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A Post and Pre Debate Note to Shabir Ally

Dear Shabir:

Last evening in the mosque in Erasmia you raised, I believe anyway for the first time in our encounters, your booklet of 100 alleged contradictions in the Bible.  I have had your little booklet for quite some time.  But I will be honest, I assumed it was an “early” work for you, and as such, I did not focus much on it, assuming that as you obtained your education at a higher level you would produce a much more nuanced and forceful argument.  But given that you cited it last evening, I can only assume you continue to feel this list has sound merit.

When I began my ministry thirty years ago I encountered, and then engaged, an atheist by the name of Dennis McKinsey.  McKinsey put out a little monthly publication titled “Biblical Errancy.”  Reading his little flyer gave me plenty of examples of how people can, by ignoring context, original language, and plain common sense, accuse any document, let alone a document of ancient origin, of error.  I do not know if any atheists out there put out something like “Qur’anic Errancy,” but the very same methodology could surely do so, though not to nearly the same extent, given the Qur’an is barely half the length of the New Testament, and only one fifth as long as the Tanakh, and hence only 14% as long as the entire Bible.

With all affection and respect for you, Shabir, your list is very, very unworthy of you.  It is barely up to the level of most atheist lists, and does not include, to be honest, the most serious questions I have wrestled with regarding the accuracy of the Biblical text.  No serious discussion of the contexts are provided, as you know.  Answers have been provided—consistent, scholarly, accurate answers—to your allegations since the days of the early church.  And I have published full refutations of a number of your allegations, long before you put them in print under your name.

Let me provide three examples from my book, Letters to a Mormon Elder, first published almost a quarter of a century ago!  The first refutes #55 in your list:

55.When Paul was on the road to Damascus he saw a light and heard a voice. Did those who were with

him hear the voice? (a) Yes (Acts9: 7)

(b) No (Acts22: 9)

Here is what I had written about this a few decades ago:

I am sure that you could multiply your examples, as I surely could. I have reams of lists of supposed contradictions in the Bible. But those you have provided to me will function well to help us see the various kinds of allegations that are made against the Bible. Let’s start with the first, and seemingly most popular of them all, Acts 9:7 and 22:9. In these two passages the story of Paul’s encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ is given, first by Luke, then in Paul’s own words as he stands before the mob in Jerusalem. In the King James Version of the Bible we read,

Acts 9:7 — And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

Acts 22:9 — And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him who that spoke to me.

The alleged contradiction is, of course, easy to see. Acts 9:7 says the men heard the voice and Acts 22:9 says they did not hear the voice. Clearly the question is, did the men hear the voice or not? To answer that question, we must, obviously, deal with the text as written by Luke in its original languages. This is an excellent example of a situation where the original words must be allowed to be heard in the argument, for we could be charging Luke with a simple mistake that he did not make. These passages will also serve well, Elder Hahn, to demonstrate how “doing one’s homework” can save one from making errors in attacking the Bible. In providing the following information to you, I am not attempting simply to “bury” you under a mountain of citations and quotes; I am, however, attempting to show you how important in-depth Bible study is. A very precious few are those who have objected to my belief in the inerrancy of the Bible who have demonstrated their position on the basis of real, solid research.

We need to notice that some modern versions translate the passage differently. For example, the New International Version reads as follows:

9:7 — The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.

22:9 — My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

Note that in the NIV the contradiction no longer exists; in the first passage the men hear a sound; in the second they do not understand the voice of the one speaking to Saul. Critics would assert that the NIV has translated in accordance with interpretation and convenience rather thin according to language and usage. But is this so? Lets examine these passages and see.

First, before going into the text itself, we must address the issue of “what is a contradiction.” The law of contradiction, stated briefly, would be that you cannot have A and non-A simultaneously. You cannot have a chair in a room and outside the room at the same time. That would be a contradiction. But, is this what we have in this case in Acts?

The answer can only be no, we do not have a contradiction here. First, let’s transliterate the passages from the original language of Greek so that their differences can be seen:

9:7 – akouontes men tes phones; 22:9 – ten de phonen ouk ekousan tou lalountos moi

It would be good to list the differences between the passages:

1. In 9:7 akouo is found as a nominative plural participle; in 22:9 it is a plural aorist verb.

2. In 9:7 phone is a singular genitive noun; in 22:9 it is a singular accusative noun.

3. In 9:7 akouo precedes its object; in 22:9 it follows its object.

4. In 9:7 the phrase is not modified; in 22:9 it is modified by “of the one speaking to me.”

5. In 9:7 Luke is narrating an event in Greek; in 22:9 Paul is speaking to a crowd in Hebrew (or Aramaic).

Clearly the critic is placed in an impossible position of forcing the argument here, for the differences between the two passages are quite significant. Hence the argument must proceed on the grounds of contradictory meanings only, for the grammar of the two passages will not support a clear “A vs. non-A” proposition.

We then must answer the question, are the differences between these passages significant enough to warrant the NIV’s translation? Do we have a solid basis upon which to assert that what Paul meant was that the men heard a sound but did not understand what the voice was saying? I believe we do, and I am not alone on this. Following are some of the comments made by some eminent Greek scholars about these passages:

Thus in Acts 9:7, “hearing the voice,” the noun “voice” is in the partitive genitive case I i.e., hearing (something) off, whereas in 22:9, “they heard not the voice,” the construction is with the accusative. This removes the idea of any contradiction. The former indicates a hearing of the sound, the latter indicates the meaning or message of the voice (this they did not hear). “The former denotes the sensational perception, the latter (the accusative case) the thing perceived.” (Cremer). In John 5:25,28, the genitive case is used, indicating a “sensational perception” that the Lord’s voice is sounding; in 3:8, of hearing the wind, the accusative is used, stressing “the thing perceived.” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, pages 204-205).

