Exploring the New testament Notes

Jul 2017
295
Kettering, Ohio USA
#1
Unit 1
Translations of the Bible
One of the most important Bible translators was the Englishman William Tyndale (1484-1536), often called "The Father of the English Bible." Tyndale wanted to make the Scriptures understandable to all people. But due to the political and religious tensions that existed throughout Europe during the Reformation (14th-17th centuries), he was unable to get permission to do his translation in England. So he went to Germany, where he published his New Testament in February 1526. Though he experienced a great deal of opposition, he continued his work of translating the Old Testament from Hebrew, and he published the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis through Deuteronomy) in 1530.
Tyndale's work and influence is most readily seen in what is surely the most significant English Bible translation ever done, the King James Version of the Bible, published in 1611. The King James Version (also called the Authorized Version) was prepared at the request of King James I of England at a time when several Church-sponsored versions of the English Bible were in use. Although there was resistance to the King James Version at first (since many people felt a loyalty to their own Church's translation), it eventually won wide acceptance and became the standard English version of the Bible in the English-speaking world for three centuries. It remains one of the most widely-used English translations of the Bible today.
Christian Standard Bible (CSB, HCSB)
This is a 2017 update of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004), an original translation from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Its scholars, most of whom are from conservative and evangelical church traditions, have aimed at a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation—as close to the original wording as possible while emphasizing clarity for modern English readers. It uses a seventh-grade reading level.
Common English Bible (CEB)
The CEB is a new translation (2011) optimized for smooth reading for a broad range of people. After the scholarly translation (a balance of dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence), the draft texts were reviewed for grammar, style, and consistency. It uses common equivalents for many traditional church terms. CEB translators come from a variety of denominations, mostly mainline or progressive Protestant. The translation has been released by a consortium of five church publishing houses. It reads at a seventh-grade level.
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
The CEV is a meaning-based (or functional equivalent) translation done in a contemporary style using common language. It is designed to be understood when read and heard out loud, not just when it is read silently. It is one of the better Bibles for children and youth, as well as for new Bible readers who are not familiar with traditional Bible and church words. It was first published in 1995 and revised in 2006.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The ESV was published in 2001 (updated most recently in 2016) and is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (1971 edition), drawing on recent scholarship and following a formal equivalence approach. It is growing in popularity, particularly among some Protestant churches.
Good News Translation (GNT)
The GNT (also known as Today's English Version or the Good News Bible) was one of the first meaning-based (or functional equivalent) translations of the Bible into English. It was originally published in 1976 and revised in 1992. The GNT presents the message of the Bible in a level of English that is common to most of the English-speaking world. The GNT is still used widely in youth Bible study groups and in less formal worship services. Editions are also available for Roman Catholic readers.
King James Version (KJV)
The KJV (also known as the Authorized Version) is a word-for-word (or formal equivalent) translation originally published in 1611 at the request of King James I of England. It has been frequently reprinted and its spelling updated. Most copies today are slightly adapted from a 1769 edition. So many people have used the KJV over the centuries that it has become the single most important book in shaping the modern English language. Many of the best and most ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of Bible books have been discovered since 1850, so the KJV could not make use of them. In many cases, it is helpful to read and study the KJV alongside another more recent translation. The KJV is still the most widely owned and used English translation in the United States.
The Message
The Message is a popular paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson, who used the original Greek and Hebrew texts and tried to bring their “feel”—their tone, rhythm, and idiom—directly into contemporary English. It is presented as a Bible more for personal reading than for study or public reading. The Message is often useful to read side by side with other, more word-for-word translations. Peterson’s choice of words can help new readers unlock the sense of the text and can help seasoned Bible readers find fresh energy in passages that have become too familiar.
New American Bible (NAB, NABRE)
The NAB was originally published in 1970 as a meaning-based translation intended primarily for Roman Catholic readers. The New Testament was revised in 1986, shifting more toward a word-for-word or formal translation. The full Bible with a newly revised translation of the Old Testament and extensive notes was released in 2011 as the New American Bible, Revised Edition. The NABRE is useful for individual study. The older NAB is approved for public worship for American Catholics.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The NASB, first published in the 1960s, is an excellent example of a formal translation of the Bible in English. It is probably the most “word-for-word” type translation available today. Because of this, the NASB is a good version to use in Bible study where one is concerned with the form of the original Hebrew and Greek. The most recent edition of the NASB was published in 1995.
New International Version (NIV)
The NIV was a completely new translation, but it was strongly influenced by the tradition of the King James Version. The full Bible was published in 1978 and revised in 1984 and 2011. A blend of form-based and meaning-based translation types, the NIV is one of the most popular English Bibles in use today. It is equally useful for individual study and public worship, especially among more traditional and conservative denominations.
New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
The NJB is a 1985 revision of the older Jerusalem Bible (JB). The JB was translated from the original languages, but it developed out of a popular French translation done in Jerusalem, which is where it got its name. The NJB, like the JB before it, is known for its literary qualities. While the JB tended to more meaning-based (or functional equivalent), the NJB moved toward more of a word-based (or formal equivalent) translation.
New Living Translation (NLT)
The NLT is a meaning-based translation in the tradition of the Living Bible (LB), a popular 1971 Bible paraphrased from English. The New Living Translation involved comparing the LB to the original-language texts, and then making changes so that the NLT is now a true translation. The NLT is a good translation to use with youth and adults who have difficulty with the traditional language of a formal equivalent translation.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The NRSV is a 1989 revision of the Revised Standard Version. The NRSV is now the latest translation in the King James tradition. It aims at being readable, but it also tries to keep familiar words and phrases from the KJV. It is a blend of meaning-based and form-based translation types. The NRSV has become a standard translation for serious Bible study, especially in seminaries and colleges.
Revised English Bible (REB)
The REB is a 1989 revision of the earlier New English Bible (NEB, 1946), which was a bold and innovative translation from original texts with a considerable British flavor. The REB smoothed some of the NEB’s more unusual terms and aimed to be more accessible to an international audience. The REB is a meaning-based translation but has retained much of the traditional language and style. It is a popular English translation for public reading of Scripture.
Revised Standard Version (RSV)
The Revised Standard version (1952, revised most recently in 1977) is an update of the American Standard Version (1901), which was a revision of the King James Version. It is a mix of formal equivalence and functional equivalence in its approach. This translation has been widely used in mainline Protestant churches. A Roman Catholic edition was released in 1966 (and updated in 2006). Since its 1977 revision (which also removed the “thee” and “thou” language), this translation has also been widely used in Eastern Orthodox churches.

To: The Universal House of Justice
From: Research Department
In an email message of 23 September 1996 to the Universal House of Justice, Mr. ... requests clarification on "the principles that govern quoting from the Bible in English-language Bahá'í publications". He explains that he has heard an unsubstantiated view that only the King James version of the Bible may be used and observes that "this individual seems to give the King James version an authority greater than that of the original text in matters of interpretation". His queries were referred to the Research Department for study and the following is our response.
We have been unable to find guidance in the Writings which refers directly to quoting from the Bible in English-language Bahá'í publications. It may be helpful to ... to note, however, that, in an incoming letter dated 2 September 1949 to the Guardian, an English-speaking believer asked the following question:

Quite recently, the writer, in guiding at the Temple has been asked just what version of the Bible Bahá'ís use. May we have your directive on this, please?
The Guardian's response appears in a letter written on his behalf, where we read:
Shoghi Effendi himself uses the King James version of the Bible, both because it is an authoritative one and in beautiful English.
(28 October 1949 to an individual believer; published
in "Bahá'í News", no. 228, February 1950, p. 4).
It seems possible to us that this statement may underlie the impression held by some of the believers that the King James version of the Bible carries special authority in the Faith.
It is important to note, therefore, that in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in response to a similar question, the same statement of the Guardian appears and is then followed by this statement:
The House of Justice points out, however, that there is nothing in statements made by Shoghi Effendi to indicate that the friends may not use other translations of the Bible.
(2 December 1987 to a National Spiritual Assembly)
It is also worth noting in this connection that this translation, known as the "King James" version in the United States, is generally referred to as the "Authorized Version" in England, and in many editions the following statement appears on the title page:

The Holy Bible
Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated out of the Original Tongues and with the former Translations diligently compared and revised by His Majesty's special command, A.D. 1611. Appointed to be read in Churches.
In this context, one can understand the Guardian's reference to it as an "authoritative" version. Such a statement cannot imply, however, that this translation could be more authoritative than the original texts.
We also draw ...'s attention to the following response of the House of Justice to an inquiry from another National Spiritual Assembly concerning the permissibility of using versions of the Bible other than the King James for selecting readings in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar:
The House of Justice acknowledges your letter of October 30th inquiring whether it is permissible to read from other versions of the Bible than the King James Authorized Version. We are instructed to say that while there do not appear to be any grounds for limiting selected readings from the Bible to the Authorized Version only, the decision is left entirely to your discretion.
(13 November 1974 to a National Spiritual Assembly)
Based on the foregoing, it appears to us that the friends are free to use their own judgment about which English translations of the Bible to quote from in their published work.
 
Mar 2013
565
Edwardsville, Illinois, USA
#2
I have used a Revised Standard Version "Common Bible" for many years, which includes the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonnical books. I like the fact that it was endorsed by Catholic, Protestand and Orthodox churches, and is also heavily footnoted to indicate that many original sources have alternate readings (the differ from one another).
 
Jul 2017
295
Kettering, Ohio USA
#3
Unit 2: Jesus and the New Testament

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (The commentary here is not by a Baha'i but he still has some good ideas.)

Occasion: By the early years of the second century the Christian movement had reached a point where it had become clear that the field of Christianity was the Greek world. Its public was to be the men and women not necessarily of Greek blood but of Greek speech and Greek culture. The long discipline of Greek civilization had prepared a people capable of appreciating the inward and spiritual values of the new religion. These people had, in fact, in no small degree already helped to shape its thought and life. To them, at any rate, Christianity was now addressing itself.
It is usually held that the Greek genius found its highest expression in the great days of the Athens of Pericles and Plato. But it was another great service of that same genius that it adopted the struggling Christian faith and became its standard-bearer for a thousand years.
There were, no doubt, among those of Latin speech and stock persons like the younger Pliny and Paetus and Arria [1] whose sensibilities were fine, but the whole trend of Roman life was the other way. While the Greek devoted his leisure to athletic sports, as he has taught us to do, and to witnessing great plays of Sophocles or Euripides or even Aristophanes in the theater, the Roman found his entertainment in the brutal spectacles of the amphitheater, where men fought with wild animals or with one another until they died. [1] It was not until two generations later that Christianity began to find a Latin public.
To meet the needs of this Greek public some adjustment had to be made. Christianity was addressing it in Jewish terms. A Greek who felt like becoming a Christian was called upon to accept Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. He would naturally ask what this meant and would have to be given a short course in Jewish apocalyptic messianic thought. Was there no way in which he might be introduced directly to the values of the Christian salvation without being forever routed, we might even say detoured, through Judaism? Must Christianity always speak in a Jewish vocabulary?
The old books of Christianity were unsuited to this new situation. There was, of course, the great Gospel of Matthew. But how unpromising its beginning would be to a Greek! The great masterpieces of Greek literature knew so well the importance of the opening sentence. "I have often wondered," the Memorabilia of Socrates began, "by what possible arguments the accusers of Socrates persuaded the people that he deserved death at their hands." Here was an opening sentence the world has never been able to forget. The opening lines of the Iliad and of the Odyssey lay before the reader the great theme of each poem in a short paragraph. This was the kind of approach the Greek mind demanded. Twenty-five or thirty lines of Jewish genealogy made quite a different impression upon the Greek inquirer, just as they do upon us. Was there no way in which Christian truth could be stated in forms that would be immediately intelligible and welcome to the Greek mind? The times demanded that Christianity be transplanted to Greek soil and translated into universal terms. [1] The Gospel of John is the response to this demand. .

