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Are the Gospels Historical?
Standing on my Head blog ^ | 07/15/2012 | Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Posted on 07/18/2012 2:49:51 AM PDT by iowamark

In the meantime, let’s go down a side route for a moment and ask first of all, whether any history can be written objectively. Is it possible for a historian to write a historical account without a bias of any kind? No. Every historian is limited by his philosophical and cultural assumptions. Every historian comes to his task with certain guiding principles that he thinks are true or valuable or helpful. These guiding principles cause him to interpret the history he records. He cannot help but make value judgements on the actions he records. Furthermore, those value judgements are in effect in every aspect of the historian’s work. How does he choose which period of history to work on? How does he choose which events are momentous? How does he choose how to prioritize the events he records? How does he select the important personages and events from the past? As soon as he selects something to write about or study he is giving it prominence and therefore expressing his bias. The only way history can be “objective” is if it is a list of events in chronological order. The historian who is so naive as to imagine that he is not biased is even more compromised because his bias is invisible to him and therefore all the more influential.

Given the fact that the study of history must be biased, it is much better therefore if the pretense of objectivity is dropped. Much clearer if we know ahead of time that a historical study is written from a particular point of view. We can then make allowances for the bias and read other works from other perspectives to achieve balance. If I know that a particular historian is a Marxist or a feminist or a post-modern atheist I will understand their bias on history and the more they are open about it, while still trying to be as objective as possible, the better will the exercise be.

So, to return to the gospels, we have before us documents that purport to record historical events. The gospel says they are written “so that you might know that Jesus is Christ the Son of God.” They are derived from the experience of the first Christian community and written to help convert people to the Christian faith. Therefore we are well aware of the bias and the intention of the documents. Does this disqualify them completely?

No. The whole reason why I wish to convince my reader of a particular conclusion is because the events that I wish to relate are so compelling. If I wish to convince the reader that JFK was killed by a conspiracy of the mafia and Lyndon Johnson, that does not necessarily mean that the facts I present are totally bogus. The selection of the facts and the interpretation of the facts may be dubious and open to criticism, but the mere fact that a document is persuasive in intent does not mean that it is either fabricated or fraudulent.

We therefore have to consider the veracity of the documents themselves. They are presented as the record of eyewitness accounts. They are presented to the reader as a record of historical events. We therefore have to ask whether it is possible that the gospels do, in fact, record eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. The first way we do this is to look at their authorship. Most scholars conclude that the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) were composed before the death of St Peter and St Paul in the year 65 AD, and that the gospel of John was composed around the year 90AD. Some scholars say the Gospel of John is the first gospel written–in the 50s–just twenty years after the death of Christ (JAT Robinson)

Who wrote the gospels Matthew is the only one of the three synoptic gospels authored by one of the Apostles himself. John is also written by an apostle. Mark was a disciple of Paul and Peter, and the early traditions say that he recorded Peter’s sermons and accounts of the life of Christ. Luke was also a companion of Paul and the early traditions are that he is the doctor who traveled with Paul, and that Luke also knew the Virgin Mary. Why does the authorship suggest authenticity? Precisely because two of the four gospel writers are NOT apostles. Critics like to suggest that the gospels are much later creations–their authorship assigned falsely to the apostles. However, if this were the case, would not the authors of Mark and Luke’s gospels have assigned them not to Mark and Luke, but to Peter and Paul? If the gospels were written by someone other than the apostles at a much later date, but used the apostles’ names to give their writings weight they would have written under the name of one of the apostles–not Mark or Luke–who were not apostles.

We can therefore conclude with the majority of scholars that Mark’s gospel was indeed written by John Mark the companion of Peter, and Luke’s gospel was written by Luke, the companion of Paul. Their sources therefore, were Peter and Paul–both eyewitnesses to the events portrayed in the gospel. Furthermore, these gospels were written just thirty years after the events described. This would be like us writing about events in 1982. Many people were still alive who remembered the events. Furthermore, these eyewitnesses of the events were members of the communities from which the gospels originated.

The stories were recorded and read aloud in worship by people who remembered the events and would have corrected any glaring errors. Evidence for this is in Mark 15.21 where Mark records that Simon of Cyrene–who helped carry the cross of Christ–was the “father of Rufus and Alexander.” Mark is probably writing the account for the use of the Church in Rome where history records he ministered with Peter. In St Paul’s epistle to the same Roman church he mentions Rufus as one of the faithful. (Romans 16.13) One can almost hear Peter talking about Simon of Cyrene and saying, “And he was Rufus’ father–who is here with us now.”

The fact that the gospels were records of sermons to the early church community strengthens the case for historical reliability because the community itself would exercise a form of check and balance with the historical record. Because it was a community activity–rather than the work of an isolated author–the fact checking would be part of the community life. This is why it is important that the New Testament is not the work of Jesus himself. One author is easily biased, misled, misinformed or just plain crazy. When the founder of a religion writes a book the whole book stands or falls according to his or her credentials. That’s why so many religious texts are claimed to have been given by dictation by an angel–there’s no arguing with that! Instead, Jesus does not write a book.

