Was Jesus Always Perfect?

November 24, 2010

There are plenty of verses in the Bible that we can take to mean that Jesus was perfect (“a lamb without blemish”, etc), but the Bible doesn’t say outright that Jesus was always perfect. On the contrary, Hebrews implies that Jesus was not always perfect, but rather became perfect at some point. Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV) says:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

According to this passage, Jesus was not the source of salvation until after he was made perfect. This has important ramifications. It means that people who lived before Jesus was made perfect, did not have a source of salvation. Without a source of salvation during their lifetime, God’s most faithful servants, like Moses, King David, King Solomon, and the prophets, went to hell when they died. It also means that if Jesus was always God then God isn’t necessarily perfect. Alternatively, it means that Jesus wasn’t always God (because God is always perfect).

There is good evidence that the author of Hebrews didn’t believe that Jesus was God, at least not in a way that makes the Father and Jesus one and the same. Here is a good presentation of the evidence: www.prudentialpublishing.info/hebrews_view_of_Jesus.htm

Which do you think is true…

1) Jesus was always God but God can be imperfect
2) Jesus became God after he became perfect
3) Hebrews is not the Inerrant Word of God

…and why?

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The Bible: Inspired Scripture?

July 24, 2008

As I’ve discussed in an earlier post, 2Ti 3:16, the key verse that Fundamentalists use to claim that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God could not possibly mean that New Testament scripture is inspired (see New Testament: Inspired Scripture?”). Now, I will show that the English translations for this verse are not accurate, and that the verse does not even mean that the Hebrew Bible (known to Christians as the Old Testament) is inspired! The explanation will get a bit technical, but I will provide examples along the way. Note that I’ve provided the Greek here for reference – but you will not need any previous understanding of Greek to understand this post. So just stay with me and just take it slow.

To my knowledge, the original Greek text for 2Ti 3:16 is not disputed and is recorded in the Stephanus Textus Receptus as:

πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν πρὸς ἔλεγχον, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ

An English transliteration of the above Greek is:

pasa graphē theopneustos kai ōphelimos pros didaskalian pros elegmon pros epanorthōsin pros paideian tēn en dikaiosunē

For convenience, I’ll use the transliteration from here on out when I want to talk about the original Greek. The NIV translates this verse as:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

But that’s not the best translation of the verse. The literal word-for-word translation of the beginning of this verse is (we only care about the beginning – the rest is undisputed):

each writing God-breathed also profitable for…

Note absence of the verb, “is”, which is not used in the Greek. The question is: where should “is” go in the English translation? Should it go in this location?

Option 1: “each God-breathed writing is also profitable…”

If so, then the verse simply states that ‘writing which happens to be God-breathed is profitable’ – it does not state that ‘all writing is God-breathed and is therefore profitable.’

Or should the verb, “is”, go in this location:

Option 2: “each writing is God-breathed also profitable…”

If it goes here, then the verse really does make the claim that ‘all writing is God breathed. ‘ Note that the order of “writing” and “God-breathed” are different in the 2 options – more on this in the Example 2 below. So which translation is correct?

It depends on whether the verb, theopneustos (God-breathed, or “inspired”), is used in the passive form or the active form. The word was originally known only in the passive verbal form and it was most likely used in the passive form here too, though this is disputed – see this technical discussion for the history of the debate and why the passive form is more likely).

Example 1: Active vs. Passive verbs

In the sentence, “the dog bit the boy”, the verb “bit” is active because there is a subject (the dog) that acts upon an object (the boy) and that particular action is described by the verb (bit). However in the sentence, “the bitten boy cried”, the verb bitten is passive because it does not describe an action between a subject and object, and it is used as an adjective because it describes the state (bitten) of the subject (the boy). In English, the passive and active forms, “bit” and “bitten” are written differently. In Greek, theopneustos would be written the same way whether used in the active form or the passive form. In the passive form, theopneustos likewise serves as an adjective because it modifies the word, “writing” – it tells you it is not talking about just any writing, it is talking specifically about God-breathed writing.

Example 2: “writing God-breathed” – or – “God-breathed writing”?

In English, the adjective comes before the noun as in big (adjective) house (noun). In Greek, the adjective comes after the noun, as it does in many other languages – like Spanish for example. To say “big house” in Spanish, you would say “casa grande”, not “grande casa”. So in the Greek phrase, “graphē theopneustos”, since theopneustos is used as an adjective as we’ve discussed above, it is translated into English as “God-breathed writing” as in Option 1 above (not “writing God-breathed” as in Option 2 above).

