Sorry—you’ve been cut off


Recently we brushed upon the issue of Problem of Suffering. You may have missed it. Within this discussion we often see the question asked by the non-believer (in some form) of “Why couldn’t God have eliminated or reduced _________?” in which the blank is filled by some tragedy, or some disease, or terrible accident.

And the reply entails a defense of why God may have some higher purpose, or we need it to learn, or it is our fault for sinning or simply “them’s the breaks.” The one thing I do not ever recall seeing is that the Christian argues that suffering should not be reduced even a fraction. That every single pain is necessary. (Do Christians argue that every single jot of suffering is necessary under God’s plan?)

Albert Mohler was recently discussing disease prevention, and made the statement, “If I was able to eliminate AIDS, would I? Absolutely. Even though that is a horrible disease as a consequence for sin, we ALL deserve to die because of sin, no more or no less than a person who has AIDS.” [paraphrased]

Believers and non-believers alike strive to reduce and even completely eradicate suffering. We agree that peace is better than war. That diseases disappearing is better than diseases appearing. We all want to see a cure for cancer. We all choose anesthesia for an operation.

Unfortunately we have human limitations. I do not have the knowledge to prevent Alzheimer’s. I do not have the funds to feed 1000’s. I do not have the physical ability to care for all of those around me. But there was one fellow, according to Christianity, who did…


As Christians, when we discussed temptation, it was often brought out that Jesus, being 100% human, was tempted in all ways just like every other human, yet did not sin. (Heb. 4:15) Of course, as skeptics, we focus on how could Jesus be tempted to abort a Down’s syndrome baby out of his own body, or whether Jesus was tempted by pedophilia.

But rather than focus on the human temptations toward sin; if Jesus was 100% human, was he tempted to reduce suffering? And how far?

Think about it. I hand you a magic wand. Ever time you raise it in the air; a disease disappears off the face of the earth. How long do you go? Do you stop? Do you reach a point where you think, “You know…I think I have eliminated enough disease. We probably need some for population control, or to give scientists a reason to live, or perhaps some other reason I just don’t know, so I better stop now.”

And then your daughter gets sick with one of those diseases you miss. You look at that wand long and hard. Are you tempted?

Jesus had that magic wand! If he was 100% human, wouldn’t he likewise want what 100% of other humans would do, and wave that magic wand for all it is worth? And every time a loved one contracted a disease, give ‘er another wave? If he was tempted in all ways like we are, was he tempted to completely cure disease? I know I sure would have been!

Or did the God-part of Jesus have a governor on the Human-part of Jesus to keep him from eliminating too much suffering?

I once rented a truck to move my belongings. The truck had a governor on it that prevented it from going any faster than 58 mph. I mashed the accelerator down to the floor and left it. Because we went 58 mph regardless.

Did the God-part put such a limiting device on the Human-part? “Sure, Human-part. Spin your little human inclinations as hard as you want. Can’t have you reduce suffering out of control, now can we? Shoot, if you had your way, the whole universe would tumble out of control. We gain a world of no disease, but could lose Pluto as a planet!”

And did the Human-part know that the God-part had put such a limitation on the human-part? According to the Gospel of John, the Human-part knew about that part of him that was God-part. (John 7:29; 8:58) Did the Human-part recognize the same information that the God-part knew as to why suffering could not be stamped out? But then the Human-part is not really 100% Human, since it knew why and how much suffering was necessary, which no other human knows.

And would such a human-part Jesus utilize the God-part Jesus’ knowledge to know when to quit? “Uh. Uh. If I make one more blind person see today, there will be too little suffering in the world. Oh. Wait. What if I blind some poor sod in Mesoamerica, where no one will ever know?”

Or, as God, could Jesus actually choose to reduce one person’s suffering without causing universal upheaval and consequence?

Mark 6:34-44 records a familiar tale of Jesus feeding the Five Thousand. A story we heard beginning from our very early years in Sunday School. At the very beginning of the story, a statement is made; “and moved with compassion, he [Jesus] began to teach the multitude…” Jesus is recorded as a person who recognized other people’s frailties and inabilities, and, like other humans, attempted to address them. Of course, as we all know, Jesus then goes on to feed the hungry crowd through the use of a miracle.

Mark records another incident—the feeding of the Four Thousand in Mark 8:1-9. Again, it is prefaced with the statement that Jesus felt compassion on the crowd following him; that they had nothing to eat for three days. Again, it is followed with the miraculous provision of food. See Also Matt. 15:32-38

Luke records Jesus having compassion on a widow whose son had died and raising him from the dead. Luke 7:11-17. Matthew equally records Jesus healing out of compassion. Matthew 14:14. Immediately followed by the parallel tale of the feeding of the Five Thousand. Matt. 14:15-21.

The authors of these tales are not recording Jesus’ compassion as an exception. Simply because there are incidents in which compassion are mentioned does not mean that all the other occasions Jesus was healing and feeding He was doing it out of a wooden, cold-blooded methodical nature. Clearly it was an emphasis of a normal characteristic, not a highlighting of an exception in Jesus’ nature. (Unless some Christian would like to argue that Jesus normally was NOT compassionate, and these were the exceptions to the rule? I somehow doubt it.)

If Jesus was compassionate for the Five thousand, the Four thousand, the multitudes, the widow, the crippled, the blind, (Matt 20:34) deaf and dumb that he actually saw, would the thought ever cross his mind to reduce the suffering of those he didn’t see? I don’t have God-intelligence to tap into, such as Jesus might have. Even without that ability, Jesus was recorded as being extraordinarily clever. (Luke 2:47, 52) But yet I can figure out that if there are hungry people in front of me, it is very likely there are other hungry people that are not. That equally need assistance.

And yes, Jesus seems to have figured that out as well. He ordered his disciples to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons. Matt. 10:8; Luke 10:9. He ordered the rich man to give to the poor. Mark 10:21; Matt. 19:21; Luke 18:22. Jesus tells his disciples that they are free to help the poor when they wish. Mark 14:7. Jesus never states a concern that the disciples might upset the balance of the universe by reducing too much suffering.

Obviously Jesus had no constraint upon healing those in the crowds he encountered during his earthly ministry. Mark 6:1-6 records the curious tale of Jesus’ inability to perform mighty works in his own country, but the limitation was apparently due to the people’s unbelief—not a concern over the reduction in suffering. Certainly Matthew interpreted the problem as one of unbelief, and not suffering. Matt 13:58.

In a nutshell, the authors of the Gospels paint Jesus as attempting to reduce as much suffering as he humanly could, and commanding others to do as well. The authors had no philosophical qualms or concerns over the justifying the Problem of Suffering. They presumed (like humans do) there should be as little as possible! Therefore they wrote of Jesus, as God, expressing compassion and reducing suffering.

While I enjoy the philosophical exchange over the Problem of Suffering within the Christian worldview--in looking at the Gospel accounts of Jesus, I am left with a question. We all know it.

What Would Jesus Do?

If Jesus, as God/Human appeared today, how would he address the Problem of Suffering? If believers pointed out the numerous children dying of preventable disease and hunger—would the Jesus of the Gospels step in to resolve the problem or would the Jesus of the Gospels retreat, armed with the Christian philosophers’ cry of “such suffering must be in this world”?

How do we resolve the fact that when Christians claim God appeared on earth, He reviewed the human situation with compassion and immediately and miraculously interfered with the course of the universe to reduce suffering over and over and over and over? Yet we are told the Christian God cannot. Must not. Shall not. Was human-Jesus imprisoned by God-Jesus to prevent human-Jesus from blowing it by utilizing too much of God-Jesus to reduce suffering, even though human-Jesus wanted to, but God-Jesus knew better?

It is a simple question, but I am curious as to the answer. If Jesus appeared today, would he be convinced by all they theodicy’s and justifications and rationalizations of why suffering is necessary, or would he overlook the dispute, roll up his sleeves and start eliminating suffering?

Part of what is unconvincing to me is the fact Christians regale us with tales of their God, in human form, and all the wonderful things He miraculously did to constantly lessen suffering, but when we question why God doesn’t lessen suffering we are told that for some unclear reason—he cannot.

Perhaps a Christian can clear up my confusion. So strap on the bracelet, grab the bumper sticker, put up the billboard, and tell us—within the Problem of Suffering What Would Jesus Do?

55 comments:

Heather said...

**or would he overlook the dispute, roll up his sleeves and start eliminating suffering?** I think he'd do this one. I also think he'd be incredibly critical of those in power for not doing enough. Because he never absolved someone of their own responsibility. He was very direct with the religious leaders in those days, saying that while they may fanatically observe a little rule, they were ignoring the big ones such as helping the poor. The religous leaders kept attacking him for breaking the law, and yet he broke the law because he put people and their suffering first. Look at the Sermon on the Mount -- blessed are the poor, blessed are those who weep. His entire career was in response to the fact that so many people were oppressed.

However, as I said, he was also big on personal responsibility. I think his purpose was to get the ball rolling -- to show that suffering was wrong, that it should be attacked, and he expected his disicples to carry forward with that. His gospel all about where you go when you die: it also involved bringing Heaven and God's rule to earth. So if he came today, while he'd be diving right in, he'd be telling us that we have to do the same. Each of us are our brother's keeper.

Seriously, though -- if we deserve to suffer, why did Jesus heal so many people? Why did he have compassion on those who suffered? And why was healing so prevalant during the first three centuries after the crucifixion?

That's my two cents. :)

Dave Barrett said...

Yes, now that you mention it, since ominipotent God has not eliminated suffering he must want suffering to exist. We call someone who wants others to suffer sadistic and evil. The Gnostics, who called the God of creation evil, obviously had it right.

You speculate that the human side of Jesus must have wanted to eliminate suffering for all mankind, rather than just for the few individuals for whom he performed miracles. But although it is human to want to eliminate suffering for your own family or tribe, it is also human to want to inflict suffering on people seen as the "other" (usually people of different nationalities, races, etc.) Is it possible that the human side of Jesus did not want to eliminate suffering wholesale because that would also benefit the scribes, money-changers and others with whom he had a beef?

John said...

Your argument addresses the classic problem of evil: if there is evil in the world, there are 4 possible explanations:
(1) God does not exist
(2) God is unable to prevent evil
(3) God is evil and wants evil
(4) God is good and able, but has some reason for allowing evil.

Dave focused on (3) while DagoodS seemed to camp on (4) and hint at (2) while both end up at (1).

Yet, there are examples of when (4) takes place in the real world such as when a parent allows a child to experience pain for greater good. No one argues a parent is evil or unable when he or she makes a child cry by inserting a MMR needle in the child's arm. The problem with the illustration is that we know why the parent is allowing the pain. But the theist must say that he does not know why God allows every evil event.

Though the theist must answer "I don't know," your discussion of Jesus hints at an answer. You mention that he apparently has the ability to do miracles which reduce suffering. But you focus on the fact that he didn't do more miracles and prevent more suffering. While that is perhaps somewhat puzzling, the more interesting question is why why he choose to enter into suffering himself. This choice to offer himself to die when he seems to had the power to prevent his own suffering may give some hints as to the why of option (4) above and is the focal point of Christian theology (see Jurgen Moltmann, "The Crucified God" for a more developed treatment).

Anonymous said...

"He could do no miracles there because of their unbelief..."

Anonymous said...

Jesus is using some of his people to do miracles of healing and such today, only they don't seek glory or acclaim like the false prophets you see on T.V. Many of them don't speak English or live in this country. If you look for that truth you will find it, but from what I've seen, many unbelievers can see a miracle before their eyes and still not realize it is God. They'll find some excuse always to not believe, because unbelief is a sin, an addiction much like a cocaine habit, only it will keep you in darkness rather than on an unreal high. Both are the same, in that they are unreal. Miracles are real, denying them is believing a lie. Seek the cure. Seek the truth. Doug

Anonymous said...

All physical suffering in this life pales in comparison to eternal suffering in hell. Christ is seeking to save the lost continually and is suceeding with many souls, alieviating untold suffering.

He would heal more people if there were more faith in him and his ability to help, but how many seek for that help. Most go to the doctor for everything. Most American churches teach that miracles are a thing of the past, so they are teaching unbelief in the living and risen Christ. A lot of good they are doing.

Most of these conversations are just an exercise in rhetoric for the unbeliever, no true seeking or earnest desire for the truth. Those folks who truly seek, will find. "You shall seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart."
Sincerely,
Doug

RebelSnake said...

"He would heal more people if there were more faith in him and his ability to help,"

You make it sound like a business arrangement.

"because unbelief is a sin, an addiction much like a cocaine habit,"

I see. You'd rather be kept in ignorance than search for the truth for yourself.

Lee Randolph said...

All this talk of Jesus rests on a couple of presumptions as premises.
The first presumption is that the bible is a valid source of information about god, the second depends on the first which is that Jesus existed and was part of the trinity.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are based on a Faulty Premise.
The faulty premise that I am talking about is the idea that the various religious scriptures came from a Divine Revelation. To say that "God exists and all we know about him comes from the Bible and the Bible comes from God, therefore it is true" is circular reasoning, AKA begging the question.

Now if we accept this premise, then we must necessarily assume that (1)God exists, and that scripture came from him and (2) Scripture must be correct because it came from God. The missing piece in this argument is "how do we know that God exists" and also, to a lesser degree, "How do we know the Bible came from God". Since it doesn't make sense to say that we believe the scriptures because it came from God and the Scriptures tell us about God, then we need "corroborating evidence" to support our claim. To support a claim such as this I would assume would be an easy matter since the preponderance of evidence should overwhelmingly support the creator. I would suppose that a careful analysis of the Torah, the New testament and the Quran would reveal a preponderance of evidence supporting their validity. But in fact this is not the case as the comments above illustrate the problems of plausibility and internal consistency within the bible. If the Bible is the revealed word of god, we should be able to expect a better measure of consistency that your average Dan Brown book, but in fact that is not the case.

Once we show that the Bible is not a reliable source of information about god then we don't have to speculate and argue about what Jesus would do.

Rich said...

I will have to say I tend to agree with Heather on this. That WWJD says to me that we should look to him as an example. Did he feed the hungry? Yes. Did he try to reduce suffering? Yes. Then so should we.

I have mentioned this here before but it has been awhile. I have a step daughter that is severly handicaped. She had a stroke while inuteral. Microcephaly is the major #1 disorder followed by 9 others. I married my wife when she was 3 and she is now 10. The cause of the stroke was most likely a since dicontinued medicine. She shouldn't be able to walk, talk, feed herself, or lots more. She walks, feeds herself although it is very messy, can talk a little, mostly signs, and is alive even though she never should have lived past the age of 6. Not looking for a pity party here, just a little background for my question. What should I do here? I am a christian so I should be able to heal her, unless God doesn't want this to happen for some unknown reason. If I can't heal her then what? Lesson suffering? OK, so I give her the medication that keeeps the siezures in check, which in turn lessons the headaches after the seizures. Get her a hearing aide so she can better use her selective hearing (yes all kids seem to have this amazing hearing technique). Which leaves me with other things. What about school? she'll never have a job or contribute to society, so Iguess I keep her home? No she goes to school and even spends some time in her regular grade. To make a long story shorter, we have many choices to make with her. Our basic aim is to let her enjoy everything we can. She is in an adaptive softball league, the same people that runthat are starting an adaptive soccer league. This is regular kids aiding hadicapped kids in those sports. She doesn't accept change well, if I turn on the blues clues DVD, current favorite, she will watch it 5 straight times just as happy each time and still pitch a huge crying fit when I turn it off. If I go to an amusement park she would ride the rollercoaster 8 solid hours and still cry to get off. So Do I shelter her from these activities because of the distress of them ending, or do I let her enjoy what I can and accept the inevitable bad ending knowing she enjoyed every minute to the fullest? I choose the latter. If she isn't to be healed then what is the meaning/lesson to be learned? Is it so other handicapped kids can enjoy adaptive sports? Without hadicaps there wouldn't be a need for adaptive anything. Is is to teach me Job patience?
So many questions and not many answers, any help here?
I have what Ifeel is the answer to this mess but iwould like to see what others think.

Oh dagoods, another good thought provoking post friend.

DagoodS said...

