Archive for February, 2013

Holy Embellishments

Posted in belief, Bible, Christianity, random, religion, scriptures with tags , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by chouck017894

No one knows what was really contained in most of the original manuscripts that are considered “holy scriptures” or “gospel.” The reason for this uncertainty is because all that is known and revered today of the New Testament accounts are copies and translations of earlier works, which were also taken from even earlier copies.

The book of Mark was the initial book written in what became the New Testament collection of holy word (c. 55-60 CE).  After much thought and marketing strategy, however, Mark was relegated to second place in presentation of the established lineup with the book of Matthew, because Matthew was the most Jewish of the Gospels, was therefore given the primary position.  The book of Mark first appeared during the reign of Nero and was then revised c. 70-80.  The extended period for all New Testament writings occurred in the Roman Empire over a period from c. 60 to c. 135.  Listed here is just a sample of some verses (as presented in the King James Bible, Authorized Version), known to have not been in the original NT books. 

There are a couple of problems in regard to the book of Mark, the first and shortest of the four canonical Gospels to be written, which are continually and conveniently disregarded.  The first is that there is a seeming lack of familiarity with Judean history, customs, traditions and geography.  Secondly, this pioneer gospel opens with a prophecy that Mark, the alleged author, pretends came from the OT book of Isaiah, but which actually draws not only from Isaiah, but the books Exodus and Maliachi as well.  The author most likely was using a Greek translation of these books when formulating parts of his account.  Remember, the Greek translation, the Pentateuch, had been in circulation from the fifth century BCE.  From Exodus the writer drew upon the Israelites being led out of the wilderness, and from Malachi the author utilized the flavoring concerning the fall of Babylon.  By blending these elements into the appearance of prophecy, the impression was established that a messenger was coming to prepare the way for the Messiah.  As in Exodus, the first thirteen verses place Jesus in the wilderness, from which he moves into Galilee. It should be noted also that in this pioneer work when Jesus allegedly foretold his destiny there was no suggestion of a joyful resurrection as became emphasized in the later writings (during and after the time of Paul). 

Over time this pioneer cult literature was subjected to editing which included motivational additions by copyists.  One authenticated addition is now presented in the  book of Mark as verses 17 and 18 in chapter sixteen.  These verses read: 17) “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons and they will speak with new tongues.  18) And they will take up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any poison it will not harm them, and they will lay their hands on the sick and they will become well.” There was an abrupt conclusion to the original Gospel According to Mark at verse 6, which may have been due to damage of the original, or the author may have simply stopped writing. Whatever the reason for the unsatisfying finale in the original, the sense of incompleteness seems to have been rescued by another copyist with the inserted call to discipleship that offered the shaman-like powers alluded to in verses 17 and 18.

The book of Luke, which attempted to introduce a historical perspective, is third in line in Gospel placement, and was also blessed with several copyist additions meant to inspire. Certain references in Luke, such as Jerusalem being “surrounded by camps” (21:20) indicate that the timeframe in which Luke was written was after the fall of Jerusalem (in the year 70). The book of Mark was reedited around 70 also, and was undoubtedly among the sources used later by Luke in composing his gospel. As in Mark the Lucan gospel contains defective knowledge of Palestine indicating that it was not composed there. As an example of additions to the original, chapter twenty-two, verse 20 was not originally part of the text concerning the Last Supper but was inserted by some enthusiastic scribe.  Thus we read, (verse 20) “And in the same way after supper Jesus took the cup and said, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'”  And in the same chapter, verse 44, the addition reads, “In his anguish Jesus began to pray more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” This dramatic embellishment is uncharacteristic in the historical perspective that is central and unique to the original author.

The book of St. John is placed fourth in Gospel lineup, and there is a proven later addition to the original text that is found in chapter five, verse 4.  It smacks so strongly of peasant superstition that it is jarring: “For an angel of the Lord went down at certain times into the pool and disturbed the waters; and whoever was the  first to step in when the water was disturbed was healed of whatever disease he had.”  In this book, also, is found two of the more famous added lines in Christian lore and are found in verse 7 and in verse 11 in chapter eight.  Verse 7 concerns the  woman “taken in adultery” who was allegedly brought to Jesus for judgment as weighed against Mosaic law.  Not in the original texts was the line, 7) “Let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”  When no one dared to be so vain as to claim to be sinless the woman was spared being stoned to death.  After this incident the added verse 11 presents a compassionate Jesus who dispenses spiritual wisdom: “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”

In a later timeframe, c. 100, the units I, II, and III John, were penned and by that timeframe the Jesus cult had become an organized but struggling movement with centers in at least seven Roman Empire cities.  The Pauline influence had been overlaid upon the earlier Peter “the rock” inspiration, and Jesus was beginning to be nudged in theological maneuvering into the mystery of a triune godhead.  Somewhat later an inserted verse to the original text strengthened this trinity aspect further in I John, chapter five, verse7, by saying, “There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.”  This possibly evolved from two earlier writings, Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:13.  In Matthew Jesus allegedly instructed his disciples to go out and baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Curiously, the word “holy” did not appear before “spirit” in the earliest edited version.  And then in 2 Corinthians (attributed to Paul) Paul extends “the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit” to guide the people of Corinth.  But the term Trinity does not appear anywhere in the New Testament.  The concept of three coequal partners in the godhead was an even later creedal embellishment which, strangely, cannot be clearly distinguished even within the margins of canon!

