Tag Archives: Bible

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.

 

CHRISTIAN TRADITION AND THE INVADING SON OF MAN

The following is a guest post by author Andrew Livingston.


 

Craig Evans: In your view what is the single most important passage in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) for which a strong argument for authenticity can be made that suggests that Jesus viewed himself as divine?

Mike Licona: …The apocalyptic Son of Man [is what] I’d go with…Mark, the earliest Gospel, regards Jesus as this apocalyptic Son of Man, this divine figure…It’s in Mark, it’s in Q, it’s in M, it’s in L, it’s in John, and it’s in these multiple literary forms—biography, sayings, literature, and letter [sic]. I think that’s extremely strong [evidence for historicity]. And this apocalyptic Son of Man does things that only can be done to [sic] God…I think they have great claims to historicity, that Jesus actually believed himself to be this apocalyptic Son of Man. [1]

This is Mike Licona’s favorite (and for all intents and purposes, his only) argument for why you should believe that Jesus was God Incarnate and not merely a human prophet. It isn’t just Licona either: Christian apologists in general constantly harp on this notion that Jesus thought of himself as “the apocalyptic Son of Man”. For those not in the know, that refers to the traditional Christian interpretation of the book of Daniel, chapter 7, verses 13-15:

“I saw [in a vision of the future] one like a human being (Aram: “one like a son of man”) coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed. [2]

Because in biblical stories Jesus frequently applies this “Son of Man” moniker to himself, and because some of the passages in which he does so make it sound like he’s the one who will do the judging on Judgment Day (Matthew 13:37-43 being one example), Christians basically take it for granted that the term “Son of Man” is synonymous with “God almighty” (or at least with “God incarnate”). Of course, if you but read three sentences further into that passage in Daniel you’ll find that there’s a downright hellacious case of cherry-picking going on here. Three more sentences, that’s all it takes. Here is what the passage looks like when those three sentences are not left out:

I saw one like a human being (Aram: “one like a son of man”) coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed. As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever.

First the text says, “I saw one like a son of man…To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away.” And then, just below: “The holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom forever.” The author is explicitly defining with the latter comment what he meant by the former one. He’s talking about the kingdom of Israel itself, not some literal single person who somehow both is himself God and at the same time is getting presented before God.

Nonetheless, Licona tells us that instances of Jesus applying the “Son of Man” moniker to himself are so widely scattered throughout different early sources by different authors, who were writing so many different kinds of things, that there is no way the idea can not be based in historical fact.

A couple of obvious problems present themselves which a lot of you probably already knew about or have thought of on your own while reading this. For one thing, if two sentences in The Old Testament can prove anything then surely two sentences in The New Testament can do the same, and utterly decimate any notion that Jesus thought of himself as God Incarnate:

“A man ran up and knelt before [Jesus], and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18)

Christian apologists only make their position look all the weaker with their desperate attempts to deny the plain sense of those words. James McGrath has explained the matter with admirable succinctness at the following link. By all means read this; it’s just a couple of paragraphs.

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2014/11/jesus-piety.html

It must also be noted that (as far as the first three Gospels go, at least) most of the passages wherein Jesus is spoken of as “this apocalyptic Son of Man” make explicit predictions that the apocalypse in question was supposed to happen while the first generation of Christians was still alive:

These twelve [disciples] Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “…When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:5, 23; see also Mark 9:1, Mark 14:61-62, and the entirety of Mark chapter 13)

And so there are two possibilities exactly. The first possibility is that Jesus was a false prophet (c.f. Deuteronomy 18:21-22)—which is a thought Christians and Muslims will equally find intolerable. [3] The second possibility is that The Bible indeed cannot be trusted to depict Jesus accurately, at least when it comes to these “Son of Man” passages. Those are your options. There is no third option.

The above two points suffice all by themselves. But there is another point that can made and it reveals in some detail how the matter of “the apocalyptic Son of Man” actually proves—better than virtually anything else can—just how unreliable The New Testament and its depiction of Jesus can be.

