Don't believe everything you hear

Posted by Orville Bennett on 6 July 2011
Read time: about 30 minutes

Ladies. Gentlemen. Gather 'round. Today I'd like to share with you an encounter I had this past week. Me and the family got home early last Sunday and, as is our custom, we ate food and stared at each other. My wife had a brilliant idea however and suggested that we go to a block party the city was holding. Having nothing better to do at the time, we went.

So, we get to the block party and we're walking around and churches are coming at us left and right. This was actually pretty cool, for me at least. You see there were stalls set up to sell snacks and stuff but the churches were giving this stuff away for free. Yes ladies and gents, F-R-E-E. Some churches were giving out information on Vacation Bible School, others on the church itself. This seems like as good a point as any to bring up the Bible. I'm a Christian see, I believe Jesus died on a cross for my sins (yours too), and that by confessing my sin and asking Jesus to save me that He did. As such I believe the Bible isn't just a book. It is the inerrant, inspired Word of God.

This, as it turns out, is an important point. It means that everything in the Bible is correct. It means that if I find a seeming contradiction between things in the Bible then I, in fact, am lacking an understanding of whatever God was trying to get across (and therefore need to try harder). An occurrence which happens far more often than I'd like, I should point out.

For instance, Matthew 27: 39-44 we see that people were abusive to Jesus and verbally mocking him, even the prisoners (plural) on the cross with him.

Matthew 27:44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

Matthew 27:44 In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

In Luke 23: 39-43 however we see a totally different account given, where on of the prisoners actually defends Jesus.

Luke 23:39: And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
Luke 23:40: But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
Luke 23:41: And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Luke 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
Luke 23:41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

So the contradiction, as I saw it was that in one account the prisoners were both hatin' on Jesus, while in the other only one was hatin' while the other was defending him. But since the Bible is right, all the time, there must be something I'm not getting. I think I asked my pastor about this eventually and got this answer: they're both right. At first the prisoners were railing against Jesus, but eventually one wised up and came to his senses. Works for me. Might not do it for you, but it does for me.

Some will undoubtedly have a problem with a book created by an all powerful God having different accounts by different authors. I, on the other hand think God makes us who we are for a reason. We focus on different things, have different interests etc, because of who we are as individuals. The fact that such individuality is present throughout the Bible, makes it all the more miraculous that the whole thing flows as a uniform story (really, read it for yourself and see). As long as I'm going on about it, you really do have to read the whole thing to begin understanding, and seeing the things God wants you to see. And then do it again. And again. Ad infinitum.

Just trying to read a few books or chapters for inspiration is all good and well, but the overarching story of sin and redemption really come into light while reading through the whole thing (regardless of how long that might take you to do). I think I got through the whole thing in just under a decade. Give or take a few years (I started over a lot).

So now you have an understanding of my beliefs, the way I think about things, etc (i.e. ignore anything which doesn't line up with my view of God's perfection until bothered enough to go and seek out an answer). Yes, this is me. That was just context for what comes next. Remember, this all started with a block party.

So I get to this particular church section and this super nice lady comes out and starts passing out the requisite flyers to me and the wife. During her speech she starts talking about the church and what they believe. She continues to say something I don't quite get. Apparently, the church is "rightly divided". I let her finish and then asked her what that meant. Cuz I've got no bloody clue. And it sounds weird. After coming home and googling it seems it's one of those religious words people use to mean "we're right about this". But she goes on to explain it in the context of them believing only in the KJV as "the one, TRUE translation" (I'm thinking in my head, "OK, fair enough"), and the separateness of the Trinity. Essentially, God is God, Jesus is God's son, but not God, and I stopped listening for what the Holy Spirit was, because at this point, I was intrigued.

You see I am one of those crazy folk who believe that:
a) God is God,
b) Jesus is the son of God, but also in a mind-bending turn of events, also God and
(wait for it)
c) The Holy Spirit is also God.
i.e. there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost/Spirit.
Couldn't explain to you how that works or anything, but there it is. And the reason I believe that is because
(wait for it again!)
Bible says so. (you'll have to wait longer, but trust me, it's coming)

At this point I should point out that you should never, ever, EVER, believe anything anyone tells you is from the Bible without them, at the very least, showing it to you. Preferably they'd be able to both show and explain, but this ain't a perfect world so YMMV on that one.

Actually I lied a little up above, the reason I believe in the "Three in One" is because that's what was pounded in my head in Sunday school growing up. Being older, and hopefully wiser now, I am capable of checking these things out by going directly to the source now. The source being God and His word (the Bible is what I'm trying to say here folks).

