Again we hit the pause button on the Proverbs theme for some reflection, and I have the perfect subject to fill in with. In my trash basket rests a book about the "myths and legends" that sprang up about Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene. I won't mention it by name, or the author. Save that he is a professor of "religious studies" at a prestigious East Coast university, and his publishing house is well known.
Not surprisingly, he treats the Faith with a touch of sneering contempt, but tries to be fair in his unbelief. That is not what earned him a spot in my trash can after the section on Peter and a few pages of Paul. Rather, it is his "logical" leaps, stumbles, backtracks, and misrepresentations- a collection so large that a reviewer on Amazon who did finish the book listed some 19 of them in HIS review. What I would LIKE to do has been done well enough there. But what makes this post worthy is what we can learn from this mishap in hardback.
One of his main questions is a pertinent one, but one he never answers: "How can we tell which miracles- when the ones in the scriptures are just as impossible as the ones in the Apocrypha- actually occurred, if any?" Here is one way- to be a legit miracle, it shouldn't be a circus trick; it should bring glory to GOD, and help to another. He stumbles on this in his extensive discussion of Peter's interactions with a dude named Simon Magus. This guy is a legit Biblical character- he had gotten baptized, but when Peter and John arrived, they asked if the new believers had received the Holy Spirit. They had not- at least not in the powerful way the Apostles had received Him and could share. So, as Simon watched the process, he asked Peter if he could "buy" the power to give the Spirit.
Apparently, a legend goes on after Peter rejected him, that he became a powerful sorcerer, and was deceiving the Church in Rome. They engage in a 'contest of miracles' that includes not only Peter bringing a smoked tuna back to life (no lie!), but also bringing Simon hard back to earth while flying above the city, receiving injuries he'd later die from. The author himself stumbles onto why this couldn't be real- "its purpose... is to show Simon Magus on the wrong side of the divide between God and Satan, Peter on the right." But he doesn't- and never does- take that next step of WHY this sort of miracle couldn't be legit. Lesson here- miracles are not magic tricks, they serve to glorify God. If God isn't glorified, either the story isn't true or the 'miracle' is faked or demonic- or both.
Another thing we can learn from this author is that, if you are trying to prove a theory, don't change your rules midstream. This happens many times, and here are one or two. Because the Jews didn't believe in a "suffering messiah", as attested by their disbelief, then Jesus couldn't possibly have been a Messiah. In this, he not only ignores Daniel 9, as well as Zechariah 9, but discounts the nearly verbatim description of Jesus's suffering in Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53, because the WORD Messiah is not found there. (Hint- the one place the word "anointed" IS translated Messiah is Daniel 9). Therefore, since it fits his point, the Jews are experts- but later, they only "allegedly" miraculously crossed the Red Sea on dry land. Another example rests in a part where... here, let the guy who found it explain.
"In Mark's account of the passion..while being nailed to the cross..." (p. 219). Jesus is never nailed to the cross in any version, much less Mark. There is a reference to the hands in Luke (24:39) and in John (20:25) they mention nails, but not in Mark. Mark's version says nothing about being nailed to the cross.
Nitpicky, yes, but it was the rules HE established. I have another, but let me save that for my next lesson...
How about you know the subject matter? During his discussion of Gethsemane, he says of Peter lobbing off the ear of Malchus: "What Peter was doing with a sword we're never told (Weren't Jesus and His followers pacifists?)" Perhaps, in his 'horizontal reading' (his word for proving or disproving the stories based on reading where and when the same incidents happen across the Gospels), he should have hit Luke 22:
Luk 22:36 He said to them, "But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.
Luk 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment."
Luk 22:38 And they said, "Look, Lord, here are two swords." And he said to them, "It is enough."