My life, a little at a time.

Tag: lies (page 1 of 2)

A glimpse into my “spiritual” journey. For lack of a better word.

I have memories from when I was very young (3 or so), being in a united pentecostal church and seeing a vision of while I was sleeping on a pew in church. The women were praying to cast out a demon from a man at the front of the church and I saw a man leave this man’s body and the women follow him all the way outside while they were “casting him out” and caused him to leave. I asked my mom about it later and she had no idea what I was talking about.
 
At about 5 years old, my mom and father got a divorce and my mom “backslid”. fast forward to age 13. On my 13th birthday party I had a few friends over and we got drunk, watched “thriller” on the television and looked at porn mags (pretty normal, I think). Sometime after that, before my next birthday, my step dad woke me and my step siblings up (they were visiting for the summer) and said we were going to church. He was not a good man (as far as most people would judge) so this was crazy talk to us. We had no idea what was going on. He had no idea where we were going, just that we were going to church. We ended up going all the way through town and parked in the parking lot of a united pentecostal church. My mom knew what it was and told him that he probably didn’t know what he was getting into. Of course, because of the way this all happened, my mom and step dad felt it a sign from god and later I did too.

So, from about age 13 until about age 35, I was in religion in some way or another. Some time around age 24 or so I became fully vested in my desire to please “god” and went all in. My life went from knowing and practicing what was told to me as the truth to trying to find the truth for myself and studying to find that truth. I spent the next 10 – 11 years fasting often, praying three or more times everyday, looking at life through a different set of eyes than most will ever find. I would be considered a radical by most outside of the united pentecostal and considered a good god fearing man by those in the religion.

During my life living in religion of some sort or another, I experienced many things that would make most people never question their faith and indeed, I never did. I knew without any shadow of doubt that I was following god truly and that I was doing the best I could to do what he wanted me to do. Sometime around 24 I began studying the bible intently. I bought other books to help me get to the root of the scriptures so that I knew for sure that it was translated or transliterated correctly. I was constantly listening to god and trying to follow his voice (which I did, actually hear a voice). I kept discovering more and more things that the bible said we were supposed to be doing to please god that we were not doing. So I kept changing myself to further align my life in such a way that it was as he told me it was supposed to be.

During this time of introspection and change. I experienced miracles that most only hear about. I have prayed for someone and they were healed, instantly. I have prayed for help with a physical tool that I had lost but needed it to be able to do my job and it miraculously appeared (trust me, this is the skeptic speaking to a real memory. It happened and there are no explanations). I traveled from Quinlan Texas to Flathead Indian reservation in Montana without any money to pay for gas and we made it there and back because “god” provided. I prayed for many things and experienced many things that happened in my life that would keep most people under the veil of deceit that is woven by religion. All I can say is that I still know that those things happened. I know that they were real and that they can happen. However, I now know that they were not the god of my religion that made them happen but myself. My connection with the universe on a level that most will never experience because they don’t know it exist, is what brought these experiences to me. I am sure that these things are still possible and probably even more possible since I am not restricted to those religious rules and paradigms any longer.

So, fast forward through all of those experiences to a fateful day sometime in 2005 (I would be 35). I had been using this tool I found online for studying the bible easily. It made looking things up really easy and had any version of the bible as well as the greek and hebrew along with Strongs concordance and many other tools. You could pull them up and have multiple windows open side by side and see it all easily. I was using this tool to share some “inspiring” scriptures with some guy online. I go over this elsewhere in a post called, What were they thinking?, if you are interested. This was the initial clue that something was wrong and it led me down a path to discover that it was all wrong. From “What were they thinking?” the next step was a serious study on the very origins of christianity, jesus’ birth. I wanted to start from the beginning and verify that things were like I thought they were. That study took me less than 15 minutes to discover that I had been following a lie for the last 23 years of my life. I talk about that study and realization in the post “A Hard Question”.

Now, imagine if you will. You have lived you life in total, complete surrender to pleasing a god (or make it personal, make it a person you truly love) only to find out that that person is a complete lie. That that person doesn’t even exist as you thought they did. Now, continue your imagination journey and add in that you have experienced all of these wonders (as in, how are they possible.) and then also add to that that you made choices in your life that quite literally could have changed the course of history for the world (it’s possible for any one of us). You don’t go to college because you were told if you do you would back slide, become a heathen and end up in hell. You don’t enlist because of the same reason. You don’t experience friends, television, going to things that are fun, wearing clothes you want to wear, seeing people you want to see, marrying people you want to marry or find attractive, even though you are connected and a match, because they are not in your branch of religion or because you are already married or engaged to be married (Polyamory is a natural human behaviour, by the way) all because of the same reason. Your religion says you will be lost. You will displease your god (which I loved with my entire being and wanted to please).

Now, imagine yourself, seeing that everything you gave your life for for over 20 years is a lie. Tell me, how do you think you would feel?

I felt like my heart was literally torn from my chest. The pain washed over my body in waves, almost so unbearable I thought I would physically die from the pain. I cried and screamed in pain. I cried and pleaded with the god I thought I had been following and dedicating my life to to explain it all away. I have never had someone really close to me die but I can imagine that it was like having a loved one suddenly die, right before your eyes, with no justifiable reason. Like maybe being mugged on the way back from the grocery store to your car and your spouse of 20 plus years is killed right in front of you and that person just vanishes. I’m not sure, but I would think it was similar although I don’t think that would be as horrific as what I experienced as most people do not give their every waking hour to their spouse in thought and desire to please. Along with worship and adoration with undying unwavering dedication to do whatever they tell you to.

For the next few months I desperately tried to reconcile what I saw and I tried to make it work but the more I looked the clearer it became. It was all just lies. Lies on top of lies. Too many discrepancies to ignore the obvious for me. no one told me it was wrong. No one convinced me of the errors. I saw them myself, through study, by myself.

When it became obvious that there was no going back. No sky daddy to make things all better. No religion to soothe my pain. I began the initial stages of grief.  Each stage was real and took some time to go through (about five or six years, I would say). Lora and I both went through years of depression. We were numb for several months (maybe even more than a year. It is hard to remember that time.) Not knowing what to do, who we were or where we were going. it took years to be able to come out of the depression and we had no where to turn. At some point during the acceptance phase but still somewhat unbelieving that it actually happened. I started the group on Facebook called “Recovering Ex-Christians”. I didn’t know for sure but expected that there were others out there that had or would be going through something similar to what we were/had gone through. It wasn’t long until I realized I wasn’t alone.

Over the next few years we began to explore and discover who we are. Trying to figure out what life is all about (you know, that thing that most people do in their early years. Sometime between teen and 30.) Our journey has been full and rewarding. We are happier now than we have ever been and we know who we are. It took us longer than most but we are here. We are 40 plus year old 20 year olds. We are confident in ourselves and know what we want and our life experiences have given us an insight into life that many will never find. We are grateful for each day and we live each moment that we can in awareness that it is special and ours. We embrace life. This is your only life, you should live it and enjoy it for you. Fuck the world and it’s expectations. Only you are responsible for you. You be happy and do whatever that means, as long as it is not hurting others.  🙂

Because of the journey I took and the pain I experienced when I discovered it was all lies. I have shut out and boarded up that door in my life for the last 10 years. I now know that it is ok to open that door again and to get back in contact with the universe and experience that power again. My fears are that I will deceive myself or be deceived again, into believing or following after something that is restrictive or manipulative. I think and I hope that because of my life experiences that I will be more sensitive to that now and that I will hopefully steer clear of anything that might try to enslave me or strap my thoughts into a paradigm that keeps me from experiencing freedom.

I am finally to a place that I am willing to venture back out into the unexplained. The area of woowoo. That place where most just shake their heads and assume that it is all bullshit or crazy people talk. My goal is to stay grounded in reality while still experiencing a complete and true connection with the universe… with everything that is. Not a god, not a religion, not anyone’s ideas or teachings. No, never again. I have found my way to being a complete person. A person that I am proud to be. I value my life experiences and the journey I have taken to get where I am. It has made me who I am and I like who I am.

I hope that life has brought you to a place that you know who you are and that you are enjoying life, as best you can where you are with what you have. It is a state of mind. A state of mindfulness. An acceptance of what is and an expectation of what can and will be.

I believe and know that there is much more to our existence than our senses allow us to observe. I have experienced, first hand, things that are not explained away. I don’t care who (or if anyone) believes me when I talk about those things. I was there, they were real for me. I don’t need anyone to approve or accept them as real. 🙂

I know that I am connected to all things on some level. I don’t know to what extent or how that benefits or affects me but I know it to be factual for me. I look forward to my journey to the end of this timeline. I expect many things will happen and I look forward to the people and experiences I will have along the way. If you are a part of my life, I value you and appreciate that you are in my life. You are part of that connection to all things. Sometimes, I think that I feel you thinking about me. I wonder if you ever feel me thinking about you.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could learn how to tap into and identify those “feelings”. To recognize when someone we care about is thinking about us. To realize it, return the feelings and just know that they know. 🙂

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your time. I wish you all the best. 🙂

Is it true that the Qur’an is a Miracle?

Just so you do not think that I am purely anti-Christian, here is a bit of Anti-Muslim for you. The facts are that I am Anti-Religious. Any religion that is based on anything that has to do with the bible is based on lies. The Muslim religion is based on the bible to some degree. Therefore I have no respect for it, at all.

As you can see from this video, the Qur’an also has errors and discrepancies, just like the bible and the Torah do.

Therefore, I see no reason for any of these religions to be allowed to influence our society. They are deceptive and controlling and anti-human race. They all promote death, dishonorable actions, lying, murder, and many other immoral acts.

We can hope that through the information age, the human race will overcome all of these lies and rise above this crap to be all that we can be. Leave behind these lies to embrace the verifiable truth.

 


 

 

For a fuller rational analysis of the Qur’an see: محنتي مع القرآن

http://www.scribd.com/doc/30855635/My-Ordeal-with-the-Quran-ARABIC-محنتي-مع-القرآن

English version of “My Ordeal With the Qur’an” (Partial Translation):

http://www.councilofexmuslims.com/docs/My_Ordeal_With_The_Quran/My_Ordeal_Wit…

Thank you to the members of the Council of Ex-Muslims who contributed with advice for this video – for more info. see:

http://www.councilofexmuslims.com/

The End of Monotheism

As posted by:

AtheistKiwi

Originally by user “G0at” very cool video. Meet God’s Father and siblings.
Quotes from the psalms as found in the “Dead Sea Scrolls” and other sources.

Not sure how many viewed this when on G0at’s channel, I think everyone should see it.

User:
http://www.youtube.com/user/G0at
Mirrored Originally by
http://www.youtube.com/user/VoodooSixxx

References supporting video:
http://www.theology.edu/ugarbib.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elohim_(…

Books:
– van der Toorn, Karel (1995). Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible.. New York: E.J. Brill. ISBN 0-80282-491-9.

– Smith, Mark S. (2002), “The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel”

A good site re evolutions of God and the bible, http://www.usbible.com/usbible/

Will add more references here soon.

Remember don’t believe anything until you have checked out the references and their references and so on until you get to the primary source. Then make a reasoned judgment, if you feel you can.

What Third-Day Prophecy?

Farrell Till

What Third-Day Prophecy?

by Farrell Till

1996 / March-April

Re-posted here by permission from Farrell Till.

Thank you Mr. Till!

New Testament writers claimed that the resurrection of Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament. The weakness of this claim is apparent in the fact that none of these writers ever cited an Old Testament prophecy whose face-value meaning was so obvious that no reasonable person could deny that the prophets were indeed predicting that the Messiah would rise from the dead. The best they could do was distort a statement in Psalm 16:8-11 to try to make it mean something that the psalmist never intended:

I have set Yahweh always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices. My flesh also will rest in hope. For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy: at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Pardon my ignorance, but if there is a clear cut prediction of a resurrection in this passage, I simply cannot see it. Yet the apostle Peter, in a sermon that Luke put into his mouth, quoted this scripture on the day of Pentecost and said that it was a prophecy of the Messiah’s resurrection. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, *being a prophet,* and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, *foreseeing this,* spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:29-31).

One would think that if Yahweh’s eternal plan was for his son to die and then rise from the dead, he could have had the prophets predict this in terms far more distinct than what was said in the passage Peter allegedly quoted. If someone from a culture not familiar with the Bible simply read the 16th Psalm, what would be the likelihood of his thinking that the verses Peter cited were speaking of a resurrection from the dead? He would be much more likely to think that the first-person narrative in this poem was referring to the writer’s own state or condition. It took the imagination and desperation of someone trying to establish a foothold for a new religion to see a prophecy of resurrection in the statement.

For the sake of argument, however, let’s just assume that the intention of this psalm was to speak of a resurrection from the dead. Even if that were so, why wouldn’t the reader understand that the writer was speaking of his own resurrection? After all, the writer spoke consistently in terms of “I,” “me,” and “my” throughout the passage Peter quoted, and first-person pronouns are clearly references to the person speaking or, in this case, writing. To apply the statement to a third-person party who would live hundreds of years later is to take unwarranted liberties with the text. It is the kind of liberty that could prove just about anything from any written text. With such interpretative methods, Moslems could prove that their Koran is God’s word, and Latter Day Saints could prove that their Book of Mormon is inspired.

If Peter really made the speech that Luke attributed to him, he no doubt recognized this problem, because he made a strained attempt to prove that David (who may or may not have been the author of this psalm) was not speaking of himself. His argument was that “David is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29). Well, if that were so and if it could be determined beyond question that “David” was speaking of a resurrection from the dead in this passage, why wouldn’t it be reasonable to argue that David prophesied of his own resurrection and that this prophecy had failed because “his tomb is with us to this day”? In other words, why must we assume that Peter was right in the slant that he gave to the 16th Psalm? Why couldn’t it be that Peter was mistaken in his interpretation of what “David” had written? To show that he was not mistaken, inerrantists will have to explain why it is logical to believe that the first-person pronouns (“I,” “me,” and “my”) of a 10th-century B. C. psalmist were in actuality references to someone who would not be born for another thousand years.

Inerrantists cannot argue that they can know Peter’s application of the passage was correct because he was speaking by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, for that would be a flagrant attempt to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. Biblicists must first prove that Peter spoke by the inspiration of the omniscient, omnipotent Holy Spirit, and then they can argue that this divinely guided insight is proof that he was right in what he said that “David” meant in Psalm 16. So the task for inerrantists who support Peter’s view is to analyze the text of Psalm 16 and give compelling reasons why the language of the passage gives sufficient reason to understand that it was speaking about a resurrection from the dead.

I don’t think that inerrantists can give any compelling reasons in support of Peter’s view, but I can definitely give some compelling reasons to reject his view. First, there are the facts already noted: (1) the psalm was written in the first person and so the situations spoken about can best be understood as personal references to the writer’s own condition, and (2) there is simply no language in the psalm that can be interpreted only as references to a resurrection from the dead. In addition to all this, there was a strategic error that Peter made in his zeal to prove that the 16th Psalm was speaking of the resurrection of Jesus. After saying that David was “both dead and buried” and that “his tomb is with us to this day,” Peter went on to say, “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, *He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,* he foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ…” (vs:30-31).

To prove Peter’s argument, inerrantists must show us where the Old Testament says that God swore with an oath to David that he would “raise up the Christ to sit on his throne.” The clear implication of Peter’s statement is that God had sworn with an oath to David that he would resurrect the Christ to sit on David’s throne; otherwise, Peter made no sense when he said, “He [David] foreseeing this [that the Christ would be resurrected to sit on his throne], spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ.” So just where in the Old Testament did Yahweh ever speak with an oath to David that a Messiah from “the fruit of his body” would be resurrected to sit on his throne”?

The best that reference Bibles can do in support of Peter’s claim is list Psalm 89:3; 132:11; and 2 Samuel 7:12. If we examine them individually, however, we will see that they do not refer to the resurrection of any of David’s descendants for the purpose of having them sit on David’s throne. Psalm 89:3 says, “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: your seed I will establish forever; your faithfulness you shall establish in the very heavens.” Establishing David’s seed forever is at best a promise to establish his throne through a process of having a natural descendant of David occupy it in each succeeding generation, so where is the oath in this statement that God would resurrect a descendant of David to sit on his throne? It isn’t there, except in the minds of those who are desperate to prove an untenable position.

Admittedly, the prophets promised that David’s throne would be established forever, but they clearly meant the literal throne of David that would be maintained by an endless line of David’s descendants. In their fanatical ethnocentrism, the Hebrew prophets thought that their little nation was favored of Yahweh, who would always protect them and see that their kingdom lasted forever, but in no sense were the Jews looking for the establishment of some “spiritual kingdom.” This was an idea that was hatched up by the New Testament writers as a way of presenting an allegedly resurrected Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. This can clearly be seen by analyzing Psalm 132:11, the second reference-Bible proof text for Peter’s claim. “Yahweh has sworn in truth to David; He will not run from it: `I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.'” Again, there is nothing in this statement that even implies that the psalmist meant that a descendant of David would be resurrected from the dead to sit on David’s throne. It was simply a promise that the throne of David would be established through his descendants. That this was the clear intention of the statement is shown by the very next verse: “If your sons will keep my covenant and my testimony which I shall teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.”

What could be clearer than this? Yahweh promised to establish the throne of David “from the fruit of [David’s] body” and if these sons [plural] of David kept Yahweh’s covenant and his testimony, their sons also would sit upon David’s throne forever. Obviously, this was not a promise that just one person (Jesus) would be resurrected from the dead to sit on David’s throne. It wasn’t a promise of a resurrection (period); it was simply a promise that Yahweh would establish David’s throne forever through his sons and then their sons if they kept Yahweh’s covenant. So what is the compelling reason for us to believe that Peter was right when he said that God had sworn with an oath to David that he would resurrect one of David’s descendants to sit on his throne?

Both of the quotations from the Psalms appear to refer to 2 Samuel 7:12- 14. Yahweh, speaking to David through the prophet Nathan, said, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.” It cannot be claimed that this “son” who would come from the seed of David was Jesus, because Yahweh said, “If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men,” but Jesus was allegedly without iniquity. Whoever this “son” was, he was going to “build a house for My Name,” and this sounds very suspiciously like a reference to Solomon. The first part of this chapter (as well as the part after the above quotation) discussed the building of a house for Yahweh so that he would not have to dwell in a tent (the tabernacle). It is simply a matter of Old Testament record that Solomon was the one who built this house or temple (1 Kings 6-8), so clearly this promise of a son who would sit on David’s throne was a reference to Solomon and not some descendant who would be born a thousand years later.

There is simply no Old Testament support for Peter’s claim that Yahweh had sworn with an oath to resurrect one of David’s descendants to sit on his throne, but there is a New Testament statement attributed to the apostle Paul that makes it logically impossible for the Old Testament to contain any prophecy of the resurrection of Jesus. In a speech allegedly made in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, Paul said of the crucifixion of Jesus, “Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb” (Acts 13:29). Please notice what Luke attributed to Paul in this sermon. He said that all that had been written concerning Jesus had been fulfilled when they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. Now if all that had been written of Jesus was fulfilled when they took him down from the cross (tree), then the resurrection could not have been written about in the Old Testament, because the resurrection allegedly happened after Jesus was taken down and laid in a tomb.

Some may point to verses 33-37 and say, “That can’t be right, because Paul went on to quote the same passage that Peter did from Psalm 16 as a prophecy of the resurrection.” That’s true, but Paul can’t have it both ways. If everything that had been written of Jesus when they took him down from the cross had been fulfilled, then there could have been no prophecies of Jesus’s resurrection, but if there were prophecies of Jesus’s resurrection, then everything that had been written about him could not have been fulfilled when he was taken down from the cross. Either way, inerrantists have a problem, and I would be happy to see them satisfactorily explain away either one.

So all of the evidence points to misrepresentation or distortion of Old Testament scriptures by the New Testament writers who claimed that the prophets had foretold the resurrection of Jesus. There are simply no reasonable grounds for claiming that there had been prophecies in the Old Testament of the Messiah’s resurrection, and there are certainly no grounds for the VERY specific prophecy claim in Luke 24:46. Here it is alleged that Jesus said the night of his resurrection, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead *the third day.*” So we have Jesus claiming that the resurrection had not just been written about but that it had been written that it would occur on the *third* day. The apostle Paul made a similar claim in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day *according to the scriptures.*”

Here are two passages that claim the scriptures had spoken of the resurrection of Jesus on the *third* day. And here is a challenge to inerrantists who claim that the Bible contains no mistakes. Produce an Old Testament statement that prophesies of the resurrection of the Messiah in language too clear to be misunderstood, and I will publish it on the masthead of *The Skeptical Review* from now on as long as this paper continues to be published. Produce an Old Testament prophecy of the resurrection of the Messiah on the third day, and I will immediately cease publication of *The Skeptical Review.* I would think that this is an offer that loyal inerrantists would find hard to refuse.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The preceding article was written especially for Paul Nanson to reply to. This name will be instantly recognized by most subscribers who are active on the internet. Nanson maintains a list called Apologia-l on which he tolerates very little dissension. Those who disagree with his views of the Bible are likely to be expelled from his list. Nanson expelled me, even though I informed him when I requested a subscription that I was a professional debater and the publisher of a paper devoted to debunking biblical inerrancy.

Although Nanson tolerates little dissent on his list, he likes to lurk on other lists and post insults. After daring me to give him space in *TSR,* I wrote the article above and sent it to him for rebuttal. He declined the opportunity.

Farrell Till Goes to Church

Farrell Till

The Editor Goes to Church
by Farrell Till


1996 / March-April

Re-posted here by permission from Farrell Till.

Thank you Mr. Till!

Yes, it’s true. I confess. I recently went to church. A friend, who constantly reminds me that he is praying for me and seems supremely confident that someday I will see the error of my way, repent, and return to the fold, asked me to attend his church on the occasion of its special Friendship-Day Services. In a moment of weakness, pity, or something, I accepted the invitation, and the following Sunday found me sitting beside him in a pew. Except for the few times I have had debates scheduled as part of church services, this was my first time to “go to church” since September 1963 when, after preaching a sermon on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, I decided that I could no longer endure the hypocrisy of preaching what I knew I didn’t believe anymore. Well, this wasn’t really my first time to go to church since then, but another occasion when I tried to go can’t be counted. On a Sunday perhaps four or five years ago, I went to the local Church of Christ hoping to meet in person its preacher, whom I had been corresponding with. When he learned I was in the audience, he stood in the pulpit and announced that the services would not continue until I had left. So much for seeking and saving the lost.

At any rate, I recently went to church with my friend, and it was an experience worth telling about. The sermon was about friendship, a subject the preacher had no doubt selected to fit the occasion. It began with the reading of a text in 1 Samuel 18:1-5, which relates an incident in the friendship of David and Jonathan, the son of King Saul. The preacher elaborated on the depth of the friendship between David and Jonathan and related some of their experiences to illustrate what true friends are willing to do for each other.

Of course, it didn’t take a genius to guess where the preacher was going with his sermon topic, so I reached for a hymnal, checked the index, then opened the book to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and showed it to my friend, who grinned weakly. Sure enough, the preacher eventually got around to assuring us that we have a friend in Jesus, whose friendship is greater than any we could ever expect to experience. How can we know this? Well, Jesus himself told us, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus laid down his life for us, so what better friendship could we ask for? Of course, this part of the sermon was spiced with references to the pain and agony that Jesus suffered on the cross and the great love that God must have had for mankind to allow his only son to endure such an experience.

From a religious point of view, it was an impressive and emotional sermon, and there was even one “altar call” before the preacher had finished. I probably was the only person in the audience who wasn’t impressed, and during a friendship luncheon following the services, the preacher sat with my friend and me, so I had the opportunity to talk to him and explain why I wasn’t impressed.

I pointed out that the entire sermon had been based on anthropomorphic premises that assumed what is true of people must also be true of God. I used myself as an example and asked the preacher to imagine a scenario in which he is about to be executed by a despotic government. If in such a case, I went to the leader of this government and offered myself as a substitute for the preacher and my offer was accepted, one could truly say that my act would constitute a remarkable expression of friendship and love. “But what if I knew that I was eternal and omnipotent,” I asked the preacher, “and that my death would be only a temporary thing and less than three days later, I would be restored to life never to die again. Wouldn’t that take something away from the remarkableness of my gesture on your behalf?” Indeed, if I knew that I possessed eternalness and omnipotence, it would be rather despicable of me if I refused to offer myself as a substitute for a friend who was about to be executed. Even so, “Kill me instead” in such a scenario would not be a noble gesture at all; it would actually be sort of an obligation that the omnipotent one should feel duty bound to discharge. I suggested to the preacher that these are ideas that seem to escape gullible pulpit audiences, and I can’t recall that he had any satisfactory response to make to my comments.

I was reminded of that sermon just the day before I sat down to write this article. On the way to K-Mart, I had remembered to check out the latest message on the yard sign of a church that always has some simplistic religious platitude posted. You have probably seen these yourselves, something like, “God Sent His Son to Man to Make Men God’s Sons” or such like. That day the message was, “God’s Xmas Gift to Men Was His Son.” My first reaction to the message was surprise that it had taken Christ out of Christmas, and then it reminded me of the friendship sermon on the day I went to church. Here again was the idea that God’s gift of his only begotten son to die for the sins of mankind was some supremely noble gesture, but I just can’t buy the idea.

I have two sons, and I would never agree to offer either of them as a substitute for anyone under sentence of death. However, let’s just suppose that I were an eternally omniscient and omnipotent entity, and so I would necessarily know that if I offered one of my sons as a substitute for someone else, his death would be only temporary and three days later he would be alive again nevermore to die. What would be the big deal about my gesture?

Let’s further complicate this scenario by assuming that my son is a chip off the old block who possesses my same characteristics of eternalness, omniscience, and omnipotence. These characteristics would necessarily remove any reason for him to be concerned about my decision to offer him as a substitute in death for others. If he were truly omniscient, then he would know that he was also eternal and omnipotent. Therefore, he would know that his death would be merely temporary. He would also know that he was incapable of suffering any real harm, because omnipotence would not be subject to physical harm. This logical consequence of omnipotence, in fact, often makes me wonder how those who crucified Jesus managed to kill him. How could something eternal and omnipotent be killed even temporarily? I suppose the same inerrantists who tell us that in the nature of deities it is possible for 1+1+1 to equal one will now tell us something about Jesus’s being “wholly God” and “wholly man,” and so it was the “wholly man” part of him that the ordeal of the cross killed, as if it isn’t ridiculously contradictory to talk about something being “wholly” one thing while simultaneously being “wholly” something else. When I hear such as this, I have to wonder if theologians ever study logic.

So just what is the big deal that theologians make about the “supreme” sacrifice that God made for man in offering up his son? In the scenario hypothesized above, there wouldn’t be anything to write home about if I, as an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent person, should offer up one of my sons if he too possessed the same characteristics. So why get all teary-eyed and grovel in guilt and shame when we hear preachers wail about the supreme love that God showed for mankind in sending his son to die for the miserable creatures that we are?

At any rate, I went to church, and all that the experience did was confirm that I had made the right decision 32 years ago when I walked away from a belief system that couldn’t be any more illogical if someone had deliberately tried to make it so. If Christians want to go to church and weep over their sins when they hear preachers wailing about an omniscient, omnipotent deity who for some inexplicable reason prayed feverishly in the Garden of Gethsemane (while sweating “as it were great drops of blood”) to be spared the ordeal of something that wasn’t going to hurt him all that much anyway (and if it hurt him at all, it was his own fault, because an omnipotent person could anesthetize himself to pain), that’s their privilege. There is no law against superstitious ignorance. As for me, I have better things to do with my time.

Problems in the Ending of the Gospel of Mark

Problems in the Ending of the Gospel of Mark
by Farrell Till

A reply to:

The End of Mark

Did the Gospel End at 16:8 — and Would That Be a Problem?
by Robert Turkel aka James Patrick Holding

Re-posted here by permission from Farrell Till.

Thank you Mr. Till!

This article was orginally incorporated into “Bobby Grabs More Straws,” a reply that I wrote to Turkel’s attempt to trash Dan Barker’s Easter Challenge. Since Turkel linked that article to one in which he had tried to prove the authenticity of the Marcan Appendix (Mark 16:9-20), I originally intended to reply to them both in a single article. The result was an article much too long, so I decided to cut the part that replied to “The End of Mark” and post it as this separate article and link “Bobby Grabs More Straws” to it.

In the first paragraph of “The End of Mark,” Turkel introduced a problem in the ending of Mark’s gospel and then proceeded to “solve” it.

Skeptics and critics alike have found grist for their mill in the assertion that Mark presents an inconsistency, and poses a problem, in that his Gospel ends with the women at the tomb thusly: “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.” The other Gospels, it is said, have the women going right away and saying something to the apostles, and this is an inconsistency. From here as well some critics will charge that Mark represents an original state in “evolution” of Christianity in which no one knew what happened to Jesus’ body.

After stating the problem, Turkel then launched into a maze of “solutions.” My style is to reply to “apologetic” articles point by point, so I will follow my usual custom of quoting my opponent and then replying to him. The Turkel and Till headers will identify who is saying what.

Turkel:
It is worth noting, first of all, that even scholars of a liberal or moderate bent who say Mark ended at 16:8 (and no portion thereof is lost) do not see this “problem” at all.

Till:
Notice that Turkel did not say how many or what percentage of scholars “of a liberal or moderate bent” do not see any problem in the ending of Mark. His choir members, who sit like hatchlings with their mouths agape to swallow anything poked into them, will read this and think, “Well, this must not be any problem, because even liberal and moderate scholars don’t think it is.” They will not pause to ask themselves how representative Campenhausen and Robbins (quoted below) are of the liberal/moderate view of the controversial ending of Mark’s gospel, because Turkel didn’t bother to tell them that only some liberal/moderate scholars see no problem here. By saying that “even scholars of a liberal or moderate bent” do not see a problem in Mark’s ending, Turkel leaves the impression that this is a general view of liberal/moderate scholars. Hence, it will not occur to his readers that Turkel’s selective quotation of liberal/moderate scholars may not be typical of this class of scholars in general.

I’ll say more about this later, but at this point, I will just advise Turkel’s “hatchlings” to do something unusal for them: take the time to examine Turkel’s claim that liberal/moderate scholars don’t see any problem in Mark’s ending. Those who do that will see that the “some,” like Campenhausen, who don’t see any problem in the ending, are not representative of this general class of scholars. I looked in Lindsey P. Pherigo’s commentary on Mark, published in The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible and found that he devoted an entire page to problems in the ending of this gospel that have bothered biblical scholars. Before Turkel pooh-poohs Pherigo’s opinions into insignificance by saying, “Oh, well, this is just the view of a liberal,” let him remember that his whole point above is that the liberal commentators Campenhausen and Robbins did not see any problem in the abrupt ending of Mark, so he needs to explain why the opinion of a liberal who sees no problem in the way that Mark ended should weigh in more heavily than the opinions of liberals who do see problems in it. I guess it is time to remind Turkel of something he said in an e-mail forum back in October 1998 when I quoted Philo Judaeus to support my view that Exodus 7:20-22 meant that Moses and Aaron had changed all of the water in Egypt into blood.

That’s nice, but Philo is simply reading into the text what is not there. So if I find a Jewish commentator of equal worth that says the opposite, is it a draw? If I find two, do I win? Remember that Philo is trying to promote Moses and Aaron here and would maximize their feat to the greatest extent possible.

I’m sure that Turkel is shocked to see commentators “reading into the text what is not there,” because he, of course, would never do that. Neither would he try to promote Moses or Aaron or David or Noah or Jesus or John or Paul or any other biblical character. This guy is a paragon of objectivity. My reason for quoting Turkel’s comments about Philo, however, was to show his inconsistency. He habitually seeks to settle textual disagreements by quoting someone who agrees with him, but if someone quotes scholars who disagree with him, he dismisses them as inconsequential. I wonder, then, if I quote a scholar of “equal worth” to Campenhausen, will we have a draw on whether the ending of Mark is problematic. If I find two, will I win? Somehow, I suspect that Turkel will find some way to “explain” that what he said about Philo doesn’t apply in this case.

So let’s look at what Campenhausen said.

Turkel:
Campenhausen [Tradition and Life in the Church, 61, 71] supposes that Mark wished to show by the women’s silence that the disciples themselves had nothing to do with the tomb being empty! This would then be an “anti-theft” apologetic in line with Matthew’s account of the guards. He adds: “One can hardly take the text as meaning to the simple reader, and therefore to the author, anything but that the women first kept silent, so that the events which followed took place without any help from them and without any regard to the empty tomb.”

Till:
Turkel didn’t bother to explain how the silence of the women would have been an “anti-theft apologetic in line with Matthew’s account of the guards,” but, of course, Turkel very rarely bothers to explain anything. He finds it much easier just to assert, and since his sycophants let him get away with it, why should he bother to explain? That would take time, and he has hackwork to crank out for his website. Anyway, let’s look at the problems in the opinion of this scholar of “liberal bent,” who thinks that Mark’s original ending meant only that the “women first kept silent” about what they had seen at the tomb. This spin on Mark 16:18 is in obvious conflict with Matthew’s account. Notice the words emphasized below in bold print.

Matthew 28:5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

The angel told the women to go quickly to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen, and Matthew’s narrative says that they “departed quickly.” If what Campenhausen said is true, the angel told the women to “go quickly” to tell the disciples that Jesus had been resurrected, but they didn’t obey him. Instead, they “first kept silent” and then supposedly told the disciples later. How much later? A day? Two days? A week? What? One could argue, of course, that the women didn’t obey the angel’s command to tell the disciples quickly that Jesus had risen, but if Turkel resorts to this quibble, I suppose he will expect us to believe that the women “departed quickly from the sepulchre” only so that they could then keep silent first.

Before any of Turkel’s hatchlings buy any “explanation” like this, I would ask them to take a good look at the last sentence quoted above: “And they [the women] departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.” If Turkel’s scholar of “liberal bent” is right, does this mean that the women departed quickly from the sepulchre so that they could at first keep silence, but then after they had decided to keep silent no longer, they did run and tell the disciples what they had seen?

Does Turkel ever bother to read them first before he offers to his hatchlings silly “explanations” of problematic biblical texts?

Turkel:
Vernon Robbins, a scholar who gives Acts about the same credence as a roll of toliet [sic] paper, supposes that the anamolous ending is a form of missionary call:

Till:
I’ll interrupt here to make a comment before we look at what Vernon Robbins said about the original ending of Mark. If Vernon Robbins’ opinion of the book of Acts is of no value, because he gave it “about the same credence as a roll of toliet [sic] paper,” how can we be sure that his opinion of Mark is any more worthwhile? Well, let me answer that question. Robbins’ opinion of Acts is worthless because that opinion disagrees with Turkel’s, but Robbins’ opinion of Mark deserves serious consideration, because that opinion agrees with Turkel’s.

See how it works? You’ll catch on if you do enough reading at the Tektonics site.

Turkel [quoting Robbins]:
“Now it is up to you to spread the Good News of the Gospel!”

Till:
Well, actually, I don’t disagree with this spin. However, the only problem is that the text, as it originally ended, said that the women didn’t heed this call “to spread the Good News of the Gospel.” It says instead that “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” In other words, they didn’t execute the missionary call.

A comparison of Matthew’s parallel of this verse will shed light on the probable meaning of Mark 16:8. The differences in how these accounts recorded the way the women left the tomb can be seen when the two are juxtaposed.

Mark 16:8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Matthew 28:8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

The women in Matthew’s account left the tomb quickly with great joy and ran to tell the disciples, but the women in Mark’s account fled from the tomb in terror and amazement. The word translated fled in Mark 16:8 was phleugo, which meant “to seek safety in flight.” Here are some examples of how Mark used it.

Mark 13:14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

Mark 14:45 And as soon as he [Judas] was come, he goeth straightway to him [Jesus], and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. 46 And they laid their hands on him, and took him. 47 And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? 49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled. 50 And they all forsook him, and fled.

