we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part
Questions about prophetic implications
– In the early stages here we find reference to “Gradually
these two myths converge”. Now the author has this nasty habit
that comes from his strong desire to be nasty to anything to do with
Christianity, of declaring something wrong or a myth or whatever,
before he has laid down grounds for what we hope is his conclusion
and not his starting place.
This is a lead-in to his expressing how odd it is that Jesus might
be specifically fulfilling prophecy. Well there are several points
to be made here.
it wasn't until many years later that the apostle John realised that
Jesus did many things as ‘signs' or ‘signposts' and therefore there
is no surprise that Jesus did do various things in line with the Old
Testament prophecies, specifically for those who had eyes to see.
(There almost seems a principle, implied and specified in the New
Testament – quoting the Old at one point – that God doesn't make everything
obvious to all and sundry, only to those who are looking and whose
hearts are open.)
second point here is the awareness that
for centuries Jewish scholars had been struggling with prophecies
that spoke about a coming one. The concept of prophecy was very common,
of God speaking out the future before it arrived, but yet the scholars
found some three hundred pieces of prophecy about this coming one,
that often didn't seem to fit together. On one side were indications
that this one would be a lowly servant who was badly mistreated, while
on the other, that he was a conquering king. It wasn't until after
Jesus came, that it was realised that he fulfilled both of these pictures.
third point to be observed here is that
while Jesus was able to do a number of things that might be seen as
fulfilment of some of these prophecies, there were still a lot over
which he had no influence – his place of birth, nature of birth, the
awful anguish following Herod's actions, and then later on the nature
of his death, burial and resurrection.
these things are a far cry from the author's terribly negative “work
of rude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events…”
We'll come to the veracity of those events later.
– Mencken is known as a cynic of his time so here again we find the
atheist's favourite tactic of appealing to other atheists who come
up with equally fatuous comments. To describe the New Testament as
a “helter-skelter accumulation of more or less
discordant documents” is a testimony to the man's blindness,
not to the truth of the New Testament. There is a staggering unity
Mel Gibson & The Passion of Christ:
Well I don't know Mel Gibson's background so I wouldn't wish
to join in the author's denunciation of him. I confess to feel largely
negative about The Passion of Christ which did little for
the Christian cause in the long term.
One of the things
that is difficult about this author is that he seems very poor at
clarifying the points he is trying to make. There are lots of descriptive
words but it is often difficult to find the point he is making. I
think it is simply to denigrate anything whatsoever linked to the
Christian cause. He clearly objects to the description of the events
of the Gospels being reports of eyewitnesses, yet that is exactly
the language of the New Testament. I find Luke's writing considerably
more viable than the present author's:
have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been
fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those
who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore,
since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning,
it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you.”
are not the words of a fraudster, or indeed of some minor scribe cobbling
together bits and pieces.
are the words of a scholar. Similarly, John when writing his first
which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have
seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this
we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have
seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life,
which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to
you what we have seen and heard.”
(1 Jn 1:1-3)
these are not the casual words of conniving conmen. This is the language
of a witness who has been totally convinced by his experiences. In
fact I have to say that, contrary to the author's later speculations,
I find the traditional explanations about John's life and writings
and the writings of the other Gospel writers, far more likely and
having a feeling of truth about them, than some of the bizarre writings
from the odd characters, past and present, we're often asked to believe!
simple reading of the New Testament will find that again and again
there are actually references to the writers having been eyewitnesses.
For example: Acts 2:32, 3:15, 4:18-20, 5:30-32, 10:39,40, 1 Cor 15:3-8,
1 Pet 5:1, 2 Pet 1:16, Jn 19:33-35, 20:24-30, Heb 2:3,4. These ALL
speak about being witnesses and having seen and heard these things.
This is not the language of the novel.
a detailed treatment of this subject I recommend I Don't Have
Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L Geisler and Frank
Turek who well and truly bury these speculations!