Instead of this being a flat contradiction of what Luke says in 9:7 it is natural to take it as being likewise (as with the “light” and “no one”) a distinction between the “sound” (originalserseofphoneasinJohfl3:8) and the separate words spoken. It so happens that akouo is used either with the accusative (extent of the hearing) or the genitive (the specifying). It is possible that such a distinction here coincides with the two senses of phone. They heard the sound (9:7), but did not under- stand the words (22:9). However, this distinction in case with akouo, phonenekousa phonen about Saul in Acts 9:4. asides in Acts 22:7 Paul uses ekousa phonen about himself, but ekousa phonen about himself in 26:14, interchangeably. (Word Pictures in the New Testament by Dr. A.T. Robertson, volume III, pages 117-118).

The fact that the maintenance of an old and well-known distinction between the acc. and the gen. with akouo saves the author of Acts 9 and 22 from a patent self-contradiction, should by itself be enough to make us recognize it for Luke, and for other writers until it is proved wrong. (A Grammar of New Testament Greek by James Hope Moulton, vol. I., page 66. Robertson quotes this approvingly in A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research on pages448-449).

The partitive gen. occurs in NT with verbs of perception, especially with a personal object. For akouo, the classical rule is that the person whose words are heard is in the gen. . . . but the thing (or person) about which one hears is in the accus., and akouo c. accus. may mean to understand. We have to ask whether the class. distinction between gen. and accus. has significance for exegesis in NT. There may he something in the difference between the gen. in Acts 9 (the men with Paul heard the sound and the accus. in Acts 22 (they did not understand the voice). (A Grammar of New Testament Greek vol. III by Nigel Turner, pg. 233).

Basically, these writers are referring to the possibility that the difference in the case of the term akouo would in this instance (9:7, 22:9) point to a difference in meaning. However, as Dr. A. T. Robertson said above, this distinction cannot be written in stone. Why then do we feel that we are correct in asserting this difference as the “answer” to this supposed contradiction. Context, Elder Hahn, context. Though none of the above authors went deeply into the subject, an examination of the context of the passages in question here makes it very clear that Luke meant a difference to be understood in what he was writing.

The key element in this investigation is pointed out by R.J. Knowling (Expositor’s Greek Testament vol. 2 ed. by W. Robertson Nicoll, pages 231-233) and by John Aberly (New Testament Commentary edited by H. C. Alleman, page 414). In Acts 22:9 Paul is speaking to a crowd in Jerusalem. According to Acts 21:40 Paul addressed the crowd in Hebrew (NIV says Aramaic — exactly which dialect it was is not very relevant). He mentions to his Hebrew listeners that when Jesus called him, he called him in their own language — Hebrew. How do we know this In both Acts 9:4 and in Acts 22:7 Saul is not spelled in its normal form, but is spelled in its Hebrew (or Aramaic) form Saoul. What does this tell us? It tells us that the “voice” spoke in Hebrew. Therefore, Acts 22:9 would be referring to the fact that the men who accompanied Paul did not understand what was said for they could not understand Hebrew! The text supports this very strongly, for Paul modifies his saying “they did not hear (understand) the voice” by adding the vital phrase, “of the one speaking to me (tou lalountos moi).” The emphasis is on the speaking of the voice, which would indicate comprehension and understanding. Now, given the above scholars’ quotations, and the context of the passages, can anyone seriously deny that there is a perfectly plausible explanation for this supposed contradiction? I think not.

Finally, it must be stated that part and parcel of dealing with almost any ancient or even modern writing is the basic idea that the author gets the benefit of the doubt. It is highly unlikely that a writer will contradict himself within short spans of time or space. Luke was a careful historian, and it is sheer speculation that he would be so forgetful as to forget what he wrote in Acts 9 by the time he wrote Acts 22. Some critics of the Bible seem to forget the old axiom “innocent until proven guilty.” The person who will not allow for the harmonization of the text (as we did above) is in effect claiming omniscience of all the facts surrounding an event that took place nearly two millennia ago. Most careful scholars do not make such claims. The above presented explanation is perfectly reasonable, it coincides with the known facts, and does not engage in unwarranted “special pleading.” If you wish to continue to claim that Acts 9:7 contradicts Acts 22:9, Elder Hahn, there is little I or anyone else can do about that. But realize that (1) your position cannot be proven; (2) you are operating on unproven assumptions (Luke was not intelligent enough to notice a contradiction in his own writing); and (3) there is a perfectly logical explanation, based on the original languages and contexts.

I think you will have to agree, Shabir, that there really is no reason for you to continue to assert this alleged error in light of this material, so I would invite you to withdraw it from your presentation.

The next is in response to alleged error #52:

 52.Where was Jesus at the sixth hour on the day of the crucifixion?

(a) On the cross (Mark 15:23)

(b) In Pilate’s court (John 19:14)

 Let’s look next at another issue that will again illustrate the accuracy of the Bible over against the charges made against it — that being your question concerning the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and death as given to us by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seemingly in opposition to John. Mark 15:25 says, “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” Then, in Mark 15:33-34, we read,

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, la’ma sabach’ thani?” which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

This same information is given by Matthew 27:45 and Luke 23:44. All three of the “Synoptic” gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) agree that Jesus was (1) crucified at the “third hour” and (2) that darkness was over the land from the sixth to the ninth hour, at which time the Lord Jesus gave up His spirit.

But, as you pointed out, John says in John 19:14, “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” Here Jesus is still before Pilate in the “sixth hour” while the Synoptic gospels are unanimous in saying that Jesus was on the cross at the sixth hour, at which time darkness came over the land. Is this not a clear error?

