Saturday, March 01, 2014

Bible Trivia Answers

            Well, this post is long overdue.
            And then I just never got around to doing the follow-up post.

            What was the whole thing all about?  Well, it’s a bit of a long story, but sometime last year, a few conversations at work about Biblical history evolved into a bit of a Bible Trivia game with the texting of questions and answers going back and forth between me and a few of my friends and co-workers.

            When I posted the 23 questions last year, my original plan was to collect all the old phone texts and post the whole exchange—not just the questions and the answers, but all the jokes and banter that accompanied each question.
            It seemed like a good idea at the time.
            But upon reflection, I’ve decided against it.  After re-reading the whole thing, it wasn’t actually as clever or as funny as I had first thought, and mostly filled with inside jokes.

            However, even though my original idea was abandoned, it did still bug me that I had unanswered trivia questions lingering on my blog—even if no one else in the world was particularly bothered, a sense of incompleteness dogged me.
            And so, I decided that, if nothing else, I should at least give the answers to the questions I had posted.

            The questions I chose for this trivia game come into basically two categories, reflecting my own personal interests.
            In the first category, many of these questions and answers have an ideological edge to them, reflecting my current beliefs as an agnostic, and wishing to point out many of the inconsistencies, flaws, and problems with the Bible.
            But in the second category, many of the questions simply reflect my interest in history and mythology, and so I liked to pick out little details from the historical narratives in the Bible that I just thought were cool or interesting.
            The two are of course not mutually exclusively.  Some of the inconsistencies in the Biblical narrative are also fascinating from a mythical or historical point of view as you try to trace back what the original story must have been.
            Below are the answers.  If you want to see how many of these you can get by yourself first, you can go back to the post with just the questions and read those first.  (All the quotations come from the Today’s English Version translation of the Bible—even though I grew up on the NIV translation myself, the TEV was the Bible I had in Cambodia).

First Question
Bible trivia time: besides David, who else killed Goliath?

The answer: Goliath from Gath was killed twice in the Bible, once by David and also in 2nd Samuel 21:19 by Elhanan son of Jair. 
            In her lectures on the Old Testament, Christine Hayes mentions that many of the events in the historical narratives happen twice—David is anointed King twice, David is introduced to Saul twice, Saul loses God’s blessing twice, and Goliath is even killed twice.  Obviously it seems the D source (W) is apparently drawing from multiple conflicting sources when writing the historical accounts in the Old Testament.
            In the case of Goliath, one of the more interesting on-line commentaries I read about this hypothesizes that Elhanan was the original Goliath killer, but over time the legend about Goliath became too big to attribute to a minor, otherwise unknown hero, so it was moved over and given to David instead. 
            This fits with what Robin Lane Fox argues in the “The Unauthorized Version”, namely that the court history of David the King seems very historical in nature, but the stories of young David don’t seem to match tonally the King David stories, and so the young David stories probably come from a later period when David was being heavily mythologized.  The Court History of King David portrays a very human and flawed David, while the Young David material reads like “The Once and Future King.”
            One of my co-workers tried to argue with me that it was not the same Goliath that was killed by Elhanan, but I think it’s obvious that it is.  Not only are they both named Goliath, but both are from Gath, and both are described as having a shaft as thick as a bar on a weaver’s loom.
            Although it is interesting to see how the writer of Chronicles attempts to deal with this.  In 1st Chronicles 20:5, the same story is related, but instead Elhanan is described as killing “Lahani, the brother of Goliath from Gath, whose spear had a shaft as thick as the bar on a weaver’s loom.” 
            But I think it’s universally accepted by everyone (Christians as well as skeptics) that the author of Chronicles was writing in a later period and using the earlier Samuel and Kings books as his source material.

Question 2
In Deuteronomy 25, God commands the Israelites to “be sure to kill all the Amalekites, so that no one will remember them anymore. Do not forget!” Who finally fulfilled God’s command to kill all the Amalekites? For a bonus point how are the Israelites related to the Amalekites?

