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A Post and Pre Debate Note to Shabir Ally

Dear Shabir:

Last evening in the mosque in Erasmia you raised, I believe anyway for the first time in our encounters, your booklet of 100 alleged contradictions in the Bible.  I have had your little booklet for quite some time.  But I will be honest, I assumed it was an “early” work for you, and as such, I did not focus much on it, assuming that as you obtained your education at a higher level you would produce a much more nuanced and forceful argument.  But given that you cited it last evening, I can only assume you continue to feel this list has sound merit.

When I began my ministry thirty years ago I encountered, and then engaged, an atheist by the name of Dennis McKinsey.  McKinsey put out a little monthly publication titled “Biblical Errancy.”  Reading his little flyer gave me plenty of examples of how people can, by ignoring context, original language, and plain common sense, accuse any document, let alone a document of ancient origin, of error.  I do not know if any atheists out there put out something like “Qur’anic Errancy,” but the very same methodology could surely do so, though not to nearly the same extent, given the Qur’an is barely half the length of the New Testament, and only one fifth as long as the Tanakh, and hence only 14% as long as the entire Bible.

With all affection and respect for you, Shabir, your list is very, very unworthy of you.  It is barely up to the level of most atheist lists, and does not include, to be honest, the most serious questions I have wrestled with regarding the accuracy of the Biblical text.  No serious discussion of the contexts are provided, as you know.  Answers have been provided—consistent, scholarly, accurate answers—to your allegations since the days of the early church.  And I have published full refutations of a number of your allegations, long before you put them in print under your name.

Let me provide three examples from my book, Letters to a Mormon Elder, first published almost a quarter of a century ago!  The first refutes #55 in your list:

55.When Paul was on the road to Damascus he saw a light and heard a voice. Did those who were with

him hear the voice? (a) Yes (Acts9: 7)

(b) No (Acts22: 9)

Here is what I had written about this a few decades ago:

I am sure that you could multiply your examples, as I surely could. I have reams of lists of supposed contradictions in the Bible. But those you have provided to me will function well to help us see the various kinds of allegations that are made against the Bible. Let’s start with the first, and seemingly most popular of them all, Acts 9:7 and 22:9. In these two passages the story of Paul’s encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ is given, first by Luke, then in Paul’s own words as he stands before the mob in Jerusalem. In the King James Version of the Bible we read,

Acts 9:7 — And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

Acts 22:9 — And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him who that spoke to me.

The alleged contradiction is, of course, easy to see. Acts 9:7 says the men heard the voice and Acts 22:9 says they did not hear the voice. Clearly the question is, did the men hear the voice or not? To answer that question, we must, obviously, deal with the text as written by Luke in its original languages. This is an excellent example of a situation where the original words must be allowed to be heard in the argument, for we could be charging Luke with a simple mistake that he did not make. These passages will also serve well, Elder Hahn, to demonstrate how “doing one’s homework” can save one from making errors in attacking the Bible. In providing the following information to you, I am not attempting simply to “bury” you under a mountain of citations and quotes; I am, however, attempting to show you how important in-depth Bible study is. A very precious few are those who have objected to my belief in the inerrancy of the Bible who have demonstrated their position on the basis of real, solid research.

We need to notice that some modern versions translate the passage differently. For example, the New International Version reads as follows:

9:7 — The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.

22:9 — My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

Note that in the NIV the contradiction no longer exists; in the first passage the men hear a sound; in the second they do not understand the voice of the one speaking to Saul. Critics would assert that the NIV has translated in accordance with interpretation and convenience rather thin according to language and usage. But is this so? Lets examine these passages and see.

First, before going into the text itself, we must address the issue of “what is a contradiction.” The law of contradiction, stated briefly, would be that you cannot have A and non-A simultaneously. You cannot have a chair in a room and outside the room at the same time. That would be a contradiction. But, is this what we have in this case in Acts?

The answer can only be no, we do not have a contradiction here. First, let’s transliterate the passages from the original language of Greek so that their differences can be seen:

9:7 – akouontes men tes phones; 22:9 – ten de phonen ouk ekousan tou lalountos moi

It would be good to list the differences between the passages:

1. In 9:7 akouo is found as a nominative plural participle; in 22:9 it is a plural aorist verb.

2. In 9:7 phone is a singular genitive noun; in 22:9 it is a singular accusative noun.

3. In 9:7 akouo precedes its object; in 22:9 it follows its object.

4. In 9:7 the phrase is not modified; in 22:9 it is modified by “of the one speaking to me.”

5. In 9:7 Luke is narrating an event in Greek; in 22:9 Paul is speaking to a crowd in Hebrew (or Aramaic).

Clearly the critic is placed in an impossible position of forcing the argument here, for the differences between the two passages are quite significant. Hence the argument must proceed on the grounds of contradictory meanings only, for the grammar of the two passages will not support a clear “A vs. non-A” proposition.

We then must answer the question, are the differences between these passages significant enough to warrant the NIV’s translation? Do we have a solid basis upon which to assert that what Paul meant was that the men heard a sound but did not understand what the voice was saying? I believe we do, and I am not alone on this. Following are some of the comments made by some eminent Greek scholars about these passages:

Thus in Acts 9:7, “hearing the voice,” the noun “voice” is in the partitive genitive case I i.e., hearing (something) off, whereas in 22:9, “they heard not the voice,” the construction is with the accusative. This removes the idea of any contradiction. The former indicates a hearing of the sound, the latter indicates the meaning or message of the voice (this they did not hear). “The former denotes the sensational perception, the latter (the accusative case) the thing perceived.” (Cremer). In John 5:25,28, the genitive case is used, indicating a “sensational perception” that the Lord’s voice is sounding; in 3:8, of hearing the wind, the accusative is used, stressing “the thing perceived.” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, pages 204-205).

Instead of this being a flat contradiction of what Luke says in 9:7 it is natural to take it as being likewise (as with the “light” and “no one”) a distinction between the “sound” (originalserseofphoneasinJohfl3:8) and the separate words spoken. It so happens that akouo is used either with the accusative (extent of the hearing) or the genitive (the specifying). It is possible that such a distinction here coincides with the two senses of phone. They heard the sound (9:7), but did not under- stand the words (22:9). However, this distinction in case with akouo, phonenekousa phonen about Saul in Acts 9:4. asides in Acts 22:7 Paul uses ekousa phonen about himself, but ekousa phonen about himself in 26:14, interchangeably. (Word Pictures in the New Testament by Dr. A.T. Robertson, volume III, pages 117-118).

The fact that the maintenance of an old and well-known distinction between the acc. and the gen. with akouo saves the author of Acts 9 and 22 from a patent self-contradiction, should by itself be enough to make us recognize it for Luke, and for other writers until it is proved wrong. (A Grammar of New Testament Greek by James Hope Moulton, vol. I., page 66. Robertson quotes this approvingly in A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research on pages448-449).

The partitive gen. occurs in NT with verbs of perception, especially with a personal object. For akouo, the classical rule is that the person whose words are heard is in the gen. . . . but the thing (or person) about which one hears is in the accus., and akouo c. accus. may mean to understand. We have to ask whether the class. distinction between gen. and accus. has significance for exegesis in NT. There may he something in the difference between the gen. in Acts 9 (the men with Paul heard the sound and the accus. in Acts 22 (they did not understand the voice). (A Grammar of New Testament Greek vol. III by Nigel Turner, pg. 233).

Basically, these writers are referring to the possibility that the difference in the case of the term akouo would in this instance (9:7, 22:9) point to a difference in meaning. However, as Dr. A. T. Robertson said above, this distinction cannot be written in stone. Why then do we feel that we are correct in asserting this difference as the “answer” to this supposed contradiction. Context, Elder Hahn, context. Though none of the above authors went deeply into the subject, an examination of the context of the passages in question here makes it very clear that Luke meant a difference to be understood in what he was writing.

