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The Historical Jesus(63 posts)

The Historical JesusWayne
Sep 4, 2002 5:44 AM
I just finished reading Michael Grant's book on Jesus, published in the '70s. It gave me a great respect for the man, but left me wondering how modern Christians view him. Seems like modern Christianity has less to do with what Jesus taught and was all about, and more to do with Paul. I'd appreciate hearing from any Christians about their views of the Gospels. Based on Kristin's comments before she seemed misinformed about such things as who wrote them and when they were written. Do you learn any of this stuff in church (I really don't know I've never been)?
Grant's book also seems to pre-date the discovery of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas since he never mentions it, and I would think it would provide another piece of evidence in the search for the historical veracity of Jesus' life and teachings.
Thomas is just sayings. Pithy quotes from Jesus.scottfree
Sep 4, 2002 6:24 AM
There's no narrative as such that would shed light on the historical Jesus.

It's interesting that some of the pithy quotes from Thomas show up in the synoptic gospels, though. Definitely a common thread.
Maybe some light...Wayne
Sep 4, 2002 6:39 AM
if you're trying to get at what Jesus really taught and trying to distinguish that from what was later added by the evangelists. According to Grant, both Matthew and Luke wrote (between about 75-90 AD) their Gospels working from Mark's (which was the earliest, written somewhere around 60 AD), were ignorant of one another, worked from a common oral or possibly written source of Jesus' teachings that Mark did not possess (referred to as Q, maybe Thomas used the same?) and each had their own unique source.
Maybe some light...scottfree
Sep 4, 2002 6:58 AM
Well, if as most believe Matthew and Luke are revised versions of Mark you will see that a bunch of sayings are in Matthew and Luke that do not occur in Mark. Those sayings, it is generally agreed in scholarship, were taken by both Matthew and Luke from a mid-first century document that looks like it must have been a list of Jesus' sayings. That document is what scholars call Q. No one's ever seen it (there are no copies of it, and none cited historically), but it can be recovered by analyzing Matthew and Luke.

Anyway, Q is similar to Thomas in that it's just a list of sayings. The Gospel of Thomas is also just a list of sayings. Many of the sayings are the same, but most of the sayings in Thomas are not in Q. Thomas is the same SORT of document that Q was, but Thomas is not Q.

It looks like Thomas and Q circulated separately in the middle or the later part of the first century. Their points of view are radically different, reflecting a split that continues in Christiantity. Thomas stresses the presence of the Kingdom of God now. Q insists that the Kingdom of God will arrive at some future time. This is essentially the difference between the Gospel of John (which is secretly gnostic and Thomasian) and the other gospels, which seem more Q-like in waiting for the arrival of the Kingdom.
Sep 4, 2002 7:12 AM
I've got a book about The Gospel of Thomas so I'm sure it will touch on the relationship of it to Q. Seems like to me based on what you and Grant say, that Thomas may be "closer" to Jesus' teachings since he not only believed that he was inaugurating the Kingdom of God but that it may have begun?
Clearly this became a bit hard to argue when the Jews were crushed by the Romans, and even for the early Gentile converts who also expected the Kingdom of God soon, things went on as before.
Except here's the kicker ...scottfree
Sep 4, 2002 7:32 AM
The Kingdom that is already here isn't so much a physical 'kingdom' as a metaphysical one. Thomas/the Apostle John/the Gnostics were a lot more mystical about these things than Matthew/Luke/Mark, who were pretty hammerheaded and concrete in their view of what Jesus was about.

"A Kingdom? Well hell, we'll need a castle, a throne, a good army ..."

The Gnostics weren't much concerned with THIS world.
Hey Scottfree...Wayne
Sep 4, 2002 11:26 AM
sounds like you're pretty knowledgable about this stuff. You wouldn't have any recommendations of a new testament historicity book would you? I tried looking on Amazon but it's hard to seperate the scholarly stuff from the self-serving, reinforcing Christian dogma stuff.
maybe not what you're looking forColnagoFE
Sep 4, 2002 2:42 PM
but have you ever read "the gnostic gospels" by pagels? a good read if you are into that kind of thing.
Read about 1/3 of it last night...Wayne
Sep 5, 2002 3:44 AM
that's the book I was referring to when I said I had a book about the Gospel of Thomas. I didn't realize the find (and scope of the book) was much more extensive than just the Gospel of Thomas. I only wish she would (maybe she will?)have laid out more explicitly what each of the documents entailed.
I was going to recommend Pagels myself, butscottfree
Sep 5, 2002 5:27 AM
tell you what, check out this website:

Tons of fascinating stuff, and recommended links and books to get you are far into it as you want to go.
Thanks, that's perfect! (nm)Wayne
Sep 5, 2002 5:50 AM
what did the book say?DougSloan
Sep 4, 2002 6:25 AM
I'm curious, what was the gist of the Grant book?

