|1. Christians sin, just like everyone (or do they?)
Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
This is standard Christian dogma, but things get confusing when you read the opening verse of Job, which says of Job, “This man was blameless and upright.” Even as his life was going to hell because of Satan and God’s little experiment, Job was vindicated in his belief that he had nothing to apologize for.
Job 1:1 ¶ There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
We see another example in Noah, who was also “blameless” (Genesis 6:9).
Genesis 6:9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
But the sinless net goes a lot wider than that, because (plot twist!) ordinary Christians don’t sin.
1 John 5:18 ¶ We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
1 John 3:6-9 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
So which is it--are all people sinners, or are Christians the exception? Addendum: But why worry about sin? Every one of us is already saved. Paul draws a parallel between the man who got us into this mess (Adam, who ate the forbidden fruit and gave mankind Original Sin) and the one who got us out (Jesus, whose perfect sacrifice saved us all).
Romans 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
We didn’t opt in to get the sin of Adam, and we needn’t opt in to get the salvation of Jesus. No belief is necessary. Paul assures us we’re good.
|There are two kinds of righteousness, Biblically, and Paul himself makes this plain. In fact, the entire book of Romans has as perhaps its major theme the contrast between the righteousness of the Law which noone measures up to, and the righteousness through faith which comes by trusting Jesus. Paul is contrasting two types of righteousness, a self-centered righteousness based on our works by which none will be justified because none are good enough in themselves, and a God-centered righteousness based on trusting Jesus to save us where it is God's righteousness that is credited to our accounts. (Romans 10:3-11; 3:19-28) There is no contradiction here. Paul is contrasting two types of righteousness, a righteousness according to the Law of works that nobody but Jesus measures up to, and a righteousness of faith where God credits righteousness based on trust in Jesus. (Romans 4:1-8)
God allowed Satan to test Job to justify greater rewards for him, both in this life and eternally (which he ultimately received--Job 42:10-12) while refining his character and making certain he was faithful to God. (Zechariah 13:9; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Daniel 12:10; James 1:12) God allowed Satan to persecute him; but God ultimately blessed him and showed favor to him, blessing him with twice as much as what he had lost. (Job 42:10-12) God used Job's trials to refine him, making him even stronger as a warrior for God, and justify even greater rewards for him. (Zechariah 13:9) God uses trials to refine His servants, the way that fire is used to refine metals and make them stronger. (Malachi 3:3; Proverbs 17:3; 27:21; Jeremiah 9:7; Isaiah 1:25; 13:12, 48:10; Psalms 66:10) Jesus Himself was purified and refined through sufferings, to make Him the perfect leader for all time. (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-9) God's chastening is used to make us stronger warriors for His kingdom. Christians are thus encouraged to endure suffering as faithful soldiers of Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3; Hebrews 12:5-11) Although Job is repeatedly praised for his righteousness and endurance through trials, he ultimately sinned in speaking ignorantly of things he did not know about, and rashly condemning God. (Job 38:2; 40:2) Job himself acknowledged that he had spoken incorrectly about things he did not understand. (Job 42:3-6; 40:3-5) Job's primary error lay in justifying himself rather than God, and accusing God of punishing him without just grounds. (Job 32:2; 33:9-13; 34:5,9; 35:2-3; 40:8)
And no, Romans 5:19 does not say that everyone was made righteous by Jesus. It just says "by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." It says many, not everyone; and not even most. The verse, in and of itself, does not specify how they are made righteous. The surrounding verses show that such righteousness does not occur without condition; Romans 4:24 states that it is imputed 'IF' we believe. Romans 5:1-2 specifically says we are justified through faith. Romans 6:13-16 emphasizes that as Christians we must still deliberately make the choice not to sin.
Finally, 1 John 5 is referring to a perpetual pattern of deliberate, willful sin. As observed by the Scofield Study Bible III's note for 1 John 3:4: "3:4 committeth. Here and in similar places in this Epistle the Greek verb has the force of a continuous present tense (compare 3:5,9; 5:18) and thus denotes a person's habitual attitude toward sin as expressed in his practice or non-practice of it. John is not speaking of a state of perfection in which it is impossible for a Christian ever to sin; but he is stressing the fact that a Christian cannot keep on practicing sin, because he is born of God."
|2. The women spread the word of the empty tomb (or did they?)
Women discovered the empty tomb of Jesus and returned to tell the others.
Matthew 28:8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
Luke 24:9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
Or did they? Mark has a different ending.
Mark 16:8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
|That this is not a contradiction should of course be patently obvious. None of the verses remotely appear to contradict one another. Matthew 28 mentions two of the three present, Mary Magdalene and another Mary. Mark 16 mentions all three, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Jesus, and Salome. John 20 mentions only Mary Magdalene. Luke 24 mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Jesus, Joanna (who may be the same as Salome and/or the mother of Zebedee's children in Matthew 27:56), and other women.
If one author was aware of one person present, another of two people, and another that three were there, it is in no way a contradiction. One writer may see fit to mention only one, another two, and yet another writer to mention all persons present. In no way does it contradict, it simply means less detail was provided about those present by different writers. Had the Matthew or John passages said "ONLY X persons were at the sepulchre" than that would be a contradiction, but to put words in the mouth of the writers when that is not what they said is to falsely accuse the Bible of a contradiction that does not in fact exist.
|3. All Christians are united in what they believe about Jesus (right?)
John 17:20-23 ¶ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
1 Corinthians 1:10 ¶ Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
That’s a nice thought, but has any prayer failed more spectacularly? Christianity is more than just Roman Catholics and Baptists and Methodists and maybe a few more—there are now 45,000 denominations, and Christianity is fragmenting at a rate of two new denominations per day. (h/t commenter Greg G.)
|The fact that Christians are one with God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit, as well as with each other, hardly means that all Christians have the exact same beliefs. For more on oneness, see the Trinity.
