Friday, April 5, 2013

Denial of a Difference

Sometime during the Last Supper, Jesus revealed that one of the Disciples would betray Him. Depending on which Gospel you read, that revelation occurred either before or after Jesus told His Disciples to get together to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of Him. According to John, that dialog about bread-body, wine-blood, and remembrance did not happen, but Judas did leave the group right after Jesus identified him as a traitor. So then in John, Jesus explained to the remaining Disciples that seeing Jesus was the same as seeing God, and that people were now guilty because they had heard Him and had seen His miracles. Sometime around then, another shocking prophesy was revealed.

Denial of a Difference
There are Christians who claim that there are no contradictions in the Bible at all. Its words are witnesses against them. Some of the most remarkable contradictions in the Gospels are accounts of the most remarkable events; events leading to the Crucifixion and Jesus' resurrected appearances. Memory is far from perfect, but the eyewitnesses should have had nearly indelible imprints on their minds of these particular, dramatic events. If they had any doubts, they could always confer with the other eyewitnesses in their group to figure out the truth, but that is not what we see. Take Jesus' prophesy of Peter's denial, for example.

Matthew 26:31-35, Mark 14:27-31, Luke 22:31-34, and John 13:36-38 each record how Jesus revealed to Peter that he would soon deny knowing Him.

Where does this announcement occur? According to Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26, this is either at, or on their way to, the Mount of Olives. However, according to Luke 22:39 and John 18:1, this happened before they left dinner. So already we are off to an infallible start! ;-)

Speaking of starting, we will begin with Mark's account, and Mark 14:27 begins with a prophesy:
"You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written:
" 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' " NIV
It is written where? (You may ask.) Jesus provided a partial misquote of Zechariah 13:7. Not only is it a misquote, but it is also incredibly out of context. Just looking at the full verse of Zechariah 13:7 begins to show that:
“Awake, sword, against My shepherd, against the man who is close to Me!” declares the Lord Almighty. "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones." NIV
The "sword" is a reference of an invading army. Jesus was not killed, or struck, by a sword. Note that this is God speaking. Note how God plans on turning His hand against the "little ones". That is not at all what happened when Jesus was struck down. Just who were these "little ones"? Let us find out.

Take a moment to read Zechariah 13. It is only nine verses long. You will see that it starts out pretty strong. Zechariah 13:1 speaks of some day when "a fountain" will allow the Jews to be cleansed of sin and impurity. That kind of sounds like Jesus, right?

Then Zechariah 13:2-6 tells how on that same day, God will banish idols and prophets. Prophets would so utterly ashamed to be prophets that they would deny claiming that profession. Even a prophet's own parents would kill him. This is all under God's direction, yet compare that to Romans 12:6 and 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, where prophesy was one of the desirable "gifts of the Spirit", or Acts 11:28 where a man was applauded for his prophesy, or Revelation 10:11 where John was told to give prophesies, or Revelation 11:3, where there will be two prophets during the end times. Something is not quite right here, and we will soon see why.

Where were we? Oh yes, the "little ones" in Zechariah 13:7. Well, Zechariah 13:8-9 helps to clear that up. In those verses, we see that two-thirds of the people will be killed, and the rest will be put through some sort of refining trial, where they will learn to call God their Lord. So the "little ones" who God will turn His hand against appear to be the two-thirds who will be killed, but what is going on here? This does not sound anything like what happened when Jesus was around.

If you have read through the Old Testament, you may know what this prophesy is about, because it all aligns to one particular epic event. Prior to the Jewish exile from the Promised Land, there were lying prophets who were giving the leaders false assurance against God's will (Jeremiah 23:36, Ezekiel 13:9, Ezekiel 22:28). Idol worship was also a problem at time (Jeremiah 2:11, Jeremiah 7:30, Ezekiel 6:5). So God's plan was to kill Jerusalem's leaders and these false prophets, as well as kill a large number of the Jews as He brought a mighty army to lay siege to them (Jeremiah 4:5-9, Jeremiah 13:12-14). Then, while in pain of exile, they would remember to worship only God (Jeremiah 51:50, Ezekiel 6:8-10). With that background knowledge, the intended meaning in Zechariah's prophesy obvious. It is also obvious that Jesus, or whoever authored the words behind Mark 14:27, cherry-picked the verse right out of its context in a pathetic attempt to bolster Jesus' credibility.