His main thesis...Wayne
Sep 4, 2002 7:01 AM
was that the whole purpose of Jesus' mission was the inauguration of the "Kingdom of God". A rather poorly defined concept, but basically heaven on Earth, Jews would be liberated from the oppresive Romans, sinners would be punished, etc., etc.
Jesus really only cared about fellow Jews getting his message that the time was at hand and you better ask for forgiveness (basically the same teachings as John the Baptist). Jesus was different than the other prophets of the time because he viewed himself as the inaugurator of the Kingdom. After a few years his mission was a failure, i.e. not all that many Jews believed him, but rather than backing down he went to Jerusalem where his message was not viewed kindly. This brought him into direct conflict with the Jewish religious leaders, they sentenced him to death because he wouldn't deny he was the Son of God (although he apparently never claimed he was), a violation of the scrict Jewish monotheism. Pontius Pilate agreed with them and he was crucified, as an utter failure.
But some of his followers continued, Paul (who didn't know Jesus or even have the gospels as a source) was converted and took up the message of the crucifixation, redemption, etc. (i.e. what I think most people think of when they think of the Christian "message") and carried it to the Gentiles, while Peter stuck with the Jews. Once the Jewish revolt failed in 70 AD, Christian Jews distanced themselves from mainstream Judaism and cottled up to the Romans. And has it became clearer and clearer that the "Kingdom" might not be exactly at hand, the early church developed mostly among Hellenized Jews in Asia minor, etc. and slower spread to Gentiles over the next couple of hundred's of years until Christianity lost it's Jewish origins all together.
re: Paulanitynetso
Sep 4, 2002 7:14 AM
I believe the majority of the New Testament is Paul's opinions and outlook.
That's the impression I'm getting...Wayne
Sep 4, 2002 7:29 AM
but I don't really know. I want to find a good book on the historicity of the whole New Testament. Things I've picked up is that Paul's stuff is the earliest, but ignorant in many ways of the teachings of Jesus, even though timewise he is the closest. "Luke" is also thought to be the author of the Acts of the Apostles. None of the authors of the Gospels are known in any other context, and although they all took pseudonymes of Apostles (I think) none actually knew Jesus.
Pagels says in her "The Gnostic Gospels"Wayne
Sep 5, 2002 4:06 AM
that Luke is the largest single contributor to the new testament, followed by Paul. She also mentions (consistent with the other two books I've read on this) that few scholars today believe that any of the gospels were actually written by people who knew Jesus and therefore experienced the events they describe firsthand. But even as close to the actual writings when Ireneaus was writing in the 2nd century church belief was that Matthew and John were written by apostles and Mark and Luke by followers of apostles. Again I'd be interested in what people learn in church or what the "official" position of the catholic and other churches are on this subject.
Any word on his secular life? Status?Sintesi
Sep 4, 2002 11:03 AM
I was listening to a guy on Charlie Rose a while back and he was talking about Jesus' background and family. According to him Joseph wasn't a carpenter but rather an architect and fairly well to do at that. That would make Jesus a Brahmin of sorts which I found interesting. Might change some peoples' notions about the humility of his background. Supposedly he had siblings as well.
Sep 4, 2002 11:18 AM
Grant's book talks about that somewhat. I don't think there are any other sources than the gospels so you have to rely on them for info. I take it the Greek word that is often interpreted as carpenter, can also mean architect or mason. Also the fact that Jesus appeared pretty well schooled in Jewish theology, etc. argues he wasn't exactly a peasant. And yes Grant talks about his family somewhat, that they rejected him (basically thought he was crazy), and that his brother James became one of the early leaders of the Jewish Christian church in the decade following the crucifixtion (although I want to say he didn't convert until after Jesus' death). Grant also says Jesus was probably born in Nazareth and not Bethleham (the latter conveniently fulfills on Old Test. prophecy on top of a number of other lines of evidence that suggest it's not authentic). But that seemed to be the only really common Christian belief about Jesus' secular life that Grant talked about most scholars rejecting.
re: The Historical JesusMcAndrus
Sep 5, 2002 9:35 AM
It is an unfortunate truth that the modern church does a very poor job of teaching its members about many, many things. Let me give you an example.

A seminal event in Christian history is the story commonly called "Saul on the Road to Damascus." As you may know, that is where Saul (Paul) had his vision of Jesus: the vision that converted him from Jew to Christian.

I grew up Presbyterian, went through along agnostic period, and in my late thirties professed in a Reformed church. Even though I went through childhood and teen years regularly attending church I never heard the Damascus story until I was 38. How is it possible that such an important event went untold? Even at the advanced age of 50, I believe I've heard the Damascus story twice in a sermon.

Depending on your denomination, modern Christians can be well informed or frighteningly ignorant of church history - particularly in the reliability of the gospels and the evolution of doctrine.

There are two common non-Biblical references to Jesus to show that he did, in fact, exist. One of them I forget the name of but the other is a long history of the Jews by a man named Josephus. I believe Josephus was a first century Jew and he ended up living in Rome. His most famous work is The Jewish War which is a history of the bloody fight between Rome and the Jews in the mid-first century which ended in the destruction of the Temple and the diaspora (dispersement) of the Jewish nation which in many ways continues to today. Josephus contributes little to our understanding of Jesus because he identifies Jesus only as an itinerant preacher. The important point is that there is a secular history to show that Jesus really did live and is not the fiction of a religious cult.

I'm not familiar with Grant's work but I surmise from the other comments in this thread that Grant identifies Christianity as largely Pauline. If so, Grant's opinion is correct. Paul had the greatest impact on the structure of Christianity, Peter had the second greatest, and John the third.

Also, Jesus had several brothers and sisters one of whom was James who became the head of the Jerusalem sect of Christianity. He is often confused with the disciple James who was martyred. Jesus brother James was the author of the Book of James and if you read it and compare it to Paul's letters you'll find a stark contrast in subject and emphasis. James wrote a book about what today would be called the doctrine of works while Paul wrote about the doctrine of faith.

If you want you can pick up a book called "Paul: The Mind of the Apostle" by A.N. Wilson. It is an excellent and easy-to-read analysis of both Roman history, Paul, and the early church. Wilson is not a Christian but is very honest about his biases and taught me a lot about the world Jesus and Paul lived in.

The second most important person in the New Testament is Paul because Paul was what he called "The Apostle to the Gentiles." In other words, were it not for Paul, Christianity might still be a sect of Judaism and not its own religion. James and Peter were, in fact, quite content to stay in Jerusalem and work only within the Jewish nation. It was Paul who forced the issue and created a rift between James and Peter. Peter accepted the need to convert the Gentile peoples and eventually went to Rome - although this is not in the Bible. James stayed at home in Jerusalem and disappeared from the story.

