How Important is Biblical Consistency?

I’ve been reading The First Paul by Borg and Crossan, not because I’m fond of Borg and Crossan, but because a friend studying for ordination to the deaconate has it for a text, and I’m reading with her. It’s an easy read, in many ways quite well written, but I dislike its lack of footnotes and bibliography and its sweeping generalizations about historical details and their meanings. What amuses me is their tight focus on the discrepancies and conflicts between Luke and Paul, within the letters of Paul, and between authentic Paul and Pauline letters. That they are there is obvious, but how significant are they?

It seems a reasonable question when I reflect on the stories my wife and I tell about events in our lives. A disinterested observer might wonder if we experienced the same events. Our versions differ on when, where, among who and what – although the main thrust or themes are pretty much the same. The same is true for the events and their meanings that I write or talk about on my own. I tend to adjust them to fit the purpose of their telling and the audience to whom they are told. For that matter, I’m not altogether certain about the details of important events that happened years ago. On the other hand, we have a daughter who precisely remembers almost everything in her life from the age of two on (she’s 45 now) whether they happened or not.

That’s the way we humans recollect. If God did indeed inspire the words of Luke, Paul and Paul’s successors, either in their writing or in the survival and transmission of them, and I believe God did, it is not for the purpose of demonstrating literal inerrancy. It is for the purpose of revealing truth, both Godly and human, within and through what is recollected. I suppose there is some merit to Borg and Crossan’s close examination of discrepancies and conflicts as an academic exercise, or as a thrust and parry in their duel with literalists. It does help explain the difficulties of incorporating gentile converts into this new religion and how the nascent church began to come to terms with Greco-Roman culture. But I also think you can make too much of it, and they do.

3 thoughts on “How Important is Biblical Consistency?”

  1. Telling a story is so much fun and biblical writers and their interpretations of \”what happened\” were probably no less thrilled than we are to relate a really good story as best they remember it or as best they were inspired to remember it. It would be ideal, maybe, if we were all reading from the same Holy Bible with the same holy inspiration to guide us but the best we can do, I suppose, is chose our story tellers and have faith that God's message comes through to us no matter the interpretation that we hear or read.

  2. Bruno,I have a pretty good idea that you are reading these posts, but not seeing any comments from you inclines me to ask about your well being. I don't have your e-mail address, so this is the next best way to ask.CP

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