The key element in this investigation is pointed out by R.J. Knowling (Expositor’s Greek Testament vol. 2 ed. by W. Robertson Nicoll, pages 231-233) and by John Aberly (New Testament Commentary edited by H. C. Alleman, page 414). In Acts 22:9 Paul is speaking to a crowd in Jerusalem. According to Acts 21:40 Paul addressed the crowd in Hebrew (NIV says Aramaic — exactly which dialect it was is not very relevant). He mentions to his Hebrew listeners that when Jesus called him, he called him in their own language — Hebrew. How do we know this In both Acts 9:4 and in Acts 22:7 Saul is not spelled in its normal form, but is spelled in its Hebrew (or Aramaic) form Saoul. What does this tell us? It tells us that the “voice” spoke in Hebrew. Therefore, Acts 22:9 would be referring to the fact that the men who accompanied Paul did not understand what was said for they could not understand Hebrew! The text supports this very strongly, for Paul modifies his saying “they did not hear (understand) the voice” by adding the vital phrase, “of the one speaking to me (tou lalountos moi).” The emphasis is on the speaking of the voice, which would indicate comprehension and understanding. Now, given the above scholars’ quotations, and the context of the passages, can anyone seriously deny that there is a perfectly plausible explanation for this supposed contradiction? I think not.

Finally, it must be stated that part and parcel of dealing with almost any ancient or even modern writing is the basic idea that the author gets the benefit of the doubt. It is highly unlikely that a writer will contradict himself within short spans of time or space. Luke was a careful historian, and it is sheer speculation that he would be so forgetful as to forget what he wrote in Acts 9 by the time he wrote Acts 22. Some critics of the Bible seem to forget the old axiom “innocent until proven guilty.” The person who will not allow for the harmonization of the text (as we did above) is in effect claiming omniscience of all the facts surrounding an event that took place nearly two millennia ago. Most careful scholars do not make such claims. The above presented explanation is perfectly reasonable, it coincides with the known facts, and does not engage in unwarranted “special pleading.” If you wish to continue to claim that Acts 9:7 contradicts Acts 22:9, Elder Hahn, there is little I or anyone else can do about that. But realize that (1) your position cannot be proven; (2) you are operating on unproven assumptions (Luke was not intelligent enough to notice a contradiction in his own writing); and (3) there is a perfectly logical explanation, based on the original languages and contexts.

I think you will have to agree, Shabir, that there really is no reason for you to continue to assert this alleged error in light of this material, so I would invite you to withdraw it from your presentation.

The next is in response to alleged error #52:

 52.Where was Jesus at the sixth hour on the day of the crucifixion?

(a) On the cross (Mark 15:23)

(b) In Pilate’s court (John 19:14)

 Let’s look next at another issue that will again illustrate the accuracy of the Bible over against the charges made against it — that being your question concerning the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and death as given to us by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seemingly in opposition to John. Mark 15:25 says, “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” Then, in Mark 15:33-34, we read,

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, la’ma sabach’ thani?” which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

This same information is given by Matthew 27:45 and Luke 23:44. All three of the “Synoptic” gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) agree that Jesus was (1) crucified at the “third hour” and (2) that darkness was over the land from the sixth to the ninth hour, at which time the Lord Jesus gave up His spirit.

But, as you pointed out, John says in John 19:14, “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” Here Jesus is still before Pilate in the “sixth hour” while the Synoptic gospels are unanimous in saying that Jesus was on the cross at the sixth hour, at which time darkness came over the land. Is this not a clear error?

During the days of Christ there were two different systems of keeping time. The Jewish system began at sunrise and went to sunset. For them, the day would begin about 6 A.M., and the “sixth hour” would be high noon, the ninth hour about 3 P.M. The Romans, however, did not reckon time in this way. Rather, they followed a system more like our own, where the times started at midnight and at noon. For them the “sixth hour” would be 6 A.M. in the morning or 6 P.M. in the evening, depending on whether you are speaking of daytime or nighttime.

It seems very clear that the Synoptic gospels are using Jewish time in their recording of the events of the crucifixion. Therefore, they record that Jesus was crucified at the “third hour” which would be 9 in the morning. Darkness was over the land from the sixth to the ninth hours, corresponding to noon till 3 P.M., at which time the Lord Jesus gave up His spirit.

John, on the other hand, is not using the Jewish reckoning of time. He is not writing to Jews, and, in fact, most probably wrote this Gospel after Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, and therefore would have no reason to use that system of time-keeping. Tradition states that John lived in Ephesus, which would have used the Roman system of time-keeping. When this difference is taken into consideration, John is “right on time” with his figures. He says that Jesus was before Pilate during the “sixth hour,” which, in Roman thinking, would be around 6 A.M. This is perfectly in line with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for they say He was crucified three hours later, at 9 A.M. So, we see again, that there is no error here — the only error is made by those who fail to allow the writers the freedom of expressing themselves differently; here, John using a different time system than was used by the other writers.

Finally, I had even anticipated your objection #40:

 40.Did Jesus allow his disciples to keep a staff on their journey?

(a) Yes (Mark6: 8)

(b) No (Matthew 10:9; Luke 9:3)

Next you brought up the seeming discrepancy between Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3. The passages read,

And [Jesus] commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse. (Mark 6:8)

And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. (Luke 9:3)

Were they to take a staff (stave) or not It would be nearly impossible to resolve this situation, if these were the only two passages that mention Jesus’ words. But, though I am sure it was not intentional on your part, Elder Hahn, you neglected to mention the third passage that gives us Jesus’ instructions to the disciples, that being Matthew 10:10:

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor a scrip [bag] for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Here we find an instance, Elder Hahn, where the provision of three witnesses to the same event shows us how, if we had but one or two, we would not have a full understanding of the real situation. If we had but Mark and Luke, it would be difficult to understand how this is not in error.

The Lord Jesus is sending his disciples out in ministry. Matthew gives the fullest account, and in doing so provides the obvious explanation as well. Jesus is instructing the disciples to go out with the barest of necessities, not looking to “provide” (Matthew 10:10) or to “acquire” (the translation given by the New American Standard Bible, and which best brings out the meaning of the original term) anything extra for the trip. When the Lord tells the disciples to not take “shoes” do we really think that He means that they are to go barefoot Of course not — rather, they are not to take an extra pair of shoes along. In the same way, if a disciple had a staff, he would not be prohibited from taking one along: but, if he did not, he was not to “acquire” one just for the journey — he was to go as he was.

So what we have in Luke and Mark is “part” of what we have in Matthew. Luke records the prohibition given against acquiring yet another staff, while Mark communicates the implicit permission to take along the staff that one already had. No actual contradiction is found to exist, but we are again impressed by the fact that we must allow for harmonization of the texts. What do I mean by this, Elder Hahn? What if we had only Luke and Mark, without Matthew’s additional information, and you attacked Luke and Mark, accusing either the authors of error, or someone later of making errors in copying (though, as I explained in my earlier letter, the original reading would be found no matter what happened during the period of copying) We can see how they are not contradicting each other, but are rather giving complimentary information. In fact, one is referring to a prohibition of acquiring a new staff while the other is referring to one already owned. They are not even talking, specifically, about the same thing. Yet, without Matthew’s information, if I suggested this resolution of the difficulty, would you not be tempted to say, “well, you are just pleading the case, and not really dealing with the text” Are there not many other passages in the Gospels, and throughout the Bible, where we encounter similar situations? Is it not the wiser course to admit we don’t know all of the backgrounds and contexts, and to give the authors the benefit of the doubt? It would certainly seem so to me.

Now what all of this illustrates, of course, is that it is very easy to make allegations of error, and to respond truthfully takes far more time and care than the mere making of allegations.  May I offer an example of why you should not only withdraw all three of the above from your list, but should completely reconsider this kind of “scatter-gun” style of accusation of error?

In the Qur’an, in Surahs 7:124, 12:41, 26:49, and 20:71, the Qur’an speaks of crucifixion anachronistically, that is, it puts crucifixion into a historical context that “scholars would tell us” (to use your way, way too often repeated phrase).  It would be easy for me to say, “The author of the Qur’an was wrong in thinking the Egyptians used crucifixion as a means of execution, showing the Qur’an is not from God.”  And how would you respond?  I would assume similarly to the way M S M Saifullah, Elias Karim & ʿAbdullah David did here:   But that would take quite some time, as the article is 44 pages long and nearly 16,000 words in length!  But sometimes truth takes time to express while error can be said with great speed.  My point is that even though you are defending a text that is only 40 to 70% as old, and 14% a large, as the one I am tasked to defend, you are still required at times to answer challenging and difficult questions.  The mere presence of accusation, my friend, is not evidence of error.

