Friday, November 29, 2013

I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine (Mark 15)

Mark 15 once again is going to be largely a repeat of the issues in Matthew 27. Looking through the notes, I see two issues not covered yet, one of which I have an answer for, and one of which I don't.

"Did Jesus drink from the cross?" It may be worth noting that in the two verses shown here, there are two different substances being offered to Jesus to drink. At the Last Supper, Jesus said that he wouldn't drink wine again until in his kingdom, so when they offered him wine, he refused. That doesn't mean he couldn't take anything at all to drink, and so I figure at a separate time they offered him vinegar and he took it.

"When (at what hour) was Jesus crucified?" There does seem to be a true contradiction here, and while I have heard there were different methods of reckoning time in the first century I don't know that any of them make this work out. Mark seems pretty clear that it was the "third hour" which means mid-morning, but the other Gospels all make it sound like an afternoon event.

Oh, and I guess I could make a response to the note on verse 33. If the darkness spoken of (which was not called "complete" darkness) was something like a solar eclipse, that would be noteworthy, but since it doesn't say, it may have simply been a sudden heavy cloud cover, which would hardly be historically notable.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

As for the perfume (Mark 13-14)

Mark 13 has got a lot of notes on it, but it's clearly almost entirely repetition of Matthew 24. The only thing missing is an answer to "Did Jesus know everything?" which I covered here.

Now Mark 14 is mostly a parallel to Matthew 26, but I think it has a lot more differences to cover.

The SAB asks "Is it OK to use perfume?" which I think is one of the biggest stretches for a contradiction I've seen in the SAB. The Exodus verse is a special case in which special perfume was made that was not to be used except for special purposes, and I think that's pretty clear. The Proverbs verse is indeed talking about a whore, but if you're going to say that because she's a whore, everything she does is bad, then you'd have to say that it's also evil for a woman to go outside or use Egyptian linen. While I'm not 100% sure about the Isaiah passages, they sound to me like they're in the same boat as the Proverbs passage.

The SAB then asks "Was Jesus crucified the day before or the day after the Passover meal?" This makes me laugh, because it's a simple misunderstanding. Ask any practicing Jew and they'll tell you that there is a special meal on both the first and second nights of Passover. The verses in John that are referring to the preparation of the meal are talking about the preparing of the second meal.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Filled with the Holy Ghost (Mark 11-12)

As it happens, all of the issues that the SAB brings up in Mark 11 were addressed when I covered Matthew 21 (which also covers the parable of the vineyard at the beginning of the next chapter).

So Mark 12 ends up likewise being very similar to Matthew 22, but there are a few differences there. Verse 26 asks "Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush?" I'm surprised I didn't cover this back in Exodus 3; I assume this is a note that has been added since I covered Exodus. Anyway, the O.T. passages that talk about this occurrence make reference to "the angel of the LORD", and thus the SAB says that it was an angel, and not God. However, most people who study the Bible understand that "the angel of the LORD" is the equivalent of God, so while it may sound strange, it's not a contradiction.

I addressed how many gods there are in Exodus 12. The question of "When was the Holy Ghost given?" is a tricky one that I thought I'd addressed, but it appears not. It gets more complicated than even the linked page lets on, as I think you can rightfully include any mentions of "the spirit of the LORD" which are plentiful in the O.T. Anyway, the answer is that the Holy Ghost was given generally to the Church as a whole at Pentecost shortly after Jesus' resurrection, but there were occasional dispensations that preceded that event.

Those are all the big issues from these two chapters, but I'll make a comment on the SAB's final note on 12:41-44, "Jesus believed in progressive taxation." I'm happy to think that this may have been the case, as I myself am a fan of progressive taxation, but I think reading that into the scene may be a bit much. In fact, given that the widow "cast in all that she had" progressive taxation would imply that Jesus thinks everyone should be taxed at 100%.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Male and female created he them (Mark 10)

Mark 10 has a lot of repetition, but it looks like there are one or two new things here. For instance, the first note here on verse 6, which I think is a bit of an odd interpretation. Whether you think that the universe is billions of years old or you're a young-earth creationist and you think it's just a few thousand years old or anywhere in between, I think you can still say with certainty that humans have always been male and female as long as they have existed, which I'm pretty sure is Jesus' point. Even if you're in the YEC crowd you probably believe that humans were created six days after the earth, so from the literal beginning can't be the point.

