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-   -   Two years ago, September 11 caused us to think a lot about the purpose of our lives... (http://www.sowpub.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5130)

Dien Rice September 11, 2003 10:36 AM

Two years ago, September 11 caused us to think a lot about the purpose of our lives...
 
I know I was in shock, and so were many others. Here on Sowpub, many were in shock - it took many of us many months to start to recover. We searched into what the purpose of our lives was - are we truly living our lives for a fulfilling purpose?

When you live a fulfilling life, it means that when you have something, you give something back to others. The community around you played a part in your success - you can help pay back society by giving something back.

There are many ways to give something back to society. The easiest way is just to give money. You can donate your money to local charities or to international organizations - whichever you feel most comfortable with.

Another way is to help others who are in need. You can also teach others, by sharing your knowledge to help others to better their own lives. Giving a gift to someone in need is the best kind of gift there is - sometimes the best gifts are non-material gifts, such as giving your knowledge or just giving your support. It can mean a lot to many people.

Do what you feel is best. One person I know works regularly in a free soup kitchen. Another person I know does regular work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program. And others I know are simply generous with their time and knowledge to those who are not doing as well as they are.

I'm going to start working harder to help others as well. There's no reason to delay taking action. I hope these words spur many of us into action too.

Dien Rice

Boyd Stone September 11, 2003 01:19 PM

Yeah, why do most live like they get a 2nd chance?
 
Hi,

Everyone in my family other than myself lives like their present life is just a "warmup" or "practice" life--they don't act like this is their one and only chance in the trillion year pageant to have some fun or do some good.

Time is all we have, and not a lot of it at that. Yet almost everyone just wastes it, just flushes it down the tubes like used buttwipe.

Including me.

Oh, well ... What can ya do?

Best,

- Boyd

Dien Rice September 11, 2003 01:38 PM

Living balanced lives...
 
Hi Boyd,

I like to make money, but I want my life to contribute something too. I believe in giving something back.

Of course, you have to make something to give something back. So - being successful can be a stage towards helping others too. You can't give unless you have something to give - and having something to give means being successful.

One way to be successful is to make effective use of your time. I heard an amazing interview with Alex Mandossian recently. I recommend you listen to it. He talks about his approach to "action management"...

He talks about how to spend your time effectively in your business by setting aside a certain amount of time every day for "revenue raising" activities only. His advice gets results!

You can listen to it at the link below (it's free)...

The "interview" (which is more of a monologue) takes a little over an hour. His method of "action management" can actually be applied to any important activity - though how he applies it to "revenue raising" is like a revelation! You can adapt it to other activities too - such as to helping others. Strike a balance.

We are meant to live balanced lives - at least that's what I've always believed.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox for now. :)

- Dien Rice


Interview with Alex Mandossian (free)

Jesse Horowitz September 11, 2003 01:59 PM

May I Suggest Mentoring?
 
Dien,

Thanks for sharing these important and highly appropriate words and thoughts. I could not agree more.

I've given money before, done volunteer work, and participated in some other philanthropic endeavors, but one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever been blessed with is the mentoring of a student and adolescent. I started with him in 8th grade and have made a 5 year commitment to him through his high school graduation (though I'm sure we'll stay in touch after that). We're currently in our second year together.

This is in conjunction with a great program here in southern California that seeks to help kids who do not have the best life at home or financially speaking. In most cases, no one in their family has ever attended college, or even thought about it.

Did you know that in California alone, there are *75,000* kids on the waiting list for a mentor? So when you extend that figure to the rest of the USA and the rest of the world, we're literally talking MILLIONS of kids who could use a mentor.

By spending one on one time with an impressionable teenager...encouraging him...motivating him...inspiring him...exposing him to cultural events and opportunities...and most of all, just listening and being there...you can make an unbelievable impact.

And as much of an impact as I've been told I've made on this boy's life, I feel like it's been every bit as rewarding for me, if not more. There's just something magical about seeing life through the eyes of a wide eyed kid who's got 80% of his life still ahead of him.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now :). I just thought that in light of Dien's important comments and the circumstances of this day, that I'd share a great experience that's become a big part of my life...and encourage others to consider mentoring as well.

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

All the best,

Jesse

> I know I was in shock, and so were many
> others. Here on Sowpub, many were in shock -
> it took many of us many months to start to
> recover. We searched into what the purpose
> of our lives was - are we truly living our
> lives for a fulfilling purpose?

> When you live a fulfilling life, it means
> that when you have something, you give
> something back to others. The community
> around you played a part in your success -
> you can help pay back society by giving
> something back.

> There are many ways to give something back
> to society. The easiest way is just to give
> money. You can donate your money to local
> charities or to international organizations
> - whichever you feel most comfortable with.

> Another way is to help others who are in
> need. You can also teach others, by sharing
> your knowledge to help others to better
> their own lives. Giving a gift to someone in
> need is the best kind of gift there is -
> sometimes the best gifts are non-material
> gifts, such as giving your knowledge or just
> giving your support. It can mean a lot to
> many people.

> Do what you feel is best. One person I know
> works regularly in a free soup kitchen.
> Another person I know does regular work with
> the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
> program. And others I know are simply
> generous with their time and knowledge to
> those who are not doing as well as they are.

> I'm going to start working harder to help
> others as well. There's no reason to delay
> taking action. I hope these words spur many
> of us into action too.

> Dien Rice

Dien Rice September 11, 2003 08:36 PM

Thanks Jesse, those are some good ideas....
 
There's always plenty we can do, despite how busy we might be. Of course, the more successful you are, the more you can do.

It's always good to keep every part of your life in balance!

Thanks Jesse for posting. :)

- Dien

Joe Makowski September 12, 2003 10:53 AM

I blame it on religion....
 
Every religion that I know of promises that you'll
live forever in pair of dice. If you're a good (insert name of favorite coven here). In moslem, you
get 72 virgins. In Christianity, you get your dead spouse back.
There was a great book a couple of years that the
title said it all: Life is not a dress rehearsal!

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 12, 2003 09:29 PM

Religion Is Fine... In Moderation
 
> Every religion that I know of promises that
> you'll
> live forever in pair of dice. If you're a
> good (insert name of favorite coven here).

Buddhism takes a slightly different tact... instead of promising eternal life for being good, it promises enlightenment (and thus no more rebirth into this hellish world of pain).

For those who lived in the birthplace of Buddhism - India - it would have been very appealing.

Nothing in their life - due to the class system in that country - and no hope for anything better. A retched life ofpoverty.

What better belief system to instill in these people than to convince them: The EGO is bad. Remove the ego to help attain enlightenment. Thus, do NOT want anything better than you already have because that is an ego thing. And letting your ego take ahold will not see you achieve enlightenment. Without enlightenment you will be reborn - over and over again - into your pathetic poverty stricken life of Pain and yuckiness.

So Buddhism is basically... live a good life without wanting anything more than you already have, and you will escape your poverty and painful existence.

And to counter all of these there is Satanism (not to be confused with Devil worship). The Satanist does NOT believe in any diety whatsoever (no God or Devil). And thinks when you die, that is it. There is nothing more. No rebirth. No pair of dice. Just nothing. The big undreaming sleep. Of course, they also believe you are responsible for yourself so it's not something the socialist left would find appealing :o)

As for the 72 virgins awaiting you being something in Is-lam. I must have missed that bit in my copy of the Quaran. I believe that is just media BS. Something to help the Christians think odd things about Moslems. To generate support for any actions taken against Moslems.

Further to this line...

The media oft sites "Moslem Extremists" or "Moslem Fundamentalists" as causing chaos and death.

How come they NEVER call the IRA "Christian Terrorists"? Hmmm.

Yes. Religion is fine... in moderation. It's an interesting subject to study too.

Study them all. Then take what you can use from each one and discard the rest.

Michael Ross


The Gospel The Church Removed From The Bible- The Gospel According To Thomas

Ankesh Kothari September 13, 2003 02:15 AM

Re: Religion Is Fine... In Moderation
 
> For those who lived in the birthplace of
> Buddhism - India - it would have been very
> appealing.

> Nothing in their life - due to the class
> system in that country - and no hope for
> anything better. A retched life ofpoverty.

Actually Buddhism spread because KING Ashoka converted and became a Buddhist. And then he sent his children and his ministers to far away places - as far away as Japan and Africa to teach about Buddhism.

Buddhism is deeper than class system.

And actually Indians were the richest during that period. India was called the golden bird. Everyone from Alexander to the British were attracted to India due to its wealth.

It had classes and it had poor people - but during those days - people were comparitively happy and richer than they are now.

And even the founder of Buddhism - Gautam Buddha was the son of a king.

People didnt convert to Buddhism to get rid of the caste system. Atleast not till the 1930s. When Dr. Ambedkar - the person who wrote the Indian constitution - told all the dalit poor people to convert to Buddhism from Hinduism - so that they could be free of the class system.

But before 1930s - people converted to Buddhism to get rid of their wants - not to get rid of their poverty. It was completely opposite.

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 13, 2003 05:38 AM

No Idols (Sound familiar?)
 
> And even the founder of Buddhism - Gautam
> Buddha was the son of a king.

My personal preference is to call him Siddhartha. But whatever floats your boat.

Some things I find interesting about Buddhism are

The "no worshiping idols" thing. And then we see loads of Buddha statues all over the place.

The assassins sent to kill Siddhartha (Buddha) only to end up converting to Buddhism instead.

And - no-one has been killed in the name of Buddhism.

Also, people who don't follow the Buddhism path don't walk around calling themselve's Buddhists. (Unlike some Christians for example only - priests for instance - who do the most UNChristian things while still calling themselves Christian.)

Is-lam is also an interesting religion, when you bother taking the time to look into it instead of buying the media hype.

Judaism... and they even argue amongst themselves about the nature of God. (Imagine the hierarchy of the Christian churches not agreeing on the nature of God ;o) Yet the Jews are prepared to discuss it.)

And, of course, let's not forget the religion of Jedi. Which, I believe, 300,000 Britons claimed to be in the last UK census.

Michael Ross

Ankesh Kothari September 13, 2003 05:56 AM

You might want to lookup Jainism too
 
Some people believe that Siddhartha was influenced by Jain monks.

But Jainism in itself is a wonderful study. Unfortunately not much is written about it in English. Mostly everything is written in Gujarati (Indian language)

But Vardhaman Mahavir was the one who came up with Ahimsa (non violence). Atleast thats what many Indian historians believe.

But Jainism didn't spread much outside India. Buddhism did. Buddhism is a very small minority now in India though. Ironically there are more Buddhists in SriLanka or Tibet or Japan than in India.

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 13, 2003 06:09 PM

Jainism sounds interesting
 
Ankesh,

Thanks for the suggestion.

I've found some online info and began going over the info presented.

> Some people believe that Siddhartha was
> influenced by Jain monks.

With the brief bit I've seen, I can understand why some would believe this. Of course, the other reason for any similarity could be "plucking the concept out of the ether."

> But Vardhaman Mahavir was the one who came
> up with Ahimsa (non violence).

And what a job that is. With all those "prans" and any injury to them - no matter how small - considered violence. Makes my head spin just trying to get a grip on prans, let alone doing no harm to them.

One reason for a lack of spread of the religion could also be its basic "we are the masters of our own destiny of existence of life and we should not blame anyone or anything else for our destiny" aspect.

And it appears to me... if you are born as a Tiryancha you are pretty well going to stay as such until you somehow are born as a human and can thus do something about the situation.

So far I don't understand why the Heavenly Being can't doing anything about its situation. Why can't they adopt restraints? I'm sure I'll come across the answer.

Interesting.

Michael Ross

Ankesh Kothari September 13, 2003 08:32 PM

Re: Jainism sounds interesting
 
> And it appears to me... if you are born as a
> Tiryancha you are pretty well going to stay
> as such until you somehow are born as a
> human and can thus do something about the
> situation.

Yes - but when you are a Tiryancha - you dont have concept of time and space. You dont feel much.

Chris H. September 16, 2003 10:55 PM

Just had to comment
 
> ...In Christianity, you get
> your dead spouse back.

Get your dead spouse back? Back for or from what? :-]

Actually, I am a little bit familiar with this way of
thinking. I belief it is safe to conclude from certain
scriptures that those who go to Heaven will indeed
be reunited with loved ones who are also there.
(The implication here would also be that, despite
having transformed bodies, recognition will still be
possible.) And, I suppose that a special closeness
may even be maintained between those that were
(presumably happily) married at some point in their
lives.

