Ever wonder why some stories appear in two or three gospels, but in very different forms? Why the changes in wording, and what significance do these changes have?
Robert Price explains how through “redaction criticism” we can explain some of these differences and understand their significance. For example, the author of the gospel of Luke redacted or edited the source material he used, some of it also found in Mark. Luke shaped the source material so his gospel narrative would make the points he thought important. Among the key differences between Mark and Luke is that while the former suggests the Second Coming is imminent, Luke, probably writing later, counsels Christians not to be impatient. The timing of Jesus’ return is unknown and … well, it could be a while. In the meantime, Christians should recognize that references by Mark or others to the Kingdom of God being at hand mean that Christians have undergone an internal transformation, not that JC is on the next bus from paradise.
Redaction criticism is a powerful tool for understanding the theological goals of the various gospel writers.
This episode also has your favorite segments: Listener Questions, Apologetics, the Prophetic Scorecard, and Is That in the Bible? We learn that the relations between Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden may be more complicated than we thought, and we consider the possibility that even contemporaries of the New Testament authors may have thought the whole Jesus thing was just a bunch of cobbled together myths.
Redact your calendar to make room for his informative and entertaining episode!
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This episode of the Human Bible is sponsored by Audible. Please visit Audible podcast dot com slash Human for a free audio book. Download.
The Bible, love it or hate it, is a book filled with puzzles and mysteries. It will be a hard task to one Raval, as many of them as possible. We want to understand the Bible is a human book, not a book inspired by a God. I’m Robert M. Price and this is the first human.
I am your host, Robert M. Price, and this is the Human Bible, the human Bible is a radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing science reason, freedom of Inquiry and humanistic values and public affairs. And at the grass roots. Well, as I frequently do, I thought perhaps I would start out by getting us up to speed.
In fact, I love doing this one anyhow, so I can’t complain. I thought it might be kind of fun to deal with another fundamental area of biblical criticism. You’ll find that an old and New Testaments. But I think it really jumps out at you in the New Testament, especially the gospels. That is redaction criticism, redaction criticism, I guess could just as easily be called editorial criticism. But that seems to have other denotation. But redact reader as an editor, Redaction is editing and so forth. And redaction criticism had quite the vogue a few decades ago and justly so. I’ve heard people who don’t like the results snidely proclaim redaction criticism passé. Usually when you hear that, that’s just a kind of propaganda technique. Personally, I have found very old schools and techniques of biblical criticism to have a lot of light to shed on the text and its understanding and those who say, well, that’s over, nobody does that anymore are often chaining themselves and their readers. And I think you know that from a lot of the things I’ve said on this show that there are a lot of things you’re not going to hear in courses in seminaries these days because nobody cares about them. But that’s kind of a function of nobody in critical liberal seminaries care and much about the Bible anymore. Don’t you find yourself like me in a weird hybrid position where you don’t believe the Bible, but you love the Bible and are fascinated with it. And yet most people that know believe it don’t give a darn about it, whereas the people that really are big Bible fans don’t want any critical examination of its upon this weird no man’s land strip I guess. I remember reading a Stanly wine bomb science fiction story decades ago. Of course he wrote it decades before that where this guy is an astronaut is on a mission to mercury as if there could be such a thing. But what did they know then? And they believed then that the same side of mercury always face the sun. I to tell you the truth, I can’t keep this straight. I mean, I don’t even agree on what counts as a planet anymore. But they believe that the sunward side of mercury was a was a blazing inferno.
And the the side always away from the sun was a refrigerator all the time. And that, however, that was like this Pan Umbra band around the middle of a planet. And so this astronaut landed there and did whatever he had to do on this little habitable strip. Well, that’s kind of where I am. I think you find ourselves right on the one side, we got the the blazing inferno of Bible waving fanatics and on the other, the people that are utterly cool to the point of frostiness about the Bible and ask you and me, they insist on knowing why you’re wasting our time on this. Wow. Cause it’s there anyhow.