That 1 Corinthians 1:10 is quoted here like this displays a blatant ignoring of context on the part of the critic, as the whole reason Paul is writing is to urge the Corinthian Church NOT to be divided on their beliefs. In the very next verses (11-13) Paul states that the Corinthians are divided: "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"
The division of the early Church into factions was occurring even in Paul's time, which is why he was urging Christians to instead unite with one another. However, Jesus and Paul both warned that there would be false Christians who would claim to be God's people. (Matthew 7:22-23; 2 Corinthians 11:13; Matthew 24:24; Galatians 1:7; Acts 20:29-30) For this reason, Jesus advised that we will know who His people are, not by them claiming to be Christians, but by the good deeds they will perform. (Matthew 7:16-21) John similarly urges us to test spirits to see whether they are of God since there are many false prophets. (1 John 4:1-3)
|4. No one can see God (or can they?)
1 John 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
1 Timothy 6:16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
But Adam and Eve saw God. So did Abraham and Moses:
Genesis 18:1 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Exodus 33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
|No one has seen God the Father at any time. That it is evident a distinction is being drawn between God the Father and Jesus, the Son of God, is evident from John 1:18, as they are both mentioned separately. However, Jesus as the Old Testament Angel of the Lord has been seen, and seen consistently throughout the Old Testament. Jacob even later states that it was an Angel whom he was wrestling, and whom he called God. See Genesis 48:16, "The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." For more on Jesus as the Old Testament Angel of the Lord, see Christophanies.|
|5. God's rules keep changing
God made an “everlasting covenant” with Abraham, but then he tore that one up and made another one with Moses. The New Testament continues the confusion. It can’t decide whether to look backwards and honor existing law or to tear it up yet again, because it says both. First, Jesus commits to existing law:
Matthew 5:17-18 ¶ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
But then the book of Hebrews weaves a legal case that argues that Jesus is a priest in the line of Melchizedek, which ought to take priority over the existing priesthood in the line of Aaron. Here it quotes an Old Testament declaration of God to justify a new covenant.
Hebrews 8:6-13 ¶ But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Jesus is a dramatic change to Judaism, and there must be some logic to justify Christians changing their worship day, dropping the sacrifices, worshiping a new guy in addition to Yahweh, and so on. That rationalizes away one problem, but the overall problem—the various substories don’t fit together in the overall plot—remains. (More: “The Bible Story Reboots. Have You Noticed?”)
|First of all, God never nullified His covenant with Abraham when making a covenant with Moses, that is a blatant mischaracterization by the critic. God's covenant with Abraham was that Abraham's descendants would have the land of Israel, while circumcising their male children and worshiping God. (Genesis 17:7-21; 15:17-21) This commandment was continued under Moses. (Leviticus 12:3). It was certainly not inconsistent or discontinued under the Mosaic Law, indeed Jews today continue to practice circumcision.
Secondly, the new covenant under Jesus that the critic refers to in Hebrews 8 was foretold centuries earlier by the prophet Jeremiah; indeed Hebrews 8 is quoting exactly what Jeremiah said. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) Moses himself told the Israelites that God would raise them up a Prophet to bring them new commandments, and that the Israelites would be punished if not listening to that Prophet. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19) The New Testament repeatedly states that Jesus is that Prophet. (John 1:45; Acts 3:22-23; 7:37)
Thirdly, nothing in the New Testament requires that Christians meet on Sunday rather than Saturday. According to John Calvin in 'Instruction in Faith' the change from Saturday to Sunday was made to avoid legalism by Jewish Christians. To quote Calvin, "As our human weakness does not allow such assemblies to meet every day, the day observed by the Jews has been taken away (as a good device for eliminating superstition) and another day has been destined to this use. This was necessary for securing order and peace in the Church." However, such a practice is not based upon any explicit New Testament teaching.
Fourthly, Israel has long since stopped the sacrifices regardless. This occurred, as prophesied in Daniel 9:25-27, following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by Nero. God said, long before Jesus arrived, that He disapproved of the Jewish sacrifices and sabbaths, taking no pleasure in them. (Isaiah 1:11-15; 66:3; Hosea 6:6; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Psalms 51:16-19; 40:6; 50:8-15; 1 Samuel 15:22) Daniel's prophecy, by the way, perfectly predicted that the Messiah would arrive 483 years (69 weeks of years) after the rebuilding of Jerusalem (444/445 B.C.; cp. Nehemiah 2:1) so the Messiah should have arrived around 38/39 A.D. For more on this, see Scientific Evidence.
Fifthly, the one the Israelites were worshiping was always Jesus. What many people don't realize is that when God spoke to Moses originally in the burning bush, to Abraham even earlier, and to Jacob, it was not God the Father speaking, but the 'Angel of the Lord' who spoke. (Exodus 3:2-4; Genesis 22:15-18; 31:11-13; 32:28-30; 48:16) Jesus Himself said He was the original God of the Israelites. (John 8:56-58) For that reason it is written that Jesus came to His own and they did not receive Him. (John 1:11; cp. Isaiah 53:3-4) For more on Jesus as the Angel of the Lord, see Christophanies.
|6. Faith saves (or do works save?)
Protestant Christianity often emphasizes that faith alone (sola fide) justifies God’s forgiveness. Many verses support this.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
That seems clear enough until we find the opposite claim elsewhere in the Bible. The clearest example to me is the Parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25, but there’s more.
Proverbs 24:12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?
James 2:14 ¶ What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
For something so important as getting into heaven and avoiding hell, the New Testament is surprisingly unclear. Addendum: Or maybe it’s repentance that saves . . . or maybe baptism? What if it’s repentance?
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Or baptism? It was so essential a ritual that Jesus did it.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
|As mentioned by the Scofield Study Bible III, Ephesians 2:8-10 is the passage which brings both views together. We are saved by faith, not works, it's God's gift not man's doing, lest anyone should boast.
