Category Archives: New Testament

Are Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Gray more accurate than the New Testament

This is an apologetic infographic:

Found on an FB group
Found on an FB group
By this logic, then the 450 million copies of Harry Potter and the 100 million copies of 50 Shades of Gray in existence means that they are more accurate and reliable than the New Testament.

Or, it means that someone doesn’t understand how these things work.

  • The earliest (say 125) is a fragment. There may be an older Gospel of Mark, but this does not make a manuscript.
  • The date of composition is remarkably wrong. It is on the conservative end of the spectrum. But, beyond that, proximity of composition to said event does not make it reliable. Case in point is the sad history of Rolling Stone and the University of Virginia.

For more and for a better infographic on the NT manuscripts, see James McGrath’s recent post.

This is weak sauce apologetics. When you use words like “accuracy,” “reliability,” and “contradictions” (even when you deny they exist) you aren’t taking Scripture seriously.


Mexico City hanging of Judas (see Burning of J...
Mexico City hanging of Judas (see Burning of Judas) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve written about Judas before, a while ago. These are more notes, however. I think we give Judas a bum rap. 

Notably, there is the suicide of Judas (in Matthew’s account, at least), which must be — because of the nature of the story in the Gospels and the close parallel to Jesus — examined more closely, even nothing else as a way to measure the literary reception of suicide.[1] Daube does not see in the story of Judas a crime but almost an atonement.[2] Judas kills himself exactly because of remorse and, perhaps, in light of the Mosaic legal requirement found in Numbers 35.33 and Leviticus 24.17.[3] Augustine would disagree with that sentiment,[4] causing something of a disruption in his own theology of suicide and sin.[5] Jerome sees two crimes, with only one (suicide) necessary.[6] What was the remorse for? Several scholars have suggested παραδίδωμι is directly related to the idea of a sacrifice.[7] If this is the case, that Judas is sacrificing Jesus, then we are meant to see the kiss as part of that sacrifice as well.[8] Perhaps this explains Judas’s remorse, that he had sacrificed Jesus — meaning, that Judas’s death is at least in some way connected to a cosmic struggle.

[1] It should be noted that that account in Acts 1.18 of Judas’ self-inflicted death is reminiscent of Razis’ final end. The tradition of Judas’ death is contrary to Paul’s view (1 Corinthians 15.5) and apocryphal sources (The Gospel of Peter). For Papias, Judas did not die immediately but lingered on, eventually succumbing to death because of disease.

[2] The fate of Judas has been preserved in Christian memory via several apocryphal gospels, one of which is the Coptic “Book of the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” a work sometimes paired with the Gospel of Bartholomew. According to Hans-Josef Klauck, the harrowing story, of which Judas figures as one of the three remaining souls in Hades, predates the Gospel of Nicodemus, perhaps even to the second century. This is important given that it was not the suicide of Judas that prevented his escape, but his betrayal. See, Apocryphal Gospels: An Introduction (T&T Clark, 2003), 99.

[3] Daube, “Death as a Release in the Bible,” 88–89.

[4] Augustine, De civ. Dei 1.17.

[5] See Wolfhart Pannenberg, Anthropology in Theological Perspective (T&T Clark, 1985), 153. He writes, “But the reasons he gives—that suicide is a form of murder; that (as in the case of Judas) suicide expresses a despair of divine mercy; and that the suicide allows himself no chance to repent—do not connect suicide with the psychological analysis of sin as egoism and concupiscence.”

[6] Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, 4.27. Jerome sees suicide as necessary to fulfill the biblical commandment against sinning against a fellow believer.

[7] Inhee C. Berg, Irony in the Matthean Passion Narrative, 167–68; H. J. Koch, “Suicides and Suicide Ideation in the Bible: An Empirical Survey,” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 112, no. 3 (2005), 169. Παραδίδωμι was used by Herodotus to suggest a type of atoning sacrifice. “Κῦρος μὲν δοκέων οἱ Δαρεῖον ἐπιβουλεύειν ἔλεγε τάδε· τῷ δὲ ὁ δαίμων προέφαινε ὡς αὐτὸς μὲν τελευτήσειν αὐτοῦ ταύτῃ μέλλοι, ἡ δὲ βασιληίη αὐτοῦ περιχωρέοι ἐς Δαρεῖον. ἀμείβεται δὴ ὦν ὁ Ὑστάσπης τοῖσιδε. «ὦ βασιλεῦ, μὴ εἴη ἀνὴρ Πέρσης γεγονὼς ὅστις τοὶ ἐπιβουλεύσειε, εἰ δ᾽ ἐστί, ἀπόλοιτο ὡς τάχιστα· ὃς ἀντὶ μὲν δούλων ἐποίησας ἐλευθέρους Πέρσας εἶναι, ἀντὶ δὲ ἄρχεσθαι ὑπ᾽ ἄλλων ἄρχειν ἁπάντων. εἰ δέ τις τοὶ ὄψις ἀπαγγέλλει παῖδα τὸν ἐμὸν νεώτερα βουλεύειν περὶ σέο, ἐγώ τοι παραδίδωμι χρᾶσθαι αὐτῷ τοῦτο ὅ τι σὺ βούλεαι.» Ὑστάσπης μὲν τούτοισι ἀμειψάμενος καὶ διαβὰς τὸν Ἀράξεα ἤιε ἐς Πέρσας φυλάξων Κύρῳ τὸν παῖδα Δαρεῖον.” (Histories, I.210.) Closer to Judas’s context, the 3rd aorist passive of παραδίδωμι is used in Greek Isaiah 53.12, διὰ τοῦτο αὐτὸς κληρονομήσει πολλούς, καὶ τῶν ἰσχυρῶν μεριεῖ σκῦλα· ἀνθʼ ὧν παρεδόθη εἰς θάνατον ἡ ψυχὴ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἀνόμοις ἐλογίσθη, καὶ αὐτὸς ἁμαρτίας πολλῶν ἀνήνεγκεν, καὶ διὰ τὰς ἀνομίας αὐτῶν παρεδόθη.” See 1. Alberdina Houtman et al., eds., The Actuality of Sacrifice: Past and Present, 195, 195.n7). If we take the kiss in light of Hosea 13.2, then we can see the connected between the kiss and the sacrifice.

