Thursday, December 30, 2021

What is ‘the Gospel’?

Inadvertently, I stumbled across an interesting question while researching the words "gospel" (or "good news"; in Greek, euaggelion) and "preach the gospel" (or "proclaim good news"; in Greek, euaggelizō). The words do not appear that many times in the New Testament and virtually all the time they are used without any description of the content of the word. There is only one passage I know where the content of the word "gospel" is explained:

Now I would remind you, brethren, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

This is the content of the gospel Paul preached and is the only explanation of gospel, of which I am aware, in the earliest texts of the early Christian movement. Nevertheless, it should not be read as the meaning of the word gospel in all early texts. It is specifically Paul's gospel (Rom 16:25; Gal 1:11). It was not the only gospel being preached in the earliest period, as Paul makes quite clear (Gal 1:6-9; 2 Cor 11:4-6, 13-14). What should we think about the content of the gospel being preached in the communities represented by the Deutero-Pauline Epistles (Ephesians, Colossians), the Pastoral Letters (1, 2 Timothy, and Titus), and the rest of the New Testament?

Paul's gospel is mythical in content, meaning at the very least it deals with stories about Gods and supernatural persons.* In Paul's description above the only historical event that can be verified is that Jesus died. Another item (that he was buried) could have been verified had one been present at the time. The rest of the statement evokes a kind of "salvation history" (Heilsgeschichte), which some theologians postulate as "an account of God's saving acts in human history"; these acts of God, however, can only be seen through the eyes of faith; they are not verifiable as historical events.

In the rest of the New Testament and certain later texts one finds hints that others are quite likely preaching a gospel different from what Paul preached. For example, Mark 1:14 has Jesus preaching the gospel of God and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (1:15; 1 Clem 14:23). If this latter statement is the content of what Jesus preached, the founder of what later became the Christian movement preached a gospel different from what Paul preached. Luke describes Paul preaching a gospel about the grace of God, something that Paul did not mentioned as part of his gospel (1 Cor 15:1-5). The writer in Colossians preaches a gospel about hope (1:5-6; 1:23), something else that Paul does not mention in 1 Cor 15:1-5. The gospel preached by the author of the Didache contained specific instructions about ethical behavior, prayers, and almsgiving, which Paul does not include in his explanation of the content of the gospel in 1 Cor 5:1-5. One cannot assume that Paul's statement of the content of what was being preached is what all writers of the New Testament would affirm.

What do you consider "good news"? Personally, I like to think of the gospel as the life-changing grace of a benevolent God, who gives freely to all (Matt 5:45). Such a gospel is what brings hope in the face of the absolute certainty of death.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

*Myth as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary is "a purely fictitious narrative usually involving supernatural persons, actions, or events, and embodying some popular ideas concerning natural or historical phenomena. It is properly distinguished from allegory and legend, which imply a nucleus of fact."

Thursday, December 16, 2021

God according to Mark

Mark's paper character, Jesus, has very little to say about the nature of God. He does, however, have a great deal to say about God's reign,1 not all of it consistent or clear. In the early first century in the lifetime of Jesus, God's reign is imminent (1:14). When it emerges, it will come with power (9:1). God's reign is a mystery, a secret, which Jesus claims has been given to his disciples (4:11), but is accessible to all others only in his oblique or obscure stories (παραβολē, 4:11, 26, 30), which he tells to keep people from understanding the mystery of God's reign (4:12). God's reign can be entered into only by deliberate and aggressive action (9:47), but the wealthy will find it difficult to enter (10:23-25). God's reign is characterized by children and all who want to enter, must accept it like a child (10:14-15). Three things will bring one close to God's reign (12:34): accepting that God is one, loving God with your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbor like you love yourself (12:28-33). Near the end of his life, Jesus swears off wine till he can drink it anew within God's reign (14:25). Hence God's reign had not been realized at the end of the gospel narrative.

            Jesus mentions a few attributes of God. God has power and hence can do all things (12:24; 10:27). Although God is the creator of all (13:19; 10:6-8), yet God has a house (2:26), an odd contrast in perspective. According to Jesus, in two strange sayings God numbers the patriarchs of the Israelite people, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among his devotees (12:26). In the second odd saying Jesus claims that the living rather than the dead are the devotees of God (12:27). I think of these as "accidental" qualities, rather than "inherent" qualities. They do not describe the nature of God.

            There are certain things in life that fall specifically under God's purview (12:17), although they are unnamed in the saying. At a minimum, God expects that his commandments will be obeyed (7:8-9, 13; 3:35; 10:9). God expects faith (11:22) and loyalty (8:33).

            There are only two Jesus sayings in Mark that describe God's inherent nature. Jesus, quoting the Hebrew Bible in the words of the Shema (Deut 6:4) says: "The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (12:30). Jesus does not clarify the statement further. The second saying describing God's nature is "God alone is Good" (10:18). This inherent quality of God is mentioned several times in Hebrew Bible (Pss 25:8, 100:5, 135:3, 136:1, Nah 1:7; Jer 33:11).

            These scattered observations about God by Mark's paper character, Jesus, are neither comprehensive nor philosophically cogent. There are other comments about God in Mark, expressed by demons (1:24), unclean spirits (3:11), a demonized man (5:7), the scribes (2:7), the Pharisees (12:14), a Roman centurion (15:39), Joseph of Arimathea (15:43), and by the author of the gospel (1:14; 2:12), who momentarily lays aside the author's cloak of invisibility to comment in his own voice, but these statements do not help clarify God's character further.

            To sum up: Mark doesn't clarify God's inherent nature to any great extent for his readers. One might also say the same is true for the Bible as a whole. For example, in Hebrew Bible God is described as both Righteous (Neh 9:8; Pss 7:9, 11:7, 116:5, 119:137, 129:4) and Good (for the passages see above). These two words are not necessarily compatible with one another, however, as Romans 5:7 makes clear:

Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will even dare to die. (RSV)

Paul's statement clearly favors the inherent qualities of the good man, although one might even make a case that for all the attributions of righteousness and goodness ascribed to him, God nevertheless has a mean streak.2 From my perspective, however, God could do with a little less Righteousness and more Goodness.

