New Testament problems

I don’t have issues with Catholic doctrine, and I definitely feel more at home, spiritually speaking, in the Catholic Church than anywhere else. But I find the experience of reading the New Testament disconcerting, rather than comforting or edifying. I am constantly distracted by contradictions or points of fact that seem at odds with the Jesus we’re taught about in Church.

I’m looking for recommendations for a resource that can help me understand these issues and get beyond this hurdle. Here are some examples of the sort of things that give me pause:

-Luke 18:19. A man calls Jesus “good.” Jesus answers, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” How’s that? I thought Jesus WAS God. And good. I realize that there are other NT verses that contravene this idea, but then, that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?

-Mark 4:11. Jesus tells his disciples that he speaks to them in parables so that “those outside” may “see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.” Wha? Who are these “outsiders” that Jesus doesn’t want to be saved? And why?

-is Jesus’s yoke easy and his burden light (MATT 11:30), or is the way “hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”?

-are we to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (MATT 5:44), or if people don’t accept our proselytizing, should we shake the dust of their town from our feet as a testimony against them because “it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”?

There’s also a lot of detail in the NT that makes me think Jesus was expecting the end of the world very soon after his life. And there seems to be a sort of conspiracy about not letting certain people know about Jesus or his miracles. Why the secrecy?

You see the problem? And these are just the few that come to mind as I’m writing this note. It seems that in almost every chapter of the NT, I come across stuff that makes me squirm a little or that makes no logical sense or which is contradictory.

Does anyone know of any good resources that clear this kind of thing up?

Thanks much.

I would suggest getting some of the Bible Commentaries that explain passages of the Bible, they are very helpful. If you search on this forum, there have been threads where members have recommended their favorites. If you are interested in Catholic interpretations make sure you get one that follows Catholic doctrine - I use Harper’s for example, but I actually read others (I don’t think the differences are substantial in some areas, I like to see what others think). The other thing people stumble on, the Bible appears to be contradictory when verses are taken out of context, but when interpreted in the context of the story or chapter, they are not. My advice would be to go back and read the broader chapter so you understand the context, then if you stil have questions feel free to ask!

A couple of replies to your questions:

Luke 18:19 - Jesus reminded him that only God is good. Our Lord was not denying that He was God, but He was trying to lead the ruler to confess that fact. If He was good, then He must be God, since only God is essentially good.

Mark 4:11 - outsiders are those whose hearts have not accepted Jesus - so they think they hear and see but they don’t, unless they turn to Jesus then they are forgiven.

In Matt 11 Jesus was contrasting His way with the way of the Pharisees throughout, so not knowing what verse you are contrasting to, Matt 11:30 was definitely speaking of the way with Jesus being the easy way, “the yoke does not chafe”.

Lots to understand about the Bible, the verses about end of the world are definitely ones to consider in context to know if Jesus was talking about AD 70, end of the world, or both!

Looking at things from a Catholic point of view, you can read all the the Bible and find logical and satisfying answers to every so called problem in the Bible. Since the Bible is so entwined with the Catholic Church, there is a simple and consistant answer to everything. There is 2000 years of study and understanding of the faith to help you and a complete understanding of the Bible as it was created by the Church.
Get the Cathecism, and feel free to ask here, reading the wealth of answers to questions here has enriched my faith and continues to teach me.

Thanks for the responses. I appreciate the thoughts. I will see what I can find on the forums about a good Bible commentary; hopefully I will find one that can help.

Scylla, I’m sure the Catechism may clear up some of these difficulties, but that’s a sort of scattershot approach. I’m looking for a gloss that will clear up some very particular bits of scriptural difficulty.

Don, just to show you the difficulty of one point you raised, you said: “Mark 4:11 - outsiders are those whose hearts have not accepted Jesus - so they think they hear and see but they don’t, unless they turn to Jesus then they are forgiven.” But that’s not what that passage actually says. Jesus doesn’t say “Unless those outsiders turn to me, they won’t be forgiven.” What he says is “I don’t want the outsiders to hear, because if they do, they might turn to me and be forgiven.” Two very different things, right? That second sense of the verse is clear in the NAB translation:

“… to those outside everything comes in parables, so that ‘they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.’”

The clear meaning of that passage is that Jesus is speaking in parables because he doesn’t want the wrong people to understand what he’s saying and so be saved. That doesn’t sound like the Jesus we learn about in Church. Don, your rendering sounds more like the Jesus we know and love, but I don’t think it’s what the text is saying.

THANKS

[quote=redactorab] I find the experience of reading the New Testament disconcerting, rather than comforting or edifying. I am constantly distracted by contradictions or points of fact that seem at odds with the Jesus we’re taught about in Church.

[/quote]

Congratulations. You are paying attention. Thank the Holy Spirit for this gift – and welcome to the Quest!

Thanks, Mercygate. I’m not exactly new to the Quest, but I appreciate your good wishes. If bewilderment and perplexity are signs of the Spirit’s gift, then I’ve got it in spades. Do you have any ideas about some of the particular scriptural difficulties I’ve raised?

