Acts – Says ‘No’ to Divinity of Jesus.

I was just reading Geza Vermes book ‘the changing faces of Jesus’ and I came up to the chapter on Acts.

Geza does a great job detailing what titles and terms are used for Jesus and the seperation in the book from the Jerusalem ekklesia to the works of Paul (practically a 2 part writing). Geza does mention that Jesus is not given divine status in the book of Acts…as I have thought previously…based on the titles given and what people call Jesus through-out the book (also the original disciples pal around the temple a lot and hang with Pharisee’s). Acts 1:22 really sums it up:

“”Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know

Jesus (the Nazarene) – a man – attested/acknowledged by God – with miracles/signs – God performed through Jesus

Geza still only points to John and aspects of Paul’s letters as backing the claim of divinity in Jesus…and those aspects of Paul’s letters may be later additions since Acts does not really get into Jesus as divine whatsoever. The pattern above from Acts 1:22 seems to be the norm through-out the book of Acts concerning Jesus.

From this we can deduce Luke (also written by the same writer as Acts) does not make a claim to Jesus being divine. In fact, I would go as far to put all 3 synoptic gospels in that category…since like 80% each gospel is similar in detail. That takes 4 of the 5 main books out of the equation (which actually quote Jesus or the early church’s movements) as claiming Jesus as divine. John, is the only oddball, and he was written as late as 125 AD/CE….meaning he may have a whole nother agenda at work.

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Acts – Says ‘No’ to Divinity of Jesus.

  1. Each writer had their own agenda! The whole divinity question is just funny to me. If he was born of the spirit where does his mother come into the equation? She is fully human, right? So, it would be silly to say he was diven since Mary passed her genes onto him through childbirth. Unless women are just mere vessals, and nothing more, and men carried all the biological necessities for creation. Which, by the way, we know in the 21’st century to be untrue!!!

  2. “So, it would be silly to say he was divine since Mary passed her genes onto him through childbirth.” (Chris)

    The old virgin birth conundrum. I agree, there are multiple problems with the impregnation of Mary via the Spirit of God – namely the human aspect of Jesus. I am not sure why Mary even has to be impregnated for Jesus to be endued with the Spirit of God…that could of happened at any moment in time (as John’s gospel alludes to in Chapter 3 – no wonder John leaves the virgin birth out altogether).

  3. I agree. Paul in the first century, and later John in the second century are the creators of the Christ Myth. Paul, in his early letters changed the focus of the Jesus people from that of Jesus as a teacher to that of Jesus as a Christ. Then John after reading the correspondence picks up on the theme and makes possible the centurists churchs’ alteration of 1 John 5: 7-8 in the Fifteenth century to confirm once for all the illusion of theTrinity. You can read about it in a new book just out at Which-Bible.com

  4. “I agree. Paul in the first century, and later John in the second century are the creators of the Christ Myth. Paul, in his early letters changed the focus of the Jesus people from that of Jesus as a teacher to that of Jesus as a Christ” (Which Bible)

    I tend to agree with this synopsis (to some degree) based on Barrie Wilson’s, Geza Vermes, and Amy Jill Levine’s books. I also tend to think as this faith moved from a Judaic background to Gentile territories (and later becomes totally Gentile) the ideas and terms of original Jewish construction were mis-interpreted in Gentiles (Greco/Roman) regions.

    It’s not so much that Jesus became the Christ (he was claiming to be the messiah regardless – Christ = messiah) but how Paul saw that Christ message as compared to that of Peter, James, and John’s version. It seems Paul was a lot more philosophical in his religious thinking than Peter, James, and John – revealing a real gap in what Paul presented as compared to the gospels (for example).

    Paul seemed to care more about a mystical experience (and the others paid some attention to this – see Acts) – but moreover Paul seemed to view the whole religous faith in that vein. He did not want to know about a Jesus ‘in the flesh’ for example – almost as if Jesus’ whole life did not matter that much (of which we never see Paul mention). Paul seems to be about the resurrection and this new life…and some mystical experience within that. He is even compared by some current writers to the mystery cults of his days (since his speech is all about this ‘mystery’ revealed to the Gentiles).