It is also important to remember that not only did Jesus not write a book, but neither did Matthew, Mark, Luke and John simply sit down to write a biography of Jesus. Textual criticism shows that the gospel writers were not doing their own work. They relied on earlier written sources and earlier oral sources from the community. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the gospels, but they did not create the gospels as a single modern author might. Instead they were like editors–gathering together the various stories which were circulating in the community and compiling them to create the gospels as we have them. Again, it is important to stress how unique these documents are. They are not the creation of any one individual, but the record of the stories and accounts and memories from many individuals.

This varied background gives a remarkable reliability to the gospels. Instead of one single record–like a single biography–of the life of Christ we have not only four different versions (totally unheard of for any character in ancient history) but those four versions themselves are compilations of the accounts of many individuals who were present at the events. This multiplicity of sources adds an astounding level of veracity to the gospels since those many different sources check and balance and correct one another.

The community origin of the gospels makes them completely unique documents in human history. Nowhere else do we have four accounts of a character from ancient history written within sixty years of his death, compiled not by one person but compiled out of the community experience. These documents are not compiled by a single historian who is prone not only to bias, but to factual errors and misunderstandings. Because the gospels come out of this lived and shared experience they are far more likely to be accounts of what really happened. If something blatantly false were written the community would have corrected it.

In addition to this we must consider the Jewish context of the early church. A strict memorization of the Scriptures is part of the Jewish tradition. Jewish boys even today for their Bar Mitzvah have to memorize parts of the Scripture and are checked for it word by word. In the first century, with the scarcity of manuscripts, boys were taught to memorize the entire Old Testament, and to recite the accounts of the history of their people word for word.

It is easy to dismiss oral tradition as some kind of game of Chinese whispers–in which the story is exaggerated more and more by each person who re-tells is. While this is understandable from our point of view, it displays ignorance of the Jewish culture and tradition where oral tradition–rather than being unreliable–was considered more reliable than written tradition. Written manuscripts–the argument goes–can be altered and edited. Anyone can write a written manuscript and say whatever he wants. Written manuscripts can be lost and destroyed. The oral tradition, on the other hand, is a living, active part of the whole community. The teacher and the whole class gathered together as the boy recited the ancient stories word for word. They corrected him to make sure he did not leave anything out or add anything. This was, after all, the Word of God, and therefore to be treated with utmost sacredness and care. This was part of a living sacred tradition, and has been shown, rather than being an unreliable way of transmitting a tradition to be a very reliable way indeed.

The stories of Jesus Christ were told and re-told within this Jewish context by Jews who were the first Christians. The worship of the first century Christians was an outgrowth of the Jewish religion and culture, so they would have had the same respect and care for the new sacred tradition of their Lord as they had for the earlier sacred stories and writings.

Critics of the historicity of the gospels like to talk in vague terms of “the mythological elements” which crept into the gospel account. However, no one actually quotes chapter and verse. That is because there are no “mythological elements”. Those who talk about mythological elements are clearly ignorant not only of the gospels themselves, but of what mythology actually consists of. What they usually mean by ‘mythological elements’ is the supernatural. The gospels do indeed contain supernatural elements, but these supernatural experiences–angels appearing to people or miracles happening– are recounted as real events that were recorded because they were real events and therefore all the more astonishing. The supernatural elements presuppose belief in a supernatural dimension.

Within a faith community (whether it is first century Palestine or twenty first century America) supernatural experiences are part of the world view. That is, after all, what religion is all about. That religious documents record supernatural experiences is no more unusual than a sports page recording the football scores.

The supernatural elements in a story do not demand religious belief, nor do they demand belief that the supernatural events took place just as said, nor do they demand assent to the whole premise of the supernatural. What they do demand is that the reader accept that they are the record of a real experience by a historical person. So, for example, one may doubt that Jesus walked on the water. One may come up with all sorts of other explanations. However, one must accept that Peter and the other disciples experienced Jesus walking on the water. What actually happened may be open for question and debate, but the one thing we know happened is that twelve men perceived another man to be walking to them on the waves.

When confronted with the accounts of the miraculous we have to ask ourselves why anyone would fabricate a tale which is so obviously incredible. What motivation would there be, for instance, to fabricate a story of Jesus walking on the water? Why would someone make up a story like that? Why would twelve other men corroborate the tale if it had not happened? The only possible motivation for fabricating a story would be that more people would join their religion. But that religion didn’t do anything for them. It did not bring them fame or fortune or power or glory. On the contrary, it only brought them ridicule, persecution, torture, hardship and eventually death.

Surely a person who was fabricating tales–or even allowing them to be exaggerated– would not have the moral fortitude to then die an agonizing death for those lies.