John, Doug and all,

Thank you for your patience in waiting for me to respond. My wife has me deeply immersed in her winter project. I am up to my elbows in painting.

Let me clarify a bit.

Two summers ago my youngest fell and broke her arm in two places. There was suffering. Which gets me to thinking—was it absolutely necessary for it to be broken twice? Why wasn’t once enough? Or was it a situation that it was going to be broken three times, and God reduced it down to two? Or did God not car whether it was once, twice or twenty.

The way I see it, we have three options with God and suffering:

1) God can eliminate NO suffering.
2) God can eliminate SOME suffering.
3) God can eliminate ALL suffering.

The first option would mean that this is the absolute best God could ever do. Every splinter, stubbed toe, smashed thumb must occur. Every broken bone, every amputation, every death. That what we see is the most minimal amount of suffering God can possibly do.

The problem, of course, with the second and third option is the problem we are left with at least some suffering that God could eliminate, and chooses to not. And while I get the esoteric distinction, I am curious as to how Christians adapt this to what Jesus did.

Take the feeding of the Five Thousand. (And yes, I understand that it was not an exact figure, but work with me here. The principle is the same.) Under the three options we have:

1) Jesus could only feed 5000. He could not have feed 5001, since that 5001st would have been one person too many. Nor could he have only feed 4999, since this would allow some suffering, which would put us necessarily in category no. 2

This first approach seems a bit fatalist. As if the amount of suffering that is within the world is the exact amount that could possibly happen. As much as we may want to reduce it, we can never upset the balance, or do “better” than what God has put in place, so we all of our efforts would be futile.

Further, as Heather pointed out, it would seem that “suffering” was eliminated in vast amounts during the first century. Was God storing up “relief” so as to perform so many miracles? Was it coincidence? How is it that for a short period of 20-30 years, all this suffering could be reduced, and then we are back to normal suffering?

2) Under option two, Jesus could have fed 5000, 50,000 or 500,000. Again, this creates an interesting situation as to Jesus’ time on earth. Why did he limit it to only a few instances? If Jesus, as a human, could eliminate starvation, what caused him to stop?

3) Under option three, we have the same problems as option two. On a grander scale.

What constantly confronts me is that option one leaves the Christian with the inability to claim that suffering should be reduced. (Since we can’t.) Yet options two and three mean that we are left with the Problem of Suffering—that God has suffering he could eliminate and specifically refuses to do so.

Now as to your individual concerns;

Heather and Rich

Easy question – If Jesus would do it in person, why won’t he in heaven?

John

What “greater good” did the widow experience by having her son die, and Jesus raise him back up? What “greater good” did the crowd have by starving, and then being fed? What “greater good” did the people that starved to death on the day Jesus fed the Four Thousand experience in doing so?

It is an interesting concept that Jesus suffered. Yet even HE as a human, wanted his suffering to be less. Luke 22:42-44. Could Jesus have had one less thorn in the crown, and it be as sufficient? One less strike in the beating? One less pound of the hammer? Interesting question.

Doug

Curious that you say Jesus would heal more if they had faith in Jesus. Yet Jesus deliberately refused to provide knowledge, for fear that people would have faith in him. Mark 4:11-12. If, as you say, it is the lack of faith that results in suffering, it would seem that Jesus needs a certain amount of suffering to occur.

In a bizarre way it makes sense. Jesus withholds information, so that people won’t believe. Because if they believe, they would reduce suffering past some critical point that would upset the universe. Therefore, to keep suffering, Jesus does not provide knowledge.

Lee Randolph

I agree that the Gospels should not be read as historical. However, in order to interact with Christians, we have to find some common ground. I have posted before on my questions as to the historical viability as to certain items with the stories. Probably most already know that.

Besides, what harm is there, when we are left with these troubling questions?

Rich

I appreciate what you are saying, but you are working within a human limitation. The one problem with comparing what we, as humans, must do, is that we recognize that limitation.

What if you could allow your step-daughter to ride a roller coaster for 10 hours? Or 24 hours? Or 50 hours? Or if you could provide a new entertainment that equally is as great? Would you?

What if you learned of an operation that could benefit her hearing? Would you? God could do it with a snap of the fingers.

What is bothersome to me is the impression Christians send that if Jesus were here on earth, he would help your stepdaughter as much as possible, up to and including tapping into his Godly powers. Yet when he got to heaven, he seems to forget all about us.

Odd.

Rich said...

It is very puzzling for sure Dagoods. I have too puzzled with a great many things, obviously. Thereason I bring up my story is that it is here and now that I feel I must do what I can to limit suffering. If I can help feed the hungry, cloth the poor, help bring enjoyment of being part of a team to someone who is always left on the sidelines to watch, I feel that is my obligation. Maybe it's a greater lesson then we think in that Christ did those things while here as a man. Now, granted we are dealing with human limitation, but are we able to tap into that same Godly power that Christ used to heal? They, his apostles, did so after his death, according to the bible, so what happened? Maybe God could do anything with the snap of his fingers but where does that leave us with responsability to reduce suffering? Going back to using Christ as an example, that's what he did, not for personal glory, not so he could fit in, just because it's the right thing to do. Just look what we can do, science, without help from God. What possabilities open up with help from a God? You speak of common ground so I only relate this end part as a glimpse of what is inside me. Faith is an important role as even those written of healings were based on that persons faith. Sometimes silly things ordered, like washing yourself in the Jordan to be healed, was it the washing or the faith required in following those orders without question showing faith that did the trick? I don't believe that lack of faith is the answer everytime either.
Another thought from my perspective is what about my daughter? I believe she is completly innocent of sin which means a free ride into heaven. If she is healed because of my selfishness of wanting her to experience this world without handicap and the result is she no longer makes it into heaven then I have robbed her of an eternity in heaven for a fleeting moment time spent living in this world culpable of her wrong choices. This may be wierd to some I understand, and no one has to agree either, I am imparting some of what I believe. We all have questions and not alot of answers, so we try our hardest to do what we feel is right.

Lee Randolph said...

Rich, you have a good point when you ask 'why does God seem to care more about us when he's on Earth than when he does in heaven'. And I agree with you in that we need some common ground with Christians. Those of us that are deconverted do have common ground. We know what it is like to be a Christian. And I agree that the 'historicity' of the Bible is not really relevant. To answer your question about 'what harm is there when we are left with these troubling questions' is exactly that there are troubling questions. This question of what would jesus do is unanswerable because he's not here to ask, and when you ask him in prayer, my experience is and I assert it is the experience of the rest of Christian-dom is that you don't get any new information, you only get an answer that you had already considered but had not decided on. Giving your troubling questions to God, and then rationalizing poor results with 'sometimes the answer is no' or 'things happen in Gods time' or 'sometimes the answer is no' is like throwing the dice, or tarot cards, or any other 'supernatural' method you want to mention. It is based on a presumption that either God is going to give you some new information, that he cares enough to answer or that he is there at all. I realized this when I was praying one day. Then I puzzled and puzzled till my puzzler was sore about why things work this way, and I started studying the bible to get back to the original texts thinkig that I missed something. I Bible studied my way to being deconverted. There is history in the bible, it starts around second Kings. There is enough history in the bible to give it an air of plausibility and in my opinion that is why the question of What would Jesus do is unanswerable. Depending on your bias, you can 'cherry pick' any number of examples to support your viewpoint. There is no reason to believe that you can figure out what jesus would do unless you accept the presumption that the bible is the revealed word of God. And the answer to the question of 'where is the harm' is that the presumption of God precludes or lessens the value in the mind of the believer of the thoughtful consideration and useful search for new information from a variety of sources to increase options and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Lee Randolph said...

I'm sorry, I made a mistake, it was dagoods, not rich that I should have directed that reply to, but in either case, there's something in there for everybody. I'll use 'preview' next time!

Troy Waller said...

It seems that posts regarding the problem of suffering and evil tend to get fewer responses and comments from believers. In fairness to them though, that shows an honesty on their part. They don;t necessarily have an answer and so don't 'get into it'.

Your post gave me an idea for a new bumper sticker...

What would Jesus do...and why doesn't he do it?

Good post!

Lok said...

Great post Dagoods. An interesting look on the problem with suffering in a Biblical context.

Anyway, I think, in order to avoid running away from all this strange problem that you mentioned, the only plausible answer is that Jesus does not have the magic wand. If he does, I do not see why people should praise him - it would have taken absolutely no afford at all for him to help people.

As Jesus himself teaches, a buck from a poor woman is a better offering than a millionaire sparing 20 bucks. In the same light, if he has the magic wand to do whatever he can, the amount of people that he supposedly helped is relatively small and do not deserve praise. Since praise is always in ratio with limitation.

Of course, no Christian will like this answer because this make Jesus not God. Well..that's not my problem.

Jonathan said...

Hi,

What if God is not all-powerful..what then? Does God have to be all-powerful if God is to be God, either as a reality in the universe, or else as a mere possibility/proposition/hypothesis.

What if God is all-powerful only potentially, what if God is all powerful, only if and when he acts and exists in harmony and union with his creatures? If the creatures stole the creation from God's loving care (which could be argued), is it logical for creatures to then blame God for not having the power to put things right? What if we have limited God's power, precisely by disagreeing with him (oh yes, let us step beyond doleful words like 'sin'!). Isnt the theodical argument against God, somewhat adolescent? We have obtained all this power to wreak damage and destruction -be that by commission or by omission- and then we blame God (the adult) for not having either prevented us from doing so or reversed the consequences of our own negativity.

Still, I wouldn't want to load all the responsibility onto the creatures (I say creatures becsause it is a human presumption that there are not other non-human intelligences which are also created, i.e non-divine). After all, we can understand the idea that parents are resposible for children because parents create children (even though we accept the right for parents to impute some responsibility to children too in their behaviour). Why cant it be the same for the cosmos?

Ultimately God is responsible i believe for the negativity in the universe since it was his poem that went wrong, and if he hadnt created the universe there would be no suffereing (there would also be not much of anything, but thats another matter). But it doesnt follow from that that God is responsible for our failure to respond to him in such a way that would restore to him the power and ability to help and guide us towards embodying a better poem.

But sure, I can sense how alienating many Chritian theodical defences can be. I think this is becasue they are still trying to shore up the stilted, stentorian, ive got the biggest biceps caricature of God, which seems to prevail at the base of thoughts about God's personality (despite the clearly contrasting characterisation revealed by Jesus).

Great blog..glad to find it. HAve a nice day.

Emanuel Goldstein said...

What amazes me is your own smug sense of moral superiority, Loftus.

For example, you didn't hesitate to screww around on your wife, lie to your congregation, etc. (Even though she was a good woman in your words.)
Those are evils you could have prevented, But you didn't . So your claim that you would prevent this or that rings hollow.

I am not saying it is not true, I simply "lack belief in your claim".

Take abortion for example. Over here is Kansas you can be aborted up til the day you are born. That is a great evil. Are atheists working to stop it? No, they support it.

Remember, Richard Dawkins, the English hate monger, says most scientists are atheists. Well, scientists have filled the world with weapons of mass destruction. Sure, politicians use them, but the atheists scientists could have stood their groud and not made them.

That is a great evil. Would you stop it.=?

Hell, no, atheists support it, because its SCIENCE, the new GOD.

So, I think there is a hidden meaning in the word ATHEIST.

ATHEIST spells EATSHIT.

deathislife said...

Emanuel... I don't see John anywhere in this post and you're spewing out 'evil' comments like telling him to 'eatshit' probably doesn't help your 'righteous' case either. I guess that we're all in the same boat, huh?

As far as abortion goes, it would seem logical that god and Christians should be the biggest supporters because the 'eternal destination' is far more important than a chance at this temporal one. Seeing as how we can't imagine that god would damn aborted babies to hell forever, we can assume that 100% of those souls will go to heaven. However, if we let them be born, especially to heathen mothers, the chances are slim that they will be a Christian (the road is narrow and there are few that find it).

Oh well.... now back to the show where only relevant comments are made to the thread....

DagoodS said...

Rich,

Here is where I start to question the concept that Jesus’ reduction in suffering was an example, or that the reason we have suffering is to demonstrate that we are moral people.

It makes us like hamsters in a cage, in which God sees if we are spinning our wheel correctly for his pleasure. Oh, sure he could reduce suffering if he wanted to, heck—he could reduce it completely!—but let’s see how the humans deal with it.

We become a social experiment, in which God places us in troubling situations, just to see what we will do. What about the person suffering? Are they supposed to be happy that they are the bait in the trap, in which God sees how we do? And, as I pointed out in my entry, there are some things that we just cannot do. We have yet to cure cancer. All those people that have died from cancer—are they a demonstration of our failure to care enough?

Further, the message is unclear. We are supposed to reduce suffering…by asking God to reduce suffering? What is our responsibility in the affair? To actually do it, to pray about it, to have faith that God will do it? Who is ahead on points? If I just provide $5 to a homeless person, and you provide $5 plus a prayer, is that “better”? What if you provide $3 and a pray—does that make it equal? What if you just provide a pray?

I appreciate you are sharing how you believe, and that you are not trying to put forth a full expose on the Christian defense with the Problem of Suffering. Secondly, I think because of you situation, you are finely tuned to the reality of this problem, within the Christian worldview. I am sure you understand why I see it as an irresolvable problem in light of Jesus’ actions.

DagoodS said...

Jonathan,

I wrote this blog entry for a particular reason. Yes, I am aware of the philosophical arguments and various proposed theodicies as to God’s limitations regarding suffering.

What I am attempting to figure out is how Jesus is plugged into that equation. If God was so limited because we “stole” creation and disagree with him, how was it that Jesus seemed to break those barriers so easily and reduce vast amounts of suffering for a specific local in a specific time?

Again, Christianity is telling me that Jesus could do all these wonderful things to reduce suffering, but God cannot. How does that support the argument that Jesus was God?



Emanuel Goldstein,

You comment speaks for itself. Although John W. Loftus may appreciate the concept that you believe he has the same capabilities as a god.

John said...

DagwoodS,
Thanks for taking extended time to respond. You asked several questions that could all be summarized as "What greater good came from in story X where someone suffered?". The answer is: no one knows.

Imagine for example that your daugher's arm needed to be rebroken at each initial break in order for it to properly heal. This is a clear case wherein you would need to increase suffering for a greater good that would happen *later*. You daughter may not understand the re-breaking at the time, but later she would.

This is the basic answer of Christian theism. God will eliminate suffering in the future. It is impossible to answer how or why in each case of suffering that takes place now, but we can point to Jesus himself chose to suffer for a *later* "greater good."

Also, a pretty common understanding of Jesus' ministry is that he did miracles primarily to show that he had power and therefore was the messiah/savior. Many Jews thought that a savior with power should eliminate Roman tyranny (suffering), but Jesus choose not to do that. Instead he felt it more important to die on a cross - evidently because he felt spiritual suffering (sin) should be dealt with before physical suffering. Then he promised to come again to deal with physical suffering.

Rich said...

I can see your point of view here dagoods. I think its a continual struggle, regaurdless of your world view about what to do with suffering. I think the message is a little unclear bt I also think that is because of the messanger. I think it's more like some of each. In other words do what we can to reduce suffering then count of God for things beyond our control. Rather than give to a homeless person I give the same amount to a charity that can do more with that money. I really don't think a specific amount counts for points, but rather a look at what you are able to do verses what you do. For you maybe $20 is alot to give but for Michael Jordan he might have trouble sifting through all the hundreds in his wallet to find a 20 to give. Could he give more than you? This is the principal taught by the widow story, along with the fact that her intent was different than the others in giving. She gave of her money without thought of herself because she wanted to, others gave money because they were suppose to and for all to see how generous they were.
I really don't think anyone should be happy about hteir own suffering. Even pull God out of the equation and think of the things you have learned through blood and sweat, the stick as hard learned lessons and become a part of who you are. Things that you learn from others experiences still affect you but not to the same degree, in my estimation. Maybe I'm wrong there but I don't think so. You even rightly pointed out that christ himself wanted the cup lifted from him, he wanted there to be another way for sin to be paid for. He knew there wasn't and submitted to Gods will. Maybe this isn't what we think is the best way to exsist, I'm sure there are alternatives and we may think that they are better then what we now have. Believe in God or not this is our reality and we must all learn to deal with every aspect together. Cancer sucks no matter where you worldview lies. What if we never find a cure? Even if we do it will be at the expense of many more lost lives of terrible suffering through cancer. Furthermore, nothing will change for those that suffered and died before the cure, and even if they contibute to the cure somehow it won't change their suffering.