I, II, and III John were originally part of correspondence to a struggling church. There has been a long-standing debate over the identity of the author of the three John texts’relationship to the four gospels and the book of Revelation. I John, as it was edited, does not seem to start as a personal letter for it is quickly evident that it is in regard to one of the churches in Asia Minor (most likely Ephesus) that was experiencing problems of belief and behavior.  By 2:19 of I John it is evident that secessionists were splitting off and this letter and the other two letters attempted to take back the dissident groups by pointing out the error of their interpretation of the Jesus movements’ fundamental elements.  The John letters’ plea for love and flexible unity did not exactly resolve the tensions of the time, but nonetheless the values of love and unity that were expressed became an indispensable part of Christian literature.


Colonial Activist for Church-State Separation

Posted in Atheist, belief, faith, Government, random, religion with tags , , , , , , on February 1, 2013 by chouck017894

For decades in the United States groups of ego-centered religionists have been demanding that their brand of religion be jammed into the mechanism of national government. None of those holy howlers seem to be aware that the call for church/state separation was originally championed by a truth-seeking religionist. That man was Roger Williams who fled England in 1631 to put down roots in the “new world” where he hoped to worship God in his chosen way (Calvinist-Puritan). Earlier, in 1630, one thousand persons under the leadership of John Winthrop had established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in an effort to distance themselves from the tyranny of the crown, which they regarded as practicing corruption through supervision of the Church of England. Williams, with his family in tow, arrived in Boston in February of 1631.

The form of faith which Williams hoped to find available in the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not measure up to his idea of proper spiritual conduct. He was appalled that the people of the Boston congregation had never publicly declared their repentance for their former communion with the Church of England. He therefore took his spiritual opinions to Salem where he had obtained a pastorate position. But there, too, Williams soon alienated the civil authorities by daring to accuse them of exceeding their proper jurisdiction in their inflicting of punishment on those who broke the rules for observing the Sabbath. Such conduct, Williams declared, was a violation of ecclesiastical authority. The civil authorities were not amused, and promptly expelled Williams, and he sought refuge in Plymouth. Christian charity and forgiveness struggled to assert itself in Salem, however, and Williams was grudgingly permitted to return to Salem in 1633.

Ah, but Williams’ spiritual conviction (or maybe it was ego) had not softened. To his credit Williams acknowledged the equality of spirit before God which is within everyone, and that democratic perspective of fairness toward others led to serious conflict with the Massachusetts Bay government. William dared to question the validity of the Massachusetts Bay charter under which the colonial authorities had taken possession of the land of the Indians without giving any form of compensation. Williams also noted that the colonists had an authoritarian practice of faith imposed upon them that was much like the tyrannical imposition from which the colonists had fled England. This assessment caused the government piety to hit the fan in 1635 and Williams was banished from Massachusetts by the order of the General Court and warned that he would be deported to England if he continued his disruptive behavior.

Williams apparently said to himself the Puritan equivalent of WTF, and with a few devoted friends took off in midwinter for Narragansett Bay where, in 1636, he purchased land from the local Indian chiefs, and founded Providence, Rhode Island. The government that he then established was founded on complete religious toleration. Along this spiritual journey, Williams had embraced the belief in submersion baptism, and in 1639 was himself baptized and then baptized others. Thus was founded the first Baptist church in the colonies. But Williams continued to be spiritually frustrated, and doubt crept upon him over the validity of his own baptism, which agitated him to the point that he withdrew from the church that he had founded! He did not, however, waver in his basic Christian principles.

Through the following years Williams would journey twice to England; first in 1643 to obtain from the crown a charter for the Providence Plantations in Narragansett Bay. By this time the theocratic governing body in Massachusetts looked upon Rhode Island as infected with spiritual pestilence and proceeded to march through Providence and by force of arms seize what is now Warwick. Only the English Parliament, which supported Massachusetts, could stop the power play, and England itself was in a civil war because of the state-controlled Church of England. Religious freedom was not understood intellectually, and Christians in England slaughtered other Christians simply because they chose to worship differently. But somehow Williams managed to procure legal charter from Parliament, and it confirmed to him the wisdom of keeping church and state separate.

The second journey to England was in October 1652, again to seek renewal of colony charter. By that time King Charles II ruled over England, and the king confirmed Rhode Island’s charter. Notable in the king’s approval of the colony charter was the affirmation that no person was to be “molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion.” Wisdom was beginning to evolve. During both sojourns in England, Williams wrote a number of dissertations, notable among them was a treatise on the nature and jurisdiction of civil government entitled The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause Of Conscience Discussed (Old English spelling).

After Williams returned to Rhode Island in 1654, he was elected president of the colony, and served in that capacity until 1657. During his presidency, in 1656, heavy persecution of the Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, in Boston had resulted in Quakers seeking refuge in Rhode Island. Williams had always remained steadfast in his guiding principle of religious tolerance, and he refused to persecute the refugees. In Williams’ view, the state could not prevent error in religious interpretations of God’s laws, and by the same measure, religious dogmatists (with their tendency to err) could not be expected to reliably direct tolerant workings of government policies over the wide diversity of people which God had fashioned.

It is interesting to note that in the later part of his life Williams accepted that institutions which were formulated by faith systems did not really function as expressions of God’s will. It seemed to him that it was only within each individual’s personal essence that life’s higher potential could be achieved. During the remainder of his life Roger Williams, a former pastor, continued to advocate separation of church and state; but he was never again a member of any self-serving church.