The Intelligence Shortage

Twice-Used Arguments in a Time of Scarce Critical Thinking Skills


Skeptic X Grabs Another Desperate Decontextualization

J. P. Holding


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Yes, he's back again, after 5 months of hiding under his futon. Skeptic X has now replied to an entirely new item of ours, apparently having ditched attempts on preterism, the Land Promise, Abiathar, the men with David, etc etc etc. To remind all the good folks out here of why X is a walking rant in need of an editor, we'll here revert to our occasional practice of inserting commentary in his text. Most of the time. We'll delete, actually, the first two rambling paragraphs where X tucks in his corncob pipe and tells us all about the "good old days" before apologists did contextual study and used McDowell as a prime source. Times were easier then; now, decontextualizers like X whose education is limited to courses like Screaming at the Top of Your Lungs at Harlots 201 at Bam Bam Bible College, have discovered many aspects of the experience of frustration from those of us who actually come to the Bible on its own terms. We'll see the usual tricks of course...let's get right to it after those first two paras of golly gosh from the rocking chair. Oh. What does X reply to? Basically points scattered in a couple of essays. But the thing is, he missed one essay where I already answered, months ago, some of the very objections he brings up now, because I saw them on his fuddy duddy list. Yeesh. If X is not going to keep up with what I'm doing, he may as well go back under the futon again with the dust bunnies.

Within recent years, we have also seen a "new apologetics" that argues such absurdities as a biblical inconsistency or contradiction is not a discrepancy if the people of that time thought that such statements were true. Not that new, really. More like, getting back to the old -- the original context. New only to neophytes. [J.P.] "No Links" [Holding], See that issue addressed here who parades under the pseudonym James Patrick Holding As if this ever has a thing to do with any argument. has become an advocate of this position. Have been for years, actually. As I pointed out in "It Doesn't Matter?" (linked above), And see my response here. he will often speak of "idioms," "subtle nuances," and "metaphorical" meanings in the original biblical texts (as if he were linguistically qualified to speak with any authority on the dead languages in which the Bible was written Watch the dishonest shift of focus. It is not "me" that has the qualifications, but my sources, scholars like Caird, Malina and Rohrbaugh, and others whose bootstraps X is unworthy to as much as lick.), which made the Bible at times not mean what it clearly says. What it "clearly says" in English. Note our look at X's pathological literalism here, another of about 500 billion articles he has yet to respond to. My article just mentioned discussed in detail [Holding]'s it-doesn't-matter theory (meaning that biblical contradictions and inconsistencies don't matter), which he has appropriated from Abraham Rihbany's ma besay-il, i. e., it doesn't matter, position that he expounded in The Syrian Christ. A native Syrian, BTW, who ought to know darned well about his own culture and language. Rihbany's idea seemed to be that if one biblical writer said that any event happened when Jesus was entering a city but another one said that it happened as he was leaving the city, this would not have been an inconsistency to the people of that culture, because they were more interested in knowing about the event that Jesus was involved in than they were in details about exactly where it happened. More or less correct, though that example was not used. Now watch X blow it out of proportion as a straw man: According to Rihbany's rationalization, "rationalization" = "according to his expertise in his own language and culture" if a history book said that Custer's battle at the Little Bighorn was fought in the territory of Nebraska, this would not be an error to people who were more concerned about what happened during this battle rather than where it happened. Such a position, of course, is absurd, because the interests of readers cannot make errors in a written document not be errors. It is absurd, and it is a farce of Rihbany's argument. Note that X just arbitrarily jumped from "in or out of a city" -- which is not far from Rihbany's examples of, whether a conversation was on a rooftop or in a house -- to "Nebraska" instead of Montana, a difference from "the same house, but a different place in the house" to "a different state hundreds of miles away." X is either a exceptionally poor analogist or a blatant liar. At this stage we'll believe either.

I need not comment anymore on this theory of biblical apologetics, because I rebutted it in detail in my article "It Doesn't Matter?" (linked above). And I rebutted his pitiable, decontextualized rebuttal at my link above. Those who read it will see that this theory is completely contrary to what the Bible teaches about the process by which prophets and apostles were inspired to report "all truth" and that it stands in direct opposition to cases in biblical times that show that the people of that era cared very much about inconsistencies and contradictions in their sacred writings. Those who read our rebuttal will see that X is just reading the Bible with his usual decontextualized hyperliteralism, and will also see links to a forum where X was thoroughly embarrassed by two seminary students. I will focus instead on another harebrained "apologetic" "contextualized scholarship" excuse "I don't understand" that [Holding] has dreamed up "taken from scholars and natives who know their business" to "explain" "confuse me" biblical discrepancies. One of his latest Latest? About a year latest by now, while X was picking his toes with someone else. is to argue that some biblical discrepancies resulted from incomplete details in biblical accounts but that this was only to be expected in documents that were written in times when paper was scarce. Well, there is certainly no doubt that "paper" was scare in biblical times. It was, in fact, nonexistent, but I will assume that [Holding] knew this and really meant "metaphorically" for paper to refer to whatever materials were available at the time to make scrolls. How generous of X not to inflict upon us his sadistic hyperliteralism. I do clearly say, though, "You're not going to be writing on paper," so I don't know what X thinks he's alluding to. If that wasn't what he meant, he can clarify his position for us. Or X can take some reading lessons. Given that "pay for 90% of the website" bit, we know the option needed. At any rate, [Holding] seems to be arguing that a deity who could part the waters of a sea in order to let his "chosen ones" cross on dry land to escape an advancing army and who could send down "manna" from heaven to provide them with food in their desert wanderings and such like somehow could not provide his "inspired" writers with enough parchments and/or papyri to enable them to explain themselves fully, Nothing beats this sort of answer for sheer humor value, but I'll give the deserving answer: X is essentially asking why God doesn't kiss our butts. Next he'll wonder why God doesn't brush his teeth for him in the morning, tie his shoes, or press the button on his remote. End of issue. See here for more details. and so confusion resulted to a degree that has led some to think that there are discrepancies in the Bible when really the "discrepancies" wouldn't be there if the "inspired ones" had only had access to sufficient "paper" to give more details. Cheese with that whine? The charge of "confusion" here comes from the mouth of the grossly miseducated, who is too lazy to fix it. Savor the irony.