During the days of Christ there were two different systems of keeping time. The Jewish system began at sunrise and went to sunset. For them, the day would begin about 6 A.M., and the “sixth hour” would be high noon, the ninth hour about 3 P.M. The Romans, however, did not reckon time in this way. Rather, they followed a system more like our own, where the times started at midnight and at noon. For them the “sixth hour” would be 6 A.M. in the morning or 6 P.M. in the evening, depending on whether you are speaking of daytime or nighttime.

It seems very clear that the Synoptic gospels are using Jewish time in their recording of the events of the crucifixion. Therefore, they record that Jesus was crucified at the “third hour” which would be 9 in the morning. Darkness was over the land from the sixth to the ninth hours, corresponding to noon till 3 P.M., at which time the Lord Jesus gave up His spirit.

John, on the other hand, is not using the Jewish reckoning of time. He is not writing to Jews, and, in fact, most probably wrote this Gospel after Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, and therefore would have no reason to use that system of time-keeping. Tradition states that John lived in Ephesus, which would have used the Roman system of time-keeping. When this difference is taken into consideration, John is “right on time” with his figures. He says that Jesus was before Pilate during the “sixth hour,” which, in Roman thinking, would be around 6 A.M. This is perfectly in line with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for they say He was crucified three hours later, at 9 A.M. So, we see again, that there is no error here — the only error is made by those who fail to allow the writers the freedom of expressing themselves differently; here, John using a different time system than was used by the other writers.

Finally, I had even anticipated your objection #40:

 40.Did Jesus allow his disciples to keep a staff on their journey?

(a) Yes (Mark6: 8)

(b) No (Matthew 10:9; Luke 9:3)

Next you brought up the seeming discrepancy between Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3. The passages read,

And [Jesus] commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse. (Mark 6:8)

And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. (Luke 9:3)

Were they to take a staff (stave) or not It would be nearly impossible to resolve this situation, if these were the only two passages that mention Jesus’ words. But, though I am sure it was not intentional on your part, Elder Hahn, you neglected to mention the third passage that gives us Jesus’ instructions to the disciples, that being Matthew 10:10:

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor a scrip [bag] for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Here we find an instance, Elder Hahn, where the provision of three witnesses to the same event shows us how, if we had but one or two, we would not have a full understanding of the real situation. If we had but Mark and Luke, it would be difficult to understand how this is not in error.

The Lord Jesus is sending his disciples out in ministry. Matthew gives the fullest account, and in doing so provides the obvious explanation as well. Jesus is instructing the disciples to go out with the barest of necessities, not looking to “provide” (Matthew 10:10) or to “acquire” (the translation given by the New American Standard Bible, and which best brings out the meaning of the original term) anything extra for the trip. When the Lord tells the disciples to not take “shoes” do we really think that He means that they are to go barefoot Of course not — rather, they are not to take an extra pair of shoes along. In the same way, if a disciple had a staff, he would not be prohibited from taking one along: but, if he did not, he was not to “acquire” one just for the journey — he was to go as he was.

So what we have in Luke and Mark is “part” of what we have in Matthew. Luke records the prohibition given against acquiring yet another staff, while Mark communicates the implicit permission to take along the staff that one already had. No actual contradiction is found to exist, but we are again impressed by the fact that we must allow for harmonization of the texts. What do I mean by this, Elder Hahn? What if we had only Luke and Mark, without Matthew’s additional information, and you attacked Luke and Mark, accusing either the authors of error, or someone later of making errors in copying (though, as I explained in my earlier letter, the original reading would be found no matter what happened during the period of copying) We can see how they are not contradicting each other, but are rather giving complimentary information. In fact, one is referring to a prohibition of acquiring a new staff while the other is referring to one already owned. They are not even talking, specifically, about the same thing. Yet, without Matthew’s information, if I suggested this resolution of the difficulty, would you not be tempted to say, “well, you are just pleading the case, and not really dealing with the text” Are there not many other passages in the Gospels, and throughout the Bible, where we encounter similar situations? Is it not the wiser course to admit we don’t know all of the backgrounds and contexts, and to give the authors the benefit of the doubt? It would certainly seem so to me.

Now what all of this illustrates, of course, is that it is very easy to make allegations of error, and to respond truthfully takes far more time and care than the mere making of allegations.  May I offer an example of why you should not only withdraw all three of the above from your list, but should completely reconsider this kind of “scatter-gun” style of accusation of error?

In the Qur’an, in Surahs 7:124, 12:41, 26:49, and 20:71, the Qur’an speaks of crucifixion anachronistically, that is, it puts crucifixion into a historical context that “scholars would tell us” (to use your way, way too often repeated phrase).  It would be easy for me to say, “The author of the Qur’an was wrong in thinking the Egyptians used crucifixion as a means of execution, showing the Qur’an is not from God.”  And how would you respond?  I would assume similarly to the way M S M Saifullah, Elias Karim & ʿAbdullah David did here:   But that would take quite some time, as the article is 44 pages long and nearly 16,000 words in length!  But sometimes truth takes time to express while error can be said with great speed.  My point is that even though you are defending a text that is only 40 to 70% as old, and 14% a large, as the one I am tasked to defend, you are still required at times to answer challenging and difficult questions.  The mere presence of accusation, my friend, is not evidence of error.

