What if they Knew?

For the past several months on this blog, I have written religious threads that challenge the orthodox ‘message’ presented in most Christian churches in the U.S.  Recent scholarship in the search for the historical Jesus has provided the world with challenges to the orthodox messages presented in the Gospels and the letters of the early church. Those gospels and letters provide the basis of traditional Christian beliefs. For many mainstream Christians, some of the stories in the so-called Old Testament are overt fantasies; Noah’s ark and Jonah in the belly of the fish easily come to mind.  Yet, few of these same Christians find much fantasy in the Gospel stories.  Rather, as Jesus is considered Divine and therefore capable of performing superhuman deeds, stories of the water into wine, feeding 5000, walking on water, raising the dead and himself from the dead are taken as truths to most Christians.

I would imagine that most Christians don’t give a damn about exploring their ‘faith’ more deeply because, after all, it is mere faith. The good nuns or Sunday school teachers are proud of their teaching. Most of those teachers didn’t know any better and, consequently, neither do their pupils. Excusable ignorance. Yet this is the 21st century, not the 5th. Imagine a CEO of some large corporation sitting in church on Sunday morning hearing but not listening to the sermon being preached. His mind wanders back to the innovation report that was given him on Friday- a document that insists that the corporation needs to beef up its R&D department to keep pace with its competition.  If he were he paying attention to the sermon, he would hear much the same as a stage coach manufacturer in the 18th century would have heard in his pew. Or a cannon ball maker in the 14th century. Or a shield maker in the 4th century.

Sadly, little has changed in the past 1700 years since the edicts of the Council of Nicea.  In fact, that CEO in church would, later in the service, mouth the words  that the Roman general Constantine approved. Words which were carefully crafted to denounce the various heresies that floated around in the 4th century CE. He doesn’t know that, but he mumbles them mindlessly anyhow.  Heresies of early Christian groups which the church squelched and history has long forgotten. He doesn’t care; it’s ritual and perhaps even reassuring in an odd way.  What about that brand new word recently inserted in the Catholic version of the Nicene Creed, the word consubstantial? Elegantly difficult and thereby undoubtedly a holy improvement.

Would he, would they, want to know anything beyond their 8th grade religion class or is all of that quite enough to ‘know?’ For a great majority of Christians today the answer is no.  Enough already. They are fine with where they left off. Their faith will save them, so-to-speak. As did the passengers on the Titanic. Surely, though, there is no risk of death in holding religious beliefs.  True enough as long as these beliefs do not impinge on the rights of others in society. Or legislation. As Sen. Paul of Kentucky recently spoke of the 1st Amendment, we all recall the edict therein that one is both free of and from religious persecution.

I digress. The question in the title of this post remains: What if they knew? What if they knew the key findings of scholars of the historical Jesus?  Men and women of the Jesus Seminar, for instance. Or authors like John Shelby Spong, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Robin Meyers, Don Cupitt and Karen Armstrong who seek to remove the old varnish and lift layers of politics and theology from the Gospel accounts. If today’s Christians read the slimmed-down versions of the Gospels and other canonically accepted books and letters in the New Testament- versions that have been stripped of layers of add-ons- would they be happy or angry? Would it embolden their faith or emasculate it?

Of course, it is a moot question at the present time because the vast majority of Christians sitting in the pews don’t know what they don’t know.  It has been secreted from them.  Many of the new scholars are or were once clerics in the church and learned in divinity school about the gilded Gospels yet they never had the courage to share this knowledge with the faithful. ‘They couldn’t handle it’ quipped one author. ‘It would be heresy’ said another. Thus, the faithful remain just that: filled with faith that the stuff they learned is true.

Here are a few ‘heretical’ items that the Jesus Seminar and other scholars of the historic Jesus have presented:

1.  the authors of the Gospels are unknown and they were not the disciples who walked with Jesus;

2. the language of Jesus and his followers was Aramaic while the gospels were first written in Greek and none are original, only copies of copies;

3. Mark wrote the first gospel 40 years after the death of Jesus; Matthew and Luke copied his ten years later and they added more; John’s gospel was written nearly 30 years after Mark;

4. the Gospel of Thomas may have been penned earlier than Mark, even though it was rejected in the canon of the church; many of  the authentic sayings of Jesus appear in that gospel.

5. the gospels are not a biography of the adult life of Jesus;

6. the nativity scenario never happened,  it is absent in Mark, John and Paul;

7. the resurrection is doubted by most scholars of the seminar; Mark did not pen it either;

8. anything in the gospel before John the Baptist is fantasy;

9. Jesus only stated 3 beatitudes.

10. there was a last supper, but not the Last Supper; there were no words of consecration.

