Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Were the Evangelists Stupid?

The second earmark of authenticity for the New Testament is that it contains
all sorts of embarrassing material about the disciples; things like the unbelief
and their cowardice and their grandiosity and even their stupidity. And
then there are these hard to explain sayings of Jesus that would have been
embarrassing to his culture. Things like his attitude towards sinners and
towards women and towards legalism, and his displays of anger, and here’s the
point: if the writers of the New Testament were inclined to manipulate or
whitewash the record, surely they would have edited out this embarrassing
material, but the material is in the Bible which is simply more evidence of
their desire to be complete and to be accurate even if their own image was
tarnished in the process.
Lee Strobel

Isn't it possible that the authors of the gospels understood that they were telling the story of a messiah who had the power to transform the lives of the weak and the lowly? Couldn't it be that they understood that portraying the apostles as flawed human beings prior to Jesus' death and resurrection was an integral part of the story. Isn't that why Strobel portrays himself as a immoral atheist before he began his journey of faith? Isn't it even possible that the authors would have portrayed the apostles in a worse light prior to Jesus' resurrection just so their transformation would appear even more dramatic?

It seems to me that Strobel must think that the writers of the gospels were too stupid to understand what made Jesus such a compelling figure and too stupid to tell the story in a way that conveyed the message they wanted to convey.


  1. Oh, Oh, Oh!

    I simply love the argument from embarrassment. No Christian ever stays consistent within this argument.

    Let’s see if we have it straight: “Because it is (what 21st Century apologists consider) embarrassing—it must be true.”

    Fair enough. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas records an event of Jesus’ Childhood where a running boy inadvertently bumps into Jesus. Jesus kills him. The boy’s parents (understandably) object to this treatment. Jesus strikes the parents blind.

    I would think THAT is pretty embarrassing. So it must be true!

    1 Clement talks of a phoenix which only gives birth once every 500 years. Pretty embarrassing to be so wrong—must be true! The Epistle of Barnabas uses numerology to demonstrate Christ is prophesied in the story of Abraham. Pretty embarrassing—must be true! The Gospel of Peter records Jesus as saying, “My Power, O Power, why have you abandoned me?” Quite different (and more embarrassing) than “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”—must be true!

    The gospel of Judas has Judas being the good guy. The Gospel of Thomas has some embarrassing statements about women. The Acts of Paul have some embarrassing statements about women. Need I go on?

    The apologist hopes they never confront anyone who has actually read other writings of the time when using this bankrupt methodology. There are far more embarrassing statements made about Jesus. If “Embarrassment = Truth” then we have a far different Jesus on our hands. If embarrassment does NOT necessarily equal truth, we have numerous instances where people did not hesitate to write far more embarrassing things about Jesus and the disciples which even the apologist agrees are not true.

    If the apologist agrees with me people would write embarrassing things about Jesus that are not true, how can they be consistent and say the embarrassing things of the canonical works MUST be true? They can’t.

    Stupid, stupid argument.

  2. What else I love is the way apologists sneer at the Jesus Seminar's attempts to figure out whether particular sayings are historical. Yet the apologists are quite willing to employ the same criteria when it serves their purpose. Of course, the Jesus Seminar considers sayings and stories individually while the apologists use those things that meet their notion of "embarrassment" to establish that everything in the gospels are absolutely true.

  3. **Isn't it possible that the authors of the gospels understood that they were telling the story of a messiah who had the power to transform the lives of the weak and the lowly? **

    That's the point I always bring up. If you really want to show the radical effect something had, wouldn't you be truthful about the prior state before that change?

    How else do you go about showing someonen is radical unless they're "breaking" rules left and right? If Jesus was common, why would stories even be written about him?

  4. Perhaps Mark portrays the disciples as stupid, and Matthew 28:17 portrays some of them as doubters even after the resurrection, because early Christians had to denigrate people who packed it all in?

  5. STROBEL 'if the writers of the New Testament.... even if their own image was tarnished in the process'


    Who has ever claimed that the image of the author of Mark was diminished by his writing that Peter denied Christ 3 times?

    Or is Strobel so far up himself that he cannot even think of the New Testament writers not being disciples of Jesus?