Monthly Archives: February 2012

John 12:25-26 – The Law of the Kingdom of God

Last week we saw the expectations the Jews had for God’s anointed King.
• We discussed how this King would participate in a great battle; cleanse the temple; His kingship would contain proclamations; and he would have a final great victory.
• We also saw how OT prophecy detailed that a renewal of the heart would be necessary to enter into God’s new Kingdom.
• Finally, we saw the prophetic announcements about Gentile inclusion in the Kingdom.
    o This explained the significance of Jesus declaring the time had come when the Greeks expressed a desire to meet with him.

In today’s text, Jesus changes the focus from the Kingdom and it’s King to citizens of the Kingdom.
• In doing this, Jesus makes clear that the Gospel message consists of far more than just salvation.
• It also consists of a life of action and direction under the rule of King Jesus.
• Jesus is ruling, but as in the Garden of Eden, He is using humans (born again humans) as the stewards and the heralds of the Kingdom and its King and the King’s purposes.

As we get into the text today, I hope we can answer a couple of peculiar questions:
Why is it that the Gospel is not merely a private, personal “sin management” program?
    o It is much bigger than that.
Why does the Gospel seem to produce seemingly few “disciples” but scores of “vampire Christians”?
    o What is a “vampire Christian”?
    o They “want a little blood for their sins but nothing more to do with Jesus until heaven” – Dallas Willard.


John 12:25–26 (ESV) — 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

A quick rabbit trail before we begin.
• Verse 25 is a “Semitic idiom” and a “Hebrew parallelism taking the form of a māšāl with two antithetical lines” (loves his life vs. hates his life) – Kostenberger.
• This relates directly to the oral transmission of Jesus sayings we spoke of a few weeks ago.
• We learned that Jesus spoke in ways that were easy to remember in an oral culture.
• This verse is one such example.

Now, Beasley-Murray calls our text the “exposition of the law of the kingdom of God”.
• In other words, members of the Kingdom, those born again, are characterized by the principals Jesus’ teaches here.
• And obviously it involves much more than salvation.
• It involves a call by King Jesus and a certain kind of submission by citizens of the Kingdom.
• A Kingdom Call and Kingdom Submission.

What is the King’s Kingdom Call?
• The Kingdom Call is to hate our life – “whoever hates his life”.
• Kostenberger tells us this is “pointing to preference [for one thing over another] rather than actual hatred” – Kostenberger.
Ok, so if this is “pointing to a preference”, what is the preference Jesus is pointing us to?

James Boice wants us to notice that the word “life” is used three times in this verse.
• But, importantly, the first two uses are the Greek word “psyche”.
• The third use is the Greek word “zoe”.
• He says understanding the differences is “the heart of what this verse is saying” – James Boice.
• Therefore, understanding what each means will show us what the Kingdom Call is with respect to preference.

The “psyche” is the “seat and center of the inner human life” (BDAG) – such as the mind, desires, feelings emotions.
• An appropriate description of this would be the fallen will of man.
• It is that part of us that “thinks, plans for the future, and charts its course” outside of God’s will.
• And it is this that we are to hate – it is not to be our preference.
• So that means the Kingdom Call is that we give preference to the “zoe”.

The “zoe” is the “transcendent life” (BDAG).
• In our context, this is our “Kingdom life”.
• This is the life that is eternal but lives now in the Kingdom of God ushered in by King Jesus.
• When we no longer seek selfish fulfillment of our “psyche” the “zoe” flourishes.
• This is how we were created to live.
• The “zoe” life (or Kingdom life) is how we are called to fully live as citizens in the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom Call, then, is to hate “the fallen will of man” and give preference to the Kingdom life.
• The Kingdom Life is one led in submission to this Call.
• And this leads us to the next point – Kingdom Submission.

What is Kingdom Submission?
• We submit to the Kingdom Call when we live life in self-denial.
• Self-Denial is how we heed and submit to King Jesus’ Kingdom Call.

Scripture has much to say about this kind of life.
• Matthew 10:38–39 (ESV) — 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
• Matthew 16:25 (ESV) — 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
• Matthew 19:29 (ESV) — 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
• Luke 9:23 (ESV) — 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
• Acts 20:24 (ESV) — 24 But I do not account my life [psyche] of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
• 1 John 2:6 (ESV) — 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

What does the life lived in Kingdom Submission, in self-denial, look like?
• It should be clear that Jesus exemplified this life.
• It looks like Him.
• But there is more to be said about it.

What it is not:
• It is not self-rejection – Dallas Willard.
• It is not works and legalism – in other words, refraining from drinking, dancing, etc.
• It is not mortification – in other words, climbing up steps on your knees or whipping yourself on the back to empathize with Jesus.
• It is not loving one’s “psyche” life or life in the flesh (see coming Scriptures).
    o “For to love one’s life [this way] is a fundamental denial of God’s sovereignty, of God’s rights, and a brazen elevation of self to the apogee of one’s perception, and therefore an idolatrous focus on self, which is the heart of all sin” – D.A. Carson.

What it is:
Scripture says this:
• Galatians 6:8 (ESV) — 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
• Romans 8:6 (ESV) — 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
• Colossians 3:3 (ESV) — 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

So self-denial is “death to self” and the flesh, and a commitment to the things of God (“to the Spirit” or “on the Spirit”).
• Or as Jesus put it in our text today, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me”.

