Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Putting Mark back where he belongs

You might not know it from the Ambassador College Correspondence Course, but one of the first things students of the New Testament learn about is a little something called "Marcan priority."

The short explanation is that Mark, not Matthew, is the first Gospel, and by looking at the ways Matthew and Luke adapt Mark you can learn an awful lot about their agendas.

What do the 21st century COGs think of that? Who knows. Most COGs are too busy fiddling with their proof texts to pay much attention to issues like this. Fred Coulter has an opinion though, he thinks Matthew was the first Gospel writer, and he wrote it "at the time of Jesus' ministry from 26 to 30 AD." This remarkable statement is pretty much in line with Fred's other "scholarly" opinions. His "Faithful Version" deserves to be a party conversation piece if only because of the bloopers in its copious and repetitive notes.

We also know what James Tabor thinks, because he's addressed this very issue in his latest blog entry. Tabor goes further by drawing out what he sees as some implications of Marcan priority.

Whether or not you agree with Tabor's conclusions, Marcan Priority is pretty much one of the assured results of New Testament scholarship, whether among Catholics, Evangelicals or traditional Protestants. Sorry Fred.


Anonymous said...

Actually it is not assured and there are those that advocate that Mark is a bastardize Matthew. persoanlly I think that matthew was first but this should not be confused with the Matthew we have today.

Positive Dennis

Dennis said...

The only people who can objectively examine Christian origins and claims are those that are not invested in any particlular need to have the story read their way to justify their practices and beliefs. The best and most meaningful books on things theological come from those that have come out of a limited mindset and freed themselves to express openly what they knew privately but were afraid to expose. Pastors, Priests and religionist strive to keep the story the same, no matter what "new" (to them) information becomes available. Often those that know more than they can say to a congregation go to teaching future teachers to be more openminded and honest about the history of the Bible.

It is frightening to come to realize that cherished beliefs, the fact that the Bible may not be as "god breathed" as one would wish it to be or that at no time in history was there ever a true, consistent, coherent Church of God back to which we all must go to be right. One also cannot expect everyone to come to this conclusion because it is so disconcerting and the mind well programmed simply cannot change easily and will not due the the discomfort caused by new information. In most denominations, there is no new information, only confirmation over and over of the old, not matter what.

On the Markan priority...It seems evident that Matthew and Luke do edit and fix certain Markan problems along the way. The fact of editing along the way in the Gospels is fascinating. One other theory places John first for a number of reasons but is not popular. I still find it fascinating and convincing that the 21st chapter of John, which has two endings IS a likely candidate for the missing ending of Mark 16:8 where Mark ends with frightened women telling no one anything about the empty tomb. Most know that which follows ws added to give an ending to what most saw as no positive ending and is contrived. The fact that a fake ending can be added should give one reason for thought on how things can be done in the book.

I believe I have addressed both recent posts on Mark and CNN in this one place. What a great moment it would be if CNN, Nova or the History Channel addressed the Solar mythology of the Old and New Testaments! One should find pause in Malachi noting that the "Sun of Righteousness would rise with healing in his wings. Or...

NIV: Revelation 22:16,
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you [1] this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

NIV: 2 Peter 1:19,
"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

NIV: Revelation 2:28--
"I will also give him the morning star."

For all of Dave Pack's "truth" about the 144,000, it would be to his advantage to consider the neatness of numbers divisible by 12 or the 12 or 24 this or that "elders" that surround the Son. People's lives are affected by wrong or limited conclusions about specialness of one's own persepctives.

Sorry, off topic, Happy Solstice:)

Dennis said...

PS The progression of thought is one way to see this Gospel editing. For Paul, who wrote before the Gospels, Jesus became God's son at death. For Mark, Jesus became God's son and his baptism. For Luke and Matthew, Jesus became God's son at birth and for John, he was God's son from the foundation of the world. Stuff like that...

Also we see writers like Luke correcting the gaffs in Matthew on such things as Matthew misunderstanding the OT on there being two animals for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem, when "on a colt, the foal of an ass" is one animal. Matthew even says that Jesus rode on "them" This poor understanding of the text that Matthew mined for this truth was corrected along the way...

