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Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do? 
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Post Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?



Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:08 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
If there was any real sequence or order to the tendency of religion to become less self-centered over time, Wright's opening of the Jesus chapter would carry on the theme, with Jesus emerging to spread his message of universal love. Only there's a bump in the road, and that is that the "historical Jesus" was an apocalyptic and probably Israel-centric prophet, not an avatar of love for humankind. Sectarian is how he appears in the earliest Gospel, Mark. The more "loving" Jesus whom we may bring to mind most often comes through in the three later Gospels, written at times when the historical Jesus had faded more from memory, meaning that the later writers could take more liberties with the facts, as scanty as they might have been. Wright's main point about the Gospels is the same as his point about the OT--that they reflect at least as much about the times in which the accounts coalesced as they do about the times on which they report. The incipient Christian religion was gaining some momentum with the later Gospel writers, and this produces changes in the Jesus they depict.

I'd be interested in how others react to the "rule of theological inconvenience" (p. 245) that Wright cites to back up some of the NT's historical claims. I find it quite persuasive. The most basic claim is that there was a real person called Jesus who had a career as a preacher. There are odd, awkward inclusions in the Gospels that one would think would be airbrushed out by writers or editors, unless these were considered facts that just couldn't be ignored in any credible piece of writing. Wright cites as examples Jesus' failure to produce miracles when "tested" by doubters and his additional failure to perform miracles in his own hometown. But the most inconvenient fact of all is the crucifixion. We might not realize what a tremendous problem Jesus' sudden death would have presented to his followers who were expecting a king to lead Israel to the promised land of nations of the earth. It wouldn't have been something seized upon right away as an opportunity for a religion, but instead confronted as a public relations nightmare. It had to be entirely unexpected that such a disaster could come to have a sliver lining, but over the years after Jesus' death it did.

The Jesus who sometimes speaks words of universal love in the later Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John was not the true Jesus, according to Wright; he was the Jesus that evolved in the religio-political environment of the first and second centuries CE. Wright will go on to flesh out that environment in the next three chapters.



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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
I really liked Wright's rule of theological inconvenience. It actually makes quite a lot of sense. The argument that Jesus never lived doesn't make sense to me for precisely this reason. There's just too much about the Jesus story that's weird enough that I think it has to be based on truth. I don't think anyone would make some of that stuff up. I had never thought of the crucifixion as such, but Wright makes a good point that it really doesn't make sense that the son of God could be allowed to die in such an ignominious manner.

Certainly Wright seems to pull his gloves off in this chapter, doesn't he? Starting with Jesus' failure to produce miracles and a description that "Jesus sounds rather like other healers and exorcists who roamed Palestine at the time." (255) I was persuaded by Wright's argument that the book of Mark is considered to be the most reliable of the four gospels by virtue of it being written closer to Jesus' crucifixion. He shows convincingly that the remaining gospels—Mathew, Luke, and John—increasingly embellish the Christian myth of universal love. The historic Jesus, it turns out, was not very concerned with love outside his own tribe. Probably the Christian ideal of universal love owes a great deal to the apostle Paul, who wasn't even the son of a god.

I had not heard that the reason Jesus had 12 disciples has to do with a promise of restoring the original 12 tribes of Israel. That is pretty interesting.

And, finally, Wright discusses the apologists' handling of a well known fact that the time of the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus sounds like one of the doomsday prophets hanging around the street corner with a sign that says, "the end of the world is at hand, repent."

"Here Jesus is picking up where second Isaiah left off a half millennium earlier: in apocalyptic mode. Isaiah had envisioned a day when Yahweh would finally bring justice to the world, when the long-suffering faithful could rejoice, as oppressive imbalances of power were inverted. . . . But Jesus was more specific about when this time would come: very, very soon." (255)


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Last edited by geo on Thu Oct 07, 2010 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:04 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
geo wrote:
I really liked Wright's rule of theological inconvenience. It actually makes quite a lot of sense. The argument that Jesus never lived doesn't make sense to me for precisely this reason. There's just too much about the Jesus story that's weird enough that I think it has to be based on truth. I don't think anyone would make some of that stuff up. I had never thought of the crucifixion as such, but Wright makes a good point that it really doesn't make sense that the son of God could be allowed to die in such an ignominious manner.

