Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

a few examples; discussion invited

Abrahamic religion, you know, the one with the cross...

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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#61  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 17, 2011 7:45 pm

Moonwatcher wrote:
MattHunX wrote:
spin wrote:
I'm not criticizing you on the issue, just clarifying. The first two verses of Genesis 1 regard the state of the cosmos at creation. Once you understand that the structure of the chapter is quite clear. (And yes, these are 24 hour days, with mornings and evenings, otherwise the installation of the sabbath would be meaningless.) Notice also on the first day light came into being and on the fourth, the sun, moon and starts were placed there to inhabit the light. There is no meaningful way to read this material as coincident with science.


Ah, yes. There's that, too. :cheers:


Yes and note Lion has utterly ignored that the Bible blatantly has the Earth created days before the Sun despite his out of context verse and undoubtedly knowing what it said in the day to day description.


There is still such a tendency in some people to revere ancient documents. Wisdom of the ancients, and all that rot. The people who wrote this shit had no concept of the germ theory of disease. So much for humanae vitae.

Someone should ask Lion IRC what he makes of the germ theory. Punishment for original sin? Lion is thus no farther along than the morons who wrote his bible.
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#62  Postby edwardtbabinski » Sep 25, 2011 12:49 pm

Hi Ichthus77, I have read through McGrew's examples and engaged him a bit at my blog and at Victor Reppert's blog. I caught your recent discussion because I am comparing his examples and conclusions with those of major biblical commentators. I have some interesting finds that I hope to share with Tim in future. But the most obvious point is that there are far more apparent discrepancies between the Gospels than there are apparent undesigned coincidences. Strauss' Life of Jesus Critically Examined lists many such discrepancies in its three volumes and 1500 or so pages (it's online). With so many discrepancies one can't help but hypothesize that stories changed in the telling from Gospel to Gospel, and/or was sometimes misremembered. So the truly cumulative evidence, based on the sheer number of examples, is in favor of discrepancies, not "shared eyewitness testimony."

And it's far easier and more logical to go with the majority of the evidence and seek to fit the minority of the evidence within that circle than the other way round.

The minority of the evidence consists of the relatively few examples of apparent undesigned coincidences. And they can be explained as lying within the norm of discrepancies in general (i.e., as stories that changed in the telling, were misremembered, or sometimes were changed in earlier Gospels to suit what appeared in later Gospels). Once a scribe had access to all four Gospels the earlier ones could indeed have had minor insertions added to the earlier ones to suit the later one's contents. There are documented cases of retrograde changes among early Gospel manuscripts, i.e. changes and explanatory edits made to earlier Gospels based on the contents of later ones, but not nearly as many retrograde changes and explanatory edits as those that followed the more usual historical progression from Mark to Matthew to Luke to John. And lo, we find the same thing when we count up the number of retrograde versus prograde edits in McGrew's apparent undesigned coincidences. Only a minority of such apparent undesigned coincidences are retrograde.

One example of a retrograde addition that is well known and admitted by McGrew himself is the added last chapter of Mark which appears to be based on stories found in later Gospels but added to a very early Gospel.

McGrew's first example of an apparent undesigned coincidence is Matthew's lack of a blindfold (note that the earlier Gospel, Mark, has Jesus' head/face covered--though it does not literally say with a blindfold--so the only issue is why a slightly later Gospel like Matthew would remove the cover, while Luke simply continues to follow Mark's lead and uses a more precise word, blindfold). The lack of a covering or blindfold in Matthew is discussed in biblical commentaries and four possible explanations are suggested. One reason might be that Matthew wanted Jesus' experience to more closely parallel an OT tale where no such blindfold or head covering was applied, and indeed we know how much Matthew wanted to make Jesus' experiences conform to the OT literally, even having Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew ride TWO animals into Jerusalem, not just one like in the other Gospels, because Matthew read an OT verse too literally, mistaking a Hebrew poetic parallelism as though it was two separate animals. That's how much a stickler Matthew was for literalism. Hence the blindfold could have been dropped due to that aspect of Matthew's wish to make prophecies seem like they were literally coming true. I will just say here that none of the four explanations involve the need to believe Matthew was an eyewitness. I'll share what I've learned from the commentaries in future. But I hope McGrew will do as I did and check the commentaries concerning each one of his "apparent" examples of "undesigned coincidences" before saying much more on the issue.