As the syndicated humorous [sic] Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. Hmm. X reads Dave Barry? He probably thinks he writes narratives. I have seen [Holding] resort to this quibble several times. An actual example of it can be found in [Holding]'s attempt to explain the New Testament inconsistency concerning who carried Jesus's cross to Golgotha. Funny thing. I wrote this one over 8 years ago, long before the things X is answering now. The synoptic accounts (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) say that Simon of Cyrene was "compelled" to carry the cross, but John 19:17 says that Jesus carried the cross for "himself." At one point in [Holding]'s explanation, he resorted to the usual apologetic "solution" to this problem: The one that is of the sort also used by secular historians, too. Click the link for an essay X will never address. Jesus started out carrying the cross, but along the way, he became physically unable to continue carrying it, and so Simon of Cyrene was impressed to carry it the rest of the way.

There is ample evidence to support this explanation. Matthew says that Simon was met "as they were going out" (Matt. 27:32). Mark says Simon was just "passin' by," and they forced him to carry the cross (Mark 15:21). Luke says Simon was drafted "as they led (Jesus) away." (Luke 23:26) Finally, it is well-established that it was the custom of the Romans to have the prisoner carry his own cross, and that they would have no compunction about forcing bystanders to do whatever they pleased.

The obvious implication is that Simon was drafted at some point after the procession to Golgotha began, probably from among the massive crowd of Passover pilgrims, and the scenario above about John gives us a reasonable explanation for him not mentioning Simon: If John stayed behind to plead with the high priest, the last thing we would have seen was Jesus leaving the area, carrying the cross. (It is McDowell's title, however, that is misleading in this regard; the cited OT type applicable to Jesus refers to one who is weak, and becomes a reproach to others. This probably is better applied to Jesus' general condition throughout the trip to Golgotha, and during the Crucifixion, rather than a specific episode of falling under the cross.)

I am not going to spend a lot of time discussing this traditional "explanation" of the discrepancy, because my purpose is to show the absurdity of [Holding]'s "paper-shortage" approach to "solving" biblical discrepancies. In that case, why discuss it at all? Hello? Can we keep on focus, here? However, I think a few comments are in order. [Holding] said that "(t)he obvious implication is that Simon was drafted at some point after the procession to Golgotha began" (emphasis added), but Luke clearly said that Simon was drafted as the procession was beginning.

Luke 23:26 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.

This certainly doesn't sound as if Jesus carried the cross "halfway" (which, as we will see below, [Holding] claimed) No, I don't. I don't even use the word "halfway" in that article. X is confusing this with another article, where the word is used only hypothetically. and then collapsed so that it was necessary to draft someone else to carry the cross. If Jesus collapsed, then, according to Luke, he would have done so "as [the soldiers] led him away." How correct would it be to say that Jesus "bore the cross for himself to Golgatha" if in reality he had collapsed "as they were leading him away," so that Simon of Cyrene was actually the one who carried the cross to Golgotha? Uh, hello? At what point in the procession were the soldiers "leading" Jesus "away"? What? Not through the whole journey from Pilate to Golgotha? Did the soldiers disappear to leave Jesus to be led by dancing bears? Did they get lost outside Pilate's door and ask Jesus to lead the rest of the way to Golgotha, since he knew the neighborhood? One more point of note. It's pretty tenuous to suggest that Simon went all the way up the hill to the crest of Golgotha. If the Romans had any sense of security in them, they would have ditched Simon at the base of the hill and given the cross back to Jesus, or taken it themselves.

Young's Literal Translation of this verse is, to say the least, very interesting. And very appealing to a hyperliteralist who just wants "plain English" and not social informing context.

And as they led him away, having taken hold on Simon, a certain Cyrenian, coming from the field, they put on him the cross, to bear it behind Jesus.

Young was a stickler for literalism in his translation, so his use of the perfect participle "having taken hold" indicates his understanding that this text was saying that as they were leading Jesus away, the Romans had already impressed Simon into service. And as noted, when was this? It stopped at Pilate's door??? Both Hendrickson's literal and marginal translations also use the same perfect participle to indicate when Simon was impressed into service. This is a problem in the traditional "solution" that could hardly be explained by [Holding]'s "paper-shortage" theory, because no significant difference in the space that would be used would be affected to any appreciable degree by a writer's choice of verb tenses. That's nice. But X has missed the boat in an event, as noted. This one I don't attribute to paper shortage -- I attribute it to John's emphasis against docetism, which can be answered by showing that Jesus did carry a cross, not like an intangible docetic Jesus who couldn't.

