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Archive for the ‘Bart Ehrman’ Category

On the one hand I appreciate that atheist and skeptic Bart Ehrman has written a book that argues for the historical existence of Jesus.  On the other hand the book is not without its problems.

Here are all our posts that exposes the fallacious reasoning in Ehrman’s book.

Bart Ehrman On Critics’ Alleged Mutually Exclusive Claims

Bart Ehrman’s Schizophrenic Misrepresentation of Fundamentalists’ view of Inspiration and Bible’s Historicity

Bart Ehrman’s Fallacious Argument from Silence in his book, “Did Jesus Exist?”

Bart Ehrman’s Claim: Jews didn’t deny other gods’ existence?

Bart Ehrman Questioning the Historicity of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry Part 1

Bart Ehrman Questioning the Historicity of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry Part 2

 

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did-JESUS-exist-book

Note: Long overdue!  This is part two of our critique of atheist and skeptic Bart Ehrman’s attack on Jesus’ so called “Triumphant entry” into Jerusalem as found in Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?  I’m four years late but I suppose it is better late than never.  I begin first with a presentation of Ehrman’s views which is followed by part two of my response.

 I. BART EHRMAN’S VIEW 

Ehrman’s rejects the historicity of Jesus’ so called Triumphant entry into Jerusalem that happened on “Palm Sunday”  during the final week of His life.

Bart Ehrman succinctly stated the argument for his conclusion on page 293:

Conversely, the likelihood of Jesus entering into Jerusalem straddling two donkeys and with the crowd shouting out that he was the messiah is decreased by the circumstance that had such an event really happened (unlikely as it is on its own terms), Jesus would no doubt have been arrested by the authorities on the spot instead of a week later.” (293)

And with a bit more extended comment Ehrman stated earlier on page 202:

If it is true that the crowds were shouting that Jesus was the messiah now arriving in the holy city, why didn’t the authorities immediately take notice and have him arrested both for causing a disturbance and for claiming to be the Jewish king (when only Rome could appoint the king)?  Instead, according to Matthew and the other Gospels, Jesus spent an unmoltested week in Jerusalem and only then was arrested and put on trial.  But it defies belief that the Roman authorities who were in town precisely in order to prevent any mob actions or uprisings would have failed to intervene if the crowds shouted in acclamation for a new ruler arriving in town” (202).

Ehrman’s argument is essentially that he can’t believe it took a full week after Jesus entered into Jerusalem in a Messianic fashion (with it’s political implication) before He was finally arrested and put on trial.  Ehrman’s reasoning is not without it’s problem.  One can group the problems into two basic categories: (1) Ehrman has not properly handled the Biblical data in his argument against the historicity of Jesus’ “Triumphant entry” and also (2) his argument that  in light of historical parallels.  We have already looked at the first set of problems in part one.  If you have not already done so, you might want to read part one first, which demonstrated that Ehrman has not properly handle the Biblical data.  Here in this post we will consider historical parallels of other Messianic figures as a rebuttal to his argument.

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Façades

These are Presuppositional apologetics links from around the World Wide Web from April 21st-30th.

Enjoy!

1.) An Open Letter to Dan Haseltine, Lead Singer of Jars of Clay, Concerning His Recent Comments Regarding the Nature of Scripture and “Homosexual Marriage”

2.) Refute Atheism: God is Required for Meaning

3.) Are Atheists Intellectually Dishonest?

4.) Visitor: Society Determines Morality and Much Biblical Morality is Unacceptable Today

5.) Seth Andrews DEBATE Part 2

6.) 

7.)Bart Ehrman’s Worldview Problem

 

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did-JESUS-exist-book

For several months now I have discussed various problematic reasoning found in Bart Ehrman’s book, Did Jesus ExistMy last post focused on Bart Ehrman’s Scriptural argument against Jesus being God.  Lord willing in the not so distant future, I am planning on reading another of his book, God’s Problem and offer a Presuppositional (Van Tillian) critique of it.  Pray that I am able to do this in the midst of a busy schedule.

In today’s post I wanted to examine the reasoning behind Ehrman’s rejection of the historicity of Jesus’ so called Triumphant entry into Jerusalem during the last week of His life.

