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This book reads a bit like a website devoted to deconstructing an entire work, and I like that style personally.

I want to read an argument, a rebuttal, and a conclusion…followed by another argument, another rebuttal, and conclusion. It was articulated well, but it was scholarly, somewhat dense and dry, and not written in the popular style. Working my way towards the conclusion of this review, I think Price was fair in his assessment. The latter part is my conclusion. Some of my Christian friends may be reading this, some may not…but for those who are and who actively debate with me, stop recommending hack-job apologists like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel to those who are at least somewhat familiar with the topic.

You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Evans responds:. People were meeting frequently, reviewing his teaching, and making it normative for the way they lived. The teaching was being called to mind and talked about all the time. Again, Evans is taking the few sources we have, Acts and Paul's epistles, and reading that as being complete and accurate documentation about everything that happened. That there were various communities of Christians, I don't have any reason to doubt.

But how big those communities were, when they started, how often they met, what they discussed, etc. Even assuming these sources are reasonably accurate, they only show very small snapshots. We can gather from Paul's epistles what he felt was important at the time he wrote them. Strobel insisted in his introduction that he wanted pure facts and no guesses or blind faith.

Evans' discussion here was no facts--pure blind faith. Without knowing a word of what was said, I might have the expectation that they came up with good reasons, when they may well have come up with reasons that I consider fallacious. Surely the first Muslims had discussions about the teachings of Mohammad. The first Mormons had discussions about the teachings of Joseph Smith. The first Buddhists had discussions about the teachings of Buddha. And members of those respective religions may find that fact supportive of their religion, but it means nothing to anyone who is not already a believer.

Unlike the telephone game, this is a community effort… This was a living tradition that the community discussed and was constantly remembering, because it was normative, it was precious, they lived by it. The fact of the matter is, human memory is extremely fallible, and extremely open to alteration and suggestion over time. People discussing what they think they heard, what somebody else heard from somebody else, etc.

Not condescending, it is simple fact. To conclude the interview, Strobel comments:. And yet, as I noted, Evans was perfectly willing to completely invent history where it suited his purposes. He made blanket claims about what everybody believed without any evidence at all. No, I suppose not. But the big problem here is that Evans fails to show that the canonical Gospels are credible either. Wallace, Ph. He had been a scholar, but then had a serious case of viral encephalitis which caused him to lose much of his memory. So he taught himself all over again using his own textbooks.

This is an amazing anecdote. But I expect that Strobel would have noted it if Wallace did have any specific expertise in these languages, since, in Challenge 1, Evans stressed the importance of Bible scholars knowing Hebrew and Aramaic:. Ehrman is a scholar in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, and does his own translations of manuscripts in those languages. That said, both of these scholars are far more qualified than I am on the subject, so, again, I realize that my word should not be taken above that of either Wallace or Ehrman. Before I begin, I must also acknowledge that Wallace is handicapped in this interview, for he has written an entire book on the subject, Reinventing Jesus , and the interview can only hit the highlights of his arguments and his attempted refutations of Ehrman's arguments.

Even so, at the conclusion of the interview, Strobel says:. My interview with Wallace provided strong affirmation that my confidence in the New Testament text was abundantly warranted. Nothing produced by Ehrman even came close to changing the biblical portrait in any meaningful way. I will simply explain why, in my view, the arguments produced in this interview were not compelling. One of the important things to note about this interview is that it appears that the primary disagreement between Wallace and Ehrman is not about the facts, but the conclusions that can be drawn from the facts.

The argument presented by Wallace is simply that Ehrman is making proverbial mountains out of molehills. So let's look at the arguments. Wallace responds,. What kind of chaos would we have if people claimed to have an original of a particular book? There are honest and dishonest Christians, Hindus, atheists, etc. But it is a rather strong irony that this religion, which says that all men are selfish sinners not to be trusted, is entirely predicated on the assumption that its earliest sources can be trusted implicitly.

