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Oakspear

Biblical Contortions: It Doesn't Fit

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In religious discussions, what we call "Doctrinal" here at the ol' GS Cafe, there is often recourse to "what the Word says" in an attempt to settle arguments. This tactic is not only found here at Greasespot, but in many discussions that involve religion. On the national stage it comes up in debates about abortion, marriage equality and immigration.

What is often missed by those who make these assertions is that for every person who pegs their position on the bible, there is an equally sincere and honest person who holds a different position also based on the bible.

Sometimes one or both of the debaters are unfamiliar with parts of the bible that do not support their position, but sometimes complex biblical gymnastics are used to harmonize conflicting sections of scripture. We saw a lot of biblical contortions from Wierwille and his "research team" to justify non-traditional views, but look at the doctrine of the Trinity (which is a lot more complicated than just "Jesus = God) and you'll see a very complex maze of beliefs that attempt to not only solve contradictions among various parts of the bible, but to make sense out of the implications of the various doctrinal positions that led to the Trinity.

It is my observation that we cannot assume that the bible will be free of contradictions (it has been amply demonstrated that it has them) or even that it is a product of inspiration from God (however you define that) but that it's an anthology of what various people, at different times, with different agendas, and (in the case of the New Testament) different views of who Jesus was and what he accomplished.

I think that one can hold this position and still consider oneself to be a Christian.

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I agree.

The Bible is a translation of a translation of a translation by various people of various cultures with wildly different perspectives and methods of engaging with reality. It's the game of telephone ad infinitum.

Life is chaos. IMO everyone has to derive some consistent viewpoints just for the sake of sanity. Some mental anchors, if only temporary, are needed. There is a comfortable feeling, a sense of control, in thinking we've got some aspects of life figured out.

In "The Way" I think this need was taken to the extreme. Absolutely everything about life was forced to consistency. After awhile that can also drive a person nuts, and the need to force issues arises.

You can hold the Biblical Creationist viewpoint and the scientific Theory of Evolution in the same mind with going insane. So what if they conflict? Don't keep them in the same mental file, and don't use them to solve the same problems.

I'm reminded now of the book, "Life of Pi". It's a quick read.

Saying "what the Word says" I think is too assuming and dismissive of others views, or at least it can be that way. It's nice to have a reference outside two parties to help settle arguments, but maybe people are deflecting the issue at hand when quoting scripture?

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What is often missed by those who make these assertions is that for every person who pegs their position on the bible, there is an equally sincere and honest person who holds a different position also based on the bible.

Sometimes one or both of the debaters are unfamiliar with parts of the bible that do not support their position, but sometimes complex biblical gymnastics are used to harmonize conflicting sections of scripture.

One of the hallmarks of Wierwillism was the belief that the bible, in "the original", was inerrant, and that any contradictions are only apparent contradictions. This was not new or unique to Wierwillism (surprise!) but can be found in many fundamentalist denominations and is evident in the writing of E.W. Bullinger.

It is obvious to anyone who reads the bible in any depth that there are contradictions, ones position theologically determines what you do with those contradictions. The early Christians bent logic into a pretzel to harmonize the many contradictions about the nature of Jesus, resulting in the doctrine of the Trinity, Unitarians (like Wierwille) bent things in a different direction in order to justify the lack of a Trinity.

A couple of examples (one of which was pointed out to me when I was deep into WayWorld, but which I chose to ignore) are the number of people crucified with Jesus and the number of denials of Peter.

Most people know that there were two other guys crucified with Jesus and that Peter denied Jesus three times. The reason that they know this is that in every mention of the others crucified there are two, and in every mention of the denials there are three. Readings of the Gospels in church generally will read one rendering of these events, that is, they don't stop to compare two gospels side-by-side. If they did, they would notice there are discrepancies, i.e. contradictions.

