Friday, 28 February 2014

Book review: Seeking Allah, finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

In Seeking Allah, finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, Nabeel paints a wonderful picture of growing up in an Islamic family. For an outsider, one can see the appeal Islam has on its adherents. The devotion of the parents for their child to have a thorough knowledge of the Quran shows the love and care the parents have for their child to grow up in the knowledge of Allah. Nabeel's mother was a daughter of missionaries and his father 'was a self-sacrificial, loving man who bore the noble name of Qureshi. Qureshi are the tribe of the prophet Muhammad.

Nabeel in this book shares his experience of growing up in an Islamic family in the west and writes, “The mystical beauty of Islam that enchants billions cannot be grasped by merely sharing facts.” You had to live it which is something that we outsiders cannot comprehend. Nabeel loved Islam, and before he was six he had read the whole Quran. In high school Nabeel was ready to defend the Islamic view of Jesus against any Christian, but at university, everything he thought he knew about Christianity and the Quran would be challenged.

In my experience at university, I spoke with many Muslims about Jesus and the bible. The Muslims would repeatedly bring the same objections and declare that the bible has been corrupted, and that no where in the bible does Jesus say that I am God. This response was universal from the Muslims I spoke too. I found a possible explanation from Nabeel's experience why this may be the case. Nabeel writes, 'Now I knew as did David (Christian) and Zach (Buddhist), that I had not studied Islam with as much scrutiny as I had Christianity. But for me, as for many Muslims, an uncritically reverential and fulsome assessment of Islam was a given.'

For the Muslims I was speaking too, it was clear that most of them had an uncritically reverential and fulsome assessment for Islam. Perhaps like Nabeel, many had innocently accepted the world that have been built for them by their family and culture, a world in which Islam was unassailable.

For my Muslim friends, Islam was unassailable and to question it would be to show a disrespect for authority.  

For example, in Pakistani culture parents rarely said I love you. 'Love is implicit and understood, expressed through provision by the parents and obeisance by children.' Confessing Islam was showing obeisance to his parents but denying it would portray the opposite.

At university, Nabeel became friends with David wood who was a Christian, and through their deep friendship, both engaged in religious discussions which challenged Nabeel to review what he thought he knew about Jesus and the Quran. This discussions happened in the context of sharing life together. Their friendship was more than just religious discussions, they deeply cared about each other whether or not they saw eye to eye regarding each other's religious faith.  

In order to show that the message of the Quran was true and divinely inspired, Nabeel decided to hold the Quran under the same scrutiny which he had applied to the bible. His findings were life changing. In a large Muslim prayer hall, broken before God, Nabeel in his mind began to question everything he thought he knew about God. “But maybe You are showing me that the Quran is not Your word after all? So much of what I've been taught about it has turned out to be false. I was taught that it has never been changed, but hadith and history show that it has. I was taught that it has supernatural knowledge of science and the future, but when I asked you to help me see it with my own eyes, I could find none. So much that I thought I knew about the Quran simply is not true...”  

I invite you to pick up this book whether you are a Christian, Muslim, agnostic, Buddhist, atheist or etc, because this book will challenge, excite and intrigue your curiosity on what it means to follow Jesus. If you are a Muslim, ask yourself the same questions Nabeel asked himself about the Quran, Muhammad and Jesus. If you are a Christian, can you identify yourself with David wood? Do you understand the cost of what it means to follow Jesus for yourself and especially for those who are from an Islamic background? If you are an atheist, agnostic and Buddhist, are you willing to follow the evidence fearlessly wherever it may lead. 

You can get a copy of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus at Amazon


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A short story: My only Son

There was a man, a father I should say, who buried his child three days ago. The reason for such a burial was because his son was accused of a crime that he did not commit. But everyone was so against the boy that no piece of evidence could have acquitted him.

He had spent just a night in jail and was terribly beaten up by the guards. They taunted him and teased him.

"Confess your crime, you dog." shouted one guard before another spat on him.
"Let us go easy on him." taunted another before punching him in the belly.

