Edgar Jones, voiceofjesus -- a critique

A reader asked us to have a look at a site called voiceofjesus.org, run by Edgar Jones, who claims to have changed his thoughts due to a "problem" of discontinuity between Jesus and Paul.

I say "problem" in quotes because it isn't one. We have several items in under our entry on Paul (see Encyclopedia page P) showing just where these anti-Pauline polemics go wrong, and Jones' list is a match in many ways. His site offers little that is new, and his work is uninformed by relevant scholarship (which is odd, as he professes to have once been a pastor and gone to seminary). Rather, he depends on off-the-mainstream writers like Hyam Maccoby and A. N. Wilson, and outdated seminary textbooks from as far back as 1914.

On the other hand, he cites Wenham's book on Jesus and Paul once, one paragraph, and does not seem to address Wenham's work at all, merely dismissing him as "partisan". That is the sum of his conferral with opposing scholarship.

Jones also hints that Luke is unreliably biased towards Paul, and hints that 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter's praise of Paul, is an interpolation. This is merely a way of explaining way the data in the form of a convenience.

At reader request we will examine some of what Jones has to say in his "Book on Paul" (which is where his core arguments are found) and offer some comments. A key issue as we might expect is that Jones cannot reconcile the difference between Paul and Jesus/James on faith and works, and which he sees as resting at the core of Paul's greatest deception. For that we point the reader here and here.

In various places he also accuses Paul of exegetical freedoms that are actually normal Jewish exegetical practice for the day, as they were for Jesus; see here. He likewise claims Paul erred in predicting the parousia is his own lifetime; we say he did not, and refer the reader to our series here.

In a section titled, "The Proof's [sic] of His Ministry" Jones claims that "Paul was a stranger who came out of nowhere, so to speak, and established himself as an apostle of Christ solely on the basis of trances and visions to which there are no witnesses. He previously had no association with the fellowship of disciples of Jesus, and indeed was a persecutor of the Way. Suddenly, in consequence of his apocalypse on the Damascus Road, everything changed. But I must remind you yet again that there were no testifying witnesses, and we have only his word for what had transpired inside his person."

Hardly. Here Jones is simply unaware of ancient psychology. As we have noted in other contexts, the ancients had no conception of changes in personality or orientation; Paul was rejected by the Apostles at first (9:26) because they could not conceive of such a radical change in behavior, for any person. That Paul was accepted at all by the other apostles (as even Jones admits the picture shows, even as he hints, without basis, that they opposed him) shows that his change was believed in and testified to by undeniable witness.

Jones further states that Paul "carried no letters of recommendation as did other apostles." Jones is mirror-reading illicitly into 2 Cor. 3:1 ["Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?"] which says nothing about other apostles carrying these; what Jones also is unaware of is that such letters were used in antiquity to gain patronage, acceptance, or favor for a party otherwise unknown to the recipient [Witherington, Corinthians commentary, 377ff] and would by no means have been carried by any apostle like Peter or James to the churches who would need no such letters of introduction. Paul is referring here to persons previously unknown to the Corinthians, not apostles.

Jones then claims that 1 Cor. 9:1-2 is a summary of "seals, guarantees or proofs of his ministry":

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

"Here," Jones offers, "are listed four proofs in the form of questions that beg positive answers. His sense of freedom, of liberation, from the oppressive burden and bondage of the Mosaic Law gave him much assurance. How could his ministry not be genuine when it was involved in the proclamation of a faith that had done so much for him?"

This is an illicit reading. Only the last two are evidences, and they are the same evidences that held for the other Apostles (cf. Acts 1:21; and in principle, Matt. 7:17). Moreover 1 Cor. 9 is not in the least Paul summarizing seals of his ministry, but offering a defense of his "right as an agent of Christ to receive or refuse support" [Witherington, Corinthians commentary, 203].

Jones notes other signs Paul ascribes as proving the genuineness of his ministry, but does not offer any dispute of these. But he significantly closes this section by saying:

But I know this from the depths of my heart, knowledge with assurance no less strong than that of Paul as he spoke of the many seals of his ministry: he did not preach the Gospel that Jesus preached.