But now this super nice lady, who's been at this church for a year, who is a new believer is telling me, in earnest, in all sincerity, that that is wrong. So surely, clearly, she must have a way of backing this up. And this backup must come from the only place that counts, the Bible.

So I ask rather bluntly, after she explains her rightly divided views, where in the Bible that belief comes from. Actually, that's not exactly how the story went. You see she was telling me that in the Bible it said that the three are separate, so I asked her to show me. Well, it was more me looking at her skeptically saying Show me. But I wasn't mean. Promise. My wife keeps me in check nowadays.

Unfortunately, she had to admit eventually that she didn't know exactly where in the Bible it was, but if I were to come to the church on Wednesday night they have open questions at that time and anyone can just come in and ask whatever they like. This was a tempting thought actually, as I love a good argument, but something far more important than having a good theological discussion was at hand. This lady, well intentioned though she was, was in my view, wrong. Worse still, she thought she was right. I figured the simple solution was for her to find it in the Bible and convince both herself and me. As I explained above I believe that contradictions present in the Bible are not so much contradictions as they are gaps in understanding. If what she believed was from the Bible, and what I believed was from the Bible, and they contradicted perhaps we two could figure out something we weren't understanding that would reconcile the two. Or perhaps I was wrong, it's been known to happen on occasion. Alas, she could not provide biblical support for her statements when asked.

So she went for backup. She was after all a new believer, and calling for backup is nothing to be ashamed of. Backup was not whipping out her smartphone and googling for the pertinent verses, then pulling up her Bible app and getting on with things (as I would have done). She went for a friend "who knew more". Fair enough I suppose, (although I'm of the opinion that if you're saying that things are from the Bible you are beholden to actually find said things when called out)

Over comes friend giving me the same spiel.
It says so in the Bible she said.
Where in the Bible I said?
I don't remember exactly where she said, but if you come to our wednesday night...
"Oh for the love of ..." Well maybe I just thought that.
So I decide to be a bit more direct, "Doesn't it say in the Bible that Jesus and God are one?"
I might have also asked, "If you're saying things are in the Bible, shouldn't you be able to point out where in the Bible when asked?" Or maybe I just thought it. I don't remember anymore. I guess I'd been enough of a pain at this point and off backup went to the pastor. She came back with a Bible verse. The verse I was presented with as proof of God's separation from Jesus as a singular deity (with Jesus playing the role of "just the son"), was John 10:30.
I dutifully looked it up in front of her on my smartphone (love those things). The verse read

I and my Father are one.
That was the King James Version, just in case you were wondering. So then I looked at her, perhaps with my eyebrow raised, the way I do when I'm skeptical about something and said rather obviously "But it says they're the same here"

I forget what was said exactly afterward, but the pastor was consulted and I was informed that the "one" in that verse was translated from a greek word. And that greek word meant not "one" the singular unit, but was more accurately translated as having one purpose. Or something like that.

At that point I didn't really have anything to say. It was a plausible explanation, so I said my thanks and bid them adieu.


You didn't really think I'd just leave it at that did you? Nah. During my travels across the internet I happened upon the Sword Bible software and learned about the existence of something called Strong's numbers. Basically they cross reference the original (I assume) greek words with the translations in the Bible. So out came my Bible app (Eloquent née MacSword) and I grabbed a copy of Strong's Greek dictionary/lexicon whatever it is.

Before I looked up John 10:30 to see what Strong's Greek said one was originally, I read my Bible: John chapter 1. I'd originally intended to read all the way up to chapter 10, but after taking an hour to make it to only chapter one I decided to call it a morning and went off to work. While reading, John 1:1 in particular seemed to give support to God and Jesus being one and the same, and yet somehow separate, but all the while still being fully God.

Now to me, given the topic of John's letter (the life of Jesus) and the opening statement that the "Word was with God", and the "Word was God" and the latter explanation in verse 14 that And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. that the "Word" here is Jesus. So if John is telling me in the beginning of his book that Jesus was with God in the beginning and that he, in fact, was God, what are the odds that later on in his book he himself contradicts that?