Wallace acknowledges that some Christians assert that the Bible is inerrant in the sense of being a letter-perfect, word-for-word representation of what Jesus and the other Biblical characters said. But Wallace acknowledges that the Bible cannot be inerrant in that sense, for there are different wordings in the different Gospels. Wallace places far more importance on infallibility, but asserts his personal belief that the Bible is probably inerrant.

Therefore, Strobel asks Wallace what he would do if someone found an incontrovertible error in the Bible. For instance, does the first-century Jewish historian Josephus need to be inerrant before we can affirm that he got anything right? In one sense, this is exactly correct. Since the stakes at hand in studying the Bible are infinite in size, Christianity demands infinitely more scrutiny.

As an analogy, I will use an assertion about my lunch today: I had corn with my lunch. In my days of being a weak believer, I wrestled with this particular issue a lot. If the Bible really is the key to eternal life, it must be the absolute truth. Personally, I believe in inerrancy. Picture a concentric circle, with the essential doctrines of Christ and salvation at the core. A little bit further out are some other doctrines, until, finally, outside of everything is inerrancy.

But if inerrancy is not true, does that mean that infallibility is not true? Whether it is actually true or not almost seems to be beside the point! Wallace continues:. In Strobel's earlier book, The Case for Christ , he argued that the Bible has been proven reliable in "the minutiae of history" and that is precisely why it can be trusted in matters of "faith and practice.

But when the arguments are taken as a whole, direct contradictions are seen. I don't think that the original argument is valid. Even if the Bible was perfectly historically accurate, that would not be sufficient reason to conclude that it was the one and only perfect key to salvation. But if it's not even the former, how could it have the slightest possibility of being the latter?

If an allegedly divinely-inspired book can't get history right, how could it possibly be the work of a perfect being? Strobel has taken his weak argument from his earlier work, and turned it into no argument at all! A couple of pages later, the issue about whether or not the Gospels portray the exact words of Jesus arises again:.

Historians of that day were trying to accurately get the gist of what was said. It only takes fifteen minutes to get through the Sermon on the Mount--but when Jesus delivered his sermons, people were often hungry at the end. I don't think Jesus gave fifteen-minute sermonettes for Christianettes. So the Gospels contain a summary of what he said. That doesn't trouble me in the slightest. It's still trustworthy. Boy, is there a lot in there to take issue with. First, it is true that historians of the day were less exacting than modern historians.

But real ancient historians were still far more exacting than what we see in the Gospels. See Challenge 1. Second, this makes his claim of trustworthiness a bald-faced assertion. He used Matthew as an example. Nowhere in the Book of Matthew does it even claim to be a depiction of actual events, and yet Wallace somehow has this divine insight that it is indeed accurate. Even if we were talking about someone with a known record of generally being accurate, we might say, "I find that the author is generally accurate, and therefore am willing to estimate that he is probably accurate here"--but we still wouldn't make a blanket assertion of trustworthiness!

Of possible relevance, I've often seen Christians, when debating among themselves about various doctrinal issues, parse down word-by-word what Jesus is supposed to have said in order to make their case for their own preferred interpretation. Perhaps Wallace might endeavor to inform other Christians that it is rather pointless to do word-by-word parsing of Jesus when he concedes we don't have word-by-word of what was said.

I did find Wallace's estimation that the Bible contains roughly two hours' worth of Jesus' speech very illuminating. He further estimates that Jesus often talked for hours, so Jesus presumably preached for hundreds or even thousands of hours. And all we have is a measly two hours. Allegedly, this is God Himself, speaking on issues that He must have felt important enough to address, uttering hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours of speeches -- and all we have is two hours! I'm not sure I'd be willing to trust a team of a thousand linguists headed up by Walter Cronkite to adequately abridge the Word of God to two hours, if I thought I was actually dealing with the genuine goods!

And yet Wallace is certain of the trustworthiness of the Gospels, when most of them don't even make claims about their own accuracy? I know that Wallace deserves some respect for his education and title. I doubt I could ever teach myself to be a Greek scholar. And yet, when I read these arguments, I just find it difficult to take them seriously. How can anybody take such absurd arguments with any degree of seriousness? Imagine all the things we might know today if Jesus really was God and we had more of his words?

