Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Little Mixed-Up

At one time, people read the historical accounts in the Tanakh, and presumed them to be literally, factually, and historically true. God created the world in exactly one week, approximately 6000 years ago. People actually lived to be 900 years old.

The Flood consisted of 40 literal days of rain, and the entire world was covered in water. There was a literal Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Ten actual plagues (as described) happened, resulting in 600,000 Hebrew men (plus women, children, livestock and belongings) exiting from Egypt. Joshua’s genocide occurred, followed by the time of the Judges, followed by a Joint Kingdom.

Times change.

Advances in science have happened. Geology and dating has become more accurate. Archeology has generated vast discoveries. And as the pace of technology increases—these stories are slowly being chipped away.

Oh, there are still stalwarts who hold to a 6000 year old Earth, and a world-wide Flood, and Exodus—despite the evidence. But many have re-evaluated the accounts. Now the “days” in Genesis chapter one are considered “periods of time.” Or the story is allegorical in form only. No longer is it actual, literal or historical. “Adam & Eve” are representations—not actual people.

The Flood? Only a local affair in which some guy probably put his wife and kids with a coupla calves and sheep on a raft for a few weeks. The Ten Plagues? Volcanic Eruption. The Exodus? Well, there weren’t really two million people wandering around for 40 years. Maybe a few thousand (at best) and then only a year or so. Joshua’s genocide? Minor skirmishes.

As we study and learn, the stories of the Tanakh become more and more improbable, even to the person who holds them as inspired, and science is prevailing. The Christian has to modify their position from an actual, literal event to more of a type, or legendary or blown-out-of-proportion event.

But isn’t that saying the stories of the Tanakh are wrong? See, the question presented is: what did the authors of these stories believe? Did they hold them out to be historical events? If so, weren’t they wrong? If they were wrong as to history (which we can confirm); why should I trust they would be right regarding actions on the part of a God—which we can’t confirm?

I realize that Christians of today’s time do not want to appear silly in light of the evidence presented. So they wrangle and force an allegorical meaning into what, even they see, cannot have actually happened.

Yet this undercuts the premise. It recognizes the Bible is wrong. It recognizes the Bible, when written, was factually inaccurate and only recent developments have placed the Christian in this precarious position by which they must read into the text what is not there.

Look at the New Testament authors. Did they think these were historical events? (And, on the Jewish side, it should be noted Josephus, writing in the First Century, treated these as actual, literal, historical events. Not as allegories. Not as mythical developments.)

Matthew and Luke record Jesus as saying Noah was an actual person. (Matt. 24:37-38; Luke 17:26-27) The author of 1 Peter treats Noah as an actual person, with an actual flood. (1 Peter 3:20) So does the author of 2 Peter. (2 Peter 3:20)

The authors of the New Testament treat Moses as an actual person. Not an allegory. (Matt. 8:4, 19:7; Mark 7:10, 12:19; Luke 20:37, 24:27; John 1:45, 3:14, 5:46; Acts 7:20-44; Rom. 9:15; 1 Cor. 10:2; 2 Cor. 3:13; 2 Tim. 3:8; and Jude 9) Adam is considered a real person. (Luke 3:38; 1 Cor. 15:45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; and Jude 14)

And, most famous of all, the author of Hebrews commends Noah (11:7) and Moses (11:23-29) for the events recorded in their lives in the Tanakh. As well as confirming the historical claim of Joshua’s genocide. (Hebrews 11:30-31)

2000 years ago, those who revered the Tanakh treated the historical accounts as events which happened as literally recorded. What has changed? If greater knowledge has demonstrated these accounts are in error, I understand it is quite convenient to brush it off as “allegorical” or “legend” or “myth,”—but can you understand why the claim this is error goes a long way to proving the Bible is in error on these points?

But it gets worse. And funnier.

See, in the First Century, it was accepted practice to write historiographical documents. When writing a biography, it was not expected, nor anticipated, for the author to write an exact date-by-date, event-by-event actual history.

So the author would write what they anticipate the person would have said—not necessarily what the person actually said. We see this in the speeches Josephus ascribes to individuals in his accounts. We also see this in the speeches the author of Acts puts in the lips of Peter and Paul.