Such acts were against the law, but it was a practice here for the guards to do as they pleased as long as they did not kill the prisoner.

The poor boy did not utter a cry. No tears were wasted, only drops of blood poured out on the prison floor.

Early in the morning, the innocent boy only eighteen years of age looked very disfigured and unrecognized by his own family. His father screamed:

"What have you done to my Son. I will never forgive you."

The father picked up a stone wanting to throw it at the guards, but then he met his son's pardoning eyes. He put down the stone and wept.

The crowds chanted for his blood.

"Kill him now." bellowed a group of kids. It was very sad that such kids have been corrupted by the elders propaganda.

What exactly his crime was differed from the different witnesses that came up to testify.

One witness said: "I saw him with our daughter. He was on top of her forcing her to do the things that are forbidden in the land."

Another witness said: "He stole my gold. I saw him take it."

More witnesses came up but none could provide sufficient evidence for their claims. But the judge did not care. No lawyer took up his case. All abandoned him; and when it was time for him to speak, he simply looked up to the sky and said, 'Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.'

To many, this young boy had been like an angel. He showed love like the sun to the earth. He uplifted the broken-hearted and helped the widow. He was wise in learning and slow to anger. For any foreigner viewing this case, it was clearly a matter of injustice.

He was led to the guillotine, but a last minute command bid the guards to have him hanged instead. And so he was led to the slaughter. His father followed behind, languishing his woe of loosing his one and only son.

And so they hanged him. The crowd cheered. But the one who had tied the rope around his neck lingered around the dead body. He had seen the purity in the boy's eyes and became convinced that such a boy was innocent.

"O what have I done!" wailed the guard. "I have killed an innocent boy."

At that moment, a light surpassing the afternoon glow beamed on his face. But it did not blind him. It felt warm and golden, so much so that his guilt fled away. After a few days this guard inquired of many in the city about the boy and his message and what made him so pure. The guard received the answer with joy from every believer's face. They told him the good news, namely, that 'all men are sinners deserving the punishment of hell. But God in his mercy sent his only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. We must now choose to follow His Son if we are to receive salvation for our souls. That boy whom you hanged followed him. But following Jesus is not like following other masters. As one of our dear brothers have said that the wind sits always on his face and the foaming rage of the sea of this world, and the proud and lofty waves do continually beat upon the sides of the bark or ship that himself, his cause, and his followers are in; he therefore that will not run hazards, and that is afraid to venture a drowning, let him not set foot into this vessel. Will you set foot into his vessel?'

The guard accepted and from that day suffered a great deal for the cause of Christ.

Now the father of the boy had buried his child. On a day as normal as any a day, the father did visit his son's grave. To his misery he found it empty and he knew that it had been plundered. He sobbed to himself,

"Is it not enough that my son should be murdered by them who are to bring justice. Now after his life, he is plundered in his grave. Were the tortures not enough for heaven's sake!"

About to curse those who had done such an awful thing, there was a great light that shone upon him. The light soothed and calmed his soul and then he heard a voice declaring that the angels had taking his boy into heaven.

"Christ our Lord is the first to rise from the dead." said the Angel. He continued. "And then there were many after him that rose with him. But it was pleasing to the LORD to raise your boy from the dead and sit him in heaven. Fear not son of man. Continue to preach and the good Christ has ordained that your portion is not to suffer but to meet with many blessings.


To hell with it that all things work together for my good

When times of difficulty comes, it is hard to say that all things work together for good. That promise which we so utter well when things are good now becomes shallow in the soul.

'O where is God now', the despairing soul cries. 'How can a loving God mean this bad situation for my good.'

A son dies. Poverty hits due to theft. Depression comes uninvited. Stressed out. Feeling hopeless because of unemployment. Addicted to drugs because of past abuse. And etc.

It all hits you at once. Drowned by the unforeseen hands of calamity. 'And all this is suppose to work for my good?'

'O to hell with it', the faithless cries.

That mustard seed of faith has now been ate by birds. Silence is now his portion towards God. No, anger. 'Why me?' the unfortunate man cries. 'Why me!'