Maybe we would know whether God really has a problem with abortion or not. Some denominations say that the soul is given at birth, so maybe God doesn't care one whit about abortion.


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The Bible simply doesn't say. The Bible isn't even clear on the requirements of salvation. See " Christian Salvation? I'm just trying to emphasize how preposterous it is to assert that, if indeed Jesus was God, a two-hour summary could possibly be considered "trustworthy. Wallace also argues that the Gospels do not have the same problem as the telephone game:.

First of all, rather than having one stream of transmission, we have multiple streams… A second difference is that rather than dealing with an oral tradition, textual criticism deals with a written tradition… A third difference is that the textual critic--the person trying to reconstruct what the original message was--does not have to rely on the last person in the chain. He can interrogate several folks who are closer to the original source.

The "multiple streams" that Wallace refers to are the various manuscripts in various locations and times. And it is true that written transmission is more reliable than oral.


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  4. For these reasons, there are many experts, even many skeptical experts, who feel that the current translations are probably very close to the original. There is still disagreement here. But I concede that Wallace is not alone in his assessment of the modern Bible as textually accurate. But, of course, even if we currently have good translations of the original words, that says nothing about how reliable the original words were.

    Wallace, by admitting that a written transmission is more reliable than an oral transmission, implicitly admits that he cannot assert the trustworthiness of the Gospels, which were originally oral traditions. The next subject raised is the infamous manuscript counts. The reason I say "infamous" is because I've seen the kinds of arguments Wallace raises many times, and the facts are presented in a way I view as dishonest.

    Here is some of what Wallace says:. We have more than 5, Greek copies of the New Testament.

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    When I started seminary, there were 4,, but more and more have been discovered. Strobel asks, "But aren't many of these merely fragments? Wallace responds:. A great majority of these manuscripts are complete for the purposes the scribes intended. For example, some manuscripts were intended just to include the Gospels; others. Surely Wallace must know that the claims he makes here are misleading. So allow me to straighten this mess out.

    I will use Kurt and Barbara Aland's Text of the New Testament as a reference for clarification on the manuscript issue. This textbook is commonly used in seminary school classes on textual criticism. It is true that this book is somewhat dated, and Wallace does discuss some of the findings that post-date this textbook. But this book is the best reference I know of for charting the distribution of manuscripts, and is an accepted reference for seminary students.

    The following chart shows the known manuscripts, by century, at the time of the publication of Aland's book. The first thing to note is that the number of manuscripts is very few until nearly a thousand years after the books were written! At least at the time of Aland's book, less than total manuscripts date to within years of the original authorship. Granted, Aland's chart shows only two manuscripts in the second century, while Wallace indicates that there are "ten to fifteen" now that date to the second century. I'll take his word on that.

    But even so, it is still a fact that the vast majority of those "25, to 30, handwritten copies of the New Testament" Wallace crows about date to a thousand years or more after the fact. Further, his claims about the manuscripts not being fragmentary are also misleading. He mentions that there are at least a few manuscripts that are more than fragmentary that date within the first few centuries.

    The Case Against the Case for Christ

    Yes, there are indeed a few such manuscripts. But the majority of the manuscripts dating to the first millennium are indeed fragmentary. For example, the oldest manuscript that exists is a fragment of John, dated to about the year , which contains only a few verses! Not exactly what the reader might have gathered from Wallace's response.

    As an interesting related fact, the second oldest Christian-related artifact is a fragment of a non-canonical Gospel! There is a fragment of what is called "The Unknown Gospel" dating to approximately the year It is a fairly small fragment, and doesn't reveal any controversial teachings.

    But this small fragment reveals significant differences between the stories in "The Unknown Gospels" vs. And remember, this isn't some late Gospel like some of the ones that Evans talked about; this is the second oldest Christian document ever found. So this, by itself, is good evidence that different stories about Christ were floating around from very early on.