So I get back from work and I decide it's time to look up that verse and the corresponding Strong's Greek word. So here's John 10:30 from the KJV

I and my Father are one.
or with Strong's numbers included
I<1473> and<2532> my Father<3588><3962> are<2070> one<1520>.
So I go and check out #1520 to see if it says one here is equivalent to one purpose or something similar. It says (and I'll just copy and paste here)
1520 heis hice (including the neuter (etc.) hen); a primary numeral; one:--a(-n, -ny, certain), + abundantly, man, one (another), only, other, some. See also 1527, 3367, 3391, 3762. see GREEK for 1527 see GREEK for 3367 see GREEK for 3391 see GREEK for 3762
Now I don't know a lick of Greek, but I know my fair share of English, and I don't see anything in the preceding quote to suggest that one in John 10:30 means anything other than one. uno. primary numeral.
Things are starting to seem Wrongly, rather than Rightly Divined. And in the absence of going to someone who speaks Greek and asking them what this means I decide to check w/ another source.

Well, via google. Specifically I went to and put in the Strong's number - 1520 - to see what it comes up with.

Now this is what we're talking about! Not only does it give a definition of the word, but it gives word usage info. In 229 instances that particular greek word was used to mean one, in 9 instances a and so on. At no point do I see anything close to one purpose or anything similar.

So let's say for arguments sake that I get to Heaven, I still believe that Jesus is in fact God. If I'm wrong is God going to turn me back? By God's own admission, I need to believe in Jesus dying on the cross for my sins and repent of my sins - John 3:16-18, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Acts 16:30-32, Rom 10:9, Luke 13:3.

Having met those two requirements, I think debates on the finer points of Jesus' divinity are moot. So why this exceptionally long story? Ever since this "incident", I've been bothered by the events that transpired. Why is it that we as christians suck at knowing the Bible? This goes for me as well (as without a computer assist I wouldn't be able to argue my way out of a paper bag). Then again, I'm not presenting something as genuine without any way to back that up when it's actually checked out. C'mon christians. We gotta do better.

And for the rest of you, don't believe everything you hear. Regardless of how earnest, sincere or educated ("well the original greek actually means ...") they may seem. This is doubly true if they say it's from the Bible. And if you ever do find yourself in that situation, by all means, call them out on it. You'll be doing both yourself and the other folks a favor.

Oh, and if anyone out there on the internets actually knows what these folks were talking about (greek meaning this, Jesus is only the Son, not God, Rightly Divided etc) HIT MEH UP IN DEH comments! After all, I could be wrong.

Thanks for stopping bye ;-)


Submitted by illogic-al on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 00:16

All verses on requirements for salvation ripped straight from:
Mac Bible App:
Sword project:
Greek Lexicon:

KJV and 1984 edition of NIV Bibles. Peace!

Submitted by religious on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 10:19

Dude, do whatever you want to do.
But please spare readers of blog aggregations like planetkde of such religious brainfarts. Thanks.

Submitted by d2kx on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 10:47

Ok, this has happened some time ago on Planet Ubuntu, and now someone I find this post on PlanetKDE. If you have decided to actually waste time with this stuff, then that's completely fine, but please ensure that posts like this don't make it on PlanetKDE or related planets.

Submitted by tumaix on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 11:33

Hey Illogic, Me on the other hand, am an Atheist because I have read the bible ( not those braindamages that doesn't belive because they doesn't belive ). If you say that the bible must not contradict itself, I disagree, but diferently from those woman that said that there was proof on the bible, but didn't know where to look at, I can for instance show you II Samuel 24, wich says:

24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

but in 1 Chronicles 21 it said that:

21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

well, Satan or God asked david to number israel?
and if it was God, why he says that he sinned by numbering the people, in II Samuel 24:10?

24:10 And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done:

God asked him to do, he did, he sinned because of that. Is that contradiction enough?

Submitted by auxsvr on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 11:46

My understanding of the interaction between God and Devil is that Devil asks God to do things, and God gives him permission.

Submitted by tumaix on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 11:48

could be, but it says that the lord asked, then it says that it was a sin to do what god asked.

Submitted by auxsvr on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 11:52

It is hard to imagine that the writer knew exactly how or what God asked from someone. I believe that the writer simply intends to say that God allowed some things to happen, and this interpretation makes sense throughout the Bible.

Submitted by illogic-al on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 12:41

No, for me it isn't contradiction enough. As I said before, the two accounts seemingly conflicting are a result of us not understanding something, and both accounts are in fact, correct.

As an aside, I should point out that anyone looking for reasons not to believe the Bible or believe in God will find them. By actually searching for God earnestly, and having faith in Him and His word, will we ever believe. If you're looking instead for reasons to doubt, you will find them, and find them in abundance. Now let me explain why I don't see those two verses as a contradiction. (s'long!)

I read the rest of II Samuel 24 to get some context (very important) and in verse 15 it says "So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beer–sheba seventy thousand men." Harsh.
And in II Samuel 24 verse 1 it says "And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." Note how it begins: And again.

