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HolyGround >> In response to a question I was asked...


2/16/13 5:33 AM
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amadeus
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***FRAT WARNING***

On another forum I frequent a thread was started concerning the divinity of Jesus and that the OP was attending a Church that taught that Jesus was not born devine. I dropped my .02 saying that in the early days of Christianity this was a widely held belief... You would have thought I was the 2nd coming of Satan by the holier-than-thou reactions I recieved. The moderator started deleting my posts and I quickly gave up. A short while later I recieved a couple messages asking about my thoughts from several of the forum members. I responded with this...

You'll have to forgive me as I am writing a general response to several people who have asked for responses. Also, being in Afghanistan I do not have access to my notes and so cannot give sources as to where I get all my information. If you want it, hit me up again in 6 months. Because this is such a complex and convoluted subject it is easier to answer specific questions than provide a clear narrative from point A to point B. With that in mind, feel free to ask specifics and I will respond to best of my knowledge. I started my search to expand my knowledge on the subject, probably about 10 years ago and quite by accident. Roman history has always been my focus and much of my research has been an outgrowth of that and has led me to some interesting information that has changed how I view the Bible, if not God or Jesus. Before I go on, I would like to state that I very much believe in God and I very much believe in Jesus and the Crucifixion. It's the details I have an issue with. I have come to the realization that most Christians do not have a proper understanding of pre-millennium Hebrew customs and culture, which in my belief is essential to understanding what the Bible/Tanach says and why it is written the way it is [it is an ancient Near-Eastern document and written in a very specific manner for a purpose]. For myself, when I read the Old Testament I refer to the Tanach.

The Old Testament as accepted by [most] Christians is incorrect. Beyond poor translation, which is not what I'm referring to, there are several books missing and added, and more importantly to Christianity, several are out of correct order. How do we know this? Because we have the Tanach [Hebrew Bible]. Early Christian missionaries largely used a Greek translation of the Tanach [the Septuagint] to appeal to the Greek speaking world. In doing so they drew upon documents classified by Hebrew rabbinical authorities of the time as uncanonical. The Old Testament while of great importance to Christians, comes second to the New Testament, however, for Judaism it is their primary guide.

I often tell atheists who completely deny the validity of the Bible that if it is nothing else, it is an early history of the Hebrew people, and the Tanach shows a very specific view of history. The Jews arrive on the scene and conquer Israel (Genesis to Judges). They have a Golden Age, fall into sin, have their kingdom split and are eventually exiled (Samuel and Kings). There’s soul-searching by prophets who’ve kept nagging for their nation to suck less. Also promises of redemption, and vengeance on Israel’s oppressors (Isaiah to Malachi). Then comes the chronicling of an extensive culture from the Golden Age or the exile (Psalms to Daniel). Then, hopes for the future as some return to Jerusalem (Ezra and Nehemiah). Finally there’s Chronicles. It surveys all of Jewish history up to the end of the Babylonian exile. The last words of the Tanach are Thus said King Cyrus of Persia:[...]Who is there among you of all his people[...]let him go up [to Jerusalem].

The Old Testament fits nicely with the idea of the old law and its inadequacy. The world is created and Original Sin descends — same text but the interpretations couldn’t be more different (Genesis). The Jews arrive on the scene, are led out of Egypt and conquer Israel (Exodus to Judges). They build an empire but due to stiff-neckedness and the inadequacy of the “Law” it’s destroyed (Samuel to Kings). They go into exile, come back and try to rebuild (Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah). They even have more recent history and culture (Esther to Song of Solomon). But all of this proves inadequate. The Old Testament then gets to the meat of it — the prophets come at the end leading very nicely into the New Testament. They’re portrayed as foreshadowing Christ and lamenting the aftermath and failures of the old covenant (Isaiah to Malachi). The last verses are very telling: I will send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD[...]lest I smite the land with a curse. A great segue into Matthew, especially for bibles that have no Apocrypha...