    Wallace makes some comparisons to secular works, such as the Iliad :. When you compare the New Testament to the second most copied Greek author, the differences are truly astounding. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey combined have fewer than 2, copies--yet Homer has an eight-hundred-year head start on the New Testament! Again, this is another "apples to oranges" comparison. For one, the Iliad and the Odyssey were never the holy books of major religions.

    It is simply a fact that allegedly holy books are regularly reproduced by members of their respective religions. The larger the religion, the larger the number of copies made. There are also large numbers of copies of the Buddhist Sutras and Islam's Koran , but Wallace doesn't mention that. Secondly, the fragmentary nature of the manuscripts helps inflate his numbers. For example, he may count a fragment of a few verses of John as a manuscript of the NT.

    If he has a fragment of Mark, he may count it as another manuscript of the NT, even though it comes from a completely different book! Generically referring to the tiniest of scrap as being a "manuscript of the NT" is just dishonest. It is also worth noting that nobody researching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey believe that we have indeed recovered the exact original words! So Wallace's comparison to Homer is a red herring, it proves nothing about how we could allegedly restore exact originals given that we likely don't have exact originals of Homer.

    Nor is there any particular urgency to recovering the exact original words of Homer. No doubt historians would love to recover the very original works of Homer, and if they were to be found, they would be used to see how the work changed over the years. But nobody's alleged eternal salvation depends on correct understanding of Homer. And, of course, as noted, Wallace includes much more recent manuscripts in his counts. Nobody doubts that there have been millions of Christians throughout the centuries and that therefore, obviously, there have been many Bibles printed.

    But given that there aren't very many copies in the first thousand years, I don't see any great reason to be excited about how many manuscripts there are overall. The next question is, how important are any of the disputed passages? Wallace argues that, of the disputed passages, none of them impact any critical doctrines.

    Here is one example:. Mark could impact orthopraxy, which is right practice, but not orthodoxy, which is right belief. Here Jesus says you can't cast out a certain kind of demon except by prayer--and some manuscripts add "and fasting. But seriously, does my salvation depend on that? I find myself astonished at the number of issues in that one little paragraph. Let's start out with how thoughtless Wallace is in regards to the salvation of the allegedly possessed person.

    Since he doesn't see how this teaching affects him , he shows little concern. Imagine some poor folks burning in hell because their preacher botched the exorcism because he didn't fast! And Satan laughing and pointing fingers, "I bet you folks wish that Jesus had made the 'and fasting' part a bit more explicit, doncha?

    Bwa ha ha ha! Is it necessary that exorcisms be done right? If not, what's the point in doing them at all? Are we really talking about saving someone from damnation or not? If we really are, then we ought to be doing it right, oughtn't we? And remember, Wallace had earlier noted that, of the likely hundreds to thousands of hours of Jesus' preaching, we only have a total of two hours of speech captured in the NT. If Mark thought that Jesus' teaching of how to do an exorcism was important enough to be among those precious minutes to record, it must be really important, no?

    And, presumably, God had some hand in guiding Mark to decide what to record, so presumably God Himself must think that this teaching is extremely precious. Shouldn't Wallace be more concerned? Furthermore, not only is Wallace unconcerned about Mark , he notes that basically nobody else is either: he says, "Most Christians have never heard of that verse or will ever perform an exorcism" p. Christians are always telling me about the demonic activity in the world, often alleging it more rampant now than ever before.

    If this is the case, shouldn't exorcisms be going on every day in every church to try to contain this demonic activity? Shouldn't every Christian be vitally concerned about how to do this right and be checking on the latest developments in manuscript research on Mark ? Apparently not. Christians don't know the verse, don't care about the verse, and don't need the verse. It's only The Word of God. Apparently, that's not too important. This makes me question whether Wallace--and Christians in general--really believe that we are talking about saving people's souls.

    How could someone possibly think that Mark is part of The Word of God and not be all that concerned about it? Isn't the fact that Christians, as a general rule, don't do exorcisms sufficient in itself to suggest that there really isn't all this alleged demonic activity? And, by extension, probably that there are no demons at all?