However, I believe Jesus also made it clear that the
institution of marriage will not apply in Heaven.
After all, the various personal & social needs that
marriage provides for or fulfills here on earth will
no longer apply.

Just wanted to shed a little light on that particular
issue in Christian theology.

Chris

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 17, 2003 02:42 AM

Jainism & Ascetics & Egos
 
The more I read the more Jains come across as Ascetics.

As SG did dabble in being an Ascetic... he was most likely influenced by Jains.

Which is in itself interesting because it probably means he would not have developed his "system" if he had not been living as an Ascetic.

Perhaps you can answer this conundrum...

If removal of the ego is part and parcel of "enlightenment"... why do people want to be "enlightened"? Isn't the pursuit of enlightenment in itself ego driven?

Michael Ross

Ankesh Kothari September 17, 2003 01:49 PM

The story of Bahubali
 
> If removal of the ego is part and parcel of
> "enlightenment"... why do people
> want to be "enlightened"? Isn't
> the pursuit of enlightenment in itself ego
> driven?

The pursuit of enlightenment is most often ego driven. But until and unless you lose your ego - you wont get enlightenment.

I'll tell you a story. There was a person named Bahubali. He was the 2nd eldest son of Rishabh Dev (the first Jain tirthankar). He had a few other brothers and sisters.

2 of his brothers became monks before Bahubali. And due to deep meditation, they became enlightened.

Now Jainism says that you should respect the people who are enlightened - because they are superior to you - as in - they conquered all enemies.

But Bahubali was elder than his brothers. In India, at that time, youngsters had to show respect to their elders. So Bahubali thought that he would go to a jungle, meditate so that even he became enlightened. Then he would meet his brothers. So that he wouldn't have to show respect to them.

He went to a jungle and meditated for 6 months in standing position. He didn't sit down for 6 months. He didn't eat or drink for 6 months (maybe this is an exaguration). There were plants growing around his body.

But he didn't receive enlightenment. Lord Rishabdev came to know about this. He told Bahubalis sister to tell him "brother, get off the elephant. You can't receive complete knowledge sitting on an elephant"

Hearing this, Bahubali thought - he has been standing since 6 months, why are his sisters telling him to get off the elephant? And then he realized - he is sitting on the elephant of ego. He realized he should go and give respect to his younger brothers. Then only he would have given up his pride and ego completely.

As soon as he realized this, and took just one step, he received enlightenment.

Chris H. September 18, 2003 06:53 PM

Clarification on Gospel of Thomas
 
How could the Church have removed it...
if it was never part of the Bible in the
first place?

The "Gospel of Thomas" was a Gnostic text
discovered with the rest of the Nag
Hammadi "library" in Egypt in 1945.
Generally dated about AD 140-170, this
particular text purports to record 114
"secret sayings" of Jesus. As the scholar
Raymond E. Brown said, "we learn not a
single verifiable new fact about Jesus'
ministry and only a few new sayings
that might plausibly have been His."

Like much of the Gnostic Gospels, the
Gospel of Thomas often cites or borrows
from the canonical New Testament books.
However, and more importantly, Gnosticism
in general teaches much that is inconsistent
with that believed and taught by the early
Christians. The early Church fathers con-
demned it as heretical.

So,... the Gospel of Thomas was at best
practically useless and at worst heresy.
And it was *never* part of the Biblical canon.

Chris

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 19, 2003 03:50 AM

The Gospel of Heathens
 
Chris,

Thanks for taking the time to find out for your own.

For those who would like to read about Thomas' Gospel see here (It's free):
http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl_thomas.htm

The interesting thing about what you wrote was not that YOU agree or disgree with it, but rather that OTHERS have viewed it as "nothing much" or "heretical."

I also find it interesting about the claim Thomas' work borrowed from other works which did end up being compiled into the Bible.

WHO is to say that those other works did not borrow from Thomas?

> Gnosticism
> in general teaches much that is inconsistent
> with that believed and taught by the early
> Christians. The early Church fathers con-
> demned it as heretical.

The four Gospels in the "New" Testament are inconsistent too. They can't even tell the same story in the same way. And the differences are staggering.

And does the Gnostics teaching things that are inconsistent with the Church's stance mean they are wrong? Not necessarily.

Of course the Chuch would condemn the text. They have a vested interest in doing so. Because it undermines their power and authority. They would condemn anything that tried to teach you that "God is within." (There would be no need for them.)

And fancy saying physical circumcision is wrong. Man oh man. The Jews can't have that. They tell everyone that that is their proven sign of being the "chosen" people." What heresy to have one of their own condemn such an act.

> So,... the Gospel of Thomas was at best
> practically useless and at worst heresy.

Let me add.... according to the opinions of those who have a vested interest in condemning the Work.

I actually find it funny that the Church does this a lot - passes off THEIR texts as true history and calls ancient real documents fantasy when they disagree with the church stance.

The Church has a LOT to lose if certain things are ever proved. Things such as: Jesus was a normal man; Jesus had children; Mary Magd was his wife; the many "miracles" are just a mis-interpretation of actual normal events; and so on. They lose their "divine right" for one. They lose some of their flock for another - many people will believe no matter how much proof is offered forth.

The Church Fathers read texts which might "let the cat out of the bag" Know thy enemy. It would therefore be wise for followers to also read those same texts, would it not?

Texts such as those written by Sir Laurence Gardiner (Bloodline of The Holy Grail - The Hidden Lineage of Jesus Revealed, Genisis of The Grail Kings, etc.) and Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln (The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail).

Michael (Heathen Gnostic) Ross

Phil Gomez September 19, 2003 05:59 PM

Re: The Gospel of Heathens
 
> The interesting thing about what you wrote
> was not that YOU agree or disgree with it,
> but rather that OTHERS have viewed it as
> "nothing much" or
> "heretical."
Perhaps he's stating their view because he agrees.

> I also find it interesting about the claim
> Thomas' work borrowed from other works which
> did end up being compiled into the Bible.

> WHO is to say that those other works did not
> borrow from Thomas?
I'm not sure this question has any relevance, but it could be possible to answer by reviewing the dating of the works.

> The four Gospels in the "New"
> Testament are inconsistent too. They can't
> even tell the same story in the same way.
> And the differences are staggering.
That statement seems really bold, especially coming from someone who often comes down hard on others for making unsubstansiated claims. Why you would make a statement like that without any support?

I hope the recent "bashing" trend on these boards isn't moving on to major religions. If it is, let me just say be careful -- you folks do not appear up for the task and this board could be ruined by such chatter. I'm not sure why we passed on several chances to let this thread die (or be removed), but it would be in the best interest of many of us to let it go.

> And does the Gnostics teaching things that
> are inconsistent with the Church's stance
> mean they are wrong? Not necessarily.

> Of course the Church would condemn the text.
> They have a vested interest in doing so.
> Because it undermines their power and
> authority. They would condemn anything that
> tried to teach you that "God is
> within." (There would be no need for
> them.)

> And fancy saying physical circumcision is
> wrong. Man oh man. The Jews can't have that.
> They tell everyone that that is their proven
> sign of being the "chosen"
> people." What heresy to have one of
> their own condemn such an act.

> Let me add.... according to the opinions of
> those who have a vested interest in
> condemning the Work.

> I actually find it funny that the Church
> does this a lot - passes off THEIR texts as
> true history and calls ancient real
> documents fantasy when they disagree with
> the church stance.

> The Church has a LOT to lose if certain
> things are ever proved. Things such as:
> Jesus was a normal man; Jesus had children;
> Mary Magd was his wife; the many
> "miracles" are just a
> mis-interpretation of actual normal events;
> and so on. They lose their "divine
> right" for one. They lose some of their
> flock for another - many people will believe
> no matter how much proof is offered forth.
I assume the Church to which you refer is the Catholic church? If so, let me just say that I'm not defending them.

But counterpoint: the non-church folk actually have a lot more to lose if the Bible is "proved" true. At the very least, it could change one's whole outlook.

> The Church Fathers read texts which might
> "let the cat out of the bag" Know
> thy enemy. It would therefore be wise for
> followers to also read those same texts,
> would it not?

> Texts such as those written by Sir Laurence
> Gardiner (Bloodline of The Holy Grail - The
> Hidden Lineage of Jesus Revealed, Genisis of
> The Grail Kings, etc.) and Michael Baigent,
> Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln (The Holy
> Blood And The Holy Grail).
In principle it would be. However, in practice, you begin to see the same arguments (attacks?) presented over and over. So, before long, it becomes a waste of time to keep up.

--Phil

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 19, 2003 06:36 PM

Gospel Schmospel
 
> Perhaps he's stating their view because he
> agrees.

Perhaps.

> I'm not sure this question has any
> relevance, but it could be possible to
> answer by reviewing the dating of the works.

It had relevance because Thomas' Gospel was viewed (accused) as borrowing from the other Gospels. The implication being that the other Gospels came first and thus are more authoritive.

If it is agreed that Thomas' Gospel came first it means the others are copy cats and Thomas' work is the more authorative.

That is its relevance.

> That statement seems really bold, especially
> coming from someone who often comes down
> hard on others for making unsubstansiated
> claims. Why you would make a statement like
> that without any support?

Because I see no need to get into endless debate pulling things out of the Bible to make my case. Those who are interested can open up the New Testament and discover the differences themselves. Do so by picking one "story" and reading it in each Gospel.

For example. Pick the story of the scene at the Cave, or the Nativity, or whatever. Then read all four versions of that same story one after the other. You will see the differences.

Further. My "unbacked" claim was in response to an unbacked claim. Tit for tat, so to speak.

> I hope the recent "bashing" trend
> on these boards isn't moving on to major
> religions.

Nah - not from me anyway. No-one can win a religion bashing. In the end it degenerates into insults and ends with neither party changing their mind. If anything, each walks away with even firmer resolve to their point of view.

> I assume the Church to which you refer is
> the Catholic church? If so, let me just say
> that I'm not defending them.

> But counterpoint: the non-church folk
> actually have a lot more to lose if the
> Bible is "proved" true. At the
> very least, it could change one's whole
> outlook.

True. You get no arguement from me there. In fact, going by the various religions and their system, if any one of them is true, there are going to be a lot of other people who will be terribly upset.

If Buddhism is really it, then non-Buddhists will die and be reborn for all eternity.

If Judaism is it, then unless you convert or are born into it... tough luck for you.

If Christianity is it, then poor Jews for they would turn out not to be the chosen ones after all.

If Is-lam is it, then all those who are not Moslems (and Al-lah knows), will not like it very much.

And if Jainism is it, then boy, the next 20,000 years or so are not going to be very enjoyable. And as Jainism predicts its system not to last through until then (correct me if I am wrong), then there will be no salvation for anyone.

As for reading the books the "elders" read and know and being wise for "followers" to also read. That is MY take on it. I've read the Bible (and the Mormon one too). And the Quaran. And other authoritive works on various religions as well as works relating to uncover "truths" about those religions. I find the subject (of religion) fascinating. And thus have no prejudice for or against any one particular religion. They all have good points. They all have bad points. Take what you can use and discard the rest.

Michael Ross

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 19, 2003 06:51 PM

A Further Question
 
Ankesh,

Thanks for the "message in a story".

A few years back there was a documentary on a guy who

1. Decided he was going to stand for a year (I think it was a year). So there he was, standing in the village square with what looked like a swing to support him. He leant on it during the day and slouched over it to sleep. Always with his feet on the ground. People brought his food to him.

2. After the year was up he decided to roll around the world. And he began. A year or so later he even made it to Australia. Got on the nightly news as he rolled through Sydney.

I recall, people would bring sick people to him to be healed as he traveled through villages. Just a word or touch from him is all they asked.

Do you know of this man. If so... what "religion" was he? Did he make it around the world?

Michael Ross

Ankesh Kothari September 20, 2003 01:07 AM

I haven't heard of the person (DNO)
 

Chris H. September 20, 2003 01:38 AM

OK, back to my original point
 
Michael,

Wow! You make some provocative comments & raise
several issues in your last couple posts on this topic.
I'll get to them in a follow-up post, but in the meantime...