[quote=redactorab]I don’t have issues with Catholic doctrine, and I definitely feel more at home, spiritually speaking, in the Catholic Church than anywhere else. But I find the experience of reading the New Testament disconcerting, rather than comforting or edifying. I am constantly distracted by contradictions or points of fact that seem at odds with the Jesus we’re taught about in Church.

You see the problem? And these are just the few that come to mind as I’m writing this note. It seems that in almost every chapter of the NT, I come across stuff that makes me squirm a little or that makes no logical sense or which is contradictory.

Does anyone know of any good resources that clear this kind of thing up?

Thanks much.
[/quote]

And that’s why the doctrine of the Protestants is so dangerous. The New Testament was written 2000 years ago, and its books WERE CANONICALLY DEFINED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. The only resource and answer to what we see as contradictions is the Catholic Church. Period. You cannot have people willy nillying their own interpretations to a book that 99% of them dont realize who put together. Every one of these people come up with different meanings for different passages and then have to go out and start their own churches…hence the thousands of sects in Protestantism.
No matter how many verses we pick apart and discuss, one can only come to the conclusion that none of us are fit to be interpreting this infallible book. In 2000 years of its existence, the Catholic Church has never contradicted or reversed a matter of faith or moral doctrine. NOONE ELSE CAN SAY THAT. (Just look at contraception for a start)

I am glad to see that you are searching for the answers. I pray that you will find them. I’ll tell you now that the only way you will ever be at home without any confusion or contradiction, is by coming to the knowledge(Here I’m assuming that you are not Catholic) that the only interpreter of the Bible is the Catholic Church.

God Bless

redactorab,

make sure your interperating the Bible correctly. Keep in mind when these books were written what type of persecution the Christians were in at the time and what motovated the style in which the Gospels were written. This should clear up any misunderstanding. do a little bit of research behind the Bible you will find it very interesting. Also remember that it was written in greek and then latin. you might want to study up on some of that.
example:The Bible says Mt 1:24-25 "When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife(Marry) into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus."
Now wait a minute the Catholic church says Marry was a virgin even after Jesus’ birth. Well if you look at the Greek translation the Greek word translated "until’ does not imply normal marital conduct after “Jesus birth.” These is just how it sounds in the english translation. eh i hope that made sence.

God Bless

OK, let’s look at Mark 4:11. Now I am reading from RSV-CE, so my first point is every translation of the Bible is different :D. Search out the threads on here which talk about the versions people prefer, and avoid, and why!

So in my RSV-CE, 4:11 says:

And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; 12 so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.”

I think it does say “Disciples, you have been given the secret…but for those that do not believe in me, they will hear it but not understand it - unless they turn their heart to me.”

However, here is Harper’s quote - a little different interpretation!

The saying of Mark 4:10-12, especially v. 12 ( = Isa. 6:9-10), is one of the most controverted in nt scholarship. It implies a harsh determinism where Jesus spoke in parables in order to prevent his hearers from perceiving or understanding “lest they convert and be forgiven.” (Matt. 13:13 alters Mark’s “in order that” to “because.”) In a deterministic worldview (like that of apocalypticism), evil that happens must have been willed in advance by God. Early Christian apologetics found in the ot a response to the rejection of Jesus. God accomplished his purpose by blinding the people as he had earlier hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exod. 4:21; 7:2-4; see also the use of Isa. 6:9-10 in Acts 28:26; John 12:40). The saying thus summarizes the result of the proclamation of the kingdom by Jesus and of the crucified one by the early church rather than its purpose. It also reflects the theology of Mark who uses it to interpret also the “parables” of 3:23-27. What the disciples are meant to see, which blinds outsiders, is that Jesus is the stronger one who defeats Satan. Satan can still hinder the growth of the kingdom (4:15), but the final extravagant result is assured (4:1-9).

I must not be expressing my problem very clearly. I am a Catholic (albeit, not a very good one), and I am not doubting that the Church has the final say on what the Bible means. I’m just looking for a resource (a Catholic resource would be great) that will tell me what some of the more difficult passages of scripture mean—something that will help me understand them so they’re no longer problematic for me. If that’s a Catholic resource, so much the better.

Telling me, in all caps, that the books of the Bible were canonically defined by the Catholic Church, is, I suppose, one way of addressing the question, but it doesn’t move me an inch closer to my goal, which is to clear up some scriptural passages that are, for me, difficult to understand. Rheins2000, do you have a suggestion for a good Catholic resource that will give me some answers?

chb03C, thanks for the note. You say, “make sure you’re interpreting the Bible correctly.” That’s kind of the essence of my question, isn’t it? How to go about that. You suggest I study up on Greek and Latin. I don’t really think that’s necessary—the Church, as the interpreter of Scripture, should have some good guides available, and in English, I hope. :slight_smile:

Awalt, thanks much for sending the Harper’s interpretation. I think they’re attuned to and addressing the same difficulty I’m seeing in that passage. I’m going to give that interpretation some thought, and look at a few more resources. BTW, I’m an RSV-CE reader myself. the NAB quote I grabbed earlier was off the web.
Thanks again. May post more after I do a little more reading on the subject!

