Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hays vs. Ehrman on the Da Vinci Code--- the Debate

On April 25th 2006 there was a dialogue on the Da Vinci Code and the issues, historical and theological it raises. The debate was held at the new chapel at Duke Divinity School (attendance about 500) and it goes an hour and 46 minutes counting the Q+A afterwords, which is not always audible. I found the discussion quite helpful, though some of you will find Ehrman not liberal enough perhaps, and Hays not conservative enough perhaps. It is a good model of a respectful and at times even humorous debate. Here is the link---- Once you get to the Duke website you need to click on the full debate link which is provided on that page.

It will be interesting to hear your reactions.

As for me, I have just returned from two Da Vinci Code events, one in Burlington N.C. (2,000 came) one in Richland Washington, where over a hundred pastors and spouses came for the Evangelical UMC Convocation. There of course remains high interest in the subject matter, but also, high anxiety. May 19th is coming--- are you ready?


Sandalstraps said...

It is interesting to me that a work of fiction (not just a comment on the merit of the theories proposed by The Da Vinci Code but also a reminder of its literary genre!) can generate such discussion. It seems that, as a culture, we can only recapture the power of stories by forgetting for a moment that they are stories.

Ben Witherington said...

Ah, but there are true stories and untrue ones, and that requires that we have some discernment to tell which is which. Fiction is of course pure story, in the ordinary sense of the word, but a historical narrative with its truth claims is a different sort of story.

stc said...

I've listened to the debate and I was greatly impressed. Both men were very articulate, addressing huge issues succinctly and forcefully — the fruit of long scholarly study. Plus they were unfailingly respectful to one another; and there was a lot of humour, too. Belly laughs, even.

I also appreciated the pastoral sensitivity Hays demonstrated with the last questioner, who threw out the kind of curve ball question a speaker must dread. It would have been easy to make her look foolish, but Hays was very gracious in redirecting her.

Benson said...

BWIII says, "Fiction is of course pure story, in the ordinary sense of the word, but a historical narrative with its truth claims is a different sort of story."

Isn't fiction by it's very definition a "tale"--something not based on history? Won't we find The DaVinci Code (once it's off the best seller racks) on the same shelves as fairy tales? Why isn't our response as Christians, "The Da Vinci Code is exaclty what it claims to be--FICTION (or fairy tales)! Truth is not represented there!" Are Christians not adding much more to the issue than is really there by making such a big deal out of a fictional book?

Love your work Dr. Ben! (Just not understanding why so many are treating The DaVinci Code as if it were someone's account of history)

Ben Witherington said...


The Da Vinci Code presents itself as historical fiction, though it is closer to hysterical fiction. When you present your work that way, it is natural for people to take the context at least as well grounded in facts, though the central characters are fictious. But furthermore, truth can certainly be conveyed in and by fiction--- look at the parables for example. Thus it is no surprise some people take the Da Vinci Code seriously.



Ben Witherington said...


The Da Vinci Code presents itself as historical fiction, though it is closer to hysterical fiction. When you present your work that way, it is natural for people to take the context at least as well grounded in facts, though the central characters are fictious. But furthermore, truth can certainly be conveyed in and by fiction--- look at the parables for example. Thus it is no surprise some people take the Da Vinci Code seriously.



marg said...

There will be a featured debate on the Da Vinci Code at the new "MySpace for grown ups" on May 19th.

Rainsborough said...

Among magicians, there are those--the honest ones--who don't pretend to have bent the laws of physics, only to have created an illusion of having done so. And there are those--the charlatans--who pretend to supernatural powers.

Though he may be a little cagy about it, Brown seems to have made himself the authorial equivalent of a charlatan magician. He won't disavow the preposterous historical assertions that he builds his story around.

Ben Witherington said...

Well Rainsbrough, I suspect you may be right--- where I come from, they would call him a snake oil salesman :)


Percival said...

