Fact checking the Bible (Part 2)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • Deuteronomy 19:15 ESV, 2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV, John 8:17-18 ESV Matthew 18:16, 1 timothy 5:19, Hebrews 10:28, Numbers 35:30
  • Luk 24:1-3, 9-11 Mat 28:1-7, Jhn 20:1-3, Mark 16:1-7
  • John 19:25 
  • Gen 1:26-27, Mark 10:6 
  • Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, John 6:1-15, Luke 9:10-17 
  • Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-9
  • Acts 7
  • Exodus 7:10-11 ESV 
  • 2 Timothy 3:8 ESV 
  • Hebrews 13:1-2 ESV 
  • Mat 22:29-30 
  • James 1:17 ESV 
  • 1 John 4:8 ESV 
  • Genesis 4:17-24 ESV

Interesting reading

The concept of 3 or more witnesses

I talked about two ideas. The first is what happens when you use the Bible to cross-reference itself. The second is the idea of using multiple witnesses (or pieces of evidence) to establish something as truth. 

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Matthew 18:15-16 ESV

Let’s look at this situation about two or three one more times to get a better grasp of what is going on. Imagine you walk into a room and you have a glass cup that is smashed on the floor. There is only one thing and it is clear it leads to a truth that something happened. Later you have two kids walk into a room and both claim a different story about how the glass smashed on the floor. What you can do is use their stories and line them up with the cup to see which one is more accurately in line with the facts of the smashed up. But the cup alone doesn’t give you the story of what happened. We know it was smashed and can infer some things. But just the cup smashing itself is not enough to tell what happened.

Three witnesses of Jesus’ Fulfillment

Through the Bible, similar situations happen. Out of the old testament, we get this concept that the Messiah (Christ) is supposed to come and take away the sins of the world. That is a promise of God so you can consider that as a fact that it will happen. But now Jesus comes along and starts making claims and people start seeing the implications that Jesus is claiming to be this person. Now you don’t just have Jesus claiming to be this Messiah, you also have the Father and the Spirit:

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 15:26 ESV

17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

John 8:17-18 ESV

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:16-17 ESV

The witness of three women

When you look at the most important core message of Christianity, they rely on two important facts. The first is that Jesus died for our sins, and the second is that he was raised again on the third day. This is at the core of the definition of the gospel as defined by Paul.

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

When you look at these two events, you find that at the crucifixion there were multiple people, not just three. There were Jews who rejected Jesus, the Jew who supported Jesus (the disciples), there were the gentiles around (the Romans), and so on. But you can make several observations about the witnesses who were there at the time. [ also see Mat 28:1-7, Jhn 20:1-3]

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:25 ESV

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:25 ESV

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. … 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

Luke 24:1-3, 9-11 ESV

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. … 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Mark 16:1-2, 7 ESV

When you compare the events, there are at least three witnesses who saw both accounts. But moreover, at least two of the witnesses were at both events. It helps demonstrate that not only are there groups of people who say the events, but the same people saw both events. The witness didn’t get half of the story, they got both sides of the story.

There is something else to be said. There are three witnesses that help establish the testimony of the cross and resurrection. The message of the Gospel was first spread by the women, not the men (including the disciples). This is one way you can show that the testimony of a woman is equal to that of a man. The same conditions that need for anyone to establish the truth are met independently of whether it is a man or a woman.

Feeding of the 4 and 5 thousand

You might get some deja-vu when reading and come across the passages where Jesus multiplied bread and fish. This is one of those places where you need to ask, did the Disciples get the story right? There are different details mentioned, so are they the same event with similar details, or are they different events? When you look at the passage you can compare them in many ways.

