14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.
15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.
17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.
19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”
One of the biggest problems of the study of religion now days, specially with our intellectual elites in scholarly circles, than rather than throwing light, and better understanding on the area of the history of Jesus, and Christianity in general, on the contrary the issue of Jesus it is even more obscure, and muddled by the division in sectarian groups with diverse, and contradicting ideas, that unfortunately are not the product of honest study, and research, but of partisan ideology.
It will be difficult to explain the current state of scholarship today, however I will do as briefly as possible, using public known summary records, without citing, do not pretend to encompass every detail, since it will be impossible on this brief account, too many names, accusations, and recriminations go back, and forth to require many volumes. Basically it is divided not between so much different Christian denominations, despite those divisions remain pretty much unchanged today, as in the past, but between traditional Christian scholars, and non traditional Atheist, Agnostics, some of them not even Bible scholars, in the Theological Divinity school fashion, but nevertheless people who contend that the whole story of Jesus, has no basis since the historical Jesus has never being proven, and the New Testament, specially the Gospels are based in Mythological allegories borrowed from different sources at the time the Gospels were written, Hellenistic, Roman, Egyptian, etc.
“Philosopher George Walsh argues that Christianity can be seen as originating in a myth dressed up as history, or with a historical being mythologized into a supernatural one: he calls the former the Christ myth theory, and the latter the historical Jesus theory.Biblical scholars Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd break the spectrum of opinion into four positions; they call the first three the “legendary-Jesus thesis,” namely that the picture of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is mostly or entirely historically inaccurate.
The Return of Persephone by Frederic Leighton (1891). Robert Price writes that a central plank of the Jesus myth theory is that Jesus is one of a number of dying-and-rising gods.
The Jesus myth theory: the gospels describe a virtually, and perhaps entirely, fictitious person. There are no grounds for supposing that any aspect of the Jesus narrative is rooted in history. This view is represented to varying degrees by Bruno Bauer, Arthur Drews, G.A. Wells, and Robert Price. Mythicists do not agree on a single theory of the actual origins of Christianity.
There is enough evidence to conclude that Jesus existed, but the reports are so unreliable that very little can be said about him with confidence. This view is represented by Rudolf Bultmann and Burton Mack.
Historical research can reveal a core of historical facts about Jesus, but he is very different from the Jesus of the New Testament. His sayings and miracles are myths. Robert Funk and Crossan represent this view, one that Eddy and Boyd write is increasingly common among New Testament scholars, particularly those associated with the Westar Institute’s Jesus Seminar and Jewish New Testament scholars such as Paula Fredriksen or Amy Jill-Levine.
Within this camp there remains a significant gulf between those who hold Schweitzer’s view that Jesus had apocalyptic end-time beliefs such as Bart Ehrman and Paula Fredriksen, and those who do not hold this such as Marcus Borg.
The gospels are reliable historical sources, and critical historiography should not rule out the possibility of supernatural occurrence, a view represented by John P. Meier and N.T. Wright.
Three pillars of the theory
New Testament scholar Robert Price, who argues it is quite likely there never was a historical Jesus, writes that the Jesus myth theory is based on three pillars:
There is no mention of a miracle-working Jesus in secular sources.
The Pauline epistles, earlier than the gospels, do not provide evidence of a recent historical Jesus.
The story of Jesus shows strong parallels to Middle Eastern religions about dying and rising gods, symbolizing the rebirth of the individual as a rite of passage. He writes that Christian apologists have tried to minimize these parallels.
The composition of the letters of Paul of Tarsus is generally dated between 49 and 64 CE,some two to three decades after the conventional date given for Jesus’s death. Paul did not know the historical Jesus. He only claims he had known him, ‘as of one born out of due time’, i.e., as the ‘risen’ Jesus.