One thing about [Holding]'s apologetics is that he can never be accused of consistency. Oh boy, watch this, from X, whose one-dimensional thinking sees "inconsistency" in someone who uses the word "tree" to refer one day to a plant, the next day to a rack for holding shoes: Whatever "explanation" comes to mind when he is "refuting" humanist or skeptical examples of discrepancy in the Bible is the one that he will use regardless of what he may have said elsewhere on the same subject. Of course, inconsistency shouldn't be surprising in the writing of an amateur apologist who thinks that inconsistencies in the Bible aren't discrepancies, and inconsistency is what we find in [Holding]'s "apologetics." Before the quotation above, he had argued earlier in the same article that John stayed behind to plead with the high priest, an assumption that he made from John 18:15, which said only that another disciple "was known to the high priest." [Holding] assumes that this other disciple was "John." Nothing wrong with that. It's a hypothesis many scholars adhere to: John as the beloved disciple. Not that X can more than "soundbite" at it.

John just says Jesus carried His cross, but doesn't say that no one else helped. John may not have known of Simon's assistance; since he was known to the high priest (John 18:15)[,] he may have tried to use his acquaintance with the high priest to get Jesus released, and thus missed the trip to Golgotha....

If John stayed behind to plead with the high priest, the last thing we [sic] would have seen was Jesus leaving the area, carrying the cross.

Hence, [Holding] was arguing that John didn't mention that Simon carried the cross part of the way, because he was pleading with the high priest, and so the last thing that he saw was Jesus leaving the area carrying the cross. Hence, [Holding] speculates that John just didn't know that Simon had been impressed somewhere along the way to carry the cross. That anyone would resort to such an "explanation" as this merely underscores the ridiculous extremes that would-be "apologists" are willing to go in order to deny that discrepancies are in the Bible. Just look at the problems in this John-didn't-know "explanation." Just look at the excuses and speculations X will manufacture to criticize my "speculation". Of course, I wrote this article referenced over 8 years ago; these days I would not take a "John didn't know" approach as the best one (and X and his spittle-drenched fans would call such development based on further research an "inconsistency," because in their circles, it is impossible to ever learn anything new, and dead languages like Latin and Koine Greek and ancient Hebrew can never have any new insights found about them) but let's look at these anyway:

1. That the "other disciple," who may or may not have been John, stayed behind to "plead with the high priest" is a crass assumption, because John 18:15 says only that this "other disciple" was "known to the high priest." The text nowhere says that this "other disciple" stayed behind to plead with the high priest after Jesus was taken away. "Crass assumption" = "It is a sensible assumption in the context of the disciple as the one most beloved by Jesus, and who knew the high priest." Yep. Forget deductive reasoning, it's a ticket to Hades. Ulansey's thesis on Mithraism is full of such "crass assumptions" but for some reason religious scholars think Ulansey is brilliant.

2. After he had been questioned by the high priest and his council, Jesus was led away to the Praetorium to appear before Pilate, at which time Pilate came out to meet them and told them to take Jesus and judge him themselves (John 18:28-31). At this time, it was still "early" in the day (John 18:28). Yes, and...? What's the problem? X actually does not have a "reason 2" here; this and his next several are the same suggestion, divided down to make the list look longer. I'll give some leeway and allow that X's incompetent webmaster MAY have done this inadvertently.

3. The Jews rejected Pilate's suggestion on the grounds that it was not lawful for them to put a man to death (v:31).

4. Pilate then went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus before him for interrogation (vs:33-38).

5. After this interrogation, Pilate went out again to tell the Jews that he could find no fault in Jesus and to ask them what prisoner should be released to them in commemoration of the Passover (vs:38-40).

6. When the Jews screamed for Barabbas to be released to them, Pilate ordered Jesus to be scourged, after which the soldiers made a crown of thorns, put it on Jesus's head, dressed him in a purple garment, and then mocked him and struck him with their hands (John 19:1-3).

7. Pilate then went before the Jews again and repeated that he could find no fault with Jesus, and brought him out to let the Jews witness his humiliation (v:5).

Are we to assume that through all of this, which would have required a considerable passage of time, John was still back at the home of the high priest pleading on behalf of Jesus? That requires more credulity than any reasonable person could muster, besides the fact that the biblical text lends no support to it, for if "John" was at the home of the high priest and could therefore report only what he had witnessed, how was he able to report the events numbered 1 through 7 above? Uh, X? I don't say that John was at the HP's house through ALL of this; all I say is that as Jesus was getting ready to be led away, John went back for one more try -- not to the house of necessity, but to wherever the HP or his reps were -- to get a call from the governor at 11:59, so to speak. Where X gets the idea that I think John was at the HP's house through ALL of this, I cannot say, but it's likely due to X's usual problems with basic reading comprehension ("90% of the website???"). X goes on to blah blah blah for several more lines with his bad self not comprehending properly; so once again we'll spare the dignity of the reader and skip to where he gets off this hobby horse ride into the sunset, and on to:

Aside from this, there is the monkey wrench that divine "inspiration" throws into [Holding]'s apparent belief that a person who was inspired of God to write a book was not able to include information that he had not experienced in person. How does [Holding] explain the many passages of scripture in which writers reported things that they had not witnessed personally? Was the apostle John present on the scene, for example, when the Jews sent representatives to John the Baptist to ask him if he was the Christ (John 1:19-23)? At that time, Jesus had not yet selected his apostles, so if the apostle John was not present to witness this exchange between John the Baptist and the Jewish emissaries, how did he know what they asked and what John the Baptist had said in reply? X acts as though John had to be selected before he could witness any of Jesus' history. How about: John was a disciple of John the Baptist before he was a disciple of Jesus? How about: He got the data from Peter (but didn't get the Simon info, because he didn't see a need to ask about it)? Can we think in more than one dimension here? X then harks back to his same poor reading above, so we have more to skip to:

At any rate, [Holding]'s position in the article cited and quoted above was that John didn't tell about the role of Simon of Cyrene in carrying the cross because he didn't know anything about it, yet in another article that attempted to resolve this problem, [Holding] took a different approach, which will bring us to his "paper-shortage" apologetics. An unknown skeptic (identified only as "Joe") whom [Holding] was "answering" pointed out the problem.