McGrew's example concerning the story in which Jesus asked Philip a question about where to buy fish, knowing Philip's hometown was Bethsaida, is not a question commentators consider worth mentioning because they are more aware of the fact that it's only in John where Jesus is the one asking the question of where to buy fish. In the other Gospels it is not Jesus who is asking the question but the apostles asking the question of Jesus rhetorically! Completely reversed. Check it out.

There is also evidence in John that the author was familiar with stories in earlier Gospels, like Mark and Luke, when he wrote his Gospel, less so with Matthean stories. So the author of John could have been familiar with Luke's placing of the feeding story in Bethsaida and reused that as Philip's home town. Bethsaida plays quite a role throughout John. Interestingly, John does not seem as well acquainted with the story in Matthew that Peter and Andrew were fishermen living in Capernaum. (Matthew 4:13) Instead John says Peter and Andrew were, like Philip, from Bethsaida. (John 1:44) "Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter." This is an apparent discrepancy. As I said they outnumber the apparent undesigned coincidences many times over.

John even changes who hands out the bread and fish when he retells the story of the feeding of the multitude. It's Jesus who hands it out, since John's story is also more like a last supper scene and even has an interpretive message inserted later in the same chapter about Jesus being "the bread of life . . . which anyone may eat and not die. . . Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Perhaps because John has no "last supper" scene he iinstead incorporated something like it earlier, in his retelling of the feeding of the multitude. And this all seems to be part of his storytelling technique rather than an example of fact, including John's penchant for "I am" sayings, "I am the bread of life, the light of the world, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life," in fact Jesus is so busy throughout John telling people who he is that John doesn't has his Jesus repeat a single parable, not one. He's too busy talking about himself.

There are other discrepancies as well between each Gospel's telling of the feeding of the 5000. In fact, it appears to scholars that John obtained the story from the synoptics, combining elements from the two stories of mass feedings in Mark into a singular tale. If you really want to learn more about the Gospels I recommend two recent scholarly works on the feeding of the 5000 which is quite an interesting story to study since it's the only pre-resurrection miracle of Jesus mentioned in all four Gospels. So you can see how it changes in each of the four Gospels. One last note. I discovered that even Evangelical scholars who study the miracle stories don't place quite as much historical stock in the miracle stories of mass feedings as they do in say, the resurrection. The two recent books below help explain why. But it interesting that even among modern day Evangelicals there is a bit more hesitancy when it comes to some miracles rather than others.

1) Rewriting the Feeding of Five Thousand (Peter Lang Publishing; First printing edition, April 14, 2011) reveals the connection between John and the Synoptics with a focus on John 6.115. Statistical analyses establish the percentages of verbal and word order agreement between John 6.1515 and the Synoptic parallels. An analysis of contextual agreements between the narratives in John and the Synoptics facilitates observing the percentage of agreement between them on a verse-by-verse basis, the average percentage of agreement between them, and the average percentage of agreement between them when Johannine material without parallel in the Synoptics is excluded from the data. Furthermore, this book analyzes the Matthean and Lukan redaction of Mark in their versions of the feeding of the five thousand and their influence on the Johannine narrative, as well as how Johns narrative can be understood as a thorough rewriting of the Synoptic accounts. About the Author Steven A. Hunt received his Ph.D. from the University of Sheffield. He is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Focusing on the New Testament, he specializes in narrative approaches to the Gospel of John and socio-rhetorical approaches to the letters of Paul. His most recent publications include articles on Johns characterization of Nicodemus, Lazarus, Abraham, and Jesus.
http://www.amazon.com/Rewriting-Feeding ... nskepti-20

2) Feeding the Five Thousand, University Press Of America (May 10, 2010) places Jesus' feeding of the five thousand, the only miracle reported by all four Gospels, primarily within the historical-literary tradition of Rabbinic Judaism. Otherwise ordinary details of the story come to life when seen alongside a rich array of comparative Jewish texts spanning the Hellenistic and Roman periods. This study especially illuminates how interpretive traditions relating to Elisha influenced early Christian understanding of Jesus. Roger David Aus primarily explores the many facets of early Palestinian Judaism which inform the story, especially in regard to the miracle-worker Elisha. He describes four major motifs in the narrative, as well as the Markan and Johannine redaction. In addition, he analyzes the account's Semitic background, genre and historicity, and its part in a miracle collection. Roger David Aus, Ph.D., is pastor emeritus of the Evangelische Luther-Kirchengemeinde Alt-Reinickendorf in Berlin, Germany. He is the author of eleven other books on the New Testament and a member of the Society of New Testament Studies, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft für Theologie.
http://www.amazon.com/Feeding-Five-Thou ... nskepti-20
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#63  Postby Ichthus77 » Sep 25, 2011 1:51 pm

An exchange between McGrew/Babinski (since Ed emailed me)--http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/search?q=undesigned+coincidences

Edit...um...haha...regarding the way this thread has turned...see http://biologos.org/questions :think:
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#64  Postby Shrunk » Sep 25, 2011 3:40 pm

As interesting as the issues of Biblical scholarship undoubtedly are, to my mind McGrew's laughably inept argument falls on simple logical grounds. For instance, in one example he gives:

Matthew 26:67-68 Why ask him to tell them who slapped him? Luke 22:64 They blindfolded him.


