Discern All Things

This last week has been an eye opening time for me. It seems like I have been discovering particular beliefs about teachers I had a lot of respect for that have largely disappointed me. First, I ran across some pretty inflamatory comments from Ergun Caner, who I had a lot of respect for. He spoke in chapel when I was in chapel and is the Dean at Liberty. And here I thought Liberty was making some good strides. But he comes out and makes his anti-Calvinism very clear, calling it a virus. He went on to blast Calvinists for not caring about evangelism, which isn’t exactly a new accusation, but is also one that is usually blown out of proportion.

Then I was doing some reading for my NTI class and was reading about the Two-Source Theory of the synoptic Gospels. Basically what this says is that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source in writing their Gospels (imagine Matthew using Mark to write down how he got saved). Almost all of Mark is found in those two and many NT scholars want to say that Matthew and Luke were dependent upon Mark. Then they say that there is this infamous ‘Q’ text that they also relied on, where they don’t agree with Mark. This is completely made up and a creation of their own imagination. It has done to the point to where there is a concordance on ‘Q’ and a ‘Theology of Q’ even though no Q text actually exists. I could write on this more later if you guys have an interest in learning more about it, but this is enough to show you that they are tearing away at the inerrancy of Scripture.

But they don’t see it that way. They see it that way. They see it as completely acceptable that God could have inspired the writers in this way, but as you investigate this in a deeper way, you see how insulting this view really is. The sad thing is, that this view is the majority view today. A quick look at history clearly shows that NO church father thought this. In fact, there is almost a unanimous agreement that Matthew wrote his Gospel first. It wasn’t until Source and Historical Criticism spawned around the 18th century that these views started to be tossed around.

Sure, maybe these people don’t think this is attacking inerrancy, but I shutter to think what it will do to future generations who are raised to think its ok to think that the Gospels aren’t completely true. Its ok to think that Matthew was actually the author of the Sermon on the Mount, not Jesus. Its ok to think that Jesus’ words as he sent out the disciples weren’t actually from that time, but words from a larger span of time. They even talk about how Mark is more ‘archaic’ than the others and Matthew and Luke are improvements on it. Explain to me how one can even think that you can improve upon the Word of God. This may jive with the way that you think, but if you raise the next generation of the church with this state of mind, where are they going to run with it. Next thing you know, radical groups like ‘The Jesus Seminar’, who took it upon themselves to find the real words of Christ in the Gospels, will be much more common.

The men who I discovered believe in this Two-Source theory are D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, and Lean Morris, all leading NT scholars today.

These discoveries and revelations have led me to remind myself that it is not in these particular men that I have put my trust, but in Christ alone. It is my personal responsibility to study all things out, to invest myself in the Word, and to discern all things.


14 comments on “Discern All Things

  1. Doug Wilcox says:

    Anyone who claims “Q” to be valid ought to be voted out of Christianity. I guess there was an “up” side to the practices of excommunication.

    (Can we get rid of Pat Robertson as well? I’m tired of his being described as an Evangelical.)

    Men will always disappoint, in one way or another, but we need to be very clear in identifying those who include clearly unbiblical philosophies in their teaching.

    There’s a well-known, independent Creationist speaker who I heard a few years ago. His presentations were excellent, until he got to the part about how he believe in a near-future economic collapse, and how he sometimes takes a cold shower so he can get used to what it will be like when there’s no electricity due to such a disaster. It really made me question the rest of his teaching.

  2. T-Bone says:

    well, i’m not for ‘kicking people out’. the point isn’t so much that, but realizing that everyone has their personal ‘heresy’ or problems, probably including myself.

  3. Ian says:

    I’m not saying I buy the theory, but there is some good, scholarly support for Q; it’s not just some hair-brained thing that some whack came up with one day. Q, as I understand it, is not some unrecognized gospel account, but rather a collection, or quelle (hence the name “Q”) of common sayings about the actions, words, and events of Christ that were used in the time between Christ’s life/death/ressurection and the writing of the gospels (we know this period to be around 50 years). The basic theory of Q is that Matthew and Luke, while writiing their gospel accounts, had Mark’s completed gospel and Q and drew on, not copied from, both in their writing. Now, I’m sure some have gone crazy with this idea, but the concept of Q is not that it is a “lost gospel”. Some have claimed this of the Gospel of Timothy, which is directly contradictory to the canonized Scriptures in places, and have sought to reinterpret and edit the existing canon with it. This is clearly heretical.

