THE BIBLE CONSISTENT 5
(Investigator 139, 2011
Mr Straughen (Investigator #138) disparages eyewitness testimony and
points to "discrepancies" in the New Testament (NT).
If Straughen's disparagement is valid then Australia's justice system
needs to be informed and all criminals convicted on eyewitness
testimony released. This won't happen, however, because courts are
aware of Straughen's worries, and therefore consult multiple witnesses
and compare verbal evidence with physical evidence whenever available.
The NT reports events central to human history and life-changing to the
witnesses themselves. Who of us cannot recall with accurately-chosen
words, events that changed his life?
The Bible, furthermore, lets us be our own eyewitnesses:
TEST WHAT IS TESTABLE
For decades I've presented my
"test-what-is-testable-and-generalize-the-results" method to
investigate the Bible. With this method we examine Bible passages that
can be checked today. We seek out Bible statements about biology,
archaeology, astronomy, psychology, geography, medicine, history, etc,
and check them by consulting scientific literature.
Using this method we personally eyewitness the Bible regularly turning
For example, the Bible says that crocodiles ("Leviathan"
in Job 48) have a tongue, but other sources (even crocodile hunters)
denied this as recently as the 1980s. (Investigator 26) But it's now
We need, however, to "generalize the results". The results, with
present-day people as eyewitnesses, are hundreds of claims proved
correct and critics disproved, and by generalizing we expect more of
Besides testing empirical statements we can also test the Bible for
discrepancies. Archer (1982) and Haley (1992) do this and have
harmonized hundreds of alleged discrepancies. In The Bible Consistent
series (#113, #114, #120, #126) I examined some difficult cases and
infant can walk, but the biochemistry of how thoughts move legs remains
obscure despite centuries of science. The Bible too is simple in
essentials but also amazingly complex. It's as if the Bible's author is
a master logician who included lots of intricate logic so that readers
might recognize their limitations and learn humility. The
contradictions therefore are illusory, the Bible is consistent, and the
critics are wrong.
Examination of "discrepancies" produces another body of data that
eyewitnesses can generalize! Not all "discrepancies" yet have answers,
but hundreds of successes set the trend.
Straughen (#138) thinks he'd believe the Bible if it were composed of
an indestructible supernatural substance written by Jesus himself.
Critics could, however, explain such a book by postulating alien
intelligence or unknown properties of the Universe. The Bible says "The
heart is devious above all else" — therefore people who don't want God
will always find excuses and won't be convinced by an indestructible
substance. (Luke 16:31)
The Bible portrays God as requiring our trust. Hebrews 11 says "Without
faith it is impossible to please God." During the infinite future,
humanity will often, like Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), need to trust God
to avoid disaster. The present world where we test what is testable,
generalize the results, and complement this with faith is preparation
and practice for eternity.
Let's now examine more "discrepancies".
John's Gospel places the last supper and Jesus' betrayal before the
Passover (13:1). Therefore the last supper could not be the Passover
meal. Luke, however, calls the last supper the "Passover meal". (Luke
22:8, 13, 15) When was the last supper?
Suppose a detective investigates my activities for a certain day. One
neighbour tells him, "Albert walked alone to the bus stop at 9.00 to go
to the CBD." Another says, "Albert left at 9.30 for the CBD with
another person in a car." Contradictions? The answer is I left home
twice. At the bus stop I realized I had forgotten my wallet and
returned home whereupon a friend arrived and we left together.
"It happened twice" or "there were two", often explains biblical
"discrepancies". Judas, for example, died by hanging himself (Matthew
27:5) but also, "falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all
his bowels gushed out." (Acts 1:18) What happened is that Judas hung
himself and the rope broke.
Regarding the Last Supper, Humphreys (2011) argues two calendars were
in use, the official Jewish calendar observed at the Temple, also the
Samaritan calendar with Samaritans observing the Passover one day
earlier. Apparently the last supper was the Passover meal by the
MANIFESTATION TO PAUL
In describing my visit to the Adelaide Showgrounds I might tell one
person about the Ferris wheel and fashion parade, and another about the
wood chopping and animal judging. Contradiction? No! We all do this —
we tell different people different details. Anyone who wants a fuller
story needs to combine the separate descriptions.
Similarly with Paul's accounts of his conversion:
In Acts 22:10-11 Paul reports that a voice speaking out of a bright
light told him: "Go to Damascus. There you will be told what you have
been assigned to do."
