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JosephM

True Gospel message? (enlightenment from one progressive Christian perspective)

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8 hours ago, thormas said:

Valid in that Jesus, a man, had, along with his fellow Jews, a sense of and understanding of God. So too, it is valid for John - since Jesus is important to him and his community - to elaborate on and give voice to the understanding of the Divine which is based on their particular understanding of Jesus. 

It's valid for John and others to come up with their ideas of divinity, Jesus, etc .  I don't think that makes their explanations valid though (but I'm not sure you are saying that.  Maybe you are?)

8 hours ago, thormas said:

The simple answer - a more elaborate one is built on Gabriel Moran's book 'The Present Revelation' - is that John reflects a communal understanding of Jesus that is ultimately judged to be of a piece with the Synoptic and Pauline witness. Not simply to me or some others: it has 'spoken' to Christian communities from the end of the 1st C CE and continued to speak to Christian communities to the degree that it was accepted as a correct presentation of the Christ - as opposed to, for example, gnostic gospels.

John reflects a 'particular' communal understanding, but the earliest Christian groups were squabbling over doctrine and rules and how to interpret the life and death of Jesus from day one.  You've read your Erhman - there were quite a number of different Christianities in the early days following the death of Jesus.  John's version simply became the 'orthodox' one and the rest is history.  Nobody seems to have carried on the view of the Ebionites for instance in the New Testament, but we know they existed and didn't believe in Jesus to be divine for instance.

8 hours ago, thormas said:

All the gospels are highly theological, so too John. His arrangements of the miracles in a particular order and a set number, while different, still 'reveals' the Christ of God to the Christian community and invites belief. That is the point of the gospels: Good News. Are any of the gospels accurate, miles off or do they simply take the oral tradition(s) and present it as the Good News of Jesus the Christ? Not history, not biography, but theology.

John is a class above the rest as far as theology goes.  Yes John invites belief, after all, he's trying to sell a message.  I have no problem with theology, as long as we know we're talking 'speculation' and not fact.

8 hours ago, thormas said:

I agree that John puts words in the mouth of Jesus as does, for example, Mathew in his 'production' of the Sermon on the Mount and his constant comparison of Jesus as like and even greater than Moses. Seemingly some of the sermon words are historical. It has been awhile since I studied John but I do remember that one great biblical scholar, Paula Fredrekson, believes that John's seemingly allows that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem more than once as is the case in the Synoptics.

So not right or wrong; it is a particular presentation of Jesus that, if I remember correctly, is not simply John's but arises from the tradition and 'memory' of his community. Seemingly, John was not on a completely different track as his gospel was accepted alongside the other three. Again, there is personal interpretation in all gospels and his is judged to be, not a giant leap forward but a deep mediation on the Christ, 60+ years after his death. Actually, in many ways, reflecting on Jesus, it could be said that Jesus and the Father are one and the same; the two entities are 'combined' - divinity lives in humanity. Thus, many believe that John and the Synoptics have accurately and correctly interpreted Jesus.

Not right or wrong, a particular presentation of Jesus, not on a completely different track, personal interpretation - I don't disagree.  Skye's question was "whether an external God exists at all or whether it was just humanities expression of the sense of God within".  I am suggesting that John is one such expression.  I don't think that makes it valid as in true, but rather it is an opinion by John and others, but not necessary all early Christians.  Indeed, I think his work is a human expression of the sense of God within.

8 hours ago, thormas said:

200CE - this is a roughly 100 years, give or take a few either way - not bad?

170 years after the death of Jesus yet many claim it is the documented and literal word of God, unadulterated and untouched since its original writing.  I have serious doubts as I think you do.

8 hours ago, thormas said:

Poetry hurts people? Perhaps if it is taken literally - as is too often the case but it doesn't mean there is not 'truth' in poetry, mythological images, symbols and metaphor. Some gospel facts  can be wrong, other information can be mis-taken as historical or literal but completely wrong? For me, this misunderstands that it is primarily theology and the theology of John still rings true: it says something 'true' about Jesus (man) with God. This is John's 'sense of God' and it may or may not speak 'truth' to the reader. For others, not so much - which is fine.

Like I said - If poetry speaks to people and does good, bravo.  If it speaks to people and causes harm, then thumbs down.  John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeith in him should not perish, but have everlasting life".  Whilst the poetry itself is not necessarily to blame, the interpretation of John's alleged writing has caused death, heartache and pain throughout history.  Now, did John mean for his work to be interpreted like that or was there another Christian voice?  If there was another voice, I would suggest it was largely silent in what became the bible, from that point on. 

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53 minutes ago, PaulS said:

It's valid for John and others to come up with their ideas of divinity, Jesus, etc .  I don't think that makes their explanations valid though (but I'm not sure you are saying that.  Maybe you are?)

Yes, it's valid that they should be able to do this - and very human  - for John and his community to interpret and explain Jesus  - as did all gospels. If by valid, we mean truth, again it was judged to be 'correct' and, ultimately, is in the eye of the beholder.

John reflects a 'particular' communal understanding, but the earliest Christian groups were squabbling over doctrine and rules and how to interpret the life and death of Jesus from day one.  You've read your Erhman - there were quite a number of different Christianities in the early days following the death of Jesus.  John's version simply became the 'orthodox' one and the rest is history.  Nobody seems to have carried on the view of the Ebionites for instance in the New Testament, but we know they existed and didn't believe in Jesus to be divine for instance.

There were many 'christianities' and the powers that be, seemingly, did their best with what was judged to be most 'correct.'

John is a class above the rest as far as theology goes.  Yes John invites belief, after all, he's trying to sell a message.  I have no problem with theology, as long as we know we're talking 'speculation' and not fact.

Perhaps it is more heady but Matthew was brilliant. But again, all the gospels are theology with some history and based on a real person.  I do not believe any of this is the revealed Word of God (as traditionally understood) but I do believe much of the gospels say something true about God, Jesus and man.

Not right or wrong, a particular presentation of Jesus, not on a completely different track, personal interpretation - I don't disagree.  Skye's question was "whether an external God exists at all or whether it was just humanities expression of the sense of God within".  I am suggesting that John is one such expression.  I don't think that makes it valid as in true, but rather it is an opinion by John and others, but not necessary all early Christians.  Indeed, I think his work is a human expression of the sense of God within.

Again, John is personal and communal. As to Syke's question, the 'total gospel witness' seems to be that God is  'external (or, my preference, other) and also one with humanity. This is a valid and true position of Christianity. and a decision for the individual to decide if it resonates for him/her. Such 'oneness' (more than merely external) is shown in the breath of Life in Genesis, to descriptions of the Spirit of God to John 

170 years after the death of Jesus yet many claim it is the documented and literal word of God, unadulterated and untouched since its original writing.  I have serious doubts as I think you do.

Sorry, I thought your point was after the writing of John. I agree, it is the words of men but, for me, if their words speak to my take on 'God' then it 'reveals' or uncovers the God in our midst.

Like I said - If poetry speaks to people and does good, bravo.  If it speaks to people and causes harm, then thumbs down.  John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeith in him should not perish, but have everlasting life".  Whilst the poetry itself is not necessarily to blame, the interpretation of John's alleged writing has caused death, heartache and pain throughout history.  Now, did John mean for his work to be interpreted like that or was there another Christian voice?  If there was another voice, I would suggest it was largely silent in what became the bible, from that point on. 

It's not the poetry, it is the teacher who presents poetry as literal or simply doesn't know it's poetry, symbol, metaphor, etc. And I agree with you on John 3:16. Plus, I would not phrase it this way for a contemporary audience.  My take is that this is what John believed and meant but what future generations did with it, is on them. For example the persecutions of the Jews is non-sense in itself and especially so for anyone who understands the Jew, Jesus, 

You lost me on another voice.

 

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Thormas,

You seem to have a lot of faith in the powers that be at the time who you say seemingly did their best with what was judged to be most 'correct.'   I'm not sure how you can know that at all.  At what point in early Christianity was it decided that John's view was the 'most correct'?  Whom made that decision?  Were they Jew or gentile?  Where did they live - Rome or Jerusalem?  How do you know they were the 'correct' powers? 

Maybe there were more 'correct' views but the community didn't like those enough and so time and authority saw belief and Christianity (now as becoming something more 'organised) move toward other views?  Sure, there might be some  similarities between John and the synoptics but I wouldn't call them 100% aligned by any stretch, so clearly there was thought and opinion (maybe many wrong ones) going into this 'community'.  Then on top of that, what gives you the confidence that those gospel books are read today as they were written at the time or that they are in fact the most authoritative and accurate writings of the day that existed about Jesus.  Because they 'speak' to you?  I'm sure the myths and priestly leadership of Valhalla spoke 'true' to the Vikings as well, but I don't imagine that thought speaks to you in the same way?  Please, I am not trying to sound rude but just to point out that because something speaks as 'true' to somebody should in no way be regarded as the 'right' view.  I know you don't insist that people must hold your particular view but partly why I write what and the way I do is to provide a balance against this "it feels right so it must be true to some extent' point of view.  There is simply no validity in that other than personal feeling for the individual (which as I have said, I have no problem with when it does not harm others).

Sure, in some loose way the books of the bible might align somewhat (and often not) but what else would you expect from a group of priests who got together and DECIDED what would be in the bible and what wouldn't?  You really have that much faith in a group of men in positions of power some nearly 300 years after Jesus lived, and in light of evidence that alternate views existed but were destroyed?

What we do know is that there were numerous texts, letters and views about Jesus swirling around in the decades after his death.  There were different Christian communities with different takes on Jesus' message - some focused on living a certain 'Jesus' way, some focused on rules and what it meant to be a Jewish Christian, others focused on what it meant to be a non-Jewish Christian, and it would seem some focused on an after-life or new world to come, etc.  Jesus interpretation was a melting pot of views and opinions - but only one view and opinion won through in the end and that is why we have the bible as we do today and not a bunch of other letters and scriptures (which for all we know might have spoken even 'truer' to you, but you didn't get that chance of hearing them).