Many biblical scholars turn to Paul’s letters (epistles) to support their arguments for a historical Jesus.Theologian James D.G. Dunn argues that Robert Price ignores what everyone else in the field regards as primary data. Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce (1910–1990) writes that, according to Paul’s letters, Jesus was an Israelite, descended from Abraham (Gal 3:16) and David (Rom. 1:3); who lived under Jewish law (Gal. 4:4); who was betrayed, and on the night of his betrayal instituted a memorial meal of bread and wine (I Cor. 11:23ff); who endured the Roman penalty of crucifixion (I Cor. 1:23; Gal. 3:1, 13, 6:14, etc.), although Jewish authorities were somehow involved in his death (I Thess. 2:15); who was buried, rose the third day and was thereafter seen alive, including on one occasion by over 500, of whom the majority were alive 25 years later (I Cor. 15:4ff). The letters say that Paul knew of and had met important figures in Jesus’s ministry, including the apostles Peter and John, as well as James the brother of Jesus, who is also allegedly mentioned in Josephus. In the letters, Paul on occasion alludes to and quotes the teachings of Jesus, and in 1 Corinthians 11 recounts the Last Supper.”
In an article on the Huffington Post’s Web site, Bart Ehrman insists:
“Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors—a faulty creation story here, a historical mistake there, a contradiction or two in some other place. But is it possible that the problem is worse than that—that the Bible actually contains lies?
Most people wouldn’t put it that way, since the Bible is, after all, sacred Scripture for millions on our planet. But good Christian scholars of the Bible, including the top Protestant and Catholic scholars of America, will tell you that the Bible is full of lies, even if they refuse to use the term. And here is the truth: Many of the books of the New Testament were written by people who lied about their identity, claiming to be a famous apostle—Peter, Paul or James—knowing full well they were someone else. In modern parlance, that is a lie, and a book written by someone who lies about his identity is a forgery (2011b).
Why is this alleged consensus of scholarship not forthcoming about the “truth” of these lies, mistakes, and contradictions? According to Ehrman, many scholars are ministers and professors who have to serve the needs of their clientele (see Ehrman, 2009, pp. 13-14). Ministers don’t want to be honest because either it conflicts with their personal faith, or they fear being fired by their elderships. Professors really do know the truth, Ehrman claims, but they cannot be honest about it, because they largely teach in colleges, seminaries, and divinity schools. They cannot denigrate the very texts they are teaching to Christian students without suffering repercussions from their constituency. Simply put, Ehrman implies Christian scholars are dishonest, if not duplicitous, and have engineered a conspiracy to keep the populace from learning the “truth.” Conspiracy theories like this have no place in any serious discussion of these issues.”
However Ehrman suggest, and personally do not find far fetch, that the business of studying Jesus, for this scholars it is no different than that of a worker of a particular brand of manufacture, who it is forced to be loyal to the company name, regardless if in private would prefer to choose his own choice of soap, car, shoes, bottled drink, etc..
It is not necessary to say Bart Ehrman become a pariah in scholarly circles after this outburst!
In other words, are you accusing me of toeing the party line and saying what they wish me to say, and therefor you doubt the integrity of my public opinions?
When you belong to a church religious denomination, and you get butter for your bread from, but privately can hold an agnostic position, or even an atheist one. Or play both sides, holding Faith but pretending not to with other scholars of a different ilk!
Not that there is any crime on it, in this world with a increasingly Secular majority, but still is intellectually dishonest to pretend otherwise, it is plainly speaking spiritual bankruptcy.
Neither I believe Theology, and the study of scriptures should be the exclusive domain of the believer, since you can study Theology just to prove it is nonsense, or the study of scriptures that can be fascinating, from an anthropological, and archeological historical point. But who are we kidding, if you are getting paid by your church institution, it is threading a fine line between the two sides I find objectionable, and morally troublesome, you cease to believe, why to keep on pretending otherwise?
