How Biblical Discrepancies Can Be Theologically Liberating for a Christian

I have been trying to show that the portrayal of Jesus going to his death in Mark’s Gospel is radically different from the portrayal in Luke’s Gospel.  I’ve been making this comparison for a purpose, in order to show as clearly as I can that reading the Bible historically – seeing its discrepancies – does not compromise its value.  On the contrary, as I came to see as a committed Christian who was no longer a conservative evangelical, this way ...

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Why Have I Stopped Explaining How I Lost My Faith? Readers’ Mailbag June 4, 2017

I will be dealing with two questions in this weeks’ Readers’ Mailbag.  The first is about what happened to that thread I was supposed to be doing on why I lost my faith (!) and the other about whether Mark’s account of Jesus’ death contains an inner discrepancy (one verse flat out contradicting another).

 

QUESTION:

I’m a bit confused. A few weeks ago you said you were going to write about what you tell your students on the last day of school ...

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Why It Didn’t Happen that Way. The Stories of Jesus’ Birth

In the previous post I began to discuss (as a review for many readers of the blog) the historical problems with the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke.  The point of the discussion is that the stories cannot be accepted as historically accurate.  This is a huge issue mainly for fundamentalist Christians and conservative evangelicals – and those they have managed to persuade that if a story does not describe what actually happened, then it is worthless and should simply ...

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Another “True” Story that Didn’t Happen? Jesus’ Birth in Luke

I have been trying to illustrate the point that critical scholars who remain Christian have long made, that there can be stories in the Bible that are not historically accurate but that are trying to convey larger theological truths.  My first illustration had to do with the death of Jesus; in this post and the next, I will deal with the birth of Jesus.   This is a topic I’ve dealt with several times over the years on the blog; but ...

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Is Theological “Truth” More Important than Historical Accuracy?

In the previous post I began to explain how there could be an account in the Gospels that is not historically accurate because an author is more interested in conveying what, to him, is a theological “truth” than in giving a history lesson about what actually happened in the life of Jesus.  In my view, the early Christian story tellers and Gospel writers (often?) changed historical data in order to make theological points.  What mattered more than historical accuracy was ...

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An Example of a True Story that Didn’t Happen: Part 1

I have been trying to explain (without complete success) that the Bible, in the view of some scholars starting in the early 19th century, could contain “true” stories that “didn’t happen” – or at least didn’t happen as they are narrated.  One important point I want to make about this claim: I am *not* saying that I personally hold this view.  I’m not saying I think these stories are necessarily “true” as far as I’m concerned.  I’m saying that the ...

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Finding More Problems in the Old Testament

Yesterday I started detailing some of the contradictions and historical or scientific problems with the Old Testament that I started to find when I was a graduate at Princeton Seminary, starting to examine the Bible not as the inerrant revelation from God Almighty but as a more human book that could indeed have mistakes in it.  The account I gave of these problems was lifted straight from my textbook: The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.  There’s a reason for ...

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Finding Problems in the Old Testament

I have been explaining that while at Princeton Theological Seminary, I started finding that there could be mistakes in the Bible.  My first realization of this involved my study of the Gospels, but I was studying the Hebrew Bible as well, and I finally got to the point where I had to admit there appeared to be mistakes there as well.  Lots of mistakes.  Contradictions, discrepancies, historical errors.  And these show up right off the bat, in the book of ...

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Writers Who Contradict Themselves

In response to the question of why the authors of the New Testament sometimes contradict themselves, I’ve so far discussed two phenomena: (1) sometimes (as with Paul) an author changes his mind about something over time, and (2) sometimes an author (as with John) incorporates a number of earlier sources in his or her writing when these sources are sometimes at odds with one another, thereby creating discrepancies, or “literary seams” as I called them in my previous post. Now ...

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Discrepancies *Inside* the Fourth Gospel

OK, back to contradictions. This thread (such as it is – so far there’s been no thread) began with a reader’s question of how there could be contradictions in the work of a single author? Was he just inattentive? Didn’t he care? Was he sloppy?

In the previous post I pointed out that with someone like Paul, it was possible that he changed his mind about some things over the decade covered by his letters. But how about internal contradictions within ...

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