The depths of Jones' heart are as epistemically useful as a Mormon internal testimony in this context. Given that Jones' determinations are contrary to credible scholarship -- did the "depths of his heart" reveal to him the error above about the nature of letters of recommendation? -- it may be best to ignore his diagnosis.

In a section on "Paul's character" Jones cites Paul for " inconsistency and willingness to compromise on principle." For these he cites the following examples, which we have already dealt with:

  • The circumcision of Timothy, versus Galatians and Paul speaking against circumcision -- see here and here.
  • The differing accounts of Paul's conversion is Acts, using some of the same objections used by Skeptics -- see here.
  • By accusing Paul of "hysteria" and inner tension in Romans 7:14-8:1
  • Accusing Paul of "self-promotion" by misapprehending his use of irony in 2 Corinthians, and of lacking humility in his use of polemic in Galatians (leading us to wonder what Jones makes of Jesus' even more harsh rebukes to the Pharisees -- see here)
  • By following Maccoby in regarding Gal. 1:15-16 as Paul claiming to be an incarnation of God (!); see answer here. As a permutation of this, Jones offers the conclusion, based on 1 Cor. 5:3-5:

    For though absent in body, I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus

    ...that Paul thought his spirit "capable of transmigration to other bodies and places". This remarkably unsound exegesis is refuted by noting the dual use of "spirit" to refer not only to the incorporeal part of our being, but also in the sense of influence:

  • "And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled" [Num. 5:14]
  • "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." [2 Tim. 1:7]
  • "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." [1 Cor. 2:12]
  • "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." [Gal. 6:1]).

    Paul means no more and no less than that his influence as one who has taught the Corinthians will have an effect on their decision.

  • By accusing Paul of violating Jesus' command to call no man "father" and "teacher" -- see here -- by calling himself the "father" of others and for referring to others as holding the office of teacher.
  • By using Paul's admonitions to be "imitators" of him (1 Cor. 4:16) as a case of Paul "as manifesting the perfection of Christ and therefore urg[ing] his disciples to imitate him".

    This is a severely decontexualized reading. Paul has just finished describing his activity as an apostle, laboring with his hands and putting up with insults for the sake of Christ. It is in this light that he uses shame (as is proper in an honor-shame society, in which also the use of "stereotypes" in the ancient world, not comparable to modern racist stereotypes as Jones claims with reference to Titus 1:12) to prompt the Corinthians to abandon their petty jealousies. This is not an example of, "I am an always-perfect example of good behavior; be like I am in all behavioral circumstances."

    Jones misuses cites from elsewhere in Paul in the same fashion.

  • By pointing to 1 Cor. 7:10-12, "To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) -- and that the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her."

    This is taken as Paul "plac[ing] his command on par with that of the Lord, as though they carried equal authority..."

    Where does Jones get this from the text? Merely because they are in the same sentence? By that logic, when Jones repeats Jesus' words and then comments, he's considering his words on a par with those of Jesus.

    Jones never explains how it is that he thinks Paul regards his words as being of "equal authority". He may be confused because he fails to realize that Paul's word "command" in 7:10 is different than that in 7:25 as said "from the Lord" and the former is not an absolute word of commandment, as is 7:25.

  • By pointing to this command of Jesus:
    But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

    ...and claiming that "Paul obviously ignored this command, as revealed in his instruction to the Corinthian church concerning public worship":

    What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how can any one in the position of an outsider say the "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?

    Jones concludes, "It is clear that Paul's disciples engaged in public prayer in their worship together, even as those whom Jesus called 'hypocrites' loved to stand praying in the synagogue."

    Matt. 6:5, however, gives the specific reason for Jesus' command: to be seen of men. What Paul describes is not done to be "seen of men". If Jones wants to take Jesus' command to that depth of literalism, Jesus himself violated it when he didn't shut himself in a room at the time of Gethsemane, and before Lazarus' tomb, and before the disciples in John 17.

    As a side note, Jones probably thinks that "room" here means a case of strict privacy. It doesn't; only the very wealthy had enough rooms for such privacy (the typical Galileean home consisted of one room, at best two, and in Palestine the only room with a door was a storage closet -- Keener, Matthew commentary, 210). The man praying openly in the street is an absurd "worst-case scenario" (the Jews had designated prayer times, and it would have been a contrivance to arrange to have yourself in the street at just the right times) and Jesus uses extremes of situation hyperbolically to illustrate the primary point, which is again that prayer is not an excuse to show off.

