History, Mystery & Doubt

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History, Mystery & Doubt
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Passion of The Christ ...
Someone Else's Magic

More on Jesus, The DaVinci Code & The Passion
Reference Marcus Borg: "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time" ModernityIn speaking of what has been called "modernity," Marcus Borg describes two central features both closely connected with each other:

"First, modernity is characterized by scientific ways of knowing......unlike people of earlier eras, we know something to be true today through experimentation and verification.

"Second, modernity is marked by what is sometimes called 'the modern worldview' or 'Newtonian worldview.' ... The modern worldview is based on scientific ways of knowing what is real is that which can be known through the methods of science."

Further in his writings, Borg mentions what he considers two deeply destructive effects upon religion in general and Christianity and the Bible in particular: "Modernity has made us skeptical about spiritual reality.....It is the logical outcome of absolutizing the modern worldview.
Second, modernity has led us to be preoccupied with factuality - with scientifically verifiable and historically reliable facts. ...... Indeed, modern Western culture is the only culture in human history that has identified truth with factuality. We are 'fact fundamentalists'."

Our fact-fundamentalist society has discovered an almost insatiable appetite for identified truths based on factuality. As a result, using scientific methods, scholars and researchers have aggressively gone off in pursuit of the historical Jesus with surprising results.

These results have not, as one might expect, brought Jesus into a clearer and more specific focus. Rather, a plethora of verifiable biographic details has engendered an even wider focus and venue of speculation. In addition to the long-time scholarship around Jesus based on assumptions very much in harmony with traditional Christianity's theology and doctrine typified by the description found in the Nicene Creed, we can easily encounter research that has resulted in a myriad of other perceptions including:

Jesus as a 2000-year-old mythical creation originally intended to compete with and override existing pagan mystery religions of that era,

Jesus as a cynical creation of Roman political officials as a means of competing with and altering Judaism into something less radically opposed to Roman rule,

Jesus as a fictional elaboration of the Apostle Paul who constructed a new religion using Christ concepts as his basis (much is made of the almost total lack of biographical and life-incident references to Jesus in Paul's writings),

Jesus as a mortal heir to the throne of David who married, fathered children and lived to an older age. This includes a sub-perception of Mary Magdalene as Jesus' wife and the disciple who most clearly understood Jesus' teachings. Magdalene is believed to have migrated to Southern France and a popular speculation links Magdalene to the Knights Templar, hidden riches and Roman Catholic conspiracy to suppress the truth.

Fiction about early Jesus has always been in abundance. Most recently, the Magdalene theme has been popularized by Dan Brown's, "The DaVinci Code". Other books and movies speculate on what might happen if, for example, a 2000-year-old body showing marks of crucifixion and other bodily injuries written of in the gospels is discovered with the implication that the body is that of Jesus who therefore did not resurrect.

There are fiction works about the implication of the discovery of ancient texts that refute traditional New Testament teachings or reveal that Jesus was not resurrected or that the resurrection was faked.

Scorcese's movie "The Last Temptation of Christ", based on Nikos Kazantzakis' 1955 novel, enfolded several of the notions mentioned above, was highly controversial and bitterly opposed by the majority of Christians when it was released.

Mel Gibson's movie, focusing our "modernity-based fact-fundamentalism" on the reality of crucifixion blended with his strictly conservative Catholic fundamentalist interpretation of scripture, has impacted millions, many of whom would describe themselves as having been finally moved by Jesus after decades of adulthood ignoring religion completely.
However historical research of Jesus turns out, it is as the Christ that Jesus' influence continues to matter.

God knew they would be necessary to counter a blind fundamentalism.

I do however have a question - Did God know the vicars would tamper, Did He know the Dead Sea Scrolls would be lost, Did He know things would be left out? Is God all-knowing?

I'm not sure if I have any real opinion that it matters whether or not God is omnipotent, all-knowing or omnivorous.

Assuming that God did know all those things you stated, the next step is for you or for me to tell what that implies.

For you, I guess you're saying that God knowing those things means that God took it into account when the inerrant bible came into being ... that the Word remains absolute because God did so.

I could respond that if God did know those things and God intended something that took them into account, then the fact that the DS Scrolls were preserved until our age takes into account that God knew they would be necessary to counter a blind fundamentalism.

Why did the Reformers keep it?

As to the Reformers being right, well perhaps not totally right. Much of the Historical Roman exploitation of their monopoly on what the Bible really said did not seem to affect the Reformers as much as it should have.

I've said before that other than literally yanking the Bible itself out of the monopolistic and manipulative hands of Roman Empire Catholicism, they still bought everything the Romans taught and told them was Biblical doctrine.

The Trinity, for example, is strictly an inheritance from Roman Catholic doctrinal domination. The idea that Jesus is God became real because a council in Nicea voted that he was. This has always been insufficient authority or justification for the modern protestant declaration that Jesus is God. Yet that's where it originated. Why did the Reformers keep it?

The impact of intimidation at the hands of Constantine on the early church fathers seems to be lost on many scholars. One proposed reason why Jesus was voted to be God was because in his intent to sponsor one unifying empire religion, Constantine made it quite clear that he would not tolerate competition with a mortal man, God's true King of the Jews, as a future religious icon.