What does this mean?
• It is to “not make ourselves and our ‘survival’ the ultimate point of reference in our world”, or to “treat ourselves as God” – Dallas Willard.
• It is to follow after and serve Christ in “holiness and faithfulness in his teachings” – Willard.
• It means that “the object [of] securing myself, promoting myself, indulging myself, is to be set aside” – Dallas Willard.
• It is pushing “psyche” attachments out of your life and developing attachments to things of the kingdom.
    o What are some things of the Kingdom?

Important practical point:
• “Can I still think about [things of the flesh]” you may ask. Yes, you can. But you increasingly won’t. And when you do, as formation in Christ-likeness progresses, they simply won’t matter. In fact, they will seem ridiculous and uninteresting” – Dallas Willard.

So the Kingdom Submission we are Kingdom Called to make via self-denial involves the action and direction we mentioned at the very beginning.
• This means that the Gospel is much more than “getting saved”.
• And this answers the two questions we posed in our introduction.
(1) Why is it that the Gospel is not merely a private, personal “sin management” program?
(2) Why does the Gospel seem to produce seemingly few “disciples” but scores of “vampire Christians”?

First question answered:
• The Gospel is not merely a personal and private “sin management” program because we are called to deny the self.
• As we have seen, in the Kingdom we are called to self-denial and to divert our energy and concerns to the things of Christ and of the Kingdom and “of the Spirit”.
• The things of Christ, Kingdom and Spirit include other people and not just other citizens of the Kingdom.
• So a Kingdom life lived in self-denial is a life lived in public!
• The Gospel is not private.
    o Yet another reason we are to be in fellowship with believers.

Second question answered:
• The Gospel, as taught so often today, produces more “vampire Christians” than disciples, because we often fail to teach the entire Gospel.
• In other words, along with the “plan of salvation”, the Gospel is that Jesus is King and we are to live in His Kingdom and serve Him in self-denial.
Jesus never made it easy, why do we try to create what John MacArthur calls a Gospel of “easy-believism”?

Jesus also points out a perk of living in the Kingdom of God.
• In addition to eternal life, there is something available now, in the Kingdom of God.
• That something is to be honored by the Father.


When we live our Kingdom Life in self-denial, we are honored by the Father.
• Specifically, He says in verse 26, “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

It must be emphasized that if the honor we are to seek is the Father’s there must be an honor that can be incorrectly sought.
Whose honor might that be?
    o Galatians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
• In the Kingdom of God, honor comes from the Father and not from man.
• What this tells us is that living in the Kingdom of God as Jesus would have us to do will cost us something in the eyes of the world.
• Seeking the honor of man is not a life lived in self-denial.

What is to be honored by the Father?
What does it look like?
• Literally, it means that the Father will “show high regard for” us – BDAG.
• The TDNT describes this as the Father granting us “a share in his own glory”.
• It seems to be the idea that as Christ’s service of the Father was vindicated and authenticated at the Resurrection, our service of Christ will also somehow be vindicated and in a marvelous way.
• Kostenberger tells us that it, “is sure and firm and lasting rather than the fleeting and precarious honor awarded in the eyes of humankind”.
    o 2 Timothy 2:10 (ESV) — 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
    o 2 Timothy 2:12 (ESV) — 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;

James Boice imagines it as follows:

“Stand back, you angels! Make room, you seraphim! Make way! For here comes the man, here comes the woman, who was with my Son. He was only a poor sinful man. He was born in an ungodly time in the midst of an ungodly people. He did not know much. But he was with my Son. He was like him. He stood by him. Now I will honor him. Come up here. Here, take this crown, and then sit there with my Son on his throne and reign with him. For you shall indeed be with my Son in his glory, even as you were with him in his shame” – James Boice.

John 12:19-24 – The Hour Has Come

Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
• The crowd, quite large as we noticed a few weeks ago, praised Him as King.
• Jesus purposely rode in on a donkey to identify with and become the fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah.
     o Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) — 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
    o Jesus was claiming to be Zechariah’s humble king.
• A king prophesied throughout the OT.
    o Psalm 2:6 (ESV) — 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
• Jesus had also laid claim to another prophecy in Zechariah 14:21b during Passover week.
    o Zechariah 14:21b (ESV) — 21b And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.
• It was in the midst of this that we come to our text today.

However, before we proceed, we need to set the backdrop and context for Jesus’ final week.
• Jesus was proclaiming His Kingship during the Passover.
• For the Jew, the Passover was a looking back in celebration for the deliverance God provided from the Egyptians during the Exodus.
• But it was also a looking forward in hope to God’s future deliverance and restoration via His king.
• Passover was “dense with detail and heavy with hope” – N.T. Wright.

What were the Jews looking to be delivered from or restored to?
• Jews at the time of Jesus stilled considered themselves in “exile”.
• They “saw the Babylonian exile as only the start of a much longer period of history in which God’s people remained unredeemed, unrescued, and unforgiven” – N.T. Wright.
• They were under Roman rule, their half-Jewish king was a murderer and adulterer, the Temple had a history of desecration under foreign tyrants, and the 12 tribes of Israel were scattered.
• The Jews “hadn’t had twelve tribes since the eighth century BC, when the Assyrians came and captured the northern kingdom” – N.T. Wright.
    o This speaks to, by the way, why Jesus chose 12 disciples.
    o It was a symbolic restoration of the 12 tribes under His ministry – N.T. Wright.

Moreover, prior to Jesus’ public proclamation as King, He had clearly taught that the Kingdom of God was at hand.
• And more to the point, that He was ushering in this Kingdom on earth as in heaven.
• Matthew 12:28 (ESV) — 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
• Luke 8:1 (ESV) — 1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.
• So at Passover, Jesus was claiming to be the King of God’s new Kingdom.