Describing Jesus being led to his execution, John 19:17 maintains that Jesus carried his own cross. In contradistinction, Mark 15:21-23 claims that a man called Simon carried Jesus' cross to the crucifixion site.

Did [Holding] reply this time by arguing that John didn't mention Simon of Cyrene because he didn't know anything about Simon's participation in the journey to Golgotha because he was at the home of the high priest pleading on Jesus's behalf? He did not. He took the traditional position that Jesus had carried the cross "halfway," at which time Simon was pressed into service, and John omitted the details about Simon because "paper was expensive." Not exactly. I used "halfway" hypothetically; it could have been 1/4 or 3/4 for all I cared. But what X found here is from an article written some 7 years after the prior one he cited, by which time I was more aware of the role addressing docetism, and other factors, played in composition for John in particular. Remember that for X and his walleyed friends, it is never possible to learn something new; of course, that X admitted on TWeb that he once endorsed Robert Taylor, but now does not since he learned more about him, this is not the same kind of "inconsistency". Of course not.

Duh oh! If Simon picked it up halfway, then obviously Jesus did carry his own cross part of the way. Hello? Joe is demanding complete detail-reportage from people who lived in an era when paper was expensive and there was neither room nor call for including a detail unless you had a point to make. John had that point: his picture is of Jesus as the Son of God dependent on no man. He omits the Simon episode purposely.

Duh, oh! Hello? If John's "point" was that Jesus was "dependent on no man," then John must have intentionally tried to present a false point, because the synoptic accounts clearly state that Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus's cross to Golgotha. Duh, oh, hello, Mr. Bigot? It's not a "false point" unless John specifically denies that Simon ever was involved. But this is the kind of bigoted ignorance X stands for: If it wasn't written as it would be by a Western literalist -- as opposed to, for example, Josephus, who to make a point for his readers, cast Jewish beliefs in Greek terms -- it's "false". The black and white TV is still running in Fundy Atheist Land, even as apologists have gotten cable and flat panels sets. What the synoptics said about this must be true; otherwise, the synoptic writers reported something that didn't happen, and I don't think that even [Holding] would want to admit that. If Simon did carry the cross (only partway, of course) because Jesus could carry it no farther, then, contrary to the "picture" that [Holding] says "John" was presenting, Jesus was dependent on others. Why, then, did "John" (so [Holding] says) "purposely" leave out a detail that would have shown that Jesus was dependent on others? Did "John" intentionally present a false "picture" of Jesus? Maybe [Holding] can tell us. I just did. It's part of knowing how ancient writers did their business. Next?

Anyway, [Holding] was arguing here that John purposely omitted the part about Simon because "paper" was just too expensive to include this detail No, actually, I used that as an example of the sort of thing that could affect composition, as a way of showing that Sommer lacked a great deal of education about the ancient world. Only a poor reader would conclude that I was applying this directly to the cross-carrying issue. Which makes me think Stevie "Sun Dog" Carr was the one who picked this up., whereas he had argued in another article (quoted above) that John didn't mention Simon's part in the journey to Golgotha because he didn't know anything about it (even though he was divinely "inspired" to write his account of the life of Jesus). Although [Holding] will often say one thing in an article and then something completely contradictory in another, Eight years and 1200 articles apart? I suppose that's something I should be executed for. It's a right judgment coming from a sore loser who has written maybe 200 articles over a period of 12 years. he seems to be committed to defending some biblical inconsistencies on the grounds that a scarcity of "paper" in biblical times required writers to omit details that to modern readers leave the impression of inconsistency. In "Crimes by Omission?" he argued that there were not just "compositional constraints" on what details a gospel writer could select from the life of Jesus but also economic considerations that restrained them from telling "the rest of the story."

First of all, you are limited to using only about 20 sheets of paper. What, you say? No more than that? Sorry. Office Depot won't be open for another 1900 years, and neither will WalMart [sic], or Eckerd's, or any other place you are thinking of buying paper. You're not going to be writing on paper. You'll be writing on a scroll, and scrolls are both expensive and go no larger than a certain size. As Gamble reports in Books and Readers in the Early Church [44-50, 266]....

Something that has always puzzled me about [Holding] is that he seems completely unable to recognize when he contradicts himself even from one paragraph to the next. He said above that those "expensive" scrolls were "no larger than a certain size," but in citing what Gamble said about the length of ancient scrolls, [Holding] said this in his very next paragraphs (emphasis added). "Contradict myself" my foot. That they go no larger than a certain size is a practical fact that would face the average scribe. I even use the word "practically" in the material X quotes below:

Scrolls could be fashioned to any length desired, but practically speaking, the mean length was seven to ten meters. "A roll of ten to eleven meters was too cumbersome for the reader to handle... authors of long new works made their own divisions by taking the customary length of rolls into account."

A roll of papyrus of typical quality "cost the equivalent of one or two days' wages, and it could run as high as what the labourer would earn in five or six days..."