Contents: The Jew, once possessed of a truth, said that revelation had given it to him. The Greek, when he gained possession of one, said he had reached it by reason. Which was right? What would we say? We would say there was a truth in both. And so thought the author of the Gospel of John. Jesus is more than the Messiah of Jewish nationalistic expectation; he is the Logos—the Word of Revelation that came upon the prophets, and also that Reason by which Stoic philosophy found its way to truth. In this one word, which has both meanings and which John uses in both senses at once, [2] he performs the wedding of reason and revelation, of philosophy and religion.
In the Gospel of John the function of Jesus is not so" much sacrificial as to bring life and impart it: "I have come to let them have life," 10:10. "I am Way and Truth and Life," 14:6. "I myself am Resurrection and Life," 11:25. Salvation is, in fact, eternal life. Salvation is closely related to knowledge. Plato faced the question whether a man could be really good without also being wise. In John, Jesus is the Light of the World, the Light that makes knowledge possible, 8:12. But knowledge of what? Of the truth. "You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free," 8:31. Life, light, truth, freedom, knowledge—this is the atmosphere we know, and this is the atmosphere of the Gospel of John.
Jesus' work on earth is finished, not postponed. Paul, viewing Jesus as the Messiah of Jewish expectation and believing that the supreme function of the Messiah was to judge the world, concluded that Jesus would return to complete his messianic work. But in the Gospel of John Jesus declares that he has completed the work God had given him to do, 17:4, and his last words on the cross are, "It is finished!" 19:30.
Jesus' death has little of its old sacrificial meaning of which Paul made so much. Here it is the sign of his unfaltering, utter devotion to his followers: "He loved those who were his own .... to the last," 13:1. It is also to be the signal for his followers in all the world to rally to his standard: "If I am lifted up from the ground, I will draw all men to myself," 12:32.
But what then becomes of his expected return of which Paul had spoken so confidently? It has already been realized. He was himself Resurrection and Life, 11:25. In John, Resurrection, Second Coming, and the gift of the Spirit are made one. John substantially returns to Matthew's picture of Jesus restored as a spiritual presence to his disciples.
This is the meaning of the "little while" so repeatedly emphasized in 16:16-19, where the expression occurs seven times. "In a little while you will not see me any longer, and a little while after, you will see me again." There is to be no long absence, only a short one—a few hours or days comparable with the interval between his last discourse and his death the next afternoon. Jesus himself after the Resurrection imparts the holy Spirit to the disciples, 20:22, in contrast with Luke's account, where it comes upon them after the Ascension at Pentecost, Acts 2:4. So Resurrection, Return, and the gift of the Spirit are identified.
What, then, becomes of Judgment, of which Paul had made so much as a messianic function? We remember Matthew's gigantic canvas of the general Judgment, so stupendously pictured in the final parable of Jesus' last discourse. It disappears as a future expectation, to be replaced by another profounder kind of judgment within the human soul. "God did not send his son into the world to pass judgment upon the world, but that through him the world might be saved," 3:17. "No one who believes in him has to come up for judgment," 3:18a. "He has committed the judgment entirely to the Son," 5:22b. "He has given him the authority to act as judge, because he is a son of man," 5:27. "I have come into this world to judge men," 9:39a. "The judgment of this world is now in progress," 12:31.
Judgment is just a terrible, perpetual, automatic process by which men by their own choices convict or acquit themselves. It is particularly for the sin of unbelief: "The helper will bring conviction to the world about sin, .... as shown in their not believing" in Christ, 16:8, 9. Sin in John is rather shadowy, at least as compared with Paul's idea of it. With Paul it was a terrible reality, haunting his life with a deep sense of guilt. "What a wretched man I am," he cried. "Who can save me from this doomed body?" Rom. 7:24. With John sin is chiefly unbelief.
For in John faith has become belief. It means intellectual assent; the old mystic side—trust, fiducia—has fallen away from it. With Paul it had both aspects; now it has only the intellectual meaning. And with this comes the creation of an intellectual approach to Christianity that was of enormous value to the church. For the Gospel of John set the new religion upon the rails of thought and theology upon which it was to run for a thousand years. The Greeks called it the Gospel of John the Divine [1]—the Theologian—as we speak of the "Great Divines." So clearly did they recognize this great quality in it.
But great as was the service of the Gospel of John to theology, its service to Christian devotion was no less. If we pause to consider what are the world's great classics of devotion, we think at once of certain Psalms, notably the twenty-third. What has the New Testament to set beside it? Nothing in Paul; he is always too argumentative for that mood, even in I Corinthians, chapter 13 or 15. Not the Sermon on the Mount; it is too didactic. But when we turn to the Upper Room discourses in John, chapters 14-17, we are satisfied. Of all New Testament literature they alone possess that great devotional quality: "Your minds must not be troubled; you must believe in God and believe in me."
This balance, this poise, is a marked characteristic of John. Just as his sacrifice of the old idea of a Final Judgment was for the Greek mind, and for the modern mind, more than compensated for by his doctrine of the inner judgment through our own choices, so his apparent neglect of one side of faith is fully made up by his splendid development of the mystical side of religion. He has here, in fact, in Greek fashion simply analyzed the older experience of faith into its two great aspects: the intellectual and the mystical, belief and trust.
On the ethical side the gospel has its great doctrine of love as a Christian virtue and of the love of God. Christians are to love one another. "I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must love one another. By this they will all know that you are my disciples—by your love for one another," 13:34, 35; compare 14:15, 21, 24. The great text of 3:16 only restates the thought of Rom. 5:1-11:
"God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that no one who believes in him should be lost, but that they should all have eternal life." All this, of course, culminates in the great climax in the First Epistle: "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love," 4:8. "God is love, and whoever continues to love keeps in union with God and God with him," 4:16b. "There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear. .... We love because he loved us first," 4:18a, 19a.
John never mentions the church or its officers, but no gospel lays more stress on both. The Good Shepherd, willing to lay down his life rather than lose a single sheep, is the pattern for all Christian shepherds (Lat. pastor) who must enter the sheepfold through him who is also the door—that is, through a vital sharing of his experience of complete devotion to the protection and welfare of the sheep. The responsibility of the Christian ministry has never been more finely set forth, 10:8-16.
While the church is never mentioned in John, it is symbolized in Jesus' circle of personal followers and in the group of disciples in the Upper Room, chapters 13 f. It is shown silhouetted against the dark background of the brutal and hostile world: "It is because you do not belong to the world, but I have selected you from the world, that the world hates you," 15:19. "In the world you have trouble; but take courage! I have conquered the world," 16:33. "They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world," 17:16.
The church is also sharply distinguished from the Jews. Of course, Jesus and all his personal followers were Jews, but John constantly pictures him and his followers as standing over against "the Jews" who oppose and misunderstand him. This is so foregone a conclusion, indeed, that it sometimes seems that Jesus does not wish or expect them to understand him. "Why do I even talk to you at all?" 8:26a. More than sixty times in the gospel "the Jews" appear as the opponents and enemies of Jesus. Their animosity to him and the animosity felt by the evangelist for them plainly reveal the stage of opposition that had developed between church and synagogue when the Gospel of John was written. Church and synagogue are at war.
The church is sharply distinguished not only from the world and the Jews but from the sects which were now emerging into clearer light. The Docetists who held that Jesus was too divine to suffer agony and death are opposed in the gospel's insistence upon the reality of Jesus' death. The soldier's spear thrust left no room for doubt on that point, 19:33, 34. Yet Docetic notions of his immateriality continued to appear in the Gospel of Peter and the Acts of John. [1] There were still those who regarded John the Baptist as the Messiah, or at least as the new Elijah of Mal. 4:5, like the men Paul found at Ephesus, Acts 19:1-7. Justin mentions Baptists among the Jewish sects, Dialogue lxxx. 4, and in the third century the Clementine Recognitions speaks of people who declare John to be the Messiah. Against this view of John, the gospel repeatedly emphasizes his subordination to Jesus: "He who was to come after me is now ahead of me, for he existed before me," 1:15. "He admitted—he made no attempt to deny it—he admitted that he was not the Christ," 1:20. Of Jesus, John says, "He must grow greater and greater, but I less and less," 3:30.
The warning against the sects culminates in the Intercessory Prayer, which forms the climax of the Upper Room discourse, chapter 17. The one request Jesus makes for his followers is that they may be one, 17:11. For them and for all who through their message later come to believe, Jesus prays again, "Let them all be one," 17:21. "That they may be one just as we are, .... so that they may be perfectly unified," 17:22, 23. This repeated emphasis upon the need of unity among believers points unmistakably to the time, early in the second century, when the sects were beginning to honeycomb the churches.
The approach to the gospel reflects the characteristic Greek disposition to announce the theme of a book in its opening lines. In a lofty and somewhat abstract Prologue the writer seeks to place Jesus in philosophical, eternal, and cosmic relationships. He is the Word of Revelation, the Reason of Philosophy. It was to him that God said, "Let us make man." He is that divine Wisdom through which creation was effected. He was the light of mankind, the bringer of life to men. These are no mere narrow national terms; they are so broad that they have never been outgrown.
Dr. Henry B. Sharman used to say that the Gospel of John is a book of a few great ideas to which the writer returns again and again. These ideas are laid before the reader in the Prologue. They are Revelation, Incarnation, Regeneration, the Impartation of Life. It is to present them that the gospel is written. They are of more importance in the writer's mind than mere historical facts. He is, in short, one of those men who care more for truth than for fact. The eyewitness testimony to what happened here or there is subordinated to the testimony of religious experience. Jesus says to Thomas, "Is it because you have seen me that you believe? Blessed be those who believe without having seen me!" 20:29. It is the inward appreciation of Jesus that supremely matters. It is written on behalf of those mystic later followers, those beloved disciples, who may enter more deeply into Jesus' life and spirit than did the eyewitnesses themselves.
The form in which this Christian theologian-mystic put his teaching was a gospel narrative. In form it is the story of Jesus' revelation of himself to his disciples and his followers.
The new narrative differed from the older ones in many details. In it Jesus' ministry falls almost wholly in Judea instead of in Galilee and seems to cover three years instead of one. The cleansing of the Temple stands at the beginning instead of at the end of his work. Nothing is said of his baptism, temptation, or agony in the garden. His human qualities disappear, and he moves through the successive scenes of the gospel perfect master of every situation, until at the end he goes of his own accord to his crucifixion and death. He does not teach in parables, and his teaching deals, not as in the earlier gospels with the Kingdom of God, but with his own nature and his inward relation to God.
In his debates with the Jews he defends his union with the Father, his pre-existence, and his sinlessness. He welcomes the interest shown by Greeks in his message, 12:20-23, prays for the unity of the future church, chapter 17, and interprets the Lord's Supper even before he establishes it, 6:48-58. His cures and wonders, which in the earlier gospels seem primarily the expression of his overflowing spirit of sympathy and helpfulness, now become signs or proofs to support his high claims. The writer has, in short, read back the Jesus of experience into the Jesus of history. Jesus is made to declare, in what has been termed the "I style," the church's developing views of his nature and person.
The gospel contains no parable like those of the Synoptists, unless, as Professor Moulton said, the Vine and the Branches is to be considered one. But in a sense the gospel is itself, much of it, parable. Much of it is so disturbing and difficult historically and so luminous figuratively. Certainly, no one can carry through a literal interpretation of the whole gospel; such efforts invariably shatter on the command to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, 6:53, 54.
It is not simply the physical difficulties with the Johannine wonders that perplex us; it is their moral difficulty. The water made wine—if fact, what a use of supernatural power—to replenish the refreshments at a party; as if there were no crushing burdens and dreadful sores on the world's life that such power might have been used to heal! Taken symbolically, however (and that is the way in which everybody really takes it), the story teaches the gospel's power to transform and enrich human life.
While the Gospel of John is a narrative, yet, when it is properly paragraphed in the modern fashion, the fact emerges that it is very largely dialogue. It is mostly conversation. This broad literary fact about it (which all standard English forms of it completely obscure) is of great significance, for it at once places it as a literary type in the tradition of the most characteristic form of Greek philosophical literature—the dialogue. This is just what the author intended it to be—a combination of gospel and dialogue. As such it may be regarded as standing between the Platonic dialogues and the dialogues between Jews and Christians of which Ariston of Pella (ca. A.D. 140) wrote the earliest example known to us and Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 160) the earliest that is extant.
This trait stamps the Gospel of John again as distinctly Greek in feeling and method. In fact, the gospel may be said to be intensely Greek from Prologue to Epilogue in every fiber of both thought and language. [1] Paul looked down the long vista of existence and saw a trial before the court of Christ awaiting every man, II Cor. 5:10; John saw reunion in a Father's house, 14:2. Paul declared himself the slave of Christ, Phil. 1:1 etc.; but Jesus says in John, "I do not call you slaves any longer, .... now I call you friends," 15:15. This is the substitution of the Greek idea of religion as friendship for the oriental idea of religion as servitude. Before the Christian believer stretched a broadening way to larger powers and fuller knowledge: Jesus' followers are to do greater works than his, 14:12; their helper, the Spirit of truth, will guide them into the full truth, 16:13.
The Gospel of John is a charter of Christian experience. For the evangelist, to know Christ through inner experience matters more than to have seen him face to face in Galilee. "Blessed be those who believe without having seen me," 20:29. What supremely matters in religion is not so much what men said or did, here or there, but the power of the Christian experience to create itself anew in the human heart, no matter where or when. Without that what would all the dogmas, all the liturgies, and all the literatures be worth to us?
Our mistake has been that we have dealt with John as though it were just another Mark or Matthew. It cannot be measured by those standards. It is something altogether apart. It is a great creative work of religious genius that has lighted the way for Greek Christianity and for universal Christianity ever since. Its theology may not be ours, for it was a bridge between its faith and its world-view, just as ours must be. Historically, it is less convincing than Mark; ethically it is less exalted than Matthew. Yet it Strikes beyond any of these to the very heart of Christianity, as above all an inner spiritual life of sonship to God and friendship with Christ.

Problems: Modern learning has sometimes felt that, by a few judicious transpositions, the narrative of John and particularly the movements of Jesus might be made somewhat more plausible. These transpositions—such as that of 7:15-24 to the end of chapter 5; of 10:19-29 to the end of chapter 9; of chapters 15 and 16 to the middle of 13:31; and of 18:19-24 with 18:15-18—are conveniently exhibited in the text of Moffatt's The New Testament: A New Translation. There can be no doubt that such rearrangements, which have long been advocated by Burton, Warburton Lewis, and others, relieve the narrative of John of certain material difficulties. But it must be remembered that topography and chronology were among the least of the author's concerns. His head was among the stars. He was seeking to determine the place of Jesus in the spiritual universe and his relations to eternal realities. These were the matters that interested and absorbed him, not itineraries and timetables, so that practical mundane considerations that might apply to Mark, Matthew, or Luke have little significance for his work. Nor has any probable explanation been offered for the origin of these supposed disarrangements.
The "I style" so characteristic of the Gospel of John is a way of stating ancient belief about Jesus in a fashion well known in antiquity. Various inscriptions exhibit the same use of the first person in describing Isis:
I am Isis, the mistress of every land. .... I gave and ordained laws, .... I divided the earth from the heaven. I showed the path of the stars. I ordered the course of the sun and moon. I devised business in the sea. I made strong the right. I brought woman and man together. .... I revealed mysteries to men. . . . .[1]
There is, therefore, something almost liturgical in sentences like "I am the bread that gives life," "I am the Good Shepherd," "I am the door," "I am the Light of the World," "I am Resurrection and Life," "I am Way and Truth and Life." They are in the religious style of the mystery religions.
The gospel begins with the very phrase that began the Greek version of the Jewish scriptures, "In the beginning." It gradually rises to lofty liturgical levels, chapters 14-16, and culminates in the Intercessory Prayer. It is the most considerable prayer in point of length in the New Testament and possesses a liturgical quality so potent that it actually obscures for most readers the main point of the prayer—union against the sects. There is thus an unmistakable literary crescendo about the gospel from the point of view of liturgical values.
The place of the gospel's origin has generally been recognized as Ephesus, and everything seems to confirm this opinion. It shows acquaintance with the collected letters of Paul—Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and probably Philippians, Philemon, and I and II Thessalonians [1]—as well as with Mark and Luke-Acts; perhaps also with Matthew, but that is much less certain. (It is an anachronism to talk of its use of Luke; Luke was not yet separated from its companion-volume Acts, and it was Luke-Acts that John used.) Its opposition to Docetism and the sects and its great concern for a unified Christianity remind us forcibly of the interest of Ignatius of Antioch in just these matters when he passed through Asia Minor sometime between 107 and 117 on his way to martyrdom at Rome. It was here in the province of Asia that he wrote his seven letters, vehemently urging unity against the sects, and especially against the Docetists, upon the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Philadelphia, Smyrna, and even upon the far-off church at Rome where he was soon to appear. There is every reason to believe that the Gospel of John belongs to the same place and period that witnessed the writing of Ignatius' letters, that is, Ephesus or the vicinity of Ephesus about A.D. 110.
The Gospel of John ends with the twentieth chapter, which closes with what is manifestly the Finis of the gospel:
There were many other signs which Jesus showed before his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these have been recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life as his followers.
Chapter 21 forms an epilogue later added to the completed gospel, probably when it was combined with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke to form the great quartet of gospels which soon became the Scripture of the churches and later the nucleus of the New Testament. Verse 24 shows that the writer of the Epilogue, who must have been one of the editors of the Fourfold Gospel collection, is not identical with the author of the gospel. In the gospel the beloved disciple is an ideal figure—such a follower of Jesus as would have seen him in his true greatness and in his larger relationships. But in the Epilogue the author, who has evidently passed away, is identified with this beloved disciple: "It is this disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down, and we know that his testimony is true." The new conclusion that now ends the book, verse 25, is even more appropriate as the Finis of the Fourfold Gospel: "There are many other things that Jesus did, so many in fact that if they were all written out, I do not suppose that the world itself would hold the books that would have to be written." It said, in effect, to those previously attached to one gospel or another: "Do not be surprised to find in this collection words and acts of Jesus that you never heard of before. He did more than even these four narratives contain, and if all he did were recorded, the books would fill the world."
The Epilogue is added to meet objections to the new gospel, to bring it more into harmony with its companion gospels, to commend it to their adherents, and to, enforce its message by a strong indorsement.
In harmony with Matthew an account of a Galilean reappearance of Jesus is now added, 21:1-14. The miraculous catch of fish and the breaking of bread recall scenes in Luke, 5:1-10; 24:30-35. The second half of the Epilogue, 21:15-25, includes a recognition of the leadership and pastoral office of Peter more in line with the Synoptic representation and fitted to commend the gospel to those who cherished his memory; an allusion to his martyrdom as foretold by Jesus, like those of James and John, 21:18, 19 (cf. Mark 10:39); and a reference to the beloved disciple as once supposed to be destined to survive until Jesus' coming. Such a disciple—a man with such insight and sympathy—the writer of the Epilogue declares was the author of the Gospel of John, 21:24.
From the time of Irenaeus (A.D. 180-89) certainly, and probably from the time of the making of the Fourfold Gospel corpus (115-25), the name of John has been attached to the gospel, doubtless from the fact that John the Elder was the writer of II and III John and very probably of I John, also. The question of the identity and personality of John the Elder belongs, however, to the discussion of the Johannine letters.
But the thoroughly Greek character of the thought and interest of the gospel, its literary (dialogue) cast, its thoroughly Greek style, its comparatively limited use of the Jewish scriptures (roughly about one-fifth of Matthew's), its definite purpose to strip Christianity of its Jewish swaddling clothes, its intense anti-Jewish feeling, and its great debt to the mystery Religions [1]—combine to show that its author was a Greek, not a Jew. [2] In the Gospel of John the Greek genius returns to religion.
 
Jul 2017
295
Kettering, Ohio USA
#4
Do we have the Original New Testament?