What expectations did the Jews have of the King and the Kingdom of God?
• Two Accomplishments
• Two Moments

The King would at a minimum accomplish the following:
• 1) “Victory over the pagans” – N.T. Wright
• 2) “Cleansing or rebuilding the Temple” – N.T. Wright
    o So a Battle and a Cleansing.

Additionally, the King’s campaign “would have (at least) two key ‘moments’” – N.T. Wright.
• 1) “The initial proclamation” – N.T. Wright.
• 2) “The moment when the final battle was won and the Temple rebuilt” – N.T. Wright.

These insights beg the question.
What was Jesus’ Battle, Cleansing, “initial Proclamation” and the moment the “final battle won and the Temple rebuilt”?
• We will get to those later.
• Right now, back to the backdrop/context.

Therefore the Jews, as the people of God, in expectation of the prophecies from Daniel, Isaiah, Zechariah, and others were looking for God’s kingdom to be ushered by God’s chosen King.
• Their problem of course, was that they never anticipated that the Messiah, the suffering servant and the King would be one in the same person.
• In fact, “we have no evidence prior to the time of Jesus that anyone supposed that when God returned to his people he would return as the Messiah or as the servant” – N.T. Wright.
• Nevertheless, it was during Passover that this hope of restoration was in full throttle.
• It was therefore no accident that Jesus chose the Passover as “the hour” and to identify Himself as King.

But in addition to the “Two Accomplishments” and “Two Moments”, there were at least a couple of other things spoken of by the OT prophets concerning the Kingdom of God.
• (1) “One of the great things Israel had to do so that God would launch his great renewal movement, his new Exodus, was ‘to turn’, to repent, to turn back from the evil ways of the heart, and to turn instead to God in penitence and faith” – N.T. Wright.
    o This is because “if God was to become king on earth as in heaven, something deeper than outward reformation would be required” – N.T. Wright.
    o John 3:3 (ESV) — 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
• (2) And additionally, there was this business about the Gentiles.
    o And these lead us to the “Greeks” and our text today.


John 12:19–26 (ESV) — 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” 20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

The Pharisees, who had already determined that Jesus was a sham that would only draw the ire of the Roman authorities, had to concede defeat on this day.
• They looked at each other and said simply, “the world has gone after him”.
• In other words, thousands in town for Passover were clamoring all over Him in expectation of the new Exodus.

John reveals to us that some of those that were part of the crowd “were some Greeks”.
• This tells us a few things.
• (1) Passover drew even believing Gentiles (God-fearers).
• (2) Some of the Gentiles had specifically taken notice of Jesus.
    o Some speculate that His cleansing of the temple caught their attention because this happened in the court of the Gentiles to which they had access.

Profound Announcement:
Whatever the reason, they wanted to see Jesus.
• So they asked Philip and Andrew for an audience with Jesus.
• Jesus used the occasion to make a profound announcement.
• It appears, and Kostenberger agrees, that the “presence of the ‘Greeks’ was directly responsible for Jesus” making the announcement – “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified”.

On several occasions prior to this, Jesus had stated quite the opposite.
• John 2:4 (ESV) — 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
• John 7:30 (ESV) — 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
• John 8:20 (ESV) — 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Why would the presence of the “Greeks” at Passover indicate that Jesus’ hour had finally come?

The Gentile Connection:
In the inauguration of the Kingdom of God, as we mentioned, there was a Gentile connection.
• Isaiah 42:6 (ESV) — 6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,
• Isaiah 49:6 (ESV) — 6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel [restoration from exile]; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
• Isaiah 49:22 (ESV) — 22 Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.

“The reply of Jesus indicates that the coming of the Gentiles heralds the climax of his ministry…” – Beasley-Murray.
• Apparently, the presence of the “Greeks” was a cue and/or reminder to Jesus of what needed to be done that the Gentiles might enter the Kingdom of God.
• And D.A. Carson suggests that whether or not the “Greeks” met with Jesus, there was a sense in which, “they could not yet belong to him” and His Kingdom – D. A. Carson.
• “Jesus knew that the only way they [the Greeks] could truly enjoy fellowship with Him was through His atoning sacrifice” – John MacArthur.
• The “Greeks”, then, were one more reason Jesus had to die.

So what was the hour that had come?
• Obviously, then, the hour that had come was the “hour” of Jesus’ death on the cross.
• Or, as Jesus put it in verse 24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
• It would be this act that would draw “Jew and Gentile alike” – D.A. Carson.
• The Gentile inclusion into the Kingdom of God would be some of this fruit.
• In the Kingdom soteriology, death was necessary for there to be life.

We also can’t miss the fact that Jesus stated that he would also be “glorified” at this hour.
What does Jesus mean?
• To be “glorified” carries with it the idea that Jesus would be “clothed in splendor” – BDAG.
• In John, “the whole life of Jesus is depicted as a glorifying of the Son by the Father” – BDAG.
    o John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
    o John 8:54 (ESV) — 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
• This glorification of Jesus is shown in the submission of Christ to the will and direction of the Father and via the signs and wonders Jesus performed.

But here Jesus is telling us that He will be glorified in His death.
• D.A. Carson says that, “Jesus’ death was itself the supreme manifestation of Jesus’ glory”.
But how is this so?
• It has to do with the “Two Accomplishments” and “Two Moments” we alluded to earlier.
    o More on them later.
• Suffice it to say that for the Kingdom of God to be realized, its King had to die.
• Because, in the Kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus, the cross was “the battle that will set his people free and establish God’s sovereign and saving rule” – N.T. Wright.
• And the Kingdom was fully established “through his own suffering and death” – N.T. Wright.
Why? – “The darkness, it seems, had to be allowed to do its worst in order to be defeated” – N.T. Wright.