    In a short chapter titled, "Did Paul Err in Logic?" Jones attempts to offer from Paul "two examples of logical errors that seem incontrovertible" and which he says "are sufficient to reveal the limitations of his inspiration." By that standard Jones' handling of these two points is sufficient to reveal the limitations of his scholarship. One of these cites is the Epimenides Paradox. The other where Jones follows Maccoby on Romans 7 (see link above). What Jones perceives as "puny logic" is nothing more than Jones failing to read these texts in their social, historical and literary context.

    In a section titled "reconciliation of the world" Jones notes that Paul frequently uses the words "grace" and "reconciliation" and that these words are seldom or never used by Jesus.

    It would probably shock Jones to know that the OT equivalent to "grace" is used nearly 70 times, including in this passages: "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD." The Jews recognized grace as one of God's expressions, and indeed, grace is manifestly expressed through the ministry of Jesus, as he poses as a broker for the coming kingdom of God. As we have noted in other contexts (see here for example) Jesus is portrayed as one dispensing God's largesse as a broker for God as a patron, to his clients, the Jewish people.

    That the word is not used is of no moment. Jesus' ministry was indeed one of grace, reconciliation and restoration; his very acts fulfilled that purpose. Jones' use of word counts is irrelevant.

    Jones tries to create difference between Jesus and Paul on account of their allegedly "contradictory views on the world." It is claimed that "Jesus sees the world of men as intrinsically hostile to God and therefore non reconcilable."

    The former is true, but the latter is an unwarranted exegesis. If the world is non-reconcilable to God, the sending of Jesus becomes a waste of effort and there would be no persons saved at all.

    Jones also offers a comment that in "the Parable of the Prodigal Son, it was only the Prodigal who changed, or repented. His far country remained the same, precisely as the world remains the same for all time." Since the "far country" was given no message, what is the relevance of this?

    Jones proposes that Jesus' "narrow way" is in contradiction to what he sees as Paul's view of reconciliation in Romans 11:15:

    If their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

    From this somehow (and 2 Cor. 5:18-20), Jones draws a view of Paul as some sort of universalist who believes the whole world will be saved. Once again Jones reads the text out of order, here as an individualist rather than as a corporate thinker, as those in Paul's day were. Paul speaks here in terms of groups, not individual members; thus he speaks of the world as a whole, and Israel as a whole. This does not mean that he thinks that all individuals in the world (or of the Jews, as Jones also thinks) will be saved.

    In a section titled, "Was Paul a Liar?" Jones begins with an anachronism. He notes:

    If I tell you something for the truth and I am not simply mistaken, it is either a lie or the truth. If it is the truth, and you accuse me of lying, I have no need to deny, for the truth will, sooner or later, speak for itself; I can say nothing for it because you have already decided that I am a liar. A denial will only demean the truth, which will, as I said, speak for itself....

    Jones concludes that when Paul says things like this, as he does no less than four times in his letters:

    The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I do not lie. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands (2 Corinthians 11:31-33)

    ...and elsewhere, where Paul calls the Spirit or God as a witness to himself, that Paul had some kind of reputation for lying.

    The conventions of Greco-Roman rhetoric say otherwise. Such pledges are a "typical rhetorical device" [Witherington, Corinthians commentary, 458n], and such oaths were customary when one was warning that they were prepared to stand trial for the claims being made [Witherington, Galatians commentary, 122]. If anything Paul is doing what he should have been doing in these given situations where his character or credentials were being questioned (which, if his story is true, would have been quite often, as it would be the obvious place for any opponent to attack, just as an opponent of Peter could quite obviously continually harp on his denial of Jesus). As Barton further explains in Roman Honor (212), such an oath was a way of saying, "Go ahead: put me in the spotlight. My words and actions will stand the test of your scrutiny."

    Paul would have been under far more suspicion of lying had he NOT included such oaths. Jones, by the way also misinterprets Jesus' admonition against oaths; see here.