Many of your alleged allegations are based, truly, upon a very poor grasp of the biblical text and message as a whole.  I would so strongly encourage you to read sound, consistent Christian scholarship rather than the liberal and unbelieving materials you been immersed in in your scholarly training.  Materials that would be written from your own worldview, at least on the point of the supernatural, the presence of inspiration, etc.  Even if you pursued Bruce’s commentaries on John, or Hebrews, for example, you would find that your conclusions and his are light years apart.  Why is that?  I would be happy to provide you with a listing of in-depth, serious works by men like D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, John Murray, Michael Kruger, Darrell Bock and so many others.  Reliance upon the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond Brown and other notorious liberals who have no concept of allowing Scripture to speak for itself, no concept of the very unity and consistency you asserted for the Qur’an last evening, remains, and will always be, your Achilles Heel.

By the way, Shabir, before I move on, I would like to challenge your dismissal of the variant I briefly pointed to in BNF 328a.  Have you read Powers’ fine work, Muhammad is not the Father of Any of Your Men?  It is not sufficient to claim the presence of the qura could assure textual accuracy.  Even Bukhari’s phraseology, showing a fear of a loss of a “large part” (kathir) of the Qur’an shows you are applying an anachronistic standard.

But I have little time before our debate this evening at the University of Pretoria, so I just wanted to comment on some of the alleged contradictions in your booklet.

Regarding your series of allegations regarding the genealogies of Jesus: have you read Michael Brown, D.A. Carson, and Darrell Bock on this issue?  I would highly recommend it.  Likewise you must work through Michael Brown’s lengthy discussion of the Jehoiakim curse (in response to #35 in your list).

So many of your list are fully discussed by Dr. Archer in his work on this topic that at the very least you need to take into consideration the responses provided therein.

But let’s consider #37, for example:

 37.How did Simon Peter find out that Jesus was the Christ?

(a) By a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17)

(b) His brother Andrew told him (John 1:41)

Why is it not proper to point out that while Peter was told by Andrew that Jesus was the Messiah, that it takes time for one to become convinced of this fact, and that, when we take Mark and Matthew together, the confession Peter makes in Caesarea Philippi is deeply personal and spiritual in origination, just as the Matthean text says?  Is there not a difference, Shabir, between a person being told “Muhammad is Allah’s prophet” and someone actually saying the Shahada in truth?

We have already had a brief discussion of Matthew’s telescoping of Mark regarding Jairus’ daughter, but I again find the unwillingness to allow the Synoptic authors to craft their material to their own purposes, depth, audience, etc., to be an unfair standard based in bias (in regards to #39).  But again, Shabir, I can retort rather easily, “The citation of Lot’s words to the people of Sodom found in Surahs 7, 26, 27 and 29 all differ from one another in substantive matters.  Surat 7 and 27 begin with interrogatives; Surah 29 has no interrogative, but begins with a declarative statement.  Surat 7 and 29 have something about the uniqueness of the sin, the other accounts do not.  Why?  If this is the speech of Allah, will it not be perfectly accurate and complete the first time?  Why have stylistic changes, alterations, and variations?  There is even more variation in the people’s response to Lot, with the response found in Surah 29 differing very much from that found in the other three.  So if the mere presence of variation indicates error, if you are consistent, you will have to assume the Qur’an is in a state of error as well.  But you do not.  Where are those even scales, my friend?

You are confusing “secretly” as in “in distinction from my public teaching” with the greater explanation of the parables Jesus provided to His disciples in #51—two completely different contexts.

Likewise in #53 you are not allowing for one thief to cease his mocking and see in Jesus a true prophet and savior—upon what basis do you preclude this?  Where does the text preclude it?

In #54 you confuse ascension into the presence of the Father (and the initiation of Christ’s High Priestly ministry) with His entrance into Paradise along with the man who was crucified with Him.  Two completely different contexts.

In #63 you confuse a proverbial statement about the general application of God’s law in the activities of men with the specific and special action of God in bringing about redemption for mankind.  More major category errors.

 65.What was the exact wording on the cross?

(a) “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37)

(b) “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26)

(c) “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38)

(d) “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19)

The irony is, Shabir, if they all had the exact same words, that would be taken as evidence of collusion and hence would lead to your scholars rejecting them all as being artificial!  All are perfectly acceptable summaries of the statements, especially in light of the fact that it was written in more than one language.  Again, unfair standards.

 64.Is the Law of Moses useful?

(a) Yes. “All scripture is… profitable…” (2 Timothy 3:16)

(b) No. “ . . . A former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness… “(Hebrews

7:18)

 More missing of context and proper categories.  The law of Moses contained many things, including the sacrificial system, the priesthood, etc., which were meant to point toward a greater fulfillment in Christ.  The specific context of Hebrews has to do with that which was done away with in Christ.

 68.Jesus saw a man sit at the tax collector’s office and called him to be his disciple. What was his name?

(a) Matthew (Matthew 9:9)

(b) Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27)

 Why are others in the days of Jesus allowed to have more than one name, but this is not allowed in the text of the New Testament?  Was Peter’s name Cephas, or Peter?  Can’t be both, evidently!  Saul or Paul!  Has to be one or the other!  But why? You have not provided a reason.

There are many, many others, but my time has run out and I must get ready for this evening.  I am sure I will bring some more up then, I imagine!  But I do hope you will consider these things and that again you will be encouraged to begin to develop an Islamic response that is actually consistent in its worldview and its sources.

The Hall of Shame – Vintage

Below I deal with a few classic examples of the kind of errors made by McKinsey in BE over the years. This is by no means anywhere near an exhaustive list – just a few (to use his own words) imbroglios he has managed to get himself into in his attack upon God’s Word.

In the December 1983 issue of BE McKinsey says on page 5, ‘The word “Sanhedrin” never appears in the Bible.” The Greek term “sunedrion(translated ‘Sanhedrin”) is found 22 times in the New Testament (Mt. 5:22, 10:17, 26:59, Mk. 13:9, 14:55, 15:1, Lk. 22:66, Jn. 11:47, Acts 4:15, 5:21, 27, 34, 41, 6:12, 15, 22:30, 23:1, 6, 15, 20, 28, and 24:20). McKinsey’s studying methods are seen here to be based on an exhaustive concordance following the KJV, for the term is normally translated “council” by the King James, hiding its true significance. (McKinsey did say, in a later issue, that the term never appears in the King James Version – whether this was an acknowledgment on his part of the earlier mistake is unclear).

In the February 1983 issue, page 3, McKinsey alleges that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy of Matthew 12:40 concerning the sign of Jonah. This he bases on the idea that Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days and three nights, but Jesus was not in the tomb seventy two hours (Friday evening to Sunday morning). He bluntly says “His prophecy failed.” Now, some have taken a Wednesday crucifixion position to avoid this, but that is not only unnecessary, but Biblically insupportable. Rather, the answer lies in the obvious fact that the Jews counted any portion of a day as a full day. Therefore, Friday was day one, Saturday day two, Sunday day three. The push for an absurdly literalistic interpretation of Matthew 12:40 seems just a little inconsistent for Mr. McKinsey, does it not?

In the next month’s issue (March 1983) we find the following: According to McKinsey, Matthew 8:20 (“…the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”) is contradicted by Mark 2:15, where McKinsey claims that the Bible says Jesus owned a house! This one is truly amazing, as the passage makes it clear that the house was Matthew’s home, not Jesus’, and this is corroborated by the parallel passages in Matthew 8:10 and Luke 5:29. So much for close study!

A classic example of how to completely ignore context can be found in the August, 1987 issue, page 1 under the title “Paul the Deceptive Disciple.” I won’t even bother commenting on it, as anyone even somewhat familiar with the Bible will recognize the vast difference in the contexts of the two passages, rendering any charge of “contradiction” or duplicity on Paul’s part absolutely inane. McKinsey writes: ” “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing….” (Rom. 7:18) versus “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal. 2:20). Paul said no good thing dwells within him yet he has Christ within.”

Finally (certainly not due to lack of examples – one could literally find hundreds and hundreds of examples in BE over the past four years) in the March 1983 issue, page 3, it is alleged that Deuteronomy 23:3 is a “false prophecy” due to Ruth 1:4, 22, etc. Deuteronomy 23:3 says that “no Ammonite or Moabite shall enter into the congregation of the LORD.” Since Ruth was a Moabitess, McKinsey alleges that this is a false prophecy But is it? Certainly not! First, Deuteronomy 23 is not a prophecy – it is a law! Are we to say that every time a law is broken that it was a false prophecy to have made the law? Ridiculous! One cannot make a prophecy out of a law. Second, the “assembly of the LORD” was restricted to men only, therefore Ruth could not have entered into it anyway. A little more study into the Old Testament law and Old Testament customs could have saved this anti-theist another embarrassing error.

