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Turkel's "Solution" to the Mary-Magdalene Problem
by Farrell Till

A Reply to:

Magdalene Magilla

Or, Skeptic X Tries an End-Around
by Robert Turkel


For several years, I challenged biblical inerrantists in internet forums to solve the Mary-Magdalene problem before I finally presented the problem in an article by the same title on this website. I have debated this problem with various inerrantists, but I have never found one who was able to solve it in any plausible way. I am currently debating the Mary-Magdalene problem on IIDB, but my opponent's first reply to my presentation of the problem indicates that he won't be able to solve it either. It is a problem that biblical skeptics should familiarize themselves with, because I honestly believe that it presents a biblical discrepancy that no inerrantist will ever be able to solve with any kind of explanation that approaches plausibility.

Simply stated, the Mary Magdalene problem is the inconsistency in her depictions in Matthew 28:1-10 and John 20:1-2. The text in Matthew is so grammatically structured that readers have to understand that Mary Magdalene had to have been present throughout this part of the narrative, so that, according to this account of "resurrection morning," she [1] necessarily encountered an angel at the tomb, [2] heard the angel announce that Jesus had risen, [3] received an invitation from the angel to come in to see where Jesus had lain, [4] heard the angel tell her (and the other Mary) to go tell the disciples that Jesus would meet them in Galilee, after which Mary Magdalene (and the other Mary) [a] departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, [b] met Jesus, [c] heard Jesus greet them, [d] touched Jesus, [e] worshiped Jesus, and [f] heard Jesus tell them to go tell his disciples to depart and meet him in Galilee, but even though Mary Magdalene, according to Matthew's depiction of her, saw, heard, and experienced all of these things, John's account of her activities on that morning claims that she went to the tomb, found the stone rolled away, and then ran to tell Peter and the other disciple that the body of Jesus had been stolen. The problem that biblical inerrantists must solve is to find some plausible explanation for why a woman who had seen and heard everything that Matthew claimed that Mary M had experienced would leave the tomb site and tell others that the body had been stolen. Robert Turkel has made a second attempt to solve this problem. Despite the usual sarcasm and ridicule that we will soon see him hurling at me in his article, there is no doubt that the Mary-Magdalene problem is real and not just something that a disgruntled skeptic has dreamed up.

The pulp apologist Gleason Archer "solved" the problem by speculating that when Mary M found Peter and the other disciple, she was so confused and bewildered that she "apparently had not yet taken in the full import of what the angel meant when he told her that the Lord had risen again and that He was alive" (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, 1982, p. 348). That is just the kind of far-fetched, wild speculation that we would expect to come out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, but there is no textual evidence at all that even remotely implies that Mary Magdalene was so confused and bewildered that she didn't understand what the angel had said. If inerrantists could establish that Mary M was in such a state of mind, all they would accomplish would be to make the resurrection stories even less credible than they already are, for if Mary M was as confused as Archer depicted her, any "testimony" of hers to the resurrection would be so tainted that no reasonable person could think that she would have been a credible witness to it. Establishing such a state of mind on the part of one of the chief witnesses to the resurrection would give new meaning to Macbeth's reference to "a tale told by an idiot."

In the article linked to in the title, Robert Turkel offered, among several side issues, his "solution" to the Mary Magdalene problem. In past articles, I have used the headers Turkel and Till to assist readers in following who has said what as I made my way through his articles point by point, but this time I am going to color code his comments in blue and quote him in smaller print.

We're always on the prowl here and committing acts of espionage against unwitting Skeptics; a recent trip bore fruit as we discovered that Skeptic X had posted on his errancy list ("Join others as honked off and unable to deal with it as you!") a "reply" to an item we had here on the subject of the woman at the tomb.

Notice that Turkel, as usual, neither identified me by name nor linked his readers to my article that he was presumably "replying" to. As I have said before, Turkel no doubt does this because he wants to minimize the chances that some of his readers might take the time to access the article and see that he is skipping and dodging far more than he is "answering." I, on the other hand, always take the time to link my readers to his articles that I am replying to, because I want them to see for themselves that I am not misrepresenting him but that his articles are just as superficial and illogical as I expose them to be.

The article Skeptic X references has actually been superseded by the item here

No, not really, because my article was written in reply to "Tomb Visitors Check List," which is now on my website, because Turkel had removed it from his. Even though he said that the article I had "referenced" has been superseded by the one that he linked to above, anyone who takes the time to compare the two articles will see that they are radically different. The new one is much longer, an indication that Turkel realized that he needed to do more than just wave at a problem if he was really going to solve it. I wrote The Mary Magdalene Problem in reply to Turkel's "Tomb Visitors Check List," and I replied to the one that he says superseded it with another article "Bobby Grabs More Straws." It seems that Turkel is up to his old tricks of removing from his site articles that prove embarrassing to him.

but quite honestly, it makes no essential difference, and given Skeptic X's pace we probably should not expect him to keep track of things so closely.

Well, I guess it is time to repeat an offer that I have made to Turkel several times. The quotation of that offer below contains links that will take readers to other places where I have repeated it.

Turkel:
he [Till] is as of this date many years behind on replying to our material,

Till:
Within a week, I could easily reply to all of the articles he has written about me if I did no more than he does in his selectively quoted "replies" to mine. As I have explained, however, when I reply to an opponent, I reply to everything he tried to argue. I use a leave-no-stone-unturned approach to debating. Obviously, Turkel doesn't, so "our material" that he brags about is really nothing but a long list of evasive nonreplies.

I will repeat here an offer that I have previously made to Turkel here and here and here. If he will identify specific points of his that he thinks I have evaded, I will immediately reply to them point by point, if he will agree to reply in kind to all points of mine that I think he has skipped and then post all of our exchanges on his website, and keep them there. Needless to say, I will gladly post everything on this website.

For some strange reason, Turkel has ignored this repeated challenge. I wonder why?

Although I have presented this proposal to Turkel several times, he has yet to accept it. If he really thought that he had me in positions from which I couldn't extricate myself, he would leap at the opportunity to show me up, but he has repeatedly evaded my challenge because he knows that he is the one who constantly finds himself over the barrel when the two of us cross verbal swords. I reply in detail, as I am doing here and have done repeatedly in past replies to him, but he hops and skips and bobs and weaves and ducks and dodges and tries to hide under a canopy of insults, sarcasm, and ridicule his inabilities to engage in meaningful debate. I urge the readers to be alert, because they will soon see him really turning up the fervor of his ridicule when he reaches the point where he realizes that he must make some kind of effort to appear, at least, to be answering my grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:1-10.

News Flash: Stop the presses! Stop the presses! While this work was in progress, I received word that Turkel--who goes to the Theology Web regularly to engage in hurling sophomoric one- or two-line barbs, peppered with juvenile emoticons, with the high-school and college crowds that frequent this forum--has just recently announced on this thread that he will reply to me no more until after I am dead.

No, John [Powell], he [Till] is exceptionally ignorant. I have washed my hands of answering him ever again following his incompetence documented here. As well as his inability to admit error on the simplest things, documented here.

I will never be responding to Till again until after he kicks the bucket.

Apparently Turkel is tired of being embarrassed by my point-by-point rebuttals of his nonsense, which he has repeatedly shown that he cannot rebut. After I have "kicked the bucket," he will be able to reply to me without fear that I will expose his ignorance again.

By the way, his second link above is to his article entitled "Time to Hang Him out to Dry." Readers who are interested can access here my point-by-point reply to this article. Turkel has yet to write any article about me or biblical inerrancy that isn't absurdly easy to dismantle point by point.

Finding his socks in the morning is no doubt laborious enough.

As I have often said, when Turkel can't answer an opponent's arguments, all is not lost, because he can always resort to sarcasm, insult, and ridicule to camouflage his inability to rebut the arguments. I can't recall ever having had any difficulty finding my socks in the morning, but from this picture of Turkel now making the rounds on the internet, I think I can say with reasonable certitude that he has no trouble at all finding his potbelly in the morning. He may, however, encounter difficulty finding his feet to put his socks on.

I will repeat again something that I have said many times in my replies to Turkel's articles.

If he should ever decide to debate just issues and not personalities, he will find me willing to reciprocate. All he has to do is let me know that he will cease the insults and sarcasms so that we can focus on issues, and I will be ready to give him my full cooperation. He, however, is not about to do this, because he depends on sarcasm and insults in order to camouflage his inability to reply to arguments and rebuttals.

Although this offer has been presented to him several times, he continues to rely on sarcasm and ridicule to try to conceal his inability to rebut arguments, so I will continue below to reply to him in kind each time that he tries to substitute ridicule for argumentation.

As an aside this is now finally posted on the TSR website, apparently with no real difference in content. Want a link? Skeptic X thinks I'm not giving them, but you can go here to the main page and figure it out.

This is a link that will take readers only to the TSR home page, where they would have to go through search-and-find procedures to locate the article alluded to. Turkel could have just as easily given his readers the direct link to his article that I used above, but he doesn't want to make access to what he has removed from his site easy to his readers. That would defeat the evasive purpose that he had in deleting it.

The main subject previously, at any rate, was that lists of women at the tomb of Jesus differed, and here actually Skeptic X partially agreed with what I wrote. He allows that "the omission of names in a narrative would not constitute error" (I do hope word gets out to the Skeptical community at large on this) though he would call it "careless reporting" (it would be, if it really mattered, but it doesn't -- see below).

Well, Turkel need not worry about word of my position getting out "to the skeptical community at large," because this position of mine is generally known in that community. Skeptics on my internet list know that I have many times opposed the overzealous attempts of skeptics like Dennis McKinsey and Joe Wallack to find biblical discrepancies where, in my opinion, none really exists. Turkel, however, could never grant recognition of my opposition to such attempts, because recognizing this would undercut his constant attempts to depict me as a "hyperliteralist," as he did here and here and here and many other places, or "fundaliteralist," as he did here and here and here and also many other places. My long-time opposition to overzealous biblical skeptics is a matter of public record, but Turkel, of course, could never admit this, because it would remove his recourse to camouflaging his evasion by accusing me of being an extremist skeptic who looks for discrepancies on every page of the Bible, as if that accusation, even if true, would satisfactorily explain the biblical discrepancies that I identify. It does, however, enable him to save face with his choir members, who, I am sure, react to his name-calling with thoughts like, "Oh, so, Till is a hyperliteralist, is he? Well, that convinces me that there is no discrepancy here."

Where he decides to take the walrus to the bathtub is on the subject: "If, however, the question entails whether the narratives are consistent in what they say about the women who went to the tomb, my answer is that the narratives are contradictory."

I urge readers to notice that as Turkel stumbled his way on through what part of my article he selectively decided to "answer," he hopped, skipped, and jumped over the evidence I presented in support of my claim that the women in the resurrection narratives--and especially Mary Magdalene--were depicted inconsistently. When Turkel got to where he knew that he had to say something about this or else look evasive even to his choir members, he shifted into high gear and flung sarcasm and ridicule at me as furiously as he ever has.

And he decides to focus here: "I will show that this depiction of Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning is irreconcilably inconsistent with the way that Matthew's narrative depicted her. She was presented in the two narratives so inconsistently that for all intents and purposes the Mary Magdalene of John's gospel was not the Mary Magdalene of Matthew's gospel."

By now you may well ask (as you should) how Skeptic X can wrestle an "inconsistent" portrait when Mary Mag was mentioned but ONCE in Matthew's rez narrative (28:1). The answer is that Skeptic X takes the usual route of anachronism. Here's core premise #1, regarding again the identity crisis:

This is where Turkel shot himself in the foot and then shoved that foot into his mouth. To say that Mary Magdalene was mentioned "but once" in Matthew's resurrection narrative displays a linguistic ignorance that is incredible for even Robert Turkel. He selectively skipped my grammatical analysis of Matthew's narrative, so I am going to quote that part here, so that anyone with even an elementary knowledge of grammar can see how linguistically absurd it is to say that Mary Magdalene was mentioned "but once" in this narrative.

I briefly summarized the Mary-Magdalene problem above, but here is the part of my article in which I explicated in detail that problem, which Turkel in typical fashion conveniently skipped.

Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."

I have emphasized in bold print certain words to call attention to them. They will establish that Matthew intended for his readers to understand that Mary Magdalene didn't just hear the angel announce that Jesus had been raised from the dead but that she also saw him and touched him after she had run from the tomb. To establish this, let's notice that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are the only two women mentioned in Matthew's version. The fact that Mark and Luke may have mentioned other women has nothing to do with the obvious fact that Matthew mentioned only two women: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Therefore, "THE WOMEN" in verse 5 to whom the angel said that Jesus had risen must have necessarily included Mary Magdalene; otherwise, Matthew's text is incoherent and would not have conveyed an accurate picture of what had happened to early Christians who may have lived and died having had access only to this one gospel account. I assume that inerrantists are willing to admit that the NT in bound volumes didn't exist until many years after the gospels were written, so a reader of Matthew very likely would have been unable to consult Mark, Luke, and John to see if they shed any "additional light" on what had happened. If nothing else, Christians living at the time Matthew's gospel was completed could not have had access to Luke and John, since (as most biblical scholars agree) they were written after Matthew. Therefore, the picture they formed in their minds after reading Matthew's gospel could not have included anything that was written in gospels that came after Matthew's.

Besides this, there are linguistic factors that inerrantists must consider. All rules of literary interpretation that I ever heard of (and I studied a lot of literature on the subject when I was teaching college English) would require readers to understand that "THE WOMEN" in verse 5 of Matthew's text were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. No other assumptions can be made, since Matthew did not himself specify that any other women were with the two Marys. In other words, whether Mark and Luke mentioned up to five other women or 500 other women is immaterial to what Matthew's narrative said. If he mentioned only two women, then "the women" in his narrative grammatically had to be Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Hence, any plural pronouns like they and them that obviously referred back to the women had to be references to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. By necessity, then, the grammar of Matthew's narrative requires readers to understand what whatever they did in this narrative or whatever happened to or was said to them were things done by or to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.

The rules of pronoun-antecedent agreement will, therefore, require readers to understand that the antecedent of the pronouns they and them (emphasized in bold print) is "THE WOMEN." Since "THE WOMEN" by grammatical necessity had to be Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the antecedents of they and them are indirectly (by necessity) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.

It is a rule of literary interpretation that the substitution of antecedents for the pronouns in a text will not alter the meaning of the text but will, if anything, help clarify its meaning.  With that in mind, I will now take Matthew's text quoted above and present it with the antecedents substituted for the pronouns they and them when they made obvious references to "the women." Readers should keep in mind that where Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (in bold print) appear, the pronouns they or them appeared in the actual text.

Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." 8 So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, saying, "Rejoice!" So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."

It is clearly evident that Matthew meant for his readers to understand that Mary Magdalene heard an angel announce that Jesus had risen and that she ran from the tomb with great joy after hearing this and that she met Jesus and touched him after she had run from the tomb. So my question to Turkel and his inerrantist cohorts who think that there are no inconsistencies in the resurrection narratives is a simple one: If Mary Magdalene had been told by an angel that Jesus had risen and if she had even seen Jesus and touched him after leaving the tomb, why did she go tell Peter that the body of Jesus had been stolen?

Turkel's choir members can look high and low in his "Magdalene Magilla," but they won't find this part of my article. It is the heart of the Mary-Magdalene problem, and Turkel handled it by skipping all of it but the brief reference I made to the absence of other gospels like Luke and John when Matthew wrote his account. That was only a very minor detail, which Turkel selectively quoted and left unmentioned the very heart of the Mary-Magdalene problem. That is his style, of course; he skips that which he can't effectively reply to and hides his evasions under a stream of sarcasm and ridicule. We are going to look at that stream of sarcasm and ridicule later, but now I want to expose Turkel's incredible linguistic ignorance. He said that Matthew mentioned Mary Magdalene "but once" in his resurrection narrative, but my analysis above shows that he actually mentioned her seven times, because the term the women in verse five had to include Mary Magdalene, for if Matthew had mentioned only two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (v:1), then, as far as the grammatical structure of Matthew's narrative is concerned, when he said that the angel spoke to "the women," he necessarily meant that the angel had spoken to Mary Magdalene. If not, why not? If he attempts a "reply" to this article, I predict that he will ignore this question.