[8] Compare the kiss between Jesus and Judas to the one by Joseph to Jacob (Friedrich Schwally, Das Leben Nach Dem Tode, 8) and 1 Kings 19.8 where Elijah attempts to find Israelites who had not “kissed” Baal.

in the mail: “Reading John”

I’ve flipped through it and read the introduction. Thus far, it looks like a great tool to have for those teaching John:

The Gospel of John is often found at the center of discussions about the Bible and its relation to Christian theology. It is difficult to quantify the impact John’s Gospel has had on both the historical development of Christian doctrine and the various expressions of Christian devotion. All too often, however, readers have failed to understand the Gospel as an autonomous text with its own unique story to tell. More often than not, the Gospel of John is swept into a reading approach that either conflates or attempts to harmonize with other accounts of Jesus’ life. This book emphasizes the uniqueness of John’s story of Jesus and attempts to provide readers with a road map for appreciating the historical context and literary features of the text. The aim of this book is to help others become better, more perceptive readers of the Gospel of John, with an ability to trace the rhetoric of the narrative from beginning to end.

Marius Victorinus on Christ as Liberator

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...
Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is from the first Latin commentary on Paul’s works, specifically at Galatians 2.20–21:

But as I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of God and Christ. This is truly to live spiritually: that although one lives in the flesh, one does not live on account of the flesh or based on the flesh. Rather, one lives to God and to Christ by faith in them. This is what it means to live spiritually: to meditate on Christ, to speak of him, to believe him, to direct one’s desires toward him; to flee the world, to expel from one’s mind all things which are in the world. This is what it means to live by faith: to hope for no other good than what is from Christ and from God. This is what it means to live in the faith of God and Christ, who loved me and handed himself over for my sake. Let us keep this worthy act in mind, so that we live in him through faith—in him, who to hand over so great a gift to us would give himself to death and the cross for our sake, and in so doing liberate us from our sins.

Next he adds in this manner:

I am not ungrateful to God’s grace (2: 21), so that, God having redeemed me through Christ and Christ having handed himself over for my sake, I would return to the hope of the Law—all the hope I have in Christ being disregarded—and would believe myself to be justified based on the works of the Law. That would be ungrateful to the one who did so much for me, who for my sake would put himself in the line of fire in order to liberate me from my sins by taking their penalties upon himself.

That last line is a killer.

Some writers on Galatians 3.13 and the curse

Justin the Philosopher
Justin the Philosopher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am doing some work on Galatians 3.13 in early Christian writers. I’ve included Philo and the Epistle of Barnabas in here as well for various reasons. They, like Paul, are interpreting Deuteronomy 21.22. The others are interpreting Paul.

St. Ambrose:

As, then, He was made sin and a curse not on His own account but on ours, so He became subject in us not for His own sake but for ours, being not in subjection in His eternal Nature, nor accursed in His eternal Nature. “For cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Cursed He was, for He bore our curses; in subjection, also, for He took upon Him our subjection, but in the assumption of the form of a servant, not in the glory of God; so that whilst he makes Himself a partaker of our weakness in the flesh, He makes us partakers of the divine Nature in His power. But neither in one nor the other have we any natural fellowship with the heavenly Generation of Christ, nor is there any subjection of the Godhead in Christ. But as the Apostle has said that on Him through that flesh which is the pledge of our salvation, we sit in heavenly places,9 though certainly not sitting ourselves, so also He is said to be subject in us through the assumption of our nature.1

St. Athanasius:

And thus much in reply to those without who pile up arguments for themselves. But if any of our own people also inquire, not from love of debate, but from love of learning, why He suffered death in none other way save on the Cross, let him also be told that no other way than this was good for us, and that it was well that the Lord suffered this for our sakes. 2. For if He came Himself to bear the curse laid upon us, how else could He have “become a curse,” unless He received the death set for a curse? and that is the Cross. For this is exactly what is written: “Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree.” 3. Again, if the Lord’s death is the ransom of all, and by His death “the middle wall of partition” is broken down, and the calling of the nations is brought about, how would He have called us to Him, had He not been crucified?2

St. John Damascene:


Concerning the Appropriation.