What can the pastor say except to repeat those words that has become shallow in the man's soul. O what can he say that could effect such a one whose anger against God has overwhelmed him. O what can the pastor say. What can his friends do.

There is one thing to do for such a soul, and that thing is to pray. It is to pray hard. It is to fast on their behalf and beseech the Sovereign God who made such loving awful circumstances to come their way, to grant him faith to endure. Yes, God is capable of such a miracle. Your words alone will be as you screaming to a deaf man to avoid the danger ahead. But your prayers will open his ears.

Every believer has their limit. Human strength alone will fail if it tries to resist the awful weight of the world. But God's grace is limitless. When God applies his grace to a soul downcast because of misery, that unfortunate man is able to believe again. He is able to look upon his circumstances as gestures of love. He will say in his miserable soul, 'these are the sure proofs that my God loves me.'

But until God gives that light in the soul, until he grants strength to uphold, then that unfortunate man shall be a prodigal forever. He will consider the poverty of his state and consider the fortune in his father's palace. But his lack of faith in his father's goodness will fix his bottom with with the pigs.

O when times of difficulty comes, it is hard to say that God does work all things together for our good. But he really does. O yes he does. That I have no doubt. It is why I pray now for me and you that when that hour does come, which will surely come, that God may grant you and me strength in that awful hour to endure. If it is your sins that you feel has brought about such awful circumstances to you, fret not. For in Isaiah 54:7-8 God says, For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you.  In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you," says the LORD, your Redeemer. 


Saturday, 22 February 2014

A prayer for my soul: Let me not forget you

O God let me not thee forget.
For in forgetting you I forget me
And go again to those sins which you hate.
Lately there I have been
Drinking by dirty streams
Believing that this is all my worth be.
I know wrong I do but no strength in me to leave
For hope no more in me is found
I believed Christ no more blood for me does have.
O let me not forget you
For in your remembrance
Your love does shine
And I remember that I be your royal child.
Now in prayer I plea
Not just for me but for many that be
Lost in sin and has forgotten thee
That now by thy Spirit help them remember thee.


Sunday, 16 February 2014

One day God will call us home

What tears can I weep for a sister whose friend was lost so soon. 
Prematurely fell to his death and in sorrow I cry with you, 
Mourning with the angels above. 
Crying with God, all of your pain known, but none lost to him. 
Your friend is precious to him as gold. 
No words to say but this, that life is a gift not earned. 
One day, a sure night which to all our friends and family will seem very sad, 
God eternal, will call us home. 
God himself, death did taste, 
The Father, thy sorrow does know, in portion greater than your own, 
For tears He wept, grieving sad, He rend the light, making it dark.  
So that you in this mournful hours on Him can lean. 
On Him can rest your woeful cries. 
And hide nor your funeral face, nor your emotions, 
Let every water fall from your eyes, 
Till all your pain are emptied in his bottle of hope. 
In these downhearted hours, forsake Him not. 
Ask Him why, but remember, dear sister, 
that He is for you.


She smells like royalty

Beautiful she appeared to me, 
A pretty sight of delight, 
Loving her deliciously, 
Watching her enticingly. 
Like magic she draws out the summer and laughter in me. 
Dresses like a rainbow. 
She smells like royalty.


Life is moving on

Life is moving on
I'm moving on too. 
But I am going to play my own song,
And dance too. 
I am going to walk on the sunny side, 
Because everyday is the day to feel alright.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Flowers and Chocolate

Flowers and chocolate are cliche gifts for a woman on valentine.

These gifts rescue valentine's day procrastinators.

"I'll just pick this and this off the shelf and for her it will do.

And speak sweet words, how of her I love so dear."

But this, we may call lazy love, though it may be true,

For reasons be why such minds be stray

From thoughts prepared. But beware

Of the unhappy smile

Warm cold eyes will look you back.

Flowers and chocolate, do think outside the box

And if you have tarried

Then flowers, chocolate and the truth will do.


