Monday, April 9, 2012

Gospel of Luke 21-24 You don't say

Luke 21-24

The re-retelling of parables and end times predictions.

Once again Jesus sets up the prophesy of his death and resurrection by pissing off the powers that be and getting himself arrested

We learn that Judas was possessed by Satan before he betrayed Jesus and didn't do it willingly.
This feels like a  huge cop-out on the part of the storytellers in that it takes the human element out of the story.  Jesus wasn't really betrayed by an apostile/friend.

Jesus shares bread and wine with his followers.  Two thousand years later, some literalists believe that bread and wine blessed by a priest turns into the body and blood of Jesus.  Still, it's not as stupid as believing that if you trust in god hard enough, you won't die from a viper bite...

I need to bring up something that's kind of bugged me for a while.  Jesus tells Peter that he will deny knowing Jesus three times.  But, Jesus denies himself repeatedly when on trial!

22:70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.

23:3 And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.
23:9 Then he (Herod) questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.

What did Jesus have to gain by being snarky to these questions and not being upfront about his "Son of God" status?  If he said he WAS the messiah, they still would have killed him!

Oh, and what the hell is wrong with Christians who hate the Jews because "They killed our Lord".  Did they not read the bible?  Are they just really stupid?  Both?  If the people of Jerusalem (the Jews) didn't call for Jesus' crucifixion, Christians wouldn't have a religion, or, more ironically, they'd be Jews themselves!!!

But I digress.  Jesus doesn't defend himself in court and is sentenced to death.  He is mocked and beaten on the way so that Catholic churches would have something to hang on the walls (The stations of the cross for those non-Catholics reading this).

Getting nailed to a cross is a heinous act, but I find the part where the soldiers give Jesus vinegar to drink while he's hanging there, dying to be almost as horrid.  The Romans were dicks.

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus says;
23:41 ... for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
I'm guessing that a dying man nailed to a cross didn't actually say this!  

Jesus dies and is taked by Joseph of Arimathaea and his maidens.
23:56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

They must have missed the part when Jesus said you no longer have to observe the sabbath, or did that just pertain to eating corn?

But, all is well that ends well.  Jesus comes back from the dead, is reunited with his friends, tells them 'I told you so!' and then rises to heaven.  We all live happily ever after until God decides it's time to kill all of us non-believers.

The Skeptics Annotated Bible has several interesting lists of contradictions regarding the crucifixion and resurrection in the right margin.  What do you think?


  1. Regarding the vinegar, in another book, Mark I think, it was vwine mixed with myrrh, which would have been used as a painkiller. So that would have been a kindness, not an insult. But in Luke it says vinegar. Just one more detail that the writers couldn't get their story straight on.

    1. I have sour wine in Luke then wine mixed with myrrh to make sour in Mark.

      Ubi, do NOT speak for all versions of the Bible unless you have read them.
      You can blame this lack of detail to king james. Not the writers of the Gospels.

    2. Please cite your painkiller.

    3. Myrrh was used medicinally as an analgesic. It is still used that way by some "traditional medicine" practitioners today. And vinegar was often produced from spoiled wine, so it might be natural for there to be confusion about what the original text said. Do you know what the original Greek words were for vinegar and wine in the different gospels? I don't read Greek, but that information might be useful if you do.

      I will agree that the King James translators may be responsible for some of the confusion and disagreements among the gospels. (That's why I've read more than one version.) However, it's the text of the King James that we are discussing here.

  2. Regarding the complaint that Jesus didn't defend himself: When Jesus was asked if he was the King of the Jews, it was a loaded question. If he affirmed positively without qualification that he was, Pilate would have condemned him for sedition. He would have misunderstood Jesus. They would mean different things by the term "king of the jews." Pilate's idea of the King of the Jews title is not all that different from what the Jews thought of the title. They (including Jesus' own disciples) saw the Messiah an earthly king and a political ruler. Jesus was, of course, neither of these things. He even affirmed elsewhere that his kingdom was NOT of this world. So to simply say to Pilate, "Yes, I am the King of the Jews" would have been to answer positively to a question which was too nuanced for Pilate's ears. Either way, Jesus' answer to Pilate indicates that He is no threat to Rome, which is true. Jesus is not a political ruler, nor did He intend to be.

