Contrary to Popular Opinion…


A common defense to the claim of contradictions within the Bible is to provide a possible resolution. As long as it is logically feasible, it is felt that this is a defeater for a claim that a contradiction exists.

However, the method itself is flawed, and must be abandoned. See, even when there are actual contradictions, application of this method provides the same results as if there isn’t any contradiction. The test provides false-positives.

What if we came up with a method to determine whether a person has alcohol in their blood? But when we implemented the test, we found it was positive for alcohol the vast majority of the time, even when we knew there was no alcohol present! The test is insufficient to make a determination. So, too, the method of “any possible explanation.”

Imagine my wife and I had the following conversation:

Me: I met Bob’s wife, Sue at the party tonight.
Wife: No. Bob’s wife’s name is Ellen.

Unbeknownst to us, I was completely wrong. Yet, with just those two statements, an inerrantist could propose any number of “possible solutions” (“Her name was ‘Sue Ellen,’” or “There were two ‘Bob’s’”) which provides us with a “False – positive.” A method that when implemented provides an answer of “No contradiction.”

Regardless of whether there was a contradiction or not, use of this system provides the same answer!

My question is this: if there WAS a contradiction within the Bible-- how would you know? How would this method ever provide any new information that would demonstrate that to us?


ExWhat were the names of the Twelve disciples?

Although there were a number of disciples that followed Jesus, tradition holds to a select few; twelve of special designation. We first learn of them in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 15:5, where he refers to Jesus, post-resurrection, being seen by “the Twelve.” According to Christian tradition, this would not be the actual number (as Judas’ death reduced the number to 11), but rather a Title. A Designation.

Like saying, “The twelve tribes of Israel” regardless of the make-up of the people, or “The Twelve signs of the Zodiac.”

Unfortunately, none of the Gospels agree with each other as to the names of these individuals.

According to Mark, Jesus meets Simon (Peter) and his brother, Andrew fishing, and calls them to follow him. (Typical Markan theme, they “immediately” follow Jesus) (Mark 1:16.) A little further on, Jesus meets the fishermen James and John, sons of Zebedee; they leave their father to join Jesus. (Mark 1:19.) Matthew follows this same tale. (Matt. 4:18-22)

Luke provides a much different picture about Jesus’ first meeting with his first disciples. (Luke 5:1-10) Here Jesus was pressed by the crowd, so he commandeers Peter’s boat, in order to perform a Sermon from the Sea. After preaching, Jesus tells Peter to do some more fishing, in which a miracle occurs as to the amount of Fish. Peter asks for help loading the fish from James and John, who have now been elevated to partners with Peter!

Andrew is conspicuous by his complete absence in this tale, and does not appear until Luke gives the list of disciples. (Luke 6:14) If the basis of the Gospel of Mark was Peter, one must wonder how Peter missed this tale of his first meeting with Jesus. One is equally curious how Peter’s “partner” John would have missed it as well.

See, the author of the Gospel of John veers even more dramatically. In John, Jesus is pursued by two (2) disciples of John the Baptist, one of whom turns out to be Andrew. Andrew then brings Jesus to Peter. John 1:37-42. No boats. No fish. No James and John.

O.K., back to Mark. If you can recall, we have Peter, Andrew, James and John. Mark then introduces us to, “Levi, son of Alphaeus.” A tax collector. (Mark 2:14-15) In a parallel telling, Jesus asks Levi to follow him and he “immediately” does so.

Mark later lists the remaining disciples: Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. (Mark 3:16-19) Whoops! If you have been counting correctly (and I am sure you have) we add these eight to the previous five we end up with thirteen! All well and good, but the author had just indicated there were “twelve.” (Mark 3:14)

Perhaps one of the previous five named, is named differently in this second list? One thing we notice is that the second “James” received a qualifier “son of Alphaeus.” Levi the tax collector was also qualified as “son of Alphaeus.” Jesus has a penchant for changing names—the simplest resolution is that he must have changed Levi’s name to “James” bringing us back to the correct 12. Problem solved.

Or is it?

See, Matthew also has a tax collector. Who invited Jesus to eat at the tax collector’s house. Only Matthew doesn’t name this taxman “Levi” but rather calls him “Matthew.” (Matthew 9:9) Apparently in Mark’s list of Mark 3:16-19, the author of Matthew chose the name “Matthew” as being the one Jesus changed “Levi” to.

In order to avoid confusion, Matthew leaves off “son of Alphaes” when referring to Matthew. Humorously, in case we were so thick to miss the connection, when listing the disciples in Matthew 10:2-4, the author calls him “Matthew the tax collector,” just to make sure we knew which one was the one referred to as “Levi” in Mark.

One could almost hear the emphasis.

So, according to Matthew, we have the five—Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew (“the TAX COLLECTOR”) to which we add the remaining seven (same as Mark) being Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. This is the closest we get to a match.

Luke goes back to the name of “Levi” (still dropping “son of Alphaeus,” though) for the tax collector. (Luke 5:27) To the four (remember Luke had skipped Andrew, so we only had Peter, James, John and Levi) Luke adds Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus) Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas (son of James), and Judas Iscariot. Luke 6:14-16. Whoops! Four plus nine puts us at 13 again, and Luke had said there were only 12. (Luke 6:13) Only now we don’t have the father of Levi anymore, so it might not be James, (son of Alphaeus), nor does Luke subscribe to Matthew’s insistence that Matthew must be the tax collector.