The record of supernatural events does not negate, therefore, the historical claims of a document. I might tell you the story of how our family car avoided a head on collision because the two cars de materialized in a supernatural way. One may dispute the miracle, say that there must be another explanation and find that element of the story incredible, but the mere fact of the supernatural element of the story does not negate the fact that we experienced something otherwise inexplicable, and that the story we told was essentially, therefore true–that is to say–it was a true account of something we experienced. The existence of miracles in a story do not, therefore, render the whole story unhistorical.

Let us turn again to the question of historicity of the documents themselves. Critics point to the discrepancies of detail between the gospel accounts. Here a character is missing, there an incident happened a bit differently–here there is confusion about who a character is related to. Here the chronology differs between one account and another. This is put forward as a criticism of the historicity of the accounts, but when this is examined more thoughtfully it actually proves the authenticity of the gospels. Wouldn’t it be much more suspicious if there were four different accounts of the same events and they matched perfectly? Then we would surely conclude that there was a work of fabrication and serious editing going on. Instead we find four different account which essentially agree, but which differ in detail. This is exactly what you would expect from four different perspectives from four different witnesses of the same event. Not everybody sees everything. Details slip, some things are observed by one person and not by another. Witness one says the suspect wore a red hat. Witness two says it was a pink hat with a red band. The detail differs and because it does it feels right that both persons are probably eyewitnesses.

How does this criteria stand up next to modern critical historical practice? What you have in the gospels are documents recording a multiplicity of eyewitness events recorded by four different editors within thirty years of the events themselves. What other historical figure or event from ancient–or even medieval history can claim such a wide range of balancing, correcting and corroborating witnesses? None. In fact the standard for checking and balancing the historical claims is far higher and wider in the gospels than you would have for many universally accepted historical events and characters.

It is true that the gospels do not measure up to the standards of modern critical historical practice. But they do not purport to be modern, scientifically verifiable documents. They are the records of real events experienced by real people within the faith community following Jesus Christ. One of the key elements of this community’s belief was that astounding events really did happen within human history, and the gospel stories are the record of those events.

Whether you choose to believe them or not is another matter altogether.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: gospels; resurrection

1 posted on 07/18/2012 2:49:56 AM PDT by iowamark
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To: iowamark

1 John 4:1
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Daniel 5:27
“You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting;”


2 posted on 07/18/2012 4:23:20 AM PDT by swampfox101
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To: iowamark; PGalt
Let us . . . ask first of all, whether any history can be written objectively. Is it possible for a historian to write a historical account without a bias of any kind? No. Every historian is limited by his philosophical and cultural assumptions. Every historian comes to his task with certain guiding principles that he thinks are true or valuable or helpful. These guiding principles cause him to interpret the history he records. He cannot help but make value judgements on the actions he records. Furthermore, those value judgements are in effect in every aspect of the historian’s work. How does he choose which period of history to work on? How does he choose which events are momentous? How does he choose how to prioritize the events he records? How does he select the important personages and events from the past? As soon as he selects something to write about or study he is giving it prominence and therefore expressing his bias. The only way history can be “objective” is if it is a list of events in chronological order. The historian who is so naive as to imagine that he is not biased is even more compromised because his bias is invisible to him and therefore all the more influential.

Given the fact that the study of history must be biased, it is much better therefore if the pretense of objectivity is dropped. Much clearer if we know ahead of time that a historical study is written from a particular point of view. We can then make allowances for the bias and read other works from other perspectives to achieve balance. If I know that a particular historian is a Marxist or a feminist or a post-modern atheist I will understand their bias on history and the more they are open about it, while still trying to be as objective as possible, the better will the exercise be.

Discussing the tendency toward bias is an excellent way to attempt objectivity. Indeed, I would argue that it is the only way to attempt objectivity, and that taking one’s own objectivity for granted is the very definition of its opposite, subjectivity.
If one reads the quoted text and substitutes the term “journalist” for “historian,” one sees that journalism as we have known it all our lives is utterly corrupt. For the wire services have no choice but to claim objectivity for themselves and for the faceless reporters in distant scenes of sensational events. Continuously maintaining a culture of presumed objectivity for a century and a half, from the middle of the Nineteenth Century foundation of the AP on, has one inevitable result - homogenization of perspective among journalists. Just as inevitably, that homogenized perspective of journalism is self-serving.

Who can control their own tongue? And who can do so, when they “buy ink by the carload” - and everyone else who does the same is careful not to point out your bias, because they share it? The inevitable result is that wire service journalism tends to slander anyone who does not go along and get along with it. And that wire service journalism tends to inflate the reputation of anyone who does toady up to wire service journalism. The observable result is that people who set talk and criticism above action - second guessers - are praised as “objective” if they work as journalists, and as “progressive” or “liberal” if they are politicians. Americans, who believe in liberty and progress, are attracted to ideas labeled “progressive” or “liberal” - and are put off by labels such as “conservative” or “right wing."