Sunday, 9 February 2014

Miscellanies 90: How can we put all faith in God

How can we put all faith in God?

Faith means reliance. It means to trust God. It means that in all situations one should not lean on their own understanding but on God.

I think we can put all faith in God by simply submitting all of our lives to God - transferring all that we have or is to all that he is.

When we read scripture there are hundreds of promises that God has given to us, and thus to put all faith in God is to trust all of God's promises. When we do that we will not be worried about anything.

Jesus, looking ahead to our time questions the faith of our generation. He asks his disciples, 'Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth,' Luke 18:8.

O, how does this apply to your own personal situation. It is easy to see the lack of faith in others, but how hard it is to see it in ourselves. If we lack faith we have some sort of reason to justify it. We say, only if this were the case then we would be full of faith, or if I were in there shoes then I would trust God in such a matter. We say, O I have prayed for a time and a time and nothing happens. Or even more sadly we pray only once and expect it to be given. The widow had faith. Do you have faith?

I am one who is little in faith. Yes, I admit this fault of mine. I admit not to boast of my confession but rather to be driven to prayer to ask for more faith. Yes, my God, please help my unbelief. Doubt is not the ground I wish to place my feet. I want to be on the solid ground of faith, for it is there I can build my house and go to sleep at night knowing that when the evening wind blows hard upon my roof, it shall not cave in and kill me.

When you come again Lord Jesus, please find faith in me, and that faith I pray be given to me from your Father in heaven.


Philip Seymour Hoffman and the urgency of the gospel

The sad news of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death hit the media on Sunday. The multiple award-winning actor and director died of a drug overdose at his New York home – a tremendous loss to his friends and family, a huge blow to the acting world and to fans of his unique and skillful performances.

Tragically, Hoffman is not the first star to hit our headlines in this way. Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, to name but a few, had similarly untimely deaths.

Of course it isn't just the rich and famous who are riddled with such heartbreaking pain – how many others unknown to the public eye have died of similar causes, either accidental or intentional?

Back in 2012, Nicky Gumbel, vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, spoke movingly about Amy Winehouse's death in Woman Alive: "I found it absolutely tragic when Amy Winehouse died – it made me weep – because it represents thousands of other young people who have so much pain and can't process it other than with drugs or alcohol, or promiscuity that ultimately is going to be prettymeaningless. So I think there's an urgency about the message."

Pain and hopelessness permeate our world and show no partiality, affecting people regardless of age, location or economic status. But in the midst of this hopelessness, we know that as Christians, we can have hope.

The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35: "Jesus wept." His friend died and Jesus's response is exactly what ours would have been. He wept. But he didn't just weep; the literal translation of the Greek word used here means 'to snort like a horse'. Not only was Jesus upset, he was also angry. Jesus was raging that this wasn't right – it wasn't how the world should be. And if this world is not as God intended it to be, it is certainly not how He intends to leave it.

One day, He will return and put an end to all our pain. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever"(Revelation 21:4). Or as Tolkein puts it in The Lord Of The Rings: "Everything sad will be made untrue."

While we are in no way immune to suffering, as Christians we know that we are not alone in our grief. We have a God who chose to give up His divine privileges in order to share in our suffering (Philippians 2) and redeem it. While we may not always have answers, we have a loving God who draws alongside us and holds us in our grief and breathes hope into our hopelessness.

As Nicky points out, there is an urgency about our message. People need to know that there is a far greater remedy than the bottle or pill, that they have not been forgotten, that their names have been written on the palms of God's hands (Isaiah 49:14-16).

Ruth Jackson is media officer for RZIM and the OCCA

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A false cry of repentance

Many under some sort of influence have made passionate declaration and resolutions, namely that they shall henceforth leave their sins and follow Jesus Christ. Such passionate cries as one writer puts it 'is raised in a storm and will die in a calm.' For when the terror of punishment abandons their soul, or the misery which brought them to call out to Christ is alleviated, they at once return to their old sins or embrace another.