Matthew's bumbling is found in his story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Matthew bases this fictional story on a misunderstood story in Scripture. In that story, the prophet speaks of a king riding a donkey--a colt (a young male donkey), the foal of a donkey:

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9 NASB)

Obviously, Zechariah didn’t mean that the king was riding a donkey and a colt; he was merely telling us that the donkey was a colt foal (young son) of a donkey.

Unfortunately for Matthew, he thinks the prophet meant that there were two animals: a donkey, and a colt, instead of just a donkey that was a young colt. Thus, Matthew invents a story in which Jesus sends his disciples to fetch two animals--an ass and a colt, so that Jesus might ride on them into Jerusalem. The other gospel writers weren't so foolish. Here is the evidence.

Matthew: Jesus Sent for an Ass and a Colt. The other gospels correct this and send for one animal. Mark had it right to begin with and Matthew still misread it.

"And …then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me… All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, AND a colt the foal of an ass." (Matthew 21:1-5)

Mark, Luke, and John, understood Zechariah; according to them, Jesus sent his disciples after only one animal. Mark and Luke call the animal a "colt," and John calls it an "ass," and all three versions are compatible with the "prophesy" in Zechariah, wherein the animal is described as a donkey that is a colt.

None of them have Jesus send his disciples to fetch two animals, as was the case in Matthew's story. Isnt Bible study fun!

charlie kieran said...

Dennis, I've often wondered why the gospel writers waited so many years before writing their accounts of Jesus' ministry. I've also wondered about why Matthew included that bit about naming the child to be born 'Emmanuel' since Joseph and Mary obviously did not name Jesus that. I don't give a damn what the name Emmanuel means, the prophecy says that was what they were suppose to call him.

Anonymous said...

And here I was, thinking the original source was the ancient Germanic scribe Ur Quelle. Shows how little I know, doesn't it?

Dennis said...

I am sure they would argue that "god with us" is good enough, but literally of course not true. Matthew badly draws on the ot for non prophecies

Anonymous said...

Actually the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas may be earlier then the Gospel of Mark.

The gospel of Thomas did not go through the filter of Nicea; it was not edited by the good church fathers and it did not receive Constantine's stamp of approval. So it may be both earlier and more genuine then Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

The gospel of John has gone through a number of redactions, i.e. editings. The core of the Gospel of John is probably older then the Gospel of Mark. It was written by the beloved disciple, probably not John, maybe even Mary Magdalene. It is the ONLY canonical gospel that claims to be written by an eyewitness. Mary was with Jesus when he was crucified, John was not.

We really don't know who wrote the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Probably not Matthew, Mark, and Luke. All three have been heavily edited in places to support centrist doctrines that came out of Nicea. Some of what they contain can not be trusted. At the same time the early church fathers were careful not to molest all of the teachings of Jesus.

Jared Olar said...

No, no, no! It's obvious that The Da Vinci Code is earlier than all the Gospels! Don't you guys know anything???

Anonymous said...

Ahhh yes, the Da Vinci Code. And here I thought Da Vinci was lived in the 1400's and 1500's. Silly me.

We all need to understand that the New Testament Canon is a product of Council of Nicea and the good empower Constantine. Anything that the good church fathers did not like was excluded. They had a distinct theological agenda, and they incorporated it into what became the New Testament. The New Testament is not a reliable source of God's revelation because it has been edited by Orthodox Christianity.

Any writings they and their good emperor buddy, Constantine, didn't like were destroyed. They heavily edited what they did like. Our New Testament is the product of Catholic theologians picking what they felt we needed to read and then editing it for us.

The empire then went about destroying all competing documents. I'm sorry, I don't think Da Vinci was part of this effort. It was good orthodox Christians who went about destroying and killing.

charlie kieran said...

anonymous, I think it is safe to say Jared (Very Catholic) was kidding around about the Da Vinci code.