Bart Ehrman succinctly stated his case on page 293:

Conversely, the likelihood of Jesus entering into Jerusalem straddling two donkeys and with the crowd shouting out that he was the messiah is decreased by the circumstance that had such an event really happened (unlikely as it is on its own terms), Jesus would no doubt have been arrested by the authorities on the spot instead of a week later.” (293)

And with a bit more extended comment Ehrman stated earlier on page 202:

If it is true that the crowds were shouting that Jesus was the messiah now arriving in the holy city, why didn’t the authorities immediately take notice and have him arrested both for causing a disturbance and for claiming to be the Jewish king (when only Rome could appoint the king)?  Instead, according to Matthew and the other Gospels, Jesus spent an unmoltested week in Jerusalem and only then was arrested and put on trial.  But it defies belief that the Roman authorities who were in town precisely in order to prevent any mob actions or uprisings would have failed to intervene if the crowds shouted in acclamation for a new ruler arriving in town” (202).

Ehrman’s argument is essentially that he can’t believe it took a full week after Jesus entered into Jerusalem in a Messianic fashion (with it’s political implication) before He was finally arrested and put on trial.  His reasoning is not without it’s problem.  One can group them into two basic categories: Ehrman has not properly handle the Biblical data and also his conclusion does not necessarily follow from his reasoning in light of historical parallels.  We will look at the first set and save the second for our next installment.

I. PROBLEM WITH EHRMAN’S REASONING IN LIGHT OF THE BIBLICAL DATA

Problem 1:  Ehrman claimed that “according to Matthew and the other Gospels, Jesus spent an unmolested week in Jerusalem” (202).  But the week following his “Triumphant entry” was not a totally “unmolested week” for Jesus since the Jewish religious leaders were actively involved in opposing and harassing Him.  Ehrman’s claim about “Matthew and the other Gospels” portraying Jesus as having “an unmolested week in Jerusalem” is inaccurate:  Matthew 21:23-22:46, Mark 11:27-12:35, Luke 20:1-44 record intense debates as attempts by the religious establishment to stump Jesus and refute Him publicly.

Problem 2: Ehrman’s other argument against the historicity of Jesus’ “Triumphant” entry to Jerusalem is cast in the form of a rhetorical question: “why didn’t the authorities immediately take notice and have him arrested both for causing a disturbance and for claiming to be the Jewish king (when only Rome could appoint the king)” (202)?  Ehrman assumption here is that if the Triumphant entry took place, “Jesus would no doubt have been arrested by the authorities on the spot instead of a week later” (293).  But careful attention to the Gospels give two factors why it’s plausible for Jesus to survive from being apprehended immediately “on the spot.”  First, the authorities were held back by their fear of the multitudes following Jesus.  Though Luke 19:47 mentioned that they wanted to destroy Jesus, verse 48 states that “they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging on to every word He said.”  This explains why the authorities didn’t directly apprehended Him, but instead chose a strategy of debating Him before the multitude in order to undermine the people’s esteem of Jesus.  Someone might ask, “Why didn’t the authorities secretly take him out?”  The second factor that makes it plausible why Jesus was able to stall instant arrest and covert apprehension was because before and after the “Triumphant” entry Jesus avoided staying in Jerusalem for the night.  Jesus stayed at Bethany instead, which according to John 11:18 was a town two miles away.  Prior to John’s account of the “Triumphant” entry (John 12:12-19), we read in John 11:57 of how “the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.”   The next verse goes on to say “Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.”  Jesus must have known about the religious authorities’ scheme since the Greek word for “therefore” is ουν that functions to indicate the consequences of the authorities’ scheme.  Both Mark 11:11 and Matthew 21:10-17 indicate that after the “Triumphant” entry, Jesus did not stay in Jerusalem but went to Bethany for the night.

Problem 3: Whether it took a week, a day, an hour or a minute for Jesus to be arrested after His “Triumphant” entrance into Jerusalem seem rather nit-picking and a superficial argument against the historicity of the “Triumphant” entry.  In the end, Ehrman himself agrees that Jesus was arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Problem 4: Ehrman seems to have things backwards: Rather than see Jesus’ arrest a week later as a disproof of the historicity of the “Triumphant” entry, wouldn’t it be better to see that the reason why Jesus was arrested at all was because the authorities suddenly experienced a rude awakening in the form of some public event in which someone claimed to be the Messiah and had a significant popular support?  The historicity of Jesus’ “Triumphant” entry into Jeruslaem would have the better explanatory power than the denial of it.

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did-JESUS-exist-book

A month ago I noted Bart Ehrman’s strange claim that somehow the Jews didn’t deny other God’s existence in his book Did Jesus Exists?