So apparently God had it out for the Children of Israel from the beginning. He wanted to punish them, and in verse 15 we see, apparently as a punishment for David, the Israelites suffered too. Seems unjust doesn't it. But believing that God being God, is nothing if not just that doesn't seem right. Also, having read the books before I've seen time after time, (after time), after time, (after time) where the Children of Israel disobey God, get warned, ignore it and get punished. Start in Exodus, you'll see how quickly they start disobeying.

So it seems to me that at the start of II Samuel 24 we've already gotten to the point where the Children of Israel have angered God (yet again), the writer just skips over that part (for whatever reason).

In I Chronicles 21 verse 1 it says "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." Satan always got it out for Israel, and the human race in general, and here we see him setting something into motion.

Could it be that God was angry with the Children of Israel, allowed Satan to provoke David knowing the outcome, and that it would lead to a) punishing Israel for whatever it was they angered him over? and b) use it as a way to get David to feel truly sorry for what he did? I think so.
Given my belief that all of the Bible is true, we see specifically that "he moved David against them" by allowing Satan's tempting of David to take place. David made his own choice, which led to the punishment of seemingly a lot of people who weren't David. But instead of being unfortunate collateral damage, it was likely deserve judgement for some earlier unspoken sins. And we get a genuinely repentant David as a bonus. A bonus with even further implications. As King of Israel, the Israelites looked up to David as an example, so a repentant, God-fearing David set an example for the Israelites to follow, and also put them in the position to be blessed by God, because they're King was doing as God told them (regardless of what they were doing as individuals).

Hope that helps. But remember my side comment. If you're looking for God, look for Him. Not for proof contrary to Him. You'll find exactly what you look for. I'm of the opinion that the Bible is the best place to start with this. God gives commandments and consequences for breaking these.
I've spent the better part of my adult life doing things "my way" to find, in the end, God was right all along.

Following God doesn't make life easier, but it sure does make it far more worthwhile and less stressful/more joyful.

Submitted by tumaix on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 13:31

I get your point, nevertheless, there's lots of different bible versions, and different bibles translations, it's impossible to say 'there's no mistake on it because those are god's words', since the translator is not god himself, he could have got something wrong. If you want to look at a very good bible ( I'v read more than 5 different kinds of translations of it ), try the yeowahs witness one, they did a very good job researching old tomes and books to retranslate it without most of the implications and collateral damage from old translations.

That said from a Atheist.

Submitted by illogic-al on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 18:53

You seem to be limiting God to what he can accomplish through us mere mortals. God speaks through his word. If there's something wrong with the version you're reading, couldn't he point this out to you?

Remember the most important thing of all, the reason why all of this trouble is being expended. See 1st John 4. Jesus loves you. God loves you.
Jeremiah 31:3: "The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." -KJV

What's more, he wants you to want Him. Not partly, or kinda sorta-ly, but completely. Because only love given freely is worth having at all.
Proverbs 8:17 "I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me." - ASV
Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." - NIV

That said from a Christian. :-)

Submitted by auxsvr on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 12:01

According to the tradition of the Eastern Christian Church, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are of the same substance, yet different persons. ἕν means literally one. This is the dogma of the Holy Trinity.

About the contradictions in the Bible you refer to, one may claim that Matthew didn't hear what the other thief was saying, and was generally describing the attitude of them as a whole. I believe it is a mistake to stick thoroughly to the text and accept it as a perfectly accurate account of the events, simply because human languages and people are imperfect. This does not mean that the text errs in any way, it's just that often we are stuck in the details and miss the general idea of what the writer may or may not want to say. In the particular case I would call it a contradiction if Matthew explicitly had written that every single one of the thieves was insulting Jesus.

Submitted by The User on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 14:40

Well, I could not bear reading that text, so I stopped, did I miss the point where you was explaining that all of that is irony?

Seriously, you should start thinking by yourself. The evangelists were not better authors than Descartes, Nietzsche or Sartre, their work is not more important, and it is definitely not absoelute truth. When you want to know truth, you have to doubt everything, not only your one thoughts, but also the words of the Bible. Knowledge is not possible when blindly accepting a whole book. Your consciousness is the most fundamental entity in the world, not god or the bible. Think about whether god is a intrinsic, a necessary entity to describe the world. Think about what the word “god” means for you. It is just a word, you have to realise its meaning. When doing that I realised that that meaning is either contradicting to the truth, thus wrong, or pointless, making “god” just a useless term for something different not implying Christian ideals. The last sentence described my strongly atheist believes, but you should really care about what I wrote before.

