The conservative’s view is that bible has authority over us. The bible is inerrant and to be taken/interpreted literally. The Liberal view takes authority over the bible by disassembling the document. My view is that we need to enter into the narrative of the bible, and find authority there.
[my paraphrase of Brian McLaren]
The traditional inerrant/literal view of the scriptures dictates to us what truth is. The result is a circular argument. We declare that the bible is inerrant, therefore we fix any errors and unify any inconsistencies and then use the result as proof that the bible is inerrant.
The inerrant view of scripture is faulty because it demands that we interpret or explain away real errors and inconsistencies. A common declaration is that the bible is a unified book that conveys one consistent message. Is this so? I have read books that make this claim and then spend the majority of its content explaining why supposed errors are not really errors and then inconsistencies are covered up or explained away. The result is often an extra-biblical mash-up that seems to holds more authority than the individual pieces.
For example, the unified creation story combines Genesis 1 and 2. However, the two chapters offer two unique and distinct creation accounts. The original language in each is unique and the time line is inconsistent. In order to remain inerrant, we make up convoluted doctrines to explain the differences and unify the facts. The result is an account of creation that is not really found in the bible.
The biblical criticism approach of the Liberals is the more honest approach.
Three examples I will look at in more detail are: 1) the crucifixion, 2) Jesus’ birth narrative, and 3) Paul’s conversion.
1) I could go in to much detail about the passion narratives, let me just say that our image of Jesus’ last few hours is a hodge podge of four individual and unique accounts. By combining these four into one homogenized account, I propose that we take away from the unique messages and inspiration that the individual accounts hold for us. My point is not to deny that this event occurred, but to say that each of the four writers had their reason for writing what they did. One’s take may have been that Jesus was tormented and confused, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Whereas another’s image of Jesus is of confidence and defiance. In the inerrant/literal view, only one of these could be correct, so to fix this, we mash them together and have only one unified account. In an inspired narrative view, the truth and inspiration may not be in the factualness of the details but in the stories themselves.
Anyway, my goal in looking at the crucifixion was not to look at the narrative, but to look at one obvious error.
Recently I received an email that talked about the importance of the Passover. In this email, there was an obvious contradiction that is often totally overlooked. The author argued that the Passover was important to Jesus. To point this out he argued that, “The original Lord’s Supper was a Passover meal!”
However, later on in this email, as the author was comparing the crucifixion with the Passover, and he proclaimed that “at the moment the Passover lamb was killed, Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘IT IS FINISHED,’ and gave up His spirit!”
Do you see it?
How could Jesus be crucified at the same time that the lamb was killed that he and his disciples had for the last supper? You see, in the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus is killed on Passover day (Friday), which was the morning following the Passover meal (the Hebrew day started in the evening not the morning). In the gospel of John, the Last Supper is not the Passover meal (instead of Jesus taking about the bread and wine, he washed feet). In John’s gospel, the meal occurred on the day of preparation; the day before the Passover! John has Jesus being crucified on the day of preparation as the Lamb of God (Thursday), not on Passover.
John’s gospel is not factual. It is theological!
John lied and changed the factual details in order to make the theological point that Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God. If this is true, then the gospel of John is a theological treatise not biographical fact. Inspired? Sure, but not to be read literally. [There are other things in John that prove this point. For example, the whole born again confusion could not have actually occurred. The word play only works in Greek and Jesus and Nicodemus would have been speaking in Aramaic.]
[to be continued]