The pronoun they was used three times in verses 8 and nine, and pronouns must have antecedents. (If Turkel had the linguistic sense of a sack of rocks, he would know this.) The only antecedent that they can refer to in these verses is the women, and as I showed above, the women in Matthew's narrative were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Likewise, the pronoun them was used in verses 9 and 10, and the only possible antececent for them in these verses would be the women, and as we have now seen, "the women" in Matthew's narrative were necessarily Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Hence, a linguistic analysis will show that Matthew "mentioned" Mary Magdalene not just once but seven times.

If Turkel denies this, he will be arguing that a writer cannot mention a person unless he uses that person's name, and such a position as that would be so linguistically stupid that only Turkel would resort to it. A simple example will illustrate how writers can "mention" people without actually using their names. Let's imagine the following paragraph in a newspaper article.

Early Friday night, Mary Smith and Mary Jones went to the movies. When the women arrived at the theater, they decided to buy pop corn and drinks. The clerk at the concession stand asked them what they wanted, and they both agreed that they wanted the medium special. The clerk gave them each a medium bag of pop corn and a medium Pepsi Cola. They took them and went inside the theater.

What person reading this paragraph would be so linguistically ignorant that he would seriously argue that the writer mentioned Mary Smith "but once" in this paragraph, and so there is nothing in the paragraph to indicate that Mary Smith either arrived at the theater or bought refreshments at the concession stand? Anyone who can read on even an elementary-school level would know that the women in the second sentence had to include Mary Smith and that each time the pronouns they and them were used, they referred to Mary Smith and the other Mary. The situation in this hypothetical example is parallel to Matthew's resurrection account in 28:1-10. He mentioned Mary Magdalene seven times. If Turkel continues to deny this, let him show exactly where I erred linguistically in my analysis of Matthew's account.

I will have more to say about Turkel's evasion of the core section of my article when I get to where he turns on the ridicule to try to hide his inability to refute the obvious fact that Matthew claimed that Mary Magdalene [1]went to the tomb, [2] encountered an angel [3] heard the angel say that Jesus had risen, [4] heard the angel invite her and the other Mary to come see where Jesus had lain, [5] heard the angel tell her and the other Mary to go tell the disciples that Jesus would go into Galilee and see them there, after which Mary M and the other Mary [a] left the tomb quickly with fear and joy, [b] encountered Jesus, [c] heard Jesus greet them, [d] took hold of Jesus's feet, [e] worshiped Jesus, and [f] heard Jesus tell them to go tell the disciples to depart and meet him in Galilee. After all of these experiences, Mary M, according to John, told Peter and the other disciple that the body of Jesus had been stolen. Why? That is the problem that neither Turkel nor any other inerrantist can explain, and that is exactly why he completely ignored the section of my article, quoted above, that grammatically analyzed Matthew's narrative to present the problem in terms so clear that they cannot be denied.

Well, yeah, Turkel may try to quibble, Matthew did say all of this about Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, but Mark and Luke named other women in their narratives. That, however, does not matter, because the issue in the Mary-Magdalene problem is not what Mark and Luke may have said but whether Matthew's depiction of Mary Magdalene is consistent with John's. My presentation of the problem quoted above shows that it wasn't. Turkel dealt with it by flagrantly ignoring it.

Turkel quoted from my article the paragraph below and then commented on it with his usual evasive sarcasm.

This raises the question of whether the Holy Spirit was careless in guiding these "inspired" ones in what to write about an extraordinary event that begged for evidence to confirm it. After all, these narratives were going to become the primary documents in establishing that a man died, was stone-cold dead for two days, and then returned to life. I would think that "the more the merrier" would apply here and that the omniscient, omnipotent one should have realized that if at least five women, as required by Luke's narrative, went to the tomb, the credibility of their claim that a dead man had returned to life--if it is at all possible for such a claim to have credibility--would have been better served if all of the narratives had named all of these "witnesses."

Careless, my big toe. Once again it's no more than a matter of Skeptic X setting a standard based on his own miseducation and preferences and asking why God didn't descend to kiss his patoot dutifully for his own satisfaction.

Well, once again Turkel has resorted to his old Till-is-upset-because- God-didn't-kiss-his-patoot dodge. As I have repeatedly pointed out to Turkel here and here and here and more other places than I can now remember, this hackneyed mantra, which became a cliché long ago, besides not proving anything, begs the questions of the existence of "God" and his involvement in the writing of the Bible. In the last link above, I asked Turkel how impressed he would be if he were discussing problematic passages in the Qur'an with a Muslim, who dismissed all of them by saying, "Turkel is essentially asking why Allah didn't descend to kiss his butt"? If Turkel has ever tried to answer that question, I haven't seen it; yet, he continues to recycle his patoot cliché as if it were a satisfactory reply to legitimate questions about ambiguity and inconsistency in the Bible. That he does continue to recycle it doesn't surprise me in the least because question begging, special pleading, argumentation by assertion, ad hominem attacks, and appeals to authority are fallacies that occur with regularity in his articles. He would be up that famous creek without a paddle if he didn't have these fallacies to fall back on when he can't answer an opponent's arguments.

As noted in the link above, what Skeptic X calls "careless", [sic] the Easterners call ma besay-il -- it doesn't matter. And it doesn't.

So he is back to trying to peddle this old canard, is he? Those who want to see it completely dismantled and dashed to pieces should read "It Doesn't Matter?" in its entirety and especially this section of it, where I replied in detail to Abraham Ribhany's claim in The Syrian Christ that inconsistencies and other discrepancies in the Bible just "didn't matter," because readers back then were more interested in "the substance" of what had happened in narratives than in strict consistency in them. In this section, I also exposed the lie in Turkel's frequent recycling of his ma besay-il evasion by showing that, contrary to his claim that inconsistencies just didn't matter to people who lived in biblical times, they were very determined to resolve textual problems that indicated inconsistency or contradiction. I cited, for example, the book of Ezekiel, which the Jewish religious establishment almost rejected because of discrepancies in it. I related the work of Hananiah ben Hezekiah, a first-century AD rabbi, who, according to tradition, locked himself into a room with 300 jars of oil and didn't come out until he had rationalized away the discrepancies in Ezekiel that had been bothering his Jewish cohorts.

In this section, I quoted from a page from a study by Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein, which summarized the work that Hananiah ben Hezekiah had put into arriving at satisfactory solutions to discrepancies in Ezekiel. Silverstein teaches Talmud and Midrash at the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva, so I suspect that he knows a bit more about ancient Jewish attitudes toward discrepancies in their sacred writings than Turkel does. After quoting the page from Silverstein's work, I then quoted a similar version of this tale, also written by Silverstein, and then a third account of the same story from a Jewish website that is now apparently inactive. These accounts all dispute Turkel's favorite quibble about inconsistencies not mattering to people who lived in biblical times. Reliable accounts indicate that they were very concerned.

For several years now, a Jewish rabbi has been a member of my Errancy list, and we have learned from him that the Jewish community has long had its counterparts of Gleason Archer, Norman Geisler, John Haley, and other "apologists," who looked long and hard to try to find "explanations" of discrepancies in their sacred literature. In this section of my third article on the Egyptian plagues, the rabbi appealed to the Mechilta to explain how, after all the livestock in Egypt had been killed by the plague of murrain (Ex. 9:6), Pharaoh was able to field an army of 600 chariots and other horsemen to pursue the Israelites leaving Egypt, and as those who click the links above will see, this talmudic "explanation" of the discrepancies resorts to the same kinds of speculations and how-it-could-have-beens that characterize the works of "apologists" like those mentioned above. My point in mentioning all of this, however, is not to show that ancient Jewish apologists resorted to speculative how-it-could-have-beens to explain biblical discrepancies but to show that Turkel is dead wrong when he claims that discrepancies in the Bible just didn't matter to those who lived in biblical times. The evidence indicates the exact opposite.

Before I go on to Turkel's next comment--which we will soon see flatly contradicts views that he has expressed elsewhere--let's just assume for the sake of argument that he is right and that inconsistencies in their sacred writings just didn't matter to people living in biblical times. Since when would not caring about discrepancies, errors, and mistakes in written works not make them discrepancies, errors, and mistakes? If someone in ancient times should have read in a document where the author said that two plus two equaled five, if the reader didn't care about this mistake, would that make what the author said correct? In other words, would a claim that two plus two equals five become a truth if the readers didn't care whether it was a mistake? Turkel's problem seems to be an inability to realize that errors are errors and don't become nonerrors just because of the time period in which the errors were made. Anyone with a lick of sense should be able to see this.

For Skeptic X's provincialist information, these narratives that he thinks "were going to become the primary documents in establishing that a man died," etc. were no such thing. The Gospels were written as biographies of Jesus and were not (despite their [mis]use today as such) evangelistic documents, other than to some extent the Gospel of John.

I have often had to point out that Turkel will say whatever is advantageous to him at the moment and shamelessly contradict it in other articles if the position he is then defending requires him to switch horses. In his defense of preterism, for example, he took the position here that the gospels were evangelical in purpose, and took the same position here. However, we see him taking the position in the quotation above that the gospels, "despite their [mis]use today," were not evangelistic in purpose. I showed here that Turkel once posted, on February 20, 2005, two articles, one of which took the position that the gospels were evangelical in their purpose and another one that argued that the gospels were never evangelical in their purpose. The position that Turkel will take on an issue, then, depends on what direction the winds of controversy are blowing at the moment.

Before I leave this point, I want to direct readers to articles that have documented Turkel's dishonest "apologetic" methods. Examples of Turkel's lies are documented here, and in chapter ten of Richard Carrier's detailed reply to Turkel's impossible faith article. Carrier gave detailed documentation of Turkel's misrepresentations of his "sources" and quotations from their books that were obviously taken out of context. In particular, Carrier showed that Turkel flagrantly misrepresented the views of Bruce Malina (one of his favorite "sources") by saying that he claimed that individuals in biblical societies did not seek to promote their personal interests (as if it would even be possible for a researcher today to determine that). Carrier summarized examples from ancient history that dispute this claim, and then cited an e-mail from Malina in which he said that he agreed with everything Carrier had said in correcting Turkel's misrepresentation. In my own article, "Bobby Wants an Apology?" I showed in this section that Turkel made a colossal boo-boo when he said that the sixth hour in the gospel of John meant 6:00 AM, because the Romans began their day at midnight as we do in modern western society. This is absolutely not so, and even though I cited a mountain of evidence to the contrary, Turkel has yet to admit to his readers that he was wrong about this.

I haven't really decided whether Turkel intentionally distorts and misrepresents the materials cited in his sources or if these are just the normal byproducts of writing done in haste. At times, I see in his articles something that I became very familiar with in student essays while I was still teaching writing. I call it "writing off the top of the head." This occurred when students threw their papers together quickly in time frames in which they were so rushed that they could only skim their "sources," so quite naturally, they often didn't understand what those sources were actually saying. Whether Turkel's distortions and misrepresentations result from such haste so that he can crank out another article and brag about how many he has written or whether he intentionally misrepresents and distorts is really of minimal importance, because the end result is the same: He fills his articles with distortions, misrepresentations, and false information. In the final analysis, however, the real disgrace is that his readers let him get away with it. If those who send him the PayPal bucks that he depends on for his livelihood would be a bit more critical in reading his articles, perhaps they could put pressure on him to clean up his act, but as long as the bucks keep coming in, he really has no reason to change anything.

(If Skeptic X cares to enlighten himself about the practice of ancient bioi he can rip on over here.)

Here is a good example of Turkel's evasive tactics. He ignored entirely the Mary-Magdalene problem as I detailed it in a grammatical analysis of Matthew's resurrection account, and then he tried to divert attention from his evasion by setting up this ancient-biography straw man to kick around and distract readers from his inability to solve the problem. What difference does it make whether Matthew's resurrection account is classified as a biography or epic or drama or history or whatever? This "biography"--if that is what Turkel wants to call it--clearly put Mary Magdalene on the scene both throughout the angel's visit at the tomb and the women's encounter of Jesus after they left the tomb. Why, then, after having had all of these experiences, did Mary Magdalene (according to John) go tell Peter and the other disciple that the body of Jesus had been stolen? That is the Mary-Magdalene problem, and Turkel is obviously evading it, because he has no way to reply to it, so he tries to camouflage his lack of a plausible solution to it beneath an evasive tirade of ridicule that follows below.

Even if the biographical classification of the gospels were in any way relevant to the Mary-Magdalene problem, I wouldn't rush to "rip on over here" to Turkel's link, because I would be reading an article by Turkel himself, who, as noted above, fills his articles with distortions and misrepresentations, so how would I know that I could trust the accuracy of what the article says? If Turkel doesn't know that Roman time did not begin at midnight but at sunrise, as noted in the link above, how can I be sure that he knows anything about ancient biographies? If he doesn't know that Bruce Malina did not claim that individuals in biblical times never pursued personal ambitions and goals, how can I be sure that Turkel's views on ancient biographies are accurate? If Turkel doesn't know that individuals in biblical times experienced feelings of personal guilt, how can I be sure that his views on ancient biographies are accurate? The problem is that he has so squandered his credibility that no one with the critical-thinking skills of a load of bricks can trust anything that he says. Hence, he has to be satisfied with impressing only his choir members, who have gullibly swallowed ancient beliefs and superstitions as historical facts, so they make perfect patsies to aim his articles at to dupe the naïve into becoming PayPal pigeons. They have been conditioned through childhood indoctrination and church attendance to believe just about anything. If Turkel is satisfied to play to that kind of audience, so be it. He accomplishes nothing but the stroking of the gullibility of those who already believe the superstititious nonsense that he peddles on his website.

Another problem in "rip[ping] over here" to read Turkel's article is that he said at its outset that he was going to "draw extensively upon the work of Glenn Miller," and that is hardly an admission that instills any confidence in what is going to follow. Those who think that Glenn Miller is any kind of biblical expert should take the time to read my detailed replies to his attempts to justify the Yahwistic atrocities in the Old Testament. This is a seven-part series, which begins here, and replied point by point to Miller's lengthy article "Good Question...." Having analyzed this article in great detail and replied to all of Miller's points, I know that he is certainly no biblical expert. Those who read my replies will see that I identified several places in Miller's article that indicated his knowledge of the Bible, like Turkel's, was superficial at best. Hence, I certainly can't put much confidence in what Miller might think about ancient biographies. I know from having taken the time to dismantle the article mentioned above that Miller and Turkel are two peas in a pod in that they use the same technique of filling their articles with citations from books and periodicals that agree with their views, as if it is at all difficult to find books and authors that agree with one's religious beliefs. About the only substantial difference in the two is that Miller refrains from hurling sarcasm, ridicule, and insults at those who disagree with him and in that respect exemplifies a spirit of Christianity that is noticeably absent in Turkel's articles. At any rate, I certainly don't see any benefit in "rip[ping] over here" to read an article by Turkel that "draws extensively upon the work of Glenn Miller."

But even if they WERE such documents as Skeptic X suggests, he's still wrong. As we explained in some detail here, documents simply were not the be-all and end-all of the ancient world -- oral transmission served that purpose.

