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Old 11-17-2011, 10:20 AM
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Is there a useful book of Jesus?


I know there aren't any live interviews of the guy, or even first hand accounts written down along the lines of, "Me & Jesus went to the olive garden yesterday and he had this to say about leprosy..." As I understand it, we're limited to transcriptions of oral accounts handed down through a number of people. So nothing really from himself. I get that.

But is there a compliation of attributed quotes, put in context and then annotated to clarify the meaning/intention of what was said? Apart from the gospels, I mean. Ideally this would be a scholarly work that takes his words from as close to the source as possible, translates them directly into the reader's language, and then is followed up with a text explaining the setting and why the quote was deemed important enough to recount.
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:32 AM
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Short answer? No.

The Gospels themselves are widely ASSUMED to be based on a collection of Jesus' sayings (scholars refer to this collection as "Q"), but there's nowhere that you can read an "uncontaminated" set of Jesus' sayings.

At most, you can look to something like the Jesus Seminar's work, which lets various scholars vote on which of Jesus' sayings in the Gospels are legit and which were made up later.

The Gospels are pretty much all you've got. Even skeptics don't have any other sources for Jesus' sayings, and are reduced to picking and choosing which parts of the Gospels they think are true.
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:34 AM
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Well, there are additional gospels, like the Thomas, that didn't pass the hurdles to be considered canonical. They might contain additional sayings or different versions than the canonical ones.
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:03 AM
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Yeah, we don't have any sources that are older or more original or more authoritative than the gospels themselves.

And they're written in Greek, while Jesus is presumed to have spoken Aramaic, so what we have are at best a translation of his exact words.

Anyone's free to write a book in which they try to explain the exact words, the context, the intention, and the meaning of what Jesus actually said, and lots of people have done soómany of them violently disagreeing with each otheróbut such a work is going to have to be based on a combination of speculation, historical and linguistic scholarship, and a careful reading of the Bible itself.
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:04 AM
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The only record we have of Jesus is what's in the Bible.
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:22 AM
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The Gospel of Thomas, is definitely a collection of sayings and adages.

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas.html

Last edited by Commander Fortune; 11-17-2011 at 11:24 AM. Reason: fixing tags
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:44 AM
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One person who tried to provide a look at the teachings of Jesus specifically, without a lot of the extraneous material in the New Testament, was Thomas Jefferson. He literally cut and pasted verses out of the Bible to put together a narrative that focused on Jesus.

It looks like the Jefferson Bible went on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History last week and there is an Online Exhibit.

Last edited by SpoilerVirgin; 11-17-2011 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 11-17-2011, 12:09 PM
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I'm sure someone has put together something like this.