It would appear that “Levi” could be anybody’s name! Further, we pick up a second “Judas.” This fellow that is a son of James. And we lose the Thaddeus from Matthew and Mark.

It would seem we must smash “Levi” back to “Matthew” and “Thaddeus” back to “Judas” and we have a match.

Or do we?

Good old Gospel of John throws a wrench in the works. Remember, in John we have Andrew, who gets Peter. We gain Philip (Jn. 1:43), Judas Iscariot (Jn. 6:71) Thomas (John 14:5) and the Sons of Zebedee (John 21:1) all of which agree with the other three Gospels. We also have “another Judas” which would appear to agree with Luke. John 14:22

But who is Nathanael? (John 1:49, 21:1) Here is a disciple that does not correlate with anyone in any other Gospel! You could plug his name in with anybody—may I recommend Bartholomew? His name is apparently open for some “double-naming.” The author of John leaves the other three (3) disciples unnamed, although he agrees there were 12 in total. (John 6:70)

(A side note: Matthew, Mark and Luke say Jesus chose his disciples after John the Baptist was thrown in prison, (Matt. 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:20) whereas the Gospel of John makes a point to say he started choosing before. (John 3:20) Just another point of contention.)

Eventually this is sorted out as Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John (sons of Zebedee), Philip, Thomas, and Judas Iscariot are in all four Gospels. Within the synoptic Gospels, we have additional agreement of Bartholomew, Matthew, James (Son of Alphaeus) and Simon the Zealot. We have a Thaddeus in just Matthew and Mark, and a Judas (son of James) in just Luke and John. And then Nathanael solely in John

Using the method of “any possible explanation” we have two readily available resolutions:

1) Either individuals had different names, and one author called them by one name, another author by their other name, OR

2) Different individuals were part of the Twelve, and depending on the moment, a different set was listed. (Remember, apparently members of the Twelve were replaceable Acts 1:26).

Either answer removes any contradiction, correct?

Assume, for a moment, there really was a contradiction. That the author of the Gospel of John was completely incorrect that Nathanael was ever a disciple. By using this method, 1900 years later, we obtain the result: “No contradiction.”

Assume, for a moment, there was not a contradiction. That the author of the Gospel of John utilized Bartholomew’s middle name of “Nathanael.” By using this method, 1900 years later, we obtain the result: “No contradiction.”

Can you see how the method, with or without an actual contradiction, provides the exact same test results? That is why this system is ineffective for determination of a contradiction and must be abandoned.

On a final note—we often discuss the claim that Christians are morally different. That they are a “new creation.” That they should be better, morally, than non-Christians. When we address it, though, we are informed that despite the Christian’s intense desire to not sin, despite the Christian’s request from the God who created the Universe to not sin, and despite the fact that this God hates sin—they still sin.

How is a non-moral error any different? If the authors of the canonical works had an intense desire to not make error, requested God to not make an error, and God hates errors—could they still perform the human propensity to commit an error?

It is slightly humorous that proponents of inerrancy claim the authors could make moral lapses of judgment. Just not historical ones. They would sin—but not write anything incorrectly.

11 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

DagoodS, once again you've presented a good case, this time against inerrantist type thinking.

Here is my take on it, and perhaps yours as well. Earlier I had written how that Christian Scholarship Led Me To Reject Christianity. Well here's another example.

E.P. Sanders wrote about this very problem in his book The Historical Figure of Jesus (Penguin Press, 1993), which I devoured. His discussion of the twelve disciples is on pages 118-122. After surveying the problem he wrote: "It is not the case that Jesus had just twelve disciples." "The most probable explanation is that Jesus himself used the term symbolically, and that it was remembered as a symbolic number, even though the precise number of close disciples may have varied." What was this number symbolic of? It was used, claims Sanders, "in order to indicate that his mission was to all Israel" since Israel was composed of twelve tribes.

And this was but one of the problems that got me thinking about the nature of symbolism among ancient superstitious people. There were clearly more than six kinds things created in the creation accounts. The different types of things created were made to fit inside the the symbolic numbering of seven days (with one day of rest). On and on it went, until I questioned the historical claims in the Bible themselves, like the temple curtain torn in two at Jesus' death, or the virgin birth and even the symbolic nature of a resurrection of Jesus himself.

John W. Loftus said...

To add to what I just wrote, Conrad Hyers says: “In the modern world numbers have become almost completely secularized, but in antiquity they could function as significant vehicles of meaning and power. It was important to associate the right numbers with one’s life and activity and to avoid the wrong numbers.” [cf. The Meaning of Creation, p. 79]. “The symbolic meaning of the number seven and of seven days harks back to the lunar calendar which in Mesopotamia had quite early been divided into four phases of seven days each, followed by the three day disappearance of the moon, thus equaling thirty days.” (p. 76). “The symbolism of the number of seven was also reinforced in antiquity by association with the seven visible planetary bodies, which had become important in Mesopotamian astrology.... Seven has the numerological meaning of wholeness, plenitude, and completeness. This symbolism is derived, in part, from the combination of the three major zones of the cosmos as seen vertically (heaven, earth, underworld) and the four quarters and directions of the cosmos as seen horizontally. Both the numbers three and four in themselves often function as symbols of totality, but a greater totality results from the combination of vertical and horizontal planes. Thus the number seven (adding three and four) and the number twelve (multiplying them) are recurrent biblical symbols of fullness and perfection: seven golden candlesticks, seven spirits, seven words of praise, seven eunuchs, seven churches, the seventh year, the forty-ninth year, the seventy elders, forgiveness seventy times seven, etc.” (p. 76-77; cf. also Daniel 9:24).