I don't usually put offsite links in my responses but if anyone is interested in looking into theories on the origin and authors of the New Testament, there is always Google or I found this site a good place to begin (Relatively short essays on the topics)

It is hardly an exhaustive study, but it did whet my appetite to look into the subject further.

Gavin said...

Well, actually, no. The NT is not the product of Nicea. The NT canon was (and is) a fluid thing which was kicked off by the "heretic" Marcion. Up till then the scriptures were the OT Septuagint which were read through the lenses of oral tradition. This offended Jews who regarded the enterprise as wholesale theft and misappropriation of their sacred writings.

Marcion's canon was popular, and that led to "orthodox" versions being produced. We're talking lists here, not 1000 plus page codexes. Eventually the Great Church had its cake and ate it too: they kept their grip on the Septuagint AND recognised new, additional scriptures. Constantine's influence is highly debatable.

At the moment I'm reading The Shepherd of Hermas, which was regarded as scripture by the Roman church for a long time. Even though it was orthodox, it eventually fell by the wayside. The Roman church also fought long and hard to keep Hebrews out of the canon, but was forced to compromise in the end. The Eastern church had similar problems with Revelation. Too bad they didn't win that one!

No Catholic Church Council decided the canonical question till after the Reformation. Up till then it was largely tradition. Luther had the right idea, and dumped Revelation and a few of the dubious minor epistles into an appendix at the back of his translation. Bold move, but at least 500 years ahead of its time.

Thomas may draw on early traditions, but in its present form isn't usually regarded as very early. The whole issue is too complex to get dogmatic over, but the priority of Mark (and the lateness of John) is very well supported.

Questeruk said...

Interesting that Dennis rehashes a popular theory of the two Donkeys – with ‘Bumbling’ Matthew not having a clue what Zechariah was saying:-

Zech 9 v 9
- Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout. O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just, and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

I realize that it is thought naive and gullible in these columns to consider that God may have a hand in what was written in the Bible, and it is far better to go along with the ideas of the ‘experts’. Only problem is that you can find an ‘expert’ who will support almost any variation of an account. What do you do? Go by a majority verdict?

If God had a hand in what was in the Bible, the Bible should be able to stand on its own two feet. How about just seeing what these accounts actually say, and as far as possible put yourself into the position of the characters of the time.

Zechariah’s prophecy requires an animal that is young and male. So we are talking about a Young Male Donkey.

Dennis is correct that Luke and Mark only mention one donkey (and John too, but then he only gives one sentence to the account). Matthews however very definitely mentions two. Is this a contradiction?

Bear with me for the moment, and take these accounts at face value. If we do this we are then talking about real people, living in a very real world, with all their problems, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses.

When the two disciples set out for the village that morning, they hadn’t a clue that they were fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. They were just off to collect a donkey, which Jesus had told them he was going to use to ride into Jerusalem.

However they would have then run into two problems. When they found the donkeys, and the donkeys’ owner challenged them, the owner no doubt heard what Christ intended to do – ride this young colt through crowds of people into the heart of Jerusalem. This is a young donkey that has never been ridden before. The owner is going to recommend that they take the donkey’s mother instead. It would be used to being ridden, and was older and quieter. If you are making an entrance into a city, in front of large crowds, the last thing you need is an animal that won’t go, or worse still, dumps you off into the road. That just doesn’t give the right image!

In reality Christ was not going to ride the donkey’s mother into Jerusalem, as it wouldn’t qualify, as it was obviously older, and also female – and the prophecy specified a Young, Male Donkey. But did the disciples know that? They couldn’t obviously call Jesus on their mobile phones to check this out.

The second problem is donkeys are stubborn. Here are two strangers wanting to drag off this young donkey away from its mother. This is when a young donkey is going to dig in its heels and refuse.

Donkeys are like that. The two disciples would have a lot fewer problems getting this young donkey along if its mother came too.

Once they returned to where Christ was, they must have found that Christ actually had no problem riding the colt, to fulfill the scripture.

The individual writers own style still came through in scriptures. Some emphasized details, and left out other details, according to what they felt was important.

