Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell: Fumbled Fables

Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell: Fumbled Fables

All meaningful communication is a form of storytelling, according to Walter Fisher, who introduced the narrative paradigm to communication theory.  Narrative communication, which is universal across cultures and time, is the manner in which people comprehend life. The narrative form of communication Jesus most employed during His earthly life was informal, fictional storytelling – creating demonstrative fables or parables.

Parables are part of the reason that the scriptures are called a double edged sword, because the hearts of the hearers are exposed by the manner in which they interpret parables.  I say that parables are “part of the reason” scriptures are called a double edged sword, but not the entire reason, because even when Jesus did not speak in parables, His words were regularly misunderstood and misinterpreted, even by His own disciples.  The gospel of John points out many of these types of situations.

For example, the disciples were concerned about Jesus, because it had been a while since he’d eaten.  Jesus told them that He had food that they didn’t know about.  They figured someone must have bought Him lunch while they were away, but Jesus clarified that His food was to accomplish the mission for which He was sent.

Another illustration of people misunderstanding Jesus is when He told the religious people that He would tear down “this temple” and build it again in only three days.  They marveled at His words, considering that it took forty-six years to build the temple building, but Jesus was not referring to a building, He was talking about His body that would be crucified and then resurrected three days later.

When Jesus met one-on-one with one of the more open-minded religious leaders, Nicodemus, Jesus told him that people can’t recognize the reign of God unless they are born again.  Apparently, Nicodemus hadn’t been born again, because he didn’t recognize the reign of God in Jesus’s words.  He actually asked Jesus (and I wonder if there wasn’t a hint of sarcasm in his voice) if a full grown person must reenter his mother’s womb!  Jesus put him in his place, telling Nicodemus that he shouldn’t be surprised to hear the concepts Jesus introduced, explaining that flesh produces more flesh and spirit produces more spirit.  Jesus pointed out that Nicodemus, a religious leader, supposedly should already know these things.

In Jesus’s time, the Jewish males did not associate with female strangers or Samaritans, yet Jesus struck up a conversation with a Samaritan woman who was drawing water from a well.  He told her that if she knew who He was, then she would have asked Him for living water.  She didn’t understand Him and assumed He was talking about actual water.  He explained that people who drink His water are never thirsty again.  But she still didn’t get it.  She told him what a pain it was to have to lug heavy jugs of water back and forth, and, for practical reasons, said that she would like to have some of His living water.

Perhaps Jesus’s most profound words, “I am the bread of heaven,” caused many of His followers to dismiss Him as a madman.  They figured that Jesus intended to be cannibalized!  Even the twelve, hand-picked disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was using the imagery of food and drink, necessities for survival, to communicate that He is the imperative requisite of spiritual sustenance, that without Him we perish.

The religious leaders got hot-headed over the fact that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, an act which they considered “work”, and according to the law, no on was supposed to work on the Sabbath.  Jesus equated their reaction of judging by appearances with attempted murder, knowing that their judgmental condemnation would eventually turn into murderous hatred.  He asked plainly, “Why are you trying to kill me?”  They accused him of being demon possessed, because they didn’t recognize their own predispositional hostility toward Him.

In the age of law, people saw everything and everyone through the lens of law, especially Jesus.  When Jesus said,”You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,”  their first reaction was based on legality.  The only people who needed to be set free were slaves.  Since they were not slaves, they had no idea what Jesus was talking about.  Jesus asked them why His language was not clear to them, and then He answered His own question, saying something very reminiscent of the conversation He had with Nicodemus, “…because ye are not able to hear my word.”

As you can see from the few (of many) examples I’ve given, Jesus was regularly misunderstood in normal conversations.  How could someone who is considered to be one of the world’s top communicators fail to effectively communicate?  Different people might give different reasons to explain the communication breakdown, but the only explanation that really matters is the one that comes from Jesus Christ, Himself.  I’ll expound on this shortly, but first, I’d like to point out that if Jesus was misunderstood when He spoke plainly, it is increasingly likely that His message was misinterpreted when He spoke in allegories and parables!  The fact is, if Jesus wanted His hearers to understand, then they would have understood.  He did not fail to communicate; He purposed it.  This might be a hard concept for people to wrap their brains around, but it is true.  Jesus, on many occasions, instructed people NOT to tell anyone Who He was.  Jesus healed people and instructed them NOT to tell anyone.  Jesus told His disciples to keep the fact that He was a the Messiah a secret.  Why?  Jesus explained to His disciples privately (from Mark 4),

To you it hath been given to know the secret of the reign of God, but to those who are without, in similes are all the things done; that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest they may turn, and the sins may be forgiven them. Have ye not known this simile? and how shall ye know all the similes? […] There is not anything hid that may not be manifested, nor was anything kept hid but that it may come to light.  If any hath ears to hear — let him hear.  Take heed what ye hear; in what measure ye measure, it shall be measured to you; and to you who hear it shall be added; for whoever may have, there shall be given to him, and whoever hath not, also that which he hath shall be taken from him.  To what may we liken the reign of God, or in what simile may we compare it?  As a grain of mustard, which, whenever it may be sown on the earth, is less than any of the seeds that are on the earth; and whenever it may be sown, it cometh up, and doth become greater than any of the herbs, and doth make great branches, so that under its shade the fowls of the heaven are able to rest.

(And with many such similes he was speaking to them the word, as they were able to hear, and without a simile he was not speaking to them, and by themselves, to his disciples he was expounding all.)

