Friday, June 30, 2006

Some contradictions are just silly

As I was preparing for Quinno's next uberfantabulous popology post - which series has (d)evolved into a comprehensive study of first century Roman JIT networks (and we're not even to Acts yet) - I came across a "contradiction" from the Skeptic's Annotated Bible. Usually, such entries are pretty good and require a bit O research to understand the cultural background or document transmission process. In other words, they are great study guides for the mundane minutia that pass for my commentary and make study valuable.

But this one is just absurd:
Does the gospel of Luke contain everything that Jesus did?

Yes: Acts 1:1-2 - The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up.

No: John 21:25 - There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.
Even leaving out John's hyperbole that to record everything Jesus did would fill the world with books, to call Luke out here is just rubbish.

One must simply ask, did Luke take himself literally when he said that he recorded every single thing Jesus did and taught? Of course not. He doesn't record anything Jesus did from shortly after his birth until he was twelve or from when he was twelve until he was thirty. Did Luke truly believe that Jesus did *nothing* (get dressed, throw stones, eat, sleep, sneeze, make boxcar derby racers, eat paste) during those years? Of course not. He doesn't record Jesus breathing - are we to assume Luke believed that Jesus never inhaled?

PQ - who is a fair and intelligent non-believer - said that, "There is a rational case for disallowing the whole Canon, but I've yet to encounter a critic who is prepared to impose those rational standards on all _other_ figures from antiquity."

And he's right. The scriptures must be respected in the same way *all* other literature from antiquity is respected: with an understanding that the authors were real people who lived in real cultures, wrote to real audiences who really understood them, and who used real figures of speech, as a bare minimum.

To force a literal interpretation onto what is obviously a figure of speech is not only not serious, it's not even honest. And if one wouldn't treat Livy - who wrote lines like "though the fleet was not actually submerged by the waves, it was exposed to every possible danger from sea and sky" (even undersea volcanoes? How about meteor strikes?) - that way, one shouldn't do it to Luke, either.

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