So, repeated points: Divorce answered here. Polygamy (although I'm not sure why it comes up in this chapter) answered here. Childishness answered here.

I already answered the question of whether anyone is good here, and whether Jesus is God here, but the verse that brought up both of those questions was addressed in Matthew 19. In fact, that chapter was largely parallel to this one and also has answers for the questions on verses 19, 25, 27, and 29.

Once again, as I've said before, Jesus did tell his disciples about his death and resurrection, and the fact that they failed to understand doesn't invalidate that. Asking Jesus for the best seats was covered Matthew 20 which also has a lot of parallels including addressing the "ransom" questions from verse 45 and the blind man questions from verse 46. (I don't know why verse 42 brings up a question about slavery, nor am I sure what to say about it.)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

And was transfigured before them (Mark 9)

The first two points of Mark 9 are ones I already answered in Matthew 16 and 17, but I'm going to address them again here since they oddly go together and splitting them into two chapters I think misses the real subtlety of the matter. Yes, Jesus made a prophecy that sounds like he's saying that people there with him would be alive until the end of the world. But what if that's not what he's really saying? Look at the SAB's page for the very next issue, "When was the transfiguration?"and read those quoted passages. My point? The Gospel writers understood that there was something intrinsically connected between what Jesus was saying about "see[ing] the kingdom of God come with power" and the following transfiguration. I put it to the reader that it was this transfiguration itself that Jesus was referring to, and three men (namely Peter, James and John) lived to see it because it was only about a week away.

I answered the question of whether John the Baptist was Elijah in Matthew 11. I'm not sure exactly what the SAB finds so upsetting about Jesus' words in verse 19, so no comment.

The SAB asks "Who makes people deaf and blind?" which I answered back in Exodus 4. The questions about casting out devils I answered in Matthew 7. The question of who is for or against Jesus I answered in Matthew 12. The question about whether Hell exists I answered in Matthew 10.

Monday, November 18, 2013

He anointed the eyes of the blind man (Mark 8)

Mark 8 opens with the story of a miraculous feeding, and while the SAB suggests this is the result of "two oral traditions of the same story" just as in Matthew, there is a moment (in this Gospel in verses 8:19-20) where Jesus refers to the two feedings as two clearly separate events, so I don't think so.

I responded to the question of signs and wonders in Matthew 12.

The SAB asks two questions about Jesus healing a blind man, "Where did Jesus cure the blind man?" and "How did Jesus cure the blind man?" Frankly, I think the two stories are so different that there's no contradiction, there's just two completely different blind men.

I know I've already answered the charge somewhere that "There were various opinions about the identity of Jesus...With credulity like that just about anyone could later be passed off as the risen Christ." but it's worth addressing again. In one case, you have a bunch of people who are trying to figure out who Jesus is from rumor and speculation; in the other you have a specific claim about a specific person that nobody seems to be willing to question. It's food for thought, but I don't find it convincing.

I'm also sure I addressed the question of whether Jesus forewarned his apostles, but the response is simple enough to give again: just because John says they didn't understand doesn't mean they weren't told.

Yes, when Peter was acting adversarial, Jesus called him "Satan" which means "adversary".

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? (Mark 7)

Most of the content and issues of Mark 7 are a repeat of Matthew 15, reply to which I hereby link to. Factoid of interest to very few people: the first draft of Mark 7 was one of my main contributions to the lolcat Bible. (Actually, even though it's been revised, it's pretty close to what I wrote way back when, go figure.)