Luke and Mark both chose to give more details than John about the donkey, but only felt they need mention the Colt, which was what Christ actually rode into the city, and was the essential part of the prophesy.

Mathew, who was writing specifically for a Jewish audience, which had been taught from the Prophets since childhood, felt it important to emphasize Zechariahs prophecy, maybe specifically mentioning the Colts mother to in effect say ‘we know this fulfills the prophecy, why we even know the Colts mother, in effect we know it’s family history.

So how many donkeys? Two would be the answer. Although Matthew shows there were two donkeys present, the key one for the prophecy was the Colt, the Young Male Donkey, and the other gospel writers only chose to mention what was required for this prophecy, the one donkey.

If you actually read what the scriptures say, without trying to fit in an agenda by the writers, and maybe allow that perhaps there was some guidance of a God, then I don’t feel you really have much of a problem with this account.

But of course while doing this would solve the problem, it would also show writers of this column just have naive and gullible you are.

charlie kieran said...

questeruk: By no means am I saying that you are wrong, however there is an awful lot of extrapolation in your post...

charlie kieran said...

Questeruk: One more thing; God may have had a hand in the original scriptures...But the bible has been added to, taken away from, reinterpreted, retranslated, modernized, etc for a very, very long time. Isn't it within the realm of possibility that it has changed somewhat from the first draft?

Oh, I forgot to add mistranslated, abused, twisted, and misinterpreted to my list above.

Anonymous said...

The Christian New Testament is the product of Nicea. Constantine produced and distributed "50 copies of the scriptures" after Nicea. The books that would be included in the New Testament were finalized at the third Synod of Carthage in 397.

But it must be stressed that ALL of the books came through the filter of Nicea!

Our New Testament comes primarily from three early codices. All three are dated after 330 AD. All three are very similar. It is speculated the Codex Sinaiticus was "written in Egypt and is sometimes associated with the 50 copies of the scriptures commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine after his conversion to Christianity" (see ). The three are

Codex Sinaiticus 330-350
Codex Alexandrinus fifth century
Codex Vaticanus fourth century

(also see )

We have almost no documents from the first century or early to mid second century. There are a small number of other NT documents, mostly fragments, that are primarily from the late second century and early third century.

The point is, we have nothing that is original to the first century New Testament writers. All that we have comes through the filter of an all male priesthood and Constantine.

Our New Testament is no younger then 330 AD.

Gavin said...

Sorry to disagree again, Anon. While Athanasius came up with the current list of acceptable NT books in 367, his wasn't an official pronouncement of the church, and it took a long time to be generally accepted. Even today the Coptic Church - which tracks back just as far as the Catholics - includes 1 Enoch in its canon.

"In the course of the fourth and fifth centuries... many Councils of bishops were to meet to try to determine issues of faith and practice in the Church. Yet not one of them drew up a list of canonical books. In fact it was not until the Council of Florence (1439-43) that the Western Church finally issued a definitive list of 27 canonical books of the New Testament." George Herring, An Introduction to the History of Christianity: From the Early Church to the Enlightenment. Continuum, 2006, p.38.

"The historical reality is that the emperor Constantine had nothing to do with the formation of the canon of scripture: he did not choose which books to include or exclude, and he did not order the destruction of the Gospels that were left out of the canon (there were no imperial book burnings). The formation of the New Testament canon was instead a long and drawn-out process that began centuries before Constantine and did not conclude until long after he was dead." Bart Ehrman. Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code. Oxford University Press, 2004, p.74.

"Eusebius, the great church historian and propagandist for Constantinian Christianity, makes it clear that precise canonical boundaries were still a matter of dispute in the mid-fourth century... But Eusebius tells us how Constantine had fifty deluxe vellum copies of the New Testament manufactured and sent to prelates all over the empire, this of course implying a fixed text... However, the Constantine Bible may not have quite matched our familiar list of twenty-seven books. Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, which date from this period and are possibly examples of the Constantinian pulpit Bibles, include such books as Barnabas and 1 Clement." Robert M. Price, The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-Four Formative Texts. Signature Books, 2006, p. xv – xvi.