But what I find excusable perhaps, but hypocritical to say the least, is the ambivalence of it, because you become disappointed with your previous beliefs, and you find yourselves middle aged, maybe old, and cynical, and invested too much effort, and years in to it, and now you lack the courage of proclaiming your new beliefs, the dishearten realization your life has being a waste of your time…or the opposite, saying you agree with the skeptics, but then decided, it is better to lie low, avoid the flak and keep your faith to yourself. Does not this two positions are clearly ambivalent, and dishonest? Or in the better cases a compromise?
At least the position of the mythicist is clear, if not their end result thesis, but those who vouch for the historical Jesus, who instead of having a living spirit in their heart, cling to official agendas regardless of their private beliefs, and keep arguing who was, or was not, the man who was the inspiration of the legendary story of Jesus…well it is sad, and dishonest.
“15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelations
Have you guys seen the outpour of movies about King Arthur, Camelot, Excalibur, where the new theme is to explain to our common late Twenty, and early Twenty-One century rationality how a man no different than any of us, but gifted with courage battled invaders, barbarians, thieves, etc. And somehow for the lack of accurate historical records of the times it rose in to a legend, and a few historians, or pseudo historians misguidedly search for proofs of a similar character during that age, with no Magicians of the likes of Merlin, or villains the likes of Morgana, and all that mythological nonsense. I wonder sometimes at the rolling of the eyes of Medieval scholars!
“The legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table is the most powerful and enduring in the western world. King Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot did not really exist, but their names conjure up a romantic image of gallant knights in shining armor, elegant ladies in medieval castles, heroic quests for the Holy Grail in a world of honor and romance, and the court of Camelot at the center of a royal and mystical Britain.
The Arthurian legend has existed for over a thousand years and is just as compelling today as it was in the faraway days of its early creators – Geoffrey of Monmouth, Robert de Boron, Chrétien de Troyes, and most majestically: Sir Thomas Malory in his epic work, Le Morte d’Arthur. Countless writers, poets, and artists (not to mention film-makers and now, webmasters) have been inspired by the life and times of King Arthur.”
However if there is an argument between Medieval scholars for the historical Arthur this, it seems, does not make the noise that an historical Jesus do.
If we have no issue believing Geoffrey of Monmouth, Robert de Boron, Chrétien de Troyes, and Sir Thomas Mallory as responsible of our knowledge of the Arthurian legends, why we have such trouble with this other writers; Paul, Mark, Mathew, Luke, and John?
I frankly find this rationalistic new movies about the Arthurian legend, boring, and not near as exciting as John Boorman’s Excalibur, based on Sir Thomas Malory’s book, not only that what they portray it is not accurate historically, since we all agree to be a myth, but in their eagerness to rationalize Myth, they had lost the point of such story! Which of course is not to appeal to our objective left side brain, but to our subjective right side brain, our Hearts…
I do not have a problem with a non historical Jesus to see the greatness of the New Testament, neither I care if the position of the mythicist is true, as a matter of fact, I believe to be so in a general sense, if not in the details, or the particular twist they choose to give to the Jesus story, I agree that the Gospels are Myth, but since they come with so much bogus ideas, in their zeal to discredit belief, God, Jesus, and Religion, they lack depth, and suffer of the modern malady of lacking the use of their right brain, if only they will refrain of speculating wildly about what kind of man was Jesus:
Bandit, political agitator, Doomsday Prophet, Magician, etc. At least a not existent Jesus is an allegory, and a Symbolic entity deserving of imitation. Period!
After all Religions are not isolated phenomena, they thrive on the social historical period of the people who produce them, and they inherit myths, from older Religions and adapt them to their new understanding of their religious experience, after all we shouldn’t forget Christianity despite it’s Jewish, and Hellenistic origins, become the official Religion of Rome:
In the early 4th century, Constantine I became the first emperor to convert to Christianity, launching the era of Christian hegemony. The emperor Julian made a short-lived attempt to revive traditional and Hellenistic religion and to affirm the special status of Judaism, but in 391 under Theodosius I Christianity became the official state religion of Rome, to the exclusion of all others. Pleas for religious tolerance from traditionalists such as the senator Symmachus (d. 402) were rejected, and Christian monotheism became a feature of Imperial domination. Heretics as well as non-Christians were subject to exclusion from public life or persecution, but Rome’s original religious hierarchy and many aspects of its ritual influenced Christian forms, and many pre-Christian beliefs and practices survived in Christian festivals and local traditions.