So we have seen the connection between the Greeks, Jesus’ announcement and His death and glorification.
• But Jesus doesn’t stop there.
• He goes on to tell us what His glorification will mean for residents of the Kingdom of God.
• We will dive into this next week.

Harmonizing the Gospels 101 – Part III

Click Here for Parts I, II and III – Harmonizing the Gospels 101

Summary of Parts I & II:
In Part I, we explored the relationship between the Inspiration of Scripture, Inerrancy and Harmonization.
• We saw that Inerrancy was a logical implication of the Doctrine of Inspiration.
• And likewise, given Inspiration and Inerrancy, Harmonization of Scripture (especially the Gospels), becomes a pressing issue.
• We found that one’s view of Inerrancy, whether Absolute Inerrancy or Full Inerrancy, directly affects ones view of Harmonization.
• And we suggested that a Fully Inerrant view of Scripture leads to a view of Harmonization of Scripture that is more in line with what Scripture would ask of us.

In Part II, we covered the Divine and Human Stewardship of the transmission of Scripture.
• We saw that God had a “chain of custody” that flowed from the Father, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit and finally to the disciples.
• This “chain of custody” secures the reliability of the transmission.

Additionally, there was also a human dimension in the transmission of God’s word.
• Richard Bauckham described this as Oral History that was transmitted in a Formally Controlled Framework with Eyewitnesses as the “guarantors” of Jesus’ sayings and narratives.
• And finally we found that the Oral History transmitted within the Formally Controlled Framework through the Eyewitnesses consisted of elements that were allowed a certain amount of variation and elements that were fixed – “fixity and variability”.

We now have a sufficient foundation and understanding to dive in to the Harmonization options available to us given all that we have covered.


We will begin this section with the three most common options available to us.
• We will then consider the options available to us that would be problematic for the Absolute view.
    o These views will come from Richard Bauckham and Moises Silva.
• BTW – The options we will present certainly aren’t exhaustive, but are comprehensive.
• The first I call “Common” and the second I call “Contextual”.

Common Harmonization Options:
(1) Happened Twice Option
• This approach suggests that differences exist because, though the stories are similar, the Gospel writers are actually dealing with different stories.
• An example of this to be found in the chronology difference between John’s account and the Synoptic Gospels account of the clearing of the Temple.
    o John 2:13-22 – John puts this event at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
    o Luke 19:45-48 – Luke (and the others) puts this event towards the end of Jesus’ ministry.
• Many believe that the best Harmonization option is that we are dealing with two different clearings.
• A.T. Robertson says of this option, “…there is no inherent difficulty in the repetition of such an act when one reflects on the natural indignation of Jesus at the desecration of the temple on his visit during his ministry and considers that Jesus may have wished to make one last protest at the close of his ministry.”
• We will address this difference again momentarily.

(2) Differing Perspective Option
• This approach suggests that differences appear to exist because, though the Gospel writers are dealing with the same story, they are highlighting or focusing on different aspects of the story.
• Two very good examples of this are the empty tomb narratives and Judas’ death.

Judas’ Death:
Matthew 27:5 (ESV) — 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
Acts 1:18–19 (ESV) — 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
Did he hang himself or did he fall and split his guts open?

Empty Tomb Narrative:
Mark 16:5–6 (ESV) — 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
Luke 24:3–5 (ESV) — 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?
Was there one angel or were there two angels?
What exactly did the angel or angels say?

In each of these cases, harmonization is accomplished by putting the two narratives together.
• Mark chose to focus on the one angel dressed in the white robe.
    o He never said there was only one angel.
• Luke chose to reveal that there were actually at least two angels present.
    o And, apparently, they both spoke.

(3) Time Compression Option
• This approach suggests that the Gospel writer is dispensing with details of time or chronology in order to get to the heart of the story.
• Mike Licona suggests that the differences in the withering tree narrative are an example of this.
    o Mark 11:12-20 shows Jesus’ cursing the fig tree in the morning; clearing the temple in the afternoon; and then on the next day they pass by the fig tree again and it notice it is withered.
    o Matthew 21:19 tells us that the fig tree “withered at once” on the same day Jesus cursed it.
• Using this approach, the solution is simply that Matthew gave us the quick version (the time compressed version).
• A modern day example of time compression is the inclusion of the wise men in the Nativity scene.

These three options are quite good, but when used to accommodate all the Gospels apparent differences, they begin to appear strained or overreaching.
Does it really make sense that Jesus cleared the temple twice?
• Perhaps John was not concerned with chronology and had a theological or thematic reason for moving the temple clearing scene to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
• Or how about the differences in the Rich Young Ruler narrative which we will soon discuss.
Is it really reasonable to suggest that Jesus had two different encounters with Rich Young Rulers?

It is for these reasons that we now turn to the Harmonization options available to us under the Fully Inerrant Approach.

Contextual Harmonization Options:
These options are contextual because they take into account all that we learned about the ways in which Oral Societies transmit Oral History through a Formally Controlled Framework.
• These options seek to demonstrate that some reconciliation is possible only when contextual and cultural considerations are accounted for.
    o Which is to say, Absolute Harmonization may not be possible.
    o It might be that we just accept the differences for what they are.
    o There is no attempt to overreach and force an awkward solution.
• These options consider that the message transmitted through the Formally Controlled Framework was perhaps more important than the order of the narratives, for example.
• These options ask the obvious question, “Why do we have 4 gospels anyway?” – Moises Silva.
    o In other words, what is distinctive about each Gospel and what does this distinctive tell us.

