Christians often advertise and proclaim to the
unsaved(non-believers) that the Bible is the word of God and that
the scriptures, particularly the Gospels, display such complete
harmony that such writing could only have originated from God.
The New Testament in particular is advertised by Christians to be a factual record of "historical" events as written by men inspired by God himself.
In effect, Christians claim God is the author of the Bible so it's accuracy and truth are beyond doubt.
As with many things that Christians advertise about the Bible, these claims don't hold up very well to examination.
For purposes of illustration, I'm going to use a dialog between two fellows, Luke and Theo.
In my story, the character Luke is the author of the Gospel of Luke which appears in the New Testament. The second character Theo, (short for Theophilus), is the man who Luke wrote his gospel for.
Christians frequently claim Luke was a very accurate historian so what better source for an accurate record of events than from an accurate historian.
Luke opens his gospel account with the following preamble:
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
Notice the key points of what Luke says here.
*Luke himself is not an eyewitness.
*Luke has perfect understanding of all things and wrote a summary.
*Luke wrote this so that Theo(Theophilus) would be able to know the truth of all he was taught.
The last point is particularly important. Theo may have been taught many things, but Luke wants to provide him with the truth so that Theo will know if what he has been taught is really true.
After all, Theo may have some been taught or read some things which weren't true and Luke wants Theo to be able to distinguish true teachings from false ones. The Bible warns to be on guard against contrary teachings and false teachers.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
Keep this in mind as we go to the dialog of the Bible study session between these two fellows.
By the way Theo, have you read my gospel yet?
Yes, I sure did. That was quite a work. I do have a few questions about it though.
Thank you brother, but I can't take all the credit, God guided me to the truth because I was filled with the Holy Spirit and I carefully wrote it down in my gospel so you could know the truth.
I know you want the truth and value it highly.
As you know, that's what God is Theo. God is truth and I am his servant to proclaim it through my writing.
Well, are you sure you didn't leave anything out of your gospel that maybe you didn't know about?
Huh? Why would I leave something out? I included all the important events surrounding our Lord Jesus and his life on earth.
I didn't write down small details like what he ate for breakfast each day but I gave you everything important that you should know.
I told you I did a careful investigation and wrote a careful summary so that you would know the truth about our Lord.
And God himself guided and inspired me to be both complete and accurate.
That's the problem Luke, I was taught by another man about the major events pertaining to our Lord Jesus and some don't even appear in your gospel and other events don't match up with what you wrote.
What other man? And what other things? Did I write in my gospel that you would need to seek others or the writings of others to give you information that I hadn't included?
Well, no. You never wrote that or implied that.
Then there should be no problem. What I gave you is complete and accurate.
But this other man taught me things you never even mention in your gospel and about some things which happened differently than you wrote.
These things are pretty important and aren't simply minor details left out of your gospel.
Who is this other guy?
He's a Christian and showed me another gospel that he said was written by "Matthew", who was one of the original 12 apostles of Jesus.
Does this other gospel identify Matthew as the author? Where does it say this? Where does the author identify himself as being Matthew?
Well, it doesn't actually say Matthew wrote it but many people think Matthew did and he was one of the original 12 apostles. This other Christian said it was written by Matthew so I assumed it was.
Then you have no real way of knowing who wrote that other gospel!
If you want facts you can rely on my gospel which I very carefully researched to be historically accurate and a comprehensive record of what actually happened.
You need to be more careful about what you believe Theo. Don't just accept what someone else tells you about our Lord Jesus. That's why I wrote my gospel, so you could know the truth of things you were taught or heard from others.
I'm confused Luke. There are lots of important events in this other gospel that don't even appear in your story about our Lord Jesus. Are you sure you didn't leave some big events out of your story?
Like what? Give me some examples of some important things I left out of my story!
Well, the author of Matthew says that when Jesus was born, Herod issued a death decree for all infants born in the Bethlehem area to be killed, and that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled all the way to Egypt to escape from Herod's infant death decree. Joseph and his family then came back when Herod died.
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Luke, you never said anything about these events or mentioned the prophecy that was fulfilled when Jesus left Egypt.
Why did you leave these important things out of your story?
Didn't you think they were important???
The events you described from that other gospel never happened Theo.
I've never even heard of them until you told me just now.
As I told you Theo, I carefully researched and investigated everything and recorded all the important events in my gospel.
There was no infant death decree given by Herod. Joseph and his family never fled to Egypt.
Joseph lived in Nazareth all along! He only went to Bethlehem to register for a census.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem about 33 days(Lev 12:4) as required by the Law of Moses and then they went to Jerusalem.
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
Joseph, Mary and Jesus then left Jerusalem and went back to their home town of Nazareth.
And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
Every year they went to Jerusalem for Passover. There was no trip to Egypt to escape a death decree.
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
The events this other writer put in his story about an infant death decree, a flight to Egypt, and returning to live in new home town of Nazareth are nothing more than fabrications.
That other writer is making things up to serve his purposes in some way. That writer may be attempting to embellish his story in order to gain influence over others. I told you that you can't just believe everything you hear or read.
What about this then? The author of Matthew says that Jesus required two donkeys to fulfill the prophecy of Zech 9:9.