So this word denoted flight that was taken in fear, and Mark’s original ending said that the women took flight in terror and then told no one what they had seen, for they were afraid. Matthew’s women at the tomb, however, left the tomb quickly “with great joy” and ran to tell the disciples what they had seen. There is no way to see in Matthew’s account a time delay, during which the women “at first” told no one of their experience but then later reconsidered and told the disciples. Hence, there is every reason to believe that scholarly criticisms of the original ending of Mark are very worthy of consideration. Mark’s original ending told of no reports to the disciples or claims of postresurrection appearances, and the likely purpose of this kind of ending could well have been to offer a sensible explanation for why there were no contemporary reports of resurrection sightings. Later, as the resurrection myth gained wider acceptance, believers of the myth saw a need to correct the problem in the ending of Mark’s gospel. Hence, different endings were written (the short ending, the Freer Logion, and the long ending) to correct this deficiency in the original gospel. The longer ending has since gained the most popularity and has come to be known as the Marcan Appendix. It is found in most versions of the Bible, usually with explanatory footnotes, but there is scholarly consensus that this ending was linguistically different from the rest of the gospel and therefore not a part of the original composition.

Turkel:
Finally, in the chauvinistic context of first-century society, having women discover the empty tomb would have been a detriment to the apologetic – indeed, it would have been counterproductive! If this were merely a late rationalization, we would have expected the tomb to be first found empty by Joe of A., or by one of the Apostles, or by a lesser MALE member of the apostolic band, like Cleopas. But this is not what we have: Instead, we have the “worst” possible scenario, one so inherently “smelly” that it could not possibly work as a rationalization – it could ONLY work if it reflected what actually happened, and it has to be assumed that the women did spill the beans at some point.

Till:
Ah, yes, the old it-must-be-true-because-the-witnesses-were-women quibble. Turkel, of course, is simply parroting what he has heard from preachers and writers desperate to grasp some straw that might give their beliefs in fantasy a semblance of respectability, but he really should study the Bible a bit more with a view to seeing that women in biblical times were held in much higher esteem than this quibble assumes. I think immediately of Esther, the Jewess in Persian captivity who rose to become the queen in a time of great crisis. Although the book that tells her story is the only biblical book that makes no direct reference to God, there is a clear implication in the book that God had chosen Esther to save his people during the crisis that threatened their extinction. I am referring, of course, to Mordecai’s impassioned plea for Esther’s help in thwarting a plot to exterminate the Jews, at which time he said to her, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Es. 4:14). As the tale was spun, Esther was eventually permitted by the king to write a decree that empowered the Jews throughout Persia to resist all forces that assaulted them, so she became a second Moses and saved the Jews from the genocide that the wicked Haman had devised against her people. In honor of her achievement, the Jewish holiday of Purim was instituted and is still celebrated by Jews today on the 14th and 15th days of the 12th month of the Jewish calendar. That was quite an accomplishment for a woman who lived in a time when her gender, according to Turkel, was considered so inferior that having women do anything notable would have been a “detriment to the apologetic.”

What about Deborah the prophetess who judged Israel in a time of crisis (Judges 4:4ff) and in Joan-of-Arc fashion led the Israelites to victory over Jabin of Hazor’s Canaanite army? The song of Deborah in tribute to that victory is recorded in Judges 5. The fact that Joshua had already defeated Jabin’s army (Josh. 11:1-12), burned Hazor, utterly destroyed its people, and left nothing alive to breathe, of course, is inconsequential, because pesky little inconsistencies like these didn’t matter in a time when there was a nuance or an idiom or a cultural custom or a “paper shortage” to make inconsistencies not be inconsistencies.

What about Huldah the prophet? She was a contemporary of Jeremiah, but when the book of the law was “discovered” during temple renovations, by a priest named Hilkiah, King Josiah ordered him to “inquire of Yahweh” [as they routinely did in those days], but Hilkiah and his assistants took the book not to Jeremiah but to Huldah, who in a rather long-winded discourse declared the book to be Yahweh’s law and warned of dire consequences that the people would suffer for not having observed the laws in the book (2 Chron. 34:14-34). When Hilkiah and his assistants reported Huldah’s warnings to the king, did he say, “Well, what would a woman know about such things as these?” He did not. He took the warning seriously and instituted the greatest religious reformation that the nation had ever experienced–all because of the advice of a woman!

I would take too much space if I told about Ruth, Phoebe the Deaconess, Anna the prophetess (who prophesied at the dedication of Jesus in the temple), the evangelist Phillip’s four daughters, who were prophets, etc. I suggest that those who think that Turkel has a convincing argument here take the time to study the prominence that women had in both biblical, pseudepigraphic, and pagan mythology. By typing “women in mythology” into the search window at Google, one will receive enough hits to keep him busy reading long enough to see that women in those times were not considered nearly so unreliable as Turkel’s quibble would have us believe.

Cleopas apparently didn’t consider the testimony of women unreliable, because as he was speaking to the not-yet recognized Jesus on the road to Emmaus, he mentioned what the women had reported after going to the tomb, yet he didn’t say, “But this was just women’s talk, so none of us believed it.” To the contrary, he thought that the women’s testimony had been trustworthy enough to check out.

Luke 24:22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

Turkel thinks that the Bible is inerrant, so he must believe that all of this happened just as Cleopas reported it, so perhaps Turkel can tell us why men living in a time when women were held in no more esteem than he described above would have bothered to go check out the report of these women. If the Bible is indeed inerrant, then the fact that the men did check out what the women reported would disprove Turkel’s parroted claim that the story muct have happened as recorded in the gospel or else writers trying to fabricate a resurrection myth would never have invented women to be the principal witnesses.

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume that Turkel is right and that women of that time would have been considered untrustworthy corroborating witnesses. How does Turkel know that Matthew and Luke, the first gospel writers who actually made women witnesses to the resurrection, would not have known this and used it to their “apologetic” advantage? Is it not possible that they would have been aware of this prevailing attitude about women (if indeed it was the prevailing attitude) and deliberately made them the first witnesses so that first-century Christians could have argued that the resurrection story must be true because unreliable, untrustworthy women were the ones who witnessed it? In other words, I am asking why early Christians could not have used the same apologetic argument that Turkel is now trying to sell.

The possibility of this motive seems more likely when the gospel accounts of witnesses are compared to the earliest known report of witnesses to the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain. 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

I assume that Turkel knows that this chapter in the first epistle to the Corinthians was devoted entirely to trying to convince doubters in the church at Corinth that the resurrection had actually happened. It is an early example of apologetics, and after stating his premise that Jesus had risen from the dead, the apostle Paul began a process of argumentation to support his claim. His first supporting evidence was the claim that the resurrected Jesus had been seen by people whom he proceeded to name: Cephas, then the other apostles, then 500 unnamed and completely unidentified brothers and sisters, then James, and finally Paul himself. Paul’s method here was obviously an attempt to give the resurrection credence by naming those who had seen Jesus after his death. He was so desperate for witnesses that he even threw in the unnamed 500, but he didn’t mention any women at all. That’s a bit strange, since Paul was here trying to reinforce his claim by bombarding his readers with witnesses. Altogether, he cited more than 500 who had seen the resurrected Jesus, but he said nothing at all about the women, who were the first to see Jesus after he had risen.

This oversight has led many to suspect that at this time in the evolution of the Christ myth, there were no traditions about women witnesses. These came later, after Paul had presented his case to the Corinthian church, and so it could well have been that the inclusion of women witnesses in the gospel narratives was an attempt to do the very thing that Turkel now sees as evidence that the resurrection narratives “reflect what had actually happened.” That is, the women were invented so that early Christians would be able to argue that the story must be true, because unreliable, untrustworthy women were the witnesses, and no sensible writer would have made up such a scenario.

If not, why not? If Turkel is going to posit how-it-could-have-beens, why can’t I do it too, especially since mine is just as sensible as his?

Turkel:
But that’s all within the context-assumption that 16:8 is the original ending — and the evidence is actually strongly against that being the case. Witherington in his commentary on Mark [415-418] provides a summary of the evidence, which we will in turn report here:

Till:
Turkel did indeed give only a “summary.” He made no attempt at all to support Witherington’s “summary of the evidence.” Hence, every one of these constitutes nothing but argumentation by assertion. I will, however, try to point out problems in these assertions. As I do so, I would ask readers to keep in mind that both Witherington and Turkel are believers in the resurrection; therefore, they can be expected to grab any straw in sight that might be usable as evidence that a dead man returned to life. The very nature of the resurrection claim is such that any rational person should view it with suspicion, but when you have “apologists” trying to defend such a claim with unsupported assertions, you have a double reason for doubting it.

Turkel/Witherington:
The Gospel of Mark, like all the Gospels, is in the genre of a laudatory biography. Such a work “is most unlikely to end in this fashion” but rather would end on a positive note.

Till:
Isn’t this just darling? We have two apologists trying to prove that the ending of the account of an unlikely event is unlikely because it was “most unlikely to end [a laudatory biography] in this fashion.” The central event in the biography was itself most unlikely, but the way it ended was “most unlikely,” because it was “most unlikely” to end biographies in this way. If the unlikelihood of the resurrection itself doesn’t give Turkel and Witherington pause to question the central event, then why should we be bothered by an ending to the tale that is “most unlikely”? In other words if Turkel and Witherington don’t think that it is unreasonable to believe in an extremely unlikely event like a resurrection from the dead, why should they think that it is unreasonable to accept an unlikely ending to an ancient document that reported the unlikely event?

Aside from this, I assume that readers noticed that Turkel and his hero (Witherington) gave no evidence at all that this kind of ending in a “laudatory biography” was “most unlikely.” How about some examples of “laudatory biographies” written in that time so that we can compare Mark’s ending to the others? Oh, I forgot, if they had given examples for us to compare Mark to, that would have constituted giving supporting evidence, and “apologists” like Turkel just don’t bother with such trifling details. It’s so much easier to assert and then rush on to another assertion.

Turkel/Witherington:
Mark as a whole “goes to great lengths in the passion narrative to reveal fulfillment of early promises and predictions, especially those of Jesus, and this leads us to expect the same with the prediction of the resurrection appearance.”

Till:
Did anyone see here any attempt to show readers that Mark did indeed “go to great lengths in the passion narrative to reveal fulfillment of early promises and predictions”? I saw nary a one, and that is so typical of Turkel. He will throw out an assertion, make no attempt at all to support it, and then hurry on to his next unsupported assertion. His choir members lap it up, but it just won’t work with critically minded readers.

When I read this, I was left wondering, what early promises and predictions, what prediction of the resurrection appearance? I thought maybe my memory was failing me in my own age, so I took the time to read the “passion-narrative” part of Mark’s gospel to see if I had forgotten something. It turned out that I hadn’t. I saw no effort at all in “Mark’s” gospel to “reveal fulfillment of early promises and predictions.” If Turkel wants to consider the “last supper” as a part of the “passion narrative,” then he will find Jesus’s prediction of betrayal (14:21) and its fulfillment (14:43-44), and he will find Jesus’s prediction that Peter would deny him three times before the cock had crowed twice (14:29-30), followed by its fulfillment (14:66-71), but these two brief examples could hardly be called going to “great lengths to reveal fulfillment of early promises and predictions.” Both examples are brief and are really nothing compared to the lengths to which Matthew and John went to find fulfillment in every piddling event involved in the “passion” of Jesus.

Matthew, for example, gave more details about Judas’s betrayal and even threw in a claim of a nonexistent prophecy that Jeremiah had made (Matt. 27:9-10). Mark, on the other hand, said nothing about the remorse of Judas and his casting of the 30 pieces of silver into the sanctuary. Mark told about the Roman soldiers who cast lots for Jesus’s garments (15:24), but John took this event further and claimed that it had fulfilled an earlier prophecy about Jesus.

John 19:23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

Mark told of the vinegar that was given to Jesus on a sponge (15:36), but John claimed that this had been done to fulfill scripture.

John 19:28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

An examination of Mark’s version of the “passion narrative” will show that he indicated only casual interest in “reveal[ing] fulfillment of [the] early promises and predictions” of Jesus, and for the life of me, I can’t find any “appearance predictions” in Mark’s gospel. This is just another example of Turkel’s thinking that he can say just anything and get by with it. Regrettably, it works with his uncritical choir members.

Turkel/Witherington:
Mark, if he had wanted to suggest that the command by the angel to speak was disobeyed, would have introduced their activity with an adversative as he does in other situations of disobedience (1:45, 7:36, 10:14, 10:22, 10:48, 15:23, 15:37).

Till:
For the benefit of those who don’t have backgrounds in linguistics beyond their general-requirment courses in English, I guess I will have to explain what Turkel meant here. Well, I should have said what Witherinton meant, because I doubt that even Turkel understood what Witherington was saying. It sounded impressive, so Turkel borrowed it and passed it along to his choir members.

Witherington was referring to adversative conjunctions, which serve the purpose of showing contrast. But, nevertheless, and in spite of would be examples of adversative conjunctions. What Witherington was saying could best be illustrated by looking at a couple of the examples that he cited without quoting. The adversative conjunctions are emphasized in bold print.

Mark 1:42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he [Jesus] sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Mark 7:36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

The function of adversative conjunctions should now be obvious. Jesus issued orders in the examples cited to tell no one about the miracles he had performed, but the orders were disregarded and word of his deeds was spread abroad. Witherington’s argument then is that if Mark had intended readers to understand that the women disobeyed the angel’s command to go tell the disciples, he would have written verse eight with an adversative conjunction. Let’s look at the verse as Mark wrote it and as Witherington claimed that Mark would have written it had he meant to communicate that the women had disregarded the angel’s command.

So they [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; but they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Readers with more than just an average understanding of linguistic constructions should see that Mark 16:18 is structured differently from the examples quoted above. In Turkel’s, er, Witherington’s examples, an order was given, which was then followed with a statement that showed the order was disregarded. Jesus told the leper to tell no one about his cleansing, but the former leper went out and freely proclaimed the healing. Jesus told the people to tell no one about the healing of the deaf man, but the more zealously he told them, the more they proclaimed it. The structure of these examples was command + disregard, but that is not what we find in Mark 16. Between the command and the disregard, there is intervening material that would make the sentence awkwardly structured if the disregard of the command had been introduced with an adversative conjunction.

Mark 16:6 But he [the young man] said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

So the structure here is command [go tell the disciples] + information about where Jesus will meet them + information about the departure of the women [they went out] + information about their frame of mind [terror and amazement had seized them] + [finally] the statement of disregard [they said nothing to anyone]. One has only to substitute but for and at the end of the sentence to see how awkward an adversative conjunction would have been in a sentence structured with so much information intervening between the command and the disregard of the command.

Let’s suppose that in the example of the deaf man, whom Jesus had healed, Mark had included between the command and the statement of disregard. information about the man’s frame of mind and the way that he had departed from Jesus. If so written, it might read something like this.

Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he [Jesus] sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” And he went out with great joy and amazement and began to proclaim freely his healing….”

If so written, the ordinary coordinate conjunction and would have been entirely appropriate, because there would have been less need to signal contrast with an adversative conjunction like but. The main weakness in Turkel’s, er, Witherington’s quibble, however, is the fact that Mark did sometimes connect a command to an act of disregard without using an adversative conjunction.

Mark 1:23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

Jesus commanded the [snicker, snicker] unclean spirit to be silent, but the spirit didn’t obey the command to be silent. He came out “crying with a loud voice.” In recording this event, Mark, who Turkel says would use “an adversative” to show an act of disobedience, connected the command to the disobedient act with the ordinary conjunction and [kai], so Turkel must not be the expert in Marcan linguistics that he would like for his readers to think he is.

Turkel/Witherington:
Mark’s Gospel as it stands end [sic] with an unusual word, a conjunction, that does not appear as the last word in any work, with the possible exception of a work of Plotinus. It would be a very unusual word to end a work on; it amounts to ending a work in “because” or “for.” There are sentences and paragraphs that end with this word (inlcuding [sic] John 13:13) but to end an entire work thusly is otherwise unverified, except for Plotinus, and that may also have lost an ending!

Till:
Hey, watch me end a “work” with for. To illustrate that this can be done with no akwardness, the readers will have to imagine that I have written a story that told of a successful, much admired person named John Doe, who committed suicide for no apparent reason. After writing all of the details, I decide to end the story with a question that emphasizes the mystery behind Doe’s suicide.

What did he do it for?

If I wanted to, I could even end the story with because: And Doe killed himself because…?

One thing I learned in teaching college writing courses for 30 years is that there is no writing “rule” that cannot be violated at times for very legitimate reasons, but Turkel, er, Witherington has made an assertion about using gar at the end of a work, so let’s look at the merits of the quibble.

Arndt and Gingrich [1957, p. 151] noted in the very first paragraph of their explanation of the word gar [a “conjunction used to express cause, inference, continuation, or to explain”] that it “(n)ever comes first in its clause; usu[ally] second, but also third [Hb 11:32], or even fourth [2 Cor 1:19]….” This sentence structure would, of course, seem odd to us, because we are accustomed to seeing its equivalent in English [for] come first in its clause, although my example above shows that even we are not entirely consistent in the way we use it. Nobody would think anything at all about seeing a sentence that said, “What did he do that for?” Why, then, should Turkel and Witherington think it unusual that Mark would have used gar to end a sentence or even an entire document? If such usages of gar are known in ancient Greek, that would certainly make it impossible to argue with certitude that the original version of Mark couldn’t have ended with 16:8, because that would make gar the last word in the document.

Notice [above] that Arndt and Gingrich said that gar among other meanings was a conjunction that was used “to explain.” If we look at the final clause in Mark 16:8, we see that this is the exact function of the word as it was there used: “ephobounto gar. The clause just before this said that after they had fled from the tomb in terror, the women “said nothing to anyone, ephobounto gar [for they were afraid]. Gar was clearly used here to explain [why the women said nothing to anyone], so what would have been wrong with ending a book in this way? Furthermore, the final clause in Mark 16:18 contained only two words: “ephobounto gar.” Since, as Arndt and Gingrich noted, gar never came first in a clause, how does Turkel think that Mark could have put it anywhere but last in a two-word clause? Does Turk think that Mark should have violated the rules of Greek grammar and put it first?

I have not personally researched the gar ending of Mark 16:18, but I have seen claims in articles on the subject that more than a dozen ancient Greek documents are known to have sentences that end with gar. I don’t think that Turkel would dispute this, because he, er, Witherington noted that John 13:13 ended with gar. This verse, by the way, is parallel to Mark 16:18 in that the final clause in it has only two words. In the quotation of the verse below, the final two-word clause is emphasized in bold print.

You call me teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am [eimi gar].

In the KJV, the word so is italicized, because its equivalent was not in the Greek text. Literally, the final two-word clause said, “For I am.” It is so apparent that a sentence in Greek could end with gar, that even Turkel had to admit it, but he tried to evade this problem by arguing that a book would not end with gar. This quibble, however, has its problems too, because scholars know that the Greek philosopher Plotinus ended his 32nd treatise with gar. Turkel was also aware of this embarrassment to his quibble, so he, in effect, said, “Well, yeah, but that may also have been a lost ending.” He, of course, gave no evidence to support this assertion. He just made it and then passed on, because Turkel can’t allow himself to be bothered with trifles like giving support for his assertions. As long as his sycophants continue to lap up uncritically everything he says, he doesn’t really need to giving supporting details, because his only interest is in holding [no pun intended] on to those who have already swallowed the resurrection myth. He apparently has no interest in persuading those who doubt that the Bible is “the word of God,” or else he would at least try to make his apologetic arguments more logical.

I dislike citing sources, but in this case I am going to make an exception. “Irony in the End: A Textual and Literary Analysis of Mark 16:8” by Kelly R. Iverson of Dallas Theological Seminary discusses very throughly and scholarly, in my opinion, the many problems in the absence of Mark 16:9-20 in many of the early copies of this gospel. He addresses almost all of the quibbles above that Turkel has appropriated from Witherington, but his discussion of the gar quibble is particularly good. He very methodically dismantles it. I highly recommend this paper to readers who want to see just how thin the ice is that Turkel is skating on.

I am going to quote Iverson’s rebuttal of the quibble that a book could not end with the word gar. Readers can then decide if they want to access the paper and read the rest of it.

Option (3), which is the theory presented in this paper, is that Mark intentionally ended his Gospel at v 8. Though this view has gained support, several objections have been raised against it. First, many have suggested that a book can not [sic] end with gar. In 1926 R. R. Ottley published an article in which he cited several examples of sentences ending with gar (Homer Od. Iv 612, Aesch. Agam. 1564, Eurip. Med. 1272, 1276, Eurip. Orestes 251, Eurip. Iph. Aul. 1355, and in the LXX [Gen 14:3; Isa 16:10; 29:11]) the most notable of which came from Genesis 18:15 where Sarah, barren in her old age, laughed at the angelic messenger’s announcement that she would conceive and give birth to a child. When confronted by Abraham, Sarah denied it, ephobethe gar—a similar expression used by Mark in 16:8.

I have stripped this quotation of Iverson’s footnotes, which can be found by accessing the paper, and have altered the transliteration to make it compatible with the system used throughout both my article and Turkel’s. Those with access to the Septuagint may want to check the examples that Iverson cited to see that they all are two-word clauses, just as Mark’s final clause was in Mark 16:8. The clause ephobethe gar in the LXX version of Genesis 18:15 meant “for she was afraid” and is, as Iverson pointed out, similar to ephobounto gar [for they were afraid] in Mark 16:18. In fact, it could be said that they are the same in that the one was third-person plural and the other third-person singular. It appears, then, that the grammatical rule that prevented gar from appearing first in a clause made sentences in which gar came last when it was in a final two-word clause rather commonplace in Greek documents. As I noted above, if Greek grammar would not allow gar at the beginning of a clause, what else could a writer do with a two-word gar clause at the end of a sentence except to put gar last?

Here is what Iverson said about the assertion [appropriated by Turkel] that a book could not end with gar, and so the end of Plotinus’s 32nd treatise may have also been lost.

Despite the emergence of other literary parallels, many scholars continued to insist that a paragraph ending with gar was not the same as a book ending with gar. Then in 1972 P. W. van der Horst published a landmark article. In the 32nd treatise of Plotinus (a philosophical work) it was demonstrated that a book could end with gar. Van der Horst concluded his article by suggesting that “the proof was really not necessary for common sense alone could argue that, if a sentence or paragraph can end with gar, a book can too.”

Five footnotes were stripped from this paragraph, which can all be seen at the end of Iverson’s paper. I will wrap up this point by challenging Turkel to explain to us what was incorrect about Van der Horst’s statement quoted in the final sentence of the paragraph above. If a Greek sentence or paragraph could end with gar, then why couldn’t a book also end with it?

Don’t look for Turkel to answer that question.

Turkel/Witherington:
If there is a point of comparison within Mark, it is Mark 1:44, where a leper is told to be silent to others, but go and tell the appropriate person, the high priest. “This would suggest that the women were to be silent to the general public, but to communicate with the disciples.”

Till:
This is just more quibbling by assertion, and it is also illogical. Why would the women have been expected to be silent “to the general public” and to communicate only to the disciples? Wasn’t the resurrection the “good news” that was to be proclaimed to the whole world? Why would the women have been expected to keep this good news from everyone except the disciples? It seems that Turkel thinks that preaching to the choir was a first-century apologetic method too.

Aside from this, there is also no parallel between Mark 1:44 and 16:8, because the former clearly stipulated that no one was to be told about the cleansing except the priest. In the latter, the angel [young man] did not command the women to tell no one but the disciples what they had seen. He stipulated that they were to go tell the disciples and Peter, but the final clause in the next verse says, “They said nothing to anyone,” a statement that would clearly indicate that they did not do what the angel had told them. Is Turkel going to argue that “anyone” would not have included the disciples? If so, what is his rationale for this claim? Unless he can give one, there is nothing to conclude except that the word “anyone” would have necessarily included the disciples. Hence, if the women said nothing to anyone, then they said nothing to the disciples either.

If not, why not?

Turkel/Witherington:
From 15:40 to 16:8, Mark “has carefully built the case for the women to be valid witnesses” to the Easter message. Especially in light of the problem of women’s testimony noted above, it hardly makes sense that Mark would build his case, then undermine it or render it moot be [sic] giving the women a case of permanent closed mouth.

Till:
The reason for the “case of permanent closed mouth” was clearly stated in the original ending of Mark. The women said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. They fled from the tomb having been seized with terror, and they were afraid, so why would their silence have made no sense?

A perfectly sensible explanation for Mark’s ending was also suggested above. He could have easily intended this ending as an explanation for why there had been no tales of a resurrected Jesus. None had existed, because the women who had seen him after his resurrection were so terrified that they had kept silent about what they had seen.

Turkel/Witherington:
A consideration is that 1 Cor. 15 shows that resurrection appearances were part of the earliest Christian tradition. Especially for those who date Mark later than 1 Corinthians (70 vs. 50-55), this raises the problem of how Mark could have left out any record of appearances.

Till:
I covered this quibble above in my comments on 1 Corinthians 15, but so that readers won’t have to scroll up to find it, I will quote my earlier reply to it.

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume that Turkel is right and that women of that time would have been considered untrustworthy corroborating witnesses. How does Turkel know that Matthew and Luke, the first gospel writers who actually made women witnesses to the resurrection, would not have known this and used it to their “apologetic” advantage? Is it not possible that they would have been aware of this prevailing attitude about women (if indeed it was the prevailing attitude) and deliberately made them the first witnesses so that first-century Christians could have argued that the resurrection story must be true because unreliable, untrustworthy women were the ones who witnessed it? In other words, I am asking why early Christians could not have used the same apologetic argument that Turkel is now trying to sell.

The possibility of this motive in having women witnesses seems more likely when the gospel accounts of witnesses are compared to the earliest known report of witnesses to the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain. 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

I assume that Turkel knows that this chapter in the first epistle to the Corinthians was devoted entirely to trying to convince doubters in the church at Corinth that the resurrection had actually happened. It is an early example of apologetics, and after stating his premise that Jesus had risen from the dead, the apostle Paul began a process of argumentation to support his claim. His first supporting evidence was the claim that the resurrected Jesus had been seen by people whom he proceeded to name: Cephas, then the other apostles, then 500 unnamed and completely unidentified brothers and sisters, then James, and finally Paul himself. Paul’s method here was obviously an attempt to give the resurrection credence by naming those who had seen Jesus after his death. He was so desperate for witnesses that he even threw in the unnamed 500, but he didn’t mention any women at all. That’s a bit strange, since Paul was here trying to reinforce his claim by bombarding his readers with witnesses. Altogether, he cited more than 500 who had seen the resurrected Jesus, but he said nothing at all about the women, who were the first to see Jesus after he had risen.

This oversight has led many to suspect that at this time in the evolution of the Christ myth, there were no traditions about women witnesses. These came later, after Paul had presented his case to the Corinthian church, and so it could well have been that the inclusion of women witnesses in the gospel narratives was an attempt to do the very thing that Turkel now sees as evidence that the resurrection narratives “reflect what had actually happened.” That is, the women were invented so that early Christians would be able to argue that the story must be true, because unreliable, untrustworthy women were the witnesses, and no sensible writer would have made up such a scenario.

If not, why not? If Turkel is going to posit how-it-could-have-beens, why can’t I do it too, especially since mine is just as sensible as his?

So rather than 1 Corinthians 15 being proof of Turkel’s position, it is actually support for the view that Mark ended his gospel at verse 8 in order to provide a satisfactory explanation for the absence of any testimonies to resurrection appearances at the time when Jesus allegedly rose from the dead.

Turkel/Witherington:
Finally, there is this consideration: The parallel construction of the Greek, and the imperfect verb tenses, imply that “for the circumscribed period of time the women were in terror and feld [sic] from the tomb, they said nothing to anyone.” They would speak once the fear (perhaps in the form of religious awe — cf. Luke 1:29-30) had subsided.

Till:
Here is an abstraction that says exactly nothing specific. How does the “parallel construction” of the Greek “imply” that the women didn’t speak for just “a circumscribed period of time”? We don’t know, because Turkel didn’t say. I seriously doubt that Turkel knows anything at all about parallel construction in Greek. I doubt that he even knows much of anything about parallel construction in English. On the other hand, I think I do understand the concept of parallel construction in English, and I can’t think of how parallel construction in English could imply anything at all about silence of just “a circumscribed period of time.” Parallel structure in English usually serves the purpose of emphasizing points, but maybe Greek was different. Maybe it served the purpose of showing silence for “a circumscribed period of time.” Perhaps Turkel will be able to explain it to us.

How would imperfect verb tenses imply that the women were silent for just “a circumscribed period of time”? We don’t know that either, because Turkel didn’t explain it. Turkel, you see, rarely explains much of anything. He thinks that he can just cut and paste from books and authors who agree with him, and that should be sufficient to make his case. Turkel, in a word, is only a would-be apologist who doesn’t know the first thing about how to develop arguments with supporting material.

Turkel:
Bottom line: All arguments which focus on 16:8 as the intended ending of Mark’s Gospel have a great deal to reckon with before they can peddle any related theories of conspiracy or inconsistency.

Till:
The line under the bottom line: all arguments that attempt to deny 16:8 was the original end of the gospel of Mark have a great, great deal to reckon with before they can peddle any related theories about “lost endings.” As I said above, Turkel can bang his head against the arguments in Kelly R. Iverson’s paper linked to above and then call an ambulance, because the evidence that Mark 16:9-20 was not a part of the original is overwhelming.

Two final points on this issue seem in order: (1) It is unlikely that the end of the gospel of Mark would have been lost if this gospel were written on a scroll, because after the reading of a scroll, the document was rolled up beginning at the end and rolling toward the beginning so that when one unrolled the scroll, the beginning of the document would appear first. Therefore, the end of the scroll was on the inside and therefore much better protected than any other part of the document. (2) If the gospel of Mark were written in codex form, the last leaf could, of course, have been lost, but the Codex Sinaiticus gives reason to believe that this was not the case. James Bentley, In Secrets of Mt. Sinai, noted reasons why this manuscript of the New Testament indicated that the gospel of Mark ended at 16:8.

The scribe who brought Mark’s Gospel to an end in Codex Sinaiticus had no doubt that it finished at chapter 16, verse 8. He underlined the text with a fine artistic squiggle, and wrote, “The Gospel according to Mark.” Immediately following begins the Gospel of Luke (p. 139).

Biblical inerrantists continue to try to legitimize the long ending of Mark, but the evidence above shows that their case is too weak for critically minded people to accept. It is more rational to believe that this gospel, as it was originally written, ended at 16:8.

Turkel asked in the subtitle of his article if it would be a “problem” if the gospel of Mark had originally ended at 16:8. I always like easy questions, so I will finish my reply to Turkel’s article with an easy answer to an easy question. Yes, it would matter, because (1) no one trying to sell the claim that a man had risen from the dead would have omitted references to resurrection appearances unless he had had an ulterior motive such as a desire to offer an explanation for why there had been no reported sightings of the formerly deceased at the time when the resurrection had allegedly occurred, and (2) if the gospel of Mark had originally ended at 16:8, then it was afterwards tampered with to add another ending. If this happened, then reasonable people would have to wonder how much tampering was done with other biblical books after they were written. In a word, the credibility of the Bible would be seriously undermined if it could be established that the author of Mark had originally ended this book at 16:8.

Dan Barker’s Easter Challenge Eviscerated

Bobby Grabs More Straws
by
Farrell Till

A reply to:

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Dan Barker’s Easter Challenge Eviscerated
by Robert Turkel aka James Patrick Holding

Re-posted here by permission from Farrell Till.

Thank you Mr. Till!

Robert “No Links” Turkel has undertaken to “eviscerate” Dan Barker’s Easter Challenge. The title of his article that I will be replying to here is a bit confusing. On the webpage itself, he entitled it “Can’t We All Get Along?” but on his index page, he called it “Dan Barker’s Easter Challenge Eviscerated.” The former title makes no sense within the context of his article, so I assume that in cranking out his hackwork, Turkel put the wrong title on the webpage where he undertook to “eviscerate” Barker’s Easter Challenge. I say “undertook,” because he eviscerated nothing in Barker’s challenge and proved only that he can’t meet the challenge either. For those who may not know, Barker’s challenge was for inerrantists to harmonize the resurrection narratives in the four gospels, Acts, and 1 Corinthians 15 by writing a single coherent narrative that included every detail pertaining to the resurrection and subsequent “appearances” without omitting anything or adding anything or injecting inconsistency, contradiction, or purely speculative materials into the harmonized narrative. No one has ever been able to do this, and now Turkel has added himself to the list of failures.

Those who read Turkel’s article, linked to above in the title, will see that he didn’t even try to meet the challenge. He simply cut and pasted unsupported assertions from books written in support of the resurrection claim, tacked on his own unsupported assertions, and called this showing that there are no contradictions or inconsistencies in the narratives, but by evading Barker’s challenge, Turkel accomplished nothing but to arouse deep suspicions that he knows that the challenge cannot be met.

I am now going to eviscerate Turkel’s “evisceration” of Barker’s challenge. In so doing, I will follow my usual custom of replying to him point by point. The Turkel and Till headers below will enable readers to follow who has said what.

Turkel:
The infamous “Easter Challenge” of Dan Barker — otherwise known as “Fill Danny’s Wastebasket” — has been popping around for years, and I passed on addressing it for a while to see if any enterprising critic could tell us why differences in the Gospel accounts should be any more problematic or unresolvable than those found in four bios of Abraham Lincoln done by professional historians.

Till:
If I were a kid in Sunday school again and this were a question asked by the teacher, I would be bouncing in my seat and snapping my fingers for recognition to answer this question. Professional historians, who wrote biographies of Abraham Lincoln, would not have been inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent “Holy Spirit” whom Jesus had sent to “guide them into all truth” (John 16:13); hence, differences, inconsistencies, and contradictions in their biographies would not be at all unusual. However, four different authors, writing under the “inspiration” of an omniscient, omnipotent deity, should be expected to write four biographies of the [snicker, snicker] “son of God” without contradicting themselves.

There, that wasn’t hard at all to answer, was it? One would think that at least now and then someone who cranks out as much hackwork as Robert “No Links” Turkel would accidentally have a logical thought, but, of course, when one is trying to prove inerrancy in a book riddled with fantastic tales, he has to throw logic out the window and resort to fantasy himself to “explain” discrepancies that anyone but a desperate religionist would agree are discrepancies.

As I noted above, Turkel’s article didn’t even attempt to meet Barker’s Easter challenge, but if Turkel had just posted a narrative that met the challenge, that would have been much more impressive than the sarcastic references to “Danny” and “Danny’s wastebasket” and the rationalizations about paper shortages, oral traditions, ma besay-il excuses, and such like. For pity’s sake, if Barker’s challenge is so devoid of merit, why doesn’t Turkel or someone just sit down and write a coherent narrative that meets the challenge? They don’t do this, of course, because it can’t be done, but they just can’t admit that. It would be too damaging to the smug facade of confidence in biblical inerrancy that they try to maintain in the presence of their choir members, who know about as much about the Bible as I know about nuclear physics, so they try to discredit the challenge by ridiculing it instead of just showing how easy it is to write such a narrative.

Turkel:
I may as well have been talking to the Berlin Wall; the only response in those years has been from Ebon, who had little to offer other than blowing his nose.

Till:
Blowing his nose? This is typical Turkel vintage. It appeals to choir members who thrive on Turkel’s sarcasm, but it doesn’t tell anything at all about what Ebon said by way of response. I guess that Turkel is never going to change. He seems to think that if he says that a skeptic blew his nose or snorted or mumbled or blubbered or sputtered this or that, this will automatically prove the skeptic wrong and save him the time of taking whatever points the skeptic may have presented and actually trying to show that the points were wrong.

Unfortunately, Turkel’s choir members lap up this kind of “apologetics” and cheer him on. These, of course, are the gullible ones who have bought all of the nonsense they were taught in church as they were growing up without even once critically evaluating claims about a talking snake, a talking donkey, a sea that parted so that three million “chosen ones” could cross on dry land, a prophet who raised a widow’s son from the dead, an axe head that floated in water, a dead man who “revived” and stood on his feet when his body touched the bones of a prophet who had been buried on the same site, three men walking unharmed in a fiery furnace whose heat had killed the men who had thrown them into the flames, etc., etc., etc. He is welcome to everyone who uncritically accepts yarns like these. After all, of what value would such gullible people be to those of us who try to infuse a little sanity into a world filled with religious lunacy?