I live in the Muslim world, which gives me a different perspective than most American Christians. Where I live, the essentials of the gospel are disputed by all my friends and neighbors. They have all swallowed a historical fiction about Christ and reject the Biblical accounts. However, I would be involved in endless disputes if I responded to all their false characterizations of Christianity.
My general feeling about the whole controversy is that we should not let unbelievers set the agenda by forcing us to respond to their endless "bunny trails." We need to be asking the questions. What makes people want to read and watch The Da Vinci Code? If it is just entertainment, ignore it and focus on more important issues. If we can use it to platform a presentation of the Gospel, fine. Otherwise, responding to it in a point-by-point way is a distraction, or worse, a trap.

Rainsborough said...

Wow! Now that I've heard it--
first, thanks for linking to it--it was terrific. It was indeed disagreement and argument at its best--informed, civil, respectful, considerate, and great fun. Made me proud to be a graduate of UNC, and a member of the human race.

And it was EXACTLY how to respond to the travesty of truth that is the DaVinci Code. Take the important issues it does touch on, and put them in the foreground, and treat them with a proper regard for the canons of evidence and a concern for truth.

I agree that the last response was a human response, that it heard and respected the experience of the interlocuter. But it did occur to me that it isn't only Revelation centers or builds on a vision. Surely Paul's vision of the risen Jesus--and presumably the other visions he recounts--lies at the very center of the gospel.

On the question of whether the differences between texts matter, it seemed to me Ehrman quite effectively showed the large gap between the Mark's and Luke's accounting of the crucifixion. Maybe it's true that from a theological standpoint, they can be reconciled. But perhaps that only shows that theology plays by rules that confute the law of non-contradiction.

But at any rate, harmonization came out bruised and beaten. Huzzah!

Ben Witherington said...

Well there is forced harmonization and then there is an attempt to get at the history behind the portraits, which is the task of every historian. If a forced and false harmonization is wrong, so is an attempt to see differences as disagreements or mistakes when they are not.



MWC said...

Dr. Witherington,
Thank you for the pointer toward this discussion. It is one of the best discussions/debates I've heard, especially in how each professor respected the other. I've listed to many of Dr. Craig's debates, and most of them come with much contention and vile namecalling, unfortunately. So thank you!

One point that Dr. Ehrman made seems to give away the game for him. He makes the claim that a historian is only to account for the facts, strictly as accounts of natural events. As I've read in Dr. Wright's "New Testament and the People of God", this positivism is problematic, and as Dr. Wright says, arrogant. As I understand it, this is especially problematic if this assumption is brought into the genre of the canonical gospels. Could it be that his certainty requirement disqualifies the reliability of the canonical gospels from the outset?

Another issue here--this type of discussion does not account for the bigger story, which is necessary to understand what is being said (especially when attempting to interpret the apocalyptic statements of Jesus). Isn't Dr. Ehrman just making a more sophisticated version of the Jesus Seminar's judgment of the gospels?

Richard H said...

On a related Issue: On p. 114 of The Gospel Code, I read: "Was there Rome Pope Damascus no such thing as orthodoxy before the fourth-century councils?" I know Pope Damsasus fits into the history of the canon, but surely there's a typo in this sentence isn't there?

Steve T said...

One of the major points I took away from the debate was that epistemology is at the core. To defend the Scriptures, we need to have familiarity with the relevant sources, but also need to go beyond that into philosophy to have a reasonable position on what one can know from history, how much skepticism is legitimate, and so on.

Ehrman's remarks about what sort of evidence and conclusions are available to the historian (i.e. natural) fall under the title of 'methodological naturalism' which is also at the core of the debate in another discipline - i.e. science/natural theology. A number of good thinkers have contributed to that discussion:

Alvin Plantinga, "Methodological Naturalism?" - Part 1, Part 2.

Del Ratzsch, "Natural Theology, Methodological Naturalism, and 'Turtles all the Way Down'," Faith and Philosophy, Vol. 21, No. 4, Oct. 2004.