    As far as using Mark as a reference, I have no problem with inspired authors drawing from already completed texts. In fact, the church fathers used this extensively in constructing the canon; similar language, symbolism, even direct quotes appearing in various texts helped to establish continuity and legitimacy of those texts. One of the reasons docments like the Apocraphal books and The Gospel of Timothy are rejected in the protestant canon is that they contain no, or very little, referance or parallels to the rest of the Scriptures. Surely the prophets drew from and even quoted the books of Torah and even from each other: Zechariah explicitly repeats Isaiah a few times, and the Psalms show up quite a few times in the prophets as well.

    I think it’s important to remember, too, that the order of the books of the Bible is not inspired, and that reconsidering the date of the books, unless it creates a Scriptural contradiction, is not harmful to the infallibilty of the Bible. The canon was ordered as it was, by uninspired men, to help the scriptures flow, to make good literary sense (this does not attack the doctrinal sense/truth of the inspired texts). Job is most likely the oldest OT text, but lands deep into the OT. Thesselonians is largely considered the oldest NT text, but is near the middle of the NT. Luke wrote both his gospel and the book of the Acts, yet they are separated by John’s gospel. Why? Luke was grouped with Matthew and Mark, as they are all synoptic gospel accounts, and John, still gospel but not synoptic, was placed at the end of the gospels, separating Acts from Luke. Why not place John as the first gospel and solve that problem? Because Matthew starts with the a recap of generations through the OT to the Christ, setting the stage for the Gospel and it gives plain account of John the Baptist using the words and images presented in the fourth chapter of Malachi, the last book of the OT. This being said, I have no problem saying that Mark was the first completed gospel. I’m not saying that it is, but I wouldn’t have a probelm with it. It’s not a doctrinal or theological issue, it’s a scholarly one for which their is some evidence. For instance, it is the shortest of the gospels and uses the plainest language: both valid reasons to consider the possibility of it being written first.

    I regard the concept of Q in much the same way. For an inspired author to draw on sayings of the culture he lived in to construct a document, meant to be read by the people of that culture, makes sense to me. Moses constructed the creation account in such a way that mirrored the common pagan creation stories of the time. Now, although the form of Genesis 1 reflects pagan accounts, both Moses’s choice to use that form and the content which he fills it with were inspired, and I would say predestined, by God, and they suceed in deconstructing the pagan myths and show that Yahweh is the one true God. Moses drew from common speech and literary construction of his time. That is how he knew how to write. Remember, expect for passages in which He is directly quoted, God did not dictate the Scriptures to the inspired authors word for word; that is a pagan concept used to validate the texts of false religions. The biggest problem I have with Q is that it cannot be proven to exist, and therefore cannot be analyzed, studied, validated, etc. (I do not believe that it could/should ever be considered as inspired.)

    OK, sorry for the short book. I do need to say that I am not a Q proponent, but also that I don’t see it as a huge problem as long as it is not taken to the extremes that Tim mentions and regarded as an inspired text. I say this with much fear and trepidation of being voted off the island by Doug 😉

  4. Beth'sMomToo says:

    I’m baaaack…and I have GREAT qualms about the entire “Q” thing – because the only “evidence” is human deduction. It is human deduction that has lead to enormous error in archaeology as well as Bible interpretation. I have no problem that one gospel writer may have looked at the work of another gospel writer, my objection is that the only “evidence” is an “expert’s” surmises. It isn’t that any new hard evidence has been discovered, the same information has only been considered in a different way. THAT’S how a rejection of inerrancy started…human surmises, sans evidence!

    This is similar to something I have noticed in Commentaries from time to time. There is a propensity to explain an interpretation based on a particular Jewish cultural reference, for example. Now sometimes that may be true, but often the context supplies a better interpretation. For example, the commentator may say Paul was referring to a Roman cultural practice, when in fact he may NOT be doing anything of the kind. The Roman cultural fact may be TRUE, but Paul’s meaning can be better understood by the context of his writing.