No one reading the documents in the First Century (nor writing them) would have questioned, “A-ha! But did Peter actually say, word-for-word, what is recorded here?” Of course not! They recognized the author’s imputing speech which would have normally been predictable for the individual.

Did Jesus give the word-for-word Sermon on the Mount or was this what Matthew’s audience expected Jesus would have said? At the time—this question would never have been asked!

Further, it was expected to ascribe events to certain people of certain social status. Holy Men heal people. If you were writing about a Holy Man, you would naturally include a story about healing. If they were a person of great honor, you would provide them an honorable birthplace, often with astounding events occurring (earthquakes, darkness, miracles) to accompany the birth.

Again, this was expected in the biography. No one was inspecting this with a 21st Century mindset, questioning whether Mary really gave birth in Bethlehem or Nazareth. Or whether there were angels attending the birth. This was a birth of the Christ—angels would be part of the perceived story. (So would earthquakes and darkness at the death of such a Christ.)

One of the ways in which a philosopher’s position was explained was through challenge-riposte. The story would unfold as the philosopher is asked what is initially seen as a perceptive or difficult question, and then the philosopher would cleverly answer in such a way as to show the philosophical position being promulgated, and to gain in honor as having bested another.

How many times do the Gospels record Jesus being accused by Scribes or Lawyers or Pharisees or Sadducees or Jews? The people reading (or hearing these stories read) understood this was a convention to explain the philosophy of Jesus. They were looking for what Jesus taught, and the authors placed it in the form they were most familiar.

A common writing technique was a chiasm. To frame the story in certain relational sequences. The best example of this is the sandwiching of the curse of the fig tree, followed by the temple ruckus, and then closed with the seeing of the cursed fig tree. Mark is replete with chiastic structures. (Arguably completely infused, although I think some are a stretch.)

Again, this was a method familiar to the audience. An audience uncritical of whether Jesus actually, chronologically cursed the tree, then caused a ruckus, and then saw the results of a cursed tree.

Yet what do we see in today’s culture when it comes to the New Testament writing? The very same people willing to concede the lack of historicity of the Tanakh, grimly hold on to every word claimed to be said by Jesus is actual. Every footstep 100% historical. Every breath literal. Something the authors never intended!

Many Christians have it mixed up. When the authors (Tanakh) intended it to be historical, the Christian claims it is figurative. When the authors (New Testament) intended it to be figurative, the Christian claims it is historical!

Apparently the methodology is to completely abandon (or never study) what the authors intended by looking at similar works or how similar works are treated OR the Christian wants to believe what is most convenient at the moment.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Story Only an Inerrantist Could Love

Anyone who knows me would know I often bemoan the fact those who hold to the inerrancy of the Protestant Bible, when it comes to resolving conflicts, utilize a method we would never, EVER use in real life. They cry out, “As long as there is any possible logical resolution, no matter how inane—Inerrancy is maintained.”

I point out how we don’t use this low of a standard in any other facet of our lives; why should we use such a poor method when discussing what is supposed to be the greatest writing? Recently I was reminded of how we don’t use this method any other time.

I apologize in advance for the language. In my profession we tend to be very precise and literal when quoting others, and will do so here as well.

Ever have someone who, no matter what you do; no matter how hard you try—you constantly rub the wrong way? Even when you are trying to be nice, it always seems to blow up in your face? I had such an encounter with a Defendant.

We obtained a judgment against an individual. Apparently she thought we would never discover how she was employed—but we did. And we started to garnish her wages (a court order to direct a portion of her salary directly to us.) I got the call. She was fuming. (Trust me; her words could be in all capital letters for emphasis.)

Defendant: What is this about?
Me: Let’s see…Ah, yes--It is about a Judgment we obtained—
Defendant: I KNOW about the Judgment! Why did my employer send me this notice?
Me: What notice?
Defendant: The One I am holding in my hand!
Me: Ma’am, what does the notice say?

Defendant: Don’t you know?
Me: I don’t know what you are holding, I can’t see—
Defendant: Didn’t YOU file a Garnishment?
Me: Well, yes, but—
Defendant: Don’t you know how this is supposed to work?
Me: Yes, however—
Defendant: So what does this notice mean?
Me: Perhaps if you would stop interrupting me, I could answer your question.*

[*Most likely it is here where our relationship started to deteriorate.]