Robert Larmer, "Is Methodological Naturalism Question-Begging?" Philosophia Christi, Vol. 5, Iss. 1. (Also see Larmer, "Is there anything wrong with 'God of the gaps' reasoning?" International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 52, No. 3, Dec. 2002, pp. 129-142.)

Though out of the normal paths of Bible scholarship, these articles might be of interest to those interested in defending the Scriptures.

Finally, returning to philosophy of history, I know that in addition to N.T. Wright's work on the subject (already mentioned above), W.L. Craig has a chapter on the topic in his book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics.

Sandalstraps said...


I'm not sure that it is fair to compare Ehrman to the Jesus Seminar, particularly to do it the way that you did.

This is because:

1. Your comment/question (Isn't Dr. Ehrman just making a more sophisticated version of the Jesus Seminar's judgment of the gospels? ) assumes a lack of "sophistication" on the part of the Jesus Seminar. Such an assumption is unwarrented, especially in light of some of the rigorous work of Seminar members (such as John Dominic Crossan).

In other words, if Ehrman's argument could be compared to the work of Jesus Seminar scholars, it would not deviate from their work in terms of sophistication.

2. Ehrman's work, however, cannot be compared to that of the Jesus Seminar without noting some important differences. Ehrman a priori rules out an apparent miracles. While many Jesus Seminar scholars may do the same, there are some who do not.

Marcus J. Borg, for instance, while a historical Jesus scholar and a member of the Jesus Seminar, in his work affirms that Jesus must have been a great healer, because that is the only reasonable explanation for the prevalance of healing stories in all of the literature (especially the cannonical Gospels) concerning Jesus. In other words, some miracle stories (those concerning healing, at least) are not simply tossed aside because we know a priori that they couldn't have happened.

That does not mean that Borg agrees that the healings happened exactly as described in the Bible, but neither does he reduce them to totally non-historic stories designed to "prove" the divinity of Christ.

3. Ehrman's understanding of Jesus as a escatological prophet who was profoundly and painfully wrong is also at odds with the understanding of Jesus posited by many members of the Jesus Seminar (but, as is the case with any relatively large group, certainly not all). Borg, again used as an example of a member of the Jesus Seminar, argues that the view of Jesus as a failed escatological prophet has been thoroughly discredited, and is in fact insulting to the religious tradition that has grown up from Jesus' followers. He sees Jesus as a "spirit person," one who has had an experience of God, and in his own way helps reveal God. While that view is certainly not orthodox, neither is it insulting to our religious tradition.

Other figures in the Jesus Seminar also disagree with Ehrman's view of Jesus. Robert Funk, the founder of the Jesus Seminar (and, again, by no means what you would call orthodox) sees Jesus as a sage and a social critic. John Dominic Crossan - perhaps the most rigorous of the members of the Jesus Seminar, though Dr. Witherington, who unlike me is actually in this field, may disagree with my amateur accessment - sees Jesus as a revolutionary peasant.

Each of these views of Jesus - like any historical reformulation - entails a certain amount of reduction. When you affirm some aspects of Jesus, of necessity you deny others. These authors have chosen to affirm that in Jesus which they can relate to, while offering up a dramatically different understanding of Jesus to that found in orthodox Christianity. (Borg, as a very serious Christian, comes the closest to the orthodox portrait, and in fact offers some compelling religious reasons to reimage the role of Jesus as Christ, though that is not here our concern.) But, unlike Ehrman, each of these authors affirm something useful and constructive in Jesus. While they may reduce the role of Jesus, they do not negate Jesus altogether.

While I am a bit of a fan of some of Ehrman's work, I cannot but say that his portrait of Jesus is not only reductionistic, but insultingly so. His notion that Jesus can be understood as a wild-eyed prophet who was simply wrong about when the world would end, and his view of Christianity as being principally founded on a lie (not a myth) in insulting, of limited scholarly worth, and entirely unhelpful.