    “You can read about it in a new book just out at Which-Bible.com” (Which Bible)

    Can’t say I will check it out – maybe – I have lots to read still that I haven’t even got close to catching up to yet. But I like the path you are kind of developing there in the book.

    • That’s why the Bible as a divine source has become unrelyable. If you approach each book as a novel of the time in which it was written the whole Holy Bible thing fars apart. Only by separating out the story telling can one even begin to find a God in these writings. It takes a whole different ming set then is the standard of our time.

  5. this should not come as a shock. thing about the bible is that there are a TON of contradictory statements.. or seemingly contradictory. to put together contradictory ideas like the divinity of Jesus, the orthodox position puts John and Paul FIRST and then the synoptics. state’n that John and Paul take care of the divinity and the synoptics take care of the humanity. okay, i guess that works.

    sometimes i wake up and i’m like “My Lord and my God” like Thomas in John… but most times i’m focused on the humanity of Jesus and don’t understand the divinity part at all. Jesus then is like Socrates. Neither is simply a teacher who communicates ideas, they DO something to ppl. they didn’t write anything but many after wrote ONLY about them. Both were viewed as enemies of the state and were put to death.

    also consider the Acts Paul vs. the actual letters of Paul. whitewash job the whole way man… James and Paul’s letters are two completely different styles of theology. one is Jewish and wants to remain such, the other is Jewish and is going after Gentiles. yet in Acts, you see a rosey picture of them both.

    • One has to remember that Pauls gospel (letters) were wrtten after the Q and Thomas sayings were already in circulation among the early groups. Pauls alteration of the Hymes of that time changed everything. some of the sayings credited to Jesus were already in voge for a hundred years. Being paraphased from the Sage Hillel’s teachings.

  6. “also consider the Acts Paul vs. the actual letters of Paul. whitewash job the whole way man…” (Luke)

    I think there was obviously some tinkering going on within Acts – but it does reveal a lot about the early community of Christians and how they began to set-up. It does reveal that even Luke (the gospel writer) thinks there was 2 movements and tries to detail them both – in Jerusalem and in Gentile regions (under Paul). It does reveal that this movement started in Israel and when the founders died off (or they fell out of swing with the authorities) – the movement lost it’s place and the Gentile movement swallowed it up.

    I mean, this is the only plausible way to account for the actual divinity status given to Jesus – I cannot think of another way this idea became valid (not within Judaism that’s for sure)…because the messianic ideals that get attached to Jesus after he becomes a gentile hero – are quite the stretch from the original ideas about the messiah in Judaism (even for those times).

    For example, Messiah was not God (that broke a few commendaments and it was not in the prophecies anywhere). The movement from ‘king’ to ‘God’ in this terminology can only be traced to gentile sources…since Judaism seen the messiah ideology as someone of a ‘king’ type. It makes me wonder where these ideas sprouted from and for what reason? I find it kind of strange now to consider Jesus God in light of the Torah…in all honesty.

  7. “Only by separating out the story telling can one even begin to find a God in these writings. It takes a whole different mind set then is the standard of our time.” (Which Bible)

    I tend to agree with this…since the bible came in pieces of works (single gospels or letters) and not in the canonized form we use now. Matthew could of stood on it’s head in a single community – same with a few of Paul’s letters. But this is not the impression we get now with the way church doctrine is built via book to book or letter to letter – almost as if they might fit seamlessly. Well, they don’t.

    I also think the type of writing/literature that is being used in the NT needs to be looked at more seriously…they are gospels, Acts (a gospel part II), letters, and Revelations (apocalyptic piece).

    The reason that is important is because of ‘focus’. Letters need to start being seen as just that – letters – which to me stand in the shadow of what people claim Jesus actually said and did (the gospels). The letters, if anything, should always be kept in context since they seem to address specific problems based on the best understanding of Christianity via the writer. I would hesitate to build big doctrines from letters vs. the gospels…reason being…they are letters.