• The answer to this question has a lot to do with the nature of “publishing”
• At the time of Jesus there were no printing presses; no paper (just papyrus); no books yet (just scrolls); no small letters; no standard punctuation
• Texts were often blocks of letters with no spaces between words
• Books were hand copied; many people made their own copies and then they only copied the parts they wanted • Since it was their copy, they might add their own notes inside the text
• Others might copy that version
• People were taught to read and to write separately
• Some professional scribes could copy text, but could not read it!
• Scribes often made mistakes, leaving out letters, words, even sentences or blocks of text
• Each scribe copied many of the errors of the previous scribe and introduced new ones
• Some tried to fix errors, thereby introducing new errors
• Some scribes saw contradictions between texts and tried to harmonize them
• We have the same problems with Greek and Latin literature in general
• “Original Autograph”: This is the very first copy of a text. For the Bible and other words of that day, they are all lost
• We don’t even have copies of copies of copies of the autographs; our oldest copies are often centuries later
• We do have a few fairly old manuscripts that appear to be fairly reliable
• We now have 5,700 manuscripts or fragments, mostly from the Middle Ages, and know of hundreds of thousands of variants of the biblical text!
• Most of the variants can be dismissed, but there are still a dozen or two places in the biblical text where we really aren’t sure of the original
• We have a tiny papyrus scrap of the Gospel of John dated to about 125 CE, only 30 or so years after the original autograph
• We have a complete Gospel of John from about 200 CE
• The first complete New Testament we have dates to about 350 CE
• The earliest texts were copied by scribes with no training and they made the most mistakes
• The oldest fragments of Luke date to 200 CE; oldest complete copy, 350 CE
• Accidental Mistakes: Misspellings or dropped words and sentences and lines
• Intentional Errors: Did Jesus suffer terribly on the cross and “sweat blood” or not? The oldest texts do not have the phrase. Was it later added to emphasize his suffering, or taken out to diminish his suffering?
• Scholars have to devise criteria for including or excluding words and passages
• You can’t use simple “text democracy” and go with the majority of texts; maybe the minority reading comes from the oldest texts
Criteria for Establishing the Text
• This art is called “textual criticism”
• Age of manuscripts
• Distribution of Manuscripts: Local variants are probably less reliable
• Style: Every author’s style is distinct. If a variant text does not match his style, it is less likely to be genuine
• The More Difficult Reading: changes to texts are usually made to make them read better or to harmonize, so the more difficult reading is probably older
• Quality of the manuscript: Some manuscripts were copied more reliably than others, and we can tell by spelling and other criteria

The World of Early Christian Traditions
• Where to begin? With the first gospel (Matthew)? The oldest book (1 Thessalonians) and Paul? With Jesus?
• It is best to begin with Jesus’s world, the GrecoRoman world of the 1st century
• Low literacy; maybe 10% in cities
• Low urbanization; most people lived in villages
• Death rate in cities exceeded birth rate
• Short lifespans; in Egypt, life expectancy was either 5 years or 29 years (Half the children died by age 5. Those who survived had a life expectancy of 29)
• Most women were married by 16 or 18 and bore 5 children
• Extreme wealth and poverty
• Most died within 20 miles of birth place
• Inefficient and capricious government
• Slow transportation; 60 days from Rome to edge of Empire
Religion
• Apollonius of Tyana lived about the same time as Jesus, cast out demons, raised people from the dead, performed miracles, uttered wisdom, and was acclaimed the Son of God
• All religion was local; there were no inter-city organizations
• Pagan religions were patronized by the local wealthy people; that and sacrifice were their main source of wealth
• Pagan religions placed no day to day ethical demands on people, who were not congregants
• There were no scriptures or creeds
• The state encouraged worship of the gods and political leaders played important roles in patronizing temples
• Local gods sometimes became regional or international
• Local gods merged with each other sometimes
• Only the Jews were monotheists
• Polytheists were very tolerant, generally, of each others’ religions; the more gods one worshipped, the better
• The emperor himself was considered a god and one sacrificed to him in court proceedings
• An “atheist” was someone who rejected belief in the gods (This included Christians)
• Everyone believed in spirits, ghosts, dreams, astrology, demons, and miracles
• Most “old religions” involved community worship of a patron god who was concerned about the community, not the individual
• Many “new religious movements” were springing up to fill people’s needs for a direct relationship with the divine
• Many felt attracted to the god of Judaism, but not to its laws
• Healing was heavily associated with temples, prayer and sacrifice (doctors had very limited skills)
The Divine Pyramid
• Philosophers often argued that Zeus or Jupiter was the supreme god and the others were lesser gods
• Some argued that the supreme God was beyond comprehension and all the others were lesser deities
• The “Great Gods” usually were seen as above local daimonia or lesser gods
• Households had their own Penates or family gods and their Lares or ancestral gods
• Then there were divine beings, demigods, immortals, and heroes
• It was in this last category that the Roman emperor, Apollonius of Tyana, and Jesus fell
• Most did not believe in an afterlife, or saw it as a shadowy existence
• Religion had nothing to do with afterlife; it had to do with making this life better through obtaining divine favor (“this-worldly” rather than “other-worldly”)
• Belief was irrelevant; practice (“cult”) was important
• Prayer and sacrifice were the key
• Daily sacrifice of wheat or wine to the family god
• Animal sacrifice sometimes involved eating part of the animal
• Festival days celebrated the worship of state gods
• One could determine whether the gods accepted a sacrifice through the practice of extispicy (I think this means whether it had the desired results. Since the Christians didn't sacrifice to the gods, they were blamed during bad times)
• Divination , dreams, and oracles allowed one to determine the divine will
• The gods brought peace and prosperity to the Empire if they were pleased
• Leading families and Senators were honorary priests
• They often had to pay personally to rebuild or expand temples and pay salaries of priests
• Temples were built and maintained by the state and the state celebrated victories in them
• Sacrifices paid for part of the upkeep of temples, also, but temples did not have “congregations” and most people felt no obligation to support them
• In some places there was regular worship of the emperor or of his “genius” as a god
• Magic was widely practiced, including potions, spells, and ritual curses (similar to voodoo)
• It was mixed in with religion and not separate from it
• Mystery cults involved various secret rituals that led to desired results, often focusing on the afterlife
• They often involved lifelong exclusive dedication to one deity
• They often involved myths of a dying and rising god, reenacted in the ritual
• The mystery cults often had initiation rituals and were hard to join
• The initiation may involve ritual washings
• Mystery cults centered on Demeter in Eleusis, Greece; Isis and her husband Osirus (from Egypt); Dionysus/Bacchus; and Mithras
• Their concern for community and afterlife anticipates aspects of Christianity
• Philosophy and religion were not separated in the ancient world
• Philosophers could be priests or emperors; few were professionals
• Philosophy was concerned with how to live life well
• Philosophers often stood on the street corner and preached, so their ideas were known to the illiterate populace
• At the time of Jesus, Stoics, Platonists, and Epicureans were the 3 most common types
• Each defined “wellbeing” differently but emphasized inner peace that comes from living in conformity with nature
• Stoics said this meant living in harmony with a world structured by the gods
• Epicureans felt the divine realm was irrelevant to inner peace and localized it in the simple pleasures of daily life
• Exercising reason was important to all 3
• Education and mental discipline were emphasized by all three
• They emphasized doctrine (what to believe) and ethics (what to do) in contrast to pagan religion
• They were not totally tolerant of each other because doctrine and ethics are either right or wrong!
• They sought to convert people to their views
 
Jul 2017
295
Kettering, Ohio USA
#5
UNIT 3: The New Testament and the Gospels I:
Context and Canonization

The New Testament is the traditional scripture of the Christian dispensation. None of the authors of the books of the New Testament set out to compose scripture; they were writing down their own understandings of Christianity, in response to the needs of their communities. The first two or three generations of Christians wrote hundreds of works, a hundred of which have survived, and about a quarter of which were accepted into the New Testament. Of the New Testament's twenty-seven books, four are about Jesus Christ, His life and teachings; they are called gospels. The Book of Acts, a companion work to the Gospel of Luke, describes the actions of Christ's apostles after His death.
No church council ever finalized the contents of the New Testament; rather, its contents were gradually settled by tradition. The collection of works did not even have a name until about 200 C.E., when the Latin theologian Tertullian coined the term New Testament. Many independent Christian groups had other collections of writings that they considered foundational to their beliefs, but which were never considered sacred or even correct by the mainstream of Christians. The Nag Hammadi library, a collection of forty-six works buried in southern Egypt about 400 C.E. and found in 1945, is the best example.
Since the early and mid nineteenth century, sophisticated techniques for examining the language, style, and historical context of the New Testament books have developed and are collectively referred to as higher biblical criticism (where "criticism" refers to analysis of the New Testament, not criticizing it). There are several important aspects of higher biblical criticism. One is comparison of biblical texts describing the same topics side by side, so that differences of language and content can be studied carefully. Another important technique involves comparing biblical texts to other Christian nonbiblical texts of a similar age, on the assumption that nonbiblical texts also contain important information about Jesus and His early disciples. A third important aspect of the approach involves minute study of non-Christian texts of the same age, to gain a more detailed understanding of the usage of common biblical terms and phrases in the language of the day. A key assumption throughout is that when apparent contradictions between biblical texts are noted, the contradictions should not be glossed over or reconciled theologically, but should be studied rigorously and thoroughly to determine what they tell us about the range of assumptions held by the early Christians. In short, higher biblical criticism assumes that scripture is the product not only of a revelatory process, but also of a social process, and the social component of the composition of scripture can be studied rigorously using the modern techniques of sociology, psychology, and literary criticism.
One of the most important conclusions of higher-critical biblical scholarship is that not one book in the New Testament was written by an individual who met Jesus Christ. All of them were written later, usually by the second and third generation; the latest books in the New Testament were composed about 140 or 150 C.E. Many of the books are pseudonymous—that is, they claim to be written by someone other than the real author. Examples are First and Second Peter, the Epistle of James, and the Epistle of Jude; the quality of the Greek and the theological issues addressed indicate the authors were native Greek speakers and writers, composing decades after Peter, James, and Jude died. First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus are attributed to Paul but are very different in vocabulary and theology from Paul's genuine letters. The Book of Hebrews is anonymous, that is, its author is not given at all; it was attributed to Paul very early, but the attribution has been questioned since the third century.
It may seem strange to modern people that so many books of the Bible were pseudonymous or anonymous, but the process of writing books in the first and second centuries was very different than it is today. Ancient books had to be hand-copied and thus were incredibly expensive; consequently unknown authors often attributed their works to great men long dead to give the books weight and increase the likelihood they would be copied. Ancient books did not have copyrights or title pages; often the only place the author's name would be mentioned was in the text itself.
Closely related to this conclusion is another, that the stories about Jesus and accounts of His words were transmitted orally for one or two generations. Detailed study of the gospels has shown that the miracle stories, parables, and sayings of Jesus were preserved not because the first generation of Christians realized they had an obligation to posterity to serve as impartial and thorough transmitters of the Jesus tradition, but because of the stories' usefulness in the mission to convert others to Christ. Preserved in the missionary context, the stories about Jesus were gradually written down as brief collections of sayings or miracles, and these short documents were later incorporated into the gospels, either completely or in part.
A third major conclusion of modern biblical scholarship is that the New Testament is not theologically unified, but contains within it diverse and conflicting opinions about the nature of Christianity. This is an extremely important discovery because it shows that Christianity was never a single united religion, but always contained sharp disagreements and diverging tendencies—the sources of its sects. Bahá'ís, used to thinking of their own religious community as being in theological agreement, must understand that never in its history did Christianity experience similar unity. It had no golden age of unity in the first generation, from which it fell away. Paul's letters, which constantly complain about and warn against the teachings of rival Christian groups, make this clear (see I Cor. 1: 10-17; Gal 2:1-21). The Bahá'í Faith has a Covenant that maintains its unity. According to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Christianity never had a Covenant:
At most, His Holiness Jesus Christ gave only an intimation, a symbol, and that was but an indication of the solidity of Peter's faith. When he mentioned his faith, His Holiness said "Thou art Peter"—which means rock—"and upon this rock I will build My church." This was a sanction of Peter's faith; it was not indicative of his (Peter) being the expounder of the Book, but was a confirmation of Peter's faith.[8]
According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, Christianity had about 1900 sects in the year 1900; by 1985 the number had increased to about 22,190; and currently sects come into existence at the rate of 270 per year, or five per week![11] There is no reason to assume that Christianity's fragmentation will slow down or reverse in the near future. Indeed, many Christians believe that sectarianism is good: Liberals argue that it allows greater diversity of expression of the Christian truth; conservatives maintain that it permits the "true" believers to be separated from the "false."

Traditions of Jesus in Their Greco-Roman Context

• The gospels were not the first written records of them
• Stories would also have been modified to fit the needs of spreading the gospel
• “Luke” says he used earlier written material and stories
• Jesus was crucified about the year 30; Mark’s gospel was written between 65 and 75; Matthew and Luke, 80-85; John 90-95 CE
• Those are our best guesstimates at the moment (the guesstimates change from decade to decade!)
• After the crucifixion, there were maybe 15 to 20 followers of Jesus left
• By the year 100, there were churches all over the Eastern Roman Empire
• By 100 CE, there were thousands of Christians
• Most Christian mission work was conducted one on one, not in public
• Thus the teaching effort had to focus on the concerns of the day (wisdom, healing, miracles, raising the dead)
• Moral truth was more important that historical truth
• Different gospels often tell the same story, with significantly different details
• Mark has Jesus crucified on the morning after Passover begins; John on the afternoon before Passover
• If Jesus and Pilate were alone, who told the gospel writers what Jesus said?

The Christian Gospels

• The “gospel” was a new literary genre that resembled the genre of biography in some ways
• Every author has a point of view and a reason for writing what he/she wrote; a “take” on the subject
• The old view: the gospel was a totally new and unique genre
• Now as we study GrecoRoman biography, we see the similarities
• Written before the rise of psychology, they have little concern about development of the personality
• Little about the inner life
• Experiences demonstrates character; it doesn’t develop character
• Biographies existed to demonstrate proper behavior and show what greatness was
• Chronological order was less important
• Miraculous signs were used in many biographies, especially of religious figures
• Gospels are a kind of ancient biography
• The gospels can’t be taken at face value to determine “what really happened”
• Problem: What we can be sure happened is not itself adequate, because a lot may have happened that was important, and we can’t be sure without a time machine

Jesus, Suffering Son of God (The Gospel of Mark)

• Author: a Greek speaking Christian
• The story is deeply rooted in Judaism
• “Messiah” had 2 principal meanings: the messianic king who would deliver the Jews from occupation and establish Israel as a sovereign state; or a cosmic deliverer who engages in a supernatural war with Israel’s enemies
• Jesus was neither of these two kinds of messiahs; he was crucified!
• So Mark has to explain what sort of messiah Jesus was
• John the Baptist, a prophet, proclaims baptism as a rite of forgiveness of sins
• He resembles Elijah in dress and diet
• Jesus is baptized by John and a dove descends from heaven and voice proclaims him “my beloved Son”
• Jesus then goes into the wilderness and confronts Satan, returning triumphant
• Begins his ministry proclaiming the advent of the Kingdom of God
• “Son of God” in Jewish context denoted a special relationship with God
• In pagan contexts, a demigod
• In chapter 1, Jesus is portrayed as authoritative; he speaks, people obey; people say he speaks this way in the synagogue; he casts out demons; he heals people; as a result, he attracts crowds
• But rather than being universally acclaimed as Son of God, he is misunderstood by followers and hated and opposed by religious and political leaders
• Much of Mark’s gospel thus is an explanation for why the son of God was crucified
• But Pharisees, scribes, temple priests are offended by what he says.
• Mark 2:1-3:6 is a collection of conflict stories
• First they question his actions, take offense at his associations and activities, then protest the actions of his followers, and finally decide to execute him
• He refuses to follow their practices of purity or follow the Sabbath the way they do
• Jesus betters them in argument, but they convince the governor to execute him because of his popularity and his criticism of the temple worship, and because he is God’s Son
• Who realizes Jesus is the Son of God? God; demons; “Mark”; and the reader That’s it!
• The disciples don’t know who he is, either, even after seeing him walk on water and feed multitudes
• Then the disciples begin to understand as well. Peter says he is the Christ (the anointed one)
• Jesus orders the disciples not to spread the Word, though
• He tells them he will be crucified and raised from the dead
• Jesus says “Get behind me, Satan!” He can’t be understood as a Messiah in the popular sense, as Peter does
• Jesus is the Suffering Son of God
• Three times (8:31, 9:2-34, 10:33-34) Jesus says to the disciples he must die, and each time they don’t understand
• After the three statements, the story marches on toward the Passion Narrative
• Jesus is taken off to be crucified
• In Gethsemane he prays 3 times not to have to undergo his fate
• On the cross he says “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Then cries out and dies
• The curtain in the Temple is then torn in half; it separates the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber where Jehovah dwells, from the rest of the world
• God now dwells in the entire world
• The ultimate sacrifice for all humanity has been made
• A Roman centurion confesses Jesus is the son of God; even the gentiles will know, now
• On the day after the Sabbath three women go to prepare the body and are told by a young man that Jesus has risen from the dead
• He tells them to tell the disciples
• The women flee away and tell no one, however!
• The book ends there!
• Some copyists added 12 more verses to the gospel to give it a “fitting” ending
• Maybe the last page of the original manuscript got lost
• Mark’s audience would have been Greek speaking Christians outside Palestine, mostly gentile (he has to explain Jewish customs to them)
• Mark may not have been Jewish himself; he seems not to understand Jewish customs completely, either
• The Markan community may have been in dialogue with a local synagogue; some members may have converted from it
• This may explain Mark’s frequent references to the opposition of the Pharisees
• Following Jesus is not a ticket to glory, but to suffering
• Many scholars suspect the gospel was written early in the Jewish war (late 60s) and thus it hints that this war is the beginning of the end
• The Markan community may have been persecuted, but expected imminent relief when the Son of Man comes
 
Jul 2017
295
Kettering, Ohio USA
#6
UNIT 4: The Canonical Gospels II:
Origins and Content

Luke 2
[1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
[2] (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
[3] And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

There was no universal census at the time of Jesus' birth. However there could have been a local census according to a short course that I had recently. Also Cyrenius was governer of Syria at the wrong time. However in the original greek, the word that said "first" could have meant "before". There was no requirement to go back to your original place of birth in the Roman empire. However Augustus reorganized the Roman empire so that the census would have been taken according according to local law according to the short course.
Luke 2
[46] And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
[47] And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

This is just like the Bab and Baha'u'llah.