Today I want to focus on his claim that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God, as he sets forth his case in chapter 7 of his book.

Ehrman on Philippians 2

From pages 233-238 Ehrman discusses Philippians 2.  The relevant portion, Philippians 2:5-10 states

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

He labor the point that many people have spent a long time studying the passage from all spectrum of scholarship.  But merely saying that there’s many views on a passage in of itself is not a refutation of the view that Philippians 2 teaches the deity of Christ.  Ehrman also fail to engage or interact with scholarship arguing for the view that Philippians 2 teaches the deity of Christ.

The other disappointment I had with Ehrman is the fact that he failed to deal with the text itself.  For instance, the Greek word for “form” in “form of God” in verse 6 is μορφη.  Lexically, the word μορφη refers to the inward essence of a “thing” or “person” while rarely referring to the outer appearance.  Ehrman also failed to deal with the adjective ισα, which in the English NASB is translated as “equality.”  Lexically it has the idea of equal and later became the root for isosceles, isometric, etc.  There is no acknowledgement or denial of these two Greek words in the book, which is unacceptable since they are the key reasons some see Philippians 2 as teaching the deity of Christ.

Ehrman on the Gospel of Mark

Ehrman then stated the following:

In Mark Jesus is certainly not God.  In fact, in one passage he clearly indicates that he is not to be thought of as God (Mark 10:17-18; a man calls Jesus ‘good,’ and Jesus objects because ‘no one is good but God alone’).” (Page 238-239)

Challenging the assertion that “Jesus is certainly not God” in Mark requires examining the entire book of Mark carefully and is beyond the scope of this blog post but I recommend watching what James White has to say about this assertion:

Note also that Ehrman looks to Mark 10:17-18 as support for his claim that Mark teaches us how Jesus “is not to be thought of as God.”  But careful reading of Mark 10:17-18 reveal Jesus did not say “Don’t call me good because I’ m not God.”  Rather Jesus asked a rhethorical question, one that the rest of context indicates the reason why Jesus asked it is to question the young man’s conception of what is good rather than ultimately being an issue about Jesus let alone being an indicative statement about Himself.

Ehrman on the Oldest Christian traditions

Ehrman writes:

So frequently was Jesus called Christ in the oldest Christian traditions that already by the time of Paul, “Christ” had become Jesus’s name (Jesus Christ, not Jesus God).  Jesus is called Christ in Paul, Mark, M, L, John, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, and so on.” (239-240)

First off, Ehrman here commits an either/or fallacy.  Ehrman has not demonstrated how just because Jesus is called Jesus Christ that necessitate a denial of His deity according to the Christian faith.

Secondly, contrary to his assertation some of the the sources he mentioned does indicate the deity of Christ.  Concerning Mark see the above video by James White.  Then there’s Pliny the Younger who wrote:

They were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of a meal—but ordinary and innocent food.

(Emphasis added)

Note that Pliny as an outside observer gives a window into the early Christian church and how they worshiped Jesus.  In light of Jewish Old Testament background undergirding Christian theology, one must not worship anything except God alone.

Much of what has been said also applies to this last quote from Ehrman:

Jesus is not called God in Q, M, L, or any of the oral accounts that we can trace from the synoptic Gospels.  But we can go yet earlier than this.  As I pointed out, we have very primitive views of Jesus expressed in such pre-Pauline traditions as the one he cites in Romans 1:3-4 where Jesus is said to have become the son of God (not God) at his resurrection.” (Page 232)

Again, Ehrman commits a fallacious reasoning from Romans 1:3-4 that just because it teaches that Jesus is the Son of God does not mean He is not divine in origin.  Ehrman fail to interact critically with the orthodox formulation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and how it balances the Diety and humanity of Christs that account for His titles such as Christ and Son of God.

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did-JESUS-exist-bookA few days ago we saw some of Bart Erhman’s fallacious argument in his book Did Jesus Exist?   Apparently there’s plenty of obvious problems in Ehrman’s book to make a blog series on them.  Tonight I want to look specifically at a claim he made concerning First-Century Judaism.  On page 272 Ehrman describes the beliefs of “Jews in the days of Jesus,” saying:

Among the first commandments given to the Jews by this God was “You shall have no other gods before me.’  Jews by and large did not deny that other gods existed, but they were not to be worshipped by the Jews themselves.” (Page 272; emphasis not in original).