Ah, yes, Turkel has now retreated to his "oral-tradition" bastion, as if oral transmission of stories, traditions, and legends would have somehow infallibly protected the tales from errors. Whenever a discrepancy is pointed out that Turkel cannot explain, it would be almost a sure thing to bet that he will make some kind of appeal to "oral tradition" in trying to resolve the discrepancy. He said above that "documents simply were not the be-all and end-all of the ancient world"--whatever that is supposed to mean--but by going on to say that "oral transmission served that purpose," he was claiming that "oral transmission" was the be-all and end-all of the ancient world, and by constantly appealing to "oral tradition" as if it were a sure-fire way to explain biblical discrepancies, he has made oral tradition a catch-all explanation without ever having explained just why inconsistencies and contradictions in orally transmitted stories would not be discrepancies. He just can't seem to grasp the indubitable fact that discrepancies or mistakes or errors--whatever one wishes to call them--result from conflicting or inconsistent ideas, claims, facts, etc., so it doesn't matter whether those conflicts occur in written or oral transmissions. If the conflicts are present, whether the account is oral or written, discrepancies are present, so Turkel's appeals to oral transmissions to try to make them not be discrepancies is almost too idiotic to deserve comment.

At any rate, I have shot Turkel's oral-tradition quibble full of holes so many times that I can't remember them all, and readers who go here will see just one example of where I showed that appeals to oral traditions cannot satisfactorily explain away discrepancies in written texts because of the obvious fact that oral transmission of the stories before they were written down would be no guarantee that they were accurately transmitted. If anything, as I showed here and all through "Bobby Grabs More Straws," oral transmissions will increase the probability of conflicting ideas in the traditions being so transmitted; hence, rather than decreasing the likelihood of inconsistencies, oral transmissions will increase it.

In "The Mary Magdalene Problem," which was written in reply to Turkel's attempts to harmonize the resurrection narratives, he predictably made his usual appeal to oral tradition as the "solution" to inconsistencies in them. I addressed that appeal here and concluded my reply to it with the comments below.

Those who have done much reading in Turkel's website know that he seems to think that vague appeals to "oral tradition," like this one, are satisfactory explanations of whatever problem he may be trying to explain. If an inconsistency in a written text exists, an inconsistency exists, and no number of appeals to "oral tradition" can remove the inconsistency.

Although I have repeatedly directed to Turkel the same observation about his constant "oral-tradition" quibble, I have yet to see any attempt from him to explain just how oral transmission would guarantee that no inconsistencies ever intruded into those transmissions. If anything, as I showed here, reputable scholarly opinions think that the various doublets in the Bible, which are the same stories told in different, inconsistent ways, resulted from their oral transmissions over extended periods of time.

Skeptic X offers the same bias that Tony Lentz commented upon in his book Orality and Literacy in Hellenic Greece [2]:

Western academic measurement of success by literary and printed research colored the expectation of classical scholars as they considered writing in ancient culture. Writing was so important to their world that they assumed it was the key to the growth of ancient culture.

So likewise Skeptic X assumes that the written Gospels were the key to the growth of ancient Christianity. They were not.

I have never assumed any such thing. The success of religious movements always depends upon a variety of circumstances and conditions existing at the time, and Christianity would have been no different. I personally lean to the theory that probably more than anything else, the "success" of Christianity resulted from its arising at a time when paganism was experiencing serious decline and was being questioned even by leading intelligentsia of that time. The disillusioned, however, wanted something to take its place, because it seems that people always need some kind of religious crutch to lean on, and Christianity was there to step in and fill the void, but I don't have time to discuss that theory here, which is really irrelevant to the Mary-Magdalene problem.

As for Turkel's claim that the gospels were not "the key to the growth of Christianity," this is just another way of saying that the gospels were not intended by their writers to be evangelistic, so all I need to do here is refer readers to the links above, where I documented Turkel's inconsistency on the purpose of the gospels. As noted there, he has sometimes said that their purpose was evangelistic, and at other times, he has ridiculed the mere thought that they had been written for evangelistic purposes. I showed in the section just linked to that on the same day, February 20, 2005, Turkel posted two articles on his website, one of which said that the gospels were evangelistic in their purpose and another that said their purpose was not evangelistic. Are we supposed to be impressed with the opinions of someone who speaks from both sides of his mouth as often as Turkel does, who will say one thing one day and the exact opposite the next, depending on what doctrine-du-jour he is trying to peddle?

How could they be? 90-95% of the population was illiterate.

Turkel has often cited this statistic, obtained from W. V. Harris's Ancient Literacy, a work published in 1989, which is now obsolete because of new information about ancient literacy that has been discovered. A review of Literacy in the Roman World by Callie Williamson of Indiana University, discusses the conclusions of the eight scholars from England, France, and the United States, who compiled this more recent work on ancient literacy and reached different conclusions from Harris's. The consensus of these scholars is that literacy in the ancient world was more widespread than Harris thought. J. L. Franklin, one of the eight contributors to this work, concluded "that the ability to read and write, and significantly also the habit of writing, was more widespread among people at the bottom of Pompeian society than Harris believed." In addition to the indications of widespread literacy in Pompeii that Franklin concluded from his study of graffiti found there, the other scholars who participated in the study, documented their reasons for concluding that literacy in other parts of the Roman Empire was more extensive than Harris thought.

I discussed the subject of ancient literacy in much more detail in this section of "Crimes by Speculation"--which is a reply to a combined attempt by Turkel and Glenn Miller to argue that ambiguity caused by key omissions of information in biblical texts cannot be considered discrepancies because widespread illiteracy at that time somehow made ommissions desirable--and showed that literacy back then was far more commonplace than they thought. "Literacy in the Time of Jesus" by Alan Millard gives detailed information (documented with pictures taken at archaeological sites of discoveries like inscriptions on stone slabs, pottery shards, papyrus and leather fragments, etc.) that indicates a degree of literacy much greater than what had previously been thought. This article, for example, shows the photograph of a limestone slab discovered in Jerusalem that has an inscription in Greek that says, "No foreigner may enter within the railing and enclosure that surround the Temple. Anyone apprehended shall have himself to blame for his consequent death!" As Millard points out in the article, this slab was obviously used as a warning sign, and the fact that it was posted as a warning would indicate that the authorities thought that Gentile visitors to the city would be able to read it. Millard's article also told of--and photographed--writing tablets with waxed surfaces that have been found in London, Vindolanda, a fort on the frontier of England and Scotland, and elsewhere in numbers significant enough to show that literacy at this time was widespread. Some of the tablets still had readable messages on them. This article also reported--and photographed--a bundle of ancient papri that was found in a place now known as "the cave of letters," where Jews took refuge from the Romans during the Bar-Kokhba War of AD 132-135, and the quantity and variety of these written documents indicate that literacy was commonplace among those who had sought safety there.

Millard's article reported many more evidences of widespread literacy and ended with this conclusion.

Some scholars contend, with Stephen Patterson, that “very few people could read or write [in Jesus’ day].” But such statements are no longer supported by the evidence. Not everyone could read and write. And some who could read were not necessarily able to write. But archaeological discoveries and other lines of evidence now show that writing and reading were widely practiced in the Palestine of Jesus’ day. And if that is true, there is no reason to doubt that there were some eyewitness records of what Jesus said and did (emphasis added).

Telling Turkel all of this, however, is like pouring water onto a duck's back. He is so wedded to his 90-95% illiteracy claim in biblical times that he would never admit that this estimate just may be too high, no matter how much evidence to the contrary may turn up. Just think how radically he would have to revamp all of his references to "oral tradition" if he accepted the new information discovered about ancient literacy. For the sake of argument, however, let's just assume that even as many as 99% of the populations back then were illiterate. How would that solve the Mary-Magdalene problem, for Matthew 28:1-10 is obviously a written text that grammatically requires readers to understand that she was present throughout the events recorded in these verses? How would a 99% illiteracy rate at that time make Matthew's depiction of Mary Magdalene as a person who was present throughout the angel's visit and the encounter of Jesus consistent with John's claim that she found Peter and the other disciple and told them that the body of Jesus had been stolen?

That is the problem that Turkel has been dodging and will continue to dodge. I suppose that I will never get to see him try to solve this problem, since he is now saying that he will never again reply to my articles till after I have "kicked the bucket."

Boo-hoo.

The credibility of the resurrection for those reading the Gospels had already been established --

It had? Perhaps Turkel would care to explain to us just how the credibility of a claim as unlikely as the resurrection of a dead person had "already been established." As we will soon see, nothing that Turkel went on to say in any way establishes the credibility of this highly unlikely claim. He likes to link readers to his articles that he naively thinks support positions that he is trying to sell, so I will suggest to readers that they go to "The Nature of the Claim" to see why nothing as supernaturally based as the claim that a man died and returned to life could ever have any credibility when it has no evidence to support it except that avowed disciples of the man, living in prescientific, superstitious times, said that it happened. Turkel considers this credible evidence?

There's nothing wrong with his critial-thinking skills that a course in basic logic wouldn't do wonders for.

not on the strength of any one or more written narratives, but the collective and unwritten apostolic witness -- not just to the empty tomb, but to the resurrected Jesus --

Oh, sure, the established credibility of the resurrection was no doubt the reason why the apostle Paul devoted an entire chapter of 58 verses trying to convince skeptics in the Corinthian church that the resurrection was an established fact (1 Cor. 15). When Peter and the other apostles preached the resurrection of Jesus only about two months after the time that it had happened, in the very city where it had presumably happened, the credibility of the resurrection was so firmly established that they were taken before the Sanhedrin, which soundly rejected this claim whose credibility Turkel says was "already established" at that time (Acts 4). If its credibility had not been established then, there is no telling how badly the apostles might have been treated.

which offers the only worthwhile explanation for the existence and growth of the Christian movement. (And if Skeptic X wants to argue with THAT, he can put this in his cabana for a future project.)

Oh, please give me a break! Turkel's link here is to his "Impossible Faith" article, which has been rebutted here, in detail, point by point, by Richard Carrier. Even without Carrier's rebuttal of this article, those with the critical-thinking skills of a slug would have no difficulty seeing the absurdity of Turkel's premise that the success of Christianity was so improbable that the only way to explain its success is to conclude that it was all true. This naive line of reasoning would enable a Muslim to argue that the success of Islam was so improbable that it must be true or a Mormon to argue that the success of Mormonism was so improbable that it must be true. Turkel's main premise in this article suffers from the truth of a familiar logical axiom: That which proves too much proves nothing at all. When Carrier's point-by-point rebuttal of the entire article is read, however, readers can easily see that Carrier peeled off Turkel's hide and nailed it to the wall. There is no need, then, for me to put Turkel's "impossible faith" article into my cabana "for a future project," because Carrier has already dumped it onto the trash heap of failed apologetics where it belongs.

Turkel, who as noted above has said that he will not reply to any more of my articles until I have "kicked the bucket," will never reply in kind to Carrier's rebuttal of his "impossible-faith" article, because [1] he doesn't know how to and [2] replying in kind would take too much time, and Turkel, who wants to crank out articles faster than religious memes replicate in societies prone to superstition, would never slow his output of hackwork to take the time to reply to Carrier in kind. Hence, the extent of his reply to Carrier has been an article that typically made only swipes at selectively quoted parts of Carrier's article but didn't even come close to being a point-by-point reply like Carrier's.

That said, Skeptic X restates his agreement on the identities issue; then we get to a point where I noted:

John first -- critics think John says Mary went alone, but read John 10:2 - So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" So John's account could include other people as well.

Skeptic X says he agrees with me here, oddly enough,

Turkel is obviously annoyed that he can't paint me as a "fundaliteralist" who grabs any chance to find discrepancies in every biblical verse. Perhaps he will explain to us why he considers it odd that a skeptic would disagree with skeptics who go too far in trying to find discrepancies in the Bible. I know many skeptics who share my belief that some radical skeptics damage our cause by going overboard in their quest to find discrepancies in the Bible. Does Turkel agree with everything that Bible believers say? Well, of course, he doesn't. No Bible believer agrees with everything said by all other Bible believers because that would require believing contradictory doctrines. Why then does he find it odd that a skeptic doesn't agree with other skeptics on some points? This is just another example of how fuzzy Turkel's thinking is at times.

Oh, I forgot, I noted above that Turkel has announced on the Theology Web that he will never again respond to me until I have "kicked the bucket," so thinking that he may explain anything to us is now apparently out of the question.

but just in case the dogs have not had their steak he pedantically asks why my own use of the first-person plural (as is my affectation, which annoys him clearly to no end) doesn't mean I have other people with me.

This affectation, which pervades Turkel's articles, doesn't annoy me in the least. I just find it another indication of his narcissistic personality, because as I showed here, this is an obsolete usage called the "royal we," which was called this from the habit of so many people in royal classes using it as an indication that they considered themselves special and at least better than the lower classes. That Turkel would so often use such an obsolete term isn't at all surprising to me, because the religious beliefs that he tries to defend in his articles indicate that he is living in a past far more distant than the time when the pretentious noble classes used the royal we in referring to themselves.

The "duh" answer to this is the same sort Skeptic X always resists -- we know Mary Mag was not alone because other data we have indicates [sic] she was not.

"Other data," however, is irrelevant to the Mary-Magdalene problem, for if the Bible is inerrant, any given text in it must be consistent with all other passages. If passage A, for example, irreconcilably conflicts with passage B (in another section of the Bible), one of them must contain an error. This is an obvious logical fact that I doubt that Turkel is able to recognize, because as we noted above, he is so confused about what constitutes discrepancy in the Bible that he will argue that mistakes were not mistakes if they didn't matter to the people living at the time the mistakes were made.

We--meaning all the readers and I--have seen above that Bobby is now saying that he will reply to me no more until after I have "kicked the bucket," so I am probably wasting my time to point this out to him, but he didn't reply to my question: If he can we-we-we-we his readers to death but mean only himself, how does he know that Mary M meant that others were with her when she told Peter that "we don't know where they have laid him?" I had a serious purpose in asking this question. I want to know if he thinks that Mary Magdalene made a trip to the tomb by herself and then later made another trip in the company of other women or if he thinks that she made only one trip while in the company of others. If he thinks that she was alone or if he thinks that others were with her, how long has he held to this opinion? Is it one that he may change later on the grounds that he has held it for eight years, and so it is time for a change?

Oh, I forgot he won't be replying to me anymore until after I have "kicked the bucket," so never mind.

As a final note on this point, I will remind readers that Turkel--as we will soon see him doing below--tries to present himself as an expert in biblical languages, but he seems not to know that the English word data is plural and not singular. I have often pointed out indications--as I did here and here and here and here--that Turkel's knowledge of his native language is sadly deficient, so why should anyone think that he knows enough about biblical languages to pooh-pooh my grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:1-10, as he did below, on the grounds that I analyzed an English translation rather than the Greek original? I would ask him if he will take the time to show where my analysis of Matthew's narrative erred if I take the time to present it in Greek, but he has said that he will never reply to me again till after I have "kicked the bucket." I have no interest in what Turkel may or may not prove after I am dead. I want to see him show us now that my analysis of Matthew 28:1-10 presents no problem for his claim of harmony in the resurrection narratives.

For Skeptic X of course that has to be taken as error in other circumstances, as it does with Jer. 7:22 where the historical assessment of the Pentateuch is not enough to render Jerry's "not" ironic,

Here is another example of how Turkel will set up straw men to distract attention from his inability to rebut an opponent's arguments. I doubt that most readers will even understand what he was referring to in his ambiguous statement above, so I guess I will have to do his work for him and clarify what he meant. He was referring here to Jeremiah's claim that Yahweh did not give the Israelites any commands concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices when they came out of Egypt, a statement that, as I showed here, clearly conflicts with other biblical passages that explicitly speak of commands that Yahweh gave the Israelites at this time to make burnt offerings and sacrifices to him. Turkel's reference above is not the first time that he has set up this straw man to try to divert attention from his inability to answer my arguments. He set it up in this section of our debate on preterism, an issue that had nothing at all to do with whether Jeremiah 7:22 contradicted earlier biblical claims that Yahweh had commanded burnt offerings and sacrifices of the exodusing Israelites. Those who click the link above will be taken to a section of my debate with Turkel on the issue of preterism, where I took the time to analyze Jeremiah 7:22 in detail and show that Turkel's spin on it was too far-fetched to believe. Those who take the time to read it will see that as he was doing above, Turkel set Jeremiah 7:22 up in the debate on preterism to distract attention from his failure to reply to my rebuttals. I ripped his straw man apart in the article linked to above, so there is no need for me to waste time here rehashing my rather lengthy rebuttals of it.

and we must take the much simpler (ergh) solution of, i.e., [sic] otherwise unknown priestly parties of conspirators, this in spite of clear Eastern linguistic parallels.