So suppose neither "Matthew" or "Luke" were present at the event recounted, but are simply relaying a story told to both of them by some other guy who did witness the event in question. Let's call him Melvin.

So Luke is telling the story to someone else:

"So Melvin says that Jesus, they had him blindfolded, see? And then one of the soldiers, he punches Jesus in the face and says, 'Prophecy, who struck you?'"

Matthew, in the meantime, is telling the story to someone else:

"This Melvin guy, he saw the whole thing. So he says this soldier punches Jesus in the face and says "Who struck you?'"

"Well, that's kind of a dumb question. I mean, the guy is standing right in front of him."

"Oh, right, I forgot to mention: Melvin says Jesus was blindfolded. Anyway, so this guy punches him and...."

I'm not saying this is how it happened. But, seriously, how does this become a less plausible explanation than some divinely inspired "undesigned coincidence"? This still has to be the lamest attempt at apologetics I have ever seen, and that's saying something.

Ichthus77 wrote:Edit...um...haha...regarding the way this thread has turned...see http://biologos.org/questions :think:


What does that have to do with this thread?
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#65  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 25, 2011 3:55 pm

Shrunk wrote:McGrew's laughably inept argument falls on simple logical grounds.


That's what I love about these discussions. Having a laughably inept argument fall on simple logical grounds is like having found a coincidence in the bible. The bible records nothing but coincidences, which is a laughably inept way of proving anything. :naughty2:
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#66  Postby Shrunk » Sep 25, 2011 5:32 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:
Shrunk wrote:McGrew's laughably inept argument falls on simple logical grounds.


That's what I love about these discussions. Having a laughably inept argument fall on simple logical grounds is like having found a coincidence in the bible. The bible records nothing but coincidences, which is a laughably inept way of proving anything. :naughty2:


So, uh, you're agreeing with me, right? Or does this have more to do w/ the epic Jesus thread?
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#67  Postby Cito di Pense » Sep 25, 2011 5:42 pm

Shrunk wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
Shrunk wrote:McGrew's laughably inept argument falls on simple logical grounds.


That's what I love about these discussions. Having a laughably inept argument fall on simple logical grounds is like having found a coincidence in the bible. The bible records nothing but coincidences, which is a laughably inept way of proving anything. :naughty2:


So, uh, you're agreeing with me, right? Or does this have more to do w/ the epic Jesus thread?


Oh, I totally agree with you. Srsly. I only aspire to be taken more srsly than McGrew. I aim low.
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#68  Postby Ichthus77 » Sep 25, 2011 10:02 pm

Shrunk wrote:As interesting as the issues of Biblical scholarship undoubtedly are, to my mind McGrew's laughably inept argument falls on simple logical grounds. For instance, in one example he gives:

Matthew 26:67-68 Why ask him to tell them who slapped him? Luke 22:64 They blindfolded him.


So suppose neither "Matthew" or "Luke" were present at the event recounted, but are simply relaying a story told to both of them by some other guy who did witness the event in question. Let's call him Melvin.

So Luke is telling the story to someone else:

"So Melvin says that Jesus, they had him blindfolded, see? And then one of the soldiers, he punches Jesus in the face and says, 'Prophecy, who struck you?'"

Matthew, in the meantime, is telling the story to someone else:

"This Melvin guy, he saw the whole thing. So he says this soldier punches Jesus in the face and says "Who struck you?'"

"Well, that's kind of a dumb question. I mean, the guy is standing right in front of him."

"Oh, right, I forgot to mention: Melvin says Jesus was blindfolded. Anyway, so this guy punches him and...."

I'm not saying this is how it happened. But, seriously, how does this become a less plausible explanation than some divinely inspired "undesigned coincidence"? This still has to be the lamest attempt at apologetics I have ever seen, and that's saying something.