Anyway, that being said, there is very little here that hasn't already been covered there, with perhaps the exception of "What should we eat?" I've probably addressed this before, but since I don't know where and I've got nothing better going on, why not here? First of all, not all of the verses listed on that page are necessarily saying what the SAB is implying they say. In the category of "You should not eat animals." The Genesis verse is the only one that may be saying that, as some have inferred that before the time of Noah, people were vegetarians; but I think the main thing that the verse is saying is that there is a lot of good plants out there to be eaten, and that may be all it means. The verse from Proverbs I think has the key word of "riotous" and is not arguing against meat eating, but against gluttony. The Daniel verse is a special one; Daniel was going to be eating food off the table of a pagan king, and his main concern may have been that the food had been offered up in a sacrifice to pagan gods, thus he suggested an alternate diet to keep himself undefiled. The Romans verse in context is not saying not to eat meat so much as it's saying that it would be polite in the company of vegetarians to eat meat. (It's a little more complicated and particular than that, but I'm going to simplify it that way because it's good advice in general.)

Now of course the "Only certain kinds of animals may be eaten" category is concerning itself with kosher laws, which only apply to Jews, but then there is some question as to whether kosher laws apply to Jews that convert to Christianity, and some of those questions are going to be raised in the "You may eat any kind of animal." verses. The Genesis verse was from before the kosher laws were set. The Mark verse here may indeed be saying to forget about Kosher laws, because they are not as important as other moral laws. I'd have to check the context of the Luke verse, but if Jesus is sending them among Jews, it shouldn't be an issue anyway. Now all of the remaining verses (except the 1Timothy one) are definitely saying to Christians that they may eat whatever they wish with no regard for type of meat. The 1Timothy verse is a warning against people who may wish to imply that it's spiritual to only eat certain things.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Is this not the carpenter? (Mark 6)

Mark 6 has a few interesting notes off the top that are of minor importance, but make for good discussion. Apparently verse 3 is the only verse in the Bible that says Jesus was a carpenter, but it may have been altered from the earliest manuscripts. Yes, I'd say that while Jesus is popularly thought of as a carpenter, it's entirely possible that that wasn't his profession; there certainly isn't any record of him actually doing any carpentry work.

The next note points out that Jesus had many siblings, and suggests that the Catholic belief that Mary was an eternal virgin can't be true because of this. I believe that the Catholics would suggest that these were half-siblings by an earlier marriage of Joseph.

In response to both questions on verse 5, I would like to say that the reason Jesus was unable to do great works in his hometown was simply that people weren't interested in asking him for help.

As for whether or not Jesus commanded his disciples to go without certain things, I addressed that in Matthew 10.

On verse 11, I don't think Jesus is talking about destruction of cities, but rather judgment. Of course, this judgment could include destruction, in which case the SAB would be right, I suppose.

The SAB notes that many people had odd ideas about who Jesus was, including Herod who thought he might be John the Baptist back from the dead, "even though John had just recently died and the people must have known what he looked like." While technically true, I think it's worth noting that Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins, and may have looked very similar to one another. Anyway, I addressed Herod mistaking Jesus for John the Baptist in Matthew 14. I also addressed whether there was ever a just person in Matthew 13.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Again there shall be heard in this place (Mark 3-5)

I'm pretty sure Mark 3 is entirely issues that repeat from previous posts, let's see...

"Are those who believe Jesus is the Christ of God?" is one I addressed back in chapter 1, at which time I admitted that I didn't have a good answer. Looking at it again, I might note that none of the devils referenced actually refer to Jesus as the "Christ", but merely the "Son of God". This doesn't resolve the issue, though, at most it suggests that the SAB should rephrase the question, as it still contradicts with 1John 4:15.

The proper names of the apostles I addressed in Matthew 10. The question of an unforgivable sin I addressed in Matthew 12. The question of how parents should be treated I addressed in Exodus 20.

That was so short, I'm going to hit all the repeat issues from chapter 4 as well as chapter 5.

Jesus' "secret teachings" I addressed in Matthew 13, where I also addressed the issue of the mustard seed parable.

The number of demon-possessed men was addressed in Matthew 8. Where the devils asked not to go is a new one, but I have no response for it. The health status of Jairus' daughter was addressed in Matthew 9. Whether Jesus knows everything was addressed also in Matthew 8. Whether or not death is final I addressed in Joshua 23.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Go, and sin no more (Mark 2)

I think everything in Mark 2 is a repeat of something from Matthew, but I suppose I can take the opportunity to broaden the commentary a bit. The SAB says that Jesus healed a paralytic by forgiving him of his sins and that paralysis is apparently caused by sinful behavior. I'm pretty sure I said before in the parallel passage in Matthew 9 that I believe the forgiveness and the healing were two separate issues. (I also argued there that Jesus was God, as that question came up there as well.) Something I think could be said to further the discussion is that while it's not always true that misfortune happens to people because of sinful behavior, the latter certainly can make one more susceptible to the former. Most sinful behaviors are dangerous in one way or another, and certainly can lead to disease or injury, which may have been the case in this man's life or not.