What it is difficult for me from mythicist, to accept is their believe that the analogies of myths made their religious experience a borrowed copy, and therefor a lie , sort like declaring our constitution a phony, and unoriginal because it is based on previous English experience with constitutional representative government. Expedient perhaps, but a social common phenomenon, they obviously do not understand religious experience, and lack right brain side sensitivity to understand, and realize so.
On the other side for those who uphold dear the historical Jesus, even the existence of a man that was crucified, maybe the leader of a small group of Jewish dissenters from the orthodoxy of the Sanhedrim, and it is my understanding that they may have been many, this does not make one of them the historical Jesus, the one the Gospels of Mark, Luke, Mathew or John were talking about, who to my understanding is the allegory of the Ecce Homo the ideal man every human being should aspire to be, Christ like at the pinnacle of his life, despite the incoming crucifixion.
In my opinion the story of Jesus probably has more to do with small, syncretism Jewish religious groups, who borrowed freely from different traditions, how to explain the Wise men from the East of Mathew?
Syncretism is the combining of different (often contradictory) beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism may involve the merger and analogizing of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths.
The Gospel of Matthew, the only one of the four Canonical gospels to mention the Magi, states that they came “from the east” to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews.” Although the account does not tell how many they were, the three gifts led to a widespread assumption that they were three as well. In the East, the magi traditionally number twelve.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.
Excuse to say this gifts are highly Symbolic some speculate they belong to three different Esoteric schools, of Knowledge, represented by the Gold; Alchemy, Frankincense; Astrology, and Myrrh; Theurgy. The fact is the wise man story of Mathew taken as a mere pastoral anecdote, stick as bad as a sore thumb, in a work that is eminently allegorical, and symbolic and syncretic in nature, to deny influences beyond traditional Judaism at the time, it is well known the discontent of orthodox Jewish groups with King Herod he is described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis.” He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem sometimes referred to as Herod’s Temple, and the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima. Important details of his biography are gleaned from the works of the 1st century CE Roman-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius. Many Jewish groups like the Essenes, believed that the high priest of the Jerusalem Temple was elected on false pretenses, which invalidated the whole Temple cult. Judging by this passage, and many others, it is hard to believe the Gospels were anything but the work of a “New Age” type of Jews, probably looked with contempt, if not with total animosity by the orthodox groups. Paul the clear example of a Hellenistic Jew who basically become the pillar of Christian belief.
No Orthodox Jewish will dare to be as bold as to incorporate Hellenistic, Zoroastrian, or Egyptian symbolism in to the Gospels, it is quite shocking to read the Old Testament virulent rejection of anything foreign to Israel, and the Prophetic tradition, except for obscure passage in Genesis.
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine: and he was [is] the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, “Blessed be Abram to the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand”. And he gave him tithe from all.
In the New Testament, references to Melchizedek appear only in the Letter to the Hebrews (later 1st century AD), though these are extensive (Hebrews 5: 6, 10; 6: 20; 7: 1, 10, 11, 15, 17, 21). Jesus Christ is there identified as a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek quoting from Ps. 110:4.And so Jesus assumes the role of High Priest once and for all. Abraham’s transfer of goods to Melchizedek is seen to imply that Melchizedek is superior to Abraham, in that Abraham is tithing to him. Thus, Melchizedek’s (Jesus’) priesthood is superior to the Aaronic priesthood, and the Temple in Jerusalem is now unnecessary.