Sometimes I wonder if even Turkel understands what the hell he is trying to say. If he, who claims to be an expert in biblical languages, will write his statement above in clear, concrete language instead of incomprehensible abstractions and ambiguities, I will try to reply to it, even though he has recently said that he will never again reply to anything I write until I have "kicked the bucket."

If Turkel meant to say that his claim that the language in Jeremiah 7:22 was figurative rather than literal, I would like to see him show us just why a figurative interpetation of this passage is "simpler" than an interpretation that applies a long-established principle of hermeneutics and literary interpretation, which says that the language in written texts should be interpreted literally unless there are compelling reasons to assign figurative meanings. The only reason why Turkel or any other inerrantist would assign figurative meanings to the language in Jeremiah 7:22 is a desire to make this passage consistent with other texts that spoke of and commanded burnt offerings and sacrifices at the time of the Israelite exodus and wilderness wanderings, but as I have had to point out to him many times, such as here and here and more other places than I could link to without making this paragraph tediously long, the desire to find inerrancy in the texts is not a compelling reason to assign figurative meaning. Although I have stated this literary principle umpteen times in my replies to Turkel, I have yet to see him try to show that it is a flawed principle. Now that he has said that he will never again reply to anything I write until I have "kicked the bucket," I guess I will never have the privilege of seeing him apply his expertise in biblical languages and literary interpretation to show that this literary principle is flawed. I will try to live with this privation of his biblical insights.

Skeptic X adds a spike from fellow errantist John "I Think Paper was Free" Kesler (who asks the Stoopid Skeptic Question, "What if they were written in the computer age?" but never quite explains, as least as far as I have seen, why he thinks my points about the scarcity of office supplies in the ancient world is in error --

Turkel can only wish that he had the critical-thinking skills of John Kesler. I am sure that if computers had existed in New Testament times that would not have deterred Turkel from quibbling that bandwidth was just too expensive for biblical writers to give enough details to avoid ambiguity. If not that, Turkel would have hatched up some other rationalizations, because it is obvious that he is just another biblical inerrantist who will spare no extreme to defend the Bible against charges of errancy. Obviously, no "explanation" of a discrepancy can be too absurd or ridiculous for him to propose it.

I really don't know what Kesler has said in response to Turkel's "points about the scarcity of office supplies in the ancient world," but I know that I have ripped them to pieces, flung the pieces down, and danced upon them. Those who bother to read my article "The Paper Shortage" and the follow-up paper-trail series, which begins here, can see that I dismantled in detail Turkel's "stoopid" attempts to defend biblical inerrancy by pleading that the writers of the Bible just didn't have enough space to explain themselves adequately.

I wonder if he would spend $160-200 for a few sheets of paper...

If I had been chosen of God to write an inspired account of a part of his word, I have no doubt that the omniscient, omnipotent one would have intervened to see that I had adequate scroll materials to write what needed to be said. I have already been through all of this in "The Paper Shortage" and the follow-up paper-trail series linked to above. My arguments are too detailed to quote here, but I will repeat a series of questions that I asked Turkel about "John's" monetary circumstances when he was writing his gospel account.

  1. What was the length of the scroll on which "John" wrote the fourth gospel?
  2. How much did this scroll cost "John"?

  3. Did "John" use every inch of this scroll?

  4. Did he have any space at all left over when he wrote the final verse of this gospel?

  5. If he did have space left at the end, how long was that space? Two inches? One inch? A half inch? How much?

  6. If "John" had, say, a half inch left at the end, would that have been enough space for him to squeeze in, "When Jesus died, a great earthquake shook open the tombs of many saints, who went into the city, after his resurrection, and appeared to many, and the centurion seeing the earthquake and what took place said, 'Surely, this was the son of God'"?

  7. If "John's" scroll didn't even have an extra half inch to squeeze this information in, how much extra would it have cost him to have bought a scroll a half inch longer or to buy a half inch of scroll material to tack onto the end?

Unless Turkel can answer these questions, he will be found arguing that the apostle John could not write on a scroll of unknown length everything that should have been said in his gospel and that he could not have afforded to spend an unknown amount to obtain an addition of unknown length to sew onto his scroll so that he would have had enough space to tell everything that needed to be said. In the paper-trail series linked to above, I also adapted these questions to the other gospel writers, but as of yet, I have not seen or heard of any attempt by Turkel to answer them. We now know that he will not reply to them or anything else I write until after I have "kicked the bucket."

Boo-hoo again!

but see now here on that) that Nicodemus in John 3 (he mis-cites [sic] it as John 1)

Well, golly, doesn't Turkel know that misciting John 3 as John 1 wasn't an error, because (1) the people reading it don't care if it is in John 3 or John 1 but are interested only in the substance of what was said, and (2) Ma besay-il! It doesn't matter!

His link above was to his article "Paper Pushers," which I threw down and danced upon in "The Paper Shortage" and the follow-up paper-trail series, so everything he said "here" has been replied to in point-by-point detail.

[that Nicodemus in John 3]... used a "we" in spite of being alone. Skeptic X though actually admits that he agrees that "Nicodemus was simply saying that he and others he knew understood that Jesus was a teacher come from God," and adds, "that would not in any way prove that Nicodemus had others with him at the time." I agree too.

So why wag it in? The answer, of course, is obvious. Turkel was doing everything he could to distract attention from his inability to explain away my grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:1-10.

And I don't think Mary Mag's companions needed to follow her in to where Peter and Co. were. It would have been hard enough to run around by herself and commit the questionable social act of being alone with these men who were not her husband; how much worse for 2-3 or however many of them to do the same?

As the "many women" did when they followed Jesus in Galilee and "ministered to him" and then followed him to Jerusalem (Mark 15:40-41; Matt. 27:55-56; Luke 23:49)? After all of that "ministering to him," I can certainly see why Mary M would have been concerned about being seen with a couple of men.

Turkel, of course, is just stuffing more straw into the diversions that he brings in so that he can distract attention from his evasion of the central issue, which is the Mary-Magdalene problem. I will try to draw a picture here that even Turkel might be able to see. Matthew's narrative grammatically requires the understanding that Mary Magdalene saw an angel at the tomb, heard this angel announce that Jesus had risen, heard the angel invite her in to see where Jesus had lain, heard the angel tell her and the other Mary to go tell the disciples that Jesus would meet them in Galilee, after which she ran from the tomb, encountered Jesus in person, touched him, and worshiped him, but in spite of all of these personal experiences that would have convinced even a moron that Jesus had risen from the dead, Mary M, nevertheless, went to Peter and John and told them that someone had stolen the body. Turkel is not even trying to address the problem, but we will soon seen that he turns on the sarcasm and rididule full blast--a sure indication that he has no viable solution to the problem.

Think how well that would be received in Islamic society -- rather stricter, yes, but the moral principles were much the same.

Better yet, think of how this has nothing to do with solving the Mary-Magdalene problem, which I presented in detail earlier in this article and then resummarized immediately above. Regardless of what moral beliefs the people of that time may have had concerning women who socialized with men, the Mary-Magdalene problem still remains: After all of the experiences that she had had with an angel and then Jesus himself at the tomb site, why did Mary Magdalene go tell Peter and John that the body of Jesus had been stolen? Obviously, Turkel has no sensible answer to this question, and so he evaded it completely and then tried to hide his evasion under a canopy of straw men like the one immediately above.

The point was that Mary Mag did not go to the tomb alone, or return alone, as Skeptics are wont to claim John says, and Skeptic X apparently has no problem with this.

So, as I asked above, why keep wagging it into a discussion that is supposed to center on the Mary-Magdalene problem? Well, of course, the answer is obvious: Turkel can't solve this problem, and so he is trying to hide his evasion of it behind a continual line up of straw men.

(By the same token he wants to know who the "we" is Jesus refers to in John 3:11.

No, I was simply following Turkel where he led me, and so I was pointing out an inconsistency in his "logic." He wants to use we, we, we, we in his articles in reference to just himself and then turn around and argue that if a biblical writer used we, he meant more than just one person. As I have pointed out many times, as I did here and here, inconsistency is about the only consistency in Turkel's articles.

Skeptic X one-dimensionally claims that it couldn't be the disciples, "because the selection of the disciples had just begun in chapter 1 (35ff), so not much 'testifying' could have occurred by this time." Gee, Skeptic X, just how much "testifying" needed to be done before this could be said then, and how many disciples or persons needed to be testifying? John names several disciples in Ch. 1 -- if we stop there, was there a 10-person rule or something before you were allowed to use a "we" to testify? By the same token how could Nic know Jesus was such a bonzer teacher if there was not a significant enough time between Chs. 2 and 3?

Nicodemus was a "man of the Pharisees," a "ruler of the Jews" (John 3:1), and a "teacher of Israel" (v:10), so when he used the pronoun we, he didn't very likely mean that he was associating himself with the disciples of Jesus. He no doubt meant we in the sense of those who, like him, were associated with the Pharisees. If Turkel were not so linguistically "multidimensional" that he allows language to mean anything that he wants it to mean, he would see this. Anyway, I will just put this straw man to rest by saying, "Yeah, you are right, Turkel. Jesus must have had hundreds of disciples testifying on his behalf at this time." Now with that concession, please tell us why Mary Magdalene, after having had all of the experiences that Matthew claimed she had had with an angel and then with Jesus himself at the tomb site, went to tell Peter and John that the body of Jesus had been stolen? That is the Mary-Magdalene problem, so why don't you do something a bit unusual for you and try to answer an opponent's arguments?

Oh, I keep forgetting that Turkel is never again going to reply to anything I write until after I have "kicked the bucket."

Your honor, I withdraw the question.

Skeptic X here seems actually unenlightened enough to think that all the time that was between Chs. 1 and 3 was as long as it took for him to read the chapters.

I have already alerted readers to watch for Turkel to turn up the sarcasm and ridicule, and from this point on, we will see it steadily increase to hide from his readers that he isn't explaining the Mary-Magdalene problem. He knows that his choir members won't care, because they will be getting what they send their PayPal bucks to see, i. e., a barrage of sarcasm and insults hurled at those who are enlightened enough to doubt that the Bible is the "inspired word of God."

Take, for example, his comment about how long it took me to read chapters one to three in the book of John. He might be surprised to know that when I was still a preacher--some forty years ago--I committed the first nine chapters of the American Standard Version of the book of John to memory in the first stage of a project intended to memorize the entire New Testament, and at that time, I could quote all of those chapters from end to end without a bobble. As awareness of biblical inconsistencies increased, however, I understood that there were more useful aspects of biblical studies than memorizing long passages, so I have lost a lot of what I had memorized. I have found, however, that if I spend time to read long passages from these chapters in John, I can within just a short while quote those sections. I know the first three chapters of John, then, well enough to know that no extended period of time passed from when the Pharisees sent emissaries to John the Baptist (John 1:19-24) until Nicodemus came to see Jesus (3:1-10). Just a simple analysis of chronological markers will show this.

  1. As noted above, the Pharisees sent emissaries to John the Baptist.

  2. The next day, i. e., "on the morrow," Jesus came to him (1:29).

  3. On the day after that, i. e., "on the morrow," John and two of his disciples saw Jesus walking by, and the two disciples followed him (1:35-37).

  4. The two disciples stayed with Jesus that day (1:39-40).

  5. On the next day, i. e., "on the morrow," Jesus found Philip, who then found Nathanael and brought him to Jesus (1:43-51).

Turkel won't even have to take off his shoes to do the math here, because he can count the days on just one hand. These events covered a three-day period. Then on that "third day," Jesus went to the wedding in Cana of Galilee (2:1). After the wedding, Jesus went to Capernaum and stayed there "not many day" (2:12), so obviously "John" was compressing several events into the life of Jesus within the space of only a few days.

Jesus then went to Jerusalem for the passover (2:13), but no extended period of time passed here, because this verse tells us that after Jesus had stayed at Capernaum "not many days," the passover "was at hand." The rest of chapter three relates the activities that Jesus engaged in at Jerusalem during the passover, which was "at hand" in verse 13, so just the space of a few days takes us from the emissaries of the Pharisees who went to see John the Baptist until Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the passover. The implication is that Nicodemus came to see Jesus while he was in Jerusalem, because, as noted above, Nicodemus was a "man of the Pharisees," a "ruler of the Jews," and a "teacher of Israel," positions that very likely would have required his residence in Jerusalem. This conclusion is reinforced by 7:45-51, which implies that Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin before becoming a disciple himself, and 19:38-42, which tells of the assistance that he gave to Joseph of Arimethea in burying Jesus. (All of this strongly implies that the meeting with Nicodemus happened after Jesus went to Jerusalem for the passover that was "at hand," and after the meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and went into the area of Judæa where John was baptizing (3:22). The chronological markers in the first three chapters of John, then, clearly indicate that all of these events had happened over the space of just a few days. If Turkel's biblical knowledge ran even a little bit deeper than a bird bath, maybe he would be able to see some of these things for himself without needing someone to take him by the hand and lead him through them.

John writes of any [many?] believing on Jesus over the Passover (2:23), so there is some decent teaching time indicated, which would also suggest gathering of disciples;

I just walked Turkel through the chronological markers in John 1 and 2 that clearly claimed that only a few days had passed in these chapters. As for the "many" who believed on Jesus during the passover, since when were extended periods of time needed to lure believers into Jesus's camp? According to New Testament writers, and especially "John," believers were attracted to Jesus like flies are drawn to honey (John 4:41; John 7:31; John 8:30; John 10:42). Unfortunately, there are no disinterested, unbiased contemporary records to corroborate these conversion claims. The essential point here, however, is that Turkel cannot claim the passage of extended periods of time on the grounds that Jesus made "many" disciples while he was in Jerusalem for the passover, because John claimed that making "many" disciples was par for the course wherever Jesus went.

and to throw back something Skeptic X recently said in his own face,

I just don't know why a linguistic expert like Turkel, who knows all about nuances and idioms in biblical languages, can't see a simple syntactical error like the misplaced modifier, i. e., "in his own face," in this sentence. He obviously meant to say that he was going to throw back into, not in, my face something that I had said, but where he put "in his own face" in this sentence left the impression that I had said this something in my own face. Tsk, tsk, tsk, and we are supposed to swoon when Turkel talks about his expertise in biblical languages.

does he assume that only the disciples John names were the only ones Jesus had?!?

No, I just assumed, for the sake of argument, the correctness of biblical chronology, which claims that he "began to teach when he was about 30 years old." This "teaching" began after Jesus was baptized (Luke 3:18-23). After his baptism--which Turkel will no doubt try to quibble was weeks or months later--the chronological markers analyzed above began in John 1, so everything points to just the passage of a few days from the baptism of Jesus until Nicodemus came by night to see him in Jerusalem. Turkel can find no passages at all that indicate that Jesus had gathered a following before his baptism. On the other hand, Matthew said that Jesus "began to preach the kingdom of heaven" after his temptation in the wilderness, which immediately followed his baptism (Matt. 4:1,11-17). This same chapter tells of Jesus's calling of Simon and Andrew and James and John (Matt. 4:18-22). Verse 12 in this same chapter claims that Jesus didn't begin preaching "the kingdom of heaven" until he had heard that John the Baptist had been imprison; hence, the events in John 1, which told of the disciples of John who followed Jesus, would have happened before Jesus began to preach the kingdom of heaven as claimed in Matthew 4. If not, why not?

