Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Contradiction #13 - Accursed for lack of figs

SAB #13

This is a fascinating problem of narrative chronology arising from difference between two of synoptic gospels, at Mark 11:19-21 and Matt 21:17-19. These events are narrated as having taken place on the same morning, but while Mark has Peter hearkening back to Jesus cursing the fig tree the previous day, Matthew depicts the event as taking place all in a single morning.

Probably the best way to visualize the problem in its entirety is to visit the CARM page exploring this issue in some detail and including a handy parallel table of events. Upon seriously considering this problem, the innerantist will be forced into fabricating ad hoc solutions (e.g. two fig trees) or else reconsidering whether both of these sources can be taken to be chronologically accurate.


Joey said...

You don't think this could be a case of two eye-witnesses just remembering details differently? That's actually a pretty good sign that no collusion has occurred. Multiple accounts matching up too well can be a sign of fabrication. Maybe I'm an anomaly, but I don't mind that the chronology in the canonical gospels isn't perfect.

But, I mean, I get it. I can totally see your argument. If the Bible is inerrant and if these two authors really have the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to help them write their accounts, then they shouldn't have any trouble remembering these details with perfect accuracy.

But it's not as if inerrantists are ignorant of these things. Article 8 of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

"We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.

"We deny that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities."

Article 13 of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

"We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations." (emphasis mine)

Maybe that sounds like a cop-out to you, but what it means to me is that inerrantists are not naive. We're aware these issues. We just don't think they're serious enough to change our minds about the general accuracy and intrinsic worth of the Bible.

Anonymous said...

We're aware these issues.
"These issues" suggest that the bible is what non-Christians claim it is. A normal religious text for a normal human religion that does not correctly describe our station in reality.

I reject other religions for the same reason I reject Christianity. Nothing within suggests that the metaphysical claims are true. In fact, everything within suggests that it's just a meme. Like Buddhism, like Hinduism, like Islam, like the thousands of other religions. The work of men, alone.

If Christianity [or any other religion] is correct about their metaphysical claims… how the fuck can we tell?

Damion said...

Joey - These are not merely "variant selections of material in parallel accounts" but rather two irreconcilable time lines. Either one or the other must be errant, or both, or else we'll need to see a harmony which somehow makes both accounts inerrant.