3

Note that this is not a complaint, and definitely not about any particular person or posting.

An answer to Did the disciples go out preaching to "Jews only"? is based on:

The problem with this question is that it presumes that Acts and Matthew are telling the same story. They were not written with the intention of harmonizing with each other, but rather to modify the story in order to tell more, better or more desirable story.

The position taken in answering the question is based on a belief that the Bible is not the infallible word, and doesn't even have to be self-consistent; its purpose is to present a message, not literal truth.

That is certainly what most people in the world believe, so it's not an unreasonable position.

But is it a reasonable position for this site? Not because there is anything inherently wrong with it, but because the resulting answers will end up being mostly predictable and uninformative. (The answer already has a down-vote.)

Or perhaps the underlying problem is that it was inappropriate for the Question itself to refer to two different scriptures.

5
  • The assumptions of this question assume the site is for "Bible Study" vs. "Biblical Studies" (see hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/803/423 ). With that said, it seems this site became a Protestant Christian site long ago (hence why many have left).
    – Dan
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:21
  • 2
    @Dan It really isn't - many of the most prolific current users are not only non Protestant, they're non-Trinitarian. As a mod I feel like the main challenge of this site is trying to keep us on-topic for exegesis rather than devolving into fights over the nature of God.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Aug 10, 2023 at 22:20
  • Even the non-Trinitarian stuff has the ideology I’m referring to, though, in that it focuses on applying the texts towards theological aims in the present and what the text means vs. what it meant. I’m not working from a doctrinal definition of “Protestant ideology,” but rather a functional one which I’ve defined elsewhere (although I’d define it a little differently if I were to write that again vs. what I wrote 6 years ago).
    – Dan
    Aug 16, 2023 at 5:37
  • The first bullet and the last two bullets in particular are what I’m referring to in this context.
    – Dan
    Aug 16, 2023 at 5:39

5 Answers 5

4

Yes. Answers do not have to be from any theological perspective that teaches consistency across the scriptures (or infallibility), they do not even have to be from a religious perspective at all.

But on the other hand, "X and Y can't be reconciled" is rarely a satisfying argument, and considering that apologists have given attempted defences of reconciling pretty much every alleged contradiction, arguing that an alleged contradiction can't be resolved probably requires more work to justify, than the position that it could be.

2

"The problem with this question is that it presumes that Acts and Matthew are telling the same story. They were not written with the intention of harmonizing with each other, but rather to modify the story in order to tell more, better or more desirable story." [sic].

"None of the four gospels agree with each other or Acts, so the question will not be answered correctly by anyone with the presumption that these four anonymous authors agree on such things." [sic].


The problem with the answer is :

First, that it makes presumptions not based on knowledge. The author of the answer cannot possibly know what the intention of a writer is, if the writer does not state that intention. And none of the evangelists state the intention which the author of the answer presumes, namely (quote) "to modify the story in order to tell more, better or more desirable story."

Second, the author of the answer has quite clearly not studied the four books on which they are commenting. The agreement of the four evangelists is profound, not only in the content of narrative but in the handling of language, the presentation of concept and even down to the way in which words are used and even . . . . how often they are used. Those who have given their lives to the proper and scientific study of these books are agreed on the superlative agreement of them and the undeniable wisdom of their utterances.

Third, the evangelists are not 'anonymous'. That is an historical inaccuracy.


Yes, of course, if someone wishes to deny the spiritual origin of scripture, to spend time in attempting (they will never succeed) to find 'contradiction', and to deny that anything good exists on planet earth (that we may find salvation) . . . . then, yes, the site is open for any to use it as such.

But why would anybody want to ? : is my own question.

If someone despises scripture and thinks that there is not point studying it : then why bother with it at all and why come to this site and participate ?

Is there any logic in that ?

