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MP wrote:

People tend to see in Jesus what they want to see. Marxists see him as a proto-Marxist, ecologists see him as a proto-ecologist, feminists see him as a proto-feminist, and college professors see him as a hip dude who enjoyed rapping with his disciples in the best tradition of student-friendly academics.

Here's H.L. Mencken in a similar vein:
they begin to speculate about the nature of the motive power, and soon they are conjuring up a will behind it, and inflicting one more God upon a sweating and distracted world. That God, as usual, follows the pattern of themselves. Dr. Robert A. Millikan’s is an elderly Unitarian born in Morrison, III., who took his Ph.D. at Columbia in 1895, got the Nobel Prize in 1923, and is a member of the Valley Hunt Club of Pasadena, Calif. Dr. A. S. Eddington’s is a Quaker imperfectly denaturized at Cambridge and now a don there. By the same token, Sir James Jeans’s is a mathematician. This Jeans God shows rather more plausibility than the others, and is much more refined. He lacks both the hearty, beefy bucolicity of Millikan’s Middle Western Corn-God and the sickly chlorosis of Eddington’s gaseous Quaker. He neither belches nor swoons.

A master piece, Michael! One of - perhaps The - writings on this blog. Thanks!

How do you factor in the Gnostic Gospels? Just more variations on a theme that eventually became overwhelmed and diminished to nothingness by Paul's vision? I think so, but curious on your take.

ooops....too early to comment :-)

meant to say one of the "best" pieces you've written.

Thanks for the kind words, Eric. I think there are elements of Gnosticism in Paul's writings. Gnosticism predated Christianity and was part of the general swirl of religions in Hellenistic cities like Tarsus (reportedly Paul's point of origin). Elaine Pagels wrote s book called "The Gnostic Paul" showing that Gnostic Christians found much of value in Paul's works and regarded him as one of their own. Marcion, an important figure in the early church, relied almost exclusively on Paul's writings to justify his Gnostic theology, which jettisoned the Old Testament entirely. (He was eventually labeled a heretic.) Pagels stops short of saying that Paul actually held Gnostic views, but he certainly used some of the vocabulary and concepts associated with Gnosticism.

The Gnostic Christian documents we have, recovered from Nag Hammadi, date from a later period (2nd and 3rd centuries) and show signs of additional development. The earliest document in the collection, The Gospel of Thomas, may date to the early 2nd century, but this is still at least fifty years after Paul (and the Gospel of Thomas contains no clearcut Gnostic elements anyway).

Overall, I'd say that Paul incorporates early Gnostic concepts into his synthesis, but that the Gnostic Christian writings that have come down to us represent a later phase of religious development, which was effectively suppressed as a heresy by church authorities.

I couldn’t resist this post Michael. There is a wealth of information here. You are becoming quite a resource of information about the Jesus and the Bible.

You said that, “His [Jesus] attack on the money-changers in the Temple courtyard appears to have been a key step in his campaign to purify the Temple and set the stage for divine intervention.” You and others may be interested to read what a woman with only grade school education had to say about this episode as I think there is considerable agreement with what you wrote. Here is Pearl Curran’s (Patience Worth) interpretation of Jesus at the Temple steps. - AOD

http://www.patienceworth.com/sorry-tale-jesus/

" Paul experienced a kind of instantaneous and dizzying “data dump” that crowded his brain and haunted his thoughts for the rest of his life. "

I can identify with that.

" the massive, longtime, ongoing effort of New Testament scholars to determine the actual facts of Jesus of Nazareth’s life – may end in the realization that the historical Jesus is of no great importance, and that what really matters is the eternal spiritual reality accessed by a man who never knew Jesus in the flesh."

Quite. But (at the risk of overdoing the prosaic) I've always felt that the 'Jesus' message, in total, was 'Life is infinitely much more than it appears to be.' The details simply don't matter - in the bigger picture.

Just my two-pennorth. :)

I'd be wary of Maccoby. See Neusner's "Rabbinic Literature and the New Testament." As for historical Jesus studies, Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus" is essential, IMO (if you can see past his hardcore atheism).

And yeah, Paul is really the key, and the heart of Christianity, IMO. Best books on the topic: Engerberg-Pedersen's "Paul and the Stoics" and "Cosmology and Self in the Apostle Paul".

Great post. Having grown up very fundamentalist, I have found it a long process to learn to see Jesus from the vantage point of known historical context. I have no quarrel with the content presented, but in the end, I always come up against the Shroud of Turin. I know the skeptical position is that it is a forgery, and there are things about it that do give me some pause as well; but when you dig into it, it is completely unexplained and unreplicable. There is legitimate doubt as to the carbon dating. I have to ask; Michael, what are your thoughts on the Shroud and what might it represent? Does it cast any doubt on the representation of Jesus as just another Jewish malcontent?

"I'd be wary of Maccoby." I agree. Originally I was going to include a critique of Maccoby, focusing on his tendentiousness, unsourced opinions, and propagandistic purposes. But the post was already pretty long, so I dropped it. Brandon makes some of the same points Maccoby makes, but with far greater academic rigor and caution. Incidentally, although Brandon preceded Maccoby and anticipated many of his arguments, he receives almost no acknowledgement in the two Maccoby books that I read.

Rick, I've written about the Shroud. You can search the blog archives using the search box on the left side of this page. I find the Shroud very intriguing, and I have not been impressed by modern efforts to reproduce it. I also think it may well date back to Jesus' era (the carbon dating appears to have been thrown off by microorganisms that grew in the fabric). Ian Wilson has made a plausible case tracing it back to around the 2nd century, as I recall. I can't explain it. It's an artifact that continues to puzzle me.

Stuart Certain keeps trying to post here, employing the usual troll psychology (if you don't post my comments, it proves you're afraid of what I have to say). No one is afraid of you, Stuart. You've been banned from other sites for the same reason you're banned from this one: you are only interested in wasting our time.

Fantastic post, Michael, perhaps one of the best you've posted on this site. Similar to Rick, I once had a very intense christian period early on life, and it took a (very) long time to see Jesus in a historical context. At this point in my life, I've come to see him as an apocalyptic Jew who believed the end of the world was literally around the corner, and wanted everyone to get things right with God as soon as possible. Everything else, such as his miracles and the more magical elements of the Bible's account of his life, remain impossible to verify (though I doubt bodies emerged from their graves when he died). It's also highly likely that a lot of the material written about him was embellished to gain more converts: a prime example of this is the famed Josephus passage. I had the opportunity to read it along with other materials Josephus wrote at the time, and it does feel like propaganda and is out of place among other writings that came before and after it. Then there's the whole issue of Paul's Christianity, and Jesus' Christianity, but I imagine an entire blog post could be made about that matter.