The link at the bottom of your Sept. 12 post had
referred to the Gospel of Thomas as "The Gospel
The Church Removed From The Bible". The point of
my post was merely to explain, in a nutshell, what
the manuscript was (for those who hadn't followed
your link) and why it was misleading to claim that it
had been "removed from the Bible." The same goes
for any other "lost book" of the Bible.

Let's see if I can break it down to the basics.
Say Group A believes a certain bunch of things,
both historical events and theological doctrines.
They decide to compile the most important info
into one official set of documents. Using various
guidelines, they determine what are the most
reliable sources for teaching those things that
they hold to be true.

Meanwhile, Group B has also formed. They also hold
certain things to be true and some of their leaders
have written these things down. When leaders from
Group A talk to and read stuff from Group B, they
see that they have certain things in common. However,
Group B believes that Event X -- something central
to Group A's beliefs -- happened very differently.
They also teach other things that are incompatible
with what Group A believes & teaches.

Now, why in the world would Group A consider including
Group B's teachings in their official set if there is
such conflict, particularly on foundational doctrines?
Whether Group A has the truth or Group B is right
(or neither) is beside the point.

OK, hopefully that made some sense. I'll try to address
more of your comments in the next couple days.

Chris

Chris H. September 20, 2003 03:36 PM

I don't think Michael was "bashing", exactly
 
Hi Phil,

Thanks for the support. I appreciate your comments & concerns.

Despite Michael's somewhat "anti-Church" attitude and statements questioning the validity of Christian (or, at least, early Christian) orthodoxy, I don't think he was "bashing" Christianity. Not quite. Rather, I think he was just being the kinda in-your-face, calls-it-like-he-sees-it guy that he is that we have all come to respect and appreciate. (Well, most of the time.) ;->

As everyone knows, politics and religion are two areas that involve some "hot" buttons and exchanges can get very heated. I don't often get involved in them myself. But, avoiding them altogether doesn't help anyone. As long as it is kept rational & respectful and doesn't dissolve into ad hominems and knee-jerk, emotional retorts/accusations, I don't mind participating in such a discussion.

This forum has survived a politically-oriented discussion or three. I think it can survive one that touches on religious issues (within reason, of course).

Chris

Chris H. September 21, 2003 11:45 PM

Response to the "Heathen Gnostic"
 
Michael,

It seems that we're branching out quite a bit from just the "canonicity" of the Gospel of Thomas. This is getting quite interesting. Let's proceed, shall we?

> I also find it interesting about the claim
> Thomas' work borrowed from other works which
> did end up being compiled into the Bible.

> WHO is to say that those other works did not
> borrow from Thomas?

Just to state for the record, when we talk of certain manuscripts being "authoritative", this is in regards to the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, both in the events of His life/death/resurrection and what he (and later His apostles) actually taught.

As you stated in your response to Phil, the dating of a manuscript can indeed have strong bearing on its authoritativeness. In this particular case, where two manuscripts have some material in common, the one dated earlier could very well be the "original". Or, there may have been one or more other source(s) (written or oral) that the other two got the material from.

As it is, the canonical Gospels are conservatively dated from AD 65-100, which is at least a preliminary indication that they could be more authoritative than the Gnostic texts. While the manuscripts of both "camps" include doctrines/traditions that were around earlier, it is my understanding that the historical evidence points to that seen in the canonical Gospels appearing decades earlier than Gnostic teachings.

In addition, the canonical Gospels are both historically reliable and simply much closer to the authority of Jesus himself. Even world-class (and non-Christian) historians like Michael Grant and A.N. Sherwin-White agree that, when judged according to standards of ancient historiography in terms of date & reliability on issues that can be compared to other known data, the canonical Gospels measure well and ought to be accepted as good sources for historical information about Jesus.

N.T. critical scholar A.M. Hunter pointed out several reasons why the Gospels are trustworthy sources, which may be summarized as follows:

1) The earliest Christians were meticulous in preserving the tradition of Jesus' words and life.
2) The Gospel writers were close to the eyewitnesses and pursued the facts about Jesus.
3) There are indications that these authors were honest reporters.
4) The overall composite of Jesus as presented in the four Gospels is essentially the same.

Of course, there are other considerations for determining authoritativeness, but I'll stop there.

> The four Gospels in the "New"
> Testament are inconsistent too. They can't
> even tell the same story in the same way.
> And the differences are staggering.

>

> For example. Pick the story of the scene at
> the Cave, or the Nativity, or whatever. Then
> read all four versions of that same story
> one after the other. You will see the
> differences.

First, this is a different kind of inconsistency. My statement was mostly in regards to ideas & doctrines within gnostic teaching that are/were incompatible with that of orthodox Christianity. (Recognizing, of course, that there are/were various forms & brands of gnosticism.) The "inconsistencies" you refer to here are largely related to details in a narrative.

Second, I don't think a reasonable person would find it odd that 3 or 4 different people telling the same story (especially several years after the fact) would remember or choose to include a few different details. (If you talked to 4 witnesses of a car accident or a wedding, for example, would you expect to get 4 exact same accounts?) If you want to pick a specific example, I'll take a shot at explaining it.

> And does the Gnostics teaching things that
> are inconsistent with the Church's stance
> mean they are wrong? Not necessarily.

> Of course the Chuch would condemn the text.
> They have a vested interest in doing so.
> Because it undermines their power and
> authority. They would condemn anything that
> tried to teach you that "God is
> within." (There would be no need for
> them.)

Ignoring the cynical tone for the moment, I believe I've already touched on the illogic of such a thing. The bottom line is you can't be a true Christian and a true Gnostic at the same time.

> And fancy saying physical circumcision is
> wrong. Man oh man. The Jews can't have that.
> They tell everyone that that is their proven
> sign of being the "chosen"
> people." What heresy to have one of
> their own condemn such an act.

I have to admit I'm a bit confused here as to the connection. Was there a Gnostic teaching against physical circumcision? I do know that this was a big issue in the very early Christian church, when the Jewish Christians (specifically from the church in Jerusalem, who continued to adhere to Jewish orthodoxy) began to demand that Gentile converts be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses. As recounted in Acts 15, they called a Council at Jerusalem and, after much discussion, decided that the only things important enough for the Gentile Christians to do was abstain from food sacrificed to idols, blood, meat from strangled animals, and sexual immorality.

> Let me add.... according to the opinions of
> those who have a vested interest in
> condemning the Work.

> I actually find it funny that the Church
> does this a lot - passes off THEIR texts as
> true history and calls ancient real
> documents fantasy when they disagree with
> the church stance.

Care to give any examples?

OK, that's enough for now. To be continued...

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 22, 2003 05:34 AM

Reply by the "Heathen Gnostic"
 
Chris,

Thanks for taking the effort to compile such an indepth reply to my post.

> It seems that we're branching out quite a
> bit from just the "canonicity" of
> the Gospel of Thomas.

Um. I don't know about that. All I've done is try to stick to the topic at hand. Which was The Gospel According To Thomas. And your subsequent replies to that.

In other words. My post needs to be read in reference to Thomas' Gospel.

> Just to state for the record, when we talk
> of certain manuscripts being
> "authoritative", this is in
> regards to the historicity of Jesus of
> Nazareth, both in the events of His
> life/death/resurrection and what he (and
> later His apostles) actually taught.

On a technicality... we will never know what he actually taught. We weren't there. We only have third hand accounts.

> As it is, the canonical Gospels are
> conservatively dated from AD 65-100, which
> is at least a preliminary indication that
> they could be more authoritative than the
> Gnostic texts.

This is an interesting point because according to the gnostic library website, Thomas' Gospel is considered the older.

Which adds another element to it. Instead of disagreement about content. There is disagreement about age.

While the manuscripts of both
> "camps" include
> doctrines/traditions that were around
> earlier, it is my understanding that the
> historical evidence points to that seen in
> the canonical Gospels appearing decades
> earlier than Gnostic teachings.

Now you're going off on a tangent. We are not talking about Gnostic teachings. We are talking about Thomas' Gospel.

> In addition, the canonical Gospels are both
> historically reliable and simply much closer
> to the authority of Jesus himself.

How do you know this?

Even
> world-class (and non-Christian) historians
> like Michael Grant and A.N. Sherwin-White
> agree that, when judged according to
> standards of ancient historiography in terms
> of date & reliability on issues that can
> be compared to other known data, the
> canonical Gospels measure well and ought to
> be accepted as good sources for historical
> information about Jesus.

Hang on. When judged according to: standard of ancient historiography IN TERMS OF date & reliability on ISSUES THAT CAN BE COMPARED to other known data. Say what?

This is saying... based on the tiny bit written over there... and when compared to other tiny bits in the same compiled work, we see similarities.

This means nothing. It's almost circular logic. All of it must be true because that tiny bit there matches some other tiny bit from the same place and time.

Of course there is not going to be other works. Third party works. Commenting on what happened in someone else's "locale." They write about things that happen to them in their areas.

> N.T. critical scholar A.M. Hunter pointed
> out several reasons why the Gospels are
> trustworthy sources, which may be summarized
> as follows:

> 1) The earliest Christians were meticulous
> in preserving the tradition of Jesus' words
> and life.

If they were so meticulous, why such differences in the four main Gospels of the New Testament? And why were they written so long after his apparent death.

> 2) The Gospel writers were close to the
> eyewitnesses and pursued the facts about
> Jesus.

This is also like circular logic. It's true because those who wrote it were close to others who saw it or knew more of it. How is that assumption jumped to with reason. How do we know what efforts the writers went to?

> 3) There are indications that these authors
> were honest reporters.

It's true because those who wrote it have evidence they were honest?

> 4) The overall composite of Jesus as
> presented in the four Gospels is essentially
> the same.

The OVERALL composite is ESSENTIALLY the same.

Give me a break. This is no proof of anything. All four Gospels could easily have been written based on one singluar other work.

> Of course, there are other considerations
> for determining authoritativeness, but I'll
> stop there.

I hope they are better than these four.

> First, this is a different kind of
> inconsistency. My statement was mostly in
> regards to ideas & doctrines within
> gnostic teaching that are/were incompatible
> with that of orthodox Christianity.

See. I was writing in regards to your unclarified statement of inconsistency. And showing that those teachings you say Thomas' Gospel is consistent with are also inconsistent within themselves.

> (Recognizing, of course, that there are/were
> various forms & brands of gnosticism.)

What does Gosticism have to do with this? It's all in reference to Thomas' Gospel. Not some other Gnostic teachings.

> The "inconsistencies" you refer to
> here are largely related to details in a
> narrative.

Details in narrative? The whole Bible is a narrative. It relies on details. Without details there is no narrative.

And besides. I thought those who recorded all this kept meticulous records. With such meticulous record keeping how could there be these inconsistencies?

> Second, I don't think a reasonable person
> would find it odd that 3 or 4 different
> people telling the same story (especially
> several years after the fact) would remember
> or choose to include a few different
> details.

No. A resonable person would find it strange that four people told the same story exactly.

But that's is just it. The stories are different. BUT only selective stories are presented as "common knowledge" of the events.

If you want to pick a specific
> example, I'll take a shot at explaining it.

Sure. I'll pick two. You explain them.

Jesus Birth - what we all know as the nativity scene. Not all four Gospels have Jesus in a barn in a food trof.

Jesus' ressurection at the cave. Different people. Different numbers. Important people left out some times and other have them there.

These "details" are fundamental and paramount to the narrative.

> Ignoring the cynical tone for the moment,

What cynical tone? All I do is ask questions. Questions seeking satisfactory answers backed up with other than circular logic. But this is being all blown wide of the original topic. Which was Thomas' Gospel.

I
> believe I've already touched on the illogic
> of such a thing.

No you haven't. Not that I am aware of.

Ok. In Thomas' Gospel (have you read it?) it says "God is within."

Now. In a church just getting started. Trying to "control" the populace, this statement canNOT become common knowledge. It doesn't fit with the Church's claim of divine right. Without Divine right their is no legitimacy to the Pope. And as that can be considered the oldest church, they have a fundamental interest in keeping this document out of sight.

Yes it is not consistent with their teachings. But being against their claims is what leads the church to call it heretical. In other words... it disgrees with the Church so it is Bad.

The bottom line is you
> can't be a true Christian and a true Gnostic
> at the same time.

I don't understand this line at all. Or at least, what you mean by it.