To judge from the history of religions, apparently the inherent nature of God is like beauty; it lies in the mind of the beholder and it is something we are taught rather than experience. In short, people invent the character of their Gods. If that be so, why shouldn't I think that God should be characterized more by Goodness than Righteousness?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1The word translated as "reign" (baseila) does not describe a political space or a geographical region; it describes an area of influence in human life.

2Hedrick, "A Conundrum: Two Incompatible Propositions." Wry Thoughts about Religion, Monday, April 27, 2021:

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Public Image and a Triune Deity

Why did Orthodox churches in the fourth century invent a dogma specifying the character of a triune Deity (one god existing in three coequal, coeternal, consubstantial persons)? The decision was occasioned by several historical currents in the first four centuries of the common era. Long before Jesus was born, the ancient Greeks had bestowed divine honors on kings and great men whose careers were thought to have been unusually outstanding. They thought that these human beings had a divine origin; that is, they were born as a result of a union between a God and a human being, which explained their unusual abilities. As a result, such people were honored or worshipped at various centers in the ancient Greek world. They were not Gods in the sense of the twelve traditional Gods of the Greco-Roman world; they were simply a special class of men given divine honors. Most likely the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke were read this way outside Christian circles in the ancient world of their time. When the “good news” about Jesus moved out of the Israelite culture of Judea into the broader Greco-Roman world, it encountered the competition of healing gods, hero cults, and divine emperors. Jesus needed to acquire similar credentials in order to be successful in such a world.1

            The idea of a Trinity emerges in the context of the historical process that gradually bestows divine honors on Jesus by his Gentile followers in the Greco-Roman world. It is the divinizing of Jesus that eventually forces the dogma of the Trinity as a solution to the problem of three divine figures: God the Father, Jesus Christ (Son of God), and the Holy Spirit. At least eight types are hinted at in this process. Details of the process have long since been washed out by time and lack of sources, but its broad outlines remain.

  1. Jesus was a human being (Mark 10:17-18; a saying that has Jesus deny that he is God).2
  2. Jesus was not divine but a human being whom God adopted or appointed to his role (Rom 1:3-4; Acts 13:32-33; Ps 2:7).
  3. Jesus was by nature a human being who was inhabited by a divine spirit, “the Christ,” or “the Living Jesus” (Mark 1:10; Apocalypse of Peter 81:15-21).
  4. Jesus was partly divine and partly human, like other sons of God in the Greco-Roman world (Mark 15:39).
  5. Jesus was not a human being at all. He was completely divine and only seemed to be human (what remains of this docetic position is its denial by 1 John 1:1, 4:2).
  6. Jesus was both human and divine, but he did not have two natures; he was at once human-divine (expressed in the early creeds of Orthoxoxy3).
  7. The humanity of Jesus was incidental to his nature (reflected in the creeds of Orthodoxy in that the creeds skip over the public career of Jesus: “Born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary <…> crucified under Pilate and was buried”).
  8. Jesus was, in some way, to be equated with God (John 1:2; 20:28, Ignatius, Ephesians, Salutation, 18:2.; Romans, Salutation, 3:3; Smyrnaeans 1:1).4

Thus, early Orthodoxy found itself in the awkward position of ascribing divinity to three different figures (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and hence was subject to the charge of polytheism; it was a situation similar to that of the multiple Gods in Greco-Roman religions.5 The invention of the dogma of the Trinity provides a defense against this criticism, for Father, Son, Holy Spirit were not viewed as three different figures but, as a trinity, one figure manifesting itself in three different ways.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1I have taken these comments from my article “Is belief in the divinity of Jesus essential to being Christian,” The Fourth R 24.5 (September-October 2011), 15-20, 26. For examples of the divinizing of kings and men of unusual ability, see pages 15-16.

2A suggestion made to me by Dennis Maher.

3Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder, Documents of the Christian Church (3rd ed.; Oxford, University Press, 1999), 25-29; Hedrick, “A Revelation Discourse of Jesus,” Journal of Coptic Studies 7 (2005), 13-15.

4My thanks to Dennis Carpenter for pushing the trajectory into the second century. In many ways the Gospel of John fits the profile of the church in the second century better than the first century.

5Lucian of Samosata, a second century satirist and rhetorician satirizes the excessive number of Gods in the ancient world in The Parliament of the Gods:

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Heresy that became Orthodoxy

I recently heard a Baptist minister claim during a Sunday morning sermon that "Jesus is God!" This claim is heresy, if one judges by the views of the earliest followers of Jesus. Heresy is defined as "dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice." (I have deliberately cited a less ecclesiastical definition.) Prior to the 4th and 5th centuries, there was no "church" in the sense of a larger officially organized religious body. The word translated as "church," ekklēsia, in the New Testament is better rendered as simply a gathering or assembly, as it is properly translated in Acts 19:32, 39, 41.1

            The idea that Jesus is divine is an idea that eventually led to the post-biblical dogma of the Trinity and eventually to the worship of Jesus replacing the worship of Yahweh.2 Jesus is not Yahweh; he is Jesus, the son of Mary. To think of him in any other way robs him of his humanity. At the First Council of Constantinople in 381 the Christological controversies of the preceding centuries were finally resolved for the churches considering themselves orthodox.3 This Council formulated the doctrine of the Trinity, which

defines God as being one god existing in three coequal, coeternal, consubstantial persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit—three distinct persons sharing one essence.4

The difficulty with the dogma is that the New Testament does not reflect such an idea. It is an idea at which the church arrived at the end of a long process of divinizing Jesus. The Gospel of Mark (written around 70 C.E.) maintains a healthy distance between the distinct figures of Jesus and God. Jesus is portrayed as a man of humble Galilean origins: his mother was named Mary (Mark 6:3; Matt 13:55-56; Gal 4:4); he had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3), was a skilled craftsman (Mark 6:3), was baptized by John the baptizer, who preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4; what do you suppose Jesus confessed?); Jesus prays to God (implicitly recognizing God's otherness, Mark 14:32-42); his last words from the cross were "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mark 15:34). This final statement of Jesus in Mark clearly resonates with the absence of God. All this information echoes in my ear as "Jesus is human."

