[Editor's Note: In this section of Part Two, Turkel claimed that he had not attributed
"John's" failure to mention Simon of Cyrene
in the crucifixion procession to a lack of space on his scroll to
but I noted at the time that even though the part of his article under
examination at that point had not used this quibble, we would see
that he did resort to his paper-shortage "apologetics" to
"explain" the omission of any reference to Simon of Cyrene in John's gospel. Readers will see
that the third and final part of this series begins with Turkel's
application of his paper-shortage quibble to "John's" omission of
At any rate, Turkel's position in the article cited and quoted earlier was that John didn't tell about the role of Simon of Cyrene in carrying the cross because he didn't know anything about it, yet in another article that attempted to resolve this problem, Turkel took a different approach, which will bring us to his "paper-shortage" apologetics. An unknown skeptic (identified only as "Joe") whom Turkel was "answering" pointed out the problem.
Describing Jesus being led to his execution, John 19:17 maintains that Jesus carried his own cross. In contradistinction, Mark 15:21-23 claims that a man called Simon carried Jesus' cross to the crucifixion site.
this time by arguing that John didn't mention Simon of Cyrene
because he didn't know anything about Simon's participation in the
Duh oh! If Simon picked it up halfway, then obviously Jesus did carry his own cross part of the way. Hello? Joe is demanding complete detail-reportage from people who lived in an era when paper was expensive and there was neither room nor call for including a detail unless you had a point to make. John had that point: his picture is of Jesus as the Son of God dependent on no man. He omits the Simon episode purposely.
Duh, oh! Hello? If John's "point"
was that Jesus was "dependent on no man," then John must have
intentionally tried to present a false point, because the synoptic
clearly state that Simon of Cyrene carried
arguing here that John purposely omitted the part about Simon
"paper" was just too expensive to include this detail (No,
actually, I used that as an example of the sort of thing that could
composition, as a way of showing that Sommer
great deal of education about the ancient world.) And, of course, Turkel
does have "a great deal of education about the ancient world." To
claim this, as he often does, is so farcical that it hardly deserves
Duh oh! If Simon picked it up halfway, then obviously Jesus did carry his own cross part of the way. Hello? Joe is demanding complete detail-reportage from people who lived in an era when paper was expensive and there was neither room nor call for including a detail unless you had a point to make. John had that point: his picture is of Jesus as the Son of God dependent on no man. He omits the Simon episode purposely.
Turkel was obviously saying here that
"Joe" didn't take into consideration that John had "omit[ed]
the Simon episode purposely," because he
"lived in an era when paper was expensive and there was neither room
call for including a detail unless you had a point to make." Has anyone
else noticed that when Turkel gets caught
ridiculous or inconsistent opinions, he will twist and squirm like a
snake in a
bed of hot ashes to try to get out of what he has obviously said on
he had argued in another article (quoted above) that John didn't
Simon's part in the journey to
Something that has always puzzled me about Turkel is that he seems completely unable to recognize when he contradicts himself even from one paragraph to the next. He said above that those "expensive" scrolls were "no larger than a certain size," but in citing what Gamble said about the length of ancient scrolls, Turkel said this in his very next paragraphs (emphasis added). ("Contradict myself" my foot. That they go no larger than a certain size is a practical fact that would face the average scribe. I even use the word "practically" in the material X quotes below:)
Scrolls could be fashioned to any length desired, but practically speaking, the mean length was seven to ten meters. "A roll of ten to eleven meters was too cumbersome for the reader to handle... authors of long new works made their own divisions by taking the customary length of rolls into account."
Practically speaking also, I see nothing here that would prove that "John" or any other biblical writers were compelled to limit the length of their scrolls. As Turkel's own expert also noted in a quotation below, scrolls were "usually" 30 feet long. One would think that the omniscient, omnipotent one would not have allowed a crisis of scroll length to interfere with his "inspired" writer's task of reporting whatever part of the divine "revelation" he had been chosen to write.
A roll of papyrus of typical quality "cost the equivalent of one or two days' wages, and it could run as high as what the labourer would earn in five or six days..."
So Gamble recognized something that is common knowledge among those who have done any reading at all on the subject of ancient manuscripts: scrolls could be made any length necessary by simply stitching or gluing together pieces of parchment or papyrus. (And by spending horsebags full of money that average Joes like Matthew, Peter, John and Luke didn't have.) Uh, just how does Turkel know that Matthew, Peter, "John," and Luke couldn't afford scrolls long enough to report what should have been included in order to produce coherent accounts of what they were reporting? After all, they had the omniscient, omnipotent one working for them behind the scenes. As I have repeatedly asked more times than I can conveniently link to, why would a deity who had performed such miracles as the parting of the Red Sea and the sending of manna down from heaven to accommodate the Israelites on their trek to the "promised land" not also step in to see that Matthew, Peter, "John," Luke, etc., had adequate scroll space to write full, complete, coherent accounts of what they had been selected to report? If Turkel should undertake to answer this question, he should remember that saying that I am upset because "God" wouldn't descend to kiss my patoot is not an answer. It is an evasion that begs the questions of the existence of "God" and his involvement in the writing of the Bible. It explains no more than a Muslim would explain if he should say in response to Turkel's questions about the accuracy of the Qur'an that his problem is that Allah didn't descend to kiss his patoot. (Watch this evade X as he cites alleged counter-examples [sic]:) Nah, it didn't elude me, and I have never tried to evade it. I just answered it, as I have repeatedly answered it in my other articles about Turkel's ridiculous paper-shortage quibble. I am not an evader; I answer my opponents point by point. If Turkel wants to see an evader, he should go look in a mirror. While he is looking, I will ask readers to notice that Turkel's inserted "sound bites" become fewer and farther between as we go along. And he had the gall to accuse me of evasion. The Samaritan Pentateuch, which contained all five of the "books of Moses," was 60 feet in length (William E. Barton, The Samaritan Messiah: Further Comment of the Samaritan High Priest, Chicago, Open Court Publishing Company, 1907, p. 534). (Uh huh. And, um, how many copies of that were there, now? And who paid for it? I don't suspect the answer is available, but:) An organized, established religion like Samaritan Judaism wouldn't have encountered any insurmountable obstacles in making as many copies of it as they desired. As we have already noted in this section of Part One and will notice again further along, Turkel has said that making one copy of a manuscript like Isaiah's would "be no burden under such circumstances [of scarcity and expense]," and as I said in replying to that comment, if