As for the rest of the chapter, there are only a couple questions about David, which I addressed in 1Samuel 21.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

It seemed good to me also (Mark 1)

Well, I disputed with myself for quite a while whether or not I should simply continue with the Gospels. On the one hand, it seems sort of logical, and on the other hand...well, there are a few reasons why not. My main reason had been repetitiveness. Years ago, a friend of mine who was not a Christian told me that she was going to read through the New Testament, straight from beginning to end. I actually advised her that this might not be the best idea, and that once you read Matthew, the act of jumping into Mark will have you saying, "Didn't I just read all this?" I think it's easier for a Christian who has some enthusiasm for the subject material, but for the casual reader, the first three books of the New Testament can get boring especially for this very reason.

In my case, as I would have to work my ways through the issues brought up by the SAB, it's probably bound to be boring to be covering the same issues all over again, and thus I would have a similar experience. There's going to be a lot or repetition, I think.

I'll admit that when it comes to Mark 1, there is the additional issue of what to do with the very first note the SAB presents, which is an unusual one. Generally, the SAB uses the King James version, and as such, sticks to it with admirable devotion. Here on the very second verse, however, the SAB points out an issue not with the KJV, but with the ancient documents on which the KJV may have been based. I'm not an expert in the ancient documents myself, but I am somewhat familiar with the expert being consulted here: Bart Ehrman. Ehrman is the sort of author that anyone who finds the SAB an enjoyable read would enjoy. Apparently once a devoted Christian (if I'm remembering his story correctly) he decided to embark on a course of study that would allow him to examine the original manuscripts upon which the New Testament is based. Rather than finding enlightenment as many do, he was shocked to find that these manuscripts were not telling the unified and clear story that he expected them to tell, and thereafter set forth on a career of publishing books that examined what he considered to be important errors, not in any particular translation, but in the manuscripts on which the translations are based.

Anyway, I've read at least one of his books, and while I found it interesting, I disagreed with the majority of his conclusions, although not all of them. I don't know if an author like Ehrman is proving anything quite so clearly as he supposes he is. Literary interpretation from any age can be a shaky subject, and I tend to think of Ehrman as being probably as convincing as I am, despite having some advanced degrees and far better knowledge of ancient languages. If you're at all of a curious or skeptical mind, he's probably worth reading, but I don't think I have anything to say regarding his footnote here.

So, to the repetitiveness: As I said in Matthew 3, I don't think that slight differences in wording really should bother people.

"What did Jesus do after his baptism?" I would say that as Mark says, he went to the wilderness for 40 days. The passage being used in the Gospel of John is not talking about the day after Jesus' baptism, but the day after John talked about Jesus' baptism; the time frame is far from clear there.

I answered at length in Matthew 4 concerning the timing of the calling of the disciples, mainly saying that I believe the story in John is a separate story than the calling here.

"Where was the home of Peter and Andrew?" This looks like a problem until you look at a map and see that Bethsaida is just the next town over from Capernaum, it looks like about two miles away by my map, making it easy to have left a synagogue in one town and go straight away to a home in the other.

"Are those who believe Jesus is the Christ of God?" You know, I may have to hand it to the SAB that this is a genuine contradiction; I don't know anything I could say here at all except that maybe John means human beings only? Who knows, so I'll leave it on an up for the SAB.

Monday, November 04, 2013

They came unto the sepulchre (Matthew 28)

Matthew 28 is filled with a ton of stuff. I may have tried to squeeze in too much by making the last chapter one post, we'll see how this one goes.