There is, however, reflected in the New Testament the outlines of a process leading toward the idea of a Trinity.5 For example, the names of  "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" are linked together in a baptismal formula (Matt 28:19, Didache 7:1), and a benediction (2 Cor 13:14). In the earliest Gospel, Mark, Jesus is portrayed as the Spirit-filled (Mark 1:9-13) announcer of the nearness of the reign of God (Mark 1:14-15), not his reign. At the end of the first century, on the other hand, the Gospel of John begins with "the Word" being in an intimate relationship with God from the beginning (but does not identify the Word as Jesus): "In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word" (John 1:1-2).6 The shocked utterance of Thomas upon encountering the resurrected Lord is "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28). In this instance Thomas appears to announce the evolving faith of the church. And the high Christological confession of faith in Col 1:15-20 regards Jesus as divine but still short of being God (he is only the image of the invisible God, not God himself, and in him only the fulness of God was pleased to dwell). In Phil 2:5-11 Jesus is only in the form of God but enjoys equality with God. But nowhere is it claimed that Jesus is God.

The advancement of Jesus to the principal Deity is paralleled in Greco-Roman religions. Zeus replaced his father, Cronus, as the king of the Greco-Roman Gods, just as Cronus earlier had replaced his father, Uranus, as the king of the Greco-Roman Gods. Why should anyone in the Greco-Roman period be surprised that Jesus might replace Yahweh in Christian faith. It seems to be how people treat their Gods, or how Gods act between themselves.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1The word ekklēsia does not appear in Mark, Luke, and John and only a few times in Matthew (Matt 7:38; 16:18; 18:17), where it is better rendered "assembly" or "gathering."

2Being divine is not the same thing as being a God in Greco-Roman culture; see Hedrick, "Is belief in the Divinity of Jesus essential to being Christian," The Fourth R 24.5 (September-October 2011), 15-20, 26.



5See Hedrick. "Belief in the Divinity of Jesus."

6Ernst Haenchen translates John 1:2 in the following way: "and divine (of the category divinity) was the Word." A Commentary on the Gospel of John (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 108.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Pondering the Inspiration of Scripture*

The Greek word graphē is usually translated by the English words, scripture or writing. By capitalizing the first letter of the word (Scripture) translators intend their readers to understand the word Scripture to be referring to Sacred Writings. According to the lexicons graphē is used exclusively so in the New Testament, regardless of whether, or not, the first letter is capitalized.

            Sacred Scripture is a writing believed to have been inspired by God, as it is stated in 2 Tm 3:16: "Every Scripture (graphē) is inspired by God (theopneustos)." That is to say, the writing is "God breathed," or infused by God. The ancient Hebrews believed that the prophets were inspired by God (Hos 12:10; 1 Kgs 13:20; 1 Kgs 17:1-2; Ex 12:1-2; Ex 15:1-2; 2 Sam 7:4-5; Neh 9:30; Zech 7:12; Ezek 24:20-21), and linked the prophet's inspiration to writings believed to be written by the prophet (Jer 30:1-2; Jer 36:1-2). Thus, the inspiration of the prophet came to be transferred to the "writings" of the prophet, and in this way the writing also became the Word of the Lord; as they believed the spoken word of the prophet was as well. The early Christians continued this practice of extending inspiration from writers to their writings, as 2 Tim 3:16 clearly shows (cf. 2 Pet 1:20-21).

            Truth be told, however, one can never know if a person is inspired by God and likewise one can never know for certain what inspires an author, even if the author specifies the source of inspiration. One only knows for certain what one is told. And the only way of telling if a text is "inspired" is by the judgment of literary critics on the literary excellence of the writing and/or the number of persons who opined it either inspired or inspiring. In both cases, however, that a writing is inspired by God or by the author is a matter of opinion. There are no objective criteria of a writing by which one can identify, or quantify, inspiration of texts. Inspiration is not a physical feature of a piece of literature like language, handwriting, and stated ideas. In the church, however, people believe the New Testament is inspired simply because they have been taught to think that way. It is a learned response and does not represent a critical judgment upon the inscription or inspiration of the texts.

            If one insists that a given text has been inspired, on what basis can one reasonably eliminate the human author as the actual genius behind the inspiration? Personally, I think that Psalm 23, a thoroughly religious piece, is both an inspired text and an inspiring text. It crosses the lines of most religions and offers strong encouragement for those walking through "the valley of the shadow of death." Another thoroughly secular piece in the New Testament that I consider inspired and inspiring is 1 Cor 13:1-13. God is not even mentioned in these sentences. I also consider the poem "The Road not taken" by Robert Frost to be both inspired and inspiring and it has nothing to do with religion or ethics.

I cannot say with any degree of confidence if it was the genius of God or the unknown human author that inspired these three narratives. It could have been both, I suppose; who can say with any degree of confidence? It is possible that "God" provided a degree of inspirational "spark" to motivate the writer's writing, but the psalm, the essay on love, and the poem were obviously crafted through the natural abilities of the human author. To call any of them "Word of God," however, is a bridge too far. Such a description overlooks the role of the human author in their creation.

What do you think?  