The important thing to remember is that Jesus does not permanently hide the truth.  There is an appointed time for the truth to  “come to light” for the hearer.  Most of the hearers, during Jesus’s earthly ministry, were not given “eyes to see” and “ears to hear”.  Jesus selected twelve among many thousands of their peers to reveal things that were hidden, just as Jesus, throughout the ages, has selected thousands among many millions of their peers.  The reign of God is, indeed, like the mustard seed of the ages.

This blog is actually an introductory blog for the section of Francis Chan’s book, Erasing Hell, that makes claims about a parable regarding what Chan calls “second chances”.  I totally disagree with Chan’s interpretation of the parable, found in Luke 13:22-30:

And [Jesus] was going through cities and villages, teaching, and making progress toward Jerusalem; and a certain one said to him, “Sir, are those saved few?”

and he said unto them, “Be striving to go in through the straight gate, because many, I say to you, will seek to go in, and shall not be able; from the time the master of the house may have risen up, and may have shut the door, and ye may begin without to stand, and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us,’ and he answering shall say to you, ‘I have not known you whence ye are,’ then ye may begin to say, ‘We did eat before thee, and did drink, and in our broad places thou didst teach;’ and he shall say, ‘I say to you, I have not known you whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of the unrighteousness.’  There shall be there the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth, when ye may see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the reign of God, and yourselves being cast out without; and they shall come from east and west, and from north and south, and shall recline in the reign of God, and lo, there are last who shall be first, and there are first who shall be last.”

According to Chan (and fundamental, orthodox theology),

Jesus is making His way to Jerusalem, and His disciples ask how many people will end up being saved.  Jesus answers that few will be saved, but even worse, many who think they are saved will end up on the “outside” of the kingdom, so to speak.  […]  This passage “gives no hint whatever that the door will remain permanently open.”  If Jesus believed in second chances for those who reject Him in this life, then this parable is dangerously misleading.

Chan, like the people in Jesus’s audience who did not have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear”, has misunderstood the glorious truth in this fable.  Yes, glorious.  In the next blog I will demonstrate exactly how Chan has misinterpreted this parable and offer an explanation about the likely meaning of the parable.

Next blog in this series: Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell: Croissants Falling from the Sky

Comments
  • Lanny A. Eichert December 16, 2011 at 3:12 am

    the likely meaning of the parable, offer an explanation about

    Likely, but I don’t suppose the correct meaning.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 16, 2011 at 4:14 am

    this fable: a succinct fictional story is what you call it, so you cannot develope a correct meaning. The master of the house is God the Father and Jesus said He will certainly shut to the door permanently just like Matthew 25: 31 – 46 at the beginning of Jesus’ one thousand year reign from Jerusalem over the whole earth. The ethnic Israelites that survive the Great Tribulation of the Revelation chapters six through nineteen without being genuinely converted to Christ will be refused kingdom entrance and “shall go away into everlasting punishment” while those who have been converted since the beginning of time will enter so that the Kingdom begins with ALL saints, not a single unregenerate person in the first days of the Millennial Kingdom, but since Tribulation saints in their still mortal bodies continue to reproduce children, many of whom even in the presence of the Christ on the earth do not enter the Faith and so set the stage for Satan’s rebellion when he is released from the abyss at the end of the thousand years when he takes a whole host of humanity with him to a firey end in 20: 9.

    Alice, if Luke 13:22-30 is a fable, so is Matthew 25: 31 – 46 and there not only is no eternal punishment, but neither is there eternal bliss. All we have is a succinct fictional story for moral reasons and nothing more. So let’s eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die. If life after death is pure fiction, what point is there in being moral? If Luke 13:22-30 is a fable, you have no foundation upon which from this fable to establish an after-life nor anything about an after-life.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 16, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Jesus said He was the door to the Kingdom and the porter who opened the door was John the Baptizer and God the Father will close the door on the Jews when His Son comes again in glory. The house is the ethnic nation of Israel and Moses was faithful over that house {Hebrews 3: 2 & 5}.

  • Ma December 16, 2011 at 7:48 am

    I’m looking forward to the next blog. I guess I never really thought about how much Jesus used parables. I have been led to think everything should be literal.

    • Lanny A. Eichert December 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm

      MOST everything should. Error occurs by fanciful figurative interpretations.

  • Mary Vanderplas December 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    I agree that Jesus is regularly portrayed in the Gospels as being misunderstood and as instructing his hearers to secrecy when it comes to his identity. As you ably demonstrate, this is especially so – or most explicitly so – in the Gospel of John, where Jesus’ hearers routinely misunderstand or fail to perceive the symbolic meaning of his words. And yes, in John’s perspective this failure to understand is characteristic of Jesus’ disciples as well as his opponents; only after the cross and resurrection, the decisive revelation of God in Christ, can anyone understand Jesus’ message and identity.

    I agree, too, that the misunderstanding isn’t due to any inadequacy on the part of Jesus as communicator and that, in the text you cite from Mark 4, the failure to perceive is the intent of Jesus’ teaching in parables, not simply the result of it. I think that it’s important, though, to recognize that in Mark’s Gospel, there are two different perspectives: the message of Jesus was not understood and in fact could not be understood, on the one hand, and Jesus preached and taught expecting his hearers to be able to understand and respond to his message, on the other. I think it is worth noting, too, in reflecting on this text in Mark 4 that the message is meant to address the situation in Mark’s church. The church’s proclamation of the gospel was meeting with widespread rejection. The words of Jesus thus speak to this troubling situation, offering assurance from the passage in Isaiah 6 that, as troubling as the situation is, it is not surprising, and assuring them as well that the response of rejection is not outside the sovereign will of God.