However, we are created by Jesus to do good works and it is God's will that we do them. The works themselves do not save, but are the outward evidence to others, and to ourselves, that we have indeed undergone an inward redemptive process of salvation.
True saving faith will ultimately produce good works as the result of a changed heart and a new spirit. Thus if a person shows no interest in doing good works once becoming a Christian, and for years lives without any change, then as James points out, that faith without works is a dead faith and no faith indeed.
Most of the verses quoted by Patheos in support of works, including Proverbs 24:12, Matthew 16:27, and Revelation 20:12 all relate to how people will be judged at the Final Judgment. Even Christians receive rewards based upon their works. However, the ultimate standard for whether one is saved is faith in Jesus Christ, no other foundation for works will be accepted. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) Works only make a difference for rewards if one first has faith in Jesus.
John the Baptist came preaching repentance before Jesus came for a reason. (Matthew 3:2) To trust in Jesus to save us from our sins (i.e. faith) we must first accept that we are sinners, and desire to change and stop doing evil; i.e. repentance. Repentance must precede faith; one cannot trust in Jesus to save us from our sins if one does not first acknowledge one has done anything wrong. One cannot call on Jesus to save them unless they desire to change with all their heart.
As for baptism, it is not the physical action which is involved in the salvation process, but baptism of the Holy Spirit, the cleansing of one's conscience. (Acts 1:25; 11:16) As Peter says, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21) Baptism serves as a public declaration of faith in Christ, and in countries like ancient Rome which outlawed Christianity, was to take a dangerous step in openly proclaiming a belief in Jesus.
|7. The different genealogies of Jesus
The Messiah had to be of the line of David (Jeremiah 33:15–17; Isaiah 9:7), so two gospels provide genealogies of Jesus to validate this requirement. The problem is that we only need to go back one generation, to Joseph’s father, to find a problem.
Matthew 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Luke 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,
There is just one unique male biological line that would terminate in Joseph, so at least one of these genealogies is wrong. And it’s hard to imagine that an ordinary Joe like Joseph would have a reliable record of his genealogy going back generations. Worse, Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus, so his genealogy is irrelevant. If being in the line of David is a requirement, then having a god for a father makes you ineligible.
The most common rebuttal is to say that the Luke genealogy is for Mary, but the text makes clear that it’s for Joseph. Anyway, why would you provide the genealogy of the parent from whom descent from David wouldn’t count? We’re seeing the incompatible clash of two ideas: Jesus inherits David’s throne and Jesus was the son of God.
|Every person has two genealogies, one through their father, and one through their mother. As Halley's Bible Handbook points out:
This has been recognized since at least 1917 when the Scofield Reference Bible printed a similar explanation:
Per the Scofield, it accords with Jewish usage to present the mother's genealogy in the father's name, thus the confusion over two seemingly differing genealogies. It also explains why the Luke account begins with a focus on Mary, giving detail only she would know, detail specific to her life. Luke ch. 1 delves into the history of Mary's cousin Elisabeth and Elisabeth's child, John the Baptist, the angel's greeting of Mary, Mary's thanksgiving to God, and how Mary stayed with Elisabeth afterward. Luke 2:19 says, "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:34 records Simeon speaking to Mary specifically, while Luke 2:48 records her conversation with Jesus.
In short, a logical reading of Luke shows the narrator of the early chapters appears to be Mary, not Joseph, and seems to be written from her point of view distinctly. Matthew 1, on the other hand, tells a more matter-of-fact account from Joseph's point of view, telling detail from his vantage point and only that pertaining to him. Just as Luke relates Mary's feelings and thoughts, so does Matthew's early account with Joseph. Matthew 1:19-20 describes Joseph's thought process to send Mary away privately, and his discussion with the angel that persuades him otherwise. Matthew 2:19-23 describe the angel's message to Joseph specifically that it's alright to return to Israel.
Just as the early chapters of Matthew appear written from Joseph's view, so the early chapters of Luke appear clearly written from Mary's, and the genealogies in Matthew those of Joseph's while Luke records Mary's genealogy.
|8. Does God prevent harm to good Christians?
In response to a church shooting, where good Christians were doubtless praying to God but still got shot, Christian apologist Greg Koukl pushed back against the idea that anyone should be surprised (I responded here). In fact, he assures us, Jesus promised persecution.
1 Peter 4:12-13 ¶ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
Koukl said, “There is . . . no rationale, no line of thinking that if God does exist that only good things happen to people, particularly people who believe in God, especially Christians.” In fact, the Good Book says precisely that:
Proverbs 12:21 ¶ There shall no evil happen to the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief.
Psalms 91:5-10 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. ¶ Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
When Christians desperately praying for their lives in a church are gunned down, atheists are right to point out that this makes one question God’s existence.
|The Bible makes very clear throughout that God's blessing does not always or necessarily occur during this life. There are evil people who prosper in this life, and righteous people who do not. (Ecclesiastes 7:15; 8:14) Wealth in this life is a poor determinant of ultimate wealth for eternity. There are those who make themselves poor in this life but are rich, and those who make themselves rich in this life but have nothing of value. (Proverbs 13:7) A final judgment and life after this one will set right the wrongs of this life, so that the righteous who suffered will be those in power, and the wicked who had power will be those suffering. (Luke 16:25; 6:24-25; Matthew 5:3-4; Isaiah 65:13-14; James 5:1-8)
Indeed, Christians are expected to follow Christ's example in enduring suffering (1 Peter 4:12-14). Does it really make sense for Christians to expect they will be exempted from the trials their leader, the Son of God, endured?