    Jones then says:

    Thus we have the story of [Paul's] amazing conversion, or revelation, on the road to Damascus. He returned to Jerusalem, according to Acts, and found that they were all afraid of him except Barnabus, who sought to allay fears and who was himself quite taken in by Paul. The Twelve were not persuaded and Paul, after a time, took his leave and returned to his home city, Tarsus in Cilicia.

    Jones begins with his paradigm and is forced to accuse Barnabas of gullibility; there is none such indicated in the text. Moreover, it is wrong to say the Twelve (rather, unnumbered apostles) were not persuaded: Acts 9:28-30 speaks of Paul being "with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem." Paul has been admitted as part of their collective.

    Jones misconstrues further, offering no supporting documentation for claims that Paul "was never accepted by the Twelve" and was "claiming the same - nay, superior credentials." He then offers a view of the Galatian controversy which is refuted by the article linked above on Peter vs. Paul, and assumes that Paul's opponents in Galatia and Corinth were actual apostles -- a view not endorsed by mainstream scholarship or by a careful reading of Galatians.

    Jones also offers in this section a suggestion that 2 Pet. 3:15-16 is an interpolation, and as proof points to what he thinks are signs of insertion elsewhere, in 1 Cor. 13. He argues that 1 Cor. 13 is an insertion and that the letter runs smoothly from 12:31 to 14:1.

    Here Jones is indifferent to ancient epistalory convention. 1 Cor. 13 is indeed a digression, but it was "not uncommon for a rhetor to insert in the midst of a forensic argument an epideictic excursus or digression focusing on presentation, not argumentation." [Witherington, Corinthians commentary, 264] Indeed, Paul's use of the verb "show" in 12:31 serves as a signal that Paul was changing tracks and entering a digression.

    Jones next cites differences between the stories of Paul's conversion between Acts and his letters; we refer the reader here. It is telling enough that Jones resorts to the convenience that "Paul adhered mostly to the truth in relating details in Luke's hearing because he anticipated that Luke, his frequent companion on his travels, would sooner or later accompany him to Jerusalem where he would hear the truth from the apostles" while also altering the details elsewhere when the circumstances were suitable.

    Jones also brings up the allegation of contradiction regarding 1 Thess. 2:4. He also claims to find contradiction between these passages:

    Rom. 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
    Rom. 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

    But once again, Jones commits the anthropological fallacy noted above, failing to recognize that Paul speaks of the "all" as a collective, not in terms of individuals. He speaks here again of the mercy available to all, but not received by every individual.

    Jones next accuses Paul of testifying to his own lack of integrity in 1 Cor. 9:19-25, and again, it is an anachronism; see here. This is not to be compared to Matthew 11:16-19 as Jones claims; he does take it as far as claiming it is evidence Paul was actually a Greek. In further service of this Jones quotes Gal. 3:13-14:

    Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree." - that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    Jones says, "It is clear that Paul, by use of the first person plural in the last line of this quotation, is classifying himself with the Gentiles, who receive the promise of the Spirit. Was this simply a slip, and inadvertent error, or has he revealed his true nationality?"

    None of the above. The "we" refers back to the "us" in the first part of the passage, which refers to ALL Christians. It would hardly make sense for Paul to say that only Gentiles received the promise of the Spirit. Paul is using two clauses here and relating two separate blessings.

    In a section titled, "Paul's omission of the First Commandment," Jones focuses on Paul's emphasis on love. He begins with an argument of silence by omission:

    Jesus condensed all the law and the prophets to only two, the Great and First Commandment and the Second Commandment (Matthew 22:34-40). Under these two, the command to love God and the command to love our neighbors as ourselves, he said, depend all the law and the prophets. But Paul's condensation is as follows:
    Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8-10, see also Galatians 5:14).

    From here Jones objects: "Paul has omitted the oil! He has omitted the Great and First Commandment! Indeed, in all his letters, Paul never so much as mentions the Great Commandment - the command to love God. Not once."

    What? How does this amount to an exclusion of the First Commandment? It doesn't. The main problem, though, is that Jones does not know what agape means -- see here -- and fails to see that throughout his letters, therefore, Paul indicates that we are to have a relationship with God in which we express our agape to Him -- by service, worship, and glory.