They forget that repentance as one writer puts it 'is a grace of God's Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed.' This the angels in heaven rejoice for. They do not rejoice over one who makes a passionate cry with their mouth, but their actions are altogether like their old ways. Here there in no new cloth, only the old garment of unrighteousness.

God is not blind that he cannot see. It is true as one writer puts it that 'under a veil, a deformed face is hid; and persons are veiled over with ignorance and self-love; therefore they see not what deformed souls they have.' In our case it is that many have covered their deformed souls with their passionate cries of repentance. Such a cry never came from the heart, for only a regenerated soul can cry out for true repentance.

The sorrow for sin is superficial. It is worldly agony. It does not break the heart as to be willing to forsake sin for the nails of the cross. Rather than rending their hearts, they rend their voices. They only increase their confession but not the turning of their legs away from sin's path. It never grieves them that they have offended so good a God; such would never break their hearts. Only the fear of punishment or the loss of their worldly enjoyment causes them any true misery.

My dear friends, 'our hearts must go along with our confessions. The hypocrite confesses sin but loves it, like a thief who confesses to stolen goods, yet loves stealing. How many confess pride and covetousness with their lips but roll them as honey under their tongue.' 

O where is your heart dear Christian? Do you beat your breast and shed many a tear because of your sins. Even more do you wail in prayer because you have offended so good a God and considered Christ's blood not to be a precious thing. Or are you as many who only seeks righteousness because they want God to do something immediate for them and then after return to their sinful ways.

Is your sorrow as such as this golden writer puts it, namely that 'Our sorrow for sin must be such as makes us willing to let go of those sins which brought in the greatest income of profit or delight. The physic shows itself strong enough when it has purged out our diseases. The Christian has arrived at a sufficient measure of sorrow when the love of sin is purged out. '


The two-faced Church?

So it seems everybody is pointing the finger, endlessly speculating or downright guffawing, over the alleged indiscretions of French president Francois Hollande.
We seem to have a thirst for the juicier morsels of scandal of those involved in public life, from which even the Church is not immune.
In fact the biggest critique of Christians today is that they’re just a big bunch of hypocrites. They don’t practise what they preach; they say one thing but live in a totally different way.
Who are we to judge Monsieur Hollande?
When you flick through the annals of history, read of the monstrosities of the Crusades, the heavy-handed domination of empires or the bigoted social and ethnic divides that are often accredited to the Church, doesn’t it basically indicate that Christianity is a defective product? It claims to change your life, but in reality stinks of rank hypocrisy.
Well, I think it’s important to underline that every belief system will attract people who don’t meet its standards. In fact I noticed that the first schism has already appeared within the recently formed atheist ‘church’, with the New York faction concerned the group’s message and tone isn’t ‘atheist’ enough, whatever that might mean.
Hypocrisy is everywhere.
At the 1993 annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Atlanta, Stephen Nordbye wrote that 300,000 doctors, nurses and researchers came together to discuss, among other things, the importance a low-fat diet plays in keeping hearts healthy. Yet during mealtimes they consumed fat-filled fast food like bacon cheeseburgers at the same rate as people from other conventions. The presence of hypocrisy within any movement should demand further investigation, sure, but it doesn’t have a direct bearing on whether or not the message of that movement is true. That is a totally different question.
The very idea of hypocrisy has some intriguing origins. The Greek word hupokrites ‘was better attributed to actors on a stage, brilliant at conveying one persona on it, and another in real life. In the classical works of Plato and Aristotle, you could even say it had complimentary tones. The best hupokritai would have made superb performers.
In all probability a carpenter called Joseph, and his protégé, Jesus, would have found work in and around one of the greatest theatres of the first century in a town called Sepphoris, less than an hour’s walk from Nazareth. Jesus would have been exposed to the stage, the theatre, in some form, almost certainly.
The word ‘hypocrite’ is used 17 times in the New Testament. Each and every time it is spoken by Jesus. It is he that gave hypocrisy the stinging meaning that we ascribe to it today.
The late (and great) Harvard philosophy professor, Dallas Willard, puts it like this: "It is clear from the literary records that it was Jesus alone who brought this term ‘hypocrisy’ and the corresponding character into the moral record of the Western world. It is ironic that even when, precisely when, we criticise the Church for producing hypocrites, we pay tribute to this man Jesus whose teaching gave us the picture of hypocrisy that shapes our moral understanding 2,000 years later."
So is there hypocrisy in the Church? Yes.
Is this hypocrisy bad? Undoubtedly.
Does it detract from the message of Jesus. Pas du tout.
But it should cause us to live with a greater degree of humility, read salacious headlines with a little less zeal, and certainly think twice before we comment on or judge the failings of others.
More than that, an acknowledgement of our own duplicity should be the foundation of our relationship with God. When Jesus teaches on prayer, the very first thing that comes out of his mouth is not “Pray lots” or “Pray every day” but instead: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:5).
Admitting our own two-facedness is what ironically makes us not hypocritical and it’s exactly the kind of message the Church should be better at conveying.
Sir Arthur Adams, an English colonial official in the 1800s, whose image hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, once said this: “Don’t stay away from church because there are so many hypocrites. There’s always room for one more.”
I couldn’t agree with him more, and Monsieur Hollande, for one, would be more than welcome at mine.
Andy Tilsley is part of the leadership team at ChristChurch London