An unusual statement.  In the sentence before, Ehrman acknowledges the role of the Jewish Scripture (what Christians call the Old Testament) in shaping first century Jewish theology.  Ehrman extrapolates from the first commandment that Jews are to worship one God but felt that this does not mean first century Judiasm would have to subscribe to the belief that there’s only one God and not any other.  Two criticisms need to be made.

Point 1: I wish Ehrman would have demonstrated his case that the Jews of Second Temple Judaism were open to the idea that other gods might exist.  At a minimum he should have given a footnote of studies supporting this view or better yet Ehrman should have made the case himself using direct primary sources.

Point 2: Ehrman’s chief error here is his omission of what the rest of the Jewish Scripture has to say.

For instance, consider these passages from the Book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 44:6-8 declares,

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last,

And there is no God besides Me.
‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
[a]From the time that I established the ancient [b]nation.
And let them declare to them the things that are coming
And the events that are going to take place.
‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
And you are My witnesses.
Is there any God besides Me,
Or is there any other Rock?
I know of none.’”

Then in Isaiah 45 there’s a cluster of similar teachings.  Note in verse 5:

“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will [a]gird you, though you have not known Me;

Isaiah 45:14:

 Thus says the Lord,

“The [a]products of Egypt and the merchandise of [b]Cush
And the Sabeans, men of stature,
Will come over to you and will be yours;
They will walk behind you, they will come over in chains
And will bow down to you;
They will make supplication to you:
[c]Surely, God is [d]with you, and there is none else,
No other God.’”

Isaiah 45:21-22:

“Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me.
22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.

Finally Isaiah 46:9:

“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,

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Two weeks ago I wrote about a problematic statement agnostic Bart Ehrman made in his recent book Did Jesus Exist?.  While I appreciate the main thrust of Ehrman’s work, which argues for the historical existence of Jesus, there are nevertheless logical problems such as the one we shall examine  below.

did-JESUS-exist-book

Here I want to focus specifically on his misrepresentation of the fundamentalists/conservative Christians’ position on inspiration and the Bible, and how Ehrman ends up contradicting himself when he criticizes the fundamentalists/conservative position on the Bible’s historicity/factuality.

Bart Ehrman stated that there

are certain agnostics and atheists who claim that since, say, the Gospels are part of Christian sacred scripture, they have less value than other books for establishing historical information.  As odd as it might seem, the nonbelievers who argue this are making common cause with the fundamentalists who also argue it.  Both groups treat the Gospels as nonhistorical, the fundamentalists because the Gospels are inspired and the atheists (those who hold this view) because the Gospels are accepted by some people as sacred scripture and so are not historical.” (Page 72; Emphasis not in the original)

Note what is stated in bold.  Ehrman here is asserting that the fundamentalists’ understanding of the Gospel means:

Inspiration=nonhistorical

Ehrman really said this and it’s not just a quotation out of context.  Earlier in the previous page Erhman writes:

Sometimes the Gospels of the New Testament are separated from all other pieces of historical evidence and given a different kind of treatment because they happen to be found in the Bible, the collection of books that Christians gathered together and declared sacred scriptures.  The Gospels are treated in this way by two fundamentally opposed camps of readers, and my contention is that both of them are completely wrong.  However else the Gospels are used–for example, in communities of faith–they can and must be considered historical sources of information.” (Page 71;  Emphasis not in the original)

Here the two camps refer to the same polarizing groups of Christian fundamentalists and secularized skeptics mentioned on page 72.  Ehrman is going against the fundamentalists because he thinks the fundamentalists’ view of inspiration means the Bible is taken as nonhistorical.  Readers who are fundamentalists/conservatives or even familiar with the works of fundamentalists will no doubt find Ehrman’s claims rather strange.

Point 1: Ehrman should have footnoted and cited some example of fundamentalists who ” treat the Gospels as nonhistorical,” “because the Gospels are inspired.”  As a Reformed Conservative Evangelical, I am not familiar with any fundamentalists who holds to Ehrman’s claim that the Bible’s inspiration means it is nonhistorical.

Point 1a: The demand here in point 1 that Ehrman should provide some kind of citation for his claim is reasonable.  The burden of proof is on him to demonstrate a claim which he even acknowledge is counter-intuitive: “As odd as it might seem, the nonbelievers who argue this are making common cause with the fundamentalists who also argue it” (Page 72; emphasis not in the original).