So Gamble recognized something that is common knowledge among those who have done any reading at all on the subject of ancient manuscripts: scrolls could be made any length necessary by simply stitching or gluing together pieces of parchment or papyus. And by spending horsebags full of money that average Joes like Matthew, Peter, John and Luke didn't have. Watch this evade X as he cites alleged counter-examples: The Samaritan Pentateuch, which contained all five of the "books of Moses," was 60 feet in length (William E. Barton, The Samaritan Messiah: Further Comment of the Samaritan High Priest, Chicago, Open Court Publishing Company, 1907, p. 534). Uh huh. And, um, how many copies of that were there, now? And who paid for it? I don't suspect the answer is available, but: The Isaiah scroll, discovered at Qumran, is 24 feet in length and is made of 17 leather sheets sewn together with linen thread, so if the "compositional constraints," which [Holding] talks about with routine regularity now, kept gospel writers from giving complete details in their narrations of events in the life of Jesus, one wonders how the scribes who copied the much longer book of Isaiah on a scroll were able to pull off that feat, and I have to wonder if [Holding] is aware that the book of Isaiah is much longer than the gospel of John. I have to wonder if X keeps his head screwed on only on weekends. How many copies of Isaiah did the Qumran community, which had only a few thousand people, have? Uh, not many. How many copies of John do you suppose were needed to supply even the 5-10% of literate people who became Christians across the entire Roman Empire? Uh. This is where X really missed when I already responded to this sort of thing ages ago here: To begin, X is missing the obvious point that it is not just a single copy at issue, but multiple copies, for generations beyond the Gospels, who are in mind. The OT documents were not evangelistic and were not intended for distribution to a widely spread audience -- we're talking "Roman Empire and beyond" versus "part of Palestine" and accordingly a larger number of people both in time and space. John had to think of supplying something around the Empire people of below-average and barely average means could afford to copy -- not just supply a library for a limited community! If "Isaiah" could have found enough scroll space to write his book, one chapter of which (37) repeated verbatim what was recorded in 2 Kings 19, why wasn't "John" able to find scroll materials that would have enabled him to give all of the details necessary to make his gospel consistent with the others? Answered this one, too: ...note that in no way is such repetition a contrary indication against our primary point! What? Does Skeptic X expect a compiler of Isaiah's words and deeds to leave out 2 Kings 19? What's he going to do, write in a note, "see other scroll"? The compiler of Isaiah's oracles and of the Kings annals had differing purposes; there is nothing to prevent such double usage with respect to available supplies. And in any case, as noted, neither Isaiah nor the Kings writer, that we know of, were constrained by the limits of funding and of needing to keep in mind the production of multiple copies across an empire, for people from all backgrounds and nations. X misses a lot by not keeping up.

Another website, which discussed archaeological discoveries that dispute the claims of skeptics who argue that writing did not exist in the time of Moses, contains a section that discussed the types of writing materials that were available in biblical times. It pointed out the following about materials used to make scrolls (emphasis added).

d. leather . The Jewish Talmud specifically required that the Scriptures should be copied on the skins of animals, on leather. It is most certain, that the Old Testament was written on leather. Rolls or Scrolls were made by sewing skins together that were from 3 to 100 feet or more in length. And how many copies were made, for how many people? Hello? This is NOT a uni-dimensional problem, folks!

e. Papyrus . It is almost certain that the New Testament was written on papyrus because it was the most important writing material at that time. Papyrus is made by shaving thin sections of the papyrus reed into strips, soaking them in several baths of water, and then overlapping them to form sheets. One layer of the strips was laid cross ways to the first. Then these were put in a press that they might adhere to each other. The sheets were made 6-15 inches high and 3-9 inches wide, pasted together, forming rolls that were usually 30 feet long, though one was found to be 144 feet in length. Our English word "paper" comes from the Greek word for papyrus.

One would think that a 30-foot papyrus scroll would have been long enough for "John" or "Matthew" or any of the gospel writers to give sufficient details in their narrations "One would think"? No, one needs to get out a 30 foot long scroll and try if one is going to make this argument. To say nothing of assuming to know what the needs of John's readers were. to have provided readers with enough clarity to prevent the disputes [sic] that have arisen over inconsistencies in parallel accounts, "Ancient writers should have anticipated our gross ignorance and obsessive demands for Western precision-literalism!" such as the one about who carried the cross of Jesus to Golgotha [sic], but the information available on the subject of scrolls clearly tells us that if a scroll of typical length (30 feet) wasn't long enough [sic] to do the job, it could have been made longer by just pasting on more sections of papyrus, And making it more expensive...for the original writer AND people who would copy later...and of course, by adding on one piece to the end, you can fill in all the gaps in info you left in the middle. Isn't that brilliant of X to figure out? but [Holding] ignores this fact about papyrus scrolls and grabs a straw to try to justify inconsistencies in the biblical text. As usual, the only straw is X's burning strawman, and his lack of dimension conception. It happens I even make this point in what X quotes, but he misses it:

Now maybe if you are wealthy, or know someone who is, you can get another scroll and do a "Life of Jesus, Part 2", perhaps a shorter half. But if you do, bear in mind that generations beyond you (and how can you anticipate WalMart, or the printing press?), in order to preserve your work, will have to also buy two scrolls. If you want your work to get out to people, that's not a very smart move. Your work is going to cost more to keep around than a work with one scroll. So you'd better plan carefully what you want to put on those scrolls. By the way, writing is cumbersome and difficult with comfortable chairs and writings desks not in the picture -- unless, again, you are very wealthy. So better keep it simple.