My interest in NDE's, channeled material, and the like throws a wrench into things, though, and I imagine it does the same for other spiritual seekers. Said materials paints a picture of Jesus being a very important and powerful being in the spiritual world, which leads me to wonder just how much of that bled into his physical life. He seems to have been sent to Earth by God to start a faith that would guide billions, and it's safe to say that it was an outstanding success. Yet, on the other hand, he was clearly wrong on several matters, such as telling his followers that none of them would die before seeing the Son of Man coming into his kingdom, which obviously didn't happen, as well as warning people that those who say, "you fools!" were in danger of hell... and yet, he says, "you fools!" later on. At one point, he even curses a tree and causes it to die for not bearing fruit out of season, hardly the behavior of an ascended master! I think that while Jesus did have a higher spiritual awareness than the people of his time, he was still affected by his culture and times as we all are.

Interesting post, Michael. I have to say, though, that I'm skeptical about your conclusions.

"Where does Jesus fit into this picture? Both Maccoby and Brandon argue that he probably matched the general pattern of other messianic pretenders of the period."

Isn't it equally possible that while Jesus might have matched that pattern in some ways, he stood apart from it in others? Mightn't his closeness to Spirit have made him rise above those more conventional figures to the extent that he himself (rather than Paul) was the one who (as you say) "presented something new, something that exploded the existing paradigm"?

After all:

"In [Paul's] mind, Jesus was not the Messiah in the traditional Jewish sense – a mortal man appointed to restore the Israelite kingdom – but the incarnation of God himself, an aspect of God that preexisted his earthly life and may have preexisted the universe as such."

Why jump to the conclusion that Paul was wrong? After all, he was infinitely closer to these events than we are. He too would have been aware of those messianic pretenders, yet he obviously didn't see Jesus as one.

The authors you refer to are looking back 2,000 years and insisting that they have a better grasp on the situation than Paul (and countless of his contemporaries). Where's the logic in that?

If you're going to take Paul's spiritual encounter with Jesus seriously—as you obviously do, Michael—why assume that he was mistaken about something as basic as Jesus's true motivations?

That last paragraph should read:

If you're going to take Paul's spiritual encounter with Jesus seriously—as you obviously do, Michael—why assume that he was mistaken about something as basic as Jesus's true motivations and importance?

Can't fault this post.

What we think of as Christianity is Pauline Christianity, and is all the better for it.

In this light, it doesn't really matter whether the historical Jesus existed at all.

The 'real' Jesus is the transcendent Christ Consciousness experienced by Paul, which expresses itself in different cultures in different ways.

I agree that there was a purpose to this, probably to initiate a new religious tradition which would transform the culture, which it did.

So when asked whether I believe in Jesus, maybe it's better to respond by saying that I believe in Christianity, and the values it represents. The story of Jesus is a symbol used to personify and transmit the core teachings of Christianity, and the argument about the historical Jesus becomes a moot point as far as I'm concerned.

I have not posted here before, but have been reading posts and comments here for some time, and have been wanting to jump in and revive discussion of Joe Fisher's The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts, since I feel it is an important book in its implications, and has not really been granted the space it deserves here. While the subject at hand may not seem to relate to the subject matter of Joe's book, I believe that the following paragraphs (quoted by Joe from a letter he received from a British ex-spiritualist) are very relevant indeed:

(from the Epilogue to the 2001 edition of The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts):

What I am saying--and I am not alone in the conclusions I have reached--has very serious and very sinister implications. Perhaps if we begin to accept that these beings have been present among mankind as far back as our records go, we have to acknowledge a horrifying fact. Our race has been directly shaped by these beings, and not in any beneficial way. The manipulation you and I have experienced is nothing compared to the manipulation inflicted on civilization on a mass scale. Nearly every religion in the world was initially based on psychic manifestations, visions on mountaintops, images of God appearing to prophets, voices in the mind--just as our modem day mediums hear voices, see visions. Indeed, I have heard of certainly more than one medium who claims their contact is Jesus or God himself.

These beings, in their different guises, have directly formed our very religions. And anyone who has studied the history of organized religion must be aware that [religion] has been responsible for more death and destruction than just about anything else. And yet we all stagger blindly on, oblivious to this manipulation for thousands of years. Perhaps I sound paranoid or overly dramatic in my belief of the magnitude of the situation. I would love to be proved wrong, but doubt I ever can be.

Whatever may be the nature of these seemingly intelligent "beings" who speak to us in dreams, visions, prophetic utterances and "mystical" experiences (lost souls/earthbound spirits/discarnate entities, "mental records held in the Akashic [...] mere puppets with limited responses" [Barbara], or functional entities like the square root of minus one), it is clear that they are willing to apparently toy with us, to lie/distort/embellish the facts for ends not revealed to us, while having access to a seemingly full Akashic library-type record of past and future earthly lives and experiences (including, potentially, the verbal records of sages and masters of wisdom).

Spiritual teachers themselves can be fooled:

Between 1977 and 1979, a hungry ghost masquerading as the late yoga master Sri Swami Sivananda (1887- 1963) very nearly destroyed the worldwide yoga movement run by his protege Swami Vishnu Devananda. The trouble started at the organization's headquarters north of Montreal, Canada when a senior staff member--a woman suffering from chronic abdominal pain---began to channel a spirit claiming to be the Master Sivananda. Swami Vishnu was quickly persuaded of the voice's veracity and his conviction led, in turn, to conviction among his followers. Soon, a large group was meeting nightly to listen to the "Master" expound wisdom and clairvoyance and occasionally demonstrate remarkable healing powers.

To Swami Vishnu Devananda, the channel's phrasing, intonation and effortless use of Sanskrit echoed the revered master's style of speaking and writing that he remembered so well from time spent in Rishikesh, India. Moreover, he was addressed by the pet name--Vishnu Swami--selected by his teacher many years earlier. The spirit offered guidance and inspiration and appeared to invest the very atmosphere with highly-charged positive energy. With protracted deviousness,
however, the invisible presence deluded its audience into believing that they were the chosen Children of Light. Dire global predictions were made and, ultimately, the group was urged to stockpile food and weapons in readiness for the advancing breakdown in social order.