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

*I have written earlier on this subject: see Hedrick, Wry Thoughts about Religion, blog: "Revelation and Meaning," Saturday, August 31, 2013:

"Is the Bible Inspired?" Thursday, December 5, 2019:

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Orphan Sayings and Stories in the New Testament

Certain stories about Jesus and certain sayings of Jesus may be found in your edition of the New Testament but the text critics tell us they do not belong there. Robert Miller has pulled these sayings and stories from the gospels and collected them at the back of his edition of The Complete Gospels.1 One of the more famous of these stories that do not belong in the New Testament is the story of the woman taken in adultery that has traditionally appeared in English language translations at John 7:53-8:11. Here is how the passage is introduced by Miller:

[It is] a story found at various places in the manuscript tradition. In several manuscripts it is found after John 7:52. Many modern editions of the New Testament include it here, assigning it the versification John 7:53-8:11. Another important group of manuscripts include it after Luke 21:38. In the Georgian tradition it was sometimes located after John 7:44, and in another group it is found after John 21:25.2

The story seems to have been unknown in the manuscript tradition before the 5th century (Codex Bezae, which dates 5th or possibly 6th century). To put this date in perspective the reader should understand that the bulk of our extant New Testament manuscripts date from the 3rd century and later. Very few of the extant New Testament manuscripts are dated in the second century and none are dated in the first century.

            Bruce Metzger thinks that John 7:53-8:11“has all the earmarks of historical veracity,” but fails to describe what those “earmarks” are.3 He also adds that the style and vocabulary of 7:53-8:11 “differ noticeably from the rest of the fourth Gospel…and that it interrupts the sequence of 7:52 and 8:12 ff.” He concludes that “the evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming.”4

With respect to the “veracity” of the narrative, there is at least one irregularity that argues against the genuineness of the story. The lady in question had been caught in the act of adultery. Why did the scribes and Pharisees not bring before Jesus the man with whom she was caught? The Torah condemnation of adultery applied equally to both men and women (Exod 20:14; Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22). It seems unlikely to me that the scribes and Pharisees would have failed to bring before Jesus both parties that had violated Torah.

            If one decides that the story is a genuine piece of oral tradition coming from the time of Jesus, what should be done with it? It apparently does not belong in the New Testament since it does not come from the pen of any of the gospel writers. Miller’s solution describing it as an orphan story and listing it at the back of his book with other such material seems to concede that point. There is no common practice for treating this passage by English translators. Generally, it is translated following John 7:52, as though it belonged there. Some translators, however, do indicate that the location is spurious by a note at the bottom of the page and/or by marking it with brackets or parentheses. At least one (The American Bible. An American Translation, translated by the New Testament scholar Edgar J. Goodspeed) simply eliminates the story with no explanation.

            There is another problem this passage presents to a church group that treats the Bible as divinely inspired literature. If it was not written by any of the writers of the New Testament, why should it be considered inspired by God? The theory that the New Testament texts are themselves inspired derives, I assume, from the idea that God inspired its writers and, therefore, the products of their literary labors must also be considered divinely inspired. John 7:53-8:11, however, at this stage of scholarship must be considered an orphan text, since it has not been identified as the brainchild of any New Testament writer.

What is your take, as a reader of the New Testament, on the story of the woman taken in adultery?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Robert J. Miller, ed., The Complete Gospels. The Scholars Version (Salem OR: Polebridge Press, 2010), 457-62.

2Miller, Complete Gospels, 460. Old Georgian was the literary language of the Georgian monarchies known from the 5th century in the region of the Causasus.

3Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd ed.; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2000), 187-89 (188).

4Metzger, Commentary, 187.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Faith and Superstition

In common vernacular superstition is a negative word. It evokes images of voodoo, magic objects, and fetishes. In a milder form in the modern world it might relate to things people carry for luck, such as a rabbit’s foot, or things they wear for protection, such as a cross necklace or the evil eye, or holding certain beliefs about the nature of the universe. Faith, on the other hand, is a positive word, and evokes such acceptable images in a democratic society as family worship in a synagogue, or men praying prostrate in a mosque, or people in pews praying and singing hymns together in a church sanctuary. Nevertheless, the definitions of the words reveal that, as concepts, faith and superstition are similar ways of thinking. Here are the Google definitions for religious faith and superstition. Religious faith is: “A strong belief in God or in the doctrines of religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”1 Superstition is defined as: “An excessive credulous belief in and reverence for supernatural beings.”2 God, Allah, and Yahweh, as generally conceived by religious people, are all supernatural “beings.” Why should not Christian, Muslim, and Jewish beliefs in supernatural “beings” also be regarded as superstition? Many, if not most, people in these three religious groups also share a belief in supernatural spirits. Why should not such beliefs also be labeled superstition?

            I confess that the close similarity between faith and superstition, as revealed by the definitions of the words, has always surprised me and have described their relationship as follows:

Faith and superstition actually seem to function in a similar manner. What I conclude from the shades of meaning accorded the word superstition is that superstition and faith are not two qualitatively different kinds of belief. Rather they reflect a range of similar attitudes best represented by a spectrum [or a continuum] with superstition at one end and religious faith at the other end. They meet somewhere around the middle, depending on who is describing the middle point. In short, what some define as acceptable religious belief, others will define as unacceptable superstition.3

In short, superstition and faith are the same mental exercise. That one is negative and the other positive depends on who is doing the evaluating. In my view, however, they can only be judged good or bad in how they affect believers. In other words, religious faith and superstitious beliefs may only be judged positively or negatively in terms of their ethical effects on believers. Where the behaviors of believers are judged unethical or harmful to themselves or others, their beliefs are best judged as superstition. Where the behaviors of believers are judged to be ethical and beneficial to themselves or others, their beliefs are best judged as faith.

            Google offers a second definition of superstition: “A widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such belief.”4 This definition fits a short episode in Acts 19:11-12:

And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul. So that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them” (RSV).

This episode in the Bible (and others as well; for example Acts 5:15-16) immediately plunge one into the occult world of ancient magic, superstition, and religious fetishes.5 The Bible has many similar accounts fitting the Google definition of superstition; they offer encouragement to contemporary Christian and Jewish believers to think and act superstitiously. The Bible contributes to superstitious beliefs in the modern world because many take it as a handbook for understanding the universe.