The Council of Nicea gets the blame from Dan Brown... a memorable shot of raving bishops in the movie was priceless -- but it was just another bit of the Da Vinci myth. The Synod of Carthage was a meeting of North African clergy, not a general council.

BTW: if anyone wants a provocative edition of the NT that includes a huge range of unsanctioned material from the early days, The Pre-Nicene New Testament (Robert Price) is outstanding. Something there to offend everyone!

Anonymous said...

By 367 the New Testament canon was very close to the modern Protestant Canon. And ALL OF THE BOOKS had been passed through the good church fathers of Nicea. They had edited them to fit the theology of orthodox Christianity.

The historical Jesus, the real Jesus, was edited out of much of the New Testament canon by the good church fathers.

Below is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on the "Canon of the New Testament".


"Athanasius: in 367, in Festal Letter 39 listed a 22 book OT and 27-book NT and 7 books not in the canon but to be read: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, Didache, and the Pastor (probably Hermas). This NT list is very similar to the modern Protestant canon; the only differences are his exclusion of Esther and his inclusion of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah as part of Jeremiah...

Pope Damasus I: is often considered to the father of the modern Catholic canon. Though purporting to date from a "Council of Rome" under Pope Damasus I in 382, the so-called "Damasian list" appended to the pseudepigraphical Decretum Gelasianum is actually a valuable though non-papal list from the early 6th century. Denziger's recension is found in the links at Decretum Gelasianum. The "Damasian Canon" was published by C.H. Turner in JTS, vol. 1, 1900, pp 554-560. In 405, Pope Innocent I in Letter #6 (to Exuperius) described a canon identical to Trent (without the distinction between protocanonicals and deuterocanonicals).

In the late 380s, Gregory of Nazianus produced a canon in verse which agreed with that of his contemporary Athanasius, other than placing the "Catholic Epistles" after the Pauline Epistles and omitting Revelation.

Bishop Amphilocus of Iconium, in his poem Iambics for Seleucus written some time after 394, discusses debate over the canonical inclusion of a number of books, and almost certainly rejects the later Epistles of Peter and John, Jude, and Revelation.

3rd Synod of Carthage: in 397, ratified the canon accepted previously at the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa in 393 and which was purportedly endorsed by Pope Damasus I. The 27-book NT canon included the Gospels, four books; the Acts of the Apostles, one book; the Epistles of Paul, thirteen; of the same to the Hebrews; one Epistle; of Peter, two; of John, apostle, three; of James, one; of Jude, one; the Revelation of John."

Gavin said...

I don't have an argument with the Wikipedia article. But it says nothing about Nicea, which seems to be your main point.

And where is your reference to the editing of these documents by the church fathers? Which church fathers? Or are you just generalising based on the fact that they were edited? Big deal. It's certainly no secret the NT books were edited and re-edited, that's what redaction criticism is all about. No argument there, but Nicea is a red herring.

I'm not sure about why you maintain that the Athanasian canon was "very close to the modern Protestant canon." What's your point? The NT canon is the same for Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox. In fact the Athanasian list is identical to the current canon. That's the reason it's so famous.

Again, Nicea is beside the point. If you're saying Constantine was a bad dude who stuck his nose in where he had no right, well, I'll agree with that, but the present canon was well underway before then - for better or worse. Forget the conspiracy theory, the facts are more interesting by far.

And why not post under a pen name if you can't bring yourself to use your own name, all this Anonymous stuff is a pain trying to sort out.

Dennis said...

We know that there was only one animal in Zechariah.

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9 NASB)

The kind of Donkey is defined as "A colt, THE foal of a donkey."

The evidence shows clearly that Matthew thought Zechariah was referring to two animals, and that seems to be the only reason he has Jesus ride with two animals into Jerusalem. Not only this, but Matthew has Jesus throwing the cloak over both of them and riding both of them. Once he misread Zechariah, he was stuck. Mark, Luke and John did not misunderstand it and were consistent in their presentation.

One can weave a tale and speculate that Matthew did this or that or understood alone what neither the text in Zechariah said, or Luke, Mark and John knew but it is overreaching to explain a clear mistake that is difficult to admit to.