About the only thing clear to me is that there simply was not a single consensus view of what Jesus and his life meant and how Jesus/Messiah/God fit together.  Most scholars would agree that dozens of various voices on Jesus were finally silenced at the Council of Nicaea that enforced what would be regarded as 'the truth' going forward.

But I understand how that detail may not be that important to many.  If what they read 'speaks' truth to them, then that becomes what is important to them.  And I have no problem with that (unless it causes harm to others).  But for me personally, I have little faith that just because somebody 'feels' something is right to them, that it has any more validity than a different view that a different person just as validly 'feels' is right for them.

However I completely accept it as a personal view and if it works for you/others, all good.  It does make for interesting discussion though and it is a subject I enjoy discussing and speculating on, as it would seem to be also with you and others.  I like that we can all hold totally different points of view but still agree to disagree and care for each other in the process.  No condemnation, no ridicule, no belittling, no saying "you have to believe it this way or else" -  Clearly not something that Christianity has a very good track record of. 

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Paul,

I understand that there were many Christianiities, how the canon was developed, how long it took and the connected controversies between what became orthodoxy and heresy. However, even recognizing that there was ego and politics involved, I allow that many/most(?) were serious about Jesus, thought their perspective was most accurate and felt a responsibility to establish the 'correct' understanding of Jesus, his words and his story, because they believed it was the most important thing in the world for them and others. I place value of other gospels outside of the canon but I have to agree that Jesus was not imparting secret knowledge for an elite few (gnosticism) and also that Marcion, who believed Christianity should have no connection with Judaism was simply wrong - and that it was good that such views were opposed. In addition, the 'orthodox' version of the story of Jesus resonates with me (if not read literally or as history or biography). So, I do have confidence (and simply it is what it is) that many did the best they could and I am fine with their product - again if 'interpreted' correctly. As to "how can you know" I'm not looking for definitive 'evidence' but reacting to what I have read about the efforts (and what was opposed) and the finished product. As for the answers to the questions you asked about the inclusion of John's gospel or anything else - there are materials, including Ehrman (too much for here).

If we don't accept that the bible is revealed from on high, then it is a human product. We can look at what we have been given, look at other writings from that era and decide what best speaks to us. In addition, it was inevitable, if it was to succeed, that the story of Jesus would have to move into the greater world and the very human response would be to try to make sense of Jesus using their (ex, Greek) understanding of the world and their philosophical systems - we have always done this and continue it today.  It was also inevitable that some of these new understandings would be at odds and serious, concerned believers would feel compelled to 'correct' such views and 'protect' people. What else is new?

How they were meant to be read and how they are read today is one of the continuing issues. I have read Spong who believes that writers were not always meant to be taken literally and I have read others (Ehrman included?) who say we cannot say that the writers did not believe what they wrote and did not want to be taken at their word. So the beat goes on.

But that is the point, to a large part, of it all: does it 'speak' to wherever and whenever it finds one? Does it enable one to make sense, to answer some to the questions posed by the very fact that they find themselves existing and ask about it? If it resonates with my present experience; if it makes sense within my present world view (a modern sense of the universe as opposed to a 3 tied universe of the ancients, for example) and how I understand my world (for some their philosophical system) then it is, what Moran calls, a present revelation. A canon that only speaks of a part revelation of God is useless to those living later unless it can speak to them and 'reveal' the same God (Meaning) that was revealed or discovered by our ancient ancestors. This is what I mean by 'speaks to me.' And, the Christian should always 'look over their shoulder' at what was given in the past (the canon): if there are those today who point to a 'special knowledge' for a chosen few that was given by Jesus in the past and is still available today - one can say that is not the core belief about this Jesus that has been valued and past down through the ages. If one believes that Jews have nothing to do with Christianity and they justify this with an appeal to the ancient Christianity, on can san say again, this is not what was presented by the followers of Jesus (all Jews) and is 'out of whack' with the tradition, the canon, the ancient witness. For the one who considers himself Christian or for whom Christianity is important, there is the determination as to whether or not, Christianity 'speaks' to him and in moving into the future to take some care that they are in agreement with what has been valued from it s beginnings

This is much more than a ""it feels right so it must be true to some extent point of view."  For many, the determination of whether and what is right (or wrong and thus discarded) is a matter of intense reading, study, reflection and an ongoing decision that 'this or that makes sense," it 'resonates with my experience, it provides 'answers' to the question(s) of Life. So, a determination is made that it is 'right for me' and most serious people would think it is also, 'right' for all: it gets at Truth. As an example, I would say it is 'right for me' that love is the actual meaning of life: it is the be all and end all. It's like Wonder Bread - it build us in many ways :+} Put love into a situation and there is life, remove or deny it and not so much. And, if I believe this about my life (and from my experience and reflection on that experience), I also believe it is right or true ........for all. Now if someone disagrees, that is fine but it doesn't mean that I do not still believe I am in line with many/most others that we have stumbled onto Truth. 

There are priests and then there are priests. Plus this wasn't a group meeting in a particular month of a particular year, this was decades, centuries, with multiple priests trying to do something they believed was their responsibility.  

So, we do have many of the other writings and most acknowledge that 'orthodoxy' won and wrote the history. There was not "a single consensus view of what Jesus and his life meant and how Jesus/Messiah/God fit together" then or now.  

I understand a good deal of the details and still, what has been passed down, continues to 'speak to me.' I have no problem with any (in or out of the canon) of the writings or councils unless they cause harm to others. That might be part of how we differ: you have spoken of the harm done; I never really felt harmed and even brought up in a Catholic home, religion, though important, was not the be all and end all for us nor did we go to the bible for guidance or to answer questions. 

The 'feeling that something is right' is never just a feeling for me. But feeling something is right and that it is valid for all, that it is Truth, seems to be what motivated many, throughout history, including WWII, to defend others against and destroy those who could't or wouldn't see this Truth, such as a Hitler. Our (USA) founding fathers, a bunch of white guys, some who didn't much like each other (ego and politics were evident) dismissed other points of view, presented a canon and future generations believe it resonates; they feel that it is right, valid for all and that they have stumbled on truth. Some of us accept it at face value while others have thought deeply on it, reflected on their present experience and, seemingly for many, the 'truth of our fathers' still resonates in our lives.

I too always enjoy the discussions and remain hopeful for christianity and humankind.

 

 

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Thormas,

Like Paul i am a bit skeptical myself concerning the intentions of those who put together the NT Bible.  That skepticism is based not on provable fact but on my experience with the church system and organizations in general even today.  It seems to me that Jesus himself didn't really trust religious organizational systems . Most of what i find to be his most insightful teachings seem to be recorded as teaching outside the system directly to the people.

My experience shows me that religious leaders tend to have there own private agenda behind the facade of that which appeals to the people. It seems to me that many but not all leaders have not yet evolved past the the point of lust  of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These things were in the world then as now and are temptations to all .

Joseph

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I get that Joseph and, while a Christian, I am not a practicing Catholic (liturgy, sacraments, authorities, etc.). 

I taught in Catholic schools for 12 years and met great and not so great people; I went to Catholic schools from kindergarten through grad school and met the best they had to offer and some that needed work - thankfully I met very few jackasses. The authorities get in their own way and many are too concerned with protecting the faith - rather than presenting and explaining.

I am not crazy about organizations either but, as I have met good men and women in the Church in my life, I have also read of others (including some of their works) in earlier ages and, my experience is that many, many people, even in organizations, try to do what is best - even at the cost of 'normal' lives, injury and death. Therefore, I allow that many have done that in the past and in the Church. 

I agree that some leaders do have their own agenda - but, in my experience, not all, not even many. Did some of the Church Fathers have an agenda (did Constantine)? I'm sure they did but did all, did most, did many? We don't know but, as in all walks of life, it was probably a mixed bag. But I allow that, as mentioned before, for some (many?), this was of utmost importance to them because they took seriously their responsibilities - for the community of Christ to survive and thrive in regard to Judaism and other (what they believed to be) harmful versions of Christ. 

What is important to me is if what is in the canon, what comes from the councils - perhaps after a re-telling or interpretation in light of a 21st C world view and in a language that meets people in their everyday lives -   'reveals' (presents) the meaning of life and how we ought to live. If that happens, then, it is Good News and my religious ancestors, some in spite of themselves, has done their job. In addition, we now have the means to discover some of the 'other' Christianities that might give us further insight and appreciation into God, Life, man.

 

 

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9 hours ago, thormas said:

Paul,

I understand that there were many Christianities, how the canon was developed, how long it took and the connected controversies between what became orthodoxy and heresy. However, even recognizing that there was ego and politics involved, I allow that many/most(?) were serious about Jesus, thought their perspective was most accurate and felt a responsibility to establish the 'correct' understanding of Jesus, his words and his story, because they believed it was the most important thing in the world for them and others.

No argument.  I'm not saying the story and message of Jesus may have only been edited/interpreted by bad guys.  Good people can promote a wrong direction too, even with the best of intentions.  I doubt most of the scribes and people who amended scripture over time had bad intentions.  I'm sure whoever added or removed those extra verses to the end of Mark thought they were doing a good thing.  My only point is that these writings (the one's that survived anyway and which seem to have won the day) cannot be validated against what was actually happening at the time because we simply have no record.  We have no original writings and we have no original alternate voices that most biblical and historical scholars think existed around then (or in some cases even copies of their POV, as the strongest voices drowned out and destroyed the alternate voices).  Best of intentions doesn't cut it for me because I know what humans are like - myself included.