    I think you are right on in asserting that the truth does not remain hidden forever and that this interpretation is supported by verses 21 and 22. Divine concealing is not the final reality. However, while I agree that the ability to perceive God’s reign is a divine gift which is given as God wills, I don’t think that this entails a passive stance on the part of his human creatures – a sitting back and waiting on God to give the gift in some future age if not in the present one. The sayings in verses 23 and 24 suggest otherwise; they suggest that already now the revelation is present (though not fully) to everyone and that the called-for response is to actively look and seek to discern what God is doing in history. While the full disclosure of God’s plan awaits the end of history, the revelatory event of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has already brought to light what God is doing to redeem his creation. And for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, the kingdom of God is revealed.

    • Lanny A. Eichert December 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      What planet is your origin, Mary: you’re not even writing intelligently let alone in the English language. In Mark 4 there is NO church for Matthew 16: 18 Jesus said He WILL BUILD, future tense: upon this rock I will build my church. Get some chronology, will you, Mary. There is NO church in the Holy Bible until Acts 2: 47. Are you sniffing glue or something worse? There was never a church in the Old Testament times nor even while Jesus walked the face of this earth. If you can’t put that together you are not worth any attention, because you deny Jesus’ words in Matthew 16: 18 and propose Him a liar and His word is NOT in you. You think you are right with God, but I know you’re a hell-bound sinner destine to burn forever in the Lake of Fire when you agree with Alice’s tearing down of the Lord God’s words into fables and fiction. She’s just like you.

      • Mary Vanderplas December 17, 2011 at 6:00 am

        Mark was writing for people who were Christ-followers, likely Gentile Christians, living in the first century. These people were part of communities, meeting together for worship and fellowship. As part of their worship, they read this Gospel, which Mark wrote to speak to their situation. That is what I was talking about. The reason you don’t understand my language is that in your view the Gospels are strict biographies, reports of the life of Jesus, instead of what they actually are: interpretations of the meaning of Jesus’ life, based on collected traditions about him.

        I am thoroughly sick of your crap, Lanny. You are entitled to argue your views, as misguided and warped as they largely are, but you have no right to shoot off your mouth attacking and belittling me and everyone else who doesn’t see things your way. Grow up and start acting like the Christ-follower you profess to be.

        • Lanny A. Eichert December 17, 2011 at 7:00 am

          That which was from the beginning, which we have HEARD, which we have SEEN with our EYES, which we have LOOKED upon, and our HANDS have HANDLED, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have SEEN [it], and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have SEEN and HEARD declare we unto you

          EYE WITNESS reports are the Gospels, Mary. You can go jump in a lake with yours and Alice’s view. I warn you that you’re headed for hell fire damnation if you don’t get it right before you die and for that you should be grateful and thankful that I do it.

          • Mary Vanderplas December 18, 2011 at 7:56 am

            Eyewitness reports?? Is this what Luke says? Does he say that he saw personally and is reporting directly and in exact chronological order the events of Jesus’ life? Read Luke 1:1-4. Here Luke says clearly that there were in circulation many written accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. He and the others drew on these sources and traditions in writing their Gospels. Yes, there were eyewitnesses involved in the process; the Gospels contain material that goes back to eyewitnesses. But to say that they are themselves “eyewitness reports” of the historical events is totally inaccurate and reflects a lack of understanding of what the Gospels are and how they were written.

        • Lanny A. Eichert December 17, 2011 at 7:32 am

          If “Mark wrote to speak to their situation” why didn’t he use the word “church” and relate their situations like Paul did? There are no references to communities of believers meeting together based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ in the Gospel according to Mark. The same is true of all four Gospel accounts, so don’t tell me the Gospels are actually church epistles, because they are NOT. Engage your brain, because that’s why you have one, Mary. You’re smart enough to know that sort of thing that church problems are not included in the four Gospels. I mean, how can anyone have confidence in your interpretations if you don’t even pay attention to the facts of what is and what isn’t included in the text? That’s how you are going to know that “the Gospels are strict biographies.”

          • Mary Vanderplas December 18, 2011 at 7:57 am

            I did not say that the Gospels are “church epistles.” Once again, you distort my words. They are not letters which address explicitly problems and issues in particular churches. What I said is that they are theological interpretations of the story of Jesus which were intended for certain audiences. They were not written with no one in particular in mind and for no particular purpose other than to “report the facts.” The audience and purpose of each one can be determined with more or less certainty from the contents of the Gospel itself. See again Luke 1:1-4. What does Luke say his purpose is? Not simply to report the facts so that his readers will know exactly what happened and in what order the events happened, but to give an “orderly account” so that his readers, who had already been given some instruction, would have a deeper or more accurate knowledge of “the truth.”

