Friday, July 9, 2010

307: Contradiction upon Contradiction & Luke: In Review

Luke 23-24
"...but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them." - Luke 24:3-4

The story picks up with Jesus being sent to Pilate. The Pilate of Luke seems even more reluctant to execute Jesus. In fact, he announces to the crowd that he's found no reason to have Jesus executed. As in the other gospels the only thing the Israelites seem to be able to say is "crucify him".

Pilate then asks Jesus if he is a Galilean. Jesus says yes (Nazareth is a city in Galilee). Pilate then sends Jesus to Herod, because Galilee is out of his jurisdiction. What? This didn't happen in the other gospels. Herod tries to get Jesus to perform a miracle. When he figures out that Jesus isn't game, he dresses him up in a red robe (Pilate's guards did this in the other gospels) and sends him back to Pilate.

Pilate again confronts the crowd, saying that not even Herod found any reason to have Jesus executed. Then the crowd demands that Pilate release Barabbas. Wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense. The point of Barabbas being released was Pilate trying to get out of executing Jesus. He thought they would surely choose to release a murderer over Jesus. It doesn't make any sense if it's the crowd's idea to release Barabbas. It almost seems like Luke expects us to have read the other gospels to understand what he's talking about.

The crucifixion proceeds without too much contradiction. However, once Jesus is crucified, he has an interesting interaction with the two criminals crucified with him. The first criminal joins in the mocking of Jesus (like the other gospels). However, the second criminal says that Jesus doesn't deserve to be crucified. He even goes on to plead with Jesus to remember him when he enters the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responds by saying that he will be with the criminal in the kingdom of heaven by the end of the day. The other gospels specify that both criminals mock Jesus on the cross. So obviously this interaction never happens in the other gospels.

Jesus then dies, and is buried, in a similar fashion to the other gospels.

Starting with chapter 24, the gospel of Luke departs from the other gospels (and any reasonable definition of sanity). Before I get started with this craziness, I'd like to mention that (like Mark) there are no guards outside of Jesus's tomb. So the disciples (or anyone else) had plenty of opportunity to do any body stealing they wanted to.

Ok, down the rabbit hole we go. First of all, two women come to the tomb (these women are not explicitly said to be the two Marys) on the first day of the week. Like in Mark, this contradicts Jesus being in the tomb for three days and three nights (as mentioned in Matthew).

These women find the stone in front of the tomb rolled away, and no body. While they are standing there, two glowing men appear and ask the women why they are looking for the living in the place of the dead. This isn't like either of the other gospels (in Matthew the women find a single angel, in Mark the woman find a young man). We now have three markedly different accounts of how Jesus is found.

The angels (or glowy men, if you prefer) repeat the words of Jesus that nobody understood, "The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again". The women remember the words, but still apparently don't understand.

The women (who are only now named as the two Marys) tell the disciples about what they saw, but the disciples say they are speaking nonsense.

This is the best part. Later that day, two of the disciples are walking along the road. Jesus comes up and walks with them. However, they are "kept from recognizing him". First of all, kept by who, and why? Second, being "kept from recognizing" and plain old not recognizing seem a whole lot alike. So, if I understand this right, we're meant to believe that Jesus was resurrected. But he was resurrected in a form that not even his closest friends could recognize. By this definition, anyone could be resurrected at any time, all you need is a group of 11 faithful people willing to go around and convince everyone.

This Jesus (that doesn't look anything like Jesus) walks with the disciples and talks with them about Jesus. Faux-Jesus calls them fools (maybe it really is him) for not believing the words of the prophets. Jesus seems to overlook the fact that the disciples didn't understand the words of the prophets. It wasn't a question of belief.

Jesus has dinner with the disciples. As he is breaking the bread at the table, the disciples suddenly recognize him as Jesus. These two disciples run back to the eleven and tell them that Jesus really was resurrected. Did they not even bother to say hi to Jesus before running off?

While they are still discussing this, Jesus appears among them. Jesus asks them why they doubt (apparently reading their minds). Jesus then tells his disciples to touch him to see that he's real. Luke still says that the disciples do not believe what they see.