What are these Contextual Options?

The Contextual Options:
1) “We must allow for the probability that Jesus himself used varying versions of his own sayings on different occasions, and that sometimes the traditions have preserved these” – Richard Bauckham.
• This is so obvious, especially in an oral performance culture.
• It perplexes me that I had never heard this before.

2) “Some verbal differences will result from translation variants (in translation from Aramaic to Greek)” – Richard Bauckham.
• For example, translating an idiom from its natural language to a foreign language will result in some necessary differences and/or adjustments being made.

3) “Many differences, especially in narrative, will be due to the variability normal in oral performance and to the degree considered appropriate for the type of material being transmitted. This kind of variation probably accounts for many differences in the triple tradition (the material common to Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Matthew and Luke varied their Markan written source in the same kinds of ways they would have done had they been performing oral tradition” – Richard Bauckham.
• This pertains to the “fixity and variability” discussion in Part II.
• Specifically, this option applies to the “ordinary variability of the more flexible parts of the tradition” – Bauckham.
• That would be the narratives themselves and not the sayings.

4) “Many differences, especially in the sayings material, must be deliberate interpretative alterations or additions, by which a tradent sought to explain or to adapt the teaching when the post-Easter situation seemed to require this. Such changes, it should be noted, are entirely compatible with word-for-word memorization of, for example, aphorisms of Jesus, since the changes would be made quite deliberately to a known form of exact words. Such changes are also quite compatible with a formal process of transmission, since it would be authorized tradents who, from their own familiarity with the tradition, would be competent to make such changes. The Gospel writers, too, would have made such changes, and these are what are commonly treated as redactional changes of the more significant sort, as distinct from merely stylistic and incidental variations” – Richard Bauckham.
• This includes, no doubt, how the discursive sayings of Jesus that we talked about in Part II were incorporated into the Jesus’ narratives and sayings.
• This option, then, explains the changes “in the key elements of the traditions” – Bauckham.
• Additionally, as John’s Gospel often demonstrates, the resurrection vindicated the ministry of Jesus and provided a new theological framework through which to see the events of Jesus’ life.
• The testimony of the eyewitnesses no doubt would have been deliberately filtered through these considerations when they chose to convey a certain message about Jesus and belief in Him.

5) “Finally, there are changes the Gospel writers have made in order to integrate the traditions into the connected narrative of their Gospels” – Richard Bauckham.
• This speaks to the question as to why do we have four gospels anyway.
• It also speaks to differences in chronology.
• Moises Silva stresses that these changes were not errors and not meant to deceive.
• In fact, it is precisely in these changes that we learn about the “distinctives” of each Gospel.
• In other words, what was each of the writers was trying to convey theologically, thematically, etc.
• As we suggested in Part I, it would have done us little good to have four identical Gospels.
• The writers knew they differed from one another, yet thankfully they pressed on that we might have a much richer view of the historical/theological Jesus.

Rich Young Ruler Example:
In order to flesh some of these options out, we will look at the Rich Young Ruler narrative as told by Mark and Matthew.
• Mark 10:17–18 (ESV) — 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
• Matthew 19:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

What is going on here?
• It would be difficult to argue, as we suggested earlier, that the solution here is that there were actually two Rich Young Rulers.
• And suggesting the Differing Perspective Option seems a little disingenuous.
• So, it seems clear that either we have a mix up or Matthew deliberately changed the wording – Moises Silva.
• The Common Options don’t provide us with much help.

But given the Contextual Options available to us, we don’t have to shy away from the suggestion that Matthew deliberately changed the wording.
• In other words, Contextual Options (1), (3), (4), or (5) could be at play here.
• It is perfectly reasonable, and within the accepted framework of the oral transmission we have discussed, that Matthew wanted to teach a truth that Jesus taught (perhaps in his discursive sayings) and used this narrative to do so.
• Or, it seems possible that Jesus Himself spoke of this event at a later date and gave commentary that Matthew found particularly appealing.
• Or, it seems possible that Matthew was drawing our attention to an aspect of good works that Mark didn’t care to draw out.
• The result being that, in the words of Moises Silva:
    o Mark’s focus is on what the Rich Young Ruler thought of Jesus.
    o Matthew’s focus is on what the Rich Young Ruler thought of Himself.
    o There are no errors but simply different “sermons” – Moises Silva.
• We see this distinction not only in the verses cited above, but also in the following:
    o Matthew’s account has Jesus saying, “If you would be perfect, go, sell…” as compared to Mark’s “you lack one thing: go, sell…”.

And what about the differences between our most recent lesson on the Triumphal Entry in John 12 and the Synoptics?
• Mark 11:9–10 (ESV) — 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
• John 12:13 (ESV) — 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
Which of our Harmonization Options can account for these differences?

So, finally, even if none of these options seem reasonable, under the Fully Inerrant view, we can rest easy knowing that we simply may not have enough info available to us (or the relevant info was lost) to fully harmonize the Rich Young Ruler or the Triumphal Entry or any other apparent contradiction.
• Inspiration and Inerrancy are not in jeopardy.
• In fact, given the Divine Stewardship of the transmission process, we know we have exactly what God desired us to have.

The Sovereign God who declared in John 9 that a man was born blind some 30-40 years previous to his encounter with Jesus so that God might be glorified when Jesus healed him, is clearly concerned with the details.
• So I rest easy in all the details of Scripture – even the ones that appear to be at odds with each other.
• The God who raised Jesus from the dead is not a God of chance; we have what we are supposed to have.
• And I hope our past three lessons have helped you understand how we got it and how reliable it is.