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 16, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Matthew 16: 18 Jesus said He WILL BUILD, future tense: upon this rock I will build my church. Since He said “I will build” He says He hasn’t yet even begun to build His church. Can’t you all understand the English language? When Jesus says “I will build” He is saying that not a single thing has yet been done by Him in the way of establishing His church. From the preaching of John the Baptizer and the beginning ministry of Jesus Christ, the KINGDOM, not the Gospel, was preached by them and the disciples. The Kingdom is built on the Son of David, King Jesus of Bethlehem, not the Lamb of God. The church is built on the slain and risen Lamb of God and it cannot be built until the Lamb was bot slain and risen. Why can’t you get that right? Because His word is NOT in you, that’s why, and that’s why I am telling it to you so that yiou can know you’re lost and need to be saved. You have a serious defficiency: you need to be born again before you can have this insight. You know some of what I speak, but you can’t get it together correctly. When are you going to acknowledge it to yourselves and retreate to God for salvation?

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 16, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Only three times in the four Gospel accounts and that in only two verses in the Gospel of Matthew is the word “church” used and that prophetically, once in Matthew 16: 18; & twice in 18: 17. Otherwise the first literal mention is in Acts 2: 47. That should TELL YOU SOMETHING. Listen to it and learn God’s chronology for us who live in a time-space environment. The church is primary for us, but it wasn’t for Jesus for most of the time He walked the earth. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. {john 1: 11}

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Now look, I know the Gospel accounts were NOT written as each event was actually happening, but was written years later after the Acts chapter two Day of Pentecost which is the actual birth of the church. Yes, Jesus’ church was on that day begun and the Gospel accounts were written some time later than that. Now just because there is absolutely no mention of the situation of any of the churches in the Gospel accounts, those accounts must be obviously taken as intentionally biographical ONLY and NOT as interpretations of the meaning of Jesus’ life, based on collected traditions about him that have applications to the difficulties of those new church believers’ experiences. What is the purpose of the Epistles? It is God’s function for the Epistles to interpret the meaning of Jesus’ life and apply it to believers’ experiences.

    • Mary Vanderplas December 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

      Your logic is faulty. It does not follow logically that because there is no explicit mention of the situation of the church, the writing must be strictly biographical. In fact, the Gospels are not strictly biographical, as evidenced by the way the authors use their sources and compose their narratives in order to communicate the truth of Jesus Christ. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels reveals that the authors did not intend them to be read only as historical reports. That they are “Christological narrative,” each with its own particular interpretation of the meaning of the original events of Jesus’ life, is beyond dispute. And even though there is no explicit mention of the situation of the church in and for which the author was writing, the Gospels reflect not only the life of the historical Jesus but the historical setting of these early Christian communities.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Mary, of the four Gospel accounts, two contain genealogies of the Lord Jesus. I would ask you, “Whose father is whose and whose son is whose?” Are they literal people and literally fathers and sons? Have we literal genealogies or don’t we from the two writers? Are the genealogies interpretations of the meanings of Jesus life based on collected traditions or are they actual facts? Fact or fiction, Mary, is it fact or in Alice’s terminology fable? Who chooses what is fact and what is fable, Mary? Also answer WHY is it fact or fable? I see an evil heart of unbelief that leads to destruction of those in the broad way. An evil heart that tampers with the Word of God to its own destruction. An evil heart that cannot believe God’s words are mostly plain literal and trustworthy. An evil heart that twists and turns God’s words into something so complex to forbid children to understand it without first being educated in complex explanations of interpretations and traditions. Little children, Mary, the Lord said you should not forbid them to come to Him. Whose making who a child of hell, Mary? And by what, tradition?

    • Mary Vanderplas December 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      You ask the wrong question. The question is not, “Fact or fiction?” Rather, it is, “Strict history or interpreted history?” – the answer to which is – need I say it? – “Interpreted history.” That neither Matthew nor Luke was interested in presenting a precisely accurate historical record of Jesus’ family tree is obvious from the ways they use the traditional sources: with freedom in service to their theological convictions. In the case of Matthew, he takes the liberty of compressing generations and making changes to the Old Testament chronology to fit his pattern of three cycles of fourteen generations from Abraham to Jesus. The genealogy he presents tells a story of God’s unfolding plan culminating in the arrival of the true “son of David,” the One who will save his people from their sin.

      Ignore the reality of what the Gospels actually are and of how they came to be written to your own peril, Lanny – not, to be sure, the peril of eternal damnation, but the peril of blindness that misses the liberating message of God’s saving act in Jesus Christ proclaimed in different voices.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 19, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Mary, “Luke” does NOT say, “He and the others drew on these sources and traditions in writing their Gospels” and, Mary, I don’t mean those words as a quote, but the intent of those words are just NOT there. He only says that many persons have made written declarations that they delivered to “us eyewitnesses and ministers of the word from the beginning” for safekeeping. He does NOT include their declarations as source materials for his Gospel account. You have no cause for that assertion, but your own bias and wicked intent to degrade the written Word of God. When he wrote his purpose statement “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order” he claims the intimate knowledge of the eyewitness and the intent to write his eyewitness account sequentially. An “orderly account” is a sequential account, Mary. That’s what eyewitnesses do, not theological interpretations, dear misguided Mary. You are confusing the cause of differing views expressed in the four Gospels which is a function of the PERSONALITIES of the different human authors shown in their style of writing and viewpoint that God intentioned to display. God designed Matthew to express a very Jewish Messianic view, while Mark a very servant of Jehovah view, while Luke a very Greek perfect man view, and John a very divine Son of God view. I emphasize: God designed the personalities He chose to do His written work, just as God has been doing from the beginning of His creation. He also designed their timely theological correctness as well. The differences in the Gospels have nothing to do with “the historical setting of early Christian communities” as you claim, but have everything to do with God’s designed human individuals chosen for the task of His literal biography which God chose to explain in the Epistles, primarily by His chosen man, Saul of Tarsus, whom He would convert and train for the task. He also chose Peter, James, John, and Jude whom He also equipped for that particular ministry of explaining the literally historical Gospel accounts.

