Jesus Versus Christ
Written by: Robert D Brinsmead
The research into Q shows quite clearly shows that the first Jesus people from Galilee preserved the essential sayings and teachings of Jesus; and without any Christology.
In other words, what is important to them is the teaching of the man rather than a teaching about the man.
This sets up the great contrast between the original gospel of the man, and the later gospel which was all about the man.
The gospel of the man is found in about 8 to 10 verses in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.
What is important are the words, not who said the words. In the earliest Q, there is no Christology, no teaching about who the man was.
The words are true on their own self-attesting authority. It makes no real difference who said them. They would be just as true if they were found in the Te Ching, the Chinese “Bible.” They would be just as true if the words came from Hoo Flung Dung or the mouth of an ass.
It is the words of the speaker that are important, not the speaker. He very briefly comes on to the stage of history, speaks his lines, and then disappears. He says nothing about himself. He does not tell us on what authority he says such things. The words carry their own authority.
Naturally people are curious enough to want some more information about the speaker, in fact, people have an endless appetite for more and more information about the speaker. The information, historically, is pretty sparse, so religious information has added more and more until the speaker becomes far more important than his words. Finally, the speaker is made into a supreme god to be worshipped. His words shunted up a sideline. , or we might say, have been relegated to a footnote of some good advice, but not at all necessary for salvation. Because the words don’t provide us a vicarious human sacrifice and all the necessary paraphernalia of religion, they are not even mentioned in any of the great Creeds of the Church – not even a word is just one Creed.
Think about it: the Q preserves the essential words of Jesus, but tells us nothing at all about the person and work of Christ. Ah, the person and work of Christ is actually the Christian gospel. In this gospel, it is person and his work that is all important. This is what is confessed in all the great Creeds. Salvation rests upon the person and his work.
Think of all the controversies and heresy hunts that resulted:-
1) arguments about his person: one nature or two natures? Two wills, two natures? A docetic Jesus or a real human body? Two natures in two persons or two persons in one nature, or finally a la Chalcedon of the 5th century, two natures in one person? Then add all the God-related controversies – Adoptionism, Arianism and the Creed of Athanasius. If that is not enough, then we have arguments about the birth, virgin or natural, and an immaculate conception beginning with the parents of Mary. Then his life. Was he really sinless? Why his baptism which was after all a baptism of repentence? Was he infallible? In short, here under the head of his person is fodder for two thousand years and millions of pages of argument that serves the purpose of a great distraction on what the man simply said in the first place. It is hard to sustain an argument about his words which are all to clear (love unconditionally and without retaliation because that is what God is like). Instead of paying attention to this original gospel, we go on this great tangent of endless debates about his person which at the end of the day DOES NOT MATTER.
If this is not enough of a distraction, think of:-
(2) his work – here is a soteriological proposition so big and so debatable that it makes a distraction as big as (1). First, he has to born without the taint of original sin. How? Pile on the legends here. Then to fit the mythology, his life has to be absolutely sinless so that he can offer a perfect vicarious atonement for human sin. Then was his vicarious shedding of blood for the elect only or for the non-elect too, and if he died for all (non-elect) then why is there another payment for sin in hell? And if the salvation provided is conditional, then what are the conditions? What place does the church have in dispensing the salvation provided, and what is the efficacy of sacraments. What about the heresies of Pelagius – and semi-Pelagianism? Is the atonement Objective as per Anselm or subjective as per Abelard? What about Election – is it as per Calvinism or as per Arminius? Is the righteousness which justifies imputare (Protestant) or efficare (Catholic)? Need I go on and spell out a thousand disputes about the work of Christ to add to the thousand disputes about the person of Christ? There have been so many arguments on these points that one churchman said that it now impossible to create a new heresy.
Am I deliberately trying to make your head spin in this matter of the person and work of Christ? Well, that is the Christian gospel. It is all about the person and work of Christ. On the way down to my place from the city of Gold Coast there is a big church on the side of the highway that has this writing on its great façade, Our Message: JESUS. Yes indeed, that is the Christian gospel in one word. It is all about Jesus, not the historical person but the mythical Christ. Start arguing with Muslims and it all comes down to an argument about Jesus – and of course, Monotheism versus Trinitarianism. The Christian gospel is all about Jesus – his person and his work. Why was there a split between the Roman and Greek Church? It was a dispute about his person and work – like, did the Holy spirit proceed from the Father or from the Father and the Son? Why was there a split between Catholics and Protestants? It was all about the application of the benefits of his work. Are we justified by bare faith or by a faith that has been informed (infused) with charity? Why are there hundreds of Christian denominations and sects? Each one has a different slant on his work or how to access its benefits. Each tweeks the conditions necessary to access the salvation provided.
What an appalling, distracting wild-goose chase is provided by the gospel of his person and work which is only the outworking of a religious and mythological imagination anyway. It is impossible to build this great religious edifice from the very sketchy bit of history about Jesus. Most of the material that has been passed down does not come from first hand witnesses who knew Jesus of Nazareth. It comes from third generation plus material, and from people who were well down the road of pushing their religious agenda in the name of Jesus.
So what if the real Jesus of history tends to disappear in historical obscurity and uncertainties? What if we can never get to the bottom of his parentage and his bloodlines? It does not matter. In fact, it is a great providence bl that the Quest for the Historical Jesus leads us to so many dead ends. Some of the history is so foggy that there are now credible scholars like former evangelical Robert Price who even proposes that there was no historical Jesus. I don’t agree with Price et al , but no one in his right mind would ever argue that Herod the Great, Augustus Caesar or even John the Baptist did not exist. The nearest we can get to the historical Jesus is that he had a brother named Jacob (James). And he tells us little. The unedited Josephus, the Galilean historian of that age, says nothing except that James was “the brother of the so-called Christ.”
Ho, ho, ho, and all this teaching about Jesus Christ – his person and work – is a theological or mythological construct.
What was the name of that English bishop who died out in the desert of Israel a few years ago, looking for the historical Jesus? A parable indeed about perishing in the search for the historical Jesus.
The best people to give us more information about the real Jesus were the first authors of the Q. They did not even bother to tell us there was 12 disciples, probably because that too is another fiction created for mythological (theological) reasons. They said nothing about a messiah, a saviour, a vicarious sacrifice. They told us his words – Live like this…because that is what God is like. Nothing speculative. No mythology. No apocalyptic. Just some words about living in this world.
It was about 25 years ago, during my last itinerary through the United States, that I advised people to put all their religion in a big dump truck and go join the human race. We now see clearer than ever that this includes all the tomes of theology on the person and work of Christ. All of that theological baggage prevents us genuinely joining the human race. It’s a hindrance to coming truly human.