Well, that is enough to digest for now.  So, what about these 10 statements?  Are they too much for the average American Christian to accept?

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9 thoughts on “What if they Knew?

  1. I suspect, Muckrake, that most ‘Christian folks’ don’t WANT to know… because that holds them personally responsible… and thus causes them to share spotlight with all who perceive ‘doctrine composed by others’ as ‘more authorized or valid’ than their own discernments… even those who would martyr themselves as suicide bombers.

    While others prefer to exercise their minds by thinking for themselves and by not being opposed to ‘digging deep’ for the ‘potential inspirations’… of others… not as Gods, but as Great Teachers.

    Our Nation’s third President, Thomas Jefferson, appears to have been that type of thinker and was somewhat ‘vexed’ with the ‘convoluted external stuff’ that was Biblically included in delivering what was supposedly the ‘good stuff’ ….which should for all intent and purposes be agreed upon… by all Christians… despite their constant divisions amongst themselves… as the ‘actual teachings of their demi-God-made-one-third-God-made-full-and-ultimately-the-new-Superior-God-Jesus.’

    I came across the following the other day and found it rather interesting… in my objective non-affiliated way… :)

    http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/62/The_Jefferson_Bible_The_Life__Morals_of_Jesus_of_Nazareth_1.html

    “He (Jefferson) scoured the text (Biblical) for Jesus’ greatest teachings, sliced out his favorite portions, and glued them into an empty volume. He called it “The Philosophy of Jesus.” That book was lost to history.

    In 1819, he started over and created a new version called “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” commonly referred to now as the Jefferson Bible. This volume was kept largely secret and passed among Jefferson’s relatives until 1895, when it was discovered by the librarian at the Smithsonian. In 1904, it was published by Congress.

    …You’ll see that Jefferson cut out miracles and signs or declarations of Jesus’ divinity. ”

    I could not help but notice that in essence, Our Third President was viewing Jesus as a Philosopher/Teacher… just like the Jews did… rather than as a Messiah or Demi-god…

    I should point out that Christians don’t like for Jesus to be referred to as a Demi-God… when in fact it is something they ‘clearly define him as being’… and yet they oddly morph the half-god into a one-third portion of a Divine Trinity… (which seems like a demotion really?)…

    BUT THEN… simultaneously upgrade Jesus with the claim that he is not a one half or a one third deity… THE LORD HIMSELF… being both the FATHER AND THE SON… (so now two thirds God or one and one third God???)… ??

    To further ‘convolute and confuse’… the way Christians present the Son AS BEING THE WAY… and ONLY WAY… TO GOD… makes JESUS … actually… MORE IMPORTANT THAN GOD… because it NEGATES ANY OPTION FOR GOD to exercise his ‘Superior Being Status and Omnipotence’ in getting to know folks that his Son, Jesus, didn’t know ‘first’….

    Which seems to me… as an ignorant non-affiliate… to be in direct contradiction with the Christian’s FATHER-GOD’S number one Commandment… to NOT place any other God (implying inclusion of demi-gods and ‘tri-gods as well, I should suspect)… above God himself… ??

  2. Colleen- I enjoyed your comment and was particularly humored by your theological fractions of 1/3, 2/3. That newly inserted term, consubstantial, beefs up the Nicene Creed with yet one more anti-heretical term to ‘cover’ those fractional non-equivalent factors you cited. As if it affects anyone’s life!

    Re the Jefferson Bible, he apparently was not enamored by the magic inserted by the gospel writers. Yet today many are drawn to Jesus because of that very magic. Many overlook the life and example of the life of Jesus- his humanity- and jump to the magic. Still others rely on him as their personal scapegoat, relying on him to open the gates of heaven for them, whether they ‘deserve’ it or not. Your phrase above, that holds them personally responsible, reflects this point very well.

  3. Let me off this: It’s ORTHODOXY. It’s accepting the traditional faith.

    We know that until what, I believe 1054, there was one catholic church…
    That was in Rome. This is despite the invasion of the so called barbarians,
    the fall of Rome, and while Roman Catholicism was in eclipse in the Dark Ages, the Eastern Church in Constinoiple continued to flourish. Itg set the stage for conflict between the Western and Eastern seats of relilgious power.
    As the Western Church began to re-assert its primacy in the latter Dark Ages, the Patriarchs in the East naturally resisted any attempt to weaken their power. The split came on a question of doctrine, namelly, from whom
    did the Holy Ghost(Spirit) descend from. The Roman Church said from the
    Father and the Son, but the Eastern Church said that the Holy Ghost came
    from the Father and not the Son. This was then expressed in the Eastern Church making the sign of the cross with two fingers, while the Western Church dictated that the sign of the cross be made with three fingers.
    I beelieve that then the Pope in Rome and the Patriarch in Constinople exco mmuncated one another, claiming a denial or relilgious orthodoxy. The Patriarch then took the title of the Eastern Orthodox Church, with the implication that it had the authentic doctrinal teachings. The Church in Rome counters with the Nicean Creed, “the holy spirit, who proceeds from the the Father and Son.”