Mark 1:9-14 also dated the beginning of Jesus's ministry after his baptism and temptation, which was then followed by the calling of Simon and Andrew and James and John. Turkel cannot find any New Testament passage that claimed that Jesus had secured a following of disciples before the events analyzed above.

What planet has he been on?)

On planet earth where some people take the time to learn something about the Bible before they try to present themselves as experts on it.

Skeptic X though is still gassing up his motorcycle; he comments on my (now outdated) point that Matthew has dropped Salome because of scribal error. My answer has since changed based on cultural study of the sort Skeptic X thinks we just make up on the spot,

No doubt this scribal-error position that Turkel referred to here was one that he took eight years ago. That his beliefs seem to have a shelf-life of eight years gives us hope that in eight more years he will have seen just how ridiculous his attempts to defend biblical inerrancy have been.

Nah, it's not going to happen. He has seen that there is money in them thar articles that he cranks out to entice more PayPal bucks out of his choir members. He isn't about to let that slip away from him. Why work when one can make money playing around?

and if Skeptic X wants to play with that response he knows where to go.

If this is not an insult telling me where I can go, no, I really don't know where I can go to play with Turkel's response. Did he mean to say that he has written an article on the subject. If so, I will try to live with the disappointment of not knowing where I can find that article.

As it is Skeptic X's main response is that inspiration can only be mechanical dictation,

Just look at the confusion that results from Turkel's omission of a comma after the opening clause. We are supposed to be impressed with claims of expertise in biblical languages by someone who can't write his own native language any better than this?

[As it is Skeptic X's main response is that inspiration can only be mechanical dictation,] a ridiculous idea he dragged from his CoC days and which was not held by the ancients

If the idea of verbal inspiration is so ridiculous, then why hasn't Turkel replied to my articles that clearly show that this is what the Bible itself says about the subject. It teaches that the words and not the ideas were divinely given to those who wrote the Bible. One of Turkel's favorite derogatory terms is "mechanical inspiration," so I will refer readers here, where I showed in "Turkel Rides--Er--Stumbles Again, Part One" that despite Turkel's attempts to pooh-pooh the idea, it is a fairly accurate representation of what the Bible claims as the manner in which Yahweh revealed his "word" to his chosen ones. I have never seen any attempt from Turkel to refute the arguments for verbal inspiration that I presented here.

I showed again, in detail, in this section of "Crimes by Speculation, Part Two," that what Turkel derogatorily refers to as "robotic dictation" is exactly what the Bible teaches about the process by which Yahweh revealed his "word" to his chosen writers. I have yet to see where Turkel has tried to reply to my arguments in this article, and I defy him to do so.

Oh, I forgot; he has vowed that he will never again reply to anything I write until I have "kicked the bucket." Shoot, now I won't have the pleasure of seeing someone who fills his articles with errors in syntax, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc., explain to us just how the process of "inspiration" worked.

Those who think that Turkel is some kind of expert on this subject should read this part of "The Paper Trail Resumes, Part Three," where I again shot down his attempts to ridicule the view that God had used a sort of "dictation" to reveal his "word" to his chosen writers. This section shows how the scribe Baruch claimed that he had written down on a scroll the words of Yahweh that had been dictated by the mouth of Jeremiah. In the entire article "Traditional Biblical Inerrancy, Part Two," I quoted claim after claim made by biblical writers that Yahweh had put his words into their mouths, but I also discussed in detail the "dictation" method that Yahweh allegedly used to enable Baruch the scribe to re-create a scroll by Jeremiah that the king had burned. As far as I know, Turkel has never made any attempt to show that this article distorts the view that biblical authors wrote their books by a method that could best be described as "verbal inspiration." Now, of course, we will never have the benefit of Turkel's insights into this subject, because he has said that he will never again reply to anything I have written until after I have "kicked the bucket."

In this section of "Turkel Rides--Er-Stumbles Again," I showed that even he once defended the accuracy of a statement by Paul on the grounds that inspiration was a process by which what the writer said had been "God breathed." This is just another example of how Turkel, like most inerrantists, will play both sides of the street. One day, he will say X because X best suits what he is arguing at the time, but another day he will say not-X, because that best suits whatever doctrine-du-jour he is trying to peddle at that time.

I could go on and on linking to articles I have written in which I clearly showed that the Bible teaches a process of verbal inspiration, and Turkel has done little more than wave at my arguments in those articles. Now, I suppose, he won't even wave, since he has said that he will never again reply to anything I write until after I have "kicked the bucket."

and is not maintained by modern statements on inerrancy.

Oh, is that so? Well, here is a good example of just how ignorant Turkel is. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy issued in 1977 by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy certainly "maintained" a verbal-inspiration view of the Bible. I have emphasized with italic print sections that show a belief in verbal inspiration, i. e., divine selection of the very words of the Bible.

Article I:

We affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.

We deny that the Scriptures receive their authority from the Church, tradition, or any other human source.

Article II:

We affirm that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.

We deny that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.

Article III:

We affirm that the written Word in its entirety is revelation given by God.

We deny that the Bible is merely a witness to revelation, or only becomes revelation in encounter, or depends on the responses of men for its validity.

Article IV:

We affirm that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of revelation.

We deny that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God's work of inspiration.

Article V:

We affirm that God's revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive.

We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings.

Article VI:

We affirm that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration.

We deny that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.

Article VII:

We affirm that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.

We deny that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.

Article VIII:

We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.

We deny that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.

Article IX:

We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.

We deny that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God's Word.

Article X:

We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the authographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.

Article XI:

We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.

Article XII:

We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

Article XIII:

We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.

We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

Article XIV:

We affirm the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.

We deny that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved vitiate the truth claims of the Bible.

Article XV:

We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.

We deny that Jesus' teaching about Scripture may be dismissed by appeals to accommodation or to any natural limitation of His humanity.

Article XVI:

We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church's faith throughout its history.

We deny that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.

Article XVII:

We affirm that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God written Word.

We deny that this witness of the Holy Spirit operates in isolation from or against Scripture.

Article XVIII:

We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.

Article XIX:

We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.

Those who have done enough reading on Turkel's website to be familiar with his it-doesn't-matter, oral-tradition, ma besay-il, paper-shortage nonsense will have no difficulty recognizing that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy took a view of inspiration that is poles apart from Turkel's. Anyone who takes the time to type "verbal inspiration" into the Google window will get 49,500 hits of articles that in most cases take a view of divine inspiration much different from Turkel's claim that people in biblical times viewed divine inspiration much in the same way that we today would think that a "work of art" is inspired. I suggest that readers go to the section linked to here and then compare Turkel's view of "inspiration" to what "modern statements on inerrancy," like those linked to below, have to say.

  1. "Inspiration of the Bible: Is the Bible Infallible, Inerrant, and Verbally Inspired?"

  2. "Another Look at the Doctrine of Plenary Verbal Inspiration"

  3. "Verbal Inspiration"

  4. "Verbal Inspiration."

  5. "The Inspiration of Scripture"

I could list hundreds of others here, but these are sufficient to show that verbal or word-for-word inspiration of the Bible is a doctrine that is widely adhered to today. In the last article linked to above, for example, the writer made the following statement about verbal inspiration.

The word "verbal"—or "verbal inspiration"—is the term frequently employed to affirm that each individual part of the Bible is God’s written word. Verbal is opposed to general. The Holy Spirit superintended the writing of Scripture not just in general but also in the choice and expression of words. Paul speaks of imparting truth "in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit" (I Corinthians 2:13). Consequently, each word is given by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the written word of God even in the minutiae (emphasis added).

The author's reference here to the quotation from Paul in 1 Corinthians reminded me that I have pointed out to Turkel that the same Paul said in Acts 28:25-27 that "the Holy Spirit" had spoken the words recorded in Isaiah 6:9-10 and that Peter said in Acts 1:16-20 that "the Holy Spirit had spoken by the mouth of David" the words recorded in Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. I asked Turkel here in "The Paper Trail Resumes, Part Three," to explain how the Holy Spirit could have spoken the words in these passages unless he had guided Isaiah and the Psalmists through a process of verbal inspiration to write the words in the passages just referred to, but I have yet to see any attempt from him to explain this. Now, shoot, I never will have the benefit of his special insights, because he has said that he will never again reply to anything I write until after I have "kicked the bucket."

If Turkel really thinks that no "modern statements on inerrancy" maintain the view that the very words of the Bible were inspired by God, then he is the one who must be living on another planet.

Skeptic X offers some as well about how he doesn't "get" how oral tradition would drop names. He can check the material at the new item for some enlightenment if he finds what is common (high context) to me to be too vague (low context) for him.

This is typically ambiguous. What "material at the new item" was he referring to? I find it almost incredible that someone who has so much difficulty expressing himself clearly would actually think of himself as an apologist who is qualified to tell others how they too can become apologists, but gall is something that Turkel has plenty of. If he had biblical knowledge that equaled his gall, he would be a formidable apologist. As it is.... Well, why state the obvious?

As for his comments about high context and low context, I have shown umpteen times that he is fundamentally ignorant of how these terms are applied in linguistically informed circles. In this section of "Turkel Takes the Bait," I showed that high and low context are terms that are applied primarily to oral rather than written communications and that low-context communications occur mainly in languages where the speakers through culturally acquired habits depend on gestures, facial expressions, and voice inflections to communicate as much as on the actual words they speak. I had run this all by him earlier in this section of "Humpty Dumpty Takes Another Fall, Part Six," but Turkel, of course, is a slow learner, so he keeps recycling a claim that has been discredited. Either that or he knows that his gullible choir members will swallow anything he says without bothering to check it for accuracy.

Working further on, the "inspiration must be mechanical dictation" argument, coupled with the "gosh, but these documents were important" argument, are repeated yet again, yet again, and after spelling another few hundred lines about how he didn't get what he wanted for Xmas, Skeptic X pulls an apple out of the orange hat, yet again:

There is nothing here except a mishmash of sarcasm and ridicule designed to hide his evasion of the actual Mary-Magdalene problem. All I need to say here is that Turkel is shoveling the sarcasm and ridicule even heavier now, and as we will see, he piles it on even higher the further he goes without coming up with a sensible solution to the Mary-Magdalene problem. His way of trying to hide behind a barrage of sarcasm and ridicule his inability to answer an opponent's arguments reminds me of an old joke that was making the rounds back when I was a college student... at Bam Bam Bible College, of course.

It seems that a young Bible-college graduate was delighted at having been hired to serve as an associate minister to a Mr. Big preacher in the brotherhood. One day when the two were in the same office where Mr. Big was working on his sermon for the next Sunday, the young minister took a peek at the outline when Mr. Big left the office for a moment. The young preacher spotted a place where Mr. Big had written, "Point is weak here, pound the pulpit."

We will see that this is what Turkel does below. He knows that his claim of no discrepancy in the Mary-Magdalene problem is weak, and so he "pounds the pulpit" to try to hide his inability to solve it. The sarcasm and ridicule steadily increase as he goes along evading my clearly delineated arguments for incompatible inconsistency in Matthew's and John's depictions of Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning.

At this point, Turkel quoted a paragraph from my article entitled "The Mary Magdalene Problem."

Yes, as long as Matthew didn't say that Salome was never there, no error exists, but that is not to say that a lot of stupidity didn't exist on the part of the writer and the omniscient one who inspired him to leave out the names of some who were on the scene. This would be as idiotic as a man accused of murder knowing that he was miles away from the scene of the crime at the time in the presence of several people, but he gave the police only one or two names of those who were with him.

El problemo, Kemosabe: Your man accused of murder, to parallel, would also have on his side the testimony of numerous other witnesses (500 to the rezzed Jesus, under the present paradigm)

Ah, yes, the 500 witnesses to the resurrected Jesus! Tonto, of course, is referring here to the unsupported, unsubstantiated claimed that after his resurrection Jesus appeared to five hundred "brethren" at one time.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.

The apostle Paul said this, and even though no corroborating evidence was given, naive little Bobby swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. His gullibility reminds me of the old bumper sticker that read, "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it." It is hard to argue against that kind of overwhelming evidence. I suppose Turkel thinks that the Islamic legend that Muhammad split the moon asunder (Qur'an 54:1) has credibility, because witnesses allegedly saw this feat.

In the past, I have asked those who buy the uncorroborated claim--made by an obviously biased person--that 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus at one time to tell us who these people were, to name at least a few of them, to tell us when it happened and where it happened. I, in fact, directed this problem to Turkel here in "Crimes by Speculation, Part Two." The subject came up when he was being pressed to explain why Mark, Luke, and John would have omitted all references to the "many saints" who were resurrected by an earthquake and went into Jerusalem and appeared to "many" (Matt. 27:52-54). This was his reaction to my request for an explanation of this silence.

Whether they only appeared to believing Jews (cf. Acts 10.40-41) or anyone. How can we talk of witnesses if we do not know who they are or how many there were?

This was my reply.

I love it when Turkel shoots himself in the foot.

  1. In a reply to Robert Price, Turkel in his inimically sarcastic way defended the legitimacy of the apostle Paul's claim that Jesus was seen after his resurrection by "500 brethren" (1 Cor. 15:6). These "500 brethren," however, were never identified by Paul, so I will just dump the first part of Turkel's question back into his lap: How can we talk of witnesses if we do not know who they are? Does Turkel think that if the number of witnesses is known that would somehow compensate for not knowing who they were?

  2. In another reply to Price, Turkel again defended the appropriateness of Paul's reference to the "500 brethren," so I will repeat Turkel's question for his benefit: How can we talk of witnesses if we do not know who they are?

We see in these examples something that I have often said about Turkel: inconsistency is about his only consistency. He plays both sides of the street, so when he needs to argue that the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus is supported by "witnesses" who saw him after he had risen, he will cite the 500 unknown brethren with no reservations about appealing to witnesses whose identities were unknown, but when faced with the problem of explaining why John didn't mention many resurrected saints who were seen by many, he will scream, "Hey, how can we talk of witnesses if we do not know who they are?" Yes, indeed, inconsistency is about the only consistency in Turkel's articles. The position that he takes in any given situation will depend on what direction the winds of controversy are blowing.

As far as I know, Turkel has never attempted to explain his inconsistency in this matter, so maybe he would like to tell us now why he thinks that it would have been inappropriate to talk about witnesses to the resurrection of the "many saints" when the names of those witnesses were not known but entirely appropriate to appeal to Paul's uncorroborated claim that Jesus appeared to 500 unnamed brethren at one time. Furthermore, he may want to explain to us too why it was appropriate for Matthew to refer to the "many" who witnessed the resurrection of the many saints when the names of those witnesses weren't known but would have been inappropriate for Mark, Luke, and John to tell the tale of those unidentified witnesses. For bonus points, he may also want to tell us just why Matthew, who was presumably inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity, didn't know the names of those witnesses.

Oh, I keep forgetting; Turkel is never going to reply again to anything I have written until after I have "kicked the bucket."

Bo-hoo again!

and would also have to live in a culture where orality was valued over literacy.

What did I tell you? When Turkel has no answer to an opponent's arguments, he will almost invariably appeal to "orality" as a catch-all explanation to whatever the discrepancy of the moment may be, but he has yet to explain why the existence of "orality" in a society would somehow remove inconsistencies and discrepancies from whatever "oral traditions" may have been circulating at the time. He has been asked and asked and asked to explain why the oral transmission of a story would somehow guarantee that there were no inconsistencies in it, but no explanation has been forthcoming. Besides all this, I have shown above that literacy was far more respected and existed on a much wider scale in ancient times than Turkel claims.

As always Skeptic X is the village "idiot" who thinks what he sees is idiotic because he doesn't know any better, having assumed that everyone thinks and lives just like he does.