The Answer: this one was slightly tricky because there were a few different times when the Bible says the Amalekites all killed, only for them to re-appear later. In Samuel 15 King Saul supposedly kills all the Amalekites, but they pop up later in Samuel to harass David. The correct answer is that in 1 Chronicles 4 it is mentioned that in the reign of King Hezekiah 500 members of the tribe of Simeon killed the surviving Amalekites.  However, at least one Amalekite family appears to have survived down to Persian times. In Esther 3:1, Haman is identified as a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag. He was executed on the order of the Persian king Xerxes in Esther 7:10. His 10 sons were also executed on Esther’s request in Esther 9. This appears to have been the last of the Amalekites.  Either answer would have been correct.
In Genesis 36, Amalek is identified as the grandson of Esau. So both the Israelites and the Amalekites are related by descent from the common ancestor of Isaac.

            For us skeptics, the Amalekites are an easy punching bag, and I’ve actually already written a post on them before.  I think it’s completely impossible for Christians to defend this, but if you search the Internet you’ll find a number of attempted defenses.  Some Christians argue that whatever God orders cannot be questioned, even if God orders genocide.
            Other Christians argue that the history of the Amalekites shows that the whole race was evil.  But surely, it’s a mistake to argue that any whole race is unredeemably evil.  Outside of the realm of fairy tales and mythology (for example, the Goblins in Tolkien) there’s no such thing as a race of human beings that’s inherently evil.
            From a historical point of view, what I find fascinating is the question of whether the Amalekites even existed.  And if they did exist, then what really happened to them?  And if they didn’t exist, then where does this myth come from?

Question 3
In order to deflect attention from himself, Paul exploits a secretarian division among his Jewish persecutors to get them fighting among themselves instead. What two Jewish groups did Paul manage to pit against each other, and what doctrines did they disagree on?

The Answer: In Acts 23 Paul succeeds in getting the Pharisees to quarrel with the Sadducees. The Sadducees say that people will not rise from the dead and that there are no angels or spirits but the Pharisees believe in all 3. 

            No ideological edge to this question, I just thought it was a nice little insight into 1st Century Jewish religious squabbles that made its way into the New Testament.  (Although I suppose if you wanted to be critical of the Bible, you could say that Paul is guilty of some dishonesty in Acts 23 by misrepresenting his situation when he claims he is on trial simply because he was following Pharisee doctrine.)
            My 8th grade Bible teacher first drew my attention to this story in class one day.  He was talking about how Paul occasionally used the mutual hatred of the Pharisees and the Sadducees to his own advantage.  “It worked the first time,” my Bible teacher said, “it didn’t work the second time.”
            I’ve actually never been able to find a second occurrence, despite having tried several times to find it over the years.  I think what my Bible teacher must have meant was simply that the second time Paul was before the Jewish authorities he wasn’t able to wriggle out of the situation so easily, but I can’t find any mention of Paul trying the same ruse a second time.  Or did I miss something?

Question 4
A question about the Philistines today: in military confrontations with the Israelites, the Philistines enjoyed an advantage because they had a technology that the Israelites did not. What technological advance did the Philistines have?

The answer: The Philistines were part of the Iron Age and possessed the ability to create weapons from metals. The Israelites did not have this technology and according to 1 Samuel 13 the Philistines made sure the Israelites did not have any blacksmiths so they could not manufacture swords and spears.

            Another question with no ideological edge, just something I thought was interesting.  Again, this comes from my 8th grade Bible teacher, who was an expert on the Philistines, and used to emphasize to us that the Philistines were not country bumpkins, but much more technologically advanced than the Israelites.  (Although here again, if you wanted to nitpick the Bible you certainly could, because it’s not entirely consistent on this point.  There are numerous instances before Samuel 13 where the Israelite army is depicted as having and using swords.)

Question 5
Jephthah made a deal with God to sacrifice something in return for victory over the Ammonites. God accepts the bargain and gave him victory. What did Jephthah have to sacrifice in return?

The answer: In Judges 11, Jepthah promises to “burn in an offering the first person that comes out of my house to meet me when I come back from victory.”  This turned out to be his daughter.

            A rather bizarre little story from the book of Judges.  I remember learning this story in Bible class in elementary school.  It was a macabre tale, but then so was a lot of the Old Testament, so I didn’t really think too much of it at the time.
            I took renewed interest in the story a few years back when I heard Christopher Hitchens using this story to illustrate that the God of the Old Testament was guilty of accepting human sacrifice.  And I thought, “Yeah, why didn’t I ever notice that before?”
            The way my elementary school teachers taught this story, Jepthah was the one who was at fault for making a stupid promise to God.  And while this is no doubt true, it’s interesting to note that the wording of the Bible indicates that God accepts the bargain and gives Jepthah victory in return for Jepthah promising to “burn the first person that comes out of my house to meet me.”  (Judges 11:31)  Even if this hadn’t been Jepthah’s daughter, it still would have been the human sacrifice of someone that God accepts.  Nor does God make any attempt to call the bargain off afterwards.

