The bad news is that no matter which translation you prefer, the four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John disagree sharply with each other, as well as with the letters of Paul, in what they say about the life of Jesus, his mission, and teachings.
This is not obvious unless you compare the narratives very closely in parallel columns, something few without a degree in religion have done that many graduates still maintain a conservative approach to the Bible is a true leap of faith. The one-time evangelical scholar who has done the most to bring this information to the general public is Bart Ehrman.
These are not minor details: they tell astonishingly varied stories about the resurrection. They were obviously not written by the apostles whose names were attached a century after they were written down. Those individuals were likely illiterate, Aramaic-speaking Jewish peasants who never left Palestine, while the Gospels were written by educated Greek speakers somewhere in the Roman Empire between 70 and A.
In another groundbreaking work, Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed and Invented Their Stories of the Savior , published in , Ehrman reports spending two years immersed in a study of eyewitnesses and the science of memory. Contrary to what many believe, he notes, oral cultures do not have superior ability to memorize anything word for word and studies of eyewitnesses have proven they are very unreliable, no matter how vivid and accurate they think their memories are.
It is highly unlikely any scribe wrote down what Jesus said during the Sermon on the Mount; it seems probable that things he said at various times were remembered and stitched together into this one speech there are significant differences between the versions of the Sermon in Matthew and Luke, while Mark and John do not even mention it.
But the stories were obviously changed as they were retold for decades before they were written down, probably to make them relevant to their audiences in different places and circumstances. Other than two comments by Jesus at the Last Supper, there are only two other statements that Paul attributes to Jesus. One is that preachers should be paid; the other is the condemnation of divorce in the Sermon on the Mount. One would think that this would elevate it to the top of a list of commandments about which there can be little dispute.
But Ehrman shows that there are five different versions of what he said about this and the implications:. In Matthew , Jesus says if a man divorces his wife except on grounds of sexual immorality presumably on her part , he makes her commit adultery; and if a man marries a divorced woman he commits adultery. It is not obvious why a man would make his wife commit adultery by divorcing her. In any event, that rule does not appear to apply if she first committed a sexual impropriety, presumably with someone else. Moreover, if he marries any divorced woman even if she was divorced for the reason of sexual impropriety of her husband?
But there are major contradictions even in such seemingly important stories, such as of John baptizing Jesus, how Jesus chose his first disciples, and the meaning of the miracles. There is an evolution in the Synoptics as to Jesus teaching about the coming Kingdom of God, according to Ehrman. Mark, the first Gospel to be written around 70 A. Most scholars believe that Matthew and Luke were written in and they also portray Jesus as a Messiah who will establish an earthly Kingdom as the Son of God, a status they give him from birth although Luke seems to say he became this at the resurrection in the Acts of the Apostles, which he also wrote.
Matthew writes for an audience of Jews and advocates that followers of Jesus should keep the Hebrew Law. The contrast with John could not be greater. In this Gospel written , Jesus is declared to be a preexistent divine being through whom God created the world and who has incarnated to reveal the truth. There is to be no Kingdom of God on earth, it is in heaven, and those who believe in him can have eternal life there, while those who reject him will be punished forever. John has Jesus boldly making his claim to be divine even to his enemies. Paul also holds Jesus to have been a divine being before he was born.
While Paul never met Jesus except when Paul believed he encountered him in a vision , Paul did meet three of the first apostles and would have heard the full life story of Jesus, yet apparently did not believe was very important.
The Memoirs of a Modern Gnostic - Edward Conze - Google книги
The proto-Catholics put together their version in reaction, which became the official version after dissenters were suppressed. Other Gnostics also interpreted John in a mystical way compatible with their views. There is an obvious problem for orthodox Christians with all these varied accounts: even John makes clear that Jesus is the Son of God, not God the Father. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they all be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
In other words, Jesus was saying he was united with God in love and spiritual intent. That is not what the doctrine of the Trinity, declared at the Council of Nicea in , claims: mainstream Christians today insist that the Father, the Son, and the mysterious Holy Spirit, are all one being Gnostics do talk about the Trinity as a metaphor, but do not view Jesus as the True God and consider the Spirit a functional aspect of God. Jesus never even refers to himself as the Messiah or Christ; he does call himself the Son of Man, a rabbinic term meaning a member of the human race.
Yet once you strip away two millennia of Christian dogma, the truth is obvious:. There is none good but one, that is God. Just to give a few examples about the resurrection:. Mark says she, Mary his mother, and Salome went together. Luke mentions a number of women from Galilee and elsewhere. Luke reports that the disciples were to be told to remember what Jesus had told them while in Galilee, that he would die and rise again, and they should remain in Jerusalem, where he appears to them the same day.