" Secondly, I think because of you situation, you are finely tuned to the reality of this problem, within the Christian worldview. I am sure you understand why I see it as an irresolvable problem in light of Jesus’ actions"

Absolutly

DagoodS said...

John,

I was (somewhat) attempting to avoid the philosophical debate on the Problem of Suffering, but since we are here, I will address it briefly. The “greater good” reason for suffering is completely unpersuasive for two reasons.

First of all, it is, in essence, “I don’t know” with panache. If you will forgive me a bit of hyperbolic interchange:

Skeptic (accusingly): YOU can’t give a reason why God would allow suffering.
Christian (triumphantly): Yes I CAN! Because it serves a “greater good.”
Skeptic (puzzled): And what “good” is that?
Christian (resignedly): We don’t know.
Skeptic: Well, if you don’t know what the “good” is, how can you know there is any “good” in the first place?

In the example of re-breaking an arm--that is due to human limitation. We lacerate people in order to perform surgeries. However, as technology develops, we have decreased the need for such lacerations by performing less invasive procedures. As humans, we attempt to reduce suffering as much as possible.

Does God, equally have such a bizarre limitation? As to Jesus suffering, I would ask again—could his crown have one less thorn, and his suffering equally be sufficient?

The second reason that the “greater good” is not compelling is that it contradicts with the premise of reducing suffering. If suffering (arguably a non-moral event) results in a good event, we should have more, not less.

On the one hand we are informed to reduce suffering, yet on the other, we are informed that suffering is a good thing.

Now, the idea that Jesus reduced suffering to “show power.” Unfortunately Jesus disagrees with this reasoning.

“Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation." (Mark 8:12) The Pharisees asked for a demonstration of power. Jesus said, “No.” Of course, to be fair, when Matthew and Luke record this incident, they (unlike Mark) will be including a physical resurrection, so they modify it to one sign—the sign of Jonah. (Matt. 12:39; Luke 11:29) And, also to be fair, by the time John is written, the legends of Jesus miracle workings had blossomed, so John records numerous miraculous signs. (ex. John 3:2 and 6:2)

And, contrast this with Jesus statements about the wonders performed in Bethsaida, and how they would have been sufficient to convert Tyre. Matt. 11:20-21 But, back on the first problem, Mark 4:11-12 demonstrates Jesus’ lack of concern for converting others. In fact, he deliberately prevented providing knowledge which would cause people to repent.

The tension is between the Messianic secret theme of Mark on one end of the spectrum, and the divine Christology of John on the other, with Matthew and Luke falling in-between.

Basically, we are all over the board as to whether Jesus wanted the world to know he was the Messiah, as compared to not. Therefore, we are equally all over the board as to whether the miracles would be a demonstration of who he was (Mark = “No,” Matthew and Luke = “Only one” and John = “Yes.” Paul, to throw in his 2 cents, would be “No” 1 Cor. 1:22)

Take your pick. The nice thing is that you are right. The unfortunate thing is that you are also wrong.

Dennis said...

“Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation." (Mark 8:12) The Pharisees asked for a demonstration of power. Jesus said, “No.” Of course, to be fair, when Matthew and Luke record this incident, they (unlike Mark) will be including a physical resurrection, so they modify it to one sign—the sign of Jonah. (Matt. 12:39; Luke 11:29) And, also to be fair, by the time John is written, the legends of Jesus miracle workings had blossomed, so John records numerous miraculous signs. (ex. John 3:2 and 6:2)

This is not true. The gospels are all consistent about Jesus' response when asked for a sign. John records two accounts where Jesus was asked for a sign and in both cases, Jesus did not provide a sign then and there. In John 2:18, Jesus is asked for a sign and this request is left unfulfilled. Instead Jesus makes a statement similar to the Jonah sign making reference to his coming resurrection. Jesus is also asked for a sign in John 6:30, and again, he doesn't provide one.

You statement about miracle legends "blossoming" and this being reflected in the book of John is very misleading. All of the gospels record multiple instances of Jesus performing miracles. I suppose if you tallied up all of the miracles performed in each of the gospels, John would have the most but this could hardly be characterized as "blossoming".

Basically, we are all over the board as to whether Jesus wanted the world to know he was the Messiah, as compared to not. Therefore, we are equally all over the board as to whether the miracles would be a demonstration of who he was (Mark = “No,” Matthew and Luke = “Only one” and John = “Yes.” Paul, to throw in his 2 cents, would be “No” 1 Cor. 1:22)

Is that the same Paul that you claim started the church in Galilee? ;)

I looked at I Cor. 1:22 and fail to see how this supports your position. I guess that verse does use the word "sign" but I fail to see how this shows that Paul took the position of Jesus not using signs.

DagoodS said...

Dennis: This is not true. The gospels are all consistent about Jesus' response when asked for a sign.

*shrug* O.K. If you prefer that Jesus was asked numerous times about giving signs and gave conflicting statements, sometimes saying “No sign will be given this generation,” sometimes saying “Only one sign will be given this generation,” and sometimes saying the only way any believed was signs—that is fine by me. (Although the more plausible approach, in view of the development of the scriptures is that the authors contradicted each other. An interesting study would be the comparison of the events both prior to the sign statement in Matthew and Mark and after. You will see they are quite similar, which would tend to be persuasive it is the same event. But if you prefer that Jesus was contradictory, and not the authors…)

Still doesn’t help the claim that Jesus did miracles to demonstrate his power and show he was the Messiah. (Nor does it get around the Messianic secret theme of Mark.) Still leaves us with the problem, as even you point out, where Jesus deliberate did not do miracles which would show power. Still leaves us with a Jesus that did miracles out of compassion. Frankly, the only reason I included the statements about Jesus claiming to show some signs and wonders was to give all the sides of the picture. Like I said.

Would you have preferred I said, “Jesus indicated he would do no signs”? That’s not entirely accurate.

As to the blossoming of the legend of miracles—how many of Jesus’ miracles did Paul (the earliest writer) record? Hint, it begins with “z” and ends with “ero.” When Mark (the next writer) records Jesus doing miracles, we have instances where he is unable (Mark 6:5) and insufficient (Mark 8:23-25). By Matthew and Luke, such difficulties were removed.

I am unaware, and haven’t studied that the Gospel of John would have “more” miracles. I would suspect, due to the long discourse, it would have less. The Gospel of John, though, does manage to have different miracles, unrecorded in the Synoptics, such as the Water to Wine, or the pool of Bethesda. Which is no surprise, of course.

Finally, Paul and 1 Corinthians. To Jews, a “sign” was a miracle. It is what they meant when they asked for, talked about, or referred to “signs.”

Paul says [paraphrased], “The Jews look for signs. The Greeks look for wisdom. We don’t teach either one! Thus the Jews are confused as to our claims of Jesus being the Christ and the Greeks consider our teaching foolishness.”

Paul is saying that the Jews are looking for signs, and Christians don’t teach about signs. Curious in light of Jesus’ statement about the Resurrection being the sign. Would have thought Paul caught that one. Not so curious in light of Paul’s complete lack of referring to any miracles of Jesus. In fact, it matches nicely.

Hope that cleared it up for you, Dennis.

Rich said...

Even though you've moved on from this part of the discussion, I had some more thoughts about justice/mercy.
In talking with my wife on the subject, I realized that a pardon, even though part of the law and considered by you to be justice, is actually an act of mercy because the law doesn't require a pardon to be given. It is an option available within the law to bring to an end the sentence given to a criminal but not remove the guilt. Do I understand pardons correctly?
That being said, I realize that actually increases the problem of showing forgivness of God to be meciful because, if you recall, I claimed it to be a requirement of God to forgive you if you follow the repentance steps. Another difference here is that God's forgiveness removes the sentance and the guilt so that you no longer serve the sentance but you are also made guiltless of the sin, not so with a pardon.
Well back to my dilema of mercy. I think I errored in saying that God is required to forgive. It may be more acuratly stated that God will forgive you once the repentance is completed, and not required to forgive you. Also, providing a redeemer for the purpose of a stand in to your sentence is an act of mercy because your punishment is fullfilled by someone else and you are able to obtain true forgivness/pardon from sin/crime. Anyway I still may not have it worked out completely but I think I'm headed that way.

As far as signs, I think it has to do with intent. While healing someone, or performing a miracle of some kind, would be a sign of Jesus' divinity, his intent was not to bost of his divinity but done out of compassion for someone, or several someones. When ask to prove He was the Messiah by performing some miracle, he diclined because it would have been for the purpose only of bosting or showing off his power. This is contrasting to a humble person, which Jesus is suppose to be. He was also asked to show a sign of his power when satan tempted him, and he diclined for the same reason. There may be a miracle that doesn't readily fit my reasoning here but these are thoughts now without looking over each reported miracle and matching them to my position here. I am confident Daggods will let me know if he has one:)

Dennis said...

*shrug* O.K. If you prefer that Jesus was asked numerous times about giving signs and gave conflicting statements, sometimes saying “No sign will be given this generation,” sometimes saying “Only one sign will be given this generation,” and sometimes saying the only way any believed was signs—that is fine by me.

Jesus never gave conflicting response when asked for a sign. I guess in your opinion, if a person doesn't answer similar questions with the *exact* same answer, it is contradictory. Most people don't hold such a stringent requirement when defining consistency.

Let me use an example that doesn't come from the Bible. Maybe putting this in a non-Biblical context will help you with what appears to be a knee jerk reaction. Suppose my child constantly nags me for ice cream and we have the following conversations on different days of the week.

Monday:
Child- "Dad, can I have some ice cream?"
Dad- "No."

Tuesday:
Child- "Dad, I want some ice cream. Can I have some now?"
Dad- "No. You can have ice cream another day, but not now."

Wednesday:
Child- "Dad, is today the day for ice cream? Can I have it now?"
Dad- "No. If you are hungry we have other food that is more healthy."

See, in this example, the dad gave a different response to similar questions yet remained consistent in not giving his child ice cream just because he asked for it.

Likewise, Jesus was equally consistent whenever he was asked for a sign. Obviously the people asking for a sign wanted to see him perform a miracle then and there and 3 times he was asked (1 of these events is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the other 2 in John) Jesus didn't peform a miracle. Giving them the sign of Jonas, doesn’t count as providing the sign that the people asking for it were looking for. If I told you that I was Jesus and in response you wanted me to show you a sign to prove it, would you be satified if I answered with the sign of Jonas? How does that count as providing you with a sign? Jesus consistently did not give signs when asked for one. Do you actually think anybody other than Jesus understood the sign of Jonas when that answer was given?

As to the blossoming of the legend of miracles—how many of Jesus’ miracles did Paul (the earliest writer) record? Hint, it begins with “z” and ends with “ero.” When Mark (the next writer) records Jesus doing miracles, we have instances where he is unable (Mark 6:5) and insufficient (Mark 8:23-25). By Matthew and Luke, such difficulties were removed.

Are you now proposing that if we listed the books of the New Testament in chrolonological order we would see some kind of pattern to the number of miracles recorded in each book? Do you think we'll see some pattern from fewer to more?

Foolishness.

If that's the direction you want to go, just says so and I will show what happens to your blossoming theory.

DagoodS said...

Dennis,

I am really not certain why this is of such paramount interest to you. It seems such a minor, obvious point. But, since it is interesting, nonetheless, we shall continue.

Remember, though, John (the commenter above) proposed that one of the possible reasons that Jesus did miracles was to show his power. I pointed out how Jesus indicated he would NOT do miracles to show his power (something apparently you agree with.) But in order to be complete in my response to John, I also pointed out where Jesus DID refer to miracles as not merely an act of compassion, but a “sign.”

Believe it or not, I do try to not be one-sided in my presentation. I would find it dishonest within myself to ONLY point out the verses where Jesus said (soup-Nazi voice) “No Sign for You!” I know there are verses on both sides of the issue. Some indicate Jesus DID do signs so that people would believe.

Again, remembering that “signs” to Jews are miracles. Can’t forget that!

Candidly, your insistence that Jesus did not perform signs to demonstrate who he was only supports my position. But…I don’t think it is a complete picture. I provided the verses. People can choose for themselves.

So let’s look at the complete picture.

We have Mark saying “No (as in none, zip, zero, de nada, non-existent, not there and completely absent) sign will be given this generation.” Seems pretty clear to me that Jesus said “No.”

We have Matthew and Luke saying “One (as in singular, individual, distinct, lone, and solitary) sign will be given this generation.” Pretty clear to me as well that Jesus said “One.”

Last math class I ever had seemed pretty insistent that Zero did not equal One.

Of course, we then Have John listing signs (using the word “signs) on numerous occasions. More than once. John 2:11, 2:23, 3:2, 9:545, 6:2, 6:19, 6:26, 7:31, 9:16, 11:47, 12:18, 12:37, and 20:30. You are quite correct that John records Jesus as saying he would not do signs on certain occasions as well. But then Mark and Matthew and Luke would seem to be incorrect regarding Jesus saying there would none or one (respectively.)

Zero does not equal One which does not equal Numerous.

I am unclear as to how my pointing out what the various verses say is a “knee-jerk reaction.” They say what they say.

Could Jesus have answered differently on different occasions? Sure. But that would mean when Jesus said “None” he was later saying something different by saying “One.” And Later saying something different by saying “Many.”

Am I completely out in left field to claim that saying “None” is not the same as “One” and not the same as “Many” and thus are contradictory? (And…er…I can’t help noticing that in your example, you stayed consistent with “No.” Is that what Jesus did? Always said “None”?)

As to the asking of Jesus for a sign, you seem to agree that Matthew and Mark are talking of the same incident. Doesn’t Mark record “No sign” and Matthew record “One sign” in that instance? Which, are you claiming, that Jesus said? As someone once said, “Which verse trumps the other?”

As to the asking of signs, we have the rich man who asked Jesus to heal his son. Jesus says, “unless you people see signs you won’t believe.” Jesus heals the boy. The man believes. Certainly Jesus’ reaction was that this fellow was asking for a sign in order to believe, and Jesus complied. (John 4:47 – 50) But again, if you are claiming that Jesus did NOT do this out of a demonstration of power, it only supports my point above.

And no, I would not suspect that if Jesus had said, “the sign of Jonah” anyone would have understood it at the time. John 2:22 indicates that this statement was only understood by the disciples post-resurrection. But “One sign—the sign of Jonah” whether understood or not is still not the same as “No Sign for You!” and different from “see all the signs I do?”

Dennis: Are you now proposing that if we listed the books of the New Testament in chrolonological order we would see some kind of pattern to the number of miracles recorded in each book? Do you think we'll see some pattern from fewer to more?

Foolishness.


Taking the books in the chronological order in which they were written we see a development of Jesus and his miracles. To help you out: 1 Thess, 1 Cor., 2 Cor., Galatians, Romans, Philippians, Philemon, Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts and John. And for fun, let’s tack on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas after Acts. (One can sprinkle the other Epistles as they choose after Mark.)

In looking at the earliest books written about Jesus—i.e. the ones by Paul, we see no miracle stories in which Jesus performed a miracle. None. Even the resurrection is referred by Paul as “God raised Jesus from the Dead. (e.g. Gal. 1:1) When Paul is going over the problems with Resurrection of the body with the Corinthians, where is the story of Lazarus? (either one!) Or Jairus’ daughter? Or even the body of Jesus himself!

No Water turning to wine, no healing, no raising from the dead, no walking on water, no feeding, no blind, deaf, dumb being healed. When John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was the Christ, Jesus points out to signs. Matt. 11:5. Paul does not.

The next in order of written is Mark. As pointed out, Jesus is unable at times, and insufficient at others. Matthew and Luke take away those problems.

But to continue, a later writer provides us the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. There, Jesus brings mud birds to life, but he also kills a boy for bumping into him. Jesus brings another boy back to life after the boy fell off the roof, and Jesus is accused.

We have later tales that the swaddling clothes that Jesus, the baby, was wrapped in had miraculous powers in that if anyone touched the wash water that cleaned them, they were healed.