·        • BTW – we didn’t even begin to consider how the practice of worship, the sacraments, use of the OT Scripture and hymns all contributed to the reliability of the transmission of God’s word.


It seems prudent to me to conclude with the thoughts of some highly respected, orthodox scholars on the subject of harmonization.

The evangelists narrate historical facts, but they so select, arrange, and present these facts that little information of the kind needed to piece together a detailed life of Jesus is available. In such cases, it is not a matter of chronological error, but of chronological indifference – D.A. Carson.

We may reasonably suppose that the extent of variation we can observe in the extant records (the canonical Gospels along with the early extracanonical material) is the same — no greater or less — as the extent to which the traditions varied in oral performance – Richard Bauckham.

Nevertheless, there are some places where fully satisfactory answers simply are not available. In such cases, it is better, as Luther put it, just to let it alone than to force unlikely meanings on the text – D.A. Carson.

It is better to acknowledge that we do not yet have all the answers. This humble approach will probably make the Bible more believable than will asking people to accept some of the proffered explanations, and in the process suggesting that the integrity of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy depends on acceptance of such contrived solutions – Millard Erickson.

I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it – Augustine (4th century).

But while we must allow the possibility of being unable to solve a particular problem, it should also be stated that there are many evangelical Bible scholars today who will say that they do not presently know of any problem texts for which there is no satisfactory solution. It is possible, of course, that some such texts could be called to their attention in the future, but during the past fifteen years or so of controversy over biblical inerrancy, no such “unsolved” text has been brought to their attention – Wayne Grudem.

Harmonizing the Gospels 101 – Part II


Click Here for Parts I, II and III – Harmonizing the Gospels 101

Section 3 picks up from where we left off last week in Part I.

Understanding, as best we can, how Scripture was faithfully transmitted will help us to see why the Full Inerrancy/Moderate Harmonization Approach may be the most realistic view to hold.
• All of the variables relevant to the faithful transmission of God’s Word can be said to be either what I call:
    o Divine Stewardship or Human Stewardship
• We will briefly cover Divine and then the Human.

Divine Stewardship in Transmission:
The following verses make clear that there was a divine “chain of custody” in the transmission of God’s word.
• Just as crime scene evidence is tagged and bagged so that it is not contaminated.
• God provided a way to transmit His word through the NT writers so that it was not “contaminated”.

(1) First Link in the Chain of Custody – God the Father.
• John 14:10 (ESV) — 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
• John 12:49 (ESV) — 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
    o Jesus identifies that the authority and source of His words comes from the Father.

(2) Second Link in the Chain of Custody – Jesus Christ.
• John 17:8 (ESV) — 8 For I [Jesus] have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
    o Jesus reveals that he gave the words he received to the disciples.
    o Therefore the authority and source rooted in the Father remain uncorrupted as Jesus Himself transmits the words to the disciples.

(3) Third Link in the Chain of Custody – Holy Spirit
• John 14:26 (ESV) — 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
• John 16:13–14 (ESV) — 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
• Matthew 10:20 (ESV) — 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
• 1 Corinthians 2:13 (ESV) — 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
• Acts 6:10 (ESV) — 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
    o These verses reaffirm the source and authority of the words as coming from the Father.
    o They also reaffirm that Jesus Christ transmitted the Father’s words to the disciples.
    o And, additionally, they make clear the role of the Holy Spirit in “protecting” and overseeing the transmission of Jesus’ words to the disciples.

So the Divine Stewardship found in the “Chain of Custody” of God’s Word works as follows:
• Father – Source and Authority of His Word and Gave it to Jesus
• Jesus – Given the Words and Authority by the Father and Passed them on to NT writers
• Holy Spirit – Protected and Gave the words spoken by Jesus to the NT writers
• NT writers – Received both their Words and Authority from Jesus with the aid of the Holy Spirit

It is therefore clear that the words spoken (and written down) by the disciples had a divine chain of custody that began with the Father, flowed through the Son, and then flowed through the Holy Spirit, and dwelled with them.

The Absolute Inerrancy/Harmonistic Approach would almost see no need to go any further.
• God’s stewardship of His Word, they might say, guarantees that all problem texts can be harmonized with the information we have.
• However to go no further would be to overlook the fact that there is no evidence that God overrode the personalities of the writers and human avenues of transmission.
• God wrote Scripture not in spite of human authors and their culture but using them as a means of transmission; ordaining the whole process.
• The Bible did not drop down from heaven having already been written.

Luke put it like this:
• Luke 1:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

And so we must move on to how Luke and the other Gospel writers “undertook”, “compiled”, “delivered” and “ordered” their “narratives” and “accounts” they received from the “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”.
• This is what we are calling Human Stewardship.

Human Stewardship in Transmission:
• The methods of Human Stewardship are many and have both an oral and written dimension.
• To better understand harmonization (and advocate for the Fully Inerrant/Moderate Harmonization Approach), we are going to focus on Oral Tradition as discussed by Richard Bauckham in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.
o For info on the written dimension, see the Textual Culture section of my Why is the Bible Reliable article.

Summary of Bauckham’s View:
• At the outset, Bauckham notes the following about oral tradition:
• “Whether or to what extent a society intends to preserve a tradition faithfully must be investigated with regard to each type of tradition in each given society, as must the means employed for faithful preservation and the success achieved when faithful preservation is attempted” – Bauckham.

He then goes on to argue that the Christian tradition was one that was faithfully and successfully preserved.
• The reason for this is at least threefold.