Why? A question
I find rising in my mind again and again when people such as the author
challenge the content of the New Testament is, why ever should anyone
go to the trouble to fabricate such a staggeringly careful plot and
take such time and effort to write all these different documents,
in an age when writing was such an effort? The logic behind such preposterous
grumblings is completely absent!
Uncertainties about the Gospels: So
here we move into authoritative sounding generalisations. The fact
that the Gospels were not written until decades after Christ's death
is rolled out as if in some way it sounds the death knell for the
authenticity of the Gospels. In fact it simply reveals lack of understanding.
If anything, this gap adds to authenticity, not detracts from it.
is obvious when you study these things is that the early church collected
a number of sayings of Jesus, and these were the things focused on
first of all. As years passed and the apostles started dying off,
it was recognised that it would be wise to write down the things that
had happened. This was particularly made obvious when a variety of
heretics started declaring things that were contrary to actually what
had happened as remembered by the apostles. Until that time there
had been no need to write the Gospels down. Those who had been there
were still around and the basic teachings were already being handed
down by word of mouth.
A passing shot is made
at the differences in the family trees of Matthew & Luke. Unfortunately
this biased author doesn't bother to find out anything as to why.
If he had done some research he would have realised that Hebrew writers
of two thousand years ago were very different from writers today who
feel it is important to include every detail. Writers of genealogies
didn't worry if various names were omitted; their ‘family trees' were
more like signposts speaking in generalities. This may appear strange
for us with our desire to include every person, but that's how they
were in that culture.
second thing to note about these family trees is that although we
believe the writers were inspired by God to write, He didn't shut
off their humanity but in fact used it, and so inspired different
emphases through the different writers. It is clear that Matthew was
writing to the Jewish audience of the day, while Luke was writing
to the Greek world. Luke takes his tree specifically from Joseph and
goes back past Abraham to Adam. Having just recorded that this man
is perfectly God, he also now records that he is perfectly human.
That is the point of Luke's tree. Matthews seeks to show he was part
of the family of David, a king. Thus each writer fans out their family
tree in different directions to make a different point. It's as simple
Flight to Egypt:
Questioning the apparent
differences here, the author again doesn't bother to examine the texts
and think out what was said. The implication from Matthew's account
is that Mary and Joseph stayed quite a long time in Bethlehem
and the likelihood is that the
‘wise men' didn't turn up until at least six months later. The fact
that Herod instructed all children under the age of two to be killed
indicates quite some time has passed before he realises his plan has
been foiled, and during that time they leave to go to Egypt for sanctuary.
The likelihood of their having settled in the south after the birth,
is confirmed by the references, at the end of chapter 2 of Matthew,
to their original intentions to settle back there when they returned,
which were thwarted when they heard that Herod's evil son was now
reigning there. Thus they went up to Nazareth and lived there again.
when we compare this to Luke's account, referred to by the author,
all we find is “When
Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.” (Lk
2:39). Note the absence of the word ‘immediately'. That one word would
have produced a contradiction, but mere absence of information is
not contradiction (see our Apologetics pages [CLICK
HERE]). Why would Luke not have mentioned their flight
to Egypt? Perhaps because it
didn't ‘fit' with the compilation of detail that he had in mind and
the emphasis he was putting on it for his readers, perhaps because
he knew Matthew has already included it and it wasn't something that
needed double emphasis (as for instance some of the key events and
or God Inspired?