Point 1b: Again, the demand that Ehrman should have provided a reference to support his description of fundamentalists’ view of inspiration is reasonable.  Throughout the book Bart Ehrman does a really good job documenting and footnoting the position of the Jesus mythicists he is refuting, even when he considers them “nonscholars.”  On page 132 Ehrman himself acknowledges that the fundamentalists camps does have capable scholars. If he is able and willing to footnote and cite the nonscholars he opposes, how much more so then, should he be able to document and give references to fundamentalist scholars and their view of inspiration that he is rejecting.

Point 2: A survey of fundamentalists’ literature would reveal that their doctrine of inspiration presupposes the Bible to be historical rather than nonhistorical in it’s truth claims.  A good case in point can be demonstrated by citing The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a key document expounding a conservative bibliology.

Point 2a: “Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.” (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Summary Statement 4; emphasis is not in the original).

Point 2b: “We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.” (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XII).

Point 2c: “When Adam fell, the Creator did not abandon mankind to final judgement, but promised salvation and began to reveal Himself as Redeemer in a sequence of historical events centering on Abraham’s family and culminating in the life, death, resurrection, present heavenly ministry and promised return of Jesus Christ.” (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Explanation A; emphasis is not in the original).

Point 2d: “No hermeneutic, therefore, of which the historical Christ is not the focal point is acceptable.” (The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Explanation B; emphasis is not in the original).

Point 2e: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is concern with history, since the word history appears a total of 12 times throughout the document.

Point 3: Oddly enough elsewhere throughout the book Ehrman’s criticism of fundamentalists’ view of the Bible contradicts his claims that fundamentalists does not take the Bible to be historical.  In fact, whether explicitly or implicitly presupposed, Ehrman’s other criticisms of fundamentalists is that they take the Bible in it’s entirety to be historical rather than nonhistorical.  It’s as if Ehrman’s criticism of fundamentalists’ view of the Bible is Schizophrenic.

Point 3a:  After Ehrman claim that fundamentalists ” treat the Gospels as nonhistorical” on page 72, he then contradicts this understanding of what fundamentalist believes about the Bible just two pages later when he wrote: “Once it is conceded that the Gospels can and should be treated as historical sources, no different from other historical sources infused with their authors’ biases, it starts to become clear why historians have almost universally agreed that whatever else one might say about him, Jesus of Nazareth lived in first-century Palestine and was crucified by the prefect of Judea.  It is not because ‘the Gospels say so’ and that it therefore must be true (the view, of course, of fundamentalist Christians)” (Page 74; emphasis not in original).

Point 3b: If fundamentalism did not subscribe to the historicity of the Bible which includes the Gospels, how could he have said the following: “But in a historical and worldwide perspective, highly conservative Protestant Christianity, whether fundamentalism or hard-core evangelicalism, is a minority voice.  It is the voice that says that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, with no contradictions, discrepancies or mistakes of any kind.  I simply don’t think this is true” (Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exists?, 36; emphasis not in original)?

Point 3c: As mentioned in Point 1b, Ehrman acknowledges that scholars who are fundamentalists exists in the area of historical Jesus studies and Pauline studies.  In the chapter arguing that Paul’s epistles contain historical content concerning the historicity of Jesus, Ehrman notes the scholarly consensus about the contribution of the Apostle Paul’s writing to the study of the historicity of Jesus:  “I personally know scores of scholars who have spent twenty, thirty, forty, or more years of their lives working to understand Paul.  Some of these are fundamentalists, some are theologically moderate Christians, some are extremely liberal Christians, and some are agnostics and atheists.  Not one of them, to my knowledge, thinks that Paul did not believe there was a historical Jesus” (Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exists?, 132; emphasis not in original).  Yet if Ehrman is correct that the fundamentalists’ doctrine of inspiration means that Scripture (including the Pauline epistles) are nonhistorical in character, how can they participate in the consensus with other scholars that the Apostle Paul believe in the historical Jesus?

Point 3d: There are more examples one can cite in Ehrman’s book and the corpus of his work of his criticism that fundamentalists believes in the literal and total historicity of the Bible.

Conclusion

Ehrman’s criticism that the fundamentalists’ doctrine of inspiration makes them view the Gospels as nonhistorical suffer from the problem of (1) not being proven by Ehrman, being asserted despite the absent of evidence, (2) is contrary to the evidence found in fundamentalists’ literature and (3) contradicts Ehrman’s own criticism of fundamentalists’ view of inspiration for assuming the Bible to be thoroughly true and historical.  In essence, his misrepresentation of the fundamentalists’ view of inspiration and historicity of the Bible is unfounded and irrational.

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