It is to be observed that there are two appropriations: one that is natural and essential, and one that is personal and relative. The natural and essential one is that by which our Lord in His love for man took on Himself our nature and all our natural attributes, becoming in nature and truth man, and making trial of that which is natural: but the personal and relative appropriation is when any one assumes the person of another relatively, for instance, out of pity or love, and in his place utters words concerning him that have no connection with himself. And it was in this way that our Lord appropriated both our curse and our desertion, and such other things as are not natural: not that He Himself was or became such, but that He took upon Himself our personality and ranked Himself as one of us. Such is the meaning in which this phrase is to be taken: Being made a curse for our sakes.3

The Epistle of Barnabas:

7.7-10: But the other one—what must they do with it? Accursed, saith He, is the one. Give heed how the type of Jesus is revealed. And do ye all spit upon it and goad it, and place scarlet wool about its head, and so let it be cast into the wilderness. And when it is so done, he that taketh the goat into the wilderness leadeth it, and taketh off the wool, and putteth it upon the branch which is called Rachia, the same whereof we are wont to eat the shoots when we find them in the country. Of this briar alone is the fruit thus sweet. What then meaneth this? Give heed. The one for the altar, and the other accursed. And moreover the accursed one crowned. For they shall see Him in that day wearing the long scarlet robe about His flesh, and shall say, Is not this He, Whom once we crucified and set at nought and spat upon; verily this was He, Who then said that He was the Son of God. 10For how is He like the goat?4

I find this interesting, since Barnabas is applying the Day of Atonement sacrifice to Christ, rather than the Passover lamb. Thus, he seems to interpret “curse” in this light, so that Jesus is bearing our sins.

St. Justin Martyr:

‘As God ordered the sign to be made by the brazen serpent,’ I went on, ‘and yet is not guilty [of the crime of making graven images], so in the Law a curse is placed upon men who are crucified, but not upon the Christ of God, by whom are saved all who have committed deeds deserving a curse.’5


On Posterity of Cain and his Exile, VIII. (24) On this account it is written in the curses contained in scripture, “Thou shalt never rest; nor shall there be any rest for the sole of thy foot.” And, a little afterwards, we read that, “Thy life shall hang in doubt before them.”8 For it is the nature of the foolish man, who is always being tossed about in a manner contrary to right reason, to be hostile to tranquillity and rest, and not to stand firmly or with a sure foundation on any doctrine whatever. (25) Accordingly he is full of different opinions at different times, and sometimes, even in the same circumstances, without any new occurrence having arisen to affect them, he will be perfectly contrary to himself,—now great, now little, now hostile, now friendly; and, in short, he will, so to say, be everything that is most inconsistent in a moment of time. And, as the law-giver says, “All his life shall hang in doubt before him;” having no firm footing, but being constantly tossed about by opposing circumstances, which drag it different ways. (26) On which account Moses says, in another place, “Cursed of God is he that hangeth on a tree;” because what he ought to hang upon is God.

But such a man has, of his own accord, bound himself to the body, which is a wooden burden upon us, exchanging hope for desire and a perfect hope for the greatest of evils; for hope, being the expectation of good things, causes the mind to depend upon the bounteous God; but appetite, creating only unreasonable desires, depends on the body, which nature has made to be a sort of receptacle and abode for the soul.6

Martyrdom of Polycarp:

2.3 And giving heed unto the grace of Christ they despised the tortures of this world, purchasing at the cost of one hour a release from eternal punishment. And they found the fire of their inhuman torturers cold: for they set before their eyes the escape from the eternal fire which is never quenched; while with the eyes of their heart they gazed upon the good things which are reserved for those that endure patiently, things which neither ear hath heard nor eye hath seen, neither have they entered into the heart of man, but were shown by the Lord to them, for they were no longer men but angels already.

  1. Ambrose of Milan, “Exposition of the Christian Faith,” in St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth; vol. 10; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896), 10306.
  2. Athanasius of Alexandria, “On the Incarnation of the Word,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. Archibald T. Robertson; vol. 4; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 449
  3. John Damascene, “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” in St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. S. D. F. Salmond; vol. 9b; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 9b71.
  4. Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 275–276.
  5. Thomas B. Falls with Justin Martyr, The First Apology, The Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, Exhortation to the Greeks, Discourse to the Greeks, The Monarchy or The Rule of God (vol. 6; The Fathers of the Church; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948), 298.
  6. Charles Duke Yonge with Philo of Alexandria, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 134.