Now, I suspect you disagree with these later accounts of Miracles. But in our development, we see how the stories get more and more fantastic. What method do we use to cut them off after Acts, but before the Infancy Gospel?

Dennis, it has nothing to do with “numbers” of Jesus’ miracles but rather the complete lack, and then a growing fascination with Jesus’ ability to do miracles. And, we see that Jesus’ miracles (regardless of numbers) become more and more fantastic. That is what I meant by “blossoming.”

DagoodS said...

Rich,

Hmm. “A miracle where Jesus did it to demonstrate power.”

Again, as I pointed out to Dennis, I was really headed more toward Jesus NOT doing miracles to demonstrate power, but rather out of compassion. It was sorta the premise of this blog entry.

I can’t help it if Mark, Matthew, Luke and John all disagree with each other as to Jesus doing “signs”! *grin* All I can do is be as fair as possible to point out both sides of the position. As I said to the commenter John—either side has verses in support of Jesus doing miracles as signs or not.

But…since it is always an interesting mental exercise to see what is there—I would point out that Jesus was not stupid. As humans we recognize that miracles are different. Unique. Non-natural. A person that can perform them, by virtue of doing so, would be seen as powerful.

Bit hard for us to claim on one hand that the crowds following Jesus were so thick, that he had to take a boat to get away from them, or they were cutting holes in the roof, or rulers were coming to him for healing of their daughters, yet on the other act as if Jesus was completely unaware that people thought his healings were seen as him being powerful.

Further, as I indicated to Dennis, when John the Baptist asks for “proof” that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus points out to miracles. And, Jesus indicates that the “mighty works” done in Bethsaida would have convinced Tyre to repent. And that they would held to a higher standard for having seen such works. (Matt. 11:22-23)

Whether, as you say, it was a matter of Jesus’ intent, he certainly acted knowledgeable as to one of the results—that people would recognize his power and react accordingly. Can we completely remove that from the picture? (Thus probably undercutting my entire argument to John, eh? Thanks a LOT, rich! *wink*)


Ah, but the Mercy and Justice thing…

Once there was a small town. It was a great little place to be…except for Officer Brown. Officer Brown was the only policeman in the town. And he was a mean, mean man.

He would ticket you for going one mile over the speed limit. He would ticket you for failing to turn on your signal. And if your car rolled into a crosswalk when a pedestrian had already crossed over, but not…quite…reached the sidewalk—BAM! Another ticket.

But Officer Brown would not ticket his own family members. They could jaywalk, and run red lights, and even spit on the sidewalk. He did nothing.

The townspeople got mad. That didn’t seem fair. That didn’t seem right. It certainly did not seem like any justice they had ever heard of! So they approached the mayor and complained. However, the mayor pointed out that the law gave Officer Brown discretion. He could choose who to ticket, and who to not. It was completely up to him. And he happened to chose to not ticket his family.

Question No. 1: Was Officer Brown’s decision to not ticket his own family:

a) Just?
b) Unjust?
c) Merciful?

Well, the townsfolk had enough of that. At the next meeting, they changed the law. No longer did Officer Brown have the ability to choose who to ticket, and who to not. They removed the exception clause from the law. Now he had to ticket everybody.

Perhaps I mentioned Officer Brown was mean? He didn’t care what the townspeople did. He was going to do it his way, by golly. He saw his brother going 10 miles an hour over the speed limit and did nothing.

Question No. 2: Was Officer Brown’s decision to not ticket his brother:

a) Just?
b) Unjust?
c) Merciful?

Since Officer Brown was so mean, we shan’t be surprised to find out he put a great deal of stress on his heart. Too much. One day he had a heart attack. This gave Officer Brown a whole new perspective on life. He realized that ticketing everybody for everything was not a very nice thing to do.

After his recovery, he was a changed man. One day he stopped Granny Smith for going too fast. She explained that she was a little late for her grandson’s recital, and if he spent the time writing out the ticket, she would miss it. He let her go with just a warning.

Question No. 3: Was Officer Brown’s decision to not ticket Granny Smith:

a) Just?
b) Unjust?
c) Merciful?

Now Officer Brown was troubled. Technically the law said that he had to ticket anyone who broke the law, and he had now broken the law himself by not ticketing Granny! He would have to write himself a ticket!

Wisely, he went to the Mayor. She explained that part of the law was her ability to pardon anyone who had broken the law, and although she rarely used it, she would do so today, and by filling out the proper paperwork, and performing the proper procedure, she would grant this particular pardon.

Question No. 4: Was the Mayor’s decision to pardon Officer Brown:

a) Just?
b) Unjust?
c) Merciful?

From then on the town had a happy system of justice. Officer Brown would use his discretion to ticket some people. And if he choose to not, would go the Mayor for a Pardon. If the Mayor determined he was entitled to a pardon, he received it. (He often did.) But the same way, the Mayor could impose a penalty on Officer Brown if he ever started not ticketing his family again.

Question No. 5: Was the Town’s new system:

a) Just?
b) Unjust?
c) Merciful?


Rich, even though you are correct, it is within a President’s prerogative to grant a pardon, they still have to follow the rules. If that was taken away by the system of rules, they would no longer have such discretion.

When we sentence criminals, in the American system, the judge has a range in which to sentence. If the guidelines provide, for example, 24 – 36 months, the Judge has complete discretion for 24, 25, 26 or 30 1/3 months. Simply because the law allows a person an ability to impose or not impose a sentence, does not make it merciful. It is still within the parameters of the law.

Why is it, do you think, that probably your initial reaction was that Officer Brown’s letting his brother go was “unjust” but letting Granny go was “merciful”? Each was the same action!

Rich said...

"When we sentence criminals, in the American system, the judge has a range in which to sentence. If the guidelines provide, for example, 24 – 36 months, the Judge has complete discretion for 24, 25, 26 or 30 1/3 months. Simply because the law allows a person an ability to impose or not impose a sentence, does not make it merciful. It is still within the parameters of the law."

What if in this instance, someone had already served 2 years on behalf of the convicted, the convicted could choose to use this stand in as completing his sentence for him and not enter jail at all? Does this allow for mercy towards the convicted?

"Why is it, do you think, that probably your initial reaction was that Officer Brown’s letting his brother go was “unjust” but letting Granny go was “merciful”? Each was the same action!"

Not only was it my initial reation, it still remains unjust and merciful to me. unjust because eeryone was not treated equally under the terms of the law and given tickets according to their actions. Merciful because even though Granny broke the law she was let off with a warning and not ticketed. Man tricky stuff!( sweat rollin' off the brow)
Although I do see where you are going, I think, and it shouldn't be Gods "chosen" recieving special treatment by not being "ticketed" such as the story here, but being forgiven of the offense and a standin serving the terms of the sentence in their place. this should, and does, apply to all not just a chosen few. Its actually that a chose few elect to use the standin.

Dennis said...

I am really not certain why this is of such paramount interest to you. It seems such a minor, obvious point. But, since it is interesting, nonetheless, we shall continue.

It's only of interest to me because you are trying to frame the four occasions that Jesus was asked for a sign as being contradictory and inconsistent.

I don't think there is anything more that I can wring out of this topic. I still stand by my statement that Jesus was entirely consistent when asked for a sign. Each and every time he was asked for a sign, one was not given. Yes, the "sign of Jonas" was given but since it couldn't possibly be understood and thus received by anybody, how does that count? Going back to me earlier example of the child nagging for ice cream, if the father replied "No ice cream today. You'll get your ice cream another day", does that count as giving the child ice cream? If you still believe that Jesus gave a sign in Matthew and Luke, then let's ask the Pharisees if they got the sign they asked for.

Believe it or not, I do try to not be one-sided in my presentation. I would find it dishonest within myself to ONLY point out the verses where Jesus said (soup-Nazi voice) “No Sign for You!” I know there are verses on both sides of the issue. Some indicate Jesus DID do signs so that people would believe.

Yes, but the signs did not come from people who were trying to test Jesus. That's consistent. Do you think it's inconsistent for me to never give my child ice cream when they ask for it and only give it to them when I think it's an appropriate time? We must be working off of different definition of consistency.

As to the asking of Jesus for a sign, you seem to agree that Matthew and Mark are talking of the same incident. Doesn’t Mark record “No sign” and Matthew record “One sign” in that instance? Which, are you claiming, that Jesus said? As someone once said, “Which verse trumps the other?”

These verses aren't contradictory. They all state that Jesus said "No sign will be given". Both Matthew and Luke go on to complete the rest of what Jesus said and that was "except the sign of Jonas". For some reason, Mark didn't include the entire statement made by Jesus. BTW, it thrills me to see skeptics try to make mountains out of these small issues because it reminds me how shallow many of their arguments are.

As to the asking of signs, we have the rich man who asked Jesus to heal his son. Jesus says, “unless you people see signs you won’t believe.” Jesus heals the boy. The man believes. Certainly Jesus’ reaction was that this fellow was asking for a sign in order to believe, and Jesus complied. (John 4:47 – 50) But again, if you are claiming that Jesus did NOT do this out of a demonstration of power, it only supports my point above.

How can you possibly claim this man was asking for a miracle because we wanted a sign? This poor man's son was sick and on the brink of death and you really think he wanted a sign! He just wanted his son to be healed. The man already believed Jesus could heal his son, that's why he traveled what must have been at least 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana to see Jesus.
This man wasn't testing Jesus like in the other examples.

Taking the books in the chronological order in which they were written we see a development of Jesus and his miracles. To help you out: 1 Thess, 1 Cor., 2 Cor., Galatians, Romans, Philippians, Philemon, Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts and John. And for fun, let’s tack on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas after Acts. (One can sprinkle the other Epistles as they choose after Mark.)

How convenient of you. You only list the earliest NT books and then end the list with a non-canonical book of Thomas. You didn't add Thomas "for fun", you added it because you *need* it for your theory.

I don't care if you include Thomas or not but to be fair, let's look at the entire New Testament.

Since you want to include some of the epistles, let include all of them. Many epistles were written after the gospels and none of them record miracles performed by Jesus. In fact, of the 27 books of the NT, there are no miracles recorded between books number #14 through #22 and then #24 through #27. If you want to use the earliest epistles to highlight that no miracles are recorded, it's only fair to also point out that later epistles after this so-called "blossoming" takes place also don't record miracles.

So you claim that "blossoming" some how refers to miracles becoming more magnificent? I'm not sure how you can measure that, but what I can do is show you how for every miracle in the later books, there are similar miracles from earlier sources.

The next in order of written is Mark. As pointed out, Jesus is unable at times, and insufficient at others. Matthew and Luke take away those problems.

Can't you provide me with a better example of "blossoming". Miracles of Jesus are only recorded in 4 books and you just skimmed over the first 3. Show me how the miracles become bigger and better as we move from Mark to Luke.

I'll address Mark 6:5 in a separate post because this deserves special attention.

But to continue, a later writer provides us the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. There, Jesus brings mud birds to life, but he also kills a boy for bumping into him.

What's so spectacular about creating a few bird? In Mark he feed 5000 people from 5 loaves and 2 fishes that he multiplied.

Jesus brings another boy back to life after the boy fell off the roof, and Jesus is accused.

He only raised one boy from the dead? Matthew records several raised from the dead when Jesus was crucified.

We have later tales that the swaddling clothes that Jesus, the baby, was wrapped in had miraculous powers in that if anyone touched the wash water that cleaned them, they were healed.

And Mark records that anybody who touched the helm of Jesus' garment was healed.

But in our development, we see how the stories get more and more fantastic.

No they don't and I just showed why I don't believe they become more fantastic.

Got any other evidence to support your "blossoming" theory? You can't use number of miracles because those decline as we get into the later NT books and I've already shown you how for every fantastic miracle in a later book, there is equally fantastic one in an earlier book.

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

I want to dedicate this post to your claim that Mark 6:5 tells us that Jesus had difficulty performing miracles at one point in his ministry.

I think your criticism is a good example of the intellectually dishonest arguments that skeptics frequently use against Christians. My first and foremost question for DagoodS is will he stop using this argument once I expose what Mark 6:5 really tells us? I think I already know the answer to that one!

Let's start off with quoting what Mark 6:5 actually says:

"Now He could do no mighty work [some translations read: miracles] there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them."

We see the verse that DagoodS uses to claim that Jesus couldn't perform miracles actually tells us the opposite! It says that Jesus healed a few sick people. Does this not count as a miracle?

So what does this verse mean? May I suggest we look at the fuller context (something that often isn't too kind to the skeptics arguments)?

Mark 6:1-4 tells us that Jesus went back to his hometown of Nazareth where he taught in the synagogues and performed miracles (see verse 2). For a reason not stated, these actions offended the people in Nazareth (see verse 3). In verse 4 Jesus makes a statement that tells us he received no honor from these people.

Given this context of verse 5, does it make more sense that Jesus could not perform miracles because he lacked the supernatural power to do so or does it make more sense that we didn't perform more miracles than the few he did because it was offending his families neighbors?

Heather said...

Dennis,

Just a few points.

**In John 2:18, Jesus is asked for a sign and this request is left unfulfilled. ** But he provides the sign later, so the request is only temporarily unfulfilled.

**How can you possibly claim this man was asking for a miracle because we wanted a sign? ** Because it's a possible inference from the text -- when the man asks, Jesus says that no one will have faith unless there are signs and miracles. And the man only believed after Jesus saved his son, rather than really believing beforehand.

**What's so spectacular about creating a few bird? In Mark he feed 5000 people from 5 loaves and 2 fishes that he multiplied.** Because he created those birds when he was a kid, and none of the canonical Gospels have a record of Jesus created life out of nothing.

**He only raised one boy from the dead? Matthew records several raised from the dead when Jesus was crucified.** THis also happened as a child, and many believed Jesus killed the boy due to anger, and then brought the boy back to life.

**And Mark records that anybody who touched the helm of Jesus' garment was healed.** AGain, though -- this is Jesus as a child, not an adult. So it does support DagwoodS that the claims get more fantastic, given that the miracles started much earlier.

**supernatural power to do so or does it make more sense that we didn't perform more miracles than the few he did because it was offending his families neighbors?** Actually, he couldn't do more miracles -- the people's lack of faith prevented him from doing other than healing a few sick people. It had nothing to do with offending people.

Dennis said...

**In John 2:18, Jesus is asked for a sign and this request is left unfulfilled. ** But he provides the sign later, so the request is only temporarily unfulfilled.

You are correct. A sign is performed later but it wasn't in response to the people who asked for a sign. Anybody who ever asked for a sign wasn't given one then and there. The sign that Jesus performed later in chapter 2 would likely have been given regardless of the Jews who wanted to test Jesus. Even if that sign was given for the people who asked for it, what does this prove? Was Jesus some robot that had to respond to the same input each and every time? No, he was a human being who had feelings and could respond to similar situations in different ways.

**How can you possibly claim this man was asking for a miracle because we wanted a sign? ** Because it's a possible inference from the text -- when the man asks, Jesus says that no one will have faith unless there are signs and miracles. And the man only believed after Jesus saved his son, rather than really believing beforehand.

Time for a multiple choice question.

A man has a sick son on the brink of death. He travels 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana to see Jesus who he believes has the power to heal sick people. Why did this man ask Jesus to heal his son?

A: Because he wanted to see Jesus perform a sign
B: Because he wanted his son to live.

**What's so spectacular about creating a few bird? In Mark he feed 5000 people from 5 loaves and 2 fishes that he multiplied.** Because he created those birds when he was a kid, and none of the canonical Gospels have a record of Jesus created life out of nothing.

What was the feeding of the 5000 if that wasn't creating life out of nothing? Even though all those fish he multiplied were dead, where they any less real fish? Who could the multitudes have digested them if they weren't?

**He only raised one boy from the dead? Matthew records several raised from the dead when Jesus was crucified.** THis also happened as a child, and many believed Jesus killed the boy due to anger, and then brought the boy back to life.

**And Mark records that anybody who touched the helm of Jesus' garment was healed.** AGain, though -- this is Jesus as a child, not an adult. So it does support DagwoodS that the claims get more fantastic, given that the miracles started much earlier.


