Jesus Silent Years: Exploring Facts the Gospels Do Not Tell Us

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Whatever their religious commitments, wealthy collectors and deep-pocketed benefactors have long played a supporting role in the search for ancient exotica. His enthusiasm for Bible hunting is unabashed. Turning over rocks may uncover scrolls but also snakes. Encountering serpents and other dangers—burning deserts, blinding sandstorms, armed bandits—went with the territory trodden by pioneering Bible hunters of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Egypt was among their favorite destinations; its dry climate is ideal for preserving fragile manuscripts.

Many of the trailblazers were sturdy scholar-adventurers, and accounts of their travels and discoveries conjure up images from Raiders of the Lost Ark. According to his own account of events, Tischendorf first spotted some pages from the codex in a basket of old parchment the monks planned to burn. He rescued the pages and requested permission to take the entire codex back to Europe for study. Tischendorf made the arduous trek back to St. Neither Jews nor Protestants recognize the books of the Apocrypha as Scripture. Other Orthodox sects may use a slightly different order or selection of books.

Sources: Craig A. Schiffman, New York University. From there the chain of events becomes tangled in controversy and accusations of imperialist power plays. In any event, the priceless Bible remained in St. Those who followed in his steps included Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson, Scottish twins and self-taught scholars who between them mastered some dozen languages. In the plucky Presbyterian sisters, both middle-aged widows by then, crossed the Egyptian desert on camelback and arrived at St.

The sisters were eager to investigate. Using their camp kettle to steam the grimy pages apart, they found that it was a biography of female saints dated A. Then sharp-eyed Lewis noticed a faint underwriting beneath the top layer of text and realized that it was a palimpsest—a manuscript that had been partially erased and reused. Studying the text beneath the text, she was staggered to see that it was a translation of the four Gospels.

They also used a chemical solution in a successful attempt to enhance the faded undertext of the palimpsest. Their work anticipated by more than a century the use of multispectral imaging and other technologies to reveal ancient biblical texts hidden beneath more recent writing. In Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, rookie archaeologists from Oxford University, were prospecting for artifacts at the long-buried Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus when they made an extraordinary find: an ancient garbage dump filled with layer upon layer of papyri.

Over the next decade Grenfell and Hunt dug through a papyrus-filled pit some 30 feet deep and shipped half a million documents back to Oxford. Researchers have been painstakingly piecing together the fragments ever since. Most of the papyri are the prosaic paperwork of everyday life: bills, letters, tax assessments, a deed from the sale of a donkey.

But about 10 percent of the hoard is literary, including bits of works by classical authors such as Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides. And more than a century after their discovery, thousands of fragments have yet to be studied closely. For cloak-and-dagger drama, the Dead Sea Scrolls trump all other biblical discoveries. A scholar from Jerusalem acquired three of the scrolls following a clandestine meeting through a barbed wire fence. In , spooked by the Arab-Israeli War, the bishop smuggled the scrolls to the United States in hopes of selling them to a museum or university.

After getting no takers, he placed a classified ad in the Wall Street Journal on June 1, It took decades for scholars, working in seclusion and secrecy, to reassemble and translate the tattered parchments. The long delay in publication spawned conspiracy theories that the powers that be—the pope? Finally, by the mids, the translators finished publishing the bulk of their findings. The scrolls included legal texts, apocalyptic and ritual treatises, accounts of life in the Qumran sect, and remnants of biblical manuscripts.

Scholars were thrilled to learn that among them was a nearly complete copy of the Book of Isaiah from the Hebrew Bible. Its content was virtually identical to another copy of Isaiah dated almost a thousand years later. The Great Isaiah Scroll would become Exhibit A for scholars who defend the Bible against claims that its text was corrupted by scribes who, over centuries of copying by hand, introduced a multitude of mistakes and intentional changes.

More about this contentious debate later. As archaeologists began excavating in the Qumran caves, other Bedouin did their own digging and sold what they found to Kando. His greatest purchase was the nearly foot-long Temple Scroll, the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. After the incident Kando reportedly started furtively moving his remaining scroll fragments to relatives in Lebanon and later to a bank vault in Switzerland.