The seminal work of Paul is the Book of Romans. It is a masterpiece of what we today call theology and it is the foundation of the doctrines of the Christian church.

The four books that comprise the story of Jesus are commonly called the Gospels although people confuse the term with the entire New Testament. Of these, two were written by Jesus' original disciples: Matthew and John. Mark and Luke were written by disciples of disciples (if you will): Mark was a disciple of Peter and Luke was a disciple of Pete
I'm with you right up...Wayne
Sep 5, 2002 10:09 AM
until your last paragraph, as pretty much everything you say (and much more) is in the history books I've read. All the scholarly stuff I've read indicates that the gospels are not first-hand accounts of Jesus' life. In particular it would be hard to argue that "John" was John the disciple since that wasn't written until the early part of the 2nd century AD. Anyway, check out the link scottfree posted as it has about as much info. and info. on where to get more info. as you could possibly want about this subject. And rather than making statements it links you to essays and such by historians that argue they're various hypotheses so you can decide for yourself.
Right, and on that site you'll find thatscottfree
Sep 5, 2002 10:57 AM
the authenticity of the Josephus references to Jesus is in hot scholarly dispute.

Yeah but...Wayne
Sep 5, 2002 11:05 AM
I don't think anybody seriously argues that Jesus didn't exist, do they?
Well, I guessscottfree
Sep 5, 2002 11:28 AM
most people would agree that SOMEBODY probably named Jesus was up to something in Judea around Year 0 that led to the explosion of something called Christianity.

But historial evidence for exactly who that was and exactly what he was up to and exactly what happened to him amounts to almost nothing -- Josephus is the best we have, and I think the text of Josephus is pretty suspect. No WAY Josephus wrote 'He was the Christ' in that passage. Some later Christian scribe has pretty clearly jacked around with the text.

There simply is no record of Jesus other than the Gospels and the apocryphal writings, which had their own politico-religious motivations, and so are suspect too if you're looking for FACT.

I figure Jesus existed, but more than likely he was a pissed-off redneck Jew originally out to screw with the Roman oppressors (and the smug Pharisees), who discovered that religion was a powerful tool of politics, and who somehow stumbled onto a terrific religious truth kind of against his will. What a character!
From what little I've read...Wayne
Sep 5, 2002 11:40 AM
I'd agree on the pissed-off redneck Jew part, but I don't think he gave the Romans any thought, he was concerned with the Jews, and probably legitimately believed he was bringing in the Kingdom of God. To such an extent that he went to Jerusalem with the likely outcome being getting axed by the head Jews in charge.
I think, quite ironically, Paul who didn't even know Jesus stumbled onto the great religious "truth" of the crucifixion, resurrection, and redemption. And early church people combined the Jewish prophecies of the spiritual messiah with the suffering servant story and it worked, big time.
If you really want to approach early Xtianity & Jesus in ascottfree
Sep 6, 2002 5:29 AM
scholarly way, check this out:
You're just a wealth of information! (nm)Wayne
Sep 6, 2002 5:40 AM
I heard somewhereDougSloan
Sep 5, 2002 11:46 AM
I heard somewhere that there was more evidence that Jesus not only existed, but was resurrected, than Julius Caesar even existed. Anyone have a reference for that?

That's ridiculous...Wayne
Sep 5, 2002 1:23 PM
Julius Caesar's name is inscribed on coinage, monuments, etc. all over Europe, and well documented in any number of historical works, and left us his own written works (such as The Conquest of Gaul).
The resurrection (and life and teachings for that matter) of Jesus is only recounted in the gospels (he is barely mentioned by Josephus and I think one other historian) which of course have a vested interest in reporting resurrection stories, and even so, often they are not very concrete stories (and we're written well after the "fact"). I think you could see how it would have benefitted the disciples to claim to have seen the risen Christ. In fact, Peter who I think makes the strongest statements about hanging out with the resurrected Christ, is also the one who benefitted the most from such an "occurance".

Doug, if I didn't know you better, I'd think you were trolling!
Check out "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobeljaybird
Sep 6, 2002 11:35 AM
This is a very interesting and insightful book on the historical Jesus. All of the information is found from sources other than the Bible. You can get it at any Barnes & Nobel or Amazon.
Interesting maybe...Wayne
Sep 6, 2002 1:09 PM
unbiased hardly...
I couldn't find the authors name on the website scottfree provided so I got suspicious. A quick google search turned this up:

I'm not really interested in apologists writings but stuff that is as unbiased as possible. This area in particular seems as to have a great deal of chaff mixed in with the wheat.
Sep 7, 2002 5:14 AM

Your definition of unbiased seems to be "anything that supports my position".

This is the very definition of bias. The same seems to be true of the use of the words "scholarly" and "mainstream".
What's my position?Wayne
Sep 9, 2002 3:16 AM
It's not hard to differentiate between scholarly work (i.e. done by historians who publish in peer reviewed journals) and a reporter who selectively interviews scholars and writes a book that doesn't present the many sides of something as hard to decipher as historical events, etc.
What's my position?DJB
Sep 9, 2002 12:15 PM
"...but it's hard to seperate the scholarly stuff from the self-serving, reinforcing Christian dogma stuff."

"I'm not really interested in apologists writings but stuff that is as unbiased as possible."

Both of these comments indicate to me that you assign bias to only to one side, and that all Christian writing is biased and agenda driven. Do you really want me to believe that Pagels or the Jesus Seminar are ideologically neutral and are only seeking the truth?

Why do you totally ignore the actions of the early church? You say that the Disciples had a "vested interest"; in preaching the Resurrection. What were those interests? I don't think stoning; beheading and other fates are much of a career choice, do you? And if they were preaching the Resurrection only for personal gain, don't you think they would have given it up before the torture started? After all, I would imagine it pretty hard to go to your death claiming the salvation of Jesus through the Resurrection when you knew it all to be a scam. What was their point?