Now, with the correct translation for graphē theopneustos as “God-breathed writing“, there is only one place to put the auxiliary verb, “is”:

each God-breathed writing is also profitable…

One final note, the word “graphē” does not mean scripture or sacred writing, it means any “writing”. It is the same word used for financial ledgers for example. Then it makes no sense to claim that all writing is inspired since financial ledgers are probably not. It would make better sense to talk about certain inspired writings – which is exactly the case when “graphē theopneustos” is correctly translated as “God-breathed writing”.


New Testament: Inspired Scripture?

July 7, 2008

The majority of bible scholars agree that 2 Timothy, one of the 3 Pastorals (along with 1 Timothy and Titus), was written between 100-150 ce. and that Paul was not the author, despite the epistle’s own claim that it was from Paul to Timothy:

2Ti 1:1-2 (NIV translation); Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Fundamentalist Evangelical scholars hold that since Paul died in 67 ce and since 2 Timothy claims to be written by Paul, then it must have been written no later than 67 ce (see an example of this claim).

No matter which group of scholars is right, the Bible could not be the inerrant Word of God. In other words, if the majority of bible scholars are correct, that 2 Timothy was written between 100-150 ce, then it is a forgery claiming to be written by Paul when in fact it was not. Thus the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God since it includes a forgery. However if the evangelical scholars are right, that Paul really wrote 2 Timothy cerca 67 ce, then the Bible is still not the inerrant Word of God. Here’s why:

The essential verse that fundamentalists cite to support their claim of the Bible’s divine inspiration is 2Ti 3:16 which states (NIV translation):

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Ignoring the obvious logical problem of why we should accept that 2Ti 3:16 is itself inspired, let’s get a bit more technical. “Scripture” in 2Ti 3:16 must mean the Hebrew Scriptures, since the preceding verse, 2Ti 3:15, says (NIV translation):

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures…

If we presume that a reasonable average age for Paul’s audience was 30 years old, then the “scripture” in 2Ti 3:15 must have been considered scripture 30 years earlier; that is, around 27 ce (67 ce – 30 years) – which means that the “scripture” in verses 2Ti 3:15-16 must have been written much earlier than 27 ce to be considered scripture. The earliest New-Testament scriptures were written in 50 ce, long after the “scripture” which was referenced in 2Ti 3:15. Then 2Ti 3:16 could not possibly be referring to New-Testament writings; it must be referring to Old-Testament writings (Hebrew Scriptures). If 2Ti 3:16 is referring to Hebrew writings, then there is nothing in the New Testament that suggests specifically that any New-Testament writings are divinely inspired.


No Tears in Heaven?

June 27, 2008

What do you imagine heaven will be like? If you take Revelations 21:4 literally…

Revelations 21:4 – “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

…then one thing you believe is that there will be no crying or sorrow or pain in heaven. That sounds very nice, especially if you are saved and you will be there enjoy it for all eternity. And especially if all of your loved ones are saved and will be there to enjoy it with you. And if your parents are saved. And all of your brothers and sisters. And all of your children. And your dearest friends. They are all saved, aren’t they?

If they aren’t, then according to Mark 9:43 (and many similar verses) they will suffer the torment of the “fire that never shall be quenched” – forever. And you will be aware that they aren’t saved because they won’t be in heaven with you. And according to Luke 16:19-31, people in heaven can see (and even talk to!) people in hell.

What would you think of a person who doesn’t cry or feel sorrow or pain while they are enjoying eternal bliss, all the while knowing full well that their loved one is suffering unimaginable torment for all eternity? Can you imagine not feeling sorrow or pain or not crying for your loved ones in hell because Revelations 21:4 says that you won’t? Do you believe that Revelations 21:4 is true?


How the Animals Got Their Names

June 9, 2008

Gen 2:19-20 explains how animals got their names:

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

Let’s assume for the moment that the above passage was written by mere mortals (the Elohist source to be exact) who lived around 850 bce in the Land of Israel. The statement that Adam named all of the birds and land animals sounds reasonable enough – there simply weren’t that many different animals in that area which the writer would have been familiar with. Now let’s assume that the above passage was written under divine inspiration (the verbal, plenary inspiration theory) where God guided the author to transmit his divine message exactly as he intended it. Suddenly, the statement seems ludicrous because we would expect God to know how many animals he created. For example, God would surely be aware of the Giant Pandas he created that are native only to China, or the Capivara found only in Brazil, or Beluga Whales and Polar Bares found only in the Arctic Ocean, or the Platypus found only in Australia. Adam would have his work cut out for him naming the myriad of animals found world wide – and the Beluga Whales would have died of dehydration and heat exhaustion in the process! But it gets worse. What about trilobites that died in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian about 250 million years ago (there are more than 10,000 fossil species of just trilobites alone!)? Did Adam name them? What is the ancient Hebrew word for it (or a word for it in any ancient language)? What about all of the other millions of extinct species of animal? What about the microbes (e. coli, amoebae, extremaphiles, etc., etc.)?