The SAB has a slew of questions on just the first two verses, so I'm going to list them all here: "How many women went to the sepulchre?" "When did they arrive?" "Whom did they see at the tomb?" "Was the tomb open or closed?" "Were the men or angels inside or outside the tomb when first seen?" Here is my take. A whole bunch of women came to the sepulchre, but they didn't all travel in one group, and in particular, Mary Magdalene was the first to arrive, before dawn, alone. She sees the stone rolled away already, why? Because as it says in verse 2, an angel had come and rolled it back. (Yes, I am suggesting that chronologically, verses 2-4 happened before verse 1, and it's my understanding that the Greek can support that.) The angel that rolled back the stone was seen by the guards outside the tomb, but the angel (or two angels, it's not clear) that spoke to the women was inside the tomb.

"Did the women immediately tell the disciples?" Well, they told them as soon as they found them. I would say that the verse in Mark indicates that they were too afraid to go and tell just anyone, so they stayed silent until they found who they were looking for.

Verse nine gives us a ton of questions again: "To whom did Jesus first appear?" "Did Mary Magdalene recognize Jesus?" "Was it OK to touch the risen Jesus?" "Was Mary Magdalene happy or sad when she saw the risen Jesus?" The question of to whom Jesus first appeared is a tricky one, but the answer is Mary Magdalene. There is a lot of stuff going on that Sunday morning, and in the midst of it, it's easy to miss that as Mark 16:9 says, the story at John 20:11ff is the story of Jesus first appearing to anyone. Although Matthew 28:9 sounds like a first appearance, in John 2:2 we are told that as Mary M. came to the tomb and found it empty, she immediately ran and got Peter and John. While the other women were travelling, Mary came back to the tomb and saw Jesus first. Mary was not with the group of women spoken of in verse 9, and when she saw Jesus, she didn't recognize him at first. While it did seem to be okay to touch the risen Jesus in general, Jesus did for some reason tell Mary M. not to touch him. Whether this was only okay later, or there was something about the way that Mary was touching him (I've heard some suggest that she was clinging to him tightly, and he was telling her that he could not stay) I don't know. Anyway, Mary was indeed sad when she first saw Jesus, but mainly because she didn't recognize him and was still confused.

"Where did Jesus tell his disciples to meet him?" This is simple: He told them to go to Galilee. Once they had gone to Galilee and met with him, he told them to go back to Jerusalem, where they would wait for Pentecost. "How many disciples did Jesus appear to in his first post resurrection appearance?" The linked page might be a problem if any of those verses actually said it was the "first" post resurrection appearance; I'll stick with "One", that being Mary Magdalene. (It's worth noting about the 1Corinthians passage that sometimes the Bible uses the term "the twelve" to refer to the Apostles, even when there were less than twelve present at an event.

"How much power did Jesus have?" I think you have to take into consideration that this is the post resurrection Jesus, and he's more powerful than he was while a mere mortal.

"Should the gospel be preached to everyone?" I thought I had addressed this previously, but not very thoroughly apparently. Yes, the Gospel should be preached to everyone, despite the fact that sometimes the timing is not right to preach to any one particular group.

"In whose name is baptism to be performed?" I don't see a strong reason why it should be one way or the other. That's the end of the book, and I think I'll just let that one drop.

Friday, November 01, 2013

It is finished (Matthew 27)

Matthew 27 opens with the story of Judas Iscariot having second thoughts about his betrayal of Jesus. As with Peter, this leads to a series of interrelated questions: "How did Judas die?", "Who bought the Potter's field?", and "What did Judas do with the silver?" The standard skeptical solution to these questions is that there are two stories. In one, Judas throws away the silver and hangs himself, and the priests buy the field. In the other, Judas takes the silver and buys the field wherein he falls down and dies. The apologist's fusing together of these stories into one coherent whole is that Judas threw away the money and went and hanged himself. Having hanged there for some time, the rope broke and Judas' body fell down and burst in a field. The priests, who had this money that they refused to take back, decided that this money should go towards purchasing the field in which Judas died, and thus Judas vicariously bought the field after his death. For either or both reasons, the field became known as "the field of blood". As the SAB notes, verse 8 saying "unto this day" indicates that the Gospel of Matthew was written long after the events happened; certainly nobody is suggesting that the Gospel accounts were written immediately after the events they record; I'd have to look it up but even generous estimates say something like 30 years later for the earliest.