Thanks, geo. I'm interested to hear that the rule made sense to you, too. I know that others point to the lack of contemporary references to Jesus as evidence that he didn't exist. But I just don't find it credible that four books would have been written about a fictitious character. Of course, the degree of realism even in the earliest Gospel, Mark, is open to question, and as you went on to say, the embellishments increase the further we get from the date of the crucifixion.
Quote:
I had not heard that the reason Jesus had 12 disciples has to do with a promise of restoring the original 12 tribes of Israel. That is pretty interesting.

It is. Wright throws light on many aspects of the Bible that I'm now glad to know about.
Quote:
And, finally, Wright discusses the apologists' handling of a well known fact that the time of the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus sounds like one of the doomsday prophets hanging around the street corner with a sign that says, "the end of the world is at hand, repent."

That's such an important aspect of the entire early period of Christianity--the imminence of the return of Christ--and it must have had a tremendous effect on getting people initially to convert to the faith. They'd want to be on board in order to avoid the catastrophe that would swamp others. But what happens as time passes and this promised event doesn't occur? Wright later talks about the adjustments in theology that were made to make the non-event less important. Wright also makes the point that Kingdom of God and even Kingdom of Heaven did not mean that everyone was going up to heaven; it all was to take place on earth and would signify the arrival of the perfectly just society.

I think the most surprising thing about the chapter is that Wright strips Jesus of most of what people, even non-Christians, would believe is the most authentic part of his bio: that he was a messenger of loving kindness. He was much more of an Israel-centric prophet in Wright's view, who was not about universal love but about getting Israel to be no. 1 finally. I believe that the Jesus Seminar, the group of liberal scholars who vote on the words of Jesus most likely to be authentic, tend to favor the loving Jesus and think that the more narrow Jesus in not the real one. Wright changes that outlook.



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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
DWill wrote:
geo wrote:
I really liked Wright's rule of theological inconvenience. It actually makes quite a lot of sense. The argument that Jesus never lived doesn't make sense to me for precisely this reason. There's just too much about the Jesus story that's weird enough that I think it has to be based on truth. I don't think anyone would make some of that stuff up. I had never thought of the crucifixion as such, but Wright makes a good point that it really doesn't make sense that the son of God could be allowed to die in such an ignominious manner.

Thanks, geo. I'm interested to hear that the rule made sense to you, too. I know that others point to the lack of contemporary references to Jesus as evidence that he didn't exist. But I just don't find it credible that four books would have been written about a fictitious character. Of course, the degree of realism even in the earliest Gospel, Mark, is open to question, and as you went on to say, the embellishments increase the further we get from the date of the crucifixion.
I think the anecdotes in the gospels have a historical basis, but are likely to be drawn from many disparate individuals. The apocalyptic theology of Jesus is what holds the personality together, but many people at that time would have imagined an ideal saviour, and the Bible story of Jesus Christ could have emerged from an oral synthesis of the most enduring and popular tales among those who shared the vision. Quirky stories that emphasise the humanity of Christ could have made it through the sieve of oral repetition just for this reason, that they help make the whole historical story more believable.
Quote:
Quote:
I had not heard that the reason Jesus had 12 disciples has to do with a promise of restoring the original 12 tribes of Israel. That is pretty interesting.

It is. Wright throws light on many aspects of the Bible that I'm now glad to know about.
The twelve mythos goes deeper than the twelve tribes. The High Priest of Israel wore an ephod, a breastplate with twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel but also one for each of the twelve signs of the zodiac. There is a cosmology about the 'Son of God' being surrounded by twelve satellites, just as the sun is surrounded by the twelve signs that it passes through each year.
Quote:
Quote:
And, finally, Wright discusses the apologists' handling of a well known fact that the time of the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus sounds like one of the doomsday prophets hanging around the street corner with a sign that says, "the end of the world is at hand, repent."