Remember that The Bible is one single book only because happenstance has made it so. The various writings of Paul, Jeremiah, Isaiah, John the Elder, and so forth can be found between the same two covers for no other reason than that some people decided a long time ago to make a point of placing them between those covers. There was never any concerted effort by dozens of different authors living in separate countries and separate centuries to compile their works into one volume of their own accord. These are sixty-six different writings we’re talking about (or seventy-three, if you’re a Catholic) by dozens of different writers. As such anything that begins with, “What does The Bible say about…” is automatically an unintentional trick question. Which Bible author do you mean? The relevance of this fact, as explained by Shabir Ally, is:

Most people read the New Testament Gospels vertically. They start at the beginning and they go towards the end, and then they start a new Gospel after that. And that is fine…but we also have to read with peripheral vision. We have to read across, horizontally, from one Gospel to another. In other words, when we come to an episode in a Gospel we have to keep our fingers there on the text and then flip over to another Gospel where the same episode is related, and observe how they are similar but also pay attention to how they are different. [4]

And when you do apply such a vertical reading to the Gospels an unmistakable pattern begins to emerge. While the depiction of Jesus which Licona refers to as “the apocalyptic Son of Man” is indeed widely scattered across independent early sources and found in various literary forms it’s nonetheless all but impossible to find one single solitary example of any two authors independently referring to the belief at the same time. It seems as though everybody thought they knew (and perhaps even treated it as a given) that Jesus had made such claims about himself yet nobody could agree on exactly when he had done this.

Look for yourself. Pick up a Bible and find any place in any of the four Gospels wherein Jesus refers to himself as “the Son of Man”. Then flip through the pages and find a place where another Gospel tells the same story and see if Jesus uses the phrase in that version of it as well. I’m telling you now, he won’t. Even the speech from Matthew I cited above serves as an example of this paradox. Read the “Mission of the Twelve” section in the tenth chapter of Matthew and then read the equivalent passage in Luke (where it’s also in the tenth chapter). In Matthew’s version of the speech Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man”; in Luke’s version he does not.

The same thing keeps happening all throughout the text. Examples abound. As John Dominic Crossan put it, “There is only one single case where the Son of Man expression occurs in multiple independent attestation; that single exception is [the] ‘Foxes Have Holes’ [story found in The Gospel of Thomas part 86 as well as Luke 9:58/Matthew 8:19-20]” (emphasis Crossan’s). [5] The examples of this I’m about to show are the ones I’ve personally selected because I find them to be the most striking and undeniable cases; as I list them I want you to bear in mind that there are more where they came from. Follow the endnote if you want to see where you can read a more complete list.

Example #1:

“Everyone…who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

“Everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8-9)

Example #2:

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:27-29)

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

Example #3:

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23)

Example #4:

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:28-29)

“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Luke 12:10)

Example #5:

While [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. (Matthew 26:47-50)

While [Jesus] was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” (Luke 22:47-48)

Example #6:

The Pharisees came and began to argue with [Jesus], asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side. (Mark 8:11-13)

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:38-40)

Example #7:

Some people brought a blind man to [Jesus] and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” (Mark 8:22-26)

[Jesus] saw a man blind from birth…He spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see…[Jesus] said [to the man], “Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. (John 9:1-38)

If Jesus genuinely had been known as “the Son of Man” right from the very start, and known that way because it was his own self-designation, why then shouldn’t any two authors ever be able to agree on where it is he used the label? Does it not seem instead that the whole “Son of Man” concept somehow crept into Christian tradition at an early point and has stayed there since whereas the true historical Jesus, during his own time, never said anything of the sort? [6]

And it doesn’t end there. As James Crossley has observed there are discrepancies regarding when and how often Jesus gets called the son of anything (i.e. whether it be “Son of Man” or “Son of God”) depending on the date of the text in question. The later the document, the more often this happens. As you read what Crossley said bear in mind that Mark was the earliest Gospel, followed by Matthew and Luke, and John was the latest:

Jesus’ reference to himself as “the Son” (Mark 13:32) reflects the developing Christology of the early church. [In the Gospel of Mark] it is used by Jesus of himself only in [Mark 13:32,] (other less explicit possibilities being 12.6 and 14.62), which…should make us a little suspicious as to whether it is actually from the historical Jesus. This is supported by the fact that Jesus uses the term “Son” of himself only once in Q [i.e. those passages that are precisely the same between Matthew and Luke, probably coming from a lost text that predated both], Mt. 11.27/Lk. 10.22). In contrast Jesus uses it of himself 23 times in John where it clearly has some reference to Jesus’ divinity (cf. 5.18-26; 10.30-39). Worth noting too is Matthew’s editing of Mark where Matthew heightens the Christological use of the term “Son” (Mk 6.52/Mt. 14.33; Mk 8.29/Mt. 16.16; Mk 15.30/Mt. 27.40; Mk 15.32/Mt. 27.43). The title of “Son” is obviously a developing Christian tradition…” [7]