Journalism and Objectivity


3 posted on 07/18/2012 4:57:46 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion (The idea around which “liberalism" coheres is that NOTHING actually matters except PR.)
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To: iowamark

The history of physical events can be written objectively, can’t it? I would imagine one could write about volcanoes, earthquakes, stuff like that, without being subjective. Sort of like a newscaster that reported about a landslide or such.


4 posted on 07/18/2012 5:44:00 AM PDT by stuartcr ("When silence speaks, it speaks only to those that have already decided what they want to hear.")
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To: iowamark
Nicely done, but you might want to rethink this:

Witness one says the suspect wore a red hat. Witness two says it was a pink hat with a red band. The detail differs and because it does it feels right that both persons are probably eyewitnesses.

Different facts are emphasized in the 4 accounts at times, but that is different from direct conflict regarding the same facts that are discussed.

5 posted on 07/18/2012 6:47:13 AM PDT by mikeus_maximus (I won't vote for Romney, period. Voting for "the lesser of two evils" is still voting for evil.)
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To: iowamark
Nicely done, but you might want to rethink this:

Witness one says the suspect wore a red hat. Witness two says it was a pink hat with a red band. The detail differs and because it does it feels right that both persons are probably eyewitnesses.

Different facts are emphasized in the 4 accounts at times, but that is different from direct conflict regarding the same facts that are discussed.

6 posted on 07/18/2012 6:49:53 AM PDT by mikeus_maximus (I won't vote for Romney, period. Voting for "the lesser of two evils" is still voting for evil.)
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To: iowamark
Instead of one single record–like a single biography–of the life of Christ we have not only four different versions (totally unheard of for any character in ancient history) but those four versions themselves are compilations of the accounts of many individuals who were present at the events. This multiplicity of sources adds an astounding level of veracity to the gospels since those many different sources check and balance and correct one another.

The community origin of the gospels makes them completely unique documents in human history. Nowhere else do we have four accounts of a character from ancient history written within sixty years of his death, compiled not by one person but compiled out of the community experience. These documents are not compiled by a single historian who is prone not only to bias, but to factual errors and misunderstandings. Because the gospels come out of this lived and shared experience they are far more likely to be accounts of what really happened. If something blatantly false were written the community would have corrected it.

While Catholics believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it is true, one cannot take individual biblical quotes or passages and say each one is literally true, Pope Benedict XVI said....

....The commission of biblical scholars, an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, met at the Vatican May 2-6 to continue discussions about #147;Inspiration and Truth in the Bible”....

....In his message, the Pope said clearer explanations about the Catholic position on the divine inspiration and truth of the Bible were important because some people seem to treat the Scriptures simply as literature, while others believe that each line was dictated by the Holy Spirit and is literally true. Neither position is Catholic, the Pope said.
-- from the thread How to Read the Bible as a Catholic [How? Don't take indv. verses as "literally true", says Pope]

Yesterday saw...a forceful plea from a key papal advisor [Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, the rector of the Lateran University and President of the Pontifical Academy for Life] to reject the idea of Christianity as a “Religion of the Book”....
-- from the thread Synod: Christianity not a 'Religion of the Book'

"As we begin the work of this synodal assembly, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let us turn our gaze to Christ, the light of the world and our only teacher," Cardinal Levada encouraged. The prelate's point was further developed when Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, took the floor to affirm that the Word is much more than the Bible. He clarified that Christianity is not a religion of the Book.
-- from the thread Cardinal Says Scripture Inseparably United to Tradition
...while fewer believers know much about the Bible, one-third of Americans continue to believe that it is literally true, something organizers of the Synod on the Word of God called a dangerous form of fundamentalism that is “winning more and more adherents…even among Catholics.” Such literalism, the synod’s preparatory document said, “demands an unshakable adherence to rigid doctrinal points of view and imposes, as the only source of teaching for Christian life and salvation, a reading of the Bible which rejects all questioning and any kind of critical research”....
-- from the thread A Literate Church: The state of Catholic Bible study today

7 posted on 07/18/2012 7:08:00 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2898271/posts?page=119#119)
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To: Alex Murphy; metmom; boatbums; caww; presently no screen name; smvoice; Springfield Reformer; ...

To which can be added RC adherence to the discredited JEDP theory, and relegating numerous historical accounts in the RC NAB approved notes to being fables or folk tales, among other denials. (http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/Ancients_on_Scripture.html#Remarks)

Not really what the conservative element wants to see, while the more literally a Catholics holds the Bible to be then the more conservative they are. American Piety in the 21st Century, Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/33304.pdf


8 posted on 07/18/2012 8:03:36 AM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to save you, then live 4 Him)
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To: daniel1212
Not really what the conservative element wants to see, while the more literally a Catholics holds the Bible to be then the more conservative they are.

I'm not so sure that's true. I'll take the Pope's words over Fr. Dwight Longnecker's, over what a Catholic is supposed to believe regarding the Bible. The more a Catholic believes the Bible to be literally true, the more out of step they are with their Pope, with their Cardinals, and with their Bishops.