Turkel:
Since this is the case, we’ll now take a closer look at harmonizing the rez narratives, using some of the relevant principles we have outlined in material found here,.

Till:
Good luck! Apologists far more capable than Turkel have tried to “harmonize” the resurrection narratives and have failed.

Turkel:
Enterprising Skeptics (if any exist!) who wish to respond must deal with all of the data we have provided and respond in light of the various cultural and literary factors we have outlined.

Till:
Modesty prevents me from calling myself an “enterprising skeptic,” but if an enterprising skeptic is one who can rip to shreds the “explanations” of would-be “apologists” like Robert “No Links” Turkel, then I can lay claim to being an enterprising skeptic. I have hung him out to dry now more times than I can remember. This rebuttal will be just one more time that I have shot his “solutions” to biblical discrepancies full of holes.

When I read Turkel’s comment above, I wondered why enterprising skeptics (and there are many of them) would have to deal with “all of the data we [meaning Turkel] have provided.” When has Turkel ever replied to all of the data that has been presented to him in articles that he “answers”? He is notorious for quoting his opponents selectively and hopping, skipping, and jumping over that which he cannot reply to. I have personally posted on this site scores of rebuttal arguments that Turkel has never replied to, even though he wrote articles that purported to “reply” to mine. By his logic, I should be entitled to say that if he wishes to respond to me, he must “deal with all the data” I have provided in my articles from which he very selectively quoted and then pretended that he had “answered” me. Later on, I will quote material in Matthew’s resurrection narrative that Turkel flagrantly evaded when I presented it to him in another discussion, and I predict that if he tries to reply to this article, he won’t even come close to “dealing” with all of the data that I will be presenting here.

Turkel:
Not all are relevant to the rez narratives,

Till:
For once, Turkel has said something I can agree with. Much of his “data” is not relevant, but in keeping with my custom, I will reply to all of it point by point. Don’t expect him to reciprocate if he should ever “answer” this. He will skip what he knows he has no sensible answers to and will justify the omissions by talking about “fluff” or “irrelvant distractions” or “superfluous commentary.”

Turkel:
but we may begin by summarizing those that we will be making use of:

The major factor to recall is that which we have described here. The Gospel writers did not have unlimited paper and ink at their disposal; this was expensive stuff, and anyone who wants to question this point need to explain why it is not relevant. The rez narratives were at the end of their works, so they were constrained to be as succinct as possible in their reportage — more than they would be for any other part of their narrative.

TillL
Ah, yes, the old “paper-shortage” quibble. I replied to this in my article “The Paper Shortage” and showed that it is about the silliest apologetic quibble I have ever heard. I invite readers to click the reference above and read this article. They will find example after example of lengthy and tedious repetitions about trivial matters that the omniscient one “inspired” in a time of scarce and expensive scroll materials. Turkel expects us to believe that Yahweh “inspired” such tedious repetitions as these but somehow just couldn’t scrounge up enough writing materials for his chosen authors to give full and complete accounts of the resurrection of the “savior-god,” which every person forever after would have to believe in order to be “saved.”

To see just how incapable Turkel is of defending his “paper-shortage” nonsense, I urge readers to click the link above to my article “The Paper Shortage” and then after reading it, click this link to his article “The Intelligence Shortage” which is his idea of a “reply” to “The Paper Shortage.” Compare the two articles and notice just how much Turkel skipped. He made no attempt, for example, to reply to the section in which I analyzed biblical passages pertaining to “inspiration” to show that if the Bible is indeed “the word of God,” it would necessarily be a work that was produced in accordance with the principles of “inspiration” taught in the passages that I quoted and explicated. This would mean that the inspired ones were not writing what they thought or “selected” or remembered or had learned from “oral traditions” but what the “Holy Spirit” had directed them to write. Turkel cannot answer this argument and so he skipped it, as he has done before, and tried to camouflage his evasion under tirades of insults, sarcasm, and derision

Anyone who compares my article to Turkel’s “reply” and then continues to believe that a “paper shortage” is a sensible explanation for discrepancies and inconsistencies in the resurrection narrative deserves to wallow in his ignorant belief in ancient superstitions and myths.

Turkel:
Also relevant is the point of “who knew what, when”. The same exact knowledge could certainly have not been accessible to each and every Gospel writer.

Till:
The same article cited above addressed this quibble too. Presumably, all of the gospel writers were “inspired” by the same omniscient, omnipotent entity, so why wouldn’t the “same exact knowledge” have been accessible to all of them? The Bible is filled with claims of events and information that the writers couldn’t possibly have known from firsthand experiences. How, for example, did “Moses” know what had happened on the six days of creation? How did he know about all of the exploits of the patriarchs in the book of Genesis? How did “Moses” know what was said in the conversions between Balaam and Balak, which took place when Moses wasn’t present? How did biblical writers know many things they recorded about events and conversations that happened when they were not present?

If a skeptic asked a biblical inerrantist these questions, the inerrantist would say that the writers could have known these things through “oral traditions” or divine inspiration, but however they may have received the information, it is reliable, because they wrote by inspiration of “God.” Yet when biblicists encounter inconsistencies of the type found in the resurrection narratives, they try to explain these by saying that the gospel writers didn’t all have the “same exact knowledge.” They can’t have it both ways. If inspiration enabled “Moses” or “Daniel” or other biblical writers to know things that they could not have otherwise known, then consistency demands that they admit that the same divine inspiration should have enabled all four gospel writers to have “the same exact knowledge.”

I have learned not to be surprised at whatever biblical ignorance Turkel may demonstrate in an article. The apostle Paul, for example, assured the Galatians that the gospel he preached “was not after man,” for he had neither received it from man nor was taught it by man but had received it “through revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). Paul received his gospel through revelation of Jesus Christ, but Turkel apparently expects us to think that when the gospel writers came to something that they had no firsthand knowledge of, they were forced to wing it and do the best they could. That is the kind of nonsense that this guy continually resorts to in order to find “unity” in the Bible. The apostle Paul also told the Corinthians that “the word of wisdom” and “the word of knowledge” were two of the spiritual “gifts” that the Holy Spirit had imparted to them (1 Cor. 12:7-8). The “Spirit” could impart gifts of wisdom and knowledge to members of the Corinthian church, but the same “Spirit” could not enable the gospel authors to know everything necessary in order to write coherent, consistent accounts of a resurrection that all people from then to the end of time would have to believe in order to be “saved.” Is that what Turkel expects us to believe? And does he expect us to believe that a god who could speak the universe into existence, part the Red Sea, rain manna down from heaven, stop the mouths of lions, etc., etc., etc., somehow just couldn’t manage to supply his chosen writers with enough scroll materials for them to write complete accounts of the resurrection?

I will say again that anyone who is gullible enough to swallow such nonsense as this deserves to wallow in ignorance.

Turkel:
A second factor is the one we relate here about precision writing in the ancient East. Abraham Rihbany in The Syrian Christ [108ff] writes of Easterners who offer what we call “misstatements” which “are more often the result of indifference than the deliberate purpose to deceive.[“] One of his besetting sins is his ma besay-il — it does not matter. He sees no essential difference between nine o’clock and half after nine, or whether a conversation took place on the housetop or in the house. The main thing is to know the substance of what happened, with as many of the supporting details as can be conveniently remembered.

Till:
As can be conveniently remembered? My comments above show the absurdity of this, because if an omniscient, omnipotent deity were indeed “inspiring” the gospel writers, they should have been able to remember everything and to know everything necessary in order to write coherent, consistent accounts of an event that all people forever after would have to believe in order to be “saved.” If not, why not?

As for Rihbany’s it-does-not-matter theory, Turkel’s take on this can be read in his article “Precisely the Opposite” where he lapped up everything that Rihbany said about this so-called ma besay-il theory, as if Rihbany had been directly, inspired by the Holy Spirit to spare no amount of paper in telling the world what the Bible really meant. Those who are interested in seeing Rihbany’s theory debunked may go to my rebuttal article “It Doesn’t Matter?” to see all the holes that I punched into this theory. In addition to showing that an inconsistentency does not become a consistency just because the people of the time didn’t consider it an inconsistency or didn’t care that it was an inconsistency, I showed that early Jewish leaders were very concerned about inconsistencies in their biblical texts and worked just as hard as their modern counterparts (John Haley, R. A. Torrey, William Arndt, Gleason Archer, and such like) to “explain” that the Bible doesn’t mean what it plainly says. What I said in this section and the scholarly references that I included are too long to quote here, but I will include at least one quotation, which is from The Cambridge History of the Bible, Volume 1, to show that responsible scholarship recognizes that the it-doesn’t-matter nonsense that Turkel tries to peddle to his readers is without merit. Please notice the parts emphasized in bold print, which show that scholars recognize that concerns about textual inconsistencies in the Bible date as far back as the time when “sacred texts” were first compiled into “inspired scriptures.”

The exegesis of the primitive Christian Church was a direct and unself-conscious continuation of the type of exegesis practised by ancient Judaism in its later period. This Jewish exegesis had a number of traditional methods and characteristics which can all be recognised without difficulty when they are reproduced in early Christian exegesis, and some of them can be identified in the New Testament itself. The most important function performed by exegesis in ancient Judaism was the interpretation of the Law (Torah). The rabbinic schools set themselves the task of making the large collection of legal enactments, sagas, myths, stories, histories and cult material, which we call the Pentateuch, into a code of law capable of covering the whole life, inner as well as outer, cult as well as conduct, of communities of Jews living under quite different circumstances and in a much later age. In order to achieve this formidable task, they found it necessary to produce a complex and flexible technique of exegesis. Inconsistencies in the biblical text had to be explained away; errors, redundancies, absurdities, or anything shocking, indecent or unworthy of divine inspiration had to be removed. Every verse was regarded as potentially independent of others and capable of interpretation without any reference to its context. It was necessary largely to ignore the historical background. Rules were made whereby the natural, historical sense of any text could be evaded, and sometimes a quite unnatural, symbolic sense could be read in. A cautious, Torah-directed form of allegory was born. Several examples of it can be found in the New Testament (R. P. C. Hanson, “Biblical Exegesis in the Early Church,” The Cambridge History of the Bible, Vol. 1, p. 412, emphasis added).

This commentary on ancient Jewish and early Christian exegetical methods tells us that nothing has changed from then to now, because we have all seen both professional and would-be apologists (like Robert “No Links” Turkel) make up rules by which the natural, historical senses of biblical texts are evaded in order to explain away obvious meanings that prove embarrassing to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Those who are interested in seeing more on this subject should read my article cited above. There is enough material here to bury Turkel’s it-doesn’t-matter “apologetics” so deep that he will never be able to dig it up again.

Turkel:
This is important to remember when it comes to minor varying details, as is this one:

The oral nature of the original material, as we describe here.

Till:
The article that Turkel linked to above is essentially summarized below, so I don’t need to say much about it here except to note that Turkel likes to talk about “oral traditions,” as if biblical inconsistencies that resulted from oral transmission of stories or traditions were somehow not inconsistencies. It seems then that Turkel’s problem is that he just doesn’t know what an error is. An error is an error, and it doesn’t matter how long the “oral tradition” was passed along until it was written down or how much the oralist may have thought that what he was saying was right, if he said something that was incorrect or inconsistent, he transmitted an error. If King Yohamel in reality had three daughters and no sons, then the oralists who had said generation after generation that he had had three sons and no daughters were flat out wrong, no matter how much they may have thought that they were transmitting facts. The matter is that simple, and anyone who can see through cellophane should be able to understand it. Furthermore, the fact that those who wrote biblical books were presumably “inspired” by an omniscient, omnipotent deity would most certainly make inconsistencies inexcusable to everyone except an inerrantist who has allowed his allegiance to an untenable belief blind him to common-sense reality. In the first place, why would a person writing by “inspiration” of an omniscient, omnipotent entity even need to rely on oral tradition? The fact is that divine inspiration, as taught in the Bible, logically necessitated inerrancy, because the words written were not the words that the writers “conveniently” remembered or chose but were the words given to them by the Holy Spirit. It is a ridiculous belief, of course, but, nevertheless, it is what the Bible teaches. In my article “It Doesn’t Matter?” and the three-part series just linked to above, I both quoted and explicated the biblical passages that teach this view of “inspiration,” so let Turkel rant all that he wants to about “wooden and mechanical” views of inspiration. The Bible says what it says about the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, and it does not say that the Holy Spirit left the writers to “choose” whatever details they could “conveniently remember” or limited the writers because of the scarcity and expense of scroll materials. These are excuses manufactured by would-be “apologists” like Turkel to dupe the gullible into believing that mistakes and discrepancies in the Bible are ultimately due to the way that the Holy Spirit “inspired” his chosen writers. As the quotation above from The Cambridge History of the Bible noted, such “apologetics” as these are nothing but a continuation of ancient “exegetical” methods that evade “the natural, historical sense” of disputed biblical texts for no other reason but to “explain away” errors, discrepancies, absurdities, and anything else deemed inconsistent with divine inspiration.

Turkel:
Variations in oral tradition in no way contradicts the idea of inerrancy.

Till:
In the first place (as I just showed above), oral tradition cannot be an excuse for “variations” in the biblical text, because the writers were presumably “inspired” by an omniscient, omnipotent deity. Jesus told his disciples that when they were brought before kings, what they said would not be them speaking but the “Spirit” of the father speaking through them (Mt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:12), and the apostle Paul claimed that the gospel that he preached was not taught to him by man but was given to him by revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12). According to Luke, Paul once told an audience that what had been written in Isaiah 6:9-10 had been spoken by the Holy Spirit through Isaiah the prophet. “Peter” claimed that no prophecy of scripture had ever come by the will of man but that “men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). That, very briefly, is what the Bible itself teaches about the process of inspiration by which the gospel was preached and the Bible was written, but those wanting more information about the biblical doctrine of inspiration can access my article “It Doesn’t Matter?” where I analyzed these passages and others in more detail.

Turkel, of course, will say that I am wrong, that the biblical writers relied on oral traditions and their own initiative to “choose” what details to include or exclude. As surprising as this may be to Turkel, I happen to agree with him. I think that in reality the biblical writers were relying on oral tradition and their own initiatives, because the books of the Bible were no more “inspired of God” than was the iliad or the Qur’an or the Zoroastrian Avesta. However, if one is going to pretend to be an “apologist” who thinks that the Bible is “the inspired word of God,” he should be prepared to accept the logical consequences of that claim and try to defend the Bible accordingly. Turkel and his “new apologetics” ilk won’t dare do that, because they are too aware of the poundings that the traditional apologists like John Haley, Gleason Archer. and Norman Geisler have taken. Thus, they talk a lot about “oral traditions” and what the writers did and didn’t know and what details the writers “chose” to include and exclude, etc., etc., etc. Over time, their adherents are going to see this view of inspiration take a pounding even more severe than that suffered by the traditionalists. The inerrantist view of the Bible is at least based on the logical consequences of divine inspiration; the excuse-making view that Turkel espouses is based on illogical rationalizations.

As for Turkel’s claim that variations “in no way contradict the idea of inerrancy,” that would depend upon what the variations are. Variations that involve only the inclusion or exclusion of details may very well not contradict the idea of inerrancy, but variations that involve rank inconsistencies do contradict the idea of inerrancy, because, as I said above, an error is an error, regardless of whatever good intentions the transmitters of the traditions may have had. If “oral tradition” A, for example, says that King Yohamel had three daughters and no sons but “oral tradition” B said that King Yohamel had three sons and no daughters, that is an inconsistency. All the talk in the world about “nuances” and “idioms” in Semitic languages or customs in ancient Near Eastern cultures cannot make it not be an inconsistency. As we will see, the same is true of some of the inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives that Turkel so smugly thought that he had “explained.”

Turkel:
The idea of inspiration as wooden and mechanical in all cases is something that the Scriptures never demand.

Till:
As I showed above, this is not so. It is Turkel’s anything-goes idea of inspiration that is not taught in the Bible. As noted above, Jesus told his disciples that when they were brought before kings, they should take no thought about what they should say, because they would not be speaking but the Holy Spirit would be speaking through them. I pointed out that the apostle Paul said that he had not been taught by men the gospel that he preached but that it had been given to him through revelation of Jesus Christ. He also said that specific words written by Isaiah had actually been spoken through him by the Holy Spirit. How much more “wooden” and “mechanical” could a view of “inspiration” be? I will link readers again to my article “It Doesn’t Matter?” and my three-part series on traditional inerrancy and invite them to read in much more detail what the Bible really teaches about the process of inspiration. I will also borrow an expression from Turkel and tell him to bang his head on the passages explicated in these articles and then call an ambulance.

Meanwhile, I will challenge him to bless us with an article in which he quotes biblical passages that teach his view of inspiration. Where, for example, does the Bible say that “God’s” chosen writers were left to their own devices to decide which details to include and which to exclude? Where does the Bible say “God” inspired his chosen writers to leave out details because scroll materials were scarce and expensive in those days? Where does the Bible say that the writers chosen by God to record “his word” were not to be concerned with details because inconsistencies just wouldn’t matter to the readers of that time?

These are all “ideas of inspiration” that Turkel preaches over and over, but I have yet to see him quote a single scripture in support of them. Don’t expect him to begin quoting now, because his “ideas of inspiration” just are not taught in the Bible.

Turkel:
Nor is there any indication that such variations were considered “erroneous” by the ancients, under whose paradigms we are compelled to work here.

Till:
I invite readers again to access my article “It Doesn’t Matter?” and the the three-part series on inerrancy to see clear evidence that this too is not so. In particular please notice the last half of the article, where I discussed discrepancies in the book of Ezekiel that almost kept Jewish leaders from accepting this as part of their “canon.” Notice in particular the story of Rabbi Hananiah ben Hezekiah’s retreat to his room with 300 jars of oil, where he worked over an extended period of time to resolve the troubling inconsistencies in Ezekiel. Yes, the Jews had their Robert Turkels in those days too, and the fact that they did is clear evidence that Turkel’s it-doesn’t-matter theory is wrong.

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume that the “ancients” didn’t consider any variations in the scriptures to be “erroneous.” So what? What would this prove except that the “ancients” had no clear concepts of logic? As I have said, an error is an error, so no one can make an error not be an error by just considering it not to be “erroneous.” Ancients, for example, thought that the earth was flat. That was an erroneous belief, and the fact that people in ancient times did not consider references to a flat earth not to be erroneous did not make sure references true. That is so obvious that it doesn’t require any further comment.

Turkel:
Skeptics must show that such variations were considered problematic by ancient commentators, not merely foist their own 21st-century literary values upon the text.

Till:
No, skeptics don’t have to show that “such variations were considered problematic by ancient commentators.” All they must do is show that in accordance with recognized laws of logic, the variations were indeed problematic. The fact that people in biblical times may not have recognized discrepancies would in no way make a logical discrepancy or a factual error not be a mistake. According to Turkel, if an ancient culture didn’t realize that the earth was spherically shaped, then any references to a flat earth would not have been discrepancies because the people at that time thought that the earth was flat, but that premise is too ridiculous to deserve serious comment. Truth and error are always independent of what people think or believe or want. If there is no God, for example, than all references that have ever been made to “God” as if he were an actual existent are factual errors even though such references were probably made with sincere belief that they were true. As for whether “ancient commentators” considered variations in their sacred literature “problematic,” if Turkel will read my article cited above, he will see some examples of biblical passages that “ancient commentators” obviously thought were problematic. I suspect that they so considered them in accordance with their own values and not those of the 21st century.

Turkel talks almost incessantly about ancient Near Eastern culture, customs, nuances, idioms, literary values, etc., as if he is academically and linguistically qualified to speak with any semblance of authority on these issues. This theme song of his has come to be a sort of catch-all rationalization for any kind of discrepancy in the biblical text. However, no amount of “culture, customs, nuances, idioms, and literary values” can make an error not be an error. As in the case of the flat-earth belief referred to above, if the culture, nuances, idioms, etc. of an ancient society led a writer to say that the earth was flat, that was an error, regardless of whether the people of that time considered it an error. This is so obvious that I can’t believe that I am actually wasting time trying to reason with someone who would seriously claim that errors are not errors if they reflect the culture, customs, nuances, idioms, and literary values of the time. According to this idiotic theory, ancient writers who spoke of the existence of gods like Zeus, Thor, Vishnu, and Ahura-Mazda as if they were actual existents did not report anything erroneous because the people of that time did not consider such references to be erroneous.

My academic profession involved linguistics, and I am bilingual from having spent five years in a foreign country, so I would be the last person to deny that ethnic culture, values, idioms, and such like are embedded in the literatures of ancient societies. I have no doubt at all that meanings that were originally conveyed in Hebraic or Grecian culture and idioms elude readers who are not familiar with those languages and the cultures in which they thrived. However, meaning and truth are two different things. Nuances, idioms, culture, etc. may be useful in determining what an ancient text meant, but truth is independent of linguistic pecularities. If the culture, customs, and linguistic peculiarities of a society led any of its writers to say things that were contrary to reality, then they made errors regardless of what the general opinions of the time may have been. The earth is spherically shaped, so there is nothing embedded in language, customs, and cuilture that could ever make claims of a flat earth be true. If Turkel can’t understand this, he needs more help than I could ever give him.

Besides all this, Turkel and his like-minded cohorts who constantly chant mantras about ancient Near Eastern culture and language forget one very important point: the Bible is alleged to be the inspired word of an omniscient, omnipotent deity. The premise of those who preach this belief is that “God” selected a people from all other tribes and nations of the earth to be his “chosen ones” through whom he would send a savior to redeem the world from their sins. This savior came, died on the cross, and was resurrected from the dead, and forever afterwards “salvation” would depend on believing that this “son of God” did all this. Those who don’t believe it will be condemned to hell throughout all eternity. If all this talk about a savior-god is true, then it behooved the deity who “inspired” writers to tell the story of this great plan of redemption to record it in a way that would transcend all lingustic idioms and pecularities so that everyone, regardless of ethnic origin, would be able to understand it. If Turkel’s god couldn’t do this, then he must not have been omniscient and omnipotent, so why should I or anyone else be concerned about spending years and years trying to become familiar with the languages, idioms, and nuances that were used to tell this story? There are enough hardships and struggles in life without adding this kind of burden to them.

Turkel:
Albert Lord, in his essay entitled “The Gospels as Oral Traditional Literature” which appears in The Relationships Among the Gospels: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue, remarks generally upon oral traditional narratives as having “textual fluidity”, such that they are “constantly being repeated without concern for word-for-word retelling of a set, established text.” [37] [sic]

Till:
Turkel has here resorted to what is probably his favorite logical fallacy. He finds a writer who says something that he agrees with, and so he quotes it as if the opinion of the quoted author is sufficient to settle whatever matter is in dispute. I could quote all day long authors who disagree with any religious position that Turkel wants to take, but that would prove only that the quoted authors disagree with Turkel. The quotations would not prove that Turkel’s position is wrong. In the same way, all of his quotations do not prove that he is right

Even if what Alfred Lord said were true, so what? As I have now pointed out to Turkel umpteen times, the Bible is allegedly the “inspired, inerrant word of God.” If this is true, then those who were slected to write the books in the Bible had no need of oral traditions, because they would have had the advantage of an omniscient, omnipotent deity who was guiding them as they wrote. Just as the apostle Paul had not received the gospel that he preached from men but had received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12) and just as the apostles who were brought before kings and rulers spoke not their own words but what the Holy Spirit was speaking through them (Matt. 10:20) and just as what was written in Isaiah 6:9-10 had actually been “spoken” by the Holy Spirit and not by the prophet who wrote it (Acts 28:25-27), so the “inspired” writers who recorded the gospels and epistles of the New Testament would have had no need for oral traditions. To say that those who wrote the New Testament relied on oral traditions and what they had personally experienced themselves is to reduce it to just another collection of writings that have no more authority than anything else that was so written. The reason why Turkel and his like-minded cohorts posit such foolishness as this as “explanations” for biblical inconsistencies is that they clearly recognize that the Bible is riddled with such problem passages, so they have to grab any straw in sight to try to explain why the inconsistencies are there.

I will remind readers again that what the Bible clearly teaches about the nature of “inspiration” is discussed in detail in my article “It Doesn’t Matter?” and the three-part series on inerrancy, all of which I recommend to those who want to see what the Bible itself teaches about this process and not what Turkel arbitrarily posits as rationalizations for the obvious inconsistencies and discrepancies in the Bible. It wouldn’t hurt Turkel to read the article too.

Turkel:
One may compare the material in the link and note differences which are very much like those in the Gospels — with no place to claim “error” or “contradiction” between them as the substantial message remains the same.

Till:
There is no place to claim error or contradiction when “the essential message remains the same”? This is another example of the foolishness that inerrantists will resort to in order to evade the problem of inconsistencies and discrepancies in biblical parallel accounts. To show the absolute idiocy of Turkel’s position, let’s suppose that we had four ancient documents that claimed that a man named Yabel changed a goat into a camel. All of them clearly claim that Yabel performed this remarkable deed, but one of them said that he performed the miracle in Beersheba, another said that he did it in Jericho, another one said that he did it in Jerusalem, and the fourth one said that Joppa was where the miracle was performed. Two of the accounts said that Yabel was an old man, “advanced in years,” but the two others said that he was a young boy. One of the accounts said that the goat was black, one of them said that the goat was white, one said that the goat was brown, and the fourth one said that the goat was spotted. Two of the documents said that the goat was a male, and the other two said that it was a female. One of the documents said that the camel that resulted from the miracle had two humps, and three of them said that the camel had just one hump. Now according to Turkel, there would be no “errors” or “inconsistencies” in these documents because “the substantial message” was the same in all three, i., e., Yabel had changed the goat into a camel. Anyone who can see through a ladder, however, can see the craziness of the claim that the “substantial message” in these three documents would keep any of the variations mentioned above from being errors or inconsistencies. Turkel’s position is so idiotic that it warrants no further comment, because inconsistencies in documents reporting the same “substantial message” are inconsistencies no matter how clear that “substantial message” may be. If Turkel can’t see that, he is badly in need of a common-sense transplant.

Furthermore, the very nature of the “substantial message” would be reason enough not to believe the documents. In all of humanity’s empirical experience, no one has ever seen a goat transformed into a camel, so that within itself is sufficient reason to doubt the truth of the “substantial message” in the documents. However, when all of the inconsistencies mentioned above are added to the absuridity of the “substantial message,” only a person hopelessly gullible could believe that the documents had reported an actual historical event.

My point is clear enough that any rational person should understand it. The “substantial message” of the resurrection narratives is such that only the very gullible can buy it. The inconsistencies in the different narratives just make them all the more unbelievable.

Turkel:
This will be a minor factor: John’s Gospel we see as having been written as a sort of supplement to Mark. Hence we expect John to report things that Mark does not, purposely, in order to fill gaps, only touching the Markan narrative at points essential to telling the story.

Till:
Oh, so we see John’s gospel as having been written as “a sort of supplement to Mark,” do we? Well, I assume that everyone noticed that Turkel offered absolutely nothing to support this. He simply, in typical fashion, asserted it, but that is nothing new. About 90% of what Turkel posts on his website is unsupported assertion.

Now if Turkel had said that the gospels of Matthew and Luke were written as a sort of supplement to Mark, he wouldn’t have gotten much disagreement from me, because it is rather obvious that both of these gospels sought to correct what the writers saw as problems in Mark’s account. That opinion is so widespead in mainstream biblical scholarship that it hardly warrants additional comment, but if Turkel disagrees, I will be glad to play his game of citing authors who have this view of Matthew and Luke.

To see the gospel of John as “a sort of supplement to Mark” is to see something that Turkel needs to support. Of course, supporting assertions is something that Turkel rarely even tries to do. One might say that he is “support challenged,” a handicap that will destroy the credibility of a would-be apologist, except in the eyes of those with profound desires and/or needs to believe in the incredible. Some do believe that “John” knew of “Mark’s” gospel, but the gospel of John is so radically different from Mark and the other synoptics that a more mainstream view of this book is that it was written to be a gospel that presented the “spiritual” nature of Jesus more than his human nature, which had been depicted in the synoptics. The author at times was very explicit in stating this purpose.

John 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

To the synoptic writers, Jesus was the “son of man.” In the first verse of his gospel, “Mark” referred to Jesus as the “son of God” (1:1), although several early manuscripts of Mark omit this phrase, and his disciples on a couple of occasions so referred to him when they had been impressed with his signs (Matt. 14:33; 16:16). The Jesus of the synoptics was also called the “son of God” by Satan (Matt. 4:3,6; Luke 4:3,9) and by demons (Matt. 8:29; Mark 3:11; 5:7; Luke 4:41), and his enemies in questioning him or commenting about him would cynically ask if or say that he was the “son of God” (Matt. 26:63; 27:40-43,54; Luke 22:70); otherwise, Jesus was the “son of man” to Mark and the other synoptic writers. To John, who did occasionally refer to Jesus as the “son of man” (1:51; 3:13; 6:27), he was primarily the “son of God” (3:18; 5:25; 9:35; 10:36; 11:4,27; etc.), so if Turkel wants to say that John’s gospel “supplemented” Mark’s in the sense that he “filled in the gap” that Mark left pertaining to the spiritual side of the “son of man,” I wouldn’t disagree with him, but it seems a stretch to assert that John’s Gospel was written as “a sort of supplement to Mark” in order to “fill in the gaps” that Mark left. In the first place, why should there be any gaps at all, significant enough to require “filling in,” in a narrative that was inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity? Turkel doesn’t like anyone to ask this question, but it is a very relevant one that deserves an answer. However, don’t expect Turkel to answer it or even mention it beyond hurling his usual insults and sarcasm.

Until Turkel supports his assertion that “John” was written to “fill in the gaps” left by Mark, there is really nothing more here for me to reply to.

Turkel:
And with that, we’ll proceed with two caveats:

  1. Mark 16:9-20 is excluded for reasons we outline here.

Till:
This is a link to Turkel’s article “The End of Mark,” in which he used his favorite ploy of quoting assertions from authors who agree with him and then leaving the assertions unsupported. I had originally copied all but the Christadelphian part of this article and replied to each of Turkel’s cut-and-pasted assertions point by point, but the result was an article too long, so I cut that section and put it into “Problems in the Ending of the Gospel of Mark.” Readers who access this article will see that I replied to it thoroughly and showed that there is no substance to the points that he copied from authors, who like him, will go to any extreme to try to find unity in the Bible.

Turkel:

2. 1 Cor. 15, despite Danny’s challenge, is not to be included, though it could be. Cor. 15 is a creedal statement meant to emphasize that the leading people of the church saw the resurrected Jesus. It is therefore stylized for a purpose and need not be force-fitted into the narrative accounts.

Till:
There seems to be no end to the quibbles that Turkel will resort to in order to try to prove that the Bible didn’t mean what it clearly says. He will argue that if the people of that time didn’t care whether a writer was correct in what he had written, then the inconsistency or contradiction wasn’t really a discrepancy. He will argue that if a writer didn’t personally witness an event that he wrote about, then any inconsistencies in his account would not really be inconsistencies. He will argue that if a writer was relying on oral tradition, then any discrepancy in what he wrote would not really be a discrepancy. He will argue that if a writer lacked enough scroll space to tell all of the necessary details in a story, then that would not really be a mistake. Now he is claiming that incorrect information in a “creedal statement” wouldn’t be a discrepancy. I would like to have him explain to us why incorrect information in a creed would not be a mistake.

For that matter, I would like for him to explain why 1 Corinthians 15 is a “creedal statement.” I know that some have taken this position, but I would like to see Mr. Robert “Know It All” Turkel explain to us just why this chapter is only a “creedal statement.” Is the whole chapter a “creedal statement”? If not, then what part is? Where does the “creedal statement” begin, and where does it end?

I know, of course, what part he is talking about, so I will ask him to tell us which of the following statements are true [or false].

1. Christ died for our sins. True or false?

2. Christ was buried. True or false?

3. Christ was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. True or false?

Here’s a question for bonus points. If number 3 is true, then please quote for us the scriptures that said that the Messiah would be raised on the third day.

4. After he was raised, Christ appeared to Cephas. True or false?

5. Then Christ appeared to the twelve. True or false?

6. Then Christ appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time. True or false?

Here are some more questions for bonus points. When did Jesus appear to these 500? Where did he appear to these 500? What were the names of any three of these 500?

7. Then Christ appeared to James. True or false?

8. Last of all, Christ appeared to Paul. True or false?

Now here is Turkel’s dilemma. If he says that any of these statements are false, then he will be found arguing with his own inspired, inerrant word of God. If he says that all of the statements are true, then he will blow to pieces his claim that 1 Corinthians 15 should not be included in Baker’s Easter Challenge, because it was written in the form of a “creedal statement.”

Turkel:

Matt. 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

Mark 16:1-2 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

Luke 24:1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

The first verses bring a hail of questions, all of which are fairly simple to answer, espcially [sic] in light of the principles outlined above:

What time did they go? The times are read as, “as it began to dawn,” “very early in the morning,” (twice), and “when it was yet dark”. All of these are subjective readings that are fully capable of describing the pre-dawn twilight just before the sun peeks over the horizon. In an era before precision clocks for all but the wealthy, this is hardly an issue — and at worst an example of Rihbany’s ma besay-il.

Till:
Well, Turkel fudged a bit in quoting how “the times are read,” because the first one [from Matthew 28] actually read, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” Now surely Turkel knows that the Sabbath began at sundown and ended at sundown, so maybe he can explain to us how the women could have gone to the tomb “at the end of the Sabbath” as it was “beginning to dawn toward the first day of the week.” If the text had said, “At the end of the sabbath, as the sun was setting toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb,” there would be no problem, but that isn’t what it says. Otherwise, Turkel may be surprised to learn that I don’t consider the time of day to be a problem major enough to talk about beyond noting one other troublesome matter. I grew up on a farm, so I know that daylight actually comes well before the sun is rising, so I have to wonder how it could still have been dark when John’s Mary went to the tomb if the sun (according to Mark) “was risen” when she went to the tomb. There were many mornings in my farm experiences when I was driving a tractor in the field before sunrise without the need of headlights.

As I said above, I don’t consider the time of day to be a problem major enough to talk about, especially when there are more serious problems in the narratives, which I will be getting to soon, but it does strike me as rather strange that the omniscient, omnipotent “Holy Spirit” inspired all four of the gospel writers, yet he seemed unable to guide them to state the time of day precisely enough to have avoided all the controversy over this point. Turkel could have forever settled the question of what time of day the women went to the tomb by just meeting Barker’s challenge to write a time-of-day narrative that would have coherently and consistently included what was said on this subject by each of the gospel writers. Had he done that, maybe he would have come up with something like the following.

On the first day of the week, while it was yet dark [John], Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and certain other women went to the tomb at early dawn [Luke] when the sun was risen [Mark] and beginning to dawn toward the first day of the week [Matthew].

I am sure that if Turkel harmonized the time-of-day problem in this way, which would include everything said in the four gospels on this point, no one would ever wonder how it could have been still dark after the sun had risen or how the sun could have been dawning toward a day that began at sunset or how it could have been early dawn while it was still dark. I suspect that Turkel didn’t try to write a coherent time-of-day paragraph that would have included everything said by all gospel writers on this topic precisely because he could see the inconsistencies on this point. Obviously, the time of day in the narratives is a problem, but as I said earlier, I don’t consider it a problem major enough to spend time wrangling about when there are greater inconsistencies to focus on in the narratives. I will soon be presenting an inconsistency that Turkel has already bobbed and weaved and ducked and dodged his way around but has never been able to explain except to say, “ma besay-il” [It doesn’t matter].

As for the ma besay-il apologetic theory that Turkel referred to above. I have already shot this full of holes above and in my article “It Doesn’t Matter?” so it isn’t necessary for me to shoot it down again here.