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

To my Brothers and Sisters in Christ

I write this article towards the fundamentalist evangelical Christians, which is the majority of the Church today. This article is to question your belief in the gospels not as the word of God, but that it is without contradictions, discrepancies and your definition of inspiration.

1. We do not know what was originally written by the authors of the New Testament from Paul to the authors of the gospels. Now I am not saying we do know anything, we know about 99% of what the earliest form of the text said. Scholars agree that scribes sometimes changed the text for theological purposes .e.g. Mark 19 9:20, 1 John 5:7 etc etc and sometimes the text was changed by accident to bar. Now this causes concern for the textual critic to know what was the original, now we can make a pretty good guess with high plausibility by using the tools of textual criticism and I am not going to dive into that, as it could confusion if you do not know about it. However, I am going to be writing a lengthy article on the transmission and corruption of the New Testament text in the near future.
This 1% of major variants is hard to know what is the correct reading for a few reasons:-

1. We do not have the autographs of any New Testament book, like every other book in ancient history.
2. It is hard to determine the nature of a variant especially if it happens early in transmission of the text.
3. sometimes hard to determine the nature of a manuscript.

However, some of these major variants can be recovered .e.g. The baptism of Jesus in Luke 3 did it say you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased or this is my beloved son, today I have begotten you. Now even though the second reading of the text could go back to the original and it does change the meaning of the text, it is more likely that the first reading goes back to the earliest form of the text.
What do I mean by these major variants? these variants are meaningful and viable variants; which means could go back to the original and also changes the meaning of the text.

2. Most Fundamentalists (I have even seen this being said at the Alpha course) will tell you the New Testament is the best attested book of antiquity, which is correct it is, but 94% of the manuscripts come after the 9th century which is 800 years after the original. The first completed manuscript we have of all four gospels is not until the 4th century. Only a handful of manuscripts come from the second century and only about 30-40 in the 3rd century.And some of these are just mere fragments of a certain verse .e.g. are earliest manuscript is P52, P meaning papyrus and 52 meaning the 52nd manuscript to be found and cataloged. This manuscript is no bigger than a credit card and has parts of John 18 on the front and back of the fragment.

Now I am not saying we have a poor tradition, as it is incredibly rich, but to use the best attested argument is such a weak argument when that does not prove much. Its like saying the dad is stronger than then son but it does not mean the Dad can now lift the car. However, if we cannot trust the form of the gospels then we cannot trust anything in ancient history.

Now remember I am not saying we do not know what the earliest form may have said we just do not know what everything was said, which is why I said we know about 99% and maybe a little bit more.

