The flagrant resort to speculation in the foregoing article was not at all surprising to readers who are also subscribers to firstname.lastname@example.org, because they have seen Roger Hutchinson post utterly ridiculous speculative "solutions" to Bible discrepancies that have been discussed on the list. The best way to begin a response to Mr. Hutchinson's article, then, is to notice his frequent admissions that he is arguing from the assumption that the Bible is inerrant.
In concluding his article, Hutchinson said, "We do know that we have inerrant or accurate records of certain events that occurred." Well, pardon me, but I know no such thing and neither does Mr. Hutchinson. He simply insists on the right to argue from this assumption. This is not just an unfounded allegation I am making, because earlier in the article, he said, "Because the Bible is inerrant, we can be very certain that both versions of Jairus's meeting with Jesus as recorded in Mark and Matthew are historically accurate." At the beginning of the article, he said, "We who believe that the Bible is inerrant claim that it provides us with an accurate record of historical events. Consequently, when we read about Jairus in the book of Matthew, we claim that what we read is an accurate or inerrant record of those events. When we read further about Jairus in Mark or Luke, we know that we have additional accurate records of the events surrounding Jairus's meeting with Jesus." So when we understand that, from the beginning to the end of his article, Mr. Hutchinson was arguing from the assumption that the Bible is inerrant, we can also understand that he resorted to a very familiar logical fallacy that inerrantists use to prove their case, i.e., circular reasoning. The following scenario illustrates the way he is trying to prove the inerrancy of the Jairus accounts:
As ridiculous as this scenario may seem to some readers, it will not appear ridiculous to those who have seen the hundreds of postings that Mr. Hutchinson has made on the internet. He openly admits that he argues from the assumption that the Bible is inerrant and that this entitles him to speculate in order to resolve biblical discrepancies.
For reasons no inerrantist has ever explained, Hutchinson assumes that an assumption of biblical inerrancy entitles the inerrantist to resolve discrepancies by simply postulating how-it-could-have-been scenarios. I first encountered this inerrantist tactic as a ministerial student in 1952 when a Bible professor pointed out a scripture that seemed to contradict a passage the class had been assigned to read for that day. After identifying the problem, the professor dazzled the class by presenting a how-it-could-have been explanation, after which he told us always to remember that whenever "apparent" inconsistencies are presented to us, as long as we can show a possible interpretation of one of the passages that would resolve the inconsistency, then we have eliminated the skeptic's right to claim errancy in the Bible.
I was impressed with the professor's demonstration that day, but having long since passed the stage of impressionable student preacher, I can now see all kinds of problems in this method of resolving biblical discrepancies. First of all, it really proves nothing except that an imaginative person can always think of some kind of what-it-could-have-meant interpretation to "explain" away inconsistency. What those who use this method stubbornly fail to see--or perhaps I should say refuse to admit, because I really think they do see it--is that in any situation, biblical or nonbiblical, a "possible" explanation is merely a hypothesis that doesn't prove anything unless there is reasonable evidence to establish that it is probably true.
We can use any unsolved mystery to illustrate this. One of the great mysteries of this century was the disappearance of the American aviatrix Amelia Earhart during a flight around the world in 1937. Various "solutions" to the mystery have been proposed, all of which fall within the realm of possibility, but none has ever been proven. Hence, Earhart's disappearance remains a mystery till this day. If John Jones should fail to return home from a hunting trip and never be seen again, one could propose several "possible" explanations for his disappearance: (1) he was murdered and his body disposed of in a place where it was never found, (2) he encountered a bear in the woods who killed him and completely devoured his body, (3) he drowned while crossing a river in the woods, and his body became permanently snagged on something under the water, (4) he was kidnapped in the woods and was taken to a place where he is still being held captive, or (5) he was unhappy with his home life, so he simply ran away and assumed a new identity. Any of these "solutions" to the mystery of Jones's disappearance are clearly possible, and others could also be proposed. However, none of them would constitute real solutions to the mystery until some kind of evidence is uncovered to support one of the hypotheses.
So it is with Mr. Hutchinson's solutions to inconsistencies in the gospel accounts of the raising of Jairus's daughter. In his article, Hutchinson has merely proposed how-it- could-have-been explanations, none of which is as likely as the probability that different writers telling the same story told it in such a way that inconsistencies and contradictions result when the three versions are compared. We all know that when different people tell the same story, no two accounts are exactly alike, and this fact is so well known that there is really no need for me to waste space discussing how likely it is that three different accounts of a narrated event would contain inconsistent variations.
Were it not for Hutchinson's irrational belief that an omniscient, omnipotent deity *verbally* inspired all three synoptic gospels, he would feel no compulsion at all to propose unverifiable postulations that would reconcile all three versions of the Jairus story. He would simply recognize that the variations in the accounts are consistent with what we encounter all of the time: different writers recording the same events get some of the details wrong, and so inconsistencies result.
