2009-11-27

When a nobody Jesus became spirit possessed

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by Neil Godfrey

Mark, the earliest of our canonical gospels, does not simply omit the details about Jesus before his baptism, but indirectly informs readers that nothing like the birth and boyhood stories we read in the gospels of Matthew and Luke could possibly have happened. Mark is clear: Jesus was a nobody until the day he was baptized by John.

He did not spend is youth travelling to the British Isles. He did not astonish his family or neighbours by turning clay birds into living sparrows or miraculously extending timber beams to help his father’s carpentry business. His birth was not marked by angelic visits to shepherds in the countryside or rich foreign elites paying his parents a visit. No one knew about angels or pious elderly folk at the Temple making public pronouncements about his destiny. He at no time as a boy demonstrated to the learned men of the cloth any astonishing wisdom. He was just an ordinary bloke like everyone else.

That’s why Mark says his mother and family thought he needed to be taken off and given a good lie down after he started becoming a bit of a public spectacle. Mark 3:21, 31-32

And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. . . .

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.

Mark 3:21, 31-32

And it’s why all those who had lived with him and known him all his life thought it a bit over the top that he should start talking and acting as if he was somehow any different from them:

And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; . . . .

And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?

And they were offended at him.

Mark 6:1-3

And it is also why no-one seems to have bothered to collect “traditions” or details about anything remarkable in his pre-baptism life from former neighbours and relatives. (The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are clearly imaginative adaptions of pre-existing biblical and extra-biblical stories.)

So Who Is This Really?

But of course this raises another question about the nature of Jesus in the gospels, or at least in the earliest gospel. The question of “Who Is This?” permeates Mark’s gospel.

Jesus’ is introduced in Mark’s gospel in a secret scene known only to God and the readers. No other characters in the story know anything about the Holy Spirit falling into Jesus (not “upon” him, as in Matthew) and driving him into the wilderness, and certainly none hears the voice from heaven pronouncing his identity. The only characters in Mark’s gospel who know who Jesus really is are God and the demons. Only Jesus (and the reader) sees the heavens parting and only Jesus hears the voice (Mark 1:9-11).

His public entrance comes only after the curtain falls on John’s opening act. From then on people begin to ask, Who and what is this? People begin to talk about him far and wide.

And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Mark 1:27-28

And ditto throughout chapters 2, 3, 5, 6 . . . .

Some say he his Elijah, and some John the Baptist. Following a chapter by Norman R. Petersen in Randal Argall’s For a later generation : the transformation of tradition in Israel, early Judaism, and early Christianity, “Elijah, the Son of God, and Jesus: Some Issues in the Anthropology of Characterization in Mark“, anyone familiar with the popular literature and mythical memes of the day would be reminded here of divine beings coming down to act among mortals by appearing in the bodies of known people.

But I am not completely comfortable with many of the examples Petersen brings in to testify in support of his argument. It is not always clear that pagan gods and goddesses actually inhabited the persons of existing humans or simply assumed their form and appeared ‘as’ those people, leaving the readers to wonder if the real persons were off on an extended visit to a distant relative throughout the narrative. Admittedly there are times, no doubt, when the portrayal of a divinity as a known human is so extended that a reader is compelled to at least play with the idea that the deity is actually inhabiting the body of the physical person. Such a case is when an audience needs regular reminding that the friend of Odysseus and guardian of his son Telemachus, Mentor, is in fact the goddess Athena. (For a complete list of actions Athena enacted as these mortals see http://messagenetcommresearch.com/myths/bios/athene.html and search for “Mentes” and “Mentor”.)

Petersen also cites Zeus and Hermes (Jupiter and Mercury) appearing in human form to the pious Philemon and Baucus, the apparent model for the belief that Barnabas and Paul were the human forms of these gods (Acts 14:8-19).

(Both these tales are of interest to anyone familiar with the biblical narratives where Jesus instructs his disciples to trust in divine guidance when they speak before notables, the visit of the two angels to Lot in Sodom and subsequent destruction of the city and rescuing of the godly, and the miracles of food supply (wine or oil or other) not running out when poured. These sorts of anecdotes appear in the pagan narratives as well as the biblical.)

Think also of the popular Jewish story of Tobit when the angel Raphael comes down and inhabits Azarias, a member of Tobit’s extended family. But again it is not clear to me from Tobit whether Azarias was real physical person inhabited by Raphael, or if Raphael simply pretended he was and lied to Tobit to get away with the well-intentioned trick.

Note also, says Petersen, the many later Jewish legends of Elijah inhabiting a range of known persons on earth, such as Rabbi Hayyah. But the same doubts continue with this example, too. The story strongly suggests to me that Elijah took the form of the rabbi when the real rabbi was off-stage taking a nap or whatever.

Back to Mark.

Elijah, angelic possessor of John or conceptual fulfilment of texts?

Mark makes it clear that Elijah came in John the Baptist. When Jesus says that

Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him. (Mark 9:13)

sophisticated modern readers like to interpret that as meaning John fulfilled the prophecies about Elijah. But that is not necessarily how Mark’s original first century Mediterranean audience understood it.

When modern readers note Mark’s description of John wearing a hairy garment they readily take this as the author’s way of hinting with a nudge nudge, wink wink that John was acting out the role of Elijah.

But as Petersen points out, this interpretation ignores the fact that Elijah has an independent separate existence in the gospel, quite apart from John. After John is dead Elijah appears in his own right at the transfiguration of Jesus. It is then, after narrative characters and audience are introduced to the “real Elijah” come down from heaven to talk with Jesus. In Mark this is not an ethereal vision. That hallucinatory idea is only introduced by Matthew who was re-rewriting much of Mark’s views of the nature of Jesus and character of the disciples. In Mark, the disciples saw Elijah talking with Jesus at a moment when God attempted to reveal the true identity of “Who Is This” to them. Jesus then tells them that the Elijah they had just seen had already appeared to them in the form or person of John the Baptist.

Had Elijah in fact been literally sent, as promised in Malachi and as reaffirmed in Mark 1:1 (“Behold, I send my messenger before your face who will prepare your way before you.”), to prepare the way ahead of the Son of God? The word for “messenger” here is generally taken to be one of the rare exceptions where the word that normally at this time indicated an “angel” switches over to refer to a human messenger. But every other place where Mark uses this word (albeit in the plural – 1:13, 8:38, 12:25, 13:27, 13:32) he clearly means a heavenly angel. Not a human like John.

The original passage from which Mark quoted, Malachi 3:1, directly explains that this messenger is to be the literal Elijah (4:5) who had been translated to heaven to live as an angelic type many years earlier.

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me, . . . . Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet . . .

Maybe an original reader would have seen in John’s hairy clothing and wilderness dwelling some literary artifice to make him think, “Ah ha, what is the author trying to convey here?” but rather, would he be likely to see mysterious signs that indicated the very real presence of Elijah in this person?

If so, the literal appearance of Elijah in his own right coming after John’s demise significantly reinforces the message that he had delivered through John — that one should see in Jesus another, none other than the Son of God.

