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ribofunk's Journal
Posted by ribofunk in General Discussion
Wed Apr 27th 2011, 12:14 AM
and I think most people who study them feel like you do. The question is how well the gospels reflect Jesus' life and words.

Why might Jesus be misquoted in the Gospels? Because the movement was split and most of what came down to us was written by the sect which survived the Romans rather than the one closest to Jesus.

It's commonplace for scholars to say that Paul started a new religion based on his own inspiration rather than Jesus. It's odd that few of them really follow that thought through.

Paul's epistles are constantly arguing against opponents of the movement. What's not immediately clear, however, is how much of this is directed against Jesus' brother. Salvation by faith alone, circumcision, festivals, table fellowship with Gentiles, long hair, vegetarianism -- once you begin to look for them, they appear all over the place.

Paul uses Old Testament scripture in, shall we say, extremely creative ways, many of which reverse the meaning of the original text -- for example, Moses' face being veiled to hide the fading glory of the law. Theological arguments after Paul often applied tendentious logic to unrelated scripture. Religious documents fabricated quotes, actions, and large amounts of biographical data. There are no reasons other than tradition and faith in the text to think that these didn't apply to the Gospels. And proposing revolt meant instant death, so any social criticism had to be internally directed against other Jews.

I personally think it is more instructive to look at the writings of most closely related to Jesus, namely the letter of James and Jude, and possibly Revelation. James has the same gentle, picturesque, didactic quality of a lot of Jesus' stories, but also has savage criticisms of the rich ('weep and howl...for the miseries that are coming upon you') and presumably Paul ('you foolish man...'). Jude is even more severe, with a radiant but stern moralism ('they are clouds without water...twice dead...'). These books are compatible with, but do not advocate, revolt. The Book of Revelation, however, has a full-blown militarism that probably resulted from the destruction of Jerusalem. (Otherwise why is there a need for a new Jerusalem?)

I really don't know Jesus' attitude toward violence. John the Baptist (Jesus' original mentor) and James were both avowedly pacifists, yet their rhetoric and methods fit perfectly with the many Jewish revolutionaries of the time, and John was executed like Jesus and James for political sedition. The 'Essenes', for that matter, were supposedly pacifist, but 'John the Essene' fought in the revolt. The occupation may have appeared so powerful that it was really a moot issue, and that passive resistance was the only viable avenue without a miracle of some kind. Jesus may have been anticipating a miracle that would deliver Judea and Galilee from the Romans -- the question is whether he expected to play a military role in that.

That's a long answer and I don't know if it makes sense. It's not at all the standard way of looking at it. There are no ways to prove any particular point other best fit, and that depends a lot of what set of facts you start off with.

BTW, since you mentioned gnosticism, I found a really good site written by Jewish/Christian gnostics. Don't agree with their point of view, but it really opened up an area that I never understood very well.


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