Many of your alleged allegations are based, truly, upon a very poor grasp of the biblical text and message as a whole.  I would so strongly encourage you to read sound, consistent Christian scholarship rather than the liberal and unbelieving materials you been immersed in in your scholarly training.  Materials that would be written from your own worldview, at least on the point of the supernatural, the presence of inspiration, etc.  Even if you pursued Bruce’s commentaries on John, or Hebrews, for example, you would find that your conclusions and his are light years apart.  Why is that?  I would be happy to provide you with a listing of in-depth, serious works by men like D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, John Murray, Michael Kruger, Darrell Bock and so many others.  Reliance upon the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond Brown and other notorious liberals who have no concept of allowing Scripture to speak for itself, no concept of the very unity and consistency you asserted for the Qur’an last evening, remains, and will always be, your Achilles Heel.

By the way, Shabir, before I move on, I would like to challenge your dismissal of the variant I briefly pointed to in BNF 328a.  Have you read Powers’ fine work, Muhammad is not the Father of Any of Your Men?  It is not sufficient to claim the presence of the qura could assure textual accuracy.  Even Bukhari’s phraseology, showing a fear of a loss of a “large part” (kathir) of the Qur’an shows you are applying an anachronistic standard.

But I have little time before our debate this evening at the University of Pretoria, so I just wanted to comment on some of the alleged contradictions in your booklet.

Regarding your series of allegations regarding the genealogies of Jesus: have you read Michael Brown, D.A. Carson, and Darrell Bock on this issue?  I would highly recommend it.  Likewise you must work through Michael Brown’s lengthy discussion of the Jehoiakim curse (in response to #35 in your list).

So many of your list are fully discussed by Dr. Archer in his work on this topic that at the very least you need to take into consideration the responses provided therein.

But let’s consider #37, for example:

 37.How did Simon Peter find out that Jesus was the Christ?

(a) By a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17)

(b) His brother Andrew told him (John 1:41)

Why is it not proper to point out that while Peter was told by Andrew that Jesus was the Messiah, that it takes time for one to become convinced of this fact, and that, when we take Mark and Matthew together, the confession Peter makes in Caesarea Philippi is deeply personal and spiritual in origination, just as the Matthean text says?  Is there not a difference, Shabir, between a person being told “Muhammad is Allah’s prophet” and someone actually saying the Shahada in truth?

We have already had a brief discussion of Matthew’s telescoping of Mark regarding Jairus’ daughter, but I again find the unwillingness to allow the Synoptic authors to craft their material to their own purposes, depth, audience, etc., to be an unfair standard based in bias (in regards to #39).  But again, Shabir, I can retort rather easily, “The citation of Lot’s words to the people of Sodom found in Surahs 7, 26, 27 and 29 all differ from one another in substantive matters.  Surat 7 and 27 begin with interrogatives; Surah 29 has no interrogative, but begins with a declarative statement.  Surat 7 and 29 have something about the uniqueness of the sin, the other accounts do not.  Why?  If this is the speech of Allah, will it not be perfectly accurate and complete the first time?  Why have stylistic changes, alterations, and variations?  There is even more variation in the people’s response to Lot, with the response found in Surah 29 differing very much from that found in the other three.  So if the mere presence of variation indicates error, if you are consistent, you will have to assume the Qur’an is in a state of error as well.  But you do not.  Where are those even scales, my friend?

You are confusing “secretly” as in “in distinction from my public teaching” with the greater explanation of the parables Jesus provided to His disciples in #51—two completely different contexts.

Likewise in #53 you are not allowing for one thief to cease his mocking and see in Jesus a true prophet and savior—upon what basis do you preclude this?  Where does the text preclude it?

In #54 you confuse ascension into the presence of the Father (and the initiation of Christ’s High Priestly ministry) with His entrance into Paradise along with the man who was crucified with Him.  Two completely different contexts.

In #63 you confuse a proverbial statement about the general application of God’s law in the activities of men with the specific and special action of God in bringing about redemption for mankind.  More major category errors.

 65.What was the exact wording on the cross?

(a) “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37)

(b) “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26)

(c) “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38)

(d) “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19)

The irony is, Shabir, if they all had the exact same words, that would be taken as evidence of collusion and hence would lead to your scholars rejecting them all as being artificial!  All are perfectly acceptable summaries of the statements, especially in light of the fact that it was written in more than one language.  Again, unfair standards.

 64.Is the Law of Moses useful?

(a) Yes. “All scripture is… profitable…” (2 Timothy 3:16)

(b) No. “ . . . A former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness… “(Hebrews

7:18)

 More missing of context and proper categories.  The law of Moses contained many things, including the sacrificial system, the priesthood, etc., which were meant to point toward a greater fulfillment in Christ.  The specific context of Hebrews has to do with that which was done away with in Christ.

 68.Jesus saw a man sit at the tax collector’s office and called him to be his disciple. What was his name?

(a) Matthew (Matthew 9:9)

(b) Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27)

 Why are others in the days of Jesus allowed to have more than one name, but this is not allowed in the text of the New Testament?  Was Peter’s name Cephas, or Peter?  Can’t be both, evidently!  Saul or Paul!  Has to be one or the other!  But why? You have not provided a reason.

There are many, many others, but my time has run out and I must get ready for this evening.  I am sure I will bring some more up then, I imagine!  But I do hope you will consider these things and that again you will be encouraged to begin to develop an Islamic response that is actually consistent in its worldview and its sources.

Second Reply to James White from Mr. McKinsey

Mr. McKinsey’s response to the above letter as contained in the October and November issues of “Biblical Errancy.”