Now what do these differences change? Well, alot... But only in the details. For the purposes of staying with Jesus I will simply say that in the Tanach theses prophesies do not foretell of Christ’s coming but of another that is present within the Hebrew Bible. [I cannot remember who specifically. I want to say David, but I believe I am wrong.] In the earliest Christian writings Elijah is a reference to John the Baptist. In either case it does not refer to Jesus. But this isn't necessarily a big deal which I'm coming to...

The ancient Hebrews [as well as modern religious Jews] do not accept the idea of a biological son of God. It goes completely against their beliefs and always has. What they did believe is that God will single out specific individuals for special purposes and these people become adopted Sons of God. There are several examples of this within the Tanach, with Moses and David being the most famous. And while David is prophesied, Moses is not. With this in mind, Jesus’ coming does not have to be foretold for the Crucifixion for mankind to hold true.
2/16/13 5:43 AM
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amadeus
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(cont...)

Moving on to the New Testament... We know that the Gospels were first written around 70 C.E. To answer the why, we must first ask what would be happening around this time? Well, the most obvious answer is this is the time that the Apostles and anyone who would have actually personally heard Jesus’ ministry would have been dying off. His story and teachings had to be preserved. However, this was well past the Council of Jerusalem and the complete break away from the Jewish faith and so had to be done in a way that would not antagonize Roman authorities. And this is where my issues with the Passion story spring from...

A little background... The Roman's were a peculiar people in many ways. The only things they ever bragged about in regards to themselves, was the ability to build and to fight. Culturally [but not as a people] they felt themselves inferior to any culture older than themselves, especially the Greeks. With that in mind, they revered or at least respected cultures older than theirs. However, if it was younger, it was viewed with suspicion. Prior to the Council of Jerusalem, Christianity was seen by Christians, Jews [although Jews considered it heretical], and Romans as a Jewish sect. In point of fact at this time, to be Christian you had to be Jewish. Saul of Tarsus changed all that, for better and worse... At the Council of Jerusalem [which interestingly enough ultimately boiled down to circumcision] Christianity made the official break with Judaism and so was no longer under 'protection' from Rome.

Now dealing strictly with the Passion story for a moment, the New Testament presents a narrative of Pontius Pilate being pressured into executing Jesus by the Jewish sect of Pharisees against his more merciful desires. The problem with this is the Romans under no circumstances ever put up with challenges to their rule by their subject people, as the Jews found out during their revolt in 66-73 C.E., a Roman Procurator would never have permitted the Jews to be so presumptuous. Also, shortly after the time of the Crucifixion, Pontius Pilate is also recorded as having been ordered back to Rome and executed for excessive brutality towards the people. Not stop and think about that for a moment... How bad do you have to be, that the Romans find you too brutal!? Does this really sound plausible, that he would have a problem executing Jesus? We also know that among the followers of Jesus were Zealots, Simon being mentioned specifically. What I believe is most plausible considering the information we have, is that Jesus had a significant following among Zealots who were shunned by the other Jewish sects [Josephus describes them as a sect unto their own but this is largely in reference to the Jewish rebellion against Rome], and that the Pharisees [who did not approve of Jesus ministry or teachings] brought this to the attention of Pilate who's agents then approached Judas Iscariot who sold Jesus out. Pilate then had Jesus arrested and Crucified [which was a very common method of execution for non-Roman citizens].

Remember what I said about the Romans respecting cultures and religions older then themselves and how the Council of Jerusalem negated protection of Christianity under that idea? If your faith is already viewed with suspicion as a cult, which Christianity was after Jerusalem, and you want the ability to practice in the open, the last thing you're going to do is antagonize the ruling authorities. You can't omit the execution of the principle founder of your faith, so what do you do? You tweak the details to shift blame from the Romans to the Pharisees and paint the Roman judicator in a favorable and sympathetic light in hopes that your faith will be allowed to practice openly.

Now I ask you, what changes in terms of Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of mankind does any of this make? To that I answer... Nothing. The details may be different, but the end is the same.