Defendant: FINE.
Me: Typically, upon receiving the garnishment, the employer provides what is called a Disclosure. Often the Defendants get a copy before I do. I presume—
Defendant: So how often are they going to take this money?
Me: I don’t know, I haven’t received a copy of the Dis—
Defendant: You Don’t Know! How can you garnish me if you don’t know?
Me: Again, ma’am, if you would let me explain, it depends—
Defendant: You ARE an attorney, you HAVE done this before. Don’t you know how this works?
Me: I do, but each situation is different. Until I get a copy of the Disclosure—

Defendant: When will they send you a copy?
Me: They have 14 days, but sometimes—
Defendant: Its BEEN 14 days!
Me: I know, but sometimes—
Defendant: Why haven’t you received your copy?
Me: Sometimes it takes—
Defendant: Are you telling me I received a copy before you did?
Defendant: How come they took it out of my paycheck? Will they be doing this every week? How much will they take? How long do these last?

Defendant: Why aren’t you talking to me? Don’t you have anything to say?
Me: I was waiting for you to finish. Every time I try to talk, you interrupt me, so—
Defendant: But you aren’t SAYING anything.
Me: Until I get that disclosure, I can’t answer any of your questions.
Defendant: Fine. [click]

Of course, since life has an ironic side to it, the employer messes up the garnishment (taking differing amounts,) causing even more calls. Now she decides she wants to take this back to the beginning.

Defendant: Why was I being sued?
Me: It has to do with rent due on your apart—
Defendant: There was no rent due! They were supposed to apply my security deposit to the rent! How can they charge me so much rent?
Me: Well, there were also damages to the—
Defendant: There were no damages! I left that place in perfect condition. How can you take my wages from me for money you aren’t entitled to?
Me: That was all decided in the Judgment.

Defendant: Well--I want to take this to the Judge.
Me: It’s too late for that—
Defendant: Are you saying we don’t have any rights? What kind of lawyer are you, trying to take away my rights? I know the law! I demand a hearing in front of a judge!
Me: But we already have a judgment—
Defendant: I don’t care—I am entitled to some sort of hearing—I know that! I want to know what I was sued for!
Me: If you send me a self-address, stamped envelope, I would be happy to—

Defendant: What?! Don’t I have a right to know what I was sued for? You HAVE to show me what the judgment was based upon. I demand it!
Me: Actually, I don’t. After a judgment has been entered, I am not required—
Defendant: I know my rights. You HAVE to show me. What kind of lawyer are you that you don’t even know you have to show me? They are taking money out of my paycheck, and I don’t have a right to know why? Is that what you are saying?
Me: Yep. That’s what I am saying. However, I am willing to provide that information if you would send—
Defendant: If you don’t have to provide it, why would you be willing to send me it? I KNOW I didn’t owe any rent. There were no damages to that apartment. You are trying to cover up something. Send me that information.
Me: You know if you would stop interrupting me—

Defendant: Why are you so rude? What have I done to you? All I care about is finding out why my wages are being taken, and you say you don’t have to provide that to me. What is it you want me to do? Go in front of a Judge? HE will force you to hand this over to me. How can I get this information?
Me: For the third time, send a self-addressed stamped envelope, and I will provide a breakdown of the damages.
Defendant: [long pause] The same…smart mouth as ever. Mother fucker! [click]

I knew this was not the end, so I wrote her last sentence in the file (to remember) and waited. She did send an envelope, and I returned it with a breakdown of the damages. Sure enough—the eventual call:

Defendant: I want to talk about these damages.
Me: ‘kay.
Defendant: I refuse to pay the “administrative fee” listed. I talked to a lawyer and they said they never even heard of an “administrative fee.”**

[**It always amazes me when Defendants tell me they have talked to a lawyer, expecting me to be impressed. As if all of a sudden I would wail, “Oh, NO! If some lawyer says it—it MUST be true!” Don’t they know who I talk to all day, every day?]