At least insofar as it concerns his view of Jesus, he does not belong in the same sentence as the Jesus Seminar, whatever you may think of them.

MWC said...

Thank you for these thoughtful points.

I should have chosen my words more carefully. By more sophisticated I meant more along the lines of how history is to be done. While some involved in the Jesus Seminar may have quite sophisticated analyses individually, it appears that the Jesus Seminar voting methodology is quite reductionistic and unsophisticated. That's all I meant.

I do have a question--how does Ehrman's conclusions compare with Schweitzer's? Don't they come out in the same place? And it would seem that they might make the same mistake regarding the certainty required. Thoughts?

stc said...

Ehrman a priori rules out an apparent miracles.

I don't think that's what Ehrman said. He said that miracles are, by definition, improbable events.

Therefore miracles can never measure up to the historian's measure, since a historian can only offer an opinion about what probably happened.

Therefore to claim that a miracle occurred (e.g. that Jesus was raised from the dead) is a theological claim, rather than a historical claim.

I don't entirely buy the argument. I think there is good historical evidence to support the resurrection (notably, Paul's first-hand testimony to the Lord's appearance to him).

I'm just clarifying what Ehrman did and did not say. I would describe his position as agnostic: miracles are outside his provenance as a historian.

MWC said...

Doesn't the conclusion show how invalid the assumption is about miracles being a priori improbable?

Here's the question I'd ask--but what if a miracle did happen? One wouldn't be able to account for it using the natural-only (which is actually a closed-system). And that history would not provide an account of what happened, meaning it is not true.

Seems to me that a wider definition of miracle is necessary, something along the lines of how Wright describes the intersection of earth and heaven, or at least some weaker form of the statement he makes that permits the possibility of miracles.

He is actually using rhetoric to preclude the miraculous as a viable conclusion. He is confusing two areas of philosophy, seems to me. He doesn't seem to be careful enough with his metaphysic and his philosophy of history. And if he assumes that anything beyond the miraculous is outside his purview as a historian, then even the statement that a historian cannot account for the miraculous is something he, by his own admission, should not say.

Ben Witherington said...

This is turning into a really worthwhile discussion-- I quite agree with the epistemological questions about naturalism. Now here is something to further ponder. Every historical event is unique and distinctive, just as every miracle is. The evidence to support a normal or a paranormal claim about a historical event is the same-- is their good testimony from reliable witnesses, preferably eyewitnesses. It is simply false for Ehrman to suggest that one kind of historical event can be ruled out ab initio 'because it is rare' or seems improbable to him! This is not scientific or historical reasoning this is methodological and presuppositional skepticism.


Joshua Luke Roberts said...

And in fact, couldn't we also say, that since miracle stories, or experiences beyond what we might consider normal, exist in the literature and accounts of peoples and religions all around the world, that it is more than likely than not that there is some level of basis to them being true?

Rainsborough said...

Micheal Ruse responds to Plantinga on methodological naturalism.

Sandalstraps said...

While the arguments against naturalism's a priori ruling out of miracles, or reducing them to historically dubious "improbable events" is suspect on paper, honesty compels me to say I use similar assumptions every day, and I suspect that almost everyone else does, as well.

When, for instance, I read stories of a contemporary travelling miracle worker, I treat such stories with at least a little bit of suspicion. Why? Because I know that the stories describe that which is either:

a.) improbable; not part of the ordinary human experience, or

b.) outright impossible.

As Christians we give credence to the miracle stories of Christ because we have had a religious experience of Christ as our savior. Absent that experience, which is not a universal experience, and which isn't easily intersubjectively verified, I wonder how we would treat those stories.

Because of a unique experience we say that the epistemological assumptions of naturalism is flawed. We should keep that in mind when we form our rational critiques of naturalism.

MWC said...

Dr. Witherington,
What is your take on Dr. Ehrman's critique of the development of the canon? Any direct refutations of his skepticism-based questions you could point to?