Redaction criticism isn’t passé. It’s very revealing. And in a minute, I want to get into one of the modern challenges to it. But there were great redaction critics of the gospels who. I really paved the way on this, I guess, to just give you a rundown on some of the books, you could look at Villy Marks and that is w why l l i marks an m a r x s e. And he wrote a book that in translation is called Mark the Evangelist. Then there was a collection of essays by the famous Guntur Born. Com, B, o r and K a m m. And I guess two of his students are colleagues. Hunt’s yell at him. Helme held HLT and Gearheart Bart B.A.. Artie H. Not to be confused with the great Carl Bart. And their book was called Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew. And that one is it’s great. Actually, I find that a bit more helpful than than Marx and the Marx and is a classic too. And maybe the greatest of a mom would be Hohns, Councilman C0 and Z l m a and and Councilman Right considered man. And his book in in German is called The Myth that that site the Middle of Time. But they figured that might confuse a stupid English readers and decided to call the translation the theology of St Luke. Man, that’s gotta be the most D nature d.. Let’s see if we can make it boring. Well I did, but the book isn’t boring. It’s unbelievably interesting. And I and I just think this is the prime example of redaction criticism. And I would like to just give you the tip of the iceberg of what console man found in Luke, just to illustrate the kind of thing that goes on in redaction criticism. And of course, the point in gospel redaction criticism is to compare one gospel with another that it uses as its source. Now, many people are questioning the model of source criticism or gospel dependency that these redaction critics use, namely the the paradigm that Matthew and Luke both independently used, both the gospel of Mark and the so-called Q or source document, which is just all the stuff that Matthew and Luke have in common that they didn’t get from Mark as an aim in. Right. They must have at another common source. I accept that. That seems to me to be a very helpful working hypothesis, though, of course, it is a question that still is hotly debated. But this is what they did. You could do redaction criticism on any other basis. You could believe, as some do, that Matthew used Mark and then Luke used both Matthew and Mark or various other possibilities. But you would still see what you could figure from the way one is changed the other as to what their agenda was. And that’s the point of redaction criticism. Seeing how the the one evangelist or gospel writer used his source, you can tell what was on his mind. How did he change the previous one? Shouldn’t be any surprise to anybody reading the Gospels that they felt free to do that. The introduction to the Gospel of Luke plainly implies that this writer knows of other gospels, but he wants to do the definitive version, which you would hardly have done if he found nothing deficient about the others. Well, redaction criticism assumes that some early Christian writers figured that some classics needed to be updated or even corrected, and they did. And this makes so much sense to me that actually it helps me decide the source critical question, because if you take as your model that Luke and Matthew used Mark as just leave it at that for the moment, it. To me, it makes so much sense of the kind of differences you have between the gospels, more so than other proposals I’ve seen, that it really tends to show you that this has got to be right. Well, let’s compare Luke and Mark. And the big thing Councilman was talking about was the idea that Mark written earlier had much more of an interest and belief in the soon coming end of the age, the piracy or appearing of Christ in judgment. The second coming, as we call it. And Mark was eager for this to happen. And and it shows or at least he preserved a lot of sayings and traditions that had this kind of imminent expectation. Now, one other little warning. Sometimes there are instances where, given the general trend of of the reactor, you’re a little surprised when you run into something, a kind of a loose end that you’d have thought he’d have changed, but he didn’t. And that doesn’t really overthrow the method, though, because of the pattern you can discern is meaningful. I don’t think it’s coincidence and other couple of reasons for leaving some things as they were. Partly because these texts were popular and people would object to omitting certain things, just like the furor that came about when the revised standard version of the Bible came out in 1946 and people said, wait a minute, this passage is and then there are this was translated differently led to book burnings. Well, this is an old problem. And so sometimes they felt like, well, I can’t really get rid of so-and-so, but I’ll try to cast a different light on it by preparing the reader to take it in a different way. And you’ll see what I mean. Also, you can’t discount what Mark Goodacre calls editorial fatigue that sometimes they evangelist’s. The redacted was just napping. He changed as much as he noticed, but just didn’t happen to notice something that he shouldn’t change to be consistent. And both of those make a lot of sense to me. But we’ll see one of those. OK, so Mark was a big advocate of the soon return of Christ, or at least a lot of stuff and as sources were. But Luke is writing later than Mark. And it’s though the wait has already become so long that he wants to mitigate the belief in the soon coming end of the age of the second coming of Christ. He wants to push it off. I think in the gospel of John, we’re going to find probably on the next human Bible that somebody got really impatient and chucked the whole idea. But but Luke just delays it. He he says. Oh, yeah. All right. It’ll happen. Sure. But let’s not be too hasty in that. Now, why would that be? Well, just look at poor Harold Camping, right. He had minions all over the country financing billboards and going around and vans with bullhorns talking about how the return of Christ is going to be on so and so date that the radio evangelist Harold Camping and come up with you Movielink of the calendar lately. You know that it didn’t happen. Right. And it was pretty darn embarrassing. Well, that kind of thing has happened zillions of times and people felt they had some reason to believe the end was at hand. This coming next week. And they didn’t. He never does. And yeah, it was already so embarrassing that Luke was, in effect saying, look, all right. One day. Yes. He’ll come back. But let’s not fly off the deep end. Haven’t we learned our lesson and. Console Monsoor. Luke. Trying to prepare the churches who read his work for being there for the long haul. And so instead of Jesus being the harbinger of the new age in the final judgment, he makes Jesus the inaugural aider of a new dispensation on Earth, the age of the church, which may be long or short, but it’s got its own integrity. It’s a new order. Yeah, of course, it will give way to the end of the worldly schema. One day when Christ does literally, visibly come back. But we live in the age of the church, we might as well settle in for the long haul. And so the church becomes the kind of institution of salvation which we find in the Book of Acts, which is written or at least edited. What a mess. By the same author. And so what I want to do is to zero in on a little bit of this again. It’s just the iceberg tip.