Who benefited more from their works, Pagels and the JS or the Disciples?

You also mention Paul as the writer of much of the NT. This of course is true. But you don't mention the circumstances of Paul's pre-conversion life. Paul was a young, highly educated Jew who had a Roman father (you could say he had dual citizenship). His father was also a Pharisee. So Paul is one of the establishment who was an early persecutor of the Christians. He was present when Stephen was stoned and was on his way to Damascus to look for Christians there when his conversion took place. Following his conversion, Paul maintains his stance on Jesus up to his death after his 2nd trial in Rome. Didn't Paul have much more to gain by staying within the establishment and persecuting Christians? How do you account for his actions under your "vested interest" theory?

I also wanted to ask about your frequent comments on the Gospel of Thomas or any other of the Gnostic works. How are they any more reliable (by your standards) than the canonical Gospels? Who wrote them? Where is the proof?

It seems that you're willing to accept Pagels' underlying theory that the mere existence of any document deviating from canon must prove that the early Church discarded it for merely political reasons. If that is true, you must believe the guy who insists that cars would be getting 100 m.p.g. today if only 'Big Detroit' and 'Big Oil' hadn't conspired to keep his 'miracle carburetor' off the market.

While I hadn't read the G of T before, I checked it out after reading this thread. One of the sites I looked at had a good chart of all the sayings in Thomas (both Greek and Coptic) along with any applicable corresponding verses from the Bible.

The page is: (it's a Christian site, but a fairly impartial one, IMO.)

When I compare the sayings, I'm struck by a lot of things.

Some are theological:

Did heaven and earth really coming in to being for the sake of James the Just (Thomas 12)?

Are you really condemned for prayer and will charity really harm your spirit(s)? (Thomas 14)

Why does Thomas 55 contradict the Commandment "Honor thy Father and Mother..."?

Does God really love the lost sheep more? Isn't there a difference between loving and rejoicing over? (Thomas 107)

Some concern the speech of Jesus. I guess I would describe this as being unable to think that Jesus spoke in that manner. Not what He says, but how He says it. I call it the "weirdness" factor.

Some examples are: 11, 18, 22(!), 37, 60, 67, 72, 92, 105, 109.

And of course, my all time favorite -- 114!! I'd love to hear your take on that one.

As I read over this, I hope it doesn't seem too contentious. I'm truly interested in your thoughts.
Sep 10, 2002 3:06 AM
I would agree with alot of what your saying. I really don't know enough about the Jesus Seminar to have an opinion. From what I've read of Pagels I don't think she would argue it was "merely" for political reason that it was rejected but that that was a factor.
Personally, from the little I know, I wouldn't put nearly as much weight behind the Nag Hammadi finds as behind the new testament gospels in trying to understand Jesus. As far as who wrote them, everything I've read indicates that there's no better knowledge as to who wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke and John than who wrote Thomas, Mary, etc. So that arguement isn't a good one.
I think you misunderstand me, if you think I believe that christianity is a purposeful scam perpetrated by the early followers of Christ and perpetuated by the early church. I fully believe that what Paul and the disciples experienced was real to them. Now that doesn't mean Pauls experience was necessarily a visit from God (which is your bias) but could have been any number of things (which is my bias). What's important for history is that he believed it was God, coverted to Christ, took his message to the Gentiles and was ultimately martyred for his belief.
I've ignored the last part, because your fundamental assumption that I attach more authenticity to the Gospel of Thomas' statements is wrong. I'm sure people have done the work to match up Gospel of Thomas stuff with NT gospel stuff as far as fitting it with Jesus' style. Afterall, some of the NT statements of christ are rejected because they're out of style with the majority of the stuff attributed to him (and often can clearly be seen as motivated by early church political/social/theological concerns that Jesus wouldn't have cared about). So you are using the same techniques (in part) to analyze the Gospel of Thomas as historians apply to the whole new testament to try to figure out authenticity. Is there anything wrong with that, or do you feel we should just throw our hands up and take the NT and the gospels as dogma?
Sep 12, 2002 12:52 PM
From Miriam-Webster:

Date: 1638
1 a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet b : a code of such tenets c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds
2 : a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church

I gather that your use of the word is basically combining the 2 meanings. If so, then my answer is no. I don't think I would accept what the church says without adequate grounds. But in saying that, I don't believe that the NT is dogma of the unsubstantiated type.

You have to realize that the whole issue of not knowing who wrote the Gospels or in what order they were written, or who copied from whom is complete speculation. "Q" is just a theory. It's all a matter of deconstruction (of a divine Jesus).

I mentioned the Jesus Seminar because they are currently the most visible proponents of a totally secular (historical) Jesus, which seems to be the way you're thinking. You ought to take a look at their book, The Five Gospels. In it, they explain some of the methodology that they used when they decided whether or not a saying or word attributed to Jesus was really said by him. I'll mention only two (I'm paraphrasing). 1. A saying of Jesus had to go against the established religious standards of the day. The phase about bringing the children unto Him is put in red (or pink) because it went against the tradition of the day. 2. The rules for authentication were basically flip-flopped. Instead of proving the saying if false, and otherwise accepting it, the burden of proof was put on the acceptance of the saying.

There are many other items there, but the bottom line is that they started out with their end result in mind (a secular, counter-culture, politically correct Jesus) and only accepted as valid that which supports their conclusion. It certainly doesn't seem "scholarly" to me. Don't take my work for it, though, read the book.