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If we don't accept that the bible is revealed from on high, then it is a human product. We can look at what we have been given, look at other writings from that era and decide what best speaks to us. In addition, it was inevitable, if it was to succeed, that the story of Jesus would have to move into the greater world and the very human response would be to try to make sense of Jesus using their (ex, Greek) understanding of the world and their philosophical systems - we have always done this and continue it today.  It was also inevitable that some of these new understandings would be at odds and serious, concerned believers would feel compelled to 'correct' such views and 'protect' people. What else is new?

Just like there are no originals from that era, nor are there any 'other' writings.  Even the 'copies' we have of the earliest NT docs are dated to be some +150 years after Jesus.  Yes, the textual criticism dates elements of some NT writings back to only several decades after Jesus' death, but even then, there is no way of verifying the 'theological' side of these writings with anything that could be original.  If it speaks to you or resonates with you, no problem.  I'm just saying there's room for such being simply a misunderstanding, is there not?

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But that is the point, to a large part, of it all: does it 'speak' to wherever and whenever it finds one? Does it enable one to make sense, to answer some to the questions posed by the very fact that they find themselves existing and ask about it? If it resonates with my present experience; if it makes sense within my present world view (a modern sense of the universe as opposed to a 3 tied universe of the ancients, for example) and how I understand my world (for some their philosophical system) then it is, what Moran calls, a present revelation. A canon that only speaks of a part revelation of God is useless to those living later unless it can speak to them and 'reveal' the same God (Meaning) that was revealed or discovered by our ancient ancestors. This is what I mean by 'speaks to me.' And, the Christian should always 'look over their shoulder' at what was given in the past (the canon): if there are those today who point to a 'special knowledge' for a chosen few that was given by Jesus in the past and is still available today - one can say that is not the core belief about this Jesus that has been valued and past down through the ages. If one believes that Jews have nothing to do with Christianity and they justify this with an appeal to the ancient Christianity, on can san say again, this is not what was presented by the followers of Jesus (all Jews) and is 'out of whack' with the tradition, the canon, the ancient witness. For the one who considers himself Christian or for whom Christianity is important, there is the determination as to whether or not, Christianity 'speaks' to him and in moving into the future to take some care that they are in agreement with what has been valued from it s beginnings

"A canon that only speaks of a part revelation of God is useless to those living later unless it can speak to them and 'reveal' the same God (Meaning) that was revealed or discovered by our ancient ancestors."

Precisely my point - the authors/editors of the Canon and its various writings had agendas, albeit maybe agendas with the best of intentions.  Nonetheless, we're all human and I'm sure they were too and I'm sure they probably added their spin on things because of how it 'spoke' to them.  That's all fair enough.  All I'm saying is that it doesn't necessarily mean they're accurate with what they're saying or the message of Jesus they are recounting.

I have no issues with what we call Christianity today (and the thousands of variations and interpretations), 'speaking' to people or it being called a 'revelation', as long as we're understanding that is a personal opinion and point of view.  Most of it is not agreed to as 'fact' (which is actually one part of the definition of revelation) but rather it is simply 'considered' a "divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence" (Oxford dictionary).  Now I could say one thing about the nature of God whilst somebody else could say something entirely contradictory about the nature of God, yet different people in the world may receive either of those messages and believe that only one is a true 'revelation', because it speaks to them, but clearly both can't be right.

So I agree with you, it comes down to a personal feeling.  No issue with that.

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This is much more than a ""it feels right so it must be true to some extent point of view."  For many, the determination of whether and what is right (or wrong and thus discarded) is a matter of intense reading, study, reflection and an ongoing decision that 'this or that makes sense," it 'resonates with my experience, it provides 'answers' to the question(s) of Life. So, a determination is made that it is 'right for me' and most serious people would think it is also, 'right' for all: it gets at Truth. As an example, I would say it is 'right for me' that love is the actual meaning of life: it is the be all and end all. It's like Wonder Bread - it build us in many ways :+} Put love into a situation and there is life, remove or deny it and not so much. And, if I believe this about my life (and from my experience and reflection on that experience), I also believe it is right or true ........for all. Now if someone disagrees, that is fine but it doesn't mean that I do not still believe I am in line with many/most others that we have stumbled onto Truth. 

"So, a determination is made that it is 'right for me' and most serious people would think it is also, 'right' for all: it gets at Truth" - No, it doesn't necessarily.  Pretty much the whole world used to believe the earth was flat.  Intense reading, study, reflection and physical 'proof' they could see for themselves revealed the 'truth'.  Yet that 'truth' changed thousands of years later with new intense reading, study, reflection.  Again, if certain revelation works for you, that's good, but it simply does not mean it is an accurate interpretation of what Jesus or others said/wrote.

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That might be part of how we differ: you have spoken of the harm done; I never really felt harmed and even brought up in a Catholic home, religion, though important, was not the be all and end all for us nor did we go to the bible for guidance or to answer questions. 

The 'feeling that something is right' is never just a feeling for me. But feeling something is right and that it is valid for all, that it is Truth, seems to be what motivated many, throughout history, including WWII, to defend others against and destroy those who could't or wouldn't see this Truth, such as a Hitler. Our (USA) founding fathers, a bunch of white guys, some who didn't much like each other (ego and politics were evident) dismissed other points of view, presented a canon and future generations believe it resonates; they feel that it is right, valid for all and that they have stumbled on truth. Some of us accept it at face value while others have thought deeply on it, reflected on their present experience and, seemingly for many, the 'truth of our fathers' still resonates in our lives.

I too always enjoy the discussions and remain hopeful for christianity and humankind.

Harm caused by Christianity - You haven't heard of The Crusades, or the Spanish Inquisition, of the numerous other wars that have Christian revelation at their roots?  Soldiers painting bible verses on bombs they dropped in Iraq etc?  You don't think Christianity as it is 'revealed' and interpreted by millions has any potential to cause further harm in the world?

Look, if all Christianity was how you felt (or how I believe you feel - that is that it is personal, it is opinion, you could be wrong but it speaks to you, etc) then no issue.  But when Christian teachings are used to support ostracizing and isolating people (e.g. homosexuals), making laws against people (e.g. abortion), etc, then harm is being caused.

Sure, you're going to say that such Christian's misunderstand Jesus.  But the thing is, they don't.  They too have received revelation from the bible that speaks to them.  They're just as certain in this 'truth' as you are. It speaks to them in a different way than it speaks to you I would suggest.

So for me, it boils down to this - at best, most interpretation of the NT is personal opinion and feeling, and that's where it stops.  When we talk about the ancient authors we have to acknowledge that we don't have their original writings and that there could be significant human intervention in between their original writing and what we have today.  Furthermore, we can't know exactly what was being said in the immediate aftermath of Jesus' death, or even confirm he died for that matter - we simply have no conclusive evidence.  Clearly some people thought some things about this character Jesus to go to the effort of writing but at best, these writings didn't even start until long after Jesus existed and most likely weren't the only version or account of things, but we simply don't have the evidence of either them or the alternate voices.

I'm all good with anything 'speaking' to somebody if it works for them and society.  But we have to acknowledge that it is all just personal opinion and not necessarily 'truth', no matter how old a proposed POV is.

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I used to dislike John and even more so Paul, I thought they were less original and therefore inferior. But a funny thing is happening, ever since I accepted that I needed the light of Jesus to see how to go further on my spiritual journey, I've opened more to the possibility that some of the events recorded in the bible were less random and more God-steered than I had previously allowed. 

Take two events, the crucifixion and Paul on the road to Damascus. With the crucifixion I more or less believed that this was just the consequence of Jesus offending the Jewish rabbi's and the Romans, but now I can see a distinct possibility that it was a course that was deliberately chosen by 'The Father,'  that it was in fact 'The Plan'.

And with the blinding and healing of Paul, as an analogy it is so profound, and so meaningful as well in relation to the OT, but I can also allow that God (or Jesus) did actually choose this exact man to do exactly what he then proceeded to do, taking the Jesus message to the gentiles. Maybe the kind of garbled message from Paul was better than no memory of Jesus at all. Maybe he was vital in a plan to awaken humanity to 'The Father.' 

I still have many doubts that are not too far from the surface, because I've spent most of my life rationalising and to an extent dismissing the bible as happenstance. But this belief (or is it Faith, which I've had precious little of up till now) side is growing, where I read a passage in the bible now and think "ah, I get it now." 

 

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Paul,

I have learned over the years from authors like Ehrman and Dale Allison that the 'gist' is what is most important. Allison writes: "In order for us to find Jesus, our sources must often remember at least the sorts of things he did and the sort of things that he said, including what he said about himself. If the repeating patterns do not catch Jesus, then how can he not forever escape us?" When we read them (gospels), we should think not that Jesus said this or did that but rather: Jesus did things like this, and he said things like that."

So in addition to learning not to read the OT literally, I have learned we should not read the NT as if Omarosa were recording Trump :+} So, regardless of the presence or absence of the extra Markan verses, we know, from the sources, somethings about Jesus, and that he died and that his followers believed he had risen to new life in God. All else in literally commentary. The 'validation' is the gist of what we have been given: as Allison said, Jesus did and said things like those presented and remembered in the gospel pictures of him. If I remember correctly, whereas the Sermon on the Mount might have been staged (giving the new law from the mountain unlike Moses who received the law on the mountain) by Matthew, Jesus did say things like the "Blessed are......" statements (and perhaps, again if I remember correctly, some of the actual 'beatitudes' simply not in such an organized setting. This is the 'record'  - it is simply not like most modern records. As for alternative voices, we do have some of those but, it remains interesting that if they are at 'extreme odds' with the canon, they would remain suspect (ala Allison, Jesus probably didn't say things like this or do things like that).  

