FAQ/Q&A Fridays - A Common Flaw When Responding to Skeptics

May 10, 2014

It was about 40 years ago that I realized something which has become more apparent to me with the passing of the years. Here it is:  When it comes to objections raised about the credentials of Yeshua, or the integrity of the Scriptures, there is nothing new under the sun. Such questions have been noticed and responded to for centuries, and anyone who knows where to look and who is   prepared to do a little bit of research will invariably find an illuminating and convincing discussion on the matter.  You just have to know where to look, while nurturing a fundamental confidence that the answer is out there waiting to be found.

On this occasion 40 years ago, a  pastor contacted a group of us   about a Jewish young man he knew who after first accepting Yeshua faith for himself, rebelled against it, and ending up in Israel as a trophy of a group opposed to Jews believing in Yeshua. He sent this pastor a list of ten "irrefutable" proofs that the New Testament and therefore Yeshua's claims were bogus. In addition, the letter came with a promise of a thousand dollar reward for anyone who could answer any one of the objections.

Acting as a ghost writer for this pastor, I answer every one of them--but nobody every received the cash reward. Such is life!

However, in this blog post I am presenting just one of those ten objections and my answer to it just to show you two things. First, the answers are out there. And second, never be so intimidated that you fail to notice the shoddy presuppositions of your opponents. And most often shoddy is what they are.

So have a taste, and learn a lesson. The answer are out there. There is nothing new under the sun. You just have to know where to look, while not being bamboozled by opponents who sound impressive but are often making flimsy arguments. First, here 's the objection, then my resonse. I am calling the person who send the objections, Simon, but that was not his read name. Read.

"Find in the Tenach, in the book of Jeremiah, any passage, speaking about a potter's field and thirty (30) pieces of silver, as recorded in Matt 27:9-10.

This is another question which is "as old as the hills" although I'd wager you thought it had never occurred to "unenlightened" Yeshua believers! Like many "problems" with the Newer Testament and it use of the Older, the answer to this one is scholarly, and probably not as simplistic as some people would like. I trust you'll be able however, to follow the line of argument presented by Professor Gleason Archer as he handles this in his Encylopedia of Bible Difficulties, from which I quote now:

Unknown-1 Matthew 27:9-10 describes the purchase of Potter's Field with Judas Iscariot's money as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy: 'Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying,"And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the potter's field as the Lord directed me.'(NASB) The remarkable thing about this quotation is that the greater portion of it is actually from Zechariah 11:12-13, which reads as follows: 'And I said to them,"If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!' So they weighed out thirty shckels of silver as my wages. Then Yahweh said to me, 'Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.'

There are significant differences between the Zechariah passage and the quotation in Matthew, which has the prophet paying out--or at least giving--the purchase money, and has him turning over the money for a field rather than giving it to the potter personally. Yet the whole point of the passage in  Matthew is directed toward the purchase of the field. The Zechariah passage says nothing at all about purchasing a field; indeed, it does not even mention a field at all.

But as we turn to Jeremiah 32:6-9, we find the prophet purchasing a field in Anathoth for a certain number of shekels. Jeremiah 18:2 describes the prophet as watching a potter fashioning earthenware vessels in his  house. Jeremiah 19:2 indicates that there was a potter near the Temple, having his workshop in the Valley of Hinnom. Jeremiah 19:11 reads: 'Thus says Yahweh of hosts: 'Even so will I break this people and this city as one breaks a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them in Tophet.'" It would seem, therefore, that Zechariah's casting of his purchase money to the potter dated back to the symbolic actions of Jeremiah. [Both were prophets to the Jewish people. The prophets frequently used symbolic actions to illustrate or to fix certain Divine messages in the minds of the people. The people of Zechariah's day would surely have been familiar with the earlier prophecies of Jeremiah: indeed, in the first chapter of his prophecies, Zechariah reminds them that the events which had overtaken them were the fulfillment of God's word to them through these earlier prophets, Jeremiah included. Thus, it's very probable that Zechariah's action regarding the casting away of the thirty pieces of silver in the potter's house would be connected in the people's mind with the actions of Jeremiah regarding the potter's house.] Yet it is only Jeremiah that mentions the 'field' of the potter- which is the principle point of Matthew's quotation. Matthew is therefore combining and summarizing elements of prophetic symbolism both from Zechariah and from Jeremiah. But since Jeremiah is the more prominent of the two prophets, he mentions Jeremiah's name by preference to that of the minor [shorter] prophet.

A similar procedure is followed by Mark 1:2-3, which attributes only to Isaiah a combined quotation from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. In that case also, only the more famous of the two prophets is mentioned by name. Since that was the normal practice of the first century A.D., when the Gospels were written, the authors can scarcely be faulted for not following the modern practice of precise identification and footnoting (which could never have become feasible until after the transition had been made from Unknownthe scroll to the codex and the invention of the printing press). [Archer's last point means that footnotes are only possible when chapters, verses, pages and page numbers are available. With the use of scrolls, such means of identifying the location of quotes as in footnotes is impossible.] Archer, Gleason, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 345).

[And here I point out the objector's shoddy logic]. By the way, perhaps you can clear up a puzzle for me Simon. Do you actually believe that the Jews who wrote and transmitted the Newer Testament didn't know that there was material from Zechariah included in the quote we've been considering? After all, these were religious Jews, living in the days of the Second Temple, not secularized Jews such as we have today who don't know Isaiah from Jonah! And, if you regard the Newer Testament as an intentionally fraudulent document, wouldn't they have covered their steps better than to, as you allege,wrongly attribute a quote to Jeremiah which really came from Zechariah, or wrongly attribute material from Malachi to Isaiah? Are you or your friends so blinded by pride that you must attribute such careless stupidity to others, who, by the way, if your viewpoint is correct, were at least clever enough to dispose of Jesus' body surreptitiously despite the presence of a Roman guard at the tomb which had been placed there to guard it under penalty of death? Simon wake up! Either the Newer Testament writers were incredible dopes, or they were clever enough to pull off the "hoax" of the resurrection right under the eyes of both the Roman authorities and the Jewish authorities! And if they were dopes, how did they pull off the resurrection; and if they were smart, how could they be so stupid as to (as you imagine) falsely authenticate their Messianic pretender with a mis-attributed quote? Come on! Make sense! (By the way, there is a third option which does make sense: that they were following First Century practice in naming only the major author of the conflated quotes they used, and that rather than being a hoax, it is true that the New Testament writers were honest men, and that their Messiah was in fact resurrected from the tomb).

So there are you have it folks. The bright and "unsolvable" difficulties you come across or which are thrown at you have all be discovered and intelligently answered many years ago. Credible answers are out there. You need to look, and to know where to do the looking. Gleason Archer's book is one of many. And there are articles as well that address every concern you might raise, from every conceivable angle. But you have to look. And whenever anyone abandons of disparages Yeshua faith because of some unanswered question, they either didn't look hard enough, or perhaps what is driving them is not simply unanswered questions but other factors they may not be acknowledging, even to themselves. 


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