As for the Church Councils that followed, I suppose my taking of any of the Council decisions [with the exception of Jerusalem] with a 'grain of salt' is due to that they took place 300 years after the Cruxifiction and the death of anyone who personally knew what Jesus himself taught. And when you read the accounts of the Councils they read like political parties debating and deciding what their official platform is going to be; each side conceeded something to come to an agreement they all could live with. It seems to me that the nature of God and what he wants/expects isn't something that should be subject to a vote.

I had planned on going into other topics that are also quite interesting [how the Babylonian exile dramatically influenced the Jewish and by extension Christian faith, the changes that were made to the Gospels after their original authorship, how bringing Christianity to the Greeks forever changed the faith, and why the Romans looked on the Christians with so much suspicion]; but looking at the length of what I wrote, that doesn’t seem wise for the moment.
________________________________________________________

I’m not looking to change anybody’s beliefs. That is not for me to do. But for me, I’ve found that as I’ve done my own study my Christian beliefs are more comfortably melding with early turn of the millennium Jewish/Christian beliefs. I have not fully rectified everything, and I think that will come with greater study, but I believe in God and I believe in Jesus. Being as those two things are the principle tenets of Christianity, I would think that, that is what is ultimately important. I'm humble enough in my faith to know and accept that there is an almost guarenteed certainty that I have details wrong. That's why I won't try to convince anyone else that my way is the way. But I also don't believe anyone else is wholly correct either... Not for close to at least 2,000 years.


(Going back to the reaction to my posts on the original thread... Those that are Christian on that forum range from Southern Baptists, Mormon, Catholics... Basically all your major denominations. I find it interesting that there was so much condemnation of my differeing beliefs when many of those denominations beliefs are so different from the others that they would decend into condemnation of each other had they stopped to discuss their beliefs. The hypocracy asounds me sometimes...)

Anyway, I just thought I'd post my response to those that had stopped to ask, and see what kind of conversation it might spark here...
2/20/13 6:19 PM
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zealot66
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I'll have to look at it more but I agree with alot of what you are saying about the cultural views of the times. There is no record of Pontius Pilate being executed in Rome. That is some christian fable. Procurators of Rome were moved in and out of the area quite frequently as it was a shitty assignment that you kind of did to move on to better things or if you failed pretty bad, you went back and grew grapes or something. One of the biggest debates before 300 ad was whether Jesus was the same substance of god or a similar substance or whether he was a man divinely inpsired. People don't realize that christianity as we know it theologically developed over hundreds of years. There wasn't Jesus then a book of systematic theology. And all were good in their intents in general, just confused because it IS confusing especially if you lived at a time that had a decentralized church.

2/21/13 10:36 AM
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gord96
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Edited: 04/08/13 11:14 AM
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........
2/22/13 7:01 AM
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amadeus
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zealot66 - There is no record of Pontius Pilate being executed in Rome. That is some christian fable.


The Romans themselves didn't keep those types of records. There is a record but it's from a fragmented history that no one is sure who wrote. I ran across a reference once claiming Josephus wrote it, but somehow that doesn't seem plausible to me. I find it unlikely that it would be a Christian story either, as the Bible paints Pilate as reluctently executing Jesus, whereas this history described him as being excessively brutal and cruel.

I do find it interesting, that until recently this reference and the Bible are the only records we have that Pilate ever existed at all.
2/22/13 8:50 AM
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zealot66
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I'm aware of the piece you are talking about. Rome would not have executed a prominent citizen of that magnitude. I'll look it up again but Pilate was both written into being a christian convert and also demonized by christians. Fact is we don't know. I'm very very familiar with Josephus and studied him for about 3 years. There are some interesting stories but he WAS recalled. but tour of duties were short there if you look at the time spent by each procurator. there are lists out there, I'll try and find it.

2/22/13 9:25 AM
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amadeus
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I disagree... Pilate, if he was executed, would not have been the first. I will agree that it was extremely rare tho. It often was as much a case of who your political enemies were as of what you did.