Question 6
When was Jesus crucified in relation to the Passover meal?

The answer: This is one of the inconsistencies in the Bible. Jesus was crucified the day after the Passover in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Jesus was crucified on the day before the Passover in John.

            One of the many inconsistencies in the Bible I never noticed growing up, but my attention was drawn to it by Bart Ehrman and Robin Lane Fox.

Question 7
In Deuteronomy 23, Moses says: “No Ammonite or Moabite—or any of their descendants, even in the tenth generation—may be included among the Lord’s people.” In Nehemiah 13, the same prohibition against Moabites and Ammonites is repeated. When meeting Jewish men who had married women from Moab or Ammon and had children with them, Nehemiah called down curses on them, beat them, and pulled out their hair. And yet there is at least one Bible story which contradicts this prohibition against mixing with Moabites. Which story is it?

Answer: The correct answer is the story of Ruth.

            This is another question that comes directly from the Old Testament Yale Lectures by Christine Hayes.
            She advances the idea that the book of Ruth was written in direct response to the extreme racial purity ideology being advanced in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. During the post-exilic period, there was apparently a split in the Jewish community between those who wanted racial purity, and those who advocated a more inclusive view.  The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are the racial purity view, and Ruth is the inclusive view.
            I had never thought of this before, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it.  That’s why there’s no reference to Ruth in any of the other historical books—the books of Samuel or the books of Kings.  Ruth was a later invention during the post-exilic period.  And that’s why the punchline of the book is kept hidden until the end—that Ruth the Moabite turned out to be the ancestor of the line of David
Question 8:
Laban agrees to give Jacob only the goats that are speckled or spotted for Jacob’s wages. How does Jacob then manage to breed streaked, speckled, and spotted goats? For a bonus point, how might this contradict current scientific gene theory?

The answer: In Genesis 30, Jacob strips off the bark of green branches so that they have white stripes on them.  He places these stripped branches in front of the goats while they mate. It was a common ancient belief that whatever is being looked at while mating will affect the characteristics of the offspring conceived at the time. Modern scientific theory is that the offspring’s characteristics are determined by DNA and not by what the parents are looking at.

            This question is from Robin Lane Fox. Of course the way my Bible teachers had taught this story was that the goats became spotted was because of divine intervention, and I suppose the story can also be read that way.  But Robin Lane Fox asserts that it was a common belief in ancient times that the offspring of the mother would be affected by whatever she was looking at during the moment of conception, and that this story perfectly fits the theme of Jacob the trickster.  And actually if you read the story in Genesis 30 there’s no mention of God getting involved in the spotted goats, its just implied that the stripped branches did the trick on their own..

Question 9.
Before Saul, who was the first person to be declared King of Israel?

The answer: Abimelech

            No ideological edge to this one.  I just think its interesting that Saul is always referred to as the first king of Israel, and people forget about Abimelech

Question 10:
God commands Moses to go back to Egypt from Midian and talk to Pharaoh. Moses agrees. At a camping place on the way to Egypt Moses meets someone who tries (unsuccessfully) to kill him.  Who tried to kill Moses at the camping place?

The answer: God. Exodus 4:24. “At a camping place on the way to Egypt, the Lord met Moses and tried to kill him.”