3. The term 'original'; Now you may be wondering well original is what NT writes wrote and sent out to churches and people to copy for themselves. However, it is not as easy as that; lets look at Paul who used scribes like a lot of people in history to write his letter form him. Paul would dictate to the scribe what to write, these scribes were known as secretaries. Now we all know that when you write something you make spelling mistakes or you miss hear what someone was saying or you day dream and therefore make mistakes. Now the scribe would of made mistakes and authors did sometimes check the work after to make sure it was correct, but what was the original? the word by the scribe or the corrected word that Paul/the scribe noticed? you may say Paul, but it has just been changed so that does not mean it is original.

A lot of authors would make copies of the work they have just wrote and they would be kept for themselves and their official, first work would be sent out or they would send the copies out and people would come copy the autograph form its place of residence. Problem is how do we know the drafts are the same as the autographs? Now they could of checked for mistakes in the drafts but they may still of missed mistakes. If this is the case we already have variants in the transmission of the text and therefore which is original the autograph wording or the authors drafts?

Now the term original has many meanings. It can mean the first ever copy all the way to the earliest form of a text. so, what is it? how do w prove that?. scholars have abandoned this terms for this reason and the difficulties to understand what mistakes authors may have themselves made. Now I am not saying Paul would of added new theology to his own gospel, as that makes no sense, seeing as though it would not be new it would just be his theology. Scholars now look to other avenues and two of these are used by scholars;
1. the authorial text, which is the text the author intended to publish
2. The initial text, which is the earliest form of the text that was published by the author to be copied.

Now the authorial text is very hard to also recover, as how can we know what the author intended to write? we cannot access the authors mind to assess that. However, we can recover the initial text. Kurt and Barbara Aland argue that the initial text would be relatively close to the original. I would agree with this, as the author is not trying to change things to suit his own theology, as he can just input his own theology, as it is their book they are writing, they are not a scribe copying his work who does not like the look of something he reads, so decides to change it. We can therefore say the initial text is what we can be recovered. 

4. Discrepancies/contradictions in the gospels are real, the bible is not the inerrant word of God and it never claims to be, it claims to be the inspired word of God. Now before I define what that means I will show you a discrepancy in the gospels that to me is one of the biggest discrepancies in the gospels.
Most Christians will know the account(s) of Jairus daughter, so now lets look at the gospel accounts:

Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. (Mark 5:22-26, ESV

for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. (Luke 8:42-43, ESV)

While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in andknelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, (Matthew 9:18-20, ESV)

As we can see Luke and Marks account is consistent with each other but notice Matthews gospel shows us that Jairus daughter had died when Jairus first met Jesus where as in Mark and Luke she was still alive when Jairus got to Jesus. Now we can clear see the contradiction here and it cannot be harmonized. Fundamentalists have tried to figure out an answer that is not compelling and is mere speculation. Some have tried to solve it by saying Matthew is telescoping the story. This is a scholar who I admire and agree greatly with but disagree with him on this point. Dr. White’s answer to this, ignoring the further development in Luke and John, was that Matthew did nothing wrong in summarizing the story. He referred to Matthew’s action as ‘telescoping’, by which he obviously means that Matthew has drawn in the ends of the story to make it shorter. He correctly pointed out that Matthew achieved this by omitting the later part about someone else coming to say Jairus daughter died and put it and the begining when Jairus came to jesus, which Dr. White calls this telescoping. To Dr. White, Matthew did not change the broad facts of the story in having Jairus declare the girl dead from the start, since we still get the same basic information from both Matthew and Mark.
even though this could be the case that Matthew shortens the story and therefore just tells us she died, as it is known in history that authors would adapt the story, paraphrase the story; this is not a bad thing it is to just to tell the story differently but also the same. This can mean putting the words into peoples mouths. People do this all the time .e.g. if your teacher gave a lecture about banks and you went up to him at the end you wouldn't repeat the exact lecture he just said or the exact point he made, you will adapt it in a way that tells the remarks differently but the punch line is the same. However, even though this , may be true about Matthew here for the telescoping theory it is still a discrepancy as the accounts contradict, but the punch line is the same that Christ has the power to heal and raise the dead, which is the whole point of the story.

