Category Archives: Bible

The Birth Narratives of Jesus in the New Testament – Part 1

Have you ever read the birth narratives about Jesus in the New Testament? They are generally a lot later than people know them to be (in terms of manuscript dating). Generally only Papyrus 4 is said to be earlier than Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in the 4th century CE, but it is still generally dated from the late 2nd century to the early 4th century CE. That is roughly between 150 to 300 years after Jesus’ time on earth. Regardless of these facts, the narratives themselves are difficult to follow and understand, they are often in direct contradiction to each other and have almost no overlap. There are important textual variants present in both groups of passages, but this is not meant to be an article focused on textual criticism. Our goal is to read these narratives and then to point out any difficulties we see with them.
Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV)

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Luke 2:1-22 (ESV)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

The narrative in Matthew tells us that it took a special sign from God, a star, in order for the wise men to find Joseph, Mary and Jesus. There is no mention of these wise men in the narrative which Luke gives us. Do note, I’m not saying “Matthew” or “Luke” as in reference to historical persons, but as for simple titles to refer to their various stories as presented in the New Testament. Interestingly in Matthew, these wise men first go to Jerusalem to inquire about the location of the Messiah, yet when they reached Jerusalem all the chief priests and scribes of the people (Matthew 2:3-6) were already aware that the Messiah was to be found in Bethlehem. At the outset this first piece of information presents us with the problem of the wise men being not so wise, if all the chief priests and scribes already knew this information (which is a quote from the Old Testament), then how is it possible that the only people to visit baby Jesus are the very people who don’t know how to find him?

What makes this worse is that all of Jerusalem was troubled alongside Herod regarding the news of the birth of the Messiah. If that is the case, then most people in Jerusalem would have known this information, so it was not only all the chief priests and all the scribes, but also most of the people who knew where to find the Messiah. Yet, Herod tasks the wise men to find the Messiah, yet if he already knew they were in Bethlehem and wanted to kill the Messiah, why not send Roman soldiers? Instead, it seems to appear that the authors of Matthew found it sensible to write that the wise men were to go to Herod and ask him information that was widely and publicly circulated, then they were to go to Bethlehem and find him, then they would travel from Bethlehem back to Jerusalem to inform Herod. Such a circumstance allows for only one conclusion, that the authors of Matthew had to provide a window of time for Joseph, Mary and Jesus to fear for their safety and flee out of Bethlehem.

Yet, if we look at the narrative in Luke 2:7, Mary gives birth to Jesus. In Luke 2:8-20, an angel appears to native shepherds who reside near Bethlehem and gives them the news about the Messiah. These shepherds and the angels, along with their conversation is totally absent from Matthew’s version. Luke 2:17-18 then says:

17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

The Shepherds then announce the news of the angels and the news directly about Jesus. There is no warning about their safety, no concern about Herod wanting the Messiah to be killed, the shepherds made the news “known” and specifically that “all” who heard the news, wondered about it. Had they been concerned about the Messiah’s safety, why would they make the story “known”? The narratives here have very little overlap, indeed there is no fleeing to Egypt as Matthew recounts, but in the story of Luke, Jesus and his family venture into Jerusalem where Joseph and Mary are to present Jesus in the Temple, as Luke 2:22 says.

There is a simple explanation to all this. If Herod wanted to kill the Messiah, and he knew the Messiah had to be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem for presentation before the Lord, then why not have the soldiers present within and throughout Jerusalem, wait at the Temple in secret and then kill every boy who is brought forth?

If one were to read the story of Matthew in isolation, it would be a suspenseful drama, filled with prophecies, fear, intrigue, mystery, violence and a great escape!

If one were to read the story of Luke in isolation, it would be filled with no suspense, no fear, no violence and no great escape, but rather it would appear to be a happy story without any worrying, anxiety or concern.

As Christmas comes closer, we will compare and contrast the various stories, try to make sense of them and even try to solve the contradictions without compromising on the text themselves. If it is possible to find an alternative version which perfectly harmonizes these two narratives, I would love to read it. Unfortunately, I’ve read from Tatian’s to modern authors such as Dr. Licona in an effort to find atleast one version that manages to combine these two narratives without having need to omit or add one element or another. What curious problems do you see in these narratives?

Part 2 will be out soon…

and God knows best.