Of course you can't. Being a Gnostic means you constantly seek knowledge and truth. Being a Christian means to not doubt the teachings put forth by the Church as True. They have intrinsic differences.

> I have to admit I'm a bit confused here as
> to the connection. Was there a Gnostic
> teaching against physical circumcision?

It's in Thomas' Gospel.

As I said. Everything I wrote was in relation to Thomas' Gospel and your comments on it. Nothing more nothing less.

As I said in my post to Phil. Debating... to the point of presenting evidence and whatnot, is a fruitless exercise. Those who firmly believe will still believe. Those who don't, won't suddenly "find religion." And those who sit on the fence not knowing one way or the other, will still sit on the fence.

And each camp will view things like a one-eyed fan. Seeing no wrong from their team but all little indiscretions from the other side.

For instance. We can say, "Jesus is the world of the Lord."

Then whenever we see "And the world of the Lord was in..." we can then re-insert who The World of The Lord refers to. In this case, Jesus.

So when reading Acts and we see The Word Of The Lord Was in... we can thus read it as "And Jesus was in..."

BUT... he was supposed to be dead and raised back up to heaven. Not wandering around being anywhere.

Now. A firm believer will have reasons to come up with what Word of The Lord actually means. While a non-believer will look it as proof JC didn't go up to heaven. The firm believe cannot entertain the notion because it would undermine the foundation of their faith. If Jesus was just a normal man and did not die as believed, the religion loses its reason for existing. - Regardless of the beauty of the message.

And no-one changes their mind.

For instance. The Imam at the Mosque near where I live, gave me a book called "The Choice" which is by Ahmed Deedat.

Basically, it is a book of arguements as to why the Bible predicts Muhummed. And why he is also the successor to Jesus. (Who is viewed as one of the Great Profits by Is-lam.)

The book uses the Bible texts against itself. I think in an effort to show fence sitters that Is-lam is the final teaching of God (Al-lah). So if you need to pick what to believe, become a Moslem.

Anyway. As *I* read it, I see flaws in the argument. In other words. While Ahmed tries his darndest to put forth a convincing arguement, his reasoning is flawed.

As an example. He will prove a piece of text to be wrong. Then use that wrong text as proof of something else.

Well. Either the text is right or it isn't. It cannot be right when it serves your purpose and wrong when it doesn't.

All I am getting at with that Work is... it helps Moslems reinforce their belief, but probably does little if anything at all, to make a Christian change their mind and become a Moslem. And because I am neither, I can view it more objectively.

Anyway. For your reading pleasure. I present Hank... :o)

This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first:

"Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's a** with us."

Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss his a**?"

John: "If you kiss Hank's a**, he'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, he'll kick the sh*t out of you."

Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do what ever he wants, and what he wants is to give you a million dollars, but he can't until you kiss his a**."

Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the a**?"

Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

John: "Then come kiss Hank's a** with us."

Me: "Do you kiss Hank's a** often?"

Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

Me: "And has he given you a million dollars?"

John: "Well no, you don't actually get the money until you leave town."

Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and he kicks the sh*t out of you."

Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's a**, left town, and got the million dollars?"

John: "My mother kissed Hank's a** for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

Me: "So what makes you think he'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

Mary: "Well, he gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty dollar bill on the street."

Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?

John: "Hank has certain ‘connections.'"

Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's a** he'll kick the sh*t of you."

Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to him, get the details straight from him..."

Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

Me: "Then how do you kiss his a**?"

John: "Sometimes we just blow him a kiss, and think of his a**. Other times we kiss Karl's a**, and he passes it on."

Me: "Who's Karl?"

Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's a**. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss his a**, and that Hank would reward you?"

John: "Oh no! Karl's got a letter Hank sent him years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

John handed me a photocopy of a handwritten memo on From the desk of Karl letterhead. There were eleven items listed:

1.Kiss Hank's a** and he'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
2.Use alcohol in moderation.
3.Kick the sh*t out of people who aren't like you.
4.Eat right.
5.Hank dictated this list himself.
6.The moon is made of green cheese.
7.Everything Hank says is right.
8.Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
9.Don't drink.
10.Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
11.Kiss Hank's a** or he'll kick the sh*t out of you.

Me: "This would appear to be written on Karl's letterhead."

Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

Mary: "Not now, but years ago he would talk to some people."

Me: "I thought you said he was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the sh*t out of people just because they're different?"

Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

Me: "How do you figure that?"

Mary: "Item 7 says ‘Everything Hanks says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

John: "No way! Item 5 says ‘Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says ‘Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says ‘Eat right,' and item 8 says ‘Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."

Me: "But 9 says ‘Don't Drink,' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says ‘The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon came from the Earth has been discounted. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese."

John: "Aha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!"

Me: "We do?"

Mary: "Of course we do, Item 5 says so."

Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying ‘Hank's right because he says he's right.'"

John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."

Me: "But...oh, never mind. What's the deal with wieners?"

Mary blushes. John says: "Wieners, in buns, no condiments. It's Hank's way. Anything else is wrong."

Me: "What if I don't have a bun?"

John: "No bun, no wiener. A wiener without a bun is wrong."

Me: "No relish? No Mustard?"

Mary looks positively stricken. John shouts: "There's no need for such language! Condiments of any kind are wrong!"

Me: "So a big pile of sauerkraut with some wieners chopped up in it would be out of the question?"

Mary sticks her fingers in her ears: "I am not listening to this. La la la, la la, la la la."

John: "That's disgusting. Only some sort of evil deviant would eat that..."

Me: "It's good! I eat it all the time."

Mary faints. John catches her: "Well, if I'd known you where one of those I wouldn't have wasted my time. When Hank kicks the sh*t out of you I'll be there, counting my money and laughing. I'll kiss Hank's a** for you, you bunless cut-wienered kraut-eater."

With this, John dragged Mary to their waiting car, and sped off.

Michael Ross

PS. As I read back over this, I see the point (If there ever was one) is totally gone. And now I don't really know what we are talking about. Too many topics for a single post, for me.

And I don't think we will ever know either way... what was or was not written by Church founders and passed off as Gospel, or even other people. We won't know all the writings which never made it into the compilation we know as The Holy Bible. And we will never have a single way to interpret the writings. (but we can have fun in the meantime :o))

Phil Gomez September 22, 2003 11:16 AM

A few points and I'm out...
 
I'm really not trying to foster this discussion, so let me make a few more points and then (hopefully) bow out gracefully.

First, let me thank you, Michael, for not taking offense at my last post.

Second, thank you for realizing that each world view really is exclusive -- that is, they cannot all be true. I've met too many people who claim to be "practioners" of multiple religions but, in fact, they really don't know what they believe. I guess they think they are being more tolerant and inclusive -- but I feel that such folk are being deceptive. I would rather just agree to disagree.

Third, the point about the "inconsistencies" of the gospels: Let me just say that I believe that the differences are intentional -- the only author who claims to be giving a historical account is Luke. The others have different theological points that they are trying to emphasize, a point which become clearer when you look at the elements of Christ's life which they stress or ignore. While many people think these differences condemn the gospels, I think they are crucial to fully appreciating them.

Fourth, I don't mean to be telling you folks what to do -- if you want this discussion, have at it. I just offered a warning, based on my experience. Shortly after becoming a Christian I became involved in a discussion along these lines that, sadly, degenerated into a prolonged series of angry e-mail messages. Ever since then, I like to know whether the people I speak with regarding religion have real questions or just an axe to grind.

Best,
--Phil

Chris H. September 22, 2003 09:24 PM

Response to the "Heathen Gnostic", Part 2
 
* This is a continuation from my post of last night. As I post this, I see that Michael has responded to that one, but I haven't yet read the response. *

> The Church has a LOT to lose if certain
> things are ever proved. Things such as:
> Jesus was a normal man; Jesus had children;
> Mary Magd was his wife; the many
> "miracles" are just a
> mis-interpretation of actual normal events;
> and so on. They lose their "divine
> right" for one. They lose some of their
> flock for another - many people will believe
> no matter how much proof is offered forth.

> The Church Fathers read texts which might
> "let the cat out of the bag" Know
> thy enemy. It would therefore be wise for
> followers to also read those same texts,
> would it not?

>

> As for reading the books the
> "elders" read and know and being
> wise for "followers" to also read.
> That is MY take on it. I've read the Bible
> (and the Mormon one too). And the Quaran.
> And other authoritive works on various
> religions as well as works relating to
> uncover "truths" about those
> religions.

When referring to "Church Fathers" here, I assume you are talking of the "early Church", though there would naturally be differences of policy across the centuries. The inference is that the laity were not allowed to read texts from other sects/religions/philosophies, or at least were discouraged from it. That was probably true, at least to some degree, but I haven't read much on the area of Church censorship. I can think of a couple valid reasons why they might discourage new believers (especially of a new religion trying to make a difference in a pagan culture), though it would only be speculation. There may have been others, certainly by corrupt clergy who just wanted to keep people "ignorant" and under their control, as it were.

Personally, if one has the time, I see nothing wrong with becoming familiar with writings/teachings of those with other beliefs and worldviews. It helps to know where other people are "coming from" and how they think, so that you can communicate effectively. Jesus and the Apostles certainly modelled this.

Also, if one is going to adopt a particular religion, faith, or worldview, it's a good idea to do some research on the history and truth claims of that "system". I've been somewhat lacking in this area myself and have only recently started correcting that. (For the record, I am an evangelical, Protestant Christian. I don't belong to any denomination but do lean heavily toward a Reformed theology.)

> Texts such as those written by Sir Laurence
> Gardiner (Bloodline of The Holy Grail - The
> Hidden Lineage of Jesus Revealed, Genisis of
> The Grail Kings, etc.) and Michael Baigent,
> Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln (The Holy
> Blood And The Holy Grail).

Which "Church Fathers" read these books?!

I'm not familiar with Gardiner, but I know a little of the "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and what it claims or proposes, which you alluded to earlier. As I understand it, the gist of the argument is that Jesus did not die on the cross but was drugged, removed by the Essenes, and nursed back to health by Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene, to which he was married. Jesus and Mary travelled around and eventually settled in France. They had children, and the supposed bloodline is traced thru royal families, secret organizations and age-old mysteries.

I could say much about this, but I'll try to contain myself. I've already talked about the historical trustworthiness of the Gospels. Another point, while the "swoon theory" was for many years perhaps the favorite naturalistic explanation against Jesus' resurrection, it has many problems (and being drugged doesn't help) and was disproven by the Liberals themselves. (David Strauss is said to have dealt the "death blow" in the mid-19th century.) Most contemporary liberal theologians still agree.

Regarding the "international travel theory", of which this is one variation, it suffers from a lack of solid historical evidence. Not to mention, the variations conflict with one another. Even the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" state that, before they investigated the Christian sources:

"Our hypothetical scenario... was also preposterous... much too sketchy... rested on far too flimsy a foundation... could not yet in itself be supported... too many holes... too many inconsistencies and anomalies, too many loose ends." (p.286)

And after their research into Christian origins?

"We could not -- and still cannot -- prove the accuracy of our conclusion. It remains to some extent at least, a hypothesis." (p.372)

And then there are the illogical arguments. For example, since Jesus & His mother play a major role in the wedding described in John 2, it is held that it must therefore have been Jesus' own wedding! (pp.303-304) In the Lazarus account in John 11, since Martha ran out to greet Jesus while Mary remained inside until Jesus asked for her, it is asserted that Mary must be Jesus' wife! At least the authors admit this argument to be a non sequitur. (pp. 307-308)

Apparently, this is just one instance of them applying an arbitrary methodology, where they pick-n-choose what they want from the Gospels and effectively add what they want to find. To their credit, they admit that as they sifted thru the Gospels...

"we would be obliged to read between lines, fill in certain gaps, account for certain caesuras and ellipses. We would have to deal with omissions, with innuendos, with references that were, at best, oblique." (p.103)

Now, Michael, you didn't actually say how much of the arguments/claims in this book (or others like it) that you bought into. Given the highly suspect methodology and lack of historical support, it would be unlike you (I think) to give much credence to such theories.

> ... I find the subject (of religion)
> fascinating. And thus have no prejudice for
> or against any one particular religion. They
> all have good points. They all have bad
> points. Take what you can use and discard
> the rest.