This is not the only example of Matthew’s apparent lack competence as a gospel writer. Matthew does the very same overreaching and misappliation of the "thus it was fulfilled" statements about the Virgin-Birth Prophecy, Bethlehem Prophecy, Herod's Slaughter, and Potter's Field Prophecy.

This is classic Matthew and is not an isolated misapplication of a scripture that he makes to mean what it never meant to anyone but him. It also shows that Matthew's story about Jesus was contrived based on a misunderstanding of the OT and not rooted in anything he really knew, as are his other parts of the Birth accounts that do not and cannot be harmonized with Luke's account. The idea that miraculous birth stories and events are mined from the OT rather than based on reality because no one really knew what really happened is diffucult for all us brought up with it all being literally true to swallow, but it is so none the less.

No one seems to undertand as well that when you walk off with a man's donkey, you might get hung...

AW Fan said...

The Devoted Student


MORE college students seem to be practicing traditional forms of religion today than at any time in my 30 years of teaching.

At first glance, the flourishing of religion on campuses seems to reverse trends long criticized by conservatives under the rubric of “political correctness.” But, in truth, something else is occurring. Once again, right and left have become mirror images of each other; religious correctness is simply the latest version of political correctness. Indeed, it seems the more religious students become, the less willing they are to engage in critical reflection about faith.

The chilling effect of these attitudes was brought home to me two years ago when an administrator at a university where I was then teaching called me into his office. A student had claimed that I had attacked his faith because I had urged him to consider whether Nietzsche’s analysis of religion undermines belief in absolutes. The administrator insisted that I apologize to the student. (I refused.)

My experience was not unique. Today, professors invite harassment or worse by including “unacceptable” books on their syllabuses or by studying religious ideas and practices in ways deemed improper by religiously correct students.

Distinguished scholars at several major universities in the United States have been condemned, even subjected to death threats, for proposing psychological, sociological or anthropological interpretations of religious texts in their classes and published writings. In the most egregious cases, defenders of the faith insist that only true believers are qualified to teach their religious tradition.

At a time when colleges and universities engage in huge capital campaigns and are obsessed with public relations, faculty members can no longer be confident they will remain free to pose the questions that urgently need to be asked.

For years, I have begun my classes by telling students that if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of the course than they were at the beginning, I will have failed. A growing number of religiously correct students consider this challenge a direct assault on their faith. Yet the task of thinking and teaching, especially in an age of emergent fundamentalisms, is to cultivate a faith in doubt that calls into question every certainty.

Any responsible curriculum for the study of religion in the 21st century must be guided by two basic principles: first, a clear distinction between the study and the practice of religion, and second, an expansive understanding of what religion is and of the manifold roles it plays in life. The aim of critical analysis is not to pass judgment on religious beliefs and practices — though some secular dogmatists wrongly cross that line — but to examine the conditions necessary for their formation and to consider the many functions they serve.

It is also important to explore the similarities and differences between and among various religions. Religious traditions are not fixed and monolithic; they are networks of symbols, myths and rituals, which evolve over time by adapting to changing circumstances. If we fail to appreciate the complexity and diversity within, and among, religious traditions, we will overlook the fact that people from different traditions often share more with one another than they do with many members of their own tradition.

If chauvinistic believers develop deeper analyses of religion, they might begin to see in themselves what they criticize in others. In an era that thrives on both religious and political polarization, this is an important lesson to learn — one that extends well beyond the academy.

Since religion is often most influential where it is least obvious, it is imperative to examine both its manifest and latent dimensions. As defenders of a faith become more reflective about their own beliefs, they begin to understand that religion can serve not only to provide answers that render life more secure but also to prepare them for life’s unavoidable complexities and uncertainties.

Until recently, many influential analysts argued that religion, a vestige of an earlier stage of human development, would wither away as people became more sophisticated and rational. Obviously, things have not turned out that way. Indeed, the 21st century will be dominated by religion in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago. Religious conflict will be less a matter of struggles between belief and unbelief than of clashes between believers who make room for doubt and those who do not.