An Example of Tahrif (Corruption) in the Bible

Muslims are often told that the corruption of the Bible as Muslims believe in, cannot be demonstrated. Simple examples of taḥrīf (corruption; technically: to move something from its place) are generally dismissed as copyist errors which do not affect the overall meaning of the message, though it does need to be pointed out that at some point there will be enough small changes that they aggregate into meaningful differences. If it was the case that many small changes were ineffectual in the validity of scripture (its meaning and authority) then either it is the case that the scripture itself is so vague and impactless that changes don’t matter on a macro scale or it is the case that the changes do eventually matter because the sanctity and preservation of scripture matters.

The Qur’ān makes a few claims regarding the taḥrīf of the Bible:

“Do you ˹believers still˺ expect them to be true to you, though a group of them would hear the word of Allah then knowingly corrupt it after understanding it?” – 2:75 (trans. by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

“But they broke their covenant, so We condemned them and hardened their hearts. They distorted the words of the Scripture and neglected a portion of what they had been commanded to uphold. You ˹O Prophet˺ will always find deceit on their part, except for a few. But pardon them and bear with them. Indeed, Allah loves the good-doers.” – 5:13 (trans. by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

Prof. Adam Gacek writes in his Vademecum (pp. 31-32) regarding the definition of the word taḥrīf:

2. distortion, error, usually involving either transposition of letters within a word, e.g. علم/ عمل or شقر /شرق , or mispronunciation, e.,g. طغرا /طرة (MU, X, 57; MQ, 641: al-taḥrīf bi-al ziyādah aw bi-al-naqṣ); falsification (of a text), comp. al-qalb al makānī, taṣḥīf.”

Regarding “al-taḥrīf bi-al ziyādah aw bi-al-naqṣ”, this means a change by means of increasing or by decreasing (letters, words, passages, etc).

Let’s now proceed by looking at an example of a simple change of one word in which it was swapped with a word of the opposite meaning. At first we will look at a Jewish translation (CJB; emphasis mines), then at Christian translations (ESV, NIV; emphasis mines).

Now it would come about when the cycle of the feasting days would be over, that Job would send and summon them, and offer up burnt-offerings early in the morning burnt- offerings according to the number of all of them, for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and blasphemed God in their hearts.” So would Job do all the days. – Job 1:5 (CJB).

“And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed[a] God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. – Job 1:5 (ESV).

Now the Hebrew text (MST – Masoretic Text):

וַיְהִ֡י כִּ֣י הִקִּיפוּ֩ יְמֵ֨י הַמִּשְׁתֶּה֜ וַיִּשְׁלַ֧ח אִיּ֣וֹב וַֽיְקַדְּשֵׁ֗ם וְהִשְׁכִּ֣ים בַּבֹּקֶר֘ וְהֶֽעֱלָ֣ה עֹלוֹת֘ מִסְפַּ֣ר כֻּלָּם֒ כִּ֤י אָמַ֣ר אִיּ֔וֹב אוּלַי֙ חָטְא֣וּ בָנַ֔י וּבֵֽרְכ֥וּ אֱלֹהִ֖ים בִּלְבָבָ֑ם כָּ֛כָה יַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אִיּ֖וֹב כָּל־הַיָּמִֽים:

The word used in the English is “blasphemed”, the word used in Hebrew is H1288 or the word for “blessed”. “Blasphemed” and “blessed” are words with the opposite meaning, so what happened here? The CJB offers little explanation (at least the digital version I checked), but the ESV rightly has a footnote there:

Job 1:5 The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9

As this footnote explains, this issue has arisen in multiple places within the text of Job, at a count of at least four (4) times. They do offer one explanation, the word bless is used euphemistically to mean curse. Yet, is this true? Not exactly, the NET in Translation Note #30 says (emphasis mines):

The Hebrew verb is בָּרַךְ (barakh), which means “to bless.” Here is a case where the writer or a scribe has substituted the word “curse” with the word “bless” to avoid having the expression “curse God.

For similar euphemisms in the ancient world, see K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 166. It is therefore difficult to know exactly what Job feared they might have done. The opposite of “bless” would be “curse,” which normally would convey disowning or removing from blessing. Some commentators try to offer a definition of “curse” from the root in the text, and noting that “curse” is too strong, come to something like “renounce.”

The idea of blaspheming is probably not meant; rather, in their festivities they may have said things that renounced God or their interest in him. Job feared this momentary turning away from God in their festivities, perhaps as they thought their good life was more important than their religion.