    You can go pretty far afield if you’re not careful. Just imagine you are in the far future and you are reading this comment. You have somewhat of a knowledge of American culture in the 2000’s, but not a complete understanding, of course. When you, as a person of the future, see I refer to a “Roman” cultural practice, you could say, “She is referring to the Roman Catholic church” (when in fact I was not). You see how easy it can be to surmise incorrectly? You are correct that “Roman” can sometimes refer to the RC system of belief, but it is not an accurate representation in the context of what I wrote.

    Tim, I think you are correct that we need to be cautious and discerning when reading any man’s writings (a reason why I will never write ;). I love some of Carson’s writing, but I have also found things I would not agree with (Wallace [Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics] points out several of Carson’s interpretational errors. And Wallace isn’t always accurate, either, though he does try to be fair in explaining when some interpretation is controversial and why it is so.) There are many things I can admire Carson for, but that doesn’t mean he is correct about everything (even if he IS a lot smarter than me!).

  5. Beth says:

    Oo oo oo! Am I the one who broke the Calvin virus to you?!? Oh, I feel so hip wid’ it! Like I’m one of da’ guys at Master’s!

  6. T-Bone says:

    I don’t think i ever said that the order that books appear in the Bible as being any type of evidence for their date. The fact is that church fathers like Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, and Augustine all say that Matthew was written first. Not only does almost EVERY church Father, the ones who were a lot closer to the writings, say that Matthew was written first, NONE of them even MENTION an interdependence. This idea of interdependance only came about when this Historical Critism became popular in the past couple hundred years. An old professor of mine told us once, if you ever think that you’ve come up with an idea that no one has ever thought of, repent of your heresy.

    I read a book a couple weeks ago on the defense of this view, and here are some points to defend it.

    1. Most of Mark appears in Matthew and Luke.
    This is probably the biggest point, since its the reason for the interdependence view. But to say that this means Mark was first is to leap to a conclusion that isn’t necessary. The culture of the day put a lot of emphasis on oral tradition and memorizing what people said since there weren’t a lot of writings.
    Also, why doesn’t this mean that Mark copied Matthew and Luke? If he has almost everything from them, why not think he copied most of them.
    And why in the world would Matthew copy the writing of his own conversion and calling?!

    2. Where Matthew and Luke do not agree with Mark, they do not agree.
    But there are spots where Matthew and Luke agree against Mark.

    3. The order of events in mark is origninal, for wherever Matthew departs from Mark, Luke supports Mark’s order, and wherever Luke departs from Mark, Matthew agrees with Mark’s order.
    This has more to do, again, with the sharpness of first century memories among those who listened.

    4. The primitive nautre of Mark, as compared with Matthew and Luke, demonstrates Mark’s priority.
    This is the weakest thought of the four and the biggest stretch in my opinion. Its not like they were written centuries apart or there was some great divide between the gospels. But this is almost insulting, saying that Mark is less refined and more primitive. So was Luke more refined because he supposedly wrote later or because he was more educated? And its common knowledge that Mark used Peter as his source and influence in writing the Gospel, so is this saying that Peter was more primitive in the way that he remembered things happening?

    As I see it, the biggest problems with this view are these:

    1. The Voices of the Christian Fathers
    Already have spoken to this.

    2. The interdependence theory doesn’t deal enough with the personal contact of the writers. They had to have talked to each other, allowing for opportunities for them to exchange information about the life of Christ.

    3. Another one is what’s called the “Great Omission”. If Luke used mark, why did he omit Mark 6:45-8:26? Thats about 9% of Mark.

    4. Impossibility of a Q Document. There is the wide stance now that it wasn’t an actual document, but rather a fluid pool of traditions from which both Luke and Matthew drew. This just seems like a cop-out. This removes any pressure or ability to actually better prove this theory that has risen 17 hundred years after the fact.

    5. Agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark. The agreements number about 230. It isn’t a doctrinal issues, but a where wording varies. This flies in the face of the basic tenet that interdependence was based upon.

    basically my biggest beef with this view is that is based on total assumption that there had to be some dependence. When I was reading through the defense, inspiration was mentioned once at the end of the defense. And throughout the entire defense the interedependence is totally assumed as being true and reasons to explain it are made up. This is a new thought on the block, and in my opinion is a subtle chip away at inerrancy.