Spirit possession is spirit possession, whether Holy or Unclean

Think of Jesus’ reply when he is accused of casting out demons by the prince of demons. He is accused of being possessed by Beelzebul just as the exorcised had been possessed by demons. But Mark tells us that it is not the Evil Spirit that has possessed him, but the Holy Spirit.

The significant point here is that the Evil/Holy Spirit is said to be possessing or inhabiting Jesus in the same sense as the demons are possessing their hapless victims.

They said, He is out of his mind. And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, He has Beelzebub, and By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons. So He called them to him and said . . . He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness. . . because they said, He has an unclean spirit. (Mark 3:21-30)

This meaning (that the Holy Spirit is what possesses Jesus, not the Unclean Spirit) is supported by Jesus’ verbal exchanges with demons in possession of humans. When Jesus talks to them as inhabitants/possessors of people’s bodies, the same demons reply as if in kind to identify who is really talking to them — it is not Jesus, but the Son of God. Not the Son of Man, but the Son of God. Not the visible human Jesus, but the being or spirit that possessed him at baptism and drove the mortal Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 1:9-12).

And immediately, coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending into [= eis: not epi (upon) as in Matthew] him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, You [The Spirit that has just fallen from heaven and entered and become one with Jesus?] are my beloved Son . . . And immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. (Mark 1:9-12)

The fact that the spirit “drives” Jesus into the wilderness supports the image of the Spirit from God entering “into” and possessing Jesus just as demons could enter people and possess them.

With this narrative of Jesus being possessed by a Spirit from heaven, something interesting happens when we read about the exorcisms.

A mysterious conversation happens when Jesus meets people possessed by demons. Bystanders see a human possessed. Jesus is seen (only by the narrator and reader?) talking directly to the demon inside the person. The demon replies that it knows who is talking to it — the Son of God. See Mark 1:21-25. Jesus then tells the demon to be quiet and leave the body it is inhabiting.

It is as if we are reading about some sort of power struggle between two spirit beings who are half-hidden by the flesh they each inhabit.

They saw only Jesus with themselves

The famous transfiguration scene has Jesus taking Peter, James and John up to a high mountain. There these three disciples are kept on the outer as they see Jesus socializing with the angelic Elijah and Moses. God comes down to join this elite and booms out to the disciples that the one who has been accompanying them has been none other than his very own Son.

But then when the cloud lifts and Elijah and Moses disappear, Mark, poignant with irony or the theme of misidentification once again, says that the disciples

looked around, [and] they saw no one any more, but only Jesus with themselves. (Mark 8:8)

No-one here any more. Only Jesus is left here with us.

I don’t know how much this interpretation depends upon the nuances of the English translation. So I’m not staking a case on it. But it does appear an interesting possibility. This is another possible case where the disciples can only see “the son of man”. Not the Son of God who is actually possessing that particular “son of man”.

Son of God fuses with the Son of Man

The Son of Man, Jesus assured his disciples, would appear again, from heaven, after being crucified (Mark 10:33-34, 13:26). After the crucifixion, this son of man’s body went AWOL.

But when on trial Jesus was asked, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? (14:61) Son of Blessed is a Jewish circumlocution for Son of God. Jesus replied, I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power . . .”

This surely is a scene where the Son of God inhabiting Jesus is talking to the high priest just as formerly this Son spoke to demons. “I am the Son of the Blessed”, he says. “And you will see the Son of Man” — third person — he says.

Jesus had earlier informed his disciples that the transfiguration bore some relationship to the resurrection, a notion incomprehensible to the disciples at the time. The transfiguration was the appearance of the Son of God who was in Jesus. This was not to be proclaimed till after the resurrection (Mark 9:9).

Elijah left John when Herod had his head chopped off. Elijah appeared in his own original form after John’s demise.

The Son of Man will in the future be revealed as the physical form of the Son of God who inhabited Jesus at his baptism. Until the resurrection, this was only demonstrated to the disciples at his transfiguration, an event they could not at the time comprehend.

If there was an original longer ending of Mark, was it removed early by the “proto-orthodox” because it clarified this very unorthodox idea of the originally two separate natures of the man Jesus and the Spirit Son too directly?

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60 Comments

  • Dennis Diehl
    2009-11-27 21:21:50 UTC - 21:21 | Permalink

    Excellent article.

    “If there was an original longer ending of Mark, was it removed early by the “proto-orthodox” because it clarified this very unorthodox idea of the originally two separate natures of the man Jesus and the Spirit Son too directly?”

    Perhaps? http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-Does-the-Gospel-of-Mark-Have-No-Positive-Ending-and-John-Has-Two?&id=180730

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  • 2009-11-28 22:31:21 UTC - 22:31 | Permalink

    But why would Mark place this nobody in a town called Nazareth – a no place town? 🙂

    Don’t forget that at the crucifixion Jesus said he had been forsaken. Presumably literally.

    • 2009-11-29 15:48:17 UTC - 15:48 | Permalink

      You’ve made the comment about Nazareth before and I confess I don’t understand it.

      Nazareth is as much an anachronism as Pharisees and synagogues in pre-70 c.e. Galilee. Pharisees and synagogues did not seem to be a feature of Galilean life until after the devastation of Judea. Nazareth does not appear in the archaeological record till after 70, either.

      We only have a problem if Mark really was written around the 40’s as some claim, and that its reference to Nazareth is clearly original to the text. I had long thought that the arguments against it being original to the text were widely known. But whether original or not is not an issue if Mark was written some time after the fall of Jerusalem.

      • 2009-11-30 11:10:26 UTC - 11:10 | Permalink

        Not “anomaly”, but “anachronism”. Jet lagged or dying brain cells. Fixed now.

    • 2009-11-29 16:05:14 UTC - 16:05 | Permalink

      The forsaken theme on the cross may be further support for the “adoptionist” type argument. But I’m not sure in what sense.

      Some early Christians were said to have believed the Spirit left Jesus at his crucifixion.

      One might possibly interpret the cry as that of a spirit’s torment on the cross comparable to cries of torment (expectant) of demons when facing the Son of God in Jesus earlier.

      Either way or some other way, Jesus is said to have been resurrected and presumably the Son of Man and the Son of God have become one from this time.

      • 2009-12-03 21:14:32 UTC - 21:14 | Permalink

        The “anthropology” of Jesus in Norman Petersen’s argument is more accurately a reflection of “separationism”, not “adoptionism”, I have since been reminded. Separation: two separate beings, one human and the other divine; adoptionism: adopting a super righteous person to be the son.

  • AggieAtheist
    2009-11-29 04:47:48 UTC - 04:47 | Permalink

    Hmmmm, as an examination of the narrative, this is an interesting take. However, the “Jesus didn’t get the Holy Spirit until the baptism” theology is pretty much a direct lift from the WCG teachings, isn’t it Neil?