But I think it’s a good illustration. For instance, if you look at Mark, chapter nine, verse one, he said to them, truly, I say to you.
There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power or literally having come with power. With power will. Couple of other times, Romans and First Corinthians, I believe you have this phrase and do not me or in power associated with the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age and so forth. And that seems to be the implication here, that they they’re going to see the kingdom of God coming in Technicolor, the end of the age. And in fact, the preceding text and the end of Chapter eight is all about that when the son of man returns and so on. Well, what does Luke do with that? Over in Luke, Chapter nine twenty seven, which is rewrite but with a difference. Now we have him say, I tell you truly there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God. What’s the difference. Nothing about seeing it coming with power. Now why eliminate that kind of an impressive sounding sentence? Well, by itself, who knows? Maybe business running short of ink. But we’re going to see there’s this pattern that he wants to eliminate the s scatological or apocalyptic reference that the end as a man. Because you can talk about the coming of a kingdom of God in other senses. Right. As the rabbis used to say, that if you determined to follow the Torah, the law of Moses, you’ve taken on to your shoulders the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. Well, what they mean is the kingship. The God is the law. Give her up in heaven. And you’ve agreed to be his subject. So they’re not talking about the the end of the age or anything like that.
That’s the other and there are other possible meanings of it.
So the door is open to possibly I mean, I think something like that.
And we’re going to see just how he might mean that in Mark 13. Back to Mark. You’ve got this apocalyptic section about how the end of the world is going to come and hit. Jesus gives the this list of signs and events that are to happen. And when they do. Well, it’s just like the trees blossoming, you know, of it’s summer is near. There’s no way it’s not. And so just the same way when you see this stuff happen, you know, it’s time they get ready. The end is coming. But you have a rather different view of that in Luke 21, which is a rewrite of it. Now, we find for one thing, that one of the big signs to alert the faithful is no longer the what Mark calls quoting the book of Daniel, The Abomination of Desolation. He says, When you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be, then flee to the hills, etc.. That’s good apocalyptic stuff, right? And the the substance of Ohman movies and the like. But in Luke, it’s changed its historic size now.
It doesn’t say Jesus doesn’t say anymore when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be. Now it says when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then flee to the hills. What?
Well, he’s he’s interpreting what Mark would have meant. He figures a Rome the Roman siege of Jerusalem. Some debate over whether it’s the one in seven DCE or the one some 60 years later at the time of Baquba. But at any rate, a Roman siege of Jerusalem.
And he’s not just crack and Mark’s code. His point is that this isn’t really a signal of the end. It’s not an end time event. No. He says then that Jews will be marched off at sword point and the times of the Gentiles will begin, not just a single time. That is the the days that the years of gentile domination will begin. Hold on now. If that’s the case, you’re not talking about any in any second coming of Christ near at hand. Again, there’s this idea that a new historical epoch has begun. So that’s quite a change. Now, he does leave the closing note of the mark and Apocalypse and Mark 13 intact.
This generation will not pass away until all of these things have happened. But you got to wonder what that’s even supposed to mean in light of this business, of the times of the Gentiles. So what did they just forget to cut into? Might have or did he not want to ruffle feathers by admitting it and figure, well, I’ve just corrected by having these other verses. So somebody reads them, they’re going to get to this and say, well, I don’t really know how to take that.
But it certainly can’t mean it’s going to happen immediately. Well, then Luke adds three little items that are quite significant. I mean, you could have done it once, but the three of them, I see a pattern here in Luke 17.
We have the passage that also is partly based on Mark 13, his apocalyptic rant. But it’s prefaced by this fascinating little tidbit in Luke 1723 21. It says, Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them. The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say low. Here it is. Or there for behold the kingdom of God is.
And you could translate it in the midst of you or within you. I tend to favor the latter. But the point is, it’s pretty clearly said not. No. You got the wrong idea. It’s not going to be that kind of a thing. It’s not going to be something where you can run down a checklist. Wars and rumors of war. OK. We got bad famines and earthquakes in various places. Yeah, yeah. I read about that in the newspaper. I guess it’s about to come, you know. No, it’s not that kind of thing. In fact, don’t just say it. It’s already here.
Comes up the same way in the Gospel of Thomas, where the disciples ask that once the repose of the dead and the kingdom gonna come. And he says this says to him what you expect. Has already happened. You just don’t recognize it. We’re in a similar passage in Thomas says The Kingdom of God is spread abroad and men do not see it. Interesting. That seems like that’s the same kind of thing. So this is a I think, a direct contradiction to the stuff. And Mark, 13. No, no, no. You’re wasting your time. You’d never gonna notice it if you’re looking outside because it’s inside only to see again. Councilman is right. There’s this attempt to redefine the kingdom of God.
There’s another one in Luke. 19. We have his version of the parable of the talents, talent being a sum of money. Matthew has this also in Matthew, 25, 14 through 30.
