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Are These Really Contradictions? My Response to Matt Firth

Thanks Matt for your thoughtful comments on the four contradictions I discussed in my opening post.  I agree – this form of debate is much better than the oral back and forths I’m used to on a stage in front of an audience, where it’s so easy to say something unwittingly that is completely stupid or wrong.  With this format I’m able to think about it a bit before saying something completely stupid!

I appreciate your attempts to reconcile the contradictions.   For years I wished I could reconcile all the ones I found – and did my best to do so, using many of these kinds of arguments.  I ended up thinking it just didn’t work.  I’ll try to explain below why I think so, step by step.  I’ve decided that it would be easier for readers of the blog to be able to compare your reconciliations with my responses directly, and so I have copied your comments and will be giving my responses in green so they will be easily distinguished.

Blog readers: this post will seem, as a result, twice as long as usual.  But no need to read the whole thing if you don’t need to; my green responses are the only new ones.  And so we begin:


Thank-you very much, Bart, for your opening gambit. It has given me a most enjoyable afternoon of delving deeply into the Gospel texts, and I really appreciate the written format of this debate, which allows space for considered reflection, study and learning, rather than the rhetorical tennis of some other formats of debate which, while they produce spectacle, rarely achieve deep insight either for the proponents or the onlookers.

I will now take the cases in the order in which you proposed them.

  1. The case of Jairus’ daughter can, I think, be usefully looked at in terms of the Greek Text, Matthew’s practice of ‘telescoping’ stories about Jesus, and the emotional reality of the situation.

In Mark 5.23 we see that Jairus says ‘thugatrion mou eschatos echei.’ A wooden translation of this would be ‘my little daughter is at the end.’ In Matthew 9.18 we see that Jairus says ‘thugater mou arti eteleutesen.’ A wooden translation of this would be ‘my daughter just now died.’ But, the word ‘arti’ is not as rigid as one might think. It can mean ‘just now’ (immediate past), ‘now’ (immediate present), and it can also be used to suggest a sense of inevitable impending reality, as is the case in Matthew 3.15. This being the case, the word can be rendered ‘even now’. Also, while the word ‘eteleutesen’, being in the aorist tense, can simply be rendered ‘died’, it can also be used to create a sense of being at the very point of death, as is the case in Hebrews 11.22. So, a possible rendering of the sentence is ‘my daughter just now was at the point of death.’ So it seems to me that the Greek in both Mark and Matthew can be seen as creating a sense of impending inevitability.

This is a bit tricky since most blog members don’t read Greek.  But let’s give it a shot!   I’m afraid I don’t see how your explanation can work.  Yes “now” (Greek ARTI) can indeed refer to something that has not yet happened, but that is only when it is used with certain verb tenses or moods.  If you make a command “Now do this” then obviously the “now” does not refer to something that has happened already; and if you use it with a present or a future tense, same thing: “I’m driving now” or “Now I will wash the dishes.”   But it does not mean that when used with a past tense:  “Now I arrived.”  Your arrival happened already.  

Greek of course does not use verb tenses and moods in all the same ways English does.  It does have an imperative (making a command) and a future (referring to what will happen).  The example you give of ARTI (“now”) not meaning something that is past (Matthew 3:15) is an imperative.  So you’re right, it doesn’t refer to the past.   But as you note Matthew 9:18 doesn’t use an imperative (or a future, or a present), it uses the aorist indicative, the tense normally used to refer to a past act that has been completed.

It’s right of course that the Greek aorist can be a bit complicated.  But it almost always refers to a completed action; only in exceptional cases does that mean something other than what has happened in the past.  How do you know when you have an exception?  Only when the context strongly indicates the action is not past.  Aorist indicatives almost always past actions over and done with.  You can see hundreds and hundreds of examples of the standard use just in the Gospel of Matthew.  If you say a girl “died” (aorist indicative) you mean she is already dead.

BUT, the most important point, this emphasis on a past action is especially strong if you have a *combination* of “now” (ARTI) with the aorist.   “Now that has already happened.”   There would be no other reason to combine the two, at least that I can think of.  (I think your suggestion that “died” in the aorist can refer to something yet to happen based on Hebrews 11:22 must be a mistake?  Hebrews 11:22 doesn’t use the aorist indicative of the verb.  It is a *present* participle – “while he was dying”).

