A Possible Gospel And New Testament

More Fun Than Fundamentalism.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Gospel Preface 1: The Gospel Truth

Thumbnail Sketch

Jesus was crucified and was buried. From here the essential facts are as follows:

Several decades passed. During this time, oral traditions about Jesus’ life and ministry were told and retold, and Christianity emerged as a small Jewish sect believing that Jesus had been resurrected and was the “Christ” or Savior. Over the second half of the first century, anonymous members of this earliest form of Christianity - men who had never met Jesus in the flesh and face to face – began to set these oral traditions down in writing. Some wrote gospels under the names of particular disciples because they regarded themselves as students and followers of these individuals – a common practice of the times.

It is inferred from the similarities among Mark, Matthew, and Luke, that among these early Christian writings was an additional piece, now lost to history, which the authors of these three gospels utilized. Their similarities have led scholars to refer to them as the “synoptic” gospels, meaning written from similar points of view. They are contrasted with John, the last gospel to have been written, and thought to have been composed late in the first century.

No – Really…

If you have doubts about this thumbnail sketch of the essential generalities concerning the composition of the New Testament, consult a religious scholar at any leading divinity school; for example, Harvard, Yale, or the University of Chicago. These are the findings of the best that religious scholarship has to offer and not a “secular” or “anti-Christian” point of view, as some Christians may wish to categorize it. In fact those who conduct scholarly research in this area are usually Christian ministers who have dedicated their lives to scholarship as well as ministry, and who personally believe in Jesus as the Christ.

The Spirit Moves Over the Hierarchies

To continue: The unknown authors of the gospels declared their words inspired by God. And as the tiny Jewish sect differentiated into a distinct church and grew in power and organization over the coming centuries, it would select and officially certify these and certain other early church writings, and not others, as being of divine origin, putting them together in one anthology which we know as The New Testament.

Over subsequent church history, the church, and eventually the churches, have each declared their understandings and interpretations of these selected writings to be themselves inspired by divine authority, establishing competing hierarchies of bureaucratic inspiration.

What is inspiration and how do we know it? Is it still possible to write a gospel? Should it be? How can we know what is or isn’t possible?

“With God, all things are possible.” Mark 4:27


At 12:19 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Hi Darius. One of the blogs I visit, of the United Church of Christ, has a banner that reads "God is still speaking" ... I don't see why new gospels can't be written.

Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway site has a good page of links on the Synoptic problem and Q ... here

At 3:49 PM, Blogger MichaelBains said...

Nicely concise in setting the very human stage on which early christianity performed for its devotees and proselytants, Darius.

I could feel for the people living that life as I read your post. I wonder about their understandings and "inspirations" in a specific temporal context. By Sauls picking up the banner around the time of John, did he solidify the "nature of god" for christianity by bringing his odd bits of Rome, Aristotle and Plato and even Xerxes? He was a well traveled man even before he wrote his letters.

I'm sure you know I'd only prefer that Mark 4:27 would have a more compelling definition of God to which we could refer. Perhaps in the future, something will be known. That would be interesting either way.

Off topic, did you happen to catch any of the Judas Gospel on Nat Geo's Discovery channel? I meant to but always was tied up when it played.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Coloratura said...

Personally, I think it is next to impossible for us to ever know the true evolution of these 'stories' and all of the things that have influenced them as we know them today, except for the more modern interpretations.

The earliest works, on which the interpretations seem to be based, are so old that I don't know if we can say for sure... and I suspect that quite a bit of it may be very far away from what God ever intended to be written.

For that reason, I don't really read the bible, any interpretation, and I'm not that interested. It's just not relevant for my relationship with God, although I do think many of the parables and stories and themes are very interesting, and many do speak to some very basic issues of humanity. So it's good for that, but not much else, if you ask me.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Darius said...

Crystal - Yes, I saw that quote on a couple blogs recently and thought it was encouraging.

Michael - great point about Saint Paul, which adds further complexity to the whole process by which what we know as The New Testament came to be written. Unfortunately I'm not up on the gospel of Judas yet, maybe someone will fill us in. And right: whatever do we mean by "God?" Not exactly a minor point...