Perhaps this is the right moment to put in more detail in response
to the author's oft quoted, “this is a man-made
book”. Let's repeat what we said earlier, that although we
believe the writers were inspired by God to write, He didn't shut
off their humanity but in fact used it, and so inspired different
emphases through different writers. The fact that they put a different
emphasis to their writings in no way undermines the truth of what
they said. In fact, quite to the contrary, it gives us a much fuller
picture than if there had been four identical Gospels. Look into why
four and why four with differences and you move into a wonderful world
of understanding that brings us a full-orbed (but not total) picture
of Jesus Christ. No, not contradictions, just differences of emphasis.
about the date of the census and Jesus birth but history suggests
there were a variety of periodic censuses,
the main order for a census about this time was BC6 and
it is likely that it took time to be applied across the empire and
Herod delayed it because of local politics.
may be a little like a statement of faith, but it seems rather strange
that Luke, who uses the careful language of an historian should dare
to record events if he wasn't absolutely sure of them.
quote from our notes in The God Delusion – An Appraisal :
To be dogmatic over the dating of the census is unwise because it
is not clear and scholars of all persuasions have come up with different
conclusions. Possibly one of the most helpful and most wise conclusions
would be to say, that wherever it has been
possible to check Luke's statements, his accuracy as an historian
has been impeccable.
note what we've just said: ‘Wherever it has been possible'. This is
an unclear situation and the wisest conclusion, in the light of archaeology
over the past hundred years is to say with humility, well, there have
been other unclear things which have simply been eventually ratified
by later archaeological findings, and Luke's pedigree appears so good
in all other respects, that we would to well to trust him until clear
evidence clarifies this particular point.
follows a wave of careless brief sweeping statements, one after another
(so we won't even bother to try and pick them up because there is
so little to take hold of) which indicates that the author a) really
hasn't read and thought about the Gospels, and b) has never thought
about what is a genuine contradiction and what is simply different
viewers observing different facets of the same incident. To consider
this more fully, please go to our Apologetics Page 25, ‘Questions
about Reconciling Contradictions'. CLICK
Gnostic Gospels: For
the next page or so the author leans on the dubious and rejected writings
of the so-called Gnostic Gospels. Without going into details, we recommend
Dr. Michael Green's book, The Books the Church Suppressed which
looks in detail at the books the author speaks of here and shows why
they cannot be trusted.
Confusion about the disciples:
There is some odd wording in the short following paragraph.
instance, “His illiterate living disciples left
us no record.” I'm not sure why this description because although
some of them may have not been educated there are no grounds in the
text to assume that. In fact one of them having been a tax-collector
would certainly have been able to keep written records and it is thought
that he was quite probably the accurate source of many of the sayings
of Jesus, as it is likely that he would have been able to do a form
of shorthand. Why some of the disciples being uneducated bars them
from being witnesses, I don't know. This just seems another one of
those silly comments which seem to litter this writing.
after this he extends this silliness by saying about this disciples,
“in any event could not have been “Christians,”
since they were never to read those books in which Christians must
affirm belief.” How silly is that! Is he referring to Paul's
letters written a number of years later? Belief in certain bits of
Scripture is not what makes a person a Christian; it's their belief
and experience of Jesus Christ. The rest follows on but is not what
makes them a Christian! Very silly writing!
not the founder? Finally
in this short paragraph there is: “There is
scarcely a word in any of the later-assembled Gospels to suggest that
Jesus wanted to be the founder of a church, either.” I suspect
that this is a double example of the author's ignorance. First of
all ‘church' simply means ‘called-out ones' not any institution or
organisation. In that sense Jesus was creating ‘church' as he went
along. Secondly, one of the criticisms that is sometimes levelled
at Jesus is that he was so apparently self-centred. All of belief
was to focus on him, e.g. “Whoever
believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son
will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”
), or “Then
Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will
never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
(Jn 6:35). So, totally contrary to the author's assertion,
almost everything Jesus said pointed people to himself as the Son
of God who could save them. He was the central focus of this bunch
of ‘called-out ones'.
Further misunderstandings :
In what follows we simply have a handful more of things the author
doesn't understand. What seems sad is that these atheistic writers
push themselves out on a limb of ignorance and expose themselves to
ridicule from anyone who has but a little knowledge of these things.