    I’m interested in if you’ve tried to examine the narrative from the “traditionally” accepted Christian take on it, that “the holy spirit” was somehow inherent in the child from the beginning, as supported by Emmanuel, the prophetess at the temple, and the John-and-Jesus-in-the-womb allegories.

    Of course, there are verses upon verses that can be used to support either theology. The one consistent thing within the Bible is that it can be and has been used to support whatever the person reading it, wants it to say. You seem to still be viewing the canonical texts as some kind of a “whole” narrative, when in reality they aren’t, and are very disparate in both provenance, and authenticity.

    Then there’s the whole argument of how the jigsaw piece of the bad ol’ King James fits into the whole corpus of Middle Eastern texts at the time, including both, for instance, the Gnostic and Valentinian texts, as well as the Platonic ones, or even with Celsus’ “On Doctrine” by way of comparison!

    Not that I’m saying you’re blinkered, maybe the narrow approach is what serves you best, in figuring out what it all means. If so, more power to you. But do re-examine the starting-point of where you’ve entered the narrative here, it looks like you may still be approaching it from an odd angle. JMO and food for thought.

    And yes, I agree with the poster above, the fact that Nazareth did not exist, is just one more uncomfortable fact that adds to the ever-growing suspicion that the “civilized” Western world may just be held in thrall to two-thousand-year-old Middle Eastern pot-boilers…… 😉

    • 2009-11-29 16:22:21 UTC - 16:22 | Permalink

      WCG teaching in my days was the orthodox one that Jesus was the pre-existent Logos with God. I think they might have taught he beome a “son” at baptism, but I can’t recall for sure now. The argument I have expressed here is sourced to Normal R. Petersen, and it does not say Jesus became the Son at baptism but that the Son entered and possessed Jesus at that time in the same way demons entered and possessed their hapless victims.

      My take on Mark is to attempt to understand it quite apart from the later gospels. It is a mistake to attempt to read back into Mark the views of the later evangelists. To understand Mark it makes more sense to try to understand it on its own terms, and not through the lense of later gospels promoting different views of Jesus, the disciples etc.

      I see no reason in Mark to think that he had any concept of a pre-existent or divinely conceived Jesus. Mark, I think, wrote something akin to a theological allegory. Later evangelists rewrote Mark to make it read more like real history, while at the same time imposing “proto-orthodox” theological constructs of Jesus and the disciples upon it.

      A common view of Mark is that it is a patchwork of variant traditions etc. But in the last few decades some scholars have attemtped a literary analysis of Mark in its own right, apart from and alongside source critical theories, and have seen in Mark a very sophistocated literary achievement that his apparently crude Greek belies. One scholar at least (MacDonald, I think, and priobably more) has even suggested that the author consciously cultivated a crude idiomatic style for his thematic and rhetorical effect. Not unlike Mark Twain in America (Huckleberry Finn) or C. J. Dennis in Australia (Sentimental Bloke).

      The literary approach has owed much to the works of Kelber, Fowler, Tolbert, MacDonald, Kermode, et al

  • AggieAtheist
    2009-11-30 03:32:10 UTC - 03:32 | Permalink

    “WCG teaching in my days was the orthodox one that Jesus was the pre-existent Logos with God. I think they might have taught he beome a “son” at baptism, but I can’t recall for sure now.”

    Could be we’re from different church eras. They taught that Christ was the pre-existent Logos when I was in, too, but didn’t receive the Holy Spirit (which was ruach hakodesh, a force or power, NOT the Christrian split-personality version LOL), until the baptism.

    “The argument I have expressed here is sourced to Normal R. Petersen, and it does not say Jesus became the Son at baptism but that the Son entered and possessed Jesus at that time in the same way demons entered and possessed their hapless victims.”

    Ahhh I got it now, I didn’t get that, must not have read it through carefully enough. Many apologies! That’s a fascinating theodicy though. Consistent with Middle Eastern concepts of human consciousness at the time, do you think?

    “My take on Mark is to attempt to understand it quite apart from the later gospels.”

    Absolutely agreed, but I’ve never been one, since I exited the church, for “reading inside the lines” of the standard Christian canon, anyway. 🙂

    Thanks for the further information on Mark. Now that I know it can be interpreted as an allegory, maybe it’s time I leafed through it again. The NRSV iteration, at least. Given the Petersen exegesis you presented above, it sounds like it might just be a cracking good story after all!

    • 2009-11-30 13:54:57 UTC - 13:54 | Permalink

      Same WCG teaching. But it was always something of a mystery, really. How could a pre-existing Logos and God-head really also be so totally human, and struggling on an equal playing field with us to prove it was possible to live a perfect life with will power (prayer and fasting and prayer to sweating blood degrees etc) and faith and power of holy spirit? It took me a couple of responses from you to remind me of it. It really is a guilt-hit idea. Once you believe the heavenly Logos was just as human and frail as you are and ‘made it’, then what’s wrong with you if you can’t do the same!? I like Norman Petersen’s idea better: much easier to be possessed and have no more personal responsibilty at all, just be taken over and strap down and enjoy the ride.

      Are mid-eastern concepts of consciousness and time really all that different from anyone elses? Sounds like you’ve read more about that than I have.

      • 2009-12-14 00:10:49 UTC - 00:10 | Permalink

        “It really is a guilt-hit idea. Once you believe the heavenly Logos was just as human and frail as you are and ‘made it’, then what’s wrong with you if you can’t do the same!?”

        Yep, that’s exactly what I remember all those sermons preaching…..

        “I like Norman Petersen’s idea better: much easier to be possessed and have no more personal responsibilty at all, just be taken over and strap down and enjoy the ride.”

        LOL maybe Petersen was watching too much Supernatural? That’s the general theme the (fictional) TV show has behind possession of mortal “vessels” by angels and demons…..

        “Are mid-eastern concepts of consciousness and time really all that different from anyone elses? Sounds like you’ve read more about that than I have.”

        I’ve read mostly Gnostic and Hermetic texts, and only a small sliver of those, at that. I haven’t made my way through the entire Gnostic Bible yet, but then I’m not tied to a rigourous “one hour of prayer and study” every day anymore either.

        I think the Middle Eastern contemplatives concepts of consciousness and time were different from the average “workaday world” joe on the street (so to speak), which was likely why they were burned at the stake to begin with…..The non-linear consciousness does seem to be a recurring theme throughout contemplative orders, and fortunately is one that’s reproducible by everyone.

        I think the point is, not everyone feels the need or desire to reproduce it, maybe because they either unconsciously live in that mental space already, or because they don’t derive any benefit from it.

        But, yeah, there is a large amount of crossover, between the contemplative religions I’ve done comparative research on (Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Quakerism, and a little tiny smattering of Buddhism), in the idea that meditation can get you somehow “out of the Matrix”. Which, subjectively, it does.

        Whether or not that subjective experience is useful, harmful, or needful for every person to experience, well that’s the mysterious question, isn’t it? As long as it’s not used as a crutch, or as a legalistic restriction, or to promote a sense of superiority amongst those who practice it, it can be useful on an individual basis, IMO. When it goes corporate, is when things get pear-shaped, unfortunately.