            Once again, my attention was drawn to this bizarre little story by Robin Lane Fox’s book.
            Fox mentions this story in the contexts of his discussions about the difference between the E source (W) and the J source (W).
            One of the things that they never told me in Sunday School is that modern scholarship has been able to identify several different sources for the Old Testament historical books.  For example, the creation story in Genesis 1 tells one story of the creation of the world referring to God under the name “Elohim”.  Genesis 2 begins a completely different story of the creation of the world, this time referring to God as Yahweh.  It appears because of the contradictions and the differing language that these two stories come from 2 different sources that a later editor put together.  Throughout the first 5 books of the Bible, these contradictions between the Elohim God and the Yahweh God continue. The stories with the Elohim God are referred to as the E Source, while the sections about the Yahweh God are known as the “J source” (because Yahweh was translated as Jehovah.)           
            This is, incidentally, why the English Bible keeps switching back between the words and forth between the words “God” and “Lord” when referring to the Supreme Being.  The common tradition is to translate, Elohim as “God”, and Yahweh as “Lord.”
            As Robin Lane Fox points out, each source has a different style and different themes. One of the characteristics of the J source is the anthropomorphic view of God.  In the J source, Yahweh is the God who walks in the garden with Adam and Eve, who shuts the door on Noah’s ark, and anthropomorphic Yahweh is the one who meets Moses while Moses is going to Egypt and tries to kill him.  (Why the J-source God suddenly tries to kill Moses is not clear at all—it’s a very bizarre passage.)

Question 11:
When Jesus was near the city of Tyre, a woman asked him to cure her daughter from demon possession.  Jesus refused to help the woman or even talk to her until his disciples intervened because she was making too much noise.  Why did Jesus initially refuse to help the woman? For a bonus point, what animal did he compare her to?

The answer: Jesus initially refused to help the woman because she was Canaanite. In Matthew 15, she fell at his feet and said, “Help me sir.” Jesus replied, “It isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

            This is one of Christopher Hitchens’s favorite examples.

Question 12:
Smiting. The Old Testament God is famous for smiting people, while the New Testament God is generally seen as kinder and gentler. However some people were still killed by New Testament God. How many people did God kill in the New Testament, and who were they?

The answer: 3 people were struck down dead by God in the New Testament: Ananias, Sapphira and Herod. Also arguably Revelation predicts the future death of all non-Christians.

Question 13:
The prophet Samuel tells King Saul, “Because you rejected the Lord’s command, he has rejected you as king.” Some centuries later, an unnamed prophet tells King Ahab, because you did this, “you will pay for it with your life.” Both Saul and Ahab committed the same sin. What was it?

The answer: both Saul and Ahab showed mercy to a defeated opponent.

            I remember both of these stories individually from Bible class.  (They stuck in my mind in part because the Bible teacher had such a hard time explaining to us why these acts of mercy were so terrible to God.)  But Robin Lane Fox was the source for the explicit connection between both Saul and Ahab being punished for the same sin— because they had committed the sin of showing mercy.

Question 14:
Bible Trivia: God ordered the Israelites to attack the Midianites. All the Midianite men were killed, but the women and children were taken prisoners. Moses was furious when he found out that his commanders had spared the woman and children. What was done with the captured Midianite women and children?

The answer: In Numbers 31 Moses ordered “kill every boy and every woman who has had sexual intercourse, but keep alive for yourselves all the girls and all the women who are virgins.” For what purpose the virgin women were given to the troops is never specifically stated by the Bible and must be left up to the imagination. Biblical apologists will often point out that there is no way we can definitely prove that the Israelite soldiers wanted the virgins for sexual purposes.

            This story was always passed over in my Bible school, but Thomas Paine was absolutely appalled by it.  I first encountered it via Christopher Hitchens’s quotation of Thomas Paine.

Question 15
The chief angel Michael and the Devil quarreled with each other for possession of whose dead body? For a bonus point, where is this in the Bible and why does it cause canonical problems Christians?

The answer: in Jude 9, Satan and the chief angel Michael are arguing over the body of Moses. This is a canonical issue for Christians because Jude is quoting from the apocryphal document The Assumption of Moses. Jude also quotes from another apocryphal source—the Book of Enoch.  These are both documents that the Christian Church later decided were not authoritative scripture, but Jude is referencing them as if they were authoritative.

            This is one of the little details about the Bible that I just find so fascinating because it hints at richer mythologies on the edge of the official canon.
            Jude is one of the shortest books in the Bible, but is fascinating for a number of reasons.  Besides quoting from the apocryphal Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch mentioned above, there are numerous other strange details which seem to come from apocryphal sources—stories about Angels who rebelled and are now being kept in eternal chains,
            The book of Jude claims to be written by the apostle Jude (presumably the brother of Jesus), but it refers to the days of the apostles as if they were in the distant past, and so must have been writing by much later writer falsely using Jude’s name.
            Another fun little detail is that whoever wrote 2nd Peter was copying directly from Jude.  (If you compare 2nd Peter and Jude large sections of it are word for word identical—which is one reason among many that scholars believe 2nd Peter couldn’t possibly have actually been written by Peter, and is under a forged name). 
            2nd Peter also references to the ages of the apostles as if they were in the past, and also refers to Paul’s letters as established scripture, indicating again that whoever is writing this must be from a much later age.
            But interestingly enough, the author of 2nd Peter cleans up and removes much of the apocryphal references when he is copying from Jude.  The Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch parts are not repeated in 2nd Peter.