As I have been warning, the further we wade into Turkel's evasion of the Mary-Magdalene problem, the thicker his sarcasm and ridicule becomes. He habitually depends on this as a way to hide his inability to reply to his opponents' arguments. His comment above is rooted in an apparent belief that if ancient documents reflected what was thought to be truth at the time, even though it was later discovered not to be true, it was somehow not a mistake. That belief is so idiotic that it doesn't deserve serious comment, because objective truth cannot be overridden by erroneous beliefs no matter how sincere those beliefs may be. If an ancient writer said that the earth was flat, that would be an error no matter how many people living at the time may have thought that it was truth.

Keep in mind this is the guy who made the serious mistake of trying to read guilt into Biblical passages. To do otherwise of course would have been [sic] idiotic as saying a man today could not possibly feel guilty about a crime he committed. Of course.

Keep in mind too that I thoroughly discredited in "No Guilt In Biblical Times?" Turkel's claim that people in biblical eras did not experience feelings of personal guilt. Anyone who thinks that Turkel has some kind of special insights that would enable him to know that of all the people who existed in those times, none of them ever had feelings of personal guilt should read my exposure of his ignorance on this subject. I have asked him to explain how anyone living today could possibly gather the data that would prove the ridiculous claim that feelings of personal guilt just didn't exist in biblical times, but, in typical fashion, this request has been met by silence.

Talk about the village idiot! If Turkel is going to stick to this claim--which I suspect he has now abandoned--he should take a look in the mirror to see what a real village idiot looks like. As I have explained before, if Turkel wants to engage in hurling insults and ridicule, I will answer him in kind to show that I have some talent for this too. If, on the other hand, he should ever decide to engage in civil debate, he will find me ready to reciprocate.

Oh, I keep forgetting; he is never going to reply again to anything I write until I have "kicked the bucket."

Never mind.

So it comes down to this. We're still waiting for Skeptic X to engage "harmonizing" principles -- as we showed them here

The article that Turkel linked to is one of his own, of course, and so that within itself creates serious doubt that it contains any sound "harmonizing principles," because we have seen throughout the reply that I am now writing that he is hardly an expert on resolving biblical discrepancies. All through his article I am now answering, for example, he has tap-danced around the Mary-Magdalene problem without yet proposing a viable solution to the grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:1-10, which clearly shows that Matthew claimed that Mary M saw, heard, and experienced things at the tomb site that are irreconcilably inconsistent with John's claim that she ran from the tomb and told Peter and John that the body had been stolen. If Turkel is the expert on "harmonizing principles" that he claims to be, why hasn't he just posted a solution to this problem and put it to rest? Those who are familiar with the tactics of biblical inerrantists will recognize in his article just a rehashing of the far-fetched, how-it-could-have-been methods that have been used by biblical inerrantists down through the ages. Those are hardly sound "harmonizing principles."

As I was reading through the article he linked to above, I decided it was time to ask him to do something that he would never agree to do even if he hadn't vowed not to reply to anything I write till after I have "kicked the bucket." Nevertheless, I am going to present this request in the form of a challenge--or more exactly a defiance--which if he will do even after I am dead will provide surviving skeptics the opportunity to nail his hide to the wall.

I challenge Turkel to state in exact terms something that he would agree was an error or discrepancy or inconsistency or contradiction if he should encounter it in the Bible.

He is never going to do this, of course, because (1) it would require him to take a specific position on what constitutes error, and (2) his knowledge of the Bible is so deficient that he would have no way of knowing that if he should go public with such an example, he would run the risk that someone might cite a parallel to it in the Bible.

Watch to see if Turkel ever meets this challenge. I predict that he won't.

As a final note on the wonderful "harmonizing principles" that he thinks he has put together in his article, I will issue another challenge: If he will post an example from any written work, secular or religious, that he thinks is an error, I will use the same "harmonizing" principles in his article to show that his example of an error is not really an error. Watch him ignore this challenge too.

What I am saying here is simple: The so-called harmonizing principles used by apologists make the existence of errors in written documents impossible, because those principles could be used to explain away anything that anyone might cite as examples of error. No reasonable person can think that "harmonizing principles" that bring about that result can be reliable, because anyone with even a speck of common sense will know that "harmonizing principles" that eliminate completely the possibility of errors in writing have to be seriously flawed principles.

and as Miller did here. (Skeptic X should like that one, as his name is mentioned in vain a few times, and like me, Miller says: "I will reserve my comments about Mr. [X]'s apparently superior understanding of how an omniscient and omnipotent deity would inspire human authors" the way Skeptic X thinks He should.)

Oh, no, Turkel, please don't sic Glenn Miller onto me! Have you no decency?

Glenn Miller may have a lot more civility than Turkel's in his writing style, but those who think that he is an apologist to be reckoned with should go to my second index page at this web site and read the replies to Miller's articles that I have posted there and especially the "Good Question But Not a Good Answer" series, which replied to his attempt to prove that the Hebrew god Yahweh didn't really command the Israelites to destroy utterly the seven nations living in Canaan. Anyone who can take such a position as this has either not read the Old Testament very closely or cannot understand plainly written language. My rebuttals of Miller's article were detailed, point-by-point replies to his attempts to whitewash the massacres in the Old Testament that biblical writers clearly claimed were ordered by the god Yahweh, and as far as I know, Miller has yet to reply to the seven articles in this series.

Nevertheless, I will present a proposal to Miller. If he will agree to (1) reply to me in kind, which means point-by-point replies, and (2) post all of our exchanges on his web site and keep them there, I will gladly rebut the section that refers to me in Miller's article that Turkel linked to above. As for Turkel's article on "harmonizing principles," I will present the same proposal to him. If he will agree to reply in kind, post, and keep on his web site all of our exchanges, I will reply point by point to this article too. Needless to say, I will gladly post everything exchanged between Miller and/or Turkel and me on this web site.

That will end this matter, because neither Turkel nor Miller, despite their apparent beliefs in their apologetic skills, will accept this proposal, because they don't want to increase the chances that readers of their web sites will see just how superficial those skills are when they are confronted by informed opposition.

Meanwhile he thinks that the "Mary Magdalene problem" which he says "has sent many would-be apologists scurrying for cover with announcements that they have so many obligations and responsibilities that they must regrettably leave the forum" is the lion's roar of Skeptical apologies. I suspect rather that Skeptic X's deodorant ran out at the time,

As I have said before, when Turkel can't answer an oppponent's arguments, all is not lost. He can always turn to sarcasm, insult, and ridicule to try to hide his inability to rebut the arguments, but in the case above, he couldn't even think of a metaphorically sound insult, since a shortage of deodorant in written debates, where the participants wouldn't have actual physical contact with each other, would not cause one's opponents to abandon the fray. Readers should be on alert now to watch how Turkel turns up the sarcasm and ridicule as he winds down his article with a complete evasion of the Mary-Magdalene problem

but after his usual shebang of selective quotation accusation (we are still waiting for one that actually passes the test of having mattered)

I don't know how many times I have said to Turkel that I will gladly post a list of his evasions of issues that mattered, if he would agree to reply to them point by point, post all of our exchanges on these issues on his web site, and keep them there, but a couple of examples of this challenge can be found here and here. I don't need to go back to other articles, however, to find examples of where Turkel's selective quoting of my articles evaded arguments that "mattered," because we can jump up in this article to a clear case of it. This link will take readers back to my grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:1-10, which shows in language too plain to be misunderstood--except by would-be apologists blinded by an allegiance to biblical inerrancy--that Matthew said that Mary Magdalene was present through the angel's visit at the tomb and the women's encounter of Jesus after they left the site. Despite all of the experiences that Matthew said that Mary M had had with both the angel and the risen Jesus, "John" said that she came to the tomb, found the stone rolled away, and ran to tell Peter and "the other disciple" that the body had been stolen.

Why would she have done that after having had clearly tangible experiences that should have told her that Jesus had risen from the dead?

That is the Mary-Magdalene problem, which Turkel has selectively quoted out of his "reply," so here is a clear example of one of Turkel's "replies" in which his selections of what to quote omitted material that "mattered."

As I have said before many times, I will be glad to post other examples of his omissions that "mattered" if he will agree to reply to them point by point and post on his web site my responses to whatever he may say in his replies, but he is never going to agree to do this. Heck, he isn't even going to reply again to anything I write until after I have "kicked the bucket."

The sound you hear is someone yelling, "Uncle!" in the Orlando area.

we get to where Skeptic X describes his problem:

No, not really, because what Turkel quoted below came after I had presented the Mary-Magdalene problem in the section of my article that grammatically analyzed Matthew 28:1-10 to show that Mary Magdalene had had a series of personal encounters with both an angel and the risen Jesus himself that would have convinced even a dodo that the body had been resurrected rather than stolen. Why, then, did she go tell Peter and "the other disciple" that the body of Jesus had been stolen?

That is the Mary-Magdalene problem that Turkel selectively quoted himself around, and what he omitted in his selective quoting clearly "mattered." What he quoted directly below skipped entirely my grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:1-10.

Mary M was presented in the synoptic gospels as having seen an angel or angels at the tomb, and heard him or them announce the resurrection of Jesus, after which she actually encountered Jesus and worshiped him as she was running from the tomb to tell the disciples what had happened. In John's gospel, however, Mary Magdalene is presented as having found the tomb empty, after which she ran to Peter and the disciple "whom Jesus loved" and told them that the body had been stolen. So the problem is why Mary would have told the disciples that the body had been stolen if she had seen and heard everything that the synoptic gospels claim that she saw and heard.

Oh. Oh. So Skeptic X thinks this is a real problem.

I don't just think, I know that this is a real problem. If it isn't a real problem, why did Turkel try to hide below--beneath a barrage of sarcasm and ridicule--his inability to resolve it?

I know now why people ran: They thought he was nuts and feared it was contagious.

See what I mean? When Turkel can't answer an opponent's arguments, all is not lost. He can always hurl insults and ridicule at him to hide his inability to rebut the arguments. As we continue through his insults, notice that he doesn't even try to show that the grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:1-10 doesn't require readers to understand that Mary Magdalene was present throughout the angel's visit and the women's encounter of the risen Jesus. He heaps ridicule onto it and lets that serve as his "answer."

The deal is twofold: 1) Skeptic X assumes that when Matthew names only Mary Mag and Mary II, he is giving a comprehensive list of who was present;

I made no such assumption, and Turkel knows that I didn't. Even he expressed surprise above that I don't think that the omission of names in Matthew's narrative would "constitute error," and immediately below, he repeated his acknowledgement that I "allow" that "the omission of names in a narrative would not constitute error." He contradicted himself almost in the same breath.

He allows that "the omission of names in a narrative would not constitute error" (I do hope word gets out to the Skeptical community at large on this)....

Now why would he say that I assume "that when Matthew names only Mary Mag and Mary II, he is giving a comprehensive list of who was present" and then in his very next sentence acknowledge that I recognize "that the omission of names in a narrative would not constitute error"? That he would so contradict himself indicates just how little respect he has for the intelligence of his readers. He apparently thinks that they lack the critical skills to remember from one part of his article to the next what he has said. Unfortunately, I suspect that in some cases this assumption is correct.

My position in the Mary-Magdalene problem is that even though Matthew's listing of the women present that morning may not have been "comprehensive," the fact that he mentioned only Mary Magdalene and the other Mary grammatically requires readers to understand that, after having named only these two, all subsequent references in this textual account to "the women" and the pronouns they and them, which made obvious reference to "the women," had to have included Mary Magdalene. Hence, Matthew's depiction of Mary Magdalene is incompatible with the way that "John" depicted her in his account.

That is the Mary-Magdalene problem, and obviously it is a problem that Turkel cannot resolve. That, however, doesn't keep him from ridiculing it.

2) by that token, Mary Mag must be someone who departed and ran into the rezzed Jesus (28:9-11) since the two Mary-belles are the only known antecedent for "the women" in vss. 9-10.

Yep, that is the problem all right. Now notice how Turkel tried to hide beneath a canopy of sarcasm and ridicule his inability to solve this problem.

Well, honky dory.

Honky dory? Oh, oh, oh, I get it. Turkel meant hunky-dory. He is an expert in idioms and nuances in biblical languages, but seems to have all kinds of difficulties writing his own native language.

Skeptic X wastes some space rebutting the most common explanation he has heard -- some unnecessary drivel about two tomb visits by Mary Mag which we won't waste time on,

Does this mean that Turkel doesn't accept the theory that John and Matthew were writing about entirely separate trips to the tomb? He didn't say, of course, because he rarely ever allows himself to be pinned down to any specific position. If, however, he cares to take the position that Matthew and "John" wrote about entirely separate visits that Mary M made to the tomb on resurrection morning, I'll be glad to show him why this "solution" won't work either.

but sorry, no dice. Skeptic X's English-grammar lesson about how "'THE WOMEN' in verse 5 to whom the angel said that Jesus had risen must have necessarily included Mary Magdalene" is pure hokum in context;

Do you see how Turkel thinks that if he calls an opponent's arguments "pure hokum," he has rebutted them? As we go along, notice that he gave no linguistic evidence to refute my grammatical claim that the women referred to in Matthew 28:5 had to include Mary Magdalene, and, needless to say, he did no analysis of Matthew's narrative to show that my "English-grammar lesson" was "pure hokum in context."

Before I go on, here are some questions for Turkel to evade.

  1. By names, who were "the women" who went to the tomb in Matthew’s narrative?

  2. What is your textual basis for this answer?

  3. If you excluded Mary Magdalene from your answer to number 1, what was your textual basis for this exclusion?

  4. By names, who were "the women" whom the angel told that Jesus had risen (v:5)?

  5. If you excluded Mary Magdalene from your answer to number 4, what was your textual basis for this exclusion?

  6. By names, who were "the women" who ran from the tomb and encountered the resurrected Jesus (vs:8-10)?

  7. If you excluded Mary Magdalene from your answer to number 6, what was your textual basis for this exclusion?

  8. If you included Mary Magdalene in your answers, how do you explain Mary Magdalene’s telling Peter and John that the body of Jesus had been stolen if she had by this time encountered both the angel and the risen Jesus?

Oh, I forgot; Turkel is never going to reply again to anything I write until after I have "kicked the bucket."

Boo-hoo, now I will never know how his superior insights into the Bible were able to remove Mary Magdalene from Matthew 28:5-10. He is just going to let me live out the rest of my life in ignorance.

his spar that "otherwise, Matthew's text is incoherent" a load from a Western literalist from a fundamentalist denomination;

I assume that Turkel was referring here to my former membership in the Church of Christ, which was and still is a "fundamentalist denomination," but I renounced what that church stands for, one tenet of which is a radical belief in biblical inerrancy. Obviously, I am no longer a proponent of that ridiculous belief. Turkel, on the other hand, is a Baptist, and the last time I had any biblical discussions with Baptists, the positions they took could only be described accurately as fundamentalist. Besides that, he is the one who is constantly found in his articles trying to defend biblical inerrancy, which is a decided minority view in Christendom, so just who is the fundamentalist?

What Turkel selectively quoted above was cut from a much longer paragraph, which I requoted earlier in this article, but for the convenience of readers, I am going to quote more of the statement that Turkel, in typical fashion, truncated. I think that the broader context will help readers see why he quoted me selectively again. The sentence from which Turkel lifted the five words that he quoted above is italicized for emphasis.

I have emphasized in bold print certain words to call attention to them. They will establish that Matthew intended for his readers to understand that Mary Magdalene didn't just hear the angel announce that Jesus had been raised from the dead but that she also saw him and touched him after she had run from the tomb. To establish this, let's notice that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are the only two women mentioned in Matthew's version. The fact that Mark and Luke may have mentioned other women has nothing to do with the obvious fact that Matthew mentioned only two women: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Therefore, "THE WOMEN" in verse 5 to whom the angel said that Jesus had risen must have necessarily included Mary Magdalene; otherwise, Matthew's text is incoherent and would not have conveyed an accurate picture of what had happened to early Christians who may have lived and died having had access only to this one gospel account.