Coloratura - Sounds like one vote for the Bible - or bible - as a book among books. I like that word of yours - "suspicious!" Much of what's in the gospels strikes me the same, as will be clear once I get past these intoductory posts and into "A Possible Gospel."

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous SH said...

I guess I should throw in a few minority opinions and point out that even the idea that there was a historical figure of Jesus as described by the gospels is questionable. As you have mentioned we don't have any witness accounts supporting the story of Jesus. There is no direct historical evidence, no extra-biblical accounts of Jesus by his supposed contemporaries. This surprising lack of evidence together with what we know about the cultures and societies of that area around the time of alleged life of Jesus led some scholars to conclude that the entire story might be just a myth not based on a historical figure. Alternatively, some people think that the story of Jesus might be based on more than one historical personage.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

I use to quote this scripture and once believed it, until I discovered that other folks God were not necessarily my God.

What is inspiration and how do we know it?
We all know that anything that moves us; spiritually, emotionally, physically, or mentally can be inspiring. But I see inspiration is an individual thing. What inspires me may not inspire others. However, just because I am inspired by something different than what inspires others, doesn’t mean that it has less value. The Gospels were supposed to be inspired by what others saw as their God, the Supreme Being --- and they manage to convince almost everyone that this was the way. But the book called the Bible is filled with contradictions, horrors, and injustice toward women; this maybe because it was written by men. I find inspiration in all things, and as such, I can honestly say that I believe that truth can also be found in all things, because both are suggestive.

Is it still possible to write a gospel? Should it be?
Possible is an interesting word --- I use to believe that anything was possible, but in this warp society we live in --- for some this is not the case. However, I believe that anyone can write a gospel. The gospel is nothing more than a strong belief, mostly of a religious nature, but a gospel doesn’t necessarily have to be about religion. I have observed that if a belief is convincing enough, others will follow. I know you heard of the saying, “the blind leading the blind”. I have written my own gospel, and I find it more simulating and inspiring then the gospels written in the Bible.

How can we know what is or isn’t possible?
Possibilities, like unconditional love is a paradox. Everyone talk about anything being possible, but we all know that in this world of have and have nots, the haves govern the probabilities of the have nots. Because they have the power to open and close doors, be it justice or injustice, etc.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger kathy said...

" - men who had never met Jesus in the flesh and face to face – began to set these oral traditions down in writing. Some wrote gospels under the names of particular disciples because they regarded themselves as students and followers of these individuals – a common practice of the times."

you know when stories are told and retold it changes as time goes on. So how can we be sure it's the Gospel Truth?

At 1:47 AM, Blogger crystal said...

Actually, there is a secular account of the existence of Jesus ... Josephus.

At 6:55 AM, Blogger Darius said...

Sh: There is that one record though, I've read it - the first (?) Roman historian, and unfortunately I'm forgetting his name. If anyone out there knows, maybe you could help us out here. OH! I HADN'T SCROLLED DOWN YET, THANKS CRYSTAL - PLS SEE HER LINK. BTW, CRYSTAL IS THE GREATEST ON SCRIPTURE-RELATED LINKS, THANKS CRYSTAL... It's a very brief passage or two, but does appear to refer to Jesus. It's brevity is itself informative. Crucifixion was a common way of executing people, and the Romans executed lots of people. So when Jesus was crucified, it probably wasn't like in the movies with everything coming to a stop to witness this singular event...

Liquidplastic: All good points, hope people will pause to read your comment. Interesting you've written your own gospel, and wondering if you've shared it with anyone. About others' God not always turning out to be your own, I like Jim Burklo's idea (Open Christianity) that, to paraphrase him, we choose out Jesus - you could say the same of God or God the Father. In other words, as you say, there's such an assortment and variety and inconsistency of material in the bible that one person's God can end up barely resembling another's depending on what we select and emphasize.

I think the Jesus or God we choose is telling of us...