Luke 3
[2] Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
[3] And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
[4] As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
[5] Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
[6] And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

The 5th verse is metaphorical of course. The valley that will be filled refers to the lowly of the earth. The mountain or hill are the divines and leaders of the time that will be brought low. In the 6th verse it says all flesh will the salvation of God, though this is not literally true. It impacts on the prophecy that says all eyes will see the return of Christ.

Luke 4
[1] And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
[2] Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered

Forty is often used in the Bible, so this number is symbolic and not literal. If He ate nothing for forty days He would die.

Matthew 10
[40] He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
[41] He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward.
[42] And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

John 20
[20] And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
[21] Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
[22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

In this version the disciples receive the Holy Spirit before pentacost. The breathing on them is symbolic.

In the Qur’án it is said: “And We sent Our Spirit to her, and He took before her the form of a perfect man”,73 meaning that the Holy Spirit assumed a human form, as an image appears in a mirror, and conversed with Mary.
('Abdu'l-Baha)

Man cannot free himself from the onslaught of vain and selfish desires save through the confirming grace of the Holy Spirit.
('Abdu'l-Baha)

The Synoptic Problem

• Matthew, Mark, and Luke have a lot of stories and sayings in common, but some significant differences as well
• Together, however, they are quite different from John
• Why? This is called the “synoptic problem”
• “Synoptic” means “seeing together”
• This problem is studied via the “literary-historical method”
• “Redaction criticism” is analysis of how and why a text was redacted or edited.
• How does an author use the sources available to him/her, and why? Why include this and exclude that?

Common Texts in the Synoptics
• Entire texts are shared verbatim by 2 or even all 3 of the gospels
• What was the common source? Oral tradition? A preexisting written text? Or did they borrow from each other?
• If they borrowed from each other, why did they NOT borrow some stories?
• There are many possible theories

Four Source Hypothesis
• The consensus view of scholars today is that Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke used it as a source
• They also used Q, a lost sayings source
• They also used oral traditions available to them (called M and L by scholars)

Markan Priority
• Sometimes Mark and Matthew share a phrase in common
• Sometimes Luke and Mark share a phrase in common
• But it is very rare to find Matthew and Luke sharing a phrase in common and differing from Mark’s phrasing
• Therefore, both borrowed from a preexisting Markan text
• Matthew and Luke share material in common that is not found in Mark and it is usually sayings. That also suggests that Mark is older; if Mark was younger and had borrowed from Matthew or Luke, we wouldn’t see a body of sayings in Matthew and Luke missing from Mark
• The order of stories on Matthew and Luke is often the same and often the same as Mark’s
• The sayings missing from Mark, however, are NOT in the same order in Matthew and Luke

Characteristics of the Changes
• Sometimes Mark uses awkward Greek or unusual words. Matthew and Luke typically “clean up” these problems
• If Mark copied from one of them, why would he make the grammar and phrasing worse?
• Mark is shortest. If he was copying from Matthew or Luke, why cut out all those good stories? Especially the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer!
• When Matthew and Luke use a Markan story, they often shorten it; Mark’s version is often the longest! So Mark is not taking Matthew or Luke and condensing it.

Q (Quelle, “Source”)
• Once Markan priority is established, what to we do with the common material in Matthew and Luke not found on Mark? Did Matthew borrow it from Luke? Vice versa? Or did they use another source?
• One couldn’t have gotten it from the other because the order of the Markan stories is the same, but the Q material is not in the same order
• Matthew and Luke used Mark as their template and added Q material where they thought it fit best
• We can’t be sure of the content of Q, except what Mt and Lk have in common from it
• It is almost all sayings, though it had three stories
• It was a written document, similar to the Gospel of Thomas
• Matthew gathered Q sayings together; Luke seems to have used them in order

“M” and “L”
• We can’t know much about M and L because we have only one source for each
• They may not have been a single written source, but multiple written and oral sources
• They are often memorable stories
• Once we have these theories established, we can ask: how did Matthew (or Luke) use Mark, and why?

Jesus, the Jewish Messiah: The Gospel of Matthew
• Matthew, the tax collector, is mentioned in Matt 9:9; he is traditionally the author of the gospel
• Why would a follower of Jesus write a gospel that is 2/3 derived from Mark, including the account of “his” calling?
• We can say that “Matthew” was a Greek speaker, probably outside Palestine
• He used Mark and Q and his own “M” sources
• Probably wrote in the early 80s
• We will look at how Mt reused Mk to make his points (redaction criticism)

Importance of Beginnings
• He begins by emphasizing Jesus’s descent from Abraham and David (whose descendants will include the Messiah)
• Mt uses a genealogy to make this point
• He includes every major figure in Jewish history
• He then has to note that Joseph is the husband of Mary, because it links to her for the virgin birth
• 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile in Babylon, and 14 from Babylon to Jesus
• This makes Jesus inevitable, a divine culmination
• Matthew had to cut out some of the kings of Israel to come up with 14 generations, linking sons to grandfathers!

Birth of the Messiah
• Mt’s Birth Narrative is designed to include fulfillment of biblical prophecies
• Mt uses a “fulfillment citation,” such as “this occurred in order to fulfil what was spoke of by the prophet x” and he then quotes the passage from the Septuagint
• Only Matthew uses “fulfillment citations.”
• Micah 2:6: the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem; Isaiah 1:23, born of a virgin
• There are also indirect references, like Hos. 11:1, “out of Egypt I have called my son” that did not originally refer to Jesus
• Much of the birth narrative makes Jesus’s life a parallel with Moses’s
• Jesus is the new Moses
• What sort of Messiah will Jesus be? Not a king or a cosmic deliverer
• He will be like Moses, a man who suffered from ignorance and distrust
• If you accept Moses, you must also accept Jesus
• The scribes and Pharisees oppose Jesus in Mt just as the priests opposed Moses
• They debate Jesus more fiercely in Mt than in Mk and Jesus responds more vigorously as well

Rejected King of the Jews
• Even in birth, Jesus is rejected; Herod hears of His birth from the Magi and seeks to kill every newborn boy (rather like Pharaoh)
• The Magi—Gentiles— know the Messiah has been born when the Jews do not!
• Jesus often fulfills scripture but is rejected by his people anyway, who plot his death
• But others come to worship him
• We see this in many of Mt’s stories

Jesus and John the Baptist
• Mt changes Mk’s account of the baptism in a number of ways
• John condemns Pharisees and scribes in Mt; not in Mk; they are too wicked to be baptized
• This emphasizes their wickedness more strongly than did Mk
• John refuses to baptize Jesus at first; he is not worthy
• The voice from heaven addresses everyone “this is my beloved son” rather than just Jesus
• In Mk, no one recognizes Jesus’s true nature until after the crucifixion; in Mt, many do, including John
• Jesus’s identity is public, not private
• Mt curtails the secrecy found in Mk

Why the changes?
• When Jesus walks in water in Mk, the disciples wonder who he is; in Mt they say he is Son of God
• Mt may be emphasizing the guilt of Jewish leaders for the crucifixion
• The Q material for John the Baptist is more apocalyptic
• John says divine judgment is coming
• Mt is more apocalyptic than Mk, overall

Portrayal of Jesus in Matthew
• Sermon on the Mount is the first of five blocks of material of Jesus’s teaching (ch. 5, 10, 13, 18, 23-27)
• Jesus’s teaching is 43% of Mt, 20% of Mk, 37% of Lk; 34% of Jn
• Like Pentateuch; Jesus as the new Moses
• The Q material is gathered together in Matthew for the Sermon on the Mount, but scattered throughout Luke
• Moses provided the guidance of the children of Israel; now Jesus provides the guidance for Christians
• Jesus does not replace Moses, but supplements and fulfills him
• The theme of the Sermon is the “kingdom of heaven”
• The Beatitudes emphasize the poor and downtrodden

The Kingdom of God (basileia theou)
• The kingdom is at hand
• Near? Present among us now? Coming in the future?
• When the kingdom comes, the poor will be fed, the mournful will be happy, those yearning for justice will be satisfied
• Mt does not see Jesus as abandoning Jewish law
• “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill”
• Jesus’s entire life seen as a fulfillment of prophecy
• Jesus requires his followers to follow the Law, too.

Jesus’s Followers and the Law
• Jesus offers six antitheses to the Law, each of which requires more rigorous obedience to its spirit
• The Law says not to murder; Jesus says don’t even get angry
• The Laws says not to do adultery; Jesus says not to even think in an adulterous fashion
• The law says an eye for an eye; Jesus says turn the other cheek
• Is he serious, though???
• Is he just saying that it is impossible to obey the law and everyone therefore is a sinner? But he doesn’t say that
• Jesus is not giving a detailed list of prohibitions; If anything, he is opposed to creating such a lengthy list

The Golden Rule; Jewish Law
• It is widespread in all ancient traditions and world religions
• Jesus says it is the essence of the Law
• The core of the Law is love for others and love for all
• This is also universal, not particularly Jewish
• Mt never says whether Christians should circumcise or follow the Sabbath
• Jesus does say that tithing should be observed
• Jesus says the Son of God is not obliged to pay the Temple tax, but does anyway

Jewish Law
• Mt says to pray the Judgment day does not come on the Sabbath
• Mt does not say that all foods are clean, though Mk does
• The Pharisees, he says, are more concerned with sacrifice than with helping others
• Thus it appears in Matthews’ community, many Jewish practices were still followed, but not emphasized

Jesus Rejected by Jewish Leaders
• The gospel portrays many strong clashes between Jesus and Jewish leaders
• He uses parables against them
• He even uses a parable in Q and refers to the destruction of a city, perhaps Jerusalem (22:7)
• Chapter 23 has seven woes against the Pharisees
• He condemns them in no uncertain terms

The Passion
• In Mt, the Jewish leaders are fully responsible for the crucifixion
• Pontius Pilate offers to release a prisoner for the Passover and the leaders get the crowd to demand Barabbas
• They also say to crucify Jesus
• Pilate washes his hands of the murder
• This is the source of much anti-Semitism
• Jesus never condemns Jews for being Jews

Matthew and His Readers
• Mt sees Jesus as continuing Jewish piety
• The Matthean community would have been partly Jewish in background
• The community would have had gentiles, too
• Book ends with the Great Commission
• Antioch, perhaps? Syria?
• Mt’s community probably experienced continued opposition from Jews
• Mt was very literate and knew the Septuagint well

Jesus, Savior of the World (The Gospel of Luke)
• We used the historicalcritical method to examine Mk and the redactional method to examine Mt
• Now we will use the literary-historical or “comparative” method to look at Luke
• It relies on comparing Luke’s text to Mark and Matthew to see what the author chose to include or change
• It’s very similar to the redactional method
• The redactional method looks at what the author changes, but NOT what the author preserved intact
• The redactional method also assumes we know what the source was. If Mt did NOT use Mk, for example, the redactional method collapses.
• But the comparative method does not; one can compare Mt with Mk even if ones doesn’t assume Markan priority
• We can compare Lk with Mt also

Comparative Overview
• Lk is also a kind of GrecoRoman biography
• Also anonymous
• Also be a Greek speaking Christian living outside Palestine
• Attributed to Luke, traveling companion of Paul
• First of a 2-volume work (including Acts)
• Books were written to be read together and have literary parallels with each other
• First volume focuses on Jesus; the second on the early Christian community and particularly on Paul

The Preface
• The gospel begins with a formal preface, unlike the other gospels but similar to other Greco-Roman works
• The Greek style is much better than Mk or Mt, also
• Historiographic prefaces in the ancient world usually mention sources used, say the result s better than anything else written on the subject, and may include the author’s name
• Luke similarly mentions sources, especially reliable oral sources “(eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word”)
• He says his account will be orderly; is this a criticism of Mk?
• Dedicated to “most excellent Theophilus”
• Usually Luke uses “most excellent” to refer to Roman governors, so maybe his patron was a governor
• This might explain his mild treatment of Pontius Pilate and his many historical references
• The gospel maybe an apologetic work to defend Christianity against government opposition

Theophilus
• But Roman officials are not always shown in favorable light
• Pilate is a weak administrator who bows to pressure from his subjects
• One cannot easily imagine the gospel and Acts being written for delivery to an official who doesn’t know Luke
• More likely, this is “inhouse” Christian literature • “Theophilus” means “beloved of God”
• It was a common name
• Or it could just refer to Christians in general, not to a patron
• The gospel is more like a biography than either Mk or Mt
• Acts is in the genre of “general history”
• Biographies rarely had prefaces, but histories usually did
• The preface thus is probably for the overall 2-volume work

Birth Narrative
• The birth narrative is parallel to Mt; Mk has none
• Mt and Lk have Jesus born in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary betrothed to Joseph
• But the differences are many
• Lk has shepherds, Mt has Magi
• Lk has journey to Bethlehem, Mt to Egypt
• Mt has angel speaking to Mary, Lk has angel speaking to Joseph
• The differences are hard to reconcile, also
• Mt has Joseph and Mary living in Bethlehem; Lk has them living in Nazareth and journeying to Bethlehem
• The Magi find Jesus in a house, not in a manger in a stable

More Birth Narrative
• Herod orders the slaughter of all boys up to age 2; Joseph and Mary must have lived in Bethlehem quite a while before fleeing to Egypt
• In Egypt, Joseph has a dream and decides to return to Bethlehem, but then changes his mind and relocates the family to Nazareth
• In Lk, Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem because of the census
• Jesus is born in Bethlehem; then they return north to Nazareth
• Quirinus was not governor until 6 CE, 10 years after Herod’s death and Jesus’s probable birth
• Censuses are in the place of residence, not place of ancestry

Luke’s Orientation to the Temple
• Lk associates Jesus with the Temple, also
• John the Baptist’s father is a good observant priest in the Temple
• He first receives the news of salvation from an angel there
• Jesus is circumcised on the 8th day and taken to the Temple, where a holy man and a woman recognize him as the Messiah
• At age 12, Jesus stays at the Temple 3 days while his parents anxiously search for him
• Jesus thus has a close association with the Temple from the beginning, in Lk
• In Lk, the devil takes Jesus to the Temple in the 3d and last temptation; in Mt it is the 2d temptation
• Half of Lk is the trip to Jerusalem and the Temple
• The disciples go to the Temple after the crucifixion, not to Galilee

Luke’s Orientation to the Whole World
• Lk’s genealogy is strikingly different
• In Lk, Jesus is descended of David via Nathan, NOT Solomon (as in Mt)
• The genealogies disagree about name of Joseph’s grandfather
• Lk’s genealogy occurs after the baptism, not at the very beginning
• The baptism AND the genealogy make Jesus “Son of God.”
• The voice from heaven after the baptism says this
• Adam’s father was God; so through Joseph, Jesus is Son of God as well!
• Lk’s genealogy goes back to Adam, not just back to Abraham, emphasizing Jesus’s humanity, not his Jewishness
• For Lk, Jesus is Savior of the world, not just of the Jews

Jesus as Rejected Prophet
• Jesus’s sermon in the Nazareth synagogue occurs half way through Mk and Mt
• Lk moves it to the beginning and makes it longer
• Jesus reads from Isaiah about the next prophet and the audience is favorable to the idea it is He
• Then Jesus recounts stories of Elijah and Elisha helping gentiles rather than Jews, who reject them
• The audience is furious, kicks him out of the synagogue, and tries to take him to a nearby cliff and throw him off • He escapes and leaves town
• Thus Jesus’s ministry symbolically begins with its rejection by the Jews and its implicit extension to the gentiles

Luke’s Distinctive Emphases
• Mk, Mt, and Lk all portray Jesus as a prophet
• Lk emphasizes this in various ways
• The birth narrative in Lk 2 closely resembles the birth narrative of the prophet Samuel, including a song by the mother
• Jesus says he is an anointed prophet in Nazareth
• His raising from the dead of the only son of the widow of Nain parallels an act by Elijah
• Jesus’s companions then say “a great prophet has arisen among us”

Jesus, Prophet of Death
• A long-standing Jewish tradition said that prophets were opposed or martyred by their own people
• Jesus says this; that he can’t be martyred outside Jerusalem; that Jerusalem is a place of opposition to prophets • The Passion narrative reflects this understanding as well
• In Mk, Jesus is uncertain about his death, but not in Lk
• Jesus shows no misgivings or doubts in Lk
• Jesus often speaks in Lk; not in Mk
• While being nailed to the cross, Jesus asks God to forgive them
• While on the cross, he speaks to the thieves
• Jesus’s last words in Mk are of anguish and doubt; not in Lk
• These differences of tone cannot be harmonized easily

Jesus’s death; Gentile Mission
• The curtain in the Temple tears before Jesus’s death in Lk, not after; it symbolizes destruction of the temple
• For Lk, Jesus is an innocent martyr who will be vindicated at the resurrection
• No references to Jesus’s death as a ransom for many
• Jesus must die because he is a prophet, not to bring salvation
• Salvation comes from repenting sins and turning to God
• Mk and Mt also see a mission to the gentiles and knew many gentile Christians, but for Lk, it is important
• In Lk, the disciples remain in Jerusalem, not in Galilee
• In Mk and Mt, Jesus predicts the imminent destruction of the world
• Lk postpones the end time
• References to imminent events are seen as already having happened in Jesus’s speeches
• Jesus comes at the “midpoint of time.”