  7. T-Bone says:

    actually, it was Todd Bolen who opened it up to me, and then I saw yours, beth.


  8. Beth'sMomToo says:

    And I’m with Doug – I don’t want to put myself in the same “category” with Pat Robertson. But as you pointed out many posts back, “name-labelling” gets complicated when definitions vary and lots of baggage attaches itself to the name. No sooner would you get it all straigtened out when it would become corrupted. Just look how the RC Church has “redefined” OUR biblical terms! I learned a long time ago to not use “Labels”, because it usually caused more problems than it solved. I just say I base my faith and life on God’s Word, the Bible (in the original autographs, of course…;)

  9. Ian says:


    I didn’t meant to imply that you said anything about canonical order being evidence for dating (sorry if I seemed confrontational. That ceratintly wasn’t my intent!). My point was that reconsidering dates of text, again, unless it creates a Scriptural contradiction, isn’t an attack on the infallability of the Scriptures. I was making that point in reference to Matthew and Luke theoretically drawing from Mark and me not having a huge problem with it. On that note, unless I misunderstand the majority opinion of the Q, or two-source theory, it doesn’t say that Matthew and Luke copied Mark’s gospel account, but used it as a reference (along with Q). Surely, as you mentioned, it would be ridiculous to think that Matthew copied another’s words to describe his own call and conversion. But, again, unless I’m mistaken, this is not what the majority of Q proponents assert.

    Also, I don’t disagree with you that the majority of Church fathers considered Matthew as the first completed gospel. However, I am not willing to say that the Church fathers had everything right (not implying that you are, or that anybody else is). They were not inspired and were no more able to learn the Scriptures as we are (maybe on a smarts level, but not on any kind of inspirational level). We get things wrong, and so did they (again, not saying they’re wrong on this, only that they could be and that we shouldn’t take everything they say as gospel *sorry for the pun*).

    Can I play some Devil’s advocate for discussion’s sake? The numbers correspond to the points taken from the book you read and the problems you mentioned you had with them. Again, playing Devil’s advocate, enjoying the discussion. 🙂

    1. What’s better about relying on oral tradition instead of the written account of someone who was there?

    2.Against Mark, or simply apart from Mark (meaning they both say something that Mark doesn’t record)?

    3. 50+ years is a long time remember exact words. Sure would help if they had something earlier and authoritative to refer to….

    4. I don’t know if I would call Mark more “primitive”, but would use “archaic” instead as the reference is to his writing/literary style: Structure, construction, etc.

    I agree with many of your problems with this theory. Again, I’m not saying that I agree with the whole Q/two-source thing, but I do think there are elements of the theory that should be seen as things to be considered and dealt with. Our understanding of God’s word, at least in my opinion, should be growing and changing all the time. No one, not even the wisest of the Church fathers, has ever gotten it all right, and we should never think that we have. That is one of the main reason I love to discuss things like this: it allows me to benefit from the points of views and studies/conclusions of others who are seeking after God. Iron sharpening iron!

  10. T-bonehttp://tboneshiddenblog.blogspot.com says:

    i’ll get to the questions, but fyi, I believe you were referenceing the Gospel of Thomas, not the Gospel of Timothy. Again, that’s an extreme on one side and sort of tells you everything you need to know about that extreme.

  11. Ian says:

    Yah, you’re right, Thomas not Timothy. Got my wires crossed there for a bit!

  12. t-bonehttp://tboneshiddenblog.blogspot.com says:

    1. What’s better about relying on oral tradition instead of the written account of someone who was there?
    The issue is what ‘relying’ means. Obviously Luke’s prologue says that he researched out his work and interviewed a lot of people. I’m not saying that they couldn’t have referred to things and looked at writings, but the point is that what ‘relying’ means. Two-Source says that Matthew and Luke were dependant upon Mark. They would say that Matthew uses Mark’s words and expands on them, instead of looking at what Mark wrote and write with that in mind. Those are two different approaches. This dependence is one where they basically copy passages, and change it where they saw it to be weak or incomplete.

