The Myth of Biblical Self-reference

There is a myth going around that needs to be dealt with. That myth is that the Bible is a “self-referencing book”.

This myth is based on a category error.
The error is that the Bible is “just” a book when, literarily, the Bible is best considered as an anthology, a collection of works surrounding the same subject.  The Christian Scriptures, which consists of two parts, the Old and New Testaments, are anthologies in their own rights: the former dealing with God’s interactions with the nation of Israel, the latter working as an exposition on the former.
Now that we’ve established the proper categories, when the texts contain a reference to another work in that collection, there is no “self-reference”, rather what we have are texts that share a common theme over a period of time gathered together in one location showing not only a progression in thought on the subject, but a remarkable consistency over more than a thousand years of writing, so that the reader will not have to run around looking for the texts that are being referenced.
It would be best described as a convenience package.


  1. The bible is best thought of as a collection of stories, written, compiled and edited by man. Mark didn’t even have a resurrection in the first draft. It is best seen as one work.

    • Which would be continuing the fallacy addressed as well as committing the fallacy of hasty generalization. And what does it matter what Mark did or did not have in his “first draft”? Papias reported that it was a collection of Peter’s teachings that was “not in order”, which could mean that it did not have a resurrection appearance in it, because it does report the empty tomb. Further, it is only modern scholarship that makes that assumption and assertion. The first “scholar” to write on the issue is the Apostle Paul’s companion Luke the physician, who tells us that “many have undertaken to narrate the events that have occured among us”, among them could very well be Mark, who was Peter’s scribe and interpreter.

      • You have no concerns about the earliest gospel having no resurrection story, then suddenly getting one at a later date in conformity with the other two written much later?

      • Who says its the earliest gospel? Scholars who have an agenda.

        The earliest attested gospel is John’s, evidenced by fragment p52, so by physical evidence alone it could be argued that John’s gospel is first, and it has a resurection account. But by textual analysis, Luke’s is first, quoted by Paul in 1Corintians 11. Further textual analysis, by computer programs that scan for plagiarism, places Luke as the first synoptic with Matthew and Mark referencing his work. Plus you have resurrection appearances (interaction with the risen Christ) confused with resurrection record (ie the empty tomb), so you are still engaged with a category error.

      • Then it would depend on what one means by “error”. If we are talking about Mark’s gospel, then someone thought he was in error by not including a resurrection account, so late in the
        3rd or 4th century someone composed one (or 3 depending on which manuscript family you look at) to smooth its ending, pulling in data from Matthew, Luke and Acts to do it. So the “error” could simply be one of opinion. Some scholars believe that Mark was written as an introductory letter to churches for apostles who would pick up the story where Mark leaves off, which, if it is the “earliest” gospel, would make perfect sense that it would end where it does.

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