In Steve Green began buying rare Bibles and artifacts at an unprecedented pace, eventually acquiring some 40, objects—one of the largest private collections of biblical material in the world. I refused. Some people say it is priceless. Instead he bought more affordable scroll fragments. The merchant offers me more coffee, then fumbles through a ledger. When I visit the Museum of the Bible a day before its official opening, five scroll fragments are on display.

I notice a sort of disclaimer accompanying the exhibit acknowledging that the fragments might be fakes. Kando indignantly denies that his family sold inauthentic fragments, suggesting that any forgeries must have come from less reputable dealers. Green, for his part, seems philosophical about his prize acquisitions. All you can do is learn from your mistakes and not do business with them anymore. While liberals think the Christian faith is a country club, does CC doctrine make it seem like a prison?

Is the message of the New Testament simply that one legal system replaced another? Are these men possibly correct that legalism is indeed the "fatal error" of CC theology? But isn't it correct that the Bible teaches that "the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul" Psalm ? And isn't the law of Christ described as perfect James ?

What law is then perfect—both the "law of God" and the "law of Christ," because they are one and the same!

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What source does Jesus quote when he declares, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself"? Isn't it Leviticus ? Aren't all Ten Commandments repeated or alluded to in the New Testament? What is the context of the law of Christ in Galatians 6? Isn't it bearing others' burdens with the glory only in the cross of Christ? Please bear with us on some further thoughts on the Law of Christ. It would be like someone pushing you down into a well, then throwing you a rope. Besides making Jesus into a nasty character, this idea is not biblical.

John says that "God sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by him. We have heard Church of Christ people say that when Paul speaks of not being saved by "law" he is only saying he is not saved by the "Law of Moses. Here Paul does not use the term law or law of Moses. He uses the term "works. Isn't Paul making a general case that we are not saved by works of any kind?

Note Galatians , again in Young's Literal Translation. Doesn't Paul make it clear that no law can give life? And Galatians doesn't Paul further clarify that we are not under any law "guardian"? Do you think that only those laws that are repeated in the New Testament from the Old Testament are valid? Where is such principle of interpretation found in the Bible?

Is there any new law in the New Testament, or only new forgiveness and the fulfillment of the shadows of this forgiveness found in the Old Testament? Do you notice a theme? How can that be? Read his explanation. Clue: It has to do with the New Testament view of the purpose of the law.

This brings up another point. Non-believers are told to repent and believe for example Acts We argue that all other commands in the Bible, including baptism! Are we reconciled to God by what we do or by what God did to present us holy in his sight Col ? How does the CC respond to those who may accuse them of following the letter-of-the-law and not the spirit-of-the-law? For example, the Bible says we should care for widows and orphans the letter of the law , and were astounded to hear a CC person tell us that charity should thus be limited to these groups.

But Jesus gives the example of caring for the outcast and others who need help example, the Good Samaritan and commands us to be merciful Mat Is the CC attitude legalistic in this regard too, adding insult to injury to the Christian faith? Is not faith very much alive before good works are performed, and not because of good works? Christians in the historic orthodox faith thus believe that we are saved by grace through faith and strongly agree that a faith without works is dead; that is, a true saving faith will be accompanied by works.

Christians also believe that faith before it has a chance to work is a saving faith—for example, the thief on the cross. The CC would have others believe that faith is dead until one rises out of the water. Thus, someone on his way to be baptized could not be one whose faith is working by love. Christians throughout the ages have pointed out that Christianity is uniquely different from all other religions and cults because salvation is through faith and not through works. Can you see that the view of salvation through works puts the CC in close company with false religions and cults? While we are not saying the Church of Christ is a cult, we cannot help pointing out the similarities between the Church of Christ and Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons:.

Don't we become sons of God by the power of God and not by the will of man John ? Does anyone really seek after God on his own Romans ? Don't these verses clarify that it is the work of God, not of man, that saves us? Are we dead in our sins, or just merely sick Ephesians ? Can a dead man respond? Aren't we therefore made alive by the work of Christ alone, just as Larazus was raised from the dead? Just as our physical birth is not something we earn nor have any control over, isn't our spiritual birth likewise something we do not earn nor have any control over 1 Peter ? Here is a single question that may quickly determine whether the CC is in fact legalistic: If it would bring more people to your church to hear the gospel, would you allow instrumental music?