I know human beings also and it is not just good intentions, we have the gospels, the letters of Paul and other NY writings and we have the work of the best critical biblical scholars and I don't see them relying only on 'best intentions

I simply don't have the same concern about 'originals.' Scholars note this, scholars wish we had more and live for a discovery of the original Mark, for example - but their work on what we do have leads them back to the disciples of Jesus. And decades after Jesus' death is amazing - not sure what you mean by "verifying the 'theological' side of these writings with anything that could be original" as the very telling of the stories from the apostles is theological?? It is all theological from the 'get go.' I  know and have read numerous critical biblical scholars and I am just not seeing that they share your concern: you seem to be saying it could all be a hoax or a giant misunderstanding, I don't even see Ehrman, the atheist, saying that. There is discussion about this, that to something else and I know Erhman does't buy what is written but he still studies and relies on what is 'there.' When I say it resonates with me, I mean it has meaning for me in my present; but this indicates there is something 'there' that is reliable (ala Allison) that I can examine and decide whether or not it resonates. So, no, I don't buy that there is as misunderstanding to the extent you seem to suggest - nor do the scholars.

That should have been past revelation, not part. However, I simply disagree: they were human, they had concerns and intentions but you use words like spin (pejorative) while the writings already existed and had for centuries (and were used in community) and they, ultimately, decided which best presented Jesus. Where is the spin, they weren't doing theology. The councils that spoke of Trinity and the nature of Christ were, but where is the theology, the spin in the agreement of a canon? Was it simply that they said these and not those? Again, I go to Allison: they believed sincerely that these particular writings best presented what Jesus said, did and meant. Just out of curiosity, what are you saying they should have chosen or what the 'true' message of Jesus was? Again, it was not merely a matter of it resonating with them, this was a decision that X, Y & Z were better, more accurate, depictions of Jesus than A, B & C. 

We have two different issues here and you seem to have locked onto one: resonating in one's present time and greatest accuracy to the past. Ehrman said that 'history is all a matter of greater and lesser probabilities." Plus, have you read any of the non-canonical writings? Therefore, I and I suspect most agree with Allison that the greater probability is that Jesus did and said what is presented in the canon as opposed to what was presented in the other works. In other words, the Synoptics and John, have a greater probability of being historical, i.e. rooted in the actual experience and memory (even with Ehrman's and others work on memories) of his disciples and first followers than other writings. Then, the decision is do these 'speak' to me and have meaning for me in my life.

So, bottom line, is that the decision (of the canon) is not merely personal but communal (and the probability of history is with that decision) and thereafter, the decision of its meaningfulness is also communal but ultimately personal. If it is meaningful, then it can be said to be 'good news' to me and a 'revelation' of or an insight into what Life means. It is not mere 'personal feeling'.

Not sure about fact being part of revelation but I use the word as interchangeable with insight: as in the meaning of life is revealed, a light switches on, an Aha moment. And, as should be evident, I do not believe in revelation from on high or that the biblical writings were inspired (as traditionally, theistically believed).

"So, a determination is made that it is 'right for me' and most serious people would think it is also, 'right' for all: it gets at Truth." Another disconnect, you are talking supposed (and ultimately observable) facts, like the earth being flat, I am talking meaning of life. If one believes, for example with Spong, that in life we should 'love wastefully and be" he believes this is the meaning of existence and how ALL ought to live; he believes it is Truth for ALL. No discovery of a change in factual information will change this. We are talking about very different realities. 

I meant, as should have been obvious, " I never felt harmed (by Christianity)." I never said Christianity did not do wrong, did not sin either on a macro or a micro level. If I remember you have spoken of what it did 'to you' - it was your story not a recounting of the history of Christianity, only part of the history of Paul. So too, mine was part of the history of me. 

As to your question: if Christianity is truly understood and lived, there is no possibility of further harm in the world (caused by it). As has been said: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, Christianity has been found difficult and never tried." And then there is Ghandi: " I like your Christ, I don't like Christians - they are so unlike their Christ." (quotes are accurate but not exact). So, the Crusades, the Inquisition, hatred of Jews, hatred of homosexuals, the lesser role of women, and on and on - are not Christian, are not like Christ, are not the image of the Father! You make my point, Christian teaching are not as you say used, they are misused - never understood, never lived in the circumstances under discussion. 

Again, there is no revelation from on high and they do misunderstand or lack the courage to be. Where does Jesus okay Crusades, Inquisitions, hatred of his own people he came for, hatred for homosexuals, and on and on. Nowhere! Simply nowhere. I have never really liked the OT, especially since Christians believe in a new covenant - but that's me. Too many Christians rely on the OT over their Jesus. There is the truth of Jesus, the truth of most of the great religious figures of history and then there is the little, scared truths of people that are to support nee encourage all the atrocities that you mentioned. Do yu really question which is truth: their way of the way of God/Love? I side with the latter.

Your ultimate conclusion seems to be that there is no Truth or we can't know it and live it. Again, I simply disagree and I refer you back to Wonder Bread.

 

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Skye,

I simply don't see anything as God-steered. There are such problems around the idea that the crucifixion, the planning of the torture and horrible death of one's son, one's child, that it casts God in a light that many, reflecting upon their own parents or being parents, find so despicable that they would never accept this as correct or the God behind it.

So too Paul: where is the freedom of man, given by God, if that God usurps that freedom by purposely blinding Paul and forcing his hand? Now, if for Paul, the persecutor of the Christians, something finally dawned on him and he changed - then we have something magnificent: man freely - without prior arrangement - choosing God, even, as Paul did, unto death.

And it is not happenstance: God is immanent - present and active in the everyday, ordinary events of human life - in and through creation, especially the human. You read a book, speak to a friend, watch a move, listen to a song and sometimes you realize something, see something for the first time or through the words of another you are caused to look at yourself, see and admit where you were wrong and heeding the words, you change, you become more, you become better. And your friend or others are there, loving you, giving you the encouragement to change (even if neither of you ever puts these words to it). Yet your friend (and the actor, the author, the musician), who 'spoke' to you also needs you, also needs to hear, see and be encouraged, be empowered to change and to live fully.

Who owns this word that calls to man, who owns the love that gives man the courage to be, to live?  Not us, we all stand in need. One simple reflection: words and love are both gratuitous (gifts given by others) and transcendent (more than: no one owns what they give because they too need to receive it from others). We 'give more' than we have; we 'give more' than we are - we give God. God is the Word that calls man through others; God is the Love given in and by others, giving humanity the courage to Be.  God called Paul - but in a way so subtle and in the ordinary events of his life and it might have taken some time but then Paul describes it, perhaps in the only way he can: he is blinded by the light of the Christ; he gets it - finally. This is faith: God's give of self in the ordinary life of man is met by one who, in turns, gives self to God, to Life and becomes the likeness of Life; he becomes Love (and this is incarnation: divinity lives in humanity).

Jesus was Fully Human because Divinity lived in him. He did what God was: Love. He was obedient to God- obedience simply means 'what is important to the other, is important to you.' What was important to God was that humanity understand (hear the Word) and have the courage to Be. So too for Jesus: the Word echoed in Jesus and Love lived in him and poured out freely on others; he loved -even unto death. For some, the cross raised high on the hill, becomes the symbol of the Word that calls, the love that empowers until God is All in all.

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Paul,

Apologies for some of the sloppiness of my response. With a hurricane in the air, I neglected to re-read it.

Following is a clean version:

4 hours ago, thormas said:

Paul,

I have learned over the years from authors like Ehrman and Dale Allison that the 'gist' is what is most important. Allison writes: "In order for us to find Jesus, our sources must often remember at least the sorts of things he did and the sort of things that he said, including what he said about himself. If the repeating patterns do not catch Jesus, then how can he not forever escape us?" "When we read them (gospels), we should think not that Jesus said this or did that but rather: Jesus did things like this, and he said things like that."

So in addition to learning not to read the OT literally, I have learned we should not read the NT as if Omarosa were recording Trump :+} So, regardless of the presence or absence of the extra Markan verses, we know, from the sources, that: Jesus said things and did things like those presented in the gospels; that he died; and, that his followers believed he had risen to new life in God. The 'validation' is the gist of what we have been given. If I remember correctly, whereas the Sermon on the Mount might have been staged (giving the new law from the mountain unlike Moses who received the law on the mountain) by Matthew, Jesus did say things like the "Blessed are......" statements (and perhaps, again if I remember correctly, some of the actual 'beatitudes') simply not in such an organized setting. This is the 'record'  - it is simply not like modern records. As for alternative voices, we do have some of those but, it remains interesting that if they are at 'extreme odds' with the canon and they would remain suspect (ala Allison, Jesus probably didn't say things like this or do things like that).  

I know human beings also and it is not just good intentions: we have the gospels, the letters of Paul and other NT writings and we have the work of the best critical biblical scholars and I don't see them relying only on 'best intentions.'

I simply don't have the same concern about the 'originals.' Scholars note this, scholars wish we had more and live for a discovery of the original Mark, for example - but their work on what we do have leads them back to the disciples of Jesus. Not sure what you mean by "verifying the 'theological' side of these writings with anything that could be original" as the very telling of the stories from the apostles is theological;  it is all theological from the 'get go.' I  know and have read numerous critical biblical scholars and I am just not seeing that they share your concern: you seem to be saying it could all be a hoax or a giant misunderstanding, I don't even see Ehrman, the atheist, saying that. There are discussions/debates about numerous sayings  works and events in the gospels: I know Erhman does't buy (i.e. believe) what is written (professed) but he still studies and relies on what is 'there.'  When I say it resonates with me, I mean it has meaning for me in my present; but this indicates there is something 'there' that is reliable (ala Allison) that I can examine and decide whether or not it 'speaks to me.'  I don't buy that there is as misunderstanding to the extent you seem to suggest - nor do the scholars.

(That should have been past revelation, not part.)