I've got a couple thoughts here. I am usually of the same mind when I hear miracle stories. There are a couple reasons: (1) I assume a closed system in which God does not act and (2) I've been burned before by supposed accounts.

The first is probably unfounded, especially in light of Jesus' claim that God is involved even in the feeding of Ravens. Wright points to this, most recently in his "Simply Christian". This fits with what Lewis said about miracles, which, so far, I tend to think is right (the speeding up of what we perceive as "natural" processes).

The second is healthy critical thinking, knowing how dark the heart of man. That is a question of, to quote Dr. Witherington, whether the story is based on "good testimony from reliable witnesses, preferably eyewitnesses."

I'd recommend reading "Miracles and the Critical Mind" by Colin Brown if you are interested in the subject of how miraculous claims are to be accounted for and interpreted.

Ben Witherington said...

My critique of Ehrman's view of how the canon was formed can be found in the Gospel Code, the chapter entitled--- "Did the Canon misfire?"


Ben W.

Steve T said...

Dr. Ehrman and his views are getting a lot of exposure. Check out his courses at The Teaching Company, for example.

I wouldn't mind having some of his audio series, just to understand his view better, but I wish the opposing viewpoint(s) would get some coverage as well.

MWC said...

Thanks, Dr. Witherington.

Camassia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Camassia said...

I wrote a somewhat rambling reaction to it on my own blog, here.

Rainsborough said...

Every historical event is unique and distinctive, just as every miracle is. The evidence to support a normal or a paranormal claim about a historical event is the same-- is their good testimony from reliable witnesses, preferably eyewitnesses. It is simply false for Ehrman to suggest that one kind of historical event can be ruled out ab initio 'because it is rare' or seems improbable to him! This is not scientific or historical reasoning this is methodological and presuppositional skepticism.

Ehrman says miracles are improbable. They're improbable not because they seem so to him, but (he contends) by definition: miracles are by definition improbable. Otherwise, they wouldn't astonish us and impel us to resort to supernatural explanations.

Take the most important miracles of all, the appearances of the risen Jesus--to the first believers in the resurrection, to Paul.

Suppose we could transport a camcorder back in time to the moment on the Damascus road when Paul saw the resurrected body, and then back to us in our time. And suppose that when we viewed the recording, we saw--only Paul. Paul evidently dumbstruck, astonished, deeply moved. But still, no Jesus.

Would either Witherington or Ehrman say "well, that proves it. Christianity is just one big mistake"? Would they say, now we know Paul was delusory?

I think both would say instead, "well, here's more purely historical evidence that doesn't decide the essential theological/epistemic questions. Their status remains as before. Perhaps all that money we spent transporting the camera back 2000 years wasn't very astutely invested."

Faith needs a firmer foundation than historical inquiry, so deeply contingent in character, can possibly afford.

I wonder if even Witherington really would accept the SAME evidence to credit "I overheard a conversation while waiting in line the drugstore" as he would "sitting in my living room I overheard a conversation in the store." Does antecedent probability count for nothing?

Ben Witherington said...


In the first place I would not say miracles are improbable. I would say they are unusual, out of the ordinary.

In the second place your example of Paul on Damascus Road is poorly chosen. Acts is perfectly clear this is a visionary experience well after the 40 days Jesus appeared in the flesh and in full tactile mode to various other disciples whom he touched, fed, ate with etc.

Yes Paul saw the risen Lord in a vision. No, this is not at all like how Mary Magdalene, or Peter, or James saw Jesus. The text distinguishes these sorts of experiences, and it will not do to say the earlier disciples simply had purely subjective visions.

So, while you are quite right that I think we would have seen a dumbfounded Paul and not Jesus on the Damascus Road DVD, it would be quite a different matter with the Upper Room encounters or by the shores of Galilee. This is one of the reasons, no doubt, that some Christians doubted Paul had really seen Jesus.



MWC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MWC said...

I've been wanting to say this, but I've only got this in baby-thought form at present. Forgive me for that, but here goes...