How do you define superstition and faith? Where do you draw the line between faith and superstition?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1For the definition of faith, google: “definition of faith.”

2For the definition of superstition, google: “definition of superstition.”

3Hedrick, Unmasking Biblical Faiths (Cascade, 2019), 5. There are various explanations of superstition in Graeco-Roman antiquity, see pages 1-12.

4Google: “definition of superstition.”

5Hedrick, Unmasking, 7-10.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Narrative, History, and the Bible

My title is rather broad and lacks in specificity; hence, I begin with a few definitions. “A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.”1 That is to say, a narrative is not a single event but is constituted by multiple events that are connected; it is a series of connected events. An event is “something that happens.” With respect to the definition of history two definitions are offered as the Google definition of history.2 History is (1) “The study of past events, particularly in human affairs.” (2) “The whole series of past events connected with someone or something.” Thus, by these two definitions history is either the past connected events themselves or the study of past connected events. Essential to the Google definition of history is that events (something that happened) must be connected to other events; a single event is not history. It is rather a single datum that may potentially be history if it can be connected to other past events. Hence, modern historians consider history a narrative. By this definition the event, “Caesar crossed the Rubicon” is apparently not history, since it is only a single event.

On the other hand, I think of history as what happened in the past, connected or not.3 History as the contemporary study of past events is not history unless the study happened in the past. For example, past studies of New Testament criticism I consider history because the studies happened in the past. Hence, by my definition the event in which Caesar crossed the Rubicon is history because it did in fact happen in the past.

          These two Google definitions of history (are they popular; or are they both critical and popular?) seem to regard history as showing connected events as a movement in time, whether progress or decline, as though history, as the aggregate of these events or selected events, was focused toward some ultimate goal. Hence one can identify history’s plot (its plan or main story) and write a narrative of history or of a selected history. If history is a narrative, then historians must justify their connections between events that move history forward or backward.

Let us assume that history is a narrative for the moment. Narratives may also be fictional; that is to say, the narrative may be invented, which raises the question, how does one distinguish between an invented narrative and one that is not? In some cases, it may not be possible to do so. I would test the narrative in this way. (1) Does the narrative have verisimilitude (that is does it have the appearance of being true or real)? (2) Does the narrative adhere to the reality I know (what I mean by being true or real)? (3) Are there surviving artefacts that suggest that the narrative is grounded in events that actually happened, rather than existing only in an author’s mind?

Here are three narratives that we can test with these three criteria: Gone with the Wind (1940) by the Atlanta, Georgia native Margaret Mitchell; The Civil War, A Narrative (1958, 1963, 1974), a three volume work, by the Greenville, Mississippi native Shelby Foote; and “The Death of John the Baptist” (Mark 6:14-29), a first century narrative by an unknown author.

The first narrative, Gone with the Wind, is a work of historical fiction, whose specific characters were invented and whose events never happened. Although the backdrop against which the narrative took place was historical, there are no artefacts to attest to the specific events in the narrative. The second, The Civil War A Narrative, is considered a military history of the Civil War. Foote’s characters lived during the time the events of the War took place and there are myriads of artefacts to attest that the events occurred. Thus, Mitchell’s work is shelved with other historical fiction novels and Foote’s is shelved under history, although Foote himself is a novelist.

The third narrative appears to be a mixture of historical and fictional elements. The named characters in the narrative are historical figures. That the tetrarch, Herod Antipas, killed John the Baptist is confirmed by Josephus (Antiquities 18.5.2; although Herod was not a king). That Herodias, his wife, nursed a grudge against John for criticizing her second marriage to Herod and that Herod had him (reluctantly) killed because Herodias put him in a situation where he (Herod) had to kill John is less likely than is the reason given by Josephus. The Josephus report has Herod killing John because he feared John’s popularity with the populace and thought John might foment a rebellion. Josephus’ report seems more likely to me in this regard. It is dubious that Herod would have promised half his domain to a dancer in the presence of the leading citizens of Galilee. It is also doubtful that the killing of John and the presentation of John’s head to Herodias’ daughter could have taken place so quickly, since the fortress of Machaerus, where John was imprisoned by Josephus’ account, is located in Jordan across the Dead Sea. The Capitol of Herod Antipas’ kingdom from which he governed was Tiberius in Galilee, The distance from Tiberius to Machaerus was more than a day’s journey, so the killing of John and the presentation of his head to Herodias’ daughter could not have happened with the speed suggested by the narrative in Mark.4 No artefacts, as far as I know, attest to this bizarre narrative plot, except the fortress Machaerus. On the whole, the story in Mark is at best historical fiction.5

How does it seem to you?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Google the following: “google definition of narrative.”

2Google the following: “google definition of history.” There are several other definitions; check a dictionary.

3Hedrick, “History, Historical Narrative, and Mark’s Gospel” pp. 137-40 in Unmasking Biblical Faiths (Cascade, 2019). Or an earlier version: Wry Thoughts about Religion:


5See the report of the Jesus Seminar for another analysis: R. W. Funk and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus. What did Jesus Really do? (HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 86-87.

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Fall

A principal teaching of orthodox Christianity is that human beings have the stain of “original sin” within them. “Original sin is the Christian doctrine that humans inherit a tainted nature and proclivity to sin through the fact of birth.”1 The belief that human beings are born with a proclivity to sin is not found in the Bible. It is a belief that began to emerge in the third century and was given its classic statement by Augustin of Hippo and from him it passed into orthodox Christian theology. Even the word “Sin,” as it appears in English is a religious term used by church folk to describe unacceptable behavior in human beings from a religious perspective and has been defined as follows: “In a religious context sin is a transgression against divine law. Each culture has its own interpretation of what it means to commit a sin. While sins are generally considered actions, any thought, word, or act considered immoral, selfish, shameful, harmful, or alienating might be termed sinful.”2 In the secular world the term “sin” is not used to describe unacceptable behavior. In society at large formal deviant, lawbreaker, or criminal would be terms corresponding to the term sin in a religious context, because the unacceptable behavior is a breaking of the laws of the land. We also use other terms to describe the breaking of social mores, such as informal deviance, improper behavior, or social faux pas in a social context. Social mores are different in different social contexts. Only in religious contexts is sin an appropriate word for describing human behavior.