        Thanks for letting me ramble, I hope I’ve answered your question sufficiently. 🙂

  • 2009-11-30 00:29:13 UTC - 00:29 | Permalink

    Another excellent post. I have an archived Thread at FRDB:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thearchives/showthread.php?t=190935

    “WhoSonfirst? Anti-Separationist Corruption In The First Gospel”

    where I discuss “Mark’s” Separationist theology. I think “Mark’s” Good spirit/Bad spirit diechotomy is patterned after 1 Samuel 16 which I discuss here:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thearchives/showpost.php?p=4033752&postcount=1

    “1 Samuel 16:12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look upon. And Jehovah said, Arise, anoint him; for this is he.

    1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

    1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him.”

    Note the irony here that the good spirit departs from Saul when it imparts David and a bad spirit replaces the good spirit in Saul. The story ends with the extreme irony that only David, with the good spirit, is able to exorcise the bad spirit from Saul (with the Harp = sound of Angels).

    Ehrman points out here:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thearchives/showpost.php?p=4035273&postcount=3

    that for 1:10 earlier witness has “unto/into” while later witness has “upon”. Metzger, to his discredit, does not even list this as a textual variation and I have not seen any textual criticism book do so (my observation). So much for the Apologist son of mantra that there is no textual variation which effects any significant Christian doctrine.

    You seem unaware “Mark” also has the Separationist support on the other side:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thearchives/showpost.php?p=4047896&postcount=5

    The proper translation of Mark 15:34 is “left behind” (gives the book title a holy different meaning) and not “forsaken me”. The Gospels of Philip and Peter support this meaning and later manuscripts of “Mark” were edited to avoid it.

    Note than the nice contrasting BALANCE of “Mark’s” structure at the start and end. Prologue, with Messenger that everyone listened to and arrival of Good spirit. Departure of good spirit and Epilogue of Messenger that no one listened to. No Neil, I think 16:8 is right where it is supposed to be.

    This Style is a long way from having an illiterate fisherman as a source.

    Joseph

  • 2009-11-30 23:10:58 UTC - 23:10 | Permalink

    Another great post Neil. I’ve created a Thread at FRDB to discuss it:

    http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=279245
    (Who’SonFirst? “Mark” as Separationist. Sept Rating = “M” for Messianic Audiences)

    In my related archived Thread at FRDB:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thearchives/showthread.php?t=190935
    (WhoSonfirst? Anti-Separationist Corruption In The First Gospel)

    I also point out “Mark’s” Separationist theology at the end of the Gospel:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thearchives/showpost.php?p=4047896&postcount=5

    “Ehrman points out that the word ἐγκατέλιπές, which is commonly translated in Christian Bibles as “forsaken”, has a more literal meaning of “left behind” (gives the “Left Behind” trilogy a holey new meaning) and explains that the Gnostics took this as solid evidence that Jesus and Christ were two separate entities. As further support Ehrman Lets The Reader Understand that:

    1) The Gospel of Philip adds:

    “It was on the cross that he said these words , for it was there that he was divided.”

    2) The Gospel of Peter sez:

    “My power, O power, you have left me.”

    3) Irenaeus of Lyons (yes, “lyons”) confesses to us that the Valentinians used the verse to show that Jesus on the cross mirrored The Tragedy of the Divine realm where Sophia was Separated from the Pleroma (Doherty, look out!).

    4) And here’s something for our Reverent friend (used in a mob sense) Jeffrey Gibson whose name mysteriously ἐγκατέλιπές in Ehrman’s inventory of hundreds of mainstream Christian Bible scholars. Ehrman says:
    “Previous investigators have failed to recognize how this controversy over the meaning of Jesus’ last words in Mark relates to the famous textual problems of the verse.”

    Ehrman points out that in significant elements of the Western text the Corruption:

    “My God, my God, why have you reviled me?”

    exists.”

    And so “Mark” has carefully placed (so to speak) God’s spirit coming into Jesus at the Baptism and departing Jesus at the crucifixion. The parallel in the Jewish Bible is:

    http://www.freeratio.org/thearchives/showpost.php?p=4033752&postcount=1


    1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

    1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him.

    Note the ironic contrasting balanced style at the end of this story:

    “1 Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the [evil] spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took the harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”

    Only the Good spirit can exorcise the Bad spirit with the sound of Angels.

    Joseph

    • 2009-12-29 11:01:35 UTC - 11:01 | Permalink

      Thanks for the comment re 1 Samuel. Looks interesting.

      I’m trying to recall where I recently read the suggestion that Mark did not omit a birth story of the Son of God at all, but the baptism was that “birth” story. It was the later evangelists who misunderstood or rejected this meaning and opted for the other kind of nativity narrative.

      Yes, I’ve been aware of the ending where the spirit leaves him, and have discussed this in other contexts, I think. I have shied away from it in here because I have not been able to figure out how it fits in with the resurrection of the body. I need to think through more carefully Peterson’s suggestion here.

      Thanks for the FRBD links. Will have to do more serious reading over there.

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  • dods
    2009-12-08 16:31:56 UTC - 16:31 | Permalink

    Well, I’m a bit late to this discussion , but I thought I’d throw this in regarding NAZARETH, NAZARENE / NETSER. Does anyone think Mark may have been alluding to Isaiah 11:1? “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch (Heb. netser) from his roots will bear fruit.” Perhaps Mark meant Jesus was from the Tree of Jesse, not the village of Nazareth. This might explain why Matthew and Luke decided to fill in the gap about Jesus’ past.

    • 2009-12-08 19:47:45 UTC - 19:47 | Permalink

      Never too late on a blog.

      A common argument against Nazareth being original to Mark is that Matthew, who copies this passage from Mark, omits the Nazareth reference. It is reasoned that this suggests Nazareth was not in Matthew’s copy of Mark. Was Nazareth a later insertion into Mark? Mark later curiously refers to the “home country” of Jesus without assigning it a name.

      Mark 1:9
      It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

      Matthew 3:13
      Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

      I think some have suggested that the Isa.11:1 word is Matthew’s source, though.

  • Josiah
    2011-05-20 14:28:04 UTC - 14:28 | Permalink

    If Mark thought Jesus was the son of Joseph, why did he begin his gospel with the words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”?

    • 2011-05-20 14:42:18 UTC - 14:42 | Permalink

      He didn’t.

    • 2011-05-20 21:37:40 UTC - 21:37 | Permalink

      The manuscript evidence indicates “Son of God” in 1:1 was not in earliest transcriptions of the gospel. But the idea is surely there in the gospel nonetheless.

      • Josiah
        2011-05-23 07:34:53 UTC - 07:34 | Permalink

        “transcription evidence” – boil this down for a layman. Are we talking about higher or lower criticism?