[quote=redactorab]Thanks, Mercygate. I’m not exactly new to the Quest, but I appreciate your good wishes. If bewilderment and perplexity are signs of the Spirit’s gift, then I’ve got it in spades. Do you have any ideas about some of the particular scriptural difficulties I’ve raised?
[/quote]

I do not see your questions as amounting to a “problem.” These are legitimate questions. In some cases your “contradictions” will be seen to be no contradiction at all when you apply a little critical thinking to the matter. Doubtless a little research will yield bales of material to help clarify these issues. You are not the first person to have noticed them, after all (as you know!).

Here is what Newman says about “difficulties” in Apologia pro Vita Sua:

Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. There of course may be difficulties in the evidence . . . . A man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem, of which the answer is or is not given to him, without doubting that it admits of an answer, or that a certain particular answer is the true one.

[quote=mercygate] Doubtless a little research will yield bales of material to help clarify these issues. You are not the first person to have noticed them, after all (as you know!).
[/quote]

Bales of material is right, mercygate. :slight_smile: That’s why I thought I might ask for some good recommendations from this crowd–to pare down the reading list a bit. Thanks!

Mark 4:11-12 DRC version, footnote says "in punishment of their wilfully shutting their eyes God justly withdrew those lights and graces which he otherwise would have given them for their effectual conversion.

In another place he says there are none so blind as those who will not see nor so deaf as those who will not hear.

He is commending the disciples because they have asked him for instruction and clarification, and are open to his words, and willingly accept his explanation. He goes on to say (13) are you ignorant of this parable [sower and seed] and how shall you know all parables? By virtue of his instruction the apostles are to know the meaning of this particular parable on spreading the gospel, so that they may proclaim and interpret the message of the gospel to all the world. In other words, because they have been called and chosen, and responded to the call, and willingly submitted to Christ’s instruction, they are granted authority to proclaim, interpret and teach others, to evangelize.

[quote=awalt]OK, let’s look at Mark 4:11. Now I am reading from RSV-CE, so my first point is every translation of the Bible is different :D. Search out the threads on here which talk about the versions people prefer, and avoid, and why!

So in my RSV-CE, 4:11 says:

And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; 12 so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.”

I think it does say “Disciples, you have been given the secret…but for those that do not believe in me, they will hear it but not understand it - unless they turn their heart to me.”

However, here is Harper’s quote - a little different interpretation!

The saying of Mark 4:10-12, especially v. 12 ( = Isa. 6:9-10), is one of the most controverted in nt scholarship. It implies a harsh determinism where Jesus spoke in parables in order to prevent his hearers from perceiving or understanding “lest they convert and be forgiven.” (Matt. 13:13 alters Mark’s “in order that” to “because.”) In a deterministic worldview (like that of apocalypticism), evil that happens must have been willed in advance by God. Early Christian apologetics found in the ot a response to the rejection of Jesus. God accomplished his purpose by blinding the people as he had earlier hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exod. 4:21; 7:2-4; see also the use of Isa. 6:9-10 in Acts 28:26; John 12:40). The saying thus summarizes the result of the proclamation of the kingdom by Jesus and of the crucified one by the early church rather than its purpose. It also reflects the theology of Mark who uses it to interpret also the “parables” of 3:23-27. What the disciples are meant to see, which blinds outsiders, is that Jesus is the stronger one who defeats Satan. Satan can still hinder the growth of the kingdom (4:15), but the final extravagant result is assured (4:1-9).
[/quote]

## Two further points:


There is reason to suppose that Isaiah 6 was taken to be an OT manifestation of Christ


**Isaiah 6. 11, 12 would be rather appropriate as a description of Judaea after it was destroyed in the war of 66-73 AD. **


**The disciples are “granted” = God grants the disciples] to know the “mystery of the kingdom”; that is, the “open secret” that the kingship & kingdom of God is present in Jesus - Mark 4.11 therefore connects with Peter’s confession of Christ. In both cases, it is the Father Who reveals the significance of Jesus, the Father “witnesses to” Him. Which in turn connects with the Baptism of Jesus and the declaration of the Father concerning Him. As well as with Acts 9.2 - Paul hears a Voice, his companions hear an unintelligible sound (compare Acts 2, where the disciples, filled with the Spirit, are mistakenly thought to be drunk - and compare Joel 2 and Genesis 11: which is where the problem of unintelligibility began; Acts 2 reverses it for those who are belong to God’s kingdom). These passages are bound together by the theme of the recognition (or not) of Jesus. **


So the parable of the Sower follows logically on 4.12. For recognition of Jesus, results in preaching Jesus - Who is probably the Sower; some receive Him, while others do not. ##

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