Walk me through it one more time: why should I believe that the first chapter in Genesis (for starters) is the divine Word of God?


Fulfilled Prophecy – Proof of Bible’s Divine Inspiration?

May 16, 2008

New thread courtesy of J.D. – he writes:

Christians claim that the Bible has hundreds of fulfilled prophecies, and is proof of its divine inspiration. In actuality, these so called fulfilled prophecies failed, were false or weren’t prophecies at all. Many of these prophecies are so vague, they can be attributed to different events. It’s also a fact that the Bible was written 100’s, even 1000’s of years after these presumed prophecies and their “fulfillment” took place. It’s also fair to mention that nowhere in the Bible will you find countries such as the United States, Russia, China, Korea, Great Britain prophesied. Oh Christians will tell you that they are, if you know how to interpret the Bible.

Genesis 26:4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

Here God tells Isaac that his descendents (Hebrews) will be as numerous as the stars. Considering the number of stars there are in the universe, that would have to be on the order of 10 to the power of 20 Jewish people.
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Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Christians say that this verse is a prophecy of Jesus’ birth to a virgin. There are a couple problems with this prophecy…First, virgin in this verse is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word “almah”, which actually means “young woman”. A young woman is not necessarily a virgin. “Bethulah” would have been the correct word to use if the author meant virgin. Second, nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus referred to as Immanuel.
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Isaiah 17:1 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.

Damascus is still inhabited today with over a million people, and hardly a ruinous heap.
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Isaiah 19:4-5 And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts. And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.

The river mentioned here is the Nile. The Nile is still one of Egypt’s greatest natural resource.
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Isaiah 19:18 In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.

The Canaanite language has never been spoken in Egypt, and is now an extinct.
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Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

There are uncircumcised people living in Jerusalem even today.
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Ezekiel 29:10-11 Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.

Never in its long history has Egypt ever been uninhabited for forty years.
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Amos 9:15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.

Many times, Jews have been pulled up out of their land. The ownership of their land is still being fought for.
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Jonah 3:4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

Nineveh was never overthrown. Why? Because God changed his mind in verse 3:10, despite what Malachi 3:6, Numbers 23:19 and Ezekiel 24:14 says about God never changing his mind.

Jonah 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

(another note on this one:so god did evil huh? sinned? not so perfect?)
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Zechariah 11:12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.

Christians say that this prophecy is was fulfilled when Judas received 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. Matthew 27:9 recites this verse, but incorrectly credits Jeremiah with the prophecy.
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Matthew 1:22-23 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Again, Jesus is never referred to as Emmanuel (Immanuel).
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Matthew 2:23 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.

Nowhere in the Old Testament is such a prophecy found, so how could such a one be fulfilled?
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Matthew 12:5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?

There is no passage in the Old Testament that can be attributed to what Jesus is saying here.
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Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Jesus states that all the signs marking the end of the world in Matthew 24 would be fulfilled before his generation ended. That generation ended 2000 years ago, and the world has not come to an end, neither has all those signs been fulfilled.
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Matthew 27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value.

This prophecy was never spoken by Jeremiah.
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Matthew 26:64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Jesus tells the high priest that he would see his second coming. The high priest is long dead, and Jesus hasn’t returned yet.
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Throughout the New Testament, the end of the world is prophesied as being very near, at hand, to be witnessed by those living at the time. Paul often told the people he preached to that they would be witnesses to Jesus’ second coming. They are all long gone.


Bible Contradictions and Christian Fundamentalism

August 19, 2006

Question: what would it mean to Christian Fundamentalism if it were to admit that the Bible contained contradictions?

I am singling out Fundamentalism here because biblical scholars, both secular and Christian (with the notable exception of the Fundamentalist minority), basically agree on who wrote the bible and how the various biblical canons were formed. The majority of Christians in the world do not hold that the bible is the inerrant word of God. They believe it is the Word of God in the sense that its writers documented oral traditions about God and His hand in history; the oral tradition originating from divinely inspired people.

My guess is that the Fundamentalist beliefs wouldn’t actually change much if they were to concede that the Bible contains contradictions. What would change is that Christian leaders would not be able to exert the same level of authority over their church members. Fundamentalists in general would feel more empowered to think for themselves rather than blindly follow their preacher’s dogma.

If this is true, then is the excessive rhetoric about inerrancy actually about power and control, and not about the faith?


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