    “Fact or fiction?” Mary. You’re afraid to answer factual literal fathers and sons. You want to evade the question. If you allow for literal fact anywhere, then where does that stop and why becomes the contention.

    • Mary Vanderplas December 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      Luke says that he carefully investigated the handed-on traditions starting from the beginning of the story of Jesus. He does not say that these traditions were handed on solely for the purpose of safekeeping. Nor does he claim to be an eyewitness himself – which clearly he was not. Your assertion that Luke “claims the intimate knowledge of the eyewitness” is patently false. Neither he nor the other Gospel writers were personally present at the events they narrate, nor did they base their narratives directly on the personal remembrances of those who were. What they based them on was the oral and written traditions – of which, Luke tells us, there were many – that circulated in the church in the decades following Jesus’ death. That these materials contained remembrances of the eyewitnesses is certain. But they were not simply recorded memories of the events of Jesus’ ministry. They reflected the church’s activity of interpreting and proclaiming the events as an expression of their faith in what God did in the story of Jesus.

      The fact that Luke’s Gospel is an “orderly account” doesn’t mean that its purpose was strictly historical. In fact, his purpose was theological: to interpret the meaning of the original events of Jesus so that his readers would have a deeper understanding of their faith. His Gospel, as well as the other Gospels, contains both historical facts and theological interpretation of the Christ event. The narrative sequence of Luke’s Gospel isn’t intended to reflect precisely the correct chronological order of the life of Jesus, but to contribute to his purpose of showing how the events of Jesus’ life fit into God’s plan for the redemption of the world.

      You assert that the Gospels are not theological interpretations. So, how can you say that “[God] also designed [the Gospel writers’] timely theological correctness”? Can you say “contradiction”?

      “God designed Matthew to express a very Jewish Messianic view…”?? Or maybe Matthew was a Christian teacher with a Jewish background who was writing for a Christian community in which some of the members also had a Jewish background….. Are you familiar with the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory? “Jewish” is not one of the personality types. The fact is that the differences in the Gospels have everything to do with the historical situation in which each one was written as well as with the purpose and theology of the human authors.

      I answered your “fact-or-fiction” question. The Gospels are based on events that happened in real history. The genealogies in Matthew and Luke are not fabricated lists of fictional characters. They include real people. But neither do they present a precisely accurate historical record. The authors take liberties in the use of their sources, constructing the genealogies in ways that express their theological views and fit their purpose.

      • admin December 19, 2011 at 11:09 pm

        I don’t agree with every single thing you said, but overall, this is an excellent reply to Lanny’s concerns.

      • Lanny A. Eichert December 19, 2011 at 11:25 pm

        unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word {Luke 1: 2} the “us” is eyewitnesses, Mary, isn’t that clear enough from the text? The “us” includes Luke.

        they delivered them unto us {Luke 1: 2} doesn’t specify Luke used them as source material, Mary, so they were for safekeeping as approved original documents.

        It seemed good to me also {Luke 1: 3} stands in contrast to {Luke 1: 1} Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration

        The contrast between verses 1 & 3 is indicative of Luke’s intent to write his own independent account.

        There are NO church interpretations so noted in any of the four Gospels, Mary, unless you can prove them such. Prove your claim by specifics.

        Because there are NONE, there is no reason for the Gospel writers to propose anything other than a mere biography so that the facts might speak for themselves against the contemporary and subsequent heresies; and that they’ve done through the ages.

        • Mary Vanderplas December 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

          The “us” in verse 2 does not refer to eyewitnesses; it refers to those to whom the message was transmitted. Why would Luke say that the message was delivered to eyewitnesses – those who had personally experienced the original events? This makes no sense and is not what Luke says. The “us” here is a general designation, referring to the church. Luke is included, as are the “many” who wrote before him (verse 1). But this doesn’t mean that Luke had to have been a firsthand recipient. What he is saying here is simply that the church knows the message because the eyewitnesses handed it on.

          Since when does “also” imply a contrast? “Also” implies similarity, not contrast. Luke mentions the others who wrote narrative accounts before him not to draw a contrast between his work and theirs, but to establish a precedent for his own work. Granted, he does not say that his work depended on theirs – i.e., that the eyewitness reports were handed on to them (but not to him) and that he therefore was dependent on their accounts in composing his own. But neither does he distance his work from theirs, as though there was no similarity or connection between them.

          The more important point, in my view, is that in verse 3 Luke says that he carefully investigated everything from way back. The “everything” refers to the “events” in verse 1 and likely includes also attention to the written accounts of the “many.” Whether or not one sees here reference to Luke’s use of these written accounts in composing his Gospel, that it says that Luke used the oral tradition that went back to the eyewitnesses who became “servants of the word” – ministers who interpreted the meaning of the original events – is beyond dispute. And, in my view, it is equally indisputable that by the time it reached Luke’s (and the other Gospel writers’) ears, the tradition had undergone considerable shaping – reflecting and expressing the church’s Easter faith.