    Indeed, Jones admits that Paul does not ignore the concept at all, but still objects that there is no direct mention of it. But finding explicit and direct mentions in Scripture is not a hermenuetical necessity; especially since the Scripture were written in a "high context" society in which so much could be taken for granted.

    Moreover, Paul's letters are problem-oriented and he would only mention the First Commandment if there was a problem with people violating it. Finally, keep in mind the contexts of where Paul notes the 2nd commandment: in the matter of issues relating to human relationships (Rom. 13; Gal. 5).

    Jones next tries to set Jesus' command to love enemies against Paul, saying that "Paul does not extend his love to his enemy but was content to focus on love for neighbor...." But who is our neighbor, according to Jesus? By implication of the Good Samaritan parable, it is everyone. Therefore Paul's "love thy neighbor" includes enemies by extension.

    Even so Paul offers the same thing as Jesus when he says, "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." (Rom. 12:20) Does Jones know of this passage? Yes, but he says, "This is hardly loving your enemy when your motive is to heap fire on his head!" In this Jones commits the same error as atheist Ken Schei.

    It is an oddity, however, that Jones detects a difference in emphasis as this one: he supposes Paul sees God as more wrathful, while Jesus sees God as more loving. The oddity here is that Marcion accepted Paul and rejected most of the Gospels for precisely the opposite reason -- Jesus says more about hell, damnation, and judgment than anyone else in the NT, while Paul NEVER mentions hell and only briefly alludes to damnation.

    Jones offers several other alleged contradictions between the moral teachings of Jesus and Paul, but by now it should be apparent that he is unlikely to deal with the text with any proficiency, and we will proceed selectively. Jones offers Luke 16:15:

    That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination unto God.

    He sets several Pauline verses against this, but telling enough is that he picks this one, 2 Cor. 8:21:

    For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight, but also in the sight of men.

    Jones says, "What is honorable among men is also honorable to the Lord? No, but what men esteem highly is God's abomination!"

    Jones failed to notice that the two words used are entirely different -- Paul uses the word which means beautiful, valuable, and virtuous; Jesus refers to things which are put on a pedestal, regardless of their virtue or value. This is something Jones should have seen in the Greek text (which he sometimes uses to support his points) but he didn't. In the end he accuses Paul of "loving the world" and of merely lying when he distances himself from it. Resorts to scandalous accusation when the data does not cooperate speak for themselves.

    In a section on Paul and the law, Jones claims Jesus and Paul held "widely divergent views" and Jones offers the contention that Jesus intended for us to keep the moral aspects of the law to be saved, and indeed, "stiffened" it and made it harder to keep, but still expected us to toe the line.

    At the core of this section lies fallacies we have already noted, in the main, Jones' failure to grasp the inter-related role of faith and works, as well as the purpose of the law; see here; see here as well.

    In terms of what one must do to be saved, Jones again alleges contradiction between Jesus and Paul, on these grounds:

  • Jones sees as steps in Jesus' plan for salvation the acts of repenting, confessing, obeying, forsaking, following, and believing. The fourth he takes illicitly, by fallaciously universalizing the advice to the rich young ruler. The first two are essentially one act, as are the third, fifth and sixth.

    Jones does not see how the last three are found in Paul, because he does not grasp the relation between faith and works (see links above). He admits that the second is found in Paul, and implies that the first is lacking, unaware that Paul and his readers/hearers would have committed this act years before Paul's letters; one may note that Jesus uses the word only before prospective converts.

    Our reader has also requested that we check into a few more of Jones' items, and noted particularly an item titled "Jesus and Science". This article begins by asking some rather inane common-senseless questions like, "When millions of people believe a text is of God, shouldn't that carry weight? Surely a scripture is of God if multitudes believe that it is? Or when a text is hundreds, even thousands of years old, doesn't that establish its divine origin?" In most circles this is recognized as a fallacious appeal to authority.