Some people never notice the contradictions because they don't ever compare records, and don't "research", they just read. Others kind of know about the contradictions, but aren't bothered by them. But still others attempt to reconcile the contradictions, because to them there aren't any contradictions in the bible. These people notice that in one gospel Peter denies Jesus three times before the cock crows, in another before it crows twice; in one gospel the denials take place in certain places, in another the locations are different; the people that Peter denies Jesus to change from one gospel to another. At the crucifixtion the others are malefactors in one gospel and robbers in another; in one gospel one rails against Jesus and in other they're both silent; in one they are led with, in another at a different time. So what the inerrantists do is compare each detail side by side and see which details agree. If a detail appears in one gospel but not another, then that's a separate detail. What we end up with is four others crucified and six denials.

The problem with that is that every gospel says that there were three denials and two crucified, not six and four. Believing that there were six and four requires inventing a fifth canonical gospel, one where everything is in harmony, but where the details contradict what it plainly says in the "real" gospels.

Whether there were three or six denials, two or four others crucified may be a matter of biblical trivia, but this manner of thinking extends to matters of doctrine as well. Even though there may be (well, there are) differences in the view of the afterlife, sin, church government, etc. from one biblical writer to the next, the inerrantists naturally want to make it all fit together. Words are given meanings that the writers would be very surprised at!

What inspired me to start this thread was a discussion that I had elsewhere at the cafe where another poster assigned a meaning to a word that contradicted every biblical use of the word, mainly because the implications of using the obvious and natural meaning of the word would be a contradiction of something that another biblical writer wrote. This is what we learned was "research" in TWI and is considered legitimate in many fundamentalist circles.

If you throw out the notion that the bible is inerrant, that it is perfect in all particulars and can therefore contain no contradictions whatsoever, that the writers were mere mortals who were just writing what they thought was the truth about Jesus, that they had differing views about him and were emphasizing different aspects of his message and the meaning of his death, then the need to harmonize disappears. You can say, "Paul meant A and the writer of Luke said B" without having to twist and squish one or the other or both views to fit the other, or to come up with a third option that harmonizes the two.

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Here's a problem that coexists with the idea of everything having to fit. (Or, maybe it's merely another facet of the same problem. I'm not sure.)

Members of the inerrant camp are of the opinion that every individual word included in "THE WORD" must have originated directly from a divine source, as indicated in II Timothy 2:15. According to this line of thinking, God must have had some obvious or hidden motive in what He said, where He said it, how He said it and so forth. This assumes that the authorship was unquestionably divine. It's a major stumbling block. It's probably tripped up more people than we can ever imagine. As long as the stumbling block remains, nothing will ever truly "fit" in the way that advocates of inerrancy insist it should. People will continue to play Biblical Twister, Scriptural Pickup Stix, Divine Dominoes and Jehovah Jenga until the ends of the earth. In doing so, they may be be missing the forest for the trees. Ironically, people don't seem to have this problem when considering the lessons of Aesop or other writers of mythical works. They enjoy the freedom to explore outside the confines of perfection. Biblical students will too often deny themselves that luxury. It's a pity, really.

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God must have had some obvious or hidden motive in what He said, where He said it, how He said it and so forth.

Good point. I highlighted "hidden" - I cannot believe that the creator of the heavens and the earth caused his book to be written in such a way that you had to be a sudoku master to divine the "real" meaning behind it. How many teachings involve skipping all over the bible to make a point? Yeah, there are verses about confounding the wise and all that, but if you need a degree in advanced biblical Greek and hours a day of free time to wade through it all, it's not very accessible to the common man is it?

Biblical Twister, Scriptural Pickup Stix, Divine Dominoes and Jehovah Jenga

Nice

:evilshades:/>

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It is my observation that we cannot assume that the bible will be free of contradictions (it has been amply demonstrated that it has them) or even that it is a product of inspiration from God (however you define that) but that it's an anthology of what various people, at different times, with different agendas, and (in the case of the New Testament) different views of who Jesus was and what he accomplished.

What you're referring to (and declaring to be yours) is a different premise. And by mere definition, a premise presumes that if "thus and thus" is true, then "this and this" is also true. The reasoning behind why each (or any) of us choose a particular premise varies, but it doesn't preclude the fact that each make or have them.

Certain premises (especially in the context you're speaking of) simply cannot be proved or disproved. Consequently, it's really not much more than the logic that is built upon a premise that can be tested or "proofed". Just because something doesn't pass your sniff test doesn't automatically mean that it can't (and/or doesn't) pass someone else's.

