On today’s podcast, Kurt discusses the topic of “Undesigned Coincidences” in the Bible with Dr. Lydia McGrew.
Listen to “Episode 62: Undesigned Coincides” on Spreaker.
Intro: The Veracity Hill Fundraiser and Deeper Roots Conference
KURT: Well a good day to you, and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. It’s a pleasure to be with you here again in studio after a week off, last week Defender’s Media was off at the Deeper Roots conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We had a really great time lots of wonderful speakers, great topics as well, and I’m very pleased with the outcome of that event. I think we had about 80 or so people, maybe even up to 90, and it was just a wonderful day and a half of being edified, through loving God with our mind and also being able to fellowship with those that also had an interest in apologetics and learning more and so over the coming weeks, Chris and I will be working on those videos and hopefully we’ll get those out to the public soon. Of course, all of the plenary sessions are presently available, if you go to the Library of Historical Apologetics Facebook page and that URL is “facebook.com/historical apologetics” so you can watch all of those plenary sessions Tim McGrew, David McGrew, his brother, and the cold-case detective himself, J. Warner Wallace.
Now before we get into today’s show, I have a few announcements and then a brief reflection, so by way of announcements, let me mention this so the Veracity Hill fundraiser which I mentioned I guess a few weeks ago, has been resumed, we were off for a couple weeks because we had a couple other one-week fundraiser things we were promoting one was a GoFundMe page, one was raising awareness for hurricane Harvey victims and then of course last week we were off at the conference. So we have resumed the Veracity Hill fundraiser and we are 11% of the way to our goal of $800 a month. So we would love to get your support I know some of you have already received a message from me, you can bet that if you if you haven’t yet, maybe expect that I’ll be contacting you I’d love to get your support whatever you can provide would be hugely beneficial for our goal whether it’s five dollars or ten dollars a month, or if you’re one of those families especially ones that may not support apologetic ministries yet, I would encourage those to give even more say a hundred dollars a month or even two hundred dollars a month we’ve got a couple families that support us at that level at Defenders, so love to get your support for that and again the purpose is for those funds are as follows.
First, Veracity Hill really needs a formal advertising budget and we don’t have that we’d love to get the word out about what we’re doing here and that would be a way to help gain our natural audience, or what Facebook calls an organic audience. So we do advertising on Facebook, then we’ll acquire more likes and more people will get that notification, Veracity Hill is live. Perhaps if you’re watching the live stream now, you’re watching because you saw that notification and clicked on it. So we want to reach more people like that.
Secondly, we want to be able to show our gratitude and appreciation for the valuable work that Chris does week in week out here on the show. And in fact, right now he’s fixing the lights that are flickering if you’re watching the live stream. So the part of the money that will be raised is for that- to show our appreciation of Chris.
And then lastly, we’re looking to provide just a little bit further support for the host, yours truly, for the work that goes into finding guests, scheduling, preparing for the show, production and also even editing. I do some of the editings of the show, the audio work that has to be done if necessary. So nevertheless, we’re looking for a bit further support for that.
So, for those three categories, we would love to get your support and really help this show to continue to grow in who it reaches. So, that’s going on if you want to support us, go to “test.veracityhill.com” and click on the patron tab, if you want to type the full URL its “test.veracityhill.com/patron”. Okay so that’s what I want to say there and now I want to talk about briefly, a verse that’s really been on my heart. “Galatians 6:9” and part of this is because I’ve actually been in the news in the past few weeks, regarding the West Chicago Public Library and I’ve been thinking, more about the apologetic enterprise and so this verse really sits well with me. Galatians 6:9 says “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” And this is really great because it’s an encouragement to continue persevering, regardless of the pushback that you might have, regardless of the losses even that might occur. Do not grow weary of doing good. I know last week during the Q&A session, someone had asked, at the broad question and I think was maybe even directed to Dr. Tim McGrew, “Do you grow weary in doing apologetics?”
And his answer was, “Never! But I grow weary of Christians, who are opposed to apologetics.” Something along those lines and boy is that really true?
I don’t get tired myself, of talking to people about apologetics and about the gospel, but I do get really tired of having to explain to people the role that apologetics plays in the gospel message. I just want people to read the book of Acts. If they were only to read the book of Acts, they would see what Paul does, how he goes in debates in the synagogues, how he goes into the marketplace, how he engages with the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers. The work that he does in apologetics, is integral toward his mission in preaching the gospel. And so, I really wish that Christians could understand this better.
And so that was maybe part of the reason why the talk I gave last week at the breakout session was on “The Purpose of Apologetics.” And laying out the descriptions we see of apologetics, in the Bible especially in the New Testament. And it was very well received. There was one pastor who asked if he could take my talk and repurpose it for a sermon and I said, “by all means.” So that was really a great opportunity there to do that.
Okay, so we’ve got to get into the main thrust of today’s show and it’s going to be a real eye-opener I hope for many people, because it’s on undesigned coincidences and to help us understand what undesigned coincidences are, we have invited Dr. Lydia McGrew, author of Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts to join us on the show today. Hi Lydia, how are you doing?
Interview with Dr. Lydia McGrew on Undesigned Coincidences
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: I am doing great, great to be here.