One must assume they are simply pandering to the congregation of those
who are likeminded and largely ignorant of the Bible and the Christian
Faith, for no one else would give them any credibility.
v Nazareth. Here
he manages to talk himself into almost believing. When talking about
“a huge amount of fabrication,” he wonders,
“But why do all this at all” which is
exactly what I asked earlier. In his semi-doubting of Jesus' historical
existence, he obviously has not come across the sources outside the
New Testament that refer to Jesus at that time. He gives no grounds
whatsoever for genuinely doubting the Gospel accounts but still manages
to use the language of doubtful innuendo and even has the temerity
to speak about his own “attempt to be fair and
open-minded”. Pardon? I have seen no signs of that whatsoever,
in fact just the contrary.
on Jesus' Origins. I
really haven't a clue to what the author is referring to when he speaks
about the Gospel of John, “which seems to suggest
that Jesus was neither born in Bethlehem
nor descended from King David.”
Whatever is he talking about? A little ignorance is a dangerous thing!
He asks, “of what use is my analysis?” to
which the answer has got to be, of none at all except to show that
anyone making any analysis of the Gospels needs to have thoroughly
read and understood them first of all, which is what countless reputable
scholars have done down through the centuries. So, I'm afraid I have
no idea what he means when he speaks about “the
contradictions and illiteracies of the New Testament have filled up
many books by eminent scholars and have never been explained by any
is obviously not a judge of “eminent scholars”
because if he is calling on support from the educational establishment,
I assume he has to be referring to the liberal school of the nineteenth
century who started off from the premise that God wasn't able to DO
any of the things the Bible says, and so started from a position of
unbelief and so ended up with conclusions that were erroneous and
subsequently rejected by the world's wider scholarship that followed
through the twentieth century. (Please read Appendix 6 of our appraisal
of The God Delusion , ‘The misuse of Liberal Theologians'.
return to John's Gospel
and his absence of reference to either Bethlehem or King David, we
need to understand that John was writing many years later and the
three other Gospels had already been in existence for many years.
One thing I have noted with older people is that their long-distance
memory functions more clearly than at any time before. My belief is
that in old age, John reflecting back on the incredible experiences
he had had with Jesus when he was young, sees in his mind so many
of those events and suddenly thinks something like, “My goodness,
we never realised! Why didn't we realise the truth when he was speaking
about having come from heaven, and being the Son of God? How blind
could we have been? The others didn't even see it when they put their
thus he writes after years and years of experience as a wise and highly
respected leader, seeing the outworking of all the things Jesus had
spoken about, and his emphasis is on Jesus the Son of God who came
to save the world. His Gospel is for the world, not just mainly the
Jews (Matthew) or the Greeks (Luke) or the Romans (Mark). If our author
had bothered to study these things he would have known them, but his
closed mind has stopped him enquiring and finding out!
In a bizarre attempt
at some form of logic the author tries to show that the book is man-made
because by its own confession in John, “For
the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus
Christ.” (Jn 1:17). Implication:
all the Old Testament law was made up by Moses and all the New Testament
stuff was made up by Jesus. Conclusion, it's all man-made! What this
terrible logic omits is the incredible account of God giving
the Law to Moses, and Jesus performing incredible signs (including
his death and resurrection) to reveal he is God in the flesh (that's
the whole point, for example, of John's Gospel.)
not a Virgin.
Then follows some little
thought out chatter about the meaning of virgin, the stuff that beginners
learn. Yes, the Hebrew can simply mean ‘a young woman' but it misses
the point that it can also mean ‘virgin' and when Matthew collects
together the records of Jesus' birth, it's like he says, Oh my goodness!
This is what Isaiah was speaking about! He did actually mean a virgin!
It's not because Matthew says she is a virgin, but because of the
whole account to do with the angel!
course if you don't believe in the supernatural, you won't believe
in angels and you won't believe in the possibility of a virgin birth,
but that's because of your presuppositions, not because of your carefully
researched conclusions! The point of the Holy Spirit being involved
is less about Mary being sinless (an add-on belief) but of how God
could be in human form inside this girl!
