The early bodiless Jesus—Pt. 4

Outside the familiar terrain of twenty-seven New Testament books lies a vast, virtually unexplored expanse of so-called “apocryphal literature.” The word apocrypha derives from Greek and literally means “from [that which is] hidden” (apo+crypto). Well, let me say up front: the only reason most of this literature is hidden is because the Catholic Church has done everything it could to hide it. In short, these texts contain what is threatening to the Church—what it doesn’t want you to read. The Church’s suppression of the apocryphal literature was pretty successful during the fifteen or so long centuries when European scholarship was either conducted by the Church or approved by it. Increasingly, however, secular modern scholarship has broken the Church’s monopoly on … Continue reading

The early bodiless Jesus—Pt. 3

The spiritual Jesus At an early stage of Christianity, according to the foregoing analysis, Jesus was a spiritual entity. This was a pre-canonical stage, to be dated to the first century CE—before the invention of Jesus the Nazarene and before the writing of the canonical gospels. The spiritual Jesus is evident, for example, in the epistles of Paul, works that do not know Jesus the Nazarene (“Nazarene” or “Nazareth” do not occur even once in the Pauline epistles). As I wrote in NazarethGate (p. 409):           Paul enthuses in his epistles about the spiritual entity he calls singly and severally the “Lord,” “Jesus,” and “Christ.” The entity grants grace, peace, comfort, authority (2 Cor 10:8), will slay the “lawless one” at … Continue reading

The early bodiless Jesus—Pt. 2

In the last post we looked at the Acts of Pilate (AcPil)—being the first half of the rather obscure Gospel of Nicodemus, a Jewish Christian work probably of the mid-second century CE. The work betrays a most unusual theology where “Jesus” is partly physical, partly spiritual, and somehow able to pass from one person to another. This ambiguous theology is the author’s focus. For example, the setting is scrupulously laid out whereby Joseph of Arimathea is locked into a sealed room (even without windows), and with guards outside. Yet the spirit of Jesus still passes to Joseph at midnight, effecting a sacred transformation immediately following Jesus’ death. All this has some kind of meaning, and it is no doubt allegorical. … Continue reading

The early bodiless Jesus—Pt. 1

In the last several posts we looked at Marcion’s critical role in early gospel formation, and at two recent scholarly views that propose a new synoptic paradigm: Marcion’s gospel predated all four canonical gospels. This includes the Gospel of Mark which, accordingly, now moves to the mid-second century CE. Prof. Markus Vinzent, in particular, has proposed that it was Marcion of Pontus who, in the first half of the second century, ‘invented’ the figure of Jesus of Nazareth (more correctly: Jesus the Nazarene). Vinzent writes: Marcion created a powerful narrative of a transcendent, pre-existing figure who appeared on this alien earth, in the midst of history, to liberate human beings from these physical chains of ignorance, greed, law, sin, judgement … Continue reading

Part 4—The new synoptic solution

This is one of the longer and more significant posts on this website. Here we will look at the recent work of two German patristics specialists, both of whom propose that Marcion of Pontus (fl. c. 130–c. 160 CE) presented the world with a gospel that predated all four canonical gospels. This in itself is mind-boggling, for it not only dates the canonical gospels much later (well into the second century) than is presently thought, but it also means that the heretic Marcion is critically implicated at an early stage of the canonical gospel tradition. According to this view, all our canonical gospels (written in fairly quick succession towards the middle of the second century) are Catholizing adaptations of Marcion’s. … Continue reading

Did the arch-heretic Marcion author the first gospel?

In the last post we began looking at the increasing evidence that the New Testament is a product of the second century, rather than the first. We continue now by examining the role that the arch-heretic Marcion of Pontus played in gospel formation, a role that is becoming ever more astonishing as scholars finally realize that Marcion is certainly implicated in the earliest stratum of canonical gospel formation. That stratum is normally associated with the Gospel of Mark. Can there be any historical connection here between the names “Mark” and “Marcion”? If so, how ironic that would be, since one is a Christian hero and the other an arch-villain! No gospel is mentioned by the Church Fathers before the appearance … Continue reading

Closed and open minds

Provocative work by fully credentialed specialists in New Testament studies is now quietly being conducted ‘behind the scenes’—that is, out of the general view of the public. An increasing portion of this work is supportive of Jesus mythicism, and a partial list of names quickly comes to mind: Thomas Brodie (recently), Hermann Detering, Matthias Klinghardt, Dennis MacDonald, Robert Price, Markus Vinzent… The historicity of Jesus is now seriously being undermined by these and other fully-accredited scholars. However, one wouldn’t suspect this by reading popularizing literature emanating from the pens of noted scholars such as Bart Ehrman. For that academic, the case is not merely closed—it was never open. Ehrman now has come out with yet another potboiler directed at the … Continue reading

Part 3—A revolution in the Synoptic Problem

The so-called Synoptic Problem can be defined as the search for the literary and redactional relationship between the three (obviously) extensively related “synoptic” gospels—Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Majority opinion has long favored the “two source theory”: Matthew and Luke primarily drew on Mark, and they also drew on a saying source not available to Mark known as “Q” (German abbreviation for Quelle, “source”). However, ongoing disagreements among New Testament scholars show that the two source theory is not satisfactory to many. Perhaps the biggest sticking point is that the Q source is entirely hypothetical. Despite a veritable library that has now been written about it (e.g., see John Kloppenborg’s massive works), Q is readily attacked as an ‘imaginary’ source. The … Continue reading

Brodie, McGrath, and the increasing polarization of biblical studies—Pt. 2

An age of seismic cultural shifts America is, apparently, reaching the acme of polarization in just about everything: politics, cultural values, distribution of wealth, opportunity for advancement… The current presidential election is a gut-wrenching, seismic shift, as an old paradigm of power gives way to something new and still uncertain. New, of course, can be good or bad—a Donald Trump, a Hillary Clinton, a Bernie Sanders, a Ted Cruz, a Marco Rubio—choose your poison/panacea… The pundits say the electorate is “angry.” That’s pretty obvious, and it must be because things just aren’t working for the vast majority of Americans. You’ve heard the list of complaints: long work hours, low wages, no raises in a decade, problematic health insurance (do you … Continue reading

J.P. Holding is sued for libel, and the increasing polarization of biblical studies—Pt. 1

The recent lawsuit against the rather notorious Christian apologist J.P. Holding (aka Robert Turkel)—whose tone and language have been anything but “Christian”—gives me an opportunity to invoke a little Buddhist ethics by applauding this recent manifestation of the mighty law of karma: what goes around comes around or, if you prefer, ‘as you do unto others, so also it will be done to you’ (cf. Mt 7:12 etc). It appears that Holding has been rather egregiously abusing the Golden Rule since the inception of his “Tekton Ministries” (a play on the Greek for “carpenter”?), and that the spiritual law of karma—more subtle than air and more predictable (IMHO) than the law of gravity—suddenly struck. As a result, the Tekton Apologetics … Continue reading