But in Acts 26:15-18 Paul seemingly says the voice told him immediately
about his assignment, not in Damascus. The answer is to combine both
I asked, ‘Who
are you, Lord?'
The Lord answered, ‘I
am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet;
for I have appeared to you…to appoint you to serve and testify… I will
rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles — to whom I am
sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness
to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive
forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith
in me.' (26:15-18)
Here Paul has recalled what Jesus said he (Jesus) will do — "I will
rescue you… I am sending you…" These are future events; but Paul wanted
to know what he (Paul) should do before all that happens. 26:15-18 was
not the whole conversation.
In 22:10 Paul recalls what was spoken next:
‘What am I to
do, Lord?' I asked.
The Lord said to me,
‘Get up and go into Damascus. There you will be told everything that
you have been assigned to do.' (22:10)
In Damascus the Christian Ananias learns that: "He [Paul] is an
instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and
kings and before the people of Israel. I myself will show him how much
he must suffer for the sake of my name." (9:15-16)
Ananias tells Paul: "The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know
his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you
will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard.
And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away…"
In Damascus, therefore, Paul got extra information not revealed in
26:15-18. Galatians 1:15-17 adds more extras — that Paul left Damascus
and went to Arabia for 3 years, then returned to Damascus and then went
Rather than seek "discrepancy" we needed to combine Paul's two reports.
Overeagerness to criticize left critics blind to fulfilled prophecy,
namely, "you will be his witness to all the world..." Besides preaching
by mouth Paul also wrote letters which now impact "all the world" in
hundreds of languages.
Mark 16:14-20 reports that Jesus appeared to 11 apostles while they ate
Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven…
Then the disciples went
out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and
confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Critics claim that here Jesus ascends to heaven from a supper, which
contradicts that he ascended from Mount Olivet. (Acts 1)
To explain this, consider how much time is meant by "After" and "Then".
I've heard America's role in Hitler's War described as: "In 1942 the
Americans invaded North Africa; after that they invaded Sicily, then
Italy, then France and then Germany." From this description a naive
person might think these events happened on 5 consecutive days. For
better understanding he needs to study further.
Acts 1:3 says that Jesus ascended after 40 days, and Mark's words
"preached everywhere" commenced at Pentecost or 50 days. (Acts 2)
Therefore Mark's "After" and "Then" refer to 40 and 50 days.
Short descriptions are not discrepancies, especially if further reading
provides the omitted details.
Investigator 138 has a table of "discrepancies" in the Gospel reports
of Christ's resurrection. The Internet has similar charts by Jewish
apologist Rabbi Tovia Singer and by Curt van den Heuvel who claims,
"The contradictions and inconsistencies…are indicative of the process
Glenn Miller (the Internet) cites ten explanations, ten tries at
harmonising the resurrection reports. Google under "Resurrection
Accounts" turns up more. My attempt begins by noting the following:
(1) The earthquake, the angel rolling back the stone, and guards
paralysed with fear occurred before the women arrived. Matthew 28:2-4
mentions these events non-chronologically, i.e. after mentioning the
women (28:1) because these events are explanatory and he wants the
emphasis on the women.
(2) The different timing — "still dark" (John), "early dawn" (Luke),
"at dawn" (Matthew), and "after sunrise" (Mark) — reflect the presence
of different women. If we obtain two books about war, one 1914 and the
other 1939, we would not list all differences and call them
"discrepancies", since different dates imply different wars! Similarly
different times imply different visits or visitors.
(3) Mary Magdalene and another Mary set out together "while it was
still dark" and found the stone already rolled away. John 20:1-10 names
only Mary Magdalene, but her words to Peter and John "we do not know
where they have laid him" implies another person with her. The two
apostles inspect the tomb and conclude Christ's body was removed. Mary
Magdalene arrives at the tomb again, this time looks inside, and sees
"two angels in white" and tells them: "They have taken away my Lord,
and I do not know where they have laid him." (20:13) Mary's "I" (not
"we") implies that her companion has been left behind.
(4) At least five women (Luke 24:10) interacted, and the four writers
are citing different details of their testimonies. Each woman, in her
testimony, mentions the two Mary's who went to the tomb first, and
thereafter her own experience.
(5) John gives Mary Magdalene's experience; Matthew is based on the
other Mary's testimony; Mark probably on Salome's; and Luke on
Joanna's. (Luke 24:10)
(6) Luke (28:1-9) combines the experience of both Mary's because he has
not questioned them but relies on Joanna.
Easy harmonization would imply collusion and deception. The result that
we have suggests reality.
Archer, G.L. 1982 Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Regency
Haley, J.W. 1992 Alleged
Discrepancies in the Bible, Whitaker
Humphreys, C. J. 2011 The
Mystery of the Last Supper, Cambridge.
Reply to The Bible Consistent 5
(Investigator 140, 2011
I have read Anonymous' response (No. 139, page 50) to my examination of
the gospels in No. 138, page 32, and am unable to find anything in it
that could be considered sound evidence for their reliability.
Although Anonymous has constructed a variety of explanations that
attempt to resolve the discrepancies in the gospel accounts of the
resurrection, he hasn't presented any solid evidence that these
explanations are true. As an illustration of what I mean consider the
less emotive scenario of a discussion between a believer in Martians
(B) and a sceptic (S).
B: There is intelligent life on Mars.
S: But we've sent space probes to Mars. There isn't any sign of life,
let alone intelligent life.
B: The Martians live in vast subterranean cities.
S: But these cities would produce emissions that we could detect -
electromagnetic radiation from electrical equipment, nuclear radiation
from atomic power plants and so on.
B: We haven't detected any emissions because Martian cities are so well
shielded that they don't leak out.
As we can see the believer in Martians constructs a series of
assumptions whose sole purpose is to defend the belief from criticism.
However, what needs to be established in the first place is the actual
existence of Martians, and this cannot be done by merely positing
conjectures. What is needed is sound evidence.
Where is the evidence that the gospel writers consulted eyewitnesses
and used the same rigorous procedures employed in modern courts of law
to test their claims? How many eyewitnesses did they consult? Were the
eyewitnesses reliable and what evidence is there that they were? These
are just a few of the questions that haven't been adequately addressed.
The best evidence, as I have previously suggested, would have been for
the resurrected Jesus to write an autobiographical gospel in the form
of an indestructible book composed of an unmistakably supernatural
Anonymous' claim that sceptics would explain the book away as an alien
artifact is untenable for the simple reason Jesus wouldn't portray
himself as an alien. His suggestion that doubters doubt because they
don't want God is also unsustainable. It's similar to claiming that
people who don't believe in fairies are sceptical because they don't
want fairies. I don't believe in God for the same reason most people
don't believe in fairies - namely, lack of evidence for their
I don't have a problem with people believing that the stories in the
gospels are true. That's their right and I respect it. What I object to
is them claiming they have proof when they don't.
THE BIBLE CONSISTENT 5 — RESPONSE
(Investigator 141, 2011
In reply to my article "The Bible Consistent 5" (#139) Mr Straughen in
#140) compares my comments about the resurrection reports to Martians
of whom we have no evidence and asks, "Where is the evidence that the
gospel writers consulted eye-witnesses."
I nowhere stated that the Easter Sunday eye-witnesses are confirmed.
We've all read novels about crimes, witnesses and detectives. If we try
to find the "witnesses" named in the novels we won't find them because
novels are fiction. Similarly, to argue for Christ's resurrection
solely from claims of alleged witnesses is insufficient without proof
the witnesses were genuine. Six witnesses who were close to the Easter
events, however, are genuine — we have their writings. Matthew and
Luke, for example, are so accurate they even state some scientific
points confirmed 2000 years later (#140 pp 48-49), and Luke also names
over 100 geographical locations and gets all correct.
In The Bible Consistent 5 I did not declare the resurrection
stories true but considered whether they can be harmonized. For a
reported event to be credible the report about it (if there is only one
report) must be free of serious contradiction, and if there are
multiple reports they must substantially agree. Demonstrating that a
report is free of contradiction does not, however, suffice by itself to
prove it true. For example the statement "Mr Straughen flies around on
a broomstick" is without contradictions, yet is false.
If, however, critics think they discern contradictions and claim the
"contradictions" as their reason for disbelieving something, and the
"contradictions" are subsequently cleared up, then their reason for
disbelief is removed. The honest critic, genuinely seeking information,
would then concede, "I was wrong, the Bible is more consistent than I
imagined." Perhaps Straughen would like to make this concession, since
a number of "contradictions" he supplied were cleared up! It is in this
spirit that my "Bible Consistent" series is written.
As stated in #139 I use the
"test-what-is-testable-and-generalize-the-results" method to
investigate claims of the Bible. This method involves consulting
scientific literature to check whatever statements in the Bible can be
checked. In doing this we become our own eyewitnesses. Evidence that
allows people to be their own eyewitnesses is the soundest evidence
possible — it's the basis of science.
The current disagreement with Mr Straughen began when Straughen (in
#138) disparaged eyewitness testimony and pointed to alleged
"discrepancies" in the New Testament (NT). I responded: "If Straughen's
disparagement is valid then Australia's justice system needs to be
informed and all criminals convicted on eyewitness testimony released.
This won't happen, however, because courts are aware of Straughen's
worries, and therefore consult multiple witnesses and compare verbal
evidence with physical evidence whenever available."
In agreement with this I regard the alleged testimonies of the Eater
Sunday "witnesses" mentioned in the NT as insufficient unless
supplemented with "physical evidence".
To test the resurrection narratives I would do similarly as with the
virgin birth (#140). I would show the resurrection was prophesied
(which I have already done in #120), mention whatever details are
confirmed by history or science, and check whether any predictions the
NT makes about the consequences of the resurrection have come true.
After doing all of this, I might conclude, as I did with the virgin
birth, "This whole scenario surpasses human ingenuity and smacks of
supernatural oversight." (#140 p. 49) The virgin-birth evidence would
actually be part of the resurrection evidence since both stories are
part of the same continuum — each story is pointless without the other.
The NT's Easter-morning-witnesses reports would be only a small portion
of the total evidence.
A comment now about early Christians suffering execution rather than
denying their beliefs: Critics claim that dying for a belief does not
prove that belief to be true, and they point to suicide-bombers who
commit murder and simultaneously suicide. There is, however, a world of
difference between citizens who lead lawful, peaceful lives and
murderers. Whether innocent victims are more objective and reliable in
their statements than murderers is probably testable. However, the
circumstances under which ordinary citizens would die rather than deny
their testimony would be only one line of investigation.
Straughen claims, "The best evidence…would have been for the
resurrected Jesus to write an autobiographical gospel in the form of an
indestructible book composed of an unmistakably supernatural
substance." What I do is rely on science and induction to investigate
the truth of the Scriptures. An argument that starts off "The best
evidence would have been" and then demands something scientifically
unavailable is a formula for rejecting every discovery every made,
every truth ever proved, and every evidence that ever convinced. It's a
formula for making one's prejudices impervious to facts, science and
observation while pretending to be reasonable.
Perhaps another time I'll investigate in more detail whether the
Easter-Sunday resurrection narratives are consistent.
The Bible Consistent — Final Reply to Anonymous
(Investigator 142, 2012
In No. 141, page 58 Anonymous suggests that I should concede that the
Bible is consistent because he has resolved (in his opinion) various
contradictions inherent in the account of the resurrection.
I'm unable to make this concession for the simple reason that the
various scenarios has constructed as a means of solution are not
supported by sound evidence. Anyone can construct a scenario that can
solve a contradiction. However, it is one thing to construct a scenario
and quite another to prove that the scenario is true, and it is here
that Anonymous has been unsuccessful.
Now, if people want to believe that the stories in the gospels are true
then they may do so. I have no objection to that, and I respect their
decision and don't think that they are in any way foolish. However, it
is clear to me that these beliefs must be held by faith alone as the
evidence for their veracity is sorely lacking.
The Bible Consistent
5 — The Resurrection of Jesus
(Investigator 144, 2012
The resurrection narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke
and John are
harmonized if "dark", "dawn" and "after sunrise" is when different
women arrived at Jesus' tomb and joined those who arrived earlier. Each
gospel writer interviewed a different woman who described what
happened when she got there.
Bible quotes below are italicized, and MM refers to Mary Magdalene.
first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went to see the tomb." (Matthew 28:1)
MM was a disciple from
whom Jesus had "cast out seven demons". The "other Mary"
is the mother of James and Joses. (Mark 15:40; 16:1) Although Jesus had
brothers named James and Joses (Mark 6:3) the other Mary is probably
not Jesus' mother.
an earthquake; an angel in white clothing rolled back the stone and sat
on it. The guards became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)
The earthquake occurred
before any women came to the tomb. Matthew mentions it
non-chronologically, i.e. after he mentions the women (28:1) because
the earthquake and the stone being rolled back are explanatory and he
wants the emphasis on the women.
Now to John's Gospel:
Sunday morning, while it was still dark, i.e. before dawn, MM with
another woman ["we" John 20:2] came to the tomb and saw the stone had
been moved. (John 20:2-10)
MM ran to tell Peter and John, "They have taken the Lord out of the
tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." (John 20:1-2)
The two disciples ran to the tomb, entered separately, and saw the
linen wrappings, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head. They
returned to their homes. (John 20:3-10)
John's Gospel evidently gives John's role in the events combined with
what MM would have told him.
With the two apostles gone MM stood weeping outside the tomb.
MM says "I" not "we" which suggests her companion has been left behind.
MM turned and saw Jesus but supposed him to be the gardener.
to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!"
(which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold onto me, because
I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to
them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your
God." (John 20:14-17)
MM went and told the disciples — the second time. (John 20:18)
It's at this point with Jesus out of sight, that the "other Mary"
catches up and Matthew 28:1 starts Matthew's narrative at "dawn". The
by "we" (in John) is therefore the "other Mary". Matthew is using the
other Mary's testimony, and therefore omits MM's encounters with two
angels in the tomb and Jesus, which the other Mary did not experience.
The angel said to the women "Do not be afraid; I know that you are
looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been
raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly,
and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead and is going
ahead of you into Galilee; there you will see him.'" (Matthew
By using the definite article "The angel" Matthew assumes
this is the same angel who rolled away the stone.
left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell the
disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" and they…took
hold of his feet, and worshipped him. (28:9)
Jesus has moved into view
again, this time to both Mary's.
Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my
brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." (Matthew 28:8-10)
Next consider Luke:
But on the
first day of the week, at early dawn, they [the women from Galilee
23:55-56] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had
prepared. (Luke 24:1)
Luke relies on the testimony of Joanna, wife of Herod's steward (Luke
8:1-3). Joanna and several other women (Luke 24:10) met up with the two
Mary's after these had encountered Jesus.
the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did
not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two
men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and
bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you
look for the living among the dead?… (Luke 24:2-6)
"They" in "they were
perplexed" would refer to Joanna and the other new arrivals since the
two Mary's already knew.
returning from the tomb, they [Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the
mother of James, and the other women with them 24:9] told all this
to the eleven and to the rest.
The women apparently
split up to inform different disciples.
MM went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and
she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:18)
MM, here, is by herself again.
did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping
and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then went home
amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:11-12)
This is Peter's second
sprint to the tomb.
Now to Mark:
In Mark's report MM, the other Mary, and Salome "came to the
tomb…when the sun had risen." (16:1-2) Salome was a disciple and
mother of James and John. Apparently Salome arrived last and the two
Mary's took her along and went to the tomb yet again.
been [i.e. earlier] saying to one another "who will roll away the
stone…?" (16:3) "When they looked up they saw that the stone…had
already been rolled back." (16:4)
The two Mary's had seen
the open tomb earlier and Salome now saw it too.
The "two men in
dazzling clothes" reported in Luke were supernatural i.e. angels.
But the "young man" in Mark may literally be a young man. The Greek
word is the same as in 14:51-52 where a "young man" watched
Jesus being arrested. We're left to speculate how much the young man
had observed so as to be able to declare "He has been raised…"
they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe,
sitting on the right side… But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you
are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been
raised; he is not here... But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he
is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him…" (Mark
Mark adds that the women "fled from the tomb…and they said nothing
to anyone". Saying nothing could be their initial reaction or might
mean "anyone except the apostles".
Many other attempts to harmonize the four resurrection accounts are
A.T. Robertson 1922 www.gutenberg.org/files/36264/36264-h/36264-h.htm
J.B. McClellan 1875 The New Testament…and Analytical Harmony of
the Four Gospels…
In my analysis the two Mary's together went to the tomb before dawn and
got separated when running to inform the apostles, and joined together
again after MM encountered Jesus, then an angel appeared, after which
Jesus appeared to both Mary's.
Other women arrived later which prompted the Mary's to return to the
tomb twice more with the new arrivals. When Luke interviewed Joanna,
and Mark Salome, these women would have focussed on what happened after
they met up with the Mary's. Doubtless the Mary's told these later
arrivals what transpired earlier, but Luke and Mark did not want
hearsay and summarized only what Joanna and Salome experienced.
I have not proved that Jesus was resurrected — I only, in #141, I
outlined the testable evidence we could consult. The main evidence for
us today is not the women since skeptics could
claim these are part of the myth and demand to see their signed
which we don't have.
What I've done is demonstrate the four resurrection narratives to be
compatible. If alleged contradictions are cleared up then one barrier
to belief is removed.
Skeptics, humanists and atheists versus
Bible defenders — on this website