Daily Archives: October 11, 2011

Maybe They Just Made A Mistake

I've been on vacation for the past week, so I haven't been doing much blogging or catching up with the latest drama bombs exploding in my own blogosphere. Upon catching up, I noticed a few posts (that are, obviously, a couple days old) going on again about the Adam and Eve or Original Sin deal. Again, the scientists smack down the sophisitaced theologians and their convoluted arguments.
What I don't get is why can't these theologians simply admit that Genesis is simply mistaken? Intellectual honesty demands that we disregard bad ideas, not reinterperet them so that we can keep our failed hypotheses. Speaking of theologians and intellectual honesty, here is an exerpt from Bart Ehrman's “Misquoting Jesus”:

A turning point came in my second semester, in a course I was taking with a much revered and pious professor named Cullen Story. The course was on the exegesis of the Gospel of Mark, at the time (and still) my favorite Gospel. For this course we needed to be able to read the Gospel of Mark completely in Greek (I memorized the entire Greek vocabulary of the Gospel the week before the semester began); we were to keep an exegetical notebook on our reflections on the interpretation of key passages; we discussed problems in the interpretation of the text; and we had to write a final term paper on an interpretive crux of our own choosing.

I chose a passage in Mark 2, where Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees because his disciples had been walking through a grain field, eating the grain on the Sabbath. Jesus wants to show the Pharisees that “Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath” and so reminds them of what the great King David had done when he and his men were hungry, how they went into the Temple “when Abiathar was the high priest” and ate the show bread, which was only for the priests to eat.

One of the well-known problems of the passage is that when one looks at the Old Testament passage that Jesus is citing (1 Sam. 21:16), it turns out that David did this not when Abiathar was the high priest, but, in fact, when Abiathar’s father Ahimelech was. In other words, this is one of those passages that have been pointed to in order to show that the Bible is not inerrant at all but contains mistakes.

In my paper for Professor Story, I developed a long and complicated argument to the effect that even though Mark indicates this happened “when Abiathar was the high priest,” it doesn’t really mean that Abiathar was the high priest, but that the event took place in the part of the scriptural text that has Abiathar as one of the main characters. My argument was based on the meaning of the Greek words involved and was a bit convoluted.

I was pretty sure Professor Story would appreciate the argument, since I knew him as a good Christian scholar who obviously (like me) would never think there could be anything like a genuine error in the Bible. But at the end of my paper he made a simple one-line comment that for some reason went straight through me.

He wrote: “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.”

I started thinking about it, considering all the work I had put into the paper, realizing that I had had to do some pretty fancy exegetical footwork to get around the problem, and that my solution was in fact a bit of a stretch.

I finally concluded, “Hmm … maybe Mark did make a mistake.”

Once I made that admission, the floodgates opened …

Notice what happened here. Ehrman went into this assignment with the presupposition that Mark was 100% correct. In order to maintain that premise, he had to construct a highly speculative and convoluted argument to maintain his prior that Mark was 100% correct. In actuality, the simplest explanation (also the more likely explanation) was that Mark just made a mistake. Intellectual honesty is what made Ehrman go with the simpler conclusion “maybe Mark did make a mistake.”.
Why go through the tortured exegesis to turn what the majority of historical and modern laymen Christians took and take as literal into a meaningless allegory? Why not just say “Ok, the story in Genesis is just wrong”? It's because, no matter how sophisticated these theologians are, they are still stuck on the hook of having the Genesis story be “true” in some sense. They are undercover inerrantists. They may not proclaim inerrancy openly, but their obdurate refusal to allow Genesis to be a product of its enviroment and not a document that has any relevance to the 21st century humanity is the same sort of misues that all open inerrantists commit.
Claiming that it's allegory does not hide the abuse. Maybe the writers of Genesis just made a mistake.
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in apologetics

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