But also do yourself a favor and read up on the other side of the argument. A site I found the other day is I went through the Apologetics section, as well as a few others. (hey, if I can read stuff from the JS, you can at least take a look!) Just ask yourself this question. Is this guy saying "believe me because I say so", or are his arguments based on historical evidence? Remember, scholarly doesn't refer to results or outcomes, but to methodology and intent.

I don't think that bias (on either of our parts) has anything to do with what we think Paul or the Disciples experienced. It's just our opinions. I'm curious, though, as to what you thought is was, if not a risen Jesus?
I don't know why anybody trying to understand...Wayne
Sep 13, 2002 4:17 AM
Jesus would be concerned with PC but I'll take your word for it. Any understanding of historical figures can only be done in the context of the time they lived. Thus, if you ignore the fact Jesus was a religious Galilean Jew living in the early 1st century how can you possibly hope to understand anything about his life and viewpoint?
I simply don't believe Jesus was resurrected for any number of reasons. If you want to believe it, believe it, but recognize that you're doing so based all most entirely on faith not because there is anything but the most tenuous historical evidence to support it and even some of that doesn't support a literal view that there was physical Jesus walking on the earth after he died!
Faith and the historical JesusDJB
Sep 13, 2002 7:10 PM
First of all, you're absolutely right about faith. I regret not specifying that earlier. But faith that is supported by the actions of the Disciples and early Christians in the 1st century.

But I only want to answer the first paragraph here and respond about the Resurrection and faith after your post on the Resurrection, below.

I don't know why you think I want to ignore the historical circumstances and structures of Jesus' day. I think that's very important. But to focus only on that is to strip Jesus of His divinity.

People like the Jesus Seminar (again, I only mention the JS because they are the current 'poster boys' of the secular (non-divine) Jesus crowd) attempt to say that all the divine aspects of Jesus were 'imposed' upon Him after His death. But to do so, they use some amazing criteria to determine what Jesus did or didn't say. For example, on page 31 of 'The Five Gospels', they have the following 2 statements:

- 'Jesus' sayings and parables cut against the social and religious grain'.


- 'Jesus' sayings and parables surprise and shock: they characteristically call for a reversal of roles or frustrate ordinary, everyday expectations'.

Now, if the JS was commenting on characteristics of Jesus' sayings, I wouldn't have a problem with that. But they are using statements like that to judge whether or not a saying was actually said by Jesus. In other words, they had an image of who they wanted Jesus to be (that's where the PC comes in), and rejected any statement that didn't fit their template.

An analogy (intended to be ludicrous) would be to claim that Martin Luther King was secretly a white supremacist. I could then study the 'I Have A Dream' speech and cross out anything I didn't think a white supremacist would say. I doubt that there would be much that passed that test.

They use similar tactics when they declare that Matthew and Luke used Mark as their source. It all based on their belief in the existence of 'Q', which on page 3 they describe as 'hypothetical'. It doesn't exist.
Sep 16, 2002 3:47 AM
when you say "it's all based on their belief in Q", you've gotten some stuff muddled up. Matthew and Luke are thought to use Mark because they recount some stories and sayings largely verbatim. If they were both writing from their own memories or from an oral tradition what's the likelihood that events and sayings would be the exact same? Also Mark predates the other two making it possible that they had it as a source. This is why M & L are thought to use Mark as a source, Q has nothing to do with it.
Q is inferred because in addition to Matthew and Luke containing common material that is seen in Mark, they also contain another block of sayings (not narrative) that again are largely verbatim. Thus historians infer that a document existed that contained sayings of Jesus. The Gospel of Thomas is such a document, which would at least support the idea that this type of material was in circulation at this time.
Matthew and Luke also contain original, but different (sometimes conflicting) material which indicates that they were probably working independent and ignorant of one another, at approximately the same time in the mid to late 1st century.
Am I 'muddled'DJB
Sep 18, 2002 1:07 PM
I wouldn't be surprised in the least. I only started looking into this after you began this thread. For which I' grateful, by the way.

But as far as "Q"; goes, this is what I was referring to:

From "The Five Gospels" (page 3):

"By 1900 the third and fourth pillars of modern critical scholarship were also in place. The recognition of the Gospel of Mark as prior to Matthew and Luke, and the basis for them both, is the third pillar. A fourth pillar was the identification of the hypothetical source Q as the explanation for the "double tradition" -- the material Matthew and Luke have in common beyond their dependence on Mark."

As you can see, the theory about Mark preceding Matthew and Luke is fairly recent, and depends on Q as part of its foundation. I' not saying that the theory about the priority of Mark couldn't exist without Q, but something is needed to fill in the gaps of that theory.

Since I think all 4 Gospels were written independently, I would only question your use of the word "ignorant". Do you mean that you don't think they knew each other at all, or only that they didn't know the other was working on a Gospel?
I don't think anybody can say...Wayne
Sep 19, 2002 4:08 AM
if they knew one another or not because outside of the hints that the gospels themselves provide next to nothing is known about who the actual authors of the 4 gospels were. So i guess ignorant means they weren't privy to each other's works since they contradict each other in regards to their original material.
I've always wondered about this 'risen Jesus' business.scottfree
Sep 13, 2002 8:34 AM
I'm hard pressed to see WHY a resurrection is so important. Seems to me:

(a) If Jesus were indeed a God, of COURSE he would/could rise from the dead. What's so surprising? WHat's so special?

(b)Doesn't throwing a supernatural element into the Jesus story actually DILUTE his message and the truly amazing things he said and did?

Here's this real smart fellow, roaming around Judea with a gaggle of dimwitted disciples (even HE thought so), saying just the most astounding things in ways they'd never been said before, behaving EXACTLY as a Son of God would/should behave, everything about him is just cool as hell, and you're just about ready to say, yep, here comes the true religion, this New Testament is the real deal, boy, and POOF -- some bonehead disciple's disciple or paid flack throws in a rip-snorting supernatural 'rise from the dead' scene that just takes the air out of the whole till-now rock-solid thing.