            Christians who believe that human beings have a penchant for committing sin usually trace the origin of this human inclination to commit sin to the second of the two creation myths in the Bible (Gen 2:4b-2:24), and the story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (3:1-24). This account (called the Yahwistic account) focuses on man’s rebellion against God and its outcome. The Priestly account of creation (Gen 1:1-2:4a) focuses on the creation of the heavens and the earth. The rationale that human beings are stained with original sin is a product of how one reads the Bible, and the argument proceeds on the basis of ideas that Christians have about the Bible. It is not an argument made by the writers of the biblical texts themselves.

Here is one way of explaining the rationale that ties original sin to the story about the Garden of Eden and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden:

Since God made man good the tendency to sin which forms part of his inheritance must be traced back to the disobedience of the first couple in paradise, from whom all are descended. Intercourse, conception, and birth rendered individuals unclean in matters of cult [in ancient Israel, Lev 12:1f; 15:16-18], but were not regarded as sinful in themselves or able to produce the tendency to sin. We are all doing penance for the sin of our first parents by suffering and dying, since “through a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all must die [Sirach 25:24]…through the envy of the devil death has come into the world [Wis 2:24]; easily and logically then we arrive at the conclusion that the sin in paradise is imputed to all men as guilt and is the reason why we carry in ourselves the inclination to evil.3

It is clear from Heinisch’s first sentence his entire rationale is based on his belief system that somehow the creation myth is a historical account of how things actually were, rather than “a traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the worldview of a people.”4 It serves the Yahwist as a myth of origins of the ancient Israelite people explaining why it is that men must earn their living by the sweat of their brow tilling the soil (Gen 3:17-20) and women must suffer pain in childbearing and be submissive to their husbands (Gen 3:16). Heinish’s rationale is not mandated by the text in Genesis; that is to say, original sin is not an idea contained in the text. The passages in Genesis do not use either the word sin or the term original sin. The story becomes about original sin in Heinish’s mind.

In the Yahwist’s scheme the story deals with the deeper question of why man and woman, God’s creatures, refuse to acknowledge the sovereignty of their Creator, with the result that history is a tragic story of banishment from the life for which they were intended.5

Human beings are more complex and diverse than is allowed by the belief that they deliberately sin against divine law because it is built into the genome system inherited from the mythical characters Adam and Eve.

None of us are perfect, but some of us are worse than others.

How do you see it?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University sin

3Paul Heinish, Theology of the Old Testament (trans. William G. Heidt; Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1955), 254. References to original sin are not usually found in the subject index to critical Old Testament commentaries.

4Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1990), s.v., myth.

5B. W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament (3rd ed.; Prentice-Hall, 1975), 211.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Do Contradictions in the Bible make any Difference?

Here is the definition of a contradiction: "a situation in which inherent factors, actions, or propositions are inconsistent or contrary to one another." For me this raises the question: Does even one contradiction between biblical texts make any difference as to how one understands the nature of the Bible? Here is one verifiable contradiction between two biblical writers: Paul, the earliest writer of the New Testament (around 50 CE) and the anonymous writer of Second Peter, the latest writer in the New Testament (around 150 CE). In Rom 8:18-25 Paul says that the creation (ktisis) itself "will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (8:21). He continues his thought about creation in 1Cor 7:31: "the world (kosmos) in its present form (schema) is passing away." Second Peter (3:10), on the other hand, announces that "the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth (gē) and the works that are upon it will be burned up." Since the creation (i.e., the entire created order of things) cannot both be a redeemed ktisis and a burned up ktisis, it would appear that these writers contradict one another on the future prospects of creation, as they understood it.1 What difference might this one contradiction make on how one understands the nature of the Bible? Or put another way, what does it mean for the Bible that it contains contradictions? What follows is my attempt to address the significance of even one contradiction in the Bible.

It means that these two authors do not share the same view as to the ultimate end of the creation. It should also be added that the authors of Third Isaiah (65:17) and the Apocalypse (Rev 21:1-4) disagree with Paul and agree with the author of Second Peter that the whole of creation will ultimately be destroyed. The author of Ecclesiastes, however, seems to disagree with the idea that the earth will be changed in any way: "A generation goes and a generation comes but the earth remains forever." (Eccl 1:4).

It means that there is no single biblical view about the ultimate end of the creation and that, in turn, means the Bible ("God's Word" to many people of faith) is not the ultimate authority on everything in life, as I have heard some ministers claim. Three different positions are taken regarding the entirety of creation, one by Paul and another by the anonymous author of Second Peter and others, and a third view by the author of Ecclesiastes. If one position is selected to represent the "biblical view," then the others have been rejected as being invalid explanations.

            It means that the Bible is better viewed historically rather than theologically. Here is a Southern Baptist view of the "Scriptures":

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.2

This statement, however, does not describe the Bible; it is a theological description of what many (not all) Southern Baptists believe about the Bible. Describing the Bible in a neutral way is a complex enterprise. There are just too many variables to be considered. Here is an attempt at a brief description and even this description does not cover all the issues:3

There are three ancient religious collections (Jewish, Catholic, Protestant) that are called the Bible:

These three collections constitute the traditional remains of two different religious communities, which extend from the Israelite Exodus to the writing of 2 Peter. They reveal different social, cultural, ethical, and religious traditions covering around 1200 years. The Jewish Bible is a library of traditional writings of the ancient Israelites containing among other things the history of the Israelite people told from a religious perspective, along with its ancient laws, prophetic literature, hymnbook, wisdom literature, etc., from the 13th century BCE to roughly 400 BCE (second temple period). The Apocrypha consists of additional Jewish religious texts written between 300 BCE to 70 CE. The New Testament (50 CE to early second century) contains among other things stories, personal correspondence and theological essays.4

It means that the texts comprising the biblical collection are not "a perfect treasure of Divine instruction" or that the biblical matter is "without any mixture of error," simply because it contains contradictions, which must be considered errors and inconsistencies. That in turn means that the Bible could not derive from a perfect deity and could not be "God's Word."