Then, if you are a CC member, would you consider taking this Legalism Questionnaire? The Church of Christ is under the impression that evangelicals have no part for works in the salvation formula. This is incorrect. We have attempted above to show above that the Church of Christ hermeneutic of of legalistic patternism is flawed. So how should the Bible be interpreted? Because this is so crucial, we repeat. If the Bible is contradictory, it cannot be God's word. Let us examine a statement made to us by a Church of Christ preacher regarding justification how we are saved :.

Every person, however, who hears and does what God has said to do in the way that God has said to do it will be saved by the grace of God through the blood of Christ. Is it not clear that this statement—which is typical of how CC folks state justification—is contradictory? As Paul says in Rom , "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Paul clarifies what the Church of Christ is risking in its hermeneutic. He states, "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose Gal It is giving too much credit for sinful man and too little credit to God and Christ's finished work on the cross. Moser, "If man must still work for salvation we have in Christ an atonement that does not atone! This is incomprehensible for our Church of Christ brothers and so too for Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Jews, and every other religion. Yet the Bible insists over and over again that we are saved by faith and specifically not by our works Romans chapters , Galatians chapters , Ephesians chapter 2, Titus chapter 3, etc.

Yet the Bible commands us to obey! So how do we reconcile faith and works? We have asked the CC why they keep coming back to James 2 in an attempt to show that salvation is through works, and the answer has been, because others "keep denying what it clearly teaches. Is James contradicting the rest of the Bible? Most theologians down through the ages have insisted that the way to reconcile the biblical message of faith and works is to explain that works describe a true saving faith but do not save unto themselves?

James gives us the clues we need. He insists that even one single sin on our part is equivalent to breaking the entire law James ! Of course he means, no it cannot. Then in verse 18 he says that a living, saving faith is shown by our works. So James is not saying that we are saved by works, rather our obedience is evidence of a legitimate faith. So, there is, then, a simple way to reconcile faith and works in a way that is faithful to Scripture without making Scripture contradict itself.

We are saved by a living faith—that is, one which expresses itself in obedience. Note that this is very different from saying that we are saved by faith plus works or any such construction. We are saved by grace through faith, not of works can we boast. Moser gives several biblical examples of how it is faith that saves, regardless of whether or not that faith is expressed in some sort of action. He cites the stories of Jesus healing the blind in John 9 and Matthew 9.

In one case, the blind man did something—washed in the pool of Siloam. In the other case, nothing was done other than what Jesus did.

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Moser asks, "Were these blind men cured upon different principles? In both cases the blind received sight upon the principle of faith in Christ. In one case faith expressed by overt acts, in the other case it was not. After all it is faith that the Lord wants Faith expressed remains faith. What about repentance— isn't that a work? Was this an action or a change of mind? Moser continues, "But salvation is by faith.

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Repentance, then, must in some way relate to faith. And it must relate to faith in such a way as not to oppose it. If you turn to Jesus y o u will by definition turn from your life of sin and selfishness. You will automatically repudiate your fleshly nature. This is the deep meaning of repentance. So, repentance is technically not a work per se.

After we are saved by faith, we begin to show outward confirming acts such as confession and good works because of our gratitude for what God has done for us. Confession is faith expressed in words Romans Again, it is the faith that saves, not any expression of it. What about baptism?

Isn't it a work? This leads us into the next section. But before that, one last word. If we are wrong in this, our error is putting too high a view on God and his work and too low a view on our own work. If the Church of Christ is wrong on justification, your error is putting too low a view on Jesus and too high a view on man's work!

Most of my friends in the church believed that because he had not been baptized that this boy was in hell for eternity. This event started me questioning the teachings of the Church of Christ. In time, I studied my way out of this sect. Among many other points in this article, Garrett says, "We as immersionists must rid ourselves of the ungracious notion that those who do not baptize the way we do have rebellious and disobedient hearts.

They can be mistaken without being degenerate. And they can be mistaken and still be Christians who are pleasing God, just as we can still be Christians when we are mistaken. CC theologian Everett Ferguson in his book instructs against such practice page : "Paul in 1 Corinthians protests against any view of baptism which would make it a badge of distinction among Christians instead of a unifying act. Ferguson also warns page : "Baptism provides an objective assurance of having received God's promised salvation in Christ.

