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Why Discrepancies Matter for Interpretation

In the last post I pointed out that Mark and Luke have very (very!) different portrayals of Jesus going to his death.  In this post I want to explain why that ultimately matters for understanding each of the Gospels: without understanding this difference, you will misunderstand *both* Gospels. *********************************************************************** I have argued that the two portrayals of Jesus going to his death in Mark and Luke are radically different, and that recognizing this radical difference is of utmost importance for understanding what each author is trying to say.   The in-shock, silent Jesus of Mark, who is betrayed, denied, abandoned, and mocked by everyone, who wonders at the very end why God himself has forsaken him, simply is not the same as the calm confident Jesus of Luke, who knows God is on his side, who understands what is happening to him, and who knows what will happen to him after it happens to him: he will wake up in paradise. A deeper understanding of each Gospel seeks to understand the portrayal of Jesus found in [...]

2020-04-03T01:33:34-04:00February 18th, 2018|Canonical Gospels|

Why Differences and Discrepancies Matter Theologically/Religiously

On Wednesday I will be having a public debate with Mike Licona at Kennesaw State University on the topic: "Are the Gospels Historically Reliable."  This is something I've thought long and hard about for my entire adult life, and so has he.  But we disagree, heartily.  It should be a lively and interesting debate. Just now I was looking through the ancient history of the blog, and I ran across this post where I discuss the issue from a different perspective (different from what I usually say) -- one in which I claim that it is *helpful* for Christians to realize that the Gospels have discrepancies.   Interesting thought, I think, and think I thought! - Mike Licona is the author of The Resurrection of Jesus, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels and Evidence for God. ***************************************************************************** In my two previous posts I’ve been trying to explain that the historical-critical view of the Gospels, in which they are recognized not always to represent historically accurate information about Jesus, is not necessarily a view that “trashes” them.  [...]

2021-02-13T01:07:23-05:00February 16th, 2018|Bart's Critics, Canonical Gospels|

Is Luke’s Christology Consistent? A Blast from the Past

I have had several comments about the point I made that in Acts 2 Luke indicates that it was at the resurrection that God "made" Jesus both "Lord" and "Christ."  Uh, does that fit in with Luke's views otherwise?  Wasn't he *born* the Lord and the Messiah, for example?  Then how could it be at his resurrection? I dealt with the question on the blog a couple of years ago, and after some digging, found the post.  When I discussed the issue before it was because at Jesus' *baptism" Luke appears to indicate that it was then that God made him his Son.  So how does all that tie together?  Or does it?  Here is that post again: ************************************************************************** Does Luke present a (strictly speaking) consistent view of Jesus throughout his two-volume work of Luke-Acts? I raise the question because of the textual problem surrounding the voice at Jesus’ baptism.  I have been arguing that it is likely that the voice did NOT say “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” [...]

Did Luke Have a Doctrine of the Atonement? Mailbag September 24, 2017

For this week’s readers’ mailbag I have chosen a question about my claim that the author of Luke-Acts, unlike other writers of the New Testament, does not have a doctrine of the atonement – that Jesus’ death brought about a restored relationship with God (for Luke, it was the *resurrection* that mattered, not the crucifixion).   The questioner sets up the question with an important observation.   I suspect my answer will not be what he expected.     QUESTION:   I have spent a lot of time looking in the gospels for teachings on the atonement. I could only find 5 passages (really more like 2, because they are parallel).   Mt 20:28/Mk 10:45 Jesus life as a ransom for many Luke leaves this part out of the story   Mt 26:28--this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Mk 14:24--This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Lk 22:20 This cup that is poured out for you is the new [...]

What Did the Angels Tell the Shepherds? It Depends. Mailbag Sept. 10, 2017

I will be dealing with an interesting question in this week’ Readers’ Mailbag, having to do with the translation of the New Testament from Greek into English.  It involves a problem with a familiar verse (recited every Christmas!) that has a textual problem: different manuscripts have different readings – involving a single letter! – that affect the translation.   QUESTION: A lot of different hymns and liturgies and suchlike make reference to or paraphrase the Gloria, which in turn is based on Luke 2:14. I’d always heard (various permutations of) two different versions: “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace to men of good will” and “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace, goodwill to men”. That is, of course, quite a significant difference in meaning. The Latin is “Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis”, which I understand is is unambiguously “…men of good will”. Unfortunately, I don’t read a word of Greek; the text of the Gloria I found online was Δόξα ἐν [...]