In the case of Job, God allowed Satan to persecute him; but God ultimately blessed him and showed favor to him, blessing him with twice as much as what he had lost. (Job 41:10-12) God used Job's trials to refine him, making him even stronger as a warrior for God, and justify even greater rewards for him. (Zechariah 13:9) God uses trials to refine His servants, the way that fire is used to refine metals and make them stronger. (Malachi 3:3; Proverbs 17:3; 27:21; Jeremiah 9:7; Isaiah 1:25; 13:12) Jesus Himself was purified and refined through sufferings, to make Him the perfect leader for all time. (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-9) God's chastening is used to make us stronger warriors for His kingdom. Christians are thus encouraged to endure suffering as faithful soldiers of Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3; Hebrews 12:5-11)
Furthermore, a rudimentary reading of Psalms 91 shows that it is not referring to everyone, but to "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High... under the shadow of the Almighty." (v. 1) Verse 11 is specifically a prophecy of Jesus, so the chapter appears to be referring to Jesus specifically. (cp. Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10-11)
|9. When is the End?
A 2013 poll found that 41 percent of U.S. adults think that we’re now living in the end times. But ask for the precise date, and the standard response is to point to this verse:
Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
Harold Camping was hilariously wrong about his prediction of the Rapture® on May 21, 2011 (here, here), and fellow Christians pointed to that verse. But Brother Camping had a comeback with this passage:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 ¶ But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Some people won't know, the children of darkness. But the enlightened ones will know. (Or not, if Jesus was correctly quoted.)
|1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 simply reiterates what Matthew 24:36 said, that the "day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night;" in other words without warning. Paul says that Christians should not have the day overtake them as a thief because they are children of light, not darkness. In contrast to the assumptions of the critic, Paul is not saying that Christians can know when Jesus' return will be; indeed Jesus said that not even He knows, only God the Father, when that day will be. (Mark 13:32)
Rather, Paul is saying that Christians should live righteously at all times in preparations for Christ's return, as Jesus told them they should. (cp. Matthew 24:42-51; Romans 13:11-13; Revelation 16:15, Revelation 3:3; Luke 21:36) Had the critic read the verses remotely in context this should have been obvious, since in the following verses Paul urges Christians to soberly watch for Christ's return, encouraging and edifying one another while living righteously. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-23)
|10. Jesus finds a new home for Mary. But why?
While on the cross, Jesus was concerned about his mother and made provisions for her to be taken care of after he was gone.
That’s a nice gesture, but why was it necessary? Mary had other sons. Tradition holds that James, the leader of the church and supposed author of the epistle of James, was the brother of Jesus. And then we have this:
Matthew 13:55 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
|Mary did have other sons. But at least two of them were Jesus' disciples, James and Judas (not Iscariot). (cp. Luke 6:13-16; Galatians 1:19; and Jude 1:1) And many of Jesus' disciples had lost their homes and lands for following Jesus. (Mark 10:28-30) So at least two of Mary's children were likely homeless. It's possible that John was a rare apostle who still had a home, whereas Mary's other children did not. Whatever the case, there is reason to conclude that at least half of Mary's other sons were homeless due to following Jesus; and as such it would be presumptuous to assume a contradiction where none is required by the text.|
|11. Do people deserve punishment for their ancestors' sins?
The Bible demands intergenerational punishment so that children must be punished for their parents’ sins.
Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Jeremiah 16:11 Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;
But the opposite claim is recorded in the Bible as well.
Deuteronomy 24:16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
Jeremiah 31:30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.
Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Where does this leave Original Sin? This is the idea that we’re born fallen and deserve hell because of Adam’s sin, which infects us all. What foundation remains for Original Sin if it is undercut by the Bible itself?
|The same teachings both appear in the book of Deuteronomy.
These commandments were both given to Moses at the same time. While God only commands capital punishment for those who sin, not their children, there are genetic consequences not involving death which occur from sin which affect one's descendants. For example, incest can cause birth defects. In some cases, God even curses the descendants of the wicked. (Psalms 109:13) Thus, children are not put to death for what their parents have done (Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:20), but can to a degree still "bear the iniquity" of their parents' actions in the form of negative circumstances. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10; Exodus 20:5)
Nonetheless, God shows mercy to those who do good, judging them based on their own actions. (Ezekiel 18) God can turn away wrath and consequences as He did from Nineveh. In the case of King Josiah for example his individual righteousness resulted in God delaying a punishment that would have otherwise come upon him. (2 Kings 22:19-20)
As for the doctrine of Original Sin, while sin entered the human race because of Adam and Eve's disobedience, we still are accountable to God based on our free will decisions. (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22) While we have a sin nature that causes temptation to sin, and become even more enslaved to the sins we engage in (Romans 6:16-21), we are still accountable to God for our sins. Although the Bible calls those righteous who seek after God, doing justice and mercy, nonetheless all our good deeds are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), and apart from the salvation in Jesus, our good deeds are all outweighed by our bad ones, so that we would be futilely seeking to outweigh the debts for our sin with good works. (Romans 4:4-8) By works will none be justified. (Galatians 2:16) Only by faith in Jesus can we be justified. (Galatians 3:11)
|12. What day was Jesus crucified on?
The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) say that the Last Supper was the Passover meal and that Jesus was crucified after the Passover meal.
Matthew 26:17 ¶ Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?
Three verses later, Jesus is at the Passover meal, the Last Supper. But in John, the order is reversed: it’s the crucifixion and then the Passover meal.
John 19:31 ¶ The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
A “historical account,” as the gospels are claimed by some to be, should get the order of important events correct, and the Passover meal and the crucifixion are both important events.
|Jesus was crucified on a Friday morning, the 14th of Nisan according to the Jewish calendar. For an excellent summary of the timeline involved, scroll down to the sections "Jesus Fulfills All Time Requirements" and "Three Days and Nights in the Bowels Confusion" by Laverna Patterson of Teaching Hearts. As for John 19:31, the confusion, as excellently pointed out by Jeff Miller of Apologetics Press, is caused by the Greek word translated "preparation" in John 19:31, paraskeue, which should have been translated as Friday. To quote Miller,
|13. Who should the disciples convert?
At the end of the gospel story, Jesus has risen and is giving the disciples their final instructions.
Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
This is the familiar Great Commission, and it’s a lot more generous than what has been called the lesser commission that appears earlier in the same gospel:
Matthew 10:5-6 ¶ These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
This was not a universal message. We see it again in his encounter with the Canaanite woman:
Matthew 15:24-26 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
You might say that a ministry with limited resources had to prioritize, but that doesn’t apply here. Don’t forget that Jesus was omnipotent. Going back to the Old Testament, we don’t find an all-inclusive message there, either. The Israelites were God’s “Chosen People,” and God had harsh things to say about neighboring tribes.
Deuteronomy 23:3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:
God also forbids intermarriage with these foreign tribes (Deut. 7:3; Ezra 9:2, 10:10; Nehemiah 13). Let’s revisit the fact that Matthew is contradictory when it says both “Make disciples of all nations” and “Do not go among the Gentiles [but only] to the lost sheep of Israel.” There are no early papyrus copies of Matthew 28 (the “Make disciples of all nations” chapter), and the earliest copies of this chapter are in the codices copied in the mid-300s. That’s almost three centuries of silence from original to our best copies, a lot of opportunity for the Great Commission to get “improved” by copyists. I’m not saying it was, of course; I’m simply offering one explanation for why the gospel in Matthew has Jesus change so fundamental a tenet as who he came to save.
|There is no contradiction here, just a critic ignoring chronology and context. Because of the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it was necessary that the Gospel had to first be delivered to the Jews; only after rejecting it was it made available to the Gentiles. (Acts 3:25-26; 13:46; Luke 24:47) Nonetheless, it was not God's will that this should cause the downfall of the Jews, but that their rejection would lead to mercy for the Gentiles, who by then showing mercy to the Jews and preaching the Gospel to them, God might have mercy upon all. (Romans 11:30-32)
As such, the disciples were originally sent to the Jews specifically (Matthew 10:5-6) but Jesus then gradually showed them that His salvation would also be to the Gentiles (Matthew 15:24-28); culminating in the Great Commission telling them to witness to all nations. (Matthew 28:19) When the disciples try to send the Canaanite woman away, Jesus refuses, telling them that He's not sent only to the House of Israel. (Matthew 15:24) He then uses the situation to show mercy on her, healing her daughter because of her faith, verses that the critic dishonestly omits. (Matthew 15:27-28) Jesus continued to heal and preach to the Gentiles, (Luke 17:16; John 4:9-42) while using parables to teach against the long-held Jewish biases against the Gentiles. (Luke 10:33-36)
With the Ammonites and Moabites, they were kept from becoming Israelites because as a nation they had persecuted the Israelites, refusing them food and water while hiring Balaam to curse them. (Deuteronomy 23:3-4; Nehemiah 13:1-2) The critic once again omits the explanatory verses which provide context. However, foreigners/Gentiles in general could become Israelites, as Rahab and Ruth did (Joshua 6:25; Ruth 1:16; Matthew 1:5), by entering Israel and adopting Israelite practices. (Exodus 12:48; Numbers 9:14; Deuteronomy 31:12) Indeed, there were numerous commandments by God prohibiting discrimination against these foreigners/immigrants dwelling in Israel (KJV strangers) since Israel had themselves been immigrants oppressed in the land of Egypt, requiring that they be treated fairly like Israelites and allowed to harvest food when they needed it. (Exodus 12:49; 20:10; 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:10,33-34; 23:22; 24:22; 25:6; Numbers 9:14; 15:15-16; Deuteronomy 1:16; 5:14; 10:18-19; 14:29; 16:11,14; 23:7; 24:17,19-21; 26:11-13; 27:19) Jesus in the New Testament states that how others treat them will be used as a basis for God's judgment at the Final Judgment. (Matthew 23:35,38,43)
Intermarriage into Canaanite nations specifically was forbidden to prevent Israelites from adopting their practices, such as cannibalistic child sacrifice to idols like Baal and Molech. (Deuteronomy 12:31; Exodus 34:12-16) See Destruction of Canaanites. However, again, members of those nations could become Israelites by abandoning their pagan practices and becoming Israelite citizens. When Aaron and Miriam discriminated against Moses' Ethiopian wife because of her skin color, God ironically punished Miriam by giving her leprosy so that her skin turned white, forcing her to live in exile for a week as punishment. (Numbers 12) In Song of Solomon 1:6, we are specifically commanded against judging others based on dark skin, and told that it is caused by exposure to the sun. See Dawkins' Criticisms for what the Bible teaches about racism.
As for Matthew 28, it is quoted by numerous church fathers well before 300 A.D., including Ignatius, Tertullian, and Hippolytus, as pointed out by J.P. Holding of Tektonics.
|14. Jesus should've returned already.
Jesus promised to return within the lifetimes of those listening to him. This Apocalyptic message (Apocalypticism claims that the end times are very close) is found in the three synoptic gospels. It takes a passage in Isaiah 13 that predicts calamity for Babylon—that the sun and moon will darken and the stars will fall—and repurposes it as a prediction of the end. It also predicts:
Matthew 24:30-31 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The prediction ends saying that this will all happen soon.
Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Let me emphasize those two points: “these things” will happen soon (within months or years, not centuries), and “these things” are obvious and world-destroyingly calamitous. The popular Christian response that this referred to the fall of the Temple won’t fly. Earlier in the same gospel, we find other references to the imminent coming of the Son of Man:
Matthew 10:23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
Matthew 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
It’s been a lot longer than one generation. Jesus made a mistake.
|Matthew 24, was a response to two questions: 1) when the Temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed, and 2) when Christ's coming would occur. (Luke 21:5-7; Matthew 24:1-3) The Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed within one generation of Christ speaking when Nero destroyed it in 70 A.D. Thus the first response was definitely fulfilled within one generation. Furthermore, because John saw all that occurred as recorded in the book of Revelation, and Stephen witnessed the return of Christ (Acts 7:56), the second response can be considered fulfilled as well.