3
  • 1
    You are mischaracterizing the author with "If someone despises scripture and thinks that there is not point studying it". Neither thoughtful criticism implies despising the Bible nor does the author suggest that studying it is pointless. I for one am persuaded that the Bible has inconsistencies, and that different books address different issues. That position does not prevent me from engaging in a serious study and commentary of the Bible. Same with the author. Also Joseph Campbell (not sure if it was in The Power of Myth) made the remark that the four gospels are quite contradictory. Aug 6, 2023 at 14:40
  • @IñakiViggers, Joseph Campbell was a mythologist; he studied myths and approached the Bible as a collection of myths. With that attitude, it's easy to label things as contradictions, without considering that the apparent contradiction might be a result of a personal misunderstanding of the text. One could, and some do, similarly dismiss Einstein's Theory of Relativity because it contradicts common sense and what one can observe of the world around us. Aug 18, 2023 at 14:24
  • @RayButterworth "approached the Bible as a collection of myths." Not only that approach is compatible with delving in Hermeneutics, but also believers often misunderstand the scriptures. Regardless, your objection to mythologists is a moot point because in my answer I specified a verifiable inconsistency that does not depend on reader's background. The denial of Einstein's theory is a poor analogy: That denier "confronts" the equations of relativity with his empirical observations of nature whereas here it is about contradictions between passages (rather than between passages and nature). Aug 18, 2023 at 22:51
2

This site doesn't require you to approach texts from any particular perspective. You can write any answer you want, as long as you can defend it with facts and citations, it's appropriate for respectful discourse, and it actually addresses the OP's question.

Obviously, people are also free to vote either way on answers too (depending on whether they find them useful or not).

-1

Is assuming that the Bible doesn't have to be self-consistent an appropriate position for answers on this site?

To be self-consistent and to have to be self-consistent are two different things. The details of your post suggest that you refer to the former. The latter entails etiological considerations and other unascertainable issues.

The assumption that there are inconsistencies in the Bible is quite appropriate because the assumption can be proved easily. Case in point: Matthew 5:22 condemns being angry with one's siblings whereas Luke 14:26 requires hatred of them. This essential and notorious contradiction is not an instance of words being taken out of context. There is just no room for harmonizing, let alone if purporting to be based on the Bible, two opposite orders issued by the person who is the central character in both scriptures.

Elevating to axiom the idea of self-consistency of the Bible severely undermines doctrine altogether. Among the ramifications is the bizarre insinuation that the omniscient, omnipotent god to whom believers attribute authorship of the Bible only could come up with --at most-- a very flawed text.

That is certainly what most people in the world believe, so it's not an unreasonable position.

That approach risks reducing the field of Hermeneutics to bare, meaningless surveys.

In many contexts the majority oftentimes has turned out to be biased, wrong, and even irrational. That is one reason why the portion or number of endorsers of a position is less important, less reliable than the substantive grounds on which the position is premised.

Or perhaps the underlying problem is that it was inappropriate for the Question itself to refer to two different scriptures.

That is oftentimes the problem when the intent is to reconcile discrepancies no-matter-what.

The typical approach is to resort to dogmatic patches aiming to "show" that the discrepancy is only apparent or a misunderstanding. But the admission that the scriptures are not necessarily consistent (or even self-consistent) helps reaching a view of the Bible as a self-contained source/work. That admission also preempts shortcomings and discrepancies that result from dogma and the axiom of self-consistency.

Referring to multiple scriptures is not wrong per se. In fact, comparative studies can be very enlightening.

6
  • "That approach risks reducing the field of Hermeneutics to bare, meaningless surveys." — Exactly. That was my concern. Potentially every question could be correctly answered by giving the simplest possible answers: "the author must have been mistaken", "the text must have been corrupted", "why do you care, it's all a fantasy", etc. Aug 11, 2023 at 0:34
  • 1
    @RayButterworth I agree. Also those answers trivialize the matter and are devoid of merit. But the example provided here (i.e., Matthew 5:22 vs Luke 14:26) showcases that the proposition about inconsistencies in the Bible does not need to rely on that type of answers. Aug 11, 2023 at 14:36
  • Luke 14 can be considered hyperbolic. The same chapter says that one must "bear their cross" and "forsake all that one has" in order to be a true disciple. Some translations (e.g. NLT and NASB) say "hate (by comparison of his love for Me)"). It's reasonably clear that he meant that one must be willing to do these things, not that one must actually do them. Luke 14 requires a willingness to sacrifice while Matthew requires giving up negative feelings about others. Both are about having a proper attitude, without being inconsistent. Aug 11, 2023 at 20:03
  • @RayButterworth "Luke 14 can be considered hyperbolic." That approach is equivalent to the trivializing answers you criticize in your previous comment. By that token, also crucifixion and many other elements could be considered hyperbolic. "NLT and NASB) say "hate (by comparison of his love for Me)")". Yes, but no reason is offered for why NLT or NASB ought to be considered more authoritative than the rest of translations where that revisionist addendum or footnote is missing. "he meant that one must be willing to do these things". The passage is in unequivocal terms of actually hating. Aug 11, 2023 at 20:46
  • "The passage is in unequivocal terms of actually hating." — it is just as unequivocal as requiring carrying crosses and forsaking all possessions, but his disciples didn't literally do that. Aug 11, 2023 at 21:17
  • @RayButterworth Assuming arguendo that your point is accurate, it is nonetheless unavailing because there are no conflicting commands about carrying the cross: Nowhere in the gospels did Jesus order not to carry the cross. This is in stark contrast with the inconsistency regarding hatred of one's siblings. The negation or dismissal of inconsistencies by calling them "hyperbole" entails too much of cherry picking, and that approach falls short of serious hermeneutics. Aug 11, 2023 at 23:38
-1

