Anomalies of the Bible

By:  Robert D Brinsmead

The only records we have of the historical Jesus come from a number of Gospels – more than 20 in all, but only four made it into the NT Canon.  None of them were written by eyewitnesses (to say so was only Church propaganda), and even the four Gospels are so contradictory that any reasonable person would have to wonder about their reliability.

For simple starters, a reader can check any of these points out in very short time:

There are two mutually exclusive stories of the Nativity.  You can’t reconcile the genealogies of Matthew and Luke.  You can’t reconcile the time of the birth of Jesus in Matthew and Luke – in the first he was born while Herod the Great was still alive – and we know he died about 4 BCE. In Luke Jesus was born at the time of the census when Quirinius was governor of Syria – this was in 6 CE according to available historical records.  That there was an wicked king ready to kill the newborn king (and old tale oft repeated in legends) in Matthew, but peaceful scenes of Jesus birth and 40 days later his dedication in the temple when according to Matthew the parents would have been down in Egypt with the child.  But then again, Josephus who records the major crimes of Herod makes no mention of the slaughter of the infants, plus if that happened, Rome was known to intervene when such acts were complained of to Rome. Rome actually recalled governors for injustices as it recalled Pilate for unjust treatment of Jews.  Its all pure legend and most scholars freely acknowledge there is no historical record of the slaughter of infants in Bethlehem, not a word of complaint from the Jews – but my main point is that on many points, the nativity story of Matthew is so different to the one in Luke.  Was he born in a house where the parents were domiciled or in an animal barn at the end of a census journey as told by Luke? Was he visited by the Zoroastrian magi or the Shepherds?

Those who formed the Canon put both stories in just as the compilers of the OT put two contradictory creation stories in Genesis and cut and pasted two flood stories (wholly at odds) in Genesis.  But that is a plus for the OT editors – they included differing viewpoints about events and they included protest authors such as Job and Jonah who protested the politically correct theodicies of Deuteronomy and other OT books.  Orthodoxy has simply homogenized all the differences, tensions and contradictions because of its wooden theory of inspiration and inerrancy that has been put to the sword by literary scholarship which followed the Enlightenment.  So Stephen Mitchell (The Gospel According to Jesus) for very good reason has said,  “No good scholar, for example, would call the Christmas stories anything but legends…” p. 6

Then the features of the story of the resurrection are mutually exclusive too.   Did Jesus tell the disciples to go to Galilee to meet Jesus after the resurrection, (Matthew and Mark) or did he meet them on the Sunday morning in and around Jerusalem? (Luke and John)  It would take the disciples at least a week to get from Jerusalem to Galilee after the crucifixion.  There is no hint in Matthew and Mark that the disciples were to see Jesus in and around Jerusalem – that is not their story at all.(One should be aware of the long ending of Mark that was added later).

Did Jesus celebrate the Passover with his disciples before his crucifixion, (Synoptics) or was the Passover feast on the very evening Jesus was crucified as the Pascal Lamb (John)?  And why no Passover Supper and words of institution of the Eucharist in John?

Did Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his public ministry (John) or at the end (Synoptics) as the event that led to his arrest?

Did Jesus give his public teaching only in parables (Synoptics), or in long monologies about himself without a parable in sight anywhere (John)?

How is it that Matthew has Jesus rebuke a questioner who addressed Jesus with a deferential “Good Sir” saying, Don’t call me ‘good’ because there is none good but One, that is God”, but John has Jesus call himself “the good Shepherd” and a lot of other things that designates himself as the ultimate goodness?

How is it that the Synoptics have it that Jesus refused to give a sign to vouch for the authority of his teaching whereas John repeatedly declares that Jesus readily and repeatedly gave signs of his authority?

How is that in the great Sermon in Matthew and Luke Jesus talks about loving our enemies like God does in sending rain/sunshine on good and bad alike, endless forgiveness of those who oppose us, no retaliation or judgment of others — yet in Matthew 23 blasts his opponents with damnation to hell in the most bitter tirade imaginable – or perhaps even worse throughout the Fourth Gospel which has Jesus calling the Jews the children of the Satan in the most anti-Semitic tirade of the whole NT – a tirade that fired up centuries of Pogroms against the Jews all ending in the Holocaust.?

In the Synoptics Jesus has a one year only public ministry, but in John there is at least three years?  Why this discrepancy?

In the great Sermon Jesus teaches love of enemies (the different, opposing others) and rejects tribal love (even sinners love their own, etc) but in most of the NT, John especially, it is just love for the brethren, the believing tribe, but bitter denunciation of differing others, heretics, Jewish Christians or the Rabbinical party who expelled “the min” (the Jesus people) from the Synagogues about 85 CE.

How is it that Paul speaks of the resurrection in terms of a sarx body (of flesh and blood) that is not resurrected and a pneuma (spirit) body that is resurrected (1 Corinthians 15); yet about 50 years later we have stories of a Jesus having a real flesh and blood (or bones) body, and the last Gospel, even bearing the physical scars of the crucifixion  Will my friends know me by the scars of my shoulder operation, or will Peter too have the scars of his  up-side-down crucifixion as tokens of honou?.  You probably know that the earliest Gospel of Mark had no such stories of a physical body appearing, but then each story gets longer in the other Gospels as the years pass.  Of course any reasonable person would be sceptical!!

And how come there is no doctrine of a blood atonement for sin in Luke/Acts, the largest body of NT literature?

And why no doctrine of a virgin birth in the earliest NT literature – Paul and Mark?  And why did the Jewish Christian movement generally reject the later stories of the virgin birth?

I conclude with this comment by Thomas Jefferson:

“The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine.  In the NT there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man: and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds.  It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.” (To John Adams, Jan. 24, 1814)

That Jefferson could discern this without access to the tools of modern literary scholarship that are now available is both amazing and a rebuke to our own gullibility.  In the real world, especially in science, there is no progress in anything except through those who are courageous enough to be sceptical.  Huxley was bold enough to say that blind faith is the one unpardonable sin.  If I may mischievously borrow words from that forged NT book called 2 Peter, I would say Yes, “we have followed some cunningly devised fables.”