View Single Post
  #31  
Old 06-12-2019, 06:40 PM
Sage Rat's Avatar
Sage Rat is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Howdy
Posts: 21,821
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corry El View Post
In which case the whole issue of supposed Paul Christianity v Jesus Christianity largely disappears. Again the Jesus of the Gospel of John in particular (though as I and others noted that was probably written decades after Paul's letters, whether dictated by the original John or not) is not really different than the one Paul refers to. Paul is more general, spiritual, mystical rather than usually referring to everyday situations or telling parables based on daily life. With again the elephant-in-room exception that Paul condemns homosexuality (at least in the contemporary Hellenic context) while the Gospels never directly mention it, quoting Jesus or otherwise. And in general if there ever was "version of Christianity very different from the flavor" of Paul among 'original' Christians, that's also from indirect inferences about the Synoptic Gospels and their theorized progression, their validity v John, combined with indirect inferences from historically known facts, though few if any directly answer the question. If you define 'what Jesus said' as in the Gospels as a whole, the idea of a different Christianity prior to Paul is purely speculative. Which it pretty much is anyway you look at it.
As I'm not part of the Biblical studies community and don't read anything from it, I couldn't say what percentage of the scholars are Christian versus non, but it's certainly not zero and I suspect that it's more than half. That will make any contention that the New Testament religion is different from the teachings of Jesus be completely sunk by the popular vote of the community and allow/force basically every review of that writing to say that the idea goes against the majority scholarly view. But, of course, the majority scholarly view can't be relied on to be founded in historic merit.

But, to be fair, there are probably some number of people who study the Bible simply to troll Christians or because they want to endorse a different religion than Christianity. So it is, similarly, difficult to ignore the majority scholarly consensus in favor of the others, particularly when you know that you're reliant on their translations and dating, and that you the reader have no way to weigh in on that.

Personally, I would say that it's almost certain that the religion of Jesus would be wildly different from the New Testament portrayal, based on my personal read through of 1st and 2nd century sources. This includes everything from big clues like the fact that we can't seem to find an early heretical church that isn't Gnostic and that they cover all of the dirt from Syria to Egypt, there are no non-Gnostic portrayals of the teachings of John the Baptist, and everyone agrees that Jesus'beliefs flowed directly off of John; to small clues like that the early church writers - on whose testimony the Orthodox books of the New Testament were decided - had in their libraries of works for Christian study the works of Carpocrates and debated and defended the meaning of the Ophite diagrams when attacked by Celsus.

Like I said that's a "from...to". There are beyond dozens of things that make it relatively clear that there was a distinct divide between Paul and Jerusalem, that Paul's vision won, and that everything which conflicted with the Pauline view (as determined by the Council of Nicaea) was scrubbed out of history and burned.

Reconstructing Jesus' beliefs would be sketchy. It's relatively likely that the bits singled out as being authentic by the Jesus Seminar are authentic. But that's just a small segment of the teachings of Jesus and plausibly they are being taken out of context wildly. I would say that it's likely that Jesus' said a whole bunch of esoteric stuff like, "The blind man sees with his eyes, the sighted man sees with his soul." (Not an actual quote - I just made that up.) Personally, I classify that as rubbish nonsense that only makes seeming sense if you're high. But, given enough of it, you could probably isolate a few small portions that seem to make something like actual sense and write it down, then take those that are either relatively meaningless or (seem to) agree with your own personal philosophy, tack on something that "explains" it, and you're all set.

The Gnostic works will include just random silly nonsense like a few lines of just vowel sounds in some order and tell you that it's the secret name of the Heavens, or whatever.

All of which leads one to think that Jesus and his band were just some pothead idiots spouting nonsense.

But, on the other hand, it does seem likely that Jesus' did hold strong beliefs. He held animosity towards the Temple and money. He was strongly a defender of the poor, the outcast, etc. Paul's conversion was almost certainly an artifact of Jesus' teaching that you should care for all who are in need. Paul was their enemy and yet Jesus' followers cared for him in illness.

Jesus' brother James was, likely, a vegetarian. He is purported to have had knees like a camel from kneeling down and praying regularly. Supposedly, he refused to cut his hair. Supposedly, he was an ascetic.

James seems to have taken over the church in Jerusalem after Jesus' death. One would presume that he followed the steps of his brother. If James was a vegetarian with camel knees, likely so did Jesus.

There's no indication that James or anyone in Jerusalem was aware of Jesus ever saying anything like that some people might not have to follow the laws of the Old Testament. While we do believe that James decided to go along with that for the Gentiles, we also are told that Paul decided to have that conversation with the Jerusalem church in the midst of a famine and when he was bringing a big ol' bag of money that he'd collected from his very very profitable church.