And and the basic idea there is that this this king is about to go away on a trip and he brings in his stewards and says to him, look, I need to leave my business affairs in your hands while I’m gone. So I have assessed your abilities. I just I’ve decided to give you ten talents of silver to trade with and invest. And you I’m given five. And you I’m giving you one. See what you can make of it. And, you know, I expect to get some return on this. Right. So he leaves. And they get to work. At least two of them do. But the third one who gets the one talent, you find out why he got the one. He’s kind of a nervous Nellie. And he says, you know, I’m going to be in big trouble if I try to invest this. And it’s a bad investment. I’ve got nothing to show to the master. I think I’ll play it safe and just bury the money in the ground and then nobody’s gonna find it there. And at least I can give him his money back when he gets here. Well, he gets back and the the first two guys have made a lot more money and he congratulates them.
The third guy comes and he says, well, here I was a little afraid, etc.. And here’s your moneybags, this he killed Laci. And so be a you know, I expect some return on this. Why didn’t I at least to take in a bank and I kind of got some interest on it and so forth? Well, it’s basically the same in Luke, but the lead in is quite different. And there’s a lead in to the lead in Luke often does this. He will tell you right at the beginning what the parable is supposed to mean, whereas in Mark and Matthew you have Jesus say he who has ears to hear, let him hear and make of it what you will not hear.
So in Luke 1911, as they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near to Jerusalem and because they suppose that the Kingdom of God was to appear immediately.
Well, of course, what we’re about to read is a correction of that misapprehension. A the board dope’s thought the Kingdom of God was about to show a.
Oh, he said the substrate on that. He said, therefore, a nobleman went into a far country to receive kingly power and then return.
And this could be to inherit a grip on the first or archeologists who were Jewish kings that went to Rome to get the title King of Jews from the Caesar.
So he didn’t get this. He’s going far away and then coming back, calling ten of the servants. He gave them ten pounds and said of them, trade with these to like common. Then you got pretty much the same story. And then much later he comes back and then there’s there’s other stuff that that happens.
But you see, if they thought the kingdom of God was going to come quickly.
But this odd is such a straight Jesus is like a king who goes far away to receive royal dignity and then is going to come way back after a while. So, yeah, he’s going to ascend and take a seat at the right hand of God and come back eventually. And I mean, none of that’s impossible for the original cue version that Matthew has. But the fact is that’s pointed out here. He’s saying that don’t make the same mistake. He’s there’s no reason to think he’s coming back that quick. Well, the third one misses in the beginning of the Book of Acts, again, by the same author in the Jesus is About to Ascend.
And he says he tells them all kinds of stuff that isn’t recorded here. Says he teaches them about the kingdom of God for 40 days. And then at the end of that time and acts one, verse six, when they had come together, they the disciples asked him, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons which the father has fixed by his own authority.
He again, that once again. Oh, is it going to be now? Has it got me now? Look, that’s none of your business. Why don’t you just get busy. So there’s this systematic attempt to make clear to the reader who is presumed to think that the second coming ought to happen any time.
Time to say back off. Cool down. No, not it’s not gonna happen for a good while.
You got to get busy with your mission work and all of that.
Well, as I say, there’s there’s more to it than this. But this is an example of the kind of pattern of changes one finds, and that’s redaction criticism.
And it’s not that tough to put together what the Rega actor was getting at, the changed effect he wants to have, and that today we have people saying that, oh, no, no, the differences between the gospels are simply the result of their oral origin. There’s an attempt to make the gospels ballads that were just repeated by Christian balladeers around campfires or something and that are written texts are just transcripts. They had stenographers present writing down what these gospel balladeers said or sang or whatever. And that notoriously balladeers like this, even today in Croatia and places like that, the Balkans, that they vary the stories as they tell them. No, no. Two versions are alike. As long as they get the basic stuff in there, you kind of want to hear it differently. But it seems to me this is just an attempt to ignore the patterns that redaction criticism points out, because the people that argue this would much rather believe that what we’re getting in the Gospels is a transcription of oral tradition, which they somehow think is liable to be more accurate. I said to me that that’s a pipe dream, but it just it’s. That is to dismiss all these intricate patterns, which seem to me not esoteric at all, not not contrived in the least. You’re trying to say that there’s nothing to see. There just doesn’t mean anything, because these people, apologists often like my pal Greg Boyd, for instance, in his book The Jesus Legend, where the whole point of the book is that he isn’t a legend. Peculiar title for such a book. He’s trying to say it. Well, he doesn’t like the idea that gospel writers felt free to change it. So, again, I don’t know what the oral tradition thing does to improve on that. But at any rate, this is something about redaction criticism. If you’ve got a copy in your library of the new Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, you can look at my long article on biblical criticism and get some of this in greater detail.
So I’d be happy for you to do that. Kind of expensive. Maybe you could ask Santa for it or something.