Section A:

Dear JW. So many of your comments warrant analysis that one hardly knows where to begin. (1) You state that there is no reason to suppose that Jesus’ original command to his disciples was meant to be eternal. But what else could have been intended when he said “I am not sent but unto?” If you’re going to employ this line of defense you’re going to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Literally thousands of biblical statements will be brought into question. One could ignore any biblical maxim by simply saying it only applied to the individuals directly involved and the period in which it was uttered. If the absolutist nature of many biblical teachings is jettisoned, the structure will begin to disintegrate. One could argue, for example, that the “Thou’s” in the Ten Commandments only apply to the persons being directly addressed. Secondly, what evidence do you have that it was not eternal? I see no such qualifier in the text. You talk about a “supposition”; yet, you are supposing something less than eternity when nothing in the text justifies your belief. Thirdly, even if the statement were meant to be valid only for a short period, you have only shown that Jesus changed his mind and strategy. The perfect, omniscient being altered his course! This could he seen as more damaging than a contradiction. Fourth, you said “Jesus could direct His ministry in the best way possible.” Yet, one can’t help but ask, “What’s best about it?” The supposedly prescient, perfect being changed tactics and abandoned a crucial teaching. (2) Your comment that Mal. 3:6 was misapplied and taken out of context has no merit not only because biblicists constantly quote the verse in any context deemed suitable but because it is appropriate. Jesus is God and God does not change his basic nature, which includes consistency. For Jesus to change a basic teaching, especially because it was rejected by those to whom it was directed, would not only be inconsistent but expedient. (3) You accuse me of contending that Jesus changed his mind because of his death and resurrection when that was your position. Remember saying, “Your final statement read, ‘Jesus told his followers to go only to the Jews’…” This ignores the fact that Jesus’ statements were made before his death, burial and resurrection. After that event Jesus said…teach all nations (Issue #44, p. 3). (4) You accuse me of applying unrealistic standards to Jesus when all I’m requesting is consistency. Is that too much to ask of a perfect being? (5) What do you mean by saying, “the gospel was opened up…?” You mean Jesus only came to save the Jews and only turned to the gentiles because the Jews rejected him? You mean we can all be saved only because the Jews eschewed him. (sic) How does it feel to be a consolation prize, separate from God’s first choice, especially when this flies in the face of Acts 10:34 and Rom. 2:11 which say God is impartial? (6) Finally, it isn’t a question of whether I think this is a contradiction; I know it is. Jesus originally said I am not sent but unto and later sent his followers to all nations. The “most” whom you contend would not feel this is a contradiction are biblicists and that’s to be expected.

Section B:

Again, JW, your comments are misleading. To begin with, you speak as if you had the autographs (the original writings) in your lap when, in truth, you and your compatriots have never seen them nor have any other living human beings. Apologists concede that they do not exist and I see little reason to believe they ever did. “The autographs are not extant so they must be reconstructed from early manuscripts and versions” (A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler and Nix, p. 237). All scholars have are thousands of manuscripts, codices, lectionaries and other writings purported to be accurate representations of the non-existent originals. How, then, do we know for certain what the originals said? We don’t! Scholars only make educated guesses based upon the best evidence available after analyzing and comparing those writings that are available. They boast about the large number of existing NT manuscripts as if this confirmed the reliability of today’s NT. “There are now more than 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the NT. Add over 10,000 Latin Vulgate and at least 9,300 other early versions and we have more than 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the NT in existence today. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation” (Evidence that Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell, p. 39). “There are no known original manuscripts of the Bible; in fact, none are needed because of the abundance of manuscript copies” (Ibid. Geisler and Nix, p. 267). Yet, they also admit there are over 200,000 disagreements among these writings on what verses should say and what verses should he included. “The multiplicity of manuscripts produces a corresponding number of variant readings, for the more manuscripts that are copied the greater will be the number of copyists’ errors…. The gross number of variants increases with every new’ manuscript discovery…. To date there are over 200,000 known variants and this figure will do doubt increase in the future as more manuscripts are discovered’ (Ibid. Geisler and Nix, p. 360-361). Notice that Geisler and Nix try to diminish the importance of this figure by attributing the variants to just copyist errors which they have no way of proving. They also minimize the problem by contending that some errors are merely repetitious and few have any real bearing on important Christian doctrine which is utterly false. Because of wide variances among manuscripts scholars can’t agree on whether the last 12 verses of Mark (which involve some very important tests for belief) should even be in the Bible. They can’t agree on whether Isa. 7:14 says virgin or a young woman, which has a direct bearing on the only OT prophecy of a virgin birth. They can’t agree on whether the word “yet” should be in John 7:8, which is crucial to Jesus’ honesty. One need only read critiques of the latest versions of the Bible written by the King James advocates to see that many disagreements over wording involve important beliefs. Apologists even go so far as to imply that the greater the number of variants the greater the precision. “At first, the great multitude of variants would seem to be a liability to the integrity of the Bible text. But, just the contrary is true, for the larger number of variants supplies at the same time the means of checking on those variants. As strange as it may appear, the corruption of the text provides the means for its own correction (Ibid. Geisler and Nix, p. 366). “Strange is hardly the word; absurd” is much better. Imagine a homicide detective saying his knowledge of what occurred grows as the number of conflicting testimonies increases. Twenty- four thousand manuscripts would provide a tremendous support if they agreed, but when they don’t, when over 200,000 disagreements exist, precisely the opposite occurs.1 Secondly, as a result of speaking as if you have the autographs and ignoring manuscript variances, you erroneously conclude that your source is the final authority. You said that if I “have problems with Matt. 19:18/Rom. 13:9” I should bring it up with the translators, not with the Bible. But it is not I but you who should consult with the translators. You said, “both Jesus and Paul said exactly the same thing — “ou phoneuseis” — yet translators used different words- – murder and kill — which you erroneously called synonyms. You mean soldiers in battle and those shooting in self-defense or to protect loved ones are murderers? The translators with whom you disagree might have any one of several reasons for rejecting your interpretation and using “murder” in one instance and “kill” in another. The following are only a few available: (a) You (sic) picked inaccurate manuscripts among the thousands available. Some translators might have good reasons for using manuscripts with something other than “ou phoneuseis.” For example, 100 manuscripts may have “ou phoneuseis” and 50 something else yet the 50 are preferable because they are far older and closer to the source. (b) “You chose accurate manuscripts but don’t realize that identical words can have different meanings.” “Pound,” for example, can refer to an enclosure for animals, English money, or hitting something, rather than weight, and “hand” can refer to a sailor, part of a clock, a unit of measurement or a game of cards rather than the end of an arm. One “ou phoneuseis” might mean something quite different from another and if you would consult with the translators they might show you why one was translated “murder” and the other “kill.” A contradiction could exist even though the words are identical.2 Identical words need not have the same meaning. Context is a major factor. (c) If you manage to surmount these two obstacles as well as others, an even larger one could be looming on the horizon- -the imprecision of the Greek language. If “ou phoneuseis” can mean both “kill” and “murder” as your Greek- English lexicon of the NT says, then the verse means nothing and might just as well be stricken from the Bible. Unless definite guidelines exist by which to determine which is appropriate, and that’s highly unlikely in light of the disagreements among the experts, the words can’t be translated reliably. How do you know which to use in the English translation – – kill or murder? The distinction is crucial. If they were synonymous in English there would be no problem. But they are not. The problems associated with lower (textual) criticism seem to elude you, JW. The large number of disagreements among the major versions on the market today are something biblicists would just as soon avoid for obvious reasons. If people realize experts are at loggerheads over many key points then what is the layman to believe. (sic) Dissension erodes people’s faith in the Bible to such an extent that biblicists would rather have you believe in any version than nothing at all.