On the road to Emmaus Mark , they do not recognize him.
That a spirit could be felt is occasionally reported in the literature of the paranormal. Gnostics took different positions on whether Jesus even had a normal body before he died, but they did not believe this was important, nor did most think that his death was central to his mission.
They interpreted the resurrection in metaphorical terms as a spiritual transformation that all people would go through who became enlightened. Visions of spirit guides were common among pagans of the time and they continue to be reported among Hindus and Buddhists. And, as Harold Bloom noted in The American Religion , the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith was one of the few religious leaders able to have others witness his angelic visions even close followers who later became bitter enemies did not recant their original claims.
You would think this would be the one message that would be clear, yet the Synoptics only refer to a vague idea that he helped people have the right relationship with God. That the Bible, which most people could not even read in most languages until relatively recently and whose messages have so many different interpretations, should be considered the basis for determining our eternal fate makes it the most enduring idol of all time.
I believe any spiritual path can benefit the practitioner. However, in the third section of God Reconsidered , I gave detailed reasons why I believe there are philosophical problems with traditional religions East and West. The fundamental issue they all stumble on is the assumption that 70 billion people were thus far created in order to follow divine laws, when the world is full of such chaos from disease epidemics to car accidents that this never been a practical possibility for anyone. This is also the worst possible world for anyone to be expected to find the truth.
This is a design of which no other example has ever come to my knowledge amongst the innumerable and wondrously varied devices excogitated by the prolific fancy of this religion of mysteries. Upon the four ties are engraved in very minute letters different combinations of the seven Greek vowels, whilst each of the. The other face is covered with an inscription, cut in much larger letters, and in eight lines.
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This number was certainly not the result of chance, but of deep design, for it was mystic in the highest degree, representing--so taught the profoundest doctor of the Gnosis, Marcus--the divine Ogdoad, which was the daughter of the Pythagorean Tetrad, the mother of all creation. The numerals, on their part, probably denote various deities, for the Alexandrian Gnosis was the true daughter of Magiism; and in the old theology of Chaldea every god and astral genius had a number of his own, and which often stands instead of his proper.
Write the same with a sign cypher , so that the sons of God may manifest understand? This is the name of the Immortal One,.
These likewise be the interpretations of the names of the Mysteries. Line 3 consists of the seven vowels placed in their natural order.
This was the most potent of all the spells in the Gnostic repertory; and its importance may justify the extensiveness of the following extract from the grand text-book of this theosophy, which sets forth its hidden sense and wondrous efficacy. The primary idea, however, was far from abstruse, if we accept the statement of the writer "On Interpretations,". But in the fulness of time the semi-Pythagorean, Marcus, had it revealed unto him that the seven heavens in their revelation sounded each one vowel which, all combined together, formed a single doxology, "the sound whereof being carried down to earth becomes the creator and parent of all things that be on earth.
The Greek language has but one word for vowel and voice ; when therefore, "the seven thunders uttered their voices," the seven vowels, it is meant, echoed through the vault of heaven, and composed that mystic utterance which the sainted seer was forbidden to reveal unto mortals. Declare therefore unto us the mysteries of these things, so that we also may inherit the kingdom of thy Father. Jesus said unto them, Do ye seek after these mysteries?
No mystery is more excellent. Nothing therefore is more excellent than the mysteries which ye seek after, saving only the mystery of the Seven Vowels and their forty and nine Powers , and the numbers thereof.
But and if, after he shall have departed out of this world, he shall utter that Name unto the fire, it shall be quenched, and the darkness shall flee away. And if he shall utter that Name unto the devils of the Outer Darkness, and to the Powers thereof, they shall all faint away, and their flame shall blaze up, so that they shall cry aloud 'Thou art holy, thou art holy, O Holy One of all holies! This ancient neglect of the material is truly difficult to explain, if the statement of a very good authority, Corsi, be indeed correct, that the sort showing the deepest green is found in Egypt.
The known predilection of the Romans for gems of that colour, would, one should naturally expect, have led them in that case to employ the stone largely in ornamentation, after the constant fashion of the Chinese, and to value it as a harder species of the Smaragdus , The circumstances under which this relic was brought to England render it more than probable that Egypt was the place where it was found; a supposition corroborated by the fine quality of the stone exactly agreeing with what Corsi remarks of the Egyptian kind. That Alexandria was the place where the inscription was added upon its surface can admit of little question; the lettering being precisely that seen upon innumerable other monuments which can with certainty be assigned to the same grand focus of Gnosticism.
Related The Memoirs of a Modern Gnostic Part 2
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