Posted tagged ‘Jesus’

God of the Week: Jesus

April 5, 2010

God of the Week 04/05/2010: Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus the Christ (or anointed one) is a savior god of Hebrew/Greek origin.

The earliest writings of the Christian movement were of an apocalyptic nature, forecasting the coming of the end of the world (Jesus is made to say, “This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished” after speaking of apocalyptic imagery in the Gospel According to Mark).

The character of Jesus is believed by the adherents of the religion to have been an actual historical figure, though all non-religious references to him are late and consist of not much more than explanations of what the religion already believes, so verification of this claim had never been accomplished. The actual details of the Jesus story, though, have been shown by many scholars to be “midrash” , a re-telling of stories from the Hebrew scriptures meant to appeal to a new audience. This was most likely done as the result of a practice known as “pesher”, a religious way of looking for hidden meaning in holy writings; in this case, the foretelling of a coming savior.

The Hebrew religion long had a tradition of a coming “anointed one” (messiah, or christ in Greek), though their idea of a messiah was meant to be, as the name implies, a king on earth, ruling the kingdom of Israel. The earliest writings from the Christian religious movement seem to view Jesus as being a heavenly mediator, not an earthly ruler, though the term christ was still applied to him.

The Jesus movement gained in popularity when an adherent of the faith, Constantine I, ascended to the throne of the Roman Empire in the early 4th century CE. It was his edict that created the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, an assembly of the leaders of the Christian movement at that time. At the council, they discussed the relationship between Jesus to that of the Hebrew god Yahweh. Since the early days of the religion, Yahweh was often refereed to as “the father” while Jesus was refereed to as “the son”. At the council, they determined that the two were of the “same substance” (made of the same god stuff? of a similar nature?), based upon their interpretation of the writings of the earlier Christians (assuming, of course, that all ideas expressed in those writings were divinely inspired and without error and, therefore, in agreement with each other, even if they appeared to not agree. Any apparent disagreement must be able to be worked out philosophically) .

By the time of the second Ecumenical Council (381), the Holy Spirit (an abstract Jewish concept often given credit for inspiring holy writings and often artistically depicted as a dove) was added to the happy family and the Jesus/Yahweh duality was transformed into a “trinity”.


Bible Isn’t Conservative Enough

October 6, 2009

The Bible isn’t conservative enough, say some Conservative Christians. But, instead of just sitting around moping about it, a few dedicated individuals decided to do something about it. They’re re-writing the Bible to display a wide conservative stance!

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Is this a liberal corruption of the original? This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible.”

Mark 2:7-8 before Conservatization:

Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?

Mark 2:7-8: after Conservatization:

“Why is this man speaking such blasphemy? Who can forgive our sins but God himself?” Jesus perceived immediately what the intellectual types were thinking, and he asked them, “Why are you so hostile to this?

Conservatives do seem to have a real hatred of “intellectuals”, which probably makes it tough for conservative intellectuals (I’m sure they’re the special exception, though).

The “They” is “teachers of the law” in the NIV, scribes in the ESV and ASV, so a proper translation should probably refer to a religiously trained person, not an academic.

If you read the whole passage (Mark 2:1-12), it’s a healing story, told in front of a group of pious finger pointing skeptics that Jesus sneers at then shows up. Is “intellectuals” a viable translation? Not really. They really are supposed to be religious leaders, otherwise the story loses it’s punch .

Here’s the two cent version: It’s early in JC’s ministry, Jesus had recently been baptized (the event that gave him his magic powers), and he was getting known as a healer. There’s a thick crowd gathered around Jesus’s house, so four guys carry a paralyzed man onto the roof , cut a hole in it, and lower him in. Inside, there are a bunch of “teachers of the law” that, even though they obviously must have fought to get in there, didn’t seem to have any idea who Jesus was. Jesus heals the man, then tells them off. This miracle narrative is used to as a method of introducing Jesus to the religious elite of his home town of Capernaum. There’s no theological discussion to be had, so they really are just a nameless faceless bunch of “scribes” that Jesus needs to one up. Unfortunately for the translators of the Conservative Bible Project, modern day conservatives don’t have a problem with scribes. What to do,what to do …

The passage really is a silly little story and should have been better constructed. It doesn’t really tell us anything about the subject of the healing, why they could get a paralyzed man through a crowd to get him onto and then through a roof but not through a crowd to get through a door, or why there were a bunch of “teachers of the law” hanging around inside Jesus’s house. What it does tell us is that the educated men in the first and second century are displayed as not put much stock in miracles, either.

Rabbi Confused by Wind

April 27, 2009

scary-ghostExorcisms and ghost stories aren’t unique to Christianity. A rabbi in North London is claiming a ghost resides at his flat.

The rabbi at Enfield and Winchmore Hill synagogue had recently moved into the accommodation attached to the synagogue when he found he had been joined by an unseen force capable of opening windows, as well as knocking at doors and making other inexplicable noises.

Inexplicable noise, huh? Those must have been pretty weird. I wonder what on Earth he could do about it.

“A man contacted him about a haunting in an office and the rabbi told him – and this is Jewish law – that no chimney, window or door should be completely sealed off, so spirits are allowed to move in and out.

“This particular man discovered that there was a sealed window and once he opened it up, the problem went away.”

So …ghosts can open windows to scare people, but can’t open them to get outside? Interesting rules these ghosts play by. It seems their behavior is completely driven by whatever happens to creep people out.

A spokesman from the Church of England said:

… the only case he had encountered in 18 years was of scratching and moaning apparently emanating from a chimney. It turned out to come from a trapped cat.

At least he’s a bit more sensible.


The reporter in the story makes a reference to the Pig/Legion story in the New Testament, which is one I’ve always enjoyed. In it, Jesus drives demons out of a man and into a herd of pigs. He then sent the pigs to jump off a cliff into the sea to drown (Mark 5:9). Problem is, Gerasenes does not have any steeps cliffs. Perhaps they gently waded into the sea?

Some scholars have proposed it’s actually a parable comparing Roman occupation (a “legion” of soliders) to demon possession, which makes sense, to me. It would essentially be calling Roman soldiers a bunch of swine, and that’s a better explanation than a god that can’t figure out a better way to get demons out of a man.

What Would Jesus NOT Do?

April 19, 2009

Jesus, the Pope, and Condoms

April 9, 2009

The Historocity of Jesus

February 28, 2009

Bart Ehrman on the Historicity of Jesus

Jesus on the Lamb

January 26, 2009