[Holding] seemed to think that decisions about what to put onto the scrolls and how long to make them were left entirely to the writers. Whatever happened to "inspiration," and what was the purpose of whatever brand of "inspiration" that [Holding] believes in if it wasn't intended to guide the writers into reporting truth and not error? What "happened" to it? Nothing. Other than that, it was taken over by Western anachronists like X who thought this meant robotic dictation, rather than what the ancients thought "inspiration" meant (which was more like, the sort of "inspiration" we get for a work of art.) Maybe [Holding] can also explain why the "Holy Spirit"--who was presumably guiding "John" and the other chosen ones into "all truth" (John 16:13)--could not have "anticipated" Wal-Mart or the printing press? Is [Holding] implying that the Holy one was unable to know what the future held, or is this just more of his say-anything-and-the-gullible-will-accept-it approach to "apologetics." Pardon me for thinking the latter. X is pardoned for his ignorance and bigotry and self-centeredness. What in the world good will it do to "anticipate" the printing press 1500 years later, while for that 1500 years there will be people who still have to struggle with the same problems? X not only wants God to kiss his butt, he thinks God should do it at the expense of everyone who lived before he did. Now that's arrogance.

As for the difficulty of writing on scrolls when "comfortable chairs and writings desks were not in the picture," writing on scrolls wouldn't have been so difficult for someone sitting at a table, would it? Tables were in the picture in those days, weren't they? If not, how could the Bible, which referred to tables several times, have mentioned something that was nonexistent? This will be news to the anachronist in Skeptic "if they didn't think as I did, they were stupid" X, but while tables were available, the idea to use them for writing had somehow not yet occurred. This is the sort of data you get from scholarly and informed sources like David Neville's Mark's Gospel: Prior or Posterior?, the sort of book X will never pick up because it has no dots he can connect. If you think this is crazy, it's not more odd than that New World cultures somehow never managed to invent the wheel. There are likely reasons this idea had not yet come about, but I'll hold back and see if X wants to make a fool of himself disputing this point before I lay it out. Well, I will have to take that question back, because it implies a bad argument. The Bible mentioned several nonexistent things, such as, gods, angels, cherubim, demons, heaven, hell, etc., so reporting the nonexistent is not at all unusual for the Bible. Poor X can't resist the sound bite off topic. At any rate, [Holding] very fancifully speculates that "John" and other biblical writers were forced to be confusingly brief Note that "confusingly" is X's own ignorant value judgment based on his OWN confusion, not that of any person living at that time, which was very "high context" -- something X has been told, and can't rebut other than by making more mistakes. at times because they just couldn't afford enough parchments or papyri to give enough details to prevent ambiguity and "apparent" inconsistencies. Again, note that this remains X's bigoted value judgment, not one from those who wrote or first read the texts. This quibble leaves much to be asked about why an omniscient, omnipotent deity, who often intervened, as mentioned above, to perform all kinds of miracles on behalf of his chosen ones, somehow seemed powerless to scrounge up enough scroll materials to enable his "inspired" ones to write clear and coherent accounts of whatever they were recording, He's already said this, and we answered above. You can see how X is a rant in need of an editor. Next he'll ask why God didn't provide more toliet paper the next time he runs out in a public stall. and the quibble is certainly inconsistent with the realities of needless repetitions and parallel reporting in the Bible, Watch this. More anachronism upcoming. which wasted far more scarce and precious scroll space than what it would have taken "John" to report that Jesus carried his cross partway after which Simon of Cyrene took over. If writing materials were so scarce and "expensive" in biblical times that brevity was necessitated, how does [Holding] explain the following unnecessary usage of scroll materials? I have actually answered most to all of these examples already in the essay X is unaware of. Too bad.

Verbatim repetition of long passages: The 38 verses in Isaiah 37 are the same as the 37 verses in 2 Kings 19. They differ in the number of verses only because verses 15 and 16 in Isaiah 37 were combined into just one verse in 2 Kings 19. Now if scroll materials were so scarce and "expensive," why didn't Yahweh tell either "Isaiah" or the author(s) of 2 Kings that one of them would not have to use precious scroll space to record this passage because another "inspired" writer had already recorded it? Does [Holding] ever wonder about things like this? Did he even know that these identical biblical passages exist? Duh, yeah. Did X even know my answer to this existed when he wrote this, and had for months? What? Does Skeptic X expect a compiler of Isaiah's words and deeds to leave out 2 Kings 19? What's he going to do, write in a note, "see other scroll"? The compiler of Isaiah's oracles and of the Kings annals had differing purposes; there is nothing to prevent such double usage with respect to available supplies. And in any case...neither Isaiah nor the Kings writer, that we know of, were constrained by the limits of funding and of needing to keep in mind the production of multiple copies across an empire, for people from all backgrounds and nations. X blithely assumes that the conditions and purposes of the Gospels were 100% the same as that for Kings and Isaiah, which is a remarkable act of density. The same answer applies to examples he gives between Psalms and Kings, and Jeremiah and Kings, so we skip that and get to where X, after his usual "I'm the expert" fashion, suggests that John could have written this to cover X's own niggling ignorance:

Then Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, who carried the cross by himself until he could no longer bear it, and then they compelled Simon of Cyrene to carry it on to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

There are only 53 words in this rewritten version, compared to the 38 in "John's" account. 15 words, huh? The answer to this sort of selfishness was already given in the article X addresses: "But it's just a sentence! Surely Mark or Luke or John could have fit it in." Sure! At the expense of some other part of their account being shorter. Bear in mind that this little blurb about QS (and I would add here, about the cross) is part of the very end of Jesus' life, which is already very crowded at the end of the scroll. We do not know how Mark originally ended, and we see that John supplements the Synoptics; but that extra sentence for Luke (assuming he knew about the QS) means something else has to go. How about, "And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb"? Well, what about the need to stress the physicality of Jesus' resurrection body (very important in a Greco-Roman world that did not like the concept of resurrection)? How about cutting out the repentance of the one thief (23:40)? Why do that for your sake? Sorry, X's selfish ignorance and confusion is not the plumb line for what writers could or should have done.

