Monday, June 28, 2010

296: Gabriel Visits

Luke 1
"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary." - Luke 1:26-27

Luke introduces himself as someone who has carefully investigated the story (and first hand accounts) of the gospels. More second hand accounts, wonderful.

Luke goes on to tell the story of a priest named Zechariah (not to be confused with the old testament Zechariah). Zechariah is visited by an angel (Gabriel) and told that his prayers about his barren wife have been answered, and he is going to be given a son. The angel tells him to name his son John. This John eventually grows up to be John the Baptist.

Gabriel then goes and visits Mary (all these events are happening before the beginning of Matthew). The angel tells her that she is going to have a baby that will reign over the house of Jacob forever. Mary asks how this can be, because she is a virgin. Gabriel responds, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you [I know what you're thinking], and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." That's it? Is that something like "the stork will bring him"? This is yet another miracle for which we only get a vague, shadowy description.

Mary then goes to visit Elizabeth (the barren wife of Zechariah) who is somehow related to her. When Mary greets Elizabeth, Elizabeth's baby "leaps" inside of her. I'm not sure why this is relevant to the life of Jesus.

The chapter ends with John being born and circumcised.

Did God write the bible?
One vital aspect of our faith is an honest examination of the origin of the Bible. There are only two possibilities. The first is that this book is simply a product of human endeavor, totally unaided by God. The second is that the Bible is the product of Divinity guiding certain men as to what they should write. The first views the Bible as having a natural origin; the second sees it as having a supernatural one.
Isn't it also possible that God told certain men what to write, then humanity screwed it up as we retold it? I'm not suggesting that's what happened, but there seems to be a false dichotomy here.
If the Bible has a natural explanation, it could easily be full of errors and becomes simply a book of suggestions by ancient men about how to live. One's attitude toward it is not too important as he can either "take it or leave it," and it doesn't matter which he does.
Ok, the bible is full of errors. Case closed?
If the Bible has a supernatural origin then it should not have errors and is a book of supreme authority. It is not a book of Ten Suggestions, but one containing Ten Commandments! It does not merely suggest how we might live, but gives firm guidelines as to how we must live.
Ok, the bible is not not full of errors. The writer has ruined his point with his own false dichotomy and his own willful ignorance of how many contradictions the bible contains. By the litmus test of his own dichotomy, the bible is completely man made and has absolutely no supernatural origin.
Luke begins his treatise by mentioning accounts of the life of Jesus that had natural origin and were subject to error. He then claims his work presented the perfect picture of Jesus.
I promise I haven't been saving up this article till I started reading Luke. But it's a good thing that I came across this today. Nowhere in the beginning of the book of Luke does he claim that his work is a perfect picture of Jesus. He does acknowledge other writings, but he in no way discredits them, or implies that his is any better. What book is this guy reading? Also, is he implying that the other gospels are not correct accounts? I had assumed that Luke was talking about the other gospels when he spoke of other accounts of Jesus.

I just said this recently, put Matthew and Mark together and read them side by side. If there are any differences, then (according to this writer) the bible is completely made up by man.


  1. Luke 1

    Luke 1:1-4. Actually, Luke doesn't claim to have interviewed the first Christians (nor does he claim that that the "eyewitnesses and servants of the word" were disciples or knew Jesus). Rather, he claims to have read written accounts of what other earlier Christians reported. Thus he is reporting third-hand information, at best. We know from analysis of his and the other Gospels that he used at least 2 written texts - Mark and Q - and also that he was probably writing in the early 2nd century, assuming he was the same person who wrote Acts, as is commonly believed (if he didn't write Acts then he could've been writing in the late first century). The fact that he contradicts Mark and Matthew in so many places (as we shall see) and, like Matthew, has deliberately redacted his sources to suit his own tastes undercuts any claim that he may make to accuracy. Moreover, it is not clear that the prologue was even part of the original Gospel, and in any case, such introductions were common in antiquity and mean nothing.

    Luke 1:5-80. The bulk of this chapter consists of a nativity story for John the Baptist. Apparently he had a following that competed with and preceded Jesus'. Within the Gospels you can see plenty of evidence that Christians have tried to co-opt John and make him subordinate to Jesus. There are still some people (Mandeans) who revere John but not Jesus.

    Luke 1:26. Note that in Luke's Gospel, unlike Matthew's, Joseph and Mary originally live in Nazareth, not Bethlehem.

    Luke 1:28-29: '[28] The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." [ 29]Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.'
    It seems that Mary knows how the Lord operates all too well.

    Luke 1:31,34: '[31] "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." [34] "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" '
    Gabriel just said that she WOULD have a child. Why should this be surprising, since she was already engaged? Mary's question makes no sense and appears to have been added later to a story that originally only had a natural birth. Note that nowhere else in Luke's nativity scene is it implied that Jesus had a supernatural birth.

    Luke 1:34-37. Why does Gabriel not punish Mary for questioning him the way he does Zechariah in 1:19-20?

    Luke 1:36,1:5. It seems that Mary is also a descendant of Aaron, so none of the genealogies from David in Luke or Matthew could be hers (not that they are said to be within the Gospels anyway).

    Luke 1:46-55. This song (The Magnificat) is attributed to Elizabeth, not Mary, in early copies of the manuscript. Note that Elizabeth could say that God has done "great things" for her, since she was barren, whereas He doesn't seem to have done anything special for Mary.

    Luke 1:60-63. The simplest explanation for why the parents agreed on the name John was that they had discussed it beforehand. Zechariah wrote to his wife, telling her what Gabriel had told him.

    Luke 1:69b. The line "in the house of his servant David" interferes with the rhythm of the poetry and appears to have been added later.

  2. gmal, I'm always surprised with just how much you know about the Biblical texts, and this is coming from someone who used to be a Southern Baptist fundamentalist raised to "know everything" about the faith.

  3. Thanks, but I guess that was a general comment since I didn't really have that much material today. The funny thing was that I became much more interested in Bible studies after I left the church.

  4. @ gmal

    It's that always the way it goes? I find it funny that the people who study the bible the most are often agnostics or atheists. There must be something about reading those old stories that leads people to stop believing them.



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