        • 2011-05-23 08:04:24 UTC - 08:04 | Permalink

          We’re talking about textual criticism. Many of the oldest mss omit son of God in 1:1, so the conclusion by people like Metzger is that it was added later. In other words, it’s hard to imagine a scribe accidentally or deliberately dropping it, but easy to imagine later scribes adding to it out of piety or reflex.

          Mark certainly thought Jesus was the “Son of God,” but it’s something that’s revealed slowly — first the voice from heaven speaks to Jesus (“You are my son”), then the demons blurt it out (but are told to shut up), then Peter (trans-)figures it out (and is told to be quiet). Finally, the centurion affirms it at Golgotha. Of course, we readers have “known” all along, but Mark has kept us in suspense. Why can’t everybody see that he’s the Christos, the Son of God?!

  • Josiah
    2011-05-23 13:59:01 UTC - 13:59 | Permalink

    Okay, I can see that. I just did some work on Mark, so I know what you mean about him gradually revealing like that. I’m just a little confused now, though. I though everyone here was saying that Mark believes Jesus is just an ordinary Joe who later gets “possessed” by the God-spirit. So, if he is the “son of God” according to Mark, that doesn’t really fit the theory, does it? (unless the demon-possessed people were “sons of Satan” – since the relationship would seem to be synonymous)

    Not challenging, just wanting to understand your perspective.

    • 2011-05-23 15:32:54 UTC - 15:32 | Permalink

      I think what you’re referring to is this notion unique to Mark of the Spirit appearing as a dove, “descending into him” (καταβαῖνον εἰς αὐτόν). Matthew and Luke say instead that the dove either descended or alighted “upon him” (ἐρχόμενον ἐπ’ αὐτόν).

      The theory goes that Paul believed that Jesus became the Son of God when he ascended and took the throne of heaven. Mark believed that Jesus became the Son of God when he was chosen a the baptism. Matthew and Luke, a his conception or birth. Finally, in the John’s Gospel we have the first notion of a preexistent, divine emanation — the Word of God who was present at creation and who entered the world to save it.

      In a nutshell, that’s the theory of rising Christology. Personally, I’m becoming more and more drawn to Margaret Barker’s idea of Jesus being a theophany of Yahweh, who is the son of El Elyon. Recall the demon who says he knows who Jesus is, the “Son of the Most High God” — i.e., El Elyon. This would also fit in with Paul’s use of God the Father and Jesus as Lord (Adonai/Yahweh). It also explains why NT authors, completely familiar with the Septuagint, were continually blurring the line between Adonai (Yahweh) and the Lord Jesus. It was intentional.

    • 2011-05-23 15:45:02 UTC - 15:45 | Permalink

      Josiah: “I thought everyone here was saying…”

      We don’t speak with one voice. Even if I happen to argue for pretty strenuously for various ideas from time to time, I’m open to other perspectives. As far as I know, Vridar is still a doctrine-free zone.

      Anyhow, it’s a million-piece jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing, so it’s an act of hubris to pretend we’re 100 percent certain about anything.

    • 2011-05-23 19:05:42 UTC - 19:05 | Permalink

      As Tim said, we don’t speak with one voice here and you will find I contradict myself over time with different posts, too. I prefer to post on authors I find interesting or worth challenging or sharing — they will have different perspectives. There are many things about the New Testament that I simply do not know, and I can see what I consider plausible arguments this way or that.

      My favourite Gospel might be the Gospel of Mark but that’s only because I have far more questions about it than answers. I was once asked by an editor of a scholarly biblical journal to present my arguments on the Markan ending into an article to be tested in the scholarly arena, but the main reason I ended up not taking up that offer was that every time I prepared an argument in one direction I could anticipate an alternative argument — I had to confess I am not in a position (unlike some scholars, it seems) to argue for anything definitive on some aspects of the early Christian evidence.

  • Josiah
    2011-05-24 01:22:51 UTC - 01:22 | Permalink

    I am a traditional, orthodox evangelical. Obviously, I am out of my ordinary habitat here. I find the discussions fascinating, though, and since you all have been so kind to help me understand yourselves, I am grateful to learn.

    I have a question which may be too personal to answer? If you don’t mind my asking, what are some of the religious persuasions in the room? Naturalist, pantheist, historic/Christian, agnostic, atheist…? I am just curious where people are coming from.

    • 2011-05-24 09:37:54 UTC - 09:37 | Permalink

      The question is not “too personal” but irrelevant. I have no idea of such views of most people with whom I discuss things. On the other hand, there are some who indicate they do not believe in god/s, like me, yet I will disagree strongly with some of the views they express, while there are others who appear to be Christians yet whom I find have a lot of value to contribute to my understanding of the evidence. I have quoted arguments and favourably discussed works of Christians and Buddhists and atheists and who-knows-what alike. All that matters in my books is that we agree on common ground for discussion, and that is abiding by the rules of reason and evidence.

      • Josiah
        2011-05-24 14:41:27 UTC - 14:41 | Permalink

        I am having a hard time understanding your reply. I would think that our basic, axiomatic beliefs (on theism) would be the foundation of the more speculative views we would gather on topics like this supposed record of miraculous events.

        For example, let us consider Mark’s account of Jesus walking on the water. Likely, if you were to study this, you would ask questions like, “who invented this story, why, where did they borrow information from, what were they trying to prove, how was this story later redacted to fit within the narrative of Mark,” etc. This is based upon your presupposition, or axiom, or basic belief that miracles don’t happen, right? (Did I understand you correctly, that you are an atheist?)

        For my own part, however, I would say, “well, that is nice, but all of your ideas and research are basically irrelevant to me. I believe that Jesus was God and, as God, it was fully within His powers to literally walk on water. How this story fits into the overall narrative of Mark is interesting (and I could probably borrow some of your research here) but I am approaching the evidence from a completely different angle, since I believe that Mark’s account is based upon FACT, while you believe it is based upon (and is) fiction.

        Do you see what I mean? Far from inconsequential, one’s religious beliefs seem to be THE MOST important issue in cases like this which are necessarily subjective.

        Of course, in lower criticism, which are within the realm of objective science, religious and non-religious peoples will approach the evidence on equal footing.

        • 2011-05-24 14:46:04 UTC - 14:46 | Permalink
          • Josiah
            2011-05-25 13:58:04 UTC - 13:58 | Permalink

            “all the possibilities, including the possibility that it was allegorical”

            Are you open to the possibility that it was literal? It seems to me that “the two paths diverge in a wood” at this juncture. Naturalism or supernaturalism – there doesn’t seem to be a way to choose both.

            • 2011-05-25 15:51:46 UTC - 15:51 | Permalink

              For it to be literally true, many thorny issues would have to be resolved. And since the consequences of its literal truth would have extraordinary ramifications (after all, they’re extraordinary claims), acceptance would require extraordinary evidence.

              Are you saying it’s an all-or-nothing proposition? I ask, because many people take the Bible as part allegory and part fact. Actually, I would argue that all apologists have to treat some parts of the Bible allegorically in order to avoid contradictions.