          There is plenty of evidence of sayings of Jesus and stories about him being adapted and reinterpreted in the oral tradition that was handed on. The anointing story in Mark 14:3-9 is one example. A version of this story occurs in all four of the Gospels. That they are versions of the same story is clear from the fact that many of the details are the same, as well as that the form of the story is the same. There are also more than a few variations across the different accounts. These variations reflect the church’s activity of interpreting and reinterpreting the story in the oral tradition.

          That the Gospels are christological narratives, not “mere biographies,” is plain – so plain, Lanny, that even you can’t be consistent in your denial that the authors were concerned primarily with the theological meaning of the events and not simply with the events themselves.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 20, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Mary has NOT detailed a single supporting text to her claims.

    • Mary Vanderplas December 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm

      I gave an example to support my claim. The fact that you don’t accept it doesn’t mean I didn’t give it. This isn’t my blog, Lanny. If Alice decides to write a blog on the transmission process between the events of Jesus’ life and the writing of the Gospels, citing texts to illustrate the church’s adaptation and reinterpretation of the stories and sayings, I’ll comment in detail on the texts.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 20, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    The Gospel writers were dependant upon this promise “he shall … bring all things to your remembrance” which Jesus gave them in order to write their historical biographies. This promise in its entirety is prerequisite for all of the writers of Scripture, whether present or not at the events they were commanded to reference.

    These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. {John 14: 25 & 26}

    They wrote what God directed, nothing more or less, and none of men’s nor the churches’ interpretations or compilations, but only God’s chosen and directed discrete words.

    • Mary Vanderplas December 21, 2011 at 8:40 pm

      The Gospels, like all of scripture, are the product of both divine and human action. The human authors used oral and written sources and traditions handed on by the church in composing their works. To say this is not to deny the role of the Holy Spirit in inspiring their writing. To assert, as you do, that the Gospel writers sat down and had the Holy Spirit dictate to them the exact words to write is plainly erroneous. They were not personally present at the events and so could not have remembered them. They depended on the traditions that were handed on – traditions going back to the eyewitnesses, who did remember.

      The following is from an article I just read entitled “Person of the Book.” It expresses a view of scripture which I share. The author is M. Craig Barnes, a Presbyterian who teaches at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He writes:

      “The more I understand about the Bible’s dust-and-grit humanity, the more holy it becomes to me. Long after I’d left behind my father’s theory of the inerrancy of scripture, I found a Bible that had even more authority because it revealed how God inspired humans who stayed human when they wrote. Communities of faith, whose members have already committed every sin and faced every peril they could possibly experience, recorded in fallible ways the infallible truth of our redemption. That makes me love both God and ancient human words about God all the more.”

      “I have long believed in the theories of oral traditions and the redaction editors of the Old Testament. The mysterious Mr. Q who was a source of the Synoptic Gospels is not that mysterious anymore. I realize that we have no idea who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, and I read most of the book of Joshua by peeking through fingers over my eyes as I silently pray, ‘Really?’ But if my house were on fire, this old Bible is still one of the first things I would grab before running out the door.”

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 21, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Mary, you must advance a human explanation of the origin of Scripture and in doing so you end with a low view of the Inspiration of Scripture. Since the 2 Timothy 3: 16 inspiration θεόπνευστος has the meaning of breathed out by God you fall far short in your explanations that depend upon human organization and effort. It amazes me how dependant your view is on traditions and how vehemently Jesus fought the Jewish leaders on their traditions and yet you hang tight on them.

    The word order of verse 2 with “they delivered them” coming before “unto us” and after “unto us” coming “which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” requires the first written unofficial chronological gospel accounts be given to the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word of God for verification, approval, safekeeping, and distribution. In verse 4 Luke claims higher credibility for his work than he gives to the other works, because he has perfect understanding as an eyewitness {V.2}.

    I don’t understand why you, Mary, think it doesn’t make sense to submit the first unofficial chronologically written accounts to eyewitnesses for their approval as acceptable teaching tools among the untaught.

    Then there is the sense of verse 2 you pervert from the actual word order. You want the “us” to be the whole church, but, by the word order, the the church became eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word of God, a description which in its entirety cannot be as regards either eyewitnesses or ministers in the sense intended.

    Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. {Luke 1: 1 – 4} KJV

    • Mary Vanderplas December 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      It simply is not the case that the word order necessitates that the “us” be equated with “the from beginning eyewitnesses and servants becoming of the word” and that what is delivered be the narratives referred to in verse 1. To assert that your interpretation is grammatically necessary is plainly misguided. Verse 2 is an adverbial clause in which Luke mentions the activity of the eyewitnesses of handing on (the message) “to us” – thus comparing their activity to the writing activity of the “many” or to Luke’s own activity of writing his orderly account. (The clause can point either back or ahead.) There is nothing here about the written accounts being “delivered” to the eyewitnesses for verification, approval, etc. What Luke has in mind, rather, is the transmission process – which started with the reports of the eyewitnesses and later involved the writing down of some of the tradition and which will culminate in his own activity of writing this Gospel based on his careful investigation of “everything” related to the events of Jesus’ life.

      Verse 3 says nothing about Luke having “perfect understanding as an eyewitness.” What it says is that Luke investigated carefully everything, starting at the beginning. If there is any hint that he believed his work to be of higher quality than the works of those who had written accounts before him, then it is not because he had superior insight but because his effort was marked by greater care in both investigation and in composition of a “coherently conceived whole,” as one commentator put it.