Your comment with respect to the Jehovah’s Witnesses New’ World Translation exposes a distinct bias. BE quotes the most prominent versions available regardless of the source. We also quoted the Living Bible and for you to include it among the “truly scholarly editions” borders on the absurd. The NWT, with all its imperfections. is considerably more scholarly than the pathetic paraphrase known as the Living Bible.

Section C:

You speak of ignorance, JW, when the tapes and literature I received from your organization continually try to make distinctions without differences in order to escape imbroglios. You assert that athanasia applies to Christ while zoen aionion applies to believers. Where does the Bible make such a distinction? First Cor. 15:53-54 says. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immorality (from athanasia — Ed.)…and this mortal shall have put on immortality,…” As you see athanasia could apply to any believer and need not to be restricted to Jesus. Moreover, several verses show zoen aionion could apply to Jesus and need not be restricted to believers: “God hath given us eternal life (zoen aionion), and this life is in the Son” (1 John 5:11), “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood hath eternal life” (John 6:54), “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it…and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (John 1:2) [note: McKinsey’s citation is in error, it is 1 John 1:2] and 1 John 5:20. If eternal life is in the Son, if eternal life enters one by eating the Son, if Jesus can he called that eternal life which was with the Father, then it’s safe to conclude “zoen aionion” can apply to Jesus as well as believers. You said, “Just because you don’t understand the difference does not mean it doesn’t exist,” when the truth is that just because you created one doesn’t mean it does. Your interpretation of “echon” (hath) in 1 Tim. 6:16 (“Who only hath immortality) is even more tenuous. On page 4 in the August issue you originally asserted that, “the word translating ‘hath’ in the KJV of I Tim. 6:16 is a participle in the original, echon, The (sic) continuous action, without relationship to time expressed by this participle is significant to the meaning of the passage.” Although you are yet to make your point very clear, I assume you meant then, and are repeating now, that echon means Jesus had immortality throughout eternity while others merely obtained it at a point in time. Following your logic, echon (hath) at Mark 9:17 (“my son, which hath a dumb spirit”) means his son had a dumb spirit throughout eternity and echon in John 10:20 (“He hath a devil and is mad”) means he has been mad throughout eternity. These are only a couple of the many examples available. The question is not when immortality or eternal life is obtained but who has it. First Tim. 6:16 said only Jesus has it. Nearly every major version translates the verb in 1 Tim. 6:16 as “has,” “possesses,” or “is,” and none even imply that the verb requires eternity. If it did then their translators aren’t very proficient because that’s a major distinction . .judging from the verbs they employed those on translation committees apparently don’t see your capricious distinctions either. You need to either get with your apologetic colleagues on these committees and create a consensus version or devise a version of your own. Should you decide on the latter, send me a copy and I’ll be glad to critique it.

You have several lamentable habits, JW, including inadequately explaining or proving your position, generating arbitrary distinctions to escape dilemmas, rationalizing the obvious, and patronizing your opponent. You also dwell on ad hominem comments to such an extent that if it continues you could notice a change in the tenor of my responses.

Section D:

Again, JW, you continue to summarize to the jury before the facts are heard and make misleading or inaccurate statements. (1) You allege BE shows much less research than does material from groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Are you comparing newsletter to newsletter or newsletter to books? Have you compared their newsletters to BE, i.e., 6 pages to 6 pages? Have you compared their material to all of my notes, including 3 large loose-leaf binders? (2)  Your comment that I obviously borrowed freely from the Jehovah’s Witnesses is totally erroneous. I’ve never needed their literature to notice the same problems with orthodox biblicism. (3) If you wish to reject 1 Peter 1:2, Matt. 28:19 etc. as proofs for the Trinity, I certainly have no objections. Since these are among the few that directly link the three parts of the Godhead and have been interpreted as evidence for trinitarian beliefs, I support your efforts wholeheartedly. A few more comments like that, JW, and perhaps you might want to consider joining us.3 (4) You accuse me of “deliberately deleting” factors and predict that I will “not allow a logical, contextual, and linguistic interpretation of Scriptures.” Apparently you consider yourself a long.distance mind-reader and a forecaster of the future as well. (6) You implied I did not address a trinitarian question with respect to the gender of the word “one” in “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) because I had no answer. The real reason was that the question is of little import since the gender of “one” is of less importance than the number. Incidentally, I listened to your trinitarian seminar tape-recording and found little more than typical Christian metaphysics in which rationalization and obfuscation are sold as erudition and perception. However, I do appreciate the fact that you sent your materials.

