Dear Cecil: Regarding the recent post concerning (once again) the Ark of the Covenant: SDSStaffDex included, in his response, the following: “Second personal note: I did check the ‘whole’ Bible, JHJ, you needn’t be snippy about it. I just didn’t bother with that appendix that you call the New Testament.” Had this been an email response to someone, I would have no problem with it. Posting a religious opinion, however, when one is supposed to be objectively presenting facts is abhorrent. Who is Dex to say the New Testament is not the Bible? I find the comment personally offensive, and would not dream of making similar jibes at Judaism — but even more importantly, I thought you guys were supposed to be subbing for Cecil. He would willingly toast anyone writing anything idiotic, but would not cast aspersions at the religious beliefs of millions. I doubt that it will happen, but I feel a public apology is in order. John Brown
(Comment from Cecil Adams follows Dex’s reply)
I’m sorry that you were offended. The questioner had asked why we didn’t check the “whole Bible,” which was as offensively worded to me as my rejoinder may have been to you. I wanted to make the point that the definition of “whole Bible” depends on where you sit.
There was another point I wanted to make clear, since we were talking about a contradiction (about historic or quasi-historic events) with three or four consistent Old Testament text citations on one side and a single New Testament paragraph citing several elements differently on the other side. I did my best to take the scholarly approach of weighing evidence, and I checked with a few New Testament scholars (of varying denominations) who agreed with my conclusions: that the New Testament writer got it wrong. However, I was warned that this scholarly approach would be the target of fundamentalists who feel every single word of the Bible (however defined) is absolutely correct and perfect.
I therefore wanted my reply and my biases to be clear (no one comes to the Bible without bias of some sort). If some of the Teeming Millions want to reject the scholarly approach in favor of a religious approach, that’s their privilege and I don’t want to get involved in that particular tug o’ war. I thought the best way to make that point was by commenting that I personally (being Jewish and preferring the scholarly approach) have no problem with saying that the author of Letters to the Hebrews got it wrong, as I think he got many other things wrong (IMHO). That seemed the safest way to avoid getting into a dispute over irreconcilable differences.
As I say, I am sorry you are offended. The question of resolution of contradictory texts depends very much on where a person stands, and I therefore felt it was reasonable to clarify where I stood. My intent was not to say that any particular position was right or wrong, but to let you know my position as responder to the question. All positions in this matter have an inherent bias (scholarly, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or whatever), and I therefore felt it reasonable to alert folks to where my biases were.
Send questions to Cecil via firstname.lastname@example.org.