    2.Against Mark, or simply apart from Mark (meaning they both say something that Mark doesn’t record)?
    Yes, I did not intend to imply that Mark is incorrect where Matthew and Luke differ. I was speaking of the places where Matthew and Luke agree when compared with Mark.

    3. 50+ years is a long time remember exact words. Sure would help if they had something earlier and authoritative to refer to….
    We need to remember that this culture taught and learned from oral teachings. The Jews of the Old Testament were to memorize scripture and bind it on their hearts and heads. (of course many Jews have taken that to be literal binding, hence phylacteries) Even after the things were written down, people didn’t have the writings in their hands and had to operate on the memorization of the oral teachings of the writings.
    As far as the direct authorship, it sure helps that they were inspired. Again, not that they did not know what they were writing, but it was an exercise of the Holy Spirit.

    4. I don’t know if I would call Mark more “primitive”, but would use “archaic” instead as the reference is to his writing/literary style: Structure, construction, etc.
    But does that have to do with the date of his writing or his own personality? This should not weigh into the timing of his writing.

    Here are a couple quotes from a defense: “Mark’s candor and bluntness make him seem more ‘primitive,’ for he not only shows Jesus’ strong emotions but also shows the disciples’ own failures in detail.” “In many of these passages, Matthew and Luke seem to have modified Mark’s strong statements, probably to avoid misunderstanding and confusion on the part of their readers.”

    Let me say a couple things on Q- Like Ian said, it is from the German word Quelle, which means ‘source’. Here’s a quote “There is a likelihood that Q did, indeed exist as an oral tradition and, even morelikely, as a document.” Why? He says because of literary dependence among the Synoptics, Markan priority, the presence of material common to Matthew and Luke and the likelihood that Luke does not use Matthew. This is a creation to meet the need of their desired conclusion. It’s the creation of their minds to provide evidence for their hypothesis. The writer concludes that it was probably a written document. They even say that the Christology of Q is the same as the Gospels themselves.

    As far as using the Church Fathers, I agree, they are not infallible and were given to mistake, but this isn’t a case of judgment here. This is a case of facts. I would certainly use the testimony of these church Fathers more heavily than the biased exercises of men that throw away the testimony of the men who lived much closer to the actual time. Think about it, If Irenaeus comes out and says something that everyone knew to be wrong, his credibility would be shot and he would be protested. These people knew apostles, knew students of the apostles, or were students themselves. To say that they were in error, which is the only thing that those who hold to Q have said and can say, ignores the fact that everyone from that time read what these church fathers wrote and knew it to be true. If they were in error, their writings would not have been seen as credible and most likely would not have survived, nevermind recognized as being right.

  13. Beth'sMomToo says:

    I don’t understand the issue at the level of complexity that Ian & Tim do, BUT as an armchair historian I have learned a few things:
    1. This is based on sheer conjecture; there is NO new evidence that would bring someone to this NEW conclusion.

    2. You don’t quickly dismiss in a cavalier manner historical sources that are:
    a)are close to the writing of the original
    b)that have stood unchallenged for 2000 years
    c)known to be reliable in historical fact
    d)based upon access to the very same Synoptics that we’re looking at.

    The style differences among the three books are amazing. I tell my SS kids that Mark wrote like a screenwriter – action, action, action- immediately…immediately…immediately. Just because he wrote more simplistically, doesn’t prove WHEN he wrote . 60% of the Book of Matthew are the words of Christ. Of that, 39% is UNIQUE to Matthew. Literary styles, purposes & themes vary. Therefore, I don’t think you can determine which was written first by looking at content and literary style AND by totally disregarding the historical record of reliable witnesses. That’s certainly not a limb I would want to go out on…

  14. Beth'sMomToo says:

    Since historical method is part of the issue in this discussion, I thought I’d share this quote from “A Biblical History of Israel” by Provan, Long and Longman:

    “The claim to be a critical thinker is easy to make; the reality that lurks beneath it has all too often proved to be only a mixture of blind faith in relation to the writer’s own intellectual tradition and arbitrary, selective skepticism in relation to everything else.”

    This is a good quote to always keep in the front of our minds as we consider different issues – historical and biblical, as it pertains to our OWN analyses AND those made by others. I also liked what Tim’s prof cautioned about any time you think you’ve come up with something that no one else has, the warning lights ought to start flashing.

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