Swami Vishnu knew that such elitism contradicted Sri Swami Sivananda's abiding love and compassion for all beings. And he was already beginning to suspect that the spirit was encouraging laziness among his followers while subtly turning them against him. Consequently, he consulted the Master's teachings and discovered several passages in his book What Becomes of the Soul After Death affirming that great sages of the past cannot be invoked by a medium and that mediumship merely invites earthbound spirits. For example:

'The spirits have no knowledge of the highest truth. They cannot help others in attaining self-realization. Some are foolish, deceitful and ignorant. These earthbound spirits control the mediums and pretend to know everything regarding the planes beyond death. They speak falsehood. They put on the appearance of some other spirit and deceive the audience. The poor innocent mediums are not aware of the tricks played by their dishonest spirit guides.'

Realizing that he had been duped by an impersonating spirit, Swami Vishnu called a halt to the channeling sessions. Too late, he saw the malevolence which pervaded the messages, one of which had advised that he undertake oral surgery without anesthesia. Too late, he perceived that the sessions were leaving him "completely drained like a discharged battery." The Swami's change of heart provoked anger and confusion among his followers, and some fifty people--many of them senior staff--deserted the organization in the belief that the wishes of the "Master" were being denied. (Fisher, 2001, p. 329)

If a 20th century spiritual teacher can be deceived by one these intelligences, I see no reason why the same could not be true for someone like Paul or any other religious prophet, saint, or visionary (the vast amount of bloodshed through the centuries--not to mention the even vaster quantities of guilt, shame, sexual repression/oppression, and apocalyptic terror for which Christianity is to a large extent responsible--certainly lends support to this view).

We should not fool ourselves into thinking that these intelligences--whatever they may be--are all operating within time frameworks of cause and effect--goals and results--as we with brain-limited minds experience and understand them. Who's to say that the mischief wrought by some does not come to a full flowering for hundreds or even thousands of years?

For one operating mediumistically in some capacity (guide/channel/healer), the vital question is, obviously, how can I know that I am serving/transmitting/deploying ultimately constructive, non-deceptive, counsel or healing forces and not malevolent, destructive or deceptive ones?

For the spiritual seeker, it is always salutary to remain cognizant of one's vulnerability to possible deception by voices and visions (even when these are promising or offering what seem to be heavenly or cosmic insights/realizations/experiences) and to remain steadfastly dedicated to one's orientation towards the Godhead/Absolute beyond or prior to all manifested form, and likewise to remain mistrustful of anyone/anything requiring or demanding a change in mere earthly/temporal conditions (which are always irrelevant--or merely incidental-- to the spiritual seeker's true purpose).

Michael,

I've often read your blog over the years, and I agree with and appreciate much of what you've written in other contexts.

I hope you'll read some material by more traditional Christian scholars, so that you're getting a fuller picture of the arguments and evidence. Craig Keener, for instance, has published a lot of good work. He recently wrote a four-volume commentary on Acts, which is nearly five thousand pages long. It's been endorsed by a wide range of scholars, including some of the leading ones in the field, not just conservatives. He wrote a two-volume work on miracles that was related to his study of Acts, and that book provides a lengthy argument for the historicity of miracles in the ancient and modern worlds, particularly Christian miracles. There are a lot of YouTube videos distilling his material (on Acts, miracles, and other topics), and you could access his books on Google Books or Amazon if you just want to use him for reference purposes. I hope you'll at least look up some of the relevant New Testament passages in Keener and other more conservative scholars (Richard Bauckham, D.A. Carson, etc.) rather than only reading non-conservative ones.

Regarding Paul, keep in mind that he refers to how he had a reputation for teaching the faith he had once opposed (Galatians 1:23). He refers to the faith as something he had received (1 Corinthians 15:3), something that united him with Peter, James, and the other leaders who were Christians before him (1 Corinthians 15:11, Galatians 2:9-10). It's unlikely upfront that Paul would have been able to radically redefine Christianity, and any such redefinition should have left far more traces in the historical record than what we have. Other early Christian leaders had disciples, and many of them lived into the second century. The apostle John, for example, cast a large shadow over second-century Christianity, as anybody who has read a lot of the Christian literature from that timeframe can see. Yet, the early disciples of John and churches affiliated with John (Polycarp, the churches of Asia Minor, etc.) speak highly of Paul. The evidence suggests that there was a high degree of unity between Paul and the original disciples of Jesus. The alternatives, like what you've suggested, are supported by far too little evidence, require too much dishonesty on the part of the early Christians, suggest too pessimistic a view of the general reliability of human memory and honesty, require that Christianity's early opponents were too ignorant and incompetent, etc.

Concerning the dating of the documents, I recommend giving a lot of attention to the ending of Acts. The best explanation, by far, for why the book ends where it does is that it was completed around the time of the last events narrated (around 62 A.D.). And if Acts was finished in the early to mid sixties, the implication is that Luke (the prequel to Acts) and Mark (a source apparently used by Luke) were written even earlier. Acts 1:8 is often cited as an explanation for why Acts ends where it does, as if that passage defines the scope of the book, but there are major problems with that view. I've written a couple of blog posts arguing that Acts 1:8 doesn't explain why Acts ends where it does and why an early date for the book best explains how it ends. I don't know what your link policy is, so I don't want to include links here. But anybody interested can search for the following post titles on Triablogue: "Early External Evidence For An Early Date For Luke-Acts" and "More Reason To Date The Synoptics And Acts Early".

The issue of prophecy should also be considered. Some of Jesus' purported prophecy fulfillments don't depend on a conservative view of his life (e.g., the timing of when he lived, his death by crucifixion, his influence on the Gentile world). The alignment of his life with what we see in passages in Isaiah, Daniel, and elsewhere is significant.

The Shroud of Turin has already been mentioned. One last point I'll add before closing is that you might want to look into what the early opponents of Christianity said about the religion. It's important to note what the early enemies of the religion agreed with Christianity about (Jewish acknowledgement of the empty tomb; Jewish and pagan acknowledgement that Jesus performed miracles; their acceptance of the authorship attributions of some of the Biblical books, including the gospels; etc.). A couple of books you could read or consult on this subject are:

Robert Wilken, The Christians As The Romans Saw Them (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984)

John Cook, The Interpretation Of The New Testament In Greco-Roman Paganism (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002)

Richard Carrier is not taken remotely seriously by any professional historian on the issue of Jesus. He is an amateur with an ax to grind. His books on this subject are rarely peer reviewed and cited by no one.