That's such an important aspect of the entire early period of Christianity--the imminence of the return of Christ--and it must have had a tremendous effect on getting people initially to convert to the faith. They'd want to be on board in order to avoid the catastrophe that would swamp others. But what happens as time passes and this promised event doesn't occur? Wright later talks about the adjustments in theology that were made to make the non-event less important. Wright also makes the point that Kingdom of God and even Kingdom of Heaven did not mean that everyone was going up to heaven; it all was to take place on earth and would signify the arrival of the perfectly just society.
This is a good example of how the oral sieve could change an original story. Jesus tells us to pray that God's will be done on earth as in heaven, in continuity with the Egyptian teaching of Thoth 'as above so below'. When earth and heaven are in concord the universe is in balance. However, he explicitly provides a timeframe that says 'not until the gospel of the kingdom has been preached to the whole inhabited earth will the end of the age come." (Matthew 24). I think the line 'some of you will still be alive when the kingdom comes' is probably an early interpolation, as it is flatly inconsistent with the eschatology that suggests Christianity will spread around the globe before the second coming. It is a bit like Pascal's Wager, that belief is safer than atheism, leading people as DWill has described to convert.
Quote:
I think the most surprising thing about the chapter is that Wright strips Jesus of most of what people, even non-Christians, would believe is the most authentic part of his bio: that he was a messenger of loving kindness. He was much more of an Israel-centric prophet in Wright's view, who was not about universal love but about getting Israel to be no. 1 finally. I believe that the Jesus Seminar, the group of liberal scholars who vote on the words of Jesus most likely to be authentic, tend to favor the loving Jesus and think that the more narrow Jesus in not the real one. Wright changes that outlook.

I'm not sure this narrow description of Jesus is consistent with Wright's picture of the evolution of God towards universal ethical principle. The apocalyptic Christ is consistent with the loving Christ, appearing at the apex of Jewish thinking about God. Justice and love are two sides of the same coin. A God of love could not fail to warn humanity of impending doom, and would focus on finding a way to save humanity from our apparent fate. We see this combination of love and justice in the Last Judgment at Matthew 25, where Jesus tells us that people who do works of mercy are saved while people who fail to do works of mercy are damned.



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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
Robert Tulip wrote:
The twelve mythos goes deeper than the twelve tribes. The High Priest of Israel wore an ephod, a breastplate with twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel but also one for each of the twelve signs of the zodiac. There is a cosmology about the 'Son of God' being surrounded by twelve satellites, just as the sun is surrounded by the twelve signs that it passes through each year.


Interesting as always, Robert.

I did a quick search online and came up with this site.

http://www.humanreligions.info/twelve.html#Disciples

Excerpt:

Quote:
Starting out life as an immensely useful number for counting and dividing things, the number 12 became a number revered by mathematicians and early astronomers. So the skies were divided into 12 portions as were the months of year, reflecting the annual movement of heavenly bodies. Superstitions and religious beliefs were piled on top of respect for the number 12. Superstitions concerning signs of the Zodiac and life events have been comprehensively shown to be false. The ancient Zoroastrians had twelve commanders on the side of light (light being a symbol for the sun), the Greeks imagined 12 Gods on mount Olympus, and many Gods have had 12 sons. Mithraists, and then Christians, believed that their saviour had 12 disciples, and Muslim Shi'as list 12 ruling Imams following Muhammad. Such holy persons are depicted with a bright solar light around their heads. Although many ancient religions such as the Gnostics understood things like the twelve disciples of Mithras to be symbolic of the stages of the waning and waxing sun throughout the year, later religions took it literally and believed in an actual 12 disciples - and some still do.


Robert Tulip wrote:
I'm not sure this narrow description of Jesus is consistent with Wright's picture of the evolution of God towards universal ethical principle. The apocalyptic Christ is consistent with the loving Christ, appearing at the apex of Jewish thinking about God. Justice and love are two sides of the same coin. A God of love could not fail to warn humanity of impending doom, and would focus on finding a way to save humanity from our apparent fate. We see this combination of love and justice in the Last Judgment at Matthew 25, where Jesus tells us that people who do works of mercy are saved while people who fail to do works of mercy are damned.


I think Wright is only arguing that there's little evidence that Jesus himself preached universal love. This was likely manufactured after Jesus' death. Wright quotes several passages from Mark (arguably the most reliable of the Gospels) that suggest Jesus was more tribal in his thinking and that later apologists would naturally suppress this in support of an emerging ideal of universal love.


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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
geo wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The twelve mythos goes deeper than the twelve tribes. The High Priest of Israel wore an ephod, a breastplate with twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel but also one for each of the twelve signs of the zodiac. There is a cosmology about the 'Son of God' being surrounded by twelve satellites, just as the sun is surrounded by the twelve signs that it passes through each year.


Interesting as always, Robert.