Social Implications
• Lk emphasizes the social ills of the day more than Mk and Mt
• There is time to deal with them, after all
• The Beatitudes stress literal poverty, not spiritual poverty (and hunger, and wealth in the woes)
• Lk has a bigger role for women; Jesus associates with them and they witness his death
• Lk emphasized Jesus as a Jewish prophet rejected by his people
• His message is for the whole world
• The mission to the gentiles will have time before the end of the age comes
 
Jul 2017
295
Kettering, Ohio USA
#7
UNIT 5: The Canonical Gospels III:
Origins and the Sayings of Jesus

Matthew 5
[17] Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
[18] For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
[19] Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 18 and 19 seems to say that the Jewish law given by Moses should never be broken, but remember that Baha'u'llah said in the Iqan that the heaven and earth of the previous religion is rent and replaced with a new heaven and earth. This is before Christ declared His station. Either that or Jesus didn't say it.

Matthew 6
[25] Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
[26] Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
[27] Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
[28] And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
[29] And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
[30] Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
[31] Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
[32] (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
[33] But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

These things will only be added to you if you seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. So there may not be a problem with people who are deprived of them. But when can we say that how much you are doing these things is sufficient?

Matthew 7
[21] Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

This contradicts those who say that only believing in Him is sufficient.

Selected Topics of Comparison in Christianity and the Bahá'í Faith

Tempting as it may be, to regard this concept of a higher and lower self as a dualistic one, we are cautioned not to do so. The metaphoric distinction is one of function or manifestation, not of identity.[59]

'Abdu'l-Bahá however, distinguishes two kinds of personality: the God-given attributes, an unchangeable set of qualities, in the state of potentiality, as opposed to the actualization of this `spiritual heritage', acquired in the course of our lives, which entail both vices and virtues.[71]

This definition reconciles the apparent contradiction between the Biblical concept of man, being created in the image of God, and the actual outcome, often not resembling such a noble state.

The early Christians took Christ's admonition, to refrain from violence, as "unqualified statement of belief".[78] All the prominent Church Fathers of the second and third century condemned any act of violence and made no difference between individual crimes (murder) and collective killing (war).[79] Soldiers, who converted to Christianity, were allowed to remain in the army, but Christians, who wanted to become soldiers, were threatened with excommunication.[80]

All this changed, when Emperor Constantine started to favour Christianity. Moral values, that have held the Christian community together for 300 years, were turned upside down, when the Church gained power and aligned with politics. The strict anti-militarism and pacifism of the early Church turned into active participation in the expansion of the Roman (now Christian) Empire. The Christian community was glad that the era of persecution was over, and that they found themselves on the winning side.[81]

Despite Christ's admonition, to leave the judgement of good and evil to God (on the Day of Judgement)[82], the Catholic Church has massacred millions of "heretics", who posed a danger to the doctrine and life-style of the "official" church.

Any comparison becomes problematic, considering the fact, that people who seem to be very highly morally advanced, may have been endowed with more "talents" than others, their "receptacle" may be larger, but they have not (yet) developed their potential to the extent possible. Whereas others may appear to be less morally developed, but may already have tried much harder to fulfill their potential.

The keyword is "striving" - Shoghi Effendi confirms, that "[t]he harder you strive to attain your goal, the greater will be the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh, and the more certain you can feel to attain success", whereas "a quick and rapidly-won success is not always the best and the most lasting."[95]

The Catholic Church has, over the centuries, implanted a lot of guilt-feelings into the hearts of her adherents, when they failed to live up to the high ideals of their religion. In my view, it is important to accept the struggle of our dual nature, as outlined above, as a natural consequence of our human design. This is not to say to treat shortcomings lightly and not to try to overcome them. This is to say that the nurturing of guilt-feelings impedes this process of transformation, it has a discouraging effect, as we are inclined to perceive of ourselves as 'bad', 'unworthy', and incapable of improvement.

Nakhjavání points out how in Nabíl's Dawn-Breakers, an extensive historical narrative about Bábí and early Bahá'í history, most of the Bábí women, who endured the same sufferings as the men, "have no names and Nabíl does not go out of his way to mention them."

She acknowledges the context of nineteenth-century "chauvinistic" Persia, and Nabil's simple background, but omitting, for example, the story of Mulla Husayn's sister, who was given the title "Nightingale of Paradise" by Bahá'u'lláh, is for her "the most damning evidence of our failure, as Bahá'ís, to live according to the ideal of equality." She invites the reader "to reassess what we consider 'significant' in history, to explore the drama from a fresh perspective, with new actors, to marvel at the old story rewritten."[3]

Another premise, commonly accepted by contemporary historians, is a secular approach to history.[4] Concepts deriving from religious doctrine, such as the possibility of divine intervention, and the distinct nature of the founders of religion (being endowed with a preexistent soul, innate knowledge, and supernatural powers) are ruled out categorically. Consequently, any 'miraculous' events and phenomena are denied, ignored, downplayed, or rationalized. A meta-historic perspective, such as Shoghi Effendi provided for the first Bahá'í Century (covering the period from 1844-1944),[5] would not be taken seriously in the academic world, and so it is understandable, yet unfortunate, that also some Bahá'í scholars yield to such a reductionistic paradigm.[6]

They would acknowledge that the founders of religion sincerely believed in their divine mission, that they were extraordinary individuals, with high moral qualities, alert to the needs of their time. They would not, however, accept their "claim to be the Mouthpiece of God", but rather try to sketch their 'development', to analyze the body of knowledge they had access to, the interactions they had had, which would have led them to their 'subjective belief' to be divinely inspired.

One aspect of this 'spiritual foundation', that can be fruitfully employed in a historic comparison, is the doctrine of 'return', not to be confused with the belief in 'reincarnation'.

The Bahá'í view of "reincarnation" is essentially different from the Hindu conception. The Bahá'ís believe in the return of the attributes and qualities, but maintain that the essence or the reality of things cannot be made to return. Every being keeps its own individuality, but some of his qualities can be transmitted.[18]

Contrary to popular Bahá'í belief, this was not the only time that Tahirih unveiled herself publicly. It seems that sometimes, when she wanted to make a special point, to raise the 'Clarion call' so to speak, she would unveil, in order to increase the dramatic effect of her message.

During the month of Muharram, 1847, while Shiite Muslims donned mourning clothes to commemorate the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn, Tahirih deliberately excited their reaction by dressing in gay colors and appeared unveiled. She urged the Bábís to celebrate the Báb's birthday, which fell on the first day of that month.[32

While the extreme variants of "Monarchianism" represented only minority views, most theologians of the second and third century would concede that Christ had a divine nature/essence (Gr. hypostasis), which was subordinate to God's essence. It is often said that Arius caused a major schism because of his extreme view of Christ being subordinate to the Father (and the logos to the Son). What is often overlooked or downplayed, is that subordinate Christology was the common Church doctrine during the second and third century. Proponents of subordinate Christology had strong Scriptural evidence for their claims. Even in the Gospel of John, which presented (in contrast to the synoptic Gospels) Christ as pre-existent incarnation of the logos, Christ attested to the superiority of the Father (see John 14:28). For Paul, God was the head of Christ, just as Christ was the head of man (1 Cor. 1:3). Tertullian declared that "there was a time (before creation) when God had no Son".

Based on Jesus' statement that even he does not know the hour of his return (Mark 13:32), Church teacher Irenaeus declared that the Father stands above all and is also greater than the Son. Origines, the greatest theologian of the first three centuries, defended the transcendency of God by claiming that the "immutable God" is not affected by experiences – in soul or body – of the human Christ.

When in the fourth century, in Alexandria, Arius propagated his views, he could refer to a long and
well established tradition. Not surprising, his views were quite popular and threatened the authority of his Bishop Alexander who had him expelled to Antiochia. There, Arius sided with the followers of Origines who likewise championed a subordinate position of Christ. Prominent Christians such as Bishop Euseb of Caesarea (the Church historian) or Bishop Euseb of Nikodemia embraced Arius' views. The dispute between Antiochia and Alexandria soon threatened to divide the whole Eastern Church.[41]

The "Bahá´í flock" consists of people from every religious and ethnic background. Sears has therefore argued that Christ's statement, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16), relates to Bahá´u´lláh's mission as he "is the Shepherd of all the sheep from whatever flock they may have come."[27] This view has been popularized among Bahá´ís, as Sours observes.[28] However, the Christian interpretation that this refers to the uniting of diverse pagan peoples and the Jews, is certainly compatible with the Bahá´í point of view of "the progressive nature of prophetic fulfillment".[29] According to this perspective, "visible evidences of fulfillment will be greater in this age than in any past age, so much so that it can be said that such prophecies culminate in this age."[30]

The Gospel of John

• The Gospel of John is sharply different from the synoptic gospels
• Composed probably around 90-95, it seems to demonstrate the evolution of a local, fairly independent, Christian community
• It has many sayings found only in it
• The gospel identifies Jesus as God’s equal
• We will use the literaryhistorical method (Mark), the redactional method (Matthew), the comparative method (Luke), and the thematic method (Acts) in this study
• We will also use the sociohistorical method, which seeks to determine the social and historical context of a work from clues in its contents

Literary-Historical Perspective
• The Gospel of John is a biography, like the other gospels, but with a uniquely different opening
• It starts with a prologue that probably was originally a hymn
• Rather than starting with the word “Jesus,” it starts by talking about the “Word.”
• It doesn’t identify Jesus with the Word until the end
• This says: this is not the biography of a mere mortal, but of one who was with God, a divine being, who created the universe, and who then became human
• The rest of the Gospel divides into two halves
• Chapters 1-12 describe Jesus’s ministry over 2-3 years (3 Passovers are mentioned)

Literary structure
• Chapter 1-12 contain 7 “signs” of Jesus’s power (miracles) each with matching statements by him
• He multiplies loaves and calls himself the bread of life
• He gives sight to the blind and calls himself the “light of the world”
• He raises the dead and calls himself “the resurrection and the life”
• He gives a series of speeches when he describes his identity in great length
• Each speech is coupled with events that show he is rejected by “the Jews”
• Plot of 1-12: Jesus is sent from God, demonstrates and says who he is, most reject him, especially Jewish leaders • Jesus then removes himself from the public eye, no longer makes demonstrations or speeches

Chapters 13-21
• The rest of the gospel occurs over a 24-hour period
• Then Jesus gives a Farewell Discourse, lasting 3 entire chapters
• He says he is about to leave his disciples, they should not be dismayed, he will send a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to them, they will be hated by nonbelievers
• Closes with a prayer
• Chapters 18-21 present the Passion Narrative and parallel the account in the synoptics
• He is betrayed by Judas, put on trial before Pilate, and crucified
• Chapters 20-21 narrate various resurrection appearances to his followers

Thematic Perspective
• This was used on the book of Acts
• This approach isolates prominent themes and traces their presence throughout the narrative
• In the opening, Jesus is identified as the Word made human
• This theme does not reappear explicitly in the rest of the text, but is woven in implicitly
• Jesus possessed the glory of the Father “before the world was made”
• “I and the Father are one”
• The Word “was life”; Jesus is the “resurrection and the life”
• Jesus is “sent” by God just as the word was
• Those who have seen him have seen the Father
• Those who reject him reject God as well
• He has come from God and will soon return to him

Comparative Perspective
• There are very significant differences from the synoptics
• Jesus is born in Bethlehem to a virgin (not mentioned in John)
• Baptized by John (not mentioned in John)
• Tempted in the wilderness by the Devil (not mentioned in John)
• Jesus teaches in parables (not mentioned in John)
• Performs exorcisms (not in John) and miracles (important in John)
• Halfway through his ministry, he goes up a mountain, is transfigured, sees Moses and Elijah (not mentioned in John)
• He does not speak openly about his identity in the synoptics (the opposite in John)
• Commands demons to remain silent about him (not mentioned in John)
• Has a last supper with his disciples (not mentioned in John)
• Goes to Gethsemane (not mentioned in John)

John Compared to the Synoptics
• Is put on trial before the Sanhedrin and found guilty of blasphemy (not mentioned in John)
• Most of John’s content is unique to John!
• Some miracles are common to all 4 gospels
• The characters (Jesus, disciples, Mary, brothers, Pilate) are the same
• The Passion narrative overlaps in many details; betrayal, arrest, denial by Peter, Roman trial, crucifixion
• Few of Jesus’s words in John are in the synoptics
• The most impressive miracles are all in John

Comparison of Emphases
• Jesus does more miracles in the synoptics, but they are not as spectacular
• In Mark, Jesus is inadvertently delayed and the centurion’s daughter dies
• In John, Jesus intentionally tarries so that Lazarus will die, so he can raise him from the dead as a demonstration of his power (“I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe”)
• “This illness . . . Is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it”
• In Mark, the healing is private; in John, it is in public
• John uses miracles as proofs of who Jesus is, to convince people; “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe”
• In the Synoptics, Jesus refuses to do miracles when asked by the Pharisees
• The devil tempts Jesus to jump off the top of the Temple in Q, so that angels can save him before a huge crowd; he refuses
• Jesus performs miracles in John to prove he is who he says he is
• “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, so that you may come to believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31)
• In the Synoptics, Jesus rarely says who he is
• Instead, he speaks of the coming kingdom of God and preparing oneself for it
• He uses parables to describe the Kingdom and how to prepare
• In John, he does not preach the imminent coming of the Kingdom and does not uses parables
• He focuses on himself as one sent by God
• Jesus uses “I am” only twice in Mark and Luke and 5 times in Matthew, but 46 times in John!
• “I am the light of the world,” “I am the gate,” “I am the bread of life,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” “Before Abraham was, I am.”
• God calls himself “I am” in Exodus; is this use by Jesus “blasphemous”?
• Jesus reveals himself as an equal to God in the gospel
• Quite a contrast to the Christology of the Synoptics, where Jesus usually is a prophet!

Redactional Perspective
• Can we recognize sources used by John? There are various ways
• Most scholars remain convinced that John was composed without access to the Synoptics
• The Synoptics are older, but it would have taken many decades for them to be copied about the eastern Mediterranean
• Similarities between John and the Synoptics probably stem from use of common oral traditions
• The two places of commonality are the Passion and some of the miracles and may reflect oral or written sources used by both

Evidence for Sources in John
• Differences in writing style can be expected if an author copies a source or even if s/he modifies it
• The poetical prologue is very different in style from the rest of the gospel
• It has many parallel constructions, except where there are two lines about John the Baptist
• This may be a hymn with two lines about the Baptist added by the gospel writer
• The hymn also uses language (“Word”) not found elsewhere
• This suggests a different author and a different setting

Repetitions; Literary Seams
• Chapters 14 and 16 are remarkably similar
• These may be two different written sources used by the author
• Literary seams are places where the author “pastes” material from two different sources together and does not clean up the transition enough
• There is evidence of a “Signs Source” or “Semeia” in John and possibly Mark
• John, chapter 1 describes Jesus’s “first sign” and chapter 4 his “second sign”; but chapter 2 mentions Jesus was in Jerusalem and doing “many signs.”
• Suggests there is a source of “signs” with a story that was inserted in between
• John 2 has Jesus in Jerusalem, then “Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea.” But Jerusalem is in the very center of Judea already!