Kathy: In brief "bingo" as far as I'm concerned. And when I read the gospels, I see material ranging from what strikes me as inspired to material that strikes me as quite the opposite.

Any conservatives out there?

I've posted to several of your blogs but no one's gotten back to me here...

It's ok to post here for sure. People can have very different views and discurss them so long as they maintain repect for each other as persons.

Personally I think it's really - well, STUPID that people often get so bent out of shape because another's thinking about this stuff is different. I mean, people are being sincere. It's not like we go around deciding on our particular view of religion or scripture in order to aggravate other people...

Crystal: Thank you, per my comment above to SH...

At 7:30 AM, Anonymous SH said...

Josephus was not a secular but a Jewish historian (not that it maters all that much). As you can see from the wikipedia article Crystal linked to, two passages in Josephus that refer to Jesus are highly disputed and controversial. There is strong evidence suggesting that at least one of them was a later interpolation or modification by Christian authors. And the other passage is also a suspect.

Here is for example, what Eusebius (Christian bishop, historian and the first person to cite one of the passages in Josephus) wrote in his Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 8, chapter 2, "We shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be useful first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity." Can we trust anything this person wrote? You decide.

In any case, even in the unlikely event that the passages in Josephus are authentic, they do not and cannot represent an eye-witness account of existence of Jesus, for a simple reason that Josephus was only born around 37CE and therefore could only learn about Jesus from others (likely from Christians). Therefore, even if his mentions of Jesus are not forgeries the only thing they demonstrate is that there were people around in the first century who believed the story of Jesus to be true, which nobody disputes to the best of my knowledge.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Alexys Fairfield said...

No matter what we read or what we deem gospel, the living proof is HOW we live.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Herobill said...

Oh, Jesus was real... too many ripples not to have a pebble at their center!

Aside from that, Hi, Darius. Thanks for visiting my blog.

You certainly have a very liberal view of the NT scriptures. I'm not out to argue, either, but can I ask two questions?

One: did you come to these conclusions by careful independent study of the source documents, yourself?

Two: if you've read a lot of scholars, have you been evenhanded and read conservative scholars as well?

Three: (I lied!) Have you ever read Ramsay? His personal biography might intrigue you, perhaps.

I'm not out to argue, but curious about these things...


At 3:59 PM, Blogger Darius said...

SH - I have to agree with you that the matter of Jesus' existence is open to question - not like it can be proved - but have to say my own hunch would be the same as Herobill's above, who says that where there's that much ripple, he'd tend to assume a pebble.

Alexys - I agree. And btw, there is scriptural support for your sense that faith which is not reflected in action, or "works," is meaningless - as well as for the idea that our works don't count for much at all, if anything, and we are "justified by faith alone."

Herobill - Thanks for stopping by, and I agree with you on the pebble per my reply to SH above.

No, absolutely not - I didn't come to any conclusions on the basis of studying source documents. The scholars who do that sort of work are experts in fields like ancient languages (Greek, Aramaic), linguistics, literary analysis...

The idea that there should be scholars who are "liberal" and scholars who are "conservative" so that reading both will give you an accurate picture pretty much refutes the idea of genuine scholarship. I can only say, as in the post, that the general outlines I presented of how the The New Testament came to be written represents a very brief overview of the scholarship as it's presented by our leading divinity schools. It's mainly the faculty members of these institutions that study the source documents.

In politics and religion today there is often so much personal investment in the positions we take that the idea of objectivity seems to have gotten lost. While objectivity is never perfect, there's much more ground for discussion and agreement when folks are willing to follow the facts where they lead as conscientiously as they can, than when they decide on a position, then look around to pick and choose just those things that support their preconceived ideas.

For example, today you can always find a scientist willing to write against one of science's most empirically supported theories: evolution. Yet the very same people who think the earth is 1000 years old, rejecting the evidence provided by nuclear science (carbon dating), seem pretty convinced that nuclear missiles are real...