Turkel:
Who went? We have Mary Mag and the other Mary; we have those two plus Salome; we have those two plus Joanna and unnamed “others”; we have Mary Mag, though obviously not alone (v. 2, “we” do not know…) No one list excludes any other; none speaks of these being the only persons to travel to the tomb. We note the common Skeptical response that we cannot thereby exclude little green men from Mars either; but the difference again is whether the presence of other female disciples is in any sense an issue or an improbability. It isn’t.

Till:
Turkel may be surprised to hear me say that variations in the naming of the women who went to the tomb would not be a discrepancy either, because omissions aren’t necessarily contradictions. If newspaper reporter A wrote that Smith and Jones were present when a bank was robbed and reporter B wrote that Smith, Jones, and Brown were present at the robbery, the omission of Brown by reporter A could not be considered an error. However, a salient observation is in order here. The very nature of the resurrection claim was such that very strong evidence was needed to substantiate it. I have already noted above that the apostle Paul went all out in 1 Corinthians 15 to name witnesses to the resurrected Jesus in hopes of convincing skeptical Corinthians that this event had happened. It seems strange, then, that the omniscient, omnipotent “Holy Spirit” would have directed Matthew, Mark, and John to omit the names of some who had witnessed the empty tomb and the announcement by the angel(s) that Jesus had risen. This was a case where “the more, the merrier” would certainly have applied. If at least six women and probably more were on the scene, as Luke indicated (24:10), then why did the “Holy Spirit” direct John to mention only one and Matthew two and Mark three? The omissions certainly didn’t make sense in records of a resurrection that everyone who would ever live thereafter would have to believe in order to be “saved.” As I have pointed out already, the very nature of the “essential message” of the resurrection narratives was such that extraordinarily good evidence was needed to support it, so why on earth would someone straddled with the task of trying to make the resurrection seem plausible have left out the names of 33% to 85% of those who had presumably seen the resurrected Jesus?

So let Turkel argue that there was no problem in the variations concerning what women were present at the tomb that morning. He still would have to give a sensible explanation for why the omni-max one would have “inspired” his chosen ones to omit information that would have strengthened the credibility of the resurrection narratives (if it is at all possible for credibility to be found in narratives that claim that a dead man returned to life).

Turkel:
Anointing the dead was considered women’s work; a composite party is not at all unlikely.

Till:
I isolated this final sentence in Turkel’s paragraph above so that I could make a point that I don’t often see mentioned by those who point out inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives. According to Mark and Luke, the women came to the tomb in order to anoint the body of Jesus with spices, but why would they have done that? According to Luke 23:55, the women followed Joseph of Arimathaea and saw both the tomb and how the body was laid.

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid.

Now if this is an inerrant statement and if John’s account is also inerrant, then these women saw Joseph and Nicodemus bind the body of Jesus with “about a hundred pounds” of spices.

John 19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

Now if the women had seen Joseph and Nicodemus wrap the body of Jesus with a hundred pounds of spices, why would they have brought additional spices two–yes, two–days later to anoint the body again?

Inerrantists like Turkel, who see explanations for biblical discrepancies in ancient cultural customs, idioms, linguistic nuances, oral variations, etc., etc., etc. will see no problem here, and I will admit that this is not a verifiable discrepancy. I suppose it is possible that women who saw a body being wrapped with a hundred pounds of spices, for some reason known only to them, could have thought that it would be a good idea to bring more spices two days later, but anyone with one eye and half sense should be able to see that this is unlikely. It is more likely that Mark and Luke, who said nothing about spices with which Joseph and Nicodemus had wrapped the body, knew nothing about this aspect of the burial legend, and so they added an element here that “John” had put into the burial story two days earlier. With all of the other inconsistencies, contradictions, discrepancies, and such like that riddle the Bible, this problem should at the very least give critical readers pause to consider the plausibility of the resurrection claim.

Turkel:
So why the differing lists? It may become repetitive, but it may as well be: ma besay-il. It doesn’t matter.

Till:
There is no “may be” about this. I shot this ma besay-il quibble down above and in my article “It Doesn’t Matter?” which readers can access to see that this is just a desperation attempt to “explain” obvious discrepancies in the Bible. As I have now explained several times, the very nature of the claim that a dead man returned to life would require extraordinarily strong supporting evidence, so if there were as many as six people (as Mark and Luke combined claimed) who found the tomb empty and heard angels announce that the man had risen from the dead, common sense should tell anyone writing an account of this event to be as inclusive as possible in naming the witnesses. The fact that one writer named only one witness, another named only two, another only three, etc. is sufficient reason to doubt the accuracy of their reports, especially since the “essential message” of their narratives was the extremely unlikely claim that a dead man had returned to life.

The omission of witnesses, then, if not an error, would have been a serious flaw in the writing skills of those who were reporting the events on resurrection morning, and this would be more than sufficient reason to doubt that an omniscient, omnipotent deity had anything to do with “inspiring” writers who could write reports no better than these. If Turkel can’t see this, he has allowed his religious allegiance to blind him to obvious reality.

Turkel:
Each writer chose women representative of the party, based perhaps on their own knowledge or on that of their audience.

Till:
And Turkel knows this how? As I have repeatedly pointed out, all of the gospel writers were allegedly inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent entity, so the “knowledge” of each writer should have been equal. Whatever Mark knew, Matthew, Luke, and John would have known, and whatever Matthew knew, Mark, Luke, and John would have known, and so on, because they were all “inspired” by the same omniscient entity. If not, why not? Let Turkel answer this question, and simply saying that it is a “wooden” or “mechanical” view of inspiration is not an answer. It is a dodge.

As for Turkel’s claim that “(e)ach writer chose women representative of the party,” what the hell does this even mean? Turkel didn’t bother to explain. He just said it, probably because he thought his readers would think that it sounded impressive. If, however, he wants to impress critically minded readers, he will have to explain some things. Why would Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have thought that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were “representative of the party,” but Mark, writing under the influence of the same omniscient entity, have thought that Salome was also “representative of the party,” and so on? Turkel didn’t bother to explain, and the reason why he didn’t is that he undoubtedly knows that he is doing nothing but shoveling apologetic bullshit that doesn’t do a thing to resove inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives. He also knows that he can get away with it, because he knows that he is writing for an audience with a desperate desire to believe that the Bible is the “inspired, inerrant word of God.”

Turkel:
Mary Mag appears in all four accounts; this suggests her prominence in the tradition and makes it difficult for any rez account to leave her out.

Till:
Mary Mag’s prominence in the tradition? So we have now come to the old this-writer-“chose”-to-tell-thus-and-so-and-that-writer-“chose”-to-tell-this-and-that quibble. As I have repeatedly shown in my replies to Turkel’s apologetic quibbles, writers who were inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity would not have been speaking on their own but rather speaking what the omni-max one was guiding them to report. Hence, they would not have exercised options to “choose” this and to exclude that. What they wrote would have been decided by the entity that was inspiring them.

My article linked immediately above clearly shows that the Bible teaches this view of “inspiration.” Turkel tries to deny what the Bible teaches on this subject by hurling sarcastic comments about “wooden” and “mechanical” views of inspiration, but if the influence of the “inspiring” entity did not override any personal choices that the writers made in the selection of details, then in what sense is the Bible the “word of God.” If, for example, Mark wrote what Mark chose to select, then the gospel of Mark would not be “the word of God” but the word of Mark. If not, why not?

I have another question that Turkel can evade if he should decide to “reply” to this rebuttal of his article. If the “inspiration” of the omniscient, omnipotent “Holy Spirit” did not so guide and direct the writers that what they wrote was truth, then what was the purpose of inspiration? Was the “Holy Spirit” just wasting his time exercising an influence called “inspiration” that accomplished nothing more than what they writers could have accomplished on their own through reliance on oral traditions and their own personal experiences and choices?

These are questions that Turkel won’t want to answer, but they get to the heart of an issue that he needs to address. If the Bible is indeed “the word of God,” as biblical inerrantists claim, then it can be the word of God only if it is the word of God and not the word of Isaiah or Jeremiah or John or Mark or the apostle Paul, so it is time for Turkel to address this issue. If the gospel of Mark contains only what Mark knew from his own personal experiences or familiarity with “oral traditions” and included by choices that he himself made, then what was the purpose of divine “inspiration”?

Turkel claimed above that Mary Magdalene appeared in all four gospel accounts, because her “prominence in the tradition” made it difficult to leave her out, but I would like for Turkel to explain to us why anyone who had been present on this occasion would not have been prominent enough to have made it difficult to leave out. In other words, exactly why would Mary Magdalene’s presence at the tomb have made her any more “prominent” than Joanna’s presence would have made her? After all, Joanna was probably the same Joanna mentioned with Mary Magdalene in Luke 8:2-3. If so, she was the wife of Herod’s steward, a position that should have given her more prominence than Mary Magdalene. If prominence, then, was a criterion that gospel writers used to “decide” whom to include in their resurrection narratives, Joanna should have been mentioned in all of them.

Of course, Turkel isn’t going to tell us why one witness to a resurrection would have been more “prominent” than another witness anymore than he tried to meet Barker’s Easter Challenge. He won’t meet it because there is no sensible explanation that he can give for the omission of anyone who had been a witness to the claim of an angel(s) that a dead man had been resurrected. If a spacecraft landed in the field behind my home and five people were with me to witness the debarking of an alien being, who announced that he had come to warn that an asteriod 500 kilometers in diameter was on course to strike the earth and that I and those with me should go tell our leaders that this would happen in two years, I would be an idiot if I reported the event and mentioned only myself as a witness to the encounter. I would also be an idiot if I mentioned only myself and one other of the six as witnesses. If six people witnessed an extraordinary encounter like this, a report of it would carry far more weight if all six instead of just one or two witnesses were nameed in the report. That is so common sensical that even Turkel should be able to see it.

Turkel:
Matthew has little room to spare;

Till:
Oh, no, not the “paper-shortage” quibble again! Those who think that there is any merit at all to this claim should access “The Paper Shortage” to see this quibble completely dismantled.

Turkel:
he obviously needed to deovte [sic] time to the “stolen body” claim

Till:
Oh, really? Well, Mark didn’t see any need to “deovote” [sic] time to the stolen body claim, and neither did Luke. Since Mark’s gospel was much shorter than Matthew’s, then surely Matthew wasn’t running out of space in a time of scarce and expensive scroll materials, so if the “stolen-body” claim was so important, why didn’t he include this claim in his gospel. Luke’s gospel also runs shorter than Matthew’s, so if this claim was so all-important why didn’t Luke squeeze it in too?”

Oh, I forgot. Mark and Luke didn’t include this because they “chose” not to do it. They had other purposes to achieve. We have all heard this bullshit before, and it is bullshit. Would-be apologists resort to it for no other reason than to quibble their way around glaring problems in the resurrection narratives. They know the problems are there, so all they can do is reach for any straw in sight that they can use to pull the wool over the eyes of their sheep.

Let’s just take a look at how flimsy an excuse Turkel is resorting to when he claims that Matthew mentioned only Mary Magdalene and the other Mary because he “had little room to spare.” Turkel drags out this quibble as if Matthew would have run out of space on his scroll if he had included in his narrative the names of just two other women. Let’s juxtapose Matthew 28:1 with a rewritten version that includes the other women.

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Salome, Joanna, and other women went to see the tomb.

To include the other alleged witnesses would have required only five more words, and Turkel expects reasonable people to believe that Matthew didn’t mention the other women because he just couldn’t spare the space. The gullible may buy that, but critically minded people will recognize a desperate quibble when they see one.

Turkel:
and also wanted to close with the great commission.

Till:
So putting five more words into his narrative would have made it necessary for Matthew to leave out the great commission. Is that what Turkel expects us to believe?

Turkel:
That left him almost no room for detailed rez appearances or for special cameos like the one John gave Mary Mag. His report is by necessity short and to the point and he has no space for a detailed listing of who was where, and when.

Till:
Here is another example of the kind of bullshit that Turkel shovels out to his uncritical sycophants. Turkel doesn’t know what was in “Matthew’s” mind when he was writing this gospel, so how can he possibly know that Matthew purposely truncated the list of women who went to the tomb and then omitted details in his account of the resurrection so that he would have room to include the great commission? Did “Matthew” write right up to the very end of his scroll? Turkel doesn’t know, so he doesn’t know how much space may have been left at the end when “Matthew” closed his gospel.

Aside from this, there is a fact that I have already established: if the gospel writers were indeed “inspired” by the omniscient, omnipotent “Holy Spirit,” then they were not the ones deciding what to include and what to exclude. That decision was being made for them; otherwise, there would have been no logical purpose at all for the “Holy Spirit” to have “inspired” them.

Turkel:
It is therefore absurd to demand that he meet the precision-demands of Western literature which has no such constraints.

Till:
As I have explained umpteen times in my replies to Turkel’s Tektonic nonsense, the New Testament was presumably written as a guide to heaven for all people who would ever live from the time of its authorship until the [snicker, snicker] day of judgment. So-called “salvation” was going to depend on believing that a dead man returned to life, so if an omnibenevolent deity was going to make such a requirement of people, he would have had an obligation to give sufficient evidence to make the resurrection story as credible as possible, but we don’t find credibility in the gospel accounts of the resurrection. Instead, we find ambiguity, vagueness, inconsistency, and outright contradiction. I will be addressing these flaws in the resurrection narratives soon, but for now I want to comment on the absurdity of the “apologetics” of those like Turkel who engage in endless excuse- making for these flaws. John omitted this and that, because he was relying on oral traditions and didn’t know about details that were included in the synoptic gospels. Matthew didn’t list all of the women who went to the tomb, because he needed to devote space to the “stolen-body” claim and the great commission. Mark didn’t….”

Well, you get the picture. All such rationalizations as these are nothing but desperate speculations intended to dupe the gullible into believing that there were good reasons for the inconsistencies in the resurrection accounts. Without being a mind-reading psychic with the ability to project himself over 1900 years into the past, Turkel couldn’t possibly know why Matthew included and excluded certain details from his narrative, and neither could he know the same about Mark, Luke, and John. He is shoveling bullshit intended for no other purpose than to dupe the already gullible.

I said that I would be calling attention to more important inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives, and it is now time to do that. The character of Mary Magdalene as she was presented by Matthew is completely incompatible with the Mary Magdalene in “John’s” gospel. This discrepancy has already been presented to Turkel in “The Mary Magdalene Problem,” which I wrote in reply to Turkel’s “Tomb Visitor Checklist,” which he has since removed from his website and replaced with the article I am now answering. I also presented the Mary Magdalene problem on The Theology Web, and Turkel ran from it like a rabbit bolting from a pack of hound dogs. To save time, I will requote the part of this article that Turkel could not and never will be able to resolve. I will begin the quotation where I was replying to Turkel’s claim that Matthew made no error with reference to his omission of Salome, just as long as he didn’t say that she was never there.

Till:
Yes, as long as Matthew didn’t say that Salome was never there, no error exists, but that is not to say that a lot of stupidity didn’t exist on the part of the writer and the omniscient one who inspired him to leave out the names of some who were on the scene. This would be as idiotic as a man accused of murder knowing that he was miles away from the scene of the crime at the time in the presence of several people, but he gave the police only one or two names of those who were with him.

So where are we now? We are in agreement that even though serious questions about the competence of the gospel writers and the omniscient deity who presumably inspired them are raised by the omission of “witnesses” in some of the narratives, technically there is no error, but this problem is very minor compared to other discrepancies in the resurrection narratives. Diehard inerrantists–which seem to include Turkel–claim that there are no inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives, but to find “harmony” in the various NT passages that refer to the resurrection, they must resort to outrageous speculation and how-it-could-have-been scenarios. The most troublesome inconsistency in the resurrection accounts is what I call the Mary Magdalene problem. It has sent many would-be apologists scurrying for cover with announcements that they have so many obligations and responsibilities that they must regrettably leave the forum. When confronted with the Mary Magdalene problem, some don’t even bother to offer excuses; they just leave whatever forum they are in. Turkel has his own choir loft, of course, and I predict that he will keep this issue there, where he can selectively quote his opposition, but he will not link his readers to an article like this so that they can evaluate in full context his opposition’s argument.

The Mary Magdalene problem is simple. Mary M was presented in the synoptic gospels as having seen an angel or angels at the tomb, and heard him or them announce the resurrection of Jesus, after which she actually encountered Jesus and worshiped him as she was running from the tomb to tell the disciples what had happened. In John’s gospel, however, Mary Magdalene is presented as having found the tomb empty, after which she ran to Peter and the disciple “whom Jesus loved” and told them that the body had been stolen. So the problem is why Mary would have told the disciples that the body had been stolen if she had seen and heard everything that the synoptic gospels claim that she saw and heard.

To save time, I am going to post a rebuttal of the most commonly used “explanation” of this problem so that we can get to the heart of it much quicker. (Readers who have been with me on alt.bible.errancy and the ii_errancy list will recognize that this is an adapted version of a posting that I have sent to Errancy many times, but no one has yet given a sensible explanation of the problem.) Many inerrantists contend that Mary Magdalene simply panicked when she saw the empty tomb and ran to Peter before she had heard the angel(s) announce that Jesus had risen. This “explanation,” however, is completely incompatible with Matthew’s gospel account. Let’s look at it first, and then I will explain why the explanation is incompatible with what “Matthew” clearly said.

Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

I have emphasized in bold print certain words to call attention to them. They will establish that Matthew intended for his readers to understand that Mary Magdalene didn’t just hear the angel announce that Jesus had been raised from the dead but that she also saw him and touched him after she had run from the tomb. To establish this, let’s notice that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are the only two women mentioned in Matthew’s version. The fact that Mark and Luke may have mentioned other women has nothing to do with the obvious fact that Matthew mentioned only two women: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Therefore, “THE WOMEN” in verse 5 to whom the angel said that Jesus had risen must have necessarily included Mary Magdalene; otherwise, Matthew’s text is incoherent and would not have conveyed an accurate picture of what had happened to early Christians who may have lived and died having had access only to this one gospel account. I assume that inerrantists are willing to admit that the NT in bound volumes didn’t exist until many years after the gospels were written, so a reader of Matthew very likely would have been unable to consult Mark, Luke, and John to see if they shed any “additional light” on what had happened. If nothing else, Christians living at the time Matthew’s gospel was completed could not have had access to Luke and John, since (as most biblical scholars agree) they were written after Matthew. Therefore, the picture they formed in their minds after reading Matthew’s gospel could not have included anything that was written in gospels that came after Matthew’s.

Besides this, there are linguistic factors that inerrantists must consider. All rules of literary interpretation that I ever heard of (and I studied a lot of literature on the subject when I was teaching college English) would require readers to understand that “THE WOMEN” in verse 5 of Matthew’s text were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. No other assumptions can be made, since Matthew did not himself specify that any other women were with the two Marys. In other words, whether Mark and Luke mentioned up to five other women or 500 other women is immaterial to what Matthew’s narrative said. If he mentioned only two women, then “the women” in his narrative grammatically had to be Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Hence, any plural pronouns like “they” and “them” that obviously referred back to “the women” had to be references to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. By necessity, then, the grammar of Matthew’s narrative requires readers to understand what whatever “they” did in this narrative or whatever happened to or was said to “them” were things done by or to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.

The rules of pronoun-antecedent agreement will, therefore, require readers to understand that the antecedent of the pronouns they and them (emphasized in bold print) is “THE WOMEN.” Since “THE WOMEN” by grammatical necessity had to be Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the antecedents of they and them are indirectly (by necessity) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.

It is a rule of literary interpretation that the substitution of antecedents for the pronouns in a text will not alter the meaning of the text but will, if anything, help clarify its meaning. With that in mind, I will now take Matthew’s text quoted above and present it with the antecedents substituted for the pronouns they and them when they made obvious references to “the women.” Readers should keep in mind that where Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (in bold print) appear, the pronouns they or them appeared in the actual text.

Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, saying, “Rejoice!” So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

It is clearly evident that Matthew meant for his readers to understand that Mary Magdalene heard an angel announce that Jesus had risen and that she ran from the tomb with great joy after hearing this and that she met Jesus and touched him after she had run from the tomb. So my question to Turkel and his inerrantist cohorts who think that there are no inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives is a simple one: If Mary Magdalene had been told by an angel that Jesus had risen and if she had even seen Jesus and touched him after leaving the tomb, why did she go tell Peter that the body of Jesus had been stolen?

Some inerrantists use the two-visits theory to explain the inconsistencies in Mathew’s and John’s narratives. They argue that John’s narrative told of a first visit that Mary M made to the tomb while it was yet dark, at which time she encountered an empty tomb and ran to tell Peter and John that the body had been stolen, whereas the synoptic narratives told of a second visit that Mary M made to the tomb “when the sun was risen.” I do hope that Turkel will try to present this as a solution to the Mary Magdalene problem.

As Dirty Harry would say, make my day, Turkel, and present this as your solution.

I will express another wish. On The Theology Web a professor of Greek at a fundamentalist college tried to argue that the use of the aorist tense [edramon] for the verb ran in verse 8 conveyed a “completed action” and therefore made the running to tell the disciples a different event from the one in the next verse, where they [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] met Jesus. I think I know a quibble when I see one, so I e-mailed several professors of Greek at seminaries and Bible colleges to get their opinion on this interpretation. To my surprise, most of them answered, and not a one agreed with this quibble. If Turkel chooses to answer this article, I hope that he will appropriate this aorist quibble so that I can quote the opinions of those who teach Greek even at fundamentalist institutions.

Turkel:
Why did they go? John does not specify and needs no consideration; Luke and Mark agree that it was for burial issues, leaving only Matt’s “see the sepulchre” claim. The reason for the difference: To polemically stand, again, against that controlling “stolen body” apologetic.

Till:
Let’s see now; John didn’t specify why the women had come to the tomb, and so his gospel needs no consideration of this question. Matthew’s gospel doesn’t specify either, but his account does need consideration. Why do Turkel’s choir members let him get away with such inconsistency as this? I can think of no answer to that question except that his average reader just doesn’t have the critical skills to see the inconsistencies and absurdities in Turkel’s “solutions” to biblical discrepancies.

And just why did Matthew not state the reason why the women had come to the tomb? Well, it seems that he had to leave this information out so that he could “polemically stand again against the controlling stolen-body apologetic.” Why, everyone should realize that. You see, if he had added this information, he wouldn’t have had enough space in a time of scarce and expensive scroll materials to take his polemic stand against the “stolen-body apologetic.” To see this, all we have to do is juxtapose a verse containing the reason for the trip to the tomb with the way that Matthew wrote it [without that information]. I will quote Matthew 28:1 and then rewrite it with bold-print emphasis of the words needed to include a statement about the reason for the trip to the tomb.

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb with spices to anoint the body.

The rewritten version has five whole words more than the actual version written by “Matthew,” so I think anyone could see that if these five additional words had been put into the text, “Matthew’s” whole plan would have been thrown into chaos. We should all be thankful that we have someone like Turkel, who apparently can see into the past and read the minds of biblical writers, to tell us what each one was thinking as he wrote his part of “the word of God.” After all, Turkel is fulfilling prophecy whenever he explains to the simple masses what the Bible means. Readers who don’t know that he thinks this can click here to see that he does have this vaunted opinion of his exegetical skills. Uh, oh, I used the wrong word here, I should have said that he has this vaunted opinion of his eisegetical skills, because such stuff as what he is saying about why Matthew or Mark or Luke or John said thus and so but didn’t say this and that can be called nothing more exact than pure eisegesis, i. e., reading into biblical texts what is not actually there.

Turkel:
To note that they came to do burial work is to allow an inroad for the charge of a stolen body.

Till:
Why? Well, apparently because Turkel said so, and all that Turkel’s choir members need is for him to say something, and they swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

Anyway, just look at what Turkel is saying here. The omniscient, omnipotent Holy Spirit “inspired” Mark and Luke to say that the women went to the tomb to anoint it with spices, but if giving out this information would give enemies of the fledging Christ myth occasion to accuse the women of having gone to the tomb to steal the body, then why would the Holy Spirit have inspired these two gospel writers to include this information? The fact that the omniscient one (according to Bible believers) did inspire these two to report the intention to anoint the body must mean that the omni one didn’t share Turkel’s opinion about this, so those gullible enough to believe that the Bible was “inspired” have a choice: they can believe what the omniscient, omnipotent one thought about this, or they can believe what Turkel thinks.

Let Turkel tell us why reporting that the women had come to do “burial work” would not have given readers of Mark or Luke “an inroad for the charge of a stolen body,” but if Matthew had reported this, it would have given readers of his gospel such an inroad.

Doesn’t Turkel ever think before he writes?

Turkel:
In contrast Matthew tells just enough to not give [sic] that charge meat — while still not contradicting the other Gospels. He could hardly do otherwise.

Till:
Oh, I see. Mark and Luke could and did do otherwise, but if Matthew had done otherwise, it would have undermined completely the credibility of the resurrection claim. People who read Matthew’s account would say, “Aha, the women went to the tomb with spices, so they actually stole the body,” but no one reading Mark or Luke would have thought this.

Does Turkel ever think before he writes?

Turkel:
In the high context of the ancient world, it would have been recognized that (being that this was primarily women’s work) they could be going to the tomb for no other purpose than to perform burial services. “Seeing” tombs for observation purposes was a pointless exercise.

Till:
Well, gee, whiz, if everyone in this “high context” society that Turkel likes to jaw about would have known anyway that the women were “going to the tomb for no other purpose than to perform burial services, then what did Matthew accomplish by not specifically mentioning that they were going to anoint the body? The “high-context” minds reading this account would have thought, “Aha, women went to the tomb, so they were going to anoint the body, and that means that they probably stole the body.”

Does Turkel ever really fool anyone with bullshit like this?

Turkel speaks of high- and low-context societies as if these distinctions have been established with scientific certainty, but anyone who takes the time to research this subject will see, first of all, that it is a controversial theory. It is also a cultural theory that applies primarily to oral communication, as noted in the following observation about the primary differences in high- and low-context cultures.

High context cultures place high importance on contextual factors such as tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions and movement such as the Arab countries, Japan, and Southern Europe. Low–context cultures place high values on words and expect detailed and explicit information from a speaker such as Switzerland, United States and Australia.

Notice that nothing at all was said about written communication, and that is because even people in low-context cultures cannot determine precise meaning in vaguely written messages. Unless one can see gestures, facial expressions, and body movements, and hear tone of voice, he can’t very well determine precise meaning unless the words in the message are clear and precise. The exception to this, of course, would be situations in which a written text is presenting information that is so commonly known to both the writer and his audience that explanations are not needed. If an American writer said, “We must remember Pearl Harbor,” or, “We must remember the Alamo,” the significance of Pearl Harbor and the Alamo are so deeply ingrained in our culture that it would be unnecessary for the writer to explain what there is about Pearl Harbor or the Alamo that we should remember. People in our culture would understand the meaning of the statements without needing additional clarifications.

In this sense, all cultures will have some high-context characteristics, just as all cultures will have some low-context characteristics, and anyone who researches this subject will see that it is really impossible to pigeonhole neatly a culture and say that it is a low- or high-context culture. This is a major flaw in Turkel’s “high-context” explanations of biblical discrepancies. When he encounters a biblical discrepancy that results from obviously inadequate details or information, he will toss this into his high-context pigeonhole and claim that the high-context culture of ancient Israel would not have considered this an ambiguity. In so doing, he fails to recognize that if the Bible is indeed “the word of God,” then it wasn’t written for just the people living in biblical times but for all people who would ever live thereafter. If this were the case, then it would have been incumbent on an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omni-everything deity to have his “inspired ones” write with an awareness that they were writing for an audience much, much broader than the tiny Israelite nation. Anyone who has ever taken a freshman composition course should know that one of the primary principles of writing is that the one writing should be aware at all times of his audience. It seems strange that divinely inspired biblical writers seemed not to know this very fundamental principle of writing.

Turkel, of course, belongs to the any-explanation-will-do school of “apologetics.” If an explanation will eliminate a discrepancy, then to hell with whether it is sensible or logical. The only thing that matters is that a discrepancy has been “explained,” and if that explanation was obtained at the expense of common sense, who cares? The important thing is to maintain at least a semblance of inerrancy in “the word of God.”

The failure of Turkel’s high-context appeals can be seen by examining situations in the Bible where detailed explanations were given, but some people in this allegedly high-context culture still didn’t understand them. Turkel claims, for example, that when Matthew said that the women went to the tomb early on the first day of the week, the high-context readers of that time would have understood that they were going to anoint the body with spices, even though the text didn’t explicitly say that this was their reason for going, so how does this claim compare to situations where explicit details were given, but those who heard them still didn’t understand?

King David would be an example of this. After his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba had resulted in the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah the Hittite and the birth of a bastard son, Yahweh sent Nathan the prophet to reprimand David. Nathan told David the following story.

2 Samuel 12:1 (A)nd Yahweh sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.”

If there is anything at all to Turkel’s constant patter about the high-context culture of ancient Israel, David would have recognized Nathan’s point immediately, but the rest of the text tells us otherwise.

5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As Yahweh lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

So David didn’t understand what Nathan was saying, and not until Nathan told him directly did David get the point.

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of Yahweh, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

According to Turkel, David lived in a high-context culture, in which detailed explanations were not needed, but David didn’t understand Nathan until he was told explicitly what he had done wrong.

David undoubtedly reminds some readers of the disciples of Jesus, who didn’t understand the parables of Jesus until they were explained to them (Matt. 13:36). Both Mary and Joseph grew up in this high-context culture that Turkel raves about, but at times they showed incredible density about things that they should have easily understood. Mary, for example, received a visit from the angel Gabriel, who told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive “the son of God” (Luke 1:35-36). Having been told by Gabriel that her kinswoman Elisabeth had conceived in her old age, Mary visited Elisabeth, who “lifted up her voice” and declared by the Holy Spirit that Mary and the fruit of her womb were blessed (Luke 1:41-42). Joseph had been told by an angel that Mary had conceived a child by the Holy Spirit, which had come to pass to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through Isaiah the prophet (Matt. 1:20-23). All of this had happened to a couple living ina high-context society, yet when their son Jesus unknowingly stayed behind in Jerusalem when his parents left to return to Nazareth and they had found him after a three-day search, they didn’t understand Jesus when he said, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49-50).

I could fill an entire page with examples of what seemed like the incredible density of people who lived in Turkel’s “high-context” society, but I will conclude with just one other example.

Mark 9:30 They [Jesus and his disciples] went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Incredible! Jesus explicitly told his disciples that he would be killed and that three days after he was killed, he would rise again, and his disciples didn’t understand what he meant. If someone today said that he would be killed and would rise again after three days, although people probably wouldn’t believe him, they would know what he meant, but the disciples of Jesus didn’t understand an explicitly stated prediction that he would rise again three days after he had been killed.

I could go on with other examples, but these are sufficient to show that there is no merit to Turkel’s claim that people in biblical times didn’t need to hear a lot of details because they were living in a “high-context” culture. This is just another example of Turkel’s any-explanation-will-do “apologetics.”

Only one other comment is needed here. Readers can scroll up midway in this article to see where I showed that the inspired, inerrant gospel of John said that Joseph of Aramathaea and Nicodemus wrapped the body of Jesus in “about one hundred pounds” of spices (John 19:39)and that the inspired, inerrant gospel of Luke said that the women followed Joseph and saw “how [the] body was laid” (Luke 23:55). They saw all of this, yet Mark and Luke had the women taking spices with them to the tomb in order to anoint the body. As I said above, Turkel can certainly argue that it is no error to say that they women were going to take even more spices to anoint the body, but common sense should tell more critical readers that John was working from a tradition that was different from the one that Mark and Luke relied on, and so this is a more likely explanation for the variant views about when the body was anointed with spices.

Turkel:

Matt. 28:2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

Matthew’s insertion here is clearly dischronologized, a matter of topical arrangement, as was know [sic] to be used in ancient literature and is even used to some extent today.

Till:
Notice that Turkel doesn’t say that Matthew’s insertion here “may have been” or “could have been” dischronologized. He flatly asserted that it was “clearly dischronologized.” Did he analyze the text to show us linguistic reasons why readers should think that this text was not written in chronological sequence? Of course, he didn’t; he just asserted that it was. It just isn’t Turkel’s style to support his assertions, and I honestly believe that he lacks the linguistic competence to do such analyses. To his credit, however, he is astute enough to know that the kind of audience that he writes for doesn’t want to be bothered with supporting details or lingusitic analyses. They just want to be told what they want to hear, and Turkel gladly accommodates them.

He said that topical arrangement [topical sequence] “is even used to some extent today,” and I would disagree with him only in that his use of “some extent” suggests that topical sequence is in our time a relatively rare method of organizing one’s material. It is, in fact, a quite common sequential method. Practically all college writing courses teach units on topical sequence. Turkel, however, failed to mention one important thing: competent writers will always make their sequential arrangements, whether chronological, topical, cause-effect, etc., obvious to readers by easily recognized sequential markers within the text. If, for example, Matthew had really intended his statement about the earthquake to be “dischronologized,” he would have written the first two verses of chapter 28 as I have rewritten them below.

28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there had been a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, and had come and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

The use of the past perfect tense in the verb forms (emphasized in bold print) clearly communicate that the earthquake had taken place before Mary M and the other Mary came to the tomb. When there are two or more past actions in a passage, the one(s) that happened first should be stated in the past perfect [pluperfect]. Hence, if one wrote that the two Marys came to the tomb and upon arriving saw that there had been an earthquake and that the stone had been rolled away, there would be no doubt that the report of the earthquake was out of normal chronological order and had actually happened before the women arrived at the tomb.

I said above that competent writers will use appropriate chronological markers to let readers know when events are being reported out of order. If the “Holy Spirit” had been a little more linguistically astute, he would have inspired “Matthew” to write the two verses above so that chronological markers would have combined with verb tenses to make the “dischronologized” order so clear that no one would have misunderstood it.

1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And before they arrived, there had been a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, and had come and rolled back the stone from the door, and had sat upon it.

Turkel, of course, will ridicule everything I said and probably accuse me of being upset because God didn’t kiss my “patoot,” but one thing he will not do is explain to us why someone “inspired” by an omniscient, omnipotent deity should not have been able to communicate time sequences with a bit more precision than what Turkel is claiming for Matthew in 28:2. After all, it isn’t as if Matthew didn’t at times do the very thing that I described above and use the perfect tense to indicate the earlier of two or more actions. Consider the following example in which I have emphasized in bold print the first or earliest action and underlined the actions that happened after the first.

Matthew 1:24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife; 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Joseph did… and took unto him his wife, but before Joseph did this, the angel had bidden him to do so; hence, the first of the actions in terms of when the actions occurred was properly stated in past perfect tense. Likewise, Joseph “knew” his wife, but he did not “know” her until she had brought forth her firstborn son. The bringing forth of the son had happened before Joseph “knew” Mary; hence, the bringing forth was stated in past perfect form.

Here are more examples that show that Matthew knew how to use the perfect tense to show what events had happened first. Notice that the actions in bold print always happened before the underlined actions.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

Herod was troubled, but he was not troubled until he had heard “these things.” He demanded of the chief priests where Christ should be born, but he did not demand this of them until he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes together. This is a very simple principle of verb tenses. If there are two or more past actions in a passage, whichever action happened first should be stated in the past perfect. Matthew obviously understood that principle as I will show by quoting without comment other examples in his gospel.

Matthew 2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared…. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was…. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.

Matthew 4:12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee….

Matthew 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine….

Matthew 10:1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.

Matthew 11:1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. 2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?

I could quote other examples, but these are sufficient to show that “Matthew” understood how to use proper verb tenses to show which actions had occurred first in a narrative. The fact that he did not use this method in 28:2 to indicate that the earthquake had already happened before the women arrived at the tomb is sufficient to show that Turkel’s assertion that the “insertion” about the earthquake was “clearly dischronologized” is without merit, but there is even more textual evidence that “Matthew” did not intend readers to understand that the earthquake had happened before the women arrived at the tomb.

