The Holy Bible is truth – but whose version?

Here’s my question: “If we consider ourselves Christians, how do we rectify the seemingly contradictory texts of the Holy Bible?During this past Sunday’s worship, we welcomed intern pastor Elizabeth Felt to share some thoughts with us. As we prepare for Holy Week, we look at the events that occurred to Jesus in the week prior to his final days in Jerusalem. Here’s a brief synopsis of what we talked about, and some additional thoughts:The gospel text from the lectionary comes from the book of John, where, 6 days before the passover meal, in the town of Bethany, Mary (sister of Lazarus) interrupts their meal with Jesus to anoint his feet with a year’s wages worth of expensive perfume. Judas disapproves, claiming that it was a waste of money. And then Jesus corrects him, saying, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” [John 12:1-8, NRSV]Ok, sure. This is a good story. And definitely one to think about. What is Jesus saying about the poor? What is he saying about expensive gifts? Why Mary? Why Judas? Other questions, anybody? Bueller?!Here’s another thing to think about: If we look at the other gospel texts, we find the same story in each of them. But what’s even weirder, is the stories don’t line up. In Matthew 26:6-13, Jesus is at the house of Simon the Leper rather than Mary & Lazarus’. The woman with the ointment is unnamed, and she pours it on his head instead of his feet. Judas isn’t mentioned, but instead the ridicule comes from ‘the disciples’. Hmm.In Mark 14:1-9, the story takes place two days before passover, not six. The ointment is still poured on Jesus’ head by an unnamed woman, but the people who ridicule her are unnamed in this story. The chief priests & scribes? Jesus says, “What she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Sure, it is still being told to this day. But what the heck really happened?And then, in the account that differs the most, Luke 7:36-50, Jesus is eating at the house of a Pharisee, named Simon. A woman from the city brings the ointment to pour on his feet. She’s crying. Kissing his feet. Pretty intense scene here. There is no mention of how expensive this ointment might be, by the way. And Simon is pretty disgusted by the sinfulness of this woman. What makes her unclean? Not sure. But some scholars say she was ‘of ill repute’. Ok, and then Jesus goes into one of his parables about creditors and debtors and canceling debt, and the story is about forgiving sins. Not so much about the poor. “Your sins are forgiven,” he concludes to the woman. “Go in peace.” Very different message here.As Christians, or even simply as readers of the Bible, we need to understand something about the words contained therein: they were written by humans. Not God! So even though we consider these ancient books ‘holy’ we still need to exercise a little bit of literacy and reason. We need to understand that these ancient authors had a certain agenda to push. And even though these four gospel authors are sharing the story of Jesus and his life, they have chosen to do so in very different ways, with different messages.Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman talked about this very thing in a conversation on WHYY’s ‘Fresh Air’. Originally an evangelical Christian, Ehrman now considers himself an agnostic. Why? He talks about that in his interview. You can read about it and listen to the interview here:LINK TO BART EHRMAN INTERVIEW: “Jesus And The Hidden Contradictions Of The Gospels“Read. Listen. Discuss. Pray.-Sean

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