    In the second section Jones asks whether the fulfillment of prophecy can prove divine origin. His reasons for saying this is unreliable (despite Deut. 18:22) are:

    • "First, many of the prophecies, such as Jesus' prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem or Jeremiah's prophecy of the destruction of Judah, were penned or uttered under socio-political and religious conditions such that any open minded and perceptive person could anticipate what was about to take place."

      This much can be granted, as long as it is kept in mind that of course if these prophecies are false, Deut. 18:22 comes to be in effect.

    • "Second, many prophecies, such as those in the Revelation of John, were presented in metaphorical language left open to interpretation as to what their fulfillment entails."

      This one is not a useful answer; the details are neither subjective not open to interpretation as Jones alleges. It does require research and claim-checking, however.

    • "Third, a prophet who pens many prophecies based upon his subjective evaluation of the future as patterned after history will find some of them fulfilled solely on the laws of probability. Make enough predictions and some of them will surely find fulfillment."

      While this could be true, Jones needs to do more than merely say i. He needs to calculate the odds and show that probability is a good enough explanation for fulfillment.

    Jones closes by avering that "[d]ivine origin of scripture must remain a matter of faith. We may choose to believe in God and that a particular scripture is of God, but we can never be certain."

    From a strictly objective viewpoint, Jones is actually correct. That said, our method here has always been to merely ask if what the Scriptures record are true, thus showing them to be (objectively speaking) a "viable candidate" to be believed as the Word of God. To be the Word of God, something must be a) true and b) relevant to knowledge and service of God. If the Bible meets those criteria/needs, then it is up to critics to explain why it does not. Jones has the right answer here, but the wrong path.

    Jones uses all of this to get to a point about the texts. He proposes to examine certain texts for error:

    • The Old Testament
    • The Koran
    • An utterance of Jesus as recorded in a certain non canonical gospel
    • The utterances of Jesus from the four canonical gospels

    We will skip sections 2 and 3 entirely; Jones agreeably finds in the negative for both of these as viable candidates. We'll pursue sections 1 and 4.

    In section 1 Jones offers the examples of Joshua 10 and 2 Kings 20. He criticizes them on scientific grounds and argues that these texts cannot be of God. The errors he makes are the same addressed by Glenn Miller here and so we need say no more of that subject.

    In section 4 Jones looks at some sayings of Jesus. Jones spends a few lines endorsing the Big Bang theory, and arguing that Jesus accurately teaches in line with the Second Law of Thermodynamics (!) and also teaches evolution (!!) in Mark 4 (the parable of the sower) of which he says, "The family of his children is 'evolving' toward a harvest of the earth without further attention from the sower. If the Father has chosen this evolutionary process to accomplish the fruition of the earth, is it not reasonable to conclude that he might well use the same process to produce the cosmos as it now exists?"

    Jones' leap from Mark 4 to biological evolution requires little comment; it is supported by absolutely no literary or interpretive principles. We get back to concerns where Jones supposes sayings of Jesus contain scientific error, and thus concludes that the words ascribed to Jesus are inauthentic. He only gives one example:

  • Matthew 21:19-22 -- the cursing of the fig tree. Jones disses the story on two erroneous principles. The first is that Jones objects to the act at all; on that ground he reproduces the same objections we answer here.

    The second is the grounds that no one moves mountains as the text says; in that area Jones is no more informed than Ingersoll was in Eastern hyperbole, as we show here.

    Jones also makes the same mistake in comparing Matthew and Mark in their order of material as Skeptics do, and which we deal with in principle here.

  • John 14:11-13 -- On the other hand, Jones correctly avoids the same mistake we examined in Does this verse offer magical powers as a reward for faith? though he arrives at only the answer that the "works" are the words of Jesus.

    A reader has requested that we take a further look at some of Jones' material and pointed particularly to an item titled "The Scriptures According to Jesus". Jones' flagship here is John 5:39-40:

    You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

    He begins correctly enough, with noting that this passage "was addressed to very religious Jews" but then thinking that "this statement is fully applicable to all, in our own time and in any time". Here is the progression Jones offers:

    This statement also characterizes the scriptures, and from it we can affirm either by direct reference or inference, the following two characteristics:
  • The scriptures bear witness to Jesus (bear witness to me).
  • Eternal life is not in the scriptures.