A collection of early Gnostic scripts dating on or before the 4th-century, discovered in 1945 and known as the Nag Hammadi Library, contains a tractate pertaining to Melchizedek. Here it is proposed that Melchizedek is Jesus Christ.Melchizedek, as Jesus Christ, lives, preaches, dies and is resurrected, in a gnostic perspective. The Coming of the Son of God Melchizedek speaks of his return to bring peace, supported by the gods, and he is a priest-king who dispenses justice. (Check my Post: The Grail) Little effort it is needed to link Melchizedek to Jesus, since he falls in the category of a Universal Priesthood, not from Aaron, or Levite, or even of the house of Israel, but of a Divine Celestial origin.
The Divinity of Jesus
It is the posterior decrees of the Christian church who in Divinizing the man Jesus created the problem of a historical Jesus.
Following the Apostolic Age, from the second century onwards, a number of controversies developed about how the human and divine are related within the person of Jesus. As of the second century, a number of different and opposing approaches developed among various groups. For example, Arianism did not endorse divinity, Ebionism (See my post Via Positiva, Via Negativa) argued Jesus was an ordinary mortal, while Gnosticism held docetic views which argued Christ was a spiritual being who only appeared to have a physical body. The resulting tensions lead to schisms within the church in the second and third centuries, and ecumenical councils were convened in the fourth and fifth centuries to deal with the issues. Eventually, by the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Hypostatic union was decreed—the proposition that Christ has one human nature [physis] and one divine nature [physis], united with neither confusion nor division—making this part of the creed of orthodox Christianity. Although some of the debates seemed to be over a theological iota, they took place in controversial political circumstances and resulted in a schism that formed the Church of the East
In 325, the First Council of Nicaea defined the persons of the Godhead and their relationship with one another – decisions which were again ratified at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. The language used was that the one God exists in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); in particular, it was affirmed that the Son was homoousios (of same substance) as the Father. The Nicene Creed declared the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus.
In 431, the First Council of Ephesus was initially called to address the views of Nestorius on Mariology, but the problems soon extended to Christology, and schisms followed. The 431 council was called because in defense of his loyal priest Anastasius, Nestorius had denied the Theotokos title for Mary and later contradicted Proclus during a sermon in Constantinople. Pope Celestine I (who was already upset with Nestorius due to other matters) wrote about this to Cyril of Alexandria, who orchestrated the council. During the council, Nestorius defended his position by arguing there must be two persons of Christ, one human, the other divine, and Mary had given birth only to a human, hence could not be called the Theotokos, i.e. “the one who gives birth to God”. The debate about the single or dual nature of Christ ensued in Ephesus.
The Council of Ephesus debated hypostasis(coexisting natures) versus monophysitism (only one nature) versus miaphysitism (two natures united as one) versus Nestorianism (disunion of two natures). From the Christological viewpoint, the council adopted hypostasis, i.e. coexisting natures, but its language was less definitive than the 451 Council of Chalcedon. The Oriental Orthodox rejected this and subsequent councils and to date consider themselves to be miaphysite. By contrast, Roman Catholics to date believe in the hypostatic union and the Trinity. The council also confirmed the Theotokos title and excommunicated Nestorius.
The 451 Council of Chalcedon was highly influential and marked a key turning point in the Christological debates that broke apart the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the fifth century.It is the last council which many Anglicans and most Protestants consider ecumenical. It fully promulgated the hypostatic union, stating the human and divine natures of Christ coexist, yet each is distinct and complete. Although, the Chalcedon Creed did not put an end to all Christological debate, it did clarify the terms used and became a point of reference for many future Christology’s. Most of the major branches of Christianity — Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and Reformed — subscribe to the Chalcedon Christological formulation, while many branches of Eastern Christianity – Syrian Orthodoxy, Assyrian Church, Coptic Orthodoxy, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, and Armenian Apostolicism reject it.