Defendant: I am going to file a hearing in front of the judge and he will never let you have any administrative fees. You have to give me an accounting of every single penny I paid in, and every rent, and when it was applied. I demand an invoice for the workers who repaired this damage, and every since receipt of items replaced. I want the hours they worked, and how much your client paid them.
Me: No.
Defendant: WHAT?!! You HAVE to give this to me. I DEMAND it!
Me: No, and for two reasons. First, I am not required to give you anything. I only gave you the list of damages out of courtesy. Two—

Defendant: Oh, no! I talked to a lawyer, and they said you have to give me a breakdown if I request it. And I did. And I want this too, as it is part of the breakdown. So you have to give it to me.
Me: --and Two, when we last talked—do you remember the last thing you said to me?
Defendant: What does THAT have to do with anything?
Me: I wrote it down. You said, “The same smart mouth as ever. Mother fucker.” May I suggest if you are asking for a courtesy from someone, you don’t call them a “mother fucker”? See, what happens, when a person is called a “mother fucker” is that they become disinclined to provide any other help or service for you.

And here is where she shot back, without missing a beat. I am in awe at the pure creativity of humans to avoid their own trouble:

Defendant: When I said that, there was another person in the room. I wasn’t talking to you; I was saying that to the other person. You don’t know if there was anyone else in the room with me. You can’t prove I was saying that to you; I could have been saying it to someone else.
Me: Then perhaps I could suggest in the future, when calling out “mother fucker” you designate with clarity as to which person you think is a “mother fucker.” This way the correct “mother fucker” will be apprised of their situation, and this type of confusion won’t occur.
Defendant: [click]

So I ask the inerrantist—do you think her explanation was logically possible? But do you really think—really honestly whole-heartedly think—I should believe there was another person in the room that day?

If you thought (perhaps for an instance) her explanation was inane--you can see why we just might think the same thing about the Christian apologist explanations utilizing similar “logical explanations.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Will the Real Theist Please Stand Up?

Those of us who were formerly Christians are often informed we didn’t truly know God. We are informed we only dabbled in religion; didn’t really partake of what God was. We are informed we were never saved in the first place. I will highlight two problems with this claim.

1. It is a circular definition. The definition of a person who knows God is alleged to be: “A person who knows God.” Not very helpful. Oh, you can add as many adjectives as you desire, but it still boils down to a circular definition. “A person who truly knows God is a person who truly knows God” is just as circular as “A person who absolutely, positively, unequivocally knows God is a person who absolutely, positively, unequivocally knows God.”

The other day my daughter was working on a paper and asked, “Dad, can you give a good quote regarding Core Democratic Values?” Since this came out of the blue, I was uncertain as to what she was referring. “What are ‘Core Democratic Values?’” I asked; looking for clarification. “Oh, you know,” she responded in frustration, “Values which are both core and democratic.”

Not very enlightening. Yet I have the same conversation with many theists:

Me: I was once a Christian.
Them: Do you still believe there is a God?
Me: No.
Them: Then you weren’t a true Christian in the first place.
Me: Why not?
Them: Because a “true” Christian is defined as one who always believes there is a God.

So we define theist as a person who believes there is a god. I think I already knew that. Are they saying I didn’t really believe in a god? I was always faking it? Odd. Or was I self-deluded in believing in a God. Does a theist really want to go down a route claiming God-believers can be self-deluded? I would think not!

2. For a Christian, this is contrary to the Bible. Yes, I am quite aware the Bible speaks of us abiding in Christ, and his abiding in us. John 15:4-10. However, we cannot stop there. “Interpret Scripture with Scripture”—remember? The various books give specific and observable demonstrations which separate the believers from the non-believers.

Galatians 5:22 provides certain “fruit” or results which should be evident in a person who walks in the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. And yes, I exhibited all of those fruits. And continue to do so.

Here is why the Christian making this claim, “You were not a true believer” never, EVER goes to Galatians 5. This is key--because they recognize ALL humans are capable of exhibiting these traits! They dare not use this as a measuring stick, as we would all pass. We would all qualify as “walking in the Spirit.” Sure, we don’t exhibit all the traits all the time; but neither does the Christian! If this was the definition, no one is saved. If we use the Christian’s nomenclature (exhibiting some of these fruits some of the time) we are all saved.