KURT: Awesome, thanks so much again for joining us today on the show. So tell us, well again I’ll start off with a broad question here, what are undesigned coincidences?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: That’s a great question! I like to give a very brief definition, to kick us off, and undesigned coincidence, is an incidental interlocking that points to truth. And this is something that people use all the time. I would guess members of your audience have used the argument from undesigned coincidences in the last week. Maybe in the last day, without calling it that. So I’m just going to give a brief this is a made-up example in a modern context.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: All resemblance to persons living or dead is purely accidental. Suppose, that you had, three friends Alan, Betty and Carl. And Alan and Betty come to you and they tell you that they’ve had a really serious conversation with Carl recently at a coffee shop in which he admitted, to embezzling some money. And they’re very sad and sorry about this. And Carl denies the whole thing, he says I never was there. I never had that conversation, they are framing me. So you separate them, to try to talk to them to get their stories in more detail. And you say just tell me in your own words what happened, so Alan starts talking and you know he basically gives the layout as far as what Carl’s admitting to do. But in the course of it, he says when we got to that coffee shop, it was so crowded we almost couldn’t find a place to sit, and finally we crowded in at a little table. And then he goes on and he talks, and then you get Betty by herself and she starts talking about the conversation, and in the course of it she says, “Oh!, it was so embarrassing just at this point, Alan accidentally knocked my cup of coffee, into my lap, and we had this big mess and it interrupted the talk.” And she doesn’t say anything about how crowded it was and Alan doesn’t say anything about the coffee accident.
But those two things fit together. That if it really was crowded, and they were in a little table together, that the coffee might get knocked over. And that’s so subtle, that it’s not the kind of thing that if they were trying to frame Karl, they would be likely to think of to put in there where one would tell just one side of it, the other would tell just the other side. And we find this in daily life, a lot all the time, detectives and detective work and we find it in the Bible too.
KURT: So, basically it’s the idea that, one person had their side of the story, another person has their side of the story, and the facts that they mentioned provide a cohesive big picture and that those different facts, help to bring together the big picture and to verify the stories of the other people. Would that be right?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Yeah, that’s very good, because reality is consistent. And so if they’re just telling the truth, then you’re going to get different bits of consistent reality that will fit together.
KURT: Great, okay so now in the Bible, we see how Matthew, Mark and Luke, who are often called the Synoptics, how they- we’re going to go through, I guess four categories here. First, we’re going to talk about how the Synoptics explain themselves. Then we’re going to take a look at how the Synoptics explained John, the Gospel of John, which many scholars widely agree is written last of the four Gospels. And then- we’ll the third category we’ll see how, John explains the Synoptics, and then lastly we’re going to take a look of at one example from the book of Acts, to see how undesigned coincidences occur there.
So, first let’s start off by looking at some examples in the Synoptics and how they explain themselves, and I was so curious and those of you that want to follow along, you’re welcome to do so, I’ve got the Bible verses here, we’re going to be looking at these verses together and Dr. McGrew is going to be explaining them here. So, first let’s talk about Herod and his servants. So here we have Matthew 14:1-2, and let me just quickly go to it here. The first one we’ll take slowly and the other ones perhaps we’ll go at a faster speed if that’s a right, Lydia.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Sounds great.
KURT: So Matthew 14, and you can hear my pages turning here, which sometimes I like the text more so than just the Google search and loading a Bible gateway, I guess it depends on convenience and what we’re doing. Okay so, Matthew chapter 14 verses one and two. “At that time, Herod the Tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist, he has risen from the dead and therefore these powers are at work in him.” Ok, now maybe I should ask you what are the– what’s the problem thus far here, if there is one?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Right so, the immediate thought that might occur to someone is how in the world Herod could know… I mean could Matthew know, excuse me what Herod was saying to his servants. In fact, one might just think that that’s a little detail that Matthew threw in almost like if you’re writing a fictional version of a story, let’s say add a little detail just to make it a little more interesting or vivid, because how he couldn’t really have known what Herod was saying to his servants? This would have been a private conversation and here it’s an important guy.
So that’s the question we get, and many of these undesigned coincidences though not all, take the form of a question and an answer. So you’ll see how most of them will take that form, though not every single one. So here, the question is, how could Matthew know what Herod was saying to his servants?
KURT: All right.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: The answer is provided, you want to say it?
KURT: Yeah, Luke chapter 8 verse 3 and I’m turning there now okay.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: And you can back up a little bit, if you want to read it or if you want me to summarize what it is.
KURT: So, in Luke 3 okay– so I’ll read the first three verses here, “And now it came to pass afterward, that he went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God and the twelve were with him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward and Susanna, and many others who provided for him from their substance.” So the answer there is, we’ve got Joanna, who was the wife of Herod’s steward.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Exactly, so she was a supporter of Jesus’ ministry no doubt with her husband’s consent, in that cultural context. So this is a link between the Christian community and the intimate household of Herod. So, we find that there’s a perfectly, legitimate, rational means by which Matthew could have known what Herod was saying to his servants. And I want to emphasize that phrase “to his servants” is unique to Matthew. It is only in Matthew and the passage is in other respects, very similar to what we find in Mark. And very often, an assumption of critical New Testament scholarship is that if Matthew gives something that’s a lot like Mark, Matthew just copied it from Mark. Or if anything’s different, Matthew made it up. [Laughter] He’s either copying from Mark, redacting Mark without any special access to the fact. This gives us reason to know that just those little variations from Mark can actually show access to the facts that Matthew had from some other way other than just by copying Mark’s. This is very important in our understanding of the synoptic Gospels.