    Perhaps I'm being overly harsh. He stuck his proverbial foot in his mouth, and I've been pounding him over it for the last several paragraphs. Anybody can unthinkingly make a foolish statement; perhaps I should let it pass. But he does it again the very next paragraph. He discusses the scripture about how women should be kept silent in church:. Most New Testament scholars would say, yes, this was in the original text. The role of women in church has never been a doctrinal point that's necessary for salvation. I'm not trying to trivialize the role of women in the church.

    My point is simply that this passage doesn't alter any essential doctrine. Wallace strikes me as a misogynistic jerk! Of course he's trivializing the role of women in church, and women in general. Isn't that scripture, like, kinda important as to whether women have the right to be involved in the process of learning and teaching salvation?

    And if they are supposed to be taking an active role, might that not impact their salvation? And perhaps even the salvation of the almighty men in their lives? And, oh, isn't it part of The Word of God? Seems to me that might be important. But then again, Wallace's attitude is perfectly consistent with the Bible. I'll re-quote this passage from 1st Timothy:. Basically, it is saying, "sit down and shut up, woman! Everything is all Eve's fault and woman are all the same!

    After all, there's plenty more where those came from. See "Why Women Need Freedom from Religion" Wallace discusses the disputed passage in the Bible about the adulteress who was to be stoned, where Jesus said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

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    Wallace also concedes the emotional attachment he and other Christians have for that passage:. When you read this passage, you say, "Oh my gosh, that takes my breath away! I'm just amazed at the love and grace and the mercy of Jesus and how he could stand up to these Pharisees. Remember that Wallace had stated tentative support for the Bible being "inerrant"—meaning historically accurate. Pardon my confusion for not understanding how scribes sticking in stories they like wherever they feel like it constitutes inerrancy!

    He had earlier argued that exact word choice was not necessary for historical accuracy. Now we learn that things don't even need to have happened for them to be "inerrant! And actually, he does make some attempt to clarify his position on this:.

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    There is a distinction we need to make. Is it literally authentic--in other words, did John actually write this story? My answer is an unquestionable no. Is it historically authentic? Did it really happen? My answer is a highly qualified yes--something may have happened with Jesus being merciful to a sinner, but the story was originally in a truncated form. Yeah, well, monkeys might have flown out of my rear at some point in my history. But historians don't go talking about something being "historically authentic" based on the idea that something kind of like it might have happened at some time and somebody who liked the story stuck it wherever they felt like it in an alleged historical record.

    I'm sorry, I know this joker has a Ph. Now, let's consider whether such an event could have happened at all, assuming that Jesus is God and that he was indeed the Messiah predicted in the OT. I'd like to refer to Leviticus:. If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

    If a man sleeps with his father's wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads. If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.

    Now, where exactly in all this "their blood will be on their own heads" ranting does it say anything about how only the sinless should do the stoning? Where does it say anything about mercy, for that matter? How can Wallace so cavalierly assume that something "close enough" to the "throw the first stone" story actually happened, given that such an event would be in complete contradiction to the OT that Jesus supposedly fulfilled?

    Wallace also criticizes Ehrman for essentially sensationalizing this controversy:. Evangelicals have followed a tradition of timidity by continuing to include this story because they think Bible readers would freak if it were missing. Read any Bible translation and you'll find a marginal note that says this is not found in the oldest manuscripts. But often people don't read those. When Ehrman reports in the popular sphere that the story isn't authentic, people think they've been hoodwinked.

    Why that no good Ehrman, the nerve of him, actually telling people things that evangelicals are too "timid" to tell them! Wallace has admitted that it isn't genuine, and he's admitted that most clergy aren't willing to tell the public this, and somehow Ehrman's the bad guy for doing so. And, by the way, it is not true that you can read "any Bible translation" to find a marginal note on this. In newer translations, yes, you can.

    In older translations, you can't. The King James Version is still a very popular version and it has no such marginal note. Further, Wallace said that this has been known to Bible scholars for more than a century. Well, great, what about the first years or so of the Christian church? For the first ish years of the Christian church, all Bibles had this fraudulent story in it, one that directly contradicts the OT, and this is of no importance to Wallace? Really astonishing. Strobel makes note of some people having died handling snakes because the Gospel of Mark says that believers are able to handle poisonous snakes without harm.