              In fact, I recently heard Dr. Robert M. Price say in one of his recent podcasts that scholars who follow the historical-critical method actually do take the text literally — all of it. They may not believe that it’s true, but they’re willing to let each author from each source have his say without trying to harmonize it with the rest of the Bible. It think that’s an astute observation.

              • Josiah
                2011-05-30 13:49:19 UTC - 13:49 | Permalink

                There are parts of the Bible which are MEANT to be taken allegorically. I think I mostly agree with the historical-critical method, but I don’t follow the methodology of some, who seem to think that the only way to be a “solid” bible-scholar is to take everything “literally.”

                To take a figure of speech “literally” is not to understand more fully, but to distort the meaning.

                However, don’t take me to mean (as many do) that just because some things are metaphors, we can make them say anything we want. God is effective at communicating truth in a variety of means, including poetry, allegory, etc.

          • Josiah
            2011-05-25 14:20:09 UTC - 14:20 | Permalink

            Hi, I replied under that post. I think I will move most of my discussions there, since the topic I raise is more in line with that post, and the threads are getting crowded/confusing here.

        • 2011-05-24 16:49:48 UTC - 16:49 | Permalink

          The holy scriptures of many religions contain stories of miracles. Which ones should we believe? I suspect that you and I would approach all other claims of the supernatural with the same degree of skepticism. That is, for everything but canonical Christian literature, we likely have exactly the same presuppositions.

          Most mainstream historians will say they don’t have direct access, and can only reconstruct a story of what probably happened. Many scholars will tell you that they don’t disregard miracles outright, but since by definition it’s the least likely answer (or it wouldn’t be a miracle), how can we know?

          Since you know beforehand that Mark is reporting fact, that it’s all true, and that God can suspend the laws of physics, then you might get a little bored around here. We like to look at all the possibilities, including the idea that the entire work was meant to be allegorical.

          • 2011-05-24 17:37:45 UTC - 17:37 | Permalink

            Or we could be just as irrational and reply to all faith-based arguments, with Dennett (as in the post I link to), that “What you say implies that God is a ham sandwich wrapped in tinfoil. That’s not much of a God to worship!”

        • Steven Carr
          2011-05-24 17:40:37 UTC - 17:40 | Permalink

          ‘I believe that Jesus was God and, as God, it was fully within His powers to literally walk on water.’

          How did you know that before you read Mark’s Gospel?

          Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe it would be a miracle if God revealed scripture to Muhammad?

          Or do you reject miracles that you were not told about by your Sunday School teacher?

          • Josiah
            2011-05-25 13:56:21 UTC - 13:56 | Permalink

            I believe in miracles, and the supernatural. I believe there are good and malicious forces and personalities (yes, angels, God and demons/satan) behind every religion. Every holy book gives access to either God or “the other side.”

            How do I decide what to believe? I believe the “spirits” whom I trust. How do I know which to trust? It is an entirely relational and subjective matter.

            How would you learn to trust me, or what would make you come to distrust me?

            Although pastors, sunday-school teachers, professors and friends have been helpful, the Bible and my own spiritual relationship with Jesus have always been the primary determining factor in my belief system. I made my faith my own at a young age, when I began voraciously reading the Bible for myself. In its pages I met Jesus, and He has never abandoned me to this day.

  • terminator
    2011-05-24 03:31:43 UTC - 03:31 | Permalink

    digression

    if jesus was stoned to death by the jewish people, how did stoning to death of jesus morph into a public crucifixion?

  • terminator
    2011-05-24 03:40:24 UTC - 03:40 | Permalink

    i heard r carrier lecture on you tube.

    jewish judges astonished by peters claim that the jews killed jesus. the judges dismissed it as the ramblings of an illiterate commoner.court found no grounds to punish him and let peter go.

    this doesn’t make sense. did the jews suffer from amnesia? how did they forget about the jewish leaders who turned crowds against jesus in 2 days? how did they forget that they’re people cried out “crucify him”? maybe what we find in the gospel accounts is fiction created by christian europeans who really hated jews?

  • terminator
    2011-05-24 20:09:14 UTC - 20:09 | Permalink

    josiah, can you asnwer the question i asked ?

    jewish judges astonished by peters claim that the jews killed jesus. the judges dismissed it as the ramblings of an illiterate commoner.court found no grounds to punish him and let peter go.

    this doesn’t make sense. did the jews suffer from amnesia? how did they forget about the jewish leaders who turned crowds against jesus in 2 days? how did they forget that they’re people cried out “crucify him”? maybe what we find in the gospel accounts is fiction created by christian europeans who really hated jews?

    • Josiah
      2011-05-25 01:35:44 UTC - 01:35 | Permalink

      Hi, I’m a little lost. Sorry – I skimmed the post and read the first of the comments. What research or document are you referring to? I have never heard of Jesus as being stoned, nor have I heard of some supposed trial with Peter…?

      Admittedly, I am an impertinent and rude house-guest. I am stumbling in on a discussion and rather than listening to and contributing to the discussion, I am asking questions of my own. I have very bad manners, I admit! However, I would be happy to take a look at your evidence and answer the questions you are posing, if you would link me over to it.

  • Josiah
    2011-05-25 01:32:13 UTC - 01:32 | Permalink

    Hi! Thanks for the comments and resources! I intend to do some reading and get back to you with more cogent answers. But just in brief: the difference between us is not that I believe “before hand” that Jesus walked on water, or whatever. The difference is that I believe such things are POSSIBLE, while you DO NOT believe they are possible. So, for you, the discussion is ended before it began. Jesus did not walk on water or rise from the dead because NOBODY can do that, according to your presuppostions. And no amount of evidence – convincing or not – could convince you otherwise, right?

    …so if the atheist goes to the haunted house, he may conclude that there are no ghosts there. But isn’t this just a conclusion based upon their presuppositons?

    • 2011-05-25 03:39:56 UTC - 03:39 | Permalink

      Do you believe the moon could be cleft in two? Do you believe that Athena could join men on the battlefield to assist warriors from Greece? Do you believe Osiris could be chopped up, then reassembled? Do you believe that Simon Magus could fly over Rome? Probably not.

      So what amount of evidence would would convince you otherwise? Or, better yet, what would that evidence even look like? If I told you that Joseph Smith believed he was martyred for bringing the truth to mankind, would that count as evidence for his claims? If I told you that millions of people believe Mohammed split the moon, would this be hard evidence that it really happened?

      If any 21st-century person goes into a haunted house, he or she may find unexplained phenomena. Why shouldn’t we assume that the phenomena are caused by some natural process that we do not yet understand? When have we ever had to rewrite the science textbooks to add in an some supernatural exception?

      Is the presupposition that all phenomena are natural a good one? I would argue that it is, because it works. If you want to tack on the caveat — “unless proven otherwise” — then I think it’s incumbent upon you to explain how you’d do that. And that takes us back to the nature of evidence and how you can prove miraculous or supernatural claims.

      Josiah: “…the difference between us is not that I believe ‘before hand’ that Jesus walked on water, or whatever.”