That may lead to the subtle temptation to trust in baptism for salvation instead of trusting in God, his act in Christ, and his word of promise. What is the difference, according to Hook, in baptism for remission of sins and baptism to receive the Holy Spirit? First, just a point of logic. In the rest of this section we will attempt to prove this biblically. Now, as confession is faith expressed by words, baptism is faith expressed by deed This view of baptism sanctioned by scripture lifts baptism from a meaningless act of legalism to the high plane of salvation by faith in Christ.

Or were they children of God filled with the Holy Spirit and later got baptized? Doesn't Peter in Acts make it clear that it was the faith that produced remission of sins, and that water baptism came later as a symbol of their new life in Christ? Is there any record in the Bible that the apostles received water baptism?

Doesn't 1 Corinthians show that baptism by the Holy Spirit is what places us in the body of Christ? Your motto is, "Where the Bible speaks we speak; where the Bible is silent we are silent. For example, you say, "He that is baptized not shall be damned. What does appear in the Bible is, "He that believeth not shall be damned. Such Church-of-Christ-isms like all other 'isms' are an insult to the persons and dignity of the Holy Spirit by whom we 'are all baptized into one body.

Is Jesus Christ the head of the church of Christ? What kind of baptism did the apostles receive? Were they saved or lost? What kind of baptism did the disciples, who who were baptized by the apostles on the authority of Christ during his personal ministry, receive John ? Was this before Pentecost?

In Mark , John's baptism was for "remission of sins. If so, why were they re-baptized in Acts ? If not, what does that say about your insistence on baptism for "remission of sins"? Other things are listed in the Bible besides baptism for remission of sins—belief, confession, repentance. The act of signing the gift check in no way earns it, or even merits it, nor does this action make it any less of a gift.

Baptism is simply how we "endorse" and identify with what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Therefore, in baptism we express our faith that His check won't bounce; that His righteousness is credited to our account; that our name is entered on His ledger. What do you think of R. By the way, Sproul is a man who has written over 70 books and is considered by many to be one of the top theologians of our age. However, the modern CC undeniably traces its lineage to it, and so one would think that CC folk would have at least some respect for the views of the founders. Alexander Campbell was rebaptized as an adult upon a simple confession of his faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

He never changed his views on this and was never baptized "for the remission of sins. Since Alexander Campbell was baptized by a Baptist preacher Elder Luce and was thus put into the Church of Christ, why will not Baptist Baptism do the same for people today? If Elder Luce did not baptize Campbell into Christ, when and where and how did Campbell ever get into Christ, since he died with Baptist Baptism and never repudiated it?

If Campbell was baptized into Christ by Luce's act, then was not the Church of Christ in fact already here? For the record, when the Campbells founded their first church, the Brush Run Church, they accepted "sprinkled" people as baptized, and the Campbells would not then rebaptize such ones.

Included in the group who were baptized included a baby. Also of note, Thomas Campbell immersed three people before he himself had been immersed. It confirms nothing…. The seal of the Holy Spirit requires no external ordinance to perfect it. Is it true that anyone who is not baptized according to the CC formula is considered an "unsaved child of the devil?

Could they be "fellowshipped" by their congregations today? Indeed, there is a more fundamental question about the CC teaching that a person who is to be baptized should profess to be an unsaved child of the devil. Is this not missing the point entirely—that it is a child of God who is to be baptized —one who is saved by grace?! Isn't it true that faith and repentance always precede baptism in the New Testament, and never follow it? The fruit I saw in their lives had a huge impact on me. Over time, I began to question several of the CC doctrines because the answers they gave seemed lacking, incomplete, or just plain wrong Biblically.

The real change came when I questioned the whole essence of salvation. Of course, they teach baptismal regeneration. I read that I was justified by faith. They told me I had to have faith before I was baptized, but that it was actually baptism that saved me. Why did I need to be saved if I was already justified by faith? The more I questioned this, the more I began to understand that my obedience could never satisfy an absolutely holy, righteous God who demands absolute perfection from me.