Hi, everybody. This is Paul Fidalgo at the Center for Inquiry. Producers of the Human Bible podcast. I just need to interrupt, Bob, for a quick moment to tell you guys about our sponsor for this episode. Audible Now, since you’re savvy enough to be listening to this really smart podcast, you almost certainly know about Audible. They’re far and away the Internet’s leading provider of spoken audio content. And by that, I mean it’s the best way to get audio books. Audible has over one hundred and fifty thousand of them for you to listen to at any time on just about any device or gadget you can conceive of. IPod, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, pieces, Macs. I don’t know if you can listen to them on toasters yet, but I bet they’re experimenting with it, just like you’re listening to this great podcast. And thank you for that. You can also experience the best in fiction, literature, science, history, an entire universe of books. Read to you on your schedule whenever you want with audible running errands, commuting, washing dishes, chilling out at home, Audible makes it easy to enrich and enlighten yourself with again a selection of over one hundred and fifty thousand titles. Let me give you a quick example. This May CFI is hosting the Third Women in Secularism Conference, and you can learn more about that at Women in Secularism, dawg. And one of the headliners is Barbara Ehrenreich. And one of my favorite audiobooks ever is Aaron Reich’s Nickel and Dimed on Not Getting By in America. When you hear spoken to you the story of Aaron Reich’s adventures and trying to make it on low wage jobs all over the country, something about the human voice really makes it hit home. Barbara Ehrenreich will be at the conference. And you can listen to Nickeled and Dimed and other books of hers at Audible. And now I’m going to tell you how you can get it free. Now, this is a special offer just for listeners of the human Bible. OK, you have been chosen. I just go to the Web browser nearest you and visit audible podcast, dot com slash human. That’s audible podcast. All one word, dot com. Slash human sign up there. And you can get a free audio book of your choice. Go get it right now. You’re going to love Audible and our thanks to them for supporting the human Bible. Now back to Bob.
Well well, she had probably taken up the whole show on that, but do have a few other things to get in like. One of my favorites, apologetics, is never having to say you’re sorry. Now, if I wanted to get away from the cheap Eric Siegel joke there, maybe I should say apologetics is never being willing to say you’re sorry.
I thought might be fun to look at a passage this time, not a historical one, but a theological one that we find in the epistle to the Philippians, where I’ve heard nervous sermons on this for a long time, where we have the.
Let’s see. Let’s see. Yeah. Who? Farmer has this open in front of me. But.
I know that the wording any way where it says you are to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you.
Oh, boy, that doesn’t sound good to Protestants, right. This sounds much more like the Greek Orthodox view, which they call unabashedly synergism or working together ism, right? Yeah. God’s grace is involved. But I got my job to do here because I can’t just passively accepted.
But in Protestant theology, as a Martin Luther, you sort of are just supposed to passively accepted this kind of debate comes up in other religions, too, among the followers of Arama Anuja in in Virdon to Hinduism. There was a big debate over this and two factions formed. I get a huge kick out of this. There was the cat school. Now what? Well, how does Mommy cat get her little kittens to move somewhere? She just bites them on the scruff of the neck, picks them up and takes them there. They’re pretty passive. Well, then there’s the monkey school. How does mommy monkey get the kids to go where she wants? Well, she does grab them, but they have to hold on. And so the cat school said we are simply saved by the grace of the divine Vishnu. It’s all his doing. We’re lucky he saved us where it would be presumptuous to think we could contribute anything to that. No, no, no. But the monkey school said, come on now, vision perfectly willing to save us. And if it weren’t for his saving grace, nobody would be safe. But look, you have got to accept his help. I mean, if you’re drowning and somebody comes to save, you got to hang on to him. As Billy Graham often says, someone may give you a gift, but you have to reach out and accept that and unwrap it or it’s not yours. Pretty good argument. Well, the same thing here. I Protestants would prefer to say, no, no, no. All I have to do as open my empty hand, but I may not even have to do that because God may predestined me to do it. That doesn’t sound like what Philippians is saying. Right. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. In other words, you going to be in huge trouble if you don’t. Don’t take this lightly because there’s hell to pay. Or at least damnation of some kind. And if you don’t put a lot of effort into it. Jeez. Now don’t they get out of this. So what’s the apologetic for this? Well, again, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches wouldn’t have a problem with it, but Protestant apologists do. And what they say as well, you know, it does say God is at work in you.
Yeah, of course it does. Right. But that would just make it synergism again. You’re not on your own, but you got to cooperate with God or you’re nowhere.
What I have heard them say is, oh, no, no. It doesn’t mean you got to work at it. You got to get the thing settled. You got to beat it out like a blacksmith with a instrument on an anvil. No, it means the salvation is in you. You have to work it out word so that your regeneration, your possession of the Holy Spirit will manifest itself in good living and all that. I don’t even think the Greek preposition can bear that sense. It just seems to be aimed at readers who easily forget that it wasn’t originally written in English. So I think that is pretty, pretty pathetic.
And it’s a great example of how people that claim to let their belief be determined by the text of the Bible cannot do that, but find themselves straight jacketing, the text of the Bible according to the theology they already believe.