"Literal truth" is the root cause of stumbling for the traditional hermeneutical approach since the early church of pagan Romans to today.

Not because there is anything inherently wrong with it, but because the resulting answers will end up being mostly predictable and uninformative.

You are wrong in this assumption. First of all there may be other users like myself who hold the same view, exposing the religious dogmas and fanatical apologetics of the Norman Geisler types, with good quality answers. Truth and originality should be encouraged, this is not a Christian site. Secondly, I also receive downvotes and just ignore them. Users should not post answers with intention of gaining points, otherwise it would become an echo chamber of fanatics preaching to the choirs. The reason that particular answer received 2 downvotes is because of being very low quality.

It is a fact that the bible is neither preserved in its original text nor is infallible, nor the traditional man's definition of inspiration is to be followed. The traditional intention of "harmonizing" the contradictory accounts of the Gospel began in the second century. Note, the vast majority of questions here are on Gospel contradictions!!!

The Diatessaron is a harmony of the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, written by Tatian, an Assyrian Christian apologist and ascetic, in the mid-2nd century AD (c. 160–175). It was the standard text of the gospels in the Syriac-speaking churches until the 5th century, when it was replaced by the four separate Gospels.

This reveals that the Roman pagans were as much ignorant of the Jewish genre of midrashic literature as the common religious masses today. The talmud shows that exposition of the scripture was midrashic, that is subjective innovative exposition, just like Paul did on many instances. The Gospels fall in the category of ancient biographies where authors (besides Mark) added extended innovative midrashic stories to demonstrate fulfilment of prophecies, they also add legends and personal agenda driven stories and details which suit their subjective purpose of writing. They were written by different and unique authors. This is why it is fundamentally incoherent to even try to harmonize them assuming a single authorship.

Bart Ehrman is the biggest example of such naive fanatic and Islamic standard of inspiration, inerrancy of the scripture that he couldn't possibly defend the bible against the mountain of evidence, where even a single contradiction or textual uncertainty destroyed his straw-man faith or idol of the bible. The modern believer is unnaturally focused on the "objective interpretation", ignoring the fact that the Jews had the culture of subjective interpretations and varying beliefs.

Of course, such original & open minded answers will generate unpopular, offensive, and perhaps uninformative for many users, not to mention blasphemous. We cannot stop them from downvoting due to their weak insecure faith. But you should not question the validity of authentic hermeneutics based on one poor answer of the user Ruminater.

Moreover, the affirmative presupposition that the Bible books are intended to be self-consistent is a positive claim and begs the question, as this dogmatic claim is not based on interpretation. If someone says, "The Gospels or different books are not intended to be harmonious and self-consistent, because they are written by different individuals, expressing their personal interpretations and views". Such an answer is not baseless but very meaningful in forcing you to reassess your presupposition that the various books are written by one author.

2
  • "users like myself …, exposing the religious dogmas and fanatical apologetics …, with good quality answers". And such rational argument is a good thing. (Many of my own answers are anti-mainstream doctrine.) ¶ My main concern is with answers that provide almost nothing useful. Suppose this were LordOfTheRings.SE, and someone answers with "It's a made up story; there's no point in trying to reconcile [event A] with [event B]; the author simply forgot about A when he wrote B.". That may very well be true, but it's not a useful answer for that site, and even less useful for this one. Aug 26, 2023 at 14:00
  • @RayButterworth you are right, however you need to remember that the typical fanatic answers must be way more in proportion (CARM or norman geisler) that forces absurd harmonization and simply asserts that there is no contradiction, thereby suppressing the genuine doubts and reasonable approaches.
    – Michael16
    Aug 26, 2023 at 14:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .