Now I will look at the problem between Paul’s version of reality versus Acts.

Question: How many times did Paul visit Jerusalem?

Answer according to Acts: 3

  1. Acts 9:26: Where Barnabas brought Paul to see the Apostles.
  2. Acts 11:30 12:25: Brought money to the church elders.
  3. Acts 15: the church appointed Paul and Barnabas and some others from among them to go up to meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem

Answer according to Paul: 2

  1. Galatians 1:18: after three years he went up to Jerusalem and met only with Peter and James
  2. Galatians 2:1: fourteen years after he went up again to Jerusalem by revelation

Did Paul visit only Peter or all the apostles on his first visit? Was Paul appointed by the church on his last visit or did he go up by revelation? And did Paul present the gospel he was preaching in private (Gal 2:2) or was his message  received by the church and the apostles and the elders (Acts 15:4)?

Question: What was the result of the last visit?

Answer according to Acts:

Therefore I conclude that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood. For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times, because he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath.

They sent this letter with them:

From the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person. For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.
Acts 15:19,20,23-29

No circumcision required but other certain Law requirements that have always been proclaimed are to be kept. And from here on out we see Paul entering a region and preaching at the synagogues. In Acts 18:6 Paul says “Your blood be on your own heads! I am guiltless! From now on I will go to the Gentiles!”

Answer according to Paul:

those influential leaders added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, when they saw  that I was entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised  just as Peter was to the circumcised (for he who empowered  Peter for his apostleship  to the circumcised  also empowered me for my apostleship to the Gentiles)  and when James, Cephas,  and John, who had a reputation as  pillars,  recognized  the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me  the right hand of fellowship, agreeing  that we would go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.  They requested  only that we remember the poor, the very thing I also was eager to do.
Galatians 2:6-10

Nothing required except to remember the poor! And Paul was entrusted the gospel to the gentiles as the rest (Peter) was entrusted the gospel to the Jews. No where to my knowledge does Paul minister to the Jewish people other than in Acts. Acts has Paul going to synagogues, Paul’s letters talk about starting believing communities among the gentiles – church.

Oh, and by the way, Paul seems intent in making sure that the reader understand that he is telling the truth almost like there are other versions of his life and ministry out there that are twist the truth: “I assure you that, before God, I am not lying about what I am writing to you!” Galatians 1:20

So I have three possible solutions:

  1. Become a liberal (read with an intonation like this is a bad thing).
  2. Eisegesis the scripture in a manner that mitigates the problem.
  3. Accept that the scriptures are inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work, even as these same scriptures are a human library full of errors and contradictions.

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]

As far as I am concerned, one of the greatest demonic threats to Christianity today is the prosperity gospel!

Any plain reading of the New Testament cannot but come-a-way with the understanding that money and possessions are at the very least a threat to our relationship with the creator. Jesus even said that it is impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God!*

My point is that there are any number of currently held doctrines that are harmful (if not evil), and that when these issues are brought up, the come back is, “Sure there are problems, but you cannot through out the baby with the bath water. They are bringing truth that we need.”

Well, maybe. (or maybe not)

But as soon as some one gets labeled as liberal, these same people are all over throwing out the bathwater, the baby and the tub as well! Calling someone liberal is like marking them the the sign of the beast.

Liberals have a claim on truth too!

[to be continued]

* I have heard it taught that the camel through the eye of the needle is a visual of the gate called ‘needle’. When a camel came to this gate all loaded up, it would have to be unloaded, pass through the gate where it could then be re-packed. Likewise, the teaching goes, when we come to Jesus, we need to lay all our worldly possessions at the foot of the cross in total surrender, only then can we pick them back up in a godly way.
The problem is that this is just not true. There is absolutely NO evidence of such a gate, and if there was such a gate, why would the disciples first reaction be “who then can be saved?” No this type of foolish teaching seems popular among certain sects of the Christian faith because no one questions it. Everyone gets excited over these ‘deep teachings‘. I know. I use to love these types of information.
Today when I hear something like this I have to raise the questions. Like recently I heard that all the lambs that were slaughtered for the passover in the first century came from Bethlehem. This put more emphasis on Jesus as the lamb of God. Well, I’m sorry, but this has the sound of a teaching that is made up out of someone’s imagination; and no one questioned it, now it is thought to be true.
Even if it is true, I have to discard it as a biblical <urban> legend until it can be proven. These things are like those emails that everyone gets that are obviously hoaxes; and yet there will always be those that will click on the link and get sucked into a scam or get infected by a virus.