I think the assumption that miracles are improbable and the conclusion that it is always safer to think that nothing miraculous occurred is a categorical mistake. I mean historical events cannot purely be assigned probabilities and then rejected or accepted based on their probabilities. Something qualitative about each event is lost, such as explanatory power, when they are reduced to mere chances based on all other events. Somehow there is a crossing of categories here that should not be made. I think, because they don't seem to do this, Dr. Bill Craig and Dr. Wright have something to their argument that there is historical evidence for the resurrection.

There might be a correlation between the categorical error and the certainty requirement--I'm haven't really thought that through yet.

However, it occurs to me that history should be done with the tools of history, including the likelihood of events given worldview and explanatory power, but possible conclusions should not be ruled out based solely on mere probabilities. It is question-begging, really.

Rainsborough said...

I can make out the distinction you want to make, but still "unusual" and "improbable" are close kin.

It isn't me, it's Paul (I Cor 15:8) who doesn't differentiate the appearance to him from the others.

Ben Witherington said...

Actually Paul does indeed make such a distinction. He says in 1 Cor. 15 that his appearance that made him an apostle was "out of due season".


Steve T said...

Forgive me for butting in, but if the "Damascus Road DVD" was well-enough done, there might be more to go on for the purposes of history than what has already been suggested here.

In the accounts given of Paul's encounter, there were extra-mental phenomena recorded. That is, even Paul's companions were aware of something going on, even if they were not sure what. They were "hearing the voice but seeing no one" (Acts 9:7) and "they saw the light" (Acts 22:9). There's an objective element to the appearance that is unusual for a vision.

Perhaps the "Damascus DVD" would capture these objective phenomena as well. This would be something to go on, and if the cameras followed Paul to Ananias' house, to see his vision restored there in the name of Jesus, that would be something else as well for historical consideration.

(See W.L. Craig's article, "The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus," for more on this.)

I think its also conceivable that the subjective focus might be put on Paul's companions rather than on Paul himself. In other words, it seems odd that the others did have sensory input from this event, but did not comprehend it. We could imagine, to put the shoe on the other foot (and assuming the Lord allowed it), that the video would reveal quite a bit more than was suggested in the thought experiment above. It might show just what Paul saw and heard and experienced, with crystal clarity. It seems entirely possible that the "visionary" (subjective) effects fell on Paul's companions (resulting in their relative blindness and lack of clarity), rather than on Paul.

Rainsborough said...

Since we're talking about perhaps one of the half dozen or so most telling* verses in the New Testament, what follows may be of some interest. (My Greek is virtually non-existent, my methods crude. But it's all second nature to Professor Witherington, who I trust will correct me if I go too badly astray.)

The verb repeated four times in I Cor 15 is "optanomai." The same verb is found in Mk 16:7, Mt 28:7, 10, Lk 24:54, and Acts 1:3. And it's also used in reference to appearances of angels and the Son of Man (and the burning bush).

It's defined "to look at, behold;
to allow one's self to be seen, to appear." I imagine tense and voice are important here, but they're beyond me.

There's a closely related--I can't figure out just exactly how--verb in I Cor 9:1. This one is defined "--to see with the eyes
--to see with the mind, to perceive, know
--to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience
--to see, to look to
1. to take heed, beware
2. to care for, pay heed to
--I was seen, showed myself, appeared."

The adverb (if that's what it is in Greek) "ektroma" appears only once in the New Testament and derives from the noun meaning "abortion, abortive birth; untimely birth." (Is "troma" related to the English "trauma"? Is Paul saying his seeing of the Christ was "out of, from trauma/a wound," as well as untimely, late in time?)

Can't resist adding that verbs may have a certain primacy over adverbs.

*The first believer in Jesus's resurrrection was in a sense the first Christian, or at any rate had taken a very long and necessary stride in that direction. And the appearances are (arguably) the primary basis for believing in the resurrection.