I simply disagree on those involved in the canon: they were human, they had concerns and intentions but you use words like spin (pejorative): the writings already existed and had for centuries (and were used in community) and they, ultimately, decided which best presented Jesus. Where is the spin, they weren't doing theology. The councils that spoke of Trinity and the nature of Christ were, but where is the theology, the spin in the agreement on a canon? Was it simply that they said these and not those? Again, I go to Allison: they believed sincerely that these particular writings best presented what Jesus said, did and meant. Just out of curiosity, what are you saying they should have chosen or what the 'true' message of Jesus was? Again, it was not merely a matter of it resonating with them: their's was a decision that X, Y & Z were better, more accurate, depictions of Jesus than A, B & C. 

We have two different issues here: resonating in one's present time and greatest accuracy to the past - and you seem to have locked onto the former. Ehrman said that 'history is all a matter of greater and lesser probabilities." Plus, have you read any of the non-canonical writings - they are amazing (not in a good way) to read and consider did Jesus really do and say things like are presented in them? Therefore, I and I suspect most (scholars) agree with Allison that the greater probability is that Jesus did and said things like those presented in the canon as opposed to what was presented in the other works. In other words, the Synoptics and John, have a greater probability of being historical, i.e. rooted in the actual experience and memory (even considering the work of Ehrman's and others on memory) of Jesus' disciples and first followers than other writings. Then comes the 2nd issue:  do these 'speak' to 'me' and have meaning for 'me' in my life......or not.

So, bottom line, is that the decision (of the canon) is not merely personal but communal (and the probability of history is with that decision). Thereafter, the decision of its meaningfulness is also communal but ultimately personal. If it is meaningful for the individual, then it can be said to be 'good news'  for him/her and a 'revelation' of or an insight into what Life means. It is not mere 'personal feeling'.

Not sure about fact being part of revelation but I use the word (in this context) as interchangeable with insight: as in the meaning of life is revealed, a light switches on, an Aha moment. And, as should be evident, I do not believe in revelation from on high or that the biblical writings were inspired (as traditionally, theistically believed).

"So, a determination is made that it is 'right for me' and most serious people would think it is also, 'right' for all: it gets at Truth." Another disconnect, you are talking about supposed (and ultimately observable) facts, like the earth being flat, while I am talking about the meaning of life. If one believes, for example with Spong, we should 'love wastefully and be" - he believes this is the meaning of existence and how ALL ought to live; he believes it is Truth for ALL. No discovery of a change in factual information will change this. We are talking about very different realities. 

To clarify: I never felt harmed (by Christianity)." I never said Christianity did not do wrong, did not sin either on a macro or a micro level. If I remember you have spoken of what it did 'to you' - it was your story not a recounting of the history of Christianity; it was (part of) the history of Paul. So too, mine was (part of) the history of me - not the history of the whole of Christianity.  

If Christianity is truly understood and lived, there is no possibility of further harm in the world (caused by it). As has been said: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, Christianity has been found difficult and not tried." And then there is Ghandi: " I like your Christ, I don't like Christians - they are so unlike their Christ." (quotes are accurate but not exact). So, the Crusades, the Inquisition, hatred of Jews, hatred of homosexuals, the lesser role of women, and on and on - are not Christian, are not like Christ, are not the image of the Father! You make my point, Christian teaching are not as you say used, they are misused - never understood, never lived in the circumstances under discussion. 

There is no revelation from on high and many in the history of Christianity misunderstand and/or lack the courage to be. Where does Jesus okay Crusades, Inquisitions, hatred of his own people he came for, hatred for homosexuals, and on and on. Nowhere! Simply, nowhere. I have never really liked the OT, especially since Christians believe in a new covenant - but that's me. Too many Christians rely on the OT over Jesus and the NT. There is the truth of Jesus, the truth of most of the great religious figures of history and then there is the little, scared truths of people, throughout Christian history, that are relied on to support, justify and encourage all the atrocities that you mentioned. Which is truth: their way of the way of God/Love? I side with the latter.

Your ultimate conclusion seems to be that there is no Truth or we can't know it and live it. Again, I simply disagree and I refer you back to Wonder Bread.

 

 

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7 hours ago, thormas said:

Skye,

I simply don't see anything as God-steered. There are such problems around the idea that the crucifixion, the planning of the torture and horrible death of one's son, one's child, that it casts God in a light that many, reflecting upon their own parents or being parents, find so despicable that they would never accept this as correct or the God behind it.

I am choosing to believe what is written in the bible, instead of commentary and philosophical musings. Things that we might find unacceptable might be necessary for reasons we do not comprehend.

 

Matthew 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

 

John 12;27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.

7 hours ago, thormas said:

So too Paul: where is the freedom of man, given by God, if that God usurps that freedom by purposely blinding Paul and forcing his hand? Now, if for Paul, the persecutor of the Christians, something finally dawned on him and he changed - then we have something magnificent: man freely - without prior arrangement - choosing God, even, as Paul did, unto death.

Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Some of what is written might not be true, but overall if I choose to believe it all and there is x% untrue, it still might be a higher percentage of overall truth than if I start deciding according to my own logic what is truth or not. 

7 hours ago, thormas said:

And it is not happenstance: God is immanent - present and active in the everyday, ordinary events of human life - in and through creation, especially the human. You read a book, speak to a friend, watch a move, listen to a song and sometimes you realize something, see something for the first time or through the words of another you are caused to look at yourself, see and admit where you were wrong and heeding the words, you change, you become more, you become better. And your friend or others are there, loving you, giving you the encouragement to change (even if neither of you ever puts these words to it). Yet your friend (and the actor, the author, the musician), who 'spoke' to you also needs you, also needs to hear, see and be encouraged, be empowered to change and to live fully.

Who owns this word that calls to man, who owns the love that gives man the courage to be, to live?  Not us, we all stand in need. One simple reflection: words and love are both gratuitous (gifts given by others) and transcendent (more than: no one owns what they give because they too need to receive it from others). We 'give more' than we have; we 'give more' than we are - we give God. God is the Word that calls man through others; God is the Love given in and by others, giving humanity the courage to Be.  God called Paul - but in a way so subtle and in the ordinary events of his life and it might have taken some time but then Paul describes it, perhaps in the only way he can: he is blinded by the light of the Christ; he gets it - finally. This is faith: God's give of self in the ordinary life of man is met by one who, in turns, gives self to God, to Life and becomes the likeness of Life; he becomes Love (and this is incarnation: divinity lives in humanity).

Jesus was Fully Human because Divinity lived in him. He did what God was: Love. He was obedient to God- obedience simply means 'what is important to the other, is important to you.' What was important to God was that humanity understand (hear the Word) and have the courage to Be. So too for Jesus: the Word echoed in Jesus and Love lived in him and poured out freely on others; he loved -even unto death. For some, the cross raised high on the hill, becomes the symbol of the Word that calls, the love that empowers until God is All in all.

 

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45 minutes ago, Skye said:

I am choosing to believe what is written in the bible, instead of commentary and philosophical musings. Things that we might find unacceptable might be necessary for reasons we do not comprehend.

So it is written, so it is. I accept your stance.

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10 hours ago, thormas said:

Paul,

I have learned over the years from authors like Ehrman and Dale Allison that the 'gist' is what is most important. Allison writes: "In order for us to find Jesus, our sources must often remember at least the sorts of things he did and the sort of things that he said, including what he said about himself. If the repeating patterns do not catch Jesus, then how can he not forever escape us?" When we read them (gospels), we should think not that Jesus said this or did that but rather: Jesus did things like this, and he said things like that."

Unfortunately the 'gist' of Jesus' alleged message has been interpreted by millions to mean all sorts of different things.  Personally, i think people land where it suits them.  Not necessarily by choice but by experience, culture, circumstances, and numerous other factors.  I don't see why this wouldn't also happen soon after jesus, particular when the understanding of his message started getting conveyed by people who had never met Jesus.  But my main point and that which Erhman does acknowledge (not sure about Allison) is that we simply don't have anything to accurately verify Jesus' message and we most definitely rely on other people's interpretations and understanding (and then further on later interpretation, scribing and copying of this information too).

Quote

So in addition to learning not to read the OT literally, I have learned we should not read the NT as if Omarosa were recording Trump :+} So, regardless of the presence or absence of the extra Markan verses, we know, from the sources, somethings about Jesus, and that he died and that his followers believed he had risen to new life in God. All else in literally commentary. The 'validation' is the gist of what we have been given: as Allison said, Jesus did and said things like those presented and remembered in the gospel pictures of him. If I remember correctly, whereas the Sermon on the Mount might have been staged (giving the new law from the mountain unlike Moses who received the law on the mountain) by Matthew, Jesus did say things like the "Blessed are......" statements (and perhaps, again if I remember correctly, some of the actual 'beatitudes' simply not in such an organized setting. This is the 'record'  - it is simply not like most modern records. As for alternative voices, we do have some of those but, it remains interesting that if they are at 'extreme odds' with the canon, they would remain suspect (ala Allison, Jesus probably didn't say things like this or do things like that).  

This is a harmonised version of the particular documents that were selected to represent Christianity.  No argument.  Does it include all of the voices and understandings of Jesus from the early times  - No.  Maybe that doesn't matter to some and people who feel 'spoken to' by all that we have left of that period are good with that.  I'm simply trying to point it out for what it is, that's all.  Claiming that this is validation of the gist doe snot further the discussion.  You are simply saying we don't need to know about the views that didn't win through because they were the minority.  And I'm guessing you feel that way because what we do have 'speaks' to you.  Just because something is at extreme odds with the approved cannon does not make it incorrect.  What if early followers got it wrong (or even just moved off track a little) in say 40 or 50 or 80 CE and then Christianity took an entirely different direction, later supported by all the following writings?  It's not at all implausible.  There is certainly arguments that Pauline Christianity went in a different direction to Jesus' message.  What if Paul hadn't existed - I wonder what writings may have become prominent in Christianity then?