As for the misquote in verses 9-10, I've heard it said that the Jewish Canon had a bunch of minor prophets all in one book with Jeremiah, so misattributing a prophecy to Jeremiah could happen at times because of that, although I suppose it's still technically an error.

"Was Jesus silent during his trial?" I would say that he wasn't. Note that while verse 12 says "he answered nothing" this comes right after verse 11's "And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest." I think that the point that Matthew 27:14 and Mark 15:5 are making is that Jesus never said a word in his own defense. Nonetheless, Pilate seemed to be inclined to believe that Jesus was innocent and tried to have him released, to no avail.

Verse 25 does indeed blame the Jews for the death of Jesus, but I think those that use this verse as an excuse for Antisemitism conveniently forget that Jesus forgave his killers on the cross.

Eventually Jesus ends up in a robe, but it's not clear who put the robe on him nor actually what color the robe was. I'm willing to concede there are errors coming up here, but they are errors that are tough to fully pin down. Both Herod and Pilate were governors who had Roman soldiers working for them (I think only Luke has Jesus being brought before Herod) and there may have been some confusion in the order of events. Also, Jesus was so beaten and bloodied at this time that it may have been hard for bystanders to tell the color of the robe anyway, what with it being likely soaked with Jesus' blood.

"Who carried Jesus' cross?" While John's Gospel fails to mention Simon of Cyrene, that doesn't mean that he didn't exist, nor does his mention in the other Gospels mean that Jesus did not bear his cross part of the way.

"What did the soldiers give Jesus to drink?" is another question that the SAB brings up, but I think this is a manufactured contradiction. If you check the context of the verses on the linked page, you'll see that the offerings of drinks were at at least two separate moments, as the Matthew and Mark verses were before the crucifixion while Luke and John were during the crucifixion. I would suggest that Jesus was offered a drink three times, twice before his crucifixion, and then once on the cross.

"What did the sign over Jesus' head say?" While it's true as the SAB points out that none of the Gospels agree on the exact wording of the sign, they're pretty close to a consensus, and it doesn't bother me.

"Did both thieves revile Jesus?" This is one I've heard a few times, and I've also heard the standard reply, which is that both thieves reviled Jesus, but one of them had a change of heart, which for some reason is only recorded in Luke's Gospel.

"What were the last words of Jesus?" I can't say for sure, as this is definitely a question with no clear answer, but I will note one thing about the passage here in Matthew: in verse 50, it says that Jesus "cried again with a loud voice", suggesting that verse 46 was not his last words. It doesn't solve the question, but it narrows it down a bit.

"When did the Temple curtain rip?" It must have been a while since I read the Gospels, since I thought this event was only recorded in Matthew. My thoughts about having read this before will, I think, deal with the contradiction: Does it really matter? As far as I can fathom, since Jesus was killed outside of the city, and the veil of the temple was inside the city, inside the inner chamber of the temple, there is no possible way that there was an eyewitness to both of these events simultaneously. I would say it happened when Jesus died, and leave it at that.

"Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead?" I actually addressed this back in 1Samuel 28, but perhaps, no definitely a bit more could be added here. When the verses in the first column speak of Jesus being the first to rise from the dead, they're talking about something very specific; they're talking about rising from the dead to eternal life. There are a number of other individuals who were revived from death to continue their life (as happens today under normal circumstances in hospitals and such) and at least one instance in the Bible of a person's ghost being brought back to speak from beyond the grave. Now the odd occurrence that is recorded here in verses 52-53 is strange in many ways, since only Matthew records it, and it's not clear what the significance of it is. In short, I don't think there is a contradiction, but I'd be inclined to agree that this passage is a strange one.

"What did the centurion call Jesus?" Some have suggested that in fact there were two centurions present, and that each one said something different. It's also possible that a single centurion said two things.

"From where did the women watch?" I think the answer to this issue is that there were many women watching, and while most of them were far away, a small group of them (those mentioned in John's Gospel) were nearby.

"Who buried Jesus?" I don't think there is a contradiction here. Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus' body, and with Nicodemus' help, buried him in a sepulchre. As it happens, both of these men were members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, so it all fits together.