So I've already shown how the miracles performed in Thomas aren't much different than the ones performed in the other Gospels. You seem to think that Jesus being younger in Thomas makes them more "fantastic". Fine. Let me say I disagree but I will give you the benefit of the doubt just to keep the discussion rolling. How does this support the theory that miracles "blossomed" and became more spectacular in the books that were written later.

Let's look at the book of John. One of the last few books written in the New Testament. How has the "blossoming" of miracles impacted what is written there? I've looked but I just can't see it. Not only does John record much fewer miracles than the other Gospels, if we look at the miracles that are unique to John, we see that they very similar to the other miracles performed in Mark.

If there is an ounce of truth to DagoodS "blossoming" theory, where can we see it? When DagoodS initially introduced the blossoming theory, he used to book of John to demonstrate it. I don't see how the book of John demonstrates blossoming and DagoodS never clarified that point.

**supernatural power to do so or does it make more sense that we didn't perform more miracles than the few he did because it was offending his families neighbors?** Actually, he couldn't do more miracles -- the people's lack of faith prevented him from doing other than healing a few sick people. It had nothing to do with offending people.

I think you make a valid point and the is another possibility. Jesus performed a few miracles, noticed that it wasn't doing anything to increase the faith of the people and moved on. But please don't think that Jesus requires people to have faith before a miracle can happen. Just 2 chapters earlier in Mark, we see Jesus calming a storm and clearly Jesus wasn't waiting on somebody to have faith before he could perform a miracle.

I'm curious, do you agree with DagoodS that Mark 6:5 shows a weak Jesus that is unable to perform miracles?

DagoodS said...

Rich,

I told the story of Townsville, more to demonstrate the difficulty of applying the concepts of “Just,” “Unjust,” and “Mercy.” I was not analogizing it to any particular situation with God. (I am looking forward to others’ comments about how DagoodS thinks God is a mean cop…sigh.)

But let’s put together a story about how this might work for God…

Angel: God, here we have DagoodS.
God: A human?
Angel: Yep.
God: Alrighty then, what do we do?

Angel: According to GCL* 7.7 he is doomed to hell.
God: Oh. Too bad. He looks like a nice fellow. But…as they say…’I am Just.’

*God’s Compiled Laws

God: Sorry, DagoodS, but I have no choice in the matter. I, too, have to follow GCL 7.7, so it is off to the oven with you….Who’s next?
Angel: Looks like we have our next contestant—Rich.
God: Another human?
Angel: Yep.

God: So I suppose that we apply 7.7 again, eh?
Angel: Actually, not quite. Rich is one of those that qualifies for the exception of GCL 7.7(b). He gets a pass.
God: Well, Rich. Looks like you get in. Since I have to follow GCL 7.7(b), you get heaven.

What I see, Rich, is that Christians get a pass (which they think they are entitled to under 7.7(b)) and therefore they have received God’s mercy. What I see is God following another law. (And, on a complete side note, I can’t help but wonder if those that get the 7.7(b) exception are so happy they don’t give a single care for those who are not.)

Or, I am informed that God did not have to create the 7.7(b) exception in the first place. That GCL 7.1 is a law that says God can choose to either perform some act that will allow humans to take advantage of 7.7(b), or God can choose to not. And then I am informed that God’s choice to perform the acts required under 7.1 was “merciful.” Whereas I see discretionary justice. A choice allowed under the law.

But that also opens a possibility that may really bake your noodle. Are there other laws that are equally discretionary that God choose to NOT take part in?

What if GCL 7.2 says that God can allow everyone in, and God chose to not. Do you still see that as just? What if GCL 7.3 says that God can choose to not let babies in? And God decided to not? Is that just?

I wonder if Christians would be so self-satisfied with God’s justice if they learned that God had the option to take in babies, and decided to not.

What I see, rich, if I could analogize anything about Townsville, is that Christians are the cop’s brother. They think the fact that the law is discretionary, and that the cop doesn’t give them a ticket is “mercy.” Too bad for all the other folks—the cop is simply following the law.

As to your question about someone serving for 2 years in another person’s stead—the question would be: what does the law allow?

One of the very basic problems with “God is just” is that there is no way for us to recognize an unjust action on the part of God. We do not have a copy of GCL in front of us, so as to say, “No, God HAS to do this,” or “God CAN CHOSE to do this” or “God CANNOT do that.” We don’t know.

While the Bible (and this is my opinion, here) teaches against it; it appears to me that universalism is the most logical choice in viewing the claim of Jesus’ sacrifice. A God that has a choice to enact 7.1, and goes to those extraordinary lengths to provide an exception to 7.7 would, I think, do everything feasible to apprise people of the possibility of 7.7(b). The picture painted is the unique act of love/mercy/kindness that is far above anything anyone can imagine, and then an almost concerted effort to NOT let anyone take advantage of it.

How Mark 4:11-12 does not keep compassionate Christians up at night is beyond me.

DagoodS said...

Dennis: Each and every time he was asked for a sign, one was not given.

Certainly on the occasions you have referred to. But that is not my point. Never has been. And I thought I was surprisingly clear on that.

It was NOT that Jesus provided a sign upon being requested. It is that Jesus is alleged to have SAID different things about whether he was providing signs by doing miracles. According to Mark, he said he was not. According to Matthew and Luke he said he would only provide one, and according to John, he said he was providing signs left and right.

Not only what he did—but what he said.
Not only what he did—but what he said.
Not only what he did—but what he said.

We all agree (I would think) that what Jesus was alleged to have done were miracles. We all agree (I would think) that Jews called miracles “signs.” We all agree (I would think) that Jesus would not necessarily perform a miracle upon demand.

Whether Jesus intended the miracles he did perform to be signs, either explicitly or implicitly, may be up for debate. And why is that? Oh, I know, I know! Pick me! Pick me!

“Because he said different things on different occasions, leaving it unclear.”

More: No, he was a human being who had feelings and could respond to similar situations in different ways.

Uhh…Isn’t that what I have been saying all along? That sometimes Jesus responded “This generation won’t get any signs” and sometimes he responded “This generation will have one sign” and sometimes he responded “You are seeing numerous signs.”?

Did you just inadvertently agree with me, Dennis? *grin*

More: If you still believe that Jesus gave a sign in Matthew and Luke, then let's ask the Pharisees if they got the sign they asked for.

Nope. Never believed it. Never stated it. In fact, if you read my response, I stated the exact opposite, in that I did not think even the disciples got what Jesus would have meant by this. What I “believe” (mostly ‘cause it is right there in writing) is that Matthew and Luke record a different response as compared to Mark. And a response that makes no sense in comparison to other statements of Jesus, including those recorded in the Gospel of John.

More: Do you think it's inconsistent for me to never give my child ice cream when they ask for it and only give it to them when I think it's an appropriate time? We must be working off of different definition of consistency.

I truly have no idea what you are saying here. It may be that you are focusing on what Jesus did, and I am focusing on what Jesus said, so we are talking past each other. To use your ice cream example, what I am saying is:

1. It is claimed Dennis SAID: No ice cream for you.
2. It is claimed Dennis SAID: No ice cream for you, except on your 16th birthday
3. It is claimed Dennis SAID: I am giving ice cream out on numerous occasions to lots of people.
4. It is claimed Dennis SAID: Woe to those people in Bethsaida who got so much ice cream from me.
5. When asked who Dennis was, it is claimed Dennis SAID: Look at all the ice cream I have given out. What do you think?
6. That fellow that first wrote about Dennis and ice cream failed to mention Dennis gave out ice cream. In fact, he thought ice cream would be a stumbling block.

More: Both Matthew and Luke go on to complete the rest of what Jesus said and that was "except the sign of Jonas". For some reason, Mark didn't include the entire statement made by Jesus. BTW, it thrills me to see skeptics try to make mountains out of these small issues because it reminds me how shallow many of their arguments are.

Ahh. “For some reason…” That didn’t tell us much, eh? (Oh, and I see you believe Matthew trumps Mark. Important for the reply on Mark 6:5)

What is covered under that “For some reason”? Is it that Mark did not know of a more complete statement? Did Matthew and Luke add on to what was already a complete statement? Were Matthew and Luke correcting an error of Mark, a mistake of Mark, or branching out on their own, adding a statement that had entered into the community?

Dennis, it is these “small issues” that make the study of the various Gospels so fascinating. Why would Matthew modify what Mark said? Or, why would Mark leave out the “sign of Jonah” especially in light of Mark’s use of the Tanakh? Or how is it that Mark does not record Jesus as saying he would destroy the temple (such as record in the Gospel of John) yet his accusers do in his trial? Mark 14:58

I am glad I thrill you. But I am not in it for just the thrill. Mark, and its relation to the other Gospels is an intriguing study that one can immerse themselves in and look up, realizing a month has gone by and one is still only scratching the surface.

For me brushing it under “for some reason” doesn’t cut it. I like to study the why, the where, the when, the how.

Study it, Dennis! Don’t be satisfied with “for some reason” but engage it! Read some conservative scholars on the inter-relation of the gospels, the communities they were written to, the various proposals as to the why the books are in the form they are in. Dare I say, read even those scholars that do NOT agree with you, so that you can fully see the possibilities within. Not just some one-sided dogmatic position of inerrancy, but the full, rich study of the thing.

If, at the end, you are satisfied with inerrancy—GREAT! But you will be so much the better for the study.

More: How can you possibly claim this man was asking for a miracle because we wanted a sign?

Because I look at the context. Hey, I didn’t write it!

The man asks Jesus to save his son. John 4:47.
Jesus replies, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” John 4:48.

Stop for a second. That is a curious reply on the part of Jesus. No “Your faith has made you whole.” No “Your sins are forgiven.” No “Your son is healed.” Jesus listens to this fellow and says, “If you don’t see a sign, then you won’t believe.” I would say that is a pretty good indication that Jesus thought the fellow was looking for a sign. To continue..

Jesus says, “Your son is healed” John 4:50
The man believes. John 4:50
The author of the Gospel indicates this is Jesus’ second sign.

The exact order Jesus just said. First sign, then belief.

More: Time for a multiple choice question.

A man has a sick son on the brink of death. He travels 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana to see Jesus who he believes has the power to heal sick people. Why did this man ask Jesus to heal his son?

A: Because he wanted to see Jesus perform a sign
B: Because he wanted his son to live.


(I should note: there is nothing that says the man traveled that distance, but that does not affect your point. For clarification.)

Dennis, we read the text. We get that it is more convenient to your to choose “B” but the reaction Jesus, and the writing of the gospel writer indicates “A.” Get into the text! Engage it! Wrestle with it and learn! Please don’t grab what is convenient for your position and dogmatically stick to it regardless of what is there—be open!

Look at the following statement:

“Jesus said, ‘Fire.’”

In just those words, we have no idea of the context, nor what Jesus was implying by saying that. BUT if we follow up with:

“The Crowd ran.”
“The Crowd Laughed.”
”The Crowd cried.”

Each reaction gives us insight into what it mean to say “Jesus said, ‘Fire.’” In the same way, we have, what would appear to be a man asking for his son to be healed, but Jesus’ reaction is “You are asking for a sign.” The author recording the event says, “This was a sign.”

Are we supposed to ignore that, in light of…your opinion? Why?

Blossoming Miracles

You are quite correct that ALL of the epistles are remarkably lacking Jesus’ miracles. Curiously, they are remarkably lacking in statements of Jesus, too. Almost as if the epistle writers had never HEARD the tales of Jesus, his miracles and his sermons.

Hmm… (and, to be fair [which got me in trouble LAST time] 2 Peter is aware of the Transfiguration.)

In order to “blossom” one legend has to know the other. Mark knows Paul and builds. Matthew and Luke know Mark and build. John is the more odd, having only obtained information through oral traditions that most likely were affected by the circulating Mark, Matthew and Luke.

The authors of Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thess and the pastorals build on Paul. So, not surprisingly, since Paul has a lack of Miracles, they do too.

Dennis, it is not as if author 2 had all the books of author 1. And author 3 had the books of authors 1 & 2. And author 4 had the books of authors 1, 2 & 3. We have to look at the community in which they were written, when they were written, and what material was available. If Author 3 had books 1 & 2, but author 4 only had the books of author 1, we would expect less blossoming in author 4 than in author 3. Lo and behold what do we have?

We can SEE Matthew and Luke had Mark. Mark had Paul. And Mark was really the kick-off for the miracle bit. So Matthew and Luke have more

The author of Ephesians ONLY had Paul. No Mark. No Matthew. No Luke. We would expect there to be less blossoming than by that done by Luke. And that is exactly what we see!

Can you show the later epistles knew of the Gospels?

More blossoming miracles?

Transfiguration. Mark- Jesus’ clothes become white. (Mark 9:3) Matthew, the clothes become white AND his face shone like the sun. (Matt. 17:2.) Luke – Jesus face was altered and clothes white. (Luke 9:29)

Leper. Mark had one (Mark 1:40) Luke had ten (Luke 17:12)

At the tomb. Mark has one “young man” Mark 16:5. Matthew has one angel. Matt 28:2, Luke has two “men.” Luke 24:4

As we study Luke and its relation to Matthew, and their relation to Mark, we see how one builds on the other. Is it is that much of a surprise they do so with miracles as well?

Yes, Dennis, I see how you “don’t believe” the miracles became more fantastic. (I presume, perhaps incorrectly, that you have not read the Infancy Gospels. Have you read any of the non-canonical Gospels or Epistles?)

More: When DagoodS initially introduced the blossoming theory, he used to book of John to demonstrate it.

Hmm..I did? The Johannine books (1-3 John and Gospel of John) seem to be written by a completely different community. While broadly ascribing to similar tales of Jesus (most likely because of oral influence) they are not following any of the other books.

Therefore, we would expect different miracles—and guess what? That is what we find.

If any person believes I used the Gospel of John to support the theory of authors blossoming the legend of Jesus’ miracles, I would recommend they go back and read my comments. Thanks.

Mark 6:5

“Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, "Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! "Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" And they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house." Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.” Mark 6:1-6

Actually, most commentators, and even conservative Biblical scholars indicate Jesus could not because of their unbelief. Verse 6 being the key. I have not heard that Jesus “did” not because of fear of offending. (That “did” is in quotes for a reason.)

One of the troubling aspects of this verse is the fact that when Matthew records it, he indicates that Jesus “did not do” mighty works (Matt 13:58) whereas Mark records Jesus “could not do” mighty works. The fact that Matthew deliberately changed it is indicative of the author’s distaste for the premise that Jesus “could not do” mighty works.

One of the basic policies (because it is not quite a rule) of textual criticism is that the harder reading is the more likely. If we obtained manuscripts of Mark, in which one said, “Jesus COULD not do mighty works” and another said “Jesus DID not do mighty works” as the concept of Jesus being unable is the “harder reading,” it is presumed to be more likely.

Of course, in this situation we have two different books, not manuscripts. Matthew consistently “cleans up” Mark’s Greek, adds after thoughts (like the “sign” situation), cleans up his geography and in this situation would appear to, again, “straighten out Mark” as it were.

You were closer than you think, Dennis, with having Matthew “trump” Mark. Matthew certainly thinks it should! It is what he intended to do.

The fact that the people were offended is off-beat as well. We can probably do better than “for a reason not stated.”

It is odd on the one hand that the people say they are astonished at Jesus, and state he could do mighty works, and then immediately it is followed by their being offended by him. What is it about mighty works that would be so offensive? (And remember, Galilee is only a few days walk to cross the whole thing. It is not as if they would not have heard of Jesus’ actions in the nearby Capernaum, Cana, Bethsaida, and other towns.)

An argument that is persuasive to me is that the people’s statement is sarcastic. (Mark would be the type of author that provided double meaning, one of which is sarcasm. Like the centurion’s statement.)

Now we have them, mockingly state, (imagine Homer Simpson voice) “Oh, look at the carpenter. Look at his ‘mighty works.’ Look at how wiiiisee and wooonderfull he is. Oh, la-te-da to you!”

It then naturally follows they were offended at this home town rag-a-muffin appearing so much better than they are.

Dennis, the verse says Jesus could not do mighty works. Yes, it states he healed a few, but the key point is Jesus’ inability. It states that Jesus was unable to perform miracles. It is the reason the next verse states he was stunned at their unbelief. (Mark ties faith with miracles throughout his Gospel.)