I hope you’re beginning to see why Muslims are never convinced or even impressed when Christian evangelists endlessly repeat like a broken record that The Qur’an was written “six hundred years too late”. Not a single one of these evangelists is willing to compare separate writings and authors from within The New Testament and allow them to contradict each other. Apparently it’s perfectly fine to emphasize how early the book of John is compared to The Qur’an—but under no circumstances is any importance to be attached to how early the book of Mark is compared to John. Which is a shame, because were they only willing to think that way they’d discover that our historically worthless text from six centuries too late is right on the money—not just with this issue but over and over and over again, on subject after subject after subject.

I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam for your religion…People of the Book [i.e. believers in The Bible], now there has come to you Our Messenger, making clear to you many things you have been concealing of the Book, and effacing many things. There has come to you from God a light, and a Book Manifest whereby God guides whosoever follows His good pleasure in the ways of peace, and brings them forth from the shadows into the light by His leave; and He guides them to a straight path. (Surah 5; verses 3, 15-16, A.J. Arberry’s translation)

 

NOTES:

[1] From the Mike Licona-Dale Martin debate “Did Jesus Believe He Was Divine?”. The video I’ve transcribed this from is embedded in my article “A Few Brief Words on N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God”.

[2] All biblical quotations in this article are copied from The New Revised Standard Version, using the website Bible Gateway.

[3] Of course, finding an idea intolerable isn’t all by itself grounds to dismiss it as untrue: let me therefore recommend for you an article that pretty thoroughly debunks all forms of this Jesus-as-Chicken-Little depiction of the historical Jesus. (Which, by the way, seems to be a view held by the majority of scholars—at least depending on what country the scholar lives in. You might want to bring that fact up the next time you see a Christian evangelist try to bedazzle somebody with argumentum ad populum arguments such as, “A majority of scholars agree that Jesus’s disciples believed he had risen from the dead, leaving an empty tomb behind.” A majority of scholars consider Jesus to have been a false prophet! That boat has sailed.) That article is “A Temperate Case for a Non-Eschatological Jesus” by Marcus Borg, which over the course of just a few pages settles the matter for good and all, in my own estimation.

[4] From the Shabir Ally-James White debate “Is The New Testament We Possess Today Inspired?”.

[5] “The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant” by John Dominic Crossan, from the appendices (pages 454-56 and 440). Harper San Francisco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. First HarperCollins paperback edition published in 1992.

[6] I have a suspicion that the way this happened (also the way Christianity turned so quickly into an apocalyptic movement expecting a first-century Armageddon) involved the panic that the Jewish people in Jerusalem went through at the time of the Caligula crisis circa the year 41. This hypothesis, however, would need an article all its own, and I’m nowhere near sure enough or educated enough to write such a thing yet. Consider this note a case of, “I’m just throwing it out there.”

[7] “The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity” by James G. Crossley, page 23 (or chapter 2, in case the page number is different in your copy of the book). 2004 T & T International, a Continuum imprint. London/New York.

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.

Debate Review: Are the New Testament Gospels Based on Eyewitness Testimony?

On Saturday 20th October, Attorney Yusuf Ismail debated a UK-based Biologist, Jonathan McLatchie on the topic of, “Are the New Testament Gospels Based on Eyewitness Testimony?”. Presented here is an amended review of the initial review posted on our Facebook page.

Roughly one year ago, the same Christian, UK-based Biologist was called out by this website for plagiarizing during another debate with Attorney Yusuf Ismail. We initially published a video detailing one instance of plagiarism:

Consequently, the Christian speaker issued a statement indicating that this was a one-off occurrence that did not happen throughout the rest of that debate or any debate previously. Contrary to this, we then published another video detailing multiple instances of plagiarism:

What followed was a tale of abject dishonesty and personal hostility on the part of the Christian speaker who became incensed due to our expose, we ignored this behaviour. He eventually conceded that he had in fact, had his opening statement (presentation) for that debate, written by another Christian speaker. This was not surprising given the evidence we had published. This year we had hoped that he learned his lesson and would be professional at this event. This was not the case (information forthcoming), but for a large part, his opening statement this year was largely written by him and consisted of a lecture he had been delivering in various Churches on “undesigned coincidences” in the Gospel narratives.