Bottom line is we can't know for certain.
3/29/13 9:44 AM
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CJJScout
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Admittedly I stopped reading after you said the Septuagint was greek, that is patently false. It was Latin.
3/29/13 10:09 AM
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amadeus
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CJJScout - Admittedly I stopped reading after you said the Septuagint was greek, that is patently false. It was Latin.

You might wanna start reading again then...

The Septuagent is a translation of the Hebrew Bible and related texts into Koine Greek. It is dated as early as the late 2nd century BCE and traditionally believed to have been sponsored by Ptolemy II for Alexandrian Jews.
3/29/13 11:42 AM
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CJJScout
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amadeus - 
CJJScout - Admittedly I stopped reading after you said the Septuagint was greek, that is patently false. It was Latin.

You might wanna start reading again then...

The Septuagent is a translation of the Hebrew Bible and related texts into Koine Greek. It is dated as early as the late 2nd century BCE and traditionally believed to have been sponsored by Ptolemy II for Alexandrian Jews.

You are correct, may need to re-read. I was in a rush and got my Septuagint and Vulgate confused.
3/29/13 6:14 PM
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zealot66
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CJJScout - Admittedly I stopped reading after you said the Septuagint was greek, that is patently false. It was Latin.

haha. How embarassing for CJJ Scout. Septuagint is basically greek for the 70 rabbi's that translated the OT into Greek for the hellenized jews. 

I have to say something that just burns me up. People think so much of their knowledge in two areas in life, Politics and Religion and most of the time, they just make themselves look like fools ( not talking now about CJJ ). . Let us all be mindful of this one thing. 

The smartest people I know - KNOW what they are sure they KNOW and aren't afraid to tell you when they DON"T KNOW. My specialty is the NT and the first Century. I cannot adequately debate the issues of say the split between the East and West churches. Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy. From Julius Caesar to around Eusebius's time is my area of expertise, including Josephus- a remarkable and God send on the political and social issues of the time. Our knowledge of the Jews in Roman Society and NT studies would be woefully in adequate would we not had Josephus preserved. Even though he tells us nothing about jesus, he tells us so much about the world in which he lived.

4/8/13 9:10 AM
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CJJScout
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Not embarassed at all. I'll be wrong again.
4/9/13 1:49 PM
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Poker face
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Very interesting read my question is why did Constantine decide to switch to christianity(so when did Christians stop being considered a cult) as the religion of the roman empire?? I could read it on wikipedia but I enjoy talking on forums... Phone Post
4/9/13 2:42 PM
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TheHawker
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Constantine's mother was a Christian, and he himself was possibly a crypto-Christian long before his Edict of Milan. But it's not accurate to say he made Christianity the religion of the empire, he simply granted Christianity the same rights as other religions. Most of the "Christianization" of the empire occurred under subsequent emperors.
4/9/13 4:48 PM
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CJJScout
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Poker face -  Very interesting read my question is why did Constantine decide to switch to christianity(so when did Christians stop being considered a cult) as the religion of the roman empire?? I could read it on wikipedia but I enjoy talking on forums... Phone Post

The story goes that he saw a vision of the cross (or Jesus?) before he entered into a battle and won. After that, the cross was cool with him.
4/11/13 9:10 AM
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amadeus
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Poker face -  Very interesting read my question is why did Constantine decide to switch to christianity(so when did Christians stop being considered a cult) as the religion of the roman empire?? I could read it on wikipedia but I enjoy talking on forums... Phone Post

It depends on who you ask...

Personally I am doubtful as to Constantine's 'vision' prior to the Battle of Milivian Bridge, mostly because the story doesn't begin to appear until about 10 years later when he was being exalted at court (I cannot remember the term).

For my part I think he made the switch out of political motivations. He saw that Christianity was growing by leaps and bounds and, not understanding just how fractous the faith was, saw it as a means to unite the empire.

None of this to say he wasn't a Christian, I just don't think he converted until later in life.
4/11/13 9:51 AM
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gord96
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Agree with amadeus.

He was probably a little disappointed when he realized how many different sects and schools of thought Christianity had. No wonder he had to gather all the major players up at Nicea and say "agree on something!".

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