KURT: Okay, so let’s take a look at another example here, and it’s the idea that there’s a new tomb here and so we’ve got Luke 23:52 and so now maybe you can just explain to us what’s going on there. So, what’s happening in Luke 23:52?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: So in Luke 23:52 and 53, we find that Joseph of Arimathea is burying the body of Jesus, and he goes and he gets it from Pilate and he buries it and it explicitly says that he laid the body in a tomb, where nobody had ever been laid before; it was a brand-new tomb. And the question then that arises is how did Joseph of Arimathea have access to a brand-new tomb, to put a man in who had been disgracefully crucified who had been killed as a criminal by the Roman government? If you went to your friend and you said, “Hey bro, there’s this newly executed criminal and I would like to bury him in your grave plot, that you’ve spent money on.” He would probably say “no!” [Laughter]. So, how did Joseph happen to have this? When you go to Matthew 27 verses 57-60, just look that up, and it gives again a passage. It’s very similar to Mark’s version of the burial of Jesus in many ways. But you get just this phrase, Matthew says it was Joseph’s own new tomb, that he had hewn out of the rock, and as with the phrase to his servants so with this statement that it was his own tomb that is unique to Matthew. It’s only found in Matthew, that it was so tomb, so now we know how he had access to it. He had prepaid his funeral expenses like we might do, and then an honor to Jesus he stepped forward and put Jesus body into his own cave tomb that he had had made. So this is this very cool little interlocking concerning Joseph of Arimathea and the burial.
KURT: And of course, assuming that Joseph of Arimathea was a believer, although many didn’t expect what happened to happen, I mean maybe he had faith that Jesus would come back. Although surprising for many of them.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: The disciples didn’t seem to know.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: And in any event, once a body had been laid in it, even if Jesus rose, you wouldn’t still be able to say, “Hey you know untouched cars, never been off the lot, this is tomb is never been laid in it.” You know Jesus’ tomb; It would have been Jesus tomb then.
KURT: Yep, yep great okay and so, let me take this moment to, before we continue exploring other examples, to talk about some of the great charts that you have here in your book Hidden in Plain View. So here’s a an example here, Chris, I don’t know if you can zoom in on this. So here’s a great chart which explains where the verse might be in question and in bold is the explanation for that and so you have numerous charts here regarding how the Synoptics can explain things within themselves, how the Synoptics explained John, John explains the Synoptics, you’ve got other charts for how Acts is explained by universally accepted Pauline epistles, and then other Pauline epistles as well. Did I miss any of the charts? [Laughter]
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: I think you got all the tables, yeah.
KURT: Okay great.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: And there are maps too.
KURT: Yes, oh it’s a great resource, to easily understand and to find quick references as well, if you’re looking for examples of undesigned coincidences, of course if we want to become those prepared apologists, we’ve got to really get these down though so we should really try our best to have those memorized. But it’s yeah just a really great opportunity, a great resource I think people should check out and of course we will provide the link, for the book to be purchased on Amazon on the website. Ok, so now let’s move to looking at how the Synoptics, explain John and so the first example I want to go through with you, Lydia is the water pots. What about the water pots?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Okay, so let’s go to John chapter 2 verses 6 & 7. And I want to just point out it’s especially cool when the synoptic Gospels explain John because as Kurt mentioned, they’re earlier. Now how often do you find the earlier book explaining the later book [Laughter] that’s kind of weird, if you’re writing a later book you might choose to explain something that was left unexplained in an earlier book but you would rarely just leave this sort of gap out and leave your own story sir partially unexplained, with something that was answered in the earlier book. So, if you go to John 2 verses 6 & 7 it says, that there were six water pots that there, and he even gives the number of gallons, John is such a detail guy and how much they could hold and so forth, and it’s says for the purification rights of the Jews, this is the marriage at Cana. This is when Jesus’ mother has come and said they don’t have any wine what are we going to do it at first he kind of blows it off, but then she says to the servants do whatever he tells you because she’s hoping he’ll do a miracle.
And he does do a miracle, and so he says to the servants, fill the waterpots with water. Now wait a minute, I thought it said, that they were sitting there for the purification rites of the Jews. So, if they’re there for the purification rites, you would think they would already have water in them. I mean it’s not very useful for purification if it’s empty. All right but it says they filled them, they filled them to the brim and then he had them pour some out and take it to the governor and of course we know it was wine, as the story goes on. But, what’s the deal, why were they empty, if they were being set there preparatory to the purification rights of the Jews?