So, again, nobody’s saying they’re sorry. How about a listener question? David Miller asks. Well, it says, I read a book some years ago that seemed to entertain the theory that Luke Luke’s gospel was penned by a woman. Do you have any opinion?
Yes, I think that was Randal Helms in a introduction of the New Testament. Or was it a book called Who Wrote the Gospels? I think it was and I was interested in this because I had thought this at one point.
What made me think of it was I was doing a paper which eventually grew into my New Testament doctoral dissertation, The Widow Traditions and Luke acts still available on Amazon. And I was looking at the passages in Luke and the Book of Acts that have to do with consecrated, charismatic, celibate women, precursors of nuns. And I in my research, I come across fascinating books like Denis MacDonald’s book, The Legend and the Apostle, The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon, where he shows how Paul was made the mouthpiece for different factions views, and that if you read the acts of Paul, he has a much more radical and Thai sex view. But if you read the pastoral epistles first and second, Timothy and Titus, he seems to be taking aim at this very view, which implies somebody knew that this view was attributed to Paul but didn’t think he had actually said it and decided to have Paul, like a ventriloquist’s dummy, refute these ideas as fanatical and so forth. Who knows what the real Paul might have thought. And in the course of this, MacDonald said it looked to him as if both sides the I’m sorry on the far mentioned is the acts of Paul and apocryphal work that, yeah, that has some very radically anti sexual. And the pastoral epistles were based on oral tradition, just stories told by groups of consecrated women. They did different things with them, but that the whole debate really descended from that, that Paul was supposed to be a champion of celibacy, etc., and that there were various signs in the stories and the acts of Paul that indicated these stories originated among women. I won’t go into the whole thing, but he makes a lot of sense. So that’s one thing. Another thing was great book by Stephen S-t. E V.A. and L davies’ called The Revolt of the Widows the social world of the apocryphal acts. In this he showed not the first, but very effectively showed how the the acts of Paul and a number of other early Christian novels really about the apostles have so much in common with contemporary Greco Roman novels that you have to wonder if they are not just Christian versions of them. And Davies suggests that these works were written by women and they would have been, in the case of the Hellenistic novels and others. And who’d be reading them? Well, apparently ancient women, noble women who had the time to hang around to read these things, and probably they were written by women. And that’s a bit of a leap. And I eventually came to think, now there’s this, that it really doesn’t quite make it. But for a while I did. And I thought, well, Luke’s gospel in the Book of Acts have many of the same features. If these guys are right, I would think that Luke, quote unquote. Of course, there’s no name on on it in the original manuscripts that Luke was gone. Luke here was a woman. So and I believe that Helms is going on similar considerations. But I read what MacDonald said about David’s work and became convinced that now there is a female authorship element. But it’s because there are stories about celibate women that originated among celibate women, but that the author that used them in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts was actually trying to cut back the role of such. And was not a woman. Again. You’d really have to look at my book, The Widow Traditions and Luke acts to see this. But I was sympathetic and advocated that view. But then I began to think, now this is there’s just not much support for it. It’s pretty. The argument is pretty tenuous and there’s a lot of evidence that pushes in the other direction. So a fascinating case of the kind of stuff I just loved to read. But I’ve wind up unconvinced by. Is that in the Bible?
Fill in the blank with that. Right. That’s almost weekly, I guess. Yeah, I guess we do that every time, don’t we? Is that the Bible always zero in on something that is so bizarre. People tend to ignore it because they don’t know what the heck to make of it or something people think is in the Bible. It isn’t. Well, this time I want to do the former not. Well, gee, you know, this could really fall under either one of those. One often hears that myth, this ism, the notion that there was no historical Jesus is a modern view, that nobody in the ancient world held this, which would be rather odd if there were any truth to it. Nobody would have suggested that. I think that is incorrect. I’ve mentioned before, I believe on the human Bible that you do find that I think in Justin Martyrs’ dialog with trifold.
And in it, trifold, who’s apparently supposed to be the Jewish rabbi, Halfon says you Christians have made up a Christ of your own. Well, you will hear apologists hasten to interpret that as if it meant you Christians have nominated your boy as the Messiah.
Though, in fact, he wasn’t. That’s twist in the text. I mean, that’s possible. That’s what Justin’s opponent meant. But that’s not a very good way of saying it. It says you’ve created concocted a Christ of your own. I mean, that to me is saying that there was no such person. You made them up. But it goes back well earlier than that.
I guess it depends on where you date second, Peter. But in second, Peter, which may itself be around the same time as Justin, I guess you have a very sadly neglected passage that I think bears on. There’s also this.
Is in second, Peter, one. Let’s say 15 and following. I will see to it. This is supposed to be by Peter. But it’s Sue Topographical, as many indications show. I will see to it that after my departure, you may be able at any time to recall these things, for we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we were eyewitnesses of His Majesty for when he received honor and glory from God, the father, and the voice was born to him by the majestic glory. This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased. We heard this voice born from heaven, for we were with him on the Holy Mountain.