The above supposed “contradiction” (Deuteronomy 23:3/Ruth 1:4) came up on a local talk program while debating a representative of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Mr. Dan Barker. Mr. Barker called my explanation of the case “weak” (though he did not elaborate on that). During a break the subject of what might be the most well-known alleged contradiction came up – that of Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9. In October of 1986, I received a letter from Mr. Barker. He sent me a four page document entitled “Did Paul’s Men Hear A Voice?” In it he gave a great deal of information on the usage of the genitive and accusative cases relevant to the word akouo (to hear) and its direct objects, primarily phone (sound, voice) since these are the important terms in discussing Acts 9:7/22:9. Though not dealing with all of the issues involved (in my opinion), Mr. Barker did a fine job in stating his belief that the two passages are contradictory. To close our presentation of “Letters to an Anti-Theist,” we will examine this “contradiction.”

It is quite easy to see the supposed contradiction at this point. The King James Version reads:

9:7 – “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
22:9 – “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

Clearly the question is – did the men hear the voice or not? To answer that question, we must, obviously, deal with the text as written by Luke in its original languages. This is an excellent example of a situation where the original words must be allowed to be heard in the argument, for we could be charging Luke with a simple mistake that he did not make. Also, we need to notice that modern versions translate the passage differently. For example, the New International Version reads as follows:

9:7 – “The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
22:9 – “My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.”

Note that in the NIV the contradiction no longer exists; in the first passage the men hear a sound; in the second they do not understand the voice of the one speaking to Saul. Mr. Barker and other critics would assert that the NIV has translated in accordance with interpretation and convenience rather than according to language and usage. But is this so? Lets examine these passages and see.

First, before going into the text itself, we must address the issue of “what is a contradiction?” The law of contradiction, stated briefly, would be that you cannot have A and non-A simultaneously. You cannot have a chair in a room and outside the room at the same time. That would be a contradiction. But, is this what we have in this case in Acts?

The answer can only be no, we do not have a contradiction here. First, let’s transliterate the passages so that their differences can be seen:

       9:7 – akouontes men tes phones
22:9 – ten de phonen ouk ekousan phones legouses moi

It would be good to list the differences between the passages:

1. In 9:7 akouo is found as a nominative plural participle; in 22:9 it is a plural aorist verb.

2. In 9:7 phone is a singular genitive noun; in 22:9 it is a singular accusative noun.

3. In 9:7 akouo precedes its object; in 22:9 it follows its object.

4. In 9:7 the phrase is not modified; in 22:9 it is modified by “of the one speaking to me.”

5. In 9:7 Luke is narrating an event in Greek; in 22:9 Paul is speaking to a crowd in Hebrew (or Aramaic).

Clearly the critic is placed in an impossible position of forcing the argument here, for the differences between the two passages are quite significant. Hence, the argument must proceed on the grounds of contradictory meanings only, for the grammar of the two passages will not support a clear “A vs. non-A” proposition.

We then must answer the question, are the differences between these passages significant enough to warrant the NIV’s translation? Do we have a solid basis upon which to assert that what Paul meant was that the men heard a sound but did not understand what the voice was saving? I believe we do, and I am not alone on this. Following are some of the comments made by some eminent Greek scholars about these passages:

Thus in Acts 9:7, “hearing the voice,” the noun “voice’ is in the partitive genitive case [i.e., hearing (something) of], whereas in 22:9, “they heard not the voice,” the construction is with the accusative. This removes the idea of any contradiction. The former indicates a hearing of the sound, the latter indicates the meaning or message of the voice (this they did not hear). “The former denotes the sensational perception, the latter (the accusative case) the thing perceived.” (Cremer). In John 5:25, 28, the genitive case is used, indicating a “sensational perception” that the Lord’s voice is sounding; in 3:8, of hearing the wind, the accusative is used, stressing “the thing perceived.” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, pages 204-205).

Instead of this being a flat contradiction of what Luke says in 9:7 it is natural to take it as being likewise (as with the “light” and “no one’) a distinction between the “sound’ (original sense of phone as in John 3:8) and the separate words spoken. It so happens that akouo is used either with the accusative (extent of the hearing) or the genitive (the specifying). It is possible that such a distinction here coincides with the two senses of phone. They heard the sound (9:7), but did not understand the words (22:9). However, this distinction in case with akouo, though possible and even probable here, is by no means a necessary one for in John 3:8 where phonen undoubtedly means “sound” the accusative occurs as Luke uses ekousa phonen about Saul in Acts 9:4. Besides in Acts 22:7 Paul uses ekousa phones about himself, but ekousa phonen about himself in 26:14, interchangeably. (Word Pictures in the New Testament by Dr. A.T. Robertson, volume III, pages 117- 118).

The fact that the maintenance of an old and well-known distinction between the acc. and the gen. with akouo saves the author of Acts 9:7 and 22:9 from a patent self-contradiction, should by itself be enough to make us recognize it for Luke, and for other writers until it is proved wrong. (A Grammar of New Testament Creek by James Hope Moulton, vol I., page 66. Robertson quotes this approvingly in A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research on pages 448-449).

 

The partitive gen. occurs in NT with verbs of perception, especially with a personal object. For akouo, the class(ical) rule is that the person whose words are heard is in the gen. …but the thing (or person) about which one hears is in the accus., and akouo c. accus. may mean to understand…We have to ask whether the class, distinction between gen. and accus. has significance for exegesis in NT. There may be something in the difference between the gen. in Ac. 9:7 (the men with Paul heard the sound ) and the accus. in Ac 22:9 (they did not understand the voice). (A Grammar of New Testament Greek vol. III by Nigel Turner, pg. 233).

Basically, these writers are referring to the possibility that the difference in the case of the term akouo would in this instance (9:7, 22:9) point to a difference in meaning. However, as Mr. Barker points out in his letter to me, and as Dr. A. T. Robertson said above many years earlier, this distinction cannot be written in stone. Why then do we feel that we are correct in asserting this difference as the the “answer” to this supposed contradiction? Context. Though none of the above authors went deeply into the subject, an examination of the context of the passages in question here make it very clear that Luke meant a difference to be understood in what he was writing.

The key element in this investigation is pointed out by R. J. Knowling (Expositor’s Greek Testament vol. 2 ed. by W. Robertson Nicoll pages 231 -233) and by John Aberly (New Testament Commentary edited by H. C. Alleman page 414). In Acts 22:9 Paul is speaking to a crowd in Jerusalem. According to Acts 21:40 Paul addressed the crowd in Hebrew (NIV says Aramaic – exactly which dialect it was is not very relevant). He mentions to his Hebrew listeners that when Jesus called him, he called him in their own language – Hebrew. How do we know this? In both Acts 9:4 and in Acts 22:7 Saul is not spelled in its normal form, but is spelled in its Hebrew (or Aramaic) form Saoul. What does this tell us? It tells us that the “voice” spoke in Hebrew. Therefore, Acts 22:9 would he referring to the fact that the men who accompanied Paul did not understand what was said for they could not understand Hebrew! The text supports this very strongly, for Paul modifies his saying “they did not hear (understand) the voice” by adding the vital phrase, “of the one speaking to me (to lalountos moi).” The emphasis is on the speaking of the voice, which would indicate comprehension and understanding. Now, given the above scholar’s quotations, and the context of the passages, can anyone seriously deny that there is a perfectly plausible explanation for this supposed contradiction? I think not.

Finally, it must he stated that part and parcel of dealing with almost any ancient or even modern writing is the basic idea that the author gets the benefit of the doubt. It is highly unlikely that a writer will contradict himself within short spans of time or space. Luke was a careful historian, and it is sheer speculation that he would he so forgetful as to forget what he wrote in Acts 9 by the time he wrote Acts 22. Some critics of the Bible seem to forget the old axiom “innocent until proven guilty.” The person who will not allow for the harmonization of the text (as we did above) is in effect claiming omniscience of all the facts surrounding an event that took place nearly two millennia ago. Most careful scholars do not make such claims. The above presented explanation is perfectly reasonable, it coincides with the known facts, and does not engage in unwarranted “special pleading.” If a person wishes to continue to claim that Acts 9:7 contradicts Acts 22:9, there is little I or anyone else can do about that. But let that person realize that 1) his position cannot be proved; 2) he (or she) is operating on unproven assumptions (Luke was not intelligent enough to notice a contradiction in his own writing); and 3) there is a perfectly logical explanation, based on the original languages and contexts.