Now, if you go over to Mark 7 verses 2 to 3, and this is an entirely different context, I just want to emphasize, different part of Jesus’ ministry, different story and everything, but Mark gives this sort of little cultural background for his Gentile readers because he talks about how the Pharisees came to Jesus and hassled him about the fact that his disciples were washing, well not washing their hands, they were eating without washing their hands, I mean the Pharisees are now your Aunt Minnie who says “Did you wash your hands?” All right but to date, that was a big deal to them, and Mark says, The Jews do not eat unless they first wash their hands. all right? Whenever they come in from the market, they wash their hands. All right? Well, now we know going back to John that that wedding feast has been going on for a while, and they ran out of wine, it was because it was into the wedding feast, that they ran out of wine, so they would have already purified themselves.
So, when John says that the waterpots are there for the purification rites of the Jews, he doesn’t mean that they’re going to take place later as you might think, but that they were there for that purpose and it already taken place and that’s why the waterpots were either empty or mostly empty. But you have to get this bit of sort of cultural background, which you find over in Mark, to explain and answer that. John’s just telling it the way he remembers it, this is how people talk, they just tell a story as how they remember it, they don’t stop and explain everything, I mean-
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Unless they’re a really annoying storyteller, they don’t stop and explain everything and so we get this oral history sound from the voice of the author of John.
KURT: Yeah that’s great and when you said that we don’t say every detail of every story, I think back here to your initial fictional example. You know the person might not care to mention that the room was full of people or the person might not care to mention that you know the coffee mug was spilled. These are everyday occurrences you know that you know we spilled drinks, but we don’t remember when we do or who we tell about it and it’s just these everyday occurrences, and when the different texts can enlighten us, it helps to confirm their–to use a play on the title of our podcast, their veracity, their habitual truthfulness.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: That’s correct.
KURT: Okay, so let’s take another example here of the Synoptics explaining John, so the King of the Jews, so John 18.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Right, so if you go to John 18, at the scene where they bring Jesus to Pontius Pilate, culminating in verse 33. You find that they bring Jesus to Pontius Pilate and in John, they don’t tell him why they’re bringing Jesus to him; at least it doesn’t say that they do. I’m not saying it says that they didn’t, but it’s just them being kind of cheeky, Pilate says why are you bringing this man to me and they say, if he were not an evildoer we would not have brought him to you, you know, you find out for yourself. And so eventually, Pilate walks into the pretorium in John 18:33 it says that, Pilate entered the pretorium and he summoned Jesus to come to him and he said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” All right and then the dialogue goes on and I have more confirmations by the way in my book, of the accuracy of this dialogue. More interesting stuff about their dialogue, but we’re just focusing on this one, which in the question then is why did Pilate ask Jesus that question? Since in John, there is no charge of his claiming to be the King of the Jews that is given, why’d he even ask that, I mean does he ask everybody that? You know Hey, you are in trouble with me, people are mad at you, are you the King of the Jews? No I don’t think he did, so it’s a little bit cryptic. Alright, so this is answered if we go to Luke 23 verses 1 through 3. And there what we find is same scene. They dragged Jesus off to Pilate and they list these charges and they say, “He has forbidden to pay tribute to Caesar.” Which is an outright lie, because Jesus had actually said to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” saying that he himself is “the Messiah the King.” Alright, so there we have the charge. John just didn’t give a blow-by-blow of everything that they said to Pilate–
KURT: Right, right.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: And we find that John and Luke often fill each other in like this. So now we know why does Pilate go in and ask are you the King of the Jews? But John just again, he was saying it as it came to his mind, he just didn’t bother to mention that and it’s answered in the earlier Gospel Luke.
KURT: Yeah, that’s great. Now, so next I want to get into how– so with those two examples the waterpots and the King of the Jews there, that deals with how the Synoptics can explain John, but before we get into how John can explain the Synoptics, Lydia, we’ve got to take a short break from our sponsors so stick with us after this short break.
KURT: Alright, thanks for sticking with us, through that short break from our sponsors, you heard there the new sponsor that we’ve just acquired the Nonprofit Megaphone.Nonprofit Megaphone is a company that we actually recently partnered with have already seen some great results, so we’re glad to team up with them and to have them doing some work to help spread the good news of the Gospel through the apologetic enterprise, helping out Defenders.
Alright so, I am here with Dr. Lydia McGrew and we are talking about undesigned coincidences, in the Gospels and even the book of Acts, and she’s written a book called Hidden in Plain View and you can purchase it on amazon.com of course and the publisher is DeWard and the reason why I mention that is because I’ve been informed by Dr. McGrew that if you are interested in purchasing the book for small groups, there’s bulk pricing available. And so Lydia, you can correct me if I’m mistaken, but the contact there is Dan@DeWard, so if you want that bulk pricing, you can contact them there.
Okay so and the first half of the show we talked about, how the Synoptics where Matthew, Mark and Luke, have details which explain themselves, details in Matthew that might help explain Luke, details in Luke that help explain Matthew or Mark. And then we also were able to touch about how the Synoptics can help explain states of affairs in the Gospel of John as well, which is written later and Lydia made the great point there that you wouldn’t think an earlier document could help explain a later one, nevertheless it does [laughter] and so now we’re going to look at a couple examples in terms of how the Gospel of John can help explain the Synoptics. So let’s turn to Luke 22:27, which explain to us this and let me read it for you since I’ve got it up right here. Well or maybe you have to give us the broader context Lydia, but it’s the one about the green grass [Laughter].