Galatians 5:19-21 contrasts the works of the flesh. The works which all of us non-Christians should be partaking in. The things which would prevent us from inheriting the kingdom of God. That list: Adultery, Fornication, Uncleanness, Lewdness, Idolatry, Sorcery, Hatred, Contentions, Jealousy, Outburst of Anger, Selfish Ambitions, Dissensions, Heresies, Envy, Murders, Drunkenness, and “the Like.”

Again, what do we see? Sure, Christians as a whole avoid the adultery, Murder, drunkenness, idolatry, and sorcery. But what about selfish ambition? Is there an American Christian who has not had some selfish ambition? And in looking at the various splits and denominational fractions—need I point out contentions, dissensions and heresies? Never hated someone? Never envied or been jealous? Never angry?

Here the Christian excuses an occasional slip-up with the fact they still have a sin nature. So if you have this straight, Christians have Love, Joy, Peace, etc. some of the time (just like everyone else) and occasionally are selfish, contentious, envious, etc. some of the time (just like everyone else.) No wonder they dare not use Galatians as a determination of god-belief—we would all pass or fail!

Matthew 25:31-46 gives distinctions between believers and non-believers. The Believers helped the poor, needy and prisoners. Again, no Christian, in my recall, every told me I wasn’t a “true Christian” because I failed to conform to Matthew 25. Why not? Because I did!

In fact, I fulfill the requirements of a Bishop/overseer of 1 Timothy 3:1-8! One wife, hospitable, able to teach, good reputation, etc. How come no Christian ever wants to use those as the measuring rod by which I could be determined to be a “true” Christian? Simple—because I would pass!

Or take the simplest test of all—Rom. 10:9. “Believe with your heart and confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and God has raised him from the Dead.” Yep—passed that one too. Oh, the person making this claim may argue I didn’t “truly” believe—but the proof is in the pudding. Our beliefs are demonstrated by what we do—not what we say.

If I didn’t believe—do you think I put all that money in the plate out of fooling---what? Those hours spent studying and praying as a gag—for whom? Those days spent helping in the church, teaching, leading, cooking, cleaning—all for some sort of laugh and giggle?

What is it you think I believed?

In conclusion, let me ask this question. I believed there was a God, manifested in three persons, including Jesus (the Son) who took the form of a human, died, and was raised again so that we have the opportunity to have everlasting life. You tell me I didn’t really believe.

O.K., for arguments sake, imagine I became convinced again and re-converted. How would I know I wasn’t deluding myself again? If a person can believe as deeply, honestly and truly as I did—yet be completely fooling themselves—how do YOU know YOU aren’t fooling yourself?

Or, by this claim, must the person concede people who believe in God are very possibly tricking themselves into doing so? How could one tell the difference?

Friday, March 07, 2008

How much is totally sufficient?

Yesterday, Dr. Albert Mohler had Dr. Lance Quinn of the National Association of Nouthetic Counseling in which they discussed the role of counseling within the Christian community. At Dr. Quinn’s introduction, they engaged in the following discussion:

Mohler: I think the best term I know to use is “Biblical Counseling” because that’s really the essence of what we are talking about here. Is guiding persons, not by our wisdom and not by our intuition and certainly not by a secular therapeutic worldview or construct, but rather by the scriptures. Because the underlying affirmation in all of this is that the scriptures—and the scriptures alone—are sufficient to guide persons in the faithfulness in Christ. Growth in Grace through correcting real human problems; to address real human needs. That’s your conviction as well.

Quinn: That’s right, I would say [name], along with just a few others, tragically, are just a few that are affirming the total sufficiency of Scripture for counseling in the life of the Church and the Life of the Christian. So much of the other brands of forms of so-called “Christian Counseling” are really integrated in that they take psychological concepts and they try to integrate them with Christianity and often that’s a failed project

Which raised an interesting question to me—in what areas does the Bible constitute “total sufficiency”?

If I told you I thought the Bible was “totally sufficient” to teach mathematics; you would laugh. The Bible does not contain the quadratic equation, nor the concept of functions from calculus. Nothing within about the sum of the sides squared equals the hypotenuse squared in a right triangle.

Not a single book of the Bible, nor the compilation ever proposed contemplated this would be a sufficient book to teach or learn mathematics. No author had any intention of it containing this information.

