Hello my dear lady, Joyce!
I thought I’d share a few thoughts regarding what you’re asking here. However, keep in mind that I was asleep the day they taught this class at my Bible college. I’m just throwing these out as they come to me, so bear with me.
I’ve been reading some various things and talking to others in my life right now about the history of things that we believe and have come across other’s thinking with regard to the writing of the gospels. They are saying (in general) that not all of them were eye-witnesses to what they were writing about. That not all (maybe only Matthew) were actual apostles,
History is an interesting concept, no matter how distant or recent the people and/or events. I remember the library in the basement of a high school friend’s house in Virginia. The walls were loaded with books his father collected about Abraham Lincoln. I just couldn’t imagine how so much could be written about the life of this one man. I remember my friend making some comment (based upon his dad’s studies) about how there were many different viewpoints about Lincoln and his life. At the time I thought that was so odd since something either was or wasn’t, but it apparently there were many different aspects and viewpoints to take into consideration. No doubt what the man said, thought or did is what is true, but how that has been viewed depends upon the one writing the account, such as whether he/she was from the North or South, whether he/she actually knew the man, how he/she was impacted by him for good or for evil, whether it was a personal or scholastic work, whether he/she was paid (and by whom) for the work, etc.
What has become even more evident to me over the years is how history becomes redefined right after it happens. Just consider how after any political race or “State of the Union” address we have been bombarded with reinterpretations of what we just witnessed. And realize that these are “scholars” who tell us what we just heard or saw. No doubt there are considerations and ramifications behind events, but how many opposing “facts” can be true at the same time? In my own experience, I’ve been amazed at how often I’ve heard totally inaccurate recaps of events or statements. I can tell you that one thing it’s done for me over the years is to make me very careful to listen and observe so that I will recognize the difference between what I heard or saw and the thoughts or reactions that had been stirred within me.
There are reasons why some will immediately take one side or another in how history is viewed. The very concept of Biblical authenticity seems to only highlight such a pattern because it can be so controversial and far reaching. The interesting thing for me is that those who stake their lives and reputations upon the “every written word” can easily support a testimony that shatters the Biblical system they stand upon. It seems to me that some who reject the reliability of the Bible are really reacting against a religious system and its crazy agenda, though I have no doubt that some seek to nullify what even the system can’t see.
Anyhow, what seems to be consistent regarding the authors of these so-called “gospel” accounts is that their writings were accepted by gatherings of believers based upon their connection to an apostle, so that whether they were specifically penned by an apostle doesn’t seem to be part of the criteria or concern. After all, Jesus told the twelve that he was sending them into the world even as he had been sent into the world, and that others would believe because of their testimony. The “authenticity” of the accounts of the apostles was more a matter that they were based upon what the apostle (aka, the eye witness) had taught for many years. Now, I agree that there exists much religious propaganda, but there is just as much in that which seeks to destroy religion. This is a case in point. For to suggest any sort of potential disqualification of an author by claiming he wasn’t eye-witness builds upon a false assumption. We might be thrown off thinking that we’ve been bamboozled by inaccurate claims if the authors of Jesus’ life weren’t “apostles”, but that’s only because someone has convinced us that it had to be a qualification. It’s that same old concept of building a straw man in order to knock it down.
There is a reason that certain letters and writings survived among the believers for a long, long time in the midst of heavy persecution, including the confiscation and destruction of the writings they held dear, while others faded into obscurity. Paul referred to the fact that some even falsely circulated letters as if coming from him. Where did all those letters go? I would think most just faded into a dim memory. I imagine that when crunch time came those fake letters as well as other gospel accounts were some of the first to go. When their lives were on the line the believers did whatever they could to preserve what they knew to be trustworthy. Hundreds of years later some of the more obscure texts turn up and a debate ensues about their being just as valid … or as invalid (depending on the perspective).