Does this make you an "equal-opportunity critic/skeptic"? ;-}

I would be interested in what points you find positive about Christianity (not necessarily the institutionalized "Church", R.C. or otherwise). And any others you care to comment on.

Regards,
Chris

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 23, 2003 04:27 AM

Ciao
 
Phil,

Thank you for making your points even more lucid.

> I'm really not trying to foster this
> discussion, so let me make a few more points
> and then (hopefully) bow out gracefully.

> First, let me thank you, Michael, for not
> taking offense at my last post.

I cannot take offence. Below I explain why.

> Second, thank you for realizing that each
> world view really is exclusive -- that is,
> they cannot all be true. I've met too many
> people who claim to be
> "practioners" of multiple
> religions but, in fact, they really don't
> know what they believe. I guess they think
> they are being more tolerant and inclusive
> -- but I feel that such folk are being
> deceptive. I would rather just agree to
> disagree.

This is a good point. And raises something else I too will make more lucid in my post to Chris' part two post. And that is knowledge of what they believe in... the more intricate workings and history of their chosen religion.

> Third, the point about the
> "inconsistencies" of the gospels:
> Let me just say that I believe that the
> differences are intentional -- the only
> author who claims to be giving a historical
> account is Luke. The others have different
> theological points that they are trying to
> emphasize, a point which become clearer when
> you look at the elements of Christ's life
> which they stress or ignore. While many
> people think these differences condemn the
> gospels, I think they are crucial to fully
> appreciating them.

Again, this is a good point. Rather. A Good explanation of WHY the stories differ. Thank you for sharing it.

> Fourth, I don't mean to be telling you folks
> what to do -- if you want this discussion,
> have at it. I just offered a warning, based
> on my experience. Shortly after becoming a
> Christian I became involved in a discussion
> along these lines that, sadly, degenerated
> into a prolonged series of angry e-mail
> messages. Ever since then, I like to know
> whether the people I speak with regarding
> religion have real questions or just an axe
> to grind.

Funny thing. Religion. People can get very passionate about it. Because it is a part of them.

It's an interesting psychological occurance. Based on what WE individually consider is part and parcel of ourselves.

Religion and Politics. Country. State. City. County. Suburb. Street. Sporting and recreational affiliation. We own some of these things.

If I say, "Everyone in North Dakota is an idiot." People who do not live in North Dakota won't care. Residents of that state will get upset.

If I then say, "People in the USA are idiots." Those who didn't get upset previously, now will be upset. Because I have broadened the range of my insult.

If I expand that to "People in Nrth America are idiots" I now also anger Canadians.

The reverse is also true. People in Such and Such suburb are idiots will not make you bat an eyelid if you live in the suburb next door. But mention your suburb, and you take it personally.

Same goes with streets. Sports teams you follow. Cars you drive. TV shows you watch.

The same with religion.

As I mentioned earlier about Terrorists being labeled as Moslem but never Christian.

While they get called Moslem Terrorits, the Jews and Christians don't think anything of it. On the other hand, the Moslems are trying to get heard that those terrorists are NOT Moslems because their actions go against the religion. Using the same arguement which has been used by some Christians when hit up with questions about the large numbers of deaths in the Crusades... you should not blame a religion for things done in its name.

Anyway. The moment groups like the IRA get labeled Christian Terrorits we will see a HUGE outcry from the Christian community. (Maybe adoption of the Jewish "your anti-sematic" label should also be used by other religions?)

But while it doesn't happen, and while the label is stuck onto another religion instead, those not in the labeled religion don't see it. Just like my "insult" example earlier in this post.

The personalizing of topics is what causes the majority of discussions to quickly deteriorate into name calling and the like. Points about a religion as a whole get taken personally because we consider that religion is a part of us - which it is. (Not counting those with an axe to grind, as you mentioned.)

Now it just so happens that the western world is mainly Christian. And the Arab world Moslem. So we not only end up with Religious differences, there are economic differences and cultural differences too. So what could be the result of cultural or political ideologies is thus easily labeled as a religious difference.

Historically, the MO of the far far left as been violence. Even relatively civil lefties cause riots during the World trade Summit meetings every year.

When those super far left radicals also come from the Middle East, it can appear as Moslem vs the rest of us.

And when Osama says, "Do this and this and this" or the news reports that he "calls on all Moslems to..." That is like you - or any other Christian - calling on all Christians to...

In other words. No authority.

But seeing as he is the figure head of a violent extreme left ideology, he wraps it in Is-lam and the smoke job is complete.

As you hinted at... it is all too easy to call yourself a member of a certain religion, whether you practice that religion or follow its teachings or not.

Anyway. I think you have bowed out gracefully. Unless you want to chime back in again :o)

Michael Ross

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 23, 2003 07:12 AM

Reply by the "Heathen Gnostic", Part 2
 
Chris,

Thanks again for an indepth post.

I see I jumped the gun. When you said to be continued, I thought it was to be after my reply. That is... you would continue by way of reply to my response.

> When referring to "Church Fathers"
> here, I assume you are talking of the
> "early Church", though there would
> naturally be differences of policy across
> the centuries. The inference is that the
> laity were not allowed to read texts from
> other sects/religions/philosophies, or at
> least were discouraged from it. That was
> probably true, at least to some degree, but
> I haven't read much on the area of Church
> censorship. I can think of a couple valid
> reasons why they might discourage new
> believers (especially of a new religion
> trying to make a difference in a pagan
> culture), though it would only be
> speculation. There may have been others,
> certainly by corrupt clergy who just wanted
> to keep people "ignorant" and
> under their control, as it were.

When it comes to religion, I view it somewhat as what is often used in law... Lack of disclosure is not telling falsies.

So an encouragement to read only literature with the Church's stamp of approval is not telling people not to read other stuff.

A fine line. Yes.

Also. There is the tendency of people not to want to read anything that might go against their belief - for whatever reason.

Same in politics. Democrats don't like reading Republican writings which go against democrats. And republicans don't like reading democrat writings which go against republicans. A seething takes place when it happens. Far better to avoid it all together. Right?

Religion is like this. A Jew is not going to willingly and with great enthusiasm search for texts which condemn their religion and show it to be false or built upon lies. And if they happen to stumble across such writing, the knee-jerk reaction is to deny that text as true and to proclaim it to be lies.

It is a natural reaction.

> Personally, if one has the time, I see
> nothing wrong with becoming familiar with
> writings/teachings of those with other
> beliefs and worldviews. It helps to know
> where other people are "coming
> from" and how they think, so that you
> can communicate effectively. Jesus and the
> Apostles certainly modelled this.

I agree. There is nothing wrong with studying other religions. And even with writings that go against your chosen religion. But as I mentioned above... people do not because it makes them uncomfortable.

> Also, if one is going to adopt a particular
> religion, faith, or worldview, it's a good
> idea to do some research on the history and
> truth claims of that "system".

So true. And even more so today. For today we have people calling themselves Druids while not having the faintest idea of what a Druid really is/was. They just think it is some kind of modified Wicca and is real old. Delving deep into the Druid history will show they cannnot call themselves Druids at all.

You also have Wiccans totally losing the plot. Blessed be, be blessed, yadda yadda yadda. Calling to the four points. Wow it is like so cool to call yourself a Wicca. Anyone can read a "new age" book and proclaim themselves to be a Wicca. Even join a New age wicca group and do pretend spells and the like. These people make real wiccan furious - just like you would be mad at people calling themselves Christians while doing unChristian things.

> I've been somewhat lacking in this area
> myself and have only recently started
> correcting that.

At least you recognise it. That is the important thing. A lot of those who call themselves this or that don't even realise what they don't know. I think in part because it might be "cool" to call yourself one thing or another, or because it sounds like too much hard work - they don't realise studying their religion does not mean taking a theology degree and becoming a priest.

(For the record, I am an
> evangelical, Protestant Christian. I don't
> belong to any denomination but do lean
> heavily toward a Reformed theology.)

Whoa there. THAT is a mouthful. Can I take it to mean that you don't actually go to Church per se, but rather worship in your own way and time? Trying to follow the Protestant interpretation of the teachings?

When you say, "Reformed theology" what do you mean?

> I'm not familiar with Gardiner, but I know a
> little of the "Holy Blood, Holy
> Grail" and what it claims or proposes,
> which you alluded to earlier. As I
> understand it, the gist of the argument is
> that Jesus did not die on the cross but was
> drugged, removed by the Essenes, and nursed
> back to health by Joseph of Arimathea,
> Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene, to which he was
> married. Jesus and Mary travelled around and
> eventually settled in France. They had
> children, and the supposed bloodline is
> traced thru royal families, secret
> organizations and age-old mysteries.

That's also pretty much the gist of Gardiner's writings. Although, since the time of the first writing of Holy Blood Holy Grail, other information has come to light. And the book has been updated.

Where Gardiner adds weight is due to his profession as a genealogist of Royalty. As he wrote in his book. What started out as tracing family trees for Royal families of Europe, concluded in the tree coming out of the House of Juda.

Gardiner also delves back in cross referencing with ancient sanscrit writings.

> I could say much about this, but I'll try to
> contain myself. I've already talked about
> the historical trustworthiness of the
> Gospels.

Yes. And I have had my tongue in cheek go at those four points by which to judge their trustworthiness by.

I personally think the greatest problem is not what is written within the Gospels but rather with the interpretation of what is written.

For those with hears to hear and eyes to see, to me, are more so warnings or indications.... if you don't know how to read what is here you shouldn't bother.

Another point, while the
> "swoon theory" was for many years
> perhaps the favorite naturalistic
> explanation against Jesus' resurrection, it
> has many problems (and being drugged doesn't
> help) and was disproven by the Liberals
> themselves. (David Strauss is said to have
> dealt the "death blow" in the
> mid-19th century.) Most contemporary liberal
> theologians still agree.

Of course, most is not all. Which means, some liberal theologians disagree. And that is fine. Healthy debate and discussion amongst those who make a lifetime of studying the subject is good.

One other point. Apart from the "Swoon Theory" - I like that term - are the findings of the reknowned Dutch woman, whose name escapes me for the moment. I believe her findings involved the discovery of what could be called the Rosetta Stone for the bible. That is, a scroll(s) which instructs the reader how to read the Bible so as to decipher what is really going on. It just adds another prespective.

> Regarding the "international travel
> theory", of which this is one
> variation, it suffers from a lack of solid
> historical evidence.

To this I would ask... what kind of evidence would you be happy with?

Here's how I see that point...

Unless they (Jesus and Mary) had scribes travelling with them and made a big deal wherever they went, then there is little chance of any historical evidence of their travels. Just like there is little historical evidence of many people who existed in that day and age.

Not to mention, the
> variations conflict with one another. Even
> the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy
> Grail" state that, before they
> investigated the Christian sources:

> "Our hypothetical scenario... was also
> preposterous... much too sketchy... rested
> on far too flimsy a foundation... could not
> yet in itself be supported... too many
> holes... too many inconsistencies and
> anomalies, too many loose ends."
> (p.286)

I would actually like to see the whole paragraph this edited version came from. For I showed in another post - the thread about how to read the news - how to make one thing appear to be another.

Not that you are doing so. I just like to read a paragraphs as a whole instead of ones which has been edited and the blanks filled in with dots.

> And after their research into Christian
> origins?

> "We could not -- and still cannot --
> prove the accuracy of our conclusion. It
> remains to some extent at least, a
> hypothesis." (p.372)

Again. This is not in the new updated and revised edition of that book. And I would like to see the context it is written in.

> And then there are the illogical arguments.
> For example, since Jesus & His mother
> play a major role in the wedding described
> in John 2, it is held that it must therefore
> have been Jesus' own wedding! (pp.303-304)

Not in the new version of the book.

> In the Lazarus account in John 11, since
> Martha ran out to greet Jesus while Mary
> remained inside until Jesus asked for her,
> it is asserted that Mary must be Jesus'
> wife! At least the authors admit this
> argument to be a non sequitur. (pp. 307-308)

Again. Not in the revised updated version.

Gardiner's take on this (from memory) is more to do with I believe the water to wine miracle. That is... guests drank water while hosts drank wine. As the water ran out Jesus told the servants to serve the guests wine. Only the "boss" of the function could have such an order followed.

Only wives anoited husbands. And after a first anointing marriage did not officially take place until it was proved the woman fertile. Thus at Mary's second anointing, it meant they were thus married but also that she was with child.