    One of your complaints, Bruce, has been that Jesus appears to be a bit too self-conscious of his role as Messiah and appears to do things purposely to fulfill the Scriptural predictions about the Messiah. I don't think you'd be happy either way. Because if Jesus seemed to possess no self-awareness of his own importance or role as Messiah you would probably also complain that if Jesus was really the Messiah then he should have known about it and done things in keeping with what the Scriptures said about the Messiah. And even if he possessed no self-awareness and yet just seemed to "fall into" the Messianic predictions, we'd have a 'Life of Brian' situation on our hands, wouldn't we? It's a lose-lose situation in terms of Jesus' narrative being able to stand up to your scrutinizing evaluation.

    Regarding the supposed contradictions between the narratives regarding the crucifixion, I would suggest, if you have the time, reading some commentaries by Christians. You may be surprised to know that modern commentators are very aware of the complaints by skeptics and have offered very plausible harmonizations of the Gospel accounts. The fact is, if you believe contradictions are possible, you will find them. If you believe, like I do, and like many commentators do, that the Gospel writers were all aware of each others' writings and never intended to contradict one another, you will be able to see harmonization between them. This goes back to presuppositions in a lot of ways.

  3. @Adam,
    Good points on the King of the Jews issue. I confess I forgot the two meanings when reading.

    As for Jesus being self-aware about his messiah-ship, I'm pointing out that it's very easy to imagine that a man knowledgable in the OT prophesies could easily have passed himself off as the messiah by 'fulfilling' said prophesies. Add in charisma and a few devout followers that hang on your every word and you have yourself a savior.

    Now, imagine that Jesus, a young, mortal male, disgruntled with the state of his people and religion was walking along by the river one morning and a locust eating monk tells him that he is the Son of God and will fulfill the prophesy. Imagine that Jesus is a likable guy and gathers followers, he gets a reputation for curing the sick and feeding the poor. He condemns those in charge for corrupting the religion. The Pharisees would naturally see him as a threat and try to get rid of him. Jesus, knowing the prophesies call for his death and rebirth would accept his fate. Imagine he was taken from the cross before he actually died.

    Or, imagine Jesus was just an anti-establishment hippie that railed on the status-quo. He pisses off the Pharisees and they have him killed. Later his followers enhance his life story over the years and combine it with the stories of Elijah, Osiris and Ishtar.
    No need for any supernatural involvement to make him the King of Kings.

    As for the contradictions, you're correct in that I will see the inconsistencies as a problem and believers will try to explain them away.

  4. Adam, I don't see that it was a "loaded question" at all. There is a perfectly good answer to "are you King of the Jews?" and that answer is "No." Could be "No, that's Herod's job" or "No, I'm a teacher not a politician." or just plain "No, I'm not."

    But, even if Jesus had given that answer, there is zero chance that the later writers would have written that into their books. They had a vested interest in turning this wandering preacher into their messiah/christ, so they weren't going to put anything into their books that might have contradicted their claim.

    (Also, do any of the gospels mention any of the disciples being present at this trial? I thought they supposedly ran and hid. So who was reporting these events?)

    1. Yes. Ubi, they do. Keep reading or pick up a Study Bible.

  5. Ubi, I appreciate the response.

    It sounds like it's a matter of opinion between us whether it's a loaded question. The fact is, Jesus wasn't the sort of king that Herod or Pilate had in mind. Didn't like Jesus' answer? That's too bad, because according to Luke, Jesus didn't say the things you think he should have. I have no doubt that you are holding out the possibility that things went very differently before Pilate or Herod. Your prejudices in this matter are such that you have much to gain from believing that these events never happened - or at least didn't happen as we've been told.

    As far as who reported these events, it is worth noting that there are numerous possibilities as to where Luke would have received the information incorporated into his account of Jesus' trial. Jesus did not stand alone before these men. There were guards present, after all. And we know from Matthew's account of the crucifixion that some Roman soldiers came to believe in Jesus following the event. You seem to suggest that it's outlandish that we even have this information and that just isn't so. It is highly likely - and certainly not impossible that after the resurrection the disciples would desire to obtain an "orderly account" of the events surrounding Christ's death, burial, and resurrection from any eyewitnesses who were there. Observe what Luke said about his Gospel:

    Luke says that he was "having followed all things closely for some time past, to write han orderly account." According to the author of this very book, a great deal of research preceded his writing of Luke.