How strong did my faith need to be to be acceptable to this perfect God? What a comfort it is to know that I can stand before God judged not on my own merits, but on the merits of Jesus. Praise God! Lanny Tanton is a former Church of Christ preacher that changed his mind on Acts For his detailed analysis see Change of Mind. Regarding the conversion of Paul in Acts , wasn't Paul actually saved on the road to Damascus rather than when he was baptized later? Did Jesus know the plan of salvation John ? If so, where and when? Does the word water as used in John mean baptism? Why didn't Christ say what he meant to say?

If he really meant baptism— when he said water— by the same reasoning he evidently meant baptism in the next Chapter John Read again the story of the Woman at the Well and substitute the word baptism for water everywhere it is found in the story exactly as you substitute the word baptism for water in John , and see what a story you make. False doctrines always lead to muddy water. If people fall away, is it possible to tell if they were really saved or not Heb ? What if the person only appeared to fall away when in fact he was never truly a believer in the first place—but then later does in fact come to a saving faith?

If he had been baptized previously, should he now be re-baptized? How does one know if they should be re-baptized? Is there anything here that says washing means baptism? Is it correct that the healing of Naaman in the Jordan River 2 Kgs 5 is used to support this water gospel doctrine? Healing of leprosy is not evidence of salvation, is it? And Naaman did not even believe in God when he was healed, right? Is it even theoretically possible for someone to have met all the biblical requirements to be saved—but died en route to being baptized—and still go to heaven? Thus, if it is not a necessary requirement to be saved in every situation, it is not a requirement at all?!

We have felt that baptism is necessary for obedience, but that baptism doesn't add to what Christ does for us in the cross, and doesn't add to what a person receives by faith I came to a better understanding of grace that I didn't have before There was some latent legalism in me—and there probably still is. So we started studying the Gospel, and I personally found out that I was kind of overlaying the Gospel with regulations and rules.

And so I repented of that, and we began teaching the Gospel. Garrett says chapter 38, Fellowship the Unimmersed , "An interesting book on the history of the dispute about baptism, entitled The Water That Divides , shows that the issue is not as simple as we have supposed.

He notes that while there is universal agreement that baptism was often by immersion in the New Testament, it is not universally agreed that all baptisms were by immersion. And so throughout the history of the church, the author states, baptism has been administered by immersion, pouring, and sprinkling. Please see this definition of baptism , especially the section that says "Meaning of the Word in the New Testament. Garrett also quotes Barton Stone in the same article: "Shall we make immersion the test of religion, and why is immersion emphasized more than the love of God, holiness, mercy, and self denial?

If someone meets all other requirements of the Christian faith but is not immersed, are they saved? For example, in 1 Cor the Israelites were baptized by only getting their feet wet, while it was the Egyptians who got immersed. In Mark baptism is described as washing of vessels, which is not necessarily immersion but could be pouring or scrubbing. The ceremonial washing, or baptisms, that follow are rites of purification in the Old Testament cf. Heb In all of these ceremonial washings, the method of application was sprinkling. In fact, all Old Testament purifications or washings were by sprinkling Num , , Lev , etc.

Doesn't it stand to reason that New Testament Jewish Christians would have appreciated that method of baptism? It just seems to many this is another example of the CC taking a legalistic stance to separate from other Christians. Doctrine allows requires interpretation. It is not appropriate to take everything in the Bible in a wooden literal sense. The CC would not say that one must literally eat Jesus' body to be saved — Jn as some Catholics believe.

In the same way, when the Bible says we are baptized unto remission of sins , it is not a necessary inference that in order to be saved, we must perform a ritual baptism exactly as the Church of Christ does it!? Finally, this observation about baptism. A faithful CC man responded to the above questions in great detail, arguing that these opposing views are wrong. But he also said, " Baptism does not procure [i. It is entirely the gift of God. But anyway, his statement seems to be one we can all agree on! So, we ask, is baptism really so much of an issue over which you must draw the line of fellowship with the rest of us?

We have a friend who was formerly a CC preacher. He told us that when he used to baptize people, he would be sure that every inch of the person's body was underwater. If a knee was exposed, he would push it under, to be sure they were saved. Chesterton, Orthodoxy , p. The CC flatly and emphatically denies the historic biblical doctrine of Original Sin as do, interestingly, every cult and all non-biblical world religions. Doesn't the Bible teach that man is born with a fleshly sinful nature that is in some way inherited from Adam Rom Rom ?