Specifically, Bauckham argues that the transmission of Jesus’ sayings and narratives were seen by the first Christian’s not as simply oral tradition but more specifically as oral history, and as such had a formally controlled framework for their transmission which was overseen and informed primarily by the eyewitnesses noted in the Gospels.

We will give a brief overview of the oral history, the formally controlled framework and the eyewitness testimony elements of his argument.
• It is important to understand these because they lead us directly to a realistic (and I would suggest, Scriptural) understanding of how we should view harmonization.
• And understanding these things also will demonstrate why the Full Inerrancy/Moderate Harmonistic Approach is closer to what Scripture would ask of us.

Oral History:
It is important to point out that A.N.E. cultures made a distinction between history and other oral traditions such as tales and legends (as well as Polynesian oral cultures he cited).
• Unlike tales and legends (fiction), the accurate, faithful preservation of Oral History (“truthful accounts of the past”) was highly valued.
• And as Oral History, certain expectations were brought to bear by the oral culture.
• Namely, in line with even the secular oral histories of the period, the Christian Oral History was to consist of “…eyewitness accounts about events and situations which [were] contemporary, that is, which occurred during the lifetime of the informants” – Jan Vansina.
• In other words, unlike today, a history was actually written using first hand, eyewitness accounts.
• As a result of this expectation of “oral societies” to have contemporary, eyewitness accounts, the historical accounts that make up the oral history are treated “…differently and in such a way that the latter are preserved more faithfully” – Richard Bauckham.

BTW – Theological concerns were also a significant factor that would have warranted faithful preservation.

There was also a framework in which Oral History was transmitted which speaks to the reliability of transmission.
• This framework, what Kenneth Bailey calls “formally controlled”, is the one Bauckham suggests is applicable to the Gospels.

Formally Controlled Framework:
“It is formal in the sense that there is a clearly identified teacher, a clearly identified student, and a clearly identified block of traditional material that is being passed on from one to the other. It is controlled in the sense that the material is memorized (and/or written), identified as ‘tradition’ [oral history] and thus preserved intact” – Kenneth Bailey.
• In other words, there were “specific practices employed to ensure that tradition was faithfully handed on from a qualified traditioner to others” – Bauckham.
• One of the most important “practices employed” in this framework was what Bauckham calls “Frequent Rehearsal”.
• Frequent Rehearsal is simply the repetitive performance of oral history.
• This was common in the oral societies of the A.N.E. (and today).
• The result of this practice would be that the sayings of Jesus would “…have been relatively fixed in the eyewitness’s memory after only a short period of frequent rehearsal.”

Biblical Examples of this Formally Controlled Framework:
Bauckham argues that Paul’s letters are “unequivocal evidence” of this formally controlled transmission.
• 1 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV) — 2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
• 1 Corinthians 11:23 (ESV) — 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
• 1 Corinthians 15:1 (ESV) — 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
• 1 Corinthians 15:3 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
• 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV) — 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
• 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (ESV) — 6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

Biblical Examples of the success of this Formally Controlled Framework:
(1) First Example:
• Luke 22:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
• 1 Corinthians 11:23–25 (ESV) — 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
• Luke depicts the Last Supper narrative with Jesus’ words.
• Paul’s context is not as much a recounting of the narrative in a historical context, but a concern with properly partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
• And it is easy to see that the two versions of Jesus’ words are almost identical (especially in the Greek).
• “Only strictly memorized oral tradition (memorized in Greek) can explain the high degree of verbal resemblance” – Bauckham.

(2) Second Example:
• 1 Corinthians 7:12 (ESV) — 12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.
• This example shows that Paul made an effort to distinguish between the teachings of Jesus and his own.
• This demonstrates the care taken within the Formally Controlled Framework to not conflate Jesus’ material with the “clearly identified” teacher’s material.

(3) Third Example:
• John 12:16 (ESV) — 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.
• This example shows that John, in spite of the embarrassment of the admission, kept the pre-Easter narrative with its confused disciples separate from their post-Easter understanding (his included) that shed light on the event.
• As with the others, this demonstrates once again both the effectiveness of the Formally Controlled Framework and its existence.

And in addition to the formally controlled framework used in the transmission of the Gospel material, there was another factor that aided the accuracy of transmission within this framework.
• In oral societies, teachers deliberately “formulate their teachings so as to make them easily memorable” – Bauckham.
• Scholars point out that Jesus taught in such a way that His sayings were easily remembered.
• Specifically, Jesus was “poetic, especially employing parallelism, and many have posited Aramaic originals rich in alliteration, assonance, rhythm, rhyme, and wordplay” – Bauckham.
• “These teaching formulations were certainly not created by Jesus ad hoc, in the course of his teaching, but were carefully crafted, designed as concise encapsulations of his teaching that his hearers could take away, remember, ponder, and live by” – Richard Bauckham.

And so we have thus far seen that with the Gospels, we are dealing with oral history that was transmitted via a formally controlled framework.
• Now we come to the role of the eyewitnesses in this process.

The Eyewitnesses:
• In our definition of the formally controlled framework, Kenneth Bailey mentioned the “clear identified teacher” and “student”.
• “The ‘clearly identified’ teachers would be, in the first place, eyewitnesses, and their ‘clearly identified’ students would be community teachers authorized as tradents because they had learned the tradition from the eyewitnesses. They passed on the tradition as the eyewitnesses’ testimony, to which in many cases the names of the individual eyewitnesses remained attached” – Bauckham.
• In other words, the eyewitnesses were the “qualified traditioners”.
• They were the clearly identified sources of the material “being passed on from one to the other”.
• The eyewitnesses were those that taught it and passed it on intact.
• The eyewitnesses were the “living and active guarantors of the traditions” – Bauckham.