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Okay, well I would like to start if you don’t mind.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: With Mark 6:39.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: So Mark 6:39, we have –it emphasized this is the feeding of the 5,000. The people who had gotten together and they’re coming together and Jesus is going to feed them and so it’s a miracle. It’s a miracle story, but this little detail about this, which isn’t a particularly miraculous detail. But Mark says that Jesus wanted the people to sit down and he commanded them to sit down on he says, the green grass. Mark 6:39 that the people were to sit down in the green grass. Now we might say to ourselves um, you know grass just is green and by the way that we’re green is in Mark. It’s the word chloris, related to chlorophyll, okay that we talked about in plants and so forth, so it really is emphasized the green grass why is he making a big deal about it? It’s being the green grass and it’s being green, isn’t grass always green? Most the time anyway.
Well, let’s go over to John 6:4 and in John 6:4 he’s also talking about the feeding of the 5,000, so here they are telling the same story, but they’re not giving the exact same details and John’s talking about Jesus sitting down with his disciples and the people are coming and gathering around him and he pauses in this little aside and he just says, “The Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near at hand it’s almost Passover time.” Now here we need just a tiny little bit of background information which is that in that part of the world the grass is not always green.
KURT: Right, not always.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Alright and by no means you know, it gets blasted by the Summer Sun, when Jesus talks about the grass that grows up in the morning and in the night it’s withered and it’s cut down and put in the oven, that’s what it’s like when it gets really hot. So one of the couple of times of year, when that grass is green is there in the spring, right before Passover. So this really struck the person who’s telling the story which may have been Peter, who is stated by the church fathers to have been Mark’s source for these stories that he noticed that the people sat down in the green grass. So this is how John, by his casual mention of the time of year, explains the reference specifically to the green grass in Mark.
KURT: Yeah, so those little details can help explain and provide the timing the of the context there, that we know it was during this season, yeah that’s great… yes.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Then, I want to mention that there are more undesigned coincidences connected with the feeding of the 5,000 than I think any other event in all Scripture.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Probably because we have it in all four Gospels. And it’s a miracle, you know, and say what you will, but we’ve got all these little details connected with the time, and the place, and who said what to whom, and so forth with the feeding of the 5,000.
KURT: Yeah, now let me and I see here yes, I misspoke there about the reference here, but tell me another detail, isn’t there another undesigned coincidence there regarding Philip?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: And that one we start off in John 6, because when Jesus sees the people coming he says, to Philip, “Hey where are we going to get food?”
KURT: Where are we going to buy bread? That…
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: He’s teasing them you know, I mean it specifically says he knew what he was going to do, He’s giving him a hard time, they know they’re not going to buy enough food for all these people. But why does he pick Philip? And we can ask that question, why did he pick Philip? So this is a Synoptics explained in John, because the question is arising in John. Why did he ask Philip? And you know I mean it could just be random. Maybe Jesus just grabs a random disciple to give a hard time to, but that’s not very satisfying. And if we go to Luke 22, we find a reference and I think this was the reference you gave. I don’t have it written down here, but I think this is the one you gave. He says specifically that this took place near Bethsaida, that this was a deserted place, that’s where they gathered. Actually they were trying to get away from the crowd and then the crowd followed them and it was a deserted place near Bethsaida. And then if you go back to a couple of different spots in John, for example in John 1, it mentions that Philip was from Bethsaida, John mentions this twice actually, but John doesn’t mention that it took place near Bethsaida and Luke doesn’t mention that Jesus spoke to Philip.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: So they’re not trying to put this together, they’re just kind of as they go kind of casually bringing this stuff up and it fits together.
KURT: And so to put it in a nutshell, the reason why he’s asking Philip is because Philip’s a local.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Right, he’s like hey where’s Taco Bell, or where we going to get the food from?
KURT: Or if I were coming to Kalamazoo, I would say, “Hey where’s Moe’s Southwest Grill?”
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Where is Moe’s? You couldn’t believe it, I was a local and had never heard of Moe’s, Kurt’s favorite restaurant.
KURT: Yes favorite. The best tex-mex joint, and longtime listeners of the podcast know that, because I used to brag about how a new one popped up just here in the town of Carol Stream, which is about 10 minutes from here, but then it’s sadly closed down. I must not have given them enough business.
Okay, so, let’s take another example here, we’ve got just a couple more here. The courage of Joseph of Arimathea, and so for this we’re going to be turning to the end of Mark here Mark 15, assuming I’ve got the reference properly this time. Here, Mark 15 verses 42 -45 and let me read these now, let’s see here okay so, “So when he found out from the Centurion, he granted the body to Joseph; then he bought fine linen, took him down and wrapped him in the linen,” of course he’s talking about Jesus here, “And he laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.” So what exactly here are we talking about when we’re considering the courage of Joseph of Arimathea?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Right, so I want to back up to verse 43 it says, “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the council, a man who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” and that’s really what that word means in the Greek he gathered his courage up.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Why did he have to gather up his courage to ask for the body? If you research this historically the Romans never gave them a hard time about giving them the body. They knew that burial was a big deal to the Jews, they would usually give the body of an executed criminal to the friends or the relatives of the executed criminal like, “Hey you know fine, take the body up off our hand,s go bury it.” Why would he have to gather courage to go to Pilate? Pilate was not going to give him a hard time; all right so that’s the question why the emphasis on Joseph of Arimathea’s courage? Now if we go over to John 19, alright, and I’m going to look it up this time.