    1. Yes, but the newly inserted word, consubstantial smooths over the so-called problem between yet he two versions, yet the long-standing bitterness endures. The idiocy of it all is shameful.

  4. But, to the Church it is not idiocy. It is doctrinal… To us, it is idiocy, but not to the Curia. These were issues settled long ago, so change cannot occur.

    1. Interesting name, Curia. Of course, you, my friend, know the origin of the term. In light of the power of that body, it was well named and a great example for their ‘work.’

      1. Uptheflag, you said : “But, to the Church it is not idiocy. It is doctrinal… To us, it is idiocy, but not to the Curia. These were issues settled long ago, so change cannot occur.”

        In a ‘society’ or ‘nation’ whose ‘head’ is perceived as ‘god on earth’ and whose ‘judicial system’ is defined as:
        “The papal court at the Vatican, by which the Roman Catholic Church is governed.”….

        CHANGE CAN OCCUR… but hey… they are operating on the theory…’if it works, don’t fix it’…. this is ‘self-evident’… with the ‘passage of Canon Laws’… on the one hand… AND BUSINESS AS USUAL on the other.

        Have you seen the Vatican, inside and out?

        They have access to the United Nations, influence of input, and Diplomatic Immunity, but NO RESPONSIBILITY or OBLIGATION.

        They are Independent of Rome and have their own currency… and have set up franchises ALL OVER THE WORLD… that answer to them and fill their treasury with PROFIT.

        FOR CENTURIES they placed their ‘brotherhood’ into immunity from not only civil law but immorality itself… swiping crimes under the Papal Throw Rug and then ‘Gifting the Rug’ to New Faithful Victims…

        That is EXPRESS POWER to CHANGE and EXPRESS CHOICE to DELIBERATELY NOT… which is not the same thing as “… issues settled long ago, so change cannot occur.”

  5. Also uptheflag, you stated :

    “We know that until what, I believe 1054, there was one catholic church…and while Roman Catholicism was in eclipse in the Dark Ages, the Eastern Church in Constinoiple continued to flourish. …. The split came on a question of doctrine, namelly, from whom
    did the Holy Ghost (Spirit) descend from. The Roman Church said from the Father and the Son, but the Eastern Church said that the Holy Ghost came from the Father and not the Son.”

    Maybe that ‘excuse of a split’ is what the ‘religious historians’ would want to ‘suggest’… but seriously… IT WAS ENTIRELY POLITICAL…

    ‘THE SPLIT’ came from the FACT that … like in the Highlander Saga… ‘THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE’….

    ONE HEAD… ONE GOD ON EARTH… ONE “THE” GODFATHER… ONE SUPREME POWER ON EARTH… ONE POPE… at a time… :)

    As to that Doctrinal ‘issue’… it supports my contention… of struggle for COMPLETE POWER…

    Since according to your claim, Rome exercised its ‘AUTHORITY to EVEN dismiss established religious teachings’… ie.. THE ‘MAKING OF JESUS as described by the EASTERNERS… who FIRST TOLD THE TALE… since Jesus was an EASTERN JEW… born in the EAST… of EASTERN LINEAGES… and was not an Italian or Roman.

    And ROME DID THIS despite the fact that even while the Easterner’s tale had elements of ‘illogic’… it was “MORE logical” than Rome’s… but then what is POWER if one can not use it to both defy other powers that be and simultaneous edify itself, as THE declared authority?

    The Easterner’s tale hinges on the Conception of Christ…. and clearly places the horse (God) before the cart (Holy Spirit) for the delivery of the cargo (Jesus… aka… the son or sperm of GOD… but NOT GOD HIMSELF.)…

    WHILE ROME dared to suggest that horse and cargo were one and the same… negating uniqueness for either!!!

    ROME claims GOD delivered HIMSELF to the World… in the form of JESUS…

    Via GOD’s Holy Spirit…

    Perhaps Rome’s TRUE AGENDA was to ‘enhance’ their Papal Claims… in making JESUS (born of mortal woman) the first POPE (God HIMSELF on Earth) perhaps?

  6. And the last supper is actually a passover seder. Easter never made sense to me until I figured out it was actually passover for goys.

    The amusing thing is that Amazon actually has a few seders for Christians to use in celebrating passover.

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