Like I mentioned above, I am rather awed by how the documents we have are so highly protected by a “Church” that stands in such contradiction to the claims found in those documents. It’s the same with “the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets” (aka, the Old Testament Scriptures) where the failure and faithlessness of the people who turned them into a reason for boasting might have rather been the main reason they would have trashed them so that no one would ever read of it. When the religious leaders stood before Jesus claiming that he did not believe the Scriptures he simply told them that if they had actually believed Moses then they would believe him because Moses testified of him.
Such is the whole collection of writings we know today as the Bible. Just because “the Church” may have held to it in blindness can not discredit the truthfulness of its accounts. The fact that its testimony speaks against most of what is called Christianity presents a rather compelling argument no matter how you look at it.
that they were written way after the fact of the happenings (in terms of maybe 6-9 decades and written after all of Paul’s writings), and that Constantine, after the Council of Nicea met to determine the actual doctrines of the church, had 50 copies written in around 400 AD and that they were “tweaked” to reflect the (then established) doctrines and that those are the ones that we have today. Anyone have any information? Thanks. Joyce
I think that how one gathers and then presents such information may be more questionable than what is being questioned by the presentation. Throwing out that it may have been 6-9 decades later is speculation. It overlooks one of the most horrendous events in all of Israel’s history, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman commander, Titus. That’s why many “scholars” imposed a limit upon the writings to have fallen somewhere before that time. Now, John is said to have written the Revelation late in life when he was imprisoned, but the gospel accounts would have surely made some mention, or at least indicate, that the temple’s destruction had taken place (especially where Jesus referred to its impending doom).
Oddly, in view of all the tweaking there are not as many discrepancies as critics imply when the corrupted version have been compared to the protected copies found elsewhere around the known world. Some manuscripts had more than others.
Well, I’ve rambled on for way too long, and I’m sure much more could be said, but … there’s some thoughts for you! :)
I’ve been doing some surfing and reading, so I decided to add some of what I’m finding, along with some thoughts stimulated by it.
“Those who tell the stories rule society” - Plato
“History is written by the victors” - Churchill and Gowron (future Clingon High Council leader )
This is a long-standing realization of what is called “history”. I added the reference to the fabricated Star Trek character not to be cute but as a testimony to this recognized fundamental problem of the recording of events. The creators and writers of Star Trek were well aware of the biased presentation of history, both past and the continuing additions to the past, and of its hindrance to a Utopian kind of society. Their solution is suggested in the scene where the android, Data, is told to start recording events in case war broke out so that “history will have the benefit of a dispassionate view.”
Total objectivity … or is it? Though a camera or a computer might lack passion or bias much is determined by where the camera is and is not pointed or by what info is input into the computer … or by who is viewing or compiling it. With religion, many latch onto what they inherited, many to something other, and many examine as many different forms as they can hoping to find “the answer”. But the truth is not owned or generated by religion (in general) or a religion. The same is true with fact collecting.
I’ve seen an agent punch through a concrete wall. Men have emptied entire clips at them and hit nothing but air, yet their strength and their speed are still based in a world that is built on rules. Because of that, they will never be as strong or as fast as you can be. (as spoken by Morpheus in The Matrix)
A world that is built on rules. Perhaps this relates to the same thing Paul described as the elementary principles of the world. We have been brought out of that world and into a life that is infinitely superior to the elemental. This life defies the understanding sought by the elemental mind with its elemental facts. The understanding that is connected with the elemental can only project the knowledge of the finite upon what it considers infinite, and so it has been since the beginning of man.
Is there any wonder that the religious mind would have consistently speculated and formed a multitude of versions of God that had similarities of truth in them? Though the image of God in this world through the creation of men has been turned into a fragmented and almost unrecognizable mess there are basic principles that have haunted mankind in spite of its attempts to discover the truth. That which can be known about God by the creation is evident within the creation itself.