I think that one can hold this position and still consider oneself to be a Christian.

Sure, but what is the actual meaning of "considering oneself to be a Christian"?

It's undoubtedly possible to "think" of oneself as being a Christian, when in fact (or in reality) they aren't.

Likewise, it's undoubtedly possible to "think" of oneself as not being a Christian, when in fact (or in reality) they are.

If you're intending to steer clear of what it means to be Christian, or of any possible benefits of being a Christian, and are only concerned with addressing whether or not one is Christ's, then I suppose regardless of what one might think or suppose themselves to be, there isn't a guaranteed correlation between what a man considers himself to be, and what he really is. And whether or not anyone in this day and time is Christ's ultimately boils down to whether or not one believed (not merely thought, or guessed, or supposed, or said the words ...or anything else less than what it means to believe) in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Edited by TLC

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"And whether or not anyone in this day and time is Christ's ultimately boils down to whether or not one believed (not merely thought, or guessed, or supposed, or said the words ...or anything else less than what it means to believe) in the death and resurrection of Christ."

This is but one definition of what it means to be a Christian, one that was promoted heavily in the PFAL class and allows for dispensational thinking. To a large part of the world, though, a Christian is someone who assigns great value to the teachings of Christ and attempts to pattern his or her life in accordance with those teachings. Personally, I place more value on that than whether someone fleetingly believed Romans 10:9&10 and then reverted back to a life of debauchery.

Most of what we call Christianity, today, isn't really based on Christ, it's based on the Pauline Epistles. Someplace along the journey, Jesus seems to have taken a back seat. If the only Biblical teaching we ever focused on was The Golden Rule we would have more than enough work to busy ourselves for the rest of our lives.

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"And whether or not anyone in this day and time is Christ's ultimately boils down to whether or not one believed (not merely thought, or guessed, or supposed, or said the words ...or anything else less than what it means to believe) in the death and resurrection of Christ."

This is but one definition of what it means to be a Christian, one that was promoted heavily in the PFAL class and allows for dispensational thinking. To a large part of the world, though, a Christian is someone who assigns great value to the teachings of Christ and attempts to pattern his or her life in accordance with those teachings. Personally, I place more value on that than whether someone fleetingly believed Romans 10:9&10 and then reverted back to a life of debauchery.

Most of what we call Christianity, today, isn't really based on Christ, it's based on the Pauline Epistles. Someplace along the journey, Jesus seems to have taken a back seat. If the only Biblical teaching we ever focused on was The Golden Rule we would have more than enough work to busy ourselves for the rest of our lives.

There was (and is) a qualifier to that statement that you evidently chose to overlook.

Perhaps you won't mind if I draw some attention to it:

If you're intending to steer clear of what it means to be Christian, or of any possible benefits of being a Christian, and are only concerned with addressing whether or not one is Christ's, then...

Please note the complete "IF..., then..." construction of the sentence.

Now, as for aligning any (or all) of this with what Paul wrote, I'm obliged to bring these two verses to remembrance (bolded words are my emphasis):

Rom.2

(16) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Rom.16

(25) Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

So, don't like what Paul wrote if you want to. But I'd caution you not to suppose that Christianity today should be founded upon on anything else.

Edited by TLC

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So, don't like what Paul wrote if you want to.

I don't recall saying I don't like what Paul wrote.

But I'd caution you not to suppose that Christianity today should be founded upon on anything else.

From this, I gather you place more importance on what Paul said than what Christ said. Is that correct or have I misunderstood?

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Importance is relative term.

The distinction that you're trying to make between what Paul said and what Christ said is completely without merit if what Paul said is exactly what was given to him by Christ after he ascended.

