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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Short Easter Quiz

Friday, March 21, 2008

Short Easter Quiz

Most of us know the Easter Story: Jesus of Nazareth was condemned by an angry mob to die on a cross, was placed in a tomb, rose from the dead on the third day, and after taking care of a little unfinished business, he ascended into the clouds promising that he would return before the passing of his generation (Mark 9:1, so far he was off by roughly 2000 years). These alleged events are given in the four gospels Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. Obviously, as any minister or devout Christian will tell you, the Bible is the infallible, inerrant, perfect word of god, therefore; these four accounts of the crucifixion, resurrection, and exit from Earth to heaven must agree on the all the facts right?

Well, not exactly.

What were Jesus’ last words on the cross?

A. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mathew 27:46)
B. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
C. “It is finished” (John 19:30)

I suppose one could argue that Jesus said all of these things one right after the other. Perhaps I could believe that Jesus uttered B and then C but A doesn’t seem to go along with the other two at all.

Moving on to the empty tomb. Who and how many went to the tomb to discover that Jesus’ body was missing?

A. Mary Magdalene (John 20:1)
B. Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary (Mathew 28:1)
C. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Mark 16:1)
D. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and “other women with them” (Luke 24:1)

Well, at least they all agree Mary Magdalene was there.

Last question: who met Mary Magdalene (with or without the above mentioned) at the empty tomb?

A. An angel “the angel of the Lord” (Mathew 28:2)
B. A young man dressed in a white garment (Mark 16:5)
C. Two men dressed in shining garments (Luke 24:4)
D. Two angels (John 20:12)

Some might argue that the man/men was/were really (an) angel(s). Even if we want to concede this, we are still left with the question: was there one angel or two angels who met Mary Magdalene (and perhaps others) at the tomb? It cannot be both! At best, only one of these accounts can be true.

I suppose that one could argue that these details are insignificant and that I’m missing the point of the story. After all, aren’t there contradictions in just about any historical account of any event? Sure, but no one ever tries to claim that these historical accounts are infallible, inerrant, or perfect neither. If the bible were inerrant, then there would be no contradictions among the many unknown authors. The ones I mentioned only represent a small sample of contradictions one will find in the bible.

The video below is a lecture given by Dr. Bart Ehrman, Biblical scholar and author of the book Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Altered Scripture and Readers Who Will Never Know. Dr. Ehrman came into his religious studies course a Christian true believer but after years of studying the bible, translating, and reading the “original” writings as compared with the bibles which are currently read, Dr. Ehrman came out a skeptic. Why? He found contradiction after contradiction and error after error. Dr. Ehrman explains that over time, scribes made copies of copies of copies of the scriptures which originally came from an oral tradition. As a result, the scribes made mistakes, added passages*, deleted passages (sometimes entire books), and injected their political biases. This would explain why the four gospels contradict each other regarding the Easter Story.

Whether you are a believer or not this lecture by Dr. Ehrman is extremely interesting and educational. The lecture runs 1 hour and 39 minutes in 10 youtube clips (or click here to see the entire presentation uninterrupted).

Hat Tip: Iron Wolf

*Such as the story about woman caught in adultery and Jesus admonishes the Pharisees: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John Chapter 8). This is one of the few parts of the bible I actually like but as it turns out, this story does not appear in the oldest texts.


Blogger T. F. Stern said...

I suppose my comment has little if anything to do with your article; instead, I like the book shelf graphic at the top. I'm not so sure I'd put it on my blog; but it did get my attention.

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