The fact that there are so many different religions and versions of God in this world, as well as the science that demands there to be no proof of God, used to baffle me. It left me disillusioned and caused me much doubt as to the very existence of any true God. In the midst of my doubts and confusion I came to a totally different realization. For the amazing similarities in religious “Pagan” deities, especially in their similarities to the fleshly understanding of Christ, only testifies to the universal connection of all men back to the creator. A total dissimilarity between Christianity and all other world religions might look good on paper (that is, it might validate itself as a superior concept), but in reality it would testify to the insignificance of God as creator.
What I’m saying is that even though the natural mind cannot understand the mind of God its elemental understanding is a rules-based (aka, principle-based or concept-based) mimic of God. Remember Paul’s assessment of man’s divergence from the knowledge of God?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:18-25 NASB)
I think many have assumed that the lie mankind traded for God would be absent of any earmarks of God. A lie doesn’t have to negate the truth to be a lie, as many lies sound very close to the truth that was changed. We have assumed too many things about the writings in the Bible because of the religion that calls itself Christianity.
I’ll post more at another time as I’ve been sitting on this off and on all day.
To be more specific could you expound on this,
“A total dissimilarity between Christianity and all other world religions might look good on paper (that is, it might validate itself as a superior concept), but in reality it would testify to the insignificance of God as creator.
What I’m saying is that even though the natural mind cannot understand the mind of God its elemental understanding is a rules-based (aka, principle-based or concept-based) mimic of God.”
Both paragraphs are a little confusing to me. Could you give an illustration of that last paragraph from an example in our day and age?
I understand your confusion. I wrote this all throughout the day in between doing other stuff and reading from other web sites, and then discussing a lot of it with Sherri. The above summarizes much of my thoughts from what I didn’t post … yet. And when I posted it I removed a large section that contained stuff from one of the sites I visited, because I had to stop somewhere.
One of the web sites I visited is called “Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth”, its name pretty much sums up its purpose. One of its more convincing sounding arguments centers around the proclaimed new and unique distinctions of Christianity, such as one God, virgin birth, miracles, a suffering savior, death and rebirth … along with some rituals and sacraments of its supposedly new religion. By listing many “similarities” found in other Pagan religions that predated Christianity it attempts to nullify the reality of Jesus Christ by painting him as one of a long line of such entities.
The presentation begs (or poses) the question, “How come I never heard about this?” Now, it presents some things I think are worth considering as it uncovers many things the “Church” has tried to hide (I’ve done a lot of similar study for my Shoveletter articles on Bibliology and Hell, Hades, etc). The presentation counts on the shock value of those who have been schooled in many versions of the Christian religion to reinforce its case. The truth is that the institutionalization of Christianity has set itself up by the very methods it has used to try to set itself apart.
A total dissimilarity between Christianity and all other world religions might look good on paper (that is, it might validate itself as a superior concept), but in reality it would testify to the insignificance of God as creator.
The Greek philosophic influence in the formation of Church doctrine (that which “looks good on paper”) has led to the continual enforcement of many historical distortions. The distortions I’m referring to can be anything from the retelling or altering of history to the murder or slander of dissidents and/or infidels. Many such distortions have been infused into the meaning of particular versions of Christianity so that the uncovering of the distortion can equate to a lack of faith. “A good Christian background” usually keeps devotees totally blindsided to the tumultuous and sometimes violent aspects of their historical roots and subsequent growth. I think that because the Church has so well formulated “the faith” that has only made the truth of Christ to be just like the religious counterparts its tries to claim it is unlike.
Because God is the creator of man, however screwed up his thoughts and actions have become through sin, man still leaves traces of God’s truth in the lies he falls for. The sense of the need of a savior fills the world, along with the need to make this ultimate man unique, and somehow connected to God or the gods. The concept of some kind of life after death is almost an imperative, for otherwise our being cannot continue. If the straining of man throughout history hadn’t produced religious concepts (and I use the word purposely) that seem very much like that brought in Jesus then then such an absence might rather suggest that God’s creation of man is bogus. I remember hearing someone speak of “God’s fingerprints” being discovered all throughout the history of man.