Now that we have the broader context of my statement, I will challenge Turkel to show us--not just tell us but show us--where I erred in saying that if Mary Magdalene was not present in Matthew's text when the angel spoke to the women and when the women encountered Jesus, then this text did not convey to early Christians an accurate picture of what had happened that morning. As I go on through the remaining few lines in his article, notice that he does not refute my claim that early Christians would have encountered incoherence in Matthew's resurrection account if he did not intend for them to understand that Mary Magdalene was present throughout the women's encounters with both the angel and Jesus.

his complaint that it thereby "would not have conveyed an accurate picture of what had happened to early Christians who may have lived and died having had access only to this one gospel account" a load of bull-dusted, panic-button polemic (that once again, assumes that the written account is all that they had or were concerned with, whether Mark and the others were around or not).

Please click back to the paragraph that I requoted above from my original article, and you will see why Bobby relies on selective quotations when he is "replying" to his opponents. In that paragraph, I said, "The fact that Mark and Luke may have mentioned other women has nothing to do with the obvious fact that Matthew mentioned only two women," and I also quoted earlier in this article another paragraph from my original that emphasized the same point. Notice the sentence emphasized in italic print.

Besides this, there are linguistic factors that inerrantists must consider. All rules of literary interpretation that I ever heard of (and I studied a lot of literature on the subject when I was teaching college English) would require readers to understand that "THE WOMEN" in verse 5 of Matthew's text were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. No other assumptions can be made, since Matthew did not himself specify that any other women were with the two Marys. In other words, whether Mark and Luke mentioned up to five other women or 500 other women is immaterial to what Matthew's narrative said. If he mentioned only two women, then "the women" in his narrative grammatically had to be Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Hence, any plural pronouns like they and them that obviously referred back to the women had to be references to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.

I defy Turkel to show us that what I said here is linguistically unsound. For pity's sake, does this guy even understand that the issue in the Mary-Magdalene problem is not what Mark and Luke may have said about who went to the tomb on resurrection morning but whether Matthew's depiction of Mary Magdalene is consistent with John's depiction of her in John 20:1-18? If John said that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, found the stone rolled away, and went to Peter and the other disciple and told them that the body had been stolen, Turkel must show us that this depiction of her is consistent with Matthew's claim that she had had encounters at the tomb with an angel and Jesus himself that would have informed her that Jesus had been resurrected.

He has not done that yet. All he has done is tap-dance around the problem by purposely evading all of my textual analyses that require readers to understand that Matthew claimed that Mary M had had experiences at the tomb that are inconsistent with John's claim that she thought the body had been stolen. He said above that I had "once again, assume[d] that the written account [Matthew's] is all that they [the people of that time] had or were concerned with," but that is flat-out not so, and I think he knows it isn't. The issue is whether this written account [Matthew's] was consistent with another written account [John's]. It matters not how many disciples may have been standing on street corners at this time repeating the "oral traditions" that Turkel talks about so much, and it doesn't matter if all of those "oral traditions"--every last one of them--being proclaimed were consistent down to every minute detail in them. None of this is the issue. The issue is whether Matthew's depiction of Mary Magdalene was consistent with John's. If it wasn't, then the Bible is not inerrant, because there is at least one incompatible inconsistency in it.

Will Turkel ever address this issue? Will pigs ever fly?

We'll say it one more time for the provincial in Skeptic X: ma besay-il. It doesn't matter.

Well, I just showed that as far as inerrancy in the texts involved is concerned, it does matter, and it matters very much. I will remind readers that if they want to see Turkel's ma besay-il nonsense shot to pieces, they can click here to read "It Doesn't Matter." As I explained here, through the citation and quotation of specific examples from biblical times, inconsistency in their sacred scriptures mattered very much to the ancient Jews. Turkel, as usual, is trying to recycle a claim that has been thoroughly discredited. Unfortunately, his choir members lap up his deceptions.

He loves to hurl insults at what he calls my "provincial [attitudes]," but he is apparently so logically challenged that he just can't see that objective truth is universal and not provincial. The truth that the world is spherical in shape is objective, and will be truth everywhere, no matter what the provincial beliefs of a region may be. Truth is also timeless, so the truth that 5 plus 4 equals 9 in a base-ten math was as true 2,000 years ago as it is now. If the logical law of contradiction is true now, it was also true 2,000 years ago whether the people of that time were aware of this law or not, and a book presumably inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity should have exhibited an awareness of this law, whether the people of the time knew it or not. All of Turkel's talk about ma besay-il does not change objective truth one iota. I will have more to say about this shortly as I comment on something that Turkel tacked onto the end of his article I am now answering.

Each writer chose women representative of the party, based perhaps on their own knowledge or on that of their audience, and that Skeptic X can't see what difference this would make is his own one-dimensional problem.

This is all familiar inerrantist rationalization that has been circulated and recycled for years to try to explain away the obvious fact that the resurrection narratives have significant variations in them. Let's just assume that Turkel is right and that the different writers "chose" different women in their narratives for the reasons arbitrarily stated. Even if that is so, what women Matthew "chose" to include in his narrative and what he said about them must be consistent with what the other writers "chose" to include. For our purposes now, we are interested only in what Matthew "chose" and what John "chose." If what the one individually "chose" is inconsistent with what the other individually "chose," that would be a discrepancy, and that is the Mary-Magdalene problem that Turkel has dodged throughout his "reply." That Turkel can't see this--or at least pretends that he can't see it--speaks volumes about his ignorance of linquistics and logic.

Matthew had points to establish to make his story -- women went to the tomb;

Yes, indeed, and according to Matthew, Mary Magdalene was one of those women.

they saw the Risen Jesus;

Yes, again, and Mary Magdalene was one of the women who [snicker, snicker] saw the risen Jesus, so why did John say that she then went to Peter and the other disciple and told them that the body of Jesus had been stolen? If before this, she had seen the risen Jesus, touched him, and worshiped him, why would she have told Peter and the other disciple that the body had been stolen?

That is the Mary-Magdalene problem that Turkel continually evaded throughout his article.

the message was given to skeedaddle to Galilee (thus setting up his "Great Commission" picture -- and the fact that the same message is partially given twice, by the angel and by Jesus, should clue Skeptic X in)

Should clue me in to what? The fact that both the angel and Jesus in Matthew's account told the women to go tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee is irrelevant to the Mary-Magdalene problem, because John's omission of this information wouldn't necessarily be a discrepancy, since, as I have repeatedly noted, the omission of information is not a discrepancy unless that omission conflicts with the details included in other parallel accounts. I have never said that John's omission of the messages about Galilee creates a discrepancy in either his account or Matthew's.

This is just another straw man that Turkel set up to distract attention from his obvious inability to solve the Mary-Magdalene problem.

I will add here, however, that the message of the angel and Jesus to tell the disciples to "skeedaddle to Galilee" is inconsistent with Luke's narrative. If Turkel cares to debate that issue, I am here to oppose him on it.

Oh, I keep forgetting; he is never again going to reply to anything I write till after I have "kicked the bucket."

Boo-hoo again!

-- and he had only a few lines to do it.

Some readers may not understand what Turkel meant here, but it is a reference to his paper-shortage quibble, which I have dismantled completely in "The Paper Shortage" and the follow-up series which begins here. If He is going to keep recycling this discredited quibble, I am going to keep pounding it flatter than a cow patty. I showed above some questions that I have previously asked Turkel about the financial circumstances of "John" when he wrote his gospel, so I am now going to adapt those same questions to Matthew.

  1. What was the length of the scroll on which "Matthew" wrote his gospel?
  2. How much did this scroll cost "Matthew"?

  3. Did "Matthew" use every inch of this scroll?

  4. Did he have any space at all left over when he wrote the final verse of this gospel?

  5. If he did have space left at the end, how long was that space? Two inches? One inch? A half inch? How much?

  6. If "Matthew" had, say, a half inch left at the end, would that have been enough space for him to squeeze in details that would have made the command to "skeedaddle to Galilee" compatible with Luke's claim that Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received "power from on high" (Luke 24:49)?

  7. If "Matthew's" scroll didn't even have an extra half inch to squeeze this information in, how much more would it have cost him to have bought a scroll a half inch longer or to buy a half inch of scroll material to tack onto the end?

Unless Turkel can answer these questions, he will be found arguing that "Matthew" had to omit important information from his gospel because he lacked the space to include it on a scroll of unknown length and that his unknown financial circumstances prevented him from spending an unknown amount to obtain an addition of unknown length to sew onto his scroll so that he would have had enough space to tell everything that needed to be said.

This, folks, is the ignorance of a man who considers himself a first-rate apologist.

The rez appearance recorded in 28:9-10 is short, stereotyped, and contrived, and it is meant to be;

Just how does Turkel know that the postresurrection appearance in Matthew's account was "meant" to be short? Does Turkel have a hot line to the omni-max one?

Was this "short" account meant to be inconsistent with "John's" short account?

Can inconsistencies in parallel accounts be satisfactorily explained by an unverifiable claim that they were "meant" to be short?

This is just more evasive nonsense from a would-be apologist who obviously cannot solve a glaring inconsistency in books that he thinks are inerrant.

it is ridiculous to assert a "mechanical inspiration" perspective rooted in "it had to be written the way Skeptic X would have written it". [sic]

I replied above to Turkel's "mechanical-inspiration" straw man and supplied links to take readers to other places where I have shown beyond Turkel's ability to refute successfully that the Bible obviously teaches that it was inspired by the very process that Turkel so often ridicules, so there is no need for me to rehash that information here. I have often said that once a person abandons the biblical doctrine of verbal inspiration, he is left with no logical basis at all for claiming that the Bible is either inerrant or authoritative. If Turkel wants to take issue with that, I will gladly oppose him if he will agree to reply to my arguments point by point and to post all of our exchanges on his website and keep them there. As I have also said before in issuing this challenge, I will gladly post all of our exchanges on this site.

Turkel, of course, isn't about to accept this challenge.

Skeptic X's gafunga statement that, "the picture [readers] formed in their minds after reading Matthew's gospel could not have included anything that was written in gospels that came after Matthew's" comes from the wrong side of the tracks of fundaliteralism, in non-knowledge [sic] of the interaction and purposes of orality and literacy in the ancient world,

This evasive quibble was answered in detail above, so I don't need to rehash that rebuttal here. I have obviously shown beyond Turkel's ability to refute that even if early street-corner preachers were proclaiming oral gospel accounts every day and everywhere in the first century and if those oral versions were all consistent in every minute detail, that would in no way solve the Mary-Magdalen problem, because that problem centers on irreconcilable inconsistency in two written accounts, Matthew's and John's. Turkel is obviously unable to solve that problem.

All he can do is rant and rave and hurl sarcasm and ridicule to distract the attention of his choir members from his inability to solve this problem.

and after years of using the Gospels as evangelistic documents they were never intended to be.

Likewise, I shot this quibble down by showing that Turkel's claim that the gospels were never intended to be "evangelistic documents" flatly contradicts his claims in other articles that the gospels were evangelistic in purpose. Readers can go up to here to see where I documented Turkel's inconsistency on this point and linked readers to other articles where this same inconsistency has been exposed. His on-again-off-again claim that the gospels were never intended to be evangelistic in their purpose is just one more example of how Turkel will take a position one day and then contradict it another day.

Skeptic X can therefore take his non-relevant [sic] English-grammatical argument, and all the panic buttons he presses, and make pizza pie out of them.

So once again Turkel exposes his incredible linguistic ignorance. My grammatical argument was based on the linguistic principle of pronoun-antecedent references in Matthew 28:1-10, and by dismissing it as he just did, Turkel shows that he is pathetically ignorant of the fact that the concept of pronouns extends far beyond the English-speaking world. I obviously have a professional background in English grammar, and I spent five years in a foreign country where I learned French fluently enough to make public speeches in it. I therefore know that the concept of pronouns in French is basically the same as it is in English. French lacks a third-person singular neuter pronoun, and it has a third-person plural feminine that we don't have in English, yet the same fundamental rule of pronoun-antecedent agreement applies in both English and French: Pronouns should agree with their antecedents in person, number, and gender. Therefore, when pronouns are used in French, they all have antecedents that they are supposed to agree with in person, number, and gender--just as the rule in English is. Although I never acquired the skill in Greek and Hebrew that I did in French, I did at least take some courses in both languages when I was a college student, so I know again that the concept of pronouns is basically the same in Greek and Hebrew as it is in English and French. When I say that the concept is basically the same, I mean the mental understanding of what pronouns do linguistically when they are used is the same. In both English and French, pronouns are usually separated from verbs, but in both Greek and Hebrew they were often inseparably joined to verbs that they were used with. That difference, however, does not involve the mental conception of what pronouns are.

Turkel, of course, wanted his readers to think that he is an expert in Greek and I am not, but I will refer readers again to his linguistic blunder that I have pointed out several times. While trying to pass himself off as an expert in Greek, he once said that the word anestimi was used twice in passages where the writers wanted to convey the meaning of "rising again." I had to point out to the expert in biblical languages that this was just not so, and, true to form, when Turkel found out that he had made a huge linguistical mistake in saying this, he revised his article to remove the error. The link immediately above contains a link itself, which will take readers to the exact place where I informed Turkel in my article "Yes, Why Didn't They Know?" that he had made this mistake. Since I always answer Turkel point by point, readers will be able to see the mistake, just as he made it, which he has now deleted from his website.

My point is that Turkel has no room at all to claim any linguistic skills in Greek. I could quote Matthew 28:1-10 in Greek and emphasize in the text the words that meant Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and the pronouns they and them, but that would take a lot of time typing html codes for each letter in the text, so instead I am going to direct to Turkel the following questions about the Greek text.

  1. The words Μαρια η Μαγδαληνη και η αλλη Μαρια in Matthew 28:1 are translated "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" in the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NAB, GNB, and other versions. Does this translation accurately convey in English what Matthew wrote in Greek?

  2. If not, how should these words be translated to convey accurately in English what Matthew wrote in Greek?

  3. The words ταις γυναιξι in Matthew 28:5, where the angel began to speak to the tomb visitors, are translated "the women" in the versions listed above, as well as others. Does this translation accurately covey in English what Matthew wrote in Greek?

  4. If not, how should these words be translated to convey accurately in English what Matthew wrote in Greek?

  5. If you say that the translations of both 1 and 3 accurately convey what Matthew wrote in Greek, would it not follow that when the angel spoke to "the women" in verse five, he necessarily spoke to Mary Magdalene?

  6. If not, why not?

  7. The word εδραμον in Matthew 28:8 was translated "they ran" or some such in the versions listed above. Do these translations accurately convey in English what Matthew wrote in Greek?

  8. If not, how should this word be translated to convey accurately in English what Matthew wrote in Greek?

  9. If so, what would be the antecedent of the subject they in this sentence?

  10. The word επορευοντο in Matthew 28:9 has been translated in English as a present participle "coming" or "going." Does this translation accurately convey in English what Matthew wrote in Greek?

  11. If not, what English translation of επορευοντο would accurately convey what Matthew wrote in English?

  12. If the English translations of επορευοντο do accurately convey its meaning in English, would the "coming" or "going" from the tomb refer to the women?

  13. If so, would Mary Magdalene have been one of the women coming or going from the tomb?

  14. If you exclude Mary Magdalene from the word, what is your rationale for doing so?

  15. In Matthew 28:9, where the English translations listed above refer to them in saying that Jesus "met them," the word translated them was αυταις in Greek. Does them in English accurately convey the meaning of αυταις, which Matthew used?

  16. If not, why not?

  17. If so, what was the antecedent of αυταις?

  18. Would Mary Magdalene be included in this antecedent?

  19. If not, why not?

  20. In Matthew 28:9 the third-person plural verb εκρατησαν is translated "they seized" or "they took hold of" or "they clasped" or some such equivalent in the English versions listed above. Do these translations accurately convey in English what Matthew wrote in Greek?