If, however, you mean to refer only to what Jesus Christ said prior to his ascending to the right hand of God, then clearly what Paul said according to the revelation and instructions given to him by Christ at a later date would naturally take precedence over what was he (Christ) instructed his other apostles at a much earlier date. Furthermore, while on earth, it is evident that Jesus Christ was a minister to the circumcision (which I am not.) Paul, on the other hand, was plainly appointed by Christ as the apostle to the Gentiles - which I is my ancestral lineage. If I honestly thought that they were ONLY the words of Paul, and not the words that were given to him by the ascended Christ, then I suppose they just wouldn't mean as much to me. However, considering that I do believe what is written in Colossians 1:25 to be the truth, I also believe that the Pauline epistles of Romans through Thessalonians are indeed more relevant to me (and hence, more important to me) than that which is written concerning Jesus Christ's words and ministry prior to his ascension.

Is that a clear enough explanation of what I believe?

Edited by TLC

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Importance is relative term.

The distinction that you're trying to make between what Paul said and what Christ said is completely without merit if what Paul said is exactly what was given to him by Christ after he ascended.

If, however, you mean to refer only to what Jesus Christ said prior to his ascending to the right hand of God, then clearly what Paul said according to the revelation and instructions given to him by Christ at a later date would naturally takes precedence. Furthermore, while on earth, it is evident that Jesus Christ was a minister to the circumcision (which I am not.) Paul, on the other hand, was plainly appointed by Christ as the apostle to the Gentiles - which I is my ancestral lineage. If I honestly thought that they were ONLY the words of Paul, and not the words that were given to him by the ascended Christ, then I suppose they just wouldn't mean as much to me. However, considering that I do believe what is written in Colossians 1:25 to be the truth, I also believe that the Pauline epistles of Romans through Thessalonians are indeed more relevant to me (and hence, more important to me) than that which is written concerning Jesus Christ's words and ministry prior to his ascension.

Is that a clear enough explanation of what I believe?

Yep.

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Yep.

ah, you're quick on the draw. a few things were edited to my post for clarity (but it's nothing greatly different.)

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What you're referring to (and declaring to be yours) is a different premise. And by mere definition, a premise presumes that if "thus and thus" is true, then "this and this" is also true. The reasoning behind why each (or any) of us choose a particular premise varies, but it doesn't preclude the fact that each make or have them.

Certain premises (especially in the context you're speaking of) simply cannot be proved or disproved. Consequently, it's really not much more than the logic that is built upon a premise that can be tested or "proofed". Just because something doesn't pass your sniff test doesn't automatically mean that it can't (and/or doesn't) pass someone else's.

I presume nothing in my observation that there are contradictions in the bible, they're all over the place, some major, some minor. There are different conclusions one can derive from that observation: one is that there are only apparent contradictions that need harmonizing, another is that the bible is a book wherein you would expect contradictions, because it was written at different times by different people with different agendas. Other conclusions are possible.

Sure, but what is the actual meaning of "considering oneself to be a Christian"?It's undoubtedly possible to "think" of oneself as being a Christian, when in fact (or in reality) they aren't.

Likewise, it's undoubtedly possible to "think" of oneself as not being a Christian, when in fact (or in reality) they are.

I hold to the definition that if one self-identifies as a Christian, then one is a Christian. I do not believe that any one person can make that determination for anyone else.

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If, however, you mean to refer only to what Jesus Christ said prior to his ascending to the right hand of God, then clearly what Paul said according to the revelation and instructions given to him by Christ at a later date would naturally take precedence over what was he (Christ) instructed his other apostles at a much earlier date.

Or, as I believe, Paul and the writers of the gospels simply had differing opinions; later church leaders and theologians had to find a way to make them fit together, a late example is dispensationalism.

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I presume nothing in my observation that there are contradictions in the bible,

Sure you do. What you regard as the bible is a presumption.

There are different conclusions one can derive from that observation: one is that there are only apparent contradictions that need harmonizing, another is that the bible is a book whrein you would expect no contradictions, because it was written at different times by different people with different agendas. Other conclusions are possible.

It seems as though you may have meant to say that you would expect contradictions because it was written by different people with different agendas, but whether you did or not is unclear to me.

Regardless of it being different writers, if what they wrote was "God breathed" (translate it however you will), then the presumption is that God authored it. If God authored it, then naturally, one would expect it to reveal things about God and/or the nature of God.