I tend not to like to argue via link but here is a great article on why historians do not take the Jesus Myth seriously.
https://www.quora.com/Do-credible-historians-agree-that-the-man-named-Jesus-who-the-Christian-Bible-speaks-of-walked-the-earth-and-was-put-to-death-on-a-cross-by-Pilate-Roman-governor-of-Judea

Please see the answer by Tim O'Neill

I tend to see Jesus just as an apocalyptic preacher which is view of scholars such as Ehrman.

I guess I'm the only one who's not impressed by this piece.

You don't sense the irony in dismissing the writing of people who were nearly there, because they weren't actually present at the exact moment, but then you cite authors from 2000 years later as authoritative? Totally dismissing Paul seems problematic, as well.

Anyway, I see a serious logical error here using informal statistical analysis wrong, to describe a specific Messiah from the average Messiah of the time. That's not the direction statistical logic works in. It would be like telling me what I'm wearing at the moment based on my age and status, taking the word of that analysis in preference to the description of someone who knows me or is sitting next to me.

There are, however, quite a few writings about this topic from various channeled sources that have demonstrated some level of objective credibility (definitely not talking about the various Jesus word-salad channeler new-agers on youtube!) Though more plausible sources don't all say the same thing, and many are obviously false, if you start digging in there, I think you'll find that while channeled communications can't be mindlessly trusted, there are some that have a much better take on the Christ phenomenon than the historians you cite. I'd suggest William Stainton Moses' Spirit Teachings as one of the best places to start for this.

Ian, I think there's a problem with taking anything the Bible says as accurate, so I wouldn't be criticizing Jesus based on supposed quotes or observations. I see the Bible, everywhere in it, as more the history of man than the history of God!

"You don't sense the irony in dismissing the writing of people who were nearly there, because they weren't actually present at the exact moment, but then you cite authors from 2000 years later as authoritative?"

It depends on whether you see the early Christian writings as essentially reliable and factual or as essentially polemical and propagandistic.

I wouldn't say the writers of the Gospels and Acts "were nearly there." If the standard dating is correct, Mark's Gospel was written shortly after AD 70, and the others were written between AD 85 and 100. That's at least 35 years after the events described. Studies of oral transmission in largely non-literate cultures have shown that frequently retold stories can change radically in less time than that.

Since the Gospels differ dramatically in many respects (e.g., the birth and infancy narratives, Jesus' genealogy, the length and chronology of his ministry, and even the day of his crucifixion and the location of his post-Resurrection appearances), they can't be taken at face value. It's the job of historians to dig deep into these documents and try to excavate the relics of authentic tradition from later accretions of myth, legend, and propaganda. After all, we wouldn't accept the story of Mohammed's magical journey on a flying horse as historically reliable, or the accounts of the miracles wrought by Apollonius, even though these narratives were probably written within a generation or two of the events described.

On the other hand, I do put considerable credence in the (authentic) letters of Paul, because they were written by an actual participant in the events. But these letters tell a very different story than Acts. They indicate a high degree of conflict between the Pauline sect and the Jerusalem church.

How can acts be dated that early though if Luke used Mark as a source and Mark was composed shortly after the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

"The story of Jesus is a symbol used to personify and transmit the core teachings of Christianity, and the argument about the historical Jesus becomes a moot point as far as I'm concerned." - Douglas

Hear, hear!

MichaelD said:

"It would be like telling me what I'm wearing at the moment based on my age and status, taking the word of that analysis in preference to the description of someone who knows me or is sitting next to me."

Exactly. Though I'm Jewish by birth and have no ties to Christianity, I've long seen Jesus not as a mere *type*, but as an anomaly. Despite all the religious/political tomfoolery later carried out in his name, too much human love has been channeled in his direction—from the very start—for me to think otherwise.

Jason wrote, "I hope you'll read some material by more traditional Christian scholars." I haven't read the scholars you mention, but I have read my share of conservative New Testament academics, most notably N.T. Wright. I also remember reading a book called "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses," though I forget the author's name. (Pretty sure I reviewed it, if you search the archives.) There was a time when I found these arguments intriguing and at least partially convincing. But these days I lean much more toward Bart Ehrman's skeptical approach.

"It would be like telling me what I'm wearing at the moment based on my age and status, taking the word of that analysis in preference to the description of someone who knows me or is sitting next to me."

I don't see it that way. The people who wrote the Gospels did not know Jesus and were not sitting next to him. They were conveying heavily redacted and embellished oral traditions for a polemical purpose. They didn't even live in Judea. Tradition places Mark in Rome, Luke in Antioch, etc. (The actual names of the authors are unknown; the names we use were ascribed many years later.) They wrote after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, which means the original Jewish Christian movement had likely been largely exterminated, its records and traditions mostly lost. The Fourth Gospel (John) was probably written at least 70 years after the events it purports to describe, yet it includes long monologues attributed to Jesus, which can't possibly be historical, and exhibits a "high Christology" that took decades to evolve and was patently influenced by Hellenic mystical philosophy (the "Logos"). And as I said, the Gospels contract each other on many points, including such crucial issues as the circumstances of Jesus' resurrection.

It's only familiarity with these stories that gives them a certain credibility in our eyes. Devout Muslims believe that a flying horse, Buraq, carried Mohammed through the sky, a tale told in Islamic sacred literature. People raised in a Judeo-Christian culture find this story absurd. Yet is it any more absurd than Jesus walking on water, multiplying loaves, or raising the dead? The Jesus stories seem less fanciful to us because they are part of our cultural atmosphere, not because they have any greater inherent plausibility or better historical attestation.

Bruce wrote, "I've long seen Jesus not as a mere *type*, but as an anomaly." He may have transcended the type (it's possible), but to understand him as a historical figure, we still have to start with his probable typology. Messianic prophets were common in Judea, and Jesus seems to have been one of them, similar to John the Baptizer, Theudas, the nameless "Egyptian," Judas of Galilee, and the later Bar-Kochba.

A parallel can be drawn with the Founding Fathers of the US. George Washington may well have transcended his contemporaries in important respects (they seemed to think so), but if we understand the basic type of the leaders of the American Revolution (wealthy landowners, educated and intellectual, highly influenced by John Locke and Adam Smith, devoted to winning independence from Britain), we've made a good start at understanding Washington himself.