This would be less of a problem if the entire story of Job did not rest on the meaning of this one word. In the Bible, Satan challenges God by claiming that the only reason the Patriarch Job is so faithful to God, is only due to the blessings which God had bestowed upon him (wealth, a good family, good health, etc). Satan then suggests to God, that should God take these blessings away from Job that Job will then either curse God (if the translations are right) or that Job will bless God (if the edited Hebrew text is right). In other words, either Satan wins the challenge against God or God wins the challenge against Satan.

Given that Job ends up cursing God and repenting for it, and given the use of the original Hebrew word of “curse” (i.e. the word before the scribes changed it to bless in the Hebrew), this would mean that Satan won the challenge against God.

The Challenge by Satan (Job 1:11 – NIV):

“But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Job’s Admission of Cursing God (Job 42:1-3 – NIV):

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

Interestingly, the NIV has no footnote to indicate that the word should be read in its opposite (and therefore in its original) meaning. To further illustrate this point, the Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments says (emphasis mines):

Job 42:3. Who is he that hideth counsel? — What am I, that I should be guilty of such madness? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not — Because my mind was without knowledge, therefore my speech was ignorant and foolish; things which I knew not — I have spoken foolishly and unadvisedly of things far above my reach.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says (emphasis mines):

42:1-6 Job was now sensible of his guilt; he would no longer speak in his own excuse; he abhorred himself as a sinner in heart and life, especially for murmuring against God, and took shame to himself.

In conclusion, this is striking because the Qur’ān teaches:

There are some among them who distort the Book with their tongues to make you think this ˹distortion˺ is from the Book—but it is not what the Book says. They say, “It is from Allah”—but it is not from Allah. And ˹so˺ they attribute lies to Allah knowingly. – 3:78 (trans. by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

and Allah knows best.

Does God Regret Making Humans?

Yesterday I had a debate with a Christian apologist on the topic of ‘Noah and the Flood’. In my opening presentation (which can be seen here) I pointed out that the story of Noah begins in Genesis 5 and at the start of Genesis 6, the God of the Bible informs us as to His reasons for the flood. It’s in looking at this reason for the flood that I noticed a curious difference, the story (of God’s regret) is present in Christian English translations of the Bible, in Jewish English translations of the Hebrew Bible, in the Hebrew Masoretic Text but it is absent from the Greek Septuagint. Why is this important?

The Greek Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew (Old) Testament into Greek (another term for the Greek Septuagint is the LXX). At the time of early Christianity, it is the Greek Septuagint that most of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament come from. In other words, the authors of the New Testament books chose to use the Greek Septuagint over any Hebrew form of the Old Testament. Some modern Christians believe that any form of the Old Testament is the inspired word of God, though the truth is that modern Christians don’t accept the Hebrew Masoretic Text or the Greek Septuagint but rather a combination of the two textual traditions. In other words, neither the Hebrew Masoretic Text by itself, nor the Greek Septuagint by itself can honestly be said by any Christian to be the unaltered, inspired words of God as He revealed them. It is only a hybrid version of the Hebrew Masoretic Text, the Greek Septuagint and the Dead Sea scrolls which the modern Christian reads and believes in. This is best summarized in the examples I gave regarding a portion of the Shema Yisrael back in 2017:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Jewish English Translation of Genesis 6:6 (Rabbi AJ Rosenberg):

And the Lord regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and He became grieved in His heart.

Source: https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8171/jewish/Chapter-6.htm

The Christian English Translation of Genesis 6:6 (NIV):

The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

Source: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+6%3A6&version=NIV

At this point, both translations say roughly the same thing, but that is until we take a look at the Greek Septuagint, which the New Testament authors would’ve used. Let’s look at the Lexham Greek Septuagint (H.B. Swete Edition), it says (emphasis mines):

καὶ ἐνεθυμήθη ὁ Θεὸς ὅτι ἐποίησε τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ διενοήθη

The English translation (as published by Oxford University Press) says (emphasis mines):

then God considered that he had made humankind on the earth, and he thought over it.

Source: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/01-gen-nets.pdf

One translation (by Lancelot Brenton; a later 1987 edition) of the Greek Septuagint at this passage says:

then God laid it to heart that he had made man upon the earth, and he pondered [it] deeply.