You do know that scholars of all stripes have struggled with Mark 6:5? You act as if I somehow manufactured this unique, unheard of idea that Jesus was unable to perform miracles for some reason. (Matthew’s modifying has been particularly troubling, since it demonstrates HIS struggle with 6:5)

While I appreciate your input on the matter, I hope you realize I also appreciate other Bible scholars, and their input, and the reasons they are not able to so easily package it under “for a reason not stated.” And it is not just liberal skeptics—it includes those of all theistic beliefs that are not so dismissive of this passage.

DagoodS said...

Thanks, Heather.

Sometimes it is nice to hear from a lurker or two. If nothing else, to realize all this thinking/typing is not in vain.

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

Signs:
When Jesus told the Pharisees "A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given", where is it implied that this is a promise to the Pharisees that they will never see a sign (or miracle) then or ever? Couldn't this answer be equally interpreted as Jesus would not provide a sign then and there? Why is your interpretation the only correct one?

To take the strict interpretation that you are doesn't make sense in the light that Jesus performed miracles (a.k.a. signs) in front of crowds of people in every Gospel book. The fact that Jesus said "no signs for you" but then turned around a later gave signs tells us that you are incorrectly interpreting what Jesus meant.

I understand that John calls the miracles that Jesus did signs, and Mark, Matthew, and Luke don't call them signs. So what? John called them signs, the others called them miracles or whatever. They were all the same.

Mark excluding the sign of Jonas:

Why is this even a small issue?

Here's a possible scenario that resolves the issue:

Mark records the "no sign for you" statement and leave off the sign of Jonas because he either A) forgot it B) didn't think it was important, or C) was distracted at the moment Jesus spoke it.

Matthew comes along and copies Mark. He remembers the Jonas sign and adds it were Mark left off.

Luke not having been there at all copies Matthew.

There you have it. A possible and reasonable explanation.

Now tell me why you insist that this is an issue that shows Matthew was inserting a statement that was not originally made?

Blossoming Theory

You're original statement stating that John shows us "blossoming":

And, also to be fair, by the time John is written, the legends of Jesus miracle workings had blossomed, so John records numerous miraculous signs.

Please, tell me how John proves your blossoming theory.

So now that I have shown that your blossoming can't be seen in the number of miracles (John is the last gospel written and contains the fewest recorded miracles) and that there is no one gospel where the miracles are more fantastic (for the most part they are all similar between the books), you have now moved the goal post.

Now blossoming can be seen in that the later gospels give us more *details* that were not previously given.

How many examples do I have give where later books contain less details than earlier books?

You haven't established a case for pattern of less detail to more detail in later books just because you provide a few examples.

It's funny how you preach to me about the need to do deep study but then you back up your blossoming theory by pointing to a few examples (ignoring all the rest).

Mark 6:5

Please tell me how the statement "He could not do any miracles there" implies that Jesus wanted to perform more miracles but was too weak to do so?

If I told you that "I could not use my cell phone". Does that imply I couldn't use the cell phone because of some personal reason? No. The battery could have been dead, I could have been in a uncovered area, or "some other reason".

What if instead of stating "I could not use my cell phone", I said "I did not use my cell phone". Maybe I knew from past experience that it wouldn't work in a certain area. You want to insist that there is some difference between "Jesus could not do any miracles" with "He did not do any miracles". In some cases there is but it is not a rule.

Mark tells us the people were offended by Jesus. What do you think Jesus should have done, put them in head lock to heal them?

So please don't drag this discussion out like you have over the blossoming miracles where you kept redefining what that meant. Tell me why the statement "He could not do any miracles there" implies nothing other than a inability on Jesus' part?

Jesus Heals the Official's Son

For clarification, we know that Jesus was in Cana and this official's sick son was in Capernaum. Verse 47 tells us the father was aware of Jesus coming in Galilee and went to see Jesus. Is it to far of a stretch to assume the father traveled from Capernaum to Cana? It's funny to me that you struggle with what seems to be a clear inference, but when we read the "Jesus couldn't perform any miracles" you insist that means nothing other than an inability on Jesus' part. Amazing!

Option "B" isn't just the convenient answer, it's the only one that makes sense! How can anybody with an ounce of reading comprehension read the passage and not realize this fathers first most concern was with getting his son healed before he died!

I acknowledge that Jesus told the father "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders you will never believe." Why do you insist that the only explanation is that the father was looking for a sign? I can come up with other reasons too. Notice Jesus said "you people". What if Jesus was simply venting frustration with this man that he and other people only believe him because of the miracles he perform? Don't like that answer? I'll come up with others. Now tell me why your explanation that the man was looking for a sign trumps that the father obviously wanted to spare the life of his son?

Rich said...

"Not just some one-sided dogmatic position of inerrancy, but the full, rich study of the thing."

Thanks for the comment:)

OK seriously now, I am folling your logic and I see your side. I Did understand the pupose of the townsville story, I also always get stuck because I am not real familiar with the mainstream non-cult christianity understanding of justice/mercy as applied to God.
I don't suscribe to the only christians get the 7.7(b) exception so to an extent I think we agree on quite a few points. One hang upo for me is, and maybe it's because I am not so well versed in law, is even though there are exceptions provided within the law, I see room for the exceptions to be considerd mercy because they are not required to be given or exercised. I see you may call this discretionary justice, and I'm fine with the term. I just see the same thing and I call it mercy.

"But that also opens a possibility that may really bake your noodle. Are there other laws that are equally discretionary that God choose to NOT take part in?"

I think there could be and your following statement, as defined by you earlier as part of the discretionary law it would be considered just by those standards because the law would provide for Gods discretion in choosing who could and couldn't enter his Kingdom. Is that a fair understanding of your position?

I don't suscribe to the 1 heaven 1 hell theory, I don't believe that it is a true dipiction of the afterlife. It may be closer to universalism, another I am not familiar with but I briefed up a bit just now so that's why I say I may be closer to universalism. In the end I think we are in accord on alot of the discussion. And thanks for another sleepless night while I bake my noodle yet again over a passage.

When Jesus uses the word sign, is it always translated as miracle, or can it also be translated as sign? It sure is difficult to catch meaning in translation sometimes. I speak pretty fluent spanish and it can be difficult to translate some things. If I told a story to my south of the border friends about vomiting and decided to use common slang, toss my cookies, and translate the words only, I would get wierd stares as they asked me why I would throw cookies around when I was sick. No I mean up chuck. Oh so now you are thowing your friend Chuck in the air, man you gringos are wierd. Now granted this may not be a good example but my point being that we can't always tell if certain words were translated correctly. Is 40 days and nights literal, or ancient hebrew slang? If I translate forever inot another language someone may think I meant literally forever when I really meant a long time. So even looking at what Jesus said may not always paint the acurate picture of what he meant to say. The big down side is the forever debate on what he meant to say. That will change to fit someones position like you change newspaper in the bottom of the bird cage.

DagoodS said...

Dennis,

Signs

Dennis: The fact that Jesus said "no signs for you"…

Ah. But he didn’t. He said, “no signs for this generation.” (emphasis added) As you correctly identify, there is a difference between Jesus telling the Pharisees something directly, saying “you” (which he does on many occasions) and saying “this generation.”

Far more broad.

More: To take the strict interpretation that you are doesn't make sense in the light that Jesus performed miracles (a.k.a. signs) in front of crowds of people in every Gospel book.

Now you are getting it! It doesn’t make any sense if one attempts to apply strict inerrancy. It hardly makes sense if one wants to treat the Gospels as simple, straightforward history texts. As boring tales of who married whom in what year, and when they died.

As I said, they are of much greater depth. (Odd Christians, of all people struggle with this.)

Look at how silly this becomes under any such interpretation. Even claiming that they were asking for a sign at that moment and Jesus says, “No” for that one moment.

We have Jews looking for a Messiah that would be heralded by “signs.” We have a time in which many people were claiming to be a Messiah, and many people wanted a Messiah, because of the Romans.

And along comes Jesus. Miracle, Miracle, Miracle. Sign, Sign, Sign. On the one hand we have Mark, Matthew and Luke then having the Pharisees asking Jesus the ridiculous question, “Show us a sign.”

Duh. What had Jesus been doing left and right—and was even criticized by the Pharisees for doing so! (Matt. 12:10)

According to John, the Pharisees said, “What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. ” (emphasis added) John 11:47.

If they already knew it, already criticized Jesus for it, why would they be asking “show us a sign” Further, why would Jesus say, “You’ (whether personally or corporately as a nation) “will not receive a sign.”?

It also is interesting that John the Baptist asked the same question, and Jesus told him, “Look at all the miracles (signs)”

There is so much more interplay here, (and story making) then the simple “See Spot Run” surface investigation.

Sign of Jonah in Matthew but not Mark

Wow! I saw you write that Jesus said different things on different occasions. Now you agree that Jesus may have said the same thing on an occasion, but two authors recorded it differently.

This is exactly what I said in the first place, a long, long time ago.

(And careful, Dennis. You almost seem to flirt with losing inerrancy, here! Talk with us long enough, do we pull you to the “dark side”?)

Are you saying that when Matthew (and presumably Luke) indicate a longer statement, as compared to Mark, we should accept Matthew and Luke? And what about when Matthew and Luke “clean up” Mark? What about when they change his Greek, when they change his geography? Are you saying that Mark is not inspired?

I should note, Dennis, there is a big difference between “No sign” and “No sign but this one.” It makes “No sign” incorrect. Zero does not equal One. Perhaps I mentioned that.

Question. If we are looking to see if Author Two modified Author One by adding his/her own interpretation of the events—what would we look for?

Blossoming and John

Oh. I see the confusion. My fault.

The Gospel of John was written in a community that was separate from the Matthew/Mark/Luke community. There is some argument of a Galilean church vs. a Jerusalem church among some scholars. The author(s) of John did not have Mark, Matthew, Luke or Paul to work off from. They were a bit on their own.

However, as the Gospel of John was written so late (I put it 110 C.E. plus or minus 10) stories of Jesus had already circulated. And, we have to remember, since Mark and Matthew and Luke were possibly circulating, they would be affecting the oral stories of Jesus as well. (Many people forget that.)

At the time of Paul, no miracle stories regarding Jesus. Mark introduces a Jesus that does Miracles. Matthew and Luke take it and run with it.

Now we come to John being written. First of all, it is a higher Christology. It has a pre-existent Christ, with all the “I am” statements. This is a Man/God. And, it incorporates the miracle stories circulating (feeding of the Five Thousand) as well as its traditional stories.

Now, to the author(s) of John (remember, they don’t know Matthew, Mark and Luke) the idea of a Messianic Secret would be ludicrous. The idea that all these miracles of Jesus would not be seen as signs by friends and enemies alike is complete preposterous.

Therefore they forthrightly indicated them as such. Unabashedly referring to them as signs, as Jesus saying there were signs, and as the Pharisees recognizing them as signs.

It is only people that later include the four gospels as canonical AND demand inerrancy that run into the problem.

When I said, “by the time John was written, the legends of Jesus miracle workings had blossomed” I was thinking of the modifications from Paul through Luke. I apologize for any confusion that the authors of John were relying upon the other three gospels in blossoming—they were not.

They merely incorporated what was orally being transmitted into their own high Christology.

Hope that clears it up.

(And Dennis, I only gave a few examples, cause let’s face it—it doesn’t matter what I write, you will disagree. You will propose alternatives, and remote possibilities and “for some unknown reason” so why go through all the work. I don’t mean to be offensive about the need for study, but when Christian scholars with years of study, and knowledge are wrestling with these same issues, and you dismiss them with “it is possible for some reason” I tend to take the other scholars more seriously. Again, I apologize if I am coming across as elitist, I do not want to.

In fact, I like you because you make me mind my p’s and q’s. I can’t just toss off some statement, because I know that you will be looking it up and correcting me if I veer even slightly. That makes me a better student, frankly.)

Mark 6:5

Matthew thought Mark meant a physical inability and changed it. Early Christian apologists saw the problem of Mark 6:5 and started to defend it. If you want, you can go back to Origen, and his defense of it here. (Similar to yours—congratulations!)

More: Tell me why the statement "He could not do any miracles there" implies nothing other than a inability on Jesus' part?

Color me confused. That is what I am saying. Jesus was unable to perform certain miracles there. If they had believed, (according to this passage) he could have.

You really would have to deal with Matthew’s deliberate modification to make this passage more palatable for me to be persuaded.

Jesus and the Official’s son

I am sorry, Dennis. I was being petty. As I pointed out, the passage does not make it explicit that the offical was coming from Capernaum.

I was imaging that if I said that the official was coming from Capernaum, with your penchant to disagree with every single item that I ever say the Gospels indicate, you would pounce upon it and cry out that it does not say that the man came from Capernaum, but rather that the sick son was at Capernaum.

And, if another Gospel said the official came from Cana, you would be the first to vociferously defend the notion that John only records the sick son at Capernaum, not the official.

Take a moment and envision that Mark says the official was in Cana, where would you say he was coming from then, in light of John?

But, as I said, it was petty to play your game. I apologize. For this discussion, the official can come from anywhere you like.

More: Now tell me why your explanation that the man was looking for a sign trumps that the father obviously wanted to spare the life of his son?

Well, if you are serious about my explanation, the author was merely using a legendary story of Jesus healing an official’s son at an exact hour, and taking a pot shot at all the Jews that had not believed in Jesus, when it was so obvious to the author that Jesus was the Messiah through the enacting of signs.

My explanation, Dennis, would be that this is a legendary tale in which the author used the opportunity to make an assertive claim about Jesus. Like you, I would agree that the official wanted to heal his son. He didn’t care if Jesus, Herod, Augustus or Satan did it. All he wanted is his son to be better. (What father wouldn’t?)

But I also recognize the motivations of the authors, and what they wanted to portray. And their willingness to put words in Jesus’ mouth to get that message across.

I recognize that you are not at a point to even remotely agree with that. But that is my explanation.

DagoodS said...

Rich,

Yes, I think we would tend to agree on many things, my friend.

And, (might I add with an evil chuckle?) if I asked a question that makes you lose a little sleep (figuratively) then I will gain a little sleep (literally).

Discretionary Justice can quickly disintegrate into a God that does what it wants to do. And then the statement “God has to do ___ to you because he is just” loses all its force.

I honestly don’t know about the translation of Koine Greek regarding “miracles” and “signs.” I would love to have you look it up and get back to us. (You didn’t think I would make it easy, do you?)

However, I do believe it is universally agreed that “signs” when discussing the Messiah means miracles to Jews.

Your point on translations could not be more accurate. For a simple example, the Greek does not have ending punctuation. This is not a problem on an obvious statement, or a statement that starts with “Who” or “Where” We can see the later is a question.

In Mark 15:2, Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews, and Jesus replies, “I am.”

But without ending punctuation, it is possible for a variety of translations:

“I am.”
“I am?”
“Am I?”

As you can see, each of those has a different nuance. Or when the centurion says, “Surely this was the son of God” in Mark 15:39, is he saying that factually, or sarcastically? Or (worse) was Mark deliberately leaving it to be read either way?

On a personal note, some people at times ask if I regret my numerous years as a Christian. I do not. But the one thing I regret is that we were not forced to learn Koine Greek. In retrospect, it is amazing that this is not basic learning in every Sunday School. I have constantly dickered with going back to school to learn it, and other studies get in my way. (Quantum physics being the current pursuit. Then Baukman’s book on testimonies of Jesus.)

Yes, it seems we will always debate what Jesus said, and what he meant. ‘Course my position that we cannot know makes it relatively easy. Those that insist that Jesus MUST have said this, or Jesus never said THAT have a harder hill to climb

Heather said...

DagwoodS,

It's not in vain. :)

I'm also enjoying your discussion on justice. I do think that's key. I was mentioning it an earlier post that from evangelical Chrstianity, everything God does is seen in terms of justice. God loved us, but He couldn't set aside justice, so Jesus had to pay. So God's not really merciful, because if He forgives sinners, Jesus is still being punished. If He doesn't forgive, then the sinners themselves are punished. So God's 'forgiveness' comes with terms, and therefore, God can't simply forgive, nor can He simply show mercy. He wasn't ever able to circumvent His justice.