The Signs Source
• There are 7 signs in the Gospel of John, and 7 is a special number, a perfect number
• The first and second both end with “This is the first sign that Jesus did.”
• Possibly all 7 originally said that
• The last sign is the most impressive: the raising of Lazarus from the dead
• It concludes with the words earlier quoted about Jesus doing signs so that you may believe
• This may have been the original conclusion of the signs source
• Some of these signs are in Mark, so he may have had a shorter version of this source
• At some point, each sign was combined with a related saying

More Literary Seams
• Chapter 5: Jesus is in Jerusalem, then the author says “Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.” But Jerusalem is not near the Sea of Galilee
• At Jesus’s last meal, Peter says “Lord where are you going” (ch. 13) and Thomas says “we don’t know where you are going” (ch. 14) but in ch. 16, Jesus says no one has asked him where he is going
• At the end of ch. 14, Jesus says “Rise, let us be on our way” but he then continues speaking for 3 more chapters
• These all demonstrate the presence of literary seams
• It appears that John uses two sources, one with chapters 13-14 and 18, the other with chapters 15-17, and he inserted the latter into the middle of the former
• The text at the end of 14 was a natural end point

Discourse Sources; the Passion
• Jesus’s lengthy speeches also may come from a source; certainly, this is true of chapters 13-14, 18 and chapters 15-17
• The two speeches were similar and overlapped in content
• The resurrection appearances in the last 2 chapters may be a separate source as well
• The Passion Narrative may have been an independent written source as well
• John and the Synoptics describe it very similarly
• Some scholars have identified the “Gospel of Peter” as a later version of the original passion source

John in Socio-Historical Perspective
• John has a high Christology; Jesus is portrayed as fully divine
• But some stories portray a lower more human Christology; why?
• Did both perspectives develop at once? Today, Christians hold both together in their theology
• The Synoptics see Jesus as a divine man like Apollonius of Tyana or like a Prophet, but not as one who created the world and existed before time
• It is likely that the Johannine community started with a low Christology and it become elevated over time

John’s “Low” Christology
• In 1:35-42, Jesus is called rabbi, messiah, and lamb of God
• Lamb of God refers to the sacrifice of Passover lambs
• None of these are high Christological titles, but very Jewish ones
• These are not gentile titles either; Son of God is not used, for example
• The story also has three Aramaic words in it that are then explained in Greek; rabbi/teacher, Messiah/Christ, and Cephas/Peter
• The story appears originally to have been an Aramaic story, but now needs Greek explanation because the audience does not know Aramaic
• The story also has a friendly disposition toward the Jews
• The story probably is an Aramaic Jewish Christian story, which also explains its low Christology
• The opening hymn is a high Christology and is probably later

Stages in the Johannine Community’s Development
• Stage 1: In the Synagogue
• Probably the community started out as Jewish Christians in a synagogue
• Aramaic was spoken; Palestine or Syria, perhaps
• The stress on Jesus as the Jewish Messiah also indicates a Jewish teaching context
• They may have followed “the beloved disciple” usually identified as John, though we can’t be sure
• The Christians taught fellow Jews and at first this was tolerated, but the toleration gradually wore thin
• The Signs Source may come from this period; its purpose was to demonstrate Jesus’s power as the Messiah to Jews, so they would believe

Stage 2: Excluded from the Synagogue
• First century Jews eventually came to reject the idea that Jesus was the messiah
• This probably was experienced by the Johannine community as well
• As tensions rose, the Johannine community became more bitter and they were expelled
• This would explain their negative feelings toward “the Jews” (even though they were Jews as well)
• John 9: When Jesus heals a young man of blindness, his parents refuse to answer the questions of the Pharisees because they were “afraid of the Jews”

Stage 3: Against the Synagogue
• After being expelled, the community developed its high Christology and its bitter language toward the synagogue
• The result was dualistic language about the Jews
• The community also moved beyond Jewish language to explain who Jesus was
• They attracted nonAramaic speakers; probably became Greek speaking
• The opening hymn was composed and probably sung in the church

Who was “John”?
• The beloved disciple is identified as John, Son of Zebedee
• The beloved disciple is said to have witnessed the crucifixion
• Apparently the community had a saying that Jesus would return before the beloved disciple died
• But then he died and the saying had to be rethought
• Acts says John was illiterate and uneducated
• The author would have been a Greek speaking non-Palestinian
 
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Other Early Gospels

• Luke notes he had “many” predecessors in writing down the story of Jesus
• We can reconstruct from the existing canonical gospels at least three earlier sources: Q (Mt/Lk), the Signs Source (Jn, Mk?), and the Passion Narrative (Mk, Jn)
• Maybe others as well
• Nag Hammadi Library has revealed three dozen other early texts to us
• We know there were gospels produced by Ebionites, Gnostics, and by Marcion himself
• Proto-Orthodox penned gospels and produced gospel harmonies
• Ehrman divides the earliest gospels into four groups: narrative gospels, sayings gospels, infancy gospels, and passion gospels

Narrative Gospels
• Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn are all narrative gospels
• M and L may have been, if they were written
• Lk describes the predecessor works as “narratives”
• We have a few fragments of others, and quotations from them in early Christian writings
• Jewish Christian Gospels:
• The canonical gospels were penned by communities distinguishing themselves from Judaism and have anti-Jewish comments
• But Ebionite (Jewish Christian) communities existed and penned proJewish gospels as well
• We know of groups in Jordan, Palestine, Egypt

Gospel of Nazoreans
• Gospel of the Nazoreans was written in Aramaic
• Probably Palestinian, late 1st century
• Church fathers later said it was a translation of Matthew without the 1st 2 chapters (the virgin conception would not be acceptable to Jewish audience)
• But it had stories not in Matthew as well
• Was it independent of Mt? A rewrite? A reuse of an earlier version of Mt we don’t have?
• We don’t know; we don’t possess a copy

Gospel of the Ebionites, Hebrews
• Gospel of Ebionites was probably a gospel harmony made by harmonizing the synoptic texts into a single gospel
• Written in Greek, probably in trans-Jordan
• It includes words of Jesus saying Christians no longer needed to sacrifice animals at the temple
• Christians should now be vegetarian!
• John the Baptist ate pancakes, not locusts!
• Gospel of the Hebrews was written in Greek and probably used by Jewish Christians in Alexandria
• Title differentiates it from the Gospel of the Egyptians, a gentile Christian text
• Included baptism, temptation, resurrection
• We have scattered references to it only
• Appears to be another compilation from oral tradition
• May have had a gnostic slant

Marcion’s Gospel
• Marcion rejected Judaism and believed the true God had sent Jesus to counteract the evil results of the Demiurge, who created the world, sent Moses, and taught Judaism
• Hence Marcion rejected the Old Testament
• Jesus only appeared to be human and had nothing to do with the world or its Creator
• Paul was his hero for opposing the law
• Marcion felt all 4 gospels had been corrupted by proJewish scribes, so he took Luke and removed Jewish references in it to make a new gospel for his community
• Removed the birth narrative; a docetic Christ would not have been born
• “I come not to fulfill the law, but to abolish it”
• Tertullian quoted from the gospel extensively to oppose it
• Date: about 200 CE (late)

Sayings Gospels
• Most of Q was sayings
• John seems to have used two discourse sources
• Q was not a pure sayings gospel; it had two narratives in it
• Many thought a pure sayings gospel was impossible because the passion narrative required narrative as well
• Q does not seem to have a Passion component, however
• Gospel of Thomas, in the Nag Hammadi Library, has changed our views, however
• No narrative at all; just 114 sayings of Jesus
• No order to the sayings; only two have context
• They start “Jesus said”
• Closest biblical work is the Book of Proverbs
• It is also a work of wisdom
• The opening saying says the correct understanding of the sayings will bring eternal life

Gospel of Thomas
• The words are “secret” also
• So the framework is essentially gnostic
• The Jesus here is not the miracle giving Son of God, the Son of Man who will return on the clouds, or the resurrected Lord; he is the eternal Jesus, bringer of salvation
• Didymus Judas Thomas: didymus and thomas both mean “twin”
• Supposedly Jesus’s twin brother!
• Half the sayings in Thomas are also in the synoptics
• Some are very similar to sayings in the synoptics
• Others are completely unfamiliar

Sayings; Message
• Many sayings are highly obscure and clearly have secret content
• Many reflect the idea that the hearer has a divine spark from the place whence came the light
• This world is inferior, a “corpse”
• People are trapped in a body and are “drunk”
• They are thirsty but don’t know it; must strip off the clothes of this body and escape the material world
• No reference to the resurrection or crucifixion
• No references to miracles, encounter, experiences of Jesus
• His message conveys salvation
• The Kingdom of God is here and now, but people don’t see it
• Knowledge brings salvation and helps us escape from this rotten world

Thomas and the Synoptics
• There is an ongoing intense debate about the age of the Gospel Thomas and the reliability of its sayings
• Could some or all the sayings be authentic?
• Were some taken from the synoptics and modified?
• No evidence of borrowing; the sayings are not exactly the same, and there are few verbal correspondences
• The Gospel has survived in Coptic, but we have a few Greek fragments that support the argument that the text is independent of the synoptics
• They show that the translation was carefully done, also
• There are other sayings in the Synoptics the author could have used and found useful, but are not in Thomas
• Appears to be an independent, gnostically inspired, compilation

Thomas and Q
• Thomas looks a bit like Q; amazing, since Q was reconstructed before Thomas was known
• Q has two narratives, however, and it could have had a Passion; we just can’t reconstruct one
• Q says Jesus is coming in the future; Thomas denies this
• Thomas is probably not first century because it relies on the gnostic myth as an organizational principle, and that seems to be a 2d century phenomenon in Christianity
• But many sayings in Thomas may go back to Jesus
• Many parables may be preserved in an older form in Thomas than in the synoptics

Revelation Discourses
• The other kind of sayings gospel involves not short sayings or parables, but long discourses
• Similar to Gospel of John’s two discourse sources
• These are usually “secret” discourses for a small group of disciples
• Usually gnostic in orientation
• Apocryphon of John: Jesus appears to John of Zebedee
• Reveals that the evil Ialdabaoth created the world and humanity
• Salvation comes through a divine aeon from on high who reveals secret knowledge
• Book is mentioned by Ireneus about 180 CE
• Apocryphon of James: conversation of Jesus with Peter and James
• Also gnostic
• But not all are gnostic; the “Epistle of the Apostles” is a supposed letter written by the 11 apostles warning about Simon Magus and Cerinthus, two famous gnostics
• It affirms Jesus had a real body

Infancy Gospels
• The earliest tradition had little about Jesus after the resurrection and about his childhood, so both areas are later filled in
• Stories of Jesus as a boy circulated and then were collected together
• Infancy Gospel of Thomas may be as early as 125 CE
• Tell stories of Jesus as a boy working miracles
• The boy curses people and they drop dead, then he raises them from the dead
• He kills his school teacher, saves friends from snakebites, heals the sick, and fixes Joseph’s carpentry mistakes

More Infancy Gospels
• The Gospel of James (brother of Jesus) narrates the wonderful events before Jesus’s birth
• It says Mary was also born miraculously from a barren mother
• Mary was from a wealthy family
• Joseph was a widower with children from his previous marriage
• Mary was a virgin after birth (anatomically speaking)

Passion Gospels
• Narratives expanded on the events in the finals days
• They focus on Jesus’s suffering
• The Gospel of Peter only has a passion narrative, but may originally have had more
• Eusebius mentions it in the fourth century, but fragments were found in Egypt in 1886 in the grave of a monk
• It was popular in Syria, but had docetic passages
• The surviving account starts midsentence after Pilate washed his hands and indicates none of the Jews did, including Herod, emphasizing Herod’s guilt in Jesus’s death
• Jesus seems to suffer no pain
• Last words: “My power, O power, you have left me”: is this Christ departing from the dying body of Jesus?
• Jesus emerges from the tomb as a giant

Gospel of Peter
• When was it written? Was it gnostic? Did it have more than the Passion? When did the book begin?
• Ehrman’s judgment: Written after the canonical gospels, but independent of it, using the oral tradition, with some gnostic leanings to the text and lots of antipathy to non-Christian Jews
• Heightened legendary elements
• Jews are even more culpable of his death than in the synoptics
• In 2d century, anti-Jewish fervor was growing in the Christian community
• The destruction of Jerusalem is said to be the Jews’ punishment for crucifying Jesus

Relationship to Synoptics
• Lots of parallels with the synoptics, especially Matthew
• But a lot of good material in the synoptics is not used
• No full sentences in the Gospel of Peter match with sentences in the synoptics
• Probably an early 2d century compilation of oral traditions

Coptic Apocalypse of Peter; Gospel of Judas Iscariot
• Also gives an account of the crucifixion, but very gnostic
• Probably mid to late 2d century
• Part of Nag Hammadi library
• Starts by warning against bishops and deacons teaching about a dead man
• Peter sees a laughing spiritual Jesus above the physical Jesus on the cross
• The spiritual Jesus is being released from his mortal cage
• It is a vision; Peter wakes up at the end
• Gospel of Judas Iscariot
• Found after the Nag Hammadi library in 1978 in Middle Egypt in a burial cave
• Published in 2006
• A Passion Gospel with Judas as the hero!
• Irenaeus says a gnostic group used it, the Cainites
• Cain murdered Able in Genesis, so he opposed the evil god who created the world
• So did the people in Sodom and Gomorrah

Gospel of Judas Iscariot
• They are heroes, just like Judas
• Judas is superior in knowledge to the other disciples and realized Jesus comes from the “realm of Barbelo”
• The apostles do not understand Jesus; Judas does, however
• Jesus explains to Judas how the world was made by Nebro (“defiled by blood”) and Saklas (“fool”)
• Judas will “sacrifice the man that clothes me” and thus allow Jesus to escape from his body
• Gospel ends with Judas handing Jesus over to the authorities
• There is no resurrection for this author; that would bring the body back to life

Conclusions
• While most of these gospels are not older than the canonical gospels, they contain old traditions, some older than the canonicals
• Thomas and Peter, in particular, are important
• They demonstrate the enormous diversity in early Christianity, through the 2d and 3d centuries
• They show what the oral tradition had and help us decide how to resolve the issue of historicity

The Historical Jesus

• What can we really know about Jesus, and what methods can we use to determine it?
• We have already seen that the gospels give widely different portrayals of Jesus, his self identity, his life, and his teachings
• Just compare Mark, John, and Thomas; they describe very different men
• What criteria can we use?
• 1. Historical sources are numerous
• 2. The sources derive from a time close to the events
• 3. The sources are independent of each other
• 4. The sources do not contradict each other
• 5. The sources are internally consistent and therefore reliable
• 6. The sources are not biased

Non-Christian Sources
• One would think Jesus had a big impact on Judea and the Roman Empire itself, but in fact there is no evidence of impact at all
• No first century pagan sources even mention him
• We have hundreds of such sources preserved, too
• Pliny the Younger, 112 CE, governor of BithyniaPontus, writes extensively about the local Christians
• He says they worship Jesus like a god
• Suetonius says that the Jewish riots in Rome during the reign of Claudius (41-54 CE) were instigated by “Chrestus” • Tacitus in 115 CE says that the Christians were blamed for Nero’s burning of Rome
• He also says Christus was executed under Pilate during the reign of Tiberius and that a “superstition” emerged in his wake

Jewish Sources
• There are scattered references to Jesus in the Talmud, but they are from centuries later
• Not mentioned at all in the Mishnah, which is the earliest part
• No useful details
• Josephus mentions Jesus twice in his 12-volume Jewish Antiquities
• He says much more about John the Baptist, suggesting John was more important to contemporaries
• One reference is to the unlawful execution of James, brother of Jesus, “who is called the messiah,” in 62 CE
• The other is a lengthy paragraph that was later modified by Christian scribes who copied it century after century • It has Josephus says Jesus “was the Messiah” which is highly unlikely

Sources Outside the Canonical Gospels
• Many are late; 2d to 8th century
• The gospels of Thomas and Peter may provide some useful outside information
• Paul only quotes two sayings of Jesus, plus the words of the Lord Supper
• Says Jesus was born of a woman, was born a Jew, had brothers, one was named James, had twelve disciples, instituted the Lord’s Supper, was betrayed, and was crucified
• Paul says nothing else about Jesus’s life and teachings
• He focuses on the crucifixion and resurrection and Jesus’s return
• The other epistles say even less
• Consequently, the four gospels are by far our most extensive and useful sources of info
• But how do we use them?