OK, back to Peter's denial. In Mark 14:28, Jesus told the Disciples that He would meet up with them in Galilee after He was resurrected. Then Peter said that he would not fall away, but Jesus said that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed twice (Mark 14:29-30). Yet Peter, and all the other Disciples, claimed that they would not disown Jesus (Mark 14:31). So while this story is usually presented with only Peter not believing Jesus' prophesy, actually none of the Disciples did.

Matthew tells the story essentially the same as Mark, including the misused prophetic quote. The only significant change is that Matthew's rooster is only crowing once (Matthew 26:34).

Luke has consistently been a better editor. Perhaps he realized just how poorly the prophesy was cherry-picked, because he removed it completely. Yet while Luke was better at editing out Mark's mistakes than Matthew, he was not always so good with theology in general. Luke 22:31-32 begins with this:
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." NIV
Satan has asked??? Asked who??? There is only one, uh... two, um... maybe a trinity of beings who Satan would be asking; God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. That actually makes some sense based on the Old Testament portrayal of Satan in the book of Job, where Satan is merely a servant of God. However, in Christianity, Satan is a rebel. Rebels do not ask for permission! Secondly, why did Jesus pray for Simon instead of just telling Satan; "No, you cannot have Simon. In fact, you cannot have anyone, because your will is against the will of God."

Anyway, besides cutting out the false prophesy and inappropriately adding Satan into the story, Luke also dropped any reference to the other Disciples falling away, and also had a single-crowing rooster.

That leaves us with John. Of course, John had to be different. John's Jesus was discussing going to see God, not how the Disciples would be scattered (John 13:36). Peter's protest was about his willingness to follow Jesus wherever He went, not about sticking by Jesus despite the coming crucifixion (John 13:37). And yet, despite these differences, Jesus still revealed that on that very night, Peter would disown Jesus three times before the rooster crowed (John 13:38).

How is it that John can be so different and yet contain essentially the same prophesy from Jesus? Just like we saw in the previous study, and several others, this simultaneous commonality and difference indicates both that this particular story of Peter's denial originated early in the legend of Jesus and that the story evolved over time; something which the truth rarely does.

Despite these blatant differences, there are believers who claim that the Bible is infallible and without contradiction. This perfectly illustrates how humanity is both capable and willing to overlook the facts when we want to believe something.


  1. Very interesting bog you have here.
    Just like Mark 14:27 tweaks Zechariah 13:7, it is interesting to note that all of the authors of the new testament were tweaking the OT verses to get their message through.
    Consider Romans 10:4-11 and Deuteronomy 30:10-14. Paul makes it sound as if the old testament supports his theology of faith and end of the law by saying that the word spoken in the OT verses

    "is near you, in your mouth and in your heart: the word of faith of which we are the preachers",

    while the OT makes it clear that the word is the law which

    "is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may do it.",

    Word of the law to DO IT, NOT word of faith to preach it :)

    You get the picture, right ;)

    Keep up with the good work.

  2. Thanks agema-makedonin. Yeah, the NT writers sure had a knack for twisting the OT Scripture. It is really amazing that they were able to get away with it, and not at all surprising that their views were rejected by learned Jews who actually knew what the Scripture said.

    You are right that God obviously intended for the Law to remain in effect forever. I did a study on the Law published here if you are interested.

    1. Hi TWF, I have already read your work on the Law. I like your love for details. I rarely have time to look at the bible closely, but had to do it time and again when I get preached that I am a eternal roasted beef :) You know the good news story ;)

      I am looking forward for your Judas Fish series.