> "we would be obliged to read between
> lines, fill in certain gaps, account for
> certain caesuras and ellipses. We would have
> to deal with omissions, with innuendos, with
> references that were, at best,
> oblique." (p.103)

Not in the revised updated version.

> Now, Michael, you didn't actually say how
> much of the arguments/claims in this book
> (or others like it) that you bought into.
> Given the highly suspect methodology and
> lack of historical support, it would be
> unlike you (I think) to give much credence
> to such theories.

Thank you for asking. I buy into it as much as I buy into the Gospels as being factual.

That is... I figure what makes more sense to ME.

Does it make more sense to ME that Jesus was a normal man who was head of a ruling family - which is why he was thus recorded in documentation - or that he was the son of a real virgin (as we know them in today's tongue and meaning of the word) and a union between a spirit (thus going against all physical laws of reproduction)?

Does it make more sense to ME that Jesus' use of the word "Father" were aimed at a real live person much the same way we call a Priest Father, or that he was in communcation with the universal energy some people call God?

Does it make more sense to ME that he was a normal man instead of the son of God - who knows all and thus would also know his incarnation would suffer through what the Bible writes? In other words, as God is all knowning, the whole episode with Jesus was a farce because He knew it was going to happen. And seeing it was Himself, He was thus punishing Himself? Doesn't make sense to ME.

As for disagreeing with stuff within those works. Heck yeah. I disagree with stuff. Some of it is asking too much of my imagination to believe. Just like some stuff in the Bible asks too much of my imagination to believe.

This comes down to what I wrote in my reply to Phil. Depending on what team we are on, we only see our own point of view instead of a neutral objective one.

For instance. While you do say some of what is on these types of books takes a "leap of faith" to believe. You don't ask the same hard questions of the canonical texts.

Such as... there is not historical evidence to say Jesus and Mary travelled into France. Likewise there is no hisitorical evidence to say Jesus in fact did physically die for real and then come back for real. We have, at best anecdotal evidence. But the Christian will not question the resurrection but will question holidays to France.

In short. Yes. There are things I disagree with. I just take what I can use (what makes sense to me) and discard the rest. Thus creating my own interpretation.

> Does this make you an
> "equal-opportunity
> critic/skeptic"? ;-}

Yes it does. Christianity, Is-lam, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, et al.

I have acquaintences who are JWs. I was the only person in our tennis club who chatted with the Scientologist who played - and I was the only one he would talk to. Because he understood my stance... I do not care what religion you are... just don't shove it down my throat. If I want to know something I will ask. Apart from being brainwashed by Scientology he was a nice friendly guy.

I talk to JWs and Mormons when they come knocking on my door. Sometimes we chat for an hour or more. Sometimes they give me the lastest issue of The Watch Tower. I've also been given their Blue book and their Red book (interesting reads).

I have friends who are Moslem. Friends who are Satanists. Friends who are Christians. I do business with them all, including Jews. Although I will say, those who I have had the most difficulty talking with are the Born Again Christians - they seems "not with it" to me. Rational conversation was near on impossible.

I also recall talking with a Pentacostal, I believe it was. Nice person.

> I would be interested in what points you
> find positive about Christianity (not
> necessarily the institutionalized
> "Church", R.C. or otherwise). And
> any others you care to comment on.

What I find interesting is how similar Christianity, Judaism and Is-lam are.

Christianity positive points: As I agreed to one JW during our discussion, IF we all lived our lives following the teachings of Christianity, the world would be a nicer place to live in.

But the catch is... I don't need a religion to live that way. I can still live a life in which I do no harm, avoid gluttony et al, love thy neighbor and all that jazz.

I see too many people call themselves Christians who do not live a Christian life. Confession is not a "get out of trouble free" token to be played every week. It does not grant you the right to be a bastard/bitch all week long doing as you darn well please no matter who you hurt, only to confess on the weekend and have your slate wiped clean. To me, that person is NOT a Christian, regardless of what they were baptised or call themselves.

But this fine line of whether you are or are not, is what we see in the Gothic world. They have great arguements about what is and is not Gothic. What it means to be one. Whether you truly are one if you only do the Goth thing on the weekend. And so on.

Is-lam I find has some silly "rules." Number one being women covering themselves up.

In a time and place long a go, this might have been a good idea to quickly get a immoral society back under wraps. But today. Lets move on. Lets expect Men to be able to control themselves, instead of having a woman deny her sexuality and physical form - as if that is to blame for all the problems.

On the other hand... treating people equally... basically, Liberty, Equality & Brotherhood is a common theme within the religions. But alas not enough live by those three main points.

I like Buddhism's moderation and right ways. And Karma can just be another way/reason to get people to treat each other good.

To me, the label you claim for yourself should be based on how you live... not whether you underwent a ceremony or took an oath or were born as something.

Michael Ross

Chris H. September 24, 2003 01:56 AM

Great observations, Phil & Michael! (DNO)
 

Chris H. September 26, 2003 04:10 AM

Response #1 to the Reply
 
And thanks to you for your indepth replies to my indepth replies. ;->

Let me begin by addressing something you mention several times in your latest posts -- namely that your preceding posts were only to be taken in reference to the Gospel of Thomas (or "GTh") and nothing further. In my explanation for why GTh was never "removed from the Bible", I commented on the fact that GTh included Gnostic ideas/teachings. I thought that comments on Gnostic teachings in general and their incompatability with orthodox Christian doctrine flowed naturally from this. Also, your comments that the Church and/or Church Fathers do(es) this or that and bringing up the books by Gardiner and Baigent et al. and reading works about other religions seemed to broaden the discussion, as well.

That was my thinking, anyway. If I inferred too much or expanded the subject(s) under discussion too far, my apologies. I thought they were relevant. Regardless, my thanks for continuing on with the discussion.

Regarding dating of the Gospels...

> This is an interesting point because
> according to the gnostic library website,
> Thomas' Gospel is considered the older.

> Which adds another element to it. Instead of
> disagreement about content. There is
> disagreement about age.

Yes, conservative theologians generally date the Synoptic Gospels to the AD 60's thru about AD 70. I understand that liberal theologians (e.g., H. Koester, J. Robinson, the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar) typically date the Synoptics at AD late-60's to late-90's, whereas they put GTh & some other Gnostic texts at AD 30-60. (I think most liberals & conservatives agree that the Gospel of John was written in the 90's.) To use your own words, "according to the opinions of those who have a vested interest." It works both ways.

Btw, I came across more info on the relative dating of GTh, which I may post on later.

> Hang on. When judged according to: standard
> of ancient historiography IN TERMS OF date
> & reliability on ISSUES THAT CAN BE
> COMPARED to other known data. Say what?

> This is saying... based on the tiny bit
> written over there... and when compared to
> other tiny bits in the same compiled work,
> we see similarities.

> This means nothing. It's almost circular
> logic. All of it must be true because that
> tiny bit there matches some other tiny bit
> from the same place and time.

> Of course there is not going to be other
> works. Third party works. Commenting on what
> happened in someone else's
> "locale." They write about things
> that happen to them in their areas.

Now, hang on with your hangin' on and accusations of circular logic. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that there are no third-party works that comment on the historicity of Jesus Christ & His teachings. Aside from non-NT Christian sources (which you, no doubt, would discount), there are extra-biblical, non-Christian sources for information that supports biblical statements about a) Jesus' living at a certain time in history, b) circumstances around his trial/crucifixion/burial & the empty tomb, c) culture & customs of the time, and d) early Christian beliefs & practices, which reflect Jesus' teaching.

Ancient historians like Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, and Thallus give us several historical facts. There are statements by government officials like Pliny the Younger, Emperor Trajan, and Emperor Hadrian. Information can be gleaned from other Jewish sources (The Talmud, Toledoth Jesu) and Gentile sources (Lucian, Mara Bar-Serapion). Some support can even be found in Gnostic texts like GTh, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and Treatise on Resurrection. Finally, there are references to lost works like the Acts of Pontius Pilate and writings of Phlegon, both of which were said to have recorded data that corroborated Christian claims.

Oh, yes, there are also archeological finds such as the burial grounds of Caiaphas the Jewish high priest, Yohanan the crucifixion victim, the Nazareth Decree by Caesar, and evidence for the census mentioned in Luke.

> Give me a break. This is no proof of
> anything. All four Gospels could easily have
> been written based on one singluar other
> work.

Hmm, I may address this in a separate post, too.

> Details in narrative? The whole Bible is a
> narrative. It relies on details. Without
> details there is no narrative.

Since when is the Bible all narrative? Take a look at Psalms & Proverbs, for example. Or instructions for building the Temple. Or genealogical passages.

In regards to narrative, some details are essential while others are considered minor or incidental, and yet others may have bearing on the story (or on the case, to give it a legal spin) but not be considered crucial.

> No. A resonable person would find it strange
> that four people told the same story
> exactly.

> But that's is just it. The stories are
> different. BUT only selective stories are
> presented as "common knowledge" of
> the events.

Alright, I'm confused. Would you be more skeptical of the truthfulness or reliability of a story told *exactly* the same, to every detail, by 4 different people? (I would, though perhaps less so if by, say, investigative journalists or police detectives.) Or, of 4 accounts that were essentially the same, obviously of the same event, but differed in some of the details? Would that make you more reasonable, or less so?

> Sure. I'll pick two. You explain them.

I'll follow up with these tomorrow.

To be continued...

Chris H. September 26, 2003 04:15 AM

Response #2 to the Reply
 
Michael,

Continuing on from before...

> What cynical tone? All I do is ask
> questions....

Well, perhaps "cynical" isn't precisely the correct term. I'm referring to the generally negative tone and the many references to early Church fathers and "the Church" being controlling, manipulative, and dishonest.

Now, I don't deny that there were some pretty unsavory, corrupt, & even downright evil characters in or attached to "the Church" over the centuries. No excuses; I don't defend them. But, as you said in your post to Phil, "... you should not blame a religion for things done in its name" -- assuming the "things" are contrary to the teachings of the religion, particularly those of its founder. That includes extra rules & obligations that are forced upon the followers.

Your presumptions imply that the Church leaders had no moral integrity whatsoever and were just trying to control and take advantage of the "sheep" they'd ensnared with this new religion. You have attributed such motives & actions but given no evidence. I have yet to read any indication that there was much, if any, of this type of behavior by leaders of the early Christian Church, especially in the first couple of centuries, which is basically the period we've been talking about.

> Of course you can't. Being a Gnostic means
> you constantly seek knowledge and truth.
> Being a Christian means to not doubt the
> teachings put forth by the Church as True.
> They have intrinsic differences.

OK, it sounds like we agree that Gnosticism and Christianity are incompatible, but we disagree on the reasons & motivations for the early Church fathers leaving GTh (& others) out of the list of approved texts and the eventual, official Christian canon. I would have to differ with you on your meanings for Gnostic & Christian, though.

Perhaps there is a much looser definition of modern-day Gnosticism that you are referring to. But, if we go back to its origins (as you have advocated elsewhere), Gnosticism meant something quite different. Rather than try to summarize it myself, I'll include a quote from the book Jesus Under Fire:

"Gnosticism was an ancient Middle-Eastern religious philosophy with many variations, but unified at least in its commitment to a dualism between the material and immaterial worlds. The creation of the universe, in Gnostic mythologies, more often than not was the product of the rebellion of some "emanation" from the godhead. Matter, therefore, was inherently evil; only the world of the spirit was redeemable. Consequently, Gnostics looked forward to immortality of a disembodied soul, not the resurrection of the body. Salvation for them was accomplished by understanding secret or esoteric knowledge (in Greek, gnosis), which most of the world did not and could not know. Hence, the Gnostic libraries contained numerous documents that purported to be secret revelations of the risen Lord to this or that disciple, usually after Jesus' resurrection."

As I understand it, the Roman Catholic Church ties spiritual salvation closely to the Church itself and gives equal, if not greater, authority to the R.C. Church (ultimately, the Pope) than to the Bible. Perhaps this is what you are referring to?

Coming from a Protestant background, I do not believe in those things. At the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, two of Martin Luther's main concerns were the need to restore the doctrines of Sola Scriptura (i.e., Bible as only spiritual/moral authority) and justification sola fide (i.e., by faith alone). This greatly diminished the importance and authority of "the Church" and the Pope, which is why they screamed so loud.