It is only because a fleshly organization has demanded that other non-Christian religions could not possibly conceive of such concepts that many Christians have become unsettled when they discover that many did. Jesus did not come to introduce new ideas, he came to be the new man. It’s not that things like grace or truth were unknown ideas before Christ, but as John wrote, “grace and truth were realized in Jesus Christ”. Religion has always contained the ideas, it just doesn’t have the stuff itself.
What I’m saying is that even though the natural mind cannot understand the mind of God its elemental understanding is a rules-based (aka, principle-based or concept-based) mimic of God.
The illustrations are found everywhere man is. Consider government … it cannot help but set itself and its rules up as sovereign, the ultimate authority … even as being God. Every type of authority mimics this something it cannot really understand. Education/knowledge, which includes any kind of teacher, is more and more glorified way beyond the scope of simple learning. Knowledge is considered the ultimate power. But all such power and authority is based upon a world of rules, which is the fleshly manifestation of God. God himself needs no rules by which to exist, for he is.
Here’s a quote from one of the sites I visited yesterday. It’s called Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth, and the quote is found on the page, “How come I never heard about this?”
Alexandria, Egypt. 415 AD
Enraged over a point of doctrine about the true nature of Christ, Cyril, Christian patriarch of Alexandria, incites a pogrom against people who deny his own theory. Cyril’s co-religionists assert their faith by burning the homes of doctrinal opponents and driving entire communities from the city. On a fateful day Hypatia – the non-Christian scholar, philosopher, and teacher renown throughout the Mediterranean world for her devotion to learning and enlightenment – steps onto her chariot to ride through town to the great Library of Alexandria. A mob gathers, chanting slogans against her. The rioters close in, jamming Hypatia’s chariot to a stop, grabbing her, jerking her down and out into the street where eager hands strip the young woman naked. Jeering they drag her to a church where Christian officials promptly butcher her.
So why mention the murder of Hypatia? Because her story helps answer the question you’re already thinking: “OK, if Christianity had Pagan origins, how come I never heard about it?” History is written by the winners. You’ve never heard about the Pagan origins of Christianity because as Christians institutionalized the Church starting in the 300s AD, their reaction to Pagan competition was to deny and suppress Pagan teaching. To burn Pagan writings. To drive dissident communities into the desert. To murder Pagan scholars.
It worked well. So well that the word Pagan is a pejorative. So well that much of our modern understanding of these faiths is available only because scholars have reconstructed Pagan theology by reading between the lines of anti-Pagan Christian propaganda – the original Pagan literature having been lost in the bonfires of suppression. You know the Christian version of the history of religion because the Pagan version was suppressed. (source)
I find the account believable, as well as very heart-wrenching, although I realize it’s also possible that the account was written to defame the Christians and could possibly not be true at all. But history does show that it was not unusual for Christian leaders to enforce their beliefs by threat of death or excommunication (or both). Jackasses of every description have practiced the enforcement of their beliefs in similar manner. And mobs are known to easily be stirred to such action. But that’s all part of the religious mind, is it not?
“much of our modern understanding of these faiths is available only because scholars have reconstructed Pagan theology by reading between the lines of anti-Pagan Christian propaganda – the original Pagan literature having been lost in the bonfires of suppression.”
Now, I find this very interesting because I didn’t realize how much of what is known about these Pagan religions was “reconstructed” in such a way. And while many have dismissed the Bible because there are only copies of the originals I really have to wonder if what is known about these Pagan religions can be trusted since it is based upon reading between the lines of very unbalanced men’s writings. It is at best a reaction to a history told by religion.
Anyhow, it is a tragic shame how often leaders have demanded the burning of writings in hopes of suppressing those who disagree. Although, I remember it being recorded in the account of The Acts that many who became freed from their religious bondage would sometimes bring those writings to be burned. Did they do it under coercion or to suppress the truth of their former religion? I’m sure some would say so. But perhaps the most obvious for those who were freed was that they couldn’t wait to destroy the words of their former bondage. We may look back with an intellectual viewpoint where we desire the correct info, but they only wanted to rid themselves of the hated stuff of a former life.