9 posted on 07/18/2012 8:13:07 AM PDT by Alex Murphy (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2898271/posts?page=119#119)
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To: Alex Murphy

Not true.


10 posted on 07/18/2012 8:21:06 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Alex Murphy
"The more a Catholic believes the Bible to be literally true, the more out of step they are with their Pope,..."

As the Pope once said; "It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free." The truth is not the vain construct of those driven by their envy and hatred of the Church nor the recitations brought forth from maleducation.

"Sacred Scripture isn't merely a text written in the past, but rather the word of God that has within it a personal message directed to each individual Christian....We should never forget that the word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go; what is very modern today will be old tomorrow. But the word of God is the word of eternal life, it carries within itself eternity, which is always valuable. Carrying within ourselves the word of God, we also carry eternal life." - Pope Benedict XVI

11 posted on 07/18/2012 8:36:05 AM PDT by Natural Law (Jesus did not leave us a Bible, He left us a Church.)
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To: iowamark

Good article.


12 posted on 07/18/2012 8:41:12 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: iowamark
Catholic Scripture Study Bible - RSV Large Print Edition


"We are compelled to concede to the Papists
that they have the Word of God,
that we received it from them,
and that without them
we should have no knowledge of it at all."

~ Martin Luther



Are the Gospels Historical?
What is Biblical Prophecy? What Biblical Prophecy is NOT, and What It Really IS
Biblical Illiteracy and Bible Babel
The Pilgrims' Regress - The Geneva Bible And The "Apocrypha"

The "Inconvenient Tale" of the Original King James Bible
The Bible - an absolutely amazing book
Christian Scriptures, Jewish Commentary
Essays for Lent: The Canon of Scripture
Essays for Lent: The Bible
1500 year-old ‘ Syriac ‘ Bible found in Ankara, Turkey
How we should read the Bible
St. Jerome and the Vulgate (completing the FIRST Bible in the year 404) [Catholic Caucus]
In Bible Times
Deuterocanonical References in the New Testament

Translations Before the King James: - The KJV Translators Speak!
EWTN Live - March 23 - A Journey Through the Bible
"Our Father's Plan" - EWTN series with Dr. Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins on the Bible timeline
The Daunting Journey From Faith to Faith [Anglicanism to Catholicism]
Reflections on the Soon to Be Released New American Bible (Revised Edition)[Catholic Caucus]
New American Bible changes some words such as "holocaust"
Is the Bible the Only Revelation from God? (Catholic / Orthodox Caucus)
History of the Bible (caution: long)
Catholic and Protestant Bibles
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: ON READING THE BIBLE [Catholic Caucus]

Because I Love the Bible
Where Is That Taught in the Bible?
When Was the Bible Really Written?
Three Reasons for Teaching the Bible [St. Thomas Aquinas]
The Smiting Is Still Implied (God of the OT vs the NT)
Where Is That Taught in the Bible?
Friday Fast Fact: The Bible in English
Bible Reading is Central in Conversions to Catholicism in Shangai, Reports Organization
Verses (in Scripture) I Never Saw
5 Myths about 7 Books

Lectionary Statistics - How much of the Bible is included in the Lectionary for Mass? (Popquiz!)
Pope calls Catholics to daily meditation on the Bible
What Are the "Apocrypha?"
The Accuracy of Scripture
US Conference of Catholic Bishops recommendations for Bible study
CNA unveils resource to help Catholics understand the Scriptures
The Dos and Don’ts of Reading the Bible [Ecumenical]
Pope to lead marathon Bible reading on Italian TV
The Complete Bible: Why Catholics Have Seven More Books [Ecumenical]
Beginning Catholic: Books of the Catholic Bible: The Complete Scriptures [Ecumenical]

Beginning Catholic: When Was The Bible Written? [Ecumenical]
The Complete Bible: Why Catholics Have Seven More Books [Ecumenical]
U.S. among most Bible-literate nations: poll
Bible Lovers Not Defined by Denomination, Politics
Dei Verbum (Catholics and the Bible)
Vatican Offers Rich Online Source of Bible Commentary
Clergy Congregation Takes Bible Online
Knowing Mary Through the Bible: Mary's Last Words
A Bible Teaser For You... (for everyone :-)
Knowing Mary Through the Bible: New Wine, New Eve

Return of Devil's Bible to Prague draws crowds
Doctrinal Concordance of the Bible [What Catholics Believe from the Bible] Catholic Caucus
Should We Take the Bible Literally or Figuratively?
Glimpsing Words, Practices, or Beliefs Unique to Catholicism [Bible Trivia]
Catholic and Protestant Bibles: What is the Difference?
Church and the Bible(Caatholic Caucus)
Pope Urges Prayerful Reading of Bible
Catholic Caucus: It's the Church's Bible
How Tradition Gave Us the Bible
The Church or the Bible

13 posted on 07/18/2012 8:42:06 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Alex Murphy

And then you have the unTraditional Traditional RC seen on this thread: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2907866/posts


14 posted on 07/18/2012 12:28:11 PM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to save you, then live 4 Him)
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To: Alex Murphy

Sorry. I meant the “prophetic” publisher on this page of this thread: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2907866/posts


15 posted on 07/18/2012 12:32:00 PM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to save you, then live 4 Him)
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To: Salvation; Alex Murphy
We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of God, that we received it from them, and that without them we should have no knowledge of it at all.