    2. Ha! Yeah, it is always fun to get preached to about how you will burn forever in Hell agema-makedonin!

      By the way, I was just admiring your mash-up of the triumphant entry. Nice work!

    3. Thanx TWF. You know it was Easter, got some eggs to eat, watched discovery about the entry and wanted to see for my self what happens when you squash them all, you have seen the result ;)

      I look forward for a innovative Christian apologetic.

      I always wondered how is it possible to claim infallibility of a text and still claim it was a eye-witness testimony. The two just don't add up for me. Human memory is not infallible and can be easily manipulated like some researches have shown

      Have a nice day, kind regards.

    4. That is a great study. It is amazing just how much memory can be manipulated, huh? Thanks for the info agema-makedonin!

  3. Great post as always TWF. It's amazing to me that so many Christians will claim that there are no contradictions in the bible. There are just so damn many!

  4. Thanks Hausdorff! Yeah, I am really not sure how people can miss the contradictions. The mind is a weird thing...

  5. TWF:

    When discussing the Zechariah passage are you saying it is referring back to the exile before Zechariah?

  6. Hi Felix,

    Great question. I wasn't very clear, was I? :-)

    This is somewhat of a complex topic, and, as with pretty much all the prophesies, it seems that there are multiple interpretations, but, for what it's worth, this is how I see it:

    Zech 13:1-6 belong to the prophesy in Zech 12. However, Zech 13:7-9 seem a little at odds with that prophesy for many reasons, such as how in Zech 12, it sounds like God will protect all of the Israelites, and yet in Zech 13:7-9, 2/3 of them will die? It doesn't quite add up.

    However, if you look at Zech 13:7-9 as being independent of the preceding verses, and then compare it to Ezekiel 5 (particularly verses 2 and 12), you see the common theme of the sword coming against the Israelites, and 2/3's being killed. Ezekiel 5 doesn't mention refining the remainder, but other prophesies, speaking of the Exile, do, such as Isaiah 48:10 and Jeremiah 9:7.

    From what I've learned about the prophetic books, you can't necessarily rely on the sequential order of the contents to be all related, and sometimes (as I suggest the case is here) the contents are actually anachronistic with what would otherwise be considered surrounding context. This is due to the way that these prophesies were collected and consolidated over the years.

    I hope that little tidbit directs your research. I'd love to go in to deeper details, but time won't let me now. Please feel free to ask questions if you have them.

    1. TWF:

      Perhaps I should have been more direct, as I am uncertain. I was uncertain if whether or not you were misreading a prophecy placed in a post-exilic book as foretelling the cause of the exile (namely, the coming of the Babylonians).

      As for the usage of the statement itself, I think it would fit well simply as an allusion to the text because the particular quoted portion had a somewhat fitting meaning (although I'm sure some could extend it somewhat farther than I, probably something about the Jewish uprising ending in Jerusalem's destruction and the persecution of the church) and not as a claim to prophecy.

      I'm not entirely sure about your comments on the announcement's timing at least inasmuch as you seem to allow for the announcement to be at the Mount of Olives. Given that the Garden of Gethsemane, at least according to Wikipedia, was located at the foot of the Mount of Olives "on their way" seems to be the most sensible option. If I were forced to try and harmonize the times I would probably go with a double-incident defense or abuse the "and" so events could be squeezed in prior to the leaving of Jerusalem to go to the Mount, or going with Mark and Luke but makning John into the trip speech given the only bit of their journeying recorded in there is their entering the garden and make that imply they had been on their way, I don't know, I'm responding, for whatever reason, at like 1:00 A.M. Sorry.

      Thanks for keeping up here.

  7. TWF:

    Sorry a bit. Think I misread over your last portion and missed that part of your thought. That said, lacking knowledge on this particular position, as it stands now, this portion is in a text of a post-exilic prophet and so seems as if it ought to read in the only way we have it: as a purported prophecy of events in the time originating after the Judahite return from exile. That would how it would be read at the time it was used in the time of Christ and that is, I believe, relevant to this discussion.

    Hope all goes well. Sorry for posting on two pages.