The New Testament Gospels
• Mark was written in 65, about 35 years after the crucifixion
• John, the latest, was written about 95, 60 years after the crucifixion
• None of the books identify the author as an eyewitness
• All are anonymous
• Just because they are written 1-2 generations after Jesus does not mean they are unreliable; but they are not consistent
• They differ on where Jesus was from, what he did during his life, whether he performed miracles, when he died, what the disciples experienced afterward, and how they understood him
• They inherited different oral traditions that must have evolved before being used by the authors
• The oral traditions were preserved because they were useful, not because they contained facts
• They are faith documents

Rules of Thumb for Using Sources
• How do we sift through the gospels to determine what is accurate and what is not?
• There are several techniques that have been proposed
• 1. The earlier, the better; earlier sources have had less time for exaggerations and interpretations to creep in
• Thus John is likely less historical than Mark
• By this principle, these are the most reliable sources: Paul, Q, Mark, M, and L
• 2. Theological Merits/Demerits
• If the theology is highly developed, it is more likely to be late
• Thus John’s reference to Jesus as the Word and as coequal to God is likely not original to Jesus, but to the Johannine community

Other Rules of Thumb
• 3. Beware of Bias
• The Gospel Peter has a consistent anti-Jewish bias and thus its story blaming Herod for the execution of Jesus is likely a product of bias
• 4. Independent Attestation
• If something is said in several sources and they are independent, it is more likely to be true
• Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t count; they aren’t independent
• Independent: Mark, Q, Paul, Signs Source, M, L, Thomas, Peter, Josephus, Johannine discourse sources
• John the Baptist meets Jesus early in his ministry: Mark, Q, John
• John refuses to baptize Jesus at first; likely made up
• Jesus had brothers: Mark, John, Paul
• Jesus told a parable about the kingdom being like seeds: Mark, Q, Thomas
• BUT that does not mean something in only one source is non-historical
• And it can’t guarantee historicity

What an Odd Thing to Say
• 5. Dissimilarity
• If something is dissimilar to the prevailing view of Jesus (if we can figure out what is prevailing!) or if it contradicts what a Christian would want to say, it is more likely historical
• Jesus crucified; an embarrassment
• Jesus baptized by John, an inferior
• Jesus betrayed by a close disciple
• BUT: we would expect a gnostic Jesus to deliver secret knowledge, so that is predictable; and stories of a ten-foot tall Jesus coming from the tomb are also predictable
• Jesus predicting his crucifixion: predictable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t

If the Shoe Fits
• 6. Contextual Credibility
• Anachronisms are not credible
• Gnostic sayings of Jesus seem to be 2d and 3d centuries because that’s when gnosticism flourished
• “Ye must be born from above” and Nicodemus thinks Jesus says “again”: a possible mistake in Greek, but not in Aramaic (in Greek, the word “from above” also means “again”)
• 7? Aramaisms
• Some sayings of Jesus make more sense in Aramaic than in the Greek they are preserved in
• “Sabbath was made for bar nasha [humans], not bar nasha [humans] for the Sabbath, therefore bar nasha [Son of Man] is the Lord of the Sabbath”
• But this saying could have been invented in the oral tradition phase in Aramaic
 
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UNIT 6: The Book of Acts and Epistles of the Apostles

Bahá’í Compilation Concerning the Apostle Paul

Paul Called “The Great Apostle”
‘Saint Paul, the great Apostle, said: "We all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of God, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord."‘ (Abdu'lBaha in London, p. 24)

Paul Called “Divine Philosopher”
"There were many Doctors among the Jews, but they were all earthly, but St. Paul became heavenly because he could fly upwards. In his own time no one duly recognized him; nay, rather, he spent his days amidst difficulties and contempt. Afterwards it became known that he was not a natural philosopher, but a divine philosopher." (`Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 353-54)


Paul Called Christ’s “Most Faithful Servant”
On the other hand, Paul, the Apostle, was in his early life an enemy of Christ, whilst later he became His most faithful servant.” (Paris Talks, p. 147)

Paul Set Up as an Example
“One's conduct must be like the conduct of Paul, and one's faith similar to that of Peter.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 223-224)

Paul Honored as Diffuser of the Fragrances of God
“I have the utmost love for thee and I ask God that thou mayest become assisted in the world and in the Kingdom and precede Paul and Peter in spreading the Word of God and diffusing the fragrances of God...” (Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 472)

Abdu’l-Baha Quotes Pauline Epistles as Scripture with Authority to Abrogate the Laws of Moses
“After Christ four disciples, among whom were Peter and Paul, permitted the use of animal food forbidden by the Bible, except the eating of those animals which had been strangled, or which were sacrificed to idols, and of blood. They also forbade fornication. They maintained these four commandments. Afterward, Paul permitted even the eating of strangled animals, those sacrificed to idols, and blood, and only maintained the prohibition of fornication. So in chapter 14, verse 14 of his Epistle to the Romans, Paul writes: "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean."
Also in the Epistle of Paul to Titus, chapter 1, verse 15: "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." Now this change, these alterations and this abrogation are due to the impossibility of comparing the time of Christ with that of Moses. The conditions and requirements in the later period were entirely changed and altered. The former laws were, therefore, abrogated.” (Some Answered Questions, p. 93-94)

The Apostle Paul

To the Editor:

It has come to my attention that there are Baha'is who believe that the Apostle Paul was some kind of "false teacher." This viewpoint is not correct.

'Abdu'l-Baha referred to Paul, saying, "Paul, the Apostle, was in his early life an enemy of Christ, whilst later he became his most faithful servant." (Paris Talks, p. 147)

The Universal House of Justice, in a letter to a believer dated February 25, 1980, wrote: "The Research Department has found nothing in the writings of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha or the Guardian which states that St. Paul 'usurped the station of Peter' or that he 'changed the basic message of Peter' or that he 'changed the basic message of Christ.'"

It is so much easier to teach Christians without having to deny Paul. In fact, I've found that Paul is my best friend when talking with Christians. Read his writings the way they really are -- not the way people have twisted them.

Paul wrote: "We speak ... expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things which come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (I Corinthians 2:14; New International version)

Paul's teachings must be spiritually discerned or spiritually interpreted.

Paul's writings on resurrection are the oldest on this topic in the New Testament. He explains that when a person dies, his/her being is like a seed. "It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body...." Speaking of Jesus' resurrection, he wrote: "the last Adam [who was Jesus] became a life-giving spirit...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 15; Revised Standard version)

As one can see, Paul's teachings agree with the Baha'i view on resurrection. When his teachings are "spiritually discerned" you'll find they agree with the Baha'i writings. Resurrection, ascension, and return as taught by Paul and Peter are identical with the teachings of Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'lBaha.

Paul is a Baha'i's friend. It's time to start treating him as such.

Joel Smith Carbondale, IL

Book of Acts

• Acts is a very different sort of book, compared to Luke
• Luke is a biography in genre; Acts is a history or a novel

Limited Objectivity
• Any historian has limited objectivity
• She/he must pick through billions of facts to decide which are the most relevant (every birth certificate is not)
• Historians inevitably see the world through colored glasses and that shapes the facts they include
• This was even more true in the past
• Few written documents were available
• Most information available was oral and therefore was already colored and shaped in transmission
• Most ancient authors preferred oral to written sources because they could be interrogated
• The idea of getting facts right was less of a concern than getting ideas right

Speeches
• Hence the use of the speech by ancient writers to convey their points
• A typical Greco-Roman history is ¼ speeches
• Historians made up the speeches to convey the character of the speaker and present the situation dramatically
• The goal was not accuracy, but “verisimilitude,” something that felt right in the light of what was known

Thematic Approach
• We used the literaryhistorical method to look at Mark; the redactional method to look at Matthew; the comparative methods to look at Luke.
• Now we will use the thematic method to study Acts (which is perfect, because the speeches were created to express themes)
• The others could also be used, of course
• Literary-historical: We’d explore the development of the characters and expectations of the audience
• Redactional: we’d determine the sources the author used and how he modified them
• Comparative: Compare Acts to other early Christian writings, especially the letters of Paul (about whom, Acts says much)

The Transition from Luke to Acts
• The transition tells us much of the book’s themes and purpose
• Again, dedicated to Theophilus
• Style also suggests the same author
• In Lk/Acts, the disciples do not go to Galilee, but stay in Jerusalem for 40 days
• Jesus was rejected in Jerusalem; the Apostles must be as well, and then the teaching goes forth from the holy city
• The apostles ask whether Jesus has come to bring the Kingdom to Israel; Jesus in a speech says not to worry when the Kingdom is coming, but witness to the gospel to the ends of the Earth.

The Book Outline
• Acts says the Holy Spirit empowers the Apostles to do many miracles and thousands convert
• The conversions include Greeks (Greek speaking Jews) including Stephen, who is martyred
• An early opponent is Saul (Paul)
• The Christians scatter to take the Faith to Judea and Samaria where the Samaritans or “half Jews” live)
• Paul converts in Damascus
• He makes three missionary journeys to Anatolia and Greece
• He then goes to Jerusalem, is arrested, put on trial, sent to Rome to stand before Caesar
• Book ends with Paul in house arrest in Rome, preaching to all who will hear

Beyond the Jews
• The first non-Jews converted are Samaritans
• Then Peter has a vision to reach the gentiles
• As Christianity spreads, the Jews oppose it everywhere
• But gentiles accept it, especially the ones associated with synagogues (the “God fearers”)
• But do the gentiles have to become Jews first, to become Christians?
• Acts focuses much time on the idea that to become a Christian, one does not have to become a Jew first
• Many of the events at the end of Luke are repeated in another form at the beginning of Acts
• The themes recur in speeches as well

Themes in the Speeches
• Speeches take up nearly 1/4 of Acts, like other historical works
• We can classify the speeches based on their audiences, which tells us the contexts “Luke” intended
• Some are to Christian leaders, others to Christians as instruction, others to gentiles, and others to opponents (apologies)
• Speeches to Christian leaders: Peter’s first speech is an example
• It emphasizes that Judas must be replaced
• He quotes from the Psalms as prophecy of the events that had happened
• Not only Jesus, but the apostles and the entire Christian movement are fulfilling prophecy
• This must have been a belief of Luke’s church
• God is behind the Christian movement is the key theme in Acts

The Election of Matthias
• Peter insists that with Judas out, a new twelfth disciple must be selected
• But we never hear about him or most of the 12 again
• Most of the book is about Paul, who wasn’t one of the 12 and couldn’t be (they had to be eye witnesses)
• Matthias chosen by lot and ordained by laying on of hands
• The election of the 12th apostle seems to represent the notion of continuity
• There were 12 tribes in Judaism; 12 apostles under Jesus; now 12 apostles in the early church
• The 12 are all present at the beginning when Peter gives his speech, and their miracles build the Jerusalem church, they distribute funds and consolidate the new believers

The Jerusalem Council
• Paul has been converting gentiles, but Christians from Judea insist they must be circumcised and become Jews
• Paul and several others go to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the apostles
• Peter and James, brother of Jesus, give speeches
• Themes found: God is in charge of the Christian mission and of the conversion of the gentiles; God makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile in that all are saved equally; salvation of the Gentiles is fulfillment of scripture
• These themes unify the Jerusalem Council around conversion of the gentiles
• All the churches in the empire stand under the leadership of the gentiles

What do the speeches to believers say?
• Christianity is the fulfillment of scripture
• The 12 apostles bear ultimate responsibility for the spread
• They are in complete agreement on everything. (The letters of Paul indicate otherwise. )
• Christianity began in a golden age of unity and peace under the apostles

Evangelistic Speeches: Peter’s Speech on Pentecost
• These are speeches to potential believers
• Peter gives a speech at the Jewish festival of Pentecost after the Apostles start to speak in tongues and this gathers a crowd from around the Mediterranean
• He quotes a prophecy from Joel and says Jesus has made the speaking in tongues possible
• Jesus was an innocent man who was crucified and the crowd is to blame
• The crowd is told that they must repent of the sin and be baptized, and they do
• Jesus’s death is not a ransom that produces atonement for sin, as in Mark; it is a injustice
• Jesus’s resurrection itself does not bring about salvation; it is God’s vindication of his life
• Jesus’s death thus does not bring about salvation; repentance and baptism do

Opposition by the Jews
• The missionary sermons in Acts repeatedly say that most of the Jews manifest disobedience to this call for repentance baptism
• They oppose Paul and the apostles again and again
• Stephen is martyred
• Paul is opposed in the synagogues and driven from some cities
• At the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, he goes to Jerusalem, just as Jesus does in Luke
• The last third of Acts is devoted to Paul’s arrest and trials, in parallel to the Passion narrative
• Paul gives many apologetic speeches in response to Jewish attacks on his teachings

Background to the Apologetic Speeches
• Paul goes to the temple to make an offering, showing that he is a good Jew and not opposed to the law of Moses
• There he is arrested
• He makes a defense to the Jewish crowds, then to the Sanhedrin
• He is moved to Caesarea because of a plot against his life
• He is put on trial by Governor Felix, then by the next governor, Porcius Festus
• Festus decides to put Paul on trial in Jerusalem
• Knowing he won’t get a fair hearing, Paul demands to be sent to Rome, where Roman citizens can be tried
• Paul talks to Herod Agrippa II before leaving

Apologetic Speeches
• In every case, the authorities have ample opportunity to recognize his innocence
• Felix is bribed to reject Paul’s defense; Festus decides he wants the favor of the Jewish leaders
• Paul’s journey to Rome is filled with harrowing adventures, including a shipwreck
• Book ends with him in Rome for two years awaiting trial
• His short speech before Rome’s Jews emphasizes his innocence, that he has done nothing against Jewish customs, and that his problems stem from recalcitrant Jewish leaders

Parallels with Jesus
• Jesus, Paul, and the Christian movement are portrayed as devoted to their ancestral traditions and fully Jewish
• Paul never renounces his faith in the God of Israel or violate any dictates of the Torah
• His sole faults are believing in Jesus and taking his message to the gentiles
• Paul says his new faith is rooted in Jesus’s resurrection from the dead
• Paul, like Jesus, is portrayed as being innocent

Possible Sources Used in Acts
• “Antiochian Source” has been postulated for Acts 6-12 and 15, because there is so much about Antioch
• But there are no stylistic grounds for the argument; no distinct words, phrases, or style
• The material seems just as legendary, also; it isn’t necessarily more “factual”
• The “we source” has been postulated a long time and is distinct in that the passages switch to first person
• It has been suggested Luke was quoting from a memoir or travel diary
• But it was common in the ancient “romances” (novels) to switch to first person for vividness
• It was also customary to add sea voyages and ship wrecks
• These are often in first person plural, too

Who was Luke?
• Tradition says he was a companion of Paul, a gentile, and a physician
• The genuine letters of Paul mention a “Luke” once in passing and give no details about him
• Luke’s information about Paul is often at variance with what Paul says in the genuine letters
• Paul’s theology is also different in the genuine letters than in Acts
• The “we” passages are no guarantee Luke traveled with Paul

Conclusions
• Jesus is more of an ideal martyr in Luke/Acts than a sacrifice
• Christian leaders act boldly and face persecution and death bravely
• Possible this is to model behavior because Luke’s audience faced the same opposition
• Luke sees the end time as distant in the future
• He is writing to a later generation, who no longer expects the imminent return of Jesus
• The end has been delayed according to scripture to give time to evangelize
• Maybe non-Christians were saying that because Jesus didn’t come, he wasn’t the Son of God
• Luke stresses the continuity with Judaism because people in the ancient world were suspicious of new things

Paul and His Apostolic Mission: 1 Thessalonians

• The chapter focused on Paul’s “modus operandi,” how he worked
• It also looks at the problems the Thessalonians had later, which compelled Paul to write them a letter
• Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling it Paul’s oldest letter (about 49 CE)
• The community’s problems were not serious and Paul had just left, so much of letter recounts their relationship
• Thus the letter is very useful for reconstructing the socio-historical situation
• It is to a gentile church, also

Founding of the Thessalonian Church
• Capital of the Roman province of Macedonia; second largest city in Greece today
• Paul usually visited large cities, not small places
• Paul did not stand on a soap box and preach, like Cynic philosophers according to Acts
• He started at the local synagogue, where a visiting Jew would be welcome according to Acts
• He would speak to Jews and “devout Gentiles” about Jesus as the Messiah come to fulfill the scriptures
• Luke calls the “devout gentiles” “God fearers”; apparently some even underwent circumcision
• Acts 17:2-10 says Paul converted a number of people in the synagogue, then antagonistic Jews ran him out of town 2 weeks later

Paul’s version of the story
• Paul says nothing about the synagogue or even about Thessalonian Jews
• He says he converted pagans who worshipped “dead idols”
• Luke may have been speaking in general and did not actually know what happened in Thessalonica
• Paul says he “worked night and day”; he got a job and proclaimed Jesus from his work place
• Paul refers to the “burdens” of his toil; it was manual labor
• Acts says he worked with leather goods; some think it means a tent maker

Paul and his Message
• Paul and companions probably rented a room in an insula
• Work places were the center of much social interaction (no clocks, no set business hours, no weekends)
• They preached the gospel to visitors and customers
• Paul says he asked people to turn “to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming” (I Thes 1:9-10)
• He may have told stories about God’s power in the Jewish past and maybe some stories about Jesus