Mary – virgin birth and family:
This leads us in to the main onslaught on Mary with, sadly, even more
thoughtless comments. Let's pick them up one by one because there
just may be gullible people around who could get led astray by this
“Jesus… never mentions that his mother is or was a virgin.”
How crass is that! In those days at least, children honoured their
parents. The author is a classic example of those who will misunderstand
wherever there is an opportunity for something to be misunderstood,
and a subject like this would really detract from the main things
Jesus was teaching. The fact is that he had no need to speak about
this. He's not asking us to believe in him because of his virgin birth;
he asks us on the basis of the things he did.
“Jesus… is repeatedly very rude and coarse to her.” He
doesn't cite any references for this but I assume he may be picking
up on Jn 2:4 where older versions have, “ Woman,
what have I to do with thee ?”
Modern translations have a much softer,
“ Dear woman, why do you involve me? ”
In either case, Jesus is now operating as the head of the family (his
father having died and he being the eldest son), and also as the Son
of God that he is slowly revealing to the world. Mary was pushing
in where she shouldn't and so his response is in fact remarkably gentle
and he does follow through on what she said, almost as if to honour
“She herself appears to have no memory of the Archangel Gabriel's
visitation, or of the swarm of angels, both telling her that she is
the mother of god. In all accounts, everything that her son does comes
to her as a complete surprise, if not a shock.”
then indirectly refers to the incident when Jesus was twelve and stayed
in Jerusalem, and also to the John 2 account mentioned above. This
is either ingenuous or just unthinking. The author has obviously never
thought himself into Mary's position. She was a teenager when the
immaculate conception occurred. It was a most incredible experience
but with the passing of years, it is very easy to doubt. There is
nothing that takes away from Mary's humanity. Just a small point in
passing, Mary didn't have a swarm of angels come to her, the shepherds
you've had a child in a way you can't explain. You have this memory
that is very vivid but it still leaves you with dozens of questions.
Was her son staying in Jerusalem when he was twelve something to be
expected? Of course not! Of course, as a mother, she was both surprised
and concerned. Was she expecting her son to become a miracle worker?
Highly unlikely! Even if she grasped anything of the Messiah concept,
she probably could not have expected a quarter of what he did. Of
course she was surprised. Jesus himself didn't plan all the things
long beforehand (not in his human form at least), but did the various
things as prompted by his Father in heaven. This wasn't something
he explained in detail to Mary; it didn't work like that.
Parents: I'm afraid
these comments in the book get more and more incredible.
“Luke even makes a telling slip at one point, speaking of the “parents
of Jesus” when he refers only to Joseph and Mary.” Oh, my goodness!
What is this about? Luke isn't out to make a theological point. Mary
and Joseph all the way along are referred to as Jesus' parents. As
far as the world was concerned, they were. When a child is adopted
we still speak of those adopting it as its ‘parents'. We're not trying
to be deceitful or distort the truth; we're just stating the obvious,
that for all intents and purposes, in everyday life, this couple are
acting as the child's parents. This is just silly writing in this
chapter of the book!
“who only exists in reported speech.”
Whatever is this about? Calling the whole of Matthew's Gospel ‘reported
speech' is cowardly and intellectually facile. This is just making
silly comments for the sake of it. If you want to go to the subject
of authority and veracity of the New Testament, please go to our Apologetics
HERE] This isn't worth talking about any more here.
ongoing chatter about Mary and the Roman Catholic Church's intellectual
machinations is valid, if not a touch banal, but please don't taint
the rest of us with their unbiblical confusions at this point.
not sure about his ‘repeatedly'. The
only other occasion that comes to mind, when there is reference by
Jesus to Mary and the family is, for example in Mark 3:31-35 where
Jesus, to those in the house (not the family) expands ‘mother and
brother' to include anyone who is part of his spiritual ‘family'.
There is also no record that he didn't get up and go out to see them!