There is a powerful implication of this:
• “The continuity of the Gospels is with the testimony of the eyewitnesses, not via a long period of community transmission but through, in many cases, immediate access to the eyewitnesses or, in other cases, probably no more than one intermediary” – Bauckham.
• Mark, for example would have been just “one intermediary”.
    o His source was the eyewitness, Peter.
• Even the church father Polycarp (a contemporary of Papias), Bauckham argues, would have been one of those “one intermediaries” in contact with an eyewitness.
    o In Polycarp’s case, John.
    o Bauckham even suggests that Papias could have had contact with Philip’s daughters (the prophets in Acts).

Biblical Examples of the Eyewitnesses:
The following verses demonstrate a reliance on eyewitnesses.
• Luke 1:2 (ESV) — 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
• Acts 16:4 (ESV) — 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.
• John 19:35 (ESV) — 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.
• John 21:24 (ESV) — 24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
• Hebrews 2:3 (ESV) — 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard

Here is a partial list of some of the specific eyewitnesses named in Acts:
• “Peter, James, John, the sons of Zebedee, and the rest of the original Twelve, Matthais, James the Lord’s brother, and the other brothers, Barnabas, Joseph Barsabbas, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mnason, and Silas” – Bauckham.

Additionally, Bauckham argues the following concerning those named in the Gospel accounts.
• “I want to suggest now the possibility that many of these named characters were eyewitnesses who not only originated the traditions to which their names are attached but also continued to tell these stories as authoritative guarantors of their traditions.”
• Some of these eyewitnesses are Cleopas (the road to Emmaus), Jairus (daughter was resurrected), Lazarus, Simon the Cyrene and Joseph of Arimathea to name a few.

Interestingly, with respect to the disciples as eyewitnesses, we have an example of Jesus telling them to remember what He said.
• Luke 9:43–44 (ESV) — 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples [the eyewitnesses], 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”
• So we know that Jesus promised the disciples the Holy Spirit to help them remember, and it also appears He put demands on them to remember.
• This demand gives one further reason why Jesus intentionally designed His sayings to be remembered.

Summary of Human Stewardship:
• So we have seen that the Gospel traditions were considered oral history and as such, would have been faithfully preserved.
• We have seen that the framework within which this preservation took place was a formally controlled one which facilitated the faithful preservation of Jesus’ narratives and sayings.
• And we have seen that the “clearly identified teachers” which formalized and controlled the oral history were the eyewitnesses.

Now we need to look at the extent to which oral history transmitted through a formal controlled framework was allowed to vary.

Variations in Transmission:
• In any oral society, there are core teachings that are seen as off limits for variation and there are more peripheral teachings that are allowed to be varied by the “clearly identified teachers”.
• Given the testimony of Scripture itself (and research of Kenneth Bailey), Bauckham argues that the Christian oral culture was no different.
    o 1) Jesus’ Sayings – “exact wording is much more likely to be preserved”
    o 2) Narratives about Jesus – “variation was evidently freer”
• He calls this dynamic a relationship between “fixity and variability”.
• The Gospels are a collection of an accepted mix of “fixity and variability”.
• Bauckham argues that “fixity and variability” should not be “considered in tension with each other”.

And importantly, it was this “fixity and variability” that actually provided us with a more thorough, historical Jesus.
• It is in “their diversity as well as their commonality” that the Gospels “portray for us and enable us to know” four valid perspectives of Jesus – Bauckham.
• And a “function of the plurality of the Gospels is to keep us constantly aware of” the fact that Jesus is “more than any of the Gospels” – Bauckham.

Important Consideration in the Variations:
Bauckham adds to this discussion on variation, however, a very important point.
• Jesus taught for 3 years.
• It is unlikely every saying or teaching He uttered was designed to be memorized.
• In other words, some of his teaching was likely to be discursive – “fluent and expansive rather than formulaic or abbreviated”.
• And so, there was a mixture of memorized sayings and the discursive teaching that the eyewitnesses were exposed to.

So the question arises, what does a disciple/eyewitness do who has a collection of memorized sayings yet wants to convey some of the knowledge he learned from Jesus’ discursive teachings?
• Bauckham thinks they would have very naturally, within the context of their oral culture, interlaced the discursive knowledge within the memorized sayings.
• “When the writers of the Synoptic Gospels wished to represent the discursive teaching of Jesus they mostly had to use collections of these [memorized] sayings” – Bauckham.
• In other words, they would mix the memorized stuff and the discursive stuff together.
    o Similar to how we mix the wise men in with the shepherds in our Nativity scenes.
    o This is a form of this mixing called time compression.
• Moises Silva likens the use of Jesus’ memorized sayings as a vehicle for expanding on Jesus’ discursive teachings as “preaching a sermon”.

Summary of Divine and Human Stewardship:
In light of the Divine and Human Stewardship, and especially the nuances of Human Stewardship in an oral society, we can now understand the options available to us in our efforts to harmonize.
• And it should be clear that if the Gospel writers operated within the oral culture as described above, they would not expect the Gospels to be harmonized to modern standards – the Absolute Inerrancy/Harmonization Approach.
• The Full Inerrancy/Moderate Harmonization Approach truly seems to be the most contextual and realistic.

Given the Divine Stewardship of the NT, we can be 100% confident that God ordained that we have exactly what we do.
• And if He ordained it and made provision for its production via the “chain of custody” (His Divined Stewardship), then He approved it!
• And if He approved it, we can approach the task of harmonization with much less stress.

Next week we will finally get to the harmonization options available to us given all that we have discussed the past two weeks.