If "it" (whatever it is) is difficult to understand and/or appears to be confusing, then how we interpret "it" is inherently going to be influenced (aka, biased) by whatever presumptions (or if you prefer, "pre-understandings") that we have or hold regarding both "it" and "God."

I hold to the definition that if one self-identifies as a Christian, then one is a Christian. I do not believe that any one person can make that determination for anyone else.

You're certainly entitled to hold whatever you want as a definition. But that doesn't mean that it's the same as how others might normally interpret it, if it doesn't have a sound biblical basis. If the bible doesn't offer an explanation or definition for it, then there's going to be a wide variance of opinions on what it means. However, as for the last part of your statement, I'd agree that even though we might be able to observe many things that either are or aren't "Christ like" on the outside, it is ultimately always what is in the heart of an individual (on the inside), and not what is on the outside. If anyone is making a determination based only on what is on the outside, and not on what is on the inside, then they might be mistaken... even about themselves.

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Sure you do. What you regard as the bible is a presumption.

It seems as though you may have meant to say that you would expect contradictions because it was written by different people with different agendas, but whether you did or not is unclear to me.

Regardless of it being different writers, if what they wrote was "God breathed" (translate it however you will), then the presumption is that God authored it. If God authored it, then naturally, one would expect it to reveal things about God and/or the nature of God.

If "it" (whatever it is) is difficult to understand and/or appears to be confusing, then how we interpret "it" is inherently going to be influenced (aka, biased) by whatever presumptions (or if you prefer, "pre-understandings") that we have or hold regarding both "it" and "God."

You're certainly entitled to hold whatever you want as a definition. But that doesn't mean that it's the same as how others might normally interpret it, if it doesn't have a sound biblical basis. If the bible doesn't offer an explanation or definition for it, then there's going to be a wide variance of opinions on what it means. However, as for the last part of your statement, I'd agree that even though we might be able to observe many things that either are or aren't "Christ like" on the outside, it is ultimately always what is in the heart of an individual (on the inside), and not what is on the outside. If anyone is making a determination based only on what is on the outside, and not on what is on the inside, then they might be mistaken... even about themselves.

I'm not sure you realize it but what you did here and elsewhere on this thread is rephrase session #1 (and other sections) of PFAL...... Inerrancy, God-Breathed, dispensations, private interpretation, guaranteed salvation("I didn't say it, you did"...VPW)....Not unique to The Way but certainly at the core of Way Theology.

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I'm not sure you realize it but what you did here and elsewhere on this thread is rephrase session #1 (and other sections) of PFAL...... Inerrancy, God-Breathed, dispensations, private interpretation, guaranteed salvation("I didn't say it, you did"...VPW)....Not unique to The Way but certainly at the core of Way Theology.

Regardless of how you might see or say it, and in spite of whatever it seems to remind you of, perhaps you would kindly allow me to point to the simple fact (not that it means much, but for whatever it's worth) that prior to pfal or any involvement with twi I was a theology major headed towards seminary school. I realize that some (if not many) here may not have given much thought towards their spiritual beliefs prior to what they learned in pfal, but others of us surely did... and certain things (several of which being mentioned or alluded to in your last post) haven't changed much (if at all) as a result of anything taught by vpw or twi. Furthermore, I really don't feel compelled to speak about, nor address, any of the "associations" (for lack of a better word) with twi that you've indicated may exist as the source or reason for certain thoughts, for the simple reason that it isn't.

Edited by TLC

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I certainly didn't mean to insult you. I'm merely pointing out that what you are promoting is heavily invested in inerrancy, Theopneustos, dispensationalism, etc. In other words, the core tenets of Way Theology. These are the kinds of things that fuel the tendencies toward contortions. If you so desire, pick one and discuss it or refer to a previous thread where such subjects have been explored individually, many in great detail.

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I certainly didn't mean to insult you. I'm merely pointing out that what you are promoting is heavily invested in inerrancy, Theopneustos, dispensationalism, etc. In other words, the core tenets of Way Theology. These are the kinds of things that fuel the tendencies toward contortions. If you so desire, pick one and discuss it or refer to a previous thread where such subjects have been explored individually, many in great detail.