making one copy of a scroll would have been "no burden" to the author, then making one copy of it would have been no burden to whoever wanted to make it, and making one copy of the copy would likewise have been no burden to the scribe copying it, and so on. I further noted that organized religious groups, like the colony at Qumran, could have shared the expense of making copies of scrolls that they considered important, so Turkel's quibble that the expense of making "multiple copies" put restraints on the writers, which forced them to leave out much material that they would have otherwise included, falls apart when analyzed in the light of his own admission that making only one copy would have put "no burden" on the scribe. The Isaiah scroll, discovered at Qumran, is 24 feet in length and is made of 17 leather sheets sewn together with linen thread, so if the "compositional constraints," which Turkel talks about with routine regularity now, kept gospel writers from giving complete details in their narrations of events in the life of Jesus, one wonders how the scribes who copied the much longer book of Isaiah on a scroll were able to pull off that feat, and I have to wonder if Turkel is aware that the book of Isaiah is much longer than the gospel of John. (I have to wonder if X keeps his head screwed on only on weekends. How many copies of Isaiah did the Qumran community, which had only a few thousand people, have? Uh, not many.) The only loose screws in evidence here are the ones in Turkel's head. The Isaiah manuscript and the other scrolls at Qumran, according to the website of the Qumran library, numbered in the "tens of thousands of scroll fragments," so since those fragments were once complete scrolls, their existence shatters to pieces Turkel's quibble that scrolls were just too scarce and expensive in biblical times for writers to give full, complete, coherent accounts of what they were reporting. If a religious colony, which consisted of "only a few thousand people" had produced "tens of thousands" of scrolls, then the "compositional constraints" that Turkel has written about so much are just rocks rattling around in his head with those loose screws. (How many copies of John do you suppose were needed to supply even the 5-10% of literate people who became Christians across the entire Roman Empire?) I intend eventually to reply directly to Turkel's article "Tilliteracy" in which he ridiculed me for having taken the position that literacy in biblical times exceeded the 5-10% claimed by W. V. Harris, the "expert" that Turkel relied on for this information, but I will give readers--and Turkel--a preview of things to come. Although W. V. Harris has been a respected authority, more recent discoveries--which Turkel seems unaware of--have indicated that literacy in biblical times exceeded Harris's estimate. A good source of information on this would be Alan Millard's "Literacy in the Time of Jesus," written in opposition to the skeptical view that the people of that time were too illiterate to have recorded with any accuracy the words of Jesus. In an introduction to this article, Eric Lessing said, "(I)t should not be assumed that ancient literacy was confined to the elite," and Millard's article goes on to explain why, while providing readers with pictures of archaeological discoveries that support this view. I couldn't begin to do justice to the evidence supporting Millard's view, so I will leave it to readers to decide if they want to take the time to read the material in the link above. Later, when I directly address Turkel's 5-10% claim, which he has been parroting from Harris, I will present this and other supporting evidence for a much broader literacy in biblical times. Turkel may counter that if Millard's estimates are right, this would have required even more copies of "John's" gospel to meet the needs of literate Christians, but as I noted above and in the link to Part One of this series, organized religious groups, which existed by the time that this gospel was written, could have easily afforded the cost of making as many copies as desired. Turkel's quibble fails again. (Uh. This is where X really missed when I already responded to this sort of thing ages ago here:) Which I have responded to in "The Paper Trail Resumes," but there is a huge difference in Turkel's "response" and mine. He quoted me very selectively and skipped long sections, as we have already seen and will see more below, but by the time this section is finished, I will have replied to him point by point. (To begin, X is missing the obvious point that it is not just a single copy at issue, but multiple copies, for generations beyond the Gospels, who [sic] are in mind.) I have repeatedly addressed this quibble and, in fact, just completed commenting on it. A click of the link immediately above will take readers to a detailed reply to it in which I noted that Turkel has admitted that making one copy of a scroll would not have put a burden on the writer, and so the making of copies would not have put a burden on the individuals or groups that wanted the copies. (The OT documents were not evangelistic and were not intended for distribution to a widely spread audience -- we're talking "Roman Empire and beyond" versus "part of Palestine" and accordingly a larger number of people both in time and space.) Likewise, I have addressed this quibble and pointed out that Turkel contradicted himself in presenting it, because I showed here in Part One that he has taken the position in some of his articles that the purpose of the gospels was never evangelistic, but in order to find some way to save face on his paper-shortage fiasco, he is now taking the position that the gospels were evangelistic "in both time and space." The section just linked to will show that on the same day a year ago (February 20, 2005), Turkel posted two articles that took opposing positions on the purpose of the gospels. In the one, he said that the gospels had been written with an evangelistic purpose; in the other, he took the position that the gospels had been written as biographies and were never intended to be evangelistic. Readers should always be wary of anything that Turkel says in his typically cocksure way, because in any given situation he will take whatever position best suits his purpose at the moment, regardless of what he has previously said, and we have noticed that when he gets caught in an inconsistency, he will say something like, "Oh, well, I wrote that seven years ago" or, "I was speaking hypothetically there." Besides casting serious doubts on his reliability as an apologist, such inconsistencies also make his personal integrity just as questionable. There is a familiar axiom that says if one always tells the truth, he won't have to worry about being caught in a lie, but if he lies, he will have to remember what lies he has told so that he won't later be trapped in his lies by being unable to remember what he has previously said. That axiom applies to Turkel's "apologetics." If, for example, he was stating his real belief in 2001 when he said that the gospels were never intended to be evangelistic, he would have said the same thing when the subject came up again in 2005, so when he said X and then four years later said not-X, he cast serious doubts on his personal integrity. Either that or else he has now reached a stage in his apologetic career where major positions undergo change every four years instead of seven years. (John had to think of supplying something around the Empire people of below-average and barely average means could afford to copy -- not just supply a library for a limited community!) But "John" wasn't written with an evangelistic intention, and we have that straight from the expert's mouth. Here is exactly what he said in "Magdalene Magilla." Notice the underlined sentence in bold print.