Quote

I know human beings also and it is not just good intentions, we have the gospels, the letters of Paul and other NY writings and we have the work of the best critical biblical scholars and I don't see them relying only on 'best intentions

I simply don't have the same concern about 'originals.' Scholars note this, scholars wish we had more and live for a discovery of the original Mark, for example - but their work on what we do have leads them back to the disciples of Jesus. And decades after Jesus' death is amazing - not sure what you mean by "verifying the 'theological' side of these writings with anything that could be original" as the very telling of the stories from the apostles is theological?? It is all theological from the 'get go.' I  know and have read numerous critical biblical scholars and I am just not seeing that they share your concern: you seem to be saying it could all be a hoax or a giant misunderstanding, I don't even see Ehrman, the atheist, saying that. There is discussion about this, that to something else and I know Erhman does't buy what is written but he still studies and relies on what is 'there.' When I say it resonates with me, I mean it has meaning for me in my present; but this indicates there is something 'there' that is reliable (ala Allison) that I can examine and decide whether or not it resonates. So, no, I don't buy that there is as misunderstanding to the extent you seem to suggest - nor do the scholars.

Clearly biblical scholars don't rely on the best intentions but they do ONLY rely on the available evidence - not the unavailable evidence like talking to an author and understanding WHY they say the things they do.  I think it would be interesting to interview some of the original writers and ask - why are you saying these things?  As a minority of NT writers are actually supposed to be people who physically spent time with Jesus, it doesn't take much imagination to think that a lot of these others authors are speaking from their heart and not necessarily accuracy about Jesus and God.  If you want to feel certain they are onto the right 'gist' then that (and I'm certain biblical scholars will agree) is an opinion and cannot be regarded as evidence.

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That should have been past revelation, not part. However, I simply disagree: they were human, they had concerns and intentions but you use words like spin (pejorative) while the writings already existed and had for centuries (and were used in community) and they, ultimately, decided which best presented Jesus. Where is the spin, they weren't doing theology. The councils that spoke of Trinity and the nature of Christ were, but where is the theology, the spin in the agreement of a canon? Was it simply that they said these and not those? Again, I go to Allison: they believed sincerely that these particular writings best presented what Jesus said, did and meant. Just out of curiosity, what are you saying they should have chosen or what the 'true' message of Jesus was? Again, it was not merely a matter of it resonating with them, this was a decision that X, Y & Z were better, more accurate, depictions of Jesus than A, B & C. 

I have no doubt they believed sincerely, but in finalising what doctrines Christianity should 'agree' on moving forward they finally silenced many different voices and views about Jesus' message.  Had those different views been allowed to exist, who knows what direction Christianity may have taken.  I don't disagree with you that the majority may have had a view of Jesus' message, I'm just saying all of the finer detail that was interpreted, written, imagined after Jesus and that later was sealed for eternity into THE canon (and which the majority of Christianity today take to be fact about Jesus).  We don't have any minutes from the Council of Nicae but I am skeptical that the Council, who operated under the approval of an Emperor who believed the Prince of Peace sent him a sign to win a war, weer not in any way biased about what they wanted people to believe.

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We have two different issues here and you seem to have locked onto one: resonating in one's present time and greatest accuracy to the past. Ehrman said that 'history is all a matter of greater and lesser probabilities." Plus, have you read any of the non-canonical writings? Therefore, I and I suspect most agree with Allison that the greater probability is that Jesus did and said what is presented in the canon as opposed to what was presented in the other works. In other words, the Synoptics and John, have a greater probability of being historical, i.e. rooted in the actual experience and memory (even with Ehrman's and others work on memories) of his disciples and first followers than other writings. Then, the decision is do these 'speak' to me and have meaning for me in my life.

Actually Erhman (I don't have the reference to hand) gives a better example of what I am trying to say and which also counters Allison's point.  It relates to the reliability of our earliest sources.  Say a writer writes two identical letters and sends them to two different early Christian churches in the realm and never sees those churches again.  Now lets say one Church goes by the wayside after a few years and that letter is lost, but the other Church succeeds and grows but later adds to and builds upon that letter based on their own experiences and interpretation  Now we can have a new understanding of Jesus and a new 'reporting' of his message and as that Church and message grows, much of the original message is lost or overtaken.  That and we have Paul, who never even met Jesus when he was alive, writing books about the Jesus he met in a vision, long before any of the alleged 'disciple' letters.  I have more questions than answers, but where were all letters from the disciples, written on their behalf or other, in the immediate years following Jesus' death.  The only alleged stories we have from them start to emerge from writings dated some 20-50 years after Jesus' death!  It just doesn't seem convincing to me that the NT is telling us the entire truth but rather other people's interpretations and understandings.  If that 'speaks' to people then fine, but if it 'speaks' to people in ways that are harmful to others, then it's not fine and I'm not satisfied for people to preach with authority that this is what Jesus said and/or wanted, because the facts are they simply don't KNOW that.

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So, the Crusades, the Inquisition, hatred of Jews, hatred of homosexuals, the lesser role of women, and on and on - are not Christian, are not like Christ, are not the image of the Father! You make my point, Christian teaching are not as you say used, they are misused - never understood, never lived in the circumstances under discussion. 

Wrong.  That is your interpretation, not theirs.  They clearly DO think that is what Christ wanted.  They use NT bible verses to support their views.  This is the problem now and through the ages - the cannon and views of Jesus are open to interpretation and people usually land where the they feel the text 'speaks' to them.

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Again, there is no revelation from on high and they do misunderstand or lack the courage to be. Where does Jesus okay Crusades, Inquisitions, hatred of his own people he came for, hatred for homosexuals, and on and on. Nowhere! Simply nowhere. I have never really liked the OT, especially since Christians believe in a new covenant - but that's me. Too many Christians rely on the OT over their Jesus. There is the truth of Jesus, the truth of most of the great religious figures of history and then there is the little, scared truths of people that are to support nee encourage all the atrocities that you mentioned. Do yu really question which is truth: their way of the way of God/Love? I side with the latter.

Your ultimate conclusion seems to be that there is no Truth or we can't know it and live it. Again, I simply disagree and I refer you back to Wonder Bread.

People have used the NT throughout history to validate their actions.  Paul says to 'fight the good fight' and there's much debate about whether his words condemned homosexuality or not - nonetheless, many Christians do use his words to support condemnation of gays.  Jesus says many statements that have been considered approval for violence.  Now you'll say that people should read those differently and probably refer to other verses which seem to counter that view, but many don't agre with you and interpret those verses to okay agression or war etc.  Some of these include "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe" (Luke 11:21), I did not come to bring peace to the earth; I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34), Jesus wielded a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple (Matt. 21:12-13), "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God" (Rom. 13:1-2) - so if they say go to war, you go to war.  It goes on and on.  Sure, say they are interpreting it incorrectly but the fact is millions and millions and millions of Christians in the past have not felt 100% like you concerning how the NT 'speaks' to them.

One other quote you mentioned from Erhman that I missed addressing above - "Ehrman said that 'history is all a matter of greater and lesser probabilities." 

If Erhman did say that (I'd be very surprised if he did or meant it in an absolute context), he is wrong.  History is NOT probable, it is actual.  There is only ONE actual version of a historical event.  We don't get to guess, even if based on what's 'likely'.  I think what Erhman is referring to is that we have what we have and that because of time and the lack of validating evidence we are forced to deal with probabilities.  I'm good with that as long as we acknowledged they are probabilities and not 100% verified history.

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36 minutes ago, PaulS said:

Unfortunately the 'gist' of Jesus' alleged message has been interpreted by millions to mean all sorts of different things.  

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They have misinterpreted the gist - which is obvious to those of other faiths, no faith and the Chtistian faith. You have listed the harm done by the interpretations of some - but where is their evidence that their interpretation was correct, on what (the subject is the NT canon ) specific words and actions of the Christ do they base their interpretation? 

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5 hours ago, thormas said:

They have misinterpreted the gist - which is obvious to those of other faiths, no faith and the Chtistian faith. You have listed the harm done by the interpretations of some - but where is their evidence that their interpretation was correct, on what (the subject is the NT canon ) specific words and actions of the Christ do they base their interpretation? 

I truly wish I had a dollar for every time one Christian has told me that another Christian's understanding of Jesus & his message was wrong.

This 'misinterpretation' may be obvious to a number of those of other faiths, no faith and the Christian faith, but I would hardly suggest everyone has seen it as wrong.  Maybe our modern minds do, but I doubt that has always been the case over the past 2000 years.

This is a problem with the New testament - it is open to a zillion different interpretations and understandings (which could possibly be eliminated if we had the original documents, but then again, who knows precisely what they said [nobody!]).  Worse, it is a bigger problem with organised religion which teaches its adherents that this is what they need to understand about Jesus and his message because 'they know the truth as it speaks to them'!

I know you think your interpretation is the right one (and I'm sure you gain much confidence from the many others Christians that are in a similar ballpark), but I am pretty certain that the Catholic church in its day of campaigning and war, the world's slave owners,  certain politicians, various Christian leaders throughout history and right through to modern day soldiers who are painting bible verses on bombs, ALL have had and maintained different interpretations of the words, portrayal and alleged messages of Jesus as it 'speaks' to them.

I don't have any problem with you telling them they've got it wrong.  I'm just saying that the reality is there is a wide variety of interpretations about the Bible which has significant implications for our world, often. 

I also find it very, very credible that the Christians in the 150 years following Jesus (when the bulk of what we have in the NT was written) had similar varieties of interpretations and understandings of Jesus, especially from authors who never even met Jesus or any of the disciples.  And whilst eventually a certain number of letters and writings were considered the 'best' ones to run with, I see a very human hand in this selection and I respectfully suggest that this could just as much be the driver for what we have today rather than other interpretations and understandings of Jesus that existed through that period but were drowned out or discarded by the 'winners'.