Jesus clearly told the apostles what had to happen first before His return in Matthew 24. Jesus told them there would be numerous wars, famines, earthquakes, and false prophets first. (vv. 7-11) The Gospel would first be preached throughout the entire world followed by a massive tribulation perpetrated by the antichrist against Christians. (vv. 14-22) Jesus plainly told them that the exact time of His return was not known even to Him, only to God the Father. (v. 36) Just because the apostles warned one another to be constantly ready for His return as Jesus had urged them to do (Matthew 24:36-51) does not mean they claimed a return would occur during their own lifetimes.
As for Matthew 10:23, it states that the cities of Israel won't be finished by the apostles by the time of Jesus' return, presumably referring to the Gospel being preached there. Given the upheaval in Israel over the last 2,000 years ago, there is no reason to assume that will prove untrue.
|15. Jesus promises that prayers are answered
Jesus says a lot about prayer, and he makes big claims for it.
Matthew 7:7 ¶ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
John 14:12 ¶ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
Apologists say that Jesus isn’t like a genie, but they need to reread their Bibles. Jesus really does say, “Ask, and ye shall receive”—it’s in John 16:24. He says it without caveats. That promise has been tested uncountably many times, often by desperate people, but if Jesus answers, it’s indistinguishable from chance. (More on prayer here and here.)
|The critic carelessly claims that Jesus makes no caveats when it comes to prayer, when in fact there are numerous caveats mentioned. First of all, Matthew 7:7 is in the context of Jesus' broader comments on prayer, (cp. Luke 11:1-13) that we should pray without repetition or asking for physical possessions, since God knows what we need without us asking Him. (Matthew 6:7-8) We are told not to concern ourselves in prayer with material possessions but treasure in Heaven, and that our hearts will only be in Heaven if that is where our treasure is. (Matthew 16:19-21) We should be content with food and clothing from God, seeking first God's kingdom and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:25-34)
Furthermore, Jesus' statement that if we ask we will receive was made concerning God's giving of the Holy Spirit to those who ask. (Luke 11:9-13) We are commanded to additionally pray, first and foremost, that God's will be done, not our own. (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2) Aside from food and clothing, we should not be asking for anything physical. (Matthew 6:11,25; Luke 11:3; 12:22-31) It is only when seeking God's kingdom first that we can expect God to eventually, in His own time, add more. (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31) Nor will this necessarily be in this life; we should be most concerned with treasures in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Luke 12:32-33; Matthew 6:19-20)
We can only expect God to receive our petitions if we are asking according to His will, after the manner Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6-7 and Luke 11-12. (1 John 5:14-15) Faith is more than just believing that God exists, but doing God's commandments because we trust in Him. (1 John 3:22-24) God does not hear prayers from those He has no relationship with, and for Him to hear us, we must have fully cleansed hearts, walking in full confidence and purity towards Him. (Hebrews 10:22-23) One thing that is freely given by God is wisdom, so long as those asking for it ask in faith without doubting. (James 1:5-7) Receiving from God is contingent not just upon asking God, but asking correctly in humility, out of love rather than lust, having submitted ourselves to God, drawing near to Him, with cleansed hands and purified hearts. (James 4:2-10)
As David writes in the Psalms, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psalms 66:18) God only hears the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29; 28:29; Isaiah 1:15) The blind man Jesus healed testified to this, saying "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." (John 9:31) Those who have despised God will be ignored by Him when trouble comes upon them. (Proverbs 1:29-30; Jeremiah 14:10-12) Those who have done evil to others and did not show mercy to them will be similarly be ignored by God during their times of trouble. (Zechariah 7:12-13; Micah 3:3-4; Ezekiel 8:17-18)
Receiving by asking in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14) is contingent upon us abiding in Jesus and His words abiding in us, so that we do all of His commandments. (John 15:7) We are only Jesus' disciples if bearing fruit. (John 15:8) Furthermore, it requires two Christians agreeing upon something, not just one, in some cases. (Matthew 18:19) Prayer in faith, being able to work miracles, involves a holy, righteous life that seeks the glory of Jesus and God the Father, to do the Father's will not ours, asking in humility while focused on rewards in Heaven, not on Earth, having helped others as we hope for God to help us, ideally asking in fellowship with another Christian who meets those requirements.
Answered prayers follow after holiness. We should first be asking that if there is anything in our hearts not according to God's will that He will change us. Only when our hearts are right and pure before God can we expect to start asking for miracles. Put simply, we cannot expect God's blessings unless we are doing His will.
|16. There are two incompatible Ten Commandments
You know the story: Moses got the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 20. The list of commandments had the familiar rules—no blaspheming, no murder, no lying, no stealing, and so on. Moses returns, only to find that the Israelites, impatient and anxious during his long absence, had made and were worshipping a golden calf, a familiar object of worship from Egypt.
Moses smashed the tablets in his rage, 3000 Israelites were killed in the opening round of punishment, and Moses eventually went back up for a duplicate set (Exodus 34), which was put in the Ark of the Covenant.
Except that it wasn’t a duplicate set. It’s a list that very few Christians are familiar with. For example, number 5 is “The first offspring from every womb belongs to me.” Number 7: Celebrate the Feast of Weeks. Number 10: “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” This set is referred to as the “Ten Commandments” in Exodus, not the other set.
We can debate which set fundamentalists should try to illegally place on government property, but despite God’s assurance, these are two very different sets of rules. (More here and here.)
|There is no contradiction, the critic just wants to find one where there is none. Moses plainly says in Deuteronomy 10:1-4 that the words on the second set of Ten Commandments were the exact same words as those on the first set. Observe that Exodus 34:28 does not say what the Ten Commandments being given are. The critic carelessly claims that Moses received the first set of Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, when actually Moses did not receive them until Exodus 31:18--which also does not say what the Ten Commandments were.
