Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
One of the primary arguments that Missionaries use is that the Bible is an inspired word of God, meaning God didn’t dictate to the unknown authors what to write, but inspired these authors to write a synoptic (general, but cohesive) story about the worldly ministry of Jesus. The problem with this though is that most Christians don’t exactly read all of the Bible. For example, a story which occurs in Matthew would be read and the reference for that similar story is acknowledged (in the footnotes), whether it be in Mark or Luke, however after one has read the story in Matthew and acting under the impression that it would be redundant to read the same story in another Gospel, Christians may simply become content with having just read the story in Matthew, while foregoing the reading of the other Gospels. This is problematic because Christians are indoctrinated with the impression that synoptic means, “recalling the same story, albeit from an alternate viewpoint”. While linguistically this definition is accurate, it behoves me to remind our Missionary friends as well as Evangelical inerrantists that while Mark, Matthew and Luke (I’m excluding John because it gives an entirely variant viewpoint all together) in some way do narrate similar stories their narratives are often conflicting if not incohesive and inconclusive. What we must come to realise, if we truly are seeking the truth in religion is that the Synoptic Gospels aren’t fully Synoptic, rather they present a myopic view of events surrounding the person and life of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel.
One of the more popular examples is the conflicting end of the Gospel of “Mark”, Christians often assume that such a conflict does not affect their doctrine therefore it is useless to discuss it. However, it does indeed affect their doctrine, if we agree with the presumption that God did inspire these 4 writers to complete a synoptic narrative of Jesus’ ministry where we could expect missing elements of one of the narratives but have the answer in another narrative, how could we account for one narrative that’s conflicting in itself. That therefore, presents a doctrinal problem, which manuscript of a select Gospel, did God actually inspire? We could have over 30 versions of Mark, 15 with the short conclusion and 15 with the longer conclusion, which 15 did God inspire? If we take this problem and replicate it among the 4 Gospels we are introduced to an even greater question, which group out of all of these manuscripts actually consist of the inspired word of God? To understand this problem, let’s take a look at Prof. Bruce Metzger’s analysis of the Ethiopic Manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark:
Until the latter part of the twentieth century, the status of the last 12 verses of Mark in this version was in doubt, arising from conflicting statements made concerning the evidence of the same manuscripts. Now, however, on the basis of the personal examination of photographs of the ending of the second Gospel in 65 Ethiopic manuscripts, belonging to about 30 different collections, Metzger has ascertained that all of them have the text of Mark 16.9-20. In addition, what is known as the “shorter ending” of Mark, found in several Greek and Syriac manuscripts, occurs in many Ethiopic manuscripts between 16.8 and 9. Subsequently, William F. Macomber of the Hill Monastic Manuscript Microfilm Library at Collegeville, Minnesota, examined microfilms of 129 additional Ethiopic manuscripts of Mark. Of the total of 194 (65 + 129) manuscripts, all but two (which are lectionaries) have Mark 16.9-20, while 131 contain both the shorter ending and the longer ending. At the end of the Ethiopic version of Acts chapter 28, there is a directive to readers to consult Paul’s letters and the Acts of Paul, as well as information about Paul’s further activities in Rome. This addition originated as a gloss or colophon that was later integrated into the main text.” – (The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Bruce M. Metzger & Bart D. Ehrman, pp 120-121.)
Prof. Bruce has clearly outlined a major problem for inerrantists and missionary zealots, what started as a colophon (an inscription placed usually at the end of a book, giving facts about its publication), became inspired scripture after a change of hands, through numerous scribes, eventually making its way into the mass population of Christendom. His statements are profound, for when missionary zealots propose that it is absurd that the word of God could have changed while so many people were in possession of it, we really must educate them. Clearly, as stated above, we have extant evidence of this happening, with various codices and manuscripts numbering more than 100, while in mass circulation having two varying endings. While the proposition of such corruption may be laughable to many missionary zealots, the empirical evidence is quite clear, the delusion that this could not happen, is smashed by the manuscripts themselves. Prof. Metzger continues:
Scholars differ on the question of the date of origin of the Ethiopic version; some argue for a date as early as the fourth century, while others attribute it to the sixth or seventh century. Opinion also differs as to whether the translators made use of a Greek or Syriac original. In any case, it is a curious fact that in the Epistles of Paul the version frequently agrees with p46 with little or no other support. The version also shows evidence of later contamination from Coptic and Arabic texts. Thus, the Ethiopic text eventually became a conglomerate with quite disparate elements standing side by side. Analyses of the earlier form of the Ethiopic version disclose a mixed type of text, predominantly Byzantine in complexion but with occasional agreement with certain early Greek witnesses (p46 and B) against all other witnesses. The little that is known of this version as far as the New Testament is concerned (the Old Testament has been studied more thoroughly) suggests that it deserves far more attention than it has received. The earliest known manuscript, a codex of the four Gospels, dates from the thirteenth century; most other manuscripts are of the fifteenth and succeeding centuries. – (The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Bruce M. Metzger & Bart D. Ehrman, pp 120-121.)
In summation, what we’ve read from the above excerpt is that further corruption took place due to Coptic Christian and Arabic Christian transmission of the manuscripts of the New Testament Gospels. Wherein he seals the problem of the manuscript corruption with these words:
“Thus, the Ethiopic text eventually became a conglomerate with quite disparate elements standing side by side. Analyses of the earlier form of the Ethiopic version disclose a mixed type of text, predominantly Byzantine in complexion but with occasional agreement with certain early Greek witnesses (p46 and B) against all other witnesses.”
I personally look forward to the refutation of this article by missionary zealots, where they’ll have only one of two conclusions to arrive at:
(1) Deny the above evidence by reinterpreting the corruption as invalid stories by liberal scholars who lack faith.
(2) Concur with the corruption but say it doesn’t affect doctrine therefore it does not matter.
To refute position (1), we can simply question their logic and reason. If a person examines two sheets of paper and notices one is unlike the other, does that make such a person, a liberal atheist who only pretends to be Christian? Simple observation and determining a conclusive understanding based on one’s observation equates someone to being a fraudulent Christian?
To refute position (2), the very fact that Christians presuppose that God inspired these men to write, not by dictation but by their own ideas, implies that God wanted the variations to occur and thus sought to confuse rather than guide the masses. If God wanted to guide humanity, then he would have guarded it, protected it. We read from the Old Testament how much emphasis God placed on preserving the Torah:
“Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you.” – Bible : Deuteronomy (31) : 26.
Protected with great extravagance and attention to detail:
When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law. Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather, spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.- Bible : Numbers (4) : 5-6.
Furthermore to state that God wanted variations to occur is also in direct contradiction to the Bible in itself:
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints. – Bible : 1 Corinthians (14) : 33.
As I have demonstrated above, we can conclude that either possible argument against Biblical manuscript corruption is not easily disproved, but also irrational and illogical. Only a person of great arrogance and ignorance would continue to contest such a simply demonstrable fact. If we forego the manuscript corruption, can we actually find incoherencies within the Gospels themselves? Yes, however normally at this stage we’d encounter counting and genealogical problems from the Old Testament and not the Gospels, such as:
And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. – Bible : Numbers (25) : 9.
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. – Bible : 1 Corinthians (10) : 8.
Or perhaps genealogical errors:
And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz. – Bible : Genesis (36) : 11.
These were dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz, Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah. – Bible : Genesis (36) : 15 – 16.
The sons of Eliphaz; Teman, and Omar, Zephi, and Gatam, Kenaz, and Timna, and Amalek. – Bible : 1 Chronicles (1) : 36.
However, these are found in the Old Testament and while some Christians may profess they believe in this Old Testament, they are quick to to deny it’s applicability in relation to the New Testament which is based on the life of their God, Jesus. With that said, can we find similar inconsistencies, based on the doctrine of Christians? Indeed we can, to begin with, the Bible’s epistles are generally discussions by Church leaders on heretics and developing beliefs among the masses, usually they contain directives supposedly based on the life of Jesus, however these directives, although meant for the people, directly contradict the Gospels in themselves, leaving one with an air of confusion. For example, this simple directive in Titus 3:9 :-
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
Seems like a simple directive, not hard to achieve, relatively good advice, except that the Bible here is calling itself unprofitable and useless. To begin with, it directs Christians to avoid genealogies, yet when we read Matthew 1 and Luke 3, we have entire chapters devoted to them:
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiahthe son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
A bit ironic isn’t it? Feel free to read Luke 3 here. Although it is well known that Paul’s epistles were authored before the Gospels were written, many missionary zealots tend to argue that the Gospels were written by the disciples themselves. Given that Paul’s epistles were authored between 50 CE and 65 CE, you’d think that atleast one disciple, apostle, presbyter, anyone really (acting under the premise that the 4 Gospels did exist at this time) would have seen this major and blatant inconsistency in New Testament directives. How could the Bible in essence, condemn genealogies (which contradict within themselves) but then have two areas where genealogies are listed, far worse where the New Testament even begins with one? It really does leave a lot of questions unanswered, but what it does do is prove the historical claim that the epistles were written first and then the gospels, by persons who had yet to place them together as a scripture, thus leaving much room for errors.
Are there instances where Jesus argued about the law? Why yes, there are many, but for the sake of brevity, let’s look at one instance, Matthew 22: 41-42, 45 :-
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”….. If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
Notice, Jesus in this instance approaches and asks the Pharisees about laws and genealogies, not only contradicting the directive in Titus 3:9, but whosoever wrote Matthew 22, really had not seen Matthew 1, as it argues Jesus is the son of David:
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Whereas Matthew 22 argues that Jesus is not the son of David, but the Lord of David, Matthew 1 argues that Jesus is the son of David and has no mention of him having lordship over anyone. It’s one mistake to have an epistle contradict a gospel, but to have a gospel contradicting itself, let alone the very first verse of the New Testament? Highly appalling to say the least.
Thus far, I’ve demonstrated inconsistencies:
(1) From within the manuscripts.
(2) From within New Testament Laws and Directives.
(3) From within the same Gospel.
What is left to demonstrate now, is the incoherencies from within the the synoptic narrative, this being between one Gospel and another:
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. – Bible : Mark (5) : 21-24.
In this version, the girl is dying, she has yet to die, so Jesus is asked to come to heal her so that she will continue to live, Jesus accepts the proposition and proceeds to heal her. However in this version, the girl is already dead and the father asks Jesus to make her live:
While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. – Bible : Matthew (9) : 18-19.
So we are presented with two conflicting narratives. Is the girl dying and awaiting Jesus to cure her, or has she already died and waiting for Jesus to raise her from the dead? Which narrative is true? Which one did God inspire? If I am to believe that Jesus did a miracle, which miracle in this case did he do? What’s worse is that even the Bible’s narration of this story was prohibited by Jesus, after he has cured the girl according to Mark’s gospel, Jesus gives a clear directive:
He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. – Bible : Mark (5) : 43.
If Jesus did in fact speak those words, and he himself according to Christian theology is God, how can we explain, that the God who inspired two (2) Gospel authors to write about this story which more than 1 billion people have read, also commanded for it to remain secret?
In conclusion, I’ve demonstrated inconsistencies:
(1) From within the manuscripts.
(2) From within New Testament Laws and Directives.
(3) From within the same Gospel.
(4) From within the same Gospel’s chapter.
(5) From within the Synoptic Narrative.
If you are a Christian and you’ve read this article, the onus is on you to take the challenge further. Your faith here isn’t being demeaned or manipulated, but what is being done to it, is a critical examination of Biblical Gospel Truth. If you are willing to concede that these are errors and are willing to confirm in your heart and mind that you cannot accept that your faith’s foundations are this inconsistent, I encourage you to take a sincere look at the religion of Islam, which some 1400 and more years ago, from within the true word of God (The Qur’aan), speaking on the Bible, has said:
لِلَّذِينَ يَكْتُبُونَ الْكِتَابَ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ ثُمَّ يَقُولُونَ هَـٰذَا مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّـهِ لِيَشْتَرُوا بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۖ فَوَيْلٌ لَهُمْ مِمَّا كَتَبَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَوَيْلٌ لَهُمْ مِمَّا يَكْسِبُونَ
(So woe to those who write the “scripture” with their own hands, then say, “This is from Allah,” in order to exchange it for a small price. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn. ) – Qur’aan : Suratul Baqarah (2) : 79.
wa Allaahu Alam.
[and God knows best.]