    It’s like taking my book report on ‘A Tale of 2 Cities’ as substantially equal to the writing of the author itself. This is my personal opinion.

    It seems to me a few things in Christian literature need to be figured out:

    (a) Weighting of Importance
    (b) Context (within book/letter)
    (c) Analysis of prophecy in context of original usage (ie: Isaiah)
    (d) Time period and historical context – figuring out ‘agenda’

    As for Revelations, we need to start looking at the piece of lit more carefully also. I was just reading through some of the Book of Enoch I (check in wikipedia) and it is getting very plain to see where that piece of lit borrowed from and the possible intentions behind the piece. Yet this type of comparison criticism is largely ignored as people want to think Revelations is some ‘unique prophecy’. It ain’t (well the first 3 chapters are pretty neat). I am going to write on this at some point I think.

  8. Pingback: NT Analysis Comments… « Losing My Religion

  9. I just finished reading “Who Wrote the Bible” by Freidman and “Who Wrote the New Testament” by Mack and thus my opinion on the divinity issue. I can only agree that the Biblical authors (and there were many more then we have been lead to know) were brilliant writers of their time and subject. It’s the redators and editors that have down graded the product while the Bishops created the self perpetuiting Biblical scheme that caused the masses to be mislead. To read the orginal scrolls as written is fasinating and paints a whole different Biblical picture of God and mans’ relationship.

  10. It was English apologist and scholar, C.S. Lewis, who believing that Jesus was divine, came up with a formulation to defend his position. In Lewis’ formulation, since Jesus called himself God (in the gospel of John), there were only three logical possibilities: he was either a liar, lunatic, or Lord. If Jesus was wrong in his claim to be God, he either knew it or he didn’t. If he knew he wasn’t God, he’s a liar. If he didn’t know he wasn’t God, he must be crazy, or a lunatic. The final choice would be that Jesus was right in his claim and he must be the Lord. Lewis goes on to show all sorts of reasons that Jesus was not a liar or a lunatic….soooooo, the inevitable conclusion is: he is the Lord, God.

    Bart Ehrman relates that he came to see that the argument presented by Lewis as flawed. The argument, based on Jesus as liar, lunatic, or Lord, is based on the assumption that Jesus did truly call himself God. The author has come to the conclusion that he never called himself God. It was only in the latest gospel, John, that Jesus is said to call himself God. None of the earliest traditions in Christianity indicate that Jesus ever said any such thing about himself. None of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, or Luke say a thing about it. Wonder if they just forgot to mention that part? Perhaps Jesus’ divinity was simply a part of the author/authors of the gospel of John’s theology and was never a part of Jesus’ teaching.

    Ehrman says perhaps there’s another word to go with Lewis’ three in the formualtion: Liar, Lunatic, Lord, or Legend.

    Hold on now, what Ehrman means here was perhaps the idea that Jesus called himself God was a legend. Maybe Jesus never called himself God. This means he doesn’t have to be either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. He could be a first-century Palestinian Jew who had a message to proclaim other than his own divinity………..But this begs the question: how can Ehrman or any other New Testament scholar or historian know what Jesus actually said about himself or about anything else?

  11. “But this begs the question: how can Ehrman or any other New Testament scholar or historian know what Jesus actually said about himself or about anything else?” (Don)

    Tough on 2 levels:

    (a) Jesus never wrote down anything (no recorded evidence of this)

    (b) We are left with a variety of works (4 gospels; 3 similar – one not so similar) to determine what was actually said and wasn’t said (a process of deduction on any academics part)

    I think in the end we have to either choose to accept the written testimonies as certifiable of some factual evidence and then start to decipher from there. How much is actually from Jesus and what incidents…this is educated guesswork on the part of the one studying the info available.

    I know, for me, I tend to lean towards the synoptics as holding the best information available about him (closest in writing to his lifetime and similar in the re-tellings – 80% of the same story). However, I admit some things in those gospels have to be clearly additions – and some of this is noted by manuscript evidence. Some isn’t though.