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. 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. For McTill's white-sheet-wearing 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.
So Turkel needs to make up his mind. If the gospels were not evangelical in purpose, as he said in the quotation immediately above, then his claim fails when he says that "John" wrote with an understanding that he needed to be brief so that undue expenses wouldn't fall upon those of "below-average and barely average means," who would want to copy his book to further its evangelistic purpose. Turkel's on-again-off-again position on whether the gospels were written with an evangelistic intention has bitten him on the nose again. Besides that, he must confront another of his own claims that I have repeatedly turned against his paper-shortage quibble. If making just one copy would have put "no burden" on Isaiah or Paul or Matthew or "John" or whoever the writer was, then making one copy of it would have put no burden on whoever wanted to copy it, and making one copy of the copy would have put no burden on whoever was copying the copy, especially if the ones copying it were members of organized religious groups, which could spread the costs among their membership.
If "Isaiah" could have found enough scroll space to write his book, one chapter of which (37) repeated verbatim what was recorded in 2 Kings 19, why wasn't "John" able to find scroll materials that would have enabled him to give all of the details necessary to make his gospel consistent with the others? (Answered this one, too:) Yeah, and just look at his answer, which, as I will soon show, was ripped to pieces. (...note that in no way is such repetition a contrary indication against our primary point!) It isn't? I think that readers have seen that it is, but in case it hasn't yet sunk into some skulls hardened by inerrantist indoctrination, I will be running everything by them again. (What? Does Skeptic X expect a compiler of Isaiah's words and deeds to leave out 2 Kings 19? What's he going to do, write in a note, "see other scroll"?) Well, no, because Isaiah was written before 2 Kings, so he couldn't have told his readers to see a scroll that hadn't yet been written, but there is no reason why the author of 2 Kings could not have told his readers to see what Isaiah had written about Hezekiah and the Assyrian siege instead of copying the earlier account almost word for word. In replying to this same quibble here in Part One of this series, I quoted sixteen of the many places where Old Testament authors, instead of repeating what other books on the same subject had said, told their readers that "other events" in the life of Solomon or Jeroboam or Rehoboam or whoever had been recorded in "the annals of Solomon" or "the annals of the kings of Israel" or "the annals of the kings of Judah," etc. In one of those examples, I showed that the author of 2 Chronicles had quickly summarized the reign of Hezekiah by referring his readers to a work by Isaiah. Since 2 Kings 19 repeated verbatim Isaiah's account of events in the life of Hezekiah, perhaps Turkel can tell us why the author of this book, instead of repeating exactly what Isaiah had said about this phase of Hezekiah's reign, could not have done as the Chronicler did and referred readers to Isaiah's book. If the writer of 2 Kings had simply said, "Events in Hezekiah's reign during an Assyrian siege against Jerusalem and Yahweh's prolongation of his life have been written in the book of Isaiah the prophet," just look at the precious scroll space he could have saved. As I said when I first presented this reply to Turkel's see-other-scroll quibble, will someone living in or near Ocoee, Florida, go to 2609 Greywall Avenue and pull Turkel's foot out of his mouth? (The compiler of Isaiah's oracles and of the Kings annals had differing purposes; there is nothing to prevent such double usage with respect to available supplies.) I assume that everyone noticed that Turkel gave no reasons at all to support this claim. Just how would "differing purposes" have required both of these authors to write long sections that were word for word the same? Just why would a "differing purpose" have prevented the author of 2 Kings from doing in chapter 19 what he had done in 2 Kings 1:18 and 8:23 and 10:34 and at least 15 other places in this book when he referred readers to "annals" written by other writers? Turkel has given us no reason why he could not have done this in the matter of Hezekiah's reign. Turkel simply asserted that a "differing purpose" kept the author of the "Kings annals" from omitting the Hezekiah incidents in 2 29 with a notice that they were previously recorded by Isaiah, and his choir members, who have been conditioned all of their lives to accept uncritically generalized, unsupported claims made in Bible classes and pulpits, no doubt react as Turkel expected them to: "Oh, really? Differing purposes, huh? Well, that explains everything, doesn't it?" I have often said that Turkel deserves the credit of understanding the simplistic critical skills of his audience, so he knows that he can get by and keep the PayPal bucks coming in by simply using a say-just-anything-and-call-it-an-answer approach to apologetics. (And in any case, as noted, neither Isaiah nor the Kings writer, that we know of, were constrained by the limits of funding) And if such "constraints" did exist to the degree that Turkel has been claiming, he has no way of knowing that Isaiah and the Kings writer did not have to work under the same constraints. If he does know that they didn't, why didn't he present the evidence that they didn't? His parenthetical statement "that we know of" was an admission that he didn't know whether they too had confronted the same paper-shortage problem that he has been preaching on his website. (and of needing to keep in mind the production of multiple copies across an empire, for people from all backgrounds and nations.) I have addressed that quibble here in Part One of this series, and just prior to this link in the same article, I pointed out Turkel's inconsistent view on the purpose of the gospels. In one article, he claimed that their purpose was not "evangelistic"; in another article, he said that their purpose was evangelistic. Furthermore, I have previously pointed out that Turkel has admitted that making just one copy of a work as long as Isaiah's scroll would have put "no burden" on the author, so I took his admission and ran with it to dismantle completely his quibble, for if making only one copy would have put "no burden" on Isaiah or Paul or Matthew or "John," then making one copy of any of their books would have put no burden on the person bearing the cost of making that copy and that subsequently making a copy of the copy would have put no burden on the person copying the copy, and so on. This quibble of Turkel has been shattered to pieces. (X misses a lot by not keeping up.) I suspect that readers will have no trouble at all seeing just who is missing a lot. Turkel could have settled this issue a long time ago by just quoting from a biblical manuscript where the author told his readers that he had to omit many things that should have been told because he just couldn't bear the expense of a longer scroll that could have included that material. Turkel has cited no such example, of course, because he has none to cite. This paper-shortage quibble is something that he spotted in reading the works of writers like Gamble and then parroted without taking the time to examine it critically to see if it could withstand logical scrutiny.