Historic Christian theology has been insistent on this doctrine and it makes Christianity unique among world religions. It is this understanding that makes the work of Christ so important and makes Christianity so different from every other religion.

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What do you think? Ferguson, in attempting to explain the CC view makes a distinction between the "human condition" of sin and the "human nature" of sin pages This seems to be a distinction without a difference, unless the CC is merely using this topic to try to separate from other Christians. Yet, Ferguson acknowledges the universality of sin as a consequence of the Fall.

By denying original sin, does the CC make Christianity similar to all other religions who teach that man is born good? Even the apostle Paul could not always carry out what he knew to be right Rom Here we have St. Why didn't Paul reform chapter 14, Paul? For the record, here are important passages about our sin: Gen , , 1 Kgs , Job , , Ps 14, Ps , , , Prov , Ecc , Isaiah , , , , Jer , Dan , Mk , Rom , Rom , , , , Gal , Eph , Js , 1 Jn ?

Is there even one person on earth who is righteous Ecc ? In fact, don't adults as well have to be taught to be good? These are arguments we make to non-Christians, and it seems so surprising that we have to make these same arguments to those who profess the authority of the Bible. Are we dead in our sins, or merely sick John ; Romans ? Isn't this like the difference between having cancer and a cold? Paul Romans , and Isaiah before him Isaiah Since then, I started preaching Christ rather than any so-called plan of salvation.

Hughes in his book says that many young people within the church of Christ think their traditional view of the Holy Spirit is "Lashing the Spirit of God to an objective book of paper and ink—or, indeed, circumscribing the Spirit with any kind of rational constraints—ultimately impoverished the soul and drained life of its meaning. Have you arbitrarily put the Holy Spirit in a box by ignoring the work the work that He does: Holy Spirit? Isn't the Holy Spirit's activity on a person so important that he cannot even receive spiritual reality without the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians ; 1 Corinthians ?

Isn't natural man so at enmity with God that without the Spirit he cannot do God's will Romans ? Romans 4 and justification by faith for Abraham before he was circumcised. Paul refers to Genesis 15, where Abraham simply accepted the promise of God and hadn't acted on it yet for several years to come. Law cannot save, it can only condemn. It convicts the conscience.

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  • Interpreting the Gospels?

We are under grace not law Romans Two Gospels—Matthew and Luke—tell the story of when Jesus was born, but in quite different ways. Contradictions abound. In creating the familiar Christmas tale, Christians took a little bit of one story, mixed it with a little bit of the other and ignored all of the contradictions in the two.

The version recounted above does the same; it uses parts of those stories from the two Gospels that are usually ignored. So there are two blended versions and two Gospel versions. Take your pick. There are also deep, logical flaws here that should be apparent to anyone giving the Bible a close read. Many Christians read the Old Testament as having several prophecies that the Messiah will be a descendant of David, a towering biblical figure who was the second ruler of the Kingdom of Israel.

And both Matthew and Luke offer that proof—both trace Jesus's lineage to his father Joseph and from there back to David. Except…Joseph wasn't Jesus's father. Jesus is the son of God, remember? Moreover, the genealogies recounted in the two Gospels are different, each identifying different men as Joseph's father and grandfather.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, can be the only parent with a bloodline to David, but neither Gospel makes any mention of that. The stories in the four Gospels of Jesus's death and resurrection differ as well. When brought before Pontius Pilate in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks only two words and is never declared innocent. In the Gospel of John, Jesus engages in extended conversations with Pilate, who repeatedly proclaims this Jewish prisoner to be innocent and deserving of release.

The Book of John was the last to be written and came at a time when gentiles in Rome were gaining dramatically more influence over Christianity; that explains why the Romans are largely absolved from responsibility for Jesus's death and blame instead is pointed toward the Jews. That has been one of the key bases for centuries of anti-Semitism. And who went to anoint Jesus in his tomb? In Matthew, it was Mary and another woman named Mary, and an angel met them there.