That evidence is what I will call the idou factor. Anyone who has done much reading at all in the Bible will know that behold was frequently used in the narration of events. The word in Greek was idou, a demonstrative particle [a short, indeclinable part of speech] for which there is no exact equivalent in English, although it was usually translated with behold or lo or look. Arndt & Gingrich said that it was used to introduce something new, “which calls for special attention” (1957, p. 371). If we examine texts in which Matthew used this particle, we will see that he did not use it as a device to introduce “dischronologized” information but to introduce new information or events in chronological sequence.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold [idou], the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

No one reading this passage would think that the angel had appeared to Joseph before, he was considering putting Mary away privately. Indeed, the text says that the angel appeared to Joseph while he was thinking on these things. Hence, idou was not used to introduce something that had happened before Joseph was thinking about putting Mary away. It was used to introduce an important new event, i. e., the sudden, unexpected appearance of the angel, which had happened in chronological order: (1) Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, (2) Joseph was considering putting her away privately, and (3) the angel appeared to Joseph at that time.

Matthew 2:13 And when they [the wise men] were departed, behold [idou], the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt….

In this passage, we see again how idou, as Arndt & Gingrich explained, introduced an important new event and did so in chronological sequence. The angel did not appear to Joseph before the wise men had departed. The wise men left, and then the angel appeared to Joseph. The examples that I will quote below follow the same pattern. Events happen, and then in chronological sequence, idou introduced what “Matthew” thought were important new events.

Matthew 9:32 As they [the blind men whom Jesus had healed] went out, behold [idou], they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil.

Matthew 17:5 While he [Peter] yet spake, behold [idou], a bright cloud overshadowed them….

Inerrantists who use the “dischronologized” argument to try to explain the inconsistency in Matthew 28:2 will quibble that the examples I have quoted contain chronological markers like when or while or as to denote the time of the events introduced by idou. They had happened while Joseph was thinking about putting Mary away or when the wise men had departed, etc. Inerrantists will quibble that there is no such chronological marker in Matthew 28:1, but they are wrong. In this passage, idou was preceded by kai, a conjunction that meant and, which was commonly used in Greek to string together events in chronological order. To see this, all we need to do is look at some kai idou examples in Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew 27:50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold [kai idou] the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent….

Does Turkel or any other inerrantist quibbler seriously think that the veil of the temple had rent in twain before Jesus had “yielded up the ghost”? The obvious intention was to communicate that the events happened in chronological sequence. Jesus first “yielded up the ghost,” and then the veil in the temple was rent in twain. “Matthew” was simply using the conjunction kai in the same way that English speakers use its equivalent and to tie events together in chronological order. If someone saw the sentence, “John Smith went to town and saw an automobile accident,” who would think that the accident was seen before Smith went to town?

Matthew 4:11 Then the devil leaveth him [Jesus], and, behold [kai idou], angels came and ministered unto him.

Does Turkel think that “Matthew’s” reference to the angels was “clearly dischonologized” and that the angels had ministered to Jesus before the devil left him?

Here are some other examples where “Matthew” used kai with idou with the clear intention of denoting chronological sequence.

Matthew 9:1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. 2 And, behold [kai idou], they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3 And, behold [kai idou], certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

No one reading this would think that the man sick of palsy was brought to Jesus before he had entered the ship, passed over, and come into his own city. The conjunction kai [and] denoted a chronological sequence, and idou was used with it to introduce what “Matthew” thought was an important new event. Neither would anyone think that the accusation of the scribes that Jesus was blaspheming had preceded the healing of the sick man.

I will now quote other examples without comment, because in each case it is obvious that the conjunction kai [and] was used to indicate that an event was following in chronological sequences the one mentioned before it, and idou was used with it to indicate that it was a new event [happening in chronological sequence].

Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold [kai idou], a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold [kai idou], there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Matthew 19:15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence. 16 And, behold [kai idou], one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Matthew 26:49 And forthwith he [Judas] came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51 And, behold [kai idou], one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.

I could quote several other examples, but these are sufficient to make my point. One doesn’t have to be a linguistic expert to see that in each case kai idou was used to connect in chronological order a new event to a previously mentioned event.

Turkel:
This could have happened at any time prior to the womens’ [sic] visit.

Till:
Turkel’s reasoning here is about as faulty as his understanding of how irregular plural nouns are made possessive in English. He doesn’t understand a basic spelling principle like this, but he expects us to think that he is expert in “Semitic” and Grecian idioms. Turkel says, “Hey, I can’t spell the plural possessive of women, but I know all about what each gospel writer was thinking at any given moment in the writing of his gospel.”

Yeah right!

I just showed above that the kai idou structure that “Matthew” used in recording the earthquake shows that he was reporting it in chronological sequence. If Turkel wants to dispute this, why doesn’t he cite a case where “Matthew” used the kai idou structure to report an incident that had happened prior to the events mentioned just before it? That would be the best way to make his case, but since he can’t do this, all he will be able to do is spit and sputter and hurl insults about my “wooden” view of inspiration.

Turkel:
Since he has this, Matthew obviously does not need these statements:

Mark 16:3-4 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

Luke 24:2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

Till:
Not mentioning an earthquake and an angel rolling the stone away would be somewhat like a reporter covering a group visit to the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 and not mentioning seeing airplanes crashing into the twin towers. Silence on matters as significant as these is sufficient to cast doubt on the accuracy of what was reported in the accounts. However, as long as Turkel doesn’t try the two-visits-by-Mary Magdalene quibble to “explain” the discrepancy in how Matthew and John presented her, there is nothing that Turkel said above to disagree with. For reasons that I have already discussed, if one gospel writer omitted an event or person that was mentioned in the other gospels, that would not be an inconsistency unless its omission caused a discrepancy. If before the women arrived at the tomb, they were talking about who would roll away the stone, Matthew’s failure to mention this would not be a discrepancy, but if Turkel resorts to the two-visits-by-Mary “solution” after finding himself pushed into a corner and unable to explain why Mary Magdalene–who had heard the angel’s announcement of the resurrection and had actually encountered Jesus in running from the tomb–would have later told John and “the other disciple” that the body had been stolen, he will find that the conversation about rolling the stone away is a problem that will give him fits trying to explain.

Turkel:
The main issue of difference is why only Matthew reports the angel — as well as the other miracles recorded later —

Till:
Uh, what “other miraces” did Matthew report?

Turkel:
and that matter we have answered with the principles found here.

Till:
And what were these principles found “here”? Turkel’s link is an article entitled “Crimes by Omission” in which he argued that omission of information as as Matthew’s account of the earthquake that shook open the tombs of many saints the day Jesus was crucified would not in any way indicate that the gospels that failed to mention this event “gives us any arguable indications” that those accounts are unreliable. Except for the length of this article, I would take the “principles”–quibbles would be a more accurate word–that Turkel presented in his article and dismantle them too, so I will plan to reply to that article (point by point, of course) in a later rebuttal. We will see then that Turkel’s “principles” are just more of the usual straw-grabbing that we see from him and Glenn Miller in their website articles.

[Addendum September 2005: I have since written a detailed reply to Turkel’s “Crimes by Omission.” The first part will link readers to its subsequent parts.]

For now I will simply reiterate what I have said above. Some events are so remarkable and exceptionable that no reliable historical account would eliminate them. The attack on the World Trade Center is an event that no competent historian would omit if he were writing an account of events that had happened in New York City in September 2001. If such an account purporting to be the work of an “eyewitness” to events of that month failed to mention this attack, one would surely wonder if the writer were indeed an eyewitness. The same could be said of any historical account of the end of World War II that failed to mention the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In “The Absence of Evidence,” I exposed in detail a ridiculous inerrantist quibble, which says that the failure of secular records to mention extraordinary biblical claims like the long day of Joshua, the parting of the Red Sea, the collapse of the walls of Jericho, the three hours of darkness at midday during the crucifixion, and such like does not constitute evidence that these events did not happen. In this article, I also discussed the failure of this quibble when it is applied to extraordinary events mentioned by one biblical writer but not mentioned by others writing about the circumstances in which these fabulous events allegedly occurred. I cited the apostle John as an example. He presumably witnessed the events of crucifixion day, but when he wrote his account of it, he mentioned neither the midday darkness nor the “many” resurrected saints. To think that a writer who was an eyewitness to such extraordinary events as these would fail to mention one of them is unimaginable enough, but to think that he would omit both of them in his “history” of that day taxes the credulity of critcal thinkers.

Those who want to see the absurdity of Turkel’s attempt to justify the omission of certain details in the resurrection narratives should read not just the article linked to above but also two others. In “What Happened to the Resurrected Saints?” and “More About the Resurrected Saints,” Ed Babinski and I replied to the attempts of would-be apologists to defend the credibility of biblical accounts that omitted extraordinary events claimed elsewhere in parallel accounts. These were written before Turkel decided that he was fulfilling biblical prophecy by explaining the Bible to the ignorant masses, but since he recycles some of the same quibbles as earlier would-be apologists, these articles will show that his “solutions” to biblical discrepancies lack any real substance.

In his article that Turkel cited in his link above, he argued that the failure of Mark, Luke, and John to mention an earthquake that shook open tombs and brought about the resurrection of “many saints,” who went into the city and appeared to “many,” was not “by itself… problematic,” but even he obviously recognized the weakness of his quibble, because he ended this section of his article with a halfhearted apology: “It could be regarded as odd for these things to be omitted, but the answer is still, ‘Yeah, so what?'”

Yeah, so what? Well let me tell Turkel “so what.” The claim is that on the day that Jesus was crucified, an earthquake shook tombs open, after which “many saints” who had been buried in the tombs went into the city and appeared to “many,” but John, who was presumably an eyewitness to the events of that day, didn’t even mention this extraordinary event. Turkel said that this omission “could be regarded as odd,” but such an omission was not a matter of just a “could be”; it was odd, so odd that no critically minded person could believe that an eyewitness account of that day would have omitted it.

Turkel:

Matthew 28:5-7 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

Mark 16:5-7 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

Luke 28:3-7
And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

John is supplementing Mark and skips this section.

Till:
And Turkel knows this how? I shot this assertion full of holes above, but I will put it to rest with some pointed questions that Turkel will ignore if he tries to answer this rebuttal. Exactly how does Turkel know that John was just supplementing Mark? If John was only supplementing Mark, then why did John bother to mention Peter’s denial of Jesus (18:25-27), because Mark had already mentioned this (14:66-72)? Why did John, who was only supplementing Mark, mention Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus (18:33-37), which Mark had already mentioned too (15:1-5)? Why did John’s supplementation of Mark mention the humiliations that the Roman soldiers inflicted on Jesus (19:1-3), which Mark had also mentioned (15:16-20)? Why did John, who was just supplementing Mark, mention…. Well, there is no need to continue this, because anyone who has ever read the gospel accounts even once knows that John recorded many of the same passion events that Mark had already mentioned. If this quibble of Turkel had any merit, John’s account of the crucifixion would be entirely different from Mark’s, because John would have mentioned only those events that Mark had left out. Since this is not the case, we know that Turkel’s quibble is just another straw he grabbed in his pathetic attempt to make the Bible credible.

Turkel:
Mark’s “young man” is one of the angels; the phrase was used elsewhere (as in Josephus) to describe angels, so that there is no contradiction of identity.

Till:
There is no disagreement here, but that is going to change very quickly when we get down to where Turkel shot himself in the foot and then stuck it into his mouth.

Turkel:
The point of “one angel or two” is answered by the principles here.

Till:
Even before I clicked this link, I knew that it was going to be the old if-there-were-two-then-there-was-one quibble. It has become a catch-all explanation for discrepancies involving numerical variations in parallel accounts. In Turkel’s article, for example, he compared Mark’s (5:1-10) account of Jesus’s healing of a man possessed by a [snicker, snicker] devil with Matthew’s account of the same exorcism (8:28-31). In Mark’s account, there was one man, but in Matthew’s, there were two. What was Turkel’s “solution” to the problem? That’s right; he quoted Gleason Archer’s if-there-were-two-then-there-was-one quibble.

If there were two of them, there was at least one, wasn’t there? Mark and Luke center attention on the more prominent and outspoken of the two, the one whose demonic occupants called themselves “Legion” (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 325).

He then quoted what I had written about this discrepancy in The Skeptical Review.

As an argument, it grants entirely too much freedom of selection to the writers and completely ignores the fact that they were presumably being verbally guided by the Holy Spirit. Why then would the same Holy Spirit decide when he was “inspiring” Mark and Luke that only one demoniac and blind man needed to be mentioned but when he was “inspiring” Matthew, he suddenly decided that both demoniacs and blind men should be mentioned?

Of course, Turkel didn’t bother to document my quotation and link his readers to it so that they could read the context in which I had said this. Robert “No Links” Turkel doesn’t bother with links or documentation unless they are links to what he or someone who agrees with him has said. After all, if Turkel linked his readers to what he is “replying” to some of his choir members might read it and see for themselves just how flimsy Turkel’s “rebuttals” usually are. Those who want to read my statement in context will find it in “Bible Biology,” where I was actually discussing inerrantist quibbles used to explain scientific mistakes in the Bible.

After quoting what I had said about the one or two demoniacs in TSR, Turkel said this about what I had said.

In response we would note that TSR has neither the qualifications nor the right to determine what constitutes “too much freedom” for a writer removed from them by over 2000 years and by a vast difference in culture. The evaluation is made by a writer living in an air-conditioned environment with ample supplies and a potential audience that is over 95% literate and has plenty of time for leisure activities. Why would the inspiration allow for such freedom?

Isn’t that cute? All through this article that I am now rebutting, Turkel has been telling us what Matthew’s purpose was when he left out thus and so and what Mark’s purpose was when he said this or that, etc., etc., etc., but he then tells us that I have “neither the qualifications nor the right to determine what constitutes ‘too much freedom’ for a writer” who was removed from me by over 2000 years. I will remind Turkel, however, that the 2000 years that separates me from the time when the gospels were written also separates him, so maybe he can tell us why such a time gulf disqualifies me to make a logical comment like the one above–and I will show that it was a logical comment–but doesn’t disqualify him to tell us what Matthew was thinking or what John’s purpose was in leaving out the earthquake and resurrection of the “many saints,” and so on and so forth.

Oh, I forgot; I completely forgot. Turkel is fulfilling prophecy when he tells us what passages in the Bible really meant. How stupid of me not to remember!

Before I go on to Turkel’s next quibble, I will return to my promise to show that my comment quoted above by Turkel was logical. To do that, all I need do is refer readers to my previous comments on what the Bible itself teaches about the process of “inspiration.” Turkel wants us to believe that biblical writers were left free to pick and choose what they wanted to put into their inspired books and that they had to rely on what they had personally seen or experienced or learned through “oral tradition,” but as I showed, this is not at all in agreement with what the Bible says. The apostle Paul was not left to pick and choose what he wanted to include in the gospel that he preached. He claimed in Galatians 1:11-12 that he had not received his gospel from men and had not been taught it by men but that it had come to him by “revelation of Jesus Christ.” Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10:19-20 that when they were brought before kings, they should give no thought to what they should say because it would be “given [them] in that hour” what to say, because they would not actually be speaking themselves, but the “Spirit” of the father would be speaking through them. What I said about this was discussed in much more detail above, so those who want to refresh their memories can scroll up and see just how unscriptural Turkel’s view of “inspiration” is. As I said then, I will now say again: if biblical writers were not guided and directed to write what the “Holy Spirit” wanted them to write, then the Bible is not the “word of God” but the words of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Matthew, Luke, the apostle Paul, etc., etc., etc.

Turkel, therefore, needs to answer the question that I asked in what he quoted from “Bible Biology”: Why would the same Holy Spirit decide when he was “inspiring” Mark and Luke that only one demoniac and blind man needed to be mentioned but when he was “inspiring” Matthew, he suddenly decided that both demoniacs and blind men should be mentioned?

I have a far more rational explanation for this variation than the apologetic bullshit that Turkel shovels around. Turkel thinks that he finds solutions to Bible discrepancies in the if-there-were-two-then-there-was-one quibble, but I submit for consideration a better explanation for discrepancies like this. It is a matter of two are better than one, so at times Matthew used this principle to spruce up the accounts of Jesus’s miracles. As just noted, Mark had Jesus casting devils out of just one man, but Matthew made it two. Mark (10:46) had Jesus healing one blind man at Jericho, but Matthew (20:29) punched up the story and had Jesus healing two blind men. Mark had Jesus riding triumphantly into Jerusalem on one donkey (11:1-10), but Matthew (21:1-6) had two donkeys in Jesus’s entourage. In other words, Matthew seemed interested in “one-upping” Mark’s gospel, which he undoubtedly considered inadequate or else he would not have written another one. Matthew achieved this in other ways. In Mark, for example, the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue (Jairus) was “at the point of death” (5:22), but in Matthew’s account, she was already dead (9:18). I submit that this is an explanation for Matthew’s variations from Mark’s gospel that is far more plausible than those derived from Turkel’s projections into the minds of 1st century writers.

Turkel:
The differences in the message reported and in the variably described reactions of the women are readily attributable to the sort of oral tradition variations we refer to here.

Till:
If one goes “here,” he will see Turkel riding another of his favorite hobby horses. He argues that variations in parallel accounts resulted from different oral traditions that the gospel writers relied on, but I have already shot this quibble down. If the gospel writers were indeed “inspired” by the omniscient, omnipotent “Holy Spirit,” then they were not writing what they chose to write or what they knew from “oral traditions” or their own personal experiences but were writing what they were directed by the omni-one to write. If the apostles, when they were brought before kings, did not speak their own words but what the “spirit of the Father” spoke through them, then why, when they were writing the New Testament, did they not write what the Holy Spirit was writing through them? Unless this was the case, then the gospel of Mark was not “the word of God” but the word of Mark, and the gospel of Matthew was not “the word of God” but the word of Matthew. If not, why not?

Watch Turkel evade this question. He has seen it before but will not reply to it. He will pooh-pooh it with a hail of insults, but he will not answer it.”

Turkel:

Matthew 28:8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. Mark 16:8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. Luke 24:8-9a And they remembered his words, And returned from the sepulchre…

The major issue here is Mark’s “they told no one” — obviously not permanent (for the story is here being told) and if anything a rhetorical device meant to encourage the reader to NOT [sic ] remain silent and instead spread the word.

Till:
Obviously not permanent? I shot this assertion to pieces in “Problems in the Ending of the Gospel of Mark,” which I also linked readers to earlier in this rebuttal article. Those who want to see this assertion fall to pieces under scrutiny should go there to see it dismantled.

Turkel says that Mark’s “they told no one” was “if anything a rhetorical device meant to encourage the reader [not to] remain silent and instead spread the word,” but, of course, he did nothing to explain how he arrived at this conclusion. Exactly how would anyone reading that the women said nothing to anyone see this as a call for them to go spread the word? Does he really think that readers back then would say, “Oh, my, the women said nothing to anyone, so I must go out and spread the word”? I doubt that Turkel has a plausible explanation for why he said that this was a “rhetorical device.” More likely, it is just something that he read in one of the books from which he cuts and pastes and thought that it sounded good.

Everyone should stay alert, because we are now nearing the place where Turkel shot himself in the foot and then shoved it into his mouth.

Turkel:
Other than this we now have a situation in which we have numerous ways for history to split off into different events. Every woman could take a different path and could leave at a different time and pursue a different destination.

Till:
But the “inspired, inerrant word of God” didn’t say that they took different paths at different times and pursued different destinations.

Matthew 28:8 And they [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

Luke 24:8 And they [the women] remembered his words, 9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

Luke 24:19 And he [Jesus] said unto them [the disciples on the road to Emmaus], What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.

So does Turkel want to argue with his “inspired, inerrant word of God,” which clearly says that the women left the tomb and ran to tell the disciples what they had seen? Just where, then, does Turkel get this multiple-destination theory?

Be alert now, because we will soon see Turkel shoot himself in the foot.

Turkel:
Only so many destinations are of course likely; at the same time, no Gospel would have the space to report every differing destination.

Till:
As we just saw, the “inspired, inerrant word of God” claims that the women went to only one “destination” and all left together. They ran and told the disciples what they had seen. There is nothing in any of these texts that even remotely implies that they separated and went different ways at different times. However, let’s just assume that the women did take different paths, did leave at different times, and did go to different “destinations.” Why would that in any way justify not reporting exactly what had happened when they were at the tomb?

Turkel:
By this reckoning Mary Mag and perhaps others left the tomb before the angelic messengers arrived, since it is obvious in John that she hadn’t gotten the message yet.

Till:
Here is where Turkel shot himself in the foot and then shoved it into his mouth. To try to make John’s Mary M consistent with the Mary M in Matthew’s account, Turkel grabbed the old straw that says Mary M panicked and left the tomb before she had heard the angel’s announcement that Jesus had risen, and so this would explain why she ran to Peter and “the other disciple” and told them that the body had been stolen. In “The Mary Magdalene Problem,” which I quoted above, I showed that the grammatical structure of Matthew’s narrative requires readers to understand that Mary Magdalene was present from 28:1 through 28:10, and so she had to have both heard the angel announce the resurrection and experienced the personal encounter with Jesus after the women had run from the tomb. As I pointed out in the article cited above, “Matthew” named only Mary Magdalene and the other Mary in his narrative; therefore, the reference to “the women” whom the angel spoke to in verse 5 by necessity had to include Mary Magdalene, and the plural pronouns they and them thereafter, which referred back to “the women,” also, by grammatical necessity, had to include Mary Magdalene. No other conclusion can be obtained from the grammatical structure of this passage.

I totally agree with Turkel’s claim that “it is obvious in John that [Mary M] hadn’t gotten the message [of the angel] yet,” because if she had heard the angel say that Jesus had risen and had immediately after this seen, touched, and worshiped Jesus, she would not have gone to Peter and told him that the body had been stolen. This is a problem in the resurrection accounts that no amount of talk about “oral traditions” or “personal choices” or ma besay-il will ever make go away.

To show that Matthew’s narrative grammatically requires the understanding that Mary M was present throughout his account of what had happened at the tomb, I am going to requote here my rewriting of verses 1 through 10 in which I changed nothing except to substitute Mary Magdalene and the other Mary for “the women” in verse 5 and the pronouns they and them that followed. As I explained above, substituting antecedents for pronouns will help clarify a text but will not alter its meaning.

Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, saying, “Rejoice!” So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Turkel can beat his head against this clarified version and then call an ambulance, because the character of Mary M as presented by John is clearly inconsistent with the Mary M in Matthew’s narrative. Turkel will no doubt squeal that even though Matthew mentioned only two women, Mark and Luke mentioned others, so it is still possible that Mary M left the tomb before she heard the angel’s message, but one cannot argue that one text may have meant thus and so because another text on the same subject said this and that. Let’s return to my example about the alien spaceship to see how this works. Reporter A published the following account of the event.

Early on Sunday morning Mary Smith and Mary Jones went to the cemetery to put flowers on a friend’s grave, and, behold, a spacecraft landed, and an alien being debarked and stood before them. “Fear not,” the alien said to the women. “I have come to tell you that an asteroid five hundred kilometers in diameter is on course to strike the earth within two years. Now go and tell your leaders that your world is in great danger.” And they departed quickly from the river and ran with fear to bring the govenor and his officials word of what they had seen.”

Reporter B published a second account of the event.

Early on Sunday morning Mary Smith, Mary Jones, and Sally Brown went to the cemetery to put flowers on a friend’s grave, and, looking up, they saw a strange craft with a door standing open. They entered into the craft and saw an alien being in a white robe, who said to them “Fear not; I have come to tell you that an asteroid five hundred kilometers in diameter is on course to strike the earth within two years. Now go and tell your leaders that your world is in great danger.” And they departed quickly from the river, trembling with fear, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

Even Turkel would see inconsistencies in these accounts if he found them in, say, the archives of a library. He would surely see that version A said that the women encountered the alien being when he came out of the craft, whereas version B said that the women saw the alien when they went into the craft. Likewise, he would see that the women in version A ran to tell their leaders about the encounter, whereas version B claimed that they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. All that aside for the moment, let’s focus on Mary Smith as she was depicted in the first account. Why would anyone have any reason at all to suppose that Mary Smith panicked and ran from the scene before she had heard the alien’s announcement? There is nothing in the text that even suggests it, but the grammatical structure of the account would absolutely require readers to understand that Mary Smith was present throughout the scene, because, whoever the author was, he named only two women (Mary Smith and Mary Jones); hence, when he wrote that the alien spoke to the women, readers would necessarily understand that Mary Smith was one of the women that the alien spoke to, and they would understand that the plural pronouns they and them had to include more than one person, so since only one other person was mentioned in this text besides Mary Jones, these plural pronouns would have necessarily had reference to Mary Smith.

I thank Turkel for admitting that “it is obvious in John that [Mary M] hadn’t gotten the message yet,” because he now has to reconcile John’s depiction of Mary M with Matthew’s account in which she clearly did hear the angel’s resurrection message. These two accounts present an X and not X [P and ~P] contradiction.

  1. John said by necessary implication that Mary Magdalene did not hear the angel’s resurrection message.
  2. Matthew said that Mary Magdalene did hear the angel’s resurrection message.

Now we can sit back and watch Turkel try to wiggle his way out of this predicament.

Turkel:

Matthew 28:9-10 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

Luke 24:9b-11 and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

John 20:2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

Most harmonizers would say here, and I could easily agree, that Mary Mag, Joanna, and Mary of James left the party first, before the angels popped in

Till:
As I have now shown twice (above), the grammatical structure of Matthew’s text will not allow this early departure of Mary Magdalene or the other Mary. If they departed before “the angels popped in,” then just who the hell were the women whom the angel spoke to in Matthew 28:5? The two Marys were the only women that Matthew mentioned in his narrative.

Does Turkel ever think before he writes?

Here is another challenge for Turkel to ignore. If Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary of James left “before the angels popped in,” there would have to be linguistic reasons to conclude this, so let Turkel quote the language in the texts that justifies concluding that these women left the scene before the angels “popped in.”

There is no way that Turkel can meet this challenge, because there are no linguistic reasons at all to justify this apologetic quibble. It is just another straw that inerrantists have grabbed to try to harmonize narratives that are hopelessly inconsistent. There are, however, linguistic reasons to understand that these women did not leave the scene. I have already shown in “The Mary Magdalene Problem” that the grammatical structure of Matthew’s narrative requires the understanding that Mary M was present throughout the account of the angel’s appearance, so I don’t need to rehash that part again. I will instead show that the grammatical structure of Mark’s and Luke’s narratives require the understanding that the two Marys and Joanna were also present throughout.

Notice, for example that Mark’s account also used the plural pronouns they and them in narrating the women’s encounter with the angels. Verse 5 says, “And entering into the tomb, they saw a young man….” Now if the two Marys had already left, of the three women that Mark named, only Salome would have been left, so if Mark wanted readers to understand that the two Marys had already departed, why didn’t he say, “And entering into the tomb, she saw a young man?” Further along in this verse, Mark said that they were amazed. They? How could “they” have been amazed if two of the only three women that Mark named had already left? Verse 6 said that the angel spoke to them, but how could he have spoken to “them” if two of his three women had already left?

Well, the answer to these questions is obvious. Mark didn’t intend for anyone to understand that the two Marys had made an early departure, for if he did intend this, the Holy Spirit had made a bad selection in choosing Mark to write an account of an event that all people forever afterwards would have to believe in order to be “saved,” because Mark obviously knew nothing about pronoun-antecedent references. This early-departure quibble is nothing but another straw that inerrantists have grabbed to try to find consistency in the maze of inconsistencies that run throughout the resurrection narratives.

The grammatical structure of Luke’s account also will not permit this early-departure quibble. Luke began his narrative by saying that “they” came to the tomb at early dawn, and the pronoun they has to refer to women who were mentioned at the end of chapter 23. After telling that “they” found the stone rolled away from the tomb and that “they” entered the tomb and found it empty and that “they” encountered two men in dazzling apparel, who told “them” that Jesus had risen, Luke then said that “they” returned from the tomb and “told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest” (24:9). Then in the very next verse Luke identified these women as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10), so even though Luke mentioned more women than either Matthew or Mark, the grammatical structure of his narrative also requires the understanding that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Joanna were all present when the angels announced the resurrection. Gramatically, they all had to be a part of the “they” who went to tell the disciples what they had seen.

Doesn’t Turkel wish that he had a tenth as much textual evidence as this to support his straw-grabbing quibbles? He has banged his head against the Mary Magdalene problem long enough. It is time for him to call an ambulance.

Turkel:
and hence, Mark’s report for example is telescoped, due to stylistic and/or space constraints)

Till:
And how does Turkel know that Mark’s report was “telescoped”? He doesn’t explain. He just asserts and then goes on his merry way.

And what were these “stylistic constraints”? Turkel doesn’t say. He just says it and leaves it to his gullible readers to say, “Oh, stylistic constraints, huh? Why didn’t I see that?” As for the “space constraints,” I have already shot Turkel’s paper-shortage apologetics to pieces, so there is no need to demolish it again. Anyone who clicks the link and reads the article will see how flimsy Turkel’s quibble is.

Turkel:
and went directly to Peter and Co. (the “we” of John’s party), while other unnamed women like Salome went to other disciples and received a visitation. This is plausible, as it would make sense for a multi-member party to split up, so that if one party could not find their target, another might.

Till:
This is all pure conjecture, and there is nothing in any of the resurrection narratives to support any of it. Turkel and his inerrantist cohorts posit quibbles like this because they know that there is a maze of inconsistencies in the resurrection accounts. If John had not had Mary Magdalene telling Peter and “the other disciple” that the body had been stolen, no one would have ever dreamed up any of this nonsense. If Turkel wants to think that the women “split up” and went different ways, let him think it, but he must make their destination the same. They went to the disciples and told them what they had seen.

Coming from Turkel, the “we” argument above is downright ludicrous, because anyone who has done any reading at all on his website knows that he repeatedly uses we when he is referring only to himself. It is an affectation that runs throughout his website, so Turkel should tell us why we in John 20:2 had to mean that Mary Magdalene had others with her, when he himself will often use we to mean just himself.

Turkel:
In any event, as noted, Matt has saved most of his space for the “stolen body” apologetic

Till:
I shot down Turkel’s “stolen-body apologetic” above, so I don’t need to rehash it here.

Turkel:
and hasn’t the room to recount anything more detailed.

Till:
I also dismantled Turkel’s paper-shortage apologetics in the article cited twice above, which I will link to again for the convenience of readers who may not have yet accessed it. It is an absolutely stupid excuse for ambiguities and inconsistencies in documents that were presumably “inspired” by an omniscient, omnipotent deity.

Turkel:
Matthew’s interlude of 28:11-15 could take place anytime between the unspecified range of these verses.

Till:
There is just one little problem. The chronological markers in Luke 24 show that this narrative was claiming that Jesus ascended to heaven from Bethany on the night of the same day that he was resurrected.

To see this, one has only to read Luke 24 and follow the chronological markers in the following passage. I have emphasized them with bold print.

Luke 24:13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? 18 the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. 25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them. 44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. 50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

Knowing Turkel, I suspected that he would resort to the old quibble of a time gap between verses 49 and 50, and we will see further along that he did so. Up until this time, the conjunction and [kai] was tying events together in a one-after-the-other chronological order, but at this point, Turkel expects us to think that there was an unmentioned time gap. Turkel will perhaps argue that Luke was running out of scroll space, so he couldn’t directly state the time transition, as if Luke would have been up that famous creek without a paddle if he had just said, “And forty days later, he led them out as far as to Bethany.” After all, three extra words could have thrown Luke’s composition plan into utter chaos.

Inerrantists will argue that we know that Luke intended a time transition here, because he began the book of Acts with a section that said that Jesus had remained on earth for 40 days; hence, he couldn’t have meant in Luke 24, as it admittedly appears, that he was saying that Jesus ascended into heaven on the night of resurrection day. This argument, of course, attempts to prove biblical inerrancy by assuming biblical inerrancy, because there is no reason at all to assume that the same writer could not have contradicted himself in two different works. I couldn’t even estimate how many times in my teaching career I read student papers that would take positions early in the essays that were contradicted further along, so since Turkel is trying to peddle apologetic theories that reduce biblical writers to just ordinary people who received no special help through the process of “inspiration,” why should we think that Luke would have been any different from modern writers who contradict themselves in their writings? In “Did They Tarry in the City?” I showed that regardless of what Acts 1 says, Luke 24 clearly teaches that Jesus ascended into heaven the night of his resurrection. The quoted section below begins where I had pointed out that Jesus told his disciples that night to tarry in the city until they had been “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

Bibliolaters will say that the command to stay in the city until they were “clothed with power from on high” was not given to the disciples on the night of Jesus’s resurrection, but careful analysis of the text will not support them in this. Luke 24:1-12 described events that occurred at the empty tomb on the morning of the resurrection. The women went there “at early dawn” (v:1), found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty (vv:2-3), and encountered two men in dazzling apparel who told them that Jesus was risen (vv:4-8). The women ran to tell the news to the eleven ( v:9), who considered their words to be only idle talk (v:11), but Peter ran to the tomb, looked inside, and went back home, “wondering at that which was come to pass” (v:12).

After all these things were related, Luke said, “And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus” (v:13). The expression “that very day” surely was intended to mean the very day of the resurrection, the day all of the events just mentioned had happened. So the encounter between Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (vv:15-27) had to have happened on the same day that Jesus was allegedly resurrected. If not, what did “that very day” mean?

Evidence that it was the very day of the resurrection is seen in verse 21. In the conversation that Jesus had with the disciples, the one named Cleopas stated, with implied doubt, that Jesus was the Messiah:

But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yea and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things came to pass.

Cleopas clearly indicated in this statement that the events being narrated in this passage were taking place on the third day. What day could that have been except the third day following the trial and crucifixion of Jesus that Cleopas had just summarized? As any Sunday school student knows, the resurrection was supposed to have occurred on that third day. So at this point in Luke 24, everything happening was happening on the day of the resurrection.

When the trio arrived at Emmaus, Jesus “made as though he would go further” (v:28), but the two disciples “constrained him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent” (v:29). The “far-spent day” would have been the day the journey started, so Luke’s narrative shows quite clearly that everything he was telling had happened on the third day, the day of the resurrection.

The insistence of the two disciples prevailed, and Jesus went into Emmaus with them. When they sat down to “break bread,” Jesus blessed the bread and gave it to the others. Until then, the two disciples had not recognized Jesus, but at the breaking of the bread “their eyes were opened” and they realized who he was as “he vanished out of their sight” (v:31). “And they (the two disciples) rose up that very hour, and returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered together” (v:33).The eleven told the men that “the Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared unto Simon,” and the men told the eleven what they had seen (v:34). Emmaus was located only seven miles from Jerusalem, so if the two disciples had left “that very hour” after recognizing the vanishing Jesus and returned to Jerusalem, they would certainly have arrived there the same night.

While the disciples from Emmaus were telling the eleven what they had seen, Jesus suddenly appeared out of nowhere:

And as they spake these things, he himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they beheld a spirit. And he said unto them, why are ye troubled? and wherefore do questionings arise in your heart? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet (vv:36-40).

Luke’s narrative at this point reads very much like John’s account of an appearance that Jesus made on the night of the resurrection day:

When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had said this, he showed unto them his hands and his side (John 20:19-20).

The similarity of these two accounts should confirm that the appearance of Jesus to the eleven that Luke wrote about did allegedly happen the night of the resurrection, because John plainly said that it occurred on “the first day of the week.” In the continuation of Luke’s narrative, Jesus asked for something to eat, and a piece of broiled fish was given to him (v:41). After eating it, he spoke to the disciples about nonexistent scriptures (as we will see in a later article) that his resurrection had fulfilled (vv:44-46). Then in giving to them Luke’s version of the “Great Commission,” he made the statement that casts serious doubt on Matthew’s claim of a postresurrection appearance in Galilee….

I will be quoting more of the article below in rebuttal of Turkel’s comments on the time of the Great Commission as it was presented in Matthew’s narrative, but the section just quoted shows that events up to the time of Luke’s version of the Great Commission had obviously occurred on the same day that Jesus was [snicker, snicker] resurrected. Hence, when Jesus led his disciples out to Bethany in verse 50, he led them out on the same night, according to this narrative, and the fact that Acts 1 contradicts this is no proof that there has to be an unmentioned time transition in Luke 24:50. If Luke wrote both his gospel and the book of Acts, he simply contracited himself. Anyone who has done much writing at all should know that it is easy for a writer to forget what he may have said months or years before he sits down to begin a new work.

