What We believe
Written By: Robert Brinsmead
The Jesus of the Bible is a empty shibboleth. Let’s start with the easy stuff; The non-virgin born Jesus of Mark, Paul and the book of John; the virgin born Jesus of Matthew and Luke; the non-virgin born Jesus of the original Jerusalem Church of the Jewish people or the virgin born Jesus of Gentile Christianity who looks suspiciously like he stepped straight out of a Greek myth? If anyone does not know that the Jewish Jesus movement, including his own family and relatives who supported that wing of the church, never accepted the virgin birth but deleted it from the book of Matthew, then I’m sorry – that person is oblivious to the facts about the irreconcilable differences between the Jewish church and the Gentile church. What view does the New Testament present – it presents both views of course, and those who don’t acknowledge this are the ones who pick and choose their way through the evidence of the NT.
Even for those who pick out the virgin born Jesus and ignore the other view of the earliest Jewish church, there are irreconcilable differences of Matthew and Luke; the genealogies can’t be reconciled even if you stand on your head and do a magical tap dance around the evidence. Was the nativity a peaceful thing (as in Luke – peace on earth, etc) so that the parents were able to linger around, take the child up to Jerusalem to be blessed by Simeon and all the rest, or did they rush off immediately down to Egypt after the visit of the wise men as in Matthew. Were Joseph and Mary living in a house in Bethlehem as in Matthew, or did they journey there in response to a census/taxation thing that took place in 6 AD,(Luke) Was Herod still alive when Jesus was born,…. We know that Herod died about 4 B.C. So did Mary have a 10 year pregnancy?
Did Jesus refuse to give any sign of his authority as in the Synoptic or did he continually give this and that sign as it keeps saying in John? Was the last supper a Passover meal or not – for here the Synoptic clearly contradicts the account of John. The Synoptic said that Jesus taught nothing except in parables, but in John he teaches without using a single parable, making long monologues about himself.
Surely all are united on the subject of the Resurrection. No, they are not. Here there are irreconcilable differences. Did Jesus meet his disciples in Galilee only after the resurrection as in Matthew and Mark, or was it in and around Jerusalem the first Sunday and after. The Galilean appearance would be impossible because Galilee was at least a week’s journey away
With Matthew, keeping the law is still important….with Paul the “not under the law” of Galatians was telling these Gentiles that they were under no obligation to live life as Jewish “Christians” (which is a misnomer)
Devout people, believing as a priori assumption, that the Bible could not possible give contradictory accounts, can cut and paste. For Instance, the Old Testament was put together with its two contradictory creation stories in Genesis, and its two flood stories cut and pasted together in Genesis also.
There are plainly different accounts of Jesus in the NT and different theologies of Jesus, especially in the Jewish church as distinct from the Gentile church. If you find this hard to accept, any good book on these two movements will show that despite the attempt of Paul and others, the two movements developed entirely different religions and went their own way in history. That’s why among all the Fathers of the Early Church, from Ignatius to Augustine, there is not one Jewish believer among them – and in all the great Councils of the Early Church that drew up the catholic (small “c”) Creeds, there was not a person from the Jewish church represented. This is because right from the beginning (as admitted by Dunn) the Jewish church did not subscribe to the tenants of the Creed. The brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church did not teach blood atonement, virgin birth, or the Godhood of his brother.
As F. F. Bruce admitted, the Synoptic gospels do not even teach the pre-existence of Jesus. And so you may ask ‘what Jesus and what theology’. I could go on to review material about the Supper as it was practiced among Jewish Christians and the Eucharist as it was practiced in Gentile Christianity – they were very, very different.
It is all as silly as arguing about the rest day for believers – Sabbath or Lord’s Day (1st day of week) – for the simple fact that the Jewish church kept the Sabbath of the Jews and continued to worship at the Synagogue with other Jesus people until about 90 AD when they were pushed out. It is pretty clear that very early the Gentile Christians showed a special regard for the day of the resurrection, and did it also to mark their distinction from Judaism.
Getting back to resurrection; it is clear from the extant literature of the time, that resurrection did not necessarily mean the raising of the human (animal-like) body. It is clear enough from 1 Corinthians 15 that Paul did not believe in the resurrection of a flesh and blood body, but rather in a “spirit” body – but that view was certainly not carried forward in at least 3 of the gospels (discounting the added or long ending of Mark). So which kind of resurrection do you want? I simply acknowledge that there is not one single view of this matter and therefore picking and choosing, or proof-texting, is not doing justice to the sources.
On what grounds therefore, can a believer in the virgin birth or the pre-existence of Jesus brand anyone who sticks with other strands of evidence, as someone who does not believe the Bible? By the same standard of judgment, the accuser does not believe the Bible either for the simple reason he ignores other traditions of the early church.
Please don’t get me started on the book of Revelation and its hateful ‘Christian’ message – I go even further than Luther who had no time for this NT book – I just think it is a wretched piece of literature, quite out of character to the “forgive them for they know not what they do” Jesus! I have no time for Biblicism, much less for Bibliolatry. This use of the Bible is religion at its worst and dehumanizes people. It is far better to forget the Bible and go join the human race.