There is only one more line in the rewritten version, which, if [Holding]'s traditional interpretation of John 19:17 is right, would have removed all doubt about what had happened. Does he seriously expect reasonable people to believe that "John" just wasn't able to be this explicit because of "compositional constraints" caused by the scarcity and cost of scroll materials in those days? Yes we do, X, and your standing by the roadside gasping with incredulity isn't an actual response. If [Holding]'s speculation is true, then that doesn't say very much about the importance that his god puts on human souls. The "inspired word" claims that "God" wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3), but according to [Holding], "God" didn't want this if it was going to necessitate the use of space on costly and scarce scroll materials. As already noted, wanting people to come to the knowledge of the truth does not require demanding that God wipe our rear ends just because we're too lazy to do it, or looking for excuses. Secular historians, as noted in the link above, have no problem figuring out or accepting this kind of thing. A know-far-less like X who refuses to so much as break a book open and think a thought has about as much excuse as the brat with his hand in the cookie jar.

Don't any of [Holding]'s choir members ever take the time to analyze critically his harebrained "explanations" of biblical discrepancies? Doesn't X ever get out of his anachronizing, one-dimensional, bigoted, crackpot-scholarship mode? "Critically" here means "evaluating it in English in terms of modernity".

Before and after repetition: There is even an example of a story being told twice in different books, so that one who accepts the biblical inerrancy doctrine must believe that the incident happened both before Joshua died and then after he was dead. This story was told first in the middle of a chapter where Joshua was dividing the conquered lands among the tribes of Israel. Duh, no, not at all. Let's have a look first.

Joshua 15:15 15 Then he [Caleb] went up from there to the inhabitants of Debir (formerly the name of Debir was Kirjath Sepher). 16And Caleb said, "He who attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give Achsah my daughter as wife." 17 So Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife. 18 Now it was so, when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, "What do you wish?" 19 She answered, "Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water." So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

At this time, Joshua was still alive, because he was the one in charge of the distribution of the conquered lands. Oops, not quite the case. More in a moment about how X displays his ignorance. The death of Joshua was recorded at the very end of this book (Josh. 24:29-33), and the next book (Judges) began with a reminder that Joshua was dead.

Judges 1:1 Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked Yahweh, saying, "Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?" 2 And Yahweh said, "Judah shall go up. Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand."

So at the time of Othniel's conquest of Debir [Kirjath Sepher], Joshua was still alive, but presumably the incident also happened after he was dead.

Judges 1:11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. (The name of Debir was formerly Kirjath Sepher.) 12 Then Caleb said, "Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife." 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. 14 Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, "What do you wish?" 15 So she said to him, "Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water." And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

I don't know what track [Holding] may take to try to explain how Joshua could have been both alive and dead when this incident happened, but some biblicists will argue that because the book of Judges opened with a notice that Joshua was dead wouldn't necessarily mean that everything recorded in this book happened after Joshua's death. Not like the one X addresses, which I will delete. However, here's the answer, which is miles out of X's head. The story in question about Caleb originally existed as a fully separate unit of oral tradition. It was incorporated into both places because of its topical relevance, and in Joshua it is dischronologized, a "flash forward" if you will, completing the topic. This was normal ancient historical reportage procedure; chronology was not the automatic way of following things; it requires no "imagination" or "determination" because it draws an answer from what has been observed to be a typical practice, that fits in as well with the primarily oral nature of communication. But back to the main issue: X wastes several lines asking again why lack of paper didn't stop this repetition, and the answer is the same: Joshua and Judges are and were not of the same nature and purpose as the Gospels. Is this so hard? It gets even worse with this example:

Speaking of "twice-told tales," I could fill several pages with examples of the same tales that were told twice in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. X provides several examples of Chronicles parallels, but this one is his worst and most decontexualized. My answer, already given: Ezra and Nehemiah would have been able to call on the Persian royal treasury for help, which made Chronicles (Ezra's work) an affordable luxury. Kings of Judah had the royal treasury at hand for works like Psalms; righteous kings would offer such support to prophets like Isaiah. One copy of Isaiah would be no burden under such circumstances. In contrast the NT writers, though they may have had the backing of members of the educated Roman class, still did not have deep pockets to pull from -- not to the level of the king of Persia. I'll also add that Chronicles was written at a sensitive time in Jewish history when a new "manifesto" and fresh look at Jewish history was needed to serve as a rallying point for the exilic returns. In any event there is no comparison to the Gospel situation, and we delete all of X's further comparisons to Chronicles, which are all answered the same way, and are nothing but his attempt to make his lame argument look more substantive. We go to X's next attempt to make an issue:

Partial repetitions: In addition to almost verbatim repetitions, the Bible contains numerous examples of passages that repeat the same expressions or ideas, as if saying it once were not enough for readers to understand what was being said. In Joshua 13:1, for example, the "inspired" writer somehow thought it necessary to say twice that Joshua was old and advanced in years.

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And Yahweh said to him: "You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.