Jonathan McLatchie’s main and only argument was that the Gospels corroborate each other in some minor details therefore they must be based on eyewitness testimony. This approach is problematic because the manuscript record actually shows that the gospel authors and editors had a tendency to harmonize details between the gospels to make their stories more coherent:

“Colwell and Royse both recognize a tendency to harmonize readings with remote parallels in other Gospels (Colwell, 112-114; Royse, 536-544).”

This is as stated by the conservative New Testament British textual critic, Timothy Mitchell citing:

  • Royse, James R., “Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri.” NTTSD 36. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
  • Colwell, Ernest C., “Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75,” pages 106-124 in “Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament.” NTTS 9. Leiden: Brill, 1969.

This fundamentally undermines the Christian’s claims during the debate. In fact, I, myself lost count of the verses he quoted from the Gospel attributed to John where papyrus 66 (a manuscript of the gospel of John that is dated between 150 – 399), does not confirm what the modern English versions were saying. He was effectively quoting the gospel attributed to John where the initial author’s writing was changed by later correctors to match/ harmonize what the other gospels said by later editors. A simple review of basic textual critical resources would have easily indicated to him that this was both a bad line of reasoning and counter-evidential to his position.

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(Left) Attorney Yusuf Ismail, (Right) Jonathan McLatchie

At the start of the debate the Christian speaker claimed his beliefs in Christianity were based on evidence, however when challenged on his views on the dead rising in the gospel attributed to Matthew he claimed he believed in a literal rising miracle of the dead in Jerusalem (back to life) without any evidence, thus proving himself wrong. At this point he also became hostile and in a raised voice, demanded to know why such a question was relevant in the first place, it is possible that he had a memory lapse at this point or had become plainly aware of his earlier statement, thus his reaction was largely based on embarrassment.

He also conceded during a rebuttal period that several verses in the gospel attributed to John were written by anonymous authors and therefore they were not authored by eyewitnesses thus conceding the debate to Attorney Yusuf Ismail.

On the other hand, I was duly impressed by Attorney Yusuf Ismail who is currently pursuing theological studies. I found his presentation and citation of classical Christian authorities on the anonymity of the Gospels to both be stringently academic and quite diverse. Meaning then, that he did not isolate these statements from “liberal” scholarship, nor did he quote-mine. In fact, during their cross-examination section, Attorney Yusuf Ismail produced a brilliant quote by Richard Bauckham which justified his position on the Gospels being anonymous in authorship. In addition to this, it was his opponent that had cited Bauckham as an authority in the first place, thus adding to the strength of Attorney Yusuf Ismail’s position. When reminded of this, the Christian speaker decried the reference, stating that he did not agree with everything Bauckham said, while this is a reasonable position, the Christian speaker did not clarify on what well-researched basis he made this distinction of agreeing and disagreeing with the author.

Surprisingly, Yusuf Ismail did not end there, he was on a roll. McLatchie was asked if he accepted Matthaean Priority (that is, the view that Matthew was authored first, followed by Mark and Luke). McLatchie (the Christian speaker) acknowledged that this was the position he was leaning towards. This is where I believe Yusuf Ismail showed his brilliance, he asked McLatchie if he accepted Papias’ (an unreliable early Church Father, as per Eusebius) claim that the gospel attributed to Matthew was initially written in Hebrew (and then translated into Koine Greek). McLatchie confusingly stated he did not study this position on the gospel attributed to Matthew. It therefore is problematic that he in one instance claims that he can lean towards one view on the original authorship of the gospel and then in another state he had not studied it at all. If he had not studied the genesis of Matthew’s gospel, how then can he lean to its position in authorship? This effectively summarized what was an overall brilliant evening for Yusuf and a disaster for McLatchie.

The debate can be viewed here on Facebook:

and Allah knows best.

 

Is Part of the New Testament Lost?

Most believers in the tenacity of the New Testament would tell you the answer is absolutely “no”, but there is reason to disagree once one takes a look at the manuscript evidence. Today we’ll be taking a look at Mark 16, but not in the way you’re usually accustomed. As a quick recap, Mark 16 in the earliest Greek manuscripts, ends presumably at verse 8. Later manuscripts in Latin extend the ending up to verse 20. Let’s take a quick look at what these look like in the English language:

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Trans.: NIV, verse 8).

and…

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Trans.: NIV, verses 9-20).