No worries, as no offense was taken. I'm not only quite aware of what certainly of my beliefs are, but why they are. If stating or posting what certain of my beliefs are here is "promoting" them, well then, I guess we're all guilty of promoting something. And yes, I also realize that a fair amount of what I believe (still) aligns rather closely with certain things that were taught by vpw or in twi. It just so happens, however, that inerrancy, Theopneustos, and dispensationalism were all a part of my thinking prior to twi. As for inerrancy and Theopneustos, I doubt that I've changed a spits distance worth in over 40 years. But I sure can't say the same for dispensationalism, where I've been around the block a time or two and looked at it from nearly any angle I thought feasible or possible. Fact is, I thought it worth discussing further in few times in a couple of the doctrinal threads here, but it doesn't seemed to have (thus far) garnered much interest. In short, I haven't yet heard anybody teach or present it as well as I've seen Les Feldick do it, even if what he does isn't perfect. (I actually think he's very good with this particular subject, especially on the administration of grace.) Furthermore, I think that how some of it was taught by vp (mostly taken from others, as you know) was jacked up, and resulted in some (if not most, and certainly more than I care to list here) major problems in the ministry.

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It seems as though you may have meant to say that you would expect contradictions because it was written by different people with different agendas, but whether you did or not is unclear to me.

You are correct, the original has been edited

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You're certainly entitled to hold whatever you want as a definition. But that doesn't mean that it's the same as how others might normally interpret it, if it doesn't have a sound biblical basis.

There are many definitions, back in TWI we supported Romans 10:9 & 10 as the confession that got us Christianized, some denominations rely on "repent and be baptized (Acts 2) as the gold standard. I've heard some say it's "accept Jesus into your heart". Still others require water baptism. Many just claim to "believe in Jesus". And of course there's those who emphasize the outside, the works, maintaining that reciting a formula is worthless without acting like Jesus. Most, if not all of these different groups can point to and interpret some section of the bible to support their view, and if they can't, so what? Who am I, or you, or anyone else to decide whether anyone else is a Christian?

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How so?

Because there's no way to actually prove or disprove what is or isn't "the bible."

In other words... There is no original.

Why do you suppose there are so many variations or versions of it?

What you take as being "the bible" is therefore an assumption (or more precisely, a presumption.)

Edited by TLC

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It is my observation that we cannot assume that the bible will be free of contradictions

What you're referring to (and declaring to be yours) is a different premise. And by mere definition, a premise presumes that if "thus and thus" is true, then "this and this" is also true. The reasoning behind why each (or any) of us choose a particular premise varies, but it doesn't preclude the fact that each make or have them.

Certain premises (especially in the context you're speaking of) simply cannot be proved or disproved. Consequently, it's really not much more than the logic that is built upon a premise that can be tested or "proofed". Just because something doesn't pass your sniff test doesn't automatically mean that it can't (and/or doesn't) pass someone else's.

I presume nothing in my observation that there are contradictions in the bible, they're all over the place, some major, some minor. There are different conclusions one can derive from that observation: one is that there are only apparent contradictions that need harmonizing, another is that the bible is a book wherein you would expect contradictions, because it was written at different times by different people with different agendas. Other conclusions are possible.

Sure you do. What you regard as the bible is a presumption.

How so?

Because there's no way to actually prove or disprove what is or isn't "the bible."

In other words... There is no original.

Why do you suppose there are so many variations or versions of it?

What you take as being "the bible" is therefore an assumption (or more precisely, a presumption.)

I expect that it's a given that anyone posting on this thread knows that we don't have the originals and have no access to them. However, despite this, we (on this thread and in other places) discuss "the bible", what it says, what's in it and what its meaning is all the time. We have a collection of books that some time around 1600 years ago (referring to what we call the New Testament) were collected into a canon of scripture. Understanding that what we have are versions and translations of various manuscripts that underwent copyists' errors and do not all agree with each other, we can still manage to ahve a discussion about the bible. Resorting to "you don't know that, we don't have the originals" leaves us in the place where any discussion is pointless.

We don't have the originals and no one knows precisely what was in them or what was changed before some of the earliest manuscripts that we have appeared, but we have what we have, and what we have contains contradictions.

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