Is There Evidence that Luke Originally Did Not Have the Story of Jesus Birth?

This is the second of three posts on the question of whether Bible translations should place the first two chapters of Luke's Gospel in brackets, or assign them to a footnote.  For background: read the post from yesterday!  Again this is a Blast from the Past, a post I made back in December 2012. . ******************************************************************** In my previous post, ostensibly on the genealogy of Luke, I pointed out that there are good reasons for thinking that the Gospel originally was published – in a kind of “first edition” – without what are now the first two chapters, so that the very beginning was what is now 3:1 (this is many centuries, of course, before anyone started using chapters and verses.) If that’s the case, Luke was originally a Gospel like Mark’s that did not have a birth and infancy narratives. These were added later, in a second edition (either by the same author or by someone else). If that’s the case then the Gospel began with John the Baptist and his baptism of Jesus, [...]

Did Luke’s Gospel Originally Have The Birth Story? Readers Mailbag and a Blast from the Past

QUESTION:  If, in your suspicion, the original Gospel of Luke began at 3:1 and the infancy narrative found in 1:5-2:52 is a later addition, do you think that should be indicated in NT reconstructions and translations in a way similar to how Mark 16:9-20 is often bracketed? RESPONSE:  This is a great question.  I could answer it just yes or no, but I'm afraid that wouldn't make much sense to many readers.  The question itself seems simple but is actually a bit complicated, and the answer needs to be even more so! The basic question is this.  If I think, as I sometimes (often? most of the time?) do, that Luke did not originally have chapters 1 and 2 -- the story of Jesus' birth (the Annunciation; Joseph and Mary's trip to Bethlehem, there "is no room in the inn," the worship of the shepherds, and so on and on) -- but started with what is now 3:1, the account of Jesus' genealogy, then do I think that the chapters should be put in brackets in [...]

2020-04-03T02:05:44-04:00August 13th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

A Very Different Portrayal of Jesus’ Death

I am talking about how I came to understand and appreciate the Bible once I realized that there were widely different perspectives presented in one author or another – even when talking about the same thing.  The example I’m using is the Gospel portrayals of Jesus’ death.  In my previous post I laid out how Mark depicts it; here I will discuss how Luke does.  What I came to see (back when I was a graduate student, still a committed Christian but no longer a fundamentalist) was that it was both fruitless and impoverished to think the two Gospels were both trying to say the same thing.   Each of them is rich in meaning, but they meaning they ascribe to the event is very different.  Failing to appreciate the difference means failing to understand each author and the point that he is trying to make. Here is what I say about Jesus’ death in Luke, in contrast to Mark, in my book Jesus Interrupted. ******************************************************** Luke’s account is also very interesting, thoughtful, and moving.  But [...]

2020-04-03T02:13:54-04:00June 16th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Readers’ Mailbag: December 27, 2015

QUESTION:  [Bart has said:]  “Jesus must have been called the messiah during his lifetime, or it makes no sense that he would be called messiah after his death”:  [Comment:] By this line of reasoning, then surely one would conclude that Jesus was considered divine during his lifetime, else it makes no sense he would be considered divine after his death?   RESPONSE:  The first line in the question is a quotation of a view I have elaborated on the blog.  The logic, in short (see the posts for a fuller explanation) is that no one on the planet expected that the messiah would die and rise again.  And so even someone who came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection would never conclude: OH!  He must be the messiah?  That’s because that is not what the messiah was supposed to do. The questioner then is arguing that the same thing applies to the question of Jesus’ divinity, that the resurrection would not make anyone think Jesus is divine.  My view is that this is precisely wrong.  It [...]

Is Luke’s Christology Consistent?

Does Luke present a (strictly speaking) consistent view of Jesus throughout his two-volume work of Luke-Acts? I raise the question because of the textual problem surrounding the voice at Jesus’ baptism.  I have been arguing that it is likely that the voice did NOT say “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (as in most manuscripts; this is what it clearly does say in Mark’s version; Matthew has it say something different still); instead it probably said “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” In the past couple of posts I’ve suggested that this wording – found in only one ancient Greek manuscript, but in a number of church fathers who quote the passage (these fathers were living before our earliest surviving manuscripts) – makes particular sense if the Gospel did not originally have chapters 1-2, the accounts of Jesus’ birth.   In yesterday’s post I gave the evidence for thinking that originally the Gospel began with Jesus’ baptism. But if I’m wrong about that (and hey, it won’t be [...]