It is my prayer that this short look at some of the issues raised by anti-theists in their seemingly never ending quest to discredit the Bible as God’s Word has been helpful to you, the reader, no matter what your current position or belief. If you are a Christian, I hope you have been strengthened in your faith and encouraged to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). If you are an atheist, or a skeptic, I certainly don’t think that this short examination of a narrow spectrum of subjects is sufficient to cause you to change your thinking. Rather, my hope for you is that you will realize that there are answers to the questions posed by people such as McKinsey, and that you will take the time to honestly examine the claims of Christ and His Word.

Answering Common Questions and Objections Part 2 – Vintage

8. How can Exodus 33:20 and John 1:18 (both stating that no one can see God) be reconciled with Genesis 32:30 and Exodus 33:11 which say that men have seen God?

Answer to Question #8: Seeing God.

Using John 1:18 to demonstrate the Deity of Christ has been a long tradition in apologetics. There is indeed a contradiction here if one does not have a Tri-Une conception of God. Indeed, I have pointed this out more than once to representatives of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the Deity of Christ, so they obviously do not believe that Jesus is Jehovah. I have often used John 1:18 in comparison with Isaiah 6:1 to demonstrate that the Bible shows that the Jehovah of the Old Testament who was seen by men was the Jesus of the New. This can be seen in the comparison of Isaiah 6 with John 12:39-41. Indeed, a proper understanding of John 1:18 would have cleared up the original problem, for here John is using the first term “God” to specifically refer to the Father, not the Son. He calls the Son the “only-begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father” and says that Jesus has “made Him (the Father) known.” Jesus is the Word who has made the Father known. Therefore, the Bible is again correct – no one has seen God the Father at any time. But man has seen God the Son on numerous occasions in the Old Testament as well as in the New.

9. How can the resurrection be so important when others were raised before Jesus was?

Question #9: Jesus’ Resurrection

It is true that others were raised from the dead before Jesus was. This statement assumes that the Biblical statements concerning those resurrections are true, and therefore the question is really a theological one, and must be answered in that way.

There is no indication in the Bible that any of the others who were raised from the dead lived eternally. Instead, it is clear that they lived on and then died a natural death. Jesus did not die again – he lives eternally.

This makes His resurrection unique as it is a true resurrection to life eternal.

Secondly, Jesus was God in human flesh. None of the other people who were resurrected were Deity!

Third, Jesus’ resurrection was prophesied long before. He himself foretold it (none of the others foretold their deaths and resurrections). He also said that he had authority to take hack his life again (John 10:17-18). No other person claimed to have a part in raising himself (or herself)!

Finally, Jesus’ resurrection makes possible the resurrection of all who trust in him. We as believers have the promise of our own resurrection because of the resurrection of our Lord. My resurrection is not guaranteed because of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain or of Lazarus; but, as I am united with Christ, and he was raised, so shall I be.

Just these few points are sufficient to demonstrate to anyone willing to examine the information the uniqueness and importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

10. How can Jesus be our perfect savior when he made many false and deceptive statements?

Answer to Question #10: Jesus’ integrity

The question of going to the feast (John 7:8) revolves around a textual variant and is therefore hardly something that can be the proverbial “smoking gun.” The reading “not yet going up to this feast” is supported impressively by P66 and P75 (two of the earliest known manuscripts of John) as well as by B (Vaticanus) and the majority of the tradition. This reading is also in harmony with the contextual mention of Jesus’ time not yet being fulfilled. Even if the reading “not going up to this feast” is accepted, a number of things mitigate against a charge of duplicity on Jesus part. First, the meaning of “going up” may refer to the public ascension in procession to Jerusalem with its attendant festivities, psalm singing, etc. Also, the situation in which Jesus was living (the death threats of the Jews should he go into Judah again) comes into play as well. Perhaps the statement of Jesus was nothing more than a non-announcement of his plans? Given the fact that his brothers were at this time antagonistic to Jesus’ claims and would undoubtedly reveal his arrival, prudence would be the better course in that situation.

Be that as it may, the other references hold no weight. What is deceptive about Jesus’ promise that the thief would be with him in paradise that day when it was true? The atheist must assume that Jesus was lying to prove that he was! Circular argumentation at its best. In an earlier issue of BE McKinsey expanded on his charge at this point. He states that since Jesus did not go to heaven until three days later, and paradise is heaven, then Jesus was lying. He then takes Dr. Gleason Archer to task for what he said concerning this in his book Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (pages 367-368) charging Dr. Archer with coming up with an explanation that “abounds in suppositions, conjectures and hypotheses…’ Actually, it is McKinsey’s attack that abounds with suppositions, none of which he can prove. First, why does he say paradise is in heaven? Is he aware of the Biblical teaching concerning sheol, the realm of the dead? Has he allowed Jesus’ story concerning the rich man and Lazarus to be a factor here? Why does he assume that paradise could not have been moved from sheol to heaven after the resurrection of Jesus? Why does he consistently (and here McKinsey is always consistent!) deny the Bible the ability to explain itself? Why does he apply rules to the Scriptures that he would never apply to anything else? His consistent underlying assumption is that the Bible is contradictory, and therefore any explanation that would deal with his “proof” can be nothing but “rationalization.”

Matthew 5:22 is hardly an immoral statement. As above, McKinsey elaborates on what he means by pointing out that Jesus called the religious leaders “fools” thus supposedly contradicting himself. He lists Matthew 23:17, 19 and Luke 11:40 as his examples. Here again we see the “foolishness” of attacking Scripture in the way McKinsey does without knowing the languages of the Bible. In Matthew 5:22 Jesus uses the technical term “Raca” followed by the term “More which means “fool.” In Matthew 23:17 the term is moroi which is the normal term for “foolish persons.” Whether verse 19 uses moroi is questionable on textual grounds. The term in Luke 11:40 is aphrones, meaning “one without understanding.” Therefore, we must look at two things – first, Matthew 23:17 is the only reference to Jesus calling someone a “fool” (the corrupt religious leaders) and second, what is the context of the original passage in Matthew 5:22? Jesus there uses Hebrew parallelism to connect the terms “raca” and “more.” What does this mean?

It is clear that the context of the two statements is completely different. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus is speaking of the true intent of the law and how this relates to each individual. In 5:21 he points to the command against murder, and then in verse 22 goes beyond this to say that to harbor hatred in one’s heart against one’s brother is to start on the path to murder. Here the Lord shows us what we know ourselves – few murder without first hating, and Jesus warns us that obedience to the law is a matter of the heart preeminently. The outer actions are determined by the inner motives. What then of Matthew 23:17? Was Jesus harboring hatred in his heart for the Jewish leadership? Was he breaking his own rules, so to speak? No indeed! In the 23rd chapter of Matthew we have hard words spoken to equally hard men. The occasion more than justifies the terminology! Here we have the men who were supposedly the stewards of God’s law twisting that law to the opposite end. Jesus uses the term “fools” precisely in the context of true “foolishness.” Jesus is not using it as a pejorative term as he proscribed in 5:22; rather, he is using it as an accurate description of the “foolishness” of the religious system they had built up. The Jews were saying that if someone swore by the gold in the temple that he was hound by the oath. Jesus rightly points out that the gold is made “special” by the temple, not vice versa. Their position on oaths was “foolish” and was accurately described by the Lord. In no way is Jesus’ usage of the term “fools” here the same as what was discussed in Matthew 5:22 if for not other reason than the fact that Matthew 5 relates to relationships between believers (“he who calls his brother“) while Jesus is dealing with un-believers in Matthew 23 (the Jewish leadership).

In addition to the above, it might he noted briefly that God, the one described in the Bible as “seeing the hearts of men” is in the proper position to judge whether a man is a “fool” or not. It is precisely because we as humans are not able to see the attitudes of the heart that we are told not to call anyone fool, nor even to judge the intents of another’s heart in these matters.

What is meant by a “non-existent cross” is anyone’s guess, as everyone in Judea knew what Jesus meant by the term “cross.” Crucifixion was a common mode of death at the time, and to “take up one’s cross” would be filled with meaning for anyone living in that culture.

Of all the people of the world, Jesus’ integrity is the last to be questioned. This is admitted by believer and infidel alike. His moral teachings and standards have been the basis of civilization and society ever since.