Well, that’s that’s the case of pious fraud, pure and simple, that this writer was certainly not fair. And he’s he’s obviously trying to defend the idea that the transfiguration really happened. Right. But he does say myths, plural.
And so you have to wonder if he’s writing against the charges of opponents of Christianity that said that you made all this stuff up.
If the transfiguration is taken to be the tip of the iceberg, you got to wonder if they weren’t saying the whole thing is a tissue of fabrications. Now, we don’t know. Right. I don’t want to press the thing beyond implication, but it kind of sounds to me that people may well have been brooding about the notion that Christianity was myth, pure and simple.
Let’s get another listener question, Shane says, Quint’s comes almost feel like St. Whence cometh the idea that the serpent in the Garden of Eden Eden was founded in revelations Satan is referred to as a serpent, but it doesn’t mention anything about the garden. Is there any other Bible passage that identifies Satan with the Identica Serpent? If not, how did the ID get started?
Eden story and Genesis three. You’re right. Certainly does not say that Satan had anything to do with it or that there is a Satan, right?
It’s an older myth, Achmat, I think, and.
I think you are correct that the Book of Revelation, when it says Satan, that old serpent, et cetera, et cetera.
Even there, there is no identification with the Edenic serpent except a very indirect through the back door version of it. And here’s what I’m I’m getting at. It appears that the serpent in Eden was originally the seven headed serpent or dragon that the Old Testament speaks of many times as the opponent of Yocha May at the creation, gone over this here before that, that, just like in the canine eye story of bail and the Babylonian story of Mardu and so forth, the world was created by the young warrior God and Storm God Yaacov A just like Marduk and Bayle, who defeated the threatening dragon and created the world from its carcass. This myth was again widespread, but it’s been heavily edited and both of the Genesis creation stories. One of the names for the Dragon was TMR. That’s what one of the ones in the Babylonian creation was called. That has a that has been taken over into the priestly creation account of Genesis one and of the generic name that took home the ocean depth because these dragons were sort of personifications of the chaotic ocean depths. If you’ve ever seen Gore go, you’ll know just what I mean. And. Also, it says that the world was chaotic to begin with. It was.
Who? Why Bo who toe who.
And Bo who without form and void. Chaotic and empty. Well, these are singular versions of the of the plural names.
TMR actually Dragons and Behe Moat Monster described and Jobe, 39. Bo who singular behemoth moate plural.
But they’re not supposed to be monsters anymore. They’ve been demythologize because the priestly writer of Genesis one is more of a natural philosopher like failings and an ax Amanda’s contemporaries. And he’s trying to get rid of monsters. Granted, he has great sea monsters created, but he’s probably just talking about the whales and sharks and stuff. They are simply among the animals created. He has evacuated the Toho Studios element. Same thing in the Garden of Eden near Huston or Leviathan. Both means serpent rather than being a combattants against Yahoo! Or Jehovah. He’s been reduced to a creature of God. The serpent was the wisest of the creatures and God had made well. He doesn’t seem to be a mere creature when you see the rest of the story. And of course, originally he was not. He was the enemy of God and the monster. And the Book of Revelation is not even dealing with the Genesis thing. The Eden business, it’s brought back Leviathan in full bore. The seven headed dragon that rises from the sea, etc., etc.. All that archaic mythology was still alive in the popular imagination and appears unreconstructed again in the Book of Revelation. So now Satan appears in the Book of Revelation. But this is Leviathan. And when it speaks of the old serpent, we’re talking about the Chaos Dragon. So there’s a there’s a sort of a tenuous link, but it’s important to point that out. It’s not a simple identification. Now, I would say that in Second Corinthians and in First John, we have a couple of passages that do seem to imply that someone has identified the Serpent of Eden with. With Satan in Second Corinthians, Paul says.
I.e., just as as.
Satan seduced Eve in the Garden of Eden. I’m afraid that so and so heretics are going to win you away from your purity. Because I wanted to present you as a pure virgin bride for Christ when he comes back. Satan seduced Eve. That would have to be in a Garden of Eden, right? Where else is she in the Bible? Well. Yeah. In an apocryphal book called The Life of Adam and Eve, we’re told that Satan sexually seduced Eve. It’s obvious the serpent is a phallic symbol and all that. So the Second Corinthians passage seems to take for granted that Satan and the Edenic serpent are the same. Likewise, in first, John, there’s this statement that Cain, the murderer, was the son of the evil one.
Well, the rabbis talk about how they explain how come Cain was such a bum, a murderer.
Why where’d that come from?
Well, he said that that’s because Satan, the evil one, took the form of a snake and impregnated Eve and Cain was the result. And there no damn good. So there again, it seems to take that for granted. So that identification has been made and is implicit in a couple of New Testament passages. But it’s all very indirect.