    To some extent Jones has it right. As Witherington remarks, this passage reflects the Jews "mistaking the means for the ends." [144] Eternal life is not "in the Scriptures" but Jesus does, and the Scriptures point to Jesus as the end of the means (the Scriptures). So far so good.

    Then Jones says of the OT and Jesus, "it is unquestionable that he considered at least some portions of it to be the Word of God" and that the OT testified of him. But then Jones claims, "we can also learn from Jesus that some portions of scripture are not the word of God."

    Where does he get this? Here:

    Mark 10:4-9 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away." But Jesus said to them, For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
    Evidently this word of Moses was not a Word of God, for that is what has been "from the beginning of creation." In this case, Moses accommodated his words to correspond to the "hardness of heart" of those who heard him, and of those whom Jesus addressed. I conclude that a large portion of the "scriptures" fall into this category, and can in no sense be considered to be the "inspired word of God."

    Indeed! From one passage Jones just arbitrarily decides that a "large portion" (not "one verse" or a "small portion") of the OT is not "the Word of God." The non sequitur is bad enough, but is that what Jesus is truly saying here?

    Jones seems to assume that because Jesus says, "Moses allowed..." that what Moses wrote was not inspired of God. Hardly so. The meaning as it is whenever a name of an OT author is used is that Moses was the human author; if Jones wishes to argue this way, then any place where the NT makes an attribution like "And David saith" (Rom. 11:9) this is to be taken as some sort of epistemological statement on the ultimate origin of the words.

    To claim that this is what is intended is to adopt an unwarranted reading of the text. Note as well that this would hardly pass with promises that not one jot or tittle (Matt. 5:18) would pass from the Law until all was fulfilled. Since "the Law" had a fixed meaning as a body of text, Jones must claim that God was equally concerned to preserve even Moses' allegedly erroneous statements.

    From here Jones chooses passages he thinks are uninspired, such as the orders to destroy the Canaanites (see here for consideration). He says: "Can you imagine how the native peoples of Canaan viewed the appearance in their midst of this despot, Joshua, once he began to carry out these instructions? "

    We wonder, can Jones imagine the despicable horror and how much judgment was deserved upon these people who had, for hundreds of years, conducted sexual religious rites that included child sacrifice? Do the social realities of the ancient world not have a place here?

    Jones proclaims that commands of destruction of this sort are contrary to Jesus' admonitions to love your enemies. Mark well, your enemies. Not enemies of truth, of righteousness, or the well-being of others. This sort of mixup between individual relations and group interest (the true meaning of agape love) logically would lead to such notions as that the best response to Hitler was Neville Chamberlain's.

    And so it is that Jones concludes that thus it is that the OT impedes our path to eternal life. Jones does somewhat correctly move on to say that the OT covenant had "a limited tenure" (see here) but this is not anywhere near allowing that the OT is an "impediment" to salvation (it could be, if misunderstood, but the same could be said of the NT).

    A good way to end this examiantion thematically is to see how Jones tries to validate his thesis by noting that:

    Jesus schooled his disciples with living words while near, by, or on the living waters of Galilee. There is no indication in the gospels of his teaching them on or near the dead waters of the Dead Sea. That sea speaks of the dead words of the "scriptures".

    Perhaps Jones is unaware that the Dead Sea is not exactly a comfortable place to sit around teaching people. It is the lowest place on earth, with a summer temperature average of 122 degrees. To draw a lesson from lack of teaching engagements along the Dead Sea is misguided.

    In closing, Jones again places Paul against Jesus as above, then sums up his case with an extended commentary about the Bible being part of an "evolving" revelation. There is some truth to the idea of revelation as progressive; of a certainty, God has given us only what we can handle at times. But in that progress, while it has been appropriate for times, it has not been in contradiction, no more so than a news program contradicts itself by giving daily and differing reports of changing conditions.

    Jones claims that the NT authors "often misunderstood and misinterpreted [the Truth] because their thinking was yet too attuned to the dead words of the Law and the Prophets to comprehend its fullness."

    If anything, rather, it is Jones who has misunderstood and ministerpreted the texts, arbitrarily selecting from them was he wants to be "revealed" and what he wants to be "deadwood" based on his own preferences.