I did a quick search online and came up with this site.

http://www.humanreligions.info/twelve.html#Disciples

Excerpt:

Quote:
Starting out life as an immensely useful number for counting and dividing things, the number 12 became a number revered by mathematicians and early astronomers. So the skies were divided into 12 portions as were the months of year, reflecting the annual movement of heavenly bodies. Superstitions and religious beliefs were piled on top of respect for the number 12. Superstitions concerning signs of the Zodiac and life events have been comprehensively shown to be false. The ancient Zoroastrians had twelve commanders on the side of light (light being a symbol for the sun), the Greeks imagined 12 Gods on mount Olympus, and many Gods have had 12 sons. Mithraists, and then Christians, believed that their saviour had 12 disciples, and Muslim Shi'as list 12 ruling Imams following Muhammad. Such holy persons are depicted with a bright solar light around their heads. Although many ancient religions such as the Gnostics understood things like the twelve disciples of Mithras to be symbolic of the stages of the waning and waxing sun throughout the year, later religions took it literally and believed in an actual 12 disciples - and some still do.


Robert Tulip wrote:
I'm not sure this narrow description of Jesus is consistent with Wright's picture of the evolution of God towards universal ethical principle. The apocalyptic Christ is consistent with the loving Christ, appearing at the apex of Jewish thinking about God. Justice and love are two sides of the same coin. A God of love could not fail to warn humanity of impending doom, and would focus on finding a way to save humanity from our apparent fate. We see this combination of love and justice in the Last Judgment at Matthew 25, where Jesus tells us that people who do works of mercy are saved while people who fail to do works of mercy are damned.


I think Wright is only arguing that there's little evidence that Jesus himself preached universal love. This was likely manufactured after Jesus' death. Wright quotes several passages from Mark (arguably the most reliable of the Gospels) that suggest Jesus was more tribal in his thinking and that later apologists would naturally suppress this in support of an emerging ideal of universal love.



I suggest that you check out John 3:16
Leviticus 19:18
Luke 10:25-37

If Wright, or you guys for that matter knew anything about the Bible, such an absurd mistake would not have made it into TEoG.


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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
Robert Tulip wrote:
Quote:
I think the most surprising thing about the chapter is that Wright strips Jesus of most of what people, even non-Christians, would believe is the most authentic part of his bio: that he was a messenger of loving kindness. He was much more of an Israel-centric prophet in Wright's view, who was not about universal love but about getting Israel to be no. 1 finally. I believe that the Jesus Seminar, the group of liberal scholars who vote on the words of Jesus most likely to be authentic, tend to favor the loving Jesus and think that the more narrow Jesus in not the real one. Wright changes that outlook.

I'm not sure this narrow description of Jesus is consistent with Wright's picture of the evolution of God towards universal ethical principle. The apocalyptic Christ is consistent with the loving Christ, appearing at the apex of Jewish thinking about God. Justice and love are two sides of the same coin. A God of love could not fail to warn humanity of impending doom, and would focus on finding a way to save humanity from our apparent fate. We see this combination of love and justice in the Last Judgment at Matthew 25, where Jesus tells us that people who do works of mercy are saved while people who fail to do works of mercy are damned.

It seems important to distinguish love from universal love--the type that would remove the barriers to full humanity that ethnicity and nationality usually erect. Wright doesn't ever say, to my knowledge, that Jesus did anything unusual in emphasizing love, that is of Jews for Jews. Love is what you would expect a religion would prescribe for adherents to show towards one another. Wright simply says that the Jesus shown in Mark--the closest we see to the "real' Jesus--doesn't advocate any kind of transnational love, and certainly no kind of trans-faith love, either. The evolution towards a universal ethical occurs in the other Gospels--without, of course, fully arriving.



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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
geo wrote:
Certainly Wright seems to pull his gloves off in this chapter, doesn't he?

I thought about this after I responded, geo, and I'm glad you said it because it made me think about Wright's approach in this book. I can see why you might say he takes the gloves off, since what he says in the chapter can be taken as a strong critique of the traditional view of Jesus. But it's interesting, and I think admirable, that he does this without actually coming across as a bare-knuckles fighter. He's much less confrontational and more dispassionate than the other prominent atheist authors. (I say "other atheist" because he identifies himself as a materialist, which to me is about equivalent to atheist.) Wright starts with the assumption that the literalist stuff has been well refuted, so he doesn't need to waste time on that. That allows him to go after the higher fruit, which would be the understandings and assumptions that non-literalists or moderate traditionalists have brought to the Bible. Then, too, he's writing a book about religion, not against it, for all the sacred cows that he might need to target along the way.



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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Quote:
I think the most surprising thing about the chapter is that Wright strips Jesus of most of what people, even non-Christians, would believe is the most authentic part of his bio: that he was a messenger of loving kindness. He was much more of an Israel-centric prophet in Wright's view, who was not about universal love but about getting Israel to be no. 1 finally. I believe that the Jesus Seminar, the group of liberal scholars who vote on the words of Jesus most likely to be authentic, tend to favor the loving Jesus and think that the more narrow Jesus in not the real one. Wright changes that outlook.

