The difference in tone between the words of Jesus and those of his apostles (especially Paul) is stark to say the least.
This is a difficult thing to understand and accept, and I might add that most mainstream Christian denominations would consider me a heretic for saying this, but it's my personal understanding of the situation.
1) I do not have absolute knowledge of what Jesus actually taught. nobody alive does. What I have are first hand accounts from eye witnesses who were his followers. Most of the "canon" accounts were actually written several years to a few decades after the fact. Objectively, I recognize that people do not have absolutely perfect memories, not even of incredible or exceptional events.
the texts themselves show different authors have slightly different accounts of the same event, just as any other eye-witness account, the authors may mix up the order of events in some cases, either because it occurred to their memory later, or they just mis-remember the order of events, or in some cases they aren't speaking chronologically at all, but just telling a story about the event as it comes to their memory.
2) I am told to believe in infallibility of scripture, especially the Apostles, even though the Bible itself shows many instances where the Apostles were definitely not infallible, and disagreed with one another on matters of doctrine, theology, salvation, etc, even after they were named as such by Jesus. Further, at least 4 of the New Testament authors show this directly in all four of the Gospels while Jesus was alive, and especially in the Book of Acts after the crucifixion. There is even the instance of God himself rebuking and correcting Peter in a dream, because of his wrong beliefs and behavior toward the "Gentiles," which is Greeks specifically, but all non-Jews in general.
3) The Bible itself records cases where other books of the Bible were lost for at least some time, and possibly re-written from memory of the priest. An example of this is the Torah itself, at least the book of Deuteronomy...
the bible references several books which are not in the canon, and no known, uncorupted copies of those documents exist, including the original book of enoch, and two books of someone named "Gad," which were apparently historical texts similar to Kings and "chronicles," which were also written later, after the deaths of the people they concern. The authors of these books used texts and oral traditions to piece together the events of their people's history in an attempt to preserve coherent history. This is no different than our own history books, which often hit the high notes and miss the subtleties and context of events. Wars and family feuds are often more complicated than just "you pissed me off" or something like that. The book of Gad was a historical text referenced a time or two in either kings or chronicles, I forget which, and the authors also mention other history books which we have no surviving copies, nor even know exactly what they were about.
4) Archeologists and scholars have found old translated versions of books from both the Old and New testaments in which the translators even in ancient times made mistakes and scratched out their own translation, or else someone proof reading it did, and replaced the words of the original translation. One of these translations of Psalm 23 bears little resemblance to the KJV of Psalm 23.
5) People are human beings. the original authors recorded their experiences as they remembered it. In many cases these things agree in the gist and important principles, even if some details are misunderstood or different. If you ask ten people to describe a stranger, or describe a mugging and what the victim and perpetrator looked like, they'll all give you different answers; experiments have been done with this.
6) People are not perfect. Realistically there must be mistakes in the bible, especially in translated versions of it.
7) when Jesus spoke we are to believe, according to the text, that he spoke as the voice of God incarnate. Unfortunately, we cannot prove objectively that the accounts of Jesus' words is perfectly accurate, so there has to be some form of reason within us. If you can believe the first chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus was supposed to be God as the "Logos" incarnate in the flesh, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory... as the only begotten of the Father."
So while Jesus' teaching is authoritative, the accounts of Jesus teaching cannot be taken as authoritative, because those are human accounts. What we can say is that it must bear on any person's reason and conscience according to their experiences and their search for God and the Truth.
But when those accounts agree with one another heavily, at least in concept and fundamentals, then it should be given more weight than that of a mere conjecture or fairy story.
8) my views on Samuel have changed tremendously over the years. If I was King Saul at the time of Samuel, when he claimed to be speaking for God and gave him the order to massacre that city, I would have to have him arrested and thrown in the brig, or even executed. I hate to say it.
No matter how evil the adults might have been, even if they did somehow all deserve capital punishment, I cannot imagine that "infants and sucklings" could in any way deserve such punishment. IN the past I attempted to explain or rationalize this away, but I cannot do so with a clear conscience any more. It is my conviction that if this event did happen, it is because Samuel or Saul or David, or whoever else was involved, was just an evil ***, or else there is something severely wrong with the translation and preservation of this document, and the same applies for Joshua and Moses. Who writes a 100 pages about themself and their people, always referring to themselves in the third person?! The Torah and Joshua was clearly re-written by someone else at a later time, probably Samuel, given their behavior is so similar.
See next post on other issues.