      Clearly, Luke is making no claim to be an eyewitness. Rather, he is placing himself in the category of those who have received the knowledge of “the word” from the eyewitnesses who became servants of this word.

      Not only is your interpretation not grammatically necessary and based on preconceptions, it makes no sense. That Luke would witness firsthand the events of Jesus’ life and report them to others and then (five or six) decades later decide to write his own Gospel based solely on his own memories, after having been given written accounts that were based on his eyewitness report for the purpose of having him place his seal of approval on these (inferior) accounts, is wholly implausible.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 21, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Mary, you are using your own (human) logic instead of what the actual words say and as per your quote, “left behind my father’s theory of the inerrancy of scripture”, you too have abondoned inerrancy for a human document of the Holy Bible. As your blog comments have all along proven you have no absolute authority and no absolute conclusions. I pity your lack of surity, since it comes from an unsure Word of God. Alice, whether or not she admits it, is in the same boat; therefore she cannot claim anything as absolutely sure, not even her Amazing Hope, because her Bible is not rock solid. All the efforts you all put into proving your views are vain since your Biblical foundation is as inadequate as your methods.

    • Lanny A. Eichert December 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm

      Don’t you know Moses did not live so long that he walked the earth with Adam and Eve, so where did he come by that “myth” or any of the other “myths” he wrote since he wasn’t there? Christ is the only One who saw Abraham’s day.

      Doesn’t it dawn on any of you that God can give His Scripture writers the exact spelling of every word He wants in His text in the exact location of the sentence He wants written without them having the faintess knowledge of the subject or even the process by which He accomplishes inspiring them to pen it? That should be evident enough in written prophecy, and it certainly applies to written history as well. Yet I expect you miss it in BOTH because of your blindness caused by your unbelief and unwillingness to allow God to do the impossible.

      Unbelief = LOST and going to hell.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 22, 2011 at 8:05 am

    οἱ ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι τοῦ λόγου
    “the from beginning eyewitnesses and servants becoming of the word”

    καθὼς παρέδοσαν ἡμῖν οἱ ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται γενόμενοι τοῦ λόγου
    even as (they) delivered to us who from beginning eyewitnesses and ministers became of the word

    παρέδοσαν delivered = 3rd person plural 2nd aorist indicative active
    οἱ γενόμενοι became = nominative plural masculine participle 2nd aorist

    Aorist = past completed action
    Participle functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb

    As a noun, the participial clause could supply the verb: παρέδοσαν delivered = 3rd person plural 2nd aorist indicative active; as the subject since the participle is in nominative case. This seems to be your preference, but it reads very awkwardly with verse 1, 3, &4.

    Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as those who were from the beginning eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word delivered unto us; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

    My supposed rendering of what I think is your preference leaves the narratives of the many no where to be found and the “even as” means one or more of the other Gospels was already written, which is not provable. Luke saw a need for his own more sure accounting of the order and completeness of “all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” “Began” allows for NO interpretations, but just mere reporting of the chronological record. The explanations are to be left to the Epistles and Luke knew that by inspiration.

    As an adjective, the participial clause would function as modifying the pronoun “us” as a well-suited explanation and flows as smooth as the beautiful KJV word order: us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word. The logic is smooth and understandable and quite reasonable when you realize doctrinal purity was the Apostles’ chief concern for the churches and that’s why it was necessary to stay with a strict narrative which Luke did in like fashion of the accounts preceeding his.

    • Lanny A. Eichert December 22, 2011 at 8:21 am

      So why do you think διήγησιν means an interpretation instead of a narrative or declaration?

    • Mary Vanderplas December 23, 2011 at 5:33 am

      “your preference leaves the narratives of the many nowhere to be found” – What does this mean? In mentioning the narratives that were already in circulation, Luke is establishing a precedent for his own work.

      “‘even as’ means one or more of the other Gospels was already written” – How so? Luke is comparing his own act of writing with the transmitting activity of the eyewitnesses.

      “‘Began’ allows for no interpretations…” – Why not?

      “The logic is smooth and understandable and quite reasonable when you realize doctrinal purity was the Apostles’ chief concern for the churches and that’s why it was necessary to stay with a strict narrative…” – (1) Why would a concern for doctrinal purity or theological correctness require that the Gospels be mere biographies, facts without theological interpretation? (2) What does a concern on the part of the apostles for doctrinal purity in the churches have to do with Luke’s concern here, which is to establish a precedent for his work and to make clear his dependence on traditions that go back to eyewitnesses?

      The fact is that neither Luke nor the other Gospel writers simply recorded history. All four Gospel writers interpreted the meaning of the things Jesus said and did – i.e., they are christological narratives. Yes, they are based on the events of Jesus’ life: what Jesus began to do and teach. But they are not historical records only. The Gospel writers, like the “many” who wrote before them and like the eyewitnesses who became servants of the “word,” interpreted the significance of these events: the fulfillment of a story of God acting to save.

  • Lanny A. Eichert December 23, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Mary, please demonstrate ” All four Gospel writers interpreted the meaning of the things Jesus said and did.” Show me how, please, they did that. Take me through four examples.