Section E:

First, as far as your comment that “I had not demonstrated a single contradiction” is concerned, JW, that’s merely an opinion and we all make mistakes. In your current frame of mind I don’t think you would admit the Bible has contradictions if Jesus and Paul supported me. Secondly, I’ve never claimed to be a Greek and Hebrew scholar nor could you. As in-depth knowledge of these languages is not necessary as apologist W. Arndt explained quite well, “With the various revised versions at hand, with an analytical concordance, with reliable commentaries, and with the help of dictionaries of the Bible language, the reader need not know Greek or Hebrew to verify the original meaning of a given passage. He has in his mother tongue the means whereby he may determine the correctness of most of the obscure translations” (BibleDifficulties, page 20). Thirdly, as I’ve said before, JW, Greek and Hebrew scholars are by no means agreed on what texts say, what they mean, or how they should be translated. You seem to think that by throwing your chips into the Greek/Hebrew basket you are going to emerge with a body of beliefs, teachings, and words resting on granite after emerging from God’s mouth. You have succumbed to one of the cornerstones of Christian mythology. Fourthly, your assertion that “classical Hebrew and koine Greek are not changing and evolving” is almost beneath comment. There is nothing so permanent as change and nowhere is this more evident than in languages. No language is fixed in time and above evolution. The classical Hebrew and koine Greek of 100 B.C. were different from those of 100 AD. and both were different from those of 200 A.D. So the question becomes one of determining which classical Hebrew and koine Greek you are referring to.4 You, not I, missed the point when you decided to find truths that were good at all times and under all conditions. Not I, but you, dodged the issue when you refused to acknowledge the fluidity and imprecision inherent in all languages, classical or otherwise. You tend to minimize the wide variances among modern translations and ignore the fact that knowledgeable scholars disagree on many points. Some of your disagreements are more with your compatriots than with me. You’re seeking a kind of permanence in life that doesn’t exist my friend. Good luck!

Section F:

Again, JW, you summarized the jury without knowing or weighing many of the facts, took verses out-of-context, displayed a poor knowledge of a principle of logic, and exhibited a strong proclivity for tendentious reasoning. (1) ‘What additional relevant information does Jude 6 (“And the angels that kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation he hath reserved in everlasting chains…”) add to 2 Peter? Nothing!5 Both are merely noting the fact that some angels were punished for sin just as were those living in Sodom and Gomorrah. (2) Where does Peter say they were the ones (the angels- -Ed.) who sinned in the days of Noah, thus narrowing it down a good bit? Talk about taking verses out-of-context! After mentioning that some angels were punished for sinning (2 Peter 2:4) the text merely notes that people living in the days of Noah (verse 5) and those living in Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 6) were also punished for their wickedness. Nowhere does the text imply, much less state, that verse 4 is discussing angels who sinned in the days of Noah. (3) Where does the Bible ever say angels were cast down for their sins in the days of Noah? (4) I’m surprised you mentioned the parallel verse in Jude 6 because, following your logic, I could also conclude that some angels were also cast down for their sins when the Israelites were saved from Egypt. The prior verse (Jude 5) says, “…the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” if you are going to link 2 Peter 2:5 with 2:4, then I’m going to link Jude 5 with Jude 6 in the same manner. In fact, I think I’ll also bring in 2 Peter 2:6 with 2:4 and say some angels were also east down when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. It’s amazing what can be devised when you let your imagination run wild. If there is anyone who should refrain from attributing preconceived prejudices to others…. You read just enough of the text to try to create a plausible rationalization while ignoring that which went before and after. (5) Where did I “equate the angels who sinned” with Satan? I implied, then, and state now that he was included among those cast down. Obviously he couldn’t be equated with them since “angels” is plural. My textual support lies with 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. “The angels who sinned” means all the angels who sinned, not some or most. I learned that logical construct years ago in college. And wasn’t Satan among those who sinned and were cast down? You just displayed one of the great errors common to those who have been reared in an uncritical Christian environment, JW. You have been so thoroughly imbued with a cardinal belief, e.g., the Devil is loose throughout the world and responsible for so much evil, that any evidence to the contrary couldn’t possibly he valid. You even closed you eyes to contrary biblical verses and dismissed them out-of-hand, thus showing why people want to reach children as soon as possible. You said you couldn’t resist bringing up this issue, JW, but you should have.6

One final point. I recommend that you read all of the hack issues of BE before making additional criticisms, as some of your points have already been discussed. Since you apparently consider yourself an authority in biblical defense, I’d especially like for you to address more substantive problems such as most of those posed on pages 2 and 3 of issue #34.


Notes

1.  The material presented here terribly misrepresents what these scholars have to say on the subject. Should the reader wish to read some truly scholarly information on the subject the above referenced book is to be recommended – A General Introduction to the Bible by Drs. Geisler and Nix, published by Moody Press. See also The Text of the New Testament by Dr. Bruce Metzger (Oxford Press) and for a good introduction. see Dr. Greenlee’s Scribes, Scrolls, and Scripture (Eerdman’s Publishing Company). Needless to say Mr. McKinsey knows almost nothing about the subject he is here addressing.