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

I need to make this my last response:

What did "generation" refer to?

Generation has different meanings that can change the interpretation of this verse. Generation can refer to a very specific group of people or a span of time or a combination of both. In the broadest interpretation, Jesus could have been telling the Pharisees that nobody would see a sign in their lifetime. In the strictest interpretation, Jesus could have been using generation to refer to the Pharisees only without a reference to time. You state that "generation" can not be the same as "you", but it can if "you" refers to a group of people which it does in the verses we are talking about.

Which interpretation is right? As with interpreting anything we read, we must use the context to help us find a correct interpretation. Since Jesus openly performed signs in front of crowds of people, the broadest interpretation (which is the one that you seem to be holding) doesn't make sense.

Did Jesus ever directly give a Pharisee a sign? I can't think of one right now. When Jesus told the Pharisees that he would not give them a sign, did he mean that the Pharisees wouldn't observe signs being given to other groups of people? I understand the Pharisees were aware of the signs performed by Jesus but this doesn't mean they were given a sign. They could have observed signs being performed as a part of a mixed crowd or they could have heard rumors about the signs being given. Neither one of these would fit within a narrow, yet valid, interpretation of Jesus directly giving the Pharisees a sign.

Sign of Jonah in Matthew but not Mark

There are many examples in the Gospels where the authors record Jesus saying different things. As a disclaimer, different doesn't mean contradictory. In some cases, the authors are recording the same event but include different details or paraphrase it differently. In some cases, Jesus spoke about a certain topic more than once. Neither one presents a problem for inerrancy.

If Matthew and Luke added details to Mark, this doesn't make Mark wrong. You asked me "Are you saying that when Matthew (and presumably Luke) indicate a longer statement, as compared to Mark, we should accept Matthew and Luke?" Your question assumes that in places where this happens, then one must be considered correct but not the other. I would argue that both are correct.

Does being inerrant or written under inspiration mean there could only be one written interpretation for a given event?

I could see this easily spinning into another discussion on it's own.

Blossoming and John

When I look at the miracles performed in the Gospels, I see little differences between the books. I see zero evidence for the blossoming theory. When I pushed you for examples of miracle blossoming, you only give me a hand full of examples where the Gospels tell very similar stories except for differences in small details. Pardon me, but I am hardly impressed.

The blossoming theory should predict that miracles stories become bigger and grander in the later books but, frankly, we don't see any of that. For example, your theory would predict that we would see smaller miracles like healing the sick in Mark and raising the dead in John. We don't see that, instead we see healing the sick and raising the dead in both Mark and John.

Yes, Paul didn't include miracles performed by Jesus in his writings. To be clear, Paul did make numerous references to the resurrection so he did make references to miracles.

So if the Gospel authors were being swept away by the growing rumors of Jesus' miracles, why didn't Paul or the other NT writers do so? Could it be possible that the miracles Jesus performed was not an important part of their message? Honestly, I can't even remember a time in the past several months where a teacher or preacher at my church made a reference to a miracle performed by Jesus. Honestly, when you look at all the doctrines that are taught, most of them aren't built upon the miracles performed by Jesus.

So here's a tough question for you.

If Paul didn't believe in miracles by Jesus, why didn't he correct the Gospel writers? We see Paul preaching heavily against false teachers and even rebuking Peter for teaching faith plus works, but Paul some how doesn't notice that the Gospel writers are just making stuff up? Shouldn't we see Paul warning the churches against the writings in the Gospels? No, instead we see him telling us to study scriptures which must have at least included the book of Luke since Paul quoted from it.

Mark 6:5

Your argument that Matthew was correct Mark would be more credible if the accounts between Matthew and Mark were nearly identical except for the different between "couldn't" and "didn't". The fact is there are a lot of other differences between the two accounts. To properly take this conversation any further, we would need understand the Greek better.

Anyway the whole argument that Jesus needed the cooperation of a person's faith to perform a miracle is absurd. Who's faith was Jesus relying on when he walked on water? How did Jesus press on and raise the dead girl who's family and friends had given up faith? The Gospels clearly tell us that the power Jesus had came from God. We see God has the power to operate outside of man's faith throughout the Bible.

Jesus and the Official’s son

I thought the whole thread of this subject was that you used this as an example of Jesus responding for a request for a sign.

What an odd ending to this subject. After all that debate, you throw your arms up and admit that you don't believe this event took place and it was only recorded by that author as a way to take pot shots at the Jews.

Well, I still stand by my statements that the gospels are consistent that Jesus never gave a sign when asked for one. In this passage, the man wasn't asking for a sign, he was asking for his son to be healed. The fact that you don't believe this event actually took place doesn't make your position that this was a request for a sign any stronger.

DagoodS said...

Dennis…last post it is, then.

Sign of Jonah

While you claim generation has “many different meanings” you provide no support for this assertion. In fact, Jesus uses the term “generation” as a broad term for the people of his time. See Matt. 11:16, 17:17, 23:36, Mark 9:19, 13:30 and Luke 7:31, 9:41, 11:50, 17:25, 21:32, in addition to the generation of the signs previously mentioned. As we have found is typical, conversely “generation” does not appear in the Gospel of John.

And, you fail to distinguish why Jesus did not use the more limited “you” when he deliberately did so on other occasions with the Pharisees. (Matt. 23)

In looking for the interpretation, we look to the author’s intent. (Not what is convenient to our current apologetical need against a skeptic’s claim!) Mark has a Messianic Secret. Thus, “no sign” given to the people of Israel (otherwise they would have figured out he was the Messiah!) falls in line with what Mark was trying to portray.

This is the constant tongue-in-cheek of Mark—telling the “obvious” story of Jesus being the Messiah, while the disciples, and the Pharisees, and the women and the crowds all bumble about, unable to figure it out.

As to signs to the Pharisees, go back and read my previous post, and the verse cited. The man with the withered hand. Miracles are signs. They asked Jesus in an attempt to trick him. He provided them a sign (miracle.) See what their statements were in John.

How can you explain them claiming Jesus was a man who did signs, yet they did not know Jesus was a man who did signs?

Dennis: If Matthew and Luke added details to Mark, this doesn't make Mark wrong.

Doesn’t make it correct either. There is a significant difference between “None” and “None except one.” I said it before, zero does not equal one.

The reason I asked how we could tell if Author Two was modifying Author One, is that if you list the things we would typically look for, it is what we find between Matthew and Mark.

Blossoming and John

Ahh. First I “thrill” you, now you are not “impressed.” Such is fickle fleeting fame.

I’ll try again. We do NOT have a situation where:

1. Paul writes Epistles.
2. Mark writes Gospel while reading Paul.
3. Matthew writes Gospel, while reading Mark and Pau.
4. Luke writes, while reading Matthew, Mark and Paul.
5. John writes, while reading Luke, Matthew, Mark and Paul.
6. James writes, while reading John, Luke, Matthew, Mark and Paul.

That is not what happened. It is not as if each new author had ALL the works of the previous author to build upon. We would NOT expect John to “build” on Mark’s miracles, if he did not have Mark in front of him! (And I should note that John was not written by one author, so we are talking a collective of people. But that, too, is irrelevant for the moment.)

You keep implying that is what I am saying. I am not.

More: Yes, Paul didn't include miracles performed by Jesus in his writings. To be clear, Paul did make numerous references to the resurrection so he did make references to miracles.

Right. Paul is aware of miracles. Paul has no problem writing about miracles. Jesus’ performing miracles would be helpful to his position. Yet Paul does not say anything about Jesus performing miracles. Paul specifically says Christians do NOT have signs.

How is this helping you, again?

More: If Paul didn't believe in miracles by Jesus, why didn't he correct the Gospel writers?

Because the Gospels were not written yet. Stories of Jesus performing miracles were not in circulation.

And yes, 1 Timothy 5:18 contains the same statement as Luke 10:7. ‘Course the question is—Did the author of Luke copy the author of Timothy or did the author of Timothy copy the author of Luke? Bit of a puzzler that no one seems to agree upon.

Unfortunately for this argument, the fact that Timothy was not written by Paul would quash the claim that Paul was aware of the Gospels. Regardless of who copied whom between Luke and 1 Timothy, the one thing it was not—it was not Paul copying Luke.

Mark 6:5

Other Bible scholars have long wrestled with Mark 6:5, in light of Matthew’s modification. “Credibility” has nothing to do with it. It is not an easy problem to simply “wish” away. You are more than welcome to study the Greek, and the differences between the voluntary limitation of Matthew and the physical inability of Mark.

Mark often acquaints faith with miracles. Mark says Jesus was amazed at their unbelief, immediately following in Mark 6:6. The connection is there. If you want to say there is another reason Jesus was unable to do miraculous works—proof it out.

Jesus and the Officials’ son.

*shrug* You asked my opinion. I do try, Dennis, to delve as much as possible into your world where the gospels are “literal history.” But if you are going to ask my opinion—why should you be surprised if I give it?

My conversations with Evangelicals would get pretty boring if all I said was “that was a myth.” I prefer other people think, and engage the texts. Dive in, and learn about them. My simply giving my opinion is not all that interesting.

Dennis: In this passage, the man wasn't asking for a sign, he was asking for his son to be healed.

Dennis: May I suggest we look at the fuller context (something that often isn't too kind to the skeptics arguments)?

How Ironic.

Dennis said...

I have to address some things.......

While you claim generation has “many different meanings” you provide no support for this assertion.

You're being stubborn here. Almost every word in every language has "many different meanings".

Here's a link to the Greek word "genea" which was translated into generation in our verse: http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/words.pl?strongs=1074

Notice 2b.) metaph. a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character
1) esp. in a bad sense, a perverse nation

Sounds like an appropriate term to use for the Pharisees.

I've already given you support for this interpretation of "generation" and it's based on common reading comprehension we would use for reading anything else. Matthew, Mark, and Luke set the context for us by calling the group of people asking for a sign "Pharisees". Jesus then calls them a "wicked and adulterous generation". You would have us believe that Jesus was calling all people currently alive at that point "wicked and adulterous". Jesus then openly performs signs for people who were Pharisees.

And what support do you have? Oh, wait, we see Jesus using the word "genea" with a different meaning and we sometimes see Jesus calling the Pharisees "you". I guess Jesus should have told the Pharisees, "Wicked and adulterous yous look for sign". Is Jesus allowed to use different forms of the same word?

I’ll try again. We do NOT have a situation where:

1. Paul writes Epistles.
2. Mark writes Gospel while reading Paul.
3. Matthew writes Gospel, while reading Mark and Pau.
4. Luke writes, while reading Matthew, Mark and Paul.
5. John writes, while reading Luke, Matthew, Mark and Paul.
6. James writes, while reading John, Luke, Matthew, Mark and Paul.

That is not what happened.


You simply can't know that.

You imply the gospel writers were each in their own bubble.

Paul and several of the gospel authors had a great deal of interaction:

Colossians 4:14 - Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.
2 Timothy 4:11 - Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
Philemon 1:24 - And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke my fellow workers.
Colossians 4:10 - My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.
Galatians 2:9 - James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.

Furthermore, there is very strong evidence, which you dismiss with a knee jerk reaction, that Paul had a copy Luke and referred to it as Scripture.

And yes, 1 Timothy 5:18 contains the same statement as Luke 10:7. ‘Course the question is—Did the author of Luke copy the author of Timothy or did the author of Timothy copy the author of Luke? Bit of a puzzler that no one seems to agree upon.

You are willfully down playing a very string argument that supports Paul had a copy of Luke and considered it Scripture.

Let's let everyone see the verse so that they can see how foolish your rebuttal is:

I Timothy 5:18:

"For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages."

To say that it is unclear whether Paul was copying Luke or Luke was copying Paul is intellectual dishonest. We can clearly see the author of I Timothy 5:18 was quoting something previously recorded and regarded as scriptures (obviously not some hypothetical Q document). Where else in the Bible do we see the phrase "The worker deserves his wages." That only appears in Luke 5:18.

Why are you puzzled, DagoodS? I think your response proves that your paradigm didn't come about from seeking the truth. How else could a person look at this verse and question who is copying who? How else could you be fooled into accepting the big bang, spontaneous generation, and pond-scum-to-man evolution by teeny-tiny steps? Nit pick my views all you want but is your viewpoint a better alternative? What can we say about atheism that doesn't provide support for it's own views (at least not in the forum) but seeks to maintain credibility by attacking the opposite viewpoint?

Sorry for that barb. It wasn't made out of anger but out of frustration to a group of people that look at the amazing design of our universe and come to the conclusion that it is a result of chaos instead the product of a designer.

Rich said...

Well,
Now that I got some sleep and my noodle didn't burn too bad, I found a little help with the sign/miracle thing. I don't know, however, how credible it is yet as I have only found one place that the translation was discussed, so far.
It says that the word miracle doesn't appear in the bible unless you read the english versions. it also claims that there are 3 different greek words that are generally translated as miracle in these different english translations. they are signs, powers, and wonders. The old testament uses hebrew words for signs and wonders, as in there were many signs and wonders and both words mean the same thing. the New Testament Greek, particularly in John uses the word signs, as in Jesus performing signs to point to his divinity.
It would appear then that the words are pretty similar.

http://sundayschoolthoughts.blogspot.com/search/label/Miracles

DagoodS said...

Rich,

Thanks for the study. I’m not surprised. I think I might have mentioned once or twice that the Jews considered “miracles” as signs. *grin*

What do you think that does to 1 Cor. 1:22-24?

DagoodS said...

Ah, so we weren’t done, then, Dennis?

Thank you for the link from Strong’s. Although I normally do not hold it in all that great regard as to Koine Greek explanations, here it helps me. (Probably since Blueletterbible uses Thayer.) Did you read your link?

Did you see the part where Mt. 16:4 and Mark 8:12 (the relevant scriptures we are talking about) are cited as an example of genea meaning “the whole multitude of men [sic] living at the same time…used especially of the Jewish race living at one and the same time period”?

Your cite supports what I have been saying! Why you claim I am being stubborn for believing the resources YOU give me as being authoritative is beyond me.

Read the link. The WHOLE link.

And yes, Jesus could very easily say to the Pharisees, “Woe to YOU for asking for a sign.” (He clearly differentiated the Pharisees from the crowd on other occasions.) The fact he didn’t is still significant

Dennis: You imply the gospel writers were each in their own bubble.

I do? I thought I was quite clear that Mark had at least some Paul. That Matthew had Mark. That Luke had Mark and most likely Matthew. That John had oral tradition that was incorporated from tales most likely initiated by other communities that had written gospels. 2 Peter certainly had Paul. And Jude.

Why this extreme dichotomy? You seem to think that ALL the writers knew of each other or NONE of them could. I believe I have been quite clear that I hold to neither dichotomy. However, merely by timing and study, we can eliminate some possibilities.

For instance, 2 Peter could not have been written before Jude, because 2 Peter copies Jude. Matthew could not have been written before Mark for the same reason. 2 Corinthians refers to previous letters and the previous problems of 1 Corinthians. Most likely was second (actually fourth, if you want to be technical.)

We see how the various books deal with first, second and third generational problems within the church, the developing Christology, the abandonment of earlier issues, and from that study can reasonably develop a timeline.

If you want to claim it is different—go right ahead! Lay out your proofs, give us the arguments both pro and con, explain why all these scholars are wrong.

More: To say that it is unclear whether Paul was copying Luke or Luke was copying Paul is intellectual dishonest.

Could be. If you find someone that is saying that, you might want to ask ‘em. Of course that is not what I am saying at all.

My question is whether the author of Luke was copying the author of of 1 Timothy, or whether the author of of 1 Timothy was copying the author of Luke.

Even if Luke, the traveling companion of Paul DID write the Gospel of Luke, what we know is that Paul did NOT write 1 Timothy. I am uncertain as to whether Luke or 1 Timothy was written first, which would be key in solving this problem.

(I didn’t address the instances in Philemon where Paul refers to Luke and Mark. Even if they were his traveling companions, this says nothing as to when the Gospels of Mark or Luke were written, except, if anything, to infer they were not at that time, since Paul never refers to them in his writing.)

More: How else could you be fooled into accepting the big bang, spontaneous generation, and pond-scum-to-man evolution by teeny-tiny steps?