Turkel, of all people, should realize this, because he has been caught contradicting himself by saying something in one article that contradicts what he said in another. I pointed out some specific example of his inconsistencies in “Blowing in the Wind,” so his own inconsistencies have been well documented. I have also been inconsistent in my writings, but, of course, I make no claim to being infallible.

Turkel:
Chronologically as far as events with the believers were concerned, we leave Matthew for the duration. His space constraints lead him directly to the Great Commission which could take place anytime after the events of v.10. Thus we need not fit it into any chronology. It is able to be reckoned anytime within the 40 days between Passover and Pentecost;

Till:
Uh, the 40 days between Passover and Pentecost? Turkel thinks he is fulfilling prophecy in his “apologetic” writings, but apparently he doesn’t even know that there were 50 days between Passover and Pentecost. I suggest that he check the etymology of pentecost to see that it means “the fiftieth [day].” Furthermore, Acts 1:3 claims that Jesus remained among the apostles for only 40 days, so his ascension (according to this version) would have occurred 10 days before Pentecost. Turkel is confused at times, isn’t he?

Aside from these problems in Turkel’s statement above (which no doubt fulfilled prophecy when he posted it), there is a chronological problem that he is trying to sneak around. As I noted above, Luke’s gospel clearly indicated that Jesus ascended into heaven the night of the day that he was resurrected, so this left no time for the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee as per the angel’s instructions to the women in Matthew 28:7. I discussed this problem too in “Did They Tarry in the City?” which I will resume quoting below. I stopped above where Jesus was about to give Luke’s version of the Great Commission, so I will begin with the last sentence previously quoted.

Then in giving to them Luke’s version of the “Great Commission,” he made the statement that casts serious doubt on Matthew’s claim of a postresurrection appearance in Galilee.

Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high (vv:48-49).

As related earlier, this “power from on high” that the apostles were to receive presumably came to them when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit:

(A)nd being assembled together with them, he (Jesus) charged them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence (Acts 1:4-5).

The apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), so that would have been the time that they received Jesus’s promise of “power from on high.” Pentecost (from a Greek word meaning fiftieth) fell fifty days after the sacrifice of the passover lamb (see Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 3.10.5-6), and Jesus was crucified as the passover was approaching ( Matt. 26:1-5, 17-19; Mk. 14:1-2, 12-16; Lk. 22:1-2, 7-13; Jn. 18:28,39). John even said that it was during the “preparation of the passover” that Jesus was taken before Pilate (19:14). So if Jesus was crucified at the time of the passover, he had already ascended back to heaven when the apostles were “clothed with power from on high” on the day of Pentecost (50 days after his crucifixion), because Luke claimed that he stayed on earth only forty days after his resurrection (Acts 1:3).

By now the problem in reconciling Matthew’s resurrection account with Luke’s should be obvious. Luke very clearly indicated that Jesus on the night of his resurrection charged the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high” (baptized in the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:4-5), so that leaves no room for a postresurrection appearance to the apostles on a mountain in Galilee. As I said earlier, Jesus did tell his disciples on the night of his resurrection not to leave Jerusalem until they received “power from on high” and if this power from on high did not come to them until some fifty days later and if Jesus remained on earth for only forty days after his resurrection and if the disciples obeyed Jesus’s command not to leave Jerusalem until they had received power from on high, they couldn’t have possibly met him on a mountain in Galilee as Matthew claimed.

No one can successfully argue that the meeting on the mountain in Galilee happened before the meeting in Jerusalem on the night of the resurrection, because that would pose other textual reconciliation problems. For one thing, Galilee was too far from Jerusalem to make such a meeting logistically possible. The disciples were presumably in Jerusalem the morning of the resurrection, because the women ran to tell them of the empty tomb (Lk. 24:9). Peter and another disciple even ran to the tomb, looked inside, and returned home, wondering about what had happened (Lk. 24:12; Jn. 20:3-9). Are we to believe that after Peter returned home from the tomb, he and the other apostles journeyed to Galilee (a distance of some sixty or seventy air miles, even if the mountain was in the southernmost region of Galilee), saw Jesus, and then returned to Jerusalem ALL IN ONE DAY! The mere suggestion is preposterous (but perhaps not as preposterous as believing a resurrection story as riddled with contradictions as the one told by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Besides, Luke said that when the disciples from Emmaus found the apostles in Jerusalem the night of the resurrection, they were immediately told, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon” (24:34). But if all of the eleven had met Jesus earlier that day on a mountain in Galilee, they would have surely told the disciples from Emmaus that Jesus had appeared to all of them.

There is just no way to reconcile Matthew’s story with Luke’s. If Matthew was right about a postresurrection appearance of Jesus on a mountain in Galilee, then Luke was wrong in at least some details of his description of a postresurrection appearance in Jerusalem the night of the resurrection. If Luke was right in all the details he described, then Matthew erred. One of them had to be wrong. Either that or believers in the resurrection will have to say that the apostles disobeyed Jesus’s command to stay in Jerusalem until they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Either alternative they select won’t build much confidence in the Bible inerrancy doctrine.

In rereading this article, I noticed a point that I should have included. That the power from on high that the disciples would be clothed with (Luke 24:49) was the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which they received on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff), is evident from what Jesus said immediately before his ascension. After commanding the disciples to remain in Jerusalem “to wait for the promise of the Father, which [they] had heard from [Jesus]” (Acts 1:4) and which they would receive “not many days hence” (v:5), Jesus went on to say, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you” (v:8).

There is just no way to misunderstand this. The disciples were commanded to stay in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). Forty days later, this commandment was renewed to them with the promise that they would receive this power “not many days hence,” when the Holy Spirit would come upon them (Acts 1:4-8). Therefore, if the disciples obeyed the command to remain in Jerusalem until this power came upon them, there was no way that they could have met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee, because Jesus had ascended into heaven 10 days before the power promised had come upon them.

Turkel:
it is a stylized account and not meant to be squared into a [sic] narrative sequences.

Till:
If I knew what “a [sic] narrative sequences” meant, I would comment on this. Maybe Turkel meant that it was not intended to be “squared into chronological sequences.” If so, I would ask him to explain the linguistic criteria that he used to arrive at this conclusion. What are the linguistic features that he found in Matthew’s narrative that let him know that it wasn’t intended to be “squared” into chronological sequences? I submit that Matthew’s resurrection narrative was written in chronological sequence, and I will gladly analyze it to show the linguistic reasons why I think this if Turkel will reciprocate and post his linguistic analysis to show how he determined that it wasn’t meant to be “squared into a narrative sequences.”

Don’t hold your breath until Turkel accepts this proposal. It is much easier for him to assert and then rush on.

Turkel:
This indeed is one great mistake of both critics and harmonizers,

Till:
Well, if anyone knows about the great mistakes of both critics and harmonizers, that would be Turkel. After all, he fulfills prophecy whenever he explains a biblical text.

Turkel:
who often put too much pressure on themselves to fit events into a chronology. It simply isn’t necessary to assume that these writers were trying to give an all she wrote, “it happened in this order without time passing” chronology.

Till:
Uh, how could anything happen in order without time passing? Does Turkel ever think before he writes?

My reply to this will simply be a repetition of a previous proposal to Turkel. I will post an analysis of Matthew’s narrative to show linguistic reasons why it should be understood chronologically if he will reciprocate and post an analysis that identifies linguistic reasons why readers should think that it was “dischonologized” or “telescoped.”

Don’t expect him to accept this proposal.

Turkel:
Indeed we aver that Luke in his Gospel telescoped his 40 days between two verses.

Till:
Yes, we aver this, but we don’t offer any kind of linguistic support for this averment, do we? No, we just aver it and then rush on to the next averment.

I assume that everyone noticed that Turkel used the plural pronoun we in obvious reference to himself. It is a noticeable characteristic of his writing, yet he argued above that “John” didn’t intend to convey that Mary Magdalene was alone when she went to Peter and “the other disciple,” because she said, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid him.” Perhaps Turkel would like to explain to us why when Mary M used the first-person plural pronoun, she meant that others were with her but when Turkel uses it, he often means only himself.”

As for Turkel’s averment that Luke “telescoped” 40 days between two verses, if this is so, there must be linguistic reasons why he knows this. In oral communication, ideas can be conveyed by voice inflection, gestures, and other body movements, but this is all lost in written communication. Today, some meanings can be determined in written communication by punctuation marks, but commas, periods, quotation marks, exclamation marks, etc. did not exist in biblical times, so readers had only the words in the text to determine meaning. Therefore, if he is going to aver that Luke “telescoped” 40 days between verses 49 and 50 in his last chapter, Turkel must show linguistic reasons why this averment is probable. If he can’t do this, then he has nothing to offer but an assertion that he is making for no other reason except that he wants the resurrection narratives to be inerrant. The desire for inerrancy in written texts, however, is never a proper criterion for interpretation.

Turkel will never attempt to show us linguistic reasons why we should think that Luke “telescoped” 40 days between these two verses, but I am going to present linguistic reasons why we should think that no such telescoping occurred. First, there is the fact that Luke used transitions throughout his gospel to let readers know when periods of time were passing between events that were narrated one after the other. The following examples will illustrate just a few of the times that he did this. The chronological markers that conveyed the passage of time will be emphasized in bold print.

  1. In 1:5-23, Luke narrated the appearance of an angel to tell Zacharias that his wife Elisabeth would bear a son [John the Baptist]. This passage itself contained time transitions, but then, Luke wrote, “And after these days Elisabeth his wife conceived….”
  2. Luke then went to Gabriel’s appearance to Mary to announce the conception of Jesus. “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee” (1:26)
  3. I would spend weeks if I cited every time transition that Luke used in his gospel, so I will skip forward to the time of Jesus’s birth. “Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria” (2:1-2)
  4. More time transitions appear in narrating the incidents involving the shepherds, and then Jesus was born. “And when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising, him, his name was called Jesus” (2:21).
  5. Then it was time for Mary’s purification. “And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him [Jesus] up to Jerusalem…” (2:22).
  6. More transitions have been passed over to go to the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and his brother Philip tetrach of the region of Ituraea and Trichonitis and Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zecharias in the wilderness” (3:1-2). Whew, this passage is chronologically loaded for someone who would later “telescope” 40 days between two verses.
  7. Skip, skip, skip chronological transition after chronological transition until we come to chapter 9. “And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, that he [Jesus] took with him Peter, James, and John…” (9:28).
  8. Now we will go to Peter’s denial. “And after the space of about one hour another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this man was also with him…” (22:59).

You know, Turkel could simply this matter if he would just post a couple of examples where Luke unequivocally “telescoped” long periods of days between two verses without bothering to tell his readers, but I doubt that he will try to do this, because he won’t try to do that which he cannot do. I will wrap this up by returning to the chronological usage of and [kai] in Luke 24. As I showed above through bold-print emphasis, and [kai] was used some 40 times in this passage to string events together in obvious chronological order. I doubt that Turkel would dare take any of the examples that I emphasized above and try to deny that they were used as chronological markers, so maybe he would like to tell us why he has picked just one kai out of this chapter to claim that it was used entirely differently from the others. Let him explain why we should think that Luke used this kai to “telescope” a long period of days between it and the events mentioned before it.

I will be bluntly frank here and say that I don’t think that even Turkel believes that 40 days were “telescoped” here. He wants to live off contributions sent to his Tektonics website, and so he is simply saying what he knows that he must say to keep the money coming in. The only difference I see in him and televangelists is only a matter of the amount that is fleeced off the gullible.

Turkel:
Matthew in 28:16-20 does the same sort of thing.

Till:
Oh, he did? Well, let’s just take a look at this text and see if we can spot the telescoping. This passage follows Matthew’s yarn about the guards going to the chief priests and agreeing to claim that the disciples had stolen the body while they were asleep. I don’t suppose Turkel would say that the meeting with Jesus on a mountain in Galilee had happened before this, so he surely agrees that the events in the passage quoted below happened after the guards had reported to the chief priests. For one thing, 28:11 says that the guards went to the chief priests “while they [the women] were going [to tell the disciples],” so there can be no doubt that Matthew meant for his readers to understand that the meeting in Galilee had happened after the guards went to the chief priests. In quoting the text, I will emphasize chronological markers with bold print.

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

So while the women were going to tell the disciples what they had seen, the guards went to the chief priests. Then–and I assume that Turkel understands that then denotes an action that happened after the one mentioned just before it–the disciples went into Galilee. Therefore, this text was clearly saying that the disciples went to Galilee after the guards had reported to the chief priests, but how long after the guards went to the chief priests did the disciples go away to Galilee? The text doesn’t say, so it is pure conjecture on Turkel’s part to “aver” that Matthew “telescoped” a period of several days here. The most he can say is that Matthew was saying that it happened some time after the guards had gone to the chief priests. As far as Turkel can actually know, Matthew thought that it had happened right away, so all of his talk about “telescoping” is mere assertion that he needs to support, but we know by now that Turkel doesn’t bother with trying to support his assertions.

Turkel:
The immediate skip to the Great Commission is a narrative device, not pure chronology.

Till:
How does Turkel know that it was an “immediate skip”? As far as Turkel actually knows, Matthew could have thought that the women delivered the angel’s message, and then the disciples left right away for Galilee.

Whatever time may have been meant by Matthew’s then at the beginning of this passage is really immaterial, because Turkel is left with the irreconcilable inconsistency that I identified above. Luke claimed that Jesus told his disciples on the night of his resurrection that they were to “tarry in the city” until they were “clothed with power from on high” (24:49), and Acts 1:3 has Jesus telling the disciples 40 days later, just before his ascension into heaven, that they were not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait there for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which would come to them “not many days hence.” Ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, the apostles were [snicker, snicker] “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

So here is a huge problem that Turkel must explain. If on the night of his resurrection Jesus told the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high” and if 40 days later, Jesus told the disciples not to depart from Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and if the disciples were not “clothed with power from on high”/baptized with the Holy Spirit until 10 days after Jesus had ascended into heaven, just when were they able to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee?

Periodically, I have been pausing to remind readers of a fundamental failure in Turkel’s “reply” to Barker’s Easter Challenge, and it is time for another reminder. At the beginning of this article that I am replying to (point by point), Turkel ridiculed Barker’s challenge and referred to it as “fill Danny’s wastebasket,” but not once has he even tried to meet Barker’s challenge by writing a continuous, coherent resurrection narrative that would really fill Barker’s wastebasket. Turkel just missed an excellent opportunity to show us just how easy it would be to write a narrative that would meet all of Barker’s requirements, so why didn’t Turkel at least take the time to post a section of such a narrative that would show us that the disciples “tarried in Jerusalem” from the night of his resurrection until the day of Pentecost, just as Jesus commanded them in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4, but somehow during this interval managed to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee without leaving Jerusalem? Actions always speak louder than words, so why didn’t Turkel inflict a fatal blow to Barker’s challenge by writing at least a section of the narrative that would show us it would have been possible for the disciples to have met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee without leaving Jerusalem?

No inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives? Why, no, I think we can all see that.

Turkel:

Luke 24:12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

John 20:3-10 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

The big deal here is of course that Luke has reported Peter alone; John reports someone else — himself, perhaps, but some say Lazarus. That is of little matter; what is of import is that Luke severely compresses the story — obviously. Why? So that he may include the enormous Emmaus narrative (13-33), which will take up what space he has and constrain him from getting into more details. Telling what Peter saw closely is more important than telling of who went with him (and by John’s reckoning, didn’t see anything different).

Till:
Well, it is no really big deal, but Luke said that Peter stooped down and beheld the linen cloths, whereas John said that Peter entered the tomb when he arrived. Perhaps Turkel would like to post another section of a continuous resurrection narrative in which he has Peter just stooping to look inside but at the same time actually entering the tomb.

As I have said above, omitting a person or an event from a narrative is not an error, although it could be a questionable writing strategy if the narrative is concerned with something as extraordinary as a resurrection claim. In that case, the more the merrier, so if there were two men who ran and found the tomb empty and saw the burial cloths lying inside, one would think that a writer with a lick of common sense would know that two witnesses to these events would be better than one if the author expected to sell the idea of a resurrection to people who did not experience these events.

All of this, in my opinion, is too minor to warrant discussion, but it is certainly singular that Turkel would waste time on this and pass over completely the glaring discrepancy that I just noted above. How were the disciples able to remain in Jerusalem until 10 days after the ascension of Jesus but somehow still managed to meet him on a mountain in Galilee? Turkel didn’t even try to address this issue. I suppose he thought it more important to tell us that Luke just didn’t have the space to mention that another disciple (probably John) had accompanied Peter, because Luke needed the space to “include the enormous Emmaus narrative.” Turkel doesn’t even know how much writing space Luke had left on his scroll at this point, yet he somehow knows that Luke was confronting a “paper-shortage” crisis. Perhaps Turkel would like to tell us how he knows what was in Luke’s mind at this point as he was writing his narrative.

It is easy to show that Turkel’s “paper-shortage” quibble is pure nonsense. All one has to do is rewrite the section where Turkel fulfills prophecy by telling us what was running through Luke’s mind at the point in his scroll where he was writing about Peter’s visit to the tomb, and show that inclusion of the information that Turkel claims was omitted because of a “paper shortage” could easily have been added without wrecking Luke’s composition strategy. Here, for example, is what Luke said about Peter’s visit to the tomb juxtaposed with a rewritten version that includes the “omitted” reference to John.

Luke 24:12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

Then arose Peter and John, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, they beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and then they departed, wondering in themselves at that which was come to pass.

My, my, we can all see that Luke’s writing strategy would have been thrown into utter chaos if he had added the two more words and changed he and himself to plural forms in order to let readers know that another witness had accompanied Peter.

This “paper-shortage” kick that Turkel has been on recently has to be one of the most idiotic apologetic tactics I have ever seen, because he cannot know how much scroll space a writer had available to him 1900 years ago.

Turkel:
It is after Peter leaves the tomb that we have John’s Mary Mag cameo, chronologically (20:11-18). We would once again suggest that the event is compressed for space reasons;

Till:
Well, of course, it was compressed. Compression for space reasons has become Turkel’s favorite excuse for problematic biblical passages. It will do no good, but I will ask Turkel to give us verifiable linguistic reasons that would show that “John” was “compressing” his narrative here in order to save space.

I will direct readers to notice that Turkel once again used his pedantic we when he was obviously referring only to himself, so if Turkel can use we without meaning plurality, how does he know that Mary Magdalene meant that others had been with her when she told Peter that “we” don’t know where they have laid the body [of Jesus]?

Turkel:
the encounter and conversation was almost surely not that simple. This of course leaves a modern reader with an impression, when combined with the other Gospels, that Jesus is randomly popping back and forth to people giving them different messages.

Till:
I’m glad that Turkel mentioned combining Mary’s encounter with Jesus in John 20 “with the other gospels,” so I would like for him to combine this scene with Matthew 28:8-9, which says that “they,” which, as I have show above, would necessarily have included Mary M, met Jesus, held his feet, and worshiped him. Now if that were the case, how does Turkel explain that Mary didn’t even recognize Jesus in the scene in John 20. I don’t think it is any accidental oversight that Turkel didn’t even quote this passage. I suspect that he left it out intentionally, because he didn’t want any of his choir members wondering about another very glaring inconsistency in the way that John presented Mary M as opposed to how Matthew presented her. Let’s justapose with Matthew 28:8-9 the text that Turkel didn’t quote.

Matthew 28:8 And they [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

John 20:10 Then the disciples [Peter and John] went away again unto their own home. 11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

The variations in these two texts are so irreconcilable that anyone but a diehard inerrantist will admit that they are there. To believe, as Turkel is arguing, that there are no inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives, one would have to believe that Mary Magdalent met, touched, and worshiped Jesus as she was running from the tomb, but for some reason, she continued on and told Peter and John that the body of Jesus, whom she had just met on her way to Peter and John, had been stolen, and “we” don’t know where they have laid it. Then one would have to believe that Mary, who had already met, touched, and worshiped Jesus, didn’t recognize him when he appeared to her in John 20, but the problems multiply. Unless this was a second appearance to Mary, either Matthew or John erred in reporting where this encounter took place. Matthew said that it happened while Mary, in the company of the other Mary, was running “to bring the disciples word,” but John clearly stated that Mary’s encounter with Jesus happened while she was at the tomb after she had run to tell Peter what she had seen at the tomb.

No inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives? Why, no, I think we can all see that.

Why doesn’t Turkel just settle the question of inconsistencies in the narratives by writing a section that would have Mary encountering Jesus and knowing who he was while she was running to find the disciples but at the same time meeting Jesus at the tomb but not knowing who he was?

No one should hold his breath until Turkel does this.

Turkel:
They would ask, why not tell them all the same message? In Mary Mag’s case, it would [sic] likely because she had a different question than had been asked by any other: “Are you staying on earth now?”

Till:
Oh, is that so? Well, “in Mary Mag’s case,” her encounter with Jesus, in the company of at least one other woman [the other Mary], was the only encounter that had happened at this point, so no one else had yet asked Jesus anything.

Does Turkel ever think before he writes?

Turkel:

Luke 24:33-4 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.

This appearance to Simon, otherwise undescribed, would take place sometime during the first day of the week —

Till:
But it could not have happened before the appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, because this appearance somehow happened while the two Marys were running to “bring word to the disciples” but also while Mary M was still at the tomb.

Maybe Turkel can write a section of a continuous narrative that would somehow have the encounter happening both while Mary was running from the tomb and while she was at the tomb.

Turkel:
as did all of the appearances so far outside of Matthew’s chronologically displaced Commission scene.

Till:
Turkel has yet to cite any linguistic reasons for saying that the Great Commission scene in Matthew 28 was “chronologically displaced.” I have analyzed the text above and shown that there are no reasons for this “displaced” assumption.

Turkel:
None of this is chronologically impossible, other than to those who wish to offer the vague complaint that the resurrected Jesus sure got around. But of course.

Till:
Well, I am going to disagree with Turkel. It was both chronologically and logistically impossible for the disciples to have remained in Jerusalem–as Jesus commanded them on the night of the resurrection (Luke 24:49) and then again 40 days later just before his ascension (Acts 1:4)–but somehow managed during this interval to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee without leaving Jerusalem.

This, of course, is a problem that Turkel didn’t eve mention in his trashing of Barker’s “wastebasket,” and that is not at all surprising. Turkel just doesn’t mention the really tough problems. He didn’t mention, for example, the problem of Mary M’s knowing Jesus as she was running to bring word to the disciples but not knowing him when he approached her at the tomb. You can always depend on Turkel to sidestep biblical problems that he cannot resolve.

Turkel:

Luke 24:35-44 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. John 20:19-23 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

I would regard these as reporting the same meeting.

Till:
As I have already noted above, I agree that these two seem to be references to the same meeting, so let’s talk about the implications of the time of this meeting. A chronological analysis, like the one I did above, shows that the meeting in Luke 24 happened on the night of resurrection day, and John removed all doubt about this by saying that it had happened at evening on the first day of the week. The continuation of Luke’s narrative–which Turkel didn’t quote because he probably wanted to cover his “patoot”–shows that on this night, Jesus commanded the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high,” and he repeated this command 40 days later, just before his ascension (Acts 1:4), so when were the disciples able to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee as per Matthew’s “chronologically displaced” commission passage in 28:16-20? It couldn’t have happened before the meeting in Luke 24 and John 20, because the disciples would not have been able to travel to Galilee on the day of his resurrection, chat with Jesus and receive the Great Commission, and then return to Jerusalem for a meeting that same night in the texts that Turkel quoted above. Furthermore, if the disciples had gone to Galilee through teletransportation or some such, then the eleven would not have said to the disciples from Emmaus that Jesus had appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34), because he would have appeared to all of them if the meeting in Galilee had already occurred at this time.

But the problems continue to multiply. Turkel says that the appearnace of Jesus in Luke 24 was the same as the one in John 20, but Luke 24:33 says that the disciples from Emmaus went to Jerusalem after their encounter with Jesus “and found the eleven gathered together.” John’s account of this appearance, however, says that “Thomas… was not with them [the other disciples] when Jesus came” (John 20:24). If that was the case, then the disciples at Emmaus did not find “the eleven” together in Jerusalem but only ten of them.

No inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives? Why, no, I think we can all see that. Why doesn’t Turkel really trash Barker’s Easter Challenge by posting a section of a continuous, coherent resurrection narrative in which Thomas is both present and absent when Jesus appeared to the disciples on the night of resurrection day?

Turkel:
Luke has no room now to report a dual meeting with Thomas first excluded,

Till:
Of course not, because Luke at this point was facing a severe paper shortage. Just ask Turkel; he can project himself 1900 years into the past and find out what each biblical author was thinking at any given point in what he was writing.

All that aside, Luke didn’t report a meeting with Thomas first excluded, because, as noted above, Luke said that when the disciples from Emmaus went to Jerusalem, they found “the eleven.”

Turkel:
and each writer has their [sic] own focus: Luke on the tangible nature of Jesus’ body; John on a more theological and “commissional” issue, as well as wanting to highlight Thomas’ actions.

Till:
See how Turkel can project himself back 1900 years to find out what each writer’s “focus” was? I wonder if Turkel could explain to us why the omniscient, omnipotent “Holy Spirit” wanted John to highlight the actions of Thomas, but didn’t want Luke to do so. More than that, I wonder if Turkel would share his secret with us and let us know how he is able to determine what the strategy of each biblical writer was.

As a retired writing instructor, I certainly know that good writers will plan in advance and then write accordingly, but I also taught enough students to know that most writers don’t bother to plan. If a writing instructor should take a student aside and ask him why he said whatever at any point in his essay, he would just look back quizzically and say that this was just the way that it came out as he was writing. In places, the Bible is almost incredibly disorganized–much like most of Turkel’s articles–which tells me that many of the writers just started writing and let the words fall wherever they did. I seriously doubt that many of them wrote thinking that they wanted to say this or that at the end of their scrolls, and so they were going to have to leave out such and so or at least be very sketchy in presenting it. This kind of writing by biblical authors existed only in the imagination of a biblical inerrantist looking desperately for some way to “explain” obvious discrepancies.

Turkel:
If Luke is reporting to a Roman judge on behalf of Paul (as Mauck argues)

Till:
Oh, does Mauck argue this? If so, it must be right, and so there is no need to try to support it with any kind of textual information. Doing that might delay Turkel’s progress as he cranks out his hackwork.

Turkel:
then it isn’t hard to see why he would report what he did.

Till:
It isn’t? Well, I fail to see anything in Luke 24 that would indicate that Luke was writing to a Roman judge, so perhaps Turkel will favor us with a linguistic analysis of this chapter to point out the statements that indicate that Luke was writing to a judge.

While Turkel is doing this, maybe he will also explain to us how the disciples could have remained in Jerusalem from the night of resurrection day until Pentecost and yet somehow have managed to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee.

And maybe pigs will fly someday too.

Turkel:
Meanwhile John will emphasize the tangible nature of Jesus in his second report.

Till:
Uh, sorry, but John also “emphasized the tangible nature of Jesus” in his first report, as the passage quoted below clearly shows.

John 20:19 When therefore it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had said this, he showed to them his hands and his side.

There really isn’t any substantial difference in John’s account of this meeting and Luke’s, because they both, in Turkel’s words, “emphasized the tangible nature of Jesus.”

Luke 24:36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them.

So Luke “emphasized the tangible nature of Jesus” in his first and only report of Jesus’s appearance to the disciples, but so did John. If the Bible is inerrant–and, of course, it is, because Turkel says so, and he is fulfilling prophecy whenever he comments on the Bible–then Jesus showed the wounds in his hands and feet to his disciples during this first meeting, and John’s account of the same meeting also reported the showing of the wounds in Jesus’s hands and side. Why, then, would Luke’s account show an interest in “emphasiz[ing] the tangible nature of Jesus” during this meeting but John’s wouldn’t?

Well, you see, Turkel has to say something whenever he “explains” a discrepancy, and so he thinks that he can say just anything, and nobody will question what he says. Regrettably, he is right, because he could post his grocery list as an explanation to any given discrepancy, and most of his sycophants would think, “Right on, man!”

Turkel:
It is here where we come to an end of a close examination.

Till:
A close examination? A close examination that didn’t even mention the grammatical structure of Matthew’s narrative, which requires readers to understand that Mary Magdalene was present throughout the angel’s discourse to “the women”? A close examination that didn’t address why a woman who had seen, touched, and worshiped Jesus after leaving the tomb would have continued on to tell Peter and John that the body [of Jesus] had been stolen? A close examination that didn’t mention either the problem of having the disciples remain in Jerusalem from the night of resurrection day until Pentecost but during the same interval somehow managing to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee? A close examination that didn’t mention either how Thomas could not have been present when Jesus appeared to the eleven?

Luckily, when I read about Turkel’s “close examination,” I wasn’t sipping a Sierra Mist as I often do when I’m working at my computer, or I would have spewed it all over my keyboard.

Turkel:
The events of John 20:24-21:23 would chronologically occur in the 40 day period which Luke telescopes and brings to an end at his 24:45.

Till:
Well, actually, the meeting with (20:24-28) happened “after eight days.” As for the “telescoping” claim, I have already shot this quibble to pieces by my analysis of the chronological markers in Luke 24. If any “telescoping” occurred, Turkel is going to have to support that claim with his own linguistic analysis. This will put him at a disadvantage, because I doubt that Turkel could linguistically analyze even “Little Bo Peep.”

Why doesn’t he just forget about his telescoping quibble and write a section of a continuous narrative that would show that the disciples met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee while remaining in Jerusalem from the night of resurrection day until Pentecost 48 days later?

Turkel:
Did it seem rather simple?

Till:
It might appear simple to the simple-minded, but no critically minded person will think so. If it was all so simple, then why didn’t Turkel just write the continuous, coherent narrative called for in Barker’s Easter Challenge and settle the matter once and for all? I defy Turkel to write such a narrative that would harmonize the discrepancies that I have identified above.

Turkel:
It is, much more so than we might think.

Till:
I don’t think that even Turkel believes this. If it is so much more simple than “we might think,” then why did Turkel skip the really tough discrepancies that I had to point out as I was going through his “close examination”?

Turkel:
The ancient processes of literary reportage go a long way towards explaining allegations of discrepancy in the rez narratives.

Till:
I guess I will have to run everything by Turkel again. If he were talking about ordinary ancient documents, such as the inscription on the Moabite Stone or pseudepigrapha like the books of Enoch, Jubilees, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, etc., most of what he says about nuances and idioms in biblical languages, ancient Near Eastern culture, oral traditions, etc., would certainly be relevant points, and I would be the last person on earth to argue that the languages and milieu in which ancient literary works originated had nothing to do with the meanings conveyed in those works, but we are not talking about ordinary ancient documents. We are talking about the Bible, and Bible believers claim that this book is unique among all works of ancient “literary reportage” in that the Bible is not the word of mere men but the very word of God, who “inspired” those who wrote the documents collected in it. If that is the case, then none of Turkel’s rationalizations about paper shortages, scarce and expensive scroll materials, high-context cultures, ma besay-il theories, personal “choices” of the biblical writers, hidden meanings in Semitic idioms and nuances, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam, are acceptable excuses for discrepancies in the Bible, because a work that was indeed “inspired” by an omniscient, omnipotent entity would have risen above the shortcomings of uninspired works to report a message so clear in its meaning that no one would misunderstand it. In my teaching experiences, I learned that the more intelligent students were, the more intelligently they could write (as a general rule), so an entity who knows everything there is to know and can do anything that is logically possible to do would have been able to “inspire” a completely unambiguous Bible, one that would have been clear in its meaning to those living at the time but also clear to those who would live at any time thereafter. If not, why not?

So for Turkel to argue that the meaning of the Bible is hidden in a maze of “ancient processes of literary reportage” that requires the likes of him and Glenn Miller to explain is a resort to rationalizations so ludicrous that it is self-defeating. Rational people will never buy it, and anyone who would believe such nonsense as this is a person so gullible that he would be beyond hope of ever rescuing from religious stupidity.

Turkel:
Anyone who doubts this will need to explain why —

Till:
Well, I have done that. If Turkel doubts that I have, let him reciprocate by taking the time to reply to my rebuttals above point by point. In particular, he will need to explain why clarity of meaning would not logically follow in any written work that has truly been “inspired” by an omnisicient, omnipotent deity, who loves all mankind and wants every person to “come to the knowledge of the truth” and be “saved” (1 Tim. 2:3). This god that Christians rave about can’t be very benevolent if he did indeed “inspire” a Bible so ambiguous in its meaning that he had to rely on the likes of Robert Turkel to explain what his “word” means.

Turkel:
and do it in the context of those processes and explaining why they cannot apply.

Till:
I have been there and done that. Now let’s see Turkel resolve the discrepancies in the resurrection narratives that he tried to dance around. He can do that by just meeting Dan Barker’s Easter Challenge, which Turkel claims to have trashed in “Danny’s wastebasket.” All he will have to do is write a continuous, coherent resurrection narrative in which he includes all details in the gospel accounts, Acts, and 1 Corinthians, without adding anything or omitting anything or resorting to pure speculation. Common sense should tell Turkel’s choir members that he didn’t even attempt to write such a narrative because he knows that it cannot be done.

At the very least, Turkel can show us that Barker’s challenge does indeed belong in a wastebasket by writing a section of the narrative that would show how the disciples were able to remain in Jerusalem from the night of resurrection day until 10 days after Jesus had ascended into heaven and yet had somehow managed to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee without leaving Jerusalem.

Perhaps the disciples of Jesus were true practitioners of the kind of faith that Jesus said could move mountains (Matt. 17:20), so since they couldn’t go to the mountain in Galilee, they brought the mountain to Jerusalem.

I’ll bet that’s it. As an explanation, it would make a lot more sense than all of Turkel’s nonsense about paper shortages, expensive and scarce scroll materials, high-context cultures, ma besay-il, and such like.

It Doesn’t Matter?

Turkel Tries Another Twist
by Farrell Till

A reply to:

Precisely the Opposite

On Gospel Details and Precision in Narratives
by Robert Turkel aka James Patrick Holding

Re-posted here by permission from Farrell Till.

Thank you Mr. Till!

Till:
One of the certainties in debating biblical inerrantists is that no matter how lucid a biblical text may be, if the plain reading of the text results in a discrepancy, inerrantists will stretch imagination beyond reasonable limits to try to make it not mean what it clearly says.  The how-it-could-have-been scenario is by far the most popular method of “explaining” discrepancies, but the figurative/symbolic/metaphorical route runs a close second.  When the plain language of a biblical text results in a discrepancy, the biblicist can simply say, “Well, this wasn’t intended to be understood literally; it is all figurative [symbolic/metaphorical].”  We have seen Robert “No Links” Turkel beat this one to death in the debate on preterism.  What we haven’t seen from him, however, is any attempt to show why the relevant textual language should be interpreted figuratively.  He just asserts that it is figurative (symbolic, metaphorical) because he or some preterist he quotes says that it is, and expects readers to accept this “explanation” on the mere say-so of a partisan group with an emotionally important doctrine to defend.

Of late, some biblicists, tired of being taken to the woodshed so often, have just admitted that there are discrepancies and inconsistencies in the Bible, but that this doesn’t matter because it is still, in some unexplained, “higher” sense, the “word of God.”  There are two members of the II_Errancy list who have taken this track but have resisted for several months now all attempts to get them to explain how it is possible to determine truth from error in an errant Bible.  I am certainly no fan of Gleason Archer, but I believe that he was right on target when he argued in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties that an errant Bible could not be trusted. After pointing out that a witness in a court of law loses his credibility if he is caught lying in his personal testimony, Archer went on to apply the same principle to the Bible.