11. How can the Bible he the epitome of morality and virtue when it uses profanity such as that found in 2 Kings 18:27, Ezekiel 23:20-21 and Song of Solomon 5:4?

Answer to Question #11: Supposed Profanity in the Bible

We here encounter a question that is based on a common misconception – the Bible was not written in English. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with some chapters in Aramaic) and the New Testament was written in Greek. Therefore, we must differentiate between translations of the Bible (such as the King James Version or the New International Version) and the Bible itself. The Bible does not use “profanity” as the above question says. The Bible does refer to such items as “urine” (2 Kings 18:27) and feces (note the context of these items – that of the stark reality of the siege of a city and the resulting starvation) as well as to the genitalia of animals and man as well (what Song of Solomon 5:4 has to do with anything is very unclear). But the frank way in which the Bible deals with these subjects is hardly grounds for impugning its high morality and virtue! Such is silliness! Because the law mentions specific sinful acts and says thou shalt not does that make the law any less holy? Certainly not! Such a question is based on an obviously irrational desire to put the Bible down and to judge it by standards that are completely capricious and without basis.

12. How can the various accounts of the Resurrection he reconciled?

Answer to Question #t2: The Resurrection Accounts

Though a full discussion of all the factors inherent in the discussion of the various accounts of the Resurrection would take quite some time and space, it would be good to deal with a few of the more common objections. Some of the objections are inane simply due to the fact that they will not allow for harmonization . This is a vital point – the Gospels are four different perspectives on the same events. They do not say the same thing about each and every story – one emphasizes one thing, one another. It is only logical to allow for this fact in our interpretation and study of the books. Now, if one of the Gospels says “Jesus did A at B time” and another says “Jesus did not do A at B time’ then we obviously have a contradiction. We cannot have “A” and “non-A” at the same time, obviously. However, one Gospel writer may say “Jesus met with A” and another may say “Jesus met with A along with B” without contradicting one another. The second writer is simply providing additional information that the first did not. This is by far the most common occurrence (i.e., Matthew 20:30/Mark 10:46; Mark 5:2/Matthew 8:28). Other objections are impossible to answer due to lack on information. For example, Mark 16:2 indicates that the women traveled to the tomb “after the sunrise.” John 20:1 says it was still dark. We don’t know whether the sun rose as the women arrived and that they started out in the pre-dawn darkness or just how that all worked – the text simply is not exact enough to make a decision about that. This, however, does not make the text “wrong” or “errant.” It just means the author did not give the information needed to answer the question. It is like faulting the Bible for not being able to answer the question, “what color were Jesus’ eyes?” We don’t know, neither does it matter.

Some point out that some gospels (Matthew and John) mention angels while others (Luke and Mark) mention men. This is not a contradiction, of course, but simply two ways of referring to the same beings. Angels normally appear in human form in the Old Testament, and seemingly did so here. In the same way it is wrong to limit the angels’ movements to an either/or situation – in some instances they are in the tomb speaking to the believers (Mark, Luke, John) while Matthew says the angel was outside. However, Matthew only mentions the angel being outside; he does not restrict the angel to the outside of the tomb nor does he say that the angel spoke to the women while still outside.

Another point need he made that will be vital to any Christian who is called on to face the attacks of anti -theists. Before you get defensive in a situation with an anti-theist, stop long enough to examine the claims he or she is making. Very often an anti-theist such as McKinsey will make statements that would require the maker of that statement to have all -knowledge of the surrounding events. They are in effect claiming omniscience! It is completely illogical to fault the Biblical record for not providing answers to every question that could be asked – no book ever written could do so. Simply because there are questions concerning the events that took place 2,000 years ago does not mean that we should doubt that those events took place. We don’t know what color of cloak Caesar wore the day he was murdered – should we therefore say that we don’t know that Caesar died because we can’t answer all the questions that might be asked about the events of that day? Shalt we say that a historian’s record is false simply because it is not exhaustive in what it says? No one would seriously suggest that this is true, yet this is exactly what Biblical critics have done and continue to do with the Bible. Now, before the anti-theist says “but you claim that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God so it must be open to more scrutiny than any other book” allow me to point out that in matters relating to that claim, the anti-theist is perfectly right – we must examine the Bible as closely as possible to support such a claim as we Christians make. However, this does not mean that we abandon logic and reason in some wild search for supposed errors.” When dealing with historical subjects we need to utilize our best historical knowledge and technique. We must do what we do with all other books of antiquity – we must give the book the “benefit of the doubt” for a very basic reason – we weren’t there! We don’t know all of the facts. The writer was a whole lot closer to the events than we are, so, unless there is some overriding reason to do so, the ancient writer is judged to be correct in what he or she has to say. We are optimistic to say that we have so much as 5% of the information needed for a “complete” picture of all the events taking place in Palestine in those days. Are we wise to contradict those who lived at that time from such a position that we find ourselves in? I think not. The New Testament provides us with a wealth of information – far more than we would need to make historical decisions. It does not, however, lend itself to the fancies of man. It does not describe “non-essentials.” Faulting it for this is illogical.

13. How can women support the Bible in light of the demeaning status accorded them in 1 Corinthians 11:3, 9, Ephesians 5:22-24, and other appropriate verses?

Answer to Question #13: Women in the Bible

I have encountered this type of question on numerous occasions in radio debates. I recall that Ben Ackerly, the gay/atheist author of The X-Rated Bible brought this up as well, as did a representative of “Fundamentalists Anonymous.” I have little patience for such drivel, sorry to say. Anyone familiar with the cultural background would know – the revolutionary stance that Christianity took relative to women. I find it very offensive when people “pontificate” on matters when they have never taken the time to do the necessary background study to give them the authority to make such statements. Such is the case here. Women were nothing more than property in the ancient culture in which Christianity found itself. They were not “persons” of equal standing before God. The Gospel narratives make this very clear. Jesus treated women as women individuals who were created in God’s image and were of worth as people. He elevated them far above anything that was known at the time, or even today!

The modern critic, however, is zeroing in on the fact that the Bible, old fashioned book that it is, naively suggests that there is a difference between men and women, and that God designed that difference for a reason. Gracious! How backwards! How out-of-date! I do hope I can get my tongue out of my cheek, but this is the very objection that is being made. Since the Bible does not conform to modern, liberal standards of “unisex” and “liberated women” then it must be archaic! Hardly! My wife is happy to be a woman and I’m happy to be a man and I sure am glad my wife is a woman and she’s glad that I’m a man! God made us differently and we don’t try to play around with God’s design. He has a purpose for it, and his purpose in my opinion is very wise.

The New Testament presents women as co-heirs right along with the men in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. See if you can find that in any culture of the day! Interestingly enough. McKinsey’s citation of Ephesians 5 ends with only the woman’s duties to her husband, but does not include what is an amazing passage for a Jewish man like Paul to write: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Eph. 5:25, 29, 33). This is a “demeaning status”??? Hardly!

14. How can Jesus, who is allegedly God, talk to God the Father and yet only one God exist?

Answer to Question #14: The Trinity

Since we provide tapes and information on the subject of the Trinity and its basis in the Bible, I will not take too much time here to deal with this objection. However, for some reason, critics seem to enjoy taking “shots” at that which they know precious little about, and the Tri-Une nature of God seems to be a favorite target. Therefore a brief answer is in order.

The Bible is abundantly clear on the fact that there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10 etc.). It is also beyond serious dispute that three persons are called by the one title of God in the New Testament – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Now, some have denied the separate personhood of the Three, but the Bible will not allow for this. The Father is a Person, the Son another Person, and the Spirit the third Person. McKinsey calls this a “rationalization” which is OK since it is rational and it conforms to the Biblical evidence. Therefore we have one God presented to us in three Persons. This can be seen in a multitude of facts, one of which is that the Father is identified as Jehovah, the Son also is identified as Jehovah (Isaiah 6/John 12:41 is one example) and the Spirit is said to share in that same name as the Father and Son (Matthew 28:19). Now, given the fact that the Bible teaches an infinite God, there is no problem with three co-equal and co-eternal persons sharing the one Being that is God. The anti-theist may not be able to comprehend this, but that does not make it untrue. We cannot comprehend eternity, but that does not mean that eternity does not exist. I suggest the study of our tape “The Tri-Une Nature of God” as well as our material on the Deity of Christ (series title: “Son of God, Lord of Glory”) and our information sheet “Is Jesus Yahweh?”