    As I told Bruce, this goes back to presuppositions. You don't believe in the sort of universe where resurrections are possible. Ergo, you reject the Gospel accounts before the fact anyway. Your complaints are simply a formality.

  6. Adam,
    I certainly don't presuppose that any such ancient text is 100% accurate. Moreso in the case of texts written by someone who was not an eyewitness. Human memory is fallible, it becomes less reliable and more embellished as time passes. We often remember things, not they way they happened, but the way we wanted them to happen. We don't know whether Luke's "sources" were eyewitnesses, or people who heard it second-hand, or third-hand or what. He just doesn't say.

    I look at the bible for accuracy the way I would look at the Iliad or the Odyssey for accuracy. Certainly Troy and Mycenae were actual places. There may well have been a war between them, which might have involved a warrior named Achilles, who might have died in the battle. But when the story says that Achilles was invulnerable to injury except for his heel, I would say that is a mythological addition to the story, not something real.

    So we have a trial with no court reporters to verify anything, being reported by someone who was not there,and we have no idea whether our writer spoke to any actual witnesses to the event. And our writer has an agenda, in that he is writing to persuade, not just to inform. So yes, I reject the idea that this is a perfect record of events. That does not mean we can't tease out anything interesting from it, only that we may be learning more about the author than about the events.

  7. Your prejudices once again show themselves, Ubi. I don't think you're nearly the neutral, impartial evaluator of simple evidence that you think you are.

    For example, I notice that you use obviously fictional works which were intended to be read as poetry and fiction from the time they were composed to compare with The Bible's account of these events. The Illiad and The Odyssey are fictional stories which do not attempt to present what they are saying as history or facts. Homer did not die swearing to the truthfulness of these tales, nor did any of his admirers in subsequent generations.

    On the contrary, look at the words of 1 John 1:1-3:

    "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you."

    Or look in Acts 4:20. The men who followed Jesus and witnessed the resurrection go before a crowd of people and begin to preach, but the authorities told them not to speak or teach anymore. They responded, "we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." They are continually appealing to themselves as eyewitnesses, and they are putting their lives on the line for something which they are imminently qualified to witness concerning. They take their message with utmost seriousness and all but one of them end up dying an early and untimely death testifying to the truthfulness of their words.

    I don't think you'll find this persuasive because as I said, you have prior commitments to uphold as you read these things. You are some form of naturalist, I suspect and that philosophical belief is not easily put down.

    But the point here is that the men who saw these things were appealing to what they were teaching as real things which they saw. They even emphasize that they literally touched him. Homer simply bears no comparison. My question is, why don't you read Homer's 'Gallic Wars' with the same level of skepticism? I can guess what your answer is, and it exposes your prior philosophical commitments which rule out any claims to 'neutrality' or 'objectivity' on your part in evaluating The Bible's contents and claims.

    Ultimately, Ubi, your skepticism is a symptom of rebellion against God. I can give you great reasons for believing what I say all day long. I can show you that there aren't contradictions where you think you see contradictions. I can give you historical arguments and what not, but in the end, unless your heart is changed to see your own unobjectivity and rebellion against God, you will keep coming up with little nit-picky problems which can be dealt with by the Christian apologist all day long. You'll never run out of objections because your heart will continue to manufacture them. What I'm trying to do in this comment here is simply to confront the real issue when it comes to unbelief. God has spoken, and the human heart does not like it - yours included.

    [I hope you will not take these comments as an ad hominem. They are meant to be confrontational and illuminating, not judgmental or mean.]

  8. @Adam,
    I'm sorry, but having a Christian state "you have prior commitments to uphold as you read these things. You are some form of naturalist, I suspect and that philosophical belief is not easily put down." screams 'Pot calling kettle black.' You are giving Atheists the exact same line that we use on you.
    'I can show you why this is true all day long and you still won't believe because you don't want to let go of your comforting belief system.'

    The difference is, non-believers can see where the bible may be a highly fictionalized account of actual events while believers can only see the words on the printed page as gospel (pun intended of course).

    You also see skepticism as a "rebellion against God". I disagree. Questioning the validity or accuracy of something doesn't mean we rebel against it, we just don't believe it on face value.