Arguments that Luke Did Not Originally Have the Virgin Birth

In discussing the voice of God at Jesus’ baptism in Luke – where he evidently spoke the words of Psalm 2:7 “You are my Son, today I have begotten you – I have mentioned the possibility that originally Luke’s Gospel did not begin with the account of Jesus’ birth, as found now in chapters 1 and 2.  I have broached that topic on the blog before, a couple of years ago (if you want to see that discussion, just search for “Did Luke Originally Have”).  But my sense is that most people on the blog either weren’t on it back then or possibly don’t remember what I said (as, well, I myself didn’t remember till I looked it up!).  So let me summarize some of the issues. The first thing is to re-emphasize that it would not be strange for Luke to lack an account of Jesus’ birth to a virgin mother in Bethlehem.  That account is also lacking in Luke’s source, the Gospel of Mark, as well as in the Gospel of John.   Moreover, [...]

2020-04-03T13:14:38-04:00October 22nd, 2015|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts|

Did Luke’s Gospel Originally Have the Virgin Birth?

I have been discussing the intriguing textual variant found in Luke 3:23, where Jesus is said to be baptized.  When he comes out of the water the heavens open up, the Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove, and voice then comes from heaven.   But what does the voice say?  In most manuscripts the voice says exactly what it does in Mark’s Gospel: “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.”  But in a few ancient witnesses it says something slightly but significantly different:  “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” (or: “given you birth”). I am arguing that the latter may in fact be the original text of Luke, but that it was changed by scribes who were alert to the problems it posed.  But if that’s what the voice said, then doesn’t that indicate that it was at that moment (Note:  “Today”!) that Jesus became the Son of God? You may be able to figure out one objection to thinking that this is what Luke [...]

2020-04-03T13:14:45-04:00October 21st, 2015|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts|

Scribes Who Changed the Voice at Jesus Baptism?

I have been discussing views in the early church that asserted (or were claimed to assert) that Christ was not a divine being by nature, but was only “adopted” to be the Son of God, for example at his resurrection or, more commonly, at his baptism.   Some such views were allegedly held by the Jewish-Christian Ebionites and by the Roman-gentile Theodotians.  Whether these Christians actually held to such views is a bit difficult to say, since we don’t have any writings from their hands.  But it is clear that they were *thought* to hold these views, and for my study of the changes made in the texts of the Bible by Christian scribes, that is all that matters.  Scribes sometimes changed the text in light of “aberrant” views thought to be held by others. (Whether these others actually held such views or not.) We have seen instances in previous posts of changes made in order to oppose “docetic” Christologies, which had just the opposite problem (in the eyes of the proto-orthodox): these held that Christ [...]

2020-04-03T13:14:53-04:00October 19th, 2015|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts|

Are Their Any Completely Anti-Heretical Manuscripts?

READER COMMENT/QUESTION: The whole thread on the “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” is really really great! Thanks!! QUESTION: are the shorter version in Luke 22:19-20 and the “bloody sweat” in Luke 22:44 documented by the same manuscripts? Or do these variants appear in different manuscripts? In other words: do we have an “entirely docetic” manuscript of Luke? (incidentally, I see that both variants are in chapter 22 very close to each other). Thank you very much!!!   RESPONSE: Ah, this is a great question.   The answer to the first question is no.   The manuscripts that contain the shorter reading in Luke 22:19-20 (that is, the form of the text in which Jesus does NOT say that the bread represents his body “given for you” and that the cup is “the new covenant in my blood poured out for you”) are not the same ones that contain the shorter reading in Luke 22:43-44 (the “bloody sweat”; in this case the manuscripts with the shorter reading do NOT have the account of Jesus’ sweating great drops of [...]

Luke’s Last Supper and Orthodox Corruptions of Scripture

I can now wrap up my discussion of the textual problem of Luke 22:19-20 and the intriguing question of what Jesus said at his Last Supper (according to Luke).  I have argued so far that the longer (more familiar) form of the text, found in most surviving manuscripts, is actually a change made by scribes, not what Luke originally wrote (this is where Jesus indicates that the bread is his body given for others and that the cup is the new covenant in his blood shed for others). I set *up* that discussion by referring to one of the debates over the nature of Christ in precisely the time period when the change was made: the second century, when Christians were debating whether Jesus was so completely divine that he was not actually human.  Various Christians that scholars call “docetists” said the answer was no. The label for these Christians comes from the Greek word doceo, “to seem,” or “to appear,” because these people said that Christ “appeared” to be human and “seemed” really to [...]