KURT: Sure, sure, yeah, I’ve got it.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: John 19 verses 38 same contexts, “And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea being a disciple of Jesus, but as a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore and took away the body.” So now John adds this detail that Joseph hadn’t exactly been courageous prior to this, and this was apparently known and known to the person who was Mark’s source, for the Gospel of Mark, that Joseph had been this very secret guy sort of like Nicodemus like we read about in John who came to Jesus by night, that he was prominent in the counsel of the Jews and so he didn’t want to be an open disciple, but now he as Mark says, took courage. He took his courage and he finally came out as it were, as a disciple of Jesus and John explains that that had not happened before.
KURT: Wow, yeah those fine little details, which helped to illuminate the full picture it’s really powerful it almost makes the story come more alive, when you when you take a step back and sort of look at the big picture. Really puts it all together.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: I agree, it makes it literal, it makes it very vivid, you know these things really happened, these are not just flannelgraph figures, or whatever, these are people you know.
KURT: Right, okay so let’s take a look now let’s move from the Gospels and let’s go to the book of Acts to see how we might see undesigned coincidences there and for those of you who don’t know the book of Acts was written by–or many scholars believed written by–Luke, and so we might see similar details about history, but we might not see that full picture some of which can be informed by the epistles or letters of St. Paul. So first, I want to take a look at Paul’s funding, so for that we can turn- Lydia should we turn first to Acts or should we go to second–?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Yes.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Let’s go to Acts first. Acts 18:1-5.
KURT: Yes, one through five let me read it here, “After these things, Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth and he found a certain Jew named Aquila born to Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart for Rome and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for by occupation they were tentmakers,” those who you remember Paul was a tentmaker, by trade. Verse 4, “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.”
All right so there it is, Paul being there in Corinth spending time with Aquila, they were making tents together. So what’s going on here right?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: So the question is and we’ve got a slight textual variant, some have compelled by the Spirit, the new American Standard has that when Timothy came down it calls it, “Began completely devoting himself to the Word, after Silas and Timothy came down.” So there’s a slight textual variant there as to whether its “Word” versus “Spirit.”
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: But some change is happening, when Silas and Timothy are arriving. Now what is this change? I mean if you know if you know Paul, alright and you read about Paul, he’s a very, very hard-working guy. This is not a guy who’s neglecting his evangelism, so there’s something that’s happening. Well, if we back up to the earlier verses that that you read, Kurt, it talks about how he was working as a tentmaker, and then it says on the Sabbath, he was reasoning in the synagogue, well now why would the Sabbath be different from the rest of the week? He’s forbidden as a Jew to work on the Sabbath. He’s supposed to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath and study the Bible, and that’s what he did, so he’s got a day job. But then something changes when Timothy and Silas come to Paul. Then he begins completely devoting himself to the Word. So we could conjecture maybe they brought him money.
KURT: Money, yeah.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Alright, but Acts doesn’t mention money; this is just our attempt to explain what’s happening here. Many apologists would love to be able to quit their day job.
KURT: That’s right.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Just to be apologists, alright. Paul was no different, if he got a contribution, he would at least temporarily quit making tents and become quote “completely devoted to the Word.” Well that’s a conjecture. We can confirm that though, if we go to 2 Corinthians 11:8-9. Do you want to read those?
KURT: Sure, and now my translation might be using a provocative word here, so at least in this translation, which is the New King James Version, this is 2 Corinthians 11:8 – 9, “I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you and when I was present with you and a need I was a burden to no one. For what I lacked the brethren who came from a Macedonia supplied and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you and so I will keep myself.”
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Ok, so he’s writing to the Corinthians, who is he writing to? He’s writing to that very church at Corinth, that he was founding in that very passage in Acts 18 and he’s saying, “You guys did not give me any money and I did not ask you for any money and when I needed money there were some brethren, some Christians who came from Macedonia and brought me money.”
Well now, that’s just exactly what we conjectured might be happening in Acts 18, that when Silas and Timothy came, it says specifically from Macedonia “He began devoting himself completely to the Word.” And we thought maybe that might be that they brought in money, and he explicitly confirms this in 2 Corinthians 11 that he was brought money from some men who came from Macedonia. So this is amazing because it’s so indirect, so indirect I mean if the author of Acts were basing this on 2 Corinthians, he would have come right out and said it. He would have said, “And he took no money from the church at Corinth and he did not wish to be a burden to them, but when the brethren came from Macedonia, they supplied his need.” You know, if you’re making up a history based on sources, you’re going to you’re going to emphasize what you’re getting from your source, it’s more but it’s very indirect in fact the author of Acts, may not even have known why Paul’s ministry model was changing. He may have just noticed that this change came over him, which I believe is evidence that he actually with Paul and so what we find in so many of these coincidences in Acts they’re so wonderful because they confirm that the author of Acts whoever he was I believe, was a companion and a close friend of the Apostle Paul.
