddhism started when Siddartha Guatama wrote down the eight fold path. Mormonism started with Joseph Smith wrote down some intranslatable tablets. In every one of these religions, the founders wrote down what it means to get into God’s good graces. In every one of these religions, it’s about what I have to do to attain salvation. In every one of the world’s major religions, it is up to us as humans to appease God by our actions and our beliefs. In every one of the world’s other major religions, God asks for obedience before showing mercy. Each of the religions is cleverly devised to show this axiom. Only Christianity is different. Only Christianity begins with God coming down and bestowing grace and then asking us for obedience. Only Christianity has God dying for the sake of humanity, offering us His love, and then asking for obedience. One could call this clever, but one could also say this represents a radical departure from human understanding. One could say this represents a tectonic shift in an understanding about God and God’s love. And it all centers around Jesus.

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all those who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but so that the world may be saved through Him.

    How do we know this to be true? First off, it’s based on eyewitness testimony, and I do not think we have had anything which has shown this testimony to be absolutely untrustworthy. Second, Christianity presents such a radical departure from the norm, that it could not have been devised by human thought, but it had to come from outside of ourselves. It is the only faith that does not have humankind work its way to God, but has God work His way to humankind. “We do not follow cleverly devised myths.” We follow Christ, and we seek to Live His Word Daily. Amen.

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  10. (another excerpt)

    We will begin with the opening statement of our second lesson this morning from 2 Peter chapter 1 verse 16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

    Stop right here a moment and process this statement. The author of this book, who Christian tradition attributes to St. Peter is blunt. “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Apparently, there were those who were spreading this thought regarding Christianity. There were those who believed that the whole shebang was completely and totally made up. There are those who adamantly say this about Christianity today, so really, as the Church, we are not facing anything we haven’t faced before. Peter doesn’t mince words, he draws a line in the sand and says, “Nope. This isn’t some kind of cleverly devised myth.” What does he appeal to next?

    Again, listen to this carefully, “we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ 18We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed.”

    We were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ majesty. We heard the voice on the mountaintop. We were there watching this all transpire.

    Now, we need to deviate for just a moment. Some scholars have often said that the way the Bible developed is that over a span of decades, people started telling stories. Those stories became embellished as folks told of Jesus’ words and deeds. As time passed, it was thought it would be a good idea to write the stories down and what got written down was the embellished tales and not any sort of historical truth. The myth was written; the truth was lost. This train of thought assumes a couple of things: it assumes that the stories about Jesus were written long after his original followers had died off, and it assumes there were no checks and balances going on in the early Christian movement. It assumes that the eyewitness testimony of the disciples was less important than the embellishment. I think their assumptions are wrong. I’m not the only one. Why is this important?

    As people we are geared to accept and trust the eyewitness accounts of people–unless we have a good reason to distrust those accounts.

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  11. Yes, I realize that one could say that the passage above was not written by Peter, but by someone posing as Peter, and that the comments made by this “forger” were solely for the purpose of giving false support to the “myth”.

    But why such an elaborate conspiracy to perpetuate a myth that would get you thrown into the Coleseum to be eaten by lions, or skinned alive, or crucified upside down, etc.?

    In my mind, Christianity is true or it is the most elaborate hoax played upon the people of the world by a handful of lower class, uneducated fisherman and carpenters from the backwaters of Galilee.

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  12. Dagood,

    As I said, I will trust the side that I'm on. I, myself, am not capable of doing any of this “heavy lifting” of textual criticism. I have my Baptism, my church teaches me — using Scripture — I take Holy Communion.

    Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead accomplished for me the forgiveness of my sins. He says I will be bodily raised from the dead and will live with Him in heaven someday. Why do I believe this? I don't know. I ask myself that sometimes. Because I wonder how I can believe it.

    When I read the Bible I can understand many things. I know people that try to read it and can understand nothing. So I ask, how can this be? I am not smart. I'm not even educated. But I know that what the Bible is telling me about Christ is true. I know I believe and I know I can't unbelieve.

    It says in the Bible that the Holy Spirit will be our teacher — we will have no need of another. That is the only explanation that I can give for why I believe.

    God has been communicating His promise to rescue us ever since Adam and Eve. Through various ways and means.

    This message has been passed down since the beginning of time and man. There are “sides” available to take. I am on the side of the historical church. And that is where I will stay. It really is as simple as that. Because I am a very simple person. And not smart. The side of the historical church is what I will trust. I believe God has empowered the church to do the heavy lifting for me. And, yes, I still believe the Bible communicates what God wants to tell us.

    My argument is not much, so shoot away . . .

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  13. Gary said this on another thread —

    “churches populated by the uneducated and ignorant…only.”

    Abby

    I'm happy to admit that would be me. Sort of like who Jesus chose for His disciples.

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  14. No, you do a lot of reading and study on theological issues online, Abby, so I wouldn't consider you one of the “uneducated and ignorant”.

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  15. Gary, compared to the reading and research you do — I am extremely lowly. You do what you do for good reason. But I don't mind what I am in the least.

    In fact, when the “intelligentia” try to pick apart my Jesus, I am very happy to occupy the lower class.

    🙂 Abby

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  16. An interesting word I thought of: “fulfilled” I would like to see someone take apart all of the predictions concerning Jesus. There are 400 prophecies concerning Jesus from the Old Testament. So matematicians took 8 of them to see what the probability is that 8 prophecies (thousands of years before) could be fulfilled in one man. The equation came out to 10 to the 17th power. This is how large that number is — take silver dollars and layer them across the whole state of Texas two feet thick. Blindfold a person and tell him to go find the ONE silver dollar that was pre-marked. Think the guy could find it?

    “That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:13-27

    Take a look at these verses that talk about “fulfilled,” if you would like (they are not long) —

    http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/fulfilled/Matthew/
    http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/fulfilled/Mark/
    http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/fulfilled/Luke/
    http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/fulfilled/John/
    http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/fulfilled/Acts/

    Abby

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  17. If Luke 24 is in question, then my post is not viable. Of course, it sounds like the whole Bible is in contention. So that would still make my post not viable.

    🙂 Abby

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