2.  Notice what is being said here – a contradiction could exist even though Mr. McKinsey’s original accusation against the Bible was that Jesus and Paul could not agree on the WORDING of this commandment. Yet, here we clearly see that Jesus and Paul said exactly the same thing. Here Mr. McKinsey begins a process that will continue in the next letter – that of changing the supposed “contradiction’ we are discussing.

3.  This author cannot see how Mr. McKinsey could possibly misunderstand the statement upon which his comments here are based. The point made in my letter was that Mr. McKinsey misunderstood the Trinity and the fundamental basis of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible, that being the Biblical teachings of monotheism, the Deity of Christ and the Person of the Holy Spirit.

4.  Again, McKinsey’s original point had been to dispute the accuracy of the rendering of Greek and Hebrew by pointing out that languages evolve and change, which of course, they do. But koine Greek and classical Hebrew are dead languages – they are not changing anymore (dead things normally do not engage in change). Therefore, we can study exactly what that language meant at that time and can thereby translate effectively.

5.  Mr. McKinsey again missed the entire point. Jude 6 is speaking of a specific group of angels who sinned by “lusting after strange flesh” (v. 7). Satan is not included in this group by either Peter nor Jude, and neither writer says that all fallen angels are included in this group that are in chains. Unfortunately, Mr. McKinsey feels he has some basis upon which to make his comments.

6.  I did not bother going into depth at this point in my reply, mainly due to my belief that it is useless to attempt to deal with any subject in context with Mr. McKinsey. The number of logical and factual errors made in the above statements is truly astounding. Possibly Mr. McKinsey had never read 1 Peter 5:8-9? Peter certainly differentiated between the “angels who sinned” and Satan, that is for sure!

Continue to the third letter

Letters to an Anti-Theist

12/11/1987

The following letters were written during 1986/87. They comprise the correspondence between Mr. James White, Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and Mr. Dennis McKinsey, the editor of a periodical entitled “Biblical Errancy.” As Mr. McKinsey feels free to publish letters written to him in his periodical, and as there is no copyright on “Biblical Errancy,” we have felt free to include Mr. McKinsey’s responses. Only that material relevant to the matters addressed in the debate between Mr. White and Mr. McKinsey will be reproduced here.

In the spring of 1986 a copy of the March edition of “Biblical Errancy” was sent to James White. The full title of the paper is: “Biblical Errancy: The only national periodical focusing on Biblical errors, contradictions, and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists.” The periodical is six pages long. After reviewing some of the supposed “contradictions” found in the May issue of this paper, Mr. White wrote the first letter of three to Mr. McKinsey. This letter was printed in the August, 1986 edition of BE. This precipitated a rather lengthy exchange, both in the size of the letters as well as the number of issues of BE in which the debate appeared. The following gives the letters written by Mr. White, and the replies of Mr. McKinsey, just as they appeared in “Biblical Errancy.” The final section comprises Mr. Whites reply to Mr. McKinsey’s final words.

“Biblical Errancy” is obviously designed to promote the distrust and rejection of the Bible as God’s Word. Anyone who has read the periodical for any time at all is very aware of this. The uniqueness of the work is not what it has to say; indeed, much of this material can he found in Thomas Paine or in the material published by the American Atheists. “Biblical Errancy” comes out on a monthly basis with the same old tired arguments and materials that atheists have been passing around for years. But, Mr. McKinsey allows for some dialogue on the issues he brings up, and this, of course, generates interest and controversy.

Someone might well ask the question, why bother debating this kind of issue? Aside from the fact that I as a Christian believe the Bible when it claims to he the Word of God, I also wished to see for myself what kind of response would he elicited from an anti-theist like Mr. McKinsey when faced with actual facts. I knew that he had made a rather simple error in regards to his claim of a contradiction between Jesus and Paul (see letters below for all the details) – that was clear. I wished to know if his drive to attack the Bible would keep him from admitting a simple mistake. If so, then I could write off ‘Biblical Errancy” and tell anyone else that it was not worth their time to read. However, if Mr. McKinsey would admit such an error and retract the false statement, then I would go on and research more of his material, given the idea that he was indeed honestly intent on the truth as he saw it. Unfortunately, the following debate makes it clear just how that issue ended up being resolved.

Another question might he asked. This debate does not deal with all the great issues of theism versus atheism. It deals with some pretty specific issues. Why not deal with a broader range of topics? First, we have done so in the past and plan on continuing to do so in the future (contact Alpha and Omega for a materials list). But one of the best ways people learn is by example. And this debate provides repetitive examples of logical errors, misinformation, and ad hominem argumentation – all the hallmarks of the anti-theist’s trade By seeing the progress of the debate, and the subtle ways in which points were avoided and other issues brought up in attempts to cloud the issue, the reader will be better prepared to meet similar tactics at work or school.

One final observation concerning the debate. The reader will notice that Mr. McKinsey exercises his position as the editor of BE by writing responses that average at least twice as long as the original letter. Hence, you will read a great deal more by Mr. McKinsey than by I in the first section of the debate. To help “balance things out” a little, I will footnote certain parts of his responses, especially in his near epic-length response to part of my last letter.

One note must be added concerning the format of BE. The letters printed in the newsletter are divided into sections with Mr. McKinsey responding to each section with a section of his own. In this reproduction of the debate, we have indicated the divisions used by Mr. McKinsey while keeping the letters and responses in one section. By cross-referencing the sections of the letters the reader will he able to follow- the argument more closely. With this in mind, here we present “Letters to an Anti-Theist.”

Continue to the first letter