Joshua Luke Roberts said...

Dr Witherington,

You said,

"Acts is perfectly clear this is a visionary experience well after the 40 days Jesus appeared in the flesh and in full tactile mode to various other disciples whom he touched, fed, ate with etc.

Yes Paul saw the risen Lord in a vision. No, this is not at all like how Mary Magdalene, or Peter, or James saw Jesus. The text distinguishes these sorts of experiences, and it will not do to say the earlier disciples simply had purely subjective visions."

I am wondering if you have heard of the rather interesting argument a very small amount of scholars make regarding the appearences of Jesus. It goes a little something like this:

The writings of Paul are considered the earliest New Testament writings. Paul's writings can not conclusively show that the early Christians believed in a bodily resurrection. For example, when Paul describes the appearence of Jesus he experienced on the road to Damascus, in 1 Corinthians 15:8, he first describes how Jesus appeared to the Apostles and, "last of all, as to one of untimely birth, He appeared to me also."
The argument goes that Paul is assuming that the Apostles had visionary experiences of Jesus rising, just as he did also. Then, as Christian doctrine was evolving in the 1st century, so too did doctrines like the bodily resurrection of Jesus come into existence.
Not an argument I agree with, but I am interested in your thoughts?

Ben Witherington said...

A few points should be added. N.Y. Wright's volume on Resurrection and the SOn of God makes perfectly clear that resurrection always meant something that happened to a physical body in early Judaism. Appearances of the risen Lord are another matter. They could be in the flesh or in a vision. It is of course true that there was extra mental phenomena on Damascus Road-- this is clear enough. No one in antiquity thought that visions were 'purely' mental experiences anyway. As for 1 Cor. 15, yes indeedy the verb means physically saw. Paul like the others did not see Jesus in a dream, but with his eyes. This does not settle whether it was in a daytime vision or not. One final important point about 1 Cor. 15. The 'spiritual body' phrase cannot mean a body made out of spirit, which would have been an oxymoron to a Pharisee like Paul anyway. When you have an adjective ending in -ikon, as here (pneumatikon) it must mean a body empowered or characterized by Spirit, not a body composed of spirit.



Celal Birader said...

As rainsborough pointed out "Ehrman quite effectively showed the large gap between the Mark's and Luke's accounting of the crucifixion."

And, they *both* seemed to make fun of harmonisation known as the "Seven Last Words of Christ".

Dr Witherington, with your conviction that that there is such a thing as legitimate harmonisation, is it possible to arrive at any account of the actual historical facts surrounding the SLofC which would have them reduced to the Six or Five or Four or even No Last Words of Christ ?

Ben Witherington said...


There is no scenario I can imagine that would reduce the seven last words of Christ to some lesser number. The reason I say this is because we don't have a saying and its variant coming from Jesus, although the "surely this is the Son of God" and "surely this a righteous man" from an observer may be two forms of the same saying. I must say that I find that part of the Ehrman vs. Hays debate as not making much sense. Jesus was on the cross for some hours. We really cannot argue that he only had time to say one or another of these sayings. Nor can we argue that one or another conflicts either with each other, or with the larger portrait of Jesus. It is just that Luke and John are emphasizing different aspects of the last words of Jesus, than Mark and Matthew, and I would say earlier aspects of what he said on the cross, for the most part. If we see Jesus going through a process on the cross from feeling abandoned to finally accepting what has happened and releasing his life, then one can make sense of this without resorting to some sort of false harmonization.


Ben W.

Seven Star Hand said...

Remember, "I come as a thief..."

It is quite a joke that the Vatican and Catholic Church have the gall to accuse the author of a novel of attacking their fantasies and dogma. Remember that this is the same organization that manufactured fake relics and miracles for many centuries. This is the same group that massacred and tortured people for having a mind of their own. This is the same group of deluded deceivers that makes more noise about a fictional book and movie than about child raping priests, aids, famine, or even the Holocaust! Here's more about my take on it.