Paul and Jesus
• BUT there is very little evidence Paul spoke about Jesus’s earthly life; he says very little about it in his letters
• The gospels were not yet in existence, so maybe he didn't know much about Jesus's life
• Paul taught Jesus was the “Son of God” (1:9) who “died for them (5:10) and that he was raised from the dead (4:14) • Jesus thus could put them in the right relationship with God
• Jesus was coming soon, too (it is mentioned in every chapter of 1 Thes)
• Jesus is coming to save his followers from God’s wrath
• An apocalyptic end of the world is coming soon
• Paul, as a Pharisee, would have believed in this already
• 5:1-11: The end will come suddenly, like a thief in the night
• Satan is involved; the people of God will suffer

The Thessalonian Church
• The converts were probably fellow laborers, though a few wealthier members may have been attracted
• We have more information about the Corinthian church and we know it was mixed, in terms of social classes
• Paul probably began a weekly meeting for fellowship and worship; he created a “church” and then wrote the “church” a letter
• It probably was a “house church” meeting in a larger house of a wealthier member
• It probably functioned like a voluntary association, which had dues and certain expectations on members (there would have been worship, a banquet, and funeral services for members)
• Synagogues were run by councils of elders
• Membership was restricted to those who believed in Paul’s message
• They were committed to teaching to others
• They were persecuted by others for their commitment
• Suffering for a cause also would build group solidarity
• Paul said their faithfulness to the gospel was well known to the churches in Achaia and Macedonia and this even linked them to churches in Judea
• Thus the Thessalonians saw themselves as part of a bigger community of Christians as well
• Paul left Thes for Athens, then sent Timothy back to find out how things were going
• Timothy rejoined Paul at Athens or in Corinth and briefed him
• I Thes was the result
• Paul’s letter is personable and friendly; the church is doing well
• His letters are longer than is typical

Paul’s Letter
• The “thanksgiving” part is 3 of the 5 chapters
• It is like a “friendship letter” in the ancient world, which renews acquaintances
• There was no government persecution of Christians at this time, so what persecution did they experience?
• Paul says he had been beaten with rods by officials on 3 occasions; why?
• Christians refused to participate in the state cult
• This involved doing an act of worship to a state god or the emperor as a god
• Jews were given an exception; Christians were not
• Proclaiming other gods as demons was impolite at best!
• This caused polytheists to blame catastrophes on divine anger against the Christians
• Paul emphasizes sexual purity and avoiding immorality; maybe these were charges

The Major Issue
• The church was awaiting the return of Jesus and some of the members of the church had already died
• They thought Jesus would come first
• Paul says those who have died will meet Jesus first, then the others will be caught up and meet him in the air
• This is where the belief in the rapture comes from
• Paul makes it clear he and the others will be alive when Jesus returns
• Paul sees the world as having three levels; the Earth, heaven (up) and the realm of the dead (down)
 
Jul 2017
295
Kettering, Ohio USA
#10
Paul and the Crises of His Churches

• This chapter deals with I Cor, II Cor, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon
• Corinth: Capital of Achaia province, large and cosmopolitan
• Bad reputation for immorality; maybe the Athenians created that reputation, though
• The church had a lot of problems; people claiming superiority over each other, sexual immorality, lawsuits, bitterness, no food at the communal meals for some after the others had eaten everything, etc.
• Acts says Paul was a leatherworker in Corinth and that he evangelized Jews at the synagogue
• Paul seems to address a pagan convert crowd
• Aquila and Priscilla, Jews, had become Christians and helped found the congregation
• Most converts were lower class, but probably not all (he says “not many” were “wise,” “powerful,” or of “noble birth”)

Church Problems and Class Conflict
• The communal meal was a pot luck, the rich came early with the food, ate it all, and the poor came late because of work and had little left
• The rich wanted to support Paul, like a philosopher, Paul refused; he wanted independence
• Some though eating meat sacrificed to idols was dangerous, because they were demons; others thought that notion was superstitious
• Some thought they knew Christianity well enough to make “improvements” in theology
• Paul stayed in Corinth a year and half, according to Acts
• Taught the same basic thing: Jesus is coming soon and they should “await” him
• No evidence he mentioned baptism by John, miracles, sayings, encounters with demons, talking to Pontius Pilate, etc.
• The only thing he “knew” was “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”
• Paul did not feel the Corinthians had grasped the teaching very well
• He emphasized crucifixion, died for our sins, buried, raised on the 3d day, appeared to Cephas and the twelve
• The same basic message as he preached at Thessalonica, but with a difference
• At Thes., Paul never seems to mention the scriptures, but here he emphasizes them several times
• He says that the scriptures were not written just for the Jews, but for the Christians as well, and always had been
• Some Corinthians thought the resurrection made them different in the here and now
• They were in an exalted state
• Paul says this sarcastically and argues that the force of evil are still at work in the world
• Life would be full of pain and suffering until the end time
• After Paul left Corinth, he ended up in Ephesus
• Apollos preached in Corinth and helped provide more instruction
• Acts says he was a skilled speaker and acquired a following in the congregation
• Paul heard of further problems in Corinth orally and by letter, so wrote I Cor to help
• Prescript and thanksgiving of the letter last only 9 lines
• The congregation was divided and had rival leaders
• Immorality was rampant
• Three Corinthians had come to Ephesus with letters and awaited Paul’s written reply

The Church’s Problems
• Paul talks about Jesus raised as a glorified spiritual body, not a paltry material body
• This exalted body could be seen and touched
• Some Corinthians were denying bodily resurrection
• Paul says it is only when we are raised that we will enjoyed an exalted state; not in this life
• This is contrary to claims in Corinth
• Some said they were already exalted over others and thus spiritually superior (had spiritual powers, such as speaking in tongues and healing)
• Paul says no one is superior over anyone; God exalts the weak and poor, not the wise
• The leaders of the community are ignoring immorality as a result
• The spirit gives gifts not to exalt someone, but to allow them serve others
• Paul says idols don’t exist, but if you eat meat sacrificed to them, it may cause others to think they exist, and that may cause harm, so don’t do it
• Paul also advises people not to marry, if they can manage celibacy, because the end time is near
• This is eschatological ethics, ethics of the apocalyptic times
• The situation did not improve later

II Corinthians
• The second letter is at least 2 letters, maybe as many as 5
• They were edited together later to convert a series of short letters into one long one
• The tone of the letter shifts abruptly at the seams between the letters
• Ch. 1-7: Paul appears to be on good terms with the Corinthians
• He mentions a second visit to the city
• Some people argue Chs. 8 and 9 are one or two other letters; they deal with the collection “for the poor” (the Jerusalem church)
• He mentions a harsh letter he had written
• Now he has received good news from Titus and is writing a happier letter
• Chapters 10-13 is negative
• Says he will make a third visit, but chs. 1-9 says he canceled it
• He warns against superapostles who are false prophets and claim spiritual powers to perform miracles and heal
• Possibly 10-13 are the “painful” letter mentions in chs. 1-9

Reconstruction of Events
• Paul’s First Visit: from Thessalonica to Athens to Corinth. He founds the church
• Paul wrote a letter (1 Cor. 5:9) now lost probably about ethical matters
• Corinthians write Paul back
• Paul writes 1 Cor. in response from Ephesus. He says he will travel through Macedonia and visit Corinth for the winter
• Paul’s second visit: The “painful visit” where he is humiliated and not well received
• The “superapostles” visit and emphasize the spiritual powers of being a Christian
• Paul writes the “Painful Letter” (Schmerzensbrief) attacking the “superapostles” and emphasizing not spiritual power, but suffering and sacrifice for Christ, emphasizing his own weakness and suffering as well; not boasting about oneself; promising to return to Corinth and asking the church to deal with the one who humiliated him

Reconstruction
• The superapostles may have been relying on the stories of Jesus’s miracles such as in the Signs Source
• Then Paul writes the “Conciliatory Letter” (2 Cor. 1-7 or 1 Cor. 1-9) because the Corinthians have had a change of heart and have punished the one who humiliated Paul. He cancels his visit.
• 2 Cor. 8 and 9 may be separate letters written at another time, date uncertain
• We don’t know what happened after this; we have no information
• Paul’s humility and servitude come through strongly in this collection of letters
• His apocalyptic perspective is also very strong

Galatians
• This is one letter, but with an entirely different set of concerns
• Galatia is a region; we don’t know what specific town or city Paul visited (he visited many in the southern part, but the Gaulic speaking Galatians themselves lived in the north)
• After he left, other apostles arrived and insisted that the Christians had to become fully Jewish to be Christians
• Some of the Christians got circumcised
• Paul was furious; this was an affront to the gospel, because only the Jews were part of that Covenant, and now there was a new covenant
• Justification by faith makes circumcision unnecessary
• Letter does not begin with a Thanksgiving
• Paul says he fell ill and was nursed back to health by Galatians, and thus established the church
• No reference to the cities mentioned in Acts
• Justification by faith means that having faith in Jesus makes you right in the eyes of God
• The opponents may also have questioned Paul’s claim to be an apostle
• Hence Paul’s autobiographical description of his conversion and his claim to have received the gospel NOT from the apostles, but from Christ through direct revelation
• These missionaries may have been gentile converts to Jewish Christianity

Paul’s Story
• He went to Jerusalem twice; once 3 years after become a Christian to see Peter for 2 weeks, and a second time 14 years later to argue that gentiles do not need to become Jews to become Christians
• The Jerusalem church agreed with Paul, not with the missionaries he is opposing
• Titus came with Paul and was not compelled to be circumcised
• Then Peter came to Antioch and ate with the gentiles
• Then representatives of James came and criticized Peter, so he and other Jewish Christians withdrew from table fellowship with gentile Christians
• Paul rebukes Peter for dividing Christians in this manner
• We don’t know what happened after that; we don’t have Peter’s side of the story

Paul’s Theology
• Paul has continued to refine and clarify his theology about the Law
• Works based on the law do not put you in a right relationship with God; faith in Christ does
• Otherwise, there would be no reason for Christ to die on the cross
• The Law is no longer a way to God
• Paul says gentiles who try to follow the law are cursed, not blessed, because they are throwing away everything Christ did
• The Law can never be followed fully anyway; one must atone for inevitable sins through sacrifice (and gentiles can’t sacrifice at the temple)
• The scriptures themselves say one attains life through faith, NOT through works

Why Did God Give the Law?
• If the Law can’t put one in the right relationship with God, why did God bother to create it?
• Paul’s answer is complex; basically, it was an interim step between the covenant of Abraham and the coming of Christ
• Paul interprets Gen. 21 to refer to the Christian church (Isaac) and to Jews who reject Christ (Ishmael, son of Hagar, Abraham’s slave)
• Paul emphasizes, however, the law of love requires one to keep the morality of the law, not the ritual aspects
• Believing in Christ gives one the Spirit of God and this empowers one to be moral

Philippians
• Philippi was northeast of Thessalonica, in Macedonia
• He was shamefully treated there before going to Thessalonica
• Probably converted pagans
• The letter may be a collection of several short letters to the church
• Chs. 1-2 start off as a friendship letter
• Paul sent the letter from prison to tell the Philippians that Epaphroditus had been ill, but was now well
• Paul emphasizes that his imprisonment had prompted others to arise and spread the gospel
• Letter appears to draw to a close at the end of ch. 2

Phil. 3-4
• Phil. 3 is sharply different; he attacks enemies of himself there as “dogs” and “evil workers”
• Paul mentions two women causing trouble and at odds with each other
• Mention of Epaphroditus again, coming from Philippi with a contribution
• This appears to be a different letter, written first
• Phil 1-2 was probably written second after the situation in 3-4 had improved
• Epaphroditus probably carried the second letter back to the church
• Paul continues to emphasize an apocalyptic message
• He emphasizes Christians loving one another, citing an early hymn

Philemon
• It is the average size of a Greco-Roman letter
• A letter to one man (Philemon) about his slave (Onesimus, “useful”)
• Letter refers to a house church as well, meeting in Philemon’s house
• He was a wealthy man, probably converted by Paul
• Paul is in prison; meets and converts Onesimus
• Onesimus may have fled to Paul to ask him to intervene with Philemon; Paul then does so
• Onesimus appears to have stolen property, too
• Paul urges Philemon to accept Onesimus back as a slave
• Paul asks Philemon not to punish Onesimus and charge the debt to Paul
• Paul may be asking for Onesimus to serve Paul instead
• Paul does not condemn slavery in the letter; this is a shock to modern readers
• Paul generally shows no concern for social issues; the world is about to end (eschatological ethics)

Paul’s Gospel and the Book of Romans

• Romans may be the most important book in the New Testament because it provides a systematic theology
• It is Paul’s mature reflection about his beliefs to a community he had never visited, but planned to visit, and whom he hoped would support further missionary work in Spain
• It is the basis of Protestant Reformation and 20th century revivals of Protestantism
• The letter does not deal with Roman church controversies; it is Paul’s recommendation letter for himself and a response to probable theological accusations against him
• Paul’s longest letter; his last and most mature letter
• It presents Paul’s “gospel” most clearly
• Paul has wrapped up his work in Greece and Asia Minor, is going to Jerusalem, and then will come to Rome

Contents and Tone
• Paul uses a style called a “diatribe”
• He states a thesis, raises questions against it, replies to the questions to prove his position
• Paul uses this a lot in Romans, but not much in his other letters
• The letter may have been his “trial run” of explaining his theology, in advance of his trip to Judea
• The letter insists that Jews and Christians are equal before God; both are equally alienated and both can be made right before God only by Christ’s death and resurrection
• The Law sets up the problem of sin; Christ is the solution
• Christ (and Paul) do not teach one can do anything one wants, morally

Theme of the Epistle
• Paul emphasizes he is not “ashamed” of the gospel and that it is a powerful means of salvation
• Salvation comes to those who have faith (which means more “trust” than “belief”
• Salvation comes first to the Jew and then to the Greek (Gentile) but it comes to both equally
• All have sinned before God and thus are equal
• All can be justified/made right/”de-alienated” only through faith in Christ
• The gospel reveals God’s righteousness (morally right or justifiable; virtuous) because He has made salvation available to all
• God has not rejected the Jews or gone back on his promises to them
• Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the scriptures
• The scriptures proclaim the gospel (Habakkuk says “the one who is righteous will live by faith”)

Paul’s Models of Salvation
• How does salvation “work”? Paul has two major models to explain this and three others he mentions
• He weaves them together and uses more than one at once
• They use the same terms (like “sin”), but define and use them differently
• Paul can look inconsistent as a result and he can be confusing
• Ehrman calls the two major models the judicial model and the participationist model
• They are not mutually exclusive
• Both models emphasize we are alienated from God because of sin and Christ’s death and resurrection work to resolve the problem

Judicial Model
• God is both lawmaker and judge
• He has made laws and given them to all people, either through Moses (the Torah) or through nature (natural law)
• The penalty for breaking God’s laws is death
• Everyone is a sinner and thus is guilty and dies
• “The wages of sin is death”
• Jesus is sinless and does not deserve the death penalty
• But he voluntarily dies anyway
• God takes this as payment for the penalties of sin and raises Jesus from the dead
• We can avail ourselves of this payment by having faith in Christ
• We are treated as if we are not guilty because our penalty has been paid
• We will be resurrected (as opposes to just rotting in the grave)
• Jewish law plays no role at all

Participationist Model
• In this model, sin is not just something you do; it is an evil cosmic force let loose in the world
• Satan controls it
• People are enslaved by it
• Death, similarly, is not just the cessation of your breathing, but a cosmic force that enslaves you
• When you are baptized, you are united with Christ and thus participate in his conquest of sin and death
• Baptism involved immersion in water and brought about a change in your status relative to God
• Christians have “died” with Christ, but have not yet been raised by him
• But they will be when He returns
• Meanwhile, they live in the “newness of life”

Compare and Contrast
• In one, sin is something you do; in the other, it is an external force
• In one, Christ death is an atoning payment; in the other, it breaks the cosmic power of sin
• In one the benefit comes through faith, in the other through baptism
• Paul sees both as working together in a complementary fashion
• Paul also likens salvation to a falling out between two people (God and humans in this case) with Jesus as the mediator intervening through his sacrifice to restore the relationship
• He sees salvation as redemption purchased by Christ’s blood, just as a slave might be purchased
• He describes Jesus’s death as an atoning sacrifice, like at the Temple
• He compares salvation as rescue from a disaster

Paul’s Fate
• After writing Romans, Paul led a delegation of gentile Christians to Jerusalem
• He had wanted them to go without him, but he ended up going anyway
• He says in Romans that he is worried about Jews and saints reacting badly to it
• He is arrested in the temple, accused of blasphemy, and condemned
• As a Roman citizen he appeals to the emperor and thus is sent to Rome
• According to 1 Clement, he was martyred there about 64 CE in the reign of Nero
• He probably never made it to Spain
 

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