Magic and Muddled Thinking:
I remember a quick-draw artist who used to appear on TV. He worked
with single lines that went onto the board as quick as could be and
eventually painted the big picture. This writer is like this. He shoots
out lines as fast as he can go, as if they were meaningful and as
if they contributed to the big picture. It's bad stuff but for the
sake of the gullible we'll cover it!
“riddled with dreams and with astrology”?
And the sun standing still for Joshua was an example of that? Yes,
God does sometimes speak through dreams, but astrology? No, not the
Old Testament (just 3 mentions of stars and one condemnation of stargazers
and astrologers!), just that one star over Bethlehem. No, I don't
understand what happened with Joshua and I don't know which of the
various suggestions that have been made of the Bethlehem ‘star' is
actually true. I don't think the ‘wise men' were “witch
doctors and sorcerers”; they come over with much greater authority
and wisdom, and the key issue is that they turned up at the right
time because, by whatever means, they heard God!
“fanciful wish-thinking”? I remember,
as a new Christian living in London many years ago, going to a Bible
Study at a local church (don't worry about which denomination) and
it was on the Beatitudes. I'm sure the only two Christians there were
me and the minister. The rest of the group reckoned that the Beatitudes
were impossibilities, just like our author does. But I realised something;
that God's intention is always to draw us into closer relationship
with Him and we can't do anything good without His help. Yes, humanly
these beatitudes are impossible, but the point is that with God they
are possible, and they don't show a belief in magic (I'm not sure
what he's referring to). I don't think he realises that the Beatitudes
refer only to verses 1 to 11, for I think he must be commenting on
the rest of his sermon with his unclear comments that are so unclear
as to defy comment!
Yet again we find more of the misunderstanding, or perhaps lack of
understanding, we have come to expect from this author. Yes, Jesus
did come primarily to speak into the Jewish nation and there was a
very clear reason for it. Not wanting to just repeat myself and copy
out lots of detail, can I refer you to the second part of chapter
7 of our appraisal of The God Delusion which covers this
in detail. CLICK
aspect of that particular story not covered there, is linked to something
we've already mentioned once in these notes, that often God wants
us to show a possible desire after Him and after the truth. There
are a variety of instances in the Bible of God or Jesus ‘having their
minds changed'. What we find though, with a little bit of consideration,
was that the original appearance was not their real intent. They were
wanting the person (or us) to come out with and face the truth, or
declare our real desire. Then, and only then, does His real intent
become clear. But I don't expect the cynical atheist to want to learn
Misunderstanding C.S.Lewis: These
misunderstandings lead him on to an almost incredible conclusion,
that this could be the Son of God (well not quite!). However that
leads him into what seems a most amazing example of blindness. He
takes a quote from Mere Christianity which is an incredibly
simple and straight forward defence of the Gospel, and he completely
misses the point that Lewis is making, that the only logical answer
to the apparently bizarre teaching of Jesus, is that he meant he really
was the only Son of God. Because Lewis uses irony the author choose
to completely misunderstand what he is saying.
to make it worse, he completely denies Lewis's simple logic that Jesus
was not merely a great human teacher. He denies Lewis's alternatives
but fails to put up any other. He simply derides him. Sounds like
the truth was getting close to home!
confirm this conclusion, he makes an incredible comment: “Either
the Gospels are in some sense literal truth, or the whole thing is
literally a fraud and perhaps an immoral one at that.” Now
I have already commented upon how unlikely it is that a whole bunch
of different writers could have concocted such an elaborate fraud
as the New Testament (you can't take the Gospels on their own – the
rest too strongly weigh in as well).
the face of all the staggering amount of evidence to the contrary,
the author simply sweeps it all away as ‘hearsay'. Hearsay? Thousands
of people have given their very lives for this ‘hearsay' starting
with most of those twelve apostles closest to Jesus who saw and heard
it all and were totally convinced by it – and died painfully for it!
