The Secretive Messiah

July 25, 2008 at 11:30 pm 23 comments

The gospel attributed to Mark (hereafter referred to as “Mark”) purposely perpetuates a distinctly secret nature to Jesus’ life. This concept of the Messianic secret is beyond dispute, yet the explanations of the secrecy drastically differ on several grounds. Although William Wrede coined the term “the Messianic secret” in his 1901 publication of the same name, the notion of the secrecy was probably realized as early as the writers of the gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke. The Messianic secret, as defined by Wrede, is an idiom meant to describe the commandments by Jesus to followers and demons not to reveal the secret of his Messiahship.1

Elements of Jesus’ secrecy are still prevalent in the other synoptic gospels but are given internal explanations based on the author’s purpose. Matthew, for example, whose audience was probably Jewish, explains Mark’s prevailing propensity to Messianic secrecy by using Jewish scriptures, such as in Mt. 12:16 and 13:11: the gospel writer recalls passages from Isaiah, not only reduce the significant of the secrecy, but also to highlight the prophetic fulfillments of Jesus. Yet looking at the earlier Markan source, we do not have such explanations of fulfillment of scripture. Contrarily, Mark does not give many explanations to any of the references to Jesus’ secret nature apart from the obvious references to basic privacy.

Three different types of secretive references are made in Mark’s gospel: avoidance, prohibitions, and revelations. Emic explanations often result in the dismantling of all three separately, refusing to recognize that Mark intermingled an underlying theme. It is important to note that, in all likeliness, the entire concept of Jesus’ Messianic secret was a Markan invention, leaving much scholarship to ask why Mark invoked such a notion, most like an additive to the historical Jesus.2

For the sake of space I will merely state that the differences between the secretive references are merely categorical, each involving their own set of argumentation. Yet, most discourse concerning the Messianic secret is limited to the prohibitive aspect of Jesus’ ministry, in which he demands demonic entities to keep quiet concerning his Messiahship (1:25, 1:34, and 3:12), as well as commanding the healed to keep silent about his deeds (1:43-45, 5:43, 7:36, and 8:26). Scholars have not much concerned themselves with the avoidance aspect, and probably rightly so, since they can be explained away quite easily (1:35, 7:24 and 9:30). Although both of these secretive aspects would certainly support the Messianic secret thesis, Gnostic Christians are more indebted by the revelatory material in Mark (3:13, 4:11, 4:34, and 9:2ff), as well as some fairly cryptic passages that are not easily explicated (12:35-37 and 13:32ff), and are more or less futile to attempt any meaningful interpretation.

The secretive revelatory material in Mark differs in nature from the other two aspects, since it does not strictly concern the Messiahship as such, but rather to the secretive or cryptic nature of Jesus’ teachings. Hence, the revelatory or teaching material does not strongly attribute to the argument that the Messianic secret points solely to the failure of the Jewish people to recognize the Messiah, as T.A. Burkill argues3 , or that the true Messianic secret culminates at the resurrection of Christ as others have argued.4 If, however, any of those explanations are correct, it does not take away from the possibility from deviant explanations such as those presented by the Gnostics.

It is not difficult to comprehend how Mark may have attributed to the application of the Gnostic principle of gnosis to early Christian groups. Mark repeatedly separates the disciples from other listeners: at times this separation is physical, such as the appointment of the disciples (3:13) and the transfiguration (9:2ff) – both of which happen on a mountain. Additionally, the transfiguration distinguishes a core within the disciples themselves, setting apart Peter, James, and John. More importantly, however, the separation of disciples from other followers frequently concerns the explanation of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven such as in 4:34, stating that Jesus would only speak in parables to the crowds, yet explained the meanings to the disciples in private. Wrede replies that elevating the idea of separate education of the disciples is only intelligible for “modern eyes”, only to fill subjective gaps.5 Wrede, however unfortunate, is at a disadvantage in his explication due to his lack of awareness of the Gnostic text that would not be discovered for another half-century.

In fact, the Gnostics did, as we will later examine, elevate and utilize the idea of special education to the disciples. Whether one believes this to be Mark’s intention or not is a matter of faith, and it is impossible to solidify with any amount of certainty. The teachings of Jesus according to Mark allow for esoteric interpretations, if one so choses. In 4:11, Jesus says, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables…” Hence, Jesus continually taught in parables, often leaving many in amazement and, as noted above, only explained the true meanings to his apostolic initiates.

As noted in most Bibles, the ending of Mark is under some controversy, with some important early manuscripts ending at 16:8, whereas others include twelve extra verses. It is probable that the twelve verses were not the original ending, but it is as of yet uncertain whether the authentic ending was lost or if it ended at 16:8. My own interpretation is that the current ending is either similar to the original or was added very early. The longer ending does not appear to be very congruent with later orthodox traditions, and seems favourable to a Gnostic interpretation. In this ending, Jesus specifically appears first to Mary Magdalene, unlike the ambiguity of Matthew (28:1-10) or the completely contrary account in Luke (24:1-40). Secondly, Mark refers to Jesus appearing “in another form” (16:12), certainly not a phrase that would be invented by orthodox Christians in the 2nd century combating the Gnostic idea of docetism.

The significance of the presentation of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel as offered above is that Jesus was, in the very least, misunderstood and/or he was purposely cryptic. The former idea would be used to explain the veiled Messiahship, perpetuating the idea that Jesus purposely did not want to reveal himself before its time. Many have interpreted the historicity as an explanation for why Jesus was not immediately recognized as the Messiah.6 The latter idea would be advanced by adherence to Gnostic Christianity. Debate continues about the dating and authenticity of early gospels, but most scholars accept an early dating of some Pauline writings, the precedence of Mark (as compared to the other canonical gospels), and a relatively early dating of the Gospel of Thomas (as early as 50 CE, but at late as 140 CE).

The certainty of the relationship between Mark’s Gospel and Paul’s letters is dubious, but it is fair to say that the majority of evangelion was spread through oral tradition in the combination form of chreia (providing a brief narrative frame for a saying of Jesus7) and adage. Paul likely had access to such oral traditions, and the Gospel of Thomas appears to be a document based entirely on