The Bible does not belong to the Church and Synagogue but rather its collected texts, before being collected, belonged individually to the historical movement of human civilization. In short, the Bible is a collection of human words about different views of God in antiquity. One contradiction appears to do a great deal of damage to modern pious views about the Bible.

Something to think about.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1For a brief discussion of the fate of the earth, see Hedrick, "Will the Earth Abide," pp. 35-37 in Unmasking Biblical Faiths (Cascade, 2019). The contradiction between Paul and the author of Second Peter is but "the tip of the iceberg." Here is another contradiction of which the reader may be unaware between the Christian Old Testament and the New Testament. How did Moses come by the Torah? In Exodus and Deuteronomy Moses is described as receiving the Torah the first time directly from God (Deut 9:9-10). Moses broke the first set of tablets and was given a second set, again given directly to him by God (Deut 10:1-5). In the New Testament, however, Paul (Gal 3:19; see also Acts 7:38, 53; Heb 2:2) says that the law was "ordained through angels" (RSV). So, did Moses receive the law directly from God, or was it mediated through angels? For a discussion of how Moses came by the Torah, see Hedrick "How did Moses come by the Torah?" pp. 266-68 in Unmasking Biblical Faiths.

2The Baptist Faith and Message Statement, June 14, 2000:

3For a more complete picture of its complexity, See Hedrick, Unmasking Biblical Faiths, 87-97.

4Hedrick, "What about the Bible gives it the Status Word of God," Unmasking Biblical Faiths, 94.

Monday, August 9, 2021

A Religious Experience?

What are religious experiences and whence do they arise? I raise the question because certain observations seem to challenge the adjective “religious” as being produced by spirit forces outside oneself. Here are the first two observations:

If God is spirit (John 4:24), then God is not an entity existing in space and time, as we human beings do. We humans are existents, bound in space and time during our brief lives. God, on the other hand, appears to be nothing more than a concept, an invention of the human imagination, whose nature and character changes with each religious group and/or individual. Hence, it appears that God, however conceived, has no independent being, which exactly corresponds to any of those ideations of the human mind.

The rationale for this surprising statement is self-evident when viewed from the perspective of the history of world religions. Each religion (and there have been a lot of religions through human history) conceives God differently, yet the adherents of this or that religion believe that God is exactly like what they conceive. In short, they believe their view is the only accurate and true view that captures the essence of God. But, alas, different understandings of God do exist in other religions and the adherents of these other religions likewise think that their understanding of God is exactly how God is.1

Here is the third observation:

Spirit may still be “tangible,” however; depending on how it is conceived. If spirit is conceived as an entity that takes up space, like visible steam from a tea kettle, or the nearly invisible vapor arising from a heated substance, or the taste left in the rum cake when the “spirits” have evaporated, then it is tangible. If spirit is not left-over taste, or vaporous mist—or something barely visible to the naked eye; that is, if spirit does not leave an image on the retina of the eye, what is it?

I would suppose that God, as intangible spirit, is likely a denizen of a parallel spirit(ual) universe, a complex that does not occupy space and time. In this case, God is not part of the physical universe, but “over there” in the spirit(ual) universe, along with other invisible spirits (good, evil, and unclean), demons, devils, Satan, and other spiritual forces, such as angels, the Prince of the Power of the Air (Eph 2:2), the Principalities and Powers in heavenly places (Eph 3:10), the world rulers of the present darkness (Eph 6:12), the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph 6:12), angels, principalities, powers (Romans 8:38), etc.,2 and including the myriads of other spirits humankind has invented through time.

I boil these three lengthy observations down into three propositions: (1) God, if God there be, does not occupy space and time and (2) is not part of our universe; (3) our human inability to access God directly renders any description of God completely subjective and idiosyncratic.

If these propositions have any merit, then what we think of as a “religious” experience is simply a human response to a perceived “attraction” from a putative spirit world,3 and the “substance” of our religious experiences is all of our own making; it arises from within an individual and is formed by human experience; that is, it derives from what we have been taught by others, from our personal reading, from social conditioning, and the like. In other words, we humans create at a subliminal level “religious” experiences for ourselves out of our personal experiences.

William James, in his Varieties of Religious Experience. A Study in Human Nature, examines religious experiences by beginning with individuals who claim to have had such experiences. He examines “the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”4 For an experience to qualify as religious, James cites three criteria: it must reflect religious luminousness, philosophical reasonableness, and moral helpfulness. He finds that the essence of religion is human feeling “characterized as a zest for life” coupled with a sense that there is something wrong with us that requires a solution whereby we can be saved from wrongness by connecting with higher power. There are two types of religious psyches: the healthy minded who are unburdened by a sense of sin, and the sick souls who are burdened with a sense of sin. Conversion occurs for the latter person, whereby the divided and unhappy self becomes unified and happy. James has been criticized for relying too closely on liberal-Protestant sources and citing insufficient non-Christian anecdotes. This brief statement of the analysis of religious experience sounds very similar to what I stated in the preceding paragraph.

I realize that many will object that I have gone off the deep end by claiming that spirits, Holy or otherwise, are not found in our universe. Spirits, however, like God, can only be analyzed indirectly through the anecdotal claims of human beings who claim to have experienced them. Our inability to examine spirits directly renders any attempt to describe them completely subjective and idiosyncratic. In short, the evidence for spirits, Holy or otherwise, derives from the psychological makeup of the human beings who claim to have experienced them.

Something to think about!

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Hedrick, “God Does not Exist” pp. 168-70 in Unmasking Biblical Faiths, 168.

2Hedrick, “From Where does a Sense of the Divine Come,” pp. 170-72 in Unmasking, 170.