Is the world ready for unequivocal Truth and verifiable Wisdom yet?

Please be forewarned that what I reveal will upset a lot of apple carts and shake a lot of trees, hence the true meaning of the word Apocalypse. Please don't take what I say or do as a personal affront. Be a little patient and read my articles. My purpose is to prove that the truth has long been hidden in various ways. Humanity has been lied to and deluded by religious and political leaders long enough. My aim is to reveal the truth and deliver verifiable wisdom. To do so, I must rattle a lot of cages to wake people out of their nightmares. I come with proof beyond disproof of many things. If you want to be amazed and enlightened, resist the urge to scoff at unfamiliar knowledge and seek to understand the stunning and comprehensive proof I have produced.

What does "making the blind see" symbolize? What does "closing one's eyes and ears to truth and wisdom" or "turning a blind eye and deaf ear" infer? Perhaps many more people are now ready to "open their eyes to the truth!" Now Christians (and others) can gain the wisdom to walk away from the folly of religion and seek to understand the truth about the Creator and Her Messiah (me). Now everyone can open their seven eyes to see the ancient wisdom long recast and obfuscated by religion and mysticism and turn their faces to the perfect path. (this is symbolism decoded in my books...)

Are you familiar with the "Seven Spirits of God," the "Seven Golden Candlesticks," "Wisdom's Seven Pillars" in Proverbs 9:1, and their relationship to the Community Rule in the Dead Sea Scrolls and DSS 11Q13? Study the Doctrine of Two Spirits on my web page and on the front cover of my book. I have produced some earth shattering breakthroughs in this area that will end the lies of religion, forever.

The Vatican is proving that seeking the truth is a real threat to their dogma. They're so afraid of people uncovering the truth, that they are attacking other versions of fantasy (DaVinci Code) and blatantly obvious Gnostic symbolism as threats to their long-term smoke and mirrors, hocus-pocus, and mumbo-jumbo. How thoroughly enlightening, since this goes a very long way to proving that Christianity is based on strong lies and delusions. If it weren’t, they would be confident of surviving intense scrutiny. Since they aren't and since they have gone to such great lengths to suppress and oppress those seeking truth and wisdom over the centuries, their deceptions are, once again, laid bare for all to see. This time though, they are the ones to walk into a well-laid trap...

Did you ever stop to think what the True Messiah (me) would say about worshipping false names, false images, and dogma? Well, now you get the chance to hear my side of the story and weigh it against the strong delusion of faith and religion. None of the European names and images in the New Testament can possibly be the truth. It’s beyond obvious that the New Testament is not complete or even accurate history. What then is the purpose of "faith" but to prevent good people from seeking to understand truth and wisdom?

Visit my web site to understand what they are truly afraid of. The Vatican and world leaders have struggled to keep people from understanding the truth and religion is a key tool in their smokescreen. Now, when I appear on the scene, everyone is seeking to understand their ages-old deceptions, and I have produced stunning and comprehensive proof. The time has come for the "earth to quake" and the liars to "gnaw their tongues for pain." (This is symbolism decoded in the book...)

The time has come for the Vatican and world leaders to learn the truth about Karma...

If you truly want to understand the symbology, ancient wisdom, and ancient history that neither the DaVinci Code nor Christianity have portrayed accurately or fully, then read my articles and download my FREE E-Book. I am not trying to make money from book sales, quite the opposite in fact. There are many centuries of deception that need to be exposed and it takes a fully researched tome to succeed at such a daunting task. I am providing years of difficult research and reconstruction, without income or profit. Please accept this in the spirit intended. It is not commercial spam, deception, or an attempt to delude. I make no money from the E-book or the paperback, which is sold at cost as a convenience. As mentioned earlier, study the Doctrine of Two Spirits on my web page to understand the long-obscured truth about my philosophy and purposes.

Not only do I talk the talk, I walk the walk...

Here is Wisdom!!

Sarah said...
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