(continued from last post)
Even if one does not subscribe to the literal or historical
truth of the events depicted in the Gospels, acceptance of their
symbolic significance generally suffices for a person to be called
Christian. And for many Christians they are assumed to be both
coherent and inerrant. From childhood, a Christian is socialized to
believe that the story of Jesus, as it is preserved in the Four
Gospels, is if not God-inspired, at least definitive. The Four
Evangelists, supposed authors of the Gospels, are deemed to be
reliable witnesses who consistantly reinforce and confirm each other's
testimony. Most editions of the Christian Bible include a "Harmony of
the Gospels" in the appendix. Of the people who today call
themselves Christians, relatively few are aware of the fact that the
four Gospels not only contradict each other in more than one way, but
at times they violently disagree.
B.) The Origin and Birth of Jesus
So far as popular tradition is concerned, the origin and birth
of Jesus are well enough known. In reality, the Gospels, on which that
tradition is based, are considerably more vague on the matter.
According to Matthew, Jesus was an aristocrat, descended from David via
Solomon, and a credible heir to the throne of Judea, one of
the two discrete districts of Roman Palestine. According to Luke,
Jesus' family, though of the Davidic line, was somehow not as destined
to the throne. And Mark goes even further and says that Jesus was born
to a working-class family of "Tectonae" or builders. It's not clear
from the Koine whether or not, as conventional wisdom has it, that
Joseph was a carpenter or not. The two geneologies, one in Matthew and
one in Luke, disagree wildly.
The discrepencies between the Gospels are not confined to the
question of Jesus' ancestry and genealogy. According to Luke, Jesus,
on his birth, was visited by shepherds. But according to Matthew, he
was visited by priest-kings, the Magi of Persia, which incidentally
was what the priests of Mithras were called.
According to Luke, Jesus' family lived in Nazareth, a town that did
not exist in its present form and under that name until the Second
Century CE. From here they are said to have journeyed, for a census
(that history suggests never in fact occurred) to Bethlehem, where
Jesus was born in the poverty of a manger. But according to Matthew,
his family had been fairly well to do residents of Bethlehem all along,
and Jesus himself was born in a house.
In Matthew's version Herod's persecution of the innocents prompts the
family to flee into Egypt, and only on their return do they make their
home in Nazareth. Again, this town did not exist at the time that the
events in the New Testament are said to happen, at roughly 4 BCE to
Such a glaring difference in stories cannot be just shrugged off.
If two witnesses gave such divergent stories in court, the Judge would
have to rule one or the other wrong. Yet both stories are held as truth
without question by Christianity. Therefore, the Gospels cannot be
regarded as inerrant. How can they be inerrant...without error...when
they are inconsistent with each other on the basic question on Jesus'
origins? And it gets even stranger.
(continued next post)