Misquoting history

I had just finished reading “Misquoting Jesus The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why” by Bart D. Ehrman a born again Christian and textual critic.  I thought that his exploring the history of the bible was both informative and engaging as far as it went.  But, I couldn’t help but notice the high level of politics that lay behind what Mr. Ehrman recognized as noted changes in biblical scripture.  Politics he hadn’t delved into, but politics he most certainly described.  It is a book worth reading for the various information that it contains as well as the formation of the bible as it currently exists in modern society.  One notable item that Mr. Ehrman takes the pains to recognize, that the bible was produced by humans.  That made it a very human book.

Now to delve briefly into the politics that Mr. Ehrman recognized even if he didn’t describe it as such:  there were various types of Christian sects including those regarded as Gnostic Christians.  Each Christian sect in the early history of the formation of the church had their own interpretations of what they thought Christ was and “bibles” (or witnesses) to buttress their opinions.  Some “witnesses” would end up being referred to as “false” doctrines or heresies by those who deemed themselves “orthodox” (or the followers of the one true way).  And those of the “orthodox” faith would ultimately write the sort of New Testament in opposition to Christian sects with whom they disagreed.  Precisely, the type of New Testament that currently exists in modern society.

Further, those who wrote the New Testament seemed to have an issue with the Jews who gave them their Messiah.  Bear this in mind, that Pagans were converting to the “Christian faith” in far faster numbers than anyone of the Jewish religion from whom supposedly Christianity had sprung.  I expect that there was a reason, it had to do with the “virgin birth” claims made by “some witnesses” (gospel books) that effectively gave Christ the sort of “demigod” status that would be immediately familiar to the pagans.  They only had a history of Gods or Goddesses visiting humans on Earth and producing children with them.  But if Christ had two fully human parents (as other “witnesses” claimed) then that would actually argue against his having any divinity at all.  And of course, guaranteeing that Christ was a “divine being” (God on Earth as again Pagans would immediately recognize) would bring the Pagans of Greco-Roman times flocking to the “Christian belief.”  For the Jews however, I expect they wanted to see a man as a king and the land that had become known as Palestine to be returned to an independent status under the rule of a native born king.  What Mr. Ehrman didn’t get into was the linage that “Christians” writing the bible tried to provide Jesus after the fact to “prove” that he should indeed have been seen as the “King of Israel” and one that was ultimately rejected by the Jews.   So, was Christ (King) an earthly inheritor of a secular throne?  Or was Christ (divine) the inheritor of heaven?

Mr. Ehrman mentioned Origen as a leading “Christian” who targeted both Pagans (Against Celsus), “unorthodox ‘Christian sects'” (Against Marcion) and expressed pure bigotry toward the Jewish people that Jesus was born among.  Consequently, parts of the bible as Mr. Ehrman was to note, contained scriptures of anti-Jewish faith.  Just as misogynistic types of thinking would find their way into biblical scripture as well.  Which makes it interesting, first that women are the ones who find out about Christ’s apparent resurrection (not the men) but afterwards, their role in a “Christian community” can be thoroughly diminished.  Second, that even though Christ verifies the laws of Moses, “Christians” such as Origen and etc. regard that what the Jews follow is a false religion.  Well then, what Christ taught wouldn’t have been a “true belief” either.  It does say a great deal about the formation of the early “Christian” church that already and fundamentally, “Christians” were wholesale abandoning the value of what the Messiah was trying to impart.  While at the same time, trying to claim the sort of associating with (the prophet) that made them far more superior to other peoples and beliefs (the new chosen of God).  And a bible that would ultimately reflect that way of thinking. But that doesn’t make the bible the “inerrant word of God.”

Not long ago I had the occasion for noting Mona Charen’s (see False Friend?) latest column waxing practically hysterical about Obama’s proposed “two state solution.”  Dana Milbank weighed in with more reasoned arguments.  Right after that, Charles Krauthammer produced his own hysterical response to the idea that Obama’s “two state solution” (like we haven’t heard something like that before) was only undermining Israel.  Actually, Mr. Krauthammer doesn’t exactly have an historical basis (the political and bigoted divisions between “Christians” and Jews that go back to at least the second century of the Common Era) for arguing that Obama’s proposal would only threaten Israel’s very existence.  That Obama is the sole president who could threaten Israel’s very existence.  And maybe Krauthammer is a fan of the “Left Behind” series and secretly does want Obama to be the anti-Christ!  Thousands of years later, Krauthammer does much to vindicate Celsus’ criticism of the “Christian” faith.  The sort of “faith” that literally challenges all concepts of what Christ (prophet) tried to teach (or reaffirm) Judaism to a Jewish group of disciples.  Challenges and then goes on to refute them.

When reading the Tanakh before going on to the New Testament (English version); I had the occasion for being quite startled at the different depictions of how the two religions saw “God.”  Which would make it easy for certain “Christian” sects to see “their” God as a “different” God from that of the Jews.  With a New Testament to reflect that enormous difference.  Yet, in the early stages of the formation of the early “Christian” church, it was also a matter to be “denied” that the “Jewish God (Yahweh) was not the same as the “Christian ‘God'”.  But if the Jews were ultimately argued as following a “false” belief who “killed God” (according to Origen,” then the effective argument truly was that “Christians” had their own “God” and that their God was different from any other “God” known to exist.  Given that Origen had a pagan history before he climbed on board the “Christian” bandwagon, why is that a surprise?  He only carried his pagan luggage with him and tried to form a “Christian faith” around it (quite contrary to Christ’s “you can only put new wine into new wine skins.”)  Origen as the leading pagan/Christian authority on what would be deemed acceptable “faith” (orthodoxy).

As a side note about Harold Camping; he also challenges Christ (prophet) directly in his opposition to “No one knows the day and the hour…” as expressed by Jesus by cherry-picking scripture and resorting to the same end-times claims made by many other “Christians” before him.  Leonard Pitts, jr had quite a statement about Camping on Memorial Day (30 June 2011 republished in the Spokesman-Review) that is well worth reading.  But, this is my own challenge to the likes of Mr. Camping:  if you truly think the bible is the “inerrant word of God,” then why do you assume that you are capable of “knowing the day and the hour” that even Christ (prophet) said that even he did not know; that only God knew?  Literally, refuting the “inerrant word of God.”  Celsus would be having a major laugh just about now.  And Origen, would be highly embarrassed I’m quite sure.


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