And we also note that the next time Paul came to Jerusalem, James and company told Paul that he should go to a certain part of town and talk to some folk. Paul did that, and it resulted in his being sent off to be executed to death. Both that and the bag of money are in the Bible.

Personally, I would be suspicious of the idea that you can ignore Deuteronomy. In my estimation, probably Jesus believed that you had to follow the laws of the Old Testament.

Divorce was completely forbidden. Full stop. There's no work - not the New Testament and not anything in the Gnostic works that says anything beyond that once you're married, you're stuck for it. John the Baptist, purportedly, died over that issue. Debate homosexuality all you want, divorce is looking a vast chunk of Christians in the eye and calling them shameful or sinners or whatever Jesus' view of badness should be called.

I would probably vote that he wasn't a pacifist.

We are told that he told Peter to put his sword away, when the authorities came to arrest him. But why did Peter have a sword? Swords are the ancient and medieval version of a handgun. There's zip about their existence that jibes with turn the other cheek. You don't eat with a sword. You don't use it as a tool. It exists for the sole and express purpose of killing, and Peter was a fisherman.

Jesus' behavior at the Temple was not what one would call peaceable. He destroys a bunch of stuff and goes on a curse-ridden rant.

When Jesus goes on trial, we are told that none if his followers come to defend him. They have all fled the city.

The Gospel of Peter says that the rumors around town were that the followers of Jesus were believed by the authorities to be plotting to burn down the Temple.

Again, why did the Fisherman - in a group dedicated to peacefulness and asceticism - have a sword and what was their big dinner all about anyways? Why did Judas feel like he needed to report Jesus to the authorities?

No other text than the Gospel of Peter makes that statement and even it only says that the Romans were saying it, not that the apostles genuinely were plotting along those lines. But, it does also feel like the sort of thing that you would be rather hush hush about and maybe pretend didn't happen once the ring leader is no longer around.

So at best, Jesus had his people getting swords in order to defend himself because he knew that he'd gotten himself into trouble by destroying a bunch of stuff at the Temple.

(Or he wanted to have the swords around for symbolic reasons so that when people later wrote about the event, they would be able to see Jesus' options and actions, and learn from it.)

We have the Parable of the Assassin that does not in any way decry violence nor even provide any rationale for the smaller guy to murder the bigger guy. And we have Matthew 10:34–36.

Though, I also wouldn't be surprised if Jesus said and did things that are completely in line with pacifism. Humans are known to be inconsistent and find ways to say that in case A you should be peaceful and in case B you shouldn't be. Some of those cases may even be completely fair and reasonable. But then you're not a pacifist, you're just somewhere in the middle.

There's some decent evidence that women were equal in Jesus' church - in Jesus' estimation, if not so much among his followers. Plausibly, this was a bone of contention between Peter and the Jerusalem church and caused him to side with Paul. The Gospel of Mary singles him out as calling her a liar for saying that Jesus taught her just as much as he taught all the guys.

To be certain, this is all my read and anyone is free to decide that my intentions are not honest in this presentation.

But I would say that we can probably rule out some things as being clearly non-Jesus - like abandoning the laws. The Parable of the Talents is probably not from Jesus. Even just within the Orthodox Gospels it sticks out like a sore thumb.

But in terms of what we can rule in.... We probably have a decent view of what sort of thing Jesus was doing, but the remaining apocryphal works are too incomplete to lock anything down very tightly.

Overall, we can probably trust that Jesus used some marriage of Hebrew religion's rules with neo-Platonism's view of how the universe is structured. On top of that he added some esoteric nonsense that some segment of the population would think is spiritually meaningful, and he added a very ascetic anti-money pro-equality philosophy.

The Gospel of Matthew, as it is currently written, in the New Testament is very plausibly close to a work used by the followers of Jesus' church, in the 2nd century. There are a series of notes about the differences between the two documents from like the 4th or 5th century that indicate that there's not a giant difference between it and the heretical Gospel of Matthew. Of course, it's possible that whatever heretical group he was talking about had been forced to use the Orthodox version and simply fudged it to match what they'd been told about their beliefs.

Outside of Matthew, though, I wouldn't assemble a "New Testament according to Jesus" that included any of the works of the New Testament. They may be closer to the lifespan of Jesus, but they're also closer to the lifespan of Paul. We're more certain that they are accurate depictions of the religion of Paul than we are that any of the apocryphal works are accurate to the religion of Jesus.

But, even within the works of the New Testament, we see a wide range of views and the reader is asked to find the truth among them. A Testament from Jesus would just be a bit more extreme, in that measure, but there are probably enough works available of sufficiently plausible historicity that you could construct it and get your own view.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 06-12-2019 at 06:43 PM.