Another website, which discussed archaeological discoveries that dispute the claims of skeptics who argue that writing did not exist in the time of Moses, contains a section that discussed the types of writing materials that were available in biblical times. It pointed out the following about materials used to make scrolls (emphasis added).
d. leather . The Jewish Talmud specifically required that the Scriptures should be copied on the skins of animals, on leather. It is most certain, that the Old Testament was written on leather. Rolls or Scrolls were made by sewing skins together that were from 3 to 100 feet or more in length. (And how many copies were made, for how many people?) I have repeatedly shown above and in Part One of this series that Turkel's "multiple-copy" quibble is a straw man that has no basis in fact, so I don't need to rehash those rebuttals here. I will simply add that it is nothing short of simplistic ignorance to argue that adequate space to write complete accounts on the skins of animals in a culture that apparently sacrificed animals by the thousands would have been a constraining force on those who wrote the books of the Bible. (Hello? This is NOT a uni-dimensional [sic] problem, folks!) No, it isn't, and only someone who thinks unidimensionally, i. e., with a preconceived desire to find inerrancy in obviously flawed ancient documents, would ever think to present such an excuse as paper shortage for ambiguity and inconsistency in the Bible.
e. Papyrus. It is almost certain that the New Testament was written on papyrus because it was the most important writing material at that time. Papyrus is made by shaving thin sections of the papyrus reed into strips, soaking them in several baths of water, and then overlapping them to form sheets. One layer of the strips was laid cross ways to the first. Then these were put in a press that they might adhere to each other. The sheets were made 6-15 inches high and 3-9 inches wide, pasted together, forming rolls that were usually 30 feet long, though one was found to be 144 feet in length. Our English word "paper" comes from the Greek word for papyrus.
One would think that a 30-foot papyrus scroll would have been long enough for "John" or "Matthew" or any of the gospel writers to give sufficient details in their narrations ("One would think"? No, one needs to get out a 30 foot long scroll and try if one is going to make this argument.) Uh, since when did ease of handling equate with factors that determined the length of scrolls? If handling a scroll of this length was the cumbersome problem that Turkel is now quibbling, I wonder why scrolls—as claimed above by Turkel's own expert—were "usually 30 feet long." Why would the "usual" length of scrolls have been so long that the "usual" scroll would have been cumbersome to read? I wonder too how readers were able to handle the 144-foot scroll referred to in the quotation above. Anyway, I can't help wondering how many 30-foot scrolls Turkel has tried to read that enabled him to determine that a 30-footer was just too cumbersome to handle. If he thinks that there is any merit to his quibble here, let him explain to us just why scrolls were "usually" made in a length that was unmanageable to readers. (To say nothing of assuming to know what the needs of John's readers were.) Well, gee, just who is the one claiming to know what the needs of John's readers were? I believe Turkel is the one claiming to know what "John's" writing purpose was and why he included this but didn't mention that. I have said nothing at all about knowing "the needs of John's readers" except to note that if his purpose in writing this gospel was to report the "signs" that would make readers believe that Jesus was "the Christ" (John 20:30-31), it is bit strange that he omitted the very "signs" that, according to Matthew, had caused the pagan Roman soldiers to declare that Jesus was surely the son of God. To read more detailed discussions of this huge hole in Turkel's paper-shortage quibble, readers can go here in Part Three of "Crimes by Speculation" and here and here and here in the same article to read more detailed analyses of the problems in this part of Turkel's paper-shortage "theory." to have provided readers with enough clarity to prevent the disputes that have arisen over inconsistencies in parallel accounts, ("Ancient writers should have anticipated our gross ignorance and obsessive demands for Western precision-literalism!") Uh, just what is so grossly ignorant about thinking that documents written under the presumed guidance of an omniscient, omnipotent deity should have contained sufficient information to be clear and coherent? Anyway, if the problem is—as Turkel apparently thinks or at least is claiming to save face—the fault of "obsessive demands of Western precision-literalism," why wouldn't this omnipotent, omniscient one have anticipated this problem and inspired his chosen ones to write with a clarity and coherence that would have prevented this criticism from ever arising? The apostle Paul said that he had become all things to all men that he might by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22), but even though "God" wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3-4), he apparently feels no need to go out of his way to increase the chances that more men will come to the knowledge of the truth and be "saved." Turkel should keep in mind that saying that I am upset because "God" didn't kiss my patoot is not an answer to this problem. All it does is beg the questions of "God's" existence and his involvement in the writing of the Bible. such as the one about who carried the cross of Jesus to Golgotha [sic], but the information available on the subject of scrolls clearly tells us that if a scroll of typical length (30 feet) wasn't long enough [sic] to do the job, it could have been made longer by just pasting on more sections of papyrus, The "sics" here were inserted by Turkel. The reason for them eludes me. (And making it more expensive...for the original writer AND people who would copy later...) I have addressed and readdressed and readdressed both of these quibbles, so there is no need to rehash my rebuttals here. Turkel has exactly no evidence at all that the scarcity and expense of scroll materials exercised any "compositional restraints" at all on biblical writers, and he has yet to explain why, if such restraints did actually exist, an omniscient, omnipotent deity, who had used his supernatural powers to part the Red Sea for the Israelites and work various other miracles on their behalf, would not have intervened at least a tiny bit on behalf of his chosen writers to make sure that they had adequate scroll materials to do their job properly. (and of course, by adding on one piece to the end, you can fill in all the gaps in info you left in the middle.) What Turkel is saying now is completely inconsistent with what he has previously said about the care that writers put into planning their scrolls before they actually began to write them. Readers can go here in "Crimes by Speculation - Part Three" to see where I replied to Turkel's claim that New Testament writers planned their books to the point of "taking notes" in order to know what they would be able to say in the space available to them. For the convenience of readers, I will quote Turkel's comments from his article "Crimes by Omission" so that they can read it uninterrupted by my rebuttals. Notice in particular the underlined statements.