And you have to build this Rube Goldberg explanation. But I think it’s correct. I believe that. Yeah. So it’s a complex, growing tradition in the Bible. Never stated as such. In the beginning, because nobody understood it that way. And then later, because they had come to understand it, but it was before the New Testament writings. And let’s finish up with the prophetic scorecard.
Where we ask if certain Bible passages that made predictions got them right, or are certain Bible passages even supposed to be predictions, sometimes they’re taken out of context and it doesn’t seem that they are.
And what I want to deal with today is the the belief that. The book of Isaiah predicted the Persian Emperor Cyrus by name and word, because that would be pretty darn good, right, if you had Isaiah of Jerusalem who lived even before the Assyrian conquest. Predicting the not only the Assyrian or the Babylonian, but the Persian emperor. They were all in succession hundreds of years before he showed up in history.
Now, where does it say this? If it does, I say a 45 one that says Yahav. A two is anointed to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grass to subdue nations before him and undergird the loins of kings. Disarm them to open doors before him that gates may not be closed.
I will go before you and level the mountains. I will break in peace is the doors of bronze and cut asunder the bars of iron. I will give you the trenches of darkness and the hordes and secret places that you may know that it is I ya haveI the God of Israel who called you by your name, et cetera.
Is this a prediction? No. No, this is probably the big reason fundamentalists have always opposed the source critical scrutiny of the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah can be divided into three distinct sections by virtue of flagrant differences in literary style, as well as different historical settings that are presupposed. The first big section, what one might call the original book of Isaiah, is our chapters one through thirty nine. And scholars sometimes call it first Isaiah. Now this thing is already a patchwork. All kinds of much later material has been added in there. But if there’s anything by the historical Isaiah of Jerusalem, that’s where you’d find it. Then there is what we call the second Isaiah, which is Chapter 40. Through Chapter 55, this mainly appears to be by one author and this author is.
Is writing just before the Persian Emperor Cyrus, who was taken over the Babylonian empire and instituted new tolerant policies, restoring the local temples and rites of of conquered people. He’s he’s he allowed any Jewish exiles in the Empire to go home and rebuild the temple if they wanted to.
And we read about that in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and so forth and. This is just before the return of the exiles. And listen to how the second Isaiah begins in Chapter 40. And see if this makes any sense.
Coming from a guy writing before the Assyrian destruction of Israel in the north and before the Babylonian destruction of Judah in the South.
Comfort, comfort my peoples, says your God, speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her war fare is ended. That her iniquity is pardoned. That she has received from Yahoo! Raise hand double for all her sins. Her voice cries in the wilderness. Prepare the way of Yahoo! A make straight in the desert. A highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low. The uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain and the glory of Yahoo! They shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together for the mouth of yak. Vai has spoken and there’s more of the same.
And the ideas.
Hey, fellow Jews. It’s over. It’s even over early. Jeremiah thought it would be seven years. It was only fifty. Says your punishment is over. You’ve been reprieved. You’re welcome to go back home. No more judgment of God.
I would suggest that is utterly meaningless to the contemporaries of the Prophet Isaiah right there, Raether. There was a kind of a sect of Isaiah prophets and disciples who kept his oracles and kept adding to him. And then of course, there’s the third Isaiah, which is a collection of oracles by a bunch of different popular prophets. I’d be chapters 56 through 66, which is the end of the book. And that again, presupposes a different later situation than this. So virtually all scholars who are not just conservative ax grinders admit that there are at least these three portions of the book of Isaiah and that the so-called prediction by name of Cyrus is not a prediction. It’s simply announcing the beneficent policy of the new ruler of the empire. Cyrus, who was already on the throne when the second Isaiah was making this proclamation of good news. You see what I’m saying here? I’m not saying this is some kind of a fraud. Like the second Peter thing was right there. You’ve got somebody pretending to be an apostle of a past and all that. No, you don’t have that here. It’s simply because of the compilation of these three different sections that people were innocently misled into assuming, well, the whole thing’s supposed to be by Isaiah, right? Oh, in that case, wow, what a prediction. Even named the guy. Now, that’s just a misunderstanding. This is not presented as a piece of clairvoyant prophecy. And to try to make it into one by denying the manifest evidence of the putting together of three different authors and so on, that that’s just ridiculous.
So prophetic scorecard. Not even a prophecy. Just a misunderstanding of a text.
Well, there’s plenty more where this came from, and I hope you’ll join me on the next soon coming episode of the Human Bible.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Human Bible to send us questions or comments on the show, which we really hope you do. You can e-mail questions at the human Bible, dot net or feed back at the human bible dot net. We’re also on Twitter at Human Bible, on Facebook at slash the Human Bible. And you can even leave a voicemail on our human bible hotline by calling seven one six seven one. B, I. B, Ellie. You can get all that information and more on our Web site. The human bible dot net views expressed on the human Bible aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. The Human Bible is produced by Adam Isaac in Amherst, New York, and features contributions from Debbie Goddard. I’m your host, Robert M. Price.