    The virgin birth in Luke and Matthew seems to be an addition to back up the claim of Isaiah 7:14 (an obvious misinterpretation of that passage…and to prove he is the literal ‘son of God’…a term also that seemed to be misunderstood in Gentile communities). This is an example of something that seems added (after the fact) to prove Jesus was a human ‘son of God’. Paul makes no mention of such intricate ideas in his letters either.

    John’s gospel makes Jesus divine in a few places. The synoptics do not make this claim. It does make sense that perhaps by AD 125 this writing called John may have taken on a very gentile flavor (the split between Judaism and Christianity was a split about 5 decades in the making by that time). Paul had planted communities in Gentiles regions that eventually became interpreters unto themselves (with very little Jewish interpretive input on the terms)…and was being used to supplant Judaism as the real ‘religion’ for the way forward for the synagogue. So things got more literal than needed.

    It is these kinds of studies that each person looking into the gospels needs to determine for themselves – where the evidence points them towards. I tend to think a lot of the stuff recorded about Jesus in the gospels is likely something he said (since they do call him a ‘teacher’…making them students). It makes sense for them to have memorized these ideas (or write them down – no proof this was done in the 30’s)…and eventually they crafted stories called ‘gospels’.

  12. To begin with, the fact that Jesus did not write anything begs the question that if He was Divine why not write the same way He did on Sinai. With a command for words to appear on tables or what ever. Just considering what divine actually means makes the stories about his life very questionable.

    As for Bart, he makes his theories based on his research of the NT which includes many scrolls and books from the many that are available. Plus his reading and correspondence with many other scholars of the pass and present. These theologians are not basing their repetitions on quess work or vage information. They spend years traveling and researching.

    John was writing based on information from people who were not alive during Jesus’ life time or from books that were written by people who plagerizing each others works. Hence the reason for some of the stories agreeing. Meanwhile the point about scholars is well taken and begs, how can we of all people know what were talking about? This is where faith kicks in, but I completely reject faith on the bases that it is the ultimite cover up.

    Jesus never made a statment about his divinity except in Johns’ story which as I said is composed from hearsay. The Q and Thomas writtings are the only documents that were written by people who may have actually known Jesus. Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were all working with information from Q, Thomas and each other plus hearsay. Also Paul and Lukes’ works were believed by most creditable scholars to be by several different writers.

    The idea that Jesus was a street preacher of the Galilee and the early Jesus people (made up of both Q and Thomas’ followers) used Him as the source for their writings and to justify their inclusion of uncircumsised Gentiles in their fellowship, has much creditablity. It is greatly debated because of the fear that we are all going to nowhere after death. But it does explain a great deal and answers many, many questions.

    One last thing. Instead of faith, apply Contextual Creditability, Crition of Disimiliarity, and Independent Attestation to your research. It goes along way toward separating the chaf from the wheat.

  13. @ Don Rogers
    I think, in addition to “Legend”, you can add another counter argument to Lewis (and McDowell): “Perhaps, Jesus was deluded like you and me.
    I agree with you, though, it is probably “Legend”.

    @ Society & Luke
    One of the themes I think I hear you both sharing is what I sometimes call “Multivalent Beliefs“. That is, the insight that in our minds are many beliefs and many are contradictory. Our self changes as these beliefs cluster together to define any given “me” at any certain time.

    I think it is incredibly healthy to understand how deeply confused we are and how OK that is.

    This was an interesting post — thank you.

  14. “Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were all working with information from Q…” (Which Bible)

    This is pure hypotheses – this should be noted…since no Q (quella – source) document was actually ever uncovered. We hypothesize this may be the case…and I think thus far it is a valid option (the best option IMO).

    “The idea that Jesus was a street preacher of the Galilee and the early Jesus people (made up of both Q and Thomas’ followers) used Him as the source for their writings and to justify their inclusion of uncircumsised Gentiles in their fellowship, has much creditablity” (Which bible)

    There was likely 2 early communities – one that did reside in Palestine (or Jerusalem)…one in gentile regions (ie: Paul’s enclaves).

