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Revelation  4 : 1
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
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Evident Design
Witnessing Tools
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Wendy Wippel

Richard Dawkins describes the Bible as ''just plain weird, … a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents by hundreds of anonymous authors and editors, … spanning nine centuries''. Francis Bacon said a little science estranges you from God, but a lot of science brings you back.  Dawkins apparently has had only a little Bible.

A favorite target of those who share Dawkins' opinion of the Scriptures is the gospels, and the differences between them can be hard to reconcile. (Hence the ubiquity of synoptic gospels studies.)

J. Warner Wallace, BTW, a detective with the Chicago Police Department, has written a book called "Cold Case Christianity", in which he observes that, using the Forensic Statement Analysis techniques he was trained in, the gospels, when analyzed accordingly, reveal themselves clearly to be the testimony of four actual eyewitnesses, with many differences (as expected in police investigations) but with differences that prove resolvable with analysis.

And one of the keys to deciphering those differences in the gospels is to remember that the Scriptures are God-breathed, as men wrote from God's inspiration as carried along by the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is evidenced throughout the gospels by how it translates Jesus' word to the audience intended.

Exhibit A: the last supper. Matthew wrote specifically for the Jews, and in Matthew at the last supper Jesus says;

"For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (ESV)

Luke, the Gentile physician, writes primarily for the intellectual (Hellenized, or "Greek") audience, and in Luke Jesus says;

"This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." (ESV)

So which one did he say? The only explanation that makes any sense is that the Holy Spirit guided Matthew and Luke's pen to speak directly to their respective audience. Matthew tells the Jews that Jesus said; "this is my blood of the covenant” (i.e. this is my blood, promised by the covenant that already exists between you and God.)

In contrast, Luke tells his audience that Jesus said, "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" (i.e., because of this blood poured out, also for you, you may now partake in the new covenant that I am establishing.)

Still skeptical?

Exhibit B: The parable of the sower. Matthew, again, tells his Jewish audience that (regarding the seed that fell on good ground) that it "yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Mark, written primarily for a Gentile audience, says that the seed on fertile soil reaps "some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

The Bible's critics have a field day with this sort of thing, giddy with an opportunity, like Dawkins, to say the Bible is chaotic, contrived, and incomprehensible.

But if you believe in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, there's another answer.

Again, think of the audience intended. For Matthew's Jews, the seed sown by Jesus reaped a harvest which, historically, followed the pattern the Holy Spirit revealed to Matthew. The Jews, for the first seven years are so, made up 100% of the early church, but then declined steadily, while the Gentiles, absent from the church until the salvation of Cornelius, steadily increased in numbers until they made up virtually 100% of believers. Mark's audience, the Gentiles, were harvested in steadily increasing numbers, just as the Holy Spirit revealed to Mark.

So differences between the gospels can often be explained by subtle differences related to the intended audience of particular gospel. The genealogies are another example.  Matthew, a Levite (so therefore a Jew of Jews), traces Jesus' genealogy (predictably) back to Abraham, while Luke, a physician, traces His bloodline (predictably) all the way back to Adam.  

More important, however, is to remember that ultimately the scriptures were written not by hundreds of authors and editors over nine centuries, but by one omniscient God before the foundation of the world. And, like any book worth reading, the Bible has a cohesiveness inherent in being produced by a single author. And what we see in the gospels is evidence of that coherent design. Each author of the gospels, as four separate eyewitnesses of either Jesus' ministry or the early church, offers a different perspective on who Christ was (a divinely inspired perspective, as we will see.)

Various elements of the gospel stories, compared, bear this out. Take phrases commonly used by each author, for example. Matthew, writing to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah their scriptures promised, used the phrase "fulfilled" 82 times. 

But for now (again) let's look at the genealogies. Matthew traces Jesus' genealogy back to Abraham because that is the genealogy necessitated for the Messiah by the Law and the Prophets. It’s the legal genealogy required. Matthew presents Jesus as the Meshiach Nagid: the Messiah, the King.

Mark omits a genealogy altogether. Why? Nobody's interested in the genealogy of their servants. Mark presents Jesus as not the triumphant Messiah of Isaiah 59, but the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

Luke, as discussed traces Jesus' bloodline. Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man.

And John…

(Does John have a genealogy?)

Yep, front and center:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." John 1:1-2

John presents Jesus as the Son of God. Four authors, four complementary portrayals of the Savior. Not chaotically cobbled together or disjointed, but rather, exquisitely designed by its author, God.

Hopefully I've sold you that premise.

Not yet?

Wait, there's more!

Matthew, we said, wrote his gospel to prove that the Messiah promised all the way through the Hebrew Scriptures had come to Israel in Jesus. The Messiah promised all the way through the Old Testament.  And In Zechariah 9:9, we read, "Behold thy king, O Israel!" In Isaiah 52:13, "Behold my servant!" In Zechariah 6:12, we find, "Behold the man!" And In Isaiah 40:9, we read, "Behold your God!"

The exact portrayals we later find, fine-tuned, in the gospels, breathed out through the pens of four different men carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Anybody have Dawkins email?

Wippel" href="http://www.omegaletter.com/content/?Bio_Wendy_page">About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Wippel" href="http://www.omegaletter.com/articles/articles.asp?ArticleID=7748">Kindred Spirit



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