What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Recent Comments

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 13, 14:03:

If we're arguing with an unbeliever we have to take into account the possibility that the NT authors _were_ deceptive, or were not in a position to know as much about the details as they claim, or were mistaken. That's why we look at the documents and see whether they seem to be written by trustworthy authors who are not deceptive and who were in a position to know. Aside from my technical philosophical work (which, in fact, intersects with this argument at a number of points), _arguing_ for that is a maj ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 13, 13:50:

Since you seem to allow for the possibility that the Gospel writers were mistaken in most of the cases where Licona claims to see Plutarchian "devices", I don't think the possibility of Plutarchian alterations has an exceedingly great effect on the strength of the argument. Christopher, I want to zero in on this and clear up any misimpression quite explicitly. I have a sample at this point of about 8-10 instances where Licona is hypothesizing deliberate changes. Of that sample, I would say that *at most* ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Tony on Feb 13, 11:46:

Theological points can (and in some cases must) flow from real history, but they _can also_ be illustrated by that which is non-historical, such as Jesus' parables. A disagreement among believers about whether a particular theological point is being made by God in the former way or the latter is not, generally speaking, a disagreement over and *important idea* of Christianity. In some cases it is, but you have not given reason to think it is in the case of the day of the crucifixion. One of the points St. ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Tony on Feb 13, 11:37:

The _manner_ and _extent_ of alteration of detail that is acceptable within the genre is an empirical question, to be determined by careful study of ancient texts and ancient history. IN THEORY, we might discover that the genre is essentially a kind of historical fiction: that would be a serious problem for the Christian faith. Or rather it would if we hold onto the claim that the Gospels belong to that genre. But the Gospels themselves are of course examples of whatever genre they are, and studying them sh ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Christopher McCartney on Feb 12, 23:18:

One of the profounder points of Christianity is that God makes metaphors *using history*. Where other artists have to make up events and write fiction, God has the *actual events* happen ... If there was no literal rock in the wilderness from which water came when it was struck, then it wasn't true that the rock was, as St. Paul says, a type of Jesus Christ.It is certainly true that God makes metaphors using history, but he also makes metaphors in the ordinary way. The rock cut out of the mountain that knoc ... [More]

On Trump

Comment posted by Mike T on Feb 12, 19:00:

I don't know how much y'all have been following the email scandal, but based on what has been reported any contractor, serviceman or civil service member who did anything even remotely as bad would have been indicted so fast it would make their head spin. Trump has real problems, but Clinton will make us the Anglosphere's version of Argentina before her first term is over. ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Tony on Feb 12, 14:38:

I do not grant that Plutarch took the sort of deliberate liberties with history that Licona claims that he did. I agree with Lydia. And even more, I do not accept without demur the notion that if he did so, this does not damage what we consider the reliability of his works. Nor that the people of his day would have considered such liberties not to have damaged their respect for his work. Forget literature as a special class of writing for a moment. All people, all cultures and societies, have situati ... [More]

On Trump

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 11, 19:09:

I keep reading in this piece that Trump isn't good for conservatives, but what about Americans? Not that, either. Not by a long, long, long chalk. ... [More]

On Trump

Comment posted by GW on Feb 11, 17:36:

It's painfully obvious that one's expertise in say, NT history, doesn't always translate to reliable insight on the geopolitical state of the American right. Or even one's prominence in the Republican Party for that matter. Recently John Sununu (a very intelligent and involved member of the NH GOP--being the state's former governor) said he didn't know anyone personally who was going to vote for Trump in the NH prinary. Considering Trump won 35%, that is an astounding statement. No wonder the establishmen ... [More]

American Euthanasia Society "Disappears" Its Records

Comment posted by jvangeld on Feb 11, 17:34:

Hey Lydia, on a different subject, there is now a bill that would abolish the Selective Service. It deserves a wide base of support. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/02/11/lawmakers-introduce-bill-to-eliminate-selective-service-system/ ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 11, 09:47:

Lydia, If Licona's interpretation of Plutarch is correct, is Plutarch's Life of Anthony a work of fiction? Christopher, if Licona's interpretation of Plutarch's *intentions* is correct, then his work is partially fictional. Generally we would use the phrase "a work of fiction" for something entirely or almost entirely fictional, and as you know there are many different degrees of fictionalization. For example, one might write an historical novel that is almost entirely fiction but has a few historical cha ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Tony on Feb 11, 04:26:

I was not aware of the fact that this is the official Roman Catholic understanding of inerrancy. I have trouble seeing how the Roman Catholic scholars who wrote the notes in my New American Bible (which sports the nihil obstat & imprimatur) could hold that sort of view together with the things they say about certain passages without some severe cognitive dissonance. As for me, I don't see any reason to think that's how inspiration works. Christopher, the reason I used "standard" in front of the Catholic no ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Christopher McCartney on Feb 10, 23:04:

Lydia, If Licona's interpretation of Plutarch is correct, is Plutarch's Life of Anthony a work of fiction? You seem reluctant to put it so baldly, and well you should be, since that would be unreasonable. What you do say is,I consider that if Plutarch is taking the kind of liberties that Licona attributes to him, this is far too unreliable for what we need in the case of the gospels.But why? What is this great need we have to know exactly when and where things happened. I do _not_ grant that the overall pic ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 10, 22:15:

Thank you, Tony. Bravo. I sometimes wonder: If somebody came along and said (notice I'm _not_ attributing this to anybody, it's just a made-up scenario) that according to the "historiographical standards of the time" it "wouldn't have mattered to the original audience" if the feeding of the five thousand didn't happen at all, would a lot of earnest young evangelical scholars just listen and nod and say, "Oh, well, that's okay, then"? Would they just redefine "reliable" and "history" to continue saying that ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Christopher McCartney on Feb 10, 22:09:

Tony, you said I was positing, I think, that in ancient times historians DID NOT feel that way Yes, exactly, although actually we're talking about biographers, not historians. In the Hellenistic culture, the two aren't quite the same. I haven't made any claims one way or the other about historians as distinct from biographers.I am just not convinced that either one of these kinds of behaviors is what we want to ascribe to the Gospel writers.As a Protestant, I think the right procedure is to determine on th ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Tony on Feb 10, 21:18:

But doesn't Licona presuppose that we should only consider the Gospels (or some other biblical text) to be in error relative to the historiographic expectations of the original context in which those works were produced? OK, let's take those "historiographic expectations of the original context". It's not like the Hebrew / Aramaic / infused Greco-Roman culture of the time is so totally opaque to us that their sense of story-telling and reportage are completely foreign to us. One of the fascinating facets ... [More]

On Trump

Comment posted by Rob on Feb 10, 21:14:

Trump can win easily, he would be going against a evil crook and a socialist. Perfect storm ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 10, 16:35:

Wow, I never thought that anyone would object on that basis. I don't imagine the merchants were ever convinced that what they were doing was sinful anyway! They just thought of Jesus as some weirdo who came in and made a disturbance. I would _assume_ that they went back to what they were doing as soon afterwards as they were convinced that he wasn't around to give them a hard time anymore. That's human nature. Presumably the merchant and money-changing activities Jesus was condemning were deeply engraved in ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Joe Lightfoot on Feb 10, 15:18:

To my mind there is really no reason at all not to take John and the synoptics both at face value concerning the Temple cleansing and hold that a similar incident happened twice. This should _not_ be put on a par with silly, strained harmonizations such as that Jairus's daughter died twice (!!). After all, if Jesus was ticked off about the merchants in the Temple early in his ministry, why might he not have been similarly ticked off three years later and decided to do something similar as a protest to it? H ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 10, 09:51:

Another point that occurs to me: Neo-inerrantists (for want of a better word) are fond of saying that old-style inerrantists hold an anachronistic view of error and accuracy in reportage. It never seems to occur to them that they may be attributing to the gospel authors and their audiences an anachronistic concept of "weirdness." To what extent do views like Licona's gain traction because people don't want to think that the evangelists were asserting thing that they find "weird"? I would say that this is ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 10, 09:44:

I think that the cleansing of the temple happened twice. Like the aversion to harmonization, I think that an aversion to saying that a similar type of event happened more than once is exaggerated in mainstream NT scholarship, and Licona seems to share this aversion. The aversion tends to make one more willing to say that the NT authors deliberately shifted things, made things up, etc. Note in the lecture (I don't have the minute number at hand) that Licona casually says that Luke probably doesn't include t ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Boreas on Feb 10, 08:35:

Lydia, I love your passion for this subject! A major part of the problem here is that Licona puts no principled limits on how far the fictionalizations attributed to the disciples can go or how much of that they can be doing or how we could tell. I think this might be your best point against Licona. If there are no principled limits to the sort of literary moves that he wants to make, then that does pose a problem for the reliability of the Gospels. It's not that these sorts of moves are necessarily a pro ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 9, 23:55:

Perhaps his best arguments will appear in his forthcoming book, though. An hour-long lecture might not be enough time for such arguments. I'll make you a deal. You can read his book when it comes out. If you see what you think is a killer argument in there that isn't more of the same kind of thing we see in the lecture (examples from Plutarch and other Roman historians, claims that the gospels are like that and are doing the same thing, conjectures about alleged contradictions in the gospels based on that ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 9, 23:49:

Even if everything Licona is saying is true, I don't think it would undermine the argument from undesigned coincidences, Yes, if _everything_ he is saying is true, it does. See the argument in the main post. Also the argument from unexplained allusions and verisimilitude through unnecessary detail. See my comments just a little above in the thread. A major part of the problem here is that Licona puts no principled limits on how far the fictionalizations attributed to the disciples can go or how much of t ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Boreas on Feb 9, 22:48:

But doesn't Licona presuppose that we should only consider the Gospels (or some other biblical text) to be in error relative to the historiographic expectations of the original context in which those works were produced? That is obviously his idea. But if what that ends up meaning is that John changed the date of the crucifixion, Matthew added the incident of the saints' rising, John put the temple cleansing at the beginning of Jesus' ministry (though he knew it didn't happen then), and so forth, then I wo ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Tony on Feb 9, 21:39:

But humans are not usually in a position to paint such a picture with photographic accuracy, and we all understand that about each other. So, when we hear someone tell a story that paints the events in a certain way, we don't assume that the speaker is claiming each brush-stroke corresponds exactly to the events as they happened. The speaker isn't in a position to claim such things, and we know that, and he knows that we know that, and so if we're reasonable we won't take him to be claiming such things. (2 ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 9, 21:34:

But doesn't Licona presuppose that we should only consider the Gospels (or some other biblical text) to be in error relative to the historiographic expectations of the original context in which those works were produced? That is obviously his idea. But if what that ends up meaning is that John changed the date of the crucifixion, Matthew added the incident of the saints' rising, John put the temple cleansing at the beginning of Jesus' ministry (though he knew it didn't happen then), and so forth, then I wo ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Boreas on Feb 9, 21:17:

On the other hand, if one is going to claim the inerrantist label, one shouldn't be trying continually to stretch that label to accommodate...well...things like saying that the authors of manifestly historical-genre texts like the Gospels made up whole incidents or deliberately changed what they say happened for literary reasons. In fact, as I'll be discussing below, I think that that view is actually much worse for one's view of the reliability and clarity of Scripture than if one held that there are some ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 9, 20:49:

By the way, the example of John's "moving" the temple cleansing is a real one from Licona's earlier book, The Resurrection of Jesus, p. 594, footnote 440. Licona also states in another footnote that in Luke's gospel all of the events including the ascension take place _on Easter_, which he calls "telescoping" and takes to be a deliberate alteration of what Luke knew to be the real events (though different from Luke's treatment in Acts). P. 596, footnote 449. Let me say *for the record* that if *this* is on ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 9, 19:21:

First, I hope I can get you to admit that it's just a little bit misleading to describe what Licona is doing as "fictionalizing". I do not retreat in the slightest from saying that what he is saying is that the gospel writers fictionalized. Adding the entirety of the saints coming out of their graves (when one knows it didn't happen), explicitly _stating_ that Jesus' foot anointing occurred on a _different day_ from the day on which it occurred. This sort of thing is what I mean by "fictionalizing." He is ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Christopher McCartney on Feb 9, 18:24:

First, I hope I can get you to admit that it's just a little bit misleading to describe what Licona is doing as "fictionalizing". He is claiming that the Gospels are no less historical than the bioi of Plutarch. And what is his opinion of the bioi of Plutarch? Does he hold some kind of radical skeptical view of them, that they are more like works of fiction, pretty much historically unreliable? Well, no. He views Plutarch the same way most classicists do, as a reliable historical source, at least for the pe ... [More]

Go Broncos

Comment posted by Paul J Cella on Feb 8, 21:12:

Thanks, Step2. It was a defensive performance for the ages, those three postseason games. I've never seen a defensive line play better in thirty-plus years of watching football. The contrast with the team two years ago is remarkable. ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 8, 10:12:

Nick, I'm not going to respond to everything you say (such as your odd contention that I shouldn't have used the phrase "shook up the evangelical world" in my lead-in and your attempt to tell people whether there should be a controversy or not over something a scholar writes). I'll get right to this: I think a key issue here is did the audience also know that this was happening? Mike's contention is that the audience would have recognized these literary devices. No. I disagree. If Mike _does_ contend t ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Nick on Feb 8, 09:40:

http://scholarshipandinerrancy.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-response-to-lydia-mcgrew.html ... [More]

Go Broncos

Comment posted by Step2 on Feb 8, 00:42:

It was two years in the making but congratulations to the Broncos. ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Joe Lightfoot on Feb 7, 16:12:

Now that you mention the lack or absence of detail, Lydia, I believe you've diagnosed correctly why I (and likely others) have issues with this passage even if we do not have issues with supernatural events and miracles elsewhere in the gospels. This is one of those "obvious" things I should've seen but in the end required somebody else pointing out to me. For such a seemingly-spectacular miracle, it is relayed with no details. (If St Matthew were a Seinfeld fan, I could see him putting "yada yada yada" at ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Jonathan on Feb 7, 16:07:

"I think as time goes on it will turn out that some who may not claim the label of inerrancy actually have a higher view of Scripture and a greater resistance to treating this or that as "literary embellishment" than some who claim the label. In that sense, the label is losing its effectiveness as a stand-in for orthodoxy and for a high view of the authority and perspicuity of Scripture." It's the same sort of language game we see people playing with social issues, like Democrats who claim to be "pro-life ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Lydia on Feb 7, 15:39:

I think what is striking you, Joe L., about the raising of the saints (or part of it) is the absence of detail. There is a striking contrast there with the account of, say, the feeding of the five thousand, which is told in all four gospels with meticulous, interlocking detail. Or contrast with the account in John of the raising of Lazarus. I'm quite sure that Matthew means to say that this really happened--that other people were raised at the time Jesus' death. (Or possibly, though I haven't investigated ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by Joe Lightfoot on Feb 7, 14:39:

Tony --- that's an interesting attempt at harmonization. Like me, you realize that events in life are in 3d and not some flat, compressed 2d fully-linear sense. (More generally now to anybody else:) The good thing about being a card-carrying evidentalist with his own reserved parking spot at the Evidentalist Club hq is that, even were I not some sort of "inerrantist", I could not discard this account (Jairus) in good intellectual conscience. There are multiple testimonies to at least the big points: a man ... [More]

A gospel fictionalization theory is no help to the gospel

Comment posted by steve hays on Feb 7, 14:07:

Regarding the withering of the fig tree, we need to distinguish between what Matthew actually says and what a reader imagines. It's natural for readers to form mental images of what they read. And I think that's a good practice. So a reader might visualize the fig tree shriveling up right before the disciples' eyes in a matter of moments. That, however, is not what Matthew says. We need to differentiate how we picture the event from how Matthew depicts the event. Matthew's description is much vaguer. ... [More]