I'm not sure this narrow description of Jesus is consistent with Wright's picture of the evolution of God towards universal ethical principle. The apocalyptic Christ is consistent with the loving Christ, appearing at the apex of Jewish thinking about God. Justice and love are two sides of the same coin. A God of love could not fail to warn humanity of impending doom, and would focus on finding a way to save humanity from our apparent fate. We see this combination of love and justice in the Last Judgment at Matthew 25, where Jesus tells us that people who do works of mercy are saved while people who fail to do works of mercy are damned.

It seems important to distinguish love from universal love--the type that would remove the barriers to full humanity that ethnicity and nationality usually erect. Wright doesn't ever say, to my knowledge, that Jesus did anything unusual in emphasizing love, that is of Jews for Jews. Love is what you would expect a religion would prescribe for adherents to show towards one another. Wright simply says that the Jesus shown in Mark--the closest we see to the "real' Jesus--doesn't advocate any kind of transnational love, and certainly no kind of trans-faith love, either. The evolution towards a universal ethical occurs in the other Gospels--without, of course, fully arriving.


So, I guess that in addition to ignoring the call of Abraham in Genesis Wright has also decided to jettison:

Romans 1:16
Matthew 28:16-20
Acts 15:1-35
want more?

Can any of you identify the most important example of all? It is a pivotal moment in the Bible and for any one knowledgeable enough of the Bible to critique it to the level in this discussion, it should be a slam dunk.


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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
The Bible isn't being critiqued. Robert Wright is tracing the evolution of God and of the major monotheistic religions.



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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
DWill wrote:
The Bible isn't being critiqued. Robert Wright is tracing the evolution of God and of the major monotheistic religions.


Where did the idea that Jesus did not promote the concept of love for all people come from? Was that sentiment expressed in TEoG?


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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
Have you ever read any literary criticism? Wright uses a very similar approach in his treatment of the Bible.



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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
stahrwe wrote:

Where did the idea that Jesus did not promote the concept of love for all people come from? Was that sentiment expressed in TEoG?


You would know what Wright said if you actually read the book. Clearly you did not. It's no wonder you are so lost here.

Wright is examining textual evidence for Jesus' message of universal love. He argues that in the gospel of Mark—considered the most reliable of the four gospels—there's almost no evidence of Jesus preaching a message of universal love. That message comes in the later gospels which were written 50 to 70 years after Jesus' crucifixion in a religio-political environment that was more conducive to the idea of universal love. So, according to Wright, the Jesus who sometimes speaks words of universal love in the later Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John was not the true Jesus.

That time gap is an important consideration with an objective scrutiny of the Bible within its historical context, but objective is probably not possible when you believe the Bible is an unimpeachable sacred text.


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Post Re: Ch. 10 - What Did Jesus Do?
geo wrote:
stahrwe wrote:

Where did the idea that Jesus did not promote the concept of love for all people come from? Was that sentiment expressed in TEoG?


You would know what Wright said if you actually read the book. Clearly you did not. It's no wonder you are so lost here.

Wright is examining textual evidence for Jesus' message of universal love. He argues that in the gospel of Mark—considered the most reliable of the four gospels—there's almost no evidence of Jesus preaching a message of universal love. That message comes in the later gospels which were written 50 to 70 years after Jesus' crucifixion in a religio-political environment that was more conducive to the idea of universal love. So, according to Wright, the Jesus who sometimes speaks words of universal love in the later Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John was not the true Jesus.

That time gap is an important consideration with an objective scrutiny of the Bible within its historical context, but objective is probably not possible when you believe the Bible is an unimpeachable sacred text.


In fact I did read the book and you will note that I had previously addressed this very issue in an earlier post. I have cited numerous instances where Wright is clearly wrong and intentionally ignores significant events described by the Bible. The fact that Wright considers only parts of the Bible to be legitmate does not excuse him from dealing with those parts which he doesn't, especially if he is going to make such controversial statements regarding the teachings of Jesus.

As for your defense of TEog, where is your quest for empiricism? Where is your, 'Question Everything?' Does Wright get a pass because he is contorting Christianity?


_________________
n=Infinity
Sum n = -1/12
n=1

where n are natural numbers.


Fri Oct 08, 2010 7:49 am
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