Haven't read the book you mention. From the link, it sounds like he argues for Acts as having been written relatively early - middle of the first century. There's also the traditional idea that John lived into very advanced old age and wrote that gospel himself. And I think there's some thought that James could have been written by James the brother of Jesus.

In general, the sketch I presented remains accurate to the best of my knowledge of biblical scholarship by scholars who take the scholarship as seriously as their faith - and really, I think, as a part of their faith committments; and who therefore do their best to follow where the evidence leads.

Again, in sum, what we've got are several decades of oral tradition circulating after Jesus' death before the books we know as The New Testament were set down in writing by members of the early church whose identities are generally anonymous and are at best in doubt.

Really appreciate your comment. It's great to be able to have different views in this area and be capable of discussing them. Seems quite - Christian...

At 5:41 PM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Hi Darius,

I am not a Christan, as you know, but appreciate all of your knowledgable posts, and wanted to come to your blog and wish you a good day.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Darius said...

Hi Barbara - Thanks for stopping by. Much of what will be looked at in this blog applies to Judaism and Islam as well, since, as Islam says, we're all "people of the book" or members of the Western tradition of scripture-based faith.

However, I really think we're all just people, so I hope most of this will also be of some interest to Buddhists, Atheists, Taoists, Agnostics, Hindus - anyone in that peculiarly human denomination...

At 6:21 PM, Blogger kevin said...

hi darius,

I guess I will be the token muslim for the moment :)

Thank you for writing this and letting people share in dialog, it is very beneficial.

I just thought I'd share an interesting tidbit. In the Quran, the Gospels are said to be revelations that were sent to Jesus, even though the various disciples penned them, they were still considered revelations that Jesus recieved.

Of course that doesn't make any the "issues" of historicity of all this less complex.

But, to me, regardless of my "identity" I wonder, how did Mark, Luke, Matthew, ect recieve these gospels? Peace be upon them all.

I mean, are the various gospels, just memories from the desciples written down? I find that hard to swallow, given the level of detail involved. I imagine they must be more than just individual reports of what happened during the life and time of Jesus.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous SH said...

I agree that if there are ripples there must be causes for them. The question one should ask, of course, is "what are these causes?" Is it a pebble? Several pebbles? A rock? Or is it just a wind? ;-)

At 6:59 PM, Blogger sirbarrett said...

I like how you complicate that question by giving an answer from Matthew himself. If all things are possible, it should be easy to tell which testaments are inspired and which aren't, which should be in the bible and which are the apocrypha.

Maybe this is a bit anachronistic to say but I think part of what makes the stories "inspired" is that they were well integrated into the culture of the time. They survived many years as an oral tradition, so people were used to telling the stories and remembering them. I thought the bible existed for thousands of years before it was written down. I'm no scholar but is this true? If that's the case than to do so would have taken belief and passion. For whatever reason, people felt it was important to remember and pass on the "good news" or gospel.

I've heard it argued that the slight variations of detail in the four acounts of Jesus's crucifixion add to it's authenticity and credibility rather than take it away. If the stories were exacly the same it would be easier to argue that they were all just copying down a shared text but the variations suggest they all experienced the scenes from different angles and that it was therefore one true situation that occured.

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Darius said...

Kevin, SH, Sirbarrett - Interesting further ideas and questions, which I basically don't have answers to, but to say what I can:

Kevin: First, great to have a Muslim commenting. Most of us know far less about Islam and Judaism - not to mention the whole realm of Eastern religions - than Christianity. So we could learn something.

According to the scholarship, the gospels don't appear to be memories that the disciples wrote down. They are thought to have been written decades after Jesus' death by anonymous members of the early Christian church that was founded in his name. It was then common for a writer to write in the name of someone he considered his teacher or mentor- thus use by the gospel authors of apostolic names.

As to what you describe as the level of detail given in the gospels, not sure that this bears on their origins or accuracy. For example, much if not most fiction is more detailed and more complex. Consider a Shakespearean play, or Greek and Roman mythology.

Speaking of details, just to toss out an interesting place where they are lacking: there is literally not one word in the New Testament about Jesus' physical appearance. The mental picture we have is entirlely a product of artistic tradition.