    Mark Again, Strobel and Wallace agree with Ehrman about the facts, the fact that this scripture isn't authentic. It is again what conclusions can be made from the fact that is in dispute. Wallace notes that manuscripts that have been known about since the fifteenth century don't have those verses. But the fact remains that since the publication of the King James Version of the Bible, millions of English speaking Christians have only known of translations saying that they should be able to handle poisonous snakes without harm.

    I presume the situation is similar in other languages. So, for these people should they not have had every reason to believe that they could indeed handle poisonous snakes without harm? Strobel and Wallace again show little sympathy for those people following what they understood the Bible to say. All that Strobel has to say about the issue is to chide the reporters of these stories for not mentioning the relevant verses are inauthentic. Really, is this a job for the reporters? Or is it a job for those "timid evangelicals? Also in these twelve disputed verses of Mark is its account of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.

    Without those verses, the Gospel ends, "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. Not in the slightest. There's still a resurrection in Mark. Its prophesized, the angel attests to it, and the tomb is empty. But you can see why a scribe would say, "Oh my gosh, we don't have a resurrection appearance, and this ends with the women being afraid.

    Again, in another small paragraph, there's a full metric buttload of stuff to take issue with. First off, without the fraudulent ending to Mark, there isn't necessarily a bodily resurrection in Mark. Mark that Jesus "is risen" and that he will see the women in Galilee. Will he be a spirit? Did they actually see him there? If Mark actually ends at , then its ending looks to me to be somewhat like The Wizard of Oz, where the reader is supposed to imagine what happened.

    In other words, it looks like it is intentionally left open to interpretation, which would be a sign of it being fiction. Secondly, given that it says the women ran off afraid and telling no one, no one should even know the event happened! If Mark thought he was writing a genuine history, shouldn't he have imparted how he knew stuff that nobody was told?

    Now if, as Richard Carrier had suggested in my quotation from Challenge 1, that the Gospels other than Luke may have merely been "didactic hagiography," mythical accounts intended to impart truths through symbolism and not intending to be literal history, then Mark's not telling us how he knew things that he couldn't know about if it was a literal history makes perfect sense. In fact, if one reads Mark without assuming it is supposed to be history, it is notable that it looks suspiciously like "third party omniscient" literary format.

    In the study of literature fiction, writings are classified into several possible perspectives, such as first-party, second-party, etc.

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    In the "third party omniscient" form, the story is told from a perspective of knowing everything that happens whether there would actually be someone to record it or not. In other words, in a work of fiction in the third party omniscient form, a statement like "the woman ran and told no one" is completely normal. I would find such a statement quite bizarre in a history book. For the proverbial icing on the cake, Wallace makes Ehrman's point exactly--that scribes didn't see anything wrong with changing the story when it didn't fit what they "knew" the story to be. As I mentioned in Challenge 1, Barker feels this is more indicative of "footprints of a legend," not historical accuracy.

    People adding to a story because they think it is "supposed' to be there is exactly how legends grow. And again, Wallace is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, simultaneously saying the Bible is "inerrant" and also simultaneously admitting it has stuff in it just because a scribe wanted it there or thought it was "supposed" to be there. Before putting this epically atrocious chapter to rest, I will cover one more of the disputed passages.

    There is a passage where Jesus healed a leper, and most translations say that Jesus was "filled with compassion," while Ehrman argues that it originally said Jesus became angry, not filled with compassion. Wallace agrees with Ehrman. So yet again, we have no dispute from Wallace about any of Ehrman's facts, just the interpretation of them.

    Some people say that Jesus couldn't be God if he was ever angry. Wallace argues that righteous indignation has its place. Of course Wallace doesn't explain exactly why a man who wanted to be cured of leprosy deserved "righteous indignation". Does God get angry at people with the flu? I suppose so. Let's look at some more of Leviticus:. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles.

    No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the LORD by fire.