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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)

Ankesh Kothari September 20, 2003 12:07 AM

I haven't heard of the person (DNO)
 

Chris H. September 20, 2003 12:38 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 02:36 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 10:45 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 04:34 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 10:16 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 08:24 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 03:27 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 06:12 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 12:56 AM

Great observations, Phil & Michael! (DNO)
 


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