The warning signs are clear: unless we establish a genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.

[Mark C. Taylor, a religion and humanities professor at Williams College, is the author of “Mystic Bones.”]

December 21, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor

Byker Bob said...


I had been under the impression that the Catholics, or at least "proto" Catholics (aka "the church unto the Gentiles") had been responsible for collecting, collating, and canonizing what we now know as the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Is that an accurate statement?

I know that on the occasions when I have mentioned this to members of the Armstrong persuasion, they responded that no, these documents had been circulated amongst the true primitive Christians for many years, and the Catholic fathers simply acknowledged the basic Christian understanding as to the value of the texts. Implicit in this point of view is that the Catholics had not been permitted to alter or revise the writings in any way.

That old school WCG was very anti-Catholic would be a serious understatement.


Anonymous said...


Between about 160 and 330 CE the good church fathers edited Jesus' genuine sayings and created documents that were used to establish Orthodox Christianity. Much of the New Testament is a fabrication, it is a huge attempt at social engineering. It was written to control the "laity", the common folk. This was all done so that an all male priesthood could control the people of the empire. And it was all accomplished prior to Nicea.

There was an attempt to destroyed all other NT literature, that is why VIRTUALLY NO NEW TESTAMENT literature is available prior to 330.

What difference has Nicea made? Let me just give you the tip of the iceberg...

(1) There were no apostles. The word "apostle" can not be found in the gospel of John or the Gospel of Thomas. That means that most of the book of Acts is a fabrication; most of it is untrue. Acts was written to help establish the doctrine of apostolic succession. It is vitally important to orthodoxy, because it gives enormous power to a NT priesthood.

(2) There is a strong possibility the "apostle Paul" never existed. There are no secular historical references to Paul. All we know about Paul come from the writings of the early church fathers. Josephus writes about Jesus, about James, and about John the Baptist, but not a word about Paul. The character of Paul may have been created as a foil to fabricate traditions and customs that could be used to control the laity. That includes baptism and the Lord's Supper. In the Gospel of John the disciples (not apostles) never part took of bread and wine, the Eucharist. That mythology and those rituals come directly out of Mithraism. It was a common custom of Roman soldiers to eat the flesh and drink the blood of their god Mithra in a communal meal.

(3) The book of Galatians is an attempt to do away with the law of God. Certainly the writer of Galatians claims the law is done away. The author claims the law is a mere shadow. The writers of Paul's letters made every attempt to create documents that would justify doing away with the law. This body of letters clearly contradicts many of the sayings of Jesus. Even Thomas Jefferson rejected the writings attributed to Paul.

(4) Did Jesus come to shed His blood and die for our sins? Does a divine being need to die so that sins can be forgiven? The answer is no. Again, this theology comes from a "Paul" who may never have existed. If Jesus did not come to die for our sins... then why did He come? What did He teach? What did He ask His disciples to do?

There are many many questions that need to be answered to find the historical Jesus. Nicea stands as a huge obstacle in that search.

Anonymous said...

Gavin, in your opinion poll on female WCG ministers you failed to include a fourth option: "Who Cares!"

Thank you.
John B

Anonymous said...

I guess you are saying that Matthew and Luke plagarized Marks work and added a few of their own ideas.

Really, Mark or Matthew being first, 'so what', really why the splitting of hairs? Christianity, everyone has his/her own ideas.


Anonymous said...

"'The Shepherd of Hermas', which was regarded as scripture by the Roman church for a long time."

There are some translations of Hermas that tell you to take a mark on your forehead.....hmmmmm.

jorgheinz said...


Anonymous said there are no secular references to Paul.

Pardon me, where has he been all his life.And no, I won't take up the challenge to name these references to Paul.

I suggest that he goes outside his narrow, insular thought pattern and starts to search exhaustively for references to Paul. He will find them if he looks carefully enough.

You see, "ANONYMOUS", to quote from "Hamlet", there are more things in heaven and earth than you have dreamt of in your philosophy.


Jackie said...