What better way to achieve his ends of an empire unified in religious belief than to boot the founder of that religion upstairs where he could be God, the King of Heaven, and no threat to Constantine's position.


a more accurate image of how Jesus might have looked

Jesus and Jefferson

Jesus WAS Jewish, and I hope he had a profoundly mortal aspect to him if that's what you mean by "guy." ( But then, it might not make sense for you to be an old timer for the Lord if He had too much "guy" in Him)

Jesus had such a profound experience of God (whether or not it came to his humanity, or, in deference to those who cannot proceed without a totally divine "Son of God") in which he realized that "I and the Father are One" and so it is also with the rest of mankind.

There's nothing common or vulgar about any of that circumstance. It seems to be only the literalists who struggle with the idea that Jesus' literal experience of God could literally be the experience possible to each of us.

Jefferson came to understand that literal thinking was self limiting, left half the bread on the table uneaten and forced comparisons and scorekeeping at the expense of the God of compassion.

I also suspect that Jefferson's labors at the end of his presidency and toward the end of his life left him with a stronger sense of Jesus and the Father than Revs. Graham and Falwell combined.

rewriting the actual history

Redaction generally means a deliberate alteration of something from its original form. It can be an actual re-wording of a passage, a changing of an actual word, or leaving something out of a passage or book that would reflect a different meaning than what was originally written.

It's not unlike the practice in the Soviet Union of rewriting the actual history of the communist revolution in Russia so that contemporary Soviet citizens never knew what actually happened at the turn of the century.

What we have as a Bible today, including all the highly accurate scholarly translations, is what was approved by the religious authorities of the RC church after that form of Christianity survived to become "mainline" Christianity in and after the Roman Empire. The RC church was that branch of Christianity that "won the competition" for predominance among all forms of Christian beliefs.

That's why there are Christian writings, such as those of the Gnostics, that were never part of the Bible as we know it today. The Gospel of Thomas is a good example.

Regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls, I suspect that there were many who naively expected that those particular scrolls that might reflect Christian dogma, matching word-for-word and concept-for-concept with the Bible as we know it today. Although some matching was encountered, an identical matching of scrolls to what is considered an inerrant Bible was not encountered.

Concerning my own experience, I suppose one could use the word "deprogramming" in that my initial bout with innerancy had more to do with how scripture was quoted to motivate or coerce me into socially acceptable conformity within my church. I confess that as a child and up into my 40's, scriptural meaning as interpreted by my church had an absoluteness about it that brooked little dissent.

For example, Joseph Campbell wrote a book entitled "The Power Of Myth." I was advised not to read that book. Since I was in dissent, I swallowed my religious guilt and read it anyway.

When I read in there about myths which are older than Hebrew Scripture referring to floods, arks, babies in baskets rescued from rivers by princesses, African stories about God asking man why fruit was eaten and the man blaming the woman who blamed a snake ------- I realized that as a literalist with no appreciation for the blessings of myth, I was on a dead-end path.

However, to reject the Bible and scripture because you've found them not to be innerant - not to be the literal and absolute "Word of God" as preached from many Christian pulpits - is a mistake in my opinion.

Once I was able to remove the limitation of literal interpretation, the Bible came alive to me - a living document that speaks out to me through the spirit.

Realize please that fundamentalist doctrines also severely limit perceptions of God, Christ and scripture. To interact with those doctrines, you have to be willing to accept strict and dogmatic statements about who God is, what God does, what God wills, and yes, what God has said - including for some a notion that all that God has said is in the Bible and we need no more than that from God.

In life many find satisfaction and validation in merely being "religious" and nothing more. They have values that are strong, attitudes that are wise, but seem to be somewhat limited in their desire for spiritual communion with the divine.

For every fundamentalist who spends hours on his knees in prayer and study, you have large numbers who practice religiousness only on Sundays or who content themselves with a battery of memorized biblical verses to justify their self-limiting contentedness with being religious.

Fundamentalist Christian religion will forever remain a restricted and narrow pathway to God, spending too much time marching forward on a narrow path and taking little time to notice the real world through which that path moves. It will be a valid path - but not the only path. It will be one strong formula for religiousness but never a recipe for personal and mystical communion with the divine.

Wouldn't you really like to know exactly what the historical Gnostics believed rather than have the primary body of information about them consist of historical hysterical Catholic denunciations?

It's like trying to understand John Kerry by listening only to the Swift Boat Veterans.

One thing I understand is that the Gnostics considered the O.T. God the demiurge and an imposter.

Early Christian Apologists' "Diabolical Deception."
One of the hallmarks of Christian fundamentalist thinking seems to have been the idea that the concepts of a dying God who resurrected and brought salvation to humanity was a new idea brought forth by God through Jesus only at the meridian of time.

Historically, early pagan resistance to as well as acceptance of Christian theology was based on the fact that the dying God, resurrection and salvation was already a given.

Some prominent early Christian theologians attempted to deal with this argument by bringing in the idea that Satan, having "foreseen" the life and achievement of Jesus, "pre-installed" these theological concepts in pagan religions as a means of deceiving future Christian believers in order to lead them astray.

Is this a valid argument to support the idea of the theological uniqueness of the Passion of the Christ?

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