The Striking Conclusion: Jesus’ Last Supper in Luke

This sub-thread about the Last Supper and the death of Jesus in the book of Luke (and Acts), part of a longer thread on The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, has (itself) taken a rather remarkably circuitous route.  Let me remind you how we started this little side-trip. First the biggest picture.  I am describing my book – originally written over twenty years ago now (my God, how does this happen???) – about how scribes in the second and third Christian centuries changed their texts in order to make them more obviously “orthodox” and less susceptible to use by Christians who held Christological views deemed “heretical.” The current sub-thread has all been on one textual variant, a passage in Luke 22:19-20, the account of Jesus at his last supper.  If you recall, there are two forms of the text, one much longer than the other.   We are asking whether Luke originally wrote the longer version of the text (so that scribes shortened it by taking out a verse and a half) or if he wrote the [...]

Luke’s Understanding of Jesus’ Death

I have been dealing with the question of Jesus’ death in the Gospel of Luke and have been arguing that Luke does not appear to have understood Jesus’ death to be an atonement for sins.   He has eliminated the several indications from his source, the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus’ death was an atonement, and he never indicates in either his Gospel or the book of Acts that Jesus died “for” you or “for” others or “for” anyone.   Then why did Jesus die? It is clear that Luke thought that Jesus had to die.  For Luke it was all part of God’s plan.  But why?  What is the theological meaning of Jesus’ death for Luke, if it was not a sacrifice that brought about a right standing before God (which is what the term “atonement” means)? You get the clearest view of Luke’s understanding of Jesus’ death from... The Rest of this Post is for Members ONLY!  If you don't belong yet, JOIN!! It costs less than a dime per post, and every one of [...]

2020-04-03T13:16:19-04:00October 9th, 2015|Canonical Gospels|

Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of Luke

In my previous post I argued that in the narrative of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has to die for a rather specific reason.  In Luke, more than in his predecessor Mark, Jesus is portrayed as a great prophet (like Samuel, like Elijah, etc.), and in Luke’s understanding, that is why Jesus had to die.  The Jewish people, in his view, always reject their own prophets sent from God.  Jesus was the last of the great prophets.  He too had to be rejected and killed at the hands of the Jewish people. Some scholars have argued that because of this denigration of the Jewish people for always rejecting the prophets and Jesus, Luke is probably to be seen as an “anti-Jewish” Gospel.  In my judgment there is a lot to be said for this view.  The only Jews that the Gospel appears to approve of are the ones who recognize Jesus as a great prophet and son of God (his mother, Symeon and Anna, John the Baptist, his own disciples, etc.).  The other Jewss seemed to be [...]

2020-04-03T13:16:28-04:00October 8th, 2015|Canonical Gospels|

Jesus’ Death as a Prophet in Luke

In my previous post I argued that the author of the Gospel of Luke had changed the view that he found in his source, the Gospel of Mark, so that Jesus death, in Luke, is no longer an atoning sacrifice for sins.  I’ve always found this to be extraordinarily interesting.  Both the source for Luke’s Gospel, and the hero of his book of Acts – the apostle Paul – portrayed Jesus’ death as an atonement.  But Luke does not. I’ve had several readers ask me: if Jesus’ death was not an atonement for Luke, then why did he die? It’s a good question, but a complicated one.  There are several approaches to take in answering it.  Let me present two, which happen to coincide with one another at the end of the day.  The first has to do with the narrative plot of Luke’s Gospel, and the second has to do with his theology (as found in both his Gospel and Acts). First, the plot.  It is beyond any doubt that Luke understands that Jesus *had* [...]

2020-04-03T13:16:36-04:00October 7th, 2015|Canonical Gospels|

Luke’s View of Jesus’ Death

In my previous post I tried to argue that the longer version of the account of Jesus’ Last Supper in Luke could have been created by a scribe who wanted to make the passage sound more like what is familiar from Matthew, Mark, and John, and to stress the point made in those other accounts as well, that Jesus’ broken body and shed blood are what bring redemption.   The passage as you recall reads like this: 17 And he took a cup and gave thanks, and he said: “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you that from now on I will not drink from the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” 19 And taking bread he gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body that is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  20  Likewise after supper (he took) the cup, saying, “This cup is the new coverant in my blood that is shed for you.  [...]

2020-04-03T13:16:46-04:00October 1st, 2015|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts|
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