I dunno. The Cross is good. The 'Why have you forsaken me?' thing is just perfect, it makes everything credible. Then they throw in something NOT credible.

It's always really baffled me.
What doesn't fit for me...Wayne
Sep 13, 2002 9:03 AM
is if he was so concerned with getting his message out that he went to Jerusalem knowing he very well may be executed, why when he rises from the dead does he only show up to the disciples (and a few others over the course of 40 days). Why not just march into the middle of the Temple and say guess what boys you f***ed up big time, and here I am. Doubt me now!
All of sudden he goes from a prosyletizing public figure to somebody operating on the sly. It seems silly to believe he literally rose from the dead, and even it seems several of the testimonials in the NT make it clear that they didn't see a physical Jesus walking around just like he was before his crucifixion.
It was all in the plan...DJB
Sep 13, 2002 8:34 PM
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied about the life and death of Jesus in Isaiah 53. It wasn't the job of Jesus to get the message out, that was the job of the Disciples. Jesus was here only to serve as the perfect sacrifice.

I believe there are passages that state that Jesus appeared to a large number of people at some point, but I still take your point. He could have appeared to many more. The question should be, why doesn't God just appear to each of us? Why not give us proof? I think the answer is that God wants us to love Him of our own free will. Jesus appeared to enough people to prove that His resurrection wasn't a myth, but not so many so as to not require the rest of us to use faith in order to believe in Him.

The people that claimed to see Jesus were not acting in faith, they knew the truth. History records their actions even in the face of severe persecution and death. No one changed their story to save their own skin. Because they knew the truth.
The Crucifixion/Resurrection is EVERYTHING!!DJB
Sep 13, 2002 8:05 PM
Without the resurrection, Jesus would have just been another guy who thought he had it figured out, only to learn that he was mistaken. But the resurrection shows that we do not need to fear death for we are promised the same thing.

As far as your 2 questions, I offer two answers:

(a) You're right. We wouldn't be suprised that a god can raise himself. The 'special' thing about it is that God sent Jesus to Earth in the first place. To have your divine son put in a human body, to walk around sharing our experiences. Jesus went through all the worst things life has to offer. From a borrowed manger and the stigma of being considered illegitimate, to being betrayed by one of His own, arrested, tried and executed in one of the most brutal ways ever devised. On the cross, Jesus actually became our sin in God's eyes. That Jesus was willing to go through that and suffer our punishment means that no matter what we go through, He can say: 'I understand'.

(b) Without the crucifixion/resurrection, all we would have is another list of things to do or ways to act. We would still be trying to earn our way into Heaven by our own actions. But with the resurrection, we have the promise of God's grace. Something that is undeserved and freely given. Without the resurrection, Jesus' life would have been meaningless.

I agree with you though. It is baffling!! (but for a different reason).
The Crucifixion/Resurrection is EVERYTHING!!DJB
Sep 13, 2002 8:34 PM
Without the resurrection, Jesus would have just been another guy who thought he had it figured out, only to learn that he was mistaken. But the resurrection shows that we do not need to fear death for we are promised the same thing.

As far as your 2 questions, I offer two answers:

(a) You're right. We wouldn't be suprised that a god can raise himself. The 'special' thing about it is that God sent Jesus to Earth in the first place. To have your divine son put in a human body, to walk around sharing our experiences. Jesus went through all the worst things life has to offer. From a borrowed manger and the stigma of being considered illegitimate, to being betrayed by one of His own, arrested, tried and executed in one of the most brutal ways ever devised. On the cross, Jesus actually became our sin in God's eyes. That Jesus was willing to go through that and suffer our punishment means that no matter what we go through, He can say: 'I understand'.

(b) Without the crucifixion/resurrection, all we would have is another list of things to do or ways to act. We would still be trying to earn our way into Heaven by our own actions. But with the resurrection, we have the promise of God's grace. Something that is undeserved and freely given. Without the resurrection, Jesus' life would have been meaningless.

I agree with you though. It is baffling!! (but for a different reason).
Guess maybe I'm more impressed with Jesus thanscottfree
Sep 16, 2002 10:58 AM
you Christians are. It doesn't TAKE some bogus resurrection fairy tale for me to see him as divine. The things he said, the way he said them, and the magnificent way he died are proof enough for me. To say "Without the resurrection, Jesus's life would have been meaningless" is to downgrade Jesus severely, it seems to me.

Hell, I'd be a Christian myself if it weren't for this resurrection business!

(Obviously I'm not in any way questioning your faith. Just arguing a point of theology/Christology that's driven me mad for years!)
Guess maybe I'm more impressed with Jesus thanDJB
Sep 18, 2002 1:02 PM
I'm curious how anyone can be impressed with Jesus without a resurrection. It seems to me that if some guy had said some of the things He did (see below), but didn't show that he could deliver on those promises, I would think him to be more than a little "kooky". Without the resurrection, what meaning would his words have? They would have been just that. Words. What meaning would the crucifixion have? It wouldn't have accomplished anything, but would've just been a violent death, proving nothing more than the cruelty of men. Jesus would still be lying in a tomb, dead, offering us no hope.

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me." John 14:16

"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." John 6:35

"I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he life, and whoever lines and believes in Me shall never die." John 11:25-26

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and the follow Me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." John 10:27-28

"The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when He is killed, after three days He will rise." Mark 9:31

Christians celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection because not only did Jesus promise these things to all who believe in Him (and His sacrifice was made for everyone), He showed us that He could do it.
Well, you can be impressed with Jesus...Wayne
Sep 19, 2002 4:13 AM
as an historical figure and the impact he has had on history without taking the leap of faith and believing he was the son of god and died to forgive humanities sins, etc., etc.
something to think about....jaybird
Sep 8, 2002 6:45 PM
I find it very interesting that there is so much "scholarly" discussion on a faith-based religion. Ever wondered why people have such a hunger to know more about Jesus? It takes more than good research, it takes a little bit of faith. Most Believing Christians would agree that the Bible without belief or faith is just another literary document. It may not mean much to you to quote scripture, but check out Mark 4:9-12 : "He who has ears to hear, let him hear. When he was alone, the twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, The Secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside, everything is said in parables, so that, they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing, but never understanding; otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven."

