It is one thing to hurl insults at ideas embarrassing to one's personal beliefs; it is another to refute the ideas with logical arguments. I read Fishbeck's "rebuttal" of Ed Babinski's article and found it weak as water. He suggested four possible explanations he is "willing to believe" about the problem of these mysterious, unnamed saints who were resurrected from their tombs at the moment Jesus died on the cross: (1) Matthew was accurate, (2) Matthew was accurately reporting the occurrence of false testimony of others without knowing it was false, (3) the original gospel of Matthew asserted at least one error, or (4) a change was made to one of the earliest copies of the gospel of Matthew (The Bible Answers, Nov. 1991, p. 4).
The first of these explanations is no explanation at all, because the whole thrust of Babinski's article was that such an event as this would have been so extraordinary that news of it would surely have reached contemporary historians and thus been passed down to us in secular records or, if not that, the other gospel writers would have considered the event to be such convincing evidence of the divinity of Jesus that they too would have included it in their accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection. To say, then, that a possible explanation of this problem is that Matthew was accurate explains absolutely nothing. The mystery of the exclusion of this stupendous miracle from the other gospels still begs for a sensible explanation.
Fishbeck's second and third explanations are even worse solutions, because they totally destroy the Bible inerrancy doctrine. How could Matthew have been inerrantly guided in what he was writing if he reported as truth "the occurrence of false testimony of others"? That he may have unknowingly done this is beside the point, because the whole purpose of divine inspiration would have been to protect the inspired writers from error. So if Matthew were in fact verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit in what he wrote, he wouldn't have made mistakes unknowingly. Furthermore, this Matthew was presumably one of the apostles who were present in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, so if such an event as this really happened, wouldn't he have had personal knowledge of it? Unless he was incredibly dense, he couldn't possibly have been duped by false testimony about a miracle that he would have known from his own personal experience had not happened. Also, if "the original gospel of Matthew asserted at least one error," as Fishbeck said he was "willing to believe," then the gospel of Matthew was not inerrant, and if the gospel of Matthew was not inerrant, how can we believe that any of the gospels and other allegedly inspired books were inerrant? Fishbeck, who has often bent over backwards in his newsletter to defend the Bible against error, seemed not to be thinking too clearly when he offered the possibility of an error as a defense of inerrancy.
His fourth and final explanation was almost as damaging, for if "a change was made to one of the earliest copies of the gospel of Matthew," that would merely underscore a problem sensible Bible readers have long recognized: the original autographs of the Bible have been so corrupted by redactions and copyist errors that no rational-thinking person can have an iota of confidence in the integrity of the present text. God verbally inspired the original manuscripts of the Bible, we are told, but then left the transmission of them to error-prone scribes and translators. That makes about as much sense as belief in astrology and crystal balls.
In a letter to Fishbeck, Ed Babinski pointed out an interesting bit of information that was not included in his original article or in a written exchange on the same subject that he had earlier made with Gary Habermas of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University: "Both Mark and Luke contain in sequence the passages which immediately precede and follow the Matthean 'raising of the many'" (personal correspondence, April 17, 1992). Perhaps the best way to emphasize the force of Babinski's point would be to juxtapose Matthew's account with Mark's:
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"If one would just omit the underlined part, for all intents and purposes, he would have Mark's version of the same events, but to make this point as emphatic as possible, I will show the entire parallel passage from Mark:
Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This man is calling for Elijah!" Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.
The others said, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him."
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit.
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of their graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake, and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!"
And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons (Matt. 27:45-56, NKJV).
Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"I could have started the quotations several verses earlier and extended them several more, and the results would have been the same. The two accounts are alike detail for detail, except for Matthew's statement about the earthquake that opened the graves of the resurrected saints.
Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, "Look, He is calling for Elijah!" Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to him to drink, saying, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down."
And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God."
There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when he was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem (Mark 15:33-41, NKJV).
This startling fact requires bibliolaters to believe that the Holy Spirit in his omniscient wisdom guided Mark to record such trivial details as the casting of lots for Jesus's garments (mentioned earlier in both accounts) and the offering of sour wine (vinegar) to Jesus, just as Matthew reported, but for some reason chose not to have Mark tell about the resurrection of many saints who later went into the holy city and appeared to many! Only the gullibly naive could possibly believe that.
Some inerrantists will no doubt argue that the details just mentioned were far from trivial in that they fulfilled OT prophecies. However, that these alleged prophecy fulfillments were more imaginative than factual can easily be seen by examining the whole contexts of the OT scriptures that they referred to (Ps. 22:18; 69:21). On this issue, Babinski scored another important point in his letter to Fishbeck through several quotations that underscored the absurdity of believing that a miracle of this magnitude would have been omitted not just from the other gospel accounts but also from alleged prophecies of the crucifixion. A particularly significant one was from Christianity's old nemesis Thomas Paine:
Matthew concludes his book by saying that when Jesus expired on the cross, the rocks rent the graves open, and the bodies of many of the saints arose; and Mark says, there was darkness over the land from the sixth hour until the ninth. They produce no prophecy for this; but had these things been facts, they would have been a proper subject for prophecy, because none but an almighty power could have inspired a foreknowledge of them, and afterwards fulfilled them.Bible believers boast that Thomas Paine's best known work, The Age of Reason, has been repeatedly and soundly refuted, but in reality his arguments against belief in divine inspiration of the Bible have never been satisfactorily rebutted. In 1776, he wrote a political tract that he entitled Common Sense. Bibliolaters would do well to apply that title to the matters referred to in Paine's pamphlet just quoted. The omniscient Yahweh had his prophets predict such piddling crucifixion events as casting lots for the Messiah's garments and giving him vinegar on a sponge but didn't have the prophets predict an earthquake that would resurrect many dead saints! Who can believe it?
Since then there is no such prophecy, but a pretended prophecy of an old coat ["They parted my garments among them..."], the proper deduction is, there were no such things... (An Examination of the Passages in the New Testament... Called Prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, pam., 1807).
Inerrantists may cry argument from silence as loudly as they wish, but in all that he has said about these resurrected saints, Babinski has addressed some very serious problems in the inerrancy doctrine. They deserve a response, not flippant dismissal.
(Readers wishing to contact Tom Fishbeck about this subject or
newsletter may do so at P. O. Box 105, Pasadena, MD 21122. Ed
address is 109 Burwood Drive, Simpsonville, SC 29681-8768.)