According to C. Cassuto’s A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Vol. 1 [Jerusalem Magnes Press, 1992] the Genesis account is highly structured using the symbolic numbers three, seven, and ten. For instance, the first verse contains 7 Hebrew words, the second verse has 14 Hebrew words (twice 7) and the first section of Genesis is divided into seven sections. This symbolism is undeniable since we see in Genesis one there are at least nine creative acts squeezed into God’s six day work week: 1) light, 2) firmament, 3) land, 4) vegetation, 5) sun, moon & stars; 6) birds; 7) fish; 8) animals; and 9) humans.

Therefore any literalistic reading of the Bible according to inerrantist thinking falls on the rocks of the ancient conception of symbolism, and it's hard to distinguish what is symbolic and what isn't. I myself see so much of it in the Bible, that I deny the Bible reports actual events in all of the crucial places. This is a major problem for the inerrantist.

John W. Loftus said...

I didn't mean to sidetrack this discussion DagoodS wanted to have. Can anyone answer his questions about how someone can determine an error in the Bible?

Glenn Dixon said...

I don't have an answer to your question, but...........FIFTEEN disciples? That's not what I was taught in the church sunday school.....

Tommy said...

Glen, there is a little known "lost" gospel in which the three extra apostles spontaneously combusted, thereby bringing the number back down to twelve.

Dave Armstrong said...

I've made a thorough response to these allegations on my blog:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/12/alleged-contradictions-regarding.html

DagoodS said...

Some History

Apparently I was not very clear, so I will attempt to remove any confusion. I apologize if this gets repetitious, but I hope through stating the same thing in a variety of ways, the point I am making will clarify through the fog.

I was not talking about one (of many) contradiction. I was talking about methodology. The system of resolving apparent contradictions by “any possible logical explanation” is completely insufficient because it is so loose, so vague, such a low level of burden of proof, that it renders almost anything as “not a contradiction” even when we know it is.

I simply used the twelve disciples as a demonstration of how this method fails.

Dave Armstrong and I were discussing after-life. I pointed out that the only proof we have is hearsay evidence in the Bible. In response, in order to bolster the reliability of the Bible:

Dave Armstrong: The veracity of Scripture is verified on other independent grounds (fulfilled prophecy, minute accuracy of geographical and historical detail, archaeological confirmation, extraordinary internal consistency, lack of bizarre Babylonian, Greek mythological characteristics, etc.). (Emphasis added.)

We certainly can discuss each of those areas at a later date, but at the moment I was focusing on “extraordinary internal consistency.” We are informed that the Bible is different, even unique, in that it is written by a variety of authors and yet displays an “internal consistency” that is not human, not expected, not normal, but rather, in these words, “extraordinary.”

That by virtue of this extraordinary internal consistency, (among other items) we should view the Bible in different regard as compared to any other written work.

Of course some consistency is expected. The authors of Matthew and Luke used the Gospel of Mark as their basis—so consistency within these three works is hardly surprising. Nor “extraordinary.” (In fact, at times it is surprising how much inconsistency there remains.)

The authors of Ephesians, Colossians and the Pastorals used Paul’s writing as their basis, so again, consistency is not surprising. The author of 2 Peter was following Jude. It would seem that 1, 2 and 3 John were all written by the same author. And obviously, ALL of the New Testament writers were aware of, and utilized the Tanakh.

It is not as if the authors of the portions of the Bible were each placed in a room, and were completely unaware of each other, creating their works in a vacuum, as it were, and lo and behold, they came up with similar tales. There is cross-reference and intermingling within each of their writings, with a few exceptions.

And within these works there is consistency. All of the Gospels, for example, agree that Jesus had disciples. The Gospels even agree on some of the names of these Disciples.

However, we also observe apparent inconsistencies alongside the consistencies. Things that, on their face, would seem to contradict each other.

Methodology, Methodology, Methodology

What do we do with this apparent contradiction? It most certainly could be an actual contradiction. It is possible we can obtain other information that would explain how it is not contradictory. It is possible we can never know.

Keep in mind, though, that we are informed to hold the Bible in higher regard because of “extraordinary internal consistency.” Does “we can’t tell” rise to the level of “extraordinary internal consistency”?

And Dave Armstrong has proposed a method by which contradictions can be resolved—“any logical possible solution.” This solution states: “As long as any possible explanation can be proffered, the item can not be considered a contradiction.” Or, at least, the Bible should be given the benefit of the doubt.