Both codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B) date from the 4th century CE, roughly 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him) walked the earth. They both end at verse 8. However, verses 9-20 can be found in codices Alexandrinus (A, 5th century CE), Ephraemi-Rescriptus (C, 5th century CE), Bezae (D, 6th century CE) and Washingtonianus (W, 5th century CE). You may be familiar with the claim of a longer ending, but there are actually five endings. In one of those five endings there is the case where the women then proceed from the tomb to a group of people who were with the disciple Peter. This ending can be found more notably in the Latin Codex Bobbiensis from the 5th century CE.

There is also another version where an addition is at Mark 16:14 which can be found in Codex Washingtonianus (circa 5th century CE) where it speaks of a more apocalyptic ending. In this ending Satan rules the world and the manuscript quite oddly says that due to Satan, God cannot rule the world…:

“This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits.”

The text in Koine Greek reads as follows:

οτι ο αιων ουτος της ανομιαϛ και της απιστιας υπο τον σαταναν εστιν ο μη εων τα υπο των πνευματων ακαθαρτα την αληθειαν του θεου καταλαβεσθαι δυναμιν

Moving on, the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament (the Greek text used for most of today’s modern translations) renders verse 8 as follows:

Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν· ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ

It uses codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as the basis for the above Greek version. Do note that the sentence ends with the word “gar” (γάρ), I’ll explain more on the significance of that word shortly. So what do the manuscripts read? We are looking at the ending of verse 8. Codex Sinaiticus reads as follows (here’s the link to view page online):

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Folio 228 of Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus ends verse (and by extension the Gospel of Mark) 8 with the word “gar” (γάρ – do note the text is written in majuscule not minuscule Koine Greek so while the words appear to be different, they’re exactly the same). In majuscule Greek as we find in Codex Sinaiticus we will see γάρ written as ΓΑΡ. Codex Vaticanus reads as follows (here’s the link to view the page online):

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Folio 1303 of Codex Vaticanus

Verse 8 once again ends with the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”), and by extension the Gospel of Mark ends with this word. So what is the significance of the word “ΓΑΡ” (gar)? The word “ΓΑΡ” (gar) is a conjunctive. A conjunction is a word that combines two clauses, phrases or sentences. HELPS Word-studies states on the use of the word:

1063 gár (a conjunction) – for. While “for” is usually the best translation of 1063 (gár), its sense is shaped by the preceding statement – the “A” statement which precedes the 1063 (gár) statement in the “A-B” unit.

Do note, the Strong’s number for this word is 1063 and can be read here. In other words, ΓΑΡ (“gar”) is a word that combines two phrases, for example in the English we can understand it to operate like the word “and” or like the terms “because”, “therefore”, “due to”, “hence”, “henceforth”, etc. This means that the verse is essentially incomplete if it ends with a conjunction. Normally in a sentence when you read the word “because”, you expect something to be written afterwards.

  • they were afraid because…what?
  • they were afraid therefore…what?
  • they were afraid due to…what?
  • they were afraid hence..what?

When you end a sentence abruptly with any of the terms above, you necessarily expect a word or phrase to follow. Grammatically this is known as an anacoluthon (see the definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary):

syntactical inconsistency or incoherence within a sentence; especially : a shift in an unfinished sentence from one syntactic construction to another

In other words, verse 8 is an unfinished sentence. This explains why there were additional endings that were later developed and added to the text, because the way the verse ends is incorrect and suggests that something is missing. This ultimately brings us to our question, if the verse is grammatically incorrect and unfinished, it possibly means that something followed from the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”) and is now no longer evidenced by the earliest surviving Greek manuscripts some 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him) walked the earth. One may argue apologetically that perhaps the verse was phrased this way for rhetorical effect. That is possible but unlikely due to the authors of Mark never having done this previously in the entire gospel. In fact, I’m not aware of any other instance in the New Testament where ΓΑΡ (“gar”) is used to end a sentence where nothing follows after it. Such an argument is also implausible because it is clearly grammatically incorrect to the point we have multiple endings having been added to it thus showing that readers correctly noted an error has been made.