The Bible is not sufficient to provide us the ability to construct a skyscraper. Nor to build a computer. Not even enough information to develop the telephone or the light bulb. The Bible would be inadequate when discussing “World History” or “Forms of Government” or even “Social Studies.” Certainly portions of the Bible may touch upon such topics, but to be “totally sufficient”? Nonsense.

Even as a moral guide, most American Christians have a heightened view of morals from a U.S. Constitutional standpoint rather than the Bible. (The Bible is quite silent when it comes to “rights” ya know—those come from the Constitution. Things like slavery and polygamy are now prohibited by our laws, while accepted by the Bible.) The Bible is not sufficient to explain our laws.

So why does counseling get a pass? Why are all the years, study and requirements to become a licensed psychiatrist or licensed psychologist or licensed counselor pooh-poohed as hogwash an unnecessary? How did the Bible become “totally sufficient” to provide complete insight into counseling?

When I was growing up, if a couple had an issue in their marriage; they used one and only one source for counseling—the Pastor. Issue with a rebellious teenage? Go to the pastor. Problem with pornography, gambling, alcohol, adultery, anorexia, depression, insomnia? Go to the Pastor.

I look back in terror at the thought of people going to a person who may have the equivalent of a Bachelor’s Degree in theology, for direction in a field the rest of the world requires licensure, academic specialization and continuing education.

As these two gentlemen discussed the problem further, Dr. Quinn mentioned counseling a man who was in prison on a sex charge of some sort. The “problem” they compared to the secular society as to Christianity was that a person with a sex issue has an illness in the secular world, whereas it is sin in the Christian world.

I was aghast at the comparison. Somehow they equated “illness” to the concept it could therefore be cured. I am of the personal opinion (and this is solely my opinion) that pedophilia is incurable. No amount of counseling or psychiatric intervention of any sort will cure this problem. Sure, I treat it as an “illness”—an incurable, convictable, always present illness. It doesn’t “go away.”

See, but as a sin it can go away. All it takes is a little willpower and poof—no more sin. Yet I noticed Dr. Mohler and Dr. Quinn were careful to note one would still have to monitor, watch and restrict a sex offender—even if they claimed to be free of the sin. Sounds like good advice to me—just like what the world would do!

I also found it funny Dr. Quinn said upon a person entering their counseling program they would go to a licensed, Christian physician for “a physical.” And, if intervention was need on a physical basis, the Christian doctor would intervene.

Did you follow that? In other words, if a person needed prescription medicine for their situation, they would go around the “total sufficiency of the Bible” by declaring this a “physical” need, which the Bible has no qualms about treating. Neat, eh? You can go to a Christian counselor who proclaims the Bible is totally sufficient to resolve your depression, while treating with your Christian doctor who is prescribing Zoloft.

What do you think? Is secular counseling all just a bunch of flotsam and jetsam and completely unnecessary? Is the Bible totally sufficient for counseling? Would the Bible be totally sufficient for counseling for a non-believer—or is it another one of those “Christians ONLY” clubs?

I know the Protestant crowd is completely infatuated with sola scriptura but this seems to carry it a bit far, don’t ya think?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Picking and Choosing

Prior to a trial, each side has to present to the other an Exhibit List—a pleading detailing what documents and items they intend to introduce at trial. It is no surprise the lists between opposing parties disagree. Why? Because each side is picking (out of ALL possible Exhibits) those which support their case.

When looking for support for our position, we look for those with similarities. We even overlook great dissimilarities to focus on minute agreement. How many times have we seen a creationist quote one little line from a scientist, thinking it supports creationism, yet ignore the plethora of other works and quotes from the same author that would strongly disagree with the creationist position?

One of the areas in which I watch this happening is the attempt to reconcile the resurrection appearances of Jesus among the canonical books. Similarities are trumpeted; inconsistencies are down-played. And in this search, we look for the earliest record of the appearances. 1 Corinthians 15 enters stage right.

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

The date of this writing would be 55 C.E. and only the second letter of Paul’s that we have. (1 Thessalonians being the first.) Which places this account within 25 years of the resurrection. Pretty good; but many Christian scholars believe it can be dated even earlier. The claim is made this section, or at least verses 3b-5 are part of a Christian credo which Paul learned long before writing 1 Corinthians. How long before is a question.