There are "apocryphal" Jesus quotes. Besides the aforementioned Gospel of Thomas there are spurious works, some of which exist, such as the purported letter from Jesus to the king of Armenia. (Most of the quotes in these spurious sources, however, are requotes from the canonical gospels, or combinations or reformulations of them). There are also some other attributed quotes -- I believe on of the commentaries in one of the Tamuds includes a ruling from Jesus that prostitue's donations to the Temple could be used for the building of privies, citing as support the text "from filth it came, to filth it may return" (This is one of those sayings they never taught us in parochial school). There may also be some sayings of Jesus in the Pauline letters or the other NT letters that aren't in the gospels -- I don't recall.
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Old 11-17-2011, 01:10 PM
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Thomas Jefferson and the Jesus Seminar were each, in their own ways, attempting to do the same thing: sift through the Gospels and pick out the stuff they THINK is true and weed out the stuff the believe was added later (by Paul, by other disciples, or by other subsequent redcators).
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Old 11-17-2011, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by astorian View Post
Thomas Jefferson and the Jesus Seminar were each, in their own ways, attempting to do the same thing: sift through the Gospels and pick out the stuff they THINK is true and weed out the stuff the believe was added later (by Paul, by other disciples, or by other subsequent redcators).
It's unlikely that Paul himself had a hand in any of the Gospels. He doesn't seem familiar with them in his other writings (nor would he, since they were written down later). And the Gospels don't really show evidence of influence from Paul either, although the author of Luke-Acts was apparently familiar with him, and parts of Acts seem to be written by on of Paul's traveling companions.
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Old 11-17-2011, 02:41 PM
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It's unlikely that Paul himself had a hand in any of the Gospels. He doesn't seem familiar with them in his other writings (nor would he, since they were written down later). And the Gospels don't really show evidence of influence from Paul either, although the author of Luke-Acts was apparently familiar with him, and parts of Acts seem to be written by on of Paul's traveling companions.
I didn't say it was likely- but Thomas Jeferson himself said often that Jesus was an admirable moral teacher, and indicated that whatever he DIDN'T like in the Gospels was undoubtedly the work of that rascal Paul.
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Old 11-17-2011, 03:02 PM
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Lamb by Christopher Moore (makes as much sense as any of the rest of the books - check it out).
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Old 11-17-2011, 03:13 PM
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Let me put on my golden glasses and check out this book I found in a cave and I'll get back to ya . . .
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Old 11-17-2011, 03:44 PM
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One major non-biblical source on Jesus would be Josephus, and he is not without controversy. Since he lived immediately after the time of Christ, he was not writing a first hand account, either.
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Old 11-17-2011, 04:50 PM
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The book of Revelation also has quotes of Jesus.
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Old 11-17-2011, 04:56 PM
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I agree with other posters - read the Gnostic gospels - but anyone's guess is almost as good as another at this point.
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Old 11-17-2011, 06:09 PM
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I think the OP is actually looking for something more like a critical analysis of the Bible, plus the non-canonical gospels and any other sources that claim to describe or quote Jesus. He wants something that collates Jesus's supposed quotes, in the original language of the source, then translates them and explains them to the reader.

Now granted, I'm not sure there is any other source that claims to quote Jesus's words other than the Bible. But nevertheless I think that's what he's looking for.
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Old 11-17-2011, 06:20 PM
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The only record we have of Jesus is what's in the Bible.
That's certainly not true. There are dozens of other accounts of Jesus' life. Many of them are as old as the accounts in the New Testament.

You'd have a hard time coming up with a standard which says the Gospel of Luke is a historical account and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a work of fiction.
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Old 11-17-2011, 07:17 PM
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I'll just state explicitly what other poster have hinted at: The only source outside of the New Testament that any mainstream scholars seriously think might contain at least some original (in translation) quotes from Jesus is the "Gospel According to Thomas", sometimes call the "Coptic Gospel of Thomas" to distinguish it from the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas", which is a totally separate writing. Opinions differ, but most scholars think that the "Gospel of Thomas" is as old or nearly as old as the biblical Gospels, and that parts of it* may be quotes from the same Jesus as the biblical Gospels draw from.

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One major non-biblical source on Jesus would be Josephus, and he is not without controversy. Since he lived immediately after the time of Christ, he was not writing a first hand account, either.
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Old 11-18-2011, 12:00 AM
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That's certainly not true. There are dozens of other accounts of Jesus' life. Many of them are as old as the accounts in the New Testament.
I'm open to being corrected, but I don't think so. With one or two exceptions, the NT apocrypha are considerably later than the canonical NT texts.

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You'd have a hard time coming up with a standard which says the Gospel of Luke is a historical account and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a work of fiction.
See, there you go. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas dates to the second/third centuries. Luke is much earlier - certainly first century, and possibly as early as 60/65. Furthermore Infancy Thomas seems to draw on Luke, which suggests that it must be the later text.

On the face of it, its contents are largely fanciful. Its author seems to have been unfamilar with Jewish life and culture. No scholar would bracket it with Luke in terms of reliability or historicity.
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Old 11-18-2011, 06:36 AM
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You may find what you're looking for here: www.westarinstitute.org/

This is the home of The Jesus Seminar, an attempt to definitively authenticate the sayings of Jesus by a group of renowned religious scholars. Or google on "Jesus Seminar."
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Old 11-18-2011, 07:02 AM
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Does anyone hear pounding on the windows, and a sort of muffled shouting from outside? (Dio?)
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Old 11-18-2011, 07:22 AM
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Does anyone hear pounding on the windows, and a sort of muffled shouting from outside? (Dio?)
But Dio is already on record as insisting Jesus never existed.