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I think the quote here recorded in the Kalama Sutra reportedly by the Buddha is a wise one to consider.....

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”

It seems to me that we should test the wisdom we find in the writings for ourselves .  IE: Have you tried forgiveness? Has it brought more peace to your life?  Have you tried being non-judgmental and not constantly measuring others? Does it reduce your own personal guilt and bring more peace to your life? Have you tried friendship by first showing yourself friendly? Have you tried kindness, love, gentleness, patience, self-control? Are there benefits to these for welfare? Do they lead to happiness and peace with your fellow man?  etc. etc.    Test them for yourself. These to me are the important aspects of Christianity and all religions  along with not getting lost in the mire of the verbiage that only creates strife and confusion. 

My 2 cents,

Joseph

 

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8 hours ago, PaulS said:

I truly wish I had a dollar for every time one Christian has told me that another Christian's understanding of Jesus & his message was wrong.

This 'misinterpretation' may be obvious to a number of those of other faiths, no faith and the Christian faith, but I would hardly suggest everyone has seen it as wrong.  Maybe our modern minds do, but I doubt that has always been the case over the past 2000 years.

So you might have made $5 in your lifetime - enough for a large coffee :+} However, not really an argument to support a position - like collecting a dollar every time someone says the understandings and action of the racist or sexist- based on their interpretation and understanding of the world or the sexes or the superiority of the white race - is wrong!. That understanding and those actions are, in fact and in truth, simply wrong. So the ones who told you they were wrong are.............right. 

We have been talking actions that people supposedly track back to the NT canon - on what words or actions of Jesus, presented by the canon, do they base the atrocities that you cited earlier and find, correctly, so offensive and........wrong?   Is it really that difficult to make an assessment of whether or not they are wrong in their 'interpretation and understanding' of Jesus? The interpretations and understandings of some people, some of the time or, sadly, all of the time are simply wrong.  It If I had a dollar for every mis-interpretation and the laying of evil human actions at the foot of Jesus or God - I would actually own multiple coffee franchises around the world.  

Edited by thormas

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8 hours ago, PaulS said:

This 'misinterpretation' may be obvious to a number of those of other faiths, no faith and the Christian faith, but I would hardly suggest everyone has seen it as wrong.  Maybe our modern minds do, but I doubt that has always been the case over the past 2000 years.

This is a problem with the New testament - it is open to a zillion different interpretations and understandings (which could possibly be eliminated if we had the original documents, but then again, who knows precisely what they said [nobody!]).  Worse, it is a bigger problem with organised religion which teaches its adherents that this is what they need to understand about Jesus and his message because 'they know the truth as it speaks to them'!

I know you think your interpretation is the right one (and I'm sure you gain much confidence from the many others Christians that are in a similar ballpark), but I am pretty certain that the Catholic church in its day of campaigning and war, the world's slave owners,  certain politicians, various Christian leaders throughout history and right through to modern day soldiers who are painting bible verses on bombs, ALL have had and maintained different interpretations of the words, portrayal and alleged messages of Jesus as it 'speaks' to them.

I don't have any problem with you telling them they've got it wrong.  I'm just saying that the reality is there is a wide variety of interpretations about the Bible which has significant implications for our world, often. 

I also find it very, very credible that the Christians in the 150 years following Jesus (when the bulk of what we have in the NT was written) had similar varieties of interpretations and understandings of Jesus, especially from authors who never even met Jesus or any of the disciples.  And whilst eventually a certain number of letters and writings were considered the 'best' ones to run with, I see a very human hand in this selection and I respectfully suggest that this could just as much be the driver for what we have today rather than other interpretations and understandings of Jesus that existed through that period but were drowned out or discarded by the 'winners'.

Of course it has not always been the case that the misinterpretation of the NT gospels by some Christians was seen, by them, as wrong (if it had been, they would have had a different interpretation) but it doesn't follow that their rationale for things like the crusades, the inquisition, the role of women or the treatment of homosexuals is found and justified by the words and actions of Jesus as presented in the gospels of the canon. Where is the exact justification? The same could be asked of Constantine with his Cross in the sky and the words, "In this sign you shall conquer" - where is the basis for that in Jesus? NADA. However, it was a clever and convenient political move for Constantine to unite the empire under one religion - thus one united people. The reason also for him riding roughshod over the Council: unity for his empire rather than the problems and division cause by 'theological disputes.'

Do you really think we would have one interpretation if we had the original document? The US have its original documents and we NEVER have competing interpretations! Did you ever get in a car with your wife and even with a map or iPhone, accurate in all details, disagree on how best to get 'there?" It is not about possessing the originals!

The problem with organized religion is not that they believe that some things are important, even essential, to participation in their community - it is that for too long, they demanded blind, rote learning and acceptance without understanding (theirs or the adherents born to their particular religions confession). 

The Catholic Church and any Church that does what you have listed above, in the name of Jesus, is simply wrong  - and the best of them recognize this. Those actions are more about Constantine than Christ.  I don't belong to any organized Church so I am not involved with nor do I 'gain confidence' from others who agree. However, I am glad for them, for Christianity and the world when they do :+} It is not merely interpretation, some times it is simply asking, "what the hell do you base they on?" and "when you ask WWJD do you really believe and where is it found that Jesus would do that?" It is not mere interpretation - sometimes, reality (in the form of the actual gospels under discussion) just smack you upside the head.

Look at the things you are listing. We recognize that some Christians believe they were and are right and justified (be it slavery, homosexuality, the role of women, crusades, Constantine, inquisitions, etc.) - but even you are not buying that. So, my friend, is it merely competing interpretations of a gospel, or a holy man, of life ...........or, on these major issues, are you right and they are simply wrong?

Indeed the reality is there are a variety of interpretations about the Bible, but there is a difference between was Mary a virgin or a 'young woman' or the sermon on the mount vs. the sermon on the plain, or was there a Nicodemus, and so on - and whether particular actions (discriminatory, inhuman actions directed at particular people or individuals) can be based on or blamed on Jesus.  The former 'interpretations' are fun (for some), intriguing and might have some significance while the latter 'interpretations are deadly and destructive (sometimes literally) and are more than different interpretations or understandings. Again, we can ask: where, specifically, does one find justification and support for such 'interpretations' in the NT gospels - which are really the only works touching on the words and works of Jesus. Original or not, that is what we have and that is what is being 'interpreted.' 

So, if we place the death of Jesus at 30 CE (give or take a few years given the error in the calendar), the NT gospels are actually 40-65 years after his death. And of course we should allow, as scholars do, for the oral traditions told and practiced in liturgy, the possible existence of Q and the probable existence of the M and L sources - some of which probably trace back to the first generation and were then included in the ongoing understanding and writings of later generations. And, of course there was a human hand (unless you accept traditional notions of revelation/inspiration) and there were other writings, other gospels - some were the  gospels of specific communities (Marcion communities for instance). But, as stated previously, some felt that certain of these gospels were not sufficiently apostolic or universal (among the very human criteria for decision) and possibly dangerous. But, again, look at some of those other gosepls. Some were definitely off and 'imaginative' and would not pass the Allison test (above) or Ehrmans's history as probability. So, it was a driver and it is the canon that still exists and remains common in Catholicism and Protestantism.

I, for one, love that we have other 'disputed and dismissed' gospels: I am curious and like to see some of what was also in play and see if I agree or disagree with the orthodox 'deciders. Scholars look for multiple attestation of words and actions attributed to Jesus, but I don't remember any great announcement that a number (i.e. multiple) of the  'discarded' gospels independently attested to actions and words of Jesus that would suggest he was not as he is portrayed in the NT canon to the degree that murder, inquisitions, racism and sexism could be based and justified by Jesus himself. 

 

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2 hours ago, JosephM said:

It seems to me that we should test the wisdom we find in the writings for ourselves .  IE: Have you tried forgiveness? Has it brought more peace to your life?  Have you tried being non-judgmental and not constantly measuring others? Does it reduce your own personal guilt and bring more peace to your life? Have you tried friendship by first showing yourself friendly? Have you tried kindness, love, gentleness, patience, self-control? Are there benefits to these for welfare? Do they lead to happiness and peace with your fellow man?  etc. etc.    Test them for yourself. These to me are the important aspects of Christianity and all religions  along with not getting lost in the mire of the verbiage that only creates strife and confusion. 

Exactly, that is the issue of resonating or 'speaking' to one in his/her life.

However, you note kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control, forgiveness - these are the (fruits of the) 'wisdom' found in the writings. So the wisdom is not the opposite of love, forgiveness, peace, friendliness, acceptance, etc.; the wisdom found in the writings is not expressed in crusades, inquisitions, sexism, homophobia, racism, misogyny, etc.  One who justifies such action in the (in this case) NT gospels, in the words and actions of Jesus..............has missed or ignored the wisdom that was presented; has mis-understood what was written.

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10 hours ago, JosephM said:

I think the quote here recorded in the Kalama Sutra reportedly by the Buddha is a wise one to consider.....

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”

It seems to me that we should test the wisdom we find in the writings for ourselves .  IE: Have you tried forgiveness? Has it brought more peace to your life?  Have you tried being non-judgmental and not constantly measuring others? Does it reduce your own personal guilt and bring more peace to your life? Have you tried friendship by first showing yourself friendly? Have you tried kindness, love, gentleness, patience, self-control? Are there benefits to these for welfare? Do they lead to happiness and peace with your fellow man?  etc. etc.    Test them for yourself. These to me are the important aspects of Christianity and all religions  along with not getting lost in the mire of the verbiage that only creates strife and confusion. 

My 2 cents,

Joseph

 

No argument from me.  I fully agree with the Buddha (or whoever wrote that).  And there are lots of good messages attributed to Jesus and others in the NT which speak to people and do much good for and in their lives and that of others.