Secondly, it is hard to say Matthew telescoped this, as we cannot go into Matthews brain therefore it has to be looked at as a discrepancy.

The Problem is fundamentalists will admit that the main part of the story in what is truth her and know there is a problem here with the contradicting passage, even Calvin understands this and argues the main point of the story is Jesus can raise people from the dead and heal the sick. But they themselves will still call the gospels the inerrant word of God when they can see there are discrepancies. Discrepancies are not a bad thing it is just how ancient authors wrote and even how we talk today. Authors also sometimes never wrote in chronological order.even though this to me is not the case here with Jairus we have to look at what history tells us.

6. What does it mean to say the New testament is inspired? William Lane Craig puts it this way, you have to understand that inspiration does not mean God somehow controlled the pen of the authors. he goes further and argues that you can be inspired to write something because someone has give you a reason to write something .e.g. Bob was inspired to write a book about his life, because so many people encouraged him to do it. however with the gospels god inspired them and inspired every word written, but how he inspires them has to be put into the culture of the time and how historical Biographies were written.
We can extend the point by considering the proposal that the Gospels should be understood as different performances, as it were, of orally transmitted tradition.  The prominent New Testament scholar Jimmy Dunn, prompted by the work of Ken Bailey on the transmission of oral tradition in Middle Eastern cultures, has sharply criticized what he calls the “stratigraphic model” of the Gospels, which views them as composed of different layers laid one upon another on top of a primitive tradition.  (See James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered [Grand Rapids, Mich.:  William B. Eerdmans, 2003].) On the stratigraphic model each tiny deviation from the previous layer occasions speculations about the reasons for the change, sometimes leading to quite fanciful hypotheses about the theology of some redactor.  But Dunn insists that oral tradition works quite differently.  What matters is that the central idea is conveyed, often in some key words and climaxing in some saying which is repeated verbatim; but the surrounding details are fluid and incidental to the story. 
Probably the closest example to this in our non-oral, Western culture is the telling of a joke.  It’s important that you get the structure and punch line right, but the rest is incidental.  For example, many years ago I heard the following joke: 
“What did the Calvinist say when he fell down the elevator shaft?”
“I don’t know.”
“He got up, dusted himself off, and said, ‘Whew! I’m glad that’s over!’”
Now just recently someone else told me what was clearly the same joke.  Only she told it as follows:
“Do you know what the Calvinist said when he fell down the stairs?”
“‘Whew! I’m glad that’s over!’”
Notice the differences in the telling of this joke;  but observe how the central idea and especially the punch line are the same.  Well, when you compare many of the stories told about Jesus in the Gospels and identify the words they have in common, you find a pattern like this.  There is variation in the secondary details, but very often the central saying is almost verbatim the same.  And remember, this is in a culture where they didn't even have the device of quotation marks!  (Those are added in translation to indicate direct speech; to get an idea of how difficult it can be to determine exactly where direct speech ends, just read Paul’s account of his argument with Peter in Galatians 2 or of Jesus’ interview with Nicodemus in John 3.)  So the stories in the Gospels should not be understood as evolutions of some prior primitive tradition but as different performances of the same oral story.
Now I wrote this to help Christians understand the gospels and to understand them in the context they were written and to have some education in early Christianity and the text of the new testament. I am not some sceptic, but I am not a fundamentalist and I hold a mixture of liberal and conservative views. I have devoted a lot of my adult life to this to know the truth and I hold to the conservative doctrine of Christ and I truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that scripture is the inspired word of God. But we must understand the truth and knowing the truth of the gospels actually strengthens me in Christ not the other way around. Yes we don't know what every word was in the initial form of the text (but it is not lost we are just tinkering with the text), yes we have discrepancies, but when you understand historical biographies and there transmission you understand how God worked with scriptures and it makes you glorify him more. This is not to bring you down, it is encourage you to look further and build your faith in Christ. 

If you have any questions please ask, if you have found this difficult and has made you question (which is not a bad thing) then please contact me and we can talk about. May God bless you all.

by Adam hardie. He blogs at

Original post can be found on this link.

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