Question 16:
In the creation story, in what order were animals, man, and woman created in relation to each other?

The answer: another point on which the Bible contradicts itself. In Genesis 1, animals are created first and then men and women are created simultaneously. In Genesis 2, man is first, then animals, then woman.

Question 17
Bible Trivia: which book of the Bible never mentions God once, nor makes any references to worshipping God?

The answer: the book of Esther.  Rob also points out to me that Song of Solomon would also qualify.

            I was originally thinking the just the book of Esther for this one, but then someone pointed out to me Song of Solomon would also qualify, and I think that is right as well. 

Question 18:
Who were swallowed up by the earth and went down to the land of the dead while they were still living? For a bonus point, how might the location of the land of the dead as described by the Bible contradict modern geology?

The answer: Number 16—“the ground under Dathan and Abiram split open and swallowed them and their families, together with all of Korah’s followers and their possessions.  So they went down alive to the world of the dead, with their possessions.” Modern geological soundings have not revealed a land of the dead somewhere under the surface of the earth.

            My childhood Bible education differed a little bit depending on who the teacher was for each year, but the general assumption was usually that the creation story may be metaphorical, but everything after the first few chapters of Genesis was completely true.
            It’s interesting, therefore, to note how the whole Bible (not just the creation story) is full of ancient ideas about the world that have long since been disproved.

Question 19:
Bible Trivia: It has been Christian tradition to portray angels as asexual, but what Bible verse indicates that the heavenly beings had a sexual interest in human women?

The answer: Genesis 6-“When mankind had spread all over the world, and girls were being born, some of the heavenly beings saw that these girls were beautiful, so they took the ones they liked. In those days and even later, there were giants on earth who were descendents of human woman and the heavenly beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago.”

            These four little verses in Genesis 6 fascinate me to no end.
            First of all, the brevity of the whole thing is fascinating.  We get two whole books on King David (as just one example) and yet the whole event of Angels intermarrying with woman and producing a race of superhumans is just summed up in a couple lines.  I mean, talk about missing your lead story!
            It hints that there is a much richer mythology from which this passage is originally drawn that is now lost to history, but we can only speculate as to what kind of amazing stories originally were told.
            My 8th grade Bible teacher, when discussing these verses with us, told us that many Christians believe that this is the reason why Paul ordered women to keep their heads covered in Church—the idea was that when people sang hymns to God, Angels would come into the church to add their voices to the chorus, and since Angels have a history of becoming sexually excited by human women, this is why women have to keep their heads covered.
            Paul, of course, was thinking nothing of the sort when he wrote those words.  (The injunction for women to keep their heads covered was culturally based in the first century, not in the ancient near-Eastern mythology.)  But it’s still fascinating that Christians have gone ahead and made the connection.
            The tone in which my 8th grade Bible teacher related this was: I don’t personally believe this, but it’s a perfectly legitimate view for some Christians to take.
            This is why I find the Bible so fascinating—Sometimes people will say to me that they aren’t interested in the Bible because Greek myths are so much better.  And sure, from a story-telling perspective, maybe the Greek myths are more creative.  But the Bible is a LIVING mythology.  No one goes around believing in Zeus anymore, but there are plenty of perfectly sane people in America who believe that woman need to keep their heads covered in Church to avoid sexually arousing the angels and creating another race of superhumans.
            On another note—I recently had an opportunity to use this verse in my classes.  For the Advanced Reading Course I was teaching, the students had to do a book report on a book of their choosing.  There is a series of Young Adult books about romance between Angels and young girls that is, it turns out, quite popular with many of my teenage girl students, named Hush, Hush (W). Since my students were Cambodian, they didn’t know the Christian mythology behind the idea, so I got to explain the whole concept in the class.

Question 20
After Jesus rose from the dead, where did he first meet his disciples?

The answer: another point in which the Bible contradicts itself. Jesus first met his disciples in Galilee according to the Gospel of Matthew, and in Jerusalem according to Luke.