So what's your point?

Just because the Papists kept Scripture for 1.5K years doesn't mean they have some special insight.

All we have to do is look at how the RC church changed between the Councils of Orange and Trent and we can see how much it jumped the track.

16 posted on 07/18/2012 1:48:25 PM PDT by Gamecock (We don't come to Christ to be born again; rather, we are born again in order to come to Christ. RCS)
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To: Gamecock
Just because the Papists kept Scripture for 1.5K years doesn't mean they have some special insight.

Just because they kept it doesn't mean they read it :).

After all, the Israelites kept it too, yet in King Josiah's day the Pentateuch had gone unread for countless generations (2 Kings 22:8-11) until the day King Josaih obeyed God (Deuteronomy 31:9-13) and read it aloud before all of Israel (2 Kings 23:1-3).

17 posted on 07/18/2012 2:08:21 PM PDT by Alex Murphy (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2898271/posts?page=119#119)
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To: Alex Murphy
That too.

It's like saying just because some Martian shows up with a long lost copy of the Declaration of Independence we should make him President.

18 posted on 07/18/2012 2:11:21 PM PDT by Gamecock (We don't come to Christ to be born again; rather, we are born again in order to come to Christ. RCS)
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To: Gamecock
It's like saying just because some Martian shows up with a long lost copy of the Declaration of Independence we should make him President.

Star Trek Omega Glory
"You expect me to vote for who?"

19 posted on 07/18/2012 2:21:45 PM PDT by Alex Murphy (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2898271/posts?page=119#119)
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To: Gamecock
It's like saying just because some Martian shows up with a long lost copy of the Declaration of Independence we should make him President.

Maybe it's like someone like you saying that, but the similarity ends there. If you have to use Martians showing up as an argument, your point pretty much ends there.

20 posted on 07/18/2012 2:22:40 PM PDT by Hacksaw (If I had a son, he'd look like George Zimmerman.)
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To: Gamecock
It's like saying just because some Martian shows up with a long lost copy of the Declaration of Independence we should make him President.

Maybe it's like someone like you saying that, but the similarity ends there. If you have to use Martians showing up as an argument, your point pretty much ends there.

21 posted on 07/18/2012 2:23:07 PM PDT by Hacksaw (If I had a son, he'd look like George Zimmerman.)
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To: Hacksaw

Not at all.

It shows how absure the Papist argument really is.


22 posted on 07/18/2012 2:50:21 PM PDT by Gamecock (We don't come to Christ to be born again; rather, we are born again in order to come to Christ. RCS)
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To: mikeus_maximus

It’s important to focus on which facts are essential or necessary and which are not.

If two witnesses don’t present the same testimony on fringe elements (one witness reports red hat, 2nd witness omits the hat) but both assert the event occurred, we should consider the possibility that discrepancy regarding fringe elements are irrelevant. The accuracy—that the primary event actually occurred—is upheld.


23 posted on 07/19/2012 2:30:54 PM PDT by reasonisfaith (Why do you seek the living among the dead? (Luke 24:5))
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion; iowamark; All

Thanks for the ping. Very good post; very good article; very good thread. BTTT!


24 posted on 07/21/2012 7:49:53 PM PDT by PGalt
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To: Gamecock; Salvation; Alex Murphy; daniel1212
We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of God, that we received it from them, and that without them we should have no knowledge of it at all.

So what's your point?

Just because the Papists kept Scripture for 1.5K years doesn't mean they have some special insight.

Not trying to reopen any scraps, but I've seen this obscure Luther quote used a lot here by Catholics and, oddly enough, there is NEVER an attribution give for it other Ta everyone is to assume it's something Luther actually said. Without a context for it, I don't think it is fair to toss it out and presume all arguments about Scripture should grind to a halt over what Luther said about who "gave" us Scripture or who is authorized with telling us what Scripture really says. I did a little searching and found this article about that quote:

From http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/search?q=We+are+compelled+to+concede+to+the+Papists+that+they+have+the+Word+of+God%2C, we learn:

    1. Locate a Reference or Citation: Commentary or Sermon?

    First, thank the Roman Catholic using this quote for providing a reference. Normally, the citation given will simply be “Luther’s commentary on John 16.” Now this is not totally correct- the citation is from Luther’s Sermons on John 16 [LW 24], not a commentary. Luther preached on John 14-16 after March 14, 1537, finishing in either June or July of 1537. The sermons were taken down and edited by Caspar Cruciger. Luther actually credits Cruciger for writing the book. In other words, Luther didn’t sit down and write an exegetical commentary on John. Rather, this quote was the result of preaching, and someone else writing it down the way he heard it.