Hutchinson can't make this concession without doing serious damage to his belief that the Bible is the verbally inspired, inerrant "Word of God," so he has to do the same thing that we said of Marion Fox's attempt to reconcile Deuteronomy 23:2 with other biblical passages: he must lean over backwards to look for some way out of a sticky situation.
In doing so, just look at the predicament that Hutchinson has gotten himself into. He has agreed with my claim that whatever a person *says* is what he *says,* and so if Mark reported that Jairus said one thing and Matthew reported he said something different, then Jairus had to have said both statements word for word in order for the Bible to be inerrant. Does he have any idea how many far-fetched scenarios he will have to invent in order to harmonize the many parallel texts in the Bible that report dialogues? For example, in Matthew's account of the temptation of Jesus, the devil said to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, command *these stones* to become bread" (4:3), but according to Luke, the devil said, "If you are the Son of God, command *this stone* to become a *loaf* of bread" (4:3). So which statement did the devil make? Did he challenge Jesus to turn STONES (plural) into bread, or did he challenge him to turn A stone (just one) into a LOAF of bread? Well, Hutchinson has taken a position that requires him to say that the devil made both statements, so he must concoct some scenario that would have the devil making both statements. An examination of both parallel passages will show that in the other two temptations there are variations in what either Jesus or the devil said in their conversations, so this will require Hutchinson to postulate a temptation scenario that would have the devil and Jesus saying essentially the same thing twice but in different words each time. Who can believe such nonsense?
The temptation scene is just one example of dozens of parallel accounts that I could cite that would require Hutchinson to dream up scenarios that have various biblical characters hemming and hawing and saying twice (in different words each time) what the parallel accounts attribute to them in recorded conversations. This is such a preposterous solution to the problem of variations in the allegedly inspired accounts of conversations recorded in the Bible that it doesn't even deserve serious consideration.
It is far more reasonable to believe that such parallel accounts were written by uninspired writers who had only oral traditions to rely on, and so quite naturally their accounts of what was said and what happened varied from writer to writer. The variations, however, are clear proof that the writers were not verbally inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity, because, as I noted in my original article about Jairus's daughter, an omniscient, omnipotent deity would have known exactly what words were spoken in a conversation and would have guided the men writing under his influence to use those exact words. This is a problem that inerrantists cannot explain away, no matter how much they talk about God's allowing his inspired writers to inject their own personalities into their writing. What was said was what was said, and no personality differences in Mark and Matthew would justify having one of them say that Jairus said, "My little daughter is at the point of death," and the other one say that he said, "My daughter has just died." Inerrancy would have required both of them to say exactly what Jairus said.
Hutchinson has proposed some how-it-could-have-been scenarios, but as the front- page article of this issue has pointed out, such scenarios prove nothing at all until the inerrantists produce some kind of tangible evidence to show that their scenarios are what probably happened. The fact that the scenario is in the realm of possibility does not prove anything. If it is more likely that fallible humans were imprecise in their language or mistaken in their understanding of what happened or what was said, that would be a more reasonable explanation for the many variations in the various parallel accounts in the Bible, so skeptics have no obligation to prove that Hutchinson's hypothetical scenarios did NOT happen; he must prove that they DID happen. Until he does, the inerrancy doctrine is in serious trouble.
Only one other observation needs to be made about Hutchinson's how-it-could- have-been scenarios. If all of the fanciful scenarios that inerrantists have proposed as solutions to biblical discrepancies really happened, why didn't the omniscient, omnipotent Holy Spirit just direct his verbally inspired writers to so record the stories? Their method of resolving Bible discrepancies reduces God to the level of an inept simpleton who didn't have the intelligence that the Roger Hutchinsons of the world claim to have. Roger Hutchinson, John Haley, Norman Geisler, Gleason Archer, William Arndt, and such like are able to relate Bible events in a way that eliminates inconsistencies, but somehow an omniscient, omnipotent deity just didn't seem to have the talent to do that.
In the matter of Jairus's conversation, Hutchinson said, "All
know is that Jairus approached Jesus seeking to persuade Jesus to heal
and, in the
course of that initial meeting, made two statements *that God wanted
recorded in the
Bible*" (p. 4, emphasis added). Okay, will Mr. Hutchinson please answer
question for us? When Mark was writing his account, what circumstances
made God want Mark to record only one of the statements, and when
Matthew was writing his account, what circumstances existed that made
Matthew to record
only the other statement? If God really wanted both statements
made by Jairus
to be recorded in the Bible, why didn't he just direct Matthew, Mark,
and Luke (all three) to record both statements? Better yet, why didn't
God look for
three people with Roger Hutchinson's ability to be his inspired writers
this story could have been recorded in such a way that no confusion
resulted? Still even
better, why didn't God just find *one* Roger Hutchinson of that
generation to write just
*one* gospel account that would have included EVERYTHING "that God
recorded in the Bible"? If the job had been done right the first time,
there would have
been no need for a second or third or fourth try at telling the world
story of God's
only begotten son. Would Mr. Hutchinson or someone please tell us why
wasn't done that way?