It is easy to see how that by that time the politics of the Roman Empire had a lot to do with the standardization of Christianity, in what become the official Religion; The Roman Apostolic Catholic Church, and their Eastern counterparts, also it is easy to understand the reluctance of non believers to accept men hands in to the making of Religion, when supposedly should be a Divine affair, well you can hold to your unbelief, but it is naïve to believe man is not part of the Sacred, therefore the Sacred manifest in man, the actor, and creator of Religion in good faith, or in bad faith, it is all part of the Human condition, that at the same time can manifest in sublime spurts of the spirit, like the Gospels, or in weak, and flawed choices in Religious, or Secular affairs as well! Errare humanum est…
In my view, I posit little faith on a literal Jesus, if the historical Jesus existed, it was a man, like any of us, more virtuous no doubt, if it really existed, he had a Symbolic, rather than a literal resemblance to the allegorical Jesus of the Gospels, who is perfect, more an Archetype, than a real man, I will go as far as giving him the mantle of Prophecy as even not Christians do, like the Moslems who recognize him to be born of a virgin, and a Prophet, but totally human, a servant, not the son of God, as for the Jews they believe will be a man with no special powers to be the Messiah. Nachmanides argued that the central issue separating Christianity and Judaism was not the issue of Jesus’ Messiahship, but whether or not Jesus was divine. There was no basis in Judaism, Nachmanides said, for believing in the divinity of the Messiah or, indeed, of any man. To Nachmanides, it seemed most strange “that the Creator of heaven and earth resorted to the womb of a certain Jewess and grew there for nine months and was born as an infant, and afterwards grew up and was betrayed into the hands of his enemies who sentenced him to death and executed him, and that afterwards… he came to life and returned to his original place. The mind of a Jew, or any other person, cannot tolerate this.” Nachmanides told the Spanish monarch, “You have listened all your life to priests who have filled your brain and the marrow of your bones with this doctrine, and it has settled with you because of that accustomed habit.” Had King James heard these ideas propounded for the first time when he was already an adult, Nachmanides implied, he never would have accepted them.
Perhaps what made Christianity an Institution for the many, and no longer a living experience, but for those fewer who hold Faith as a way of life, is the idea of the Incarnation of God exclusively to Jesus, that excluded Theosis for all Human beings, it is not following the objective of the Way of Jesus to become Christ like?
The Jesus of our Modern and Postmodern age it is tainted by our current Worldview of Rationalism, Science, and Secular ideas, in other words contaminated by our revisionism, and almost a total ignorance of the Worldview of the writers of the books of the New Testament, and I am afraid even many scholars of today are incapable to understand the Religious fervor, and individual Heart enlightenment of this diverse early Christians communities. As I walk through my humble neighborhood, full of new immigrants to this nation, there is so many small churches, sometimes but a little hole in the wall church, where no more than a dozen people sing, cry, jump, and speak in tongues, who possible resembled the fervor of the early Christians at the time of the Gospels, than any of the old ossified Church Institutions were the Spirit is gone, and the parishioner is just a social spectator who may even hold agnostic views of his own, no different than the Priest, Minister, Pastor, or the Scholar of this Institutions, who regard this issues as intellectual ideological positions, not rivers of living water. What is the use of scholarly studies, the many petty debates over a simple word, if there is no longer those rivers flowing?
In my view the old Religious Institutions will have to transform themselves to the point they wouldn’t be recognized by a Christian of the beginning of the Twenty Century, in order to survive and thrive, if listing to the point of sinking would be avoided, their leaders would have to respond to change, and to a revival of Faith in their own life, to produce the enthusiasm Evangelization requires in the souls of their parishioners, small churches with small congregations, will continue to prosper, as long as they not become too big, and fall in to the error of carelessness, and apathy, that had plagued big established churches, too big to care for one individual, and lost their sense of being one with their congregation, the sense of KOINONIA is the Anglicization of a Greek word (κοινωνία) that means communion by intimate participation. The word is used frequently in the New Testament of the Bible to describe the relationship within the Early Christian church as well as the act of breaking bread in the manner which Christ prescribed during the Passover meal [John 6:48-69, Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:24]. As a result the word is used within the Christian Church to participate, as Paul says, in the Communion of Christ, in this manner it identifies the idealized state of fellowship and community that should exist in Communion.