Where are the "logical grounds" you speak of? When you say "the event recounted...the event in question" you unwittingly grant victory to McGrew's argument, which is that these undesigned coincidences (do not read "miracle" when I say that, because that is not what I mean by it) point up the authenticity/historicity of the Gospel accounts of these events, and the likelihood that these accounts are not far removed from the eye-witnesses. But of course Luke was not present. Being 'present' at the events one is recording is not a prerequisite to being an historian.

Ichthus77 wrote:Edit...um...haha...regarding the way this thread has turned...see http://biologos.org/questions :think:


What does that have to do with this thread?

Exactly! I was referring to the tangent between Moonwatcher, Lion IRC, Matt, Spin and Cito.
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#69  Postby Shrunk » Sep 25, 2011 11:54 pm

Ichthus77 wrote:Where are the "logical grounds" you speak of? When you say "the event recounted...the event in question" you unwittingly grant victory to McGrew's argument, which is that these undesigned coincidences (do not read "miracle" when I say that, because that is not what I mean by it) point up the authenticity/historicity of the Gospel accounts of these events, and the likelihood that these accounts are not far removed from the eye-witnesses. But of course Luke was not present. Being 'present' at the events one is recording is not a prerequisite to being an historian.


That's it? That's what you're making such a big deal about?

So in my example, the only person who claims to have seen the event is Melvin. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. Maybe he got some of the details wrong. Maybe he made the whole thing up. Who knows? The fact that Matthew and Luke presented it only means they both heard Melvin's little anecdote. Big fucking deal, huh?

What does that have to do with this thread?


Exactly! I was referring to the tangent between Moonwatcher, Lion IRC, Matt, Spin and Cito.


Um, OK. :eh:
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#70  Postby Moonwatcher » Sep 26, 2011 1:00 am

Ichthus77 wrote:An exchange between McGrew/Babinski (since Ed emailed me)--http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/search?q=undesigned+coincidences

Edit...um...haha...regarding the way this thread has turned...see http://biologos.org/questions :think:


I find that second site rather interesting, especially in that they feel questions like, "If God created the universe, then who created God?", should be taken seriously as objections to or logical extensions of the assertion that God created the universe.

At a quick look, the site seems willing to deal with scientific facts and reality although I haven't yet looked far enough regarding how it deals with the issue of biblical criticism in terms of inerrancy.
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#71  Postby Shrunk » Sep 26, 2011 1:13 am

Moonwatcher wrote:At a quick look, the site seems willing to deal with scientific facts and reality although I haven't yet looked far enough regarding how it deals with the issue of biblical criticism in terms of inerrancy.


BioLogos is bascially an accomodationist site, coming from the religious perspective. It's sometimes OK, sometimes quite nutty. I haven't looked at it for a while, but I have heard it has been leaning more towards the nutty since Francis Collins stopped being directly involved with it.
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#72  Postby Moonwatcher » Sep 26, 2011 1:22 am

Ichthus77 wrote:
Shrunk wrote:As interesting as the issues of Biblical scholarship undoubtedly are, to my mind McGrew's laughably inept argument falls on simple logical grounds. For instance, in one example he gives:

Matthew 26:67-68 Why ask him to tell them who slapped him? Luke 22:64 They blindfolded him.


So suppose neither "Matthew" or "Luke" were present at the event recounted, but are simply relaying a story told to both of them by some other guy who did witness the event in question. Let's call him Melvin.

So Luke is telling the story to someone else:

"So Melvin says that Jesus, they had him blindfolded, see? And then one of the soldiers, he punches Jesus in the face and says, 'Prophecy, who struck you?'"

Matthew, in the meantime, is telling the story to someone else:

"This Melvin guy, he saw the whole thing. So he says this soldier punches Jesus in the face and says "Who struck you?'"

"Well, that's kind of a dumb question. I mean, the guy is standing right in front of him."

"Oh, right, I forgot to mention: Melvin says Jesus was blindfolded. Anyway, so this guy punches him and...."

I'm not saying this is how it happened. But, seriously, how does this become a less plausible explanation than some divinely inspired "undesigned coincidence"? This still has to be the lamest attempt at apologetics I have ever seen, and that's saying something.

Where are the "logical grounds" you speak of? When you say "the event recounted...the event in question" you unwittingly grant victory to McGrew's argument, which is that these undesigned coincidences (do not read "miracle" when I say that, because that is not what I mean by it) point up the authenticity/historicity of the Gospel accounts of these events, and the likelihood that these accounts are not far removed from the eye-witnesses. But of course Luke was not present. Being 'present' at the events one is recording is not a prerequisite to being an historian.