To be fair, this most certainly resolves every possible contradiction in the Bible. As noted, the inerrantist can even claim it is logically possible for a copyist to make an error, and therefore it is logically possible that the original was inerrant, but all our copies have contradictions. It is possible an event occurred and left no archaeological mark whatsoever. It is possible that people had two, three names. It is possible that events occurred more than once, so any “contradiction” that appears, is simply two authors talking about two different events.

Yes, by utilizing this methodology, we can safely eliminate every contradiction that exists in the Bible.

But does it work?

Unfortunately, in his response to my blog entry, Dave Armstrong fails to address the problem that this method produces “false-positives.” Situations in which there is an actual contradiction yet this method would still provide that there is no contradiction.

There is some concern stated that he feels “damned if I do; damned if I don’t” but I can’t help that. I didn’t propose this method. The method itself is flawed, providing results that are “damned” either way.

An example. I place an advertisement in my local telephone book, which lists my business telephone s “555-1212.” However, in the line entry, the telephone book lists my phone number as “555-1221” transposing the last two numbers. As it turns out, this is an actual contradiction—the telephone company made a mistake.

However, if we apply this method, “any logical possible solution” we could state that my business can have two numbers, and therefore there was no contradiction. The Yellow pages just displayed “extraordinary internal consistency” within this method

An event we see as an actual contradiction, yet application of this method produces the result of no contradiction.

Why is that? Because the standard is too low! It makes far too many items possible, thus removing numerous, numerous actual contradictions and rendering them non-contradictions.

Another Example

Always keep in mind that we are supposed to be viewing the Bible as different; unique; extraordinary, because of its ability to be consistent within itself. Yet the only way to maintain consistency is to reduce the level of proof to almost nothing.

What if I am told that “Bob” is extraordinary. Bob has never stated an inconsistent thing in his life. Everything Bob says today is consistent with what Bob said before.

Two days ago Bob told me he went to his Christmas party with Joe, Jane, and Tom. Yesterday Bob told me he went to the same Christmas party with Samuel, Evelyn and Ebenezer. Seems like a contradiction? Nope. See we propose that Joe, Jane and Tom have two names and their other names are Samuel, Evelyn and Ebenezer. Logically possible.

Sally tells the same type of tale, using two different sets of names. Why is Sally different? We utilize the same method—“any logical possibility” and voila—Sally’s tale also aligns. Bob, with this method, becomes no more “extraordinary” than Sally. Or thousands and thousands of other similar tales.

How does the Bible stand out?

We are to believe the Bible’s veracity because of its “extraordinary internal consistency.” We know it is internally consistent as long as we can propose “any logical possible explanation.” (I warned I would be repetitive. Hopefully by this repetition, what I am saying is becoming clearer.)

So what? Using the same method, my Yellow Pages also displays the same “extraordinary internal consistency.” So also the Book of Mormon. The Qur’an. The works of Josephus. The Chronicles of Narnia. The rejected Christian writings. My daughter’s term paper. A grocery list. Entire encyclopedias.

“Any logical possibility” (including copyist error, remember) makes Billions (as in “B”) works “internally consistent.” The Bible is reduced far from extraordinary, let alone unique.

Dave Armstrong is welcome to use this method. The problem with it is not that the method fails to resolve contradictions. It is that it resolves almost EVERY contradiction, actual or otherwise. It provides us no new information as to whether there is an actual contradiction or not. It makes the Bible no more unique than a newspaper article.

Dave Armstrong: In Bible interpretation, however (as opposed to skeptical Bible butchery) the goal is to try to approach the Bible fairly, giving the benefit of the doubt that there exists some explanation, where a "difficulty" (real or imagined) arises. (emphasis added.)

Whoa. Wait. A minute ago, I was informed that we verify the Bible, due to its “extraordinary internal consistency.” Now I am informed that I have to give the Bible the “benefit of the doubt” when viewing the contradictions. What is so “extraordinary” about giving something “the benefit of the doubt”? In fact, that makes it far less than even ordinary! I don’t ordinarily give the “benefit of the doubt” to an apparent contradiction—being human I presume the opposite—that someone made a mistake.

But now, I have to both consider the Bible as “extraordinary” because of internal consistency AND give it the benefit of the doubt? This makes no sense.

Twelve Disciples

Oh, I agree that the method, “any logical possibility” provides an opportunity for a person to have two, three—nuts, logically a person can have 1000’s of names.

If all Dave Armstrong wanted to provide, in response to the question of the names of the disciples, was they had more than one name; the reply could have been reduced to one sentence. Two at the most.

However, I notice he did not address the vastly different tales as to how Jesus called his disciples. Was it Peter before Andrew? Did Jesus preach from Peter’s boat? Was it before or after John the Baptist was put in prison?

He is quite free, of course, to not address anything I raise. Equally, however, I am free to point out that he did not.

Dave Armstrong: Readers may judge it for themselves.

Now here is a methodology I can get behind! I whole-heartedly agree. Not a skeptic like me that (according to him) is involved in skeptical Bible butchery. Not an inerrantist that is convinced only by giving the Bible the benefit of the doubt on a methodology that renders almost all works non-contradictory.

Take it to the people. Show the calling of the Disciples to a neutral party. Someone that has no bias, no prejudice either way. Have them read the four accounts. Have them read the list of names.