In John, it was Mary alone; no one met her. As told in Matthew, the disciples go to Galilee after the Crucifixion and see Jesus ascend to heaven; in Acts, written by Luke, the disciples stay in Jerusalem and see Jesus ascend from there. Some of the contradictions are conflicts between what evangelicals consider absolute and what Jesus actually said. For example, evangelicals are always talking about family values. But to Jesus, family was an impediment to reaching God. In the Gospel of Matthew, he states, "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Then there is what many fundamentalist Christians hold to be the most important of all elements of the Bible: the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world. What modern evangelicals want to believe cannot be reconciled with the Bible. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says of the Apocalypse, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be done"—in other words, the people alive in his time would see the end of the world.

Paul in 1 Corinthians is even clearer; he states, "The time is short. Some evangelicals counter these clear words by quoting 2 Peter as saying that, for God, one day is like 1, years. Two problems: That does nothing to counter what either Jesus or Paul said.

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And even in ancient times, many Christian leaders proclaimed 2 Peter to be a forgery, an opinion almost universally shared by biblical scholars today. None of this is meant to demean the Bible, but all of it is fact. Christians angered by these facts should be angry with the Bible, not the messenger.

The next time someone tells you the biblical story of Creation is true, ask that person, "Which one? Few of the Christian faithful seem to know the Bible contains multiple creation stories. The first appears on Page 1, Genesis 1, so that is the version most people tend to embrace. However, it isn't hard to find the second version: It's Genesis 2, which usually starts on the same page. Genesis 1 begins with the words "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"; Genesis 2 starts with "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Careful readers have long known that the two stories contradict each other. Genesis 1 begins with expanses of water that God separates, creating the earth between them. Genesis 2 describes a world without enough water, which is then introduced. Vegetation exists before the sun and the stars in Genesis 1; it's the other way around in Genesis 2. In Genesis 1, man is created after plants and animals; in Genesis 2, plants and animals come after man. This is nothing unusual for the Old Testament. In fact, even though many evangelical Christians insist that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament including Deuteronomy, which talks about Moses having died and been buried , biblical scholars have concluded that two Jewish sects wrote many of the books.

Each prepared its version of Old Testament, and the two were joined together without any attempt to reconcile the many contradictions. These duplications are known as "doublets. The doublets make reading the Old Testament the literary equivalent of a hall of mirrors. Take the Genesis story of Noah and the flood. In Genesis 6, God tells Noah to build an ark and load it with animals, and "Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

But the directions changed the second time, with Noah told to bring seven of every kind of clean animal and two of every kind of unclean animal. It gets stranger. In Genesis , Noah and his family board the ark, and the flood begins. Then, in the very next verse, Genesis , Noah and his family board the ark again, and the flood begins a second time. The water flooded the earth for 40 days Genesis , or days Genesis But Noah and his family stayed on the ark for a year Genesis Even well-known stories have contradictory versions.

As every child knows, David killed Goliath; it's right there in 1 Samuel But don't tell those children to read 2 Samuel unless you want them to get really confused. There, it says in many versions of the Bible that Elhanan killed Goliath. Other Bibles, though, fixed that to make it coincide with the words in 1 Chronicles, were Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath. These conflicting accounts are only serious matters because evangelicals insist the Old Testament is a valid means of debunking science.

But as these example show, the Bible can't stop debunking itself. In fact, the Bible has three creation models, and some experts maintain there are four. In this version, the world is created in the aftermath of a great battle between God and what theologians say is a dragon in the waters called Rahab. And Rahab is not the only mythical creature that either coexisted with God or was created by him. God plays with a sea monster named Leviathan. Unicorns appear in the King James Bible although that wasn't the correct translation of the mythical creature's Hebrew name. There are fiery serpents and flying serpents and cockatrices—a two-legged dragon with a rooster's head that word was later changed to "viper" in some English-language Bibles.

And in Exodus, magicians who work for the Pharaoh of Egypt are able to change staffs into snakes and water into blood. In Genesis, the "Sons of God" marry the "daughters of man" and have children; the "sons of God" are angels, as is made clear in the Books of Job and Psalms. Evangelicals cite Genesis to challenge the science taught in classrooms, but don't like to talk about those Old Testament books with monsters and magic. But the translation there is odd, in part because the word homosexual didn't even exist until more than 1, years after when 1 Timothy was supposed to have been written.