And there's another problem. The crucifixion and resurrection have to go in, but they will be at the end of the story, and you can't just write backwards from the end of the scroll -- unless you are a very unusual person! So you need to plan this account carefully. You need to decide what out of those 5000 hours [in Jesus's personal ministry] you want to include.
So how do you start? You start by taking notes, and this was the normal procedure for composition in this day, so it is foolish to ask why a Mark or a Luke may not have been an "exception". [sic] This is where the "codex" or leaf book would have come in. Although the codex eventually evolved into the modern book, at this stage, according to scholars like Gamble, it was used for "school exercises, accounts, notes, first-drafts, and so forth," as well as being used for archival items like birth certificates. (Certain persons apparently do not grasp that these loose notes would NOT be taken on the scroll intended for the composition -- they would be put on scraps of whatever was handy, or on a reusable wax tablet or wooden board.)
So now you have a collection of notes, full of stories and teachings to choose from. Now what? Well, if you are an ancient writer, writing a story is not just a matter of slapping down things in order. You're a little more creative than that! You also want to establish a certain theme, or use certain techniques, to make the story run smoothly. (Biographies in the ancient world were often written topically rather than chronologically.) After all, most of your "readers" will actually be hearers! 90-95% of those who get acquainted with your Gospel will have to remember its contents. Your contemporaries all have good memories, because they are used to oral tradition, but that's partly because writers know ways to make memory easier.
Our Gospel writers took different approaches to this problem. On a macro level, Matthew divided his work into five sections of teaching interspersed with miracle stories (an imitation of the five books of the Pentateuch) and also begins with a genealogy and closes his work with an edict (the Great Commission), just like Chronicles opened with a genealogy and closed with Cyrus' decree in 2 Chronicles. Mark used his "sandwich" technique of intercalating a small story between two parts of another story. Luke wrote his work around the theme of traveling to Jerusalem (and wrote Acts around the theme of the gospel being preached around the Empire, with Jerusalem as a return point); he was also writing for the purpose of defending Paul at trial (see here). John built his account around important "signs". [sic] These are but three of numerous examples of memory and/or literary techniques in the Gospels -- and each technique, used differently, would mean different results in order, and different results in selection of material.
But what of that selection? If you are a Matthew or a Mark writing a Gospel for the first time, what do you choose to offer? What miracles or teachings "stick out" the most and will tell readers the most about Jesus as a person? What events were most memorable? By now it will be easy to guess that the constraints of selection would have a major impact on what appears in a Gospel and would explain a great many of the differences across the Gospels. In some cases selection will be subjective. Selection will also be ruled by available space. Matters of judgment being subjective, this is why a Mark may prefer to offer two loaves and fishes routines, while Matthew may prefer to add more teaching instead.
This is just another of Turkel's inconsistencies. Out of one corner of his mouth, he claimed that New Testament writers meticulously planned their books, even to the point of taking notes, so that they would know what to include and what to exclude in the space available to them on their scrolls, but when pedaling hard to defend this position against evidence that scrolls could easily have been lengthened by just sewing on an additional length, he made his comment above: "Oh, sure, and if they added a section to the end, they could have filled in the gaps they had left in the middle." If, however, New Testament writers planned as meticulously as Turkel claimed in the quotation above, the writers would have left no serious gaps in the middle; hence, by just sewing on an inch or two, they could have easily compensated for any underestimations during their planning and note-taking process. Turkel can give no reasonable reply to this rebuttal point, so, in typical fashion, he tries to dismiss it with sarcasm. (Isn't that brilliant of X to figure out?) There is nothing at all brilliant about it. If one understands how scrolls were made and increased in length, he doesn't have to be a genius to know that if "John" knew something as important as the "signs" that caused Roman pagans to declare that Jesus was the son of God, he would have inserted it at the proper place, knowing that if he ran out of space, he could always lengthen his scroll accordingly. What is far from brilliant is Turkel's refusal to acknowledge this obvious fact. but Turkel ignores this fact about papyrus scrolls and grabs a straw to try to justify inconsistencies in the biblical text. (As usual, the only straw is X's burning strawman, and his lack of dimension conception.) Why does an obvious statement of fact constitute a straw man? Is it true or not that scrolls could be lengthened by sewing on an additional piece? Is it true or not that just an additional inch or two would have been more than enough for "John" to have added to his gospel an account of Matthew's record of the "signs" that had caused the pagan Romans to declare that Jesus was the son of God? Is it true or not that just another inch or two stitched on to "John's" scroll would have provided enough space to write this: "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, 'Truly this man was God's Son'"? Is it true or not that no one--not even Robert "No Links" Turkel--knows the length of "John's" scroll or how much it cost him or how much it would have cost him to stitch on an additional inch or two? Is it true or not that no one--including the antiquities expert Robert Turkel--knows what "John's" financial means were or how much support from others he may have had when he was writing his gospel? So in reality, the only thing burning is the red herring that Turkel has sarcastically tossed into the fray to detract attention from his inability to defend his paper-shortage quibble. (It happens I even make this point in what X quotes, but he misses it:)
Now maybe if you are wealthy, or know someone who is, you can get another scroll and do a "Life of Jesus, Part 2", [sic] perhaps a shorter half. But if you do, bear in mind that generations beyond you (and how can you anticipate WalMart, or the printing press?), in order to preserve your work, will have to also buy two scrolls. If you want your work to get out to people, that's not a very smart move. Your work is going to cost more to keep around than a work with one scroll. So you'd better plan carefully what you want to put on those scrolls. By the way, writing is cumbersome and difficult with comfortable chairs and writings desks not in the picture -- unless, again, you are very wealthy. So better keep it simple.
I missed this? Well, my comments immediately below, which Turkel even quoted in his "reply" clearly shows that I addressed all of the dubious "points" [unsupported assertions] in his statement immediately above.