In the New Testament, the basis of communion begins with a joining of Jesus with the community of the faithful. This union is also experienced in practical daily life. The same bonds that link the individual to Jesus also link him or her with other faithful. The New Testament letters describe those bonds as so vital and genuine that a deep level of intimacy can be experienced among the members of a local church.
The first usage of koinonia in the Greek New Testament is found in Acts 2:42-47, where we read a striking description of the common life shared by the early Christian believers in Jerusalem:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the communion, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”
Ultimately the failure of the big Religious Institutions, it was to be expected, they may survive, or not, but if you are a militant Atheist, and you believe Christianity or any other Religion will eventually disappear for the good of mankind, as remnant of a dark past, and Science will be the new torchbearer of Mankind well, don’t hold your breath, you will be disappointed, nothing against Science, on the contrary it is a great tool to deal with the material world, unfortunately has little to offer to the maladies afflicting our subjective self, unless you go along with drugs, and genetic induced paradise ideas, I am afraid despite the triumphs of technology, we have being witness to too much medical malpractice, the side effects of drugs, ecological disasters, and the many ills brought by the use of technologies derived from science discoveries, maybe they will come with a new drug to make people wiser, and avoid lack of judgment! Sorry I am an skeptic when it come to technological Utopias who try to change the exterior circumstances of Man, ignoring the basic premise that at the bottom of it, is just a Philistine desire for making money, not the welfare of Humanity. Meanwhile all this scientific, and technological advances do but little to look within Man to his subjective nature to find “the peace that defies all understanding”…like in antiquity a new wind is blowing and bringing with it a new Spirit:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8
And Jesus words will be fulfilled:
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”Mathew 18:20
THE NEGATION OF THE SELF
The failure of Religious scholars in my view it is that they do not recognize the value of the Symbolic, and the Self, under the constant attack of those Materialist, and the unfortunately common trend of many scientist in denying the Self, , in favor of a mechanized, and reductionist view of Man were everything it is reduced to a biological imperative, and there is no room for the Subjective, but as a biochemical synapsis at cellular level, were everything can be conveniently explained as a process of cause, and effect, ignoring that there is no way to replicate such synapsis in individuals who apparently similar may differ subjectively in experience, and therefore in conclusions, like if two individuals reading the same book they must arrive to the same understanding, when we know this is not the case, simply because the variances are practically infinite to be able come to the same understanding, therefor the axiom “if all factors would be identical” or “if we could track back every cause, we will be able to predict the effect”. This “if” it is groundless, and totally a fiction, and therefore of no value to explain actions, and ideas in Man. This is the realm of the Self, and the Subjective. Many Scholars the product of a Scientific education, and the modern age, coward to oppose this materialistic, and reductionist views, or really believe in them, and a lot of them are divided between Faith, and Reason, they are “crucified” in this dichotomy of making sense of an academic construction of facts, based in dates of manuscripts, brought by the pressure of a materialistic understanding of History, in what is clearly a different realm; allegory, and myth in a search for an “Historical Jesus” or the the last bastion of a new trench, for the literal belief of a mythical character, the new term: Historicity of Jesus Christ. I would said rather pointless if the value of your belief hangs precariously on this tenuous hinge, since as we saw previously they do not give proper value to the Self, and the Symbolic, what would be the purpose of the material existence of a Jesus, that has little to do with the Gospels? And what the meaning when Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18: 36-37
The word gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge”, which is often used in Greek philosophy in a manner more consistent with the English “enlightenment”. Some scholars continue to maintain traditional dating for the emergence of Gnostic philosophy and religious movements. It is now generally believed that the evidence suggests that Gnosticism was a Jewish movement which subsequently reacted to Christianity or that Gnosticism emerged directly in reaction to Christianity. The name “Christian Gnostics” came to represent a segment of the Early Christian community that believed that salvation lay not in merely worshipping Christ, but in psychic or pneumatic souls learning to free themselves from the material world via the revelation. According to this tradition, the answers to spiritual questions are to be found within, not without.Furthermore, the gnostic path does not require the intermediation of a church for salvation. Some scholars, such as Edward Conze and Elaine Pagels, have suggested that Gnosticism blends teachings like those attributed to Jesus Christ with teachings found in Eastern traditions.