So how did it get into the New Testament? Simple: The editors of these modern Bibles just made it up. Like so many translators and scribes before them, they had a religious conviction, something they wanted to say that wasn't stated clearly enough in the original for their tastes. And so they manipulated sentences to reinforce their convictions. The King James Version translated that as "them that defile themselves with mankind.

BBC - Religions - Christianity: Paul

The next thing to check here is whether 1 Timothy was based on a forgery. And the answer to that is a resounding yes. In , a German scholar named Friedrich Schleiermacher published a letter observing that 1 Timothy used arguments that clashed with other letters written by Paul. Moreover, 1 Timothy attacks false teachings, but they are not the types of teachings prevalent when Paul was writing—instead, they are more akin to the beliefs of the Gnostics, a sect that did not exist until long after Paul's death.

And at times, whoever wrote this letter uses the same words as Paul but means something completely different by them. Most biblical scholars agree that Paul did not write 1 Timothy. But suppose for a moment that 1 Timothy was written by Paul, and that "defile themselves" does refer to homosexuality. In that case, evangelical Christians and biblical literalists still have a lot of trouble on their hands.

Contrary to what so many fundamentalists believe, outside of the emphasis on the Ten Commandments, sins aren't ranked.

Faith Facts Update

The New Testament doesn't proclaim homosexuality the most heinous of all sins. No, every sin is equal in its significance to God. In 1 Timothy, Paul, or whoever wrote it, condemns the disobedient, liars and drunks. In other words, for evangelicals who want to use this book of the Bible to condemn homosexuality, most frat boys in America are committing sins on par with being gay. But you rarely hear about parents banishing their kids for getting trashed on Saturday night.

Now let's talk about how 1 Timothy deals with women. Representative Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican, slammed gay people as bullies last March for opposing legislation that would have allowed Arizona businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. Well, according to the Bible, Bachmann should shut up and sit down. In fact, every female politician who insists the New Testament is the inerrant word of God needs to resign immediately or admit that she is a hypocrite. That's because 1 Timothy is one of the most virulently anti-woman books of the New Testament, something else that sets it apart from other letters by Paul.

In the King James Version, it says women must dress modestly, can't embroider their hair, can't wear pearls or gold and have to stay silent. Moreover, they can't hold any position of authority over men and aren't even allowed to be teachers—meaning, if they truly believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, women like Bachmann can't be in politics. In fact, while 1 Timothy has just one parenthetical clause that can be interpreted as being about homosexuality, it contains six verses on the shortcomings of women and the limitations on what they are allowed to do.

Many Christians point to other parts of the New Testament when denouncing homosexuality. Romans, another letter attributed to Paul, is a popular choice. In the King James Bible, it condemns men who lust in their hearts for each other, a translation that holds up pretty well when compared with the earliest Greek versions. And scholars agree that Romans is a real letter written by Paul. In other words, Romans is real Gospel, and what it has to say can't be questioned by those who call themselves biblical literalists.

Which means televangelist Pat Robertson should prepare himself for an eternity in hell. On his television show The Club , Robertson recently went on a tirade about Barack Obama and, as he is wont to do, prayed for help. We need your help! And with that, Pat Robertson sinned. Because in Romans—so often used to condemn homosexuality—there is a much longer series of verses about how the righteous are supposed to behave toward people in government authority.

It shows up in Romans , which in the International Standard Bible says, "The existing authorities have been established by God, so that whoever resists the authorities opposes what God has established, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. So yes, there is one verse in Romans about homosexuality…and there are eight verses condemning those who criticize the government. In other words, all fundamentalist Christians who decry Obama have sinned as much as they believe gay people have.

It doesn't end there.

In the same section of Romans that is arguably addressing homosexuality, Paul also condemns debating all of Congress is damned? There is no bold print or underlining for the section dealing with homosexuality—Paul treats it as something as sinful as pride or debate. The story is the same in the last New Testament verse cited by fundamentalists who scorn homosexuals. Again, it is a letter from Paul, called 1 Corinthians. The translation is good, and the experts believe it was written by him. But fundamentalists who rely on this better stay out of court—Paul condemns bringing lawsuits, at least against other Christians.

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