For reasons known only to [Holding], the chief advocate of the "paper-shortage" theory, Yahweh somehow thought it was necessary for his "inspired" one to waste precious scroll space to tell his readers twice that Joshua was old and advanced in years. Yahweh would do this, but for reasons also known only to [Holding], would not let "John" report that Jesus carried the cross partway to Golgotha before Simon of Cyrene carried it the rest of the way. Recording both details in John 19:17 would have taken no more space than was used to say twice in Joshua 13:1 that Joshua was old and advanced in years. The same answer as before applies. Joshua was written for an entirely different purpose and situation than the Gospels; there was no concern for multiple copies placing a burden on others. And there's one more point here which further exposes X's bigoted provincialism: Repetitive phrases like these are a function of oral repetition. With 99% of the population of this time illiterate, parallelisms like this one were necessary to inspire memorization. The trade-off between space and memory-enhancing weighs heavier towards the latter when not many copies need to be made in the first place. Where the Gospels were concerned, the balance is more equitable. Nevertheless the error of X remains the same, as he merely assumes the Gospel situation was 100% the same as Joshua's. We delete X's further examples from Judges, where the use of "no king over Israel" multiple times is also a memorization/orality function, supplying X's blithely ignorant "some unknown reason" for the repetition. Next up on X's list of Goofy Things to Say:

In Leviticus 18, the writer(s) declared laws against incestuous offenses and then turned around just two chapters later and repeated many of the same laws.

Leviticus 18:6 'None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am theYahweh. 7 The nakedness of your father or the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover; it is your father's nakedness. 9 The nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere, their nakedness you shall not uncover. 10 The nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for theirs is your own nakedness. 11 The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your fathe--she is your sister--you shall not uncover her nakedness. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is near of kin to your father. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is near of kin to your mother. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother. You shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-la--she is your son's wife--you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, nor shall you take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness. They are near of kin to her. It is wickedness. 18Nor shall you take a woman as a rival to her sister, to uncover her nakedness while the other is alive.

Leviticus 20:10 'The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. 11 The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. 14 If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you. 15 If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. 17 'If a man takes his sister, his father's daughter or his mother's daughter, and sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a wicked thing. And they shall be cut off in the sight of their people. He has uncovered his sister's nakedness. He shall bear his guilt. 18 If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people. 19 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister nor of your father's sister, for that would uncover his near of kin. They shall bear their guilt. 20If a man lies with his uncle's wife, he has uncovered his uncle's nakedness. They shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. 21If a man takes his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother's nakedness. They shall be childless.

There are variations in wording, of course, and chapter 20 includes laws against sexual intercourse during the female's menstrual cycle, which were not in chapter 18, but it does seem that an omniscient, omnipotent deity could have guided his "inspired" one(s) to incorporate both versions of these laws into either chapter 18 or 20 so that in a time of scarce and expensive scroll materials, only one chapter on incestuous relationships would have been written. Once again the same answer: Leviticus is not the Gospels. Leviticus was reserved for use by priests, for whom a single copy or even less than a half dozen would serve. This is NOT the Gospels all over the Roman Empire. And again: memory, memory, memory. The difference? Lev. 18 warns against the practices of the Caanites; Lev. 20 warns against the practices of worshipping Molech. Not quite the same, but several similarities. We delete X's extra blah-blah where he repeats his point again and again for effect (having no better arguments actually grounded in data to offer) and skip to the close:

Time would fail me if I should try to discuss all of the biblical texts where space was wasted on genealogical data and then wasted again repeating the same data or where Yahweh "inspired" his chosen ones to give minute details, chapter after chapter, on how to build a tent and make the furniture that was to go into it (Exodus 26-39). No rational person can wade through such tedious, repetitious trivia as this Note once again X's blind, mouth-foaming bigotry: because HE finds such details "trivial" and "tedious," it was obviously unimportant. What sanctimonious arrogance! The ancients were VERY concerned with genealogies (see here) and with details of such things (because they represented important concepts reflecting order in creation; see here for related points). The comparison I have made of X to a Grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan is entirely justified; he is just as well to speak of "space wasted on Alex Haley's Roots" and the "tedious" descriptions of ceremonies that accompany Kwanzaa celebrations. Sorry, X, the world does not revolve around YOU. The solar system is not "Xocentric". and then believe that parallel accounts in the New Testament sometimes appear inconsistent because "paper" was scarce and expensive in those days, so the "inspired ones" chose to leave out certain details that would have harmonized the accounts if they had told all. This is nothing more than another desperate attempt by an amateur apologist to rationalize obvious discrepancies and inconsistencies in the Bible. It's nothing more than X foolishly assuming that conditions and purposes for the Gospels were the same as for the OT. And more than this, below, which X did not address from the article.

This paper-shortage theory would have us believe that a god who had spared no expense in commanding the Israelites to build a tabernacle to his vanity, Vanity, my foot. This is X's bigotry shining again. The tabernacle and other accoutrements again represented important concepts about order and chaos. Isn't this the same X who quotes the verse above about God wanting men to be saved? in which the furniture was overlaid with pure gold and accessories cast of pure gold (Ex. 25-31), and later a temple even more elaborate, was so much of a tightwad that he would not provide his inspired writers with adequate scroll materials to write complete details of what they were reporting. Uh huh. The Israelites were able to gather reparations from Egypt after 400 years of slavery. So X selfishly supposes that someone else should have done the same for the sake of his ignorance and nitpicking? Yes, the word revolves around you, Skeptic X. We'll skip his remaining confidence-man blather and instead remind the reader of material in here X IGNORED in his response, particularly what is said by Byrskog. And he can't say he didn't have enough paper.