    2. Locate a Translation: Do Catholics Actually Read Luther?

    The question that I always consider when reading Roman Catholics quote Luther, is if they’ve actually read Luther. This quote serves as a great opportunity to find out. The quote as typically cited, “We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists--that with them is the Word of God, which we received from them; otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it” is not the translation from the standard English 55 volume version of Luther’s Works [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House]. Nor is it from the earlier small English set of Luther’s Works (known as the Philadelphia or Holman edition of the Works of Martin Luther), because that set doesn’t contain Luther’s Sermons on John 16. So where did the Roman Catholic citing this quote get it from? My guess is they can’t tell you, because they haven’t actually read Luther’s Sermons on John 16. They have this quote which they've read somewhere, and thought it made their point. It's probably the result of cut-and-paste, not research.

    3. Put the Quote in a Context: What Does Luther Really Mean?

    In expounding on John 16, Luther discusses how those who call themselves the “True Church” actually became corrupt and began persecuting true believers- just as the Jewish leadership did to the Old Testament prophets (like Jeremiah). Luther says,

    “Today the pope and his crowd cry out against us that they are the church, since they have received Baptism, the Sacrament, and Holy Writ from the apostles and are their successors. They say: “Where else should God’s people be than where His name is praised, and where the successors and heirs of His apostles are to be found? Surely the Turks, the Tartars, and the heathen cannot be His people. Therefore we must be His people; otherwise it will be altogether impossible to find a people of God on earth. Consequently, he who rebels against us resists the Christian Church and Christ Himself.”” [LW 24:303].

    But Luther insists they who make this claim are just like the Old Testament Jewish leadership. They claimed to be God’s people (and at one time they were), but because of sin and corruption, they actually persecuted God’s true people. They did not heed the words of the prophets. Luther notes that the plight of the true Christian in such a circumstance is exceedingly difficult. He says,

    “This will surely offend and repel anyone who is not armed with different weapons and different strength, who listens only to such opinions of the most eminent and influential people on earth. “You are a heretic and an apostle of the devil,” “You are preaching against God’s people and the church, yes, against God Himself.” For it is exceedingly difficult to deprive them of this argument and to talk them out of it." [LW 24:304].

    Then, comes the citation in question:

    “Yes, we ourselves find it difficult to refute it, especially since we concede—as we must—that so much of what they say is true: that the papacy has God’s Word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scripture, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them? Therefore faith, the Christian Church, Christ, and the Holy Spirit must also be found among them. What business have I, then, to preach against them as a pupil preaching against his teachers? Then there come rushing into my heart thoughts like these: “Now I see that I am in error. Oh, if only I had never started this and had never preached a word! For who dares oppose the church, of which we confess in the Creed: I believe in a holy Christian Church, etc.? Now I find this church in the papacy too. It follows, therefore, that if I condemn this church, I am excommunicated, rejected, and damned by God and all the saints.” [LW 24:304].

    Is Luther conceding an infallible church gave us the canon? Absolutely not. Is Luther saying an infallible extra-biblical tradition produced the Canon? Absolutely Not. Luther is simply saying that he learned about the Scriptures, Baptism, and the Pulpit, etc. from the Church of his day, in the same way the Prophets were born into a society in which the religious structure of their day was functioning, and gave the Old Testament people a religious context to live in. The visible church indeed promulgated the Scriptures and Christian doctrine. Who can deny this? But simply because they did so, does not mean the visible church in Rome infallibly declared the canon of Scripture.

    Luther held that the Church was God's hand maid and servant. It does not create God's Word, God's Word creates the Church. As the servant of the Word, it gives the Word to the body of Christ, His people. Indeed, who would know God's Word if it were not for the Church continually upholding it and pointing God's people to it in each generation? One should be able to sense the thrust of Luther's argument: when the visible Church goes bad, going against it is an awesome and fearful undertaking. The Church is God's handmaid. It is to protect and promulgate the Word- but what happens when the servant disobeys the Master? Who can condemn the handmaid and not be fearful?

    The quote as cited by Roman Catholics has nothing to do with an infallible Church declaring the contents of Scripture. The quote isn't discussing canonicity. The quote isn't discussing if Rome gave us an infallible list of biblical books. Rather, the quote is part of an argument based on Old Testament Israel persecuting God’s true people, and the Roman Catholic Church persecuting the Reformers. This is made clear as Luther continues. Old Testament Judaism had God's law. does this mean they were the ones who infallibly declared what that law was?