The problem being that the word for heart is absent in the Greek altogether (at least in the Septuagint versions I have checked myself). Having said that, at least one commentary, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says about Genesis 6:6 –

It was the dread of any expression being liable to the suspicion of irreverence towards the Almighty, which led to the strange renderings of this verse by the later Jews. Thus, LXX renders “repented” by ἐνεθυμήθη = “considered,” and “grieved” by διενοήθη = “purposed,” while the Targum of Onkelos renders the second clause “and spake by his word to break their strength according to his will,” and Pseudo-Jonathan, “and disputed with his word concerning them.” The object of such paraphrases is to avoid anthropomorphism. The LXX also avoids the expression of repentance as applied to God in Exodus 32:12.

Source: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/genesis/6.htm

Where does this leave us?

It would mean that the earliest Christians (especially the New Testament’s authors) used a form (or version) of the Old Testament that today’s Christians would consider to have been tampered with and corrupted.

and God knows best.

Did the Qur’an Copy the Bible’s Violence?

Very often I am presented with two claims.

Claim #1: The Qur’an copied from the Bible
Claim #2: The Qur’an is a manual for violence.

Those who make these claims do not seem to understand that the only possible conclusion in which both these claims can be true is if the Qur’an’s “violent” verses were copied from the Bible. To help those who hate us understand this point, I often ask the question:

Did the Qur’an Copy the Bible’s Violence?

Quite often the answer is no. Yet if the author of the Qur’an did create a religion for the purpose of warfare, genocide and terrorism, and if this author was copying from the Bible then it stands to reason that the Qur’an at the very least should contain some or most of the Bible’s most violent verses. Yet this is not the case. In fact, the most violent verse in the Bible is not matched by any verse of the Qur’an:

“However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.” – Deuteronomy 20:16 (NIV)

It would seem very strange that the author of the Qur’an (assuming it is not God as Christians claim) would create a religion for the purpose of warfare and copy from the Bible, while at the same time avoiding copying any verses which allow for violence. Surely, a religion created for the purpose of warfare which had the Bible available for source material would quote the most violent verse possible to support its ideology, yet we find no equal verse to Deuteronomy 20:16 in the Qur’an, or a verse more violent than it altogether.

On the other hand, the Qur’an echoes a teaching once given to a previous messenger (or messengers) to the Children of Israel:

“That is why We ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity.” – Qur’an 5:32 (translation by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

and Allah knows best.

 

Scribal Habits Between the New Testament and the Qur’an

In Mark 14:68-72 (NIV) we read:

“68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.”

Around the 5th century CE scribes thought it was odd that verse 72 mentions a rooster crowing a second time but that the Gospel narrative does not mention a rooster crowing a first time. Since Jesus was said to have predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed twice, it would not make sense to them that it had not mentioned the first crowing. The scribes of Codices Alexandrinus, Ephraemi-Rescriptus and Bezae all added in after verse 68 as quoted above, a small but important addition:

και αλεκτωρ εφωνησεν which is “and a rooster crowed”.

This is typical narrative gap filling, but it also shows how much they were willing to play with the text to affirm what they think were prophecies. Compare this with the Qur’ān in 2:143 which reads:

“We assigned your former direction of prayer only to distinguish those who would remain faithful to the Messenger from those who would lose faith.” (translation by Dr. Mustafa Khattab).

The command for the change of the Qiblah is not in the Qur’ān, but the rebuking of those who rejected the change is. If the scribes of the Qur’an did not uphold the sanctity of scripture as we do today, then we should find that at verse 142 the command to change the Qiblah (direction of prayer) would be written.

Thus the words of the Qur’ān are quite salient, that in the end, one purpose of scripture is:

“…to distinguish those who would remain faithful to the Messenger from those who would lose faith.”

and God knows best.

Luke’s Paradox in Light of Titus 3:9

In the New Testament we find an interesting paradox that affects Biblical inerrancy on the whole. Paul is said to have had scribes write on his behalf, these individuals are known as amanuenses (meaning that Paul would speak and these men would write on his behalf). One of these men is said to be Lucian, known today as Luke. Sean Adams, a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow in New Testament and Ancient Culture writes:

One of the recurring suggestions for a relationship between Paul and Luke is that Luke was Paul’s amanuensis or secretary and assisted in the writing of some of his letters, most notably the Pastoral Epistles.[1]

Indeed, historical sources do refer to Luke’s association with Paul, as is also noted by Eusebius (4th century CE) in his Church History, Book 3, Chapter 4, titled, “The First Successors of the Apostles.” Though it should also be noted that scholars do agree the New Testament works are primarily anonymous and these are but later attestations from Church history with apologists assuming that these later titles are likely “accurate”:

All four gospels are anonymous, but ancient tradition holds that their titles—the gospel of Matthew, the gospel of Mark, the gospel of Luke, and the gospel of John—accurately indicate their authors.[2]

The book of Acts is also anonymous. But the first two verses state that the author had previously written a gospel addressed to Theophilus, to whom the gospel of Luke is addressed (Luke 1:3). So there is a clear link between the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, and ancient Christian tradition held that Luke is the author of both.[3]

Working from the assumption that Christian history is accurate is highly problematic, but useful for inquiry of the New Testament, we are presented with the curious case of Titus 3:9 which is a letter of Paul to Titus, written by one of Paul’s amanuenses, likely Luke. This is what the passage reads:

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. (NIV)[4]

This is where the paradox begins, Paul speaks and Luke writes down the above verse. Years later, as tradition holds, Luke authors the Gospel According to Luke. The problem? He includes a genealogy in chapter 3 from verse 23 to verse 38 (NIV):

23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josek, the son of Joda,
27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon,[d] the son of Nahshon,
33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,[e]
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.[5]

This is how the line of reasoning is to be laid out:

  1. A genealogy of Jesus is in circulation.
  2. Christians are arguing over this genealogy.
  3. Paul is inspired by God.
  4. Paul has a scribe Luke.
  5. Luke is a believer in Paul and Jesus Christ.
  6. Paul commands Luke to write the letter to Titus.
  7. Luke writes down that Christians should not argue about genealogies.
  8. Luke is inspired by God.
  9. Luke later writes a Gospel.
  10. Luke includes a genealogy that disputes with a genealogy already in circulation.

If we assume that Luke was indeed the scribe of Paul as some Christian history attests to, then we have a problem stacked upon another problem. This would mean that the same God who inspired Paul to have Luke write that arguments about genealogies were useless, also later inspired Luke to write a competing genealogy that to this day causes a great deal of controversy due to it contradicting the genealogy found in the Gospel According to Matthew. If we assume the Gospel According to Matthew was also inspired by the same God, then we have God at first saying disputing about genealogies is unprofitable and useless, then the same God inspires Luke and Matthew to write competing genealogies that are equally unprofitable and useless. This does not bode well for inerrancy.

There are solutions however, though they provide their own sets of problems. If we assume that the Luke which wrote for Paul was not the same Luke who wrote the Gospel, we still have the problem of the same God inspiring two different people with a contradicting message (Paul and Luke), this is then compounded by the author of the Gospel According to Matthew writing another competing genealogy.

If we assume that the Luke who wrote for Paul was also not the same Luke who wrote the Gospel, then we have a later author directly contradicting Paul and choosing to disobey him (since this later Luke is writing after Paul and should have known about the prohibition in Titus 3:9), thus indicating that Paul should be rejected.

If we assume the two Lukes are the same, then not only do we have this Luke writing for Paul and then choosing to later contradict him openly, but this also means that he would have rejected Paul’s authority and therefore also rejected his letter to Titus as scripture.

Whichever way we choose to examine Titus 3:9, we are left with options that lead us to reject Paul, to reject Luke, to reject Matthew and to reject the writings of the New Testament as internally inconsistent and confusing, for as 1 Corinthians 14:33 (KJV) states:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

The problem is further compounded by the idea that the authors of the New Testament should be considered Prophets, this includes Paul, Luke (or the Lukes) and Matthew:

Like the authors of the Old Testament, the New Testament authors should also be considered prophets. But more specifically, they were either apostles or closely related to an apostle. An apostle is a person who is sent out as a spokesperson and is given the authority of the one who sent him. A present-day example is the secretary of state, who is sent to speak to world leaders as the representative of the president with the very authority of the president. The apostles of the New Testament were sent out by Jesus Christ to speak for him with his delegated authority. That makes this responsibility an immensely important and influential one.[6]

However, Deuteronomy 18:22 (NIV) forewarns (emphasis mines):

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

Given that both the warning in Titus 3:9 and the genealogies found in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3 contradict each other in message, wisdom and meaning (the prohibition on genealogies was not adhered to by the New Testament authors), then we can conclude from Deuteronomy 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 14:33 that the works and their authors were not speaking on behalf of God.

and God knows best.

Sources:

1 – Sean, A. (2013). The Relationships of Paul and Luke: Paul’s Letters and the “We” Passages of Acts (p 126). Brill.