KURT: Wow, yea,h it’s quite powerful. Now we’ve got time for one last example, if you’re game and so maybe we should consider a harder example here. Could you give us a hard example say from the book of Acts in this category?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Sure, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to punt to my book to some extent on this one, I’m going to say there’s more information in my book for certain points I’m going to make. So for right now, you could take my word for it, but read my book for the further argument.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: So for this one, this is about Priscilla and Aquila and I would like to start with 1 Corinthians 16. Let’s start with verse 19.
KURT: Alright, “The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord with the church that is in their house.”
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Okay, and now back up to verse 8 and read that.
KURT: Okay, “But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost.”
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Okay, so Paul’s writing to the Corinthians. Where is he writing from? Ephesus, I mean he pretty much says so. But he’s good, he’s in Ephesus now, and he’s not going to leave there for a little while, yet and he’s probably writing not very long before Pentecost. I think we can infer that here. Especially since in another place he refers to next winter, so the winter is probably over already, so he’s in the spring of some year between, you know Passover and Pentecost, there’s about you know, 50 days in there and that’s when he’s writing and who’s with him? Priscilla and Aquila. Because it’s like, “Hey, Priscilla.” Cool, say hi. [Laughter] Right away we see a coincidence with the previous coincidence, which is that Priscilla and Aquila knew the people in Corinth and we saw that Paul was in Corinth with Priscilla and Aquila.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: So a lot of these ones in Acts I call “two-fers.” You know, because you get you sort of packed coincidences within coincidence, but that’s not where I’m going. Alright, so right now we’re at Priscilla and Aquila. They are an emphasis.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Let’s go to Romans 16 now verse 3, he’s writing to Rome.
KURT: He says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.”
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: So where are they now? They’re in Rome. Now Ephesus and Rome are not exactly next door. If you look at if you look at a map, you will see you know here’s Ephesus it’s over in modern-day Turkey and you have to cross the Aegean and then you have to cross the Greek Peninsula and then you have to cross the Adriatic and then you get over to Rome, you know you’d get over to Italy and then you have to cross the peninsula of Italy and then you finally get to Rome. Alright, so these are not next-door to each other. And take my word for it, Romans is later than 1 Corinthians. [Inaudible] my book, but not a lot later and that is important as well.
So, okay, how did they get all the way from Ephesus to Rome? Because here, he’s sending greetings to them, before he was sending greetings from them and they were with him in Ephesus. Now they’ve apparently got into Rome and he knows that they’re there. Now Priscilla and Aquila will show up in Acts. We read when they show up, and as Acts 18 goes on they travel with Paul they end up in Ephesus with him so the author of Acts does bring them to Ephesus. Toward the end of chapter 18, and then he kind of, he doesn’t really mention them anymore. In fact in particular he doesn’t mention any other travels that they make with Paul. But okay, they could have been in Ephesus when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians and here I’m going to just say, read the book I can date 1 Corinthians to Acts 19:21-22 to the verse by many, many little clues. And it’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing though the Epistle has never mentioned anywhere in the book, but there it is that was apparently spring when he wrote first Corinthians and then you move forward and he travels in Acts 20:1-3 travels through Macedonia, he has to leave Ephesus because there’s a riot.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: That’s the Diana goddess of the Ephesians riot, travels through Macedonia and it says in Acts 20:3 that he spent three months in Greece. And again, read the book for the details on this we can pretty much place the writing of Romans there, in Acts 20:3 and as Acts 20 goes on, we find another Passover coming up, another Feast of Unleavened Bread coming up, as he continues to travel. So we’ve got at least about ten months in between there, alright, close to a year. It’s been a Passover he’s going to, he stays in Ephesus and he writes the book of 1 Corinthians between Passover and Pentecost, then he has to leave he goes and he hangs out now Macedonia for a while, he travels down he spends the winter in Corinth, where he writes Romans and by that time Priscilla and Aquila have had time to go back to Rome.
Now, why would they do that? Well because as you read in the earlier passage you read in Acts 13 that they came from Rome, they had been kicked out of Rome by the decree of the Emperor Claudius so they and the Emperor Claudius had died in the meanwhile by the way, we can also confirm that, his decree would have expired upon his death that was a common thing. So they probably had property back there so there’s just time for them to go back, but if the author of Acts is making this stuff up you know what he would do? He’d keep on with Priscilla and Aquila, well if he’d done that we’d have a problem, if he kept on having them travel with Paul it would have been so easy to screw up, it would have been so easy to have them with him. Oops! [Inaudible.]
KURT: Rome, right, there’s no time for them to get there.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: There’s no time for them to get there. And as Paley says, this is the danger of scattering names around. If you can fictionalize, you can stumble so easily, William Paley from whom I got much of this argument, but the author of Acts never stumbles, because he doesn’t just scatter names around fictionally; he remembers. He knows who was where, when, because he was there too.