  • 5000: Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, John 6:1-15, Luke 9:10-17
  • 4000: Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-9

There are several differences on a surface level and several within the greek. Overall they do have similar things happen such as multiplying the bread, collecting baskets, and a large number of people. But when you get into the details it is clear there are differences so much so that they are more than likely not the same event. How the people get there is different, how much time Jesus spends with the crowd is different, the conversation with the disciples have a different emphasis, the lessons that can be learned between the two can be different, and so on. The classic example is how the symbolism is different. Jesus feeds the group with different numbers of loaves and different numbers of baskets are collected later. One note that some have noticed is that one crowd seems to be Jewish the other gentile. Ironically Jesus instantly takes care of the Jewish crowd and then speaks to the disciples about how to deal with the gentile one. This echoes issues from Acts. 5 loaves are used to feed the Jewish crowd. When you think of the idea that bread can resemble the word of God as something you should chew on and it sustains you each day. Similar to the idea of mana in the wilderness. If you consider the parallelism to the five books of Moses, out of these teachings come the twelve tribes. In the gentile case, seven loaves are used. Paul primarily writes to 7 churches (although some several times). He does write to individuals as well, but the concept that the letters were instructions directed at the church first. Similarly, the five books of Moses were for all of Israel. We find that out of that in Revelation 2 and 3, 7 types of Churches are found. As much as all congregations want to be Philadelphians, all churches are a mixture of each of the seven letters, some more distantly than others. 

But in either case, even though there are two events, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the same. You need more details to tell them about and unless the context is clear, it can be easy to assume they are the same event.

Things only mentioned once

Let’s revisit this idea that some things are only mentioned once. When you have these, you can only decide how these are defined then it becomes a definition. There are several situations in the Bible of things that only appear one time and without them, we would not have a lot of insight. One example of this is Steven the  Martyr’s sermon to the high priest in Acts 7. Here they take Steven and he gives the religious leadership a lesson in their own history and theology that they missed. Even just the structure and thought process of what he says has major implications on prophecy that would be missed if not looked at. But there are several details that give us insight.

One example of this is when Abraham is called by God. We read the message and it seems clear that God told him to go and Abraham instantly follows the word of God. We think of Abraham as the father of faith and someone so is listening to the voice of God. But when you get to Acts 7, Steven brings up the fact the Abraham didn’t go right away.

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,

Genesis 12:1-5 ESV

2 And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.

Acts 7:2-4 ESV

That is just a subtle moment, but there is one that has even more impact on theology. We won’t focus on the implication but instead, the basic conclusion is drawn from the text. We may be familiar with the story of Moses. He goes out, sees his people being abused, stands up for them, and then flees. But there is something that is missed that Steven fills in for us.

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

Exodus 2:11-15 ESV

22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. 23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. … 35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’–this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.

Acts 7:22-30, 35 ESV

There becomes a reflection that Moses had a calling that he was going to bring God’s people out of Egypt even before the burning bush. But the people rejected Moses so he had to leave for 40 years before they got that chance again. To think they could have ended their slavery 40 years earlier if they would have accepted what God was planning. This happens again when the spies go into the promised land and return with reports. The people are too scared to go and now they have to wait another 40 years. If they would have listened, they could have gone into the promised land 80 years earlier than they actually did with Moses leading at the age of 40. Instead, it took years for them to get into the promised land and it wasn’t even the original generation that it was promised too.

Signal moments in the Bible

There are even more passages that bring up questions that are just a single passage with no direct or clear connection to other things in the Bible. For instance who were the magicians who opposed Moses when he visited Pharaoh? There is speculation that their names are in the Bible in the new testament. But they would also be people who confronted Moses when he came down from the mountain. Either way, we are left with this:

8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.

2 Timothy 3:8 ESV

While we are here let’s look at some really strange verse about angels. I won’t get into the theological issues here. But there are some verses that are only mentioned once and that is all we get on the issue. How we interpret them really changes our theological view on specific things:

1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:1-2 ESV

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

Matthew 22:29-30 ESV

Not to mention there are even verses about God that are only used once. These verses do have other passages that talk about similar things, but they directly state a truth that we wouldn’t get because of how direct they are.

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17 ESV

8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8 ESV

Of course, everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel. But few look at the verse that comes right after it. After in Genesis 4:17-26, Cain builds a city and names it after his son, it goes on to list some profession about his family and then about a murder that it seems one of his descendants commits. There doesn’t seem to be any other references to Cain and his family elsewhere in the Bible. 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s