Luther's contribution can be summed up in his "new" answers to four central issues in the Church:
1) How is a person saved? -- "Not by works but by faith alone."
2) Where does religious authority lie? -- "Not in the visible institution called the Roman church, but in the Word of God found in the Bible."
3) What is the church? -- "The whole community of Christian believers, since all are priests before God."
4) What is the essence of Christian living? -- "Serving God in any useful calling, whether ordained or lay."

In the end, a true Christian is one who recognizes his sinful nature that separates him from the Holy and Living God, recognizes the reconciliation provided thru Jesus Christ alone, surrenders his life to Christ, and commits to serving Him. From there, one can begin learning the finer points of the credal doctrines as they grow and mature as Christians.

> As I said in my post to Phil. Debating... to
> the point of presenting evidence and
> whatnot, is a fruitless exercise. Those who
> firmly believe will still believe. Those who
> don't, won't suddenly "find
> religion." And those who sit on the
> fence not knowing one way or the other, will
> still sit on the fence.

> And each camp will view things like a
> one-eyed fan. Seeing no wrong from their
> team but all little indiscretions from the
> other side.

While that may be true in some, perhaps many, cases, it isn't always. At the very least, a debate gets people thinking about the issues. Hopefully, it helps the debaters themselves to strengthen their arguments, possibly modify their tactics in the future. If there are others witnessing the debate, hopefully they are encouraged to become more familiar with the issues. They may even be persuaded more towards one side or the other, especially if they were a fence-sitter.

> Now. A firm believer will have reasons to
> come up with what Word of The Lord actually
> means. While a non-believer will look it as
> proof JC didn't go up to heaven. The firm
> believe cannot entertain the notion because
> it would undermine the foundation of their
> faith. If Jesus was just a normal man and
> did not die as believed, the religion loses
> its reason for existing. - Regardless of the
> beauty of the message.

> And no-one changes their mind.

Interesting point, though I think that is where careful word-studies, reading commentaries, and proper hermeneutics come in. Being careful not to be too "dogmatic" on issues & doctrines that aren't essential to orthodoxy is also important. One also needs to be intellectually honest with themselves and open to going where the evidence leads, even if it makes them uncomfortable.

> ...For your reading pleasure. I present
> Hank... :o)

Did you make this up? I read it, and I even chuckled a bit at the ending scene. I think I understood all the supposed parallels (e.g., Hank = God and/or "the Church"; the Million $ Gift = God's blessings (some on earth, but most as our "reward" in Heaven); Hank's Letter = probably Mosaic Law, possibly the Bible as a whole and/or further Church teaching, etc.). Perhaps there is meant to be a broader application to certain other religions. All I will say is that it represents a sad and warped view of what it means to know & serve the Lord.

> We won't know all the writings
> which never made it into the compilation we
> know as The Holy Bible.

Isn't that a little like saying, "We'll never know all the rules & regulations that were never included in the NFL Official Handbook."? (Is there such a thing?) An imperfect analogy, but I hope you see my point. :-]

Actually, we do know several other works that were disputed over the years or to be used in private, but not public, worship. They include The Shepherd of Hermas (popular among supporters of asceticism), Revelation of Peter, Wisdom of Solomon, Letter of Barnabus, Teaching of Twelve Apostles, Gospel of the Hebrews, Acts of Peter, Didache. Others were disputed but eventually included, e.g., Hebrews and Revelation of John.

More later in response to your "Reply by the 'Heathen Gnostic', Part 2"...

(This is fun & educational, too!)

Chris

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 28, 2003 05:38 PM

Will still going? Ok.
 
Thank you for the effort you have taken to create your posts.

Good lesson in that.

> You seem to
> be under the mistaken impression that there
> are no third-party works that comment on the
> historicity of Jesus Christ & His
> teachings. Aside from non-NT Christian
> sources (which you, no doubt, would
> discount), there are extra-biblical,
> non-Christian sources for information that
> supports biblical statements about a) Jesus'
> living at a certain time in history, b)
> circumstances around his
> trial/crucifixion/burial & the empty
> tomb, c) culture & customs of the time,
> and d) early Christian beliefs &
> practices, which reflect Jesus' teaching.

Let me make it clearer...

I do not believe Jesus was a figment. I believe he was very real. He existed.

My point is: The "proof" put forth as to the Bible's accuracy is based on bits of it being also recorded elsewhere.

Read what you write above once again.

*He lived at a certain time in history.
*Circumstances surrounding his trial/apparent death and apparent resurrection.
*Customs and cultures of the time.
*Christian beliefs which REFLECT Jesus' teachings.

I do not doubt these things. But just because those items match is no reason to thus assume all of the rest of the texts are accurate.

This point is made in "Hank." Just because many of those ten points are true and make sense, doesn't mean the other points are true... or literal.

Just because other Works show a man call Jesus walked the Earth at that point in time, and that certain customs and cultures were around, is no reason to also assume everything else in the Bible is literal.

> Since when is the Bible all narrative? Take
> a look at Psalms & Proverbs, for
> example. Or instructions for building the
> Temple. Or genealogical passages.

> In regards to narrative, some details are
> essential while others are considered minor
> or incidental, and yet others may have
> bearing on the story (or on the case, to
> give it a legal spin) but not be considered
> crucial.

Ok. I've got to throw in a Hang On here.

My point was in your use of the term "Details in a narrative" as if a difference on details was a minor thing. With the main thrust of that being the word DETAILS. As in... all we have is details.

The devil is in the details, yes.

Without details we really have nothing much. It is the details which makes an event important. Don't you agree? It is the details which makes some people conclude Jesus was God incarnate. Those same details interpreted in other ways enable other people to draw different conclusions.

The point is NOT whether the Bible is a narrative or not. It is in your dismissal of something because it is only details. Yet details are the most important part.

All details must be considered important otherwise they would not have been included when the scrolls were written. To dismiss some as not amounting to much while others are considered crucial, is deliberately selecting bits and pieces to serve whatever purpose you want served at the time.

> Alright, I'm confused. Would you be more
> skeptical of the truthfulness or reliability
> of a story told *exactly* the same, to every
> detail, by 4 different people? (I would,
> though perhaps less so if by, say,
> investigative journalists or police
> detectives.) Or, of 4 accounts that were
> essentially the same, obviously of the same
> event, but differed in some of the details?
> Would that make you more reasonable, or less
> so?

Umm. Ok. Time to make this clearer...

Each of the Gospels has different DETAILS regarding Jesus' birth, for instance. Yet the details of ONE of those Gospels has become the accepted "truth" of the event. Even though the other three Gospels are not in agreement.

For instance... the accepted "truth" of the birth is that Joseph and Mary stayed in a barn with the animals and Jesus was born and slept in a animal food troff. BUT, not all four Gospels say this.

Thus, the Church has chosen what must be the most lowly description possible to put forth.

MY opinion is to the draw attention away from the true status of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, lest the "flock" begin to question the Church's authority.

That is... if the Gospels showed that family to be anything other than peasants of no importance, readers of the Gospels would question why the Church was the authority on the religion and not its founder or those more closely related to the founder.

Hope that makes it clearer.

Continued on in your other post...

Michael Ross

Michael Ross (Aust, Qld) September 28, 2003 07:03 PM

Continuing on... more on "Hank"
 
> Well, perhaps "cynical" isn't
> precisely the correct term. I'm referring to
> the generally negative tone and the many
> references to early Church fathers and
> "the Church" being controlling,
> manipulative, and dishonest.

> Now, I don't deny that there were some
> pretty unsavory, corrupt, & even
> downright evil characters in or attached to
> "the Church" over the centuries.
> No excuses; I don't defend them. But, as you
> said in your post to Phil, "... you
> should not blame a religion for things done
> in its name"

That's right. And I have not blamed the religion. Not once have a pointed a boney finger of accusation at Christianity per se.

> Your presumptions imply that the Church
> leaders had no moral integrity whatsoever
> and were just trying to control and take
> advantage of the "sheep" they'd
> ensnared with this new religion.

Well. They did.

The HolyWater sprinkler is a direct adaption of a pagan phalic symbol. Easter is the Church corruption of the Pagan festive event. Christmas is also - in my opinion - a rip off of pagan celebrations.

What better way to "get people on side" than have your religion mimic certain important events and days.

Point is... if we were really going to "follow in Jesus' footsteps" we would not celebrate those days (Xmas and Easter) nor "go to mass". These "things" I cannot find Jesus encouraging people to do.

Basically, the early Church thus twisted the Christian teachings to suit its purpose.

You have
> attributed such motives & actions but
> given no evidence.

Paul is, I am sure you will agree, the real instigator behind getting Christianity spread - so to speak. Thus HE will have placed his influence on a lot of what came to be the early church. He hates women... women are all given bad roles in the gospels. NOT the equaility of Jesus' teachings.

The Gift of Constantine has now been acknowleded by the Church as being a forgery. Thus they (The Church) give back the lands they have had and used and used to become wealthy for over a thousand years. How about giving back the wealth that gift enabled them to acquire?

I have yet to read any
> indication that there was much, if any, of
> this type of behavior by leaders of the
> early Christian Church, especially in the
> first couple of centuries, which is
> basically the period we've been talking
> about.

As the Church is pretty well the sole source of such information - and no one dare go against the Chruch - it is not surprising there is not much "evidence" of corruption. Jeeze... even in this day and age the Church covers up their wrong doings.

> Perhaps there is a much looser definition of
> modern-day Gnosticism that you are referring
> to.

Yes. I think this is where we are encountering problems... in what we both attribute "gnostic" to mean.

> While that may be true in some, perhaps
> many, cases, it isn't always. At the very
> least, a debate gets people thinking about
> the issues. Hopefully, it helps the debaters
> themselves to strengthen their arguments,
> possibly modify their tactics in the future.
> If there are others witnessing the debate,
> hopefully they are encouraged to become more
> familiar with the issues. They may even be
> persuaded more towards one side or the
> other, especially if they were a
> fence-sitter.

Good point. And on this I think we somewhat agree. That is... either side just "digs in" more to strengthen their position.

> One also needs to be
> intellectually honest with themselves and
> open to going where the evidence leads, even
> if it makes them uncomfortable.

Yes. This is important. Alas... the opposite actually happens. Even under the guise of "being open."

Such as: Being open to look (read, hear) an alternative BUT dismissing it because it goes against currently held belief.

Example: Shroud. Fake or real? MY opinion is that it is a masterful fake. Made by Michael Angelo. Using a unique form of photography which he knew of at the time. (Remember, he was a "man of science".)

Part of this is evidenced by. He was the Official Portrait Painter to the family who owned the shroud at the time. The same shroud which had previously been condemned by the church as an obvious painting some years earlier - before Angelo came to their employ. The head sits wrong. The back image is different size to the front image. He was known for being a "details" man. The cloth used was available of the correct age and from the correct region. The "face" is almost identical to other faces on his other works.

Scientifically, when his photography technique is used to create similar images, they too look like nothing much under normal light but show great details under "negative" light.

Science indicates... masterful fake.

True believers dismiss the evidence and believe what they want. Even after being "open" to reading the evidence.

> Did you make this up? I read it, and I even
> chuckled a bit at the ending scene.

I did not make it up. It was originally from a Maralyn Manson discussion group some four or five years ago.

Yes. I think the end is a crack up.

I think
> I understood all the supposed parallels
> (e.g., Hank = God and/or "the
> Church"; the Million $ Gift = God's
> blessings (some on earth, but most as our
> "reward" in Heaven); Hank's Letter
> = probably Mosaic Law, possibly the Bible as
> a whole and/or further Church teaching,
> etc.).

I actually take Hank's Letter to be more representative of Is-lam and the verses - which were dictated to Muhummed and which he then repeated to scribes to write down because he couldn't write. Thus it being considered the real word of the lord because Muhummed was illiterate and could not have "thought up" such beautiful verses - which others are challenged to also create (if they can) if they doubt the authenticity of the verses.

Perhaps there is meant to be a
> broader application to certain other
> religions. All I will say is that it
> represents a sad and warped view of what it
> means to know & serve the Lord.

It is not meant as a view of anything. It is a parody of many religions in one. And should be read as such. Much like "The Life of Brian" should be viewed as the comedy it is, not an assult on any one particular religion. (BTW, I first saw The Life of Brian in the company of some extremely religious people. They were laughing their guts out.)