SH: I agree that the point of whether or not Jesus existed can't be proved one way or another. Looks like Josephus falls short of proof. And there's no going back in time.

I guess the reason I lean, and pretty strongly, toward the idea that Jesus existed is it seems like the most - I guess "elegant theory", to borrow the term from science. Other ideas strike me as more complicated and less plausible. I mean, unless, for example, there was evidence for several Jesus-like figures preaching independently, each of whom made a big impression on his followers, I'm not seeing my way clear to how that would be more likely than the idea that one such person existed.

Sir Barrett - You say, "I think part of what makes the stories 'inspired' is that they were well integrated into the culture of the time." I think you're right, and that's something I plan to get into. Certainly you could say that there weren't nearly as many "stumbling blocks," to use the biblical phrase, for 1st century Palestinian readers at a time when, for example, there was widely shared belief in the occurence of miracles and diseases were thought to be caused by demonic possession.

You might want to glance back at the last paragraph of this post under the "Thumbnail Sketch" heading concerning your thoughts about the similarities among the gospels.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Herobill said...

Hey, Darius.

All I meant by "Liberal" and "Conservative" was to describe the various conclusions reached. Not preconceived bias... necessarily! ;)

You say again that the Divinity School professors are "mainly" the ones researching [the question of the veracity of] the documents, ie, the New Testament Scriptures. Actually, there are countless professional scholars who do their research and teaching at religious institutions. Catholic, protestant and independent Seminaries and Bible Schools. Heck, even my college's Department of Philosophy had a Professor of New Testament - not that I agreed with his conclusions.

The idea that little or nothing in the NT was written in the first century is not a new suggestion. But the fact is there are plenty of scholars who have made excellent arguments in strong support of the NT's total authenticity. I think you might appreciate reading a biography of Ramsay, who started from England, with a group of German scholars who held a lot of the same views you discuss. He determined to travel the Mediterranean with a copy of Acts to prove once and for all how rediculously unreliable Luke was as a writer, but after much personal investigation, he sincerely came to the far opposite conclusion.

In my own personal, exhaustive study, I have found the internal evidence of the writings to be extremely consistent, reliable and impressive.

I am merely an amateur scholar, but I feel strongly, based on my own extensive study, that every book in the New Testament was written less than fifty years after Jesus' Resurrection.

And yes, I certainly believe in the Resurrection of Christ! :)

So that's my input for today. Thanks for the openness of this forum, and for your comments-in-reply.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Darius said...

Hi Herobill - But I'm thinking that the conclusions, if it's sound, solid scholarship conducted by qualified people, should not normally be classifiable as conservative or liberal - don't you think? I do suppose that in cases where there's real ambiguity or the evidence for something happens to be about even, then yeah, there could be a tendency for scholars to favor one or the other view according to their personal beliefs. But even there, you'd expect such scholars to come out and overtly state that the evidence doesn't clearly support one view over the other...

Right - I didn't mean that biblical scholarship is only being conducted at the top divinity schools. But I would tend, as someone not personally trying to conduct scholarly research, to trust their findings more than those associated with parochial institutions. The staff at the most respected schools tends to be very diverse in terms of denominational representation, and naturally they also tend to be tops in their fields.

To me, what I'd call the basic generality is the salient thing. It made a big impression on me because even though I had a religious upbringing, I wasn't aware of it until my twenties.

This basic generality is that the writings that would be anthologized as The New Testament were written after a period of decades during which this material was being developed as an oral tradition.

I don't think that the idea that every book was written within fifty years of Jesus' crucifixion is widely held - John, for example, is widely regarded as having been written in the latter first century. But fifty years is still a long time, especially given that the authors are basically anonymous.

So those basic findings would make me wonder how it's possible to draw the conclusion that the NT is "totally authentic," if by that you mean completely reliable concerning what it says about Jesus. The basic findings, to me, make it quite unreliable, as compared, say, to a history book or news report.