Just out of curiosity, How is it that you have such a strong grasp of the historical foundation of christianity but have never been to church? I just find it interesting... I would suggest taking your questions to someone on a ministerial staff. There are many highly educated and very scholarly people out there whose job it is to answer questions like yours.

Best wishes in your quest for knowledge.
Thanks for the advice...Wayne
Sep 9, 2002 3:29 AM
and if I ever bump into a minister I will bring up the subject. But I'm really interested in the history and historical interpretations, so I'll stick with the history books (although I will read the new test. probably). Yes, Jesus' style of teaching via parables was probably one of the things that made him so attractive as a teacher (and so open to differing interpretations after the fact). Funny, the quote you mention was in part used as a justification for gnostic belief in a Christian mystery. That is, there was secret knowledge passed on by Jesus to the disciples, and you could gain that knowledge by joining up and passing through a gnostic congregation.
Yeah, Gnosticism rears its ugly head in Mark! Good catch.scottfree
Sep 9, 2002 9:21 AM
John is drenched in Gnostic mystery, but the other three gospels were pretty purged. This passage is an anomaly for sure.

As for the previous post, we could ask (apologies to Kiekegarrd et al) if faith is a form of knowledge? Or is it a leap?

Maybe futzing around in the ancient history of the Church(or rather, the Faith) is a better way to arrive at knowledge, or ready oneself for the leap, than going to church and talking to preachers.
Couldn't any of the...Wayne
Sep 9, 2002 9:43 AM
protestant religions also be considered psudeo-gnostic. As I understand it the catholic position easentially was (is) that salvation can only be achieved through the church because it was established by the apostles who have special status because of personal visits by the resurrected Christ? The gnostics were heretics because they thought you could personally understand God/Christ by your own experience and therefore the apostles/church weren't the only ones with special status.
I guess maybe I should read up on the reformation as well. I would think if you were a Christian you'd have to be a catholic to achieve salvation, but I'm sure I'm missing something essential to the protestants rejection of the catholic church, but I assume, still some claim of specialness due to apostolic heritage.
No connection I can see betweenscottfree
Sep 9, 2002 10:24 AM
Protestantism and Gnosticism. 'Gnosis' and 'a personal relationship with God' are two very different concepts, I think.

I guess I was thinking in the broadest sense...Wayne
Sep 10, 2002 3:23 AM
that Gnostics claimed you didn't need the Catholic church to achieve salvation and protestants claim the same thing. I'm probably way over the line here though as I'm sure the most liberal protestant church is more conservative than the gnostics were.
Sep 9, 2002 12:22 PM
My understanding (limited) of the meaning of Gnosticism is that we humans have a spirituality within us that can be unlocked through intellectual (secret) knowledge. Yes? Does this include any form of salvation/eternal life? One that doesn't require a Divine/Resurrected Jesus?

If so, can you give me any examples of how you think John is Gnostic?

Can't help you...Wayne
Sep 10, 2002 3:17 AM
I think your right about the essence of Gnosticism. I've seen some passing references in some of the stuff I've read that says John MAY have had some gnostic tendencies (Paul as well). But I'm not familiar with the basis for this arguement or the gospel to provide any justification. I imagine if you look at that webpage scottfree provided you can find something on the subject.
Probably important to remember that when Paul (around 40-60AD) and John (written probably early in the 2nd century) were operating Gnosticism probably wasn't that big of a concern to the church. But by the time of Irenaeus in the mid 2nd century and over the next couple of hundred years it became a major heresy which was squashed when the church acquired political power through the conversion of the Roman government.
John, just read him and marvelscottfree
Sep 10, 2002 5:30 AM
at how different it it from the other three Gospels. There's this really advanced theology presented -- a genuine Christology, for example -- that the synoptics lack. And there's this talky-talky Jesus (he's called The Word in John, after all) who sounds nothing like the 'other' Jesus of the synoptics, who's gathered these folks together and is sharing this double-secret knowledge (gnosis) that will get them to Heaven.

I'm not saying John IS gnostic, I'm just saying it had gnostic VIBES all over it.
Sep 13, 2002 5:21 AM
"Based on Kristin's comments before she seemed misinformed about such things as who wrote them and when they were written. "

Wayne, if you are going to insult me, how about backing the insult up with a little bit of something factual? On what basis are you claiming I'm misinformed? And on whose expertise? Yours? After reading one book and only having thought on the subject for a few weeks? If you believe you know more than me, thats fine. If you don't agree with what I say, that's fine too. But don't insult my intelligence publically without giving any evidence to that end! That's simply mean and rude.
You said the gospels...Wayne
Sep 13, 2002 6:05 AM
were written by Jesus's disciple. EVERYTHING I've seen from lots of different sources indicates that that was not the case. I apologize if my memory failed me, but I do not consider saying someone is misinformed as insulting or else I wouldn't have said it. Even if my memory didn't fail me, I apoligize because it was not my intention to insult you and I certainly wasn't questioning your intelligence.
I never said that...Kristin
Sep 13, 2002 7:30 AM
If you go back and review all of my posts on the subject, you will find that I never said the gospels were written by the original twelve disciples. Its a well known fact that Doctor Luke may never have met Jesus. What I said was that in order for a letter to be accepted as part of the evangelical canon, the author could be NO MORE THAN ONCE REMOVED from Jesus. That means that the author had to have been EITHER a disciple of Jesus directly OR be a disciple of one of the twelve.

