SVS’ Take on Early Christian History

*Comment made on Carly Jo’s blog ‘Historicity of Jesus’

According to the gospels of the NT they had it wrong in a lot of ways. You must compare, yeah, but always in light of the NT interpretation” (Carly Jo)

Wrong? If they had it wrong how can we be sure we have it right? We are basing our gospels on the Tanakh texts – not vice versa.

To compare in light of the NT interpretation as always being right is – well arrogant? It’s like saying the latest version always is a better re-write of the earlier version – since it has new additions! If this is the case then Mormonism and Islam need to be given more serious consideration.

You see the key thing here is ‘historical study’ – inside and outside of the NT texts. Things we know:

Jesus was Jewish and so were all of his early disciples – therefore what religion were they following?

In Acts 15 we see Peter, James, and John hanging out with the Pharisee’s and leaders in Judaism – why exactly? In fact, in that story the Pharisee’s help rule on what Paul is doing in Gentile territories. This was some years ater Jesus’ death and we find these same core disciples following what seems to be early Judaism.

Paul has a mission into Gentile territories – many places in various regions (according to his letters). We know Paul used the local beliefs to help interpret his message – from Acts. The unknown God story is a great example of this. Paul seemed to understand the idea of making Christianity relevant via the iconagraphy around him to get the point home.

Paul dies at some point and his communities continue. These are clearly seperated from Judaism – according to Paul’s own letters. They would have had no access to Jewish texts and the original teachings behind them. So when the stories they use need a common interpretation they ‘borrow’ from their own cultures (what they know personally) to make the relevant points they need to.

These stories appear in the later versions of the gospels – again written by 70 AD and after – no original disciple could of proof-read the additions to advocate for what was or was not original in nature.

By about the time Paul left for his missionary journies there was already a power-play set in motion for the heart of the Christian mentality. Read Paul and it’s all clearly there – in Acts (written by Luke – a Gentile) and within his own letters. Paul, who was never an apostle according to the community in Jerusalem, becomes one – the most important one in fact. Self-appointed albeit – but his mission and his ideas become the cornerstone for later Christianity in centuries after.

If one thing is clear it is this – there was a Jewish Jesus with Jewish disciples that started this movement. Paul continued it and I believe was strongly misinterpreted in Gentile communities about ideas (from Judaism) that these Gentiles would have had little access to (for corrections and mistakes).

But we live in quite the freedom of information age – so it’s weird to imagine someone not having access to what we do – biblically and historically. But with this knowledge comes a responsibility concerning those texts to get at what is being meant. In the end, it’s the study of the Tanakh that will enlighten our own texts – not vice versa.

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2 thoughts on “SVS’ Take on Early Christian History

  1. Hey! That was an excellent post! and conveniently relevant to the new Modernization theme.
    I re read Acts 15 and to say that it looks like the core disciples were practicing early Judaism seems like a bit of a stretch, but I could see that.
    I have a few questions about that thought, however. Did Jesus come to establish a new religion? Did He?
    I know the authorship to Mark and Matthew are pretty questionable, while John and Luke aren’t really up for debate. We know that John, Mark, and Matthew were Jewish. Most of the modern doctrine from the gospels come from John’s words, and the sermon on the mount. <-at lease that's been my experience. The point is the life of Jesus was recorded by jews, and it appears to be in line with Paul's letters. It also is in line with the Tanakh. The gospel writers also posed another view of who the messiah was based on the Tanakh that was very different from Jesus. That messiah came to relieve the oppression from the Roman government. The Jews of the time modernized.
    Also, Islam and Mormonism do need serious consideration. I probably haven't considered them enough, but from what I have looked at they have a lot of apparent contradictions (I don't know how well their scholars defend them) and the morality doesn't line up with mine (but I don't know how their scholars defend that either).
    Thank you for the reminder to do that, and I really loved your comments on Luke as a Gentile, and the Gentile tendency to borrow from their own culture for understanding. I like it a lot, and it does shed a lot of light on how scripture is interpreted.

  2. “Did Jesus come to establish a new religion? Did He?” (Carly Jo)

    A whole new religion…I would say an adamant no. Within the sphere of when Jesus was teaching, alongside John the Baptist, there were are already possibly 5 groups within that Judaism: Essenes, Zealots, Saducce’s, Pharisee’s, and Herodians. Why couldn’t it be possible Jesus could fit in as a 6th sect?

    “I know the authorship to Mark and Matthew are pretty questionable, while John and Luke aren’t really up for debate.” (Carly Jo)

    I actually think Matthew, Mark and Luke are pretty clear on authorship. John is quite questionable due to it’s varying style from those 3 (the synoptics). There is reason to believe Matthew existed in an earlier form that may have been closer to the language of the people or at least written around the time of Mark. However, that would be a short version of Matthew which included the sermon on the mount (not found in Mark). Later additions could have been added to Matthew – namely at the front and the end (as was noticed with Mark’s ending).

    John as a gospel is clearly outside the realm of the synoptics – the writing and teachings are quite different. John seems to clearly be a gospel that was written in gentile communities vying for the right of Christianity to usurp Judaism as the religion of the day (not that the synoptics aren’t doing this – but they don’t use some of the harsh seperating rhetoric). John also makes clear divides in theology from the synoptics, including chapter 1 where Jesus is not born of a virgin, he’s a god.

    “The gospel writers also posed another view of who the messiah was based on the Tanakh that was very different from Jesus. That messiah came to relieve the oppression from the Roman government. The Jews of the time modernized.” (Carly Jo)

    I actually agree with you on that – modernization of the messianic ideas within that time frame (thus Bar Kohkba and other messianic figures that arose in the fervor). Rome was the problem , they took the land then imposed may horrible things upon the Jewish people (including 2 incidents of squelching war that went waaay too far).

    However, Jesus is right in there with those other messianic figures – same time period and same Roman oppression – how can we be sure he is the messiah?

    “I like it a lot, and it does shed a lot of light on how scripture is interpreted.” (Carly Jo)

    Thanks Carly, I am enjoying your blog and thoughts as well!

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