3Hedrick, Matter and Spirit: Making Sense of it All,” pp. 174-177 in Unmasking, 176-77.

4Varieties of Religious Experience. A Study in Human Nature (New York: Longmans, Green and company, 1905). I am following a review of the book by Tim Knepper:

Friday, July 23, 2021

Paul and the Practice of Laying on of Hands

In the undisputed letters1 Paul does not use the expression "Laying hands on…" In fact, he does not even use the word "laying on" (epitithēmi). It is doubtful that he even shared Luke's view of the Holy Spirit: that the Holy Spirit was a gift that could be passed on by the laying on of  hands and that resulted in "signs and wonders by the hands of the apostles" (Acts 5:12). I assume that in Acts these signs and wonders would be considered dramatic displays of divine power, such as, for example, the wonder-working hands of spirit filled apostles (Acts 28:8-9), the appearance of tongues as of fire and speaking in other tongues (Acts 2:3-4), sudden death to those who "agree together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord" (Acts 5:9-10), the healing of the sick and demon-possessed people by Peter's shadow (Acts 5:12-16), and the like.

            In the undisputed letters Paul seems to associate the presence of God's spirit/Holy Spirit within one as initiating with faith in Jesus (1 Cor 3:16; Rom 8;9-11). One receives the Spirit by hearing with faith (Gal 3:2-5). In fact, no one can say "Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). There is no human intermediary through whom God's spirit comes; rather the spirit comes from God (1 Thess 4:8; 2 Cor 1:22). "Things from God are freely given" (1 Cor 2:12; Rom 3:24). Paul does write about "spiritual gifts" but speaks of these gifts as given by God through, and inspired by, the spirit (1 Cor 12:4-26). "You are Christ's body," Paul writes, and God "appoints" functionaries for the gatherings of the body (1 Cor 12:27-31).

God as spirit is described by Paul in various ways: "the spirit" and "his spirit" (Rom 8:11), "the spirit of God" (Rom 8:9), "the spirit of holiness" (Rom 1:4), "the spirit of the living God" (2 Cor 3:3), "his holy spirit" (1 Thess 4:8), the "holy spirit" (Rom 5:5).  Spirit and holy spirit are used interchangeably in 1 Cor 12:3. He even uses the expression "spirit of Christ" interchangeably with the "spirit of God" (Rom 8:9-11; Gal 4:6-7).2

How then should one explain 2 Cor 12:12 and Romans 15:18-19? (which sound very Lucan and in the spirit of Luke/Acts)? Paul writes to the Corinthians: "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works." How might Paul have understood this kind of language (1 Cor 4:20), when he gives the reader no examples of such dramatic displays of divine power as are found in Acts?

            One possibility is that he uses these power expressions to describe his personal interactions with people and to enhance the power of God's spirit in human relationships.

When I came to you brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor 2:1-5).

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor 10:3-5).

In other words, Paul is claiming that whatever successes he may have had in advancing the gospel enterprise is due to the power of God's spirit working in and through him, in spite of his many weaknesses (1 Cor 4:8-21; 2 Cor 13:3-4). He did not correct his critics, the "superlative apostles" (2 Cor 11:5), when they claimed that his "bodily presence is weak and his speech of no account" (2 Cor 10:9-11), and he admitted that he was unskilled in public speaking (2 Cor 11:6). The only thing he could brag about were his many weaknesses (2 Cor 11:16-33; 12:6-10). His claim is that the power of God works through him, so that when he is weak, then he is strong (2 Cor 12:7-10). What he preaches comes not only in word but also "in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction" (1 Thess 1:5; 2 Rom 15:18-21), so that through the power of God's holy Spirit, the Corinthians may abound in hope (Rom 15:13). The signs of a true apostle are the building up of the gathering of saints, the tearing down of every stronghold blocking the Gospel of Christ, and his strong successes among the Gentiles, and the like.

            One overlap with displays of spiritual power as found in Acts is speaking in tongues (1 Cor 14:1-40; Acts 2:1-13), which is described by Paul as "uttering mysteries in the spirit."3 Speaking in tongues is a personal experience. The one who speaks in tongues "edifies himself" (1 Cor 14:4), but prophecy "edifies the church" (1 Cor 14:4). Paul claims that he "speaks in tongues" more than the rest of the Corinthians (1 Cor 14:18), which for Paul seems to be a kind of personal prayer language that only benefits the one praying (1 Cor 14:14). He considers the gift of tongues a lesser gift because it requires an interpreter (1 Cor 14:27-28). In church, Paul would rather speak five words of prophecy than 10,000 words in a tongue (1 Cor 14:19), because of the obvious benefits of prophecy to the church (1 Cor 14:2-254). In this section it appears that Paul is attempting to lessen the high value that the Corinthians presumably place on speaking in tongues and to advance the value of prophecy for the church.

Paul's critics, whom he snidely called "superlative apostles," were in Paul's view false apostles, deceitful workmen (2 Cor 11:13-15), and peddlers of God's word (2:17). They accused him, among other things, of "not being an apostle at all, for his ministry among the Corinthians had not been marked by signs and wonders and mighty works (12:1-12)."4 Paul, however, insisted that that he was an apostle and had performed the signs of a true apostle among the Corinthians (2 Cor 12:11-12) in the sense that I have argued above, but specifically not in the sense that Luke portrayed in Acts.

Should it matter to readers of the New Testament that Luke and Paul do not agree on the character of God's holy spirit?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 Thessalonians.

2Hedrick, "Is the Holy Spirit part of a Trinity," pp. 177-179 in Unmasking Biblical Faiths (Cascade, 2019), 177.

3Tongues in Acts are different from tongues in 1 Corinthians. In Acts the "gift" of tongues seems to be that the speaker speaks in his native language while others hear in their own native languages. It is not as in Paul a personal prayer language.

4S. M. Gilmour, "Corinthians, Second Letter to The," pp. 692-98 in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon, 1962), 696.