So, HIS take, naturally, is that Jesus never said anything at all, and it's pointless to try to figure out which of "his" sayings are authentic.

Okay, Dio's objections are noted in absentia. He has nothing else useful to add.
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Old 11-18-2011, 03:53 PM
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But Dio is already on record as insisting Jesus never existed.

So, HIS take, naturally, is that Jesus never said anything at all, and it's pointless to try to figure out which of "his" sayings are authentic.

Okay, Dio's objections are noted in absentia. He has nothing else useful to add.
That's not correct. Dio's position was that he was inclined to believe Jesus DID exist but that the argument's against his existence could not be dismissed out of hand. He was agnostic on the historicity of Jesus, you might say.

Whatever one's belief about the existence of Jesus, a book that zeroes in on the quotes attributed to him and explains the context, their significance to early Christians, etc. could make for fascinating reading.
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Old 11-18-2011, 05:14 PM
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That's certainly not true. There are dozens of other accounts of Jesus' life. Many of them are as old as the accounts in the New Testament.

You'd have a hard time coming up with a standard which says the Gospel of Luke is a historical account and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a work of fiction.
I didn't say the Gospels were historical accounts. I'm saying that there are no historical accounts of Jesus, and the various writings atributed to various authors that are collected in the Bible are the best you're going to get.

The Apocryphal writings are much later than the stuff that was included in the Bible, with the possible exception of Thomas, but not the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which is a different work by a different author.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by isaiahrobinson View Post
I think the OP is actually looking for something more like a critical analysis of the Bible, plus the non-canonical gospels and any other sources that claim to describe or quote Jesus. He wants something that collates Jesus's supposed quotes, in the original language of the source, then translates them and explains them to the reader.
Kinda this.

My goal would be to study Jesus more as a philosopher. He was Jewish and Jewery was the medium in which he expressed himself. But it seems he diverged enough from his roots that it was felt his views were no longer compatible with the old religion. I'd also like to see how faithfully Christianity actually reflects HIS teachings, as opposed to the dogmatic influence of the church leaders who purported to revere him.

Which is why I want to know: What did he actually say? And what did it mean to him and his contemporaries as opposed to someone removed from context by 2000 years of cultural and technological change, several linguistic translations, etc. And I know he didn't have apersonal scribe and that everything we have will have been transcribed from oral tradition, so the best we're going to get is "close and hopefully accurate in spirit."

Excellent info so far, by the way. Thanks all.

Last edited by Inigo Montoya; 11-21-2011 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 11-22-2011, 07:01 AM
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I would just like to note something in passing -- while First and Second Century people did not have many of the modern tools for sorting fact from fiction, they were not universally superstitious yokels. The leading Christians of the time identified the four canonical Gospels as together painting a coherent picture of the Jesus whom they followed -- and there was no reason known to them why He should not have committed the described miracles. Each tells His story with a different emphasis. The pseudopigraphical gospels depict someone who is significantly different in persona from them.

In particular, note that "Gnostic" is not just a pejorative -- it had a distinct meaning, of the pursuit of enlightenment/salvation through mastery of a compendium of arcane knowledge and practice. And such a concept is precisely antithetical to the theology taught by the Jesus of the canonical Gospels.

There are, admittedly, issues with this -- the apparent (and often real) contradictions between the four Gospels being one large one. I don't propose to stand in defense of them against all such issues here -- I'm simply saying that there is a criterion by which degrees of reliability can be assigned.
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Old 11-22-2011, 01:38 PM
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Your question reminded me of a book I remember reading about that was put together by the scholars involved in the Jesus Seminar. I think this might be something like what you are looking for - The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. I haven't read it but I immediately thought of it when I read the OP.
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