As for the commandments given in Exodus 34, they are identical to commandments given earlier by God when He communed with Moses from Exodus 20-31. Compare for example Exodus 34:12 with 23:32; 34:13 with 23:24; 34:14 with 20:3-5; 34:15-16 with 23:33; 34:17 with 20:4; 34:18 with 23:15; 34:19-20 with 22:29-30; 34:21 with 20:9 and 23:12; 34:22 with 23:16; 34:23 with 23:17; 34:25 with 23:18; and 34:26 with 23:19. At any rate there was no difference between the two sets of Ten Commandments.
|17. There are two creation stories in Genesis
There are also two creation stories at the beginning of Genesis. First is the six-day creation story that enumerates the things God created day by day, after which God rested. Next is an older creation story, the one about the Garden of Eden.
Apologists try to harmonize these two, saying that the Garden of Eden story is just an in-depth look at the last day of creation, but details in the two stories disagree. The 6-day story says that humans can eat from every tree, while the Eden story says that one is forbidden. The 6-day story has plants and animals before humans, while the Eden story has the opposite. And so on (more).
|The Genesis 1 and 2 passages are of course not accounts of the same event with contradicting details. Rather, Genesis 1:1-2:3 is God's account of creation, and 2:4-4:27 is Adam's account of the Garden of Eden. Genesis 1:1-2:3 (1:1, an account of "In the beginning") is not the same account as Genesis 2:4-4:26 (2:4, "generations of the heavens and the Earth") - Genesis 1 relates God's account of how the Earth and creation were made, Genesis 2-4 relates Adam's account of God creating individual life in the Garden of Eden, including himself. Genesis 2:19 does not relate the original creation of cattle and birds, but recreation of more animals of the types already created to see what Adam will name them. Genesis 2 does not show an additional account of the original creation, which would make no sense, rather it starts with Day 6 and Adam's creation as told from his point of view, and relates God recreating animals already made in the Garden of Eden to see what Adam will name them.
Genesis is actually subdivided into different accounts with the Hebrew word "towl@dah" meaning "generations" or "genealogy." For more on this, see the Wiseman Hypothesis, aka the Tablet Theory, the competing theory to the Documentary Hypothesis. This word marks the start of a new account in Genesis 2:4 just like it marks the beginning of accounts throughout the book of Genesis. Genesis appears to be a collation of different accounts by patriarchs like Adam, Noah, and Abraham that are each comprised of a genealogy and a narrative the same way ancient Mesopotamian family tablets are, with Moses the one who likely combined them.
|18. There are even two Flood stories
You see the trend: the Old Testament often has two different, incompatible stories. Each was too precious for ancient editors to discard, so both were jammed together somehow. The two Ten Commandments stories are separated by over a dozen chapters, the two creation stories are back to back, and they’re interleaved in the Flood story.
In Flood story 1, the older story, Noah takes seven pairs of all clean animals plus one pair of all the others. Once on board with his family, it rained for forty days and forty nights, and everything outside the ark was killed. Noah sent out a dove to scout for dry land. On the second try, it returned with an olive leaf. Back on dry land, Noah sacrificed one of every clean animal to Yahweh, and Yahweh promised to never again destroy life on earth (with a flood, anyway).
In story #2, God is named, not Yahweh, but Elohim, and specifics about the design of the ark are given. With just one pair of each animal plus provisions, Noah (now 600 years old) and family go into the ark. This time, the water comes, not from rain, but from “the fountains of the great deep” and “the windows of the heavens.” Water had covered the earth for 150 days when Elohim made the water recede. This time it was a raven that helped scout for dry land, and they were back on dry land after a year in the ark. God told them to “be fruitful and multiply.”
A leading explanation of the Old Testament’s many story pairs is the Documentary Hypothesis. It answers a lot of questions and proposes four original documents that were merged to make the Pentateuch, the Bible’s first five books. Read more on the two Flood stories and the Documentary Hypothesis here.
|All animals were being brought in pairs of two except clean animals which were brought in pairs of 7 for purposes of food, though whether that was for Noah or the other animals is unclear. Thus 'clean' animals were the exception because more were needed as a food source. I'm sure any Jew familiar with kosher could have told the critics this as well. Critics who've claimed this as a contradiction are just entirely ignorant of the whole kosher concept of Judaism and what clean/unclean meant in the Torah. As seen from the Mosaic Law, clean animals were those allowed for eating.
Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are dedicated to explaining which animals specifically were considered clean and unclean. God declared some things clean and others unclean apparently for purposes of keeping Israel from infectious diseases by having them avoid animals and situations likely to cause diseases, e.g. not touching the blood of what is unclean or the clothing of infected people, even unclosed jars in diseased areas were considered unclean. (Leviticus 5:2, 7:26, 12:4-7, 13:59, 15:2-33, 19:14-15)
While the Documentary Hypothesis has claimed the Flood story derived from multiple sources, this is disproven by the remarkable chiastic structure of the Flood account, as pointed out by Duane Garrett of Associates for Biblical Research. Chiasms are structured literary devices, and they are interwoven throughout the book of Genesis.
|19. Resurrection contradictions
Forty percent of the gospels focus on the last week of Jesus' life, from the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the crucifixion, resurrection, and final teachings, and they differ on many points.
A popular Christian response is to say that just because only Matthew wrote about the dead coming out of their graves and walking around Jerusalem doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. (Yeah—the other gospel writers must not have thought that Jesus causing the dead to reanimate and walk around Jerusalem, seen by many, wasn’t worth writing about.)
Or that just because John says “Mary Magdalene went to the tomb,” that doesn’t mean that many other women weren’t also with her as Luke says (“Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them”).
Or that just because only Matthew has Jesus riding on two donkeys, that doesn’t mean the other gospels’ reference to just one disagrees. (Yeah, it pretty much does.)
Or that Paul’s reference to 500 eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus might’ve been compelling to him, but it wasn’t worth writing about in any gospel (more).
