Harmonizing the Gospels
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25-08-2015, 04:54 PM
Harmonizing the Gospels
I commonly hear theists talk about biblical harmonization, especially when referring to the gospels.

My general approach has been that those who take what a certain gospel says, combine it with what another says, kind of create another version of their own which isn't the way the gospels came down to us. They create their own NEW version which is completely unlike any of the gospels in the NT. Once you do this you're refusing to read them as they were produced and this destroys the integrity (ha!) of the gospels as they stand and steals from each author's own understanding of who Jesus was and what he said or did (if in fact he existed at all).

My question is this...I also often hear theists say that you have to read the gospels like you are at the scene of an accident. Every witness is going to have a different version of the same story. Leaving aside the claim that the gospels are not first hand accounts, how do you refute this claim? I've always had trouble with it because to me it logically makes sense. It is true that different people will have different stories at an accident. Some will forget some details and others will remember them. You may even have a person or two who thought that they saw something that they really didn't. Sub-stories may not jive completely but it all adds up to the same basic story-line.

What are your thoughts?

**Crickets** -- God
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25-08-2015, 05:13 PM
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
If the Bible was truly inspired by God--then I don't think there would be differing views of such important events re: Jesus. An all-powerful being would make sure that every story was 100 percent the same and accurate since the story of Jesus is so important for Christians.

In terms of Paul's letter to the Corinthians--the Corinthians lived miles and miles away from said events and had no way to corroborate events.

Also, according to Ehrman, the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses.



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25-08-2015, 05:26 PM
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
Oops just saw this part of your post: "Leaving aside the claim that the gospels are not first hand accounts, how do you refute this claim?" That's what I get for playing on here and working at the same time. Wink

The fact that these were not first hand accounts refutes the claim. That part is huge--because it further showcases that these were just stories that were either made up or stories that were fabricated upon (kind of like the game telephone we played as kids). Even leaving all that aside and lets say this group of people *were* eyewitnesses. Groups of people claim to see things that are not there all the time. Hector Avalos discusses this in his book, The End of Biblical Studies. He also goes on to mention Paul's letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthians lived miles and miles AND miles from said events and had no way to corroborate anything Paul said in his letters and thereby took everything he wrote at face value. There is also no record of dead saints rising from their graves other than the Gospels and that is only in Matthew. Something like that would surely have been written or at least mentioned in the other Gospels. That would be like a car crash happening in front of 5 witnesses and then an alien space ship flying around and landing in the middle of the highway in front of everyone--clearly the 5 witnesses would mention that since it was such an anomaly.
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25-08-2015, 06:55 PM
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
Except it's not the same as a car crash (only figuratively). Car crashes happen every day. A miracle man who's his own father who died and came back and ascended does not. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so a few anonymous people who wrote stuff ages ago and they can't even agree on what happened is not convincing. Christians also say this because they don't see/admit that there are huge inconsistencies. When the birth of the guy or where he ascended or events taking place weeks apart are all confused, it casts a larger doubt about the reliability of the "witness" than just minor details. If this was an accident, one witness would be saying the car was a white '92 Ford pickup in Dallas and the other would be saying it was a green 2010 Lexus in Houston, they're not just giving different perspectives of an event, they're giving detailed facts where both can simply not be true. We also know who witnesses are of accidents, we not only don't know who the authors of the gospels are but we have reason to believe their witness testimony has been tampered with over all this time, they're much more questionable "witnesses". And Christians love to have it both ways, they want it to be the literal word of god, but then make excuses for the authors when it's convenient. Either they're reliable or they aren't. That the most important part of the whole story, the betrayal, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, is the part they all get so differently when it's the part they should be most focused on being correct (especially if this is the key to humanity's salvation), and it's the stuff that is so unbelievable, they need to do better to convince me it's true (or "Truth") than say the authors aren't perfect. Oh and they're ignoring all the other gospels written around the same time which aren't in their holy book, and the other historical accounts that contradict their few witnesses, but they'll reject those because they already made up their mind for reasons that had nothing to do with considering the reliability of the 4-5 witnesses they like.
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25-08-2015, 07:28 PM
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
My mind went immediately to gospel choirs. Then to Bach chorales.