      Do you honestly mean that before you read Mark’s gospel, you didn’t believe it? Or am I misreading that statement? At what point did you know that “Mark’s account is based upon FACT,” and what evidence led you to this conclusion?

  • Josiah
    2011-05-25 13:50:10 UTC - 13:50 | Permalink

    Hi, Tim. That’s a great response! You have mixed a presentation of your beliefs with a strong apologetic for adoption of them, while also deconstructing mine. Well done!

    I am not sure I can untangle the rhetoric of your thoughts, or that that would even be helpful. It is obvious that you are a convinced naturalist, and I am a convinced supernaturalist. That will not change when either of us gets up from the keyboard/computer screen. We are like foreigners, briefly meeting on a layover in a distant airport: I think our only rational goal is to try to understand the other with this interaction.

    To that end: You asked whether I believe several supernatural occurrences from other religions are true. The answer to all the above is “no, probably not.” However, I DO believe the miracles of the Bible. Therefore, there is a process of differentiating “true” and “false” supernatural occurances. How do I differentiate the two, you ask?

    Well…this is a good question! It forces me to think about something I do naturally, subconsciously. Good things come from rendering the subconscious conscious! hm…after several attempts to construct a list of criterium, I have to admit that at the end of the day it comes down to this: I believe that the Bible is true. That is my starting point. So events recorded therein I take to be fact. Events recorded in other supposed holy books may or may not recount fact. I compare them against the sorts of things which I have experienced in my life and read in the bible. Some of them may be true, or based upon truth, some may be false. For example, Mohammed splitting the moon seems a little absurd, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that he performed NO miracles in his lifetime. Naturally, I would attribute any supernatural powers empowering him to demons.

    You see now how we are such complete opposites! You believe that truth must be arrived at critically, while I believe that without revelation, the entire process of critical and rational thought would be absurd and impossible.

    You said, “Is the presupposition that all phenomena are natural a good one? I would argue that it is, because it works.” Of course, this is a conclusion based upon the presupposition that miracles do not happen. Therefore the Son of God did not incarnate to die for your sins and (supernaturally) rise again to make a way of salvation for you. In that case, of course, naturallism would not “work” very well, as it would bar you from access to salvation.

    We create the worlds we live in by the presuppositons with which we approach the world.

    • 2011-05-25 15:18:32 UTC - 15:18 | Permalink

      Josiah: “I have to admit that at the end of the day it comes down to this: I believe that the Bible is true. That is my starting point.”

      How far do you take this? Do you think the sun was created on the fourth day, after the plants?

      Josiah: “Therefore the Son of God did not incarnate to die for your sins and (supernaturally) rise again to make a way of salvation for you.”

      In the Gospels, Jesus forgave sins before he died. John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, which Jesus seems to have approved of. Some sects of Judaism rejected the blood sacrifice of the Temple, believing God is omnipotent and merciful, and that he could forgive sins without the shedding of animal blood. Like Jesus, they said people should simply repent and follow the law.

      Why would Jesus’ bloody and painful sacrifice even be necessary? Let me ask you this: When Jesus sent out the Twelve to tell people to repent (Mark 6:12), what was the means of salvation? And did his disciples have to go back out again after the crucifixion and talk to the initial converts about version 2 of the message?

      Josiah: “We create the worlds we live in by the presuppositions with which we approach the world.”

      Yes, but my world can change based on new evidence. Can yours?

      • Josiah
        2011-05-30 14:16:01 UTC - 14:16 | Permalink

        “Yes, but my world can change based on new evidence. Can yours?”

        There are certain bits of information which would ABSOLUTELY change my worldview. For example, solid and undeniable evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or that the Gospels COULD NOT have been written by reputable witnesses.

        The difference between us is not that I am anti-intellectual, but that I choose to “believe until proven false,” while you (I infer) choose to “disbelieve until proven true.” This is a choice, and it’s a deeply personal one.

        Of course, operating WITHIN my set of beliefs, my beliefs on specific topics change all the time according to new evidence presented to me.

        ON A LITERAL CREATION

        I am still working out my beliefs on that one. In brief, I believe that Genesis is a phenomenological retelling of actual events, in the language of the Ancient Near East. So, God really DID create the world, but whether it was literally in six days (or even how you would measure a day without the sun…?) is not clear. God intended the Bible to be a book which spanned not just all the world, but all the TIME-PERIODS of the world. To tie the Bible down to any one cosmology (even if it was the true one) would be to deny access to the message of Salvation to all those who have an incorrect cosmological understanding of the beginnings of the universe. This was not God’s intention: and so He wrapped up the story of His act of Creation (which perhaps looked more like big-bang/evolution – and the addition of “God” to these theories helps fill many gaps) in the language of phenomonology, which is trans-cultural and trans-chronological. No matter who you are or when, you still talk about “the sun rising” and “the stars turning” – even if you know that is not technically correct. I think God’s choice of language in Genesis is eminently wise, and not at all unscientific.

        SALVATION

        You touch on big issues here! In brief, let me say that many people were forgiven their sins in the OT before Jesus’ death. The issue was not the bloody sacrifices, but the repentace. “Burt offerings you have not required/A broken and contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51). However, mere contrition is not enough to restore the broken relationship between God and man. A payment had to be made, and a new and living way needed to be forged. Because of our implication in the sin/line of Adam, all humans are cut off from God and in need of saving. Thus, there was a need for God to make a new, sinless line of salvation, through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5).

        Also, although it is by no means popular, I would also say there was a need for “propitiation.” That is, the wrath of God needed to be satisfied. No human could bear the load of this punishment, and so God provided the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. (e.g. the ram in the thicket, Abraham/Isaac, cf. Is. 53:10, Rom. 3:25, Heb. 2:17, 1 Jn 2:2, 4:10, etc.)

        When Jesus died and rose again, He did a lot of things we do not fully understand, and a few things which we DO (partially) understand. But the basic gist of it all is that by repenting, placing our faith in Him, and living a new life in obedience to Him, we can enter into the new life of the Spirit and have access to God directly through the pathway opened up for us through His Son.

  • Josiah
    2011-05-30 14:20:03 UTC - 14:20 | Permalink

    I am curious of how some in here would critique my recent sermon/seminary entitled Doubting the Skeptics: A Seminar Examining Secular Scholarship on the Origins of Christianity
    I touch on a lot of the issues we are talking about here, and obviously I go into more depth. The conclusion may be especially interesting, as would the sections on Q, and my critiques thereof. Through interactions here, I already know that I shouldn’t have placed so much emphasis on the introduction of Mark’s Gospel, “The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. Are there other points you would critique? I value a dispassionate third opinion, especially one as learned as many in here seem to be.
    http://nolongerbechildren.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/doubting-the-skeptics-a-seminar-examining-secular-scholarship-on-the-origins-of-christianity/

    • 2011-05-30 17:37:48 UTC - 17:37 | Permalink

      I’ve listened to the Stanford course by Sheehan, and while it wasn’t awful, I think Bart Ehrman’s courses from the Teaching Company are much better. See if your library has them. Sheehan sees Jesus as a kind of teacher of wisdom who, as you said in your sermon, happened to end up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Ehrman views Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, which helps explain why he ran afoul of the Caiaphas and Pilate. Today probably more scholars think that Jesus was a failed prophet who was preaching the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God and the Judgment.