And please differentiate between metaphysics, epistemology and ethics! You cannot simply tranform a metaphysical entity into a moral authority!

And please do not include such stuff in Planet KDE. You can sometimes mention such stuff, or write about some personal things, but do not make such specialised articles show up there. I do not do that, too, when explicitly writing about such stuff.

Submitted by illogic-al on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 19:14

I did think by myself. Then I started reading the Bible. Really reading it, trying to understand what God was trying to say. And this is where it has gotten me. I've gotten past the point of doubting God for most things. And on those issues where I still have questions, His prior track record allows me to give Him the benefit of the doubt.

Weirder still, the more I completely and utterly I believe in Him and His word the, clearer I suppose is the word, life becomes for me. Also, having never felt love like this before, I find that that love, above all else is why I'll never doubt in God again (for very long) ;-) It's like searching for something I thought was and finding it, then deciding I never want to let go again. Except sometimes I do want to let go, as following God's commandments isn't without cost. I've found that the "price I pay" as it were, is well worth it. I've become not only a better person, but also a more caring husband and father, things I believe were realistically (though definitely theoretically) possible for me.

Oddly enough, this has all transpired without changing the core "me". I'm a slightly more polished and refined version, with more work being done all the time. Well I'm probably boring you now, so I'll stop.

As for the rest of what you wrote, you lost me. I was pointing out that as Christians we have an obligation to back up the things we say with Biblical proof.

I wasn't arguing for why God exists, is real etc. My blog post takes that as a given. If you disagree, so be it. Needless to say, I won't be getting into how to "differentiate between metaphysics, epistemology and ethics" any time soon (probably ever). :-)

Submitted by The User on Fri, 07/08/2011 - 05:40

“Then I started reading the Bible.”
You wrote yourself that you have been grown up with it, thus the word “then” is inappropriate. You probably started before you thought for yourself, but that is unimportant, not your fault.

“I was pointing out that as Christians we have an obligation to back up the things we say with Biblical proof.”
The bible does not proof anything except statements about the Bible. It contains stories and thoughts by various people, they can be wrong, contradicting, immoral like any other texts. You must not use induction here, you read in the bible, you agreed with some stuff, and now you are saying everything must be correct. That is no valid reasoning and will certainly imply wrong implications. A book is not absolute truth. You do not have to doubt god, but please doubt the bible.

“I won't be getting into how to "differentiate between metaphysics, epistemology and ethics" any time soon”
You really should, it does not make sense to missuse metaphysical entities for moral reasoning, because metaphysics just do not care about what is good or bad, and god would not, too. Why should the fundamental entity of being care about human issues, what is good or bad for you? That way you are twitting god.

Submitted by illogic-al on Fri, 07/08/2011 - 06:42

I think you're still missing the point.

I'm not arguing (nor am I interested in arguing) for the wrong-ness or right-ness of the Bible.
I'm simply being as transparent as possible with my beliefs, and then stating why we Christians (those who, in my opinion, should believe in the accuracy of the Bible) should use it when purporting to be carrying out God's will.

Here's the executive summary: We should actually be ready to defend what we say is from the Bible by being able to show it in the Bible. The rest of the text relates a story where people said something they believed was from the Bible, but when I checked it out (as we all should) I found nothing to support what they were saying. Even from the very Bible verses given to me.

To use a forum term, you've gone off topic.
Want to discuss the Bible? Hit me up on IRC. Maybe I'll be nice and even reply :-)

Submitted by dylon on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 20:54

Thank you. The love with which you've written this, along with your extensive knowledge of the Word and uncanny ability to defend your position have encouraged me.

Another believer,

Submitted by illogic-al on Fri, 07/08/2011 - 07:07

Thanks mate. Glad to hear it. My "extensive knowledge" isn't all its been made out to be though. My memory's crap so I google lots :-) Bible apps are also eminently searchable, which is awesomesauce.

I do try to read the Bible regularly, so I have a general idea of what it says and sometimes, even where it says it. If you don't already do that, I highly recommend it. A little time in the Word goes a long way.

Psalm 105:4
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

And if you're ever near west chester, oh stop by new life chapel and checkitout. Our church community has helped me grow more in the past year than I've managed by myself in the past 5. Of course finding something a bit closer to home would be a little more practical for you :-D

Submitted by milian on Fri, 07/08/2011 - 10:52

Seriously, keep your personal stuff to your self. Not only the Atheists but also all those who believe in something different than you could not care less. Planet KDE should stay technical or at least related to KDE in general.