There is no instance in Matthew where ARTI is used with the aorist to mean anything other than a completed action.  Or in the entire New Testament (I checked).  I can’t imagine a Greek reader ever taking it this way.  Do you have an example in mind?

Without it, there doesn’t seem to be an option:  Matthew says the girl is already dead when Jairus comes to Jesus; Mark says she is sick and still living.  That’s simply a factual difference, a contradiction.


To see my responses to the rest of Matt’s comments, you will need to belong to the blog.  It’s all extremely interesting.  Don’t you want to see it?  Join the blog!

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Contradictions in the Gospels – Rev Matthew Firth’s Second Response
Why Are the Gospels Anonymous?



  1. Avatar
    godspell  April 22, 2019

    First of all–you have a word count limit too?

    Secondly, I think most of us who don’t know Greek were not following Rev. Firth’s arguments either. When you can look up multiple translations, and they all show a contradiction between two accounts of the same event, you tend to assume there’s a contradiction. If one has to explain the contradiction, that just tends to convince people there is one. Unless they’re determined to think otherwise.

    It’s kind of touching, the Reverend psychoanalyzing Jairus across the span of two millennia (I really should not be throwing stones here, should I?)

    But when he says they focused on different things Jairus said–does he think there were transcripts the gospel authors referred back to? Did the gospel characters all have stenographers following them around with pads? Maybe they used several different versions of shorthand, and some were harder to decipher. By George, that could be it!

    I look forward to the angel count discussion, which hopefully won’t involve any pins.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 23, 2019

      Ah, good question. Since I was responding to his comments seriatim, with his on the page, I wasn’t doing a word count but was just eye-balling it. I better tell him he can follow suit!! As to the different things Jairus said, no, he’s just putting himself into the story and imagining what it woudl have been like.

      • Avatar
        godspell  April 23, 2019

        Well yes, and we all do that, but Rev. Firth says possibly Mark and Matthew are ‘focusing on different snippets of what Jairus said” which implies they have an exact record of the conversation, and are quoting Jairus differently, the way a modern journalist might do writing an article.

        None of this proves or disproves what happened, or that any of this happened at all, but for the purposes of the debate, what matters is that they report the event in a way so fundamentally different that if they were journalists working for rival newspapers, trying to get that big scoop on the latest miracle, there would be eyebrows raised, and at least one of them would have been called on the carpet by some irascible cigar-chewing editor improbably working his trade in First Century Palestine. They would have to produce their notes. Obviously nobody was taking notes.

  2. epicurus
    epicurus  April 22, 2019

    I’d be interested to know why Rev. Firth thinks it’s important that there be no contradictions in the Bible, and how or if it would affect his faith if there were (I did a search for him talking about it but came up empty). On the one hand some would say it’s obvious why, but on the other I’ve met or read Christians of many stripes including clergy who acknowledge contradictions and don’t believe in inerrancy yet say it doesn’t harm their faith at all.

    • Avatar
      godspell  April 25, 2019

      Humans can have very different personalities, which make them respond to the same bits of information in utterly different ways.

      Why do some atheists have no problem understanding that Jesus’ existence as a real person in the past has no bearing on whether or not you believe he’s God, or that the gospels are 100% accurate, but others are determined, against all reason, against the nigh-universal testimony of modern secular scholarship, to discredit everything in the bible without exception? They also take an all or nothing approach. (And are not always so affable and well-mannered as Rev. Firth, though the same can be said for many of his fellow theists.)

      This isn’t a question of what you believe, so much as how. Some people take an absolutist attitude towards everything of importance to them–to the things that make up their world view. They aren’t out to learn the truth so much as to possess it, like a physical object. They need that reassurance that they are right, which has to mean everyone who differs is wrong. They have to iron out all the inevitable contradictions that come with looking honestly at our past, and make them all mean one thing, when in fact they often mean outwardly contradictory things.

      As Isaiah Berlin would say, there are hedgehogs and foxes. The fox knows many things. The hedgehog knows one big thing. And won’t let go of it.

  3. Avatar
    nichael  April 22, 2019

    If I may, I think one issue here is that Rev Firth is, at least in part, offering an answer to a different question from the one being asked.