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1 hour ago, PaulS said:

No argument from me.  I fully agree with the Buddha (or whoever wrote that).  And there are lots of good messages attributed to Jesus and others in the NT which speak to people and do much good for and in their lives and that of others.

Agreement - now, if only people interpret the message of Jesus properly :+}

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1 hour ago, thormas said:

Agreement - now, if only people interpret the message of Jesus properly :+}

Which is essentially what I am trying to say Thormas about 'interpretation'.  I know you're joking, but millions aren't when they say others need to understand the NT 'properly'.  There are numerous voices all giving their opinion about what Jesus and God want.

Did Jesus really intend for women to be silent in Church (and cover their heads, etc)?  Does Jesus really want us to hate our families?  If Jesus says he didn't come to bring peace but to bring a sword does that mean we should fight others?  Should we really abstain from blood?  Are slaves really not above their masters?  Should Christians only pray in their closet and never in public? Etc etc etc.

These are a mere sample of the teachings of Jesus which are either attributed as direct words of Jesus or conveyed by other writers as what Jesus wants.  They are all subject to interpretation and disagreement.  By all means says that people misinterpret these - my point simply is that we do not know which of these Jesus really said and in many cases whether or not he would have approved of this message.  Nonetheless,  the same verses 'speak' to people in different ways and affects their actions in many cases.

Read about St. Bernard of Clairvaux.  He was a strong advocate for the crusades and truly believed that they were what God wanted.  Clearly he interprets the bible different to you but I have no doubt what he believed about the scriptures spoke to him truly,  just as strongly as it does to you but in a different way.

I don't think if we had one single document that'd necessarily be the answer.  But what I do say is that there are numerous voices in the NT.  We only read the surviving ones from those times.  There is no single agreed interpretation of all of the NT.  There is much speculation about what certain verses say and mean.  We can't know for sure if they are original sayings or if they were amended over the decades between being written and the earliest copies.  

None of this is a problem to me when people take the NT personally and apply it to themselves only, or perhaps say to others this is I understand it and it works for me.  But when Christians say this is what Jesus definitely said and wanted, this is how one MUST understand Jesus and the other writers of the NT, this is THE 'truth' as laid out across the NT, that's when I say they have no basis for that argument.  At best it is opinion.

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Paul,

My focus has been on the gospels of the NT canon. There are no originals, as you have said; the Jesus we have is found in the NT gospels. Even if augmented by gospels outside the canon, that would meet the criteria of scholars – there are no originals; so we are back to Allison’s insight.  In these gospel stories, there is no justification for any of the harm inflicted by Christians throughout their history. For anybody to say there is justification is to go beyond interpretation, to what is not there. Whether one accepts the NT accounts as literal or not, there are the stories, the parables, the beatitudes, the sermons of Jesus which go to how to live and treat others; they are right there’and require no great learning to interpret. 

What you listed were not 'mere samples of the teachings of Jesus." They are, for the most part, the writings of others. If we go back to the gospels (what is remembered in the Oral tradition, in Q, in M, in L) these 'sample teachings' are not Jesus; they are not ‘like’ (Allison) what the gospels tell us Jesus did and said. Jesus never mentioned the silence of women, slaves and masters or abstaining from blood. When we move to the rest of the Bible, we are met by Paul (silent of women, slaves and masters) and the OT and the Acts references to blood. Here, people might need assistance in reading and interpreting these passages. 

So, do we know “….which of these Jesus really said and in many cases whether or not he would have approved of this message?" We do: we know that Jesus did not say anything in the OT (he wasnt born yet) and nothing in Paul (he had been crucified, Paul never met him nor does Paul tell us about the man Jesus). As for approval, he was a Jew but freely followed the spirit and not the letter of the law and the silence of women is at odds not only with the stories of Jesus but also with Paul’s other writings. 

However, Christianity does have a problem: with the Crusades, the inquisitions, hatred of Jews, judgment on homosexuals, etc. - people bring their own fears, prejudices and needs to the Testaments, to Christianity and find what they need so they can do what they want. This is also a very human problem. Furthermore, the problem would not be resolved if we had the 'originals.' Some would doubt they were the originals, some would be driven to compare and contrast with what we already have and others would simply still have different understandings/interpretations on what is actually written in the originals and what it means. Same old, same old.

I know of Bernard but this was also a clash of civilizations and people went on crusade for many reasons which also included profit, glory, land, status, greater possibilities for those who were not the first born sons of Europe and, of course the Pope saw it as a way to redirect the various warriors of Europe on a single, blessed by God, quest (“find what they need so they can do what they want”). Of course, many justified it and said, "God wills it" but on what was that based? Plus, wasn't there the idolatry that the places where Christ was born, crucified and was buried were sacred and deserving of worship?  Of course Bernard thought he was right (at least I hope he did, otherwise he was a monster) but was he right? Do you know what, in the gospels of Jesus (which he probably took literally) was his justification for the crusades? Was there any justification based on what is written in the NT? 

Did Jesus really say anything directly or indirectly that would establish his approval of the crusades? Or, is it just the opposite? Jesus, in the gospel, stops Peter when he raises his sword, to defend - not land, not tombs, not hills or churches - but Jesus himself. Again, not for land, churches or sacred places, not even for himself did Jesus say it was okay to take up the sword. Was it simply a different interpretation or was Bernard, were they all wrong (as you seem to believe)?  Can you sit back, perhaps over a cold beer and actually say, "yeah, Jesus would have been for the crusades”(or the inquisition, or the repression, discrimination and murder of the Jews (his own people) or, in spite of having them among his most important followers, the silencing of women)?

First Note: this passage of the sword is of interest for the passage you cited: the Peter incident refers to a real sword however the Word of God is a two edged sword that 'cuts into humanity' presenting danger if ignored and opportunity (salvation) if accepted: so indeed Jesus brings and is a sword, the Word of God. 

How difficult is it to say that Bernard was wrong? If killing others, demeaning women, gays, Jews, burning or bullying non-believers 'speaks to someone'  - what is speaking is not the Jesus of the gospels and not his God! Isn’t it rather simple to say this without it being written off as just a different interpretation?

The voice that counts is that of Jesus: he 'said and did things like' those presented in the NT gospels and they seem (as any originals must have been to be worthy of copying) to be rooted in the remembrance and stories of his earliest followers; this is the only Jesus we have. We do have some of the other gospels and I think Allison comes into play again: if any gospels present words or works and we can say of them that they echo what we ‘know’ of Jesus in the NT Gospels - then we have something of value (like the sayings gospel of Thomas). 

If you have a community of like-minded people, they are pretty much in agreement about what is written and what it means. And as others join or are born into it, it is utterly human to give those others what the community believes is right and if a 'member' disagree or goes astray, it seems natural to try to assist and bring them back to the community. The trick, in communities and in families (i.e. with kids) is to do this with a light hand: present, explain and let the other decide for herself. Church communities and families fail at this and it takes greater love and strength to present than coerce. A problem with some church communities is they try to govern and regulate all walks of a believer's life; all Jesus wanted, as is written, is for men and women to change and be ready for (be attentive to) God who is already present and a Kingdom”still coming. As with kids that are loved, so with church members: there is no must, only a continued invitation and presentation.

Second Note: isn't the emphasis in the prayer verse not on where (public or closet, i.e. private) but how: with sincerity, focused on God as opposed to showing off, for others, how holy you are -  just like the hypocrites (think Trump)?

Third Notedoesn't the hating the family verse have to do with the cost of discipleship and having to decide to give everything up in order to follow (similar to the startling answer that Jesus gives to the rich man: give up all and follow). It is not easy and Jesus was preparing those who accept to realize what they were getting into. Plus, did he hate his family, even when they misunderstood him, another NT story? Legend has it that Mary was at his side in death and history has it that James continued his work as the leader of the Jerusalem community.

Edited by thormas

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Thormas,

You have a version of Jesus that works for you and speaks to you.  I am not trying to take that away from you or anyone else and as I have said, if your understanding of Jesus causes no harm, then cool.

Yes, there are the stories, parables, the beatitudes, the sermons of Jesus etc which do go to a way to live and treat others.  Maybe Jesus said all of these things, maybe he didn't.  But there are certainly a number of other stories in the Gospels to confound this view of Jesus, or at the very least to give some Christians a number of interpretations about what Jesus would do today which seems contrary to the understanding you hold.

Jesus was love a lot of the times, except when he took to the money changers in the temple with a whip and overthrew tables and generally lost his cool.  Many have found that a justification for aggression from a Christian perspective (if it's okay for Jesus to get angry and harm others, then why shouldn't Christian followers today bomb abortion clinics?).  Or what do you make of Jesus cursing the fig tree - is it okay for Jesus to behave like a petulant child because figs were out of season?

What about the miracles in the Gospels - do you believe Jesus raised dead corpses, sent demons into innocent pig herds, walked on water?  Do you believe all of the miracles or just some.  If the gospel authors were wrong about some bits they wrote, then which bits do you know are right or wrong?  The bits that 'speak' to you? 

You answers some of my questions about Jesus' words with questions yourself - I would argue that is because the interpretation is not clear cut....and we've had nearly a couple of thousand years to mull it over and most Christians still can't agree on the precise understanding.  We simply don't know for sure what Jesus meant (or if he even really said it).  Again, this has provided for many a Christian to interpret Jesus differently to you - turf their children out because they're gay, for children to abandon their families because the parents aren't coverts to Christianity, to commit acts of harm because that's what they believe Jesus wants.

There have been Christian wars ever since Jesus played fullback for Jerusalem!  I'm astounded that you can't see that the interpretation of Jesus and his words simply do 'speak' to people differently.  You might not like it that way, but history shows us that is what happens.

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