The same is true of Holy Scripture.  If the statements it contains concerning matters of history and science can be proven by extrabiblical records, by ancient documents uncovered through archaeological digs, or by the established facts of modern science to be contrary to the truth, then there is grave doubt as to its trustworthiness in matters of religion. In other words, if the biblical record can be proved fallible in areas of fact that can be verified, then it is hardly to be trusted in areas where it cannot be tested.  As a witness for God, the Bible would be discredited as untrustworthy.  What solid truth it may contain would be left as a matter of mere conjecture, subject to the intuition or canons of likelihood of each individual.  An attitude of sentimental attachment to traditional religion may incline one person to accept nearly  all the substantive teachings of Scripture as probably true. But  someone else with equal justification may pick and chose whatever teachings in the Bible happen to appeal to him and lay equal claim to legitimacy.  One opinion is as good as another.  All things are possible, but nothing is certain if indeed the Bible contains mistakes or errors of any kind (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 23-24, emphasis added).

Although I have urged biblicists who take the errant-but-still-the-word-of-God view of the Bible to refute Archer’s arguments, they have all evaded the challenge.  The problem is a simple one.  If the Bible errs in matters where there is available information, such as that which Archer mentioned above, to establish that errors were made, then how can anyone be sure that the Bible is right in what it says about matters that cannot be corroborated by extrabiblical records?  Mark McFall, who publishes a paper called In the Word, is a member of the II-Errancy list.  After trying to defend biblical inerrancy in another forum, he had adopted the errant-but-still-the-word-of God view of the Bible before he joined the Errancy list.  The day before I sat down to write this article, I replied to one of his posts and asked him to explain to us how he can determine truth from error in an errant Bible.  This time he answered.

As I’ve said to you on many occasions, determining “truth from error in the Bible” is of little concern for me. Rather, my concern lies in what the text generally points to: God’s redemptive concern. I see the task of determining “truth from error in the Bible” as the wrong approach. For me, it is of more value to seek some type of understanding concerning the complexities of a text that I have high regard for.

A Mormon could substitute “the Book of Mormon” for “the Bible” and say the same thing word for word that McFall said, because Mormons no doubt have a “high regard” for their Mormon text, but I seriously doubt that McFall would see this as any kind of evidence that the Book of Mormon is a reliable religious guide.  To point out that his reply was not at all satisfactory, I posted another question for McFall.

How are you able to determine that “what the text generally points to” concerning “God’s redemptive concern” is truth? Let’s let X be a matter in the Bible that is recognizably erroneous, and let’s let Y be what the Bible says about God’s redemptive concern. If we know that X is erroneous because of available information that shows X is not true, then how can we know that Y is true, since Y is a matter for which there is no corroborative information?

This was McFall’s answer.

An X that is specifically “recognizably erroneous” due to verifiable information rests on the shoulders of that particular writer.  Y, on the other hand, is the prevalent theme throughout the entire Bible. If Y is also erroneous, then so is the prevalent theme of multiple writers. For me however, that multiplicity coupled with the length of time it took to compose the Bible suggests that the sagacity of God’s redemptive concern is true.

In other words, McFall was claiming that if a theme was recurrent throughout the Bible, this could be considered evidence that the theme was true.  Commenting on McFall’s statement above, Errancy-list member Nancy Todd asked him the following question.

A, if not the, prevalent theme in the literature of ancient Greece is that people cannot escape their fate. Does the multiplicity of writers whose works are permeated with this theme coupled with the length of time it took to compose all those works over the course of centuries suggest to you that the discernment of these writers is true?

McFall’s answer was, “You always get me to stop and think Nancy,” but he has made no further attempt to justify his apparent position that if enough people over a long enough period of time make the same claim, that claim has to be true.  Nancy Todd’s question brought McFall face to face with a familiar flaw in his reasoning: that which proves too much proves nothing at all.

In the “debates” with Robert “No Links” Turkel, we have seen him try just about every gimmick in the inerrantist repertoire: the language was symbolic, the language was idiomatic, there are subtle “nuances” in the biblical text that modern readers can’t understand, and so on ad infinitum. More recently, however, he seems to be leaning toward McFall’s camp to argue that discrepancies and inconsistencies in the biblical text don’t matter.  This is the track that he seems to have taken in an article that tried to explain away the problem of inconsistencies in the New Testament resurrection narratives.

Turkel:
Another factor for consideration in reckoning the harmonizing of Gospel records is a facet of the Eastern mindset that the precision-minded Western critic cannot comprehend. I think it will be enough to quote extensively from Abraham Rihbany’s The Syrian Christ [108ff]. Rihbany, a Syrian familiar with our culture, noted as follows:

There is much more of intellectual inaccuracy than of moral delinquency in the Easterner’s speech. His misstatements are more often the result of indifference than the deliberate purpose to deceive. One of his besetting sins is his ma besay-il — it does not matter. He sees no essential difference between nine o’clock and half after nine, or whether a conversation took place on the housetop or in the house. The main thing is to know the substance of what happened, with as many of the supporting details as can be conveniently remembered.

The implications of this should be clear. Gospel writers who differ on minor points such as times, number of angels at a tomb, exact locations, and so on, are signators [sic] to a semantic contract that Westerners haven’t even read. We’ll develop this point more with applications at a later date.

Till:
This is typical Turkelism.  He finds a quotation in a book that offers an excuse for inconsistencies in the Bible, and then he submits it as definitive proof without making any effort at all to show that the quotation is true.  For those who may not know, Abraham Rihbany was a Lebanese Christian who emigrated to the United States in 1891.  The Syrian Christ resulted from a series of articles he wrote, which were later compiled into a book in which he basically argued that one could not understand the scriptures without understanding Syrian culture and linguistic idioms.  Inerrantists have appealed to Rihbany’s book to “explain” references in the Bible to faith moving mountains, turning the other cheek, a camel going through the eye of a needle, hating one’s parents, selling all that one has and giving it to the poor, etc.  Such language wasn’t intended to be taken literally, Rihbany argued, but was just typical of the exaggeration of Semitic language.

The primary problem with Rihbany’s key to understanding biblical discrepancies is that it completely ignores the widely accepted Christian premise that the books of the Bible were inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent entity.  Hence, when Rihbany spoke of biblical writers who knew “the substance of what had happened” and then presented “as many of the supporting details as can be conveniently remembered,” he, to borrow one of his own terms, conveniently forgot that these writers were presumably not speaking on their own but were being guided by an omniscient deity, who would have known all of the supporting details of “what had happened.” Any errors or even ambiguities, therefore, would not have been the fault of the writers but of the omniscient deity who was allegedly guiding them as they wrote.

Turkel, of course, will pooh-pooh all of this as just a Church-of-Christ concept of “mechanical dictation,” but it just happens to be what the Bible teaches about the divine guidance that was exerted on those who were allegedly the spokesmen chosen of God.  I have been over all of this before, but some people are slow learners, so I guess I will have to run through it again.

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you [the disciples] out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

This passage is claiming much more than that the disciples would be speaking “the substance of what had happened” and giving “as many supporting details as they could conveniently remember.”  It was claiming that the disciples were not the ones actually speaking but the Holy Spirit who would be speaking through them.  That is about as “mechanical” a view of “inspiration” as one could imagine.  It was claiming that the disciples would be sort of ventriloquist dummies through whom the Holy Spirit would speak.

A comparable text in Luke presents the same view, i. e., the disciples were given divine guidance to let them know what they should say.

Luke 21:12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.

Inerrantists will argue that these texts spoke of divine inspiration that would be given to the disciples in situations where they were brought before kings and rulers and said nothing about written inspiration, so I have no doubt that Turkel will grab this straw.  This will put him in the situation of arguing that God was careful enough to put into the mouths of the disciples the words they should speak, which would be gone and forgotten moments after they had spoken them, but when they were writing books that were intended to guide mankind for thousands of years through the Christian era, they were left pretty much on their own to record “the substance of what had happened” and to give “as many supporting details as they could conveniently remember.”  Well, why not?  Such a position would be no more idiotic than various other scenarios that Turkel and his inerrantist cohorts have resorted to in order to circumvent numerous discrepancies in the Bible.

More reasonable people, however, will realize that this “you’re-on-your-own” view of inspiration is not at all in agreement with what the Bible teaches about inspiration. A prophecy attributed to the father of John the Baptist after the naming of his son claimed that he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when he prophesied.

Luke 1:67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 6 Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, 70As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began….

Now if Zacharias was “filled with the Holy Spirit” as he spoke, I doubt that Luke meant for his readers to understand that Zacharias was speaking the “substance of what had happened” and then giving “as many supporting details as he could conveniently remember.”  If that is all that there was to the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit, then why was God even bothering to fill his prophets and writers with the Holy Spirit?

In speaking to “those who were the leaders of the Jews,” whom he had invited to his house in Rome, the apostle Paul quoted a prophecy and said that the Holy Spirit had spoken it through Isaiah the prophet.

Acts 28:25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; 27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”‘

Now was Paul right when he said that the Holy Spirit had spoken these words through the prophet Isaiah, or was this just something Isaiah had said on his own, telling “the substance” and giving “as many supporting details as he could conveniently remember”? I’ll let Turkel and his cohorts argue with their own “inspired”–whatever inspired may mean to them–“word of God.”

I couldn’t even begin to quote the number of times that  Old Testament writers said, “Thus says Yahweh, “or “The word of Yahweh came to me,” but these are expressions where the writers were claiming to state either what Yahweh had said or what Yahweh had given them to say.”  The apostle “Peter” agreed that what the prophets of old had said were not really what they had said but what God had said through them.

2 Peter 1:19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

This is completely contrary to the bill of goods Turkel and his like-minded cohorts are trying to sell to their gullible readers.  They claim that biblical writers were left to choose what information they wanted to put into their books, and so this accounts for apparent discrepancies in parallel accounts.  Matthew “chose” to mention only Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, but Mark “chose” to mention these two and a third woman named Salome.  Matthew and Mark “chose” to mention just one angel, but Luke “chose” to mention two.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke “chose” to mention the midday darkness during the crucifixion, but John just didn’t consider it important.  Matthew “chose” to mention the resurrection of the many saints who appeared to many after the resurrection of Jesus, but the other gospel writers just didn’t consider this important, and so on and so forth.  As an explanation for glaring variations in the biblical text, it isn’t worth much, because it fails to take into account that the Bible claims that those who spoke and wrote their words were actually speaking and writing by the guidance of an omniscient, omnipotent deity. Inerrantists, however, claim that the divinely guided writers of the Bible spoke of their own will.  It is a dodge that they must resort to in order to “explain” obvious inconsistencies in the Bible.

I have no problem with recognizing that hyperbole is not to be taken literally, but I do have a problem with claims of hyperbole in biblical passages where the contexts give no legitimate reason to think that hyperbole was intended.  Take for example the references to faith that can move mountains.

Matthew 21:18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. 20And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” 21So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Now if this text had merely said that “faith can move mountains,” I could understand how it could be interpreted as hyperbole intended to mean that faith could accomplish great things, i. e., move figurative mountains, but look at the context.  In verses 18-20, Jesus had pronounced a curse on a fig tree that didn’t have figs on it in, and immediately the fig tree “withered away.”  It is difficult to see how anyone could think that this was just a symbolic or hyperbolic withering, so the fact that the tree literally withered becomes important in understanding the rest of the passage, because Jesus used this supernatural feat to tell his disciples that if they had faith, they would be able to do the same thing and even greater things: “If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,” it will be done.” What was done to the fig tree?  It was withered by the pronouncement of a curse upon it.  This statement makes no sense at all unless readers understand it to mean that if the disciples had faith, they would be able to do feats greater than making a fig tree wither; they would be able to move a mountain and cast it into the sea.  What contextual reason is there to think that Jesus did not mean this literally?  The specific, step-by-step language here is entirely different from just a hyperbolic statement that says, “Faith can move mountains.”  It is a statement that plainly said that those with faith could speak to a mountain, move it, and cast it into the sea.

The command to sell everything and give it to the poor is even harder to reconcile with Rihbany’s it-doesn’t-matter theory.

Matthew 19:16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”  17So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. 18He said to Him, “Which ones?”  Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” 20The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

If this was merely “hyperbolic” language, why didn’t the rich young man recognize it as such?  After all, he was not a tourist from another part of the world who just happened to be visiting in Israel at this time.  He was undoubtedly a native to that region, who was familiar with the language and customs of the people who lived there, so if Jesus’s command was simply some idiomatic exaggeration, why didn’t the young man recognize that it was? The fact that he went away sorrowful indicates that he understood exactly what Jesus had said and was unwilling to part with his wealth.

Christianity makes some tough demands of its adherents, and the truth is that few people who claim to be Christians obey the really hard commands.  They practice a smorgasbord Christianity by picking and choosing what they want to accept and rejecting what they don’t like.  Inerrantists like Turkel belong to an any-interpretation-will-do school.  By that, I mean that they are not at all interested in understanding the meaning of texts that contain inconsistencies, discrepancies, and absurdities; they just want some kind of interpretation that will “explain” the problems.  They will read a book like The Syrian Christ and right away seize it as a catch-all explanation of  problem texts in the Bible.  If what a text plainly says is so patently ridiculous that no one can believe it or makes demands that are contrary to human nature, they will say, “Well, this was just hyperbolic or symbolic or figurative,” but isn’t it strange that none of these inerrantists ever claim that the texts were just hyperbolic or symbolic when they told of Jesus walking on water or quelling a storm or raising Lazarus from the dead or rising from the dead himself?  No, these aren’t hyperbolic.  They are to be understood literally.

I have to ask why.  If biblical stories that told of resurrections from the dead literally meant what they said, then why should we think that another story that said that a person who has faith and does not doubt in his heart can move a mountain and cast it into the sea was just “hyperbolic”?  Both stories are so contrary to empirical observations that rational people should view them with extreme suspicion, but since one of them is so central to a religious faith-system, adherents of the religion will accept the one as fact and dismiss the other one as just “hyperbole.”

Be that as it may, Robert “No Links” Turkel is now taking the position that inconsistencies in biblical texts just don’t matter, and what is his authority?  Abraham Rihbany, a Lebanese Christian immigrant, whose book The Syrian Christ was just an apologetic effort of his time that tried to explain away problem texts by arguing that inconsistencies in the Bible just didn’t “matter” because the language was hyperbolic exaggerations that were not intended to be understood literally.  Hence, if there are inconsistencies in the biblical text, this really didn’t matter to the people who lived in biblical times and understood the idioms.

It is a pity that Abraham Rihbany and Robert “No Links” Turkel were not around when Jewish leaders were trying to decide which of their sacred books were “canonical.”  They could have spared the Jewish councils a lot of internal debating that took place when the selections were being made.  Contrary to what Rihbany claimed, Jewish leaders, at that time,  were very concerned over inconsistencies and discrepancies in books like Ezekiel.  They were, in fact, so concerned over discrepancies in Ezekiel that this book was almost rejected outright.  Only through the efforts of  Hananiah ben Hezekiah, a first-century AD rabbi, was this book spared the rejection that was accorded apocryphal and pseudepigraphic writings.  According to Jewish tradition, ben Hezekiah retired to his chamber with 300 jars of oil for his lamps and did not come out until he had harmonized to his satisfaction the discrepancies in Ezekiel that had been troubling his rabbinic cohorts.

I’m surprised that Turkel, who seems to consider himself an expert in ancient Near Eastern cultures and languages, would not be aware of the concern that Jewish leaders expressed over discrepancies in the books that they were considering for canonical selection.  If he had just done a little research in Jewish literature, he would have known about these concerns.  (Now watch him come back and claim that he knew about it.)  There are various Jewish websites that tell about Talmudic efforts to resolve these discrepancies.  The quotation below can be found at The Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism.

The Talmud records the following controversy concerning the book of Ezekiel.

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: In truth, that man, whose name is Hananiah ben Hezekiah, should be remembered for a blessing, for if it were not for him, the Book of Ezekiel would not have been included in the canon of the Bible, since its words contradict the Torah. What did he do? … He sat in the upper chambers and reconciled the contradictions. (adapted from the Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 13b). Parshat Emor and its Haftarah ostensibly deal with the laws which govern the lives of the Kohanim – the priests, who served as the religious leadership of the Jewish people in Temple times.

Parshat Emor sets down the standards which were to govern the lives of the priests both in their personal lives and in their ritual roles. Ezekiel’s prophecy concerns itself with the priesthood in the Temple in Messianic times. When we compare Ezekiel’s standards for the priesthood with those of the Torah, we note a number of differences which bothered the rabbis. On a number of issues, Ezekiel seems to mandate a standard which is stricter than that of the Torah.  Ezekiel’s rulings are more demanding with regard to the length of the priests’ hair (verse 20), marriage prohibitions (verse 22), and handling the dead (verse 25). Similarly, while the Torah prohibits participation in Temple rituals only to those Kohanim who have certain specific physical deformities, Ezekiel limits the future priestly role only to a select family of priests who have never played a role in idolatrous practices. Ezekiel is as concerned with the spiritual purity of the priests as he is with their physical state.

How do we explain the discrepancies between the laws and standards as found in the Torah and as we find them in Ezekiel’s prophecy? Can it be that Ezekiel was unaware of the Torah’s standards? It is possible that he wanted to create more exacting standards for Israel’s future religious leadership. He hoped that by elevating the regulations which govern their appearance, beliefs and behavior they would serve as more effective role models. Perhaps this explains why Ezekiel details the priests’  most important roles as teachers, judges, and legislators only after he has established the standards which will make them worthy of  these positions. (verse 23-24). Only when our leaders will be worthy of serving as role models will we be able to achieve God’s will on earth.

Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein, a teacher of Talmud and Midrash, gave a similar account of the Talmudic record of the controversy over discrepancies in Ezekiel.

The Babylonian Talmud records the following discussion of the discrepancies between the laws in this week’s haftarah and the laws in the Torah: “Thus said the Lord God: ‘In the first month, in the first day of the month you shall take a young bull of the herd without blemish and you shall offer it as a sin offering in the sanctuary.’ [The Talmud notes the discrepancy with the following question.] [You say it was a] ‘sin offering’, surely it was a ‘burnt offering’ [as was prescribed by the Torah for Rosh Hodesh – see Numbers 28:11]? Rabbi Yochanan [attempts to minimize this difficulty with the following response]: This discrepancy will be explained by Elijah in the future [since it is beyond our ability to reconcile these two verses]. Rabbi Ashi [offers another possible answer]: [the passage in Ezekiel refers to] the special dedication ceremony that was to be offered in the time of Ezra [when the Jews returned from Babylonia after the first exile when they rebuilt the Temple], just as it was offered in the time of Moses [when he consecrated the sanctuary in the desert]. [Similarly, this debate between these two sages from the period of the Talmud] was also taught by two sages from the period of the Mishnah: Rabbi Judah said: This passage will be interpreted by Elijah. Rabbi Yose said: ‘It refers to the dedication ceremony offered in the time of Ezra just as it was offered in the time of Moses.’ Rabbi Judah replied: ‘May your mind be at ease for you have set my mind at ease.’ (adapted from Menachot 45a)

Another Jewish account of this controversy:

Many sections in the text are confusing however, and their meaning has eluded both traditional commentators as well as contemporary scholars. Moreover, there are theological elements and halachic directives which contradict verses found in the Torah itself. Thus while Exodus 20:5 says that God will visit ” the guilt of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and fourth generations of those who reject me,” Ezekiel 18:4 maintains that “only the person who sins will die.” With respect to halacha, Leviticus 21:7 forbids the high priest to take a widow or divorcee as a wife, whereas Ezekiel 44:22 extends this prohibition to all priests. As a result of problems such as these, the Talmud records an attempt to remove the Book of Ezekiel from the Tanakh, and conceal it. Rabbi Hananiah ben Hezekiah is credited with reconciling all of the discrepancies and apparent contradictions, ensuring that the book would remain in the canon.

History just doesn’t support Turkel’s claim that inconsistencies in the biblical text didn’t matter to the people who lived in biblical times.  The controversy over accepting Ezekiel into the Jewish canon clearly shows that the leaders responsible for those choices were very concerned about textual inconsistencies.  Hananiah ben Hezekiah, who seemed to be the Gleason Archer of his day, did his reconciliation work before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, so he too would have been a person familiar with the customs and languages of that time.  If he thought that inconsistencies in biblical texts just didn’t matter, why did he spend so much time stewing over the book of Ezekiel?

Of Late, Turkel, citing his friend Glenn Miller, has tried to explain away biblical discrepancies by arguing that “Jewish exegetical methods” remove the discrepancy, but Jewish “exegetical methods” were nothing more than attempts to explain obvious problem texts that were embarrassing to the claim that the Jewish scriptures were divine in their origin.  In that sense, they were doing the same thing that the likes of Gleason Archer, William Arndt, and John Haley did and that Norman Geisler, Robert “No Links” Turkel, Glenn Miller, etc. are trying to do now, which is to distort the biblical text in attempts to show that the Bible does not mean what it plainly shows.  The Cambridge History of the Bible in chapters iv:12 and v:13 [volume I] has an excellent discussion of tactics that were used by Jewish rabbis and early church writers to make the Bible not mean what it clearly said, but the following section is particularly relevant to more recent attempts to remove biblical discrepancies by pleading that “Jewish exegetical methods” were being used by New Testament writers.

The exegesis of the primitive Christian Church was a direct and unself-conscious continuation of the type of exegesis practised by ancient Judaism in its later period.  This Jewish exegesis had a number of traditional methods and characteristics which can all be recognised without difficulty when they are reproduced in early Christian exegesis, and some of them can be identified in the New Testament itself. The most important function performed by exegesis in ancient Judaism was the interpretation of the Law (Torah).  The rabbinic schools set themselves the task of making the large collection of legal enactments, sagas, myths, stories, histories and cult material, which we call the Pentateuch, into a code of law capable of covering the whole life, inner as well as outer, cult  as well as conduct, of communities of Jews living under quite different circumstances and in a much later age.  In order to achieve this formidable task, they found it necessary to produce a complex and flexible technique of exegesis. Inconsistencies in the biblical text had to be explained away; errors, redundancies, absurdities, or anything shocking, indecent or unworthy of divine inspiration had to be removed. Every verse was regarded as potentially independent of others and capable of interpretation without any reference to its context. It was necessary largely to ignore the historical  background. Rules were made whereby the natural, historical sense of any  text could be evaded, and sometimes a quite unnatural, symbolic sense cold be read in. A cautious, Torah-directed form of allegory was born. Several examples of it can be found in the New Testament (R. P. C. Hanson, “Biblical Exegesis in the Early Church,” The Cambridge History of the Bible, Vol. 1, p. 412, emphasis added).

Turkel talks a great deal about “scholarship” when scholarship is on his side, but I doubt that he will think much of the scholarship I have just quoted, even though the author of the chapter from which this quotation was taken was a professor of historical and contemporary theology at the University of Manchester.  He, like the Jewish sources that I quoted above, recognized that Jewish leaders were well aware of “errors, redundancies, and absurdities” in their sacred literature, and so they developed an elaborate system of “exegesis” to explain them away.  In reality,  this “exegetical” system would have been more appropriately named if it had been called the Jewish “eisegetical” system, because it was not a system that tried to determine the meanings of disputed texts; it was a system that read into disputed texts meanings that would conveniently remove discrepancies.  The existence of this “exegetical” system, however,  does not remove biblical discrepancies unless it can be shown that those methods were literarily sound.  As I have said many times, the meaning of a text must be determined by the words used within that text, and if the words of a text clearly indicate that the writer meant X, no amount of “Jewish exegesis” can make it mean Y unless it can be demonstrated that Y was what the writer intended his words to convey.  Needless to say, most proponents of the “Jewish exegetical” theory make no attempt to prove the legitimacy of this “exegetical” method.  They simply say that the method was used, and so the discrepancy is then supposed to disappear on their mere say so.

Abraham Rihbany’s claim that inconsistencies in the Bible did not matter to those who spoke biblical languages and knew the customs of the time is itself inconsistent with the history of that era, because the mere development of a “Jewish exegetical method” is proof within itself that biblical inconsistencies did matter to those people.  If inconsistencies hadn’t mattered, no such system would have been developed. Furthermore, Robert “No Links” Turkel’s website is testimony to the fact that biblical inconsistencies matter a great deal to him.  If they don’t matter to him, why does he spend so much time trying to show that the inconsistencies don’t exist?

The Paper Shortage

Twice-Told Tales in a Time of Scarce
and Expensive Scroll Materials

or

Turkel Grabs Another Straw
by Farrell Till

Re-posted here by permission from Farrell Till.

Thank you Mr. Till!

For years, apologists like John Haley, William Arndt, R. A. Torrey, Gleason Archer, and Norman Geisler specialized in far-fetched, how-it-could-have-been interpretations to “explain” biblical discrepancies, but their methods seem to have lost favor with some modern would-be apologists, who have undoubtedly recognized that those methods have not been very convincing and have in some cases actually worked the opposite effect of that which was intended. I know one person, for example, who bought Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties with the intention of studying it so that he could become a competent defender of biblical inerrancy, but as he read it, he found the “explanations” to be so ridiculous that he wound up becoming an agnostic and then eventually an atheist, so instead of solidifying the faith of this reader, Archer‘s brand of apologetics resulted in a complete deconversion.

I can remember when would-be apologists would say things like, “You need to read Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” but we are now hearing this less and less. I can only surmise that this is because the gullible, to some degree at least, are becoming less gullible, and so even they can see the inadequacies of the old school of apologetics. Some former inerrantists have even come to admit that the Bible does contain errors, but they contend that these were not God’s fault. They were put there by the fallibility of his inspired writers, but the Bible is still in some higher sense the “inspired word of God.” Trying to get the advocates of this theory to explain why God would have even bothered to “inspire” biblical writers if the influence of his “inspiration” was not efficacious enough to protect them from error invariably becomes an exercise in futility, because there is no reasonable explanation to give. Likewise, getting them to explain how one can distinguish truth from error in an errant Bible is a lost cause, because the best that one can hope for from them is abstract mumbo jumbo that speaks of studying the Bible in toto and then making decisions accordingly, with prayerful consideration, of course, as if one’s deity could guide him through prayer to recognize truth from error but the direct “inspiration” of this same deity was unable to protect biblical writers from putting the errors into their books. It seems that “God” unnecessarily complicated things. Instead of eliminating error through the first process of inspiration, he allowed his chosen writers to make errors sometimes, and this necessitated “God’s” having to be on continual call to help those who pray for guidance in understanding the Bible to recognize truth from error. I discussed this view of biblical errancy in “It Doesn’t Matter?”, where an attempt to defend this position can be read in Mark McFall’s letter to the discussion section. I think that those who read McFall’s letter will see that he again failed to give any sensible defense of his position.

Within recent years, we have also seen a “new apologetics” that argues such absurdities as a biblical inconsistency or contradiction is not a discrepancy if the people of that time thought that such statements were true. Robert “No Links” Turkel, who parades under the pseudonym James Patrick Holding has become an advocate of this position. As I pointed out in “It Doesn’t Matter?” (linked above), he will often speak of “idioms,” “subtle nuances,” and “metaphorical” meanings in the original biblical texts (as if he were linguistically qualified to speak with any authority on the dead languages in which the Bible was written), which made the Bible at times not mean what it clearly says. My article just mentioned discussed in detail Turkel’s it-doesn’t-matter theory (meaning that biblical contradictions and inconsistencies don’t matter), which he has appropriated from Abraham Rihbany’s ma besay-il, i. e., it doesn’t matter, position that he expounded in The Syrian Christ. Rihbany’s idea seemed to be that if one biblical writer said that an event happened when Jesus was entering a city but another one said that it happened as he was leaving the city, this would not have been an inconsistency to the people of that culture, because they were more interested in knowing about the event that Jesus was involved in than they were in details about exactly where it happened. According to Rihbany’s rationalization, if a history book said that Custer’s battle at the Little Bighorn was fought in the territory of Nebraska, this would not be an error to people who were more concerned about what happened during this battle rather than where it happened. Such a position, of course, is absurd, because the interests of readers cannot make errors in a written document not be errors.

I need not comment anymore on this theory of biblical apologetics, because I rebutted it in detail in my article “It Doesn’t Matter?” (linked above). Those who read it will see that this theory is completely contrary to what the Bible teaches about the process by which prophets and apostles were inspired to report “all truth” and that it stands in direct opposition to cases in biblical times that show that the people of that era cared very much about inconsistencies and contradictions in their sacred writings. I will focus instead on another harebrained “apologetic” excuse that Turkel has dreamed up to “explain” biblical discrepancies. One of his latest is to argue that some biblical discrepancies resulted from incomplete details in biblical accounts but that this was only to be expected in documents that were written in times when paper was scarce. Well, there is certainly no doubt that “paper” was scarce in biblical times. It was, in fact, nonexistent, but I will assume that Turkel knew this and really meant “metaphorically” for paper to refer to whatever materials were available at the time to make scrolls. If that wasn’t what he meant, he can clarify his position for us. At any rate, Turkel seems to be arguing that a deity who could part the waters of a sea in order to let his “chosen ones” cross on dry land to escape an advancing army and who could send down “manna” from heaven to provide them with food in their desert wanderings and such like somehow could not provide his “inspired” writers with enough parchments and/or papyri to enable them to explain themselves fully, and so confusion resulted to a degree that has led some to think that there are discrepancies in the Bible when really the “discrepancies” wouldn’t be there if the “inspired ones” had only had access to sufficient “paper” to give more details.

As the syndicated humorist Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. I have seen Turkel resort to this quibble several times. An actual example of it can be found in Turkel’s attempt to explain the New Testament inconsistency concerning who carried Jesus’s cross to Golgotha. The synoptic accounts (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) say that Simon of Cyrene was “compelled” to carry the cross, but John 19:17 says that Jesus carried the cross for “himself.” At one point in Turkel’s explanation, he resorted to the usual apologetic “solution” to this problem: Jesus started out carrying the cross, but along the way, he became physically unable to continue carrying it, and so Simon of Cyrene was impressed to carry it the rest of the way.

There is ample evidence to support this explanation. Matthew says that Simon was met “as they were going out” (Matt. 27:32). Mark says Simon was just “passin’ by,” and they forced him to carry the cross (Mark 15:21). Luke says Simon was drafted “as they led (Jesus) away.” (Luke 23:26) [sic] Finally, it is well-established that it was the custom of the Romans to have the prisoner carry his own cross, and that they would have no compunction about forcing bystanders to do whatever they pleased.

The obvious implication is that Simon was drafted at some point after the procession to Golgotha began, probably from among the massive crowd of Passover pilgrims, and the scenario above about John gives us a reasonable explanation for him not mentioning Simon: If John stayed behind to plead with the high priest, the last thing we [sic] would have seen was Jesus leaving the area, carrying the cross. (It is McDowell’s title, however, that is misleading in this regard; the cited OT type applicable to Jesus refers to one who is weak, and becomes a reproach to others. This probably is better applied to Jesus’ general condition throughout the trip to Golgotha, and during the Crucifixion, rather than a specific episode of falling under the cross.)

I am not going to spend a lot of time discussing this traditional “explanation” of the discrepancy, because my purpose is to show the absurdity of Turkel’s “paper-shortage” approach to “solving” biblical discrepancies. However, I think a few comments are in order. Turkel said that “(t)he obvious implication is that Simon was drafted at some point after the procession to Golgotha began” (emphasis added), but Luke clearly said that Simon was drafted as the procession was beginning.

Luke 23:26 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.

This certainly doesn’t sound as if Jesus carried the cross “halfway” (which, as we will see below, Turkel claimed) and then collapsed so that it was necessary to draft someone else to carry the cross. If Jesus collapsed, then, according to Luke, he would have done so “as [the soldiers] led him away.” How correct would it be to say that Jesus “bore the cross for himself to Golgatha” if in reality he had collapsed “as they were leading him away,” so that Simon of Cyrene was actually the one who carried the cross to Golgotha?

Young’s Literal Translation of this verse is, to say the least, very interesting.

And as they led him away, having taken hold on Simon, a certain Cyrenian, coming from the field, they put on him the cross, to bear it behind Jesus.

Young was a stickler for literalism in his translation, so his use of the perfect participle “having taken hold” indicates his understanding that this text was saying that as they were leading Jesus away, the Romans had already impressed Simon into service. Both Hendrickson’s literal and marginal translations also use the same perfect participle to indicate when Simon was impressed into service. This is a problem in the traditional “solution” that could hardly be explained by Turkel’s “paper-shortage” theory, because no significant difference in the space that would be used would be affected to any appreciable degree by a writer’s choice of verb tenses.

One thing about Turkel‘s apologetics is that he can never be accused of consistency. Whatever “explanation” comes to mind when he is “refuting” humanist or skeptical examples of discrepancy in the Bible is the one that he will use regardless of what he may have said elsewhere on the same subject. Of course, inconsistency shouldn’t be surprising in the writing of an amateur apologist who thinks that inconsistencies in the Bible aren’t discrepancies, and inconsistency is what we find in Turkel’s “apologetics.” Before the quotation above, he had argued earlier in the same article that John stayed behind to plead with the high priest, an assumption that he made from John 18:15, which said only that another disciple “was known to the high priest.” Turkel assumes that this other disciple was “John.”

John just says Jesus carried His cross, but doesn’t say that no one else helped. John may not have known of Simon’s assistance; since he was known to the high priest (John 18:15)[,] he may have tried to use his acquaintance with the high priest to get Jesus released, and thus missed the trip to Golgotha….

If John stayed behind to plead with the high priest, the last thing we [sic] would have seen was Jesus leaving the area, carrying the cross.

Hence, Turkel was arguing that John didn’t mention that Simon carried the cross part of the way, because he was pleading with the high priest, and so the last thing that he saw was Jesus leaving the area carrying the cross. Hence, Turkel speculates that John just didn’t know that Simon had been impressed somewhere along the way to carry the cross. That anyone would resort to such an “explanation” as this merely underscores the ridiculous extremes that would-be “apologists” are willing to go in order to deny that discrepancies are in the Bible. Just look at the problems in this John-didn’t-know “explanation.”

1. That the “other disciple,” who may or may not have been John, stayed behind to “plead with the high priest” is a crass assumption, because John 18:15 says only that this “other disciple” was “known to the high priest.” The text nowhere says that this “other disciple” stayed behind to plead with the high priest after Jesus was taken away.

2. After he had been questioned by the high priest and his council, Jesus was led away to the Praetorium to appear before Pilate, at which time Pilate came out to meet them and told them to take Jesus and judge him themselves (John 18:28-31). At this time, it was still “early” in the day (John 18:28).

3. The Jews rejected Pilate’s suggestion on the grounds that it was not lawful for them to put a man to death (v:31).

4. Pilate then went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus before him for interrogation (vs:33-38).

5. After this interrogation, Pilate went out again to tell the Jews that he could find no fault in Jesus and to ask them what prisoner should be released to them in commemoration of the Passover (vs:38-40).

6. When the Jews screamed for Barabbas to be released to them, Pilate ordered Jesus to be scourged, after which the soldiers made a crown of thorns, put it on Jesus’s head, dressed him in a purple garment, and then mocked him and struck him with their hands (John 19:1-3).

7. Pilate then went before the Jews again and repeated that he could find no fault with Jesus, and brought him out to let the Jews witness his humiliation (v:5).

Are we to assume that through all of this, which would have required a considerable passage of time, John was still back at the home of the high priest pleading on behalf of Jesus? That requires more credulity than any reasonable person could muster, besides the fact that the biblical text lends no support to it, for if “John” was at the home of the high priest and could therefore report only what he had witnessed, how was he able to report the events numbered 1 through 7 above? And what about what was said in the verse below?

John 19:5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”

Turkel’s quibble would require us to believe that the chief priests were present at this time, which was before Jesus was led away to be crucified, but that the high priest was not with them because he was back at his home listening to John plead on Jesus’s behalf.

After the chief priests had yelled for Jesus to be crucified, Pilate took Jesus back into the Praetorium for further interrogation, after which he brought Jesus out to the judgment seat and tried again to reason with the Jews, but the chief priests (absent the high priest?) cried out again to demand Jesus’s crucifixion (v:15), at which time Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified. At this time, it was the “sixth hour” (v:14), so Turkel apparently expects reasonable people to believe that John had stayed behind “early” in the morning (18:25) to plead on Jesus’s behalf before the high priest and that the high priest had sat to listen to John’s pleading through at least the sixth hour of the day. Only someone with a very gullible mind could accept such an unlikely scenario, but there are many who read Turkel‘s absurd speculations and swallow them hook, line, and sinker. That is a sad commentary on the critical skills of Turkel‘s choir members. Anyone with that kind of mindset is going to believe what he wants to believe no matter how much evidence may clearly indicate that his belief is wrong.