The argument Paul was quoting something else is based upon:

1) The term “I delivered to you what I received…” is a rabbinical term for the transmission of sacred traditions;

2) Non-Pauline words such as “for our sins,” “according to the scriptures,” “he has been raised,” and “on the third day.”

3) Semitic transliteration of “Peter” to “Cephas,” and the threefold use of “and that.”

Article here.

However, this ends up being a double-edged sword. Due to the non-Pauline nature of the writing, other scholars have argued this is a latter interpolation (insertion) in the text. Further, the three arguments are not as strong on their face:

1) Paul also uses the term “deliver what I received” when referring to the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:23) which he claims to have received directly from God;

2) Paul uses “for our sin” in Gal. 1:4, “according to the scripture” could only be referring to the Tanakh (since the Gospels were not written yet) and what scripture this is referring to is problematic…Hosea 6:2 is generally suggested. Paul has an interesting use of the word “third” particularly in 2 Cor. 13:1. (When the Torah requires “two or three witnesses;” Paul uses that to say his appearing three (3) times is equivalent.)

3) Paul uses the term “Cephas” throughout 1 Corinthians (1:12; 3:22; 9:5) and never “Peter.” When writing Galatians, Paul uses “Peter” at 2:7 & 8, but favors “Cephas” at 1:18; 2:9, 11 & 14

If we are claiming this is a non-Pauline credo, it retains some very Pauline characteristics! Be that as it may, assuming this was a credo of some sort, passed from Christian to Christian eventually falling on Paul’s ears—what does it say about the Gospel stories which have very different accounts? How is it the Gospel of Matthew, if written by one of the Disciples, does not align with the credo? Nor the Gospel of John—also an alleged eyewitness according to Christian tradition?

Many Christian apologists attempt to place this credo early; unwittingly forfeiting the reliability of the Gospel accounts. They want us to look at the similarities, and ignore the differences. Let’s look at the order of appearances:

1 Corinthians
1. Cephas (presumably Peter)
2. “The Twelve” (title of the Disciples)
3. Over 500 brethren at once
4. James, the brother of Jesus
5. All the apostles
6. Paul.

Has no appearances.

1. Mary Magdalene and the Other Mary
2. Eleven Disciples

1. Simon? (24:34)
2. Cleopas and ____ on the Road to Emmaus
3. Eleven and those who were with them.
4. Apostles. (Acts 1:2)

1. Mary Magdalene
2. Ten Disciples (No Thomas)
3. Eleven Disciples.
4. Peter, Thomas, Nathanial, sons of Zebedee and two other disciples

[And it should be noted, this is a straightforward reading. Inerrantists who attempt to align the Gospel accounts fiddle with these accounts. For example, some remove Mary Magdalene in the first appearance of Matthew, and add other followers in the last appearance of the same Gospel.]

What is striking is not only the differences in order, but the actual persons involved. The credo does not include the women—who are in both Matthew and John. The credo specifically lists James—again unmentioned in the Gospels. And finally lists “all the apostles” which is an unknown group comprised of unknown individuals, and unaccounted for in the gospels as well, although possibly included in Luke’s second book of Acts.

The credo includes this count of “over 500 brethren” which are not mentioned in any of the gospels. (Although the Gospel of Nicodemus mentions such an appearance.) Oddly, Acts 1:15 records the total number of “brethren” as being only 120. This is the same word used by Paul—how could it drop from 500 to 120?

Of the four Gospels—Luke would be the closest to this credo. Luke seems to have no knowledge of any appearance to Peter prior to the disciples (note the words are placed in other people’s quotes, with no indication of any event occurring) and does not include any appearance to James. While one may imply such an appearance occurred, due to James staying with the disciples in the room (Acts 1:14), it also includes the other brothers; not even the credo includes any appearance to them.

If this was an early creed, it lacks continuity with the later writings.

It finally should be noted, assuming Paul heard this from someone else, we have no knowledge as to how “early” it could be. Although apologists like to state Paul heard it from Peter on his first trip to Jerusalem (Gal 1:18), there is no reason Paul could have not heard it until his second trip. (Gal. 2:1) Or at his conversion experience. Or anytime between. Again, if this was a creed, it may have transmitted through other Christians. If it was only a one-time statement from Peter, one questions how reliable either it, or the Gospel accounts, are.