    For example the proposal was made that there are contradictions in the stories of Jairus’s daughter as they appear in the various gospels. However, as I read him, Rev Firth has argued that it is plausible that what we have are varying attempts by different authors to report on the same (historical) event.

    This may or may not be correct. But the relevant point here is that this is not question at hand; rather, are the sources actually *telling* different stories –in the texts as we have them?

    In short, we are free, of course, to speculate on what the authors may have intended. But the question here concerns only what they actually wrote. And how those writings, as we have them, compare with one another.

  4. Avatar
    FredLyon  April 22, 2019

    I think your key statement is in your response to Rev. Firth in the first case, i.e., he is providing plausible (or implausible) explanations as to why there are contradictions; he is not disproving existing contradictions.

    Another contradiction, among many in the resurrection stories, is the response of the women to the angel (or two angels, or man, or two men). Did they “[depart] quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and [run] and tell his disciples” (Mt 28:8), or did they “[go] out and [flee] from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and [say] nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mk 16:8)? They told the disciples, or they told no one?

  5. Robert
    Robert  April 22, 2019

    “our friend the aorist” I got a kick out of that. The a-orist is literally that which is without horizon, unbounded, not limited or defined, considered simply. Apparently, for inerrantists, it can mean whatever they want it to mean.

  6. Avatar
    fishician  April 22, 2019

    Even if you can come up with some scenario or language explanation to show that such passages are not strictly speaking contradictions the simple fact is that people reading these passages in whatever language are going to see them as contradictions. Did the Supreme Being really expect all future people to understand the nuances of the Greek language? Or to come up with elaborate alternative versions of the stories to explain apparent contradictions? I would think not. So, it seems to me that if the Bible or portions thereof are divinely written then that divine intelligence is not concerned with the contradictions in the stories. So why do apologists struggle so to explain them away? Seems like an exercise in futility.

  7. Avatar
    constina  April 22, 2019

    I am a native Greek speaker and can read some ancient Greek. Bible Greek is relatively easy ancient Greek. The phrase in contradiction case #1 is so simple to translate in English: ‘My daughter just (now) passed away’. The contradiction between Mark and Matthew is so blatant and obvious I cannot understand a reverend twisting and bending the truth about it.

    • Avatar
      AstaKask  April 23, 2019

      Well, if you have your salvation and a $1,000 riding on it there’s a lot of motivation. I don’t think he knowingly twists the words, but psychologists know that our interpretation of things is heavily influenced by what we want to be true.

      And to be fair, language changes over time and even if it seems like a clear contradiction today, it may not have been a clear contradiction two-thousand years ago. Just look at the word ‘awful’ – it used to mean awe-inspiring so if you read in a text from the 17th century that a church looked “awful”, you might think the meaning was clear but you probably misunderstood it completely.

  8. Avatar
    VEndris  April 22, 2019

    I am certainly no inerrantist and agree that Matthew and Mark disagree on the account of Jairus’ daughter. However, I can understand Mr. Firth’s last point on the matter. It is certainly possible that Jairus said a lot of things. I can even envision him telling Jesus that his daughter was near death and when Jesus looks apprehensive, he changes his story to “is dead”. Or vice versa. Anyone confronted with a grifter can easily see how a person who wants something from you can change their story seemingly seamlessly. It is possible that Jarius said both of those things and each author is just including the saying they like more – or purposefully not including both as not to confuse the reader. I find it unlikely, but I can see the point.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 23, 2019

      So he said both things? Yes, it’s certainly possible, but the problem, I think, is that it assumes we are talking about something that actually happened that, say, eyewitnesses later reported differently, one saying one thing one another. The question we’re debating, however, is not whether either or both accounts record what happened but whether what they record are internally consistent. (i.e., we are debating literary consistency/contradiction, not historical reality, if you see what I mean).

      • Avatar
        VEndris  April 23, 2019

        I think you and Mr. Firth might disagree on what a contradiction is. From my understanding as a former evangelical, saying there is no contradictions in the bible equates to saying there is no reason to believe everything didn’t happen exactly as the bible says. So yes, I would have said (many years ago) that he said both things.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 25, 2019

          And then the question would be, “Is that really plausible (let alone likely)?” I used to jump through those same hoops all the time.

        • Avatar
          jszetela  June 17, 2019

          Reminds me of the ride into Jerusalem on a Colt & a Donkey just so as to not generate a contradiction with the believed prophecies! I suppose it could be that Jairus was so mad with sorrow that he said both, but that still doesn’t rectify that the account of the daughter being dead or not dead would be considered a contradiction and can not be squared with his daughter requiring healing versus revival.

  9. Avatar
    bmay  April 23, 2019

    If we think of the godpel writers as story tellers rather than as historians concerned with getting all the facts right, why would we expect to find consistancy between them. And if this is the case, one might be right or another might be right but what difference does it make since they could both be based on a true, historical event or set of events. They are just lousy reporters, not unlike our modern day reporters. If they got it basically right, why does it matter if they are confused about the details. It doesn’t mean that most versions are more or less right does it? How could we ever come up with a convincing argument that they got it all wrong or that they just made it completely up? It seems like they got it mostly right and isn’t that at the end of the day, pretty accurate reporting for any ancient history anywhere and anytime? If most of the facts recorded in the gospels are close to being right that seems like an awful lot of coabrative material, apart from the theology which is just ideas and not facts.

    • Avatar
      jrblack  April 23, 2019

      The problem with the “gospel writers as story tellers” approach is that many churches have historically rejected it.

      For example, Pope Leo XIII summarized the traditional Catholic view of scripture as follows: “For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit. … For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write … that the things which He ordered, and those only, they first rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth.”

      Non-Catholics have often taken a similar line, which goes something like this: “God is the author of scripture. God cannot lie or be mistaken. Therefore scripture cannot contain any errors whatever.”

      Once you’ve staked out a position like that, there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room left, and “good enough” is no longer good enough.

    • Avatar
      stevenpounders  April 23, 2019

      It’s not clear why you think they got it “mostly right”. When there is clear evidence that the writers copy known and unknown sources and change major details, how can we know that any of it is right?

    • Avatar
      jszetela  June 17, 2019

      Because at a certain point, you must ask, what if they got things you find insignificant mostly right and things you find theologically imperative incorrect. How can you realistically differentiate between the two without injecting your own personal upbringing or biases?

  10. Avatar
    Iskander Robertson  April 23, 2019

    The Return to Nazareth
    39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

    i have a few questions :

    you have said that luke is saying that after the 40 days , the family headed back to nazareth.
    1. is verse 40 saying that after the rituals required by the laws in the torah, they returned, then the child grew in nazareth ?

    The Boy Jesus in the Temple
    41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.

    it says “his parents”
    so according to luke, just the parents of jesus went to jerusalem, they left jesus behind in nazareth, right?
    the text says “when he was 12” and then says that the child was with them in verse 42.

    either the child was doing yearly visits to jerusalem from birth on-wards or he was not always doing yearly visits, only the parents were. can luke be read as saying that the child was left in nazareth as he was growing ?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2019

      1. Yes, they left after 40 days and he grew up in Nazareth 2. It’s not clear if he normally went with them or not, but it appears he did not.

  11. Avatar
    HenriettePeterson  April 23, 2019

    wouldn’t it be good if Mr. Firth defined what he considers to be a contradiction in general, just like you did before the debate started? I think the problem with fundamentalist thinking is that it uses “opposite logic”. The Bible is infallible => it contains no mistakes => there are no contradictions. The “no contradictions” statement is an unquestionable axiom. And the word contradiction itself gets bent whenever needed. For example if one gospel stated – “Behold, the sun is pink!”, another – “Truly I tell you, the sun is green!”, and yet another – “The sun is blue!” some people wouldn’t see these as contradictions. Because, of course Jesus wore sunglasses in the first case, looked through the tree leaves in the second one (so the sun appeared green to him) and had a special disease for three weeks that caused him to see everything in blue in the third one.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2019

      I think he agrees with my definition (he indicated he didn’t feel a need to reply to the post where I described my views)

  12. Avatar
    Iskander Robertson  April 23, 2019

    35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

    36 While they were talking about this,

    (16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”)

    Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
    They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.[m] 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

    the confusion here is, why does luke sound like he is saying that the complete group is seeing jesus for the first time when according to the harmonization, they (11)already saw and recognized jesus in galilee ?

  13. Avatar
    bradseggie  April 23, 2019

    Another contradiction in the genealogies:

    With its list, Matthew points out that there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the Exile, and 14 from the Exile to Christ (total 42).