In fact it's pretty obvious that the authors had particular points of view and theological axes to grind just from reading the scripture itself. Much of it reads quite tendentiously - John, for example, presenting Jesus as saying to doubting Thomas: "Blessed are those who believe without seeing" - just in case anybody out there might also be inclined not to believe...

I appreciate your comments, perspective, and personal dedication to study. It's informative to know, for example, the range of thought out there, as in your comment that some believe that the timeline could be as short as under fifty years. And I think it's great when people of divergent views can really discuss things this way instead of shouting at each other, like in the media.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

I believe Darius; somewhere in the Bible it speaks of Jesus having “lamb’s wool hair and bronze feet” --- which indicated that he had dark skin and kinky hair. Don't ask me where to find it because I can't recall. Maybe one of your student of the Bible can put thier fingers on it quicker than I.

What disturbs me about the Bible is that it promoted slavery, and divided people by class and beliefs to the point where believers and none believers were subject to violent acts against them.

Also, to say that the God of the Bible chose one people over the others, when all were suppose to be created by this one God, is too much of a contradiction for my adult taste, even though I was raised on it in my youth.

In my lifetime, the Bible has been used to hurt the innocent, and continue to be used to stigmatize. During history it was changed by the Kings, to suit their personal desires.

These days it’s hard for me to believe in the Gospels, because just in my small world, I don’t recall any prayers being answered. There is always a very good excuse as to why they are not, but still --- at some time or another, if the Gospels do not prove themselves at face value, they are like all other stories --- there for inspiration, and believed at your own risk.

I have enjoyed reading the comments, they are very interesting, but none has surprised me. We are all very intelligent human beings. What I would like for someone to tell me is the literal meaning of this quote, and I hope I got it right –

“All the world has been fooled”

At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liquid, it means two things. (1)weak leadership in business, which has emboldened corporate bullies and people of that ilk. Weak leadership has resulted in the institution of profit maximization, which has infiltrated our daily existence. And (2)not enough average joe role models willing to live out their conscience proudly by being rugged individualists – by showing people that we are bigger than we think. All the great ones started out as average joe’s. There you are.

This meaning is as literal and relevant to our times for why “All the world has been fooled” as is anything anyone has articulated. This is my Gospel and we are all free. The Church imposes nothing — it simply proposes, and what it proposes is the Truth, and the Truth imposes itself. Your faith will save you, go and sin no more.

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Thank you Anon for your point of view.

At 4:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are thanking me then don't mention it. Follow me, for I know the way. :)

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Darius said...

LP: Maybe that passage about hair like lamb's wool is from one of the Old Testament books - like Isaiah - that the early church cited as pointing to Jesus as the Messiah? But of course that book was written long before Jesus' birth, and unless you're a believing Christian, you probably don't believe that Isaiah had specifically foreseen the historical figure of Jesus that would come along much later.

In fact there is no physical description of Jesus in the New Testament at all. I've not only read that statement, but read the NT several times.

Anonymous: I think truth does impose itself over time - because it's reality. You end up running into it one way or another.

But The Truth isn't like that. What we've got instead on the religious scene are various groups each with their own, "The Truth," working hard to convince each other they're the real thing.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Thanks Darius, I tend to think you are right, because I went back and searched and searched, and didn't come up with a description.

I also like your take on truth -- I don't put down Christianity, I just don't buy the hype, and this is base on my personal experiences with it.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Herobill said...

I'm with Liquid about the religious hype... I think!(?)

Darius - In an ideal situation, you'd be right about coming to "THE" conclusion. Personally, I love logic. But the problem with all logic is that conclusions can only be VALID based on the PREMESES which are accepted in the beginning.

Skeptics and people of Faith begin with different PREMESES. And I don't mean just the miracles, either - not by far. But in both cases

I've read plenty of (forgive me) "liberal" AND "conservative" scholars' arguments that AMAZE me when they make statements ruling out certain possibliities they can't conceive of. That - to me - is simply and purely illogical!

For example: Many "liberal" scholars conclude that Matthew must be written after 70 AD because it predicts the destruction of Jerusalem (which happened in 70 AD).