Ichthus77 wrote:Edit...um...haha...regarding the way this thread has turned...see http://biologos.org/questions :think:


What does that have to do with this thread?

Exactly! I was referring to the tangent between Moonwatcher, Lion IRC, Matt, Spin and Cito.


Ah well, the way Lion runs from thread to thread and never confronts evidence, one must track the elusive lion and hunt him wherever he is at the moment and than apologize for opening fire in threads that were not initially about that.

As far as I can see, the arguments so far are not strong for undesigned coincidences but, even if they were, they would have to be weighed against undesigned discrepancies if the ultimate intention is to use them as some sort of argument for divine inspiration.
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#73  Postby Shrunk » Sep 26, 2011 1:28 am

Moonwatcher wrote:As far as I can see, the arguments so far are not strong for undesigned coincidences but, even if they were, they would have to be weighed against undesigned discrepancies if the ultimate intention is to use them as some sort of argument for divine inspiration.


Well, Maryann seems to have backtracked on the whole idea of this being an example of divine miracle, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to be demonstrating. That the four authors of the Gospels didn't all write nearly identical versions of the same story, all about some guy called "Jesus", just by remarkable coincidence? That they had some source in common? Well, stop the presses...
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#74  Postby Moonwatcher » Sep 26, 2011 1:30 am

Shrunk wrote:
Moonwatcher wrote:At a quick look, the site seems willing to deal with scientific facts and reality although I haven't yet looked far enough regarding how it deals with the issue of biblical criticism in terms of inerrancy.


BioLogos is bascially an accomodationist site, coming from the religious perspective. It's sometimes OK, sometimes quite nutty. I haven't looked at it for a while, but I have heard it has been leaning more towards the nutty since Francis Collins stopped being directly involved with it.


I had not been there before. It's rare to see a religious site that acknowledges the validly of the objections. I'm guessing it falls back ultimately on the Faith argument. Yet it seems critical of and acknowledges the weaknesses of the Gaps arguments and the "The universe needs a creator" arguments and even admits that there are alternatives that don't require a god.

While, of course, we can still throw Sagan's Dragon at them, it's about as much fun as whupping on Asatru people that readily admit to all the empirical facts and evidence and still worship Thor. There's not enough fanaticism or denial of provable facts to argue about. Or there is but it's just not as much fun.
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#75  Postby Ichthus77 » Sep 26, 2011 4:42 am

Avoiding tangents (*ahem* faith=trust, faith=/=blind *ahem*)

Shrunk--It is not an argument for divine miracle and I never said it was. It is an argument for the authenticity/historicity of the events involved in the undesigned coincidences. It's a cumulative case. Check this video out. A very lively lecture including statistical analysis of the people, place and plant names used in the Gospels and the undesigned coincidences surrounding the feeding of the 5,000. I like how Dr. Williams points out that the authors of the Gospels, rather than being either bumbling idiots or clever conspirators, more likely were just telling things the way they remember them happening.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5Ylt1pBMm8[/youtube]

As for the "undesigned discrepancies" (Moonwatcher) -- the great majority of apparent discrepancies I've come across are easily dealt with, and I've not met with one that was completely unresolvable or a deal-breaker. Still...what you are saying is a red herring and does not address the undesigned coincidences.

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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#76  Postby Onyx8 » Sep 26, 2011 5:35 am

Argument by youtube? Really? And this one uses CS Lewis Liar, Lord, Lunatic to start?

Oh dear.
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#77  Postby Ichthus77 » Sep 26, 2011 5:55 am

Onyx8--yes...because the "Lord, liar, lunatic" trichotomy is inadequate and has been updated with the "legend" option. Knee-jerk react much?
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#78  Postby z8000783 » Sep 26, 2011 5:58 am

Ichthus77 wrote: I like how Dr. Williams points out that the authors of the Gospels, rather than being either bumbling idiots or clever conspirators, more likely were just telling things the way they remember them happening.

What do you mean by that?

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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#79  Postby Ichthus77 » Sep 26, 2011 6:14 am

It depends on what you mean by "that". You want me to rephrase it w/o "I like" so it sounds less like an opinion? Does the "remember them happening" sound too much like I'm making them out to all be eye-witnesses? What's "that" mean to you?
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Re: Undesigned coincidences in the Gospels

#80  Postby z8000783 » Sep 26, 2011 6:50 am

z8000783 wrote:...more likely were just telling things the way they remember them happening.

They being the Gospel writers presumably.

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