And ask a simple question—do they contradict?

The method proposed I use

O.K. Dave Armstrong’s method to resolve contradictions is “any logical possibility.” He proposes that I must use the level of burden of proof, “beyond a reasonable doubt” when demonstrating a contradiction!

Why the difference? If the Bible is “extraordinary” in its level of internal consistency, why must such a high burden of proof be utilized when demonstrating a contradiction? In fact, I would think it the opposite! It is extraordinary that we couldn’t demonstrate a contradiction with a low level of proof—not that we have to have such a high level of proof in order to maintain consistency!

Dave Armstrong: One can only determine whether an actual contradiction exists by looking at the data we do have, not speculating. The fact remains that there is not enough information on this matter to establish an indisputable contradiction. Nor is there unequivocal proof that there is not (strictly on logical grounds). (emphasis in original)

That’s it? That’s “extraordinary internal consistency”? Possible there is, possible there is not on the list of names? If it is not “indisputable” that renders it “extraordinary”? Nothing at all about the different stories of how they were called?

Interestingly the data we have is a contradiction! “Thaddeus” is not the same name as “Judas, son of James.” “Nathanael” is not the same as “Bartholomew.” It is speculation that these individuals had two names.

In fact, it is indicated that “theoretically” the names could be a contradiction. Or theoretically they could not.

Exactly, Exactly, Exactly. That is what makes this method unhelpful—it gives us no direction either way and it does not make the Bible unique in any fashion.

Final Note

The trouble in resolving contradictions I see is this: A method must be developed that resolves the contradictions of the Bible, YET maintains its “extraordinary” status regarding contradictions. Frankly, I have yet to see such a methodology.

This method of resolving contradictions is too open, the level of proof too low, that numerous (even countless) other works fall into the mix, and the Bible is no longer extraordinary.

I hope that clarified why this method does help us any in our quest.

John W. Loftus said...

DagoodS, excellent response! I can only hope you'll take this response and make a separate blog entry about it so more people can see the problem for what it is.

Dave Armstrong said...

(In fact, at times it is surprising how much inconsistency there remains.)

But you haven't proven this. That's the whole point! You talk about it but if you can't demonstrate it, then your case has no weight. It's simply a sophistical meta-theory.

My reply tried to show that your attempt to talk around the subject and come to all these grand conclusions is only so much hooey if you can't prove that indisputable contradictions are present (and massively so, by the amount of biblical skepticism you suppose).

Repetitive non-contradiction, so that atheists have the hardest time coming up with compelling contrary examples, is exactly what I meant by "extraordinary internal consistency."

As usual, my epistemology is based on giving weight to beliefs that are verified by cumulative evidences and the weakness of attempts to falsify the belief-system.

[Note: if you want to truly understand my epistemology, read the previous paragraph ten times]

All of the Gospels, for example, agree that Jesus had disciples. The Gospels even agree on some of the names of these Disciples.

However, we also observe apparent inconsistencies alongside the consistencies. Things that, on their face, would seem to contradict each other.


And when examined closely, as I did, cannot be shown to be contradictory. You failed in your task. No amount of obscurantism and obfuscation in the world can cover over the weakness of your case.

What do we do with this apparent contradiction? It most certainly could be an actual contradiction.

And you have abysmally failed to establish this.

It is possible we can obtain other information that would explain how it is not contradictory.

Exactly what I did . . .

It is possible we can never know.

As I already stated; many times we can't know things with absolute, airtight certainty. That's the nature of the mind and the real world.

Note how yopu make no attempt to interact with my specific arguments about alleged discrepancies that you raise. yet you want me to keep interacting at this meta-level: talking about grand ideas and all your hyper-skepticism, rather than actually examining the hard data on the ground?

Dave Armstrong’s method to resolve contradictions is “any logical possibility.”

You would love that to be the case, so I, too, can be fit into your silly caricature of how Christians interpret the Bible.

My ACTUAL position is to examine proposed contradictions and see if there is a PLAUSIBLE (NOT "any") explanation that can account for it and defeat the suggestion of contradiction. And not just plausible, but more plausible and believable than the opposing view.

I believe that I did this. Some cases are stronger than others, but I gave it a shot. At that point you invariably decide to ignore the counter-arguments I gave, because to deal with them in depth would undermine the supposed strength of your argument and show it to be the weak thing that it actually is.

It's better to leave the illusion that my arguments are weak, by simply saying they are, with your usual meta-approach (and distortion of what I was trying to do), rather than logically demonstrating that they are and contending that my suggestions are less plausible than yours (why and how).

ME: "The fact remains that there is not enough information on this matter to establish an indisputable contradiction. Nor is there unequivocal proof that there is not (strictly on logical grounds)."

That’s it? That’s “extraordinary internal consistency”?

When I used that phrase, I was referring to the Bible as a whole. On the names of the disciples business I was arguing that a contradiction had not been plausibly established. As explained above, the extraordinary nature of the biblical text is seen in the fact that it's non-contradictory nature is shown again and again, and the weakness of the atheist skeptical arguments are reveelaed again and again. I've almost made a sub-career of it myself. You guys keep making the pathetically weak arguments about how full of holes the biblical text is. I'll keep shooting them down.