      As far as saying that Matthew added in the “Son of God” business, you should know that Son of God does appear in Q. (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/q-funk.html)

      Recall as well that to a practicing Jew of 30 CE, “Son of God” with respect to “Messiah” would have meant the anointed king who was the adopted son of God. “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” –Psalm 2:7.

      There aren’t as many atheist NT scholars as you might suppose. There are liberal Christians who somehow accommodate their beliefs with the historical, human Jesus. Don’t ask me how.

      You said the 18th century when you meant 19th century.

      Regarding the “piece of text written in 125 AD,” if you can get your hands on an article by Brent Nongbri called “The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel,” I think you’d find it very interesting. (See: Harvard Theological Review 98:23-52.)

      I’m not sure what your solution to the synoptic problem is. They way you dispensed with Q and explained away the “missing material” in Mark leads me to believe that you might not understand it. Check out Goodacre’s long-form podcasts (they’re actually classroom recordings) on the Synoptic Problem. Since he doesn’t believe in Q, he’s better at defining the problem in terms that don’t presuppose Q.

      FYI, I’m in the middle of Kloppenborg’s “Q, the Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus.” It’s pretty good.

      If you’re looking for a textbook that summarizes the basics of NT scholarship today I highly recommend Ehrman’s “The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.”

      http://www.amazon.com/New-Testament-Historical-Introduction-Christian/dp/0199740305/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_7

    • 2011-05-30 17:57:11 UTC - 17:57 | Permalink

      The Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) has an iTunes U course available on the Gospels. It’s from an extreme apologetic perspective, so I find it kind of grating, but you might enjoy it. Dr. Cara discusses the liberal positions, but I think he’s far too dismissive oftentimes a bit to scornful. That said, since he speaks from a safe, evangelical, apologetic perspective, you might enjoy it.

      http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=378878548

      • Evan
        2011-05-30 23:47:32 UTC - 23:47 | Permalink

        Tim, I am currently going through Dale Martin’s course on the NT, he is from Yale. Have you listened to that one? I agree with you on Sheehan. He’s great at times, but he does a bit too much “dancing on the head of a pin” verbally for me. His defense of the historical Jesus was fabulous — entirely an appeal to authority.

        • 2011-05-31 03:51:24 UTC - 03:51 | Permalink

          I’ve listened/watched the Yale course, which is pretty good, in that he presents the standard current line. Of course, I think his logic for deciding on historicity is quite suspect. His line of argument for the authenticity of “King of the Jews” on the titulus, for example, just doesn’t bear up under scrutiny.

          I suspect that Sheehan’s course suffers because it was a night school extension class for people who may or may not have been pursuing a degree. Ironically, his approach of “peeling back the onion” holds a lot of promise. It’s just that his presupposition is that there must have been a real Jesus at the core, so he arbitrarily knows when to stop peeling the layers.

          One good thing about both Martin’s and Sheehan’s courses is the background information that’s often missing in other NT intro courses. I’m afraid too many people don’t have a firm understanding of the history of Palestine from the end of the Exile to the destruction of the Temple.

          Currently, I’m slogging through Bauckham’s “The Gospels as History,” also available on iTunes U. I’m not getting much out of it, sadly. His approach is along these lines: Genre X has these attributes. The Gospels also have some of these attributes. Therefore, the Gospels are like genre X. Hence we can make certain deductions, all favorable to the assertion that the Gospels are reliable.

          For example, if the Gospels are like biographies, then we “know” that they must have been based on first- or second-hand interviews with live witnesses. It reminds me of the ontological argument — proving existence by definition.

          • Evan
            2011-05-31 04:17:12 UTC - 04:17 | Permalink

            I’m just at Martin’s Historical Jesus section and yet again, he disappoints. He brings up Bruno Bauer as a reputable historian who doubted Jesus’ existence, but nowhere shows how and why he was wrong. He gives the argument from authority and is done (with a little aside that blogs are crazy and some nutballs on the internet think that Jesus didn’t exist).

            If Bauer was reputable and put forward this thesis, I’d like to know who refuted it reputably.

            • 2011-05-31 05:04:16 UTC - 05:04 | Permalink

              It would be fun to go out drinking one night with some of these NT scholars, and after a several shots ask them, “Really now — off the record — don’t you see it’s just a house of cards?”

              Can you imagine being in a biology course and when the question of Creationism comes up the professor just waves it away, explaining that nobody in academia seriously believes in it? That’s nice, but why?

              • Evan
                2011-05-31 05:43:07 UTC - 05:43 | Permalink

                Martin was very forward in discussing that the problem isn’t the data, but that people will respond to the data in ways that scholars don’t want. This is a sort of shocking admission. Imagine if physicists stopped saying things about physics that were well-known within the discipline because it might affect people badly.

  • Giuseppe
    2014-09-23 14:03:59 UTC - 14:03 | Permalink

    Very good post.

    The argument I have expressed here is sourced to Normal R. Petersen, and it does not say Jesus became the Son at baptism but that the Son entered and possessed Jesus at that time in the same way demons entered and possessed their hapless victims.

    When I listened for the first time the Roger Parvus argument about the original Christian myth in Paul about Son (that the Son switched place with a failed messiah to deceive archons, etc.), I naturally was inclined to misunderstand Roger as saying that ”the Son entered and possessed Jesus at that time in the same way demons entered and possessed their hapless victims.”

    Obiously, this can mean ‘historicity’ only on condition that about that human Jesus (that was posseded from Son) we, and Paul in primis, knew something of significant, beyond the usual fact that he is died and risen. Because otherwise a perfect mr. nobody ‘really existed’ is not the origin of myth, but only a mere corollary of his content. The effect. Not the cause.

  • Giuseppe
    2014-09-25 13:27:57 UTC - 13:27 | Permalink

    I apologize if I write on this old post, but I have to say a suggestive thing relative to this topic.

    in Mark 8:28 the people believe wrongly that Jesus is ”some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

    But Jesus, the reader knows, is not them. He is not even the ”Christ” à la Peter’s view.

    If the thesis described from Neil in this excellent post is right, Jesus is only a man from Nazareth that is possessed from the Son.

    In Mark 15:35 we read:

    When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

    I wonder if this mistake is the same mistake already made from people at Caesarea’s Philippi. If Jesus there was not Elijah but the Son, then here, by logical inference, he is not calling Elijah but the Spirit of Son that was leaving him on the cross.

    If I am right, then this means a only thing: that the only human person that recognizes the Son in Jesus, after the demons (these possessing their hapless victims), is the man Jesus himself. The markian separationism then becomes on the cross a form of implicit adoptionism.

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