Turkel seemed to think that decisions about what to put onto the scrolls and how long to make them were left entirely to the writers. Whatever happened to "inspiration," and what was the purpose of whatever brand of "inspiration" that Turkel believes in if it wasn't intended to guide the writers into reporting truth and not error? (What "happened" to it? Nothing. Other than that, it was taken over by Western anachronists like X who thought this meant robotic dictation, rather than what the ancients thought "inspiration" meant (which was more like, the sort of "inspiration" we get for a work of art.) This is a nonresponse to my question, because it doesn't attempt to reply to the many arguments I have posted that clearly show that the Bible claims "verbal inspiration," a form of inspiration that Turkel tries to dismiss by sarcastically referring to it as "robotic dictation." Readers who want to see this same paragraph that Turkel quoted above dismantled piece by piece can go here in "Crimes by Speculation - Part Two" to see where I replied to it point by point, including his work-of-art view of biblical inspiration. Among other arguments presented to show that the Bible clearly teaches verbal inspiration, I presented the example of Jeremiah's dictating to Baruch the "words of Yahweh." This section of the article included an account of Baruch's describing to the princes of Judah how he had written the scroll that he had read to them: "He [Jeremiah] pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book" (Jer. 36:17). The same section contains an account of Jeremiah's redictating to Baruch the words on the scroll after Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, had burned the original. I also replied to the same paragraph point by point here in "Turkel Rides--Er-Stumbles Again (1-A)," but I also included here analyses of various scriptures that teach a verbal inspiration, such as 2 Timothy 3:16, which claims that scriptures are "God-breathed" and 2 Peter 1:19-21, which, contrary to Turkel's claim that biblical writers decided what to write in their books, said that no prophecy of scripture ever came by the will of man but that "men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." I went on in this article to quote Matthew 10:16-20, which promised that when the apostles were brought before kings, they wouldn't have to worry about what to say, because what they said would not be them speaking but the Holy Spirit speaking through them. In this section of "Bobby Grabs More Straws," I confirmed the biblical doctrine of verbal inspiration by quoting Galatians 1:11-12, where the apostle Paul said that the gospel he had preached had not been received from man but had come to him by revelation of Jesus Christ, and Acts 28:25-27, where the apostle Paul said that Isaiah 6:9-10 "had been spoken by the Holy Spirit." In a word, I have strung together a long chain of scriptures that teach verbal inspiration, which Turkel has largely ignored and tried to dismiss with sarcastic comments like those we will be seeing below. Maybe Turkel can also explain why the "Holy Spirit"--who was presumably guiding "John" and the other chosen ones into "all truth" (John 16:13)--could not have "anticipated" Wal-Mart or the printing press? Is Turkel implying that the Holy one was unable to know what the future held, or is this just more of his say-anything-and-the-gullible-will-accept-it approach to "apologetics"? Pardon me for thinking the latter. (X is pardoned for his ignorance and bigotry and self-centeredness.) An ad-hominem insult does exactly nothing to remove the fact, as clearly shown in the links immediately above, that the Bible teaches that inspiration was done by a verbal process. Readers can expect to see Turkel continue to dance around the biblical doctrine of verbal inspiration, which does not fit into his preconceived mold about writers being left to their own discretion to decide what to include and exclude in their books. This view is simply not taught in the Bible. (What in the world good will it do to "anticipate" the printing press 1500 years later, while for that 1500 years there will be people who still have to struggle with the same problems?) The answer to that is simple: if the gospels and epistles in the New Testament were written to direct people throughout the entire Christian era, which has now gone almost 600 years beyond the invention of the printing press and will continue for no telling how much longer--despite all of the dispensationalist warnings that the end is near--an omniscient, omnipotent deity with anything at all on the ball would surely have anticipated inventions like the printing press, which would greatly facilitate the propagation of his word, and made sure that his inspired ones wrote complete, coherent accounts that would have minimized, if not eliminated completely, ambiguity and confusion that would have spawned the type of disagreements like the ones presently being discussed. An added benefit of such clarity would have been a substantial increase in the chances that more people would believe. Why would a god, who would like for all men to be "saved" (1 Tim. 2:3-4), have not wanted to achieve such a result as this from his "inspired word"? As for "struggl[ing] with the same problems" that Turkel asked about, I can only ask, "What problems?" I have shown earlier that most of the problems that Turkel has been talking about in this debate are mainly in his head. He admits that making just one copy would have been "no burden" on the author of a scroll, so I have used that concession to point out that the copying of scrolls was usually done by individuals or groups. If an individual wanted to copy a scroll, he would have experienced no more of a "burden" than the one who wrote it, and if someone wanted to copy the copy, he too would have experienced no more of a burden than the author. Likewise, if a group, such as a congregation in, say, Corinth had wanted to make copies, the expenses would have been spread among several. So just where are the "problems" that Turkel is talking about? He would help his case if he would quote just one example of where a biblical writer said that the scarcity and cost of scroll materials had kept him from writing everything that needed to be reported. (X not only wants God to kiss his butt, he thinks God should do it at the expense of everyone who lived before he did. Now that's arrogance.) Ho, hum, here we go again with what has become Turkel's stock evasion. As I have pointed out many times now, this evasion begs the questions of "God's" existence and his involvement in the writing of the Bible. It proves no more than a Muslim would prove if he tried to explain to Turkel a problem passage in the Qur'an by saying, "Turkel not only wants Allah to kiss his butt but he thinks that Allah should do it at the expense of everyone who lived before he did." I recommend to Turkel that he take a course in basic logic. I further recommend that he think about his claim that gospels written in clear, coherent, complete accounts of what had happened would have someway caused an "expense" to everyone who lived before my time. Is he so naive that he is claiming that clear, coherent, and complete gospels would have in someway confused people who lived before my time? Obviously, this is just another example of Turkel's saying just anything to give the appearance of having replied to an opponent.