    • Mary Vanderplas December 24, 2011 at 7:59 am

      In telling the story of Jesus’ birth, neither Matthew nor Luke just reports the events. Rather, each one tells the story in a distinctive way to bring out its theological meaning. In Matthew’s telling, Jesus is presented as the royal son of David and Son of God. For Matthew, Jesus is the messianic king whose coming precipitates a conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this age. The story of rejection which he tells as part of the infancy narrative (Matthew 2) expresses this conflict of kingdoms and prefigures Jesus’ rejection by the Jewish leadership. Matthew thus tells the story of Jesus’ birth and infancy in a way that expresses the meaning of what God did in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In Luke’s telling, Jesus’ birth is presented as part of the story of God’s mighty acts in history as told in the Jewish scriptures. The stories he tells – of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, Simeon, and Anna – call to mind Old Testament stories (e.g., compare Mary’s song in Luke 1 to Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2). And the way he tells the stories captures the spirit of expectancy that runs through the Old Testament. Luke is thus presenting this One who was born of Mary as the climax and fulfillment of what God was doing in history to redeem his people.

      For an example from Mark’s Gospel, see Mark 4:10-12. In Mark’s theology, the true identity of Jesus could not be recognized until the cross and resurrection. The “messianic secret” theme runs through his Gospel and is here seen in his understanding of the reason Jesus taught in parables. From the perspective of Mark’s theology, Jesus taught in parables in order not to be understood; and when he so taught, he was not understood.

      For an example from John’s Gospel, the “I am” statements of Jesus express John’s theology concerning Jesus as the fulfillment of life. For John, it isn’t only the Jewish messianic hopes that Jesus is the answer to; it is the hopes and longings of every human heart. Hence, these hopes and longings are pictured in terms of universal symbols: bread, water, light, etc. To all of these yearnings, John’s Jesus says, “I am” – i.e., “I’m it; I am what you’re looking for.” (The universal human quest is captured in the question in John 1:38.)

      Merry Christmas, Lanny. Your first Christmas without your wife must be very hard. May you know the comfort and peace of Immanuel.

      • Lanny A. Eichert December 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm

        Sure, Mary, all of those literal facts are obvious when reading the literal biography and there is no need to claim theological interpretations. I am of German and Hungarian descent and mechanically inclined with curiousity and my preferences, methods, and speech are what they are due to those literal facts but my life is a literal life and not an interpretation. All the details of my life are literal, just as all the details of Jesus’ life were literal facts, not interpretations based on some unsubstained record of whatever. Your point of view (POV) makes all your knowledge an interpretation and the problems of understanding are YOUR interpretations, not the communications of others: it is all how YOU are interpretating what others have communicated. As I said previously, you are a law unto YOURSELF making up your rules as you go. Every human being expresses literal absolute truth from his own POV and when compared to another it differs, but when summed together the whole is known without any contradiction and without any “interpretation” to claim the others were false. When you substitute literal absolute truth with the falsehood of an “interpretation” as a claimed POV pure disagreement occurs just as truth disagrees with a lie. As Ma indicated above we certainly should be led to think everything is literal with God’s words. If we don’t we end confused as you are. God doesn’t need us to interpret His words: He is quite capable of saying what He means and meaning what He says and getting it written in black and white accurately and standing true through the ages. He expects us to believe every word as spelled and positioned in its context. He is God, not a man.

        • Lanny A. Eichert December 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm

          Overly simply put, Mary, you are the one who is interpretating, not the writers of Scripture.

        • Mary Vanderplas December 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm

          Mark 4:11b-12 reads: “‘…but for those on the outside, everything comes in parables, in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’” Matthew 13:13-14 reads: “The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive.’’”

          Hmmm….I wonder what Jesus really said. Did he say that their lack of understanding was the intent of his teaching in parables? Or did he say that their failure to understand was because their minds were already closed to the message? Who got it right, Matthew or Mark?? Or maybe what is going here is that Matthew is modifying and reinterpreting this material from Mark to fit his own theology and to soften the difficult saying about God hardening the hearts of those who don’t hear.….

          • Lanny A. Eichert December 25, 2011 at 3:46 am

            Mary, there is no contradiction between Matthew and Mark. Both say the same literal thing: Jesus’ purpose in His use of parables was the hiding of truth from the unbeliever. Matthew proves it by Jesus’ quote of Isaiah. If you are thinking Matthew presents parables as an actual teaching aid used for unbelievers you better reread it until you understand Jesus has no intention for those unbelievers to be converted. Verse 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Jesus said, “to them it is not given.” The “you” in this verse is the disciples of Jesus, the ones He chose and said to them , “you have not chosen me.” {John 15: 16} Consider also {John 14: 22} Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?”

            Your “interpretation” idea calls into question the Reformed doctrine of Election; is that what you intend to do? Your insistence upon the freedom of choice has been evident in the past and you have agrued it upon the fact that God does indeed save whom He chooses. Freedom of choice seems to be motivating your interpretation of Matthew if you are saying the two writers somewhat disagree. Again you manufacture a “modifying and reinterpreting” where none exists. {Mark 4: 11} And he said unto them, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.”

            You again give me good cause to doubt your election.

          • Mary Vanderplas December 25, 2011 at 7:24 am

            The fact is that the Gospels reflect the interpretive activity of their writers. The Mark4-Matthew 13 texts are clear instances of the authors’ interpreting their sources. So also are birth narratives in Luke and Matthew. Why are there no shepherds in Matthew? Not, surely, because he didn’t know about them, but because his theology didn’t allow for them. Likewise, the wisemen missed the cut in Luke because Luke’s theology didn’t have a place for them.

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