The Nag Hammadi library is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts discovered near the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945. Twelve leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local peasant named Mohammed Ali Samman. The writings in these codices comprised fifty-two mostly Gnostic treatises, but they also include three works belonging to the Corpus Hermeticum and a partial translation/alteration of Plato’s Republic. In his “Introduction” to The Nag Hammadi Library in English, James Robinson suggests that these codices may have belonged to a nearby Pachomian monastery, and were buried after Bishop Athanasius condemned the use of non-canonical books in his Festal Letter of 367 AD.
The contents of the codices were written in the Coptic language, though the works were probably all translations from Greek. The best-known of these works is probably the Gospel of Thomas, of which the Nag Hammadi codices contain the only complete text. After the discovery it was recognized that fragments of these sayings attributed to Jesus appeared in manuscripts discovered at Oxyrhynchus in 1898 (P. Oxy. 1), and matching quotations were recognized in other early Christian sources. Subsequently, a 1st or 2nd century date of composition circa 80 AD has been proposed for the lost Greek originals of the Gospel of Thomas. The buried manuscripts themselves date from the third and forth centuries.
But those who wrote and circulated these texts did not regard themselves as “heretics. Most of the writings use Christian terminology, unmistakable related to a Jewish heritage. Many claim to offer traditions about Jesus that are secret, hidden from “the many” who constitute what, in the second century, came to be called the “catholic church.” These Christians are now called Gnostics, from the Greek word gnosis, usually translated as “knowledge.” For as those who claim to know nothing about ultimate reality are called agnostic (literally, “not knowing”), the person who does claim to know such things is called gnostic (“knowing”). But gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge (“He knows mathematics”) and knowing through observation or experience (“He knows me”), which is gnosis. As the Gnostics use the term, we could translate it as “insight,” for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself. And to know oneself, they claimed, is to know human nature and human destiny. According to the gnostic teacher Theodotus, writing in Asia Minor (c. 140-160), the gnostic is one has come to understand who we were, and what we have become; where we were… whither we are hastening; from what we are being released; what birth is, and what is rebirth.
Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level, is simultaneously to know God; this is the secret of gnosis. Another gnostic teacher, Monoimus, says:
Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you who makes everything his own and says, “My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.” Learn the sources of sorrow:, joy, love, hate . . . If you carefully investigate these matters you will find him in yourself.
Orthodox Jews and Christians insist that a chasm separates humanity from Its creator: God is wholly other. But some of the Gnostics who wrote these gospels contradict this: self-knowledge is knowledge of God; the self and the divine are identical.
Second, the “living Jesus” of these texts speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance, like the Jesus ofthe New Testament. Instead of coming to save us from sin, he comes as a guide who opens access to spiritual understanding. But when the disciple attains enlightenment, Jesus no longer serves as his spiritual master: the two have become equal–even identical.
Third, orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is Lord and Son of God in a unique way: he remains forever distinct from the rest of humanity whom he came to save. Yet the gnostic Gospel of Thomas relates that as soon as Thomas recognizes him, Jesus says to Thomas that they have both received their being from the same source:
Jesus said, “I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out…. He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.”
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.
38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”