As for the difficulty of writing on scrolls when "comfortable chairs and writings desks were not in the picture," writing on scrolls wouldn't have been so difficult for someone sitting at a table, would it? Tables were in the picture in those days, weren't they? If not, how could the Bible, which referred to tables several times, have mentioned something that was nonexistent? (This will be news to the anachronist in Skeptic "if they didn't think as I did, they were stupid" X,) See what I mean? When Turkel can't answer an argument, all is not lost. He can always hurl insults and sarcasms at his opponent. (but while tables were available, the idea to use them for writing had somehow not yet occurred.) I would be very interested in knowing how Turkel or his source referred to below could have possibly known that the idea of writing on tables had somehow not occurred to people in biblical times. "How Were the Scrolls Created?" tells of the remains of tables found at Qumran, which were so low to the ground that archaeologists have theorized that the scribes wrote by kneeling in front of them, but I am sure that Turkel knows more about how scribes in those days held their scrolls for writing than do the archaeologists who have excavated the Qumran sites. (This is the sort of data you get from scholarly and informed sources like David Neville's Mark's Gospel: Prior or Posterior?,) Let me guess. Neville took the position that Mark's gospel was posterior rather than prior, didn't he? Had he not, Turkel, who believes that Mark's gospel was written after Matthew's, probably wouldn't have referenced it. I suppose everyone noticed that Turkel cited none of Neville's evidence that led him to conclude how he had discovered that no one in biblical times had thought of writing on a table. Just how did Neville make this discovery? The claim strikes me as something as ridiculous as Bruce Malina's and Robert Rohrbaugh's claim that feelings of guilt did not exist in biblical times. To so argue is to affirm a universal negative, which no one living now would ever be able to prove. To prove such a claim, one would have to have access to every person who ever lived in biblical times, and such a study as that is obviously impossible. In the same way, when Turkel asserts that tables were not used to write on in biblical times, he is affirming a universal negative, which neither he nor Neville--if he too made the claim--could ever prove. Yes, indeed, a course in basic logic would be very beneficial to Turkel. (the sort of book X will never pick up because it has no dots he can connect.) As I have said before, when Turkel can't reply to an opponent, all is not lost. He can always hurl insults and sarcasms at them, which he knows that his choir members will lap up like a cat given a bowl of milk. (If you think this is crazy, it's not [sic] more odd than that New World cultures somehow never managed to invent the wheel.) Turkel's analogy is false, because he is comparing the use of an object [tables] in a region where the object had been invented to the nonuse of an object in a region where the object [wheels] were never invented. Turkel's claim that tables were never used to write on in a region where both tables and writing had been invented would be parallel to arguing that wheels were never used in, say, China to transport water, something that no one living today could ascertain. When confronted with such a claim, one will immediately wonder how the one making this assertion was able to determine that the wheel was never so used in the country where this invention probably originated. If Turkel had bothered to do just a little research, however, he would have known that the wheel did actually exist in the Americas prior to their discovery by Europeans. The existence of "wheeled toys" in Mesoamerica has been archaeologically verified, but there is no indication that wheels were ever used on larger objects. The link just given explains why the wheel was not so adapted in the Americas. The wheel developed in places where there were domesticated draught animals to pull wheeled objects, and in the Americas, horses and domesticated bovines didn't exist until they were introduced by Europeans. Perhaps this information will provide Turkel with a few dots to connect to help him get a clearer picture of why the wheel didn't develop in some places. (There are likely reasons this idea had not yet come about,) If Turkel meant reasons why the idea of the wheel didn't develop in the new world, I have just explained those reasons. If he meant reasons why the idea of using a table to write on hadn't yet developed, I will eagerly await his explanation of how he discovered this. (but I'll hold back and see if X wants to make a fool of himself disputing this point before I lay it out.) I would indeed like to see Turkel prove that I made a fool of myself for recognizing a basic logical axiom: a universal negative cannot be proven. If I am wrong about this, let Turkel prove that I am. Well, I will have to take that question back, because it implies a bad argument. The Bible mentioned several nonexistent things, such as, gods, angels, cherubim, demons, heaven, hell, etc., so reporting the nonexistent is not at all unusual for the Bible. (Poor X can't resist the sound bite off topic.) Maybe I have been dealing with Turkel too long, so I will repeat an offer I have made before, which he has ignored. If he wants to dispense with his sarcastic, insulting style so that we can focus on issues rather than personalities, I will gladly agree to do this; however, if he wants to continue camouflaging the weaknesses in his positions behind sarcastic smoke screens, I will follow suit and show him that I too have some talent for sarcasm. He provides opponents with almost limitless opportunities to reply to him in kind. At any rate, Turkel very fancifully speculates that "John" and other biblical writers were forced to be confusingly brief (Note that "confusingly" is X's own ignorant value judgment based on his OWN confusion, not that of any person living at that time, which was very "high context" -- something X has been told, and can't rebut other than by making more mistakes.) I can't rebut Turkel's "high-context" quibble? Then he hasn't been reading my replies to him. If he will go to this section of "Turkel Takes the Bait Part Three," he will find a detailed rebuttal of this quibble. I repeated that rebuttal in this section of "Humpty Dumpty Takes Another Fall--Part Six" and included an additional rebuttal, which I had posted in this section of "Turkel Takes the Bait--Part Four." I ran it by him again in this section of "Bobby Grabs More Straws." I also rebutted Turkel's high-context quibble in other articles, but these are enough overkill. I have clearly established that I can not only rebut this quibble but have done so many times. at times because they just couldn't afford enough parchments or papyri to give enough details to prevent ambiguity and "apparent" inconsistencies. (Again, note that this remains X's bigoted value judgment, not one from those who wrote or first read the texts.) This is an argument from silence. There are no written contemporary reviews or commentaries on the New Testament documents, so we have no way to know what those who "first read the texts" thought about their clarity or lack of the same. As for his apparent claim that readers in New Testament times experienced no confusion in reading the "inspired" manuscripts, this is an assertion that so patently contradicts historical facts that it hardly deserves comment. For Turkel's benefit, however, I will take the time to show him that such confusion did indeed exist. In his second epistle, "Peter" said of the letters [epistles] of the apostle Paul that he had written "some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16). How does Turkel square this with his