    Luke lists 56 generations between Abraham and Jesus.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2019

      Not only that, but the final 14 in Matthew is actually 13. And he cut a number of generations out of the first batch of 14 to get to 14 (as we know by reading the same genealogy in the OT.

      • Avatar
        dankoh  April 25, 2019

        Ezra did the same thing when he claimed to be a descendant of Aaron. Ezra 7:1-5 lists his genealogy in 13 generations – but there is no way that can be reconciled with the possible dates of Aaron’s lifetime.

  14. Mizraim Martínez
    Mizraim Martínez  April 23, 2019

    The scope of the contradictions being debated are only for the synoptics or is John also included? Because another interesting contradiction is about the day Jesus died. John says it was on Friday and Mark says it was on Saturday.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2019

      Yes, John is included. And no, they both have Jesus die on a Friday. The difference is that for Mark it is the day of Passover, and for John it is the day before Passover (Passover could be on any day of the week — like Christmas — and they put it on different days in relation to Jesus’ death).

  15. Avatar
    Bewilderbeast  April 24, 2019

    The trouble is apologists live in a different headspace and it’s hard to shake it. They HAVE TO start with the end in mind. I know. I was an apologist once! My son shot a BB gun at my lawyer-neighbour’s dogs, and the pellet whizzed into the garage where he was working with his son! His very legitimate complaint was met by my calling my son, getting him to apologise to them, confiscating his gun and dismissing him. When the lawyer carried on whinging, I said to him, “Hey! I also did that sort of thing when I was young and I’m sure you did too.” No I didn’t, he said. See, he was being unreasonable.
    AND: The dogs were barking incessantly! See? I know you clear-thinking people are on my side . . .

  16. Avatar
    ZeroSheFlies  April 24, 2019

    Re: What Dr. Ehrman wrote:

    “Now the girl has died before Jairus arrives. That contradict Mark who says that girl had not yet died.”

    If true, it seems that Matthew has changed a healing miracle (before death) to either a “resurrection” or at least a “reanimation” (similar perhaps to the Lazarus story),

  17. Avatar
    roy  April 24, 2019

    I am curious(given the time of year i.e. easter and resurrection) about what happened to the roman guards(the best of the best? who were supposed to be guarding the tomb. they saw nothing??they reported nothing?? would they have rolled the stone away for mary without orders? what would have happened to them for failure?? did they make any report about what may have happened. what was initial roman response?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2019

      Matthew is the only one who mentions the guards, and he indicates they were bribed to keep their mouths shut (Matt 28:11-15)

      • Avatar
        dankoh  April 25, 2019

        I find it interesting that Pilate tells the priests to use their own guards (koustōdian; Matt. 27:65), but in 28:12 the priests plan to bribe the soldiers (stratiōtais) to say they had fallen asleep – a serious and possibly capital offense in the Roman army. Lüdemann makes this point: “the business of bribing the guards . . . cannot be taken seriously, because it is too obviously partisan, and because the guards would have been risking their necks by confessing to sleeping on watch.” (I think he means soldiers.)

        I also find it interesting that the NRSV translates 27:65 as “guard of soldiers” although the Greek text in Strong’s says only “koustōdias” (a word which appears only in Matthew), with no mention of stratiōtais. Do you know of a variant Greek text? (The NRSV notes don’t mention one.) It does look like the NRSV is trying to explains where the soldiers in 28:12 came from.

        (By the way, I don’t know Greek other than through knowledge of how languages work in general, so I rely on Strong’s, which has proved very useful.)

        • Bart
          Bart  April 26, 2019

          Yes, the word koustodias does mean a guard, but there are different kinds of guards (could be an individual guard; could be road guard!). So what it means is a band of soldiers working as a guard, and that’s why they translate it that way, to avoid misunderstanding. There is a variant, but it didn’t affect their translation. Some Western wientesses say, instead of koustadias, phulakon — a plural word for “guards” (the root is the word for “prison”)

          • Avatar
            dankoh  April 26, 2019

            (This is also in reply to your response below to Hngerhman.)