    If only you Christians would just see the light... ;-)

  9. Bruce, you won't hear me claiming to be without prejudices or presuppositions. My point which I have been taking the long way coming around to is that everyone has presuppositions about whether or not God exists (and whether or not we want him to exist). We have a dog in this race - all of us. The question is not whether we have presuppositions, but whether our presuppositions about the universe can account for all of the things which we believe to be true. I won't give you the whole line unless you tease it out of me, but I do not believe that atheism can account for a universe which contains logic, morality, or science.

    I am totally biased. I am not neutral. But neither are any of us. Just so you know, I'm well aware of my own presuppositions. I will not kid any of you that I am an impartial observer just shooting from the hip and calling it like it is. None of us are.

  10. When you stop presenting evidence and start analyzing your opponent's character, you've moved into the realm of circumstantiial ad hominem, what C.S. Lewis famously called "Bulverism" and argued against. When we get to the epistles of Paul, we'll see a world class Bulverist in action.

  11. Ultimately, Adam, your skepticism against the Iliad is just a rebellion against Zeus. (Does that sound like nonsense? It should. You can't be "in rebellion" against someone you think is a fictional character. So please don't use that "rebellion" line on non-believers, it sounds just as nonsensical to us.)

    You mentioned the "Gallic Wars", I'm assuming that you mean Caesar's Gallic Wars, which I have read some of, partly in the original Latin. We know who wrote that book, and we can tell which parts he was an actual eyewitness to. Those sections are probably pretty accurate, and his narrative about what the Germanic tribes' plans and motivations probably less so. His participation as General in the Gallic Wars is also independently attested to by other writers.

    Now, as to your "loaded question". A loaded question is one that makes a supposition in the question, for instance "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Either a yes or a no answer would acknowledge the premise of the question, so neither answer will do. "Are you king of the Jews?" is not a loaded question. "Are you still calling yourself king of the Jews?" would be, but that's not what Pilate is quoted as saying.

    I had another thought about this trial. Did Pilate speak Aramaic? I would expect an educated Roman to speak Latin and Greek, but not necessarily the local dialect. Did Jesus, a carpenter from a backwater town, know any Greek? How exactly were they communicating, and was a translator needed?

    1. Adam hits a deep drive to left field, Ubi looks up and its over his head, Wow, well folks, thats not the first time a ball was hit right at ubi just to see it sail over.

      Ubi is all over the place out there.

    2. Her... Her head... Its hard to tell with that eye patch on.

    3. Tom, please read what Damion said above. Personal remarks do not add to the discussion.

    4. That's why I posted it. Bruce said I could be sarcastic.
      But it is getting tiring when I do pose questions to atheists, they go un answered.
      I though we were here for a discussion?

  12. The statements regarding the unbeliever's character as being in rebellion against God are not my grounds for disagreeing with him. An ad hominem argument is "against the man" and is used as a basis for rejecting one's opponents' beliefs. I do not reject skepticism because Ubi or Bruce are in rebellion against God. They are an unhappy coincidence, but one is not the basis for the other. I stated the moral value of skepticism, not as an argument, but to cut through the presuppositions of everyone involved. The truth is, this is a conversation about the God of the universe, who is Holy and who has said, "I will not acquit the wicked." You and I - all of us - have every reason to suppress this truth which is apparent to all of us. Why would we acknowledge an all-powerful and holy being who will stand in judge over us some day - and stands over us in judgment even now?

    God has spoken. What higher authority exists in the universe than God Himself, after all?

    Here's a question that will cut through all of the B.S. Are any of you willing to admit that you are biased and non-neutral? Or am I the only one in this discussion who is willing to put my cards on the table and say that yes, I am biased and not objective? If you aren't willing to put your cards on the table, then I can put them out for you all. It's just funner if you play along and tell me where your most basic commitments lay.

  13. Adam, I'm here for a book discussion, not a conversation about "god and the universe". I'm not interested in being evangelized at, there's enough of that pervading our society already. You have made a lot of unfounded assumptions about me (apparently including my gender). If you are just going to sermonize, I won't be engaging in any further discussion with you.

    Bruce, I'll be interested in your reactions to the book of John. Since, unlike Matthew and Luke, it's not based off of Mark as source material, it's really different.

  14. Ubi, I'm sad to see your unwillingness to come clean on your own biases and presuppositions. My guess is, you are even fooling yourself. You probably really do believe that you are totally neutral, totally open-minded - a straight-shooter, if you will. You aren't.