I'm not sure the gospels are starting from the same tune (or, to use your analogy, from the traffic accident's witnesses--it's more like the witnesses's spouses and kids). The first tune is (at least) one level removed from where the gospels start. That's why it's impossible to harmonize them at a rational level.
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25-08-2015, 08:08 PM (This post was last modified: 25-08-2015 08:30 PM by jennybee.)
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
(25-08-2015 06:55 PM)gnarlynewt Wrote:  Except it's not the same as a car crash (only figuratively). Car crashes happen every day. A miracle man who's his own father who died and came back and ascended does not. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so a few anonymous people who wrote stuff ages ago and they can't even agree on what happened is not convincing. Christians also say this because they don't see/admit that there are huge inconsistencies. When the birth of the guy or where he ascended or events taking place weeks apart are all confused, it casts a larger doubt about the reliability of the "witness" than just minor details. If this was an accident, one witness would be saying the car was a white '92 Ford pickup in Dallas and the other would be saying it was a green 2010 Lexus in Houston, they're not just giving different perspectives of an event, they're giving detailed facts where both can simply not be true. We also know who witnesses are of accidents, we not only don't know who the authors of the gospels are but we have reason to believe their witness testimony has been tampered with over all this time, they're much more questionable "witnesses". And Christians love to have it both ways, they want it to be the literal word of god, but then make excuses for the authors when it's convenient. Either they're reliable or they aren't. That the most important part of the whole story, the betrayal, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, is the part they all get so differently when it's the part they should be most focused on being correct (especially if this is the key to humanity's salvation), and it's the stuff that is so unbelievable, they need to do better to convince me it's true (or "Truth") than say the authors aren't perfect. Oh and they're ignoring all the other gospels written around the same time which aren't in their holy book, and the other historical accounts that contradict their few witnesses, but they'll reject those because they already made up their mind for reasons that had nothing to do with considering the reliability of the 4-5 witnesses they like.

I think you missed my point re: car crash analogy. I was referencing the saints that rose from their graves in Matthew. None of the other Gospels mention it. No other historical sources mention it. My point is--if the saints thing really happened--and the people who wrote the Gospels were *actual* witnesses to said events (which many scholars believe they were not)--then the other Gospels would have mentioned the dead zombie saints as well. That event would be so miraculous that other people would remember that--even if they remembered other events differently. This is why I mentioned an alien space craft landing in the middle of a car accident. People might remember who was at fault differently but they would all remember the alien space ship. Crucifixions--such as was done to Jesus--were commonplace during this time period. Additionally, during this time period, there were many people running around, claiming to perform miracles and were said to have "divine" backgrounds. Check out Richard Carrier's article on Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire--you can find it online. It's a really good article. Smile
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25-08-2015, 08:13 PM
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
Quote:My question is this...I also often hear theists say that you have to read the gospels like you are at the scene of an accident. Every witness is going to have a different version of the same story.

Okay - let's explore that analogy a bit. 3 cops investigate a hit and run. Each speaks to a witness who had a different angle of the impact.

Witness #1 says the car was green.

Witness #2 says the car was blue.

Witness #3 says the car was silver.

How do the cops issue an APB?

In such an instance the only possible conclusion is that the witnesses are unreliable.

Atheism is NOT a Religion. It's A Personal Relationship With Reality!
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25-08-2015, 09:51 PM
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
I approach it like this: there are some details that absolutely depend on who you ask but others absolutely will not.
For example: I would not expect for every quote made by Jesus (assuming firsthand accounts) to be exactly the same. I would however, expect everyone to remember the dead rising from the grave and greeting people. That is hardly a minor detail that will be confounded between witnesses.

I would not expect statements made by people who could not have witnessed a particular event (i.e. Jesus in the desert) to be exactly the same. I would however, expect extensive external documentation of a 3 hour eclipse or a large earthquake.

The way I see it, there are some things that shouldn't be identical, but many others that should not be left out. Who the hell leaves out a zombie infestation?

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
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25-08-2015, 11:08 PM
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
..... okay, now I'm imagining Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John as a barbershop quartet.
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25-08-2015, 11:32 PM (This post was last modified: 25-08-2015 11:39 PM by RocketSurgeon76.)
RE: Harmonizing the Gospels
Particularly if you include the detail that they make specific claims about when Jesus was born, things eyewitnesses who spent three years with him would likely have known by rote, in a way that cannot all be true, since we know from Roman records that Quirinius and Herod were not in power at the same time, yet two Gospels (Matthew and Luke) claim that he was born during each of their reins... it's a six-year gap, so it's no small matter.

It is, however, what you would expect to find from ad hoc fabrications made a century later in widely-disparate areas that had no access to the Roman records.

And try as I might, I just can't locate the massive outcry against Herod when he slaughtered all those children. You'd think at least one of the historians living at the time might have mentioned it.

Edit to Add:It should be noted that some apologists have quibbled with the parsing of the Greek, to suggest that the verses do not say "in the reign of", but "started during the reign of", but they're speculative at best, and require a fundamentalist to shift onto ground they do not like, which is not literalism of the English but "well if you read the Greek this way ", a practice which leads to doubt of many other verses, such as Paul's supposed claims against homosexuals.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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