claim that readers of that "high-context" time were not confused by the way the New Testament documents had been written? The author of Hebrews told his readers that he had much more to say about the priesthood of Jesus "that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding" (5:11). That too just doesn't fit into Turkel's claim that the people in that "high-context" time didn't have any trouble understanding New Testament writings. Other New Testament passages speak about religious divisions that had developed in the early church, such as in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11-17), to the point that some were saying that they were followers of Paul, others of Appolos, and other of Cephas, and in Rome (Rom. 16:17), to the point that Paul warned the Roman Christians to mark those who were causing divisions and turn away from them. A passage in the pastoral epistles, attributed to the apostle Paul, referred to the "profane babblings" of Hymenæus and Philetus, who were teaching that the resurrection had already passed (2 Tim. 2:16-18), as some preterists today also teach. I could continue this indefinitely, because the New Testament often spoke of sects, divisions, and contentions that existed in the early church. Furthermore, we know from ecclesiastical history that the early church was constantly threatened by so-called heresies like Docetism (which even Turkel seems obsessed with combating), gnosticism, adoptionism, Arianism, Marcionism, Sabellianism, and various others. Perhaps Turkel can explain to us how so many confusing doctrines as these could have arisen in "high-context" societies, which found no confusion in the New Testament documents. This "high-context" binge that Turkel goes on so often is nothing more than a ploy that he uses to play to the gallery where his choir sits singing praises to him. Probably 90% of them don't have the slightest idea what this theory means--and the 10% who may have some familiarity with it probably don't understand that it applies more to oral language rather than written--but whenever Turkel slings around his references to "high-context" societies, his choir members no doubt gush with admiration: "High-context societies--just look at how much our guy knows!" This quibble leaves much to be asked about why an omniscient, omnipotent deity, who often intervened, as mentioned above, to perform all kinds of miracles on behalf of his chosen ones, somehow seemed powerless to scrounge up enough scroll materials to enable his "inspired" ones to write clear and coherent accounts of whatever they were recording, (He's already said this,) Yes, I have... many times, so why doesn't Turkel answer it? (and we answered above.) He did? Well, I wonder why he didn't link us to what he had "answered above" or, even better, quote it to show that he really had rebutted this. Let's see if we can find his answer to that question. Oh, yeah, here it is, and guess what? It's his old question-begging "patoot reply."
Nothing beats this sort of answer for sheer humor value, but I'll give the deserving answer: X is essentially asking why God doesn't kiss our butts. Next he'll wonder why God doesn't brush his teeth for him in the morning, tie his shoes, or press the button on his remote. End of issue.
And here is how I replied to it.
Well, I guess I am going to have to tell Turkel for the umpteenth time that each time he makes this comment, which has obviously become one of his favorites, he is begging the questions of "God's" existence and whether "God" had anything to do with the writing of the Bible. As I have said before, if Turkel were discussing with a Muslim problematic passages in the Qur'an, how impressed would he be if his opponent tried to explain identified textual problems by saying, "Turkel is essentially asking why Allah doesn't kiss our butts"? Of course, Turkel seems to be so logically impaired that I doubt that he will even understand why such comments as these commit the fallacy of question begging. Suffice it to say that I have presented to Turkel a perfectly legitimate question: if an omniscient, omnipotent deity did indeed inspire the writing of the Bible, why could he not have used the powers that he demonstrated so often in Old Testament stories to make sure that his chosen writers of New Testament books had sufficient scroll space to write everything that needed to be said to make their accounts coherently complete? Obviously, Turkel doesn't want to deal with this question.
Rather than resolving the problem I had identified, all Turkel did was reply with an ad hominem comment that additionally contained the fallacy of begging questions that he has yet to prove. (You can see how X is a rant in need of an editor. Next he'll ask why God didn't provide more toliet [sic] paper the next time he runs out in a public stall.) So we can add false analogy to his question-begging fallacies just quoted above. My position, which is shared by many others, is that an omniscient, omnipotent deity who devised a "plan of salvation" to redeem mankind from an eternal punishment for offenses arbitrarily decided by this deity should have been able to reveal that plan in a coherent way that everyone would be able to understand, but instead he, according to Turkel's view, chose to "inspire" it in the confusing, contradictory way that we find in the Bible. (The fact that so many sectarian divisions have developed from what is written in the Bible, as I just noted above, is clear testimony to the confusing way that it was written.) To say that someone who thinks that an omniscient, omnipotent deity, who intervened so often on behalf of the Israelites to get them to a "promised land," should have been willing to intervene to make the revelation of his eternal "plan of salvation" clear and coherent would probably rant for "God" to provide him with toilet paper in public stalls is about as absurdly false as an analogy could be. His choir members who lap up this kind of evasion need to reexamine their critical-thinking skills. certainly inconsistent with the realities of needless repetitions and parallel reporting in the Bible, (Watch this. More anachronism upcoming.) Uh, just how is saying that there are various verbatim repetitions and parallel reporting in the Bible, which are inconsistent with Turkel's paper-shortage quibble, "more anachronism"? I have shown for a fact that the repetitions and parallel reports are in the Bible, so that cannot possibly be "more anachronism." Does this guy even know what anachronism means? which wasted far more scarce and precious scroll space than what it would have taken "John" to report that Jesus carried his cross partway after which Simon of Cyrene took over. If writing materials were so scarce and "expensive" in biblical times that such brevity was necessitated, how does Turkel explain the following unnecessary usage of scroll materials? (I have actually answered most to all of these examples already in the essay X is unaware of. Too bad.) Oh, I am aware of it and have replied to it in detail in "The Paper Trail Resumes" in which I showed that Turkel skipped far more than he tried to answer. If he wishes to deny this, I will present to him my challenge again. I will gladly compile a list of quoted repetitions in the Bible if he will agree to post them on his website and leave them there, along with any replies that I may want to write to whatever quibbles he offers to explain why those repetitions aren't inconsistent with his claim that biblical writers often had to leave out important materials because of the scarcity and cost of scroll materials. He will never agree to this, so I won't be compiling that list.
At this point, Turkel
actually took a stab at trying to reply to some of my examples of
repetition in the Bible, so I will break here and answer in a
fourth part the rest of his farcical attempt to defend his