BUT HOW DO THEY KNOW that Jesus was or wasn't able to predict the future? (And I'm not arguing that point either way, here, please note.)

The truth is, both positions (that Jesus could OR could not predict the future) is an assumption. (Unless, of course we prove Matthew's early date First! While proving a late date would leave his prediction-power in question, not disprove it.)

The point is - in LOGIC, personal assumptions ALWAYS change the entire outcome! But PURE LOGIC would say this: "IF Jesus had the ability to predict the future, THEN Matthew COULD have been written before 70 AD." And PURE LOGIC would go no further, since it cannot be proven (directly) whether or not that premis is true.

So then research on Matthew should shift towards other topics.

But anyone who rules out "prophecy" is making an improper assumption. Actually, they are using their own personal belief as a premis. Ironic, eh? :)

Quickly, to be fair: It is ABSOLUTELY true that the religious scholars are (often) just as bad, about beginning with assumptions.

And personally, true confession time, I get much more upset at the religious assumptions than I do about the skeptical ones. Especially when they're designed for promoting their "hype"! ;)

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Herobill said...

By the way, a true "Skeptic" is not a doubter, but one who looks carefully and considers. I also call that a "Seeker".

I said prejudicial assumptions muck up pure logic... but eventually, most of us have to settle down with a few imperfect conclusions.

And then, whether for or against, it's called "Faith". In the sense that Athiests need to have a lot of "Faith". As a friend and Biology major once said, "The more I learn about the human body, the harder it is to NOT believe in God." :)

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darius, my response and comments to liquid was in regards to my church, not all the other religious scenes although they're certainly welcome.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm saying that I don't impose anything. Your faith will save you, go and sin no more.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Darius said...

HEROBILL: I like that definition of skeptic. Refreshing. Emphasizes the need for even-handed consideration.

As far as the body goes, I think you must have in mind the "teleological argument" for God? Logically, it doesn't work.

As you say, it's about faith. If God were about logic, then all logical people would believe in God - speaking logically!

Oops - scrolled past your first comment...

On that one, I'd agree we should be aware of our premises and be willing to examine them.

ANONYMOUS: Granted that in print you have no intonations or facial expressions to go by, but to address somebody with, "Follow me for I know the way," and "Your faith has saved you, go and sin no more," without putting it in quotes, does sort of give the impression of someone who thinks they know the Truth - no?

At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

darius, I not only think it, I know it. I'm not saying that I'm God. More like a savior in training?? If that helps.

At 5:47 AM, Blogger Darius said...

ANONYMOUS: Not all that much, but keep posting! Might become clearer as we go along. What I'm doing will become clearer too, I hope...

At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope so too brother!! much peace

At 2:54 AM, Blogger jim said...

you might consider that Jesus the man, in His time, studied in the means, methods and styles of His day. that may mean a whole lot. because out of that tradition and its several ways, Jesus would draw the Spirit and the Power to do and say the things that He did, As in the Tradition of the Word of God that He came out of, He would understand the purpose and importance of the very Words that He spoke, that they in their letter and word make up, embodied the Holy Spirit, the Jewish Ruach HaKodesh. Consider that more than any of His followers, He would know of the meaning and import of the preservation of His teachings in their original version. If He is who they say He is, He would, the Holy Spirit would, have made sure that the very Words that He spoke would be preserved for eventually full understanding.

At 5:26 AM, Blogger Darius said...

JIM: As a personal reaction to your comment, I've always found it frustrating that we see Jesus "through a glass dimly," to paraphrase St. Paul. Basically, The New Testament gives us a record of how people who didn't meet Jesus in his lifetime came to understand him by way of a long process of oral tradition.

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous SH said...

The New Testament gives us a record of how people who didn't meet Jesus in his lifetime came to understand him by way of a long process of oral tradition.

"A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."
-- Bertrand Russell

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Renee Wagemans said...