In the English language, if someone wrote:

There was a boy with a cat. The cat was afraid because…

The cat was afraid because what? The sentence does not continue and so we don’t know. Therefore in either English or Greek, there is a mistake here and so we must ask what did the sentence originally contain and what words did it end with? Were there just a few words more, or many sentences after? How much have we lost? We cannot clearly determine the amount that is lost to us. It is then clear that the last words of the Gospel attributed to Mark are lost to us and therefore a portion of the New Testament is lost to us. Ipso facto, the theological beliefs of tenacity and the preservation of the New Testament are proven to be false.

and God knows best.


Author’s Post Publication Note:

In this article I assumed the A-B unit as the structure of the verse, however given that Mark 16:8 contains two sentences, the first sentence contains this A-B structure (emphasis mine own, taken from the NA 28 GNT online):

Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν·

In this first sentence of Mark 16:8, we see this A-B formula in work. In the very next sentence, we do not see it at work:

ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

While this is a correct sentence in and of itself, if we only and absolutely take this sentence into isolation, it would be grammatically correct (there is disagreement on this and it is discussed below). However, when we take it into the context of the author’s normal usage of the term ΓΑΡ (“gar”) within this very verse, then it would break the pattern and thus establish itself as being against the norm and therefore in error.

Furthermore, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (scroll down) argues for a succeeding repetition [with the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”)] as the norm (emphasis mine own):

When in successive statements γάρ is repeated twice or thrice, or even four or five times, either a. one and the same thought is confirmed by as many arguments, each having its own force, as there are repetitions of the particle…

There is no argument for the second sentence of the verse, therefore it also breaks this norm. There is one more alternative (emphasis mine own):

b. every succeeding statement contains the reason for its immediate predecessor, so that the statements are subordinate one to another: Mark 6:52…

Again, there is no reason explaining the fear, thus breaking the norm again. Regardless of the apologetic arguments to defend the incompleteness of Mark 16:8, there is no sufficient argument to plainly excuse the break in grammatical norms for this specific verse, though I want to thank at least one individual with knowledge of Greek for trying.

Further Reading

As mentioned above, the same individual raised the point of “ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ” being a complete sentence and has argued it is perfectly reasonable to end a sentence with such a word. Though I did not argue the point that “ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ” was the start of a new sentence (as incorrectly stated by the person), they also argued that no Greek scholar would agree with my conclusions. It should be noted though that I am not the person that has made these conclusions. One noted scholar of Greek and the New Testament, Robert Gundry states in his book Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross on page 1009 that verse 8 in the autograph of the Gospel attributed to Mark was not a conclusion but the beginning of a new unit, “the rest of which is now lost.” He also clarifies that while there is at least one possible example for the word “γάρ” in ending a book, which is possibly the case in the thirty second treatise of Plotinus as edited by Porphyry (though many others disagree), it is rather the exception to the norm and he conclusively states that no other book ends with the word “γάρ”. It should also be noted that New Testament scholar N. Clayton Croy in his work, “The Mutilation of Mark’s Gospel”, also argues that the ending of Mark is incomplete at verse 8 and he also argues that this is in part due to the presence of “γάρ” which he notes is extremely rare and thus unlikely the author of Mark intended to end the Gospel with such a word.

As for the use of “ἐφοβοῦντο”, Collins and Attridge in their work, “Mark: A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark”, on page 799 states:

Some opponents of the thesis that v. 8* is the original conclusion of the Gospel have argued that the verb “they were afraid” (ἐφοβοῦντο) is incomplete as it stands and must have been followed originally by an object, an infinitive, or a clause introduced with the conjunction μή (“that … [not]” or “lest”). Apart from 16:8*, the verb “to be afraid” (φοβεῖσθαι) occurs eleven times in Mark. It is used with a personal object four times (6:20*; 11:18*, 32*; 12:12*). Once it is used in the phrase ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν (“they were very fearful”; lit. “they feared a great fear”) (4:41*). On one occasion it is used with the infinitive: “they were afraid to ask him” (ἐφοβοῦντο αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι) (9:32*). This verb is never used with the conjunction μή (“that … [not]” or “lest”) in Mark. It is used five times absolutely, as in 16:8*.

Post Publication Note dated 29.08.18, with a note for Further Reading on 06.09.18.

Missionary Mishap: The Word of God, Jesus & Islam

I’ve been interacting on Twitter a lot more often and occasionally I come across folks who are angry with or at Islam, and through conversation they realise they are wrong. This one Maronite Lebanese Christian is a quick example of how not knowing their own scripture and not knowing about Islam can result in an awkward dialogue.

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and God knows best.

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