2 – Aaron, D. (2012). Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day (pp. 76–77). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publisher.

3 – Aaron, D. (2012). Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day (p. 78). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publisher.

4 – Titus 3:9 (2011). Biblica.

5 – Luke 3:23-38 (2011). Biblica.

6 – Aaron, D. (2012). Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day (p. 76). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publisher.

Early New Testament Papyri Now Given Later Dates

Two very early and important manuscripts of the New Testament, p66 and p75 have effectively with growing consensus by authoritative scholars, been given later date ranges extending into the 4th century CE. This is a problem.

Brief Introduction

Early New Testament documents were written on papyrus (pl. papyri), which in and of itself is a very fragile material. Summarily, it means they are difficult to preserve and quick to be destroyed (by accident). Due to so few documents existing, we cannot know much to be certain about the early New Testaments in circulation (we cannot speak of a New Testament until Marcion in the 2nd century).

Two important manuscripts, p66 and p75 have traditionally been given very early dates, somewhere around the 2nd century CE. To put this into perspective, we generally have had only roughly 7 or so manuscripts from this time period that are distinctively New Testament texts, so that 2 of them (which is 28.5%) have been given later dates by almost up to two hundreds years more is nothing to scoff at. These later datings will reshape how we view the early New Testament, its invention, development, transmission and general history.

The Problem

The early New Testament documents are dated palaeographically, that is by the way in which they were written (their textual-graphical features). This means that there is almost no early New Testament document that can be said to have been written in a specific year. I have seen some uninformed Christian apologists claiming that specific New Testament papyri date to the year 125 CE, such as p52, or that p66 and p75 are from the year 200 CE. This is incorrect from an elementary standpoint. Palaeographic datings refer to a date range not a date year (even if colophonic). This means whenever someone speaks about early New Testament papyri and they only provide a date year instead of a range, they are being misleading (if one re-reads my first paragraph I allude to a date range and not date year by saying “around the 2nd century CE”). Generally a date range can begin with a few decades and extend into a few centuries (as is common with most New Testament papyri).

Due to these previously very early datings of around the 2nd century CE, many Christian apologists were quick to point out that much of what survives from the most reliable manuscripts is in the form of the 4th century Uncials (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), with p75 said to be an ancestor text to Codex Vaticanus. This allowed them to claim that there was extant (still surviving) proof that the New Testament, contrary to competing claims, was transmitted faithfully. In this, they boasted that if there were minimal changes between two texts that were related to each other, this meant that the New Testament had been reliably copied over the centuries and thus it could be argued that if there are 200 years between p75 and Codex Vaticanus, then the 200 years between Christ Jesus and p75 should allow Christians to argue that the New Testament has effectively been preserved. Foregoing an overly long analysis as to why this reasoning is both poor and apologetic, it should be noted that p75 and Codex Vaticanus are now no longer seen as having a Father-Son relationship (as in Vaticanus was copied from p75 or a manuscript similar to it in terms of age and reliability) but that they are now sibling texts (that they both descend from a common ancestor text).

This changes things.

Summary Conclusions

This means that they cannot be used to argue for 400 years of reliable transmission, this means that they cannot be used to demonstrate that they were copied from each other. It effectively allows us to dismiss much of what has been argued in the past due to the very existence of these papyri. What one will notice however is the overwhelming silence on behalf of Christian apologists about the severity of the issue that stands before them, what they once boasted with glee (much like with the sham that was First Century Mark) is now being quietly swept under the rugs.

These redatings are not new, Dr. Brent Nongbri has for several years now already published research claiming as much and the Evangelical world has been silent. Their common response was that this was one man with one dating (which itself is a ridiculous argument) but now that Dr. Orsini (who is a top scholar of the field) is saying the same (though their arguments for why differ), we are looking at an effective consensus building and being accepted by some of the best minds in the field. There does not seem to be anything but silence and subsequent acceptance of the once “invincible” early New Testament documents now being resigned to later date ranges, thus placing even more questions on the reliability of the New Testament’s documents itself.

It should also be noted that the Coherence Based Genealogical Method that is being used today to develop the next edition of the New Testament heavily relies on these early papyri being dated accurately, so that a genealogical/ family tree can be drawn up to make sense of how the texts were transmitted. I will not get into how the CBGM works here, but that these dates are changing with consensus should worry some of our Evangelical friends.

and God knows best.

Recommended Reading:

 

« Older Entries