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Apology

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  • Rick Hubbard
    This group s topical intent is to discuss the Gospel of Thomas and I apologize for having gotten a bit far afield in pursuing discussions about Mt. I will
    Message 1 of 2 , May 4, 2000
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      This group's topical intent is to discuss the Gospel of Thomas and I
      apologize for having gotten a bit far afield in pursuing discussions
      about Mt. I will refrain from doing so in the future, but welcome any
      off-list communications from those who are interested.

      As a conclusion to the issue of Mt's Sitz im Leben, I would like to
      offer the following comments if for no other reason than to explain why
      I so vigorously defend the proposition that it orginated in a
      predominantly Jewish community. Once again, if anyone wants to discuss
      the matter in more detail, lets do it off list.

      There are certain basic presuppositions which direct my assessment of
      the gospels. These assumptions are not always consistent with popular
      opinion; in fact they are usually quite contrary.

      The basic presupposition from which I work is that the gospels are not
      eyewitness accounts to what Jesus said or did. All of them were written
      at least 40 years after the crucifixion.

      The core of each gospel's proclamation is the message that Jesus was
      crucified but that he rose from the dead.

      Closely connected with that proclamation is the conviction that Jesus
      was the Messiah figure who was expected by sectarian Judaism from the
      third century BCE onward.

      The resurrection conviction and the Messiah tradition therefore are the
      foundation of the kerygma and, while they may have once been separate
      from one another, by the time the gospels were written they were
      essentially inseparable.

      The keryma developed after the crucifixion. Prior to the crucifixion,
      Jesus was never labeled as the Messiah. Instead, he was simply admired
      as a sage and perhaps as a worker of wonders, and then only by a
      relatively small number of his followers. Otherwise, he was generally
      unnoticed.

      The gospel writers began their literary work with the kerygma (the
      conviction that Jesus had been crucified but resurrected and that he was
      the expected Messiah). To that they added stories about Jesus which
      pre-dated the crucifixion. The gospels are therefore a composite
      description of Jesus the sage and Jesus the Messiah which have
      fossilized into an image of Jesus/Christ.

      Furthermore, my assumption is that the kerygma (that which was said
      ABOUT Jesus) is not the same as what Jesus himself said or did. I am
      convinced that it is possible (but not necessary) to investigate the
      gospels in such a way as to make the distinction between the textual
      evidence that reflects the Historical Jesus and that which reflects the
      understanding of the evangelists about the Christ.

      Moreover, I am convinced that there was no absolute consistency among
      the evangelists in the way they understood or described Jesus as the
      Christ. This diversity is present throughout the four canonical gospels,
      but is conventionally ignored by most readers who prefer to harmonize
      and dismiss the differences when they see them (if they see them at
      all). The diversity becomes even more apparent when extra-canonical
      gospels are examined and contrasted with those preserved in the New
      Testament. It is at these points where those tensions are most visible
      that we can identify with most assurance the evidence that a distinction
      between the Historical Jesus and the Resurrected Christ is appropriate.

      One of the strategies used by the authors of the the New Testament
      gospels was to examine the scriptures of Judaism in search of
      authoritative statements which could be used to argue for the validity
      of Jesus' messiahship. Evidence of this is abundant throughout the
      gospel corpus. As a preface to the conclusion that may be drawn from
      this, it is crucial to recognize that the scripture of Judaism was
      embraced AS SCRIPTURE only by those who were themselves members of the
      communities which affirmed the authority of that scripture. Therefore,
      the conclusion itself is that the tradition of the Resurrected Christ
      originated in Judaism and further, at the earliest stage of the
      movement, Christianity was nothing other than one Jewish sect among
      many.

      Finally, I am in firm opposition to the proposition that the canonical
      gospels are immune from the type of rigorous examination that historians
      apply to other ancient texts. The proposition which I oppose presumes
      that the gospels are part of a scriptural tradition which exhibits the
      attributes of (1)Authority, (2)Eternallity, (3)Efficacy, (4)Inspiration,
      (5)Facticity and (6)Inherent Unity. These attributes, incidently, are
      universally shared by all scriptural traditions, not just Christianity.

      Inevitably, because I embrace the presuppositions I have described, I am
      accused of being a non-Christian (at worst) or a heretic (at best). If
      I were offered my choice of the two condemnations, I would choose being
      labeled as a heretic, for I do consider myself to be a Christian. But I
      consciously distance myself from the kind of Christianity that basks in
      the glory of pious ignorance and that contents itself with pat answers
      and quick assurances that it mines indiscriminately from the Bible. The
      foundation of my faith is sufficiently solid that it does not face
      collapse if it should ever be conclusively proved that, for example,
      Jesus was not born in a stable, that he did not walk on water or even
      that his resurrection did not involve the resuscitation of a corpse.
      With this certainty in mind I therefore am fearless in efforts to
      dislodge truth from the obfuscating debris of tradition, doctrine and
      pious superstition that has been heaped on the Bible by a well-meaning
      but misguided church for the last several centuries. To those who
      criticize my point of view I say only that I do not expect to persuade
      you or to proselytize you to my conclusions, but on the other hand
      remember that you have no exclusive license to truth yourself.
      Therefore, do not try to persuade or proselytize me (although I do
      welcome and encourage any critique of my presuppositions).

      Rick Hubbard
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