Monday, 11 May 2015

What means what? Key notions defined series: 1. Contradictions

I am one satisfied blogger right now :)

Not because of the blog going especially well, but because the main research I am doing finally hit a big milestone this weekend - I have completed my main review of the New Testament (and some Old Testament) texts, cataloguing 463 NT passages. To "celebrate" that milestone, I want to publish a part of the paper that helps me in the processing and weighing of these texts, which is currently entitled Chapter 2: Key Notions Defined. It also is an opportunity for me to tidy up these definitions.

I will publish one every two days for the next month, in alphabetical order. Here is the first one.


Contradiction concerns two opposing and incompatible statements or ideas (see Logic), whereby both cannot be true. I do not believe in full biblical contradictions on significant issues, nor do I believe on contradictions on the micro-level within the same author and text. That leaves some wriggle room on a medium level, although some (conservative streams) will try very hard indeed to eliminate the slightest whiff of any kind of inconsistency whatsoever. This is rooted in an implicit assumption that every Greek and Hebrew word  must be utterly faultless. So when confronted with issues like how many angels were at the tomb after the resurrection – I feel little concern. But more significantly, is there contradiction between James and Paul on what faith looks like? There is disagreement on emphasis, yes (again, see “Logic”, below). But here we do not need to consider ourselves locked into a contradiction. That is an example of a significant issue.

For an example of no micro-level contradictions within the same author and text:

Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, ‘Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.’ (John 7:28)
Then they asked him, ‘Where is your father?’ ‘You do not know me or my Father,’ Jesus replied. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ (John 8:19)

Neither Jesus nor the author have time between these passages to change their point of view. We can therefore assume that unless insane, John is not writing something that fundamentally contradicts itself. Conclusion: Jesus came from Nazareth in the geographical sense (the “where” part, which was and is key to knowing someone) but they do not know the One from whom Jesus has come in the spiritual sense (a key part of “who” since the Father is “in” Jesus). Contradiction does not seem to be an issue here.

If the doctrine of the Trinity is to stand biblically as essential interpretation, according to these requirements of non-contradiction, then it must not contradict the Scriptures on micro or macro levels.

[1] There is also a King James fundamentalist group that believes that this English translation is the ultimate word of God.

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