Interestingly the data we have is a contradiction!

Really? Where did you ever show this?

“Thaddeus” is not the same name as “Judas, son of James.”

No one is saying it is, but it is beside the point. If multiple names exist, then one has to take that into account.

“Nathanael” is not the same as “Bartholomew.”

Of course not. But as I showed beyond any doubt, simply from the structure of the Greek language, "Bartholomew" is a surname. Almost anyone with a surname has a first name. There are other variants as well. Different names could very well be used. I showed how that could happen by using the example of my father, and five different ways he could accurately be referred to.

You prove it by using a nickname yourself. You won't use your real name (don;'t get me started on Internet nicknames . . . ). Assuming your mother didn't name you DagoodS, it is safe to surmise that you have a first and a last name. I could call you by either. That is now three names. Is that a contradiction or "possible contradiction" or "difficulty" or "discrepancy" or the nature of how names function? You say the former; I say the latter.

It is speculation that these individuals had two names.

The only speculation in the case of Bartholomew is which first name he also had. That is speculation, but it is not without some feasibility and plausibility, on the basis that I showed, by elaborate analogical arguments. You simply ignore all that. That "method" may impress your atheist choir, but I don't think it impresses anyone acquainted with the demands of rigorously logical argument and the relative weight of evidence and confirming data.

If you keep making speific claims about the biblical text: that it is contradicting itself, then I'd be interested in further discussion. But I'm long since tired of the "meta-" approach because nothing can be accomplished by it. It's a wax nose you twist however you like.

Specific claims about specific alleged contradictions, such as those you raised in our discussion on the census, can be examined and either conceded as difficulties (I did that with a few) or dismisssed as pseudo-problems or none at all.

You decided that you didn't - by and large - want to defend your original arguments in that exchange, so what can I say? The reader is again left to decide who made the better particulart arguments and which scenario is more plausible.

DagoodS said...

Rude Neighbors

Dave Armstrong: If you keep making speific claims about the biblical text: that it is contradicting itself, then I'd be interested in further discussion. But I'm long since tired of the "meta-" approach because nothing can be accomplished by it. It's a wax nose you twist however you like.

I am often left with the impression that my method and style of argumentation is offensive and irritating to you. I hesitate to post on your website; I feel as if I am that boorish neighbor who rudely enters your house (or blog) and against all manners of propriety, places his feet on your coffee table.

The reason I posted my last response on Debunking Christianity, is that I am freer there. I can use my sense of style and wry humor. John W. Loftus lets me put my feet on the coffee table, as it were.

I will post this response at both Debunking Christianity and Cor ad cor loquitor. However, portions will only be posted at Debunking Christianity.

Progress!

O.K.! A different methodology for determining the existence of contradictions:

Dave Armstrong: My ACTUAL position is to examine proposed contradictions and see if there is a PLAUSIBLE (NOT "any") explanation that can account for it and defeat the suggestion of contradiction. And not just plausible, but more plausible and believable than the opposing view. (emphasis in original)

I much prefer this method.

{Posted only on Debunking Christianity:

Mr. Armstrong, I did not obtain the methodology of “any logical possible resolution” from a “silly caricature of how Christians interpret the Bible.” I obtained it from what you said.

As I interact with other people, I would prefer it not implied that I misrepresent what others say. Therefore I find myself explaining why, exactly it is, that I was left with the very distinct, explicit idea that your method was “any logical possible resolution.” Some history, from our discussion surrounding the contradiction of David’s Census:

Although we had discussed various matters, I indicated we had not reviewed the very basis of a contradiction—how do we define “contradiction”?

ME: 1) We haven’t discussed what a standard would be for a contradiction. If “any possible solution” eliminates two (or three) incongruities from being a contradiction, I can save you a great deal of time—I have always maintained that every contradiction has a “possible” resolution. here

To which you responded:

Dave Armstrong: That's rather elementary, isn't it? If you want to learn more about what a contradiction is, see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on that topic:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entrie.../contradiction/
here

If one peruses the link, a contradiction is that which is not logically possible. Nothing about “plausibility” at all. Ergo, to resolve a contradiction, all one has to do is provide a “possible logical explanation.”

We had the further conversation:

ME: How do we remove these biases? How do we make a “neutral” determination.

The best system I can think of—is how it would sell to a neutral jury. A panel of people that have no inherent bias in the outcome. You dismiss this with a claim that a jury would “desire a certain outcome.” That is why I am looking how it would present to a neutral jury. Not one desiring an outcome either way.

Let me ask you, Dave Armstrong. You have previously indicated that the Bible must be “given the benefit of the doubt.” Now you indicate that a jury that is desiring a certain outcome will find that outcome.

O.K. Scrap my jury plan. What way do you propose to remove the inherent bias in this discussion? Must I give the Bible the bias of “benefit of the doubt” in order for it to prevail? Must you have a jury that is biased toward contradiction in order for me to win?
here

To which you responded:

Dave Armstrong: Precisely by applying logic, which is a neutral, common ground all thinking persons can agree upon. But it looks like you redefine a contradiction, and don't want to discuss whether one actually occurred (interacting with my replies), and take a "plausibility" view of truth, while wanting to simultaneously ignore the logic which plausibility nmecessarily entails.

