RE: Apologists and other salesmen

Daniel J. Berger (
Fri, 1 Nov 1996 10:52:29 -0500

Glenn wrote (and I apologize for opening with a long quote):

>Once again, this is not a matter of literalism but of history. How much of
>the Bible can be fable and it still be inspired? Can all of Genesis be
>allegory? Can the Exodus (for which there is no evidence at present) be fake?
> What about the Messianic lineage? If the lineage is not true (and it can't be
>if Adam, Seth ... Noah etc were not real people) what does that do to Christ's
>claim and what does that mean for the truth of the Gospel accounts themselves
>which incorporate such grossly non-historical lineages? If the early part of
>Luke lineage is false, is the latter part false also? Is Jesus really related
>to David? The same lineage which relates him to David relates him to Adam.
>If the Gospels themselves can not be trusted to tell us WHO Jesus is related
>to on this earth, which I can see, how can it be trusted to tell us who Jesus
>is related to in heaven, which I can't see? (I can just hear one fellow I work
>with asking me this) Can a document with "admittedly" non-historical
>genealogies be a document that we can trust to tell us the way to God?

OK, this *is* a matter of history. What do historians do? Luke 1:1-4! That's
exactly what they do! They use the best available sources. Now the sources for
the genealogies were not as close to the event as those for the events of the
Lord's life -- there were no extant eyewitnesses to the Noachian flood!

So the use of the best available sources doesn't mean all of those sources must
be 100% historically accurate, especially those which are millennia removed from
the actual events. I have no doubt that Jesus was legally descended from David
through his foster father, Joseph, since that was the sort of thing which would be
preserved in a family's institutional memory; but notice that the genealogies give
two different names at one point between Jesus and David! Seems to me two
different people were used as sources for them, and at least one of them made a
mistake in recitation.

On the other hand, Luke (for example) had eyewitnesses available to him of the
events of the Lord's life. Not to mention Mark's transcriptions of Peter's
recollections, and (Matthew's?) transcriptions of Jesus' sayings (what I
consider the most likely source of so-called "Q"). There were extant
eyewitnesses of the Risen Lord (see also 1 Cor. 15). This is why I say
that Christianity need not rest on whether Genesis 1-5 is "true" in anything
other than an allegorical sense.

>And if Genesis, and other suspect scriptures are fictional stories designed to
>teach us lessons about life, what makes the Bible better than Aesop's Fables,
>which are also designed to teach us lessons about life? These are the kinds
>of questions my friends ask. What do I answer them?

Tell them to stop resting so much on Scripture and look to the arbiter of
Scripture, the Church! (Not a helpful answer when dealing with determined
skeptics, I know.) A glib answer, I know. But Church history certainly
points to the Finger of God -- the Gospel had spread from Britain to India,
from the Balkans to Ethiopia, in less than 150 years after the Lord's death!
Tends to put the kibosh on critics who maintain it was just another Greco-
Roman mystery religion.

BTW, I don't think anyone is maintaining that "Genesis [is just a] fictional
[story] designed to teach us lessons about life." Does Aesop (your example, not
mine!) teach us anything much about God? Does Aesop have religious power to
move people to recognition of God's presence in their lives? Does Aesop form a
connected narrative in spite of coming from hundreds of different pens over
thousands of years?

I do appreciate what you are trying to do and pray for your success. If it
becomes apparent to me that you are right and I am wrong, I hope to be the first
to admit it. My favorite story in Dante's *Divine Comedy* is this: when
Gregory the Great finds in Heaven that some of his angelology -- strongly held
and strongly debated! -- was sadly mistaken, he laughs at himself until the
tears come.


Daniel J. Berger (419) 358-3379
Bluffton College
280 W. College Avenue
Bluffton OH 45817-1196