Answering Common Questions and Objections Part 1 – Vintage

1. Why are people today being punished for Adam’s sin? Why do women have to endure pain in childbirth because of Eve’s sin, especially in the light of Deuteronomy 24:16 and other references?

Answer to Question #1: Original sin.

Few doctrines come under more consistent and heavy fire than that of man’s sin. This is hardly to surprise us, as man does not like to be reminded of his sin, nor of his responsibilities before God. So we can see the basis for such a question about original sin.

First, we are not being “punished” for Adam’s sin. Instead, we are living with the consequences of Adam’s sin. There is a big difference between them. God does not punish someone else for Adam’s sin, and if someone thinks he does, that person is mistaken. First, we must remember that in the Eastern culture of the peoples of the Bible, we do not encounter the fierce individualism that marks the Western mindset. Rather, we see much more of a communal system. The individual is subserviated to the good of the whole. So, when Achan sinned (Joshua 7:20) he was punished by death and his whole family perished with him. They were not punished, but they experienced the results of Achan’s sin. They were not said to he guilty, but Achan, as the head of his house, was their representative, and what he did was considered to be their responsibility as well.

The same goes for Adam. As our representative, Adam fell, and (according to Paul in Romans 5) we fell with him. We are not punished for his one act – rather, we live in a world that is completely affected by that act. Now, the Christian message is that God, in his mercy, is willing to do the same again – this time with our representative as Jesus Christ. We can have the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ when we are united with him (Romans 5:12-19).

Therefore, it is inaccurate to say that we are punished in Adam’s place or for Adam’s sin. Of course, the anti-theist may reply, but that’s not fair! Why should I live in a messed-up world because of what someone else did?” That is true – it’s not fair. It is not fair that an innocent person dies when a drunk crosses the line and collides with the innocent person’s car. But it happens. It is also not fair that God would allow anyone salvation in Jesus Christ. Mercy is not fair. So, if we want only justice, we are in big trouble, for there is none righteous, no not one. I’m glad God shows mercy, fair or not!

2. How could two perfect beings, Adam and Eve, have sinned?

Answer to Question #2: Adam’s Fall

This is an extremely common question which is based on a purely false assumption. Indeed, the Christian must learn to recognize the false assumptions that underlie most of atheistic thinking, and be prepared to point those errors out. This question provides us with a classic example of this.

The flawed assumption inherent in this question is as follows: if a perfect being sins, then that being was not perfect to begin with. Or, in other words, Adam and Eve’s “perfection” also made it impossible for them to sin. The question is, where does the Bible say that? Where does the Bible say that Adam and Eve could not sin? Where does

it say that because God created them innocent that they did not have the ability to sin? On what basis can we say that if something created by God and proclaimed by him to he “good” sins, then it wasn’t perfect? As you can see, we have to assume that perfection = inability to sin, and therefore, the inability to choose! This means that the only beings God could create that were perfect are those who have no personal choice. But we are now seeing the foolishness of this line of reasoning. There is no basis for stating that perfection includes within it the inability to become imperfect. Besides all of this, where does the Bible use the term “perfect” of Adam and Eve in this context? It doesn’t. Always remember this kind of false logic when dealing with anti-theists – it will come up every single time!

3. Christians claim that in order to be saved you must accept Jesus as your savior. If so, then how are babies who die in infancy, the mentally infirm, those who lived before Jesus, and those who lived in the New World before missionaries arrived, saved, and how could God be just if he condemned people because of where or when they were born?

Answer to Question #3: The Pygmies in Africa

Few Christians have been able to avoid this type of question that basically objects to the specificity of salvation in Jesus Christ. The lost do not like Jesus’ claim to be the “way, the truth, and the life, and they constantly bring this question up. Two things – first, Christians need to do better in their understanding of God and sin to he able to deal with this, and second, we must again deal with a false assumption at this point as well.

The first and most basic thing that must be asserted is the holiness of God. God is holy, and he is sovereign, and has the perfect right to do with his creation as he sees fit. God does not sit before the judgment bar of man’s reason or man’s sense of what is right and wrong. Instead, our senses and reasoning must be attuned to his. I say this because many Christians are afraid to state what the Bible says so clearly: “The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth…” (Psalm 135:6).

The most basic error in thinking in this question is the idea that God somehow “owes” everyone an equal chance at salvation. This error is so common that many Christians have fallen into it. It is wrong to think that God owes us anything – salvation is a matter of grace, and grace is never “owed.” God did not have to save anyone at all – he could have allowed us to go on our way, under his judgment and wrath. He did not have to devise the plan of salvation. He did because of his mercy, grace, and love. But we must remember that he did not have to provide salvation for anyone. Given this we can see the problem with the above question – it is based on the false assumption that God owes everyone salvation – he doesn’t. This brings up the question of those who have not heard the gospel. Can God possibly condemn someone who has never heard the Gospel? The Biblical answer is, yes, he can. God does not judge on the basis of whether one has or has not heard the Gospel – sin is the criterion, and all have sinned. We must remember that all are condemned regardless of the matter of having heard or not heard. Only God’s grace and mercy makes possible the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. How can we complain that God shows his mercy to some and not to all? This would be like faulting the governor of a state who extends a pardon to one man on death row. Would we be right to say, “he pardoned one, but he is unfair because he did not pardon the other 65 people who are condemned to die”? Of course not, since the governor was under no compulsion to pardon the one that he did. In the same way, God is under no compulsion to save anyone, so how can we get angry with him when he saves some and not all? Every man receives either justice or mercy – none receive injustice.

The question above also asked about infants and mentally incompetent individuals. The Bible does mention an “age of accountability as we call it, where a youth knows the difference between good and evil and is responsible for that decision (Isaiah 7:15- 16). Little is said other than this. Therefore, we have little to go on in discussing the condition of the infant or the mentally incompetent. Since they have made no conscious decisions against God, it is inconceivable that they undergo any kind of punishment. Rather, it is clear that they are ushered into the presence of the Lord. Huldreich Zwingli felt that all who died in infancy or who were mentally incompetent were of the elect of God, and I feel comfortable with that idea. Now, of course, anyone who asks you this question is neither an infant, nor mentally incompetent, nor someone who has never heard the Gospel, so they cannot hide from the clear implications of the Gospel in their lives.

In our radio debate, McKinsey pushed the idea that since Jesus said that no man comes to the Father but by him, and babies can’t accept Jesus, then they must to hell. I tried to point out to Mr. McKinsey that people are punished for sin; babies have committed no sin, therefore how could they be punished? At that point Mr. McKinsey said, “I don’t know where you got the idea that you had to be a sinner in order to go to hell – you go to hell not because of your acts – you go to hell because of whether or not you accept Jesus.” I tried to get him to see that Jesus’ statement in John 14:6 is in reference to all men because all have sinned, not in reference to those who died in infancy and never committed sin. Interestingly enough, this is what McKinsey would call an “extra-biblical” topic, and he claims to avoid such topics. The Bible nowhere says “Babies go to hell” – McKinsey is making up his own ideas as he goes along on this one. Since he has created a position that is not biblical, am I not just as safe to say the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all infants and mental incompetents? I could say that if I wished (if someone simply would not allow for babies to be innocent – i.e., have a sin nature while not yet being guilty of individual sin).

McKinsey added something about escaping via Romans 1 and 2. His comments show that again he knows little of Biblical theology. Romans 1:18-20 definitely says that man is inexcusable before God. But McKinsey makes it sound as if the biblicist will say that ‘belief in God and inherently knowing the good’ is how we “escape” from this dilemma. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and no good apologist would make that statement.

4. How could Noah (Genesis 6:9) and Job (1:1) have been perfect if all have sinned (Romans 3:23)?

Answer to Question #4: Perfection and Sinlessness

Little time need he spent on this, as it is clearly answered by asking the question, “why do you equate perfection and sinlessness?” The Hebrew terms used in these passages do not mean sinlessness. Rather, the Hebrew word is tarn, which refers to completeness, not sinless perfection. When applied to man, it would refer to a complete man with moral integrity (see Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew Lexicon for details). Also, we see that Noah offered sacrifices (Genesis 8:20) as did Job, for it was his “regular custom” (Job 1:5). Why would these men sacrifice if they did not know of their own sin?

5. How could Paul have said we are saved through faith in Jesus when Jesus himself repeatedly said good works are the pre-requisite?