            One of many contradictions in the resurrection story—I could make a whole list of trivia questions just highlighting the problems with the resurrection story alone.
            My 8th grade Bible teacher used to tell us that the contradictions in the resurrection story were simply because eye-witnesses get confused during dramatic events and remember things differently—like how people always have different accounts after a car crash.
            But although this might explain away minor differences, did the disciples really not remember what town they were in when they first saw Jesus after the resurrection?

Question 21:
Who was the world’s first conqueror whose kingdom included Babylon, Erech and Accad and who built the cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen?

The Answer: Genesis 10 says Nimrod was the world’s first conqueror and his kingdom included Babylon, Erech and Accad and he built the cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen.

            As with the race of superhumans described in Genesis 6, the brief story of Nimrod fascinates me because it seems to have been a much longer and richer story at one point, and only a small fraction of it snuck its way into the bible while the rest was lost to history.
            It is also another logical inconsistency in the Bible.  Nimrod was only 2 generations after the flood wiped out all of humanity, and yet suddenly the earth is apparently filled with kingdoms for him to conquer and masses of people to build cities.  (I know finding logical problems in the first 12 chapters of Genesis is just shooting fish in the barrel, but…)
            My 8th grade Bible teacher used to tell us about “Nimrod the mighty hunter”, and my classmates would always snicker because to us the word “nimrod” meant an idiot.
            Wikipedia has an interesting little explanation for how Nimrod came to mean idiot (--your guess is as good as mine as to whether this is reliable or not):
In 15th-century English, "Nimrod" had come to mean "tyrant". Coined in 20th-century American English, the term is now commonly used to mean "dimwitted or stupid fellow", a usage first recorded in 1932 and popularized by the cartoon character Bugs Bunny, who sarcastically refers to the hunter Elmer Fudd as "nimrod",[26][27] possibly as an ironic connection between "mighty hunter" and "poor little Nimrod", i.e. Fudd.[28]

Question 22
According to Paul, what is a disgraceful thing for a woman to do in a church meeting?

The answer: 1 Corinthians 14 “As in all the churches of God’s people, the women should keep quiet in meetings. They are not allowed to speak; as the Jewish Law says, they must not be in charge. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in a church meeting.”

            Both Bart Ehrman and Dale Martin mention this verse.  Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to have been written by Paul at all. 
            The book of 1 Corinthians is one of the 7 undisputed letters of Paul, so historians think Paul actually wrote most of the book, but it looks like latter scribes may have inserted their opinions into the text.
            For one thing, some of the older manuscripts of Corinthians do not contain these verses.
            Secondly, it contradicts what Paul said elsewhere, when he cites women leaders in his churches (Romans 16, for example). 
             (In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul does believe they should keep their heads covered in church, but they are allowed to pray and prophesy in church as long as they follow this restriction .  The infamous verses about women not being permitted to speak or have authority over men come from 1st Timothy, which is one of the books that scholars believe Paul did not write, and was forged in his name.)
            Furthermore, if you read 1 Corinthians 14, the verses about women keeping quiet not only seem to contradict what comes directly before, but seem to interrupt Paul’s flow of thoughts.  The chapter actually reads much smoother and makes more sense if you just take those verses out.
            Dale Martin theorizes that probably a scribe was upset at the idea in 1 Corinthians 14 of all people being able to proclaim God’s message, and so inserted a marginal comment about how women must keep silent.  A later scribe got confused and thought this marginal comment should be part of the text
            When all this is added up, it looks like most of the anti-woman comments attributed to Paul are not actually from Paul himself.  (Although there is still Corinthians 11)
            But whatever one thinks of Paul, the idea of authoritative and incorruptible scripture, however, becomes unbelievable. 

Question 23:
Paul writes, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong.” Paul also writes, “The other Jewish brothers also started acting like cowards along with Peter; and even Barnabas was swept along by their cowardly action.” Why was Paul so upset with Peter? For a bonus point, how does Paul’s account of this argument contradict the story in the book of Acts?

The answer: In Galatians 2 Paul says that in Antioch “Before some men who had been sent by James arrived there, Peter had been eating with the Gentile brothers. But after these men arrived, he drew back and would not eat with the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who were in favor of circumcising them.” This circumcision controversy is mentioned in Acts 15, but no mention of the conflict between Paul and Peter and Barnabas. Also Paul’s account of his movements earlier in the book of Galatians contradicts the book of Acts. 

