I am currently reading Tom Harpur’s new book ‘Water into Wine’ and I am not sure what to think of it all. Pieces of it are really good (interpretation pieces) and part’s of it I think are very questionable (Paul’s mythology). So here is what I will put out there after 3 chapters of reading.
(1) Jesus is mythical – it’s an interesting idea – but I am not sure this is the case. I can see the virgin birth and a few other things being questioned as myth – but the actual person? He is similar to mythic characters – agreed – and maybe that adds to the stories – also agreed – but he does come off as a real person – and at that in a Jewish culture and community (which the writings also reflect – even if all we have is greek to go by). Maybe these scholars are missing something here in the historical study?
(2) The whole Mark, Matthew, Luke, and Q thing is tired and old. Mark is always first – and that’s the current concensus (agreed) – but this is a field still wide open. The argument Mark came first and Matthew copied makes sense. But the opposite does also – Matthew came first and Mark was a shortened version of it – with 2% changes – for a different crowd. And Q – hell if we know that exists – there is no proof whatsoever (nor a document found). I think this is all questionable and if someone stakes a claim on any of this for some new-founded idea – it is at the very least – worth questioning.
(3) The whole Paul see’s Jesus as myth is right from left field and makes no sense. I am not saying Paul doesn’t allegorize a lot and some of his stuff can be mystic – agreed. But I think Paul saw Jesus as a real person that lived on one simple basis – Jesus crucified gets mentioned a lot in his writings (and is in each gospel). Now if crucifixion was something from 100’s of years ago when Paul wrote – I might agree – however it was a known form of death during Paul’s life. If Paul is going to wax mythic on everything – he has a very stange way of doing it.
(4) The problem of Acts and Luke weighs in here. Luke seems to have no problem writing a gospel and an ‘acts of the apostles’ that clearly lays out Jesus was a person and that Paul knew the original disciples. This actually has to lend creedence to the idea since Luke is a 2nd generation believer who also seems to know Paul (mentioned in his letters and even uses the communion idea Paul does verbatim in his gospel). Luke copied the gospels – clearly – but who do we think he got them from…well if he’s honest in any sense – then possibly the first community of Christians. I think Luke is very strong evidence that a Jesus existed. Also if Luke wrote last and Paul mentions him in letters – doesn’t it go to figure the other gospels possibly existed (even Paul mentions problems with ‘gospels‘ – plural – in his letters).
(5) I like the idea of looking at the teachings from a more mythological perspective – not everything has to be literal – agreed. I like this – there seems to be something to learn here – and Harpur makes a great point about the ‘mysteries of God’ and ‘parables’ revealing deeper ideas about who God is. I can dig that.
(6) This whole mythology thing is based on the historical Jesus and builds from there (which I must say is quite the sturdy platform). I wonder – how much proof is there for a Peter, James, or John in 1st century AD? Or Paul? I mean, why stop at Jesus here – we have many names to peruse. If they all come up blank – then are they all made up also? Where did they come from then?
(7) Finally, my last qualm starts with Luke again. Isn’t it odd that Luke has name attached to a gospel at all – and Acts? I can see Matthew and John – but Luke – who was not even a disciple at all? I thought the idea was attaching names of prominence to these things – even Thomas carries some weight – who the hell is Luke I ask? Yet he has 2 written documents – more than all of the actual disciples in terms of volumne of writing. Isn’t that at all strange? And then we see Mark and Luke as travelling companions via Paul’s letters – were they writers for people? Is Mark Peter’s son – possibly that close to him – thus a gospel? Just maybe Luke was the author – and if that is so – then he wrote alongside Paul (or close to him). And if he copied – well – need I say more where this is going.
I am having as tough a time turning possible history into mythology – kinda like I would turning water into wine.