  21. If not, why not?

  22. If these English translations of εκρατησαν do accurately convey its meaning in English, who were the "they" who took hold of or seized or clasped the feet of Jesus when they met him?

  23. If you exclude Mary Magdalene from the word they, what is your rationale for doing so?

  24. In Matthew 28:9 the third-person plural verb προσεκυνησαν is translated worshiped with the they subject of "took hold of" understood to be also the subject of worshiped. Does the English word worshiped accurately convey the meaning of the Greek word that Matthew used here?

  25. If not, why not?

  26. If so, what would be the names of those understood to be the subject of προσεκυνησαν [worshiped]?

  27. If you exclude Mary Magdalene from the understood subject of προσεκυνησαν [worshiped] what is your rationale for doing so?

Here is Turkel's chance to show his stuff. He likes to tell his readers what the Hebrew says or the Greek says and to fill his articles with ridicule of those who base their arguments on English translations of the Bible (as if he reads the Bible in Hebrew and Greek), so if he is at all qualified to do this, as he did above in ridiculing my "grammatical-English argument," he now has the opportunity to show us just why my grammatical analysis of the English translation of Matthew 28:10 was flawed. All he has to do is answer the questions above and show us just why a grammatical analysis of Matthew 28:1-10 in English doesn't convey the meaning of the original Greek version. If he does not take advantage of this opportunity to expose my faulty analysis, we will know that his claim above that my "English-grammatical argument" is "non-relevant" [sic] is just another failed attempt to make his choir members think that he is some kind of expert in biblical languages. Furthermore, for him to dismiss an opponent's argument on the grounds that it was based on an English translation of the Bible, in effect, negates any conclusions reached in his own articles, since he himself has no qualifications at all to judge the accuracy of English translations. To hear him at times, one would think that the Bible cannot be interpreted correctly unless the interpretation is derived from readings of the original language. If one cannot know what the Bible says in a given context unless that context is read in the original language, then Turkel, who cannot read the Bible in its original languages, will have to say that he doesn't know anything at all about the Bible, and, of course, his position on this would mean that probably over 99% of the world's Christians don't know anything about the Bible.

By the way, will someone in the Orlando area go by 2609 Greywall in Ocoee, Florida, and pull Turkel's ass down from between his shoulders? He must be uncomfortable walking around like that.

Whether Matthew did know of other women, and did not name them; whether he really did write in such a way as to imply that Mary Mag was one of the women in 28:9-10 -- the answer is the same: ma besay-il.

Well, I have shown repeatedly, above and in many other articles, that it matters very much. If Matthew "did write in such a way" that he put Mary Magdalene on the scene throughout the encounters with both the angel and Jesus, then Turkel needs to explain why "John" claimed that she went to Peter and the other disciple and told them that the body had been stolen. Turkel can't solve that problem by ranting and raving and recyling linguistically flawed claims about "English-grammatical analyses." All that strategy will accomplish is to impress his choir members, and if he doesn't want to accomplish anything but to hang onto those who already believe, so be it.

To the people who read and wrote this, it didn't matter.

Yes, it did. See my dismantling of this quibble above.

They could see as well as we can that 28:9-10 is a contrivance;

Here is another Tukelese abstraction, which he made no attempt at all to clarify. If "Matthew" had room on his scroll to write a "contrivance," couldn't he just as well have written an account that would have been consistent with all the other accounts that would be written by God's "chosen ones." If any of this resurrection nonsense had actually happened and if Matthew and the other gospel writers had been really chosen by God to write their accounts, it would have been consistent. Otherwise, one would have to claim that an omniscient, omnipotent deity purposely allowed inconsistency and confusion to find their ways into those "inspired" accounts.

That would make a lot of sense, wouldn't it?

just as it easy to see that Matthew's five blocks of Jesus' teachings are a structured contrivance.

Structured especially for an oral society, I'll bet. Readers can click this link to go up to where I have already replied to Turkel's "be-all" and "end-all" oral-tradition mantra. We have all heard it said that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life, but we can now add a third one. When Turkel is writing an article to "explain" a biblical discrepancy, as soon as he realizes that he doesn't really have an explanation, he is bound to start pounding the pulpit and screaming, "Oral tradition! Oral tradition!" Yet he has never been able to explain why inconsistency in orally transmitted information would somehow not constitute inconsistency.

That doesn't matter to him, however, because he knows that his choir members will lap it up as if it were irrefutably logical, and the PayPal bucks will keep trickling in.

Skeptic X can cool his jets and wash his socks:

And after I have washed them, I can easily see my feet to put them on.

We prefer to read the text as the people who wrote it understood it --

Hmm, does Turkel mean here that people reading Matthew's resurrection account back then would have understood that Mary Magdalene somehow wasn't present when "the women" encountered both the angel and Jesus? If so, perhaps Turkel will take the time to explain to us what linguistic principles existed back then that would have enabled readers of Matthew's narrative to understand that Mary Magdalene wasn't present for either encounter, even though his text named only two women and then said that the angel spoke to "the women" and then went on to say that they encountered Jesus. This will be Turkel's big chance. He can take us through my questions above and enlighten us on the linguistic principles in Greek that would have excluded Mary Magdalene from the encounters with the angel and with Jesus.

Maybe pigs will fly someday too.

not as a fundaliterist preacher with a case of pathological literalism does.

Turkel will keep repeating himself, won't he? I replied to his "fundaliteralist" mantra above to show that he is the one still shackled to a fundamentalist church that is known for its adherence to belief in biblical inerrancy. As for me, I had the good sense to abandon that long ago when I was about five years younger than Turkel is now.

I wonder what his excuse is for still clinging to it.

Oh, I know, I know. Stupid me, I forgot about the m-o-n-e-y. That will make a lot of people compromise their intellectual integrity.

At this point, Turkel tacked onto his article a section that pertained primarily to issues between him and Charles Salvia. I will leave that part for Salvia to answer if he wants to and limit my comments to a brief section that pertained to me.

And now an update. If you have peeked here you know by now that first Stevie Carr, and then Skeptic X, popped in on a forum to try and make some hash of this item, but ended up being diced corned beef themselves. You can get some entertainment out of Skeptic X claiming to know better than two people just short of their doctorates in Biblical study areas....

As usual, Turkel has distorted facts to try to make himself look halfway competent. His link, which I hope readers will access, will open a thread on the Theology Web, where high-schoolers and sophomoric college students go to bask in the sunlight of one- and two-line insults and ridicule, peppered with juvenile emoticons, which the members of that forum seem to think will replace logical argumentation. The thread opens with Steve Carr commenting on similar statements that Turkel made above, about Matthew's resurrection account's being a "contrivance" and was "stereotyped."

I have long thought--ever since the thread that Turkel linked to above--that these are strange terms for an "apologist" to use in describing a gospel account, because the word contrivance carries connotations of devising or scheming with implications even of inventing or fabricating. Likewise, stereotyped is a word that conveys connotations that don't seem very appropriate for a defender of the Bible to use in describing some of its books. That which is "stereotyped" is thought to be something lacking in individuality, which typifies oversimplified but often incorrect opinions about habits, character, or personality. The word itself had its origin in a form of fixed print that produced the same unvarying impression each time the press was rolled, a description that hardly seems accurate for a gospel account that contains noticeable variations from the other three. I certainly don't disagree that these are appropriate terms--especially the first one--to apply to the gospels, but I think it rather strange that a person trying to defend them as historically accurate documents would use terms to describe them that generally convey uncomplimentary connotations. What Turkel meant by them was so ambiguous--which is nothing new in his writing--that one TWeb member even asked if he had intended them as insults to the gospels.

As for Turkel's claim that Carr and I "ended up being diced corned beef" and that I had "claim[ed] to know better than two people just short of their doctorates in Biblical study areas," we are right back to Turkel's apparent belief that a Ph. D. somehow guarantees correctness in a person's opinions. In this section of "The Zigzagging Stripes of Bobby Turkel," I shot to pieces his frequently stated claim that Ph. D. degrees somehow give credibility to books and articles authored by those with this degree. I have repeatedly pointed out to Turkel that one can find Mormons, Catholics, Christian Scientists, Scientologists, and members of just about any religion--even the Church-of-Christ kind that he obviously doesn't think too highly of--who have Ph. D. degrees. Does Turkel believe in preterism? Yes, he does, but I can find nonpreterists with Ph. D. degrees who have written books and articles that emphatically opposed this belief, so when Turkel disagrees with them, is he claiming to know better than people who have their doctorates in biblical study areas? Sometimes, I can't believe that even Turkel is dumb enough to say some of the things that he posts on his website.

Even if I had thought that I knew better on some biblical issue than "two people just short of their doctorates in biblical study areas," I would be guilty of no more than Turkel is himself when he defends positions that are opposed by writers who have advanced degrees. The thread that Turkel linked to, however, is not the one where I [gasp] questioned the opinions of TWeb members, who were apparently close to having their Ph. D. degrees. That disagreement occurred in a thread about the Mary-Magdalene problem, where a member of the forum named "Jaltus" appealed to his doctoral studies and took the position that a Greek verb in the aorist tense in Matthew 28:8 indicated that Mary Magdalene completed a trip to the disciples, and so the next verse in which Jesus was encountered was actually a second trip that she made. I will quote below a relevant section from one of my posts in this thread so that readers can see what Turkel didn't bother to mention in his statement above. The links in this quoted section have since become inactive.

Till:
Matthew said that Mary Magdalene saw an angel, heard the angel say that Jesus had risen, and heard the angel tell her to go tell the disciples that Jesus would go before them to Galilee.

Now do you agree that is what "Matthew" said happened? Whether it did happen or not is irrelevant. My argument is concerned only with what "Matthew" said had happened, because I am simply showing that biblical records of the same alleged events, whether historical or not, are inconsistent.

Furthermore, "Matthew" said that Mary Magdalene ran from the tomb with great joy, encountered Jesus, touched him, and worshiped him. Do you agree that "Matthew" said that this happened?

If so, you must explain why this same Mary Magdalene ran and told Peter and the disciple that Jesus loved that the body of Jesus had been stolen. Why would someone who had seen Jesus and touched him have said this? That's the problem that you must solve in order to have consistency in the resurrection narratives.

If you are claiming that "Matthew" said that Mary Magdalene ran to the disciples before the angel had announced the resurrection, I would like you to cite the textual evidence in "Matthew" that supports this claim. You will find tht I will call my opponents' to task if they try to argue by assertion, question begging, and special pleading.

Jaltus:
John says they did, and Matthew just skips them talking to the 12 the first time.

Till:
See my comment above. This is argument by assertion. You must find evidence in the text to support this, and as I will soon show, you won't be able to find it.

Jaltus:
The fun part about this is we know the action of running and telling the disciples was completed because it is in the aorist tense, meaning the action is completed. If it was imperfect, then it would mean Jesus interrupted them on their way, but it is in fact not imperfect.

Till:
Oh, please, Jaltus, not the "aorist" quibble! It's been 50 years since my last Greek class, but I remember that the aorist tense denoted a past action without indicating whether the action was completed, continued, or repeated. I suggest that you get a grammar book and do a bit of reviewing. Perhaps the quotation from Greek Internet Grammar will help clarify your misconception that the Greek aorist always denoted completed action. Emphasis has been added.

Quotation:
The aorist is the simple past tense. The term "aorist" comes from the Greek, meaning "undefined" or "not specified." It is the tense used when one wishes to express the type of action as mere occurrence, without reference to completion (perfect) or to duration or repetition or attempt.

That does not mean that the aorist is the opposite of the perfect or the imperfect; it simply means that those matters are not specified. More often than not, it will be the case that simple action is meant, and grammarians usually speak of this as "point" action--action that occurs in an instant, and is over.

Till:
Still not convinced? Well, check this explanation of the aorist, which can be found at the reference book section of Zondervan's website.

Quotation:
Misinformation that has been repeated so often that it is considered a fact, such as, for example, the oft-heard claim that the Greek aorist tense represents once-and-for-all action ("Offer your bodies once and for all as living sacrifices"—Rom. 12:1)—it doesn't. Instead, the aorist tense represents simple, undefined action.

Till:
I find it rather amusing that you accused me of saying that "Matthew" had lied, because you are now trying to argue that Matthew was not truthful when he said that Mary Magdalene ran from the tomb, encountered Jesus, touched him, and worshiped him. Now even if your "aorist" quibble would work--and the reference information quoted above shows that it won't--the text of Matthew still says that Mary ran from the tomb and "met Jesus." Hence, Mary had met Jesus while running from the tomb, so why did she tell Peter that the body of Jesus, whom she had met and touched, had been stolen?

Furthermore, the text of Matthew says that "they [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] departed quickly from the tomb... and ran to bring his disciples word" (v:8). Then verse 9 says that "Jesus met them." If Jesus "met" them, then they encountered Jesus before they had found the disciples. If not, why not?

I'm sorry, Jaltus, but your quibbles won't work.

That, folks, is where I dared to disagree with someone who claimed to be close to having completed an advanced degree, and I disagreed because what he was saying conflicted with what I remembered about the aorist tense from the time in college that I had spent in Greek classes. The part of the thread quoted above--and the rest of it that can be accessed at the link above--shows that in disagreeing with "Jaltus," I had scholarship much more convincing than his on my side. Furthermore, I took the time to send e-mails to professors of Greek at various universities and seminaries, and I received eight replies, all of which expressed agreement with my position on how the aorist tense was used in Greek. Incidentally, one of those replies came from James Charlesworth, who is noted for his scholarship in pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea scrolls. Somehow, I can't help thinking that his opinion on usage of the aorist tense in Greek would be far more informed than a "candidate" for an advanced degree, who spends his time at TWeb trying to defend biblical inerrancy.

Turkel, of course, didn't mention any of this, because he has a habit of conveniently omitting information that is detrimental to whatever doctrine-du-jour he is trying to defend. Furthermore, those who read the TWeb thread in which the Mary-Magdalene problem was discussed will see that Turkel took the position that Mary Magdalene was not one of the women who encountered the angel and then later met Jesus. In typical fashion, then, Turkel has switched positions in this matter, and this time he did so before eight years had passed.

The rest of Turkel's tacked-on job pertained to his disagreement with Charles Salvia, so it isn't relevant to the Mary-Magdalene problem. I will, however, note that Turkel did the same thing with Salvia that he did above when he said that the gospels were written as biographies and not "evangelistic documents."

Since he wrote this letter (it is now 7/03) he and I have signed a truce and are having friendly debate on TWeb, so we have laid aside the polemics, but at this time, most of the letter he wrote was personal issues, and about how he finds my material hard to read, but the main point is what I said about, "The Gospels were written as biographies of Jesus and were not (despite their [mis]use today as such) evangelistic documents, other than to some extent the Gospel of John." It is replied:

I addressed this issue above and showed how Turkel has been on-again off-again in the matter of why the gospels were written. One day he will say that they were just biographies that had no evangelistic purpose behind them; another day, he will say that their purpose was evangelistic. This is just another example of how Turkel will take whatever position best suits his purpose at the moment.

The way that Turkel will change doctrinal positions just as a chameleon's environment will cause it to change colors is, in my opinion, rooted in m-o-n-e-y. Upton Sinclair, author of the American classic The Jungle said in his book I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Turkel exemplies the truth of this observation. He has managed to dupe enough gullible Bible believers into becoming PayPal contributors to his "ministry" to ensure himself of at least a subsistence income, so he isn't very likely ever to admit to understanding anything that may clog up his PayPal pipeline. When the need arises, however, he won't hesitate to switch positions in order to make himself look as good as possible at the moment.

I suppose that this will end Turkel's attempt to solve the Mary-Magdalene problem, because, as noted above, he has said that he will never again reply to anything I write until after I have "kicked the bucket." Of course, he said years ago in an early attempt to solve the Jehu problem that he would never again dignify anything I write by replying to it.

Perhaps, then, we will hear from Turkel yet again.

 


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