Uhh, Dennis? Even conservative Christian scholars recognize that the Pastorals, including 1 Timothy were not written by Paul. While I don’t know each and every one of their positions regarding Big Bang, Natural abiogenesis, or theistic evolution, I am pretty sure they believe in a designed universe.

I am sorry if you think that I am “nit-picking” your views. I am simply unconvinced by your position. When other Christians, who have studied this problem, who DO know Greek, and who DO recognize the interplay between some books, and ARE versed in the Synoptic Problem tell me, “Yes, this is something that is not easily addressed” and you tell me “for some reason” which we don’t know, I have to accept your position, which remarkable coincides with what you want to be true, regardless of whether it is true…well, I am sorry. The scholars are more convincing in their arguments.

More: I think your response proves that your paradigm didn't come about from seeking the truth.

Dennis, I was confronted with people who argued positions that disagreed with my own. I determined to at least be able to address those statements. But in order to do that I had to learn:

1) What their arguments were based upon and;
2) How viable the counter-arguments were.

Although it probably does not mean much to you, I can state it was a complete and utter shock to learn how good the arguments were, and how flimsy the counter-arguments are. Unfortunately that takes time, study, and a bit of perseverance in the face of opposition.

I have no idea why you would think I was seeking a lie. But since you do—be convincing! Show the truth you hold! In order to do so, though, you would need to be aware of the arguments that you face.

For example—do you know the three biggest reasons why scholars (including Christians) determined that Paul did not write the Pastorals? If you don’t even know the arguments—how can you muster up a defense against them?

Rich said...

What's even worse, dagoods, is if they considered all three words to mean basically the same, then what did each word mean to them? I mean think about words we use, when you say bad do you mean literally bad or do you mean cool, or neat? When you really stop to conisder the trouble you can run into during translation, how can you ever be sure you understand what writings really say?
The Jews were looking for signs of their messiah for generations(sorry had to throw that word in there). the messiah was to perform many signs and wonders, or powers and signs, or powers and wonders. So its not really that much of a stretch to think the jews looked for signs not miracles, especially in light of that link I found.

Dennis said...

DagoodS,

"Generation"

Time for another multiple choice question.

Question: A person is reading a book and comes upon a word with multiple meanings. This person is unsure of which meaning the author intended to convey. What should this person do?

A) This person should consult a dictionary and review all the different meanings of the word. Then the person should review the context where the author used to word to decide which meaning best fits.
B) This person should go to the library and find other works from that author. They should scan for places where the author used the same word. If one is found, then they should look at the context of how that word is used. Once they understand the meaning of the word in that context, they can then apply it to the book they were originally reading. We can use this method because people tend to only use one meaning for a given word.

As silly as answer B looks, this is exactly what you are proposing whereas I am proposing answer A.

The Greek word translated to "generation" has different meanings. One meaning being "a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character esp. in a bad sense, a perverse nation". We see that Jesus referred to a group of Pharisees as a "wicked and adulterous generation" and then goes on to give signs to other groups of people.

What you are proposing is similar to answer B. You want to avoid discussing the context for the verses in question and you want to assume that Jesus would only use one meaning of a multi-meaning word. The funny thing is, you look at the context of other verses to decide which single meaning Jesus always uses.

Did you see the part where Mt. 16:4 and Mark 8:12 (the relevant scriptures we are talking about) are cited as an example of genea meaning “the whole multitude of men [sic] living at the same time…used especially of the Jewish race living at one and the same time period”?

Yes. I see that now but I still disagree. Jesus was approached and questioned by a group of Pharisees. I think the meaning interpreted as a group of men fits much better. Can you tell me why you think Jesus was using the broader term of all men living at the same time? It looks like the only argument you have given me so far was from a few posts back: "Jesus uses the term “generation” as a broad term for the people of his time. See Matt. 11:16, 17:17, 23:36, Mark 9:19, 13:30 and Luke 7:31, 9:41, 11:50, 17:25, 21:32". This argument seems to suggest that Jesus is limited to only using one meaning of the word and that we can look at the context of other verses to decide which meaning fits best in Matt. 16:4 and Mark 8:12.

Would to you agree with me that if "generation" is to be interpreted in the broader sense in Matt 16:4 and Mark 8:12, that this then presents contradictions? Don't those contradictions then disappear if we use the more narrow meaning of "generation" which refers to a group of men (the Pharisees)?

I Timothy 5:18

My question is whether the author of Luke was copying the author of 1 Timothy, or whether the author of 1 Timothy was copying the author of Luke.

Even if Luke, the traveling companion of Paul DID write the Gospel of Luke, what we know is that Paul did NOT write 1 Timothy. I am uncertain as to whether Luke or 1 Timothy was written first, which would be key in solving this problem.


Why are you still puzzled?! Go read the verse! Why do you think I Tim. 5:18 starts off with "For the Scripture says" and then quotes a passage from Deuteronomy and a passage from Luke?!

I can say with 100% certainty that the author of I Timothy was quoting an earlier source. Do you disagree with this statement?

Author of I Timothy

Uhh, Dennis? Even conservative Christian scholars recognize that the Pastorals, including 1 Timothy were not written by Paul. While I don’t know each and every one of their positions regarding Big Bang, Natural abiogenesis, or theistic evolution, I am pretty sure they believe in a designed universe.

Can you name even one scholar who holds an inerrant view of the Bible who doesn't believe Paul wrote I Timothy?

See, the author of I Timothy identifies himself as Paul and even uses Paul's traditional salutations including "grace be with you".

Would you agree with me that I Timothy was either written by Paul or was written by someone attempting to pose as Paul?

DagoodS said...

Rich,

Perhaps I will write a blog entry on “signs” within the Gospels and Paul. Frankly, I wouldn’t think many would find that all too interesting. Kinda re-hashed ground, if you know what I mean.

Good site to hit “JewsforJudaism” if you are interested in what Jews are (were) looking for in a Messiah.

DagoodS said...

Dennis,

This will be my last comment unless something really crazy comes up. You can have the last word.

I was a mite curious as to how you would react to your link supporting my position. Here you cite a link that indicates genea may mean “a group of people.” Yet had you bothered to read your OWN link, it continues on to give another meaning of genea, of all the people living at that time, and uses our relevant verses as examples of that!

You stated I was being stubborn. That I was not seeking the truth.

Here you told me a work was authoritative. That I should rely upon it. That YOU were relying upon it as authoritative. And, upon my inspecting that work--it supported me!

I wondered what you would do. I hoped that you would not be stubborn, as you think I am. I hoped you would be genuinely seeking the truth, contrary to what you think I do. Alas, what do you say?

Dennis: Yes. I see that now but I still disagree.

Sigh. You know Koine Greek better than Thayer? And, most intriguing, you continue to insist I must use it as an authoritative source.

When Thayer says that genea can mean “a group of men” I must take that as sacrosanct. Fact. Absolutely true. BUT, when Thayer goes on to say that Mark 8:12 and Matt. 16:4’s use of genea means “all the people living at that time” I must take that as false. Untrue. Completely inaccurate.

Why is Thayer correct when you want it to be correct, and wrong when you want it to be wrong? Don’t you see the bias you are implementing? (And do you realize that Greek words change by virtue of the other Greek words about it, particularly in this instance whether Jesus was taking about a present generation or a future one? And it is not just one word taken out of a sentence, but the whole grammatical make-up (if I understand it correctly) that causes Thayer to give these verses as an example of “all people”?)

Part of the reason this will be my last comment here, Dennis, is that this will get us nowhere. If you want to insist that I MUST accept your sources ONLY when they agree with you, and MUST reject the same sources when they disagree with you…well. We aren’t really moving forward, are we?

You apparently do not even know why Thayer claims these verses are the broad definition of generation. All you know is that it disagrees with your position, so therefore Thayer must be wrong.

As to your multiple choice question, for our purposes, let’s pick “A.” We looked at a dictionary. We looked at Thayer’s Lexicon. It says, based on the author’s knowledge of Koine Greek that Mark 8:12 and Matt. 16:4 says “all the people living at that time, used especially of the Jewish race living at one time and period.”

And all you can provide against that is that you disagree with your own authoritative source’s definition of the word. Can you see, Dennis why that is SO unpersuasive? You want me to use Option “A” and then immediately discard using Option “A.”

More: I can say with 100% certainty that the author of I Timothy was quoting an earlier source. Do you disagree with this statement?

I don’t know. Depends which was written first. And the dating of any of the New Testament books is a vast and varied subject. It is very possible, Dennis, that the author of 1 Timothy had a copy of Luke in his/her hands and copied it.

I am not ruling that out by any stretch. Unfortunately, there are other occurrences in which we have the phrase “according to scripture” (1 Cor. 15:3) or citations to claimed statements (Matt. 2:23) yet have no reference to them.

Odd that Luke would have a Gospel, considered “scripture” by no less than Paul, yet we hear no other person refer to it for another 100 years! (Further, since Mark and Matthew were written prior to Luke, those Gospels would have been traipsing around even LONGER, and STILL no one indicates their existence until 135 C.E.)

BUT, if Luke was written late First Century, and 1 Timothy was also written last First Century or beginning of second, then it is still possible that 1 Timothy copied Luke. Or Luke copied 1 Timothy.

Your “100% certainty” when you refuse to even dare have the appearance of agreeing with me that the documents were written in Koine Greek is less then compelling.

More: Would you agree with me that I Timothy was either written by Paul or was written by someone attempting to pose as Paul?

It was written by someone posing as Paul. Not that uncommon in that culture, you know. There were “writings” by Plato and Socrates and Pythagoras and Alexander the Great which were not written by said individuals. It was a method of providing authoritative umph to the document.

Yes, I know the arguments for Pauline authorship. Boil down to “because it claims to come from Paul and uses phrases that we find in other Pauline works.” (Gosh, not like someone who was copying Paul could figure out how to do THAT!) But there is far more in the consideration, here.

I see you did not bother to even try to study the arguments against Pauline authorship. If anyone is interested (probably not) here would be a starting point. There is much more (this is only a brief glimpse) but why bother providing what others won’t bother reading?

Really, Dennis? The only Biblical Scholars you will even consider are those that hold to your specific (and limited) view of the Bible, including only inerrantists? You don’t see the inherent bias in this? How can you learn anything if the only things you consider are the things you already know?

I found this whole exchange…sad more than anything else.

Dennis said...

Thayer
When did I ever present Thayer as authoritative? I did a Google search for a Greek dictionary and that was the first one I found. I didn't choose Thayer's lexicon because I considered it more authoritative than the others, it was the first one I found. Are you telling me that if I look at other Greek dictionaries, I won't find very similar definitions?

Thayer has now become your red herring. Previously you were going down the road of interpreting the meaning of "generation" by looking at the context of how Jesus used the word in other verses and completely ignoring the verses that we were talking about. That's why I came up with that silly multiple choice question. To show you how silly your position was.

Great. Now it's established that Thayer agrees with you. Can you tell me *WHY* your interpretation is better than mine without making an appeal to an authority? Of course not. If you could you would have done so several responses ago.

Don't get me wrong. I think it is noteworthy that Thayer agrees with you. I would really like to know Thayer's reasoning but I don't see any easy way of discerning that. I know you would like to portray Thayer as having spent a lot of time study the word genea and carefully choosing the examples he did but we can't know that he did or what his line of reasoning is.

I'll restate my position for the last time. I think the meaning "group of men" fits the context of the verse we are talking about. Jesus was performing signs left and right and to use your preferred interpretation would make the text self -contradictory. I know you love the thought of the Gospel writers being self-contradictory but I prefer to think that a different meaning of genea fits much better. Isn't how we were all taught to read? Choose the meaning that bests fits with the context?

Part of the reason this will be my last comment here, Dennis, is that this will get us nowhere. If you want to insist that I MUST accept your sources ONLY when they agree with you, and MUST reject the same sources when they disagree with you…well. We aren’t really moving forward, are we?

I'll tell you what gets us nowhere. Using the fallacy of appealing to an authority instead of clearly explaining one's position and how they arrived at that. Yes, you have explained your position but it sure sounded like you where using the logic I presented in answer "B". It would be nice if you would defend your position instead of appealing to an authority.

You apparently do not even know why Thayer claims these verses are the broad definition of generation. All you know is that it disagrees with your position, so therefore Thayer must be wrong.

Apparently you also don't know why Thayer choose the broad definition. If I could understand Thayer's reasoning, I might even change my position. The fact is, I don't know what reasoning he used and I refuse to be the kind of person that submits my opinion to someone because they have more knowledge in a certain area than I do. If an "expert" can't show me why I am wrong and I have a good reason to disagree with them, I will continue to disagree.

Who copied who
I asked you if there was any doubt that I Timothy 5:18 was quoting an earlier source (whatever that source may be).

Your response: I don’t know.

If I Timothy wasn't quoting an earlier source, then what was he quoting? Of, I almost forgot. I Timothy was written by a liar who fraudulently put Paul's name and signature salutations all over his work. A liar could have said he was quoting scriptures but actually just made up a quote. Of course nobody in the early church noticed this until the author of Luke came along. He saw the problem and worked the quote into his book. This covered up the problem of the missing quote and also gave his book instant recognition as scripture. I see it now!

I don’t know. Depends which was written first. And the dating of any of the New Testament books is a vast and varied subject. It is very possible, Dennis, that the author of 1 Timothy had a copy of Luke in his/her hands and copied it.

You didn't have to go this far DagoodS, but I sincerely appreciate your honesty in at least admitting that it is very possible that the author of I Timothy may have been quoting the book of Luke.

Author of pastorals

I was already aware of the arguments against Paul. I just wanted to hear you admit that you believe the pastorals were written by someone posing as Paul (a liar). In a lot of our discussions, trying to figure out what you believe is part of the struggle.

Really, Dennis? The only Biblical Scholars you will even consider are those that hold to your specific (and limited) view of the Bible, including only inerrantists? You don’t see the inherent bias in this? How can you learn anything if the only things you consider are the things you already know?

And they should make you the poster child of open-minded scholarship! I always find it amusing when people in these forums accuse another of being biased. We're all biased!

Here's an idea. Instead of every posting you make here an attack on Christianity, how about dealing with some of the problems with your own views.

Do you believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs? Maybe you could explain how a avian lung could evolve from a reptilian like lung without the intermediate suffocating to death. If you don't understand the problem (and I would be surprised if you did), I will gladly take the time to explain it to you without making appeals to authority.

DagoodS said...

Figures something came up.

Maybe this will help. Maybe not.

Appeals to Authorities are only fallacious, if “the person in question is not a legitimate expert in the field in question.”

Like saying “Einstein claims Capitalism is correct.” Just because Einstein was brilliant in the field of physics does not make him an expert on economics. Saying “Einstein claims mass is a form of energy” may be termed an appeal to authority, but it is not fallacious.

If Thayer is an expert, “appealing” to him is wise—not fallacious.

Dennis, I contribute to three blogs. This blog happens to be about Debunking Evangelical Christianity. Therefore I tend to focus my attention in that regard. If there was a blog entitled “Defending Naturalism” and I was a contributor, I would hopefully focus more on defending naturalism.

You’d be surprised if I understood the problem of avian lung evolution to reptilian lung? I would be absolutely floored! Unfortunately, due to my upbringing, what I knew about evolution at the time of my deconversion you could write on your thumbnail. While I have undertaken some study in that area, I know I am not even remotely qualified to debate the issue.

Yes, indeedy. Appealing to me as an authority on evolution, because of my extensive study on the Bible would be fallacious!

Dennis said...

I have to disagree with you (surprised?).

All appeals to authority are fallacious. From the Wikipedia entry on "appeal to authority":

"There are two basic forms of appeal to authority, based on the authority being trusted. The more relevant the expertise of an authority, the more compelling the argument. Nonetheless, authority is never absolute, so all appeals to authority which assert that the authorities' claims are definitely true are fallacious."

I have no qualms about you citing that Thayer agrees with you. The problem I have is when this is used as a means to end discussion on which meaning of generation fit our verses better. Thayer plus discussion - good. Thayer only and end of discussion - fallacious.

I understand the purpose of this forum and the theme for all the posts originating here. Just trying to make a point.

This is really my last post unless you say something that insults my family. ;)