And note that many stories told about Washington, like the cherry tree incident, were complete fabrications. This is a figure from the 18th century, yet the traditions about him became embellished and misleading very quickly. Countless quotes have been misattributed to Yogi Berra and Sam Goldwyn, both of whom lived within the past few decades. Urban legends like JFK's "affair" with Marilyn Monroe have become firmly established in the public mind. If we can't trust the memory of even recent events, how far should we trust traditions from the 1st century?

Michael, here's my problem with your Washington analogy.

The main reason I'm convinced that Jesus is a true anomaly is that, without a doubt, his life, his name, his story, was the single most influential of the past 2,000 years.

2,000 years from now, will people say that about Washington? While he may be remembered and even revered, will he, over the millennia, live in the hearts and minds of countless individuals as Jesus does?

I doubt it.

So I'm perfectly satisfied to think of Washington as an extraordinary example of the Founding Father prototype you discuss, and see little reason to consider him an anomaly.

Now you may respond that you never intended to say that Washington was Christ-like. But that's the point! If he's not Christ-like, than the analogy doesn't apply.

To even make the analogy is to beg the question. Because Washington is Washington and Christ is Christ. And as I see it, you and these authors are overemphasizing the importance of categories, and downplaying the unique qualities of certain individuals.

Here's an analogy of my own: when skeptics look at Palladino, they see her as a type—the charlatan psychic, the cheat.

But we know she's more than that. We know there's an inexplicable phenomenon there.

Might these authors be making the same mistake with Jesus?

Michael wrote:

"The actual names of the authors are unknown; the names we use were ascribed many years later."

That's highly unlikely to be true of even one gospel. The notion that it's true of all four is even more unlikely. Works tended to have author names associated with them, whether orally, by means of a tag, in the title of a work, on the spine of a codex, or in some other way or combination of such means. Richard Bauckham notes, "The clearest case is Luke because of the dedication of the work to Theophilus (1:3), probably a patron. It is inconceivable that a work with a named dedicatee should have been anonymous." (Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], 300) Not only would there have been multiple motivations to identify the author of each document early on in its own context, but there would have been further motivation as soon as two or more gospels were gathered together and used in church services, libraries, and other contexts and, therefore, needed to be distinguished from one another. (We know from the gospel manuscripts we have and other sources that the authors' names were used to distinguish them from one another.) As Martin Hengel wrote:

"Nevertheless the fact remains that it is utterly improbable that in this dark period, at a particular place or through a person or through the decision of a group or institution unknown to us, the four superscriptions of the Gospels, which had hitherto been circulating anonymously, suddenly came into being and, without leaving behind traces of earlier divergent titles, became established throughout the church. Let those who deny the great age and therefore basically the originality of the Gospel superscriptions in order to preserve their 'good' critical conscience, give a better explanation of the completely unanimous and relatively early attestation of these titles, their origin and the names of authors associated with them. Such an explanation has yet to be given, and it never will be. New Testament scholars persistently overlook basic facts and questions on the basis of old habits." (The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], 55)

Furthermore, why would the four traditional names be chosen? Only John makes sense as a fabricated name. Mark was especially disreputable. Not only was he a minor figure who had a bad reputation from the incidents described in Acts 15:36-39, but he also seems to have had an embarrassing physical deformity or some other problem that led to his being referred to by the negative term kolobodaktylos. Luke was more reputable than Mark, but a more prominent companion of Paul could have been fabricated, like Titus. Why even choose disciples of the apostles to begin with? Instead of Mark and Luke, why not Andrew and Paul, for example? Regarding Matthew, Hengel, who rejected Matthean authorship, nevertheless acknowledged:

"Another comment on the name Matthew: apart from the first Gospel, to which he gives his name, Matthew plays no role in primitive Christianity. He appears only in the lists of apostles. He is only mentioned rather more frequently at a substantially later date in apocryphal writings on the basis of the unique success of the Gospel named after him. That makes it utterly improbable that the name of the apostle was attached to the Gospel only at a secondary stage, in the first decades of the second century, somewhere in the Roman empire, and that this essentially later nomenclature then established itself everywhere without opposition. How could people have arrived at this name for an anonymous Gospel in the second century, and how then would it have gained general recognition?" (ibid., 71)

And what about the hostile corroboration for these gospel attributions? From the second century onward, we find one heretical, pagan, or Jewish source after another corroborating these gospel authorship attributions, even though they (and some Christians) questioned other Biblical authorship claims.

Michael wrote:

"They wrote after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, which means the original Jewish Christian movement had likely been largely exterminated, its records and traditions mostly lost."

I would date all of the Synoptics to the fifties or sixties, based on evidence like the ending of Acts and the external attestation that they were written earlier rather than later.

But even if you're right about the dating, many of the earliest Christians lived outside Jerusalem, the ones in Jerusalem traveled a lot, they would have left written records, some eyewitnesses would have still been alive past 70 A.D., etc. Even somebody who had only been a contemporary of the apostles, but not a contemporary of Jesus, would have had memories of what the earliest Christians were claiming and could have noticed inconsistencies with what was claimed by them later on. If Christianity was as radically redefined as you're suggesting, that redefinition should be vastly more evident in the historical record. Were the early Jewish, pagan, and heretical opponents of Christianity simultaneously so incompetent that they let Christianity redefine itself to such a high degree and not only didn't say anything about that change, but even corroborated the claims the Christians were making?

You write:

"The Fourth Gospel (John) was probably written at least 70 years after the events it purports to describe, yet it includes long monologues attributed to Jesus, which can't possibly be historical, and exhibits a 'high Christology' that took decades to evolve and was patently influenced by Hellenic mystical philosophy (the 'Logos')."

Commentaries on John's gospel (like Craig Keener's) address ancient literary standards for reporting speeches and other forms of communication. The degree to which Jesus' words in the gospels would be expected to align with what he said depends on the context in which John was writing, just as we have our own literary standards today. Paraphrasing was considered acceptable in John's context, much as it is in many contexts in our day. But John would have had more than his memories to go by. He also would have had the memories of other witnesses who could be consulted and any written records that had been preserved down to that time. Richard Bauckham has observed, "Such notebooks [as ancient rabbis used] were in quite widespread use in the ancient world (2 Tim 4:13 refers to parchment notebooks Paul carried on his travels). It seems more probable than not that early Christians used them." (Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], 288) In the opening of his gospel, Luke refers to "many" accounts of Jesus' life that had been composed (Luke 1:1-2). There would have been repetition of the memories many times over the years, whether in written or unwritten form, so it wouldn't be a matter of somebody like John waiting until several decades after Jesus' death to make his first attempt to remember something. Furthermore, John doesn't claim to be relying only on his memory, others' memories, written records, and such. He also claims Divine guidance (John 14:26, 15:27, 16:13). I don't expect non-Christians to accept that claim, but it is relevant to what John was claiming to do in his gospel.