See the notes above on the ‘witness culture' of the New Testament.
The Woman taken in Adultery: This
part starts off with the rather bizarre account of a young man who
had to change his views from one extreme to another. Atheists seem
to delight in using this sort of cockeyed thinking. Simply because
one person goes overboard in opposite directions, it doesn't make
either of his extremities valid.
is followed by a story of the woman taken in adultery which the Bible
itself notes “The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses
do not have John 7:53-8:11”.
Somehow the integrity of the New Testament canon escapes the author.
What he has obviously never realised is that those who publish the
Bible maintain a very high level of integrity, noting questionable
words etc. by putting notes at the bottom of the page or, in this
rare case, before the passage.
author then quotes Dr. Zhivago where an imaginary priest declares
that no one knows if the woman went away and didn't sin again.
“Nobody, indeed, does know” he adds portentously! So what is
that supposed to say? If he thinks it adds meaning he's simply exposing
his bias again. Of course we don't know what dozens of Bible characters
subsequently did. That doesn't affect the truth of the text at all.
then refers back to the Old Testament to demonstrate more of his own
lack of understanding. If only these crusading atheists would bother
to do their research they wouldn't come up with so many unthinking
comments. “Gruesome laws of the Pentateuch”?
He cites an eye for an eye. What he has never thought about was the
primitiveness of culture – including the culture of Israel
– in those early days of civilisation.
The “eye for an eye” law was actually a restrictive law that was basically
saying “ONLY an eye for an eye.” In that primitive society it was
inhibiting revenge which tends to grow and grow.
reason I take so much time on some of these things is that in the
midst of all of his writing comes some of the most fatuous (sorry,
that is what it really is) comments possible. Listen: “but
if only non-sinners have the right to punish, then how could an imperfect
society ever determine how to prosecute offenders.” Where ever
does he get this idea that the Bible talks about non-sinners. It doesn't!
It says exactly the opposite: we are ALL sinners. What he fails to
distinguish is that there are differences in degrees of sin, and so
we don't equate for social purposes the sin of ignoring
a needy person you pass by with the sin of murder. The consequences
of each are vastly different.
then we have, “And what authority did Jesus
have to ‘forgive'? That is exactly the point, the authority
of being the Son of God. But he continues, “Presumably,
at least one wife or husband somewhere in the city felt cheated and
outraged.” It's a shame that that which at first sight seems
so morally superior in fact simply reveals a short-sightedness. The
issue is not about offending the innocent husband or wife. The issue
is about responding to the heart of the offender. Jesus reads her
mind and sees she is repentant. Before God she is forgiven. Yes, of
course there is a whole issue of the husband and wife sorting out
his misdemeanours. Perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus knew the truth of
this situation, that in a male dominated culture it would have been
the man who had taken the initiative and he was the primary cause
of this situation.
there is the whole situation of the husband seeking the wife's forgiveness
but that's not the point. It's not the husband who is being threatened
with stoning. Even though he should have been according to the Law,
the male-orientated religious leaders didn't bother with him. They
just used the woman as a scapegoat to put Jesus in an awkward situation.
Jesus is, in fact, standing up for women in this situation, long before
anyone else championed for women's rights. The author seems to forget
that, but then he's aligning himself with those religious leaders,
trying to make Jesus look silly. All that happens is that they, and
our author, appear foolish and heartless, but perhaps that is unfair,
for he eventually does come to understand some element of the story.
the close of this section and the chapter he seems to think he is
making some great point – this wasn't in the original Gospel. No,
it probably wasn't, but read again what I've said at the beginning
of this part. Why would it have been included (including the note)?
Because it has an air of authenticity about it and shows an incident
which does conform to all else we know about the mercy and grace of
Jesus. No, “the case for biblical consistency
or authenticity or ‘inspiration'” has NOT been “in
tatters for some time” – only in the confused minds of those
who have thought very little about these things and are so quick to
comment about them from their misunderstandings.