  15. @Adam, Everybody has their own opinions and and beliefs and those influence our part of the conversation. You're right in that we all have biases and presuppositions. We are after all reasoning, thinking creatures.
    I think the difference between us is the willingness to question our beliefs and assumptions. The skeptics/critical thinkers try and do this in a deliberate, conscious way. I think that makes us more open to change and new ideas then those who subscribe to religious doctrine.
    I'm putting up a post today to ask a question or two. I hope everyone will be honest and open in their responses.

    @Ubi, I'm looking forward to John. Although I enjoyed Luke, I would like to get a different point of view.

  16. I see where you're coming from, Bruce. During my teenage years, I went to church but was a skeptic. I didn't believe in God and was quietly laughing smugly to myself about the silly superstitions of the people around me. I would have termed myself a free thinker. In fact, I looked up to the sky and saw an empty universe. I was an atheist. However, it's hard to do that forever. As G.K. Chesterton said, the point of having an open mind is that you must let something into it. That eventually happened with me, and I came to realize that if the Christian God didn't exist then I would have no sufficient ground for logic, science, or morality. In an atheistic universe I could not give a sufficient reason for logic or morality. In fact, they do not fit together at all. So my mind was open and I was willing to question the beliefs and assumptions of those around me, but such a quest has to terminate somewhere. There is a point to every journey, isn't there?

  17. @Adam
    First off Hello, and thank you for taking the time to post. Just an fyi:
    About Ms. Dub,
    A few posts ago, March 12, I listed a bunch of post-Darwin atheists, and instead of looking up the names for herself she decided it was a good chance for a smart comment back at me.

    She also assumed I was a Bible Literalist, which if she read any of my posts, there is no way that can be assumed.
    Afterall, I did post that Adam and Eve is a parable.
    The Cardinal approved overall that book for Sunday School.

    She reminds me of how the NBA team Suns play defense. Attack attack attack and if someone proves her wrong she ignores and keeps on attacking. No defense, ever.

  18. @Adam
    Thank you for your back story. Could you post it in the April 14th post, "Have you ever changed your opinion?" I'd love to get a collection of these stories from commenters as it makes for better dialogue.

    As far as there being a (pre-deterimed) point to every journey, I disagree. Why can't we enjoy the journey and decide on our own meaning for it? We give it meaning by how we live, not how we're 'supposed' to live. But, let's discuss that in the next post!

  19. Tom, I'll attack bad logic, faulty reasoning, unwarranted conclusions and unsupported assertions when I see them. If your ideas are solid, they ought to be able to stand up to being poked. (You won't see me on any christian blogs, though, that would be rude. That's their safe place, and they are entitled to it.) If you come to a blog where non-believers hang out, like this one, you can expect any religious idea to come under serious scrutiny. (This blog is actually pretty mild on that front, if you want real attack dogs, try Pharyngula.)

    I assumed you were a biblical literalist because you made a remark that sounded much like the many biblical literalists I have dealt with. Since you said you are not, I'll accept that for now (conclusion subject to revision in the event that you make any claims of the bible being literally 100% true).

    Adam made a claim that something was a "loaded question". It might have been a difficult question, or a problematic question, but was not "loaded", that's something specific.

    Luke may or may not have recorded what was actually said at the trial, since he got the story from his source material, Mark, and by word of mouth long after the event, we can't really know for sure. We can, however, look at motivations for his phrasing it the way it's written, or later motivations for the church wanting Luke's version of the story included in the bible, instead of some of the other books that didn't make the final cut. For instance, the four gospels that were selected place the blame for the crucifixion squarely on the Jews and mostly let the Romans off the hook. Since it was the Roman church doing the book selecting, this is not surprising. Prof. Bart Ehrman mentions that the early church in Jerusalem, which was heavily Jewish and headed by James, had their own gospel (or maybe several of them) "The Gospel of the Hebrews". Unfortunately the manuscript does not survive, only some quotes from it in other works. It would have been really interesting to read the account of the trial in that book, to see what differences there were in a book written for a Jewish audience.

    1. What was the remark? If it is the remark bout Expelled, that is your own world. Which remark did I post involving the Bible that gave you that conclusion?

      And thanks for that blog title...I'm signing up tonight.

  20. You poked at a list full of atheists....your missed the point...I'm moving on.