From who Peter denied Jesus, to Jesus’s last words, to who the women saw at the tomb, to whether Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus or not, to how many days Jesus stayed after his resurrection, the various accounts differ. (More here.)
|Patheos essentially argues that a contradiction should be assumed simply because some Gospels fail to mention the explicit details mentioned in others. However, so long as a reasonable explanation exists by which the accounts can be harmonized, and indeed would have been a very likely occurrence, no contradiction should be inferred. Furthermore, the existence of differences between the two accounts by no means indicates the existence of a contradiction.
Witnesses in court of law will not relate the exact details which occurred as they typically have different perspectives and vantage points of what happened. That does not change the truthfulness of their accounts. Indeed, there would be no point in having four Gospel accounts if they all related the exact same details; they would be the same account. The Gospels, along with the book of Acts, can each provide differing levels of detail according to the experiences of the authors, without being inaccurate or uninspired.
Concerning the specific cases brought up by Patheos, and why only Matthew would mention "many" saints rising from the graves at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, an apt response has been made by Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers, in pointing out that the saints which were raised were likely believers in Jesus who had recently died in Jerusalem just before His crucifixion, given the usage of the word saints, which in the New Testament is used to refer to Christian believers. After all, the bodies of David and other patriarchs would have long since decomposed. Had David been one of those raised, use of David as an example in Acts 2:29 and 13:35-37 would have made little sense. Furthermore, usage of the word "many" may have meant only a dozen or two dozen who had recently died reviving, and preaching to an equal number in Jerusalem. Depending on how many of them were elderly, they may have died soon afterwards. Whatever the case, the fact that it was unmentioned in other gospels does not itself constitute a contradiction.
As for the women visiting the tomb, there were actually two separate visits, the first by three women, and the second by multiple women as well as Peter and John. See the note on John 20:10 for details. Rather than a contradiction, it is a proof multiple perspectives were being recorded, a proof against the erroneous claim the Gospels were produced from a single source (Q hypothesis). If one author was aware of one person present, another of two people, and another that three were there, it is in no way a contradiction. Or one writer may see fit to mention only one, another two, and yet another writer to mention all persons present. In no way does it contradict, it simply means less detail was provided about those present by different writers.
Concerning Paul's reference to 500 witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:6), it would have taken time to identify and count all those who had witnessed Jesus' resurrection. Given the rapid dispersion that occurred immediately after Jesus' resurrection following the Great Commission to go preaching throughout the world (Mark 16:15-20) the disciples may have been going in all directions for the next several decades, making any count difficult. Thus the Gospel writers may not have known the exact number at the time they wrote the Gospels, leaving it to the meticulous Paul to determine the numbers years later.
Jesus' last words were "It is finished." See the note on John 19:30 For who the women saw at the tomb and the sequence of events involving Mary Magdalene, see the note for John 20:12. Contrary to the blogger's claim, Luke 24:51 says nothing about Jesus returning to Heaven the same day as His resurrection. There is no reason the period in which Jesus taught the disciples from Luke 24:45-49 could not have coincided with the 40 days referred to in Acts 1:3.
|20. Jesus forgets the plot
At some point the three persons of the Trinity—Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—agreed that Jesus should live as a human on earth. Jesus was born as a divine being (except in Mark, where he becomes divine with his baptism) and lives out a life that ends with crucifixion. Just before that, he prayed with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. To the few disciples with him, he said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Then he prays, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup [he’s referring to the upcoming crucifixion] be taken from me.” He prays this three times. The story is the same in Mark, and in Luke, an angel strengthens Jesus.
Why did Jesus go off-script? He was part of the Trinity that decided this, so how could he be second-guessing the plan now?
We can look for a human comparison. It wouldn’t be surprising for an ordinary human to have second thoughts before a suicide mission, but in this story we’re talking about a god. Even if agony were a thing that he could perceive, why would an omniscient being question a plan that he knows is perfect?
|Jesus was both the Son of God and man; that He was troubled by the coming torture He would endure should hardly be surprising. As seen from John 12:27-28, Jesus said, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name." Jesus, with His knowledge of what would come, could see what He would have to endure, and was "troubled" by it.
Even though Jesus was sinless, He was not considered perfect until after His sufferings, perhaps because only then had He shown that He could handle human frailty while remaining sinless in the face of temptation. As it is written in Hebrews 5:8-9, "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." It is possible that His actions in doing so were a deliberate example for later Christians who, going through horrible trials, to see that when they are unable to cope, God will be there to strengthen them. Jesus' temptations and His responses to them were intended as an example for later Christians to emulate when going through similar trials, since "He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16; 6:20)
Whatever the case, there is no contradiction here, as evidenced by Patheos' own acknowledgement that "Even if agony were a thing that he could perceive, why would an omniscient being question a plan that he knows is perfect?" Quite simply, even if one is omniscient, that doesn't mean one wants to endure intense, physical-life-ending agony.
- Calvin, J. (1537). "Instruction in Faith." pp. 31-32. Westminster/John Knox Press.
- Lohnes, K. (2018, August 29). "Siege of Jerusalem." Encyclopedia Britannica.
- Scofield, Cyrus I. (2003). The Scofield Study Bible III. pg. 1625. Oxford University Press.
- Halley, H.H. (1984). Halley's Bible handbook with the New International Version. Zondervan Publishing House.
- Scofield, C.I. (1917). Scofield Reference Notes.
- Patterson, L. (2011, June). "List of Messianic Prophecies." Teaching Hearts.
- Thayer and Smith (2019). "Greek Lexicon Entry for Paraskeue." BibleStudyTools.
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Garrett, D. (2010, September 24). "The Documentary Hypothesis." Associates for Biblical Research.
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- Ellicott, C.J. (1905). "Matthew 27:52." In "A Bible Commentary for English Readers by Various Writers." (London, Paris, New York, and Melbourne: Cassell and Company LTD.). BibleStudyTools.