Tuesday, April 01, 2008
The New Testament Class
Dudes.. seriously.. you gotta get a book called The New Testament; A Historical Introduction to Early Christianity by Bart D. Ehrman. Bart also wrote "Misquoting Jesus" which i also highly recommend. why do i loooove this book/class so much? well it really helps bring into focus the historical world of Jesus. Here are some thoughts from the book:
Many christians today think that there was once ONE christianity in the first century and that the splits (i.e. the many denominations) of christianity are a modern invention. NOT so. There were at least 4 types, if not more. we had the Jewish-Christian Adoptionist that thought Jesus was not himself divine but his message was. Calling Jesus God was a blasphemous lie. They liked the gospel of Matthew and thought Paul was a heretic.
The Marcionite Christians on the other hand LOVED Paul and thought that Jesus was Divine and NOT human. Marcionites believed that the Jewish god was evil and Jesus came to save us from this god. Marcion (the leader) actually went further and put together a "canon" or standard books. Their bible was a shortened version of Luke and ten truncated letters of Paul with NO Hebrew Scriptures.
There were the Gnostics who believed that there was a special knowledge that is necessary for salvation. Salvation meant escaping from this material world. Jesus was fully human but yet was entered into by another entity known as the CHRIST at his baptism. therefore jesus was two beings. Gnostics were also polytheists believing that there were at least 32 different gods and some even believed there were 365 gods and each one controlled one day. They had their own writings, namely the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Truth, and the GOSPEL OF JOHN. Yes, that's right, John is a Gnostic gospel.
Proto-Orthodox christians claimed that it's views had always been the majority position and that it's rivials (meaning all you've just read about) were heretics. They later became the dominant form. They accomplished this by taking everyone else's major gospels, namely matthew, mark, luke and john and claiming that these held the real authority. these christians argued that jesus was both divine and human and was one being instead of two. by accepting all scriptures as authorities they were able to claim that both perspectives were right and showed their emphasis was correct and that argue'n that Jesus was ONLY human or ONLY divine was a perversion of the truth.
so that's how the New Testament emerged, namely out of conflicts from these groups. and we've been debate'n the acceptance of what books should be in the bible ever since. there were some popular ones like the shepherd of hermas that didn't make it. Revelation was the MOST disputed book, but somehow made it in. It was not until the year 367 C.E. (almost two and a half centuries after the last n.t. book was written) that the 27 book N.T. canon was accepted.
another thing to think about is the gap between writing. Mark was prolly the first Gospel written about Jesus... it was written 30 to 40 years after the death of Jesus. This would be like having the first written record of the Eisenhower presidencey appear today. There is also NO written reference to Jesus or his followers in pagan literature toay from the first century of the common era.
crazy facts for a crazy world. now we don't have to say "i wanna go back to that one time christianity" when we never had it. even the early church set up was split between 5 major ancient cities. gotta love history, it's so crazy interesting!