Aside from this, there is the monkey wrench that divine “inspiration” throws into Turkel’s apparent belief that a person who was inspired of God to write a book was not able to include information that he had not experienced in person. How does Turkel explain the many passages of scripture in which writers reported things that they had not witnessed personally? Was the apostle John present on the scene, for example, when the Jews sent representatives to John the Baptist to ask him if he was the Christ (John 1:19-23)? At that time, Jesus had not yet selected his apostles, so if the apostle John was not present to witness this exchange between John the Baptist and the Jewish emissaries, how did he know what they asked and what John the Baptist had said in reply? Furthermore, if the apostle John was back at the home of the high priest pleading on Jesus’s behalf and therefore could not report what he didn‘t personally see, how did he know what had happened between 18:28 and the time that Turkel surmises that John finally made it to the crucifixion scene, apparently somewhere midway in chapter 19? All of the events listed above (Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus, the scourging, the mocking, etc.) happened during that interval, when Turkel speculates that the apostle John wasn’t present, so how did John know that they had happened? There are more holes in this silly quibble than one could ever find in a sieve.

At any rate, Turkel’s position in the article cited and quoted above was that John didn’t tell about the role of Simon of Cyrene in carrying the cross because he didn’t know anything about it, yet in another article that attempted to resolve this problem, Turkel took a different approach, which will bring us to his “paper-shortage” apologetics. Joseph Sommer, the skeptic whom Turkel was  ‘answering,’ identified the problem.

Describing Jesus being led to his execution, John 19:17 maintains that Jesus carried his own cross. In contradistinction, Mark 15:21-23 claims that a man called Simon carried Jesus’ cross to the crucifixion site.

Did Turkel reply this time by arguing that John didn’t mention Simon of Cyrene because he didn’t know anything about Simon’s participation in the journey to Golgotha because he was at the home of the high priest pleading on Jesus‘s behalf? He did not. He took the traditional position that Jesus had carried the cross “halfway,” at which time Simon was pressed into service, and John omitted the details about Simon because “paper was expensive.”

Duh oh! If Simon picked it up halfway, then obviously Jesus did carry his own cross part of the way. Hello? Joe is demanding complete detail-reportage from people who lived in an era when paper was expensive and there was neither room nor call for including a detail unless you had a point to make. John had that point: his picture is of Jesus as the Son of God dependent on no man. He omits the Simon episode purposely.

Duh, oh! Hello? If John’s “point” was that Jesus was “dependent on no man,” then John must have intentionally tried to present a false point, because the synoptic accounts clearly state that Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’s cross to Golgotha. What the synoptics said about this must be true; otherwise, the synoptic writers reported something that didn’t happen, and I don‘t think that even Turkel would want to admit that. If Simon did carry the cross (only partway, of course) because Jesus could carry it no farther, then, contrary to the “picture” that Turkel says “John” was presenting, Jesus was dependent on others. Why, then, did “John” (so Turkel says) “purposely” leave out a detail that would have shown that Jesus was dependent on others? Did “John” intentionally present a false “picture” of Jesus? Maybe Turkel can tell us.

Anyway, Turkel was arguing here that John purposely omitted the part about Simon because “paper” was just too expensive to include this detail, whereas he had argued in another article (quoted above) that John didn’t mention Simon’s part in the journey to Golgotha because he didn’t know anything about it (even though he was divinely “inspired” to write his account of the life of Jesus). Although Turkel will often say one thing in an article and then something completely contradictory in another, he seems to be committed to defending some biblical inconsistencies on the grounds that a scarcity of “paper” in biblical times required writers to omit details that to modern readers leave the impression of inconsistency. In “Crimes by Omission?” he argued that there were not just “compositional constraints” on what details a gospel writer could select from the life of Jesus but also economic considerations that restrained them from telling “the rest of the story.”

First of all, you are limited to using only about 20 sheets of paper. What, you say? No more than that? Sorry. Office Depot won’t be open for another 1900 years, and neither will WalMart [sic], or Eckerd’s, or any other place you are thinking of buying paper. You’re not going to be writing on paper. You’ll be writing on a scroll, and scrolls are both expensive and go no larger than a certain size. As Gamble reports in Books and Readers in the Early Church [44-50, 266]….

Something that has always puzzled me about Turkel is that he seems completely unable to recognize when he contradicts himself even from one paragraph to the next. He said above that those “expensive” scrolls were “no larger than a certain size,” but in citing what Gamble said about the length of ancient scrolls, Turkel said this in his very next paragraphs (emphasis added).

Scrolls could be fashioned to any length desired, but practically speaking, the mean length was seven to ten meters. “A roll of ten to eleven meters was too cumbersome for the reader to handle… authors of long new works made their own divisions by taking the customary length of rolls into account.”

A roll of papyrus of typical quality “cost the equivalent of one or two days’ wages, and it could run as high as what the labourer would earn in five or six days…”

So Gamble recognized something that is common knowledge among those who have done any reading at all on the subject of ancient manuscripts: scrolls could be made any length necessary by simply stitching or gluing together pieces of parchment or papyus. The Samaritan Pentateuch, which contained all five of the “books of Moses,” was 60 feet in length (William E. Barton, The Samaritan Messiah: Further Comment of the Samaritan High Priest, Chicago, Open Court Publishing Company, 1907, p. 534). The Isaiah scroll, discovered at Qumran, is 24 feet in length and is made of 17 leather sheets sewn together with linen thread, so if the “compositional constraints,” which Turkel talks about with routine regularity now, kept gospel writers from giving complete details in their narrations of events in the life of Jesus, one wonders how the scribes who copied the much longer book of Isaiah on a scroll were able to pull off that feat, and I have to wonder if Turkel is aware that the book of Isaiah is much longer than the gospel of John. If “Isaiah” could have found enough scroll space to write his book, one chapter of which (37) repeated verbatim what was recorded in 2 Kings 19, why wasn’t “John” able to find scroll materials that would have enabled him to give all of the details necessary to make his gospel consistent with the others?

Another website, which discussed archaeological discoveries that dispute the claims of skeptics who argue that writing did not exist in the time of Moses, contains a section that discussed the types of writing materials that were available in biblical times. It pointed out the following about materials used to make scrolls (emphasis added).

d. leather . The Jewish Talmud specifically required that the Scriptures should be copied on the skins of animals, on leather. It is most certain, that the Old Testament was written on leather. Rolls or Scrolls were made by sewing skins together that were from 3 to 100 feet or more in length.

e. Papyrus . It is almost certain that the New Testament was written on papyrus because it was the most important writing material at that time. Papyrus is made by shaving thin sections of the papyrus reed into strips, soaking them in several baths of water, and then overlapping them to form sheets. One layer of the strips was laid cross ways to the first. Then these were put in a press that they might adhere to each other. The sheets were made 6-15 inches high and 3-9 inches wide, pasted together, forming rolls that were usually 30 feet long, though one was found to be 144 feet in length. Our English word “paper” comes from the Greek word for papyrus.

One would think that a 30-foot papyrus scroll would have been long enough for “John” or “Matthew” or any of the gospel writers to give sufficient details in their narrations to have provided readers with enough clarity to prevent the disputes that have arisen over inconsistencies in parallel accounts, such as the one about who carried the cross of Jesus to Golgotha, but the information available on the subject of scrolls clearly tells us that if a scroll of typical length (30 feet) wasn’t long enough to do the job, it could have been made longer by just pasting on more sections of papyrus, but Turkel ignores this fact about papyrus scrolls and grabs a straw to try to justify inconsistencies in the biblical text.

Now maybe if you are wealthy, or know someone who is, you can get another scroll and do a “Life of Jesus, Part 2”, [sic] perhaps a shorter half. But if you do, bear in mind that generations beyond you (and how can you anticipate WalMart [sic], or the printing press?), in order to preserve your work, will have to also buy [sic] two scrolls. If you want your work to get out to people, that’s not a very smart move. Your work is going to cost more to keep around than a work with one scroll. So you’d better plan carefully what you want to put on those scrolls. By the way, writing is cumbersome and difficult with comfortable chairs and writings [sic] desks not in the picture — unless, again, you are very wealthy. So better keep it simple.

Turkel seemed to think that decisions about what to put onto the scrolls and how long to make them were left entirely to the writers. Whatever happened to “inspiration,” and what was the purpose of whatever brand of “inspiration” that Turkel believes in if it wasn’t intended to guide the writers into reporting truth and not error? Maybe Turkel can also explain why the “Holy Spirit”–who was presumably guiding “John” and the other chosen ones into “all truth” (John 16:13)–could not have “anticipated” Wal-Mart or the printing press? Is Turkel implying that the Holy one was unable to know what the future held, or is this just more of his say-anything-and-the-gullible-will-accept-it approach to “apologetics.” Pardon me for thinking the latter.

As for the difficulty of writing on scrolls when “comfortable chairs and writings [sic] desks were not in the picture,” writing on scrolls wouldn’t have been so difficult for someone sitting at a table, would it? Tables were in the picture in those days, weren’t they? If not, how could the Bible, which referred to tables several times, have mentioned something that was nonexistent? Well, I will have to take that question back, because it implies a bad argument. The Bible mentioned several nonexistent things, such as, gods, angels, cherubim, demons, heaven, hell, etc., so reporting the nonexistent is not at all unusual for the Bible. At any rate, Turkel very fancifully speculates that “John” and other biblical writers were forced to be confusingly brief at times because they just couldn’t afford enough parchments or papyri to give enough details to prevent ambiguity and “apparent” inconsistencies. This quibble leaves much to be asked about why an omniscient, omnipotent deity, who often intervened, as mentioned above, to perform all kinds of miracles on behalf of his chosen ones, somehow seemed powerless to scrounge up enough scroll materials to enable his “inspired” ones to write clear and coherent accounts of whatever they were recording, and the quibble is certainly inconsistent with the realities of needless repetitions and parallel reporting in the Bible, which wasted far more scarce and precious scroll space than what it would have taken “John” to report that Jesus carried his cross partway after which Simon of Cyrene took over. If writing materials were so scarce and “expensive” in biblical times that brevity was necessitated, how does Turkel explain the following unnecessary usage of scroll materials?

Verbatim repetition of long passages: The 38 verses in Isaiah 37 are the same as the 37 verses in 2 Kings 19. They differ in the number of verses only because verses 15 and 16 in Isaiah 37 were combined into just one verse in 2 Kings 19. Now if scroll materials were so scarce and “expensive,” why didn’t Yahweh tell either “Isaiah” or the author(s) of 2 Kings that one of them would not have to use precious scroll space to record this passage because another “inspired” writer had already recorded it? Does Turkel ever wonder about things like this? Did he even know that these identical biblical passages exist?

This is not the only example of verbatim repetition in the Bible. Psalm 18:2-50 and 2 Samuel 22:2-51 are also the same, as are Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 24:18-20 through 2 Kings 25 (with just very minor variations). Why would writers inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity have wasted scarce, precious scroll materials to repeat verbatim up to 48 verses of what other inspired authors had written? If such repetition as this was so often “inspired,” it does seem that the omni-max one could have inspired “John” to waste just a little bit of space to write 19:17 in a way that would have been in agreement with the synoptic accounts of the same event. Just look how easy that would have been.

Then Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, who carried the cross by himself until he could no longer bear it, and then they compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry it on to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

There are only 53 words in this rewritten version, compared to the 38 in “John’s” account.

Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

There is only one more line in the rewritten version, which, if Turkel’s traditional interpretation of John 19:17 is right, would have removed all doubt about what had happened. Does he seriously expect reasonable people to believe that “John” just wasn’t able to be this explicit because of “compositional constraints” caused by the scarcity and cost of scroll materials in those days? If Turkel’s speculation is true, then that doesn’t say very much about the importance that his god puts on human souls. The “inspired word” claims that “God” wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3), but according to Turkel, “God” didn’t want this if it was going to necessitate the use of space on costly and scarce scroll materials.

Don’t any of Turkel’s choir members ever take the time to analyze critically his harebrained “explanations” of biblical discrepancies?

Before and after repetition: There is even an example of a story being told twice in different books, so that one who accepts the biblical inerrancy doctrine must believe that the incident happened both before Joshua died and then after he was dead. This story was told first in the middle of a chapter where Joshua was dividing the conquered lands among the tribes of Israel.

Joshua 15:15 15 Then he [Caleb] went up from there to the inhabitants of Debir (formerly the name of Debir was Kirjath Sepher). 16And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give Achsah my daughter as wife.” 17 So Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife. 18 Now it was so, when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” 19 She answered, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.” So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

At this time, Joshua was still alive, because he was the one in charge of the distribution of the conquered lands. The death of Joshua was recorded at the very end of this book (Josh. 24:29-33), and the next book (Judges) began with a reminder that Joshua was dead.

Judges 1:1 Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked Yahweh, saying, “Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?” 2 And Yahweh said, “Judah shall go up. Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand.”

So at the time of Othniel‘s conquest of Debir [Kirjath Sepher], Joshua was still alive, but presumably the incident also happened after he was dead.

Judges 1:11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. (The name of Debir was formerly Kirjath Sepher.) 12 Then Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.” 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. 14 Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” 15 So she said to him, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

I don’t know what track Turkel may take to try to explain how Joshua could have been both alive and dead when this incident happened, but some biblicists will argue that because the book of Judges opened with a notice that Joshua was dead wouldn’t necessarily mean that everything recorded in this book happened after Joshua’s death. I won’t dwell long on this quibble, because the needless repetition of the tale is the point most pertinent to the thesis of this article, but a few comments would be in order. If one will go back and read Judges 1:1, he will see that it says that “after the death of Joshua,” the Israelites asked Yahweh (as they routinely did in those days) who should go up first against the Canaanites, and Yahweh’s answer was that Judah should go up. The verses that follow then recorded exploits of the tribe of Judah in its conquest after Yahweh had told Judah to go up, and verses 11 through 15, which told the tale of Caleb’s gift of “the upper and lower springs” to his daughter, is right in the middle of the writer’s account of the cities and lands that the Judahites conquered, so clearly the author of Judges was saying that the incident involving Caleb’s daughter had happened at that time. However, if one will check Joshua 15, he will see that this entire chapter is concerned with land that Joshua distributed to the tribes of Israel, and “the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families,” was reported in the first 20 verses of Joshua‘s land distribution. The insertion of the story of Caleb’s gift to his daughter in this section surely meant that the author of Joshua understood that the incident had happened while Joshua was still alive. Hence, biblical inerrantists are left with the problem of explaining how the same incident could have happened while Joshua was both alive and dead.

Never underestimate the imagination of determined biblicists. They will always find some way to “explain” a problem like this, but for the sake of argument, let’s just suppose that there is some way to explain it. Turkel, the “paper-shortage” apologist, would still be left with the problem of explaining why, in a time when the scarcity and expense of scroll materials necessitated “compositional constraints,” Yahweh would have “inspired” his chosen writers to waste space telling a rather insignificant tale like this twice. The American author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a collection of short stories entitled Twice-Told Tales. Maybe Yahweh inspired him to write it.

Speaking of “twice-told tales,” I could fill several pages with examples of the same tales that were told twice in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. To illustrate Yahweh’s “inspired” repetitions in a time when scroll materials were scarce and expensive, I will quote just a few examples. The two accounts of Rehoboam’s refusal to lighten the tax burden that had been imposed by Solomon are practically identical.

1 Kings 12:1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. 2 So it happened, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard it (he was still in Egypt, for he had fled from the presence of King Solomon and had been dwelling in Egypt), 3 that they sent and called him. Then Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you. 5 So he said to them, “Depart for three days, then come back to me.” And the people departed. 6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?” 7 And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. 9 And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! 11 And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!'”

12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had directed, saying, “Come back to me the third day.” 13 Then the king answered the people roughly, and rejected the advice which the elders had given him; 14 and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!” 15 So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from Yahweh, that He might fulfill His word, which Yahweh had spoken by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

16 Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying:”What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David!” So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel w ho dwelt in the cities of Judah.

18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of the revenue; but all Israel stoned him with stones, and he died. Therefore King Rehoboam mounted his chariot in haste to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

2 Chronicles 10:1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. 2 So it happened, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard it (he was in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of King Solomon), that Jeroboam returned from Egypt. 3 Then they sent for him and c alled him. And Jeroboam and all Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” 5 So he said to them, “Come back to me after three days.” And the people departed. 6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, saying, “How do you advise me to answer these people?” 7 And they spoke to him, saying, “If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. 9 And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to the people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! 11 And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’”

12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had directed, saying, “Come back to me the third day.” 13 Then the king answered them roughly. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, 14 and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!” 15 So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from God, that the LORD might fulfill His word, which He had spoken by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

16 Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying: “What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. Every man to your tents, O Israel! Now see to your own house, O David!” So all Israel departed to their tents. 17But Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah.

18 Then King Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was in charge of revenue; but the children of Israel stoned him with stones, and he died. Therefore King Rehoboam mounted his chariot in haste to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

The variations in these two accounts are so minimal that careful scrutiny is required to spot them. The account in 1 Kings 11, for example, says that when Rehoboam went to Shechem to be crowned Solomon’s successor, “they [opponents of Rehoboam] sent [to Egypt] and called him [Jeroboam],” whereas the other account says that “Jeroboam returned from Egypt.” Except for a couple of minor variations like this, the two accounts are identical, and they were “inspired” by Yahweh in a time when scroll materials were scarce and expensive. Yahweh could apparently “inspire” his chosen writers to tell a story like this twice, but for some reason, he couldn’t guide “John” to use just an extra inch or so of writing space to tell his readers that Jesus carried the cross until he collapsed and then Simon of Cyrene carried it on to Golgotha. This is the kind of silliness that inerrantists must resort to in order to “explain” obvious discrepancies in the Bible, because such a quibble doesn‘t explain why “Matthew, Mark,” and “Luke” could provide this detail in a time of scarce and expensive scroll materials, but “John” couldn‘t. If scroll material was too scarce and expensive for “John” to record this detail, why wouldn‘t it have been too expensive for the others to record it?

I will truncate my next examples, but if readers will check the biblical texts, they will see that the rest of these stories, omitted by the ellipses […] at the end of the texts, is almost identical in both versions of the stories. Even though there are at times slight variations, both accounts tell the same stories.

1 Samuel 31:1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. 3 The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armorbearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. 5 And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. 6 So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day….

1 Chronicles 10:1 1Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. 3 The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armorbearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and abuse me.” But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. 5 And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died. 6So Saul and his three sons died, and all his house died together….

The twice-told tale of Manasseh‘s evil reign.

2 Kings 21:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 And he did evil in the sight of Yahweh, according to the abominations of the nations whom Yahweh had cast out before the children of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 He also built altars in the house of Yahweh, of which Yahweh had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of Yahweh. 6 Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums….

2 Chronicles 33:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2 But he did evil in the sight of Yahweh, according to the abominations of the nations whom Yahweh had cast out before the children of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 He also built altars in the house of Yahweh, of which Yahweh had said, “In Jerusalem shall My name be forever.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of Yahweh. 6 Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists….

In order to accept Turkel’s “paper-shortage” theory, one would have to believe that Yahweh somehow deemed it necessary in a time of scarce and expensive scroll materials to inspire writers to tell the same stories twice, with practically no variations, but for some reason he decided not to provide enough space to his writers chosen to tell the story of his son’s crucifixion for them to record details in a manner that would have eliminated disputes about disharmony in the accounts.

Partial repetitions: In addition to almost verbatim repetitions, the Bible contains numerous examples of passages that repeat the same expressions or ideas, as if saying it once were not enough for readers to understand what was being said. In Joshua 13:1, for example, the “inspired” writer somehow thought it necessary to say twice that Joshua was old and advanced in years.

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And Yahweh said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.

For reasons known only to Turkel, the chief advocate of the “paper-shortage” theory, Yahweh somehow thought it was necessary for his “inspired” one to waste precious scroll space to tell his readers twice that Joshua was old and advanced in years. Yahweh would do this, but for reasons also known only to Turkel, would not let “John” report that Jesus carried the cross partway to Golgotha before Simon of Cyrene carried it the rest of the way. Recording both details in John 19:17 would have taken no more space than was used to say twice in Joshua 13:1 that Joshua was old and advanced in years.

In narrating a single story, the author(s) of Judges found it necessary to tell readers twice that this tale took place in the days when there was no king over Israel.

Judges 18:1 And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote mountains of Ephraim.

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

A curious thing about this tale of the rape and slaughter of the Levite’s concubine is that the writer(s) of Judges had thought it necessary to say just seven verses before the narration of the story began that there was no king in Israel in those days.

Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Hey, I get the idea: There was no king in Israel in those days. I suppose the writer(s) thought, for some unknown reason, that it was vitally important to let readers know that there was no king in Israel in those days, but it does seem strange that Yahweh would have “inspired” such repetition as this but then would inspire his chosen writers to leave out important details in other parts of his revelation to the world in order to save scroll space. If Yahweh had just inspired “John” to take an inch or two of extra linear space in his scroll to add that Jesus carried the cross until he collapsed, John 19:17 would never have become the issue that it now is.

In Leviticus 18, the writer(s) declared laws against incestuous offenses and then turned around just two chapters later and repeated many of the same laws.

Leviticus 18:6 ‘None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am theYahweh. 7 The nakedness of your father or the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 The nakedness of your father’s wife you shall not uncover; it is your father’s nakedness. 9 The nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere, their nakedness you shall not uncover. 10 The nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for theirs is your own nakedness. 11 The nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, begotten by your fathe–she is your sister–you shall not uncover her nakedness. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is near of kin to your father. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is near of kin to your mother. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother. You shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-la–she is your son’s wife–you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, nor shall you take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness. They are near of kin to her. It is wickedness. 18Nor shall you take a woman as a rival to her sister, to uncover her nakedness while the other is alive.

Leviticus 20:10 ‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. 11 The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. 14 If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you. 15 If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. 17 ‘If a man takes his sister, his father’s daughter or his mother’s daughter, and sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a wicked thing. And they shall be cut off in the sight of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness. He shall bear his guilt. 18 If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people. 19 ‘You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister nor of your father’s sister, for that would uncover his near of kin. They shall bear their guilt. 20If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness. They shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. 21If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They shall be childless.

There are variations in wording, of course, and chapter 20 includes laws against sexual intercourse during the female’s menstrual cycle, which were not in chapter 18, but it does seem that an omniscient, omnipotent deity could have guided his “inspired” one(s) to incorporate both versions of these laws into either chapter 18 or 20 so that in a time of scarce and expensive scroll materials, only one chapter on incestuous relationships would have been written. Just think of the cost and space that could have been saved. Of course, if the writer(s) was/were not inspired and the similarities of these two passages resulted from a patchwork method of putting “God’s word” together from different writers and sources, that would explain the repetition more sensibly than thinking that the omni-one was responsible for the unnecessary repetition in a time of scarce and expensive writing materials, but, nah, that explanation won’t work, because the Bible is the “inspired, inerrant word of God,” isn’t it? And who are we to question Yahweh’s ways?

Time would fail me if I should try to discuss all of the biblical texts where space was wasted on genealogical data and then wasted again repeating the same data or where Yahweh “inspired” his chosen ones to give minute details, chapter after chapter, on how to build a tent and make the furniture that was to go into it (Exodus 26-39). No rational person can wade through such tedious, repetitious trivia as this and then believe that parallel accounts in the New Testament sometimes appear inconsistent because “paper” was scarce and expensive in those days, so the “inspired ones” chose to leave out certain details that would have harmonized the accounts if they had told all. This is nothing more than another desperate attempt by an amateur apologist to rationalize obvious discrepancies and inconsistencies in the Bible.

This paper-shortage theory would have us believe that a god who had spared no expense in commanding the Israelites to build a tabernacle to his vanity, in which the furniture was overlaid with pure gold and accessories cast of pure gold (Ex. 25-31), and later a temple even more elaborate, was so much of a tightwad that he would not provide his inspired writers with adequate scroll materials to write complete details of what they were reporting. Down through the years, the efforts of biblicists to defend the inerrancy of the Bible have failed so miserably that they have been forced to abandon their methods in favor of new ones. The paper-shortage theory is one of the latest, and as any reasonable person can see, it is even more ridiculous than the how-it-could-have-been scenarios of John Haley, Gleason Archer, and such like.

The Bible is obviously errant. The “new apologists” should just accept the obvious and get over it.

Traditional Biblical Inerrancy Part Two

What the Bible Says about Inspiration
by Farrell Till

Re-posted here by permission from Farrell Till.

Thank you Mr. Till!

In Part One of this series, I discussed the old school of fundamentalism, which taught that the Bible was the verbally inspired word of God, and the logic in their position as opposed to the illogical views of those who advocate a “high view of inspiration,” which holds that “God” inspired only the ideas in the Bible. In this second article, I will show that the Bible itself supports those who teach the verbal view of inspiration.

The Old Testament prophets often claimed that they were speaking the “words of Yahweh.” In Isaiah 51:16, the prophet had Yahweh saying to him, “I have put my words in your mouth.” The same claim was made in Jeremiah 1:9, “Then Yahweh put forth his hand, and touched my mouth, and Yahweh said to me, Behold I have put my words into your mouth.” Jeremiah had opened his book with the claim that the “word of Yahweh came to [him], saying…” (1:4), and thereafter he frequently claimed that what he was saying were the “words of Yahweh.”

“The word of Yahweh came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem…” (2:1).

“The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying, Stand in the gate of Yahweh’s house and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of Yahweh all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship Yahweh” (7:1-2).

“Hear you the word that Yahweh speaks to you, O house of Israel” (10:1).

“The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying, Hear the words of this covenant…” (11:1).

“The word of Yahweh that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought…” (14:1).

There are many other passages in Jeremiah that I could cite where he prefaced a change of subject with the claim that this was the “word of Yahweh” that had come to him. In 25:3, he even said that for 23 years the word of Yahweh had come to him and that he had spoken them to the people. Scattered throughout his book are dozens of statements that he began with, “Thus says Yahweh,” so obviously he was not claiming that Yahweh had given him just the “ideas” that he was preaching but that Yahweh had given him the very words that he spoke. In this respect, Jeremiah was no different from the other prophets, because they repeatedly claimed that what they were preaching was the “word of Yahweh” that had come to them (Ezek. 6:1; 7:1; 12:1; 13:1; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1; 18:1; etc., etc., etc.). Hosea claimed that the “word of Yahweh” had come to him (1:1), and so did Joel (1:1), and so did Jonah (1:1), and so did Micah (1:1), etc., etc., etc. Like Jeremiah and Isaiah, their writings were filled with the expression “thus says Yahweh,” followed by statements of what Yahweh had said. It seems absurd to me to think that these prophets thought that they were only expressing “ideas” that Yahweh had given to them rather than the very words that they thought their god had told them to speak.

In addition to hundreds of passages in the Old Testament that refer to the “word of Yahweh” coming to so and so and claims of “thus says Yahweh,” there are also claims that the words that they wrote were the words of Yahweh.

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of Yahweh and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words that Yahweh has spoken we will do.”

Moses told the people what he called the “words of Yahweh,” and the people accepted them as “all the words Yahweh has spoken.” Then the text claims that Moses wrote down the words of Yahweh.

4 And Moses wrote down all the words of Yahweh. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to Yahweh. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that Yahweh has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Moses wrote down what the Exodus writer claimed were the “words of Yahweh,” so that later when he read what he had written, the people understood that they had heard him read not the “ideas” of Yahweh but the WORDS of Yahweh. Jeremiah, whose claim that Yahweh touched his mouth and put his words into the prophet’s mouth we have already noticed, later claimed that he wrote down the words that Yahweh had spoken to him: “The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh: Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel: ‘Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you’ (30:1-2). Later, Jeremiah spoke more specifically about the words of Yahweh that he wrote down.

36:1 In the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from Yahweh: 2 Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. 3 It may be that when the house of Judah hears of all the disasters that I intend to do to them, all of them may turn from their evil ways, so that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. 4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at Jeremiah’s dictation all the words of Yahweh that he had spoken to him. 5 And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am prevented from entering the house of Yahweh; 6 so you go yourself, and on a fast day in the hearing of the people in the Lord’s house you shall read the words of Yahweh from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the people of Judah who come up from their towns. 7 It may be that their plea will come before Yahweh, and that all of them will turn from their evil ways, for great is the anger and wrath that Yahweh has pronounced against this people.” 8 And Baruch son of Neriah did all that the prophet Jeremiah ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of Yahweh in the Lord’s house.

So Jeremiah claimed that “the word of Yahweh” came to him and commanded him to write the words of Yahweh on a scroll. In response, Jeremiah called for the scribe Baruch and dictated to him the words that Yahweh had spoken to him. In the Hebrew text, the word translated “dictation” was actually an expression that meant “from the mouth of.” Hence, when Baruch was writing the scroll, he was writing words as they came from the mouth of Jeremiah. He wasn’t writing only general ideas that Jeremiah had given him, so why should we think that when Jeremiah claimed that he was speaking or writing “the words of Yahweh,” he was writing about only ideas that Yahweh had revealed to him?

The new fundamentalists, who take the “high view” of biblical inspiration love to ridicule the traditionalists by accusing them of maintaining a “wooden” or “mechanical” view of inspiration by which God “dictated” the Bible to those who wrote the books in it, but just look at the passage above. Yahweh allegedly spoke words to Jeremiah, who was then commanded to write those words on a scroll. In obedience to this command, Jeremiah summoned Baruch and dictated to him the words of Yahweh, so it is evident that the Bible does teach that at least in the case of this scroll, dictation was involved in writing it, so if the new fundamentalists want to ridicule the old by accusing them of having a “wooden, mechanical” view of inspiration, they should begin their ridicule by targeting Jeremiah.

Jeremiah then made it clear that when Baruch took the scroll into the temple and read it, he would be reading to the people the words of Yahweh. To write any more about the way that Old Testament prophets perceived themselves as messengers who were speaking the very words of Yahweh would labor the point to tedium and impose on the patience of readers. Clearly the Old Testament writers thought that they were speaking and writing the very words of Yahweh, but what about New Testament writers? What did they think? Did they see themselves as only channels through whom their god was revealing ideas, or did they think that they were writing the very words of God?

The New Testament is rather clear in teaching that the kind of inspiration through whom New Testament characters spoke and wrote could best be described by the term “verbal inspiration.”

In Luke 12:11, Jesus told his disciples, “When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.” The Holy Spirit will teach you what to say? Well, couldn’t that mean that the Holy Spirit would just inspire the ideas and then leave it to the disciples to state those ideas however they chose to do so? Other New Testament passages claim that the “teaching” was far more specific than this.

Luke 21:12 “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you WORDS and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

The Greek word for words in this passage was stoma, which literally meant “mouth,” but this word was often used metonymically to mean language.

Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth [stoma] of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

2 Corinthians 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth [stoma] of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

Romans 15:5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth [stoma] glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So in Luke 21:15, Jesus was saying that when his disciples were brought before kings and governors, they should not even give any preparation to what they would say, because they would be given the words and wisdom that no one could withstand. That sounds very much like verbal inspiration to me, as does the following passage:

Matthew 10:16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

That’s clear enough, isn’t it? The disciples were not to be concerned about how they should speak or what they should say, because what they should say would be given to them at that time. Furthermore, it would not be them speaking, but the “spirit of [their] Father” who would be speaking through them. Who can read this and think that Jesus was simply saying to his disciples that they would be given the “thoughts” or “ideas” about what they should say, and they could then put these thoughts or ideas into their own words? Obviously, that was not what Jesus was saying. He was saying that when they spoke, it would be the spirit of God speaking through them. In that case, if they said something that was historically or scientifically inaccurate, the error would not have been theirs but God’s.

John’s Jesus promised the disciples that after he left, he would send them a “Comforter” (14:16-17), who when he was come would guide them into “all truth” (16:3). This “Comforter” was identified as the “spirit of truth,” which “proceeds from the father” (15:26). When the apostles went out preaching, they and the ones who wrote of their activities claimed that they were “filled with the spirit” when they spoke: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, you rulers of the people, and elders, if we this day are examined concerning a good deed done to an impotent man, by what means this man is made whole, be it known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in him does this man stand here before you whole” (Acts 4:8-9). If the context of this statement is examined, it will be seen that Peter and the apostles had been brought before the rulers, elders, and scribes to give an account of their actions in having healed a crippled man, so if what Jesus said was true when he told his apostles that when they were brought before rulers, it would not be them speaking but the spirit of their “Father” speaking through them, and if Jesus was right in saying that when the apostles were brought before rulers, they would be given the words that they should speak, we would have to conclude that what Peter said on this occasion, when he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” was not just his “thoughts” or “ideas” about the situation he was being questioned about but the WORDS that the “spirit of the Father” had given to him especially for this occasion.

Luke claimed that the apostle Paul was also “filled with the Holy Spirit” when he spoke (Acts 13:9), and Paul himself claimed that the words that he taught were the words that the Holy Spirit had taught him: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-13). To the Galatians, Paul also claimed that he had not been taught by men the gospel that he preached, for he did not receive it from men but “through revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:11-12). There are some believers in biblical inspiration who would say that what Paul, Peter, and the other apostles taught were the “ideas” that God had inspired in them but that the words were their own words, which they had acquired through “oral traditions” or their own experiences, but this is not what Paul said here, or what was taught elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul said that what he spoke was not words that had been taught by human wisdom but by the [Holy] Spirit and “through revelation of Jesus christ.” Luke said that the apostle Paul claimed that what was written in Isaiah 6:9-10 had been spoken through the prophet by the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25)

What was said in these passages is not the kind of “inspiration” that is being taught by the new fundamentalists. It is a very clear description of verbal inspiration, so if the apostles were verbally inspired whenever they were preaching or defending the gospel before rulers, when what they said would be heard by their audiences and then gone forever, how likely is it that when they wrote epistles that were allegedly intended to be the “word of God” all through the Christian era, God would simply have given them the “thoughts” and “ideas” they were to write but leave the selection of the words up to them?

Such a premise seems preposterous. It would mean, for example, that the sermon Peter preached on the day of Pentecost was verbally inspired but the account of it that Luke recorded wasn’t, that Luke had been given only the “ideas” of what to record or perhaps had learned about it by “oral tradition,” whereas Peter had been given the very words that he spoke. Such a view doesn’t agree with what the New Testament teaches. “Peter,” in fact, stated very clearly that “prophecies” did not come by the will of man but by a verbal direction given to them by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:16 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. 17 For 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.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

“Peter” was obviously alluding here to the transfiguration of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 17:1-13 (Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36), and he claimed that his eyewitness to this event was confirmation of what he called “the prophetic message.”

19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The new fundamentalists will say that God inspired only the thoughts or ideas of the biblical writers, but “Peter” disagreed. He said that “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” but if a writer were given only the “thoughts” or “ideas” of a prophecy and then left to his own devices to choose the words to state that prophecy, then it would not be true that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. He went on to say that “no prophecy ever came by human will,” but if God gave only the “ideas” to prophets, rather than putting his words into their mouths as Isaiah and Jeremiah claimed, then the prophecy would be very much something that had come “by human will.” He concluded by saying that men and women “moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Can anyone imagine how it would be at all possible that someone who was “moved by the Holy Spirit” to “speak from God” could say something that wasn’t true? If that should happen, then it would necessarily follow that the Holy Spirit had “moved” this person to say something that was inaccurate.

It is very evident that both the Old Testament and New Testament taught that those whom God or the Holy Spirit inspired were guided on a verbal basis in what they said and wrote. In other words, their very words were the words of God and not their own. In my next article, I will discuss the logical consequences of the verbal inspiration taught in the Bible and show exactly why men like Falwell, DeHoff, Torrey, Moody, Spurgeon, Rice, etc. believed that the Bible was totally and completely inerrant in everything it said, including secular matters like history, geography, science, chronology, etc. They were simply accepting what would have to be the logical result of verbal inspiration. They had it right, as far as logic is concerned, and the new fundamentalists have it wrong as they try to bungle their way into convincing people that the Bible may have errors in it, but it is still the “word of God.”

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