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
Jesus needed two animals to fulfill the prophecy and you never mentioned that in your story Luke.
You never wrote anything about the second donkey. But the second donkey was needed and Jesus commanded that two animals be brought to him and cloaks were put on both animals.
Why did you leave out the second donkey in your story when our Lord Jesus needed it to properly fulfill the prophecy?
That story is absurd!!! There weren't two donkeys required to fulfill Zech 9:9!
I gave you the historical facts Theo.
And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,
Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither.
And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.
And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them.
And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt?
And they said, The Lord hath need of him.
And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.
Those are the actual facts of what happened Theo.
There wasn't ever any second donkey nor were two animals required to fulfill Zech 9:9.
The author of that other gospel is making things up again. He is a deceiver.
This isn't very comforting to hear Luke. The other Christian teacher who taught me these things says that the Gospel of Matthew is the word of God and now you tell me it isn't.
Are you done with those lies written by that deceiver now? I will pray to our Lord Jesus that your eyes be opened to the truth and that you not fall into a pit of deception devised by evil writers claiming to be inspired by our Lord.
Well, how about this one! The author of Matthew says that Judas threw the money he received for betraying our Lord Jesus into the temple and went out and hung himself. Then the priests used the money Judas had thrown away to buy a potter's field to serve as a cemetery for foreigners.
And he(Judas) cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
And the chief priests took the silver piece, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.
Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
In your second book, you said Judas spent the money to buy a field for himself. Why didn't you tell me that Judas really threw the money away instead?
I gave you the facts about Judas and the money in my book of Acts which I also wrote for you.
Now this man(Judas) purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
Judas NEVER threw the money into the temple. He used it to buy a field.
I check out my facts and investigate things carefully before writing them down to serve as accurate history for others Theo.
You're beginning to irritate me with all these bogus stories about what really happened.
Are we done with this nonsense yet or is there more history that you think I left out or didn't record accurately?
I'm sorry Luke but I'm just trying to figure out what I can really believe about our Lord Jesus.
I want to know what happened and it surely doesn't help to have two authors who can't even agree on vital elements of a story.
The author of Matthew says that when our Lord Jesus died on the cross that the earth shook and many dead people were raised to life from their graves and then later went into Jerusalem and appeared to many people.
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Why did you leave this part out of your gospel Luke?
Dead people being raised to life and appearing to many others is a HUGE event!
I didn't leave ANYTHING out!!! That event NEVER happened.
Do you really think I would leave something like that out of my story if it really happened?
God inspired me to write accurate history, not to make up tall tales that have no basis in fact.
You can trust what I wrote to be the COMPLETE facts. Don't listen to that other teacher who is promoting this other gospel.
I guess that other writer lied when he said Jesus, after he rose from the dead, told the women to tell his apostles that they would see and meet him in Galilee.
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
Luke, you wrote that after Jesus rose from the dead he first met his apostles in Jerusalem.
I guess this other author made another mistake huh?
Yes, it's just another lie Theo.
Here are the facts again from my gospel.
And they (two followers who had seen Jesus) rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
As I wrote, our resurrected Lord Jesus first appeared to his apostles in JERUSALEM and not on a mountain in Galilee.
I've heard enough to convince me that this other author is not writing the truth. My gospel was inspired by God and is what really happened.
I DID NOT leave things out of my account nor did I simply write down things that I hadn't completely researched and carefully investigated.
Obviously this author of "Matthew" isn't writing accurate history and you would do well to avoid such false teachers.
Stay away from them!
Wow! I had no idea that there were so many problems with things that were written to serve as infallible truth from our Lord God. I guess I really need to be careful about what I believe in the first place.
There are many more problems that can be cited between the Matthew and Luke gospels and in the rest of the New Testament but the point has been clearly made.
There is no reason to assume that any writing in the Bible is the "Word of God".
If the author of Luke was inspired by God to be an accurate historian and wrote all the vital facts, then the author of Matthew makes Luke's history incompetent. Nowhere in Luke's gospel story does Luke say that Theophilus should read other accounts by other authors or that Theophilus should read the Gospel of Matthew to get more complete information about things Luke failed to mention.
The fact that Matthew and Luke also contradict each other indicates that these writings were not inspired by a perfect infallible God. Nor can it even be established that the gospels of Matthew and Luke were even written by actual people called "Matthew" and "Luke".
The authors never identify themselves in their writings as "I, Luke" or "I, Matthew".
While it's possible that the Gospel of Luke may have been written by someone called Luke, there is nothing which shows or even implies that the Gospel of Matthew was written by "Matthew".
In the final analysis, these stories do not confirm anything about a character called Jesus, who may or may not have existed in the first place. Legends grow over time and while it's certainly possible that a cult leader called Jesus may have existed, there is no reason, other than wishful thinking, to assume that any of the information presented in the Gospels is accurate.
When men with an agenda write to convince others to believe and think certain things they will often write what they feel will sell the product to their targeted audience.
You can be certain that any "God" worth his salt would never inspire two stories with the types of huge inconsistencies as those exhibited by Luke and Matthew.
More importantly, if this "God" will condemn people to hell for failing to believe inconsistent stories like these, then that God isn't worth praising and worshipping in the first place.
A quote from Charles Mackay sums things up nicely:
"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."
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