    “But what is now our defense? And what is the ground on which we can hold our own against such offense and continue to defy those people? It is nothing else than the masterly statement St. Paul employs in Rom. 9:7: “Not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants.” Not all who bear the name are Israelites; or, as the saying goes: “Not all who carry long knives are cooks.” Thus not all who lay claim to the title “church” are the church. There is often a great difference between the name and the reality. The name is general. All are called God’s people, children of Abraham, Christ’s disciples and members; but this does not mean that they all are what the name signifies. For the name “church” includes many scoundrels and rascals who refused to obey God’s Word and acted contrary to it. Yet they were called heirs and successors of the holy patriarchs, priests, and prophets. To be sure, they had God’s Law and promise, the temple, and the priesthood. In fact, they should have been God’s people; but they practiced idolatry so freely under the cloak of the name “church” that God was forced to say: “This shall no longer be My temple and priesthood. My people shall no longer be My people. But to those who are not My people it shall be said: ‘You are sons of the living God’ ” (Hos. 1:10; 2:23).” [LW 24:304].

    Luther realizes that even within the corrupt papacy, the true church exists:

    “Thus we are also compelled to say: “I believe and am sure that the Christian Church has remained even in the papacy. On the other hand, I know that most of the papists are not the Christian Church, even though they give everyone the impression that they are. Today our popes, cardinals, and bishops are not God’s apostles and bishops; they are the devil’s. And their people are not God’s people; they are the devil’s. And yet some of the papists are true Christians, even though they, too, have been led astray, as Christ foretold in Matt. 24:24. But by the grace of God and with His help they have been preserved in a wonderful manner.” [LW 24:305].

    “In the meantime we adhere to the distinction made here by Christ and do not regard as Christendom those who do not hold truly and absolutely to what Christ taught, gave, and ordained, no matter how great, holy, and learned they may be. We tell them that they are the devil’s church. On the other hand, we want to acknowledge and honor as the true bride of Christ those who remain faithful to His pure Word and have no other comfort for their hearts than this Savior, whom they have received and confessed in Baptism and in whose name they have partaken of the Sacrament. These are the true church. It is not found in only one place, as, for example, under the pope; but it exists over the entire earth wherever Christians are found. Outwardly they may be scattered here and there, but they meet in the words of the Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was born, suffered, and died for us on the cross.” In like manner, they pray: “Our Father who art in heaven.” They share the same Spirit, Word, and Sacrament. They all lead the same holy and blessed life, each one according to his calling, whether father, mother, master, servant, etc. Thus whatever we preach, believe, and live, this they all preach, believe, and live. Physically separated and scattered here and there throughout the wide world, we are nevertheless gathered and united in Christ.”[LW 24:309].

    From these paragraphs, it should be obvious what Luther is driving at. It is the job of the True Church- those who believe and trust only in Christ's righteousness by faith, to call the visible church to repentance. The visible church will claim to be God speaking. The visible church may claim to be that authority which determined the Canon. But if the visible church is in rebellion against God, it is the task of the true Christian to point her back to her master.

Though I am not a Lutheran, I AM interested in finding out the truth and, more often than not, when Catholics "quote" Martin Luther at all it is usually out of context or, in some cases I have found, completely fabricated - something he never really said at all. This link http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2005_07_01_archive.html is a good source for finding such quotes and researching if they can legitimately be used or not.

25 posted on 07/21/2012 11:03:23 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: boatbums; Alex Murphy; Gamecock; metmom; caww; presently no screen name; smvoice; HarleyD; ...
when Catholics "quote" Martin Luther at all it is usually out of context or, in some cases I have found, completely fabricated - something he never really said at all. This link http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2005_07_01_archive.html is a good source for finding such quotes and researching if they can legitimately be used or not.

That often is the case, and thank you for providing the link to Swan's extensive resources.

And as often pointed out, even being the instrument and steward of Holy Writ - and even the people through whom Christ came - (Rm. 3:2; 9:4,5) does not make, or require, them to be the infallible interpreters of it. Writings were recognized as being Divine,(Lk. 24:44) truth was preserved and men of God established as being so without an assuredly infallible office. (Mt. 23:2)

And God raised up imperfect men of God to correct the presumption of those who, like Rome, presumed a level of authority that was more than what was written, and thus faith was preserved among the remnant, and believed on an Itinerant but perfect Preacher whose authority they rejected, but which was established upon Scriptural substantiation, in text and in power.

And thus the church itself began in dissent from those who sat in the seat of Moses, and thus the church continues as God raises up imperfect men who speak truth to presumed power, preaching the gospel that effects manifest regeneration, in contrast to its institutionalized counterpart.

To God be the glory.

26 posted on 07/22/2012 6:24:32 AM PDT by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a damned+morally destitute sinner,+trust Him to save you, then live 4 Him)
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To: daniel1212; boatbums; Alex Murphy; Gamecock; metmom; caww; presently no screen name; smvoice
Luther would be the first to want to relook at what he stated. And bosterious as he was, Luther was very well aware of his limitations and he encouraged others to question what was being taught to avoid errors.

The Office of Preaching by Martin Luther

27 posted on 07/22/2012 11:19:46 AM PDT by HarleyD
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