            Both Dale Martin and Bart Ehrman use this passage in Galatians to illustrate the differences between the account in Acts, and Paul’s own account of his missionary journeys.  Bart Ehrman (and others) argue that this is one of the reasons why the books of Luke and Acts can not have been written by the historical Luke—the differences between Acts and Paul’s letters seem to discredit the idea that Acts was written by a travelling companion of Paul. (Also the theology in Luke-Acts is different than Pauline theology.)
            Comparing Paul’s letters to Acts, a few interesting things pop up.  For one thing, although Acts goes through considerable effort to smooth over all the disagreements in the early church, Galatians 2 seems to indicate there were still a few hurt feelings and disagreement between the apostles.  Galatians 2 also seems to offer a different account of the split between Paul and Barnabas than the account given in Acts.  In Acts, Paul and Barnabas split up over a personnel decision—whether to take John-Mark along with them on their missionary travels or not.  In Galatians, it appears to be a more bitter rift in the church.
            The flip side of the coin, however, is that I think this is definite evidence that there was an historical Paul, and there was an historical Peter, because it would not have been in the interests of early Christians to fabricate a non-existent quarrel between their two major leaders.  [Another little dig Paul makes at Peter is when he appears to be complaining about Peter taking his wife with him on Church expenses in 1 Corinthians 9 ]
            Secondly, it’s interesting to notice that neither Peter nor Paul are in charge, but rather James the brother of Jesus is the head of the Christian church after Jesus’s death.  It’s odd given that the Bible barely mentions James the brother of Jesus at all, and yet here he is as the head of the Church—not Peter, not Paul, but James.  The somewhat cynical Thomas Sheehan sees this as an attempt to keep power in the family after Jesus died [LINK HERE].
            Also, as long as we’re being cynical about this, there’s some doubt as to the historical accuracy of Christian apocryphal accounts of Peter’s martyrdom, and I’ve seen some atheists use Paul’s description of Peter to indicate Peter may not have been the brave martyr that Christian tradition portrays him as.

            …The Bible Trivia exchanges between me and my friends were beginning to peter out by this stage, so I decided to wrap the game up.
            There were several questions I had in the back of my mind yet to use, although a lot of them would have been variations on the same theme (logical inconsistencies in the first 12 chapters of Genesis, contradictions in the resurrection account, et cetera.)
            There were also a few things I found fascinating that I couldn’t find a question to get at:
            For example, one of the things that fascinated me about Christine Hayes’s lectures was creation myths.  Near-Eastern and Canaanite creation myths usually featured the gods slaying powerful monsters.  The stories in Genesis 1&2 can be seen as a reply to those more violent creation stories common at the time.
            But, as with everything else in the Bible, not all the writers were on the same page, and other writers in the Old Testament clearly believe in the more ancient stories about God slaying monsters at the creation of the world, particularly the sea monster Rahab. These stories can still be found in such passages as Job 26, Psalm 74, and Psalm 89.

            I find this stuff endlessly fascinating, but couldn’t think of a good question to get at it, so I never made use of it.
            Also I somewhat regret I never made a question about all of God’s people rising out of their graves in Matthew 27.

            And…Well, let’s face it.  There’s enough fascinating stuff in the Bible to spend a lifetime studying, and I barely scratched the surface with this list.  But for whatever it’s worth, this is a list of some of the things that did catch my attention.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky (2013) on "Communism, Revolutionary Violence, the American Left and Zizek"


Darrell Reimer said...

This is the first I've heard your 8th grade SS teacher's Noahtic defense of Pauline gender commands. I have to admit, there are moments when I miss that esoteric sort of Biblical exposition.

Joel said...

I know, it's completely fantastical....and yet he's not an anomaly. Lots of Christians believe this, as a quick google search for connections between Genesis 6 and Paul's command to cover heads will reveal.
See for example:

...and more.
And I'm with you, there are moments when I do sort of miss that sort of fantastical world view about Angels and demons and the whole bit. Vibrant mythology in many ways can be more interesting than boring everyday life. Which I suppose is why it attracts so many people.

To quote Wordsworth:
THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 10
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Darrell Reimer said...

Wordsworth. Now more than ever.