For instance, a letter was omitted from the evangelical bible because it was written by Barnabas, who was one of Pauls diciples. It was omitted on the basis that Paul was not one of the original twelve, nor did Paul spend any time with Jesus before his death. Now there has been a substantial amount of debate over the letter by Barnabas. Why? There two primary schools of thought around Pauls role in the church.

A historical review (based primarily on biblical texts): Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus to the Sanhedrin. Jesus is arrested and put to death. Judas then hangs himself in a field he purchased with the money the Sanhedrin paid him. After three days, Jesus appears to the twelve disciples and tells them he is leaving, but will send a councilor in his place. He appears to about 450 other people before ascending into heaven. After his ascention, the disciples wait in Jerusalem for the promised councilor to arrive. During that time, the eleven remaining disciples cast lots to choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot. The lot fell to Matthias who was deemed the twelfth disciple. Later on, a Jewish political leader named Paul, was knocked from his horse by a bolt of lightening while on his way to execute members of Jesus' new sect. Paul claims that he had a personal encounter with Jesus at that time and became blind. Three days later, he was healed from his blindness. From that point on, he became a follower of Jesus and was later executed by the Sanhedrin for his teaching in Jesus' name.

Some scholars believe that Matthias was God's chosen replacement for Judus, thus granting him the full status of the other eleven disciples. Other scholars believe that Matthias was not God's chosen, but rather Paul. They believe that the disciples, not knowing what else to do, chose to elect someone using a method that that "hoped" would be God's leading. If Paul was Gods indended, then Barnabas' letter is acceptable as biblical text. If Paul was not God's intended, then it is not.

I'm not enough of a scholar myself to speak directly to this. I can only make the observation that Paul's role in the early church seems to be much more substantial than Mattias'.

Matthew 26:14-56
Matthew 26:57-27:56
John 20:19-23
Acts 2
Acts 9
I thought PaulWayne
Sep 13, 2002 9:09 AM
& Peter were both martyred in Rome?
Doesn't the apostolic heritage also have something to do with the resurrected Christ also. I think I remember reading that the physically resurrected Christ was only considered to have appeared to the disciples, whereas others who claimed to have seen/been visited by him only experienced a spiritual christ. Or maybe this was just something Irenaeus used to rail against the gnostics at the time, and it subsequently wasn't incorporated into church theology?
Yes, you're absolutely bad.Kristin
Sep 13, 2002 9:56 AM
I'm sorry, I wrote that pretty quickly and didn't proof. I think they say that Nero killed Paul. I did a little follow up research to see if the Sanhedrin would have had a hand in turning Paul over to Rome (he was arrested in Jerusalem). Its hard to say because the Sanhedrin's power was disolved right around that time. It seems that everything collapsed in the Roman Empire pretty quickly. I've pasted a short exerpt regarding the end of the Sanhedrin below.

Regarding whether or not people so a "spiritual" Christ or a real Christ, I don't know. I've never heard that argument before. One text states that either 400 or 500 people saw Jesus before he ascended...I can't find it right now though. Does anyone know the reference??? I haven't delved into it too deeply. Question: What would it mean if some people saw Jesus in spiritual form and others in human form?

.*********reference text taken from the Catholic Dictionary********.
But this condition of affairs was not to last; for after the deposition of the Ethnarch and the annexation of Judea to the Roman province of Syria (A. D. 6), the Sanhedrin, under the control of the procurators, became the supreme authority of the Jewish people; only capital sentences pronounced by the assembly perhaps needed confirmation from the Roman officer before they could be carried into execution. Such was the state of things during the public life of the Saviour and the following thirty years (Matt., xxvi, 57; Mark, xiv, 55; xv, 1; Luke, xxii, 66; John, xi, 47; Acts, iv, 15; v, 21; vi, 12; xxii, 30; xxiii, 1 sq.; xxiv, 20; "Antiq.", XX, ix, 1; x; "Bell. Jud.", II, xv, 6; "Vita", 12, 13, 38, 49, 70). Finally when the misgovernment of Albinus and Gessius Florus goaded the nation into rebellion, it was the Sanhedrin that first organized the struggle against Rome; but soon the Zealots, seizing the power in Jerusalem, put the famous assembly out of the way. Despite a nominal resurrection first at Jamnia, immediately after the destruction of the Holy City, and later on at Tiberias, the great Beth-Din of Jerusalem did not really survive the ruin of the nation, and later Jewish authors are right when, speaking of the sad events connected with the fall of Jerusalem, they deplore the cessation of the Sanhedrin (Sota, ix, end; Echa Rabbathi on Lam., v, 15).
My understanding...Wayne
Sep 13, 2002 10:20 AM
is that the early catholic church based it's authority on apostolic succession or heritage, in part. Because the death/resurrection became the central theme of Christianity in the decades following Jesus' death I guess it was important to be one of the ones visited by Christ after his death. But the disciples weren't the only ones to claim to have seen the risen Christ (Mary Magdalene for one), so I guess the early church fathers must have made the distinction for political reasons? This became especially important when gnosticism become prominent and was allowing women to hold church functions and perform ceremonies. The catholic church said hold on, the apostles were all men, the gnostics responded yes but didn't Jesus love Mary best and didn't the risen Christ first appear to her (as a gardener in the cemetary?), I guess this may have been when the distinction was made between experiencing the physical vs. spiritual Christ? I may be muddling this all up, I'll go back and look. I suspect that once the Catholic church established it's authority and the early heresies (marcionsim, montanism, gnosticism) were done away with this theological line of arguement may not have persisted or been necessary.