As far as the Logos material in his gospel is concerned, it comes from the Old Testament. His gospel is highly Jewish. The "in the beginning" of John 1:1 is meant to parallel the "in the beginning" of Genesis 1:1. Jesus is being paralleled to the word of God mentioned in the opening of Genesis.

Concerning high Christology, it was already present long before John wrote. Mark opens his gospel by applying Old Testament material about Yahweh to Jesus (Mark 1:2). Paul refers to Jesus as God (e.g., Romans 9:5, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Philippians 2:6-11). Even earlier, Isaiah 9:6 identifies the Davidic Messiah as Mighty God, a title applied to Yahweh in 10:21. Isaiah 52:13 refers to the Suffering Servant as "high and lifted up and greatly exalted", terminology Isaiah repeatedly applies only to Yahweh elsewhere (6:1, 33:10, 57:15). In other words, both Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 52-53 anticipate God incarnate.

Michael wrote:

"Devout Muslims believe that a flying horse, Buraq, carried Mohammed through the sky, a tale told in Islamic sacred literature. People raised in a Judeo-Christian culture find this story absurd. Yet is it any more absurd than Jesus walking on water, multiplying loaves, or raising the dead? The Jesus stories seem less fanciful to us because they are part of our cultural atmosphere, not because they have any greater inherent plausibility or better historical attestation."

I don't understand why non-Christians make those kinds of comments. You can reject the historicity of Christian miracles without claiming that there's no better evidence for Christian miracle accounts than others, like Islam's.

Paul was an enemy of Christianity who converted upon seeing the risen Christ, and he refers to hundreds of other witnesses and cites a creed in the process that most scholars date to less than a decade after Jesus' death (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Where's the comparable evidence for Muhammad's night flight? Much of the Quaran (e.g., surah 6) is taken up by excuses for why Muhammad wasn't performing the sort of authenticating miracles that are well attested for Jesus (by both ancient Christian and ancient non-Christian sources). The large majority of the New Testament was written by former enemies of Christianity who converted upon seeing the risen Christ (Paul, James) and a demonstrably reliable historian (Luke). The historical details in Luke's writings (names, places, the order of events, legal procedures, etc.) contrast starkly with the lack of such details in the Quaran. You've acknowledged that there's significant evidence for the Shroud of Turin. What would be the Islamic equivalent? And so on. Christianity is far better evidenced than Islam.

You keep referring to alleged inconsistencies among the gospels, but it's not as though those charges haven't been answered. Even if we thought the gospels were as inconsistent as you're suggesting, we'd still have to explain the much larger amount of material that they're consistent about, including details that are highly unlikely to have been fabricated (the premarital timing of Mary's pregnancy, the fact that some of Jesus' female followers discovered the empty tomb while his male disciples were in a state of fear and unbelief, etc.) and details that are evidential for Christianity (the fact that Christianity's enemies acknowledged that Jesus performed miracles, the empty tomb, etc.).

Bruce: In support of what you wrote, someone once said, "There's no one in the world who sounds like Jesus." But mightn't that be due to the gospel-writers being inspired by Paul's high-Christological vision, by Paul himself, and by being pumped up by the enthusiasm of the members of the sects they belonged to? In other words, mightn't his Message and inspirational example be real, maybe even realer than real, but not historical?

Maybe that same thing has happened wrt God. Maybe we've dreamed him/it up, but it's nevertheless real, because it's an emergent property built into the universe, requiring our belief as a "starter" or pump-primer to activate and strengthen. If so, then the historical Jesus blundered into saviorhood, but the blunder and subsequent mythologizing of his life and works were part of a stupendous cosmic plan-by-accident. (This jibes with Art Kleps's saying, "God has no IQ." And with Stewart Brand's belief in "a fiasco-by-fiasco approach to perfection.")

Oh wow, did I just say that?

(Skepticism is said to have a chilling effect on psi in certain circumstances, and psi is something similarly non-material. Remote viewing has to be taught to some degree to manifest itself. So this offers some tangential support for what I am groping to say—that imagination somehow sometimes evokes reality.)

=========
MP wrote: "Urban legends like JFK's "affair" with Marilyn Monroe have become firmly established in the public mind."

I wasn't aware that that had been debunked. I thought that at least RFK's affair with her was a fact.

Let me change my "but not historical?" to "but mostly not historical?" As Bruce said wrt Palladino, "We know there's an inexplicable phenomenon there." It's likely the same with Jesus. He likely had to have had some standout holy quality to have so impressed the non-Pauline Christian faction in Jerusalem.

Bruce wrote, "2,000 years from now, will people say that about Washington? While he may be remembered and even revered, will he, over the millennia, live in the hearts and minds of countless individuals as Jesus does?"

They might revere him, even worship him, if George Washington were to become the central figure in a religion. People tend to utilize the key figure in their religious mythos as the mental equivalent of whatever higher power they try to access. My view is that this higher power, whether encountered in prayer, cosmic consciousness, NDEs, or other conditions, is actually one's own higher self (the Oversoul or subliminal self) objectified and misidentified as a separate entity.

Nobody sees George Washington this way because we have not been taught to do so. We are taught to connect with Jesus or the saints or whomever. Apuleius, in "The Golden Ass," movingly describes his own revelation of the goddess Isis, whom he evidently encountered at the climax of an initiation ceremony into the Hellenic mystery religion. He saw Isis because that was what he expected to see. What he actually encountered, I think, was his higher self.

Then what of Jesus - or Yeshua of Galilee, as he would have been known? I suspect that if we could go back in time and see Yeshua in the flesh, we would discover a Middle Eastern religious fanatic, fiercely nationalistic, charismatic enough to attract a small but potent coterie of followers, and enough of a threat to the established order that government agents eventually would hunt him down and kill him.

In other words ... someone very much like Osama bin Laden.

Now, I'm not saying Yeshua would have had his followers fly airplanes into Tiberius' palace; maybe he was more of a pacifist than that (or maybe not). And maybe he was skillful at coming up with parables and aphorisms (or maybe not). And maybe he had some legitimate psychic powers in terms of healing or precognition or channeling (or maybe not).

I don't know how much of the persona of the Gospels' Jesus is accurately remembered and how much of it is distorted or invented. When we come right down to it, all we can say with certainty is that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher delivering the message, "Repent - the end is nigh!"