Answer to Question #5: Grace and Works

Pauline theology most definitely teaches that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). Paul does emphasize good works for the Christian, but those works always follow – salvation and are the results of the indwelling Spirit – good works are never the pre-requisite of gaining salvation. The above question posits a contradiction between Paul and Jesus at this point. But does such a contradiction exist?

By no means!

When asked by the Jews “What must we do to do the works of God?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ (John 6:28-29). Note that the “work” Jesus mentions is belief – faith! Jesus never taught that a man could come to God by his works, nor that good works brought salvation. Instead, he taught that he was the way to God, and that salvation was by faith in his atoning sacrifice (John 3, etc). Therefore, the skeptic’s question is again seen to be based on a falsehood – the assumption that Jesus taught works-salvation. Now, certainly, if one wishes to sacrifice context, and if one assumes that Jesus was inconsistent with himself, then one could assert that Jesus taught works salvation. But if one takes Jesus’ words at face value, and examines the context and over-all meaning of his teaching, one will quickly see that Jesus, and his foremost disciple, Paul, were completely in agreement on this most vital subject. The burden of evidence, then, lies with the skeptic to prove that Jesus taught what he asserts above. It is clear, though, that such an assertion is false.

6. Ask someone if they believe. The answer is nearly always yes. Then ask if they would be willing to drink arsenic or handle deadly snakes since Mark 16:18 says, those who believe shall take up serpents and drink any deadly thing with impunity.

Answer to Question #6: Demonstrating how little one knows.

I saw an entire little “tract” built around this theme once – I cannot express in words the stupidity of such a question, and I sometimes wonder why I bother even dealing with it. But, it does crop up once in a while (rarely from an honest person) and therefore it should be addressed.

The first and most obvious thing is the simple fact that Mark 16:9-20 is not included in the best and most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, and it is not included in the actual text of most modern editions of the Bible. (For further information on this, write and request our information sheet entitled Mark 16:9-20: Scripture or Not?) But, I have learned that it is fruitless to expect anti-theists to be willing to study such subjects as textual criticism, so it does not bother them that they are using a passage that is not original in the Bible. What is worse, many of the believers they encounter are not aware of textual criticism either, and therefore such inane, senseless, and idiotic questions as the above tend to carry more weight with the uninformed Christians. Of course, such questions as the above completely discredit the questioner in the eyes of anyone who has done more than a cursory study of the Bible.

7. How can Numbers 23:19 and I Samuel 15:29 (both stating that God does not repent) be reconciled with Exodus 32:14 and I Samuel 15:35 (which say that he does)?

Answer to Question #7: Repentance and God.

This is again a rather common question. The answer lies, of course, in realizing that the context of the usage of any word must be examined before a “contradiction” can be alleged. We must also examine the meaning of the term itself, for words can be used in different contexts with different emphases. This is especially so in Hebrew which uses one word in one form for one meaning, and then turns around and uses the same word with a completely different meaning a little later on. This is not as common in Greek, but since we are dealing with the Old Testament here, that is irrelevant.

The Hebrew term nacham is used to express a range of meanings, from the idea of “relenting” or “repenting” to “grieving” and “being sorry.” It can mean a changing of the mind or simply a permissive action, all depending on the context of the passage. Now, atheists like to make fun of the fact that the Hebrews could use a word within one minute in two different ways, but this objection does not weigh much with those who have studied the subject. Indeed, if one would take the time and trouble to learn to read Hebrew writing, one would be better able to determine if the objection is right or wrong. And notice also the fact that in the last two sentences I used two sets of words with completely different meanings (ways/weigh; writing/right). I doubt anyone was confused by those words because the context was clear in each instance. We normally assume that a person who is relating a story does not desire to contradict himself – in other words, we give the writer the benefit of the doubt.

This can clearly be seen in the example given by the question itself: 1 Samuel 15:29 and I Samuel 15:35. Here the writer uses the term nacham in two different settings – first, in verse 29, in reference to God’s unchanging purposes and will – that of the fact that God would tear the kingdom from Saul. Only seven verses later the author writes, “And Jehovah was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.” The context is completely different. In the first we are told what God does not do – that is, change. In verse 35 we are told that God experiences sorrow over Saul and his state. Given the range of meaning of the word itself, and the fact that it is completely illogical to assume that the same author would contradict himself within seven short verses, the objector is left searching for some reason for his objection; unless, of course, we assume guilt a priori, something that no one does with any other book of antiquity. Why the Bible is treated differently is left unanswered. However, when one admits the possibility of harmonization and the idea that accounts can be complimentary, many objections fade away.

Dealing with Common Questions and Objections – Vintage

Having finished the published debate itself, I will now turn to dealing with some of the common questions and tactics utilized by anti-theists when talking with Christians about the Bible. Notice first of all that I have used the term anti-theist. Many atheists like to say that they have no beliefs, hence they have nothing to defend. But, if atheists have no beliefs, how can they write books about atheism? How can they publish monthly periodicals attacking the Bible? Are they not by doing so asserting something even if that something is negative? Of course they are. So, when dealing with people such as Mr. McKinsey using the term anti-theist is perfectly accurate. It is clearly Mr. McKinsey’s goal to destroy any trust in the Bible and, by so doing, belief in God. Therefore, he is rightly called an anti-theist.

In the final installment of Mr. McKinsey’s response to my letters he suggested I deal with the issues raised in an earlier issue of BE. Since the fourteen questions listed by Mr. McKinsey are some of the most common raised by skeptics and atheists, I will take his advice and deal with these questions. I will begin by listing the questions, taking the liberty to edit them to be the most representative possible. I will then provide some possible answers for each.

1.
Why are people today being punished for Adam’s sin? Why do women have to endure pain in childbirth because of Eve’s sin, especially in the light of Deuteronomy 24:16 and other references? 

2. How could two perfect beings, Adam and Eve, have sinned? (Mr. McKinsey adds here, The usual reply that they had free will is of no substance. They can have all the free will desired, but if they chose to sin then they weren’t perfect.)

3. Christians claim that in order to he saved you must accept Jesus as your savior. If so, then how are babies who die in infancy, the mentally infirm, those who lived before Jesus, and those who lived in the New World before missionaries arrived, saved, and how could God be just if he condemned people because of where or when they were born? (McKinsey adds, “Don’t let them escape via Romans 1 and 2. Belief in God and good works does not save. Only belief in Jesus. If belief in God and inherently knowing the good is all that’s required, then many non-Christians are included).

4. How could Noah (Genesis 6:9) and Job (1:1) have been perfect if all have sinned (Romans 3:23)?

5. How could Paul have said we are saved through faith in Jesus when Jesus himself repeatedly said good works are the pre-requisite?

6. (I include this one only to show the insanity of some of these types of questions). Ask someone if they believe. The answer is nearly always yes. Then ask if they would be willing to drink arsenic or handle deadly snakes since Mark 16:18 says, those who believe shall take up serpents and drink any deadly thing with impunity.

7. How can Numbers 23:19 and / Samuel 15:29 (both stating that God does not repent) be reconciled with Exodus 32:14 and I Samuel 15:35 (which say that he does)?

8. How can Exodus 33:20 and John 1:18 (both stating that no one can see God) be reconciled with Genesis 32:30 and Exodus 33:11 which say that men have seen God? (One might add numerous other references to seeing God, such as Isaiah 6:1).

9. How can the resurrection be so important when others were raised before Jesus was?

10. How can Jesus be our perfect savior when he made many false and deceptive statements such as John 7:8-10), Luke 23:43 (you will be with me in paradise today) Matthew 5:22 and Mark 8:34 (at this point McKinsey says “take up a nonexistent cross.” What he means by that is a mystery)?

11. How can the Bible be the epitome of morality and virtue when it uses profanity such as that found in 2 Kings 18:27, Ezekiel 23:20-21 and Song of Solomon 5:4?

12. How can the various accounts of the Resurrection be reconciled?

13. How can women support the Bible in light of the demeaning status accorded them in I Corinthians 11:3, 9, Ephesians 5:22-24, and other appropriate verses?

14.
How can Jesus, who is allegedly God, talk to God the Father and yet only one God exist? (McKinsey adds “Don’t let biblicists escape with the rationalization that there is only one God but three persons.”)

Obviously many others could be added to this list and we will address other questions at a later point. But, since Mr. McKinsey suggested dealing with them, and as they do pose a fairly representative sample of the kind of questions posed by hostile non-believers, they will do for our present purposes.