> Isn't that a little like saying, "We'll
> never know all the rules & regulations
> that were never included in the NFL Official
> Handbook."? (Is there such a thing?) An
> imperfect analogy, but I hope you see my
> point. :-]

I see your point. And disagree with it.

My point is... there were many many writings of the time. Dealing with life and the teachings of Jesus. The compilers of what has become known as the Bible, selected (and most likely edited to suit) the texts they wanted/needed to serve their intended purpose.

Lets face it. If there was a text which specifically said anything about Jesus being married to Mary M and that they had offspring, those texts would not be included. Doing so would undermine the authority they were trying to establish. (Why listen to some Pope when the heirs of the founder existed and would thus rightly be the ones to listen to.)

Thus. We miss out on a lot of "good stuff". That's all I was getting at.

> (This is fun & educational, too!)

Yes. Because we are keeping it civil.

Michael Ross

Chris H. September 29, 2003 01:43 AM

Two Gospel Inconsistencies Examined
 
A little later than planned, but here 'tis.

First, some general but helpful comments about the N.T. Gospels:

As Phil mentioned, each of the Gospels stresses some elements of Christ's life and ignores others, according to each author's purpose for writing. Matthew's audience was the Palestinian Jews, so he emphasizes Jesus's being the Messiah and King who fulfills the promises & predictions of the Hebrew Scriptures. He includes many quotations from the O.T. and devotes attention to details about contemporary Jewish life and religious customs. Matthew also pays particular attention to Jesus' teaching ministry and tends to group together into blocks sections that have similar intructional themes.

Mark, on the other hand, concentrates on Jesus as the Conqueror over Satan, sin, sickness & death. He emphasizes Jesus the Man, the Servant who suffered, focussing on His actions & redemptive deeds over philosophy & theology. He stresses Christ as the "Son of God" and Redeemer. Mark travelled with Peter quite a bit, and it is quite possible that much of his Gospel is a summarization of Peter's presentation of Christ's life & works. It is usually considered the first written, though some prefer Matthew.

Luke's purpose was to present a (relatively) complete, historically accurate biography of Jesus as the perfect "Son of Man", showcasing His virtues and incredible tenderness in dealing with people. This is particularly evident in his telling of Jesus' dealings with women & children, as well as social outcasts like lepers & Samaritans. As an educated Greek physician, Luke took special interest in medical matters and in Christ's healing miracles. His Gospel also pays the most attention to presenting events in chronological order.

John's purpose was to show his readers that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing [they might] have life in His name." (20:31) Unlike the Synoptists, John used a highly selective, stylized presentation, organized around seven miracles that Jesus performed, "signs" that revealed His Divine nature. (Note: The number 7 signifies perfection or completion in Jewish culture.) Each of these is rooted in O.T. understanding of the Messiah, thus helping to point to Jesus as the fulfillment of O.T. promises, and that He alone offers everlasting life.

> Jesus Birth - what we all know as the
> nativity scene. Not all four Gospels have
> Jesus in a barn in a food trof.

Let's step thru the events and the data given & not given:

Mark & John don't speak of the time around this event at all. In Luke 2, we have Joseph & the expectant Mary trekking from Nazareth down to Bethlehem for the census. The town is overcrowded, so they have to stay in the stable at an inn. Mary went into labor at some point while they were there and gave birth. She wrapped the baby in cloths & laid Him in a manger (aka a food trough). That night some local shepherds stopped in, after having been told where to find them by an angel.

On the eighth day, they circumcised the baby & named Him Jesus. According to Levitical law, Mary had to wait 33 "days of purification" (not sure if the first 8 days were included) before she could enter the sanctuary and perform the customary sacrifice. (They were poor, so it was probably a couple pigeons.) They may have still been "camping" in the stable, or not -- it doesn't say. Verse 22 says that after this time was up, they went up to Jerusalem (roughly 3 or 4 miles) to consecrate the baby and offer another sacrifice (i.e., a couple more pigeons). When they were done there (probably not more than a couple days), they returned to Nazareth.

Okay, Matthew 2 starts out saying, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem... Magi from the east came to Jerusalem..." It doesn't say how long after Jesus was born that they arrived in Jerusalem. Also, they knew the prophecy said He would come from Bethlehem, so either the stop in Jerusalem was a "courtesy call" to King Herod, or they thought the baby was part of Herod's family and would have been taken to Jerusalem by then. Verses 9-11 say they followed the star to a house, where they found the child & mother; they worshipped Him and presented their gifts. It isn't explicit in the text, so the house could have been in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, or even Nazareth.

After the Magi left, an angel told Joseph in a dream that Herod was looking to kill the child and they should flee to Egypt, which they did that night. (The family would move back to Nazareth after Herod died.) Meanwhile, Herod realized the Magi weren't going to bring him the child. "...[H]e was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi." (v.16)

So, I think there is enough info there to realize that, despite what the kids books and Christmas cartoons and Nativity scenes usually portray, the Magi did not visit the newborn Jesus at the manger, or possibly even in Bethlehem. The child was probably at least several days, if not weeks or months, old by the time they arrived, and the family had already moved out of the stable. Furthermore, based on the scope of Herod's order in verse 16, it is very likely that the natal star appeared as an announcement of a completed event rather than a forwarning, and that the Magi took at least a year to organize & take their "road trip" to Jerusalem. This would make Jesus between 1 & 2 years old (and probably in his hometown of Nazareth) when the Magi finally found him.

> Jesus' ressurection at the cave. Different
> people. Different numbers. Important people
> left out some times and other have them
> there.

This one is a bit more complicated, since there are indeed 4 separate accounts: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18. Let me see if I can put it all together and then comment on the discrepancies.

Early Sunday morning, at least three women return to the tomb where Jesus had been laid, intending to rewrap His body with additional spices. Matthew (v.1) only names Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary"; Mark (v.1) names the two Marys, referring to the second as "the mother of James", and Salome; Luke (v.1,10) names the two Marys & Joanna & mentions "other women"; John (v.1) mentions only Mary Magdalene.

Sometime before the women reached the tomb, an angel of the Lord descended and caused an (apparently very localized) earthquake to role the large stone away from the entrance. The guards were so scared that they had fainted. The women entered the tomb and saw that Jesus' body was missing. Confused, they then noticed two young men (i.e., angels) in shining garments standing by them. The women were afraid, but the lead angel told them "Do not be afraid... He is risen... see the place where He lay... go quickly and tell His disciples... He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him...".

The women left the tomb and ran back to town, not stopping to talk to anyone. When they reached the place where the mourning disciples were staying, they told what they had seen and the message given them. No one believed them. (Women weren't usually considered reliable witnesses in that culture.) But Simon Peter and another disciple ("whom Jesus loved") ran to the tomb to see for themselves. They saw that the body was missing and the burial linens lying folded; they believed and returned to the city. (Apparently, the angels weren't required to appear to them.)

Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene (and possibly other women) had followed them back to the tomb at a slower pace -- perhaps tired, perhaps still afraid. It isn't clear if Simon Peter & the other ignored M.M., or if they took a different route back and didn't see her. Now she stood weeping outside the tomb, still thinking the corpse had been moved somewhere by someone. (She must have been so distraught, or perhaps a little airheaded, that the angel's words hadn't sunk in, yet.) When she stooped to look inside, she saw the two angels again, this time sitting. After a brief exchange with them, she turned around and saw another man standing there.

It was Jesus, but she didn't recognize Him -- perhaps due to her tears & state of mind, perhaps his appearance was somehow altered, maybe he was in shadow or wore a hood. Thinking He might be the gardener, she questioned Him about the missing body. When He addressed her by name, she cried "Master!" and began to "cling" to Him (perhaps grabbing His feet, as told in Matthew's account). But, He gave her a message for the disciples and sent her back to them.

There are other minor differences between the accounts, but the main questions you raised were regarding the dramatis personae. These can be summed up as follows:

1) The Women: Each Gospel writer names a different "set" or individual, MM being the only constant

2) The Guards at the Tomb: Only Matthew mentions their presence

3) First Angelic Encounter: Matthew & Mark mention only one angel; Luke mentions two angels; John doesn't describe the encounter at all

4) Jesus' appearance to the women: In Matthew, it sounds like Jesus greeted the women on their way back from the tomb the first time. But, John indicates that it was after visiting the tomb the second time (and it was only MM).

5) Peter's trip to the tomb: Luke & John mention it, but only John mentions "the other disciple" that accompanied him

6) Second Angelic Encounter: Only John mentions that Mary Magdalene followed the men back to the tomb and had a second angelic encounter

7) Who first saw Jesus?: Mark mentions that "He appeared first to Mary Magdalene", but only John gives details on the meeting; was anyone else with M.M. at the time?

I think it is worth remembering that women were second-class citizens in that culture. While Jesus (and later the disciples) taught that women were to be respected and basically treated as equals, at this point His followers were still trying to "digest" much of what He taught. It would not be surprising if they fell back into old habits during this traumatic time. This is evidenced by the fact that no one believed the women's initial report and is one possible explanation for why Peter apparently said nothing to her on his return from the tomb.

It is also a good reason for why very few women were actually named as present during these events at & near the tomb. It is/was not unusual to leave out non-central characters when re-telling a story -- all the more reason if they were "just women". It is interesting that the angels and Jesus appeared first to women disciples rather than men. Perhaps as another reminder that "women are people, too"? I think it is significant that Mary Magdalene was the only woman named in all four accounts. She had a somewhat unique role in Jesus' ministry both before & after His death (as see here), and perhaps the Gospel writers couldn't ignore that. As for why one mentions Joanna and another Salome, your guess is as good as mine. (Maybe they were related to the respective writers? Maybe they were somewhat known for telling their own eyewitness accounts?)

Matthew seems to have opted for a much compacted version of the scene(s) at the tomb. (It wasn't the first time he did something like that.) He pretty much included the basics -- angel rolled stone away, women saw the tomb was empty, angel tells them what happened and gives instructions, Jesus makes first post-resurrection appearance -- and leaves it at that. Perhaps he relied on others to include further detail. Perhaps he included detail about the guards -- first fainting and later reporting to chief priests & receiving bribe (v.11-15) -- because no one else had.

Regarding the angel(s) involved in the first encounter, I notice that Matthew & Luke say these beings shone quite brightly (i.e., "like lightning"). It occurs to me that, if the second was very close to or perhaps behind the lead angel (i.e., presumably the one that caused the earthquake), he might have been obscured from at least some of the women's view, or perhaps the radiance was so blinding that they only noticed one before being half-blinded. If Matthew and/or Mark read an account by one of these women or interviewed one, that would have been what went in their Gospels. On the other hand, Luke states in the opening of his Gospel that he was aware of several eyewitness accounts that had been "handed down" and that he had "investigated everything", so it would not be surprising that he got the "full story" about there being two angels.

Again, I think Matthew telescoped the events in his account, so that Jesus' appearing to Mary Magdalene (and other women?) actually happened after she/they visited the tomb the second time. John indicates from Jesus' speech that M.M. clung or held onto Him. Matthew says that He greeted them and "They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshipped Him." Perhaps when M.M. had the second angelic encounter in the tomb, the other women remained a few paces off, until they saw her talking to Jesus, and then the women joined them. Or, perhaps they were a few minutes behind M.M. and only reached the tomb about the time Jesus revealed himself to M.M.

Finally, we come to the men's visit to the empty tomb. First, in case you aren't aware, the disciple "whom Jesus loved" is generally recognized as the Gospel-writer John himself. I think he was the youngest of the Twelve, maybe only a teenager, which may have something to do with why Luke neglected to mention him. The fact that it was John himself is probably why he was sure to include it in detail in his own account. (What an exciting thing to experience!) While Peter's (and perhaps John's) confirmation of the women's report was important, Matthew & Mark's not mentioning it might have been because neither Jesus nor the angels appeared to them (at that time). If Matthew relied heavily on Mark as some think, or vice versa, perhaps one just followed the other's lead on this one. But, if Mark was indeed relating Peter's recollections, it does seem odd that he left out Peter's part in this story.

Not being an expert in any of this, I'm sure there are other considerations that I'm not aware of. There may be another equally or more valid way to harmonize the accounts. But, that's my best shot -- for now.

Whew!


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