If the prophecy of a virgin to give birth was honored in OT times, then we have 2 virgins giving birth in history: one to Immanuel and one to Jesus. This creates a problem doesn't it?
Also why would Jesus who is supposed to be just like us have to have sperm from God? What is God sperm anyway?
What about the moral implications of God having sex with a married woman( in those days she was considered legally married while engaged) and if its not sex, then Bill Clinton was also correct (I did not have sex with that woman)
How did people find out that she was still a virgin? Did they advertise it? Was she examined?
Did Jesus go to school and tell everyone? Yuk!
How about the scriptures that tell us not to give anyone cause to think badly of us?
Doenst making a married woman pregnant, without her husbands consent mind you, make her look pretty bad?
Why would God do such a thing to a young woman?

Anonymous said...


"Anonymous said there are no secular references to Paul."

Please provide one from the time period Paul lived in, say up to 100 CE. Other then Jesus, Paul was the major figure of Christianity!

You can't find one. There are none.

But do try...

jorgheinz said...


I counter your challenge.

Paul IS LISTED in secular documents.And more than once.

The onus of proof is on you.

As I said, there are more things in heaven and earth than you have dreamed of in your philosophy.
( Hamlet).


Anonymous said...

From the on line Jewish Encyclopedia; Paul was probably not a Benjamite or a Jew. Most interesting...

By : Kaufmann Kohler

The actual founder of the Christian Church as opposed to Judaism; born before 10 C.E.; died after 63. The records containing the views and opinions of the opponents of Paul and Paulinism are no longer in existence; and the history of the early Church has been colored by the writers of the second century, who were anxious to suppress or smooth over the controversies of the preceding period, as is shown in the Acts of the Apostles and also by the fact that the Epistles ascribed to Paul, as has been proved by modern critics, are partly spurious (Galatians, Ephesians, I and II Timothy, Titus, and others) and partly interpolated.

Not a Hebrew Scholar; a Hellenist.

Saul (whose Roman cognomen was Paul; see Acts xiii. 9) was born of Jewish parents in the first decade of the common era at Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts ix. 11, xxi. 39, xxii. 3). The claim in Rom. xi. 1 and Phil. iii. 5 that he was of the tribe of Benjamin, suggested by the similarity of his name with that of the first Israelitish king, is, if the passages are genuine, a false one, no tribal lists or pedigrees of this kind having been in existence at that time (see Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." i. 7, 5; Pes. 62b; M. Sachs, "Beitr├Ąge zur Sprach- und Alterthumsforschung," 1852, ii. 157). Nor is there any indication in Paul's writings or arguments that he had received the rabbinical training ascribed to him by Christian writers, ancient and modern; least of all could he have acted or written as he did had he been, as is alleged (Acts xxii. 3), the disciple of Gamaliel I., the mild Hillelite. His quotations from Scripture, which are all taken, directly or from memory, from the Greek version, betray no familiarity with the original Hebrew text. The Hellenistic literature, such as the Book of Wisdom and other Apocrypha, as well as Philo (see Hausrath, "Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte," ii. 18-27; Siegfried, "Philo von Alexandria," 1875, pp. 304-310; Jowett, "Commentary on the Thessalonians and Galatians," i. 363-417), was the sole source for his eschatological and theological system. Notwithstanding the emphatic statement, in Phil. iii. 5, that he was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews"—a rather unusual term, which seems to refer to his nationalistic training and conduct (comp. Acts xxi. 40, xxii. 2), since his Jewish birth is stated in the preceding words "of the stock of Israel"—he was, if any of the Epistles that bear his name are really his, entirely a Hellenist in thought and sentiment...."

The Ex-Christadelphian said...

I don't know if anyone has ever noticed a strange thing about Paul. He was from the same city as Apollonius of Tyana was educated in (Tarsus), he lived at the same time, taught in the same cities, was a prisoner in Rome at the same time. Apollonius escaped from Rome and went to Spain, Paul's intention was to go to Spain from Rome.

Coincidence? Two different men, or one and the same man? It wouldn't be the only time a preacher led two lives.