Re: Essay about errancy

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Mon Feb 02 2004 - 07:26:57 EST

Dick writes:

    "The NT authors wrote their accounts not to persuade you, but simply to give account pertaining to Christ."

Yesterday in my NT literature course, I gave a general introduction to the canonical gospels. I said (following others), that I thought that the purpose of the gospels was summed up well by John (20:31): "But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing, you may have life in his name." And that the other evangelists might have said the same about their gospels. I would agree that the evangelists were not setting out logical arguments to persuade their hearers/readers of Jesus' messiahship, but they certainly were offering more than an account. They were preaching the proclamation, and demonstrating through the stories of Jesus' life, teachings, healings, passion, etc., that Jesus fulfilled God's true intentions for messiahship set forth in the OT. And to demonstrate that Jesus was the authentic embodiment of the reign (kingdom) of God and the one in whom God's saving desire for all humanity is fulfilled. Their persuasiveness is not that of the logician but the rhetorician, for they spoke less to the mind and more to the heart.

I teach at a secular university and I am mindful that my role is that of teacher, not evangelist. But when we explore the meaning of (poorly named) parables like the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, or of Jesus' table fellowship, from whom no one was excluded, I sometimes see the hearts of my students "warmed," showing again the power of the message of love and compassion that cries out from the pages of the gospels. Those who get hung up on discrepancies in the four gospels and seize upon them to call into question the truth of these writings miss their point. They truly strain at gnats and swallow camels.

Bob Schneider

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Dick Fischer
  Sent: Monday, February 02, 2004 10:15 PM
  Subject: RE: Essay about errancy

  Josh Gough wrote:

    Matthew was written after Mark and Mark does not mention many saints rising from the dead and being seen by many. He also does not mention an earthquake at the tomb. Also, Paul was not at the empty tomb, but he still talks about Jesus, so your argument fails there.

  Others have already made some replies. Let me give you my two cents. Mark, we believe, was John Mark. It is thought that the last supper was in his mother's house.

  "And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him," (Mark 14:51). This is thought to be a description of himself. If so, Mark was an eyewitness.

  Spurred on by Mark's account, Matthew the tax collector and disciple for Christ, added his personal knowledge using the gospel of Mark as a skeleton to which he added flesh. Paul in all likelihood had not seen Jesus during his earthly ministry. Paul had an encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul was given the doctrine of Christianity personally by Christ after His conversion. That is his testimony.

    Why does he not talk about many other people who came back from the dead after the resurrection to bolster his account? If his goal is to persuade others to believe as he does, then certainly he would use such evidence, or the Holy Spirit would reveal it to him, would it not? Applying the same standard of evidence to these accounts, one would logically conclude that the stories were embellished without any other presuppositions (such as the Bible being a reliable witness to the divinity of Christ)
    As an example, suppose in 30 years someone writes an account of the WTC atrocity and they say jets full of terrorists flew into them and took them down. A few days later, it is claimed that a prominent CEO who was seen dead has come back from the dead to rally his comrades.

  You are all over the map. The gospels were received by followers who knew the authors. They were revered and read in small groups and transcribed to send to others. Paul wrote personal letters hand delivered by his personal messengers to churches he founded.

    Now, suppose some years go by, and another account (almost word for word) is written about the towers crumbling, but this one says that at the moment the towers crumbled, many CEOs rose out of the rubble and then after the prominent CEO rose, they walked around Manhattan and were seen by many people.
    50 days after the prominent CEO ascends to heaven, one of his comrades gives a speech to give hope and bring people together under this CEO's name, but he does not mention many CEOs being raised from the dead and being seen by many people in Manhattan.
    By applying a standard of evidence that we would all apply in any field of reasoning, including evaluating the claims of other religions and claims of fantastic nature, what is the reasonable thing to conclude? I would say it is more reasonable to conclude that the writer of the secondary account has embellished his account to make it sound more momentous.
    If you would not reach this conclusion, please explain why and how, and point me to solid reasoning and historical evidence of an incredible event involving many dead people coming back from the dead in ancient Jerusalem.

  You need much more than I can say in quick response. Jesus raised Lazarus. But the story about the further life of Lazarus isn't recorded. The NT authors wrote their accounts not to persuade you, but simply to give account pertaining to Christ. Note the testimony of the blind man when asked who it was who healed him - was he (Jesus) a sinner? "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). And that's all the testimony any of us can give. Christ now lives in me. That may not persuade you, but that isn't my problem. As a believer, I am required to bear testimony. But only the Holy Spirit can move you.

    Some questions are left unanswered still however:
    1. Do demons heal people? (From the false religions)

  I don't know of any bona fide healing by a certified demon. If anybody knows of one, speak up.

    2. If God uses the Holy Spirit to guide, and truly wants all mankind to come to redemption through his Son, why does the Holy Spirit take so long to reveal miraculous account information to human authors?

  Hey, I've got why questions too. Why did God create Satan when in His foreknowledge he must have know Satan would be His erstwhile adversary? Why didn't God step in and warn Eve when the serpent tempted her? You want more? We all have questions, Josh. But Paul (under the unction of the Holy Spirit) saw this would happen, and said, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Cor.13:12). Paul didn't have all the answers either.

    3. Simply put, is the resurrection of many dead saints seen by many not a more spectacular event than the resurrection of one man seen by a dozen or more?

  You use the word "resurrection" inadvisably. Christ was resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven in bodily form. Those who were raised from the dead at that time eventually died again.

    4. Lastly, why is credibility given to the supernatural accounts of one particular group of people who lived in a time of rampant superstition over other groups, and why is credibility not given to groups of today?

  Christ was totally unique. His coming was prophesied in the Old Testament, His ministry of healing and performing miracles was witnessed, and those who witnessed bore testimony. Then we have His words. Read what He said. Find fault with His teaching. And, of course, the resurrection which He foretold. And Paul. A man who sought to destroy Christianity because he believed it was heresy, and yet he became the greatest apologist for Christ. What a dramatic turnaround. Read Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. If you study Paul, you will see the one he followed. Or just keep asking questions ... Your choice.

  Dick Fischer - Genesis Proclaimed Association
  Finding Harmony in Bible, Science, and History
Received on Tue Feb 3 07:26:33 2004

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