            I see. So when Matt. 27:65 has Pilate say “Echete koustōdian,” that could mean either “You have your own guard; use them” or “Here, take some of my soldiers.” (The Harper-Collins NRSV has a footnote on this verse saying it’s probably the former.) Now, on that version, and on your reply below (which I agree with), only Temple guards/police/soldiers were at the tomb. But that conflicts with Matt. 28:14, where the priests tell the soldiers (stratiōtais in v. 12) that if the governor (the hegemon) gives them any trouble for “falling asleep,” the priests would fix it – meaning that the stratiōtais answered to the Roman governor, not the Temple priests.

            A likely reading, as I see it, is that Matthew was trying to have it both ways and to slip in additional witnesses who would have reported an empty tomb had the priests not prevented it (which also raises the question how Matthew learned about it, of course).

            Do we have another contradiction here, Matthew contradicting himself?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 28, 2019

            Interesting. I wouldn’t call it a contradiction since one could argue that Pilate in Matt 27:65 is giving them his own soldiers (as you point out). But yes, he is absolutely adding witnesses to the resurrection — unwilling ones in this case.

      • Avatar
        Hngerhman  April 25, 2019

        Is it historically plausible, even if we stipulated that Jesus was buried in a tomb, that Pilate would spare any of his “peace keeping” forces as guards for a tomb?

  18. Avatar
    dankoh  April 24, 2019

    Levirate marriage assumes, among other things, the practice or acceptance of polygamy, since in the normal course of events the surviving brother would already be married. As far as I know, polygamy had gone out of fashion in Second Temple times (Herod is said to have had several wives, but he was an exception in this as in many other things).

    The Talmud (which is later, of course) is against levirate marriage, prefering halitza, the ceremony where the widow berates the surviving brother for not doing his duty.

    And finally, the whole point of levirate marriage is to ensure the continuation of the dead husband’s line and inheritance, which would mean that the genealogy is traced through the first husband, not the second. And if God was the “first husband” that has to mean that God was now dead. Is Matt sure he wants to continue that line of thought? :->

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2019

      No, I think it only applies to a brother who is not married (at least in NT times; that seems to be presupposed in Mark 12:18-27). As to your final paragraph, excellent point!

  19. Avatar
    dankoh  April 24, 2019

    The genealogy contradiction raises another question: Why does Matthew go to all the trouble of tracing Jesus’s genealogy back to David in chapter 1, while in chapter 22 he presents a pseudo-argument that the messiah (which Jesus is said to be) could not be David’s son. (I say “pseudo-argument” because any student of the Pharisees could easily have answered it.)

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2019

      Either they are from different sources with different understandings or (as I’ve often though) in ch. 22 he’s not denying that he’s the son of David but asking his learned Jewish opponents a question they can’t answer to show them up.

  20. Avatar
    BradGranath  April 25, 2019

    I have an unrelated question for Dr. Ehrman. This has long perplexed me:

    In the NT there are Demons everywhere.  Various people are “Demon-possessed” and Jesus “drives out demons”.  Later, in the epistles, there are doctrines that are “taught by demons”, and “even the demons believe”, and then finally in John’s Apocalypse, there are demonic forces arrayed for battle and they are also supposedly objects of worship.  None of this diversity is found in the OT, where multiple, lowercase G gods are running around instead, and they don’t go around possessing anyone, teaching bad temple practice, or arraying for world war.  They just exist and sometimes compete with God.

    Where did this idea of Demons come from? What did the early readers/authors of these texts think about these ” Demons? What are they supposed to have looked like/worked?  How commonplace were they? How did one GET possessed?  Did people actually worship them?  Do they turn up in non Christian writings?  Are they like feelings, spirits, creatures, monsters, what?  Were there good or neutral demons, or only bad ones? How does the Antichrist/hasatan end up with all of them on his side? Who else was associated with them?

    I’m guessing people at the time weren’t imagining a little red suited ham salesman or Screwtape, or Casper. What WERE they imagining?

    I know that’s a lot, but I’d be super interested in any insights or reading recommendations you had. I feel like everything I find on Demons/Angels is either super religious, or not applicable to the time period (e.g.:faust/xfiles).


    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2019

      Right! They derive from a form of Judaism that arose after OT times; apocalyptic Judaism developed in about hte 2nd century BCE, and it devised the idea that God has a personal enemy, the Devil (not in the OT), and God’s angels have counterparts, demons (also not in the OT). I talk about this a good bit on the blog, and in a number of my books. On the blog search for “apocalypticism”

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