KURT: Got you, oh yeah so this is certainly a more complex undesigned coincidence, but you’re right if Paul is going from Corinth over to Ephesus and then to Greece, and then he’s writing a letter– If Priscilla and Aquila are there with him in Ephesus, how does he– you know there needs to be time wherever Paul is whatever he’s doing for Priscilla and Aquila to go back to Rome. He can’t be writing that letter saying greet them, you know, if they are not there.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: If they’re not there, that’s right.
KURT: Yeah, Wow.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: So cool, it’s so cool. These ones in Acts, they require more attention, but when you get them, they’re some of the coolest ones.
KURT: Yeah, and it’s great as well to have, sort of the, the Bible backgrounds, the Roman history which you know, Luke the Historian, as he’s nicknamed, because he does mention these historical figures, these Roman leaders and so to verify through external sources about, say the decree, and when he died it really, it just lends credibility to the text here. Wow, that’s awesome. Well, so if you, listener are interested again, this is Dr. Lydia McGrew book Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts And it’s available now on amazon.com. We’ll go ahead and put a link on our website so you can purchase the book there, and it’s a great resource for the argument from undesigned coincidences. And now Lydia before I let you go, so let me ask you, what would be some of the criticism, perhaps that you might receive from utilizing the undesigned coincidences in the text? What are some things that scholars say as a criticism and objection to this type of argumentation?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Well, the funniest thing is that scholars have neglected it so much that right now we have really no scholarly responses.
KURT: Huh, okay.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: It’s been neglected for over a hundred years, we do however, have un-thought out, skeptical responses from internet skeptics, because they’re the ones who are hearing about this right now, and they totally don’t understand it, they’re taken blindsided. When Tim did an episode of Unbelievable which is a British.
KURT: With our friend, Justin Brierley. Yeah.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: With Justin Brierley and with Bart Ehrman, who was on there, it was quite clear to me and I think if anyone goes and finds that in their archives and listens, Ehrman was unprepared for this argument. Ehrman is a very eminent, liberal, Bible scholar. He did not know how to answer it. One of the strongest things he found to say was, “This sounds like a really 19th century kind of argument.” And that was his criticism.
You know good for the 19th century, so he really didn’t know how to respond to it. You’ll sometimes find the skeptics saying, “Well, do you have anything besides coincidences?” Which shows that they absolutely do not get it.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Coincidences can be very powerful.
KURT: Right. They don’t grasp the persuasive power to the argument.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Right, so we’re finding that– I’m finding a number of people who are suggesting that there might have been some gigantic, ginormous source that included all of this that we’ve since lost.
KURT: No, are they really positing that?
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Well again, this is at a popular level I’ve seen very little scholarly suggestion of that, but I’ve seen a number of popular level people, that and then that the different authors just sort of by coincidence grabs different parts. Now, that’s really problematic though, because John is late, you’re not going to find any critical liberal scholar who’s going to want an early source even earlier than Mark, that includes all the stuff that’s in John [Laughter] It’ll be interesting to see if we do get some more serious scholarly responses but right now we’re still at the popular level of response.
KURT: Okay, nice, well, you have to keep me posted on that, and who knows, maybe we’ll have a nice dialog with some of your published academic critics. So, if that were ever to happen, you never know, this might be one of those just you know so powerful that there is no response to explain these sorts of coincidences. And in fact because there are so many of them, we’ve only just you know, touched the tip of the iceberg here on today’s show. So, Lydia, thank you so much for coming on the show today and for enlightening us and explaining to us what undesigned coincidences are and where and how we can see them not just in the Gospels, but also in the book of Acts and in the writings of Paul’s letters, so thank you so much.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: It’s been great fun, thanks for having me, Kurt.
KURT: Take care. God bless.
DR. LYDIA MCGREW: Take care. God bless.
KURT: Alright so, that does it for the show today, before signing off here again I want to remind you of the fundraiser that we’re doing, Veracity Hill our 2017 fundraiser, we’re looking to get $800 in monthly support. We are 11 percent of the way there and so we’d love to get your support, whether it’s $10 a month, $20 a month or if the Lord has really put it on your heart to bless this ministry perhaps you might consider 100 or even $200 a month to help us get a wider audience for the podcast.
We want to do some online advertising and grow our–what’s called our organic audience, that’s what Facebook calls it, and so we would love to get the podcast, the episodes out to those that are interested – to learn more. And now, I think of part of the reason why I do this podcast, aside from edifying Christians, is I have in mind here many people in our country today who are becoming atheists, because they grew up in a certain household with say a rigid upbringing and sometimes their questions about Christianity went unanswered, thankfully I was blessed to be in a household where my father taught me to pursue the truth to ask good questions and that is okay to doubt.
Some people aren’t brought up in those same types of households and so they’re left thinking on their own, literally alone in their minds, with these questions and they’re left with these questions having to come up with answers and sadly some of them reject the faith and belief in God altogether. And so part of the reason for this podcast is to help even young Christians, become aware that there are answers available and it’s easy to listen to them and so that’s why I’m doing this, because I want to help encourage not only you but others to think well about the faith and all that emanates from that.
So that does it for the show today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin who gets a big shout out today, on today’s show for helping out the website this past week. Also the Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, the Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, Non-Profit Megaphone, and Fox Restoration, and thank you to the tech team today, Chris and to our guests Dr. Lydia McGrew and finally I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics and society.
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