Oh, and he was wrong. The end was not nigh. So he joins a long list of doomsday prophets whose predictions failed, and a shorter list of 1st and 2nd century would-be messiahs whose revolt against Rome failed.

If Paul hadn't experienced a mystical revelation of a figure he identified as the postmortem Jesus (but who, IMO, was really his own higher self), probably the whole Jesus movement would have been forgotten after AD 70. That, at least, is what seems most likely to me.

I ask again. How can the synoptics describe the fall of Jerusalem almost a decade before it happened if you date it to the early 60s AD?

I am not a religious man nor do I go to church or synagogue. I rarely read the Bible but when I do I mainly focus on the four Gospels. I consider myself to be a spiritualist and believe that all conscious creatures are a part of God. I have no credentials to intelligently discuss anything concerning the historical Jesus or politics surrounding the Roman Empire before, during or after the first century. Being a biologist, artist and musician, ancient history has not---up until now--- been a major interest of mine.

However it seems to me that if all one can say with certainty is that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher whose message was ‘Repent---the end is near’, then what am I to make of the Gospel of St. Matthew particularly chapters 5,6, and 7 in which one can find Jesus reportedly speaking to a multitude of people in what has been commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount” and in which there are many messages not one of which is ‘Repent, the end is nigh”? John the Baptist may have preached “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and perhaps that was his main message but to believe that the message of Jesus was ‘Repent---the end is nigh’ does not acknowledge the many messages of Jesus in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and in other Biblical passages. In my opinion, the overriding message of Jesus, often referred to as his doctrine was to love others as you love yourself and to try to live in a way that is reflective of the God consciousness of which one is a part and to which one will return.

Maybe I am seeing my own thoughts and beliefs in the words of Jesus since apparently the behaviors of Jesus sometimes were not in keeping with his own doctrine. But as a lay person, I only know what is available to me to know. Others may have other experiences which provide greater enlightenment.- AOD

By "the end is nigh," I mean the end of the current state of affairs in which Rome occupied Judea. I thought this was clear from my description of Jesus as a revolutionary seeking to restore the kingdom of David. He was not predicting the end of the world, but he was predicting a tumultuous and cataclysmic struggle, apparently a combination of human action (military strife) and divine intervention, which would usher in a new age.

The Sermon on the Mount reflects this eschatology. In the coming kingdom, there will be a reversal of fortunes – the first will be last and the last will be first. The rich and powerful (who collaborated with the Romans) will be thrown down, and the oppressed poor will rise up. Those who have suffered will be rewarded. Those who have profited from the Roman occupation will be cast out of the kingdom, and will wail and gnash their teeth as they watch from afar as God's chosen people enjoy a golden age.

To be worthy of the new kingdom, God's people must purify themselves. It is not enough simply to obey the Law. One must go even further and strive for maximum holiness. Go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, forgive one's enemies. Only by proving worthy of God's trust can Israel redeem itself and become a light to all nations, as it is its destiny.

There's a reason that New Testament scholars have broadly embraced the view of Jesus as an apocalyptic preacher. It's the only way to make sense of his message and its historical context. Salvation of individual souls was a marginal concern (at most) for Jews of this period. Their concern was with the salvation of Israel as a holy kingdom, something that could be accomplished only by rededicating the Jewish people to the path of righteousness and thereby winning back God's favor.

The fact that we moderns tend to think in terms of individual redemption and personal immortality is irrelevant; to impose a modern mindset on 1st century Judeans is a category error.

Roger said:

"Maybe that same thing has happened wrt God. Maybe we've dreamed him/it up"

I think it's just the opposite, Roger. I think God dreams *us* up.

Or to say it differently: collectively, we are God dreaming of infinite variations on itself. And to die is to wake up from the dream, to remember our larger self, and to dream again.

Well, I think if Jesus was talking about the end of the occupation of Judea by Rome, he might have said 'Rejoice', the end is nigh rather than 'Repent', the end is nigh. I can barely understand the Bible as it is, and I acknowledge that I don't understand most of the academic interpretations of it which seem to me to be mostly opinions.. - AOD

"I think if Jesus was talking about the end of the occupation of Judea by Rome, he might have said 'Rejoice', the end is nigh rather than 'Repent', the end is nigh."

Repentance (metanoia) was seen as a necessary step in actualizing the prophesied redemption of the kingdom.

Wikipedia: "In 2006, an ecumenical group of scholars published a study of repentance in the Bible and the Church. After 'a thorough examination of Hellenistic Jewish writings,' the study found that for Jews living at the time of Jesus, 'repentance' meant 'a fundamental change in thinking and living.' For the New Testament, this change is a necessary ingredient in accomplishing God’s plan for salvation and community for everyone."

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanoia_(theology)

Jesus did sort of say, "Rejoice," since he described his message as "good news." But the good news was tempered by the expectation of painful "birth pangs" that would precede the kingdom's restoration. Hence the prophesies of war and destruction, and the warning to flee to the hills, as well as the line, "Pray that it does not happen in winter" (when escape would be more problematic and survival outside the city more difficult).

I have been attending the Church of Christ with my wife for the last 43 years. The Church of Christ is a fundamentalist Christian Church and they read the bible every Sunday, Sunday Night, and Wednesday Night. So I have been exposed to and read and re-read the New Testament numerous times.

Jesus used stories to try and explain to his followers what the Kingdom of Heaven was like. The story about the vineyard owner that paid all his workers the same thing, the story of the prodigal son, etc. They are all "and the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto" stories.

Jesus's intention for his followers was that they experience here on Earth the oneness and connectedness that he felt in heaven. He wanted us to be able to feel the closeness and love and connectedness here that Jesus felt while he was on the other side. It parallels what many near death experiencers describe.

from John 17:20 "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

Nice post backed up by heavy reading and substantial thinking.

I was a theology minor at Loyola back in the day, and some of my philosophy classes (my major) also dealt with this topic, so I've done some reading and studying myself. I don't have any *huge* arguments against your thesis, but at the same time I'm also sympathetic to what Bruce is saying as well.

The problem is that we just don't know. I'm absolutely, 100% convinced that the Bible is not what modern-day evangelicals say it is (the infallible Word of God, etc.), but the Jesus of the New Testament *is* interesting. But we don't know what *that guy* was really like. If we had recordings or a transcript of everything he said, would he

• Seem like the altruistic, loving teacher of the NT, perhaps even exceeding expectations, giving us even more insights than we had before?