Darius as I may add a little in answer of your question...
If it is possible to write another gospel.....
I would like to quote Revelation 22:18
I am telling everyone who hears the words that are written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written in this book, God will add to him the kinds of trouble that this book tells about.

So no you can not write a new gospel, but the sory of Gods acting in men's life is still going on

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Darius said...

SH: You quote that someone with less knowledge "...unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."

There is next to nothing known of the historical Jesus because virtually our only records that he even existed are the records of the early Christian church that had already reached faith-conclusions about him.

But very honestly, my own feeling or hunch - entirely speculative, of course, because of this lack of historical knowledge - is that Jesus was probably talking over the heads even of his contemporaneous disciples. My subjective feeling when I read the gospels is learning of a highly enlightened person through the distorting lens of individuals who largely heard his message in an externalized manner because they may have lacked first-hand reference points in their own spiritual lives to grasp very much of what he was trying to say.

HI RENEE: What we have in that quote is a believing member of the early Christian church late in the first century stating that he knows the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

In upcoming posts we'll consider the kinds of things that may tend to lead someone to believe or reject this sort of truth claim, which is made repeatedly in writing by early church authors. I'd also welcome your thoughts on what makes it believable to you.

One thing about this particular quote that I personally don't care for is the tone of threat and condemnation. Muslims hold the Koran to be precisely what it condemns - additional text. They see Jews, Christians and Muslims alike as "people of the book." The Koran is so highly similar to the Bible that scholars are certain Mohammed was familiar with and highly influenced by it. So as a matter of historical fact, the book has already been added to.

At 8:02 PM, Anonymous SH said...


My subjective feeling when I read the gospels is learning of a highly enlightened person through the distorting lens of individuals who largely heard his message in an externalized manner because they may have lacked first-hand reference points in their own spiritual lives to grasp very much of what he was trying to say.

But I wonder if you read it this way because you tend to pick and choose the ideas that appeal to you as coming from "a highly enlightened person", attributing them to what Jesus "really" said. While ideas that you don't agree with you might dismiss as distortions of the followers.

Since all we have is this distorted picture, we can't tell what were his "true" words vs. later misinterpretations. It seem that we are stuck with a couple of options: assume that everything Jesus said was enlightened and some of it got corrupted. Or, what seems to be a more realistic option, suppose that in addition to later distortions Jesus himself was not perfect and some of his ideas were not as enlightened as we would like for them to be.

This brings us to an important idea. While it might be an interesting exercise to try and figure out who said what, when and what they really meant, but it should be largely irrelevant to us. The only thing that thinking people should be concerned with is whether expressed ideas make sense, are true and worthy of being followed, regardless of their source.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Darius said...

SH: Pretty much all I can say to that is I agree and well said.

I'd only qualify if with what may be a subjective impression: that much of the material in the New Testament that comes across as particularly uninspired also strikes me as highly tendentious. This makes me suspect that the least inspired parts are more likely to be misattributions by an early church trying to make certain theological points, than Jesus' words.

Of course there's no way of knowing, and I agree with your larger point.

At 8:58 PM, Blogger Tony Myles said...

So which is the real question... should a Bible about a revelatory God be able to make sense on human terms or should a Bible about an inexplainable God be unable to make sense on human terms?

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Darius said...

TONY - Neat way to phrase a perennial problem. Saint Paul, for example, repeatedly refers to the resurrection as "foolishness." Of course he's doing this in the spirit of Yankee Doodle Dandy. If I'm remembering something correctly from high school US history, "yankee doodle" or maybe the song itself, was an expression of ridicule the British had for the Americans in the Revolutionary War, but the Americans diffused it by turning it into their own song.

Saint Paul goes on to try and explain why it's not really foolishness.

So Saint Paul's use of the term, and the two thousand years of theology/apologetics that have been spent "defending the faith," clearly indicate that believers want revealed religion to make sense, or at least to the point of not truly being foolish.

So I think the answer to both of your questions is yes. Historically, we've wanted it both ways.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Samuel said...

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At 4:18 AM, Blogger Lillie said...

It was a good idea at the time.


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