Jesus then "opens their eyes" to the truth of biblical prophecy, and tells them that they are the ones that are going to spread the message across the land. However, they are not to spread the word until they are "clothed with power from on high", whatever that means. Jesus then promptly leads his disciples to Bethany, where he is lifted into heaven (never to be seen again).

Luke: In Review
The most striking feature of Luke is a much nicer Jesus. Of course, he still calls people fools and says they have little faith. But this is much better than Matthew's Jesus where he seems to only address his disciples with the title of "you fools".

We also have a Jesus that seems much more in control of his magical powers. This is very different from Mark's Jesus who has to spit in people's faces and shout incantations. However, he still seems to only be selectively omniscient.

Luke is just another testament to the joke of "biblical inerrancy". The New Testament, so far, has been filled with countless different retellings/blatant contractions. The bible can't even decide on what the Marys found when they visited the tomb of Jesus. Isn't that one of the most important parts?

Oh, Indiana, how I don't miss you at all sometimes:
Mellinger: Is there part of you that is bothered by the aggressive atheism of a [Sam] Harris, a [Christopher] Hitchens, a [Richard] Dawkins? And what I mean is... this atheism is a little different than atheism has been in the past because it does seek to convert people.

Daniels [Governor of Indiana]: I'm not sure it's all that new. People who reject the idea of a God -who think that we're just accidental protoplasm- have always been with us. What bothers me is the implications -which not all such folks have thought through- because really, if we are just accidental, if this life is all there is, if there is no eternal standard of right and wrong, then all that matters is power.
This is a pretty standard (ignorant) argument. The problem is that this "external standard" (God) is made up by man, therefore not external. Before you run off calling me a heathen (assuming you're a Christian), keep in mind that Molech (a god mentioned in the bible) was an "external" creator of morals that called for human sacrifice. The question then becomes, what makes your external morals any different than anyone else's external morals? Religious morals are starting to sound a lot like the dreaded "moral relativism" of atheists.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, ""I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." [Stephen Roberts]

Unfortunately Mitch isn't done spouting overused arguments:
And atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists -Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth- because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth.
Aside from this being untrue, the same thing can be said (more accurately) of religion. The idea that there is no judgement for killing infidels (that, in fact, there is reward) flows directly from the scriptures of most major religions.

The real fallacy of this argument, however, is that there is judgement for crimes. Saying there is no justice for criminals is completely overlooking the American (and international) justice system. If this argument accurately described the world, then only a small percentage of Christians would kill people, and a large percentage of atheists would be on the streets slaughtering people. Needless to say, this isn't an accurate depiction of reality.

The sad thing about this whole episode is that Daniels's bashing of atheists will probably help to advance his political goals in Indiana.



  1. Luke 23:2. The accusation that Jesus "opposes payment of taxes to Caesar" was not made at his trial (or in front of Pilate) in either of the other Gospels. Moreover, Pilate doesn't ask Jesus about it, and then says he sees no basis for the charges against him, even though no evidence has been presented to counter the accusation. It seems that Luke has just added this charge based on Mark 12:13-17, even though Jesus didn't fall for the trap the Pharisees and Herodians laid for him.

    Luke 23:2. As in the other Gospels, the Greek translation in the NIV is faulty. In the Greek Jesus actually only gives the noncommittal reply, "You say so," which is why Pilate could say that there is no basis for the charge. If Jesus had admitted it (as he does in this mistranslation), then he would be confessing to at least one of the charges against him.

  2. Luke 24:6. There is a big difference between Luke and the other 2 synoptic Gospels here: Luke says, "Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee," whereas Mark and Matthew have, "He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you." Note that in Matthew the Gospels meet Jesus in Galilee, whereas in Luke (and Acts, which Luke also wrote), all the resurrection appearances occur near Jerusalem. Luke twisted the words of the angel(s) to fit his own narrative.

    So much for witness testimony to the resurrection. The Gospels can't even agree in what region the appearances occurred.

    Luke 24:9. In Luke's Gospel the women immediately tell the other disciples what they saw. In Mark, it says that the women told no one. There's no mention in Luke of the women running into Jesus, either, as in Matthew.



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