    Barrie Wilson seems to think the early Jewish community of Christians (ie: James, Peter, and John’s enclave) mostly died off prior to 70 CE and was then continued on by the Ebionites – as bst they could. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebionites for a little more info).

    Paul’s version of Christianty seems to have been taken over completely by Gentile Christians and moved away from many of the ideas the Ebionites would never accept (ie: divinity of Jesus would be an absolute no-no). Gentiles continued to grow in number – the Ebionites did not grow at the same rate and were eventually deemed ‘heretics’ by the mainstream gentile bishops (into the 2nd tp 4th centuries).

    Fact is, I agree with a version of the Noadhide laws that I think James, Peter, and John were trying to relate to Paul’s early communities. Acts 15 and Galatians 2 slightly attest to such an agreement (albeit there was obviously more work done after that incident).

    What I think happened is that Paul’s works were used to their most sharp edges to cut away any such connotations by some church in Jerusalem (that did not exist when the next generation of Christians ran with these written works). Emphasis was out on Paul’s ideas about the rejection of the law and from the on it was just a matter of time before ‘no authority from any Jewish source’. In fact, Christianty would clearly become enemies with Judaism and try usurp their history as well (as the centuries continues to pass on).

    Paul’s works really aren’t that bad – it’s the agenda that comes along with it that is a real problem. I also think as Christians we have forgotten our roots – and how we are supposed to relate to Judaism – through what I can only consider was the most realistic version of this faith – that which derived directly from people that literally followed Jesus (ie: Peter, James, and John’s early Jerusalem community). This is an arena that needs to be looked at much deeper.

  15. (a) Jesus never wrote down anything (no recorded evidence of this)

    neither did Socrates. nor did many other teachers that have been followed through the ages. sure Christians came from Judaism but we also have the inclusion of the gentiles and then the mixing of all the thoughts and ideas.. some have worked out better than others.

  16. With all due respect. After reading over all our comments of the resent days, it would seem that we are in some sort of agreement that Jesus was NOT divine. Am I correct in this assumtion? Which should then allow us to next move on and examine the writings of the 1st and 2nd century authors and how Christianity was conceived.

    This examination of early and recent Christian aurthors is near and dear to my heart. I find that knowing there is a God and examining how men have managed to shift attention away from God to themselves is fasinating to me.

    The reformation of old and this new reformation that is moving along and starting to gather a head of steam is exciting.

  17. “After reading over all our comments of the resent days, it would seem that we are in some sort of agreement that Jesus was NOT divine. Am I correct in this assumtion?” (Which bible)

    I would say you are pretty much accuarate…however Luke only has questions on the idea but does believe in the trinity (how much is really up to him to decide). But I would say we are in agreeance more or less.

    “Which should then allow us to next move on and examine the writings of the 1st and 2nd century authors and how Christianity was conceived” (Which bible)

    I like this research also myself, I don’t live by it mind you, but I am very fascinated by what the message seems to be revealing as we look at the totality of what was written. I like history – and this falls into that category (a sort of deciphering the history of the early Christian movement).

    What do you propose we discuss – the earliest canons or dating of Christian literature…and what this means for the face of the Christian movement?

  18. There is so much. The early canons and even the banned materials (gnostics) are fun. If you start with the earliest, the (hypothetical) Q, Thomas then Paul, on to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. I don’ t mean to go crazy but the actual Paul material verses the forgeries, alone, could take a few reams of email. I’m just enjoying taking a brake from writting to read and answer your queries.

    The pursuit of who, what, where, and when of God in all these writings is the quest. I keep tring to scrape away all the barnacles that have attacted themselves to this vessel we call God to see if the Deity is in there somewhere.

    We have three very valid points of veiw here, as long as we have time and inclination, go for it. What else is there to do until we either end up in the ground or on the mantel.

  19. “We have three very valid points of veiw here, as long as we have time and inclination, go for it.” (Which bible)

    I’ll see what I can get into next as for as dealing with these issues – since I also find them quite interesting myself. Maybe we can start with Q, then move into Paul, and some other gospel material. I’ll see what interests me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s