• Seem obviously mentally ill by today's standards, going on and on about stuff like an obsessive or a schizophrenic, ranting in a way that makes us uncomfortable?

• Seem more political than spiritual (as you suggest may have been the case), contra the content of the NT?

• Perhaps seem just like a jerk?

• A combination of the above? Inconsistent? Running hot and cold? Changing his tune over the years?

We just don't know, and that's the crux of the matter.

I do have some quibbles with your post:

• Although you're don't come out and say you're a fan of Paul, something along those lines can be inferred from your post. I had a NT teacher in college who was pretty cool, and I said to him after class, "I think Paul is a ****"--and he agreed. I really don't like him at all, though his words about Love are pretty classic. That was his moment. I don't see Paul as particular spiritual. I don't know any New Agers who say, "Paul's the ****, man, he's where it's at!"

• There's no question that Christianity as we know it is Pauline; you got that totally right. It's basically his religion. But are the Gospels Pauline? There are some key concepts that simply aren't in the Gospels at all. For example, the notion that Jesus died for our sins and is the Savior in that sense is not in there. The feel of the Gospels is really quite different from the Pauline epistles. I'm sure scholars have weighed in on these issues.

• The NT is a mess, but it was the great conduit for a form of altruism that had never existed before. I'm not ready to say, "There was definitely a Jesus who preached this particular message, and that's why it exists," but regardless of its origins, the message came into being. I sure don't think it was jerky, fussy, uncool, squaresville, control-freak Paul who thought it up. So where did it come from? This is unclear like everything else.

Like seemingly everything else in life, there is almost a perverse quality to the mysteriousness of it all.

Matt Rouge wrote, "The NT is a mess, but it was the great conduit for a form of altruism that had never existed before."

That reminds me of something I read about people being sick of "the stony cruelty of the ancient world" and wanting to embrace a religion that stressed kindness and mutual aid.

Bruce Siegel said “. . . collectively, we are God dreaming of infinite variations on itself. And to die is to wake up from the dream, to remember our larger self, and to dream again.”

I really like this Bruce. After all of the thousands of discussions and attempted explanations about reality, consciousness, God etc. etc., your simple thought sums everything up quite nicely. No other comment is needed. - AOD

Bruce, I think some great philosopher said it once, “Row, row, row your boat; gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” - AOD

Matt said:

"We just don't know, and that's the crux of the matter."

I agree, which is why I'm not pursuing the question further. What's more, as I see it, it just doesn't matter that much, because trying to build one's spiritual foundation on 2,000 year-old writings is pretty silly. Why struggle with the significance of Paul's mystical revelations, when people today are sharing beyond-the-body journeys that are easier to trust and tell us more?

Not to mention that the deepest understanding is to be gained from our *own* spiritual experiences.

So Michael, I'm pondering your interests, seeing a trend, and wondering what the next bombshell is gonna be:

• De Vere wrote Shakespeare's plays.
• Paul founded Jesus's religion.

Maybe:

• Salieri composed Mozart's symphonies?

:)

Bruce wrote, "De Vere wrote Shakespeare's plays. Paul founded Jesus's religion. Maybe: Salieri composed Mozart's symphonies?"

Heh. Haven't got a clue about Mozart. Music is something I know absolutely nothing about. Can't sing, dance, keep time, play an instrument, or listen to classical music/opera/ballet without nodding off. Whatever gene is required for serious music appreciation, I lack.

But while De Vere as the author of Shakespeare is an extreme minority position and likely to remain so, I think Paul as the true author of Christianity is pretty much the conventional wisdom among academics who study these things.

"... trying to build one's spiritual foundation on 2,000 year-old writings is pretty silly."

True. But I'm not trying to build a spiritual foundation with this post. I just find the history behind Christianity interesting.

Michael said,” Can't sing, dance, keep time, play an instrument, or listen to classical music/opera/ballet without nodding off.”

Wow! You’ve got some work to do. You could be missing some of life's greatest enjoyments.- AOD

Thanks, Amos! What a wonderful compliment.

I was summarizing what I call The MetaStory. The post on my blog entitled "The Only Story In Town" ends with a brief description of the same thing, but you're probably right: I did a better job here in a couple of sentences, than I did there, in several paragraphs.

Michael said:

"But while De Vere as the author of Shakespeare is an extreme minority position and likely to remain so, I think Paul as the true author of Christianity is pretty much the conventional wisdom among academics who study these things."

Interesting, Michael. This Jewish boy has never been clear on that.

"I just find the history behind Christianity interesting."

Me too. But that's largely because I find the story of Jesus and the early Christians inspiring. I see it as an epoch in which Spirit emerged more fully into human affairs, and I suspect Jesus had more to do with that than these authors think.

But who knows? Just to complicate matters, Jane Roberts' Seth sees Jesus as three historical figures rolled into one, and claims it was someone else entirely who died on the cross that day!

Bruce, I think some great philosopher said it once, “Row, row, row your boat; gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” - AOD
That little ditty was the official song of the Neo-American church of Art Kleps. See his Boo Hoo Bible at: https://www.amazon.com/Bible-Neo-American-Church-Catechism-Handbook/dp/0960038817/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502582409&sr=8-1&keywords=boo+hoo+bible
So Michael, I'm pondering your interests, seeing a trend, and wondering what the next bombshell is gonna be: • De Vere wrote Shakespeare's plays.
Dennis McCarthy makes the strongest case for the true author of "Shakespeare's" works being Thomas North. See his North of Shakespeare at: https://www.amazon.com/North-Shakespeare-Secret-Greatest-Literature/dp/146370366X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Matt wrote, "But are the Gospels Pauline? There are some key concepts that simply aren't in the Gospels at all. For example, the notion that Jesus died for our sins and is the Savior in that sense is not in there."

This may well be true of the synoptic gospels, but I don't think it applies to the Gospel of John. Take this verse, for instance:

http://biblehub.com/john/1-29.htm

The "Lamb of God" can only be understood as a paschal lamb (ritual sacrifice), so the meaning is that Jesus, sacrificed on the cross, redeems the world's sins. John's Gospel has other such references. The paschal lamb motif is a key theme of the whole narrative.

Arguably a similar meaning is found in Matthew 26:28:

http://biblehub.com/matthew/26-28.htm

... in which Jesus' blood is symbolically poured out for the forgiveness of sins.

But in general, I agree that this idea is either absent or minimized in the synoptics. Which does seem odd.

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