Having done that, the matter of "possible resolutions" of two accounts is entirely different ground. Removing contradictions (alleged) is a negative method: taking away the roadblocks.

As I said: the application of hard-nosed logic, because all thinking men can agree on that (unless you subscribe to some goofy relativistic modern variations of so-called "logic" such as the Hegelian system, etc.).
here and here

In fact, if you look at that last quote, you appear derogatory toward my “redefining a contradiction” and taking a “’plausibility’ view of truth.” I read it ten times.

If I misinterpreted your methodology, then I am sorry. In my defense (and a rather good one, I think) if one reads the link YOU provided, it uses “any logical possibility” as defining away contradictions. Not plausibility.

All that being said, we now have an improved clarification of your methodology on how to resolve a contradiction so that it is not: “An explanation that is more plausible and believable than the opposing view.” Shall we press on?}

Of course the very first question that strikes us is this: Plausible to whom? Who is the person that finds one explanation more believable than the other? Who do we use to make the determination of plausibility?

I would assume you do not desire to use those who believe there are contradictions in the Bible. You have referred to, at least to me, as using “lousy reasoning” and my understanding is “tainted by sin.” Not to mention bias, and engaging in “skeptical Bible butchery.” I would think it very safe to say that when you are claiming “plausible” and “believable” you are eliminating what we heathen skeptics think, right?

This method can’t use skeptics to determine plausibility.

How about neutrals? Those that have no bias or prejudice as to either position?

You display some concern in this regard as well. When I asked, “Can you sell this to a neutral jury?” You admitted the difficulty in doing so:

Dave Armstrong: Perhaps not (though it's irrelevant because truth isn't determined by majority vote or even 12-0 votes, as I assume you know). But then I could make my argument, just as I have, and you could make yours, and I might have a shot, if they understand how logic and plausibility and the factor of predispositions play into things. here

Let’s look at those three items:

1) Logic. I thought “any logical possibility” was NOT (emphasis yours) the method we use to determine contradictions. Why enter it into the equation here?

2) Plausibility. Right. Exactly what we are taking about. Obviously the neutrals would understand it is about plausibility. ‘Cause this is what we are asking about.

3) Predispositions. Don’t you think the jury would understand that by my arguing there are contradictions, I was “predisposed” toward there being contradictions? And by your arguing there are not, you are “predisposed” toward there not being contradictions? Why ever do you think a jury would need enlightenment in this regard?

In essence, when we boil down this statement, the only way you have a shot, is if the jury found your position more plausible. That is self-evident. It is what we are asking them to do.

Further, you have repeatedly indicated that “the Bible must be given the benefit of the doubt” thus removing neutrality.

In the people we use to determine plausibility, we can’t use skeptics. We can’t use neutrals. Who is left?

Those that already believe there are no contradictions!

This method seems to indicate that a solution that is believable to those that already believe there are no contradictions, is sufficient to eliminate contradictions.

Keeping our eye on the ball, the Bible’s veracity has been claimed to be supported by “extraordinary internal consistency.” In order to maintain this consistency, alleged contradictions must have explanations that are believable to those who already believe there are no contradictions! Is it possible for this method to ever fail? (If not, just like the previous one of “any possible logical explanation” it provides false-positives. It provides no new information as to whether there was a contradiction or not.)

Worse, what is “extra-ordinary” about this at all? This method seems to state that those who believe there are no contradictions will find there are no contradictions. This is not “extra” ordinary! This is as ordinary as can be!

Come on! Step up! Use a method that we ALL, skeptic, neutral and believer can say, “Hey—there the Bible stands out.”

The Contradictions continue…

Dave Armstrong: But you haven't proven this. [inconsitency among the Synoptic Gospels]

Normally you dislike when I start to dive into more topics. Do you really want me to go into all the differences between Matthew, Mark, and Luke? Let’s just stick with the named Twelve Disciples for the moment.

Good question—have I proven it or not? Depends on who we use to determine plausibility and believability. If a neutral party, then this is unknown. As near as I can tell, no neutral party has weighed in on the subject. If a skeptic, it would appear I have proven my case. If we use an inerrantist, then no, I have not convinced you of the implausibility of the named disciples.

But that leads us back to the same problem—what is “extraordinary” about someone remaining convinced about something they are convinced?

Further, even using an inerrantist, within plausibility I have proven a problem. Not only did I discuss the names, but also the contradictory stories on how the disciples were called. (And NO, that is NOT a new subject. It was within the original blog entry.) Those do not line up, either. Twice you have responded to the blog entry. Twice you have failed to address it.

Dave Armstrong: As usual, my epistemology is based on giving weight to beliefs that are verified by cumulative evidences and the weakness of attempts to falsify the belief-system.

The cumulative evidences presented so far is that the stories of the four (4) gospels contradict as to how the disciples were called, simply by their presentation. The response, even from the inerrantist, so far has been silence. At this moment, if one uses their epistemology to weigh out the evidence, “Zero” as compared to “Contradiction” fails every time.

Even within this method, there has been NO explanation, let alone a plausible or believable one. Apparently my claim that the stories contradict is more plausible and more believable to the skeptic, neutral and inerrantist alike!

Why I reply the way I do

Dave Armstrong: Note how yopu make no attempt to interact with my specific arguments about alleged discrepancies that you raise.

Because at that time, I thought your method was “any logical possible explanation.” As you can see, I readily agreed using that method, and claiming the disciples had 2 (or 3 or any number of) names as a logical possibility resolves the contradiction. One loses “extraordinary internal consistency” but one resolves the contradiction.

Now we have a different methodology: An explanation that is more plausible and more believable than the opposing view. Before I can deal with “plausibility” as compared to the “possibility” of your explanation, I only need one more piece of the puzzle—who am I attempting to persuade that it is more plausible and more believable there is a contradiction?

{Posted on Debunking Christianity only:

Standard of Proof

Fascinating. We seem to be all over the board on this one. Might ought to clear it up.

There are various levels of proof within the American Judicial system, and you seem to hit on many of them. At the least is “an iota” or “any possible logical explanation.” This is the least, and hardly any evidence at all is sufficient. There is probable, or you may have heard the term, “preponderance of the evidence” or “more likely than not.” That is a weighing of the evidence, and if something is 51% likely to be true, then it prevails.

Further, there is “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is the highest level of proof, used, as everyone who watches TV knows, to convict criminals. (You inadvertently refer to this as “beyond any doubt,” but I assumed by reference to finding a person guilty, you meant “beyond a reasonable doubt.” “Beyond any doubt” would mean an absolute proof. )

As I demonstrated, it appeared to me that initially, you were holding the standard of proof to “any possible explanation” which is the lowest level, for a person making the claim that the Bible is inerrant. Yet you hold the person making a claim the Bible has errors to the highest level of proof—“beyond a reasonable doubt.” (If you really meant “beyond ANY doubt” this would be even higher!)

Why the difference? To substantiate the extra-ordinary internal consistency of the Bible, why must the skeptic be placed on such a standard? Must a skeptic of the Qur’an be held to that standard? A skeptic of Scientology? A skeptic of the Book of Mormon?

In other words, is every skeptic held to “beyond a reasonable doubt” when questioning a writing, and every believer in that writing, held to “an iota” of evidence? Then aren’t you held to the same high standard when questioning other claims of Holy writings?

Or does the Bible ONLY get special consideration?

But now you seem to have changed the standard of proof. Is it “more plausible” and “more believable” for the both of us? Is it now a preponderance of the evidence for both of us? After presenting our cases—whichever is more likely than not?

The reason I ask is that you state I have to show “indisputable contradictions are present” but then you claim I must show how your suggestions are less plausible than mine. In your original blog entry response, though, you hold me back to the standard “beyond any [reasonable] doubt.”

What standard are each of us held to?

I get your complaints. I really do. You seem to desire:

Skeptic: Contradiction
Christian: Explanation
Skeptic: Explanation fails
Christian: Explanation does not.
Skeptic: Nu-uh.
Christian: Uh-huh.

I want more. Sorry. I want to first establish a method to determine what a contradiction is or is not. This is the first problem for the inerrantist. The more open the method, the less extraordinary the Bible is. The tighter the method, the more likely the Bible fails. So the inerrantist dances back and forth between the two, hoping we do not catch on to the different methods.

I don’t play that game. Well, at least not for long. I demand a method. A consistent statement that we can apply to determine contradictions.

Secondly, I want a standard of proof. Are we held to the same, or does yours have to be less? Again, the lesser the standard of proof, the Bible is less extraordinary.}

DagoodS said...

Mr. Armstrong posted another response in his comment box. Basically feels we are at an impasse. I replied:


Dave Armstrong: … a profound methodological difference.

Ah. Too bad. I actually thought some light was appearing as to what your method was. In fact, it seemed to me that rather than having a “profound difference” we were getting closer to being on the same page.

I better understand that your method is “We can resolve a contradiction by providing an explanation that is more plausible and more believable than an opposing view.” I agree. My remaining question was “plausible to whom?” I say a neutral person; one with no bias or preference either way. If there is a “profound difference” I can only assume that it is in the person you claim needs to be persuaded.

Was I correct? Are you saying that it is not a neutral person, but it must be a person that is already convinced there are no contradictions? If so, then you are right. This method would not make the Bible any more extraordinary in its internal consistency than any other Holy writing.

Dave Armstrong: No one to my knoweldge has been rude to you here.

Nor to my knowledge. Weird.

The impression I get is that it is my style and method of argumentation that is so bothersome to you. Makes you frustrated. Things like asking for a method before jumping into a discussion, bringing in a variety of topics, “sophistical meta-theory” and “hyper-skepticism.” (your words)

Exactly why I do not expect you to be “happy and giddy.” Why I feel somewhat guilty to post here. I feel as if I am the one being rude…

Dave Armstrong: In any event, again, we come to an impasse. I don't know where else to go with this,...

If you are looking for direction, I am still quite curious for the answer to the question, “To whom must it be more plausible and more believable?” I would also be interested in the proposed more plausible and more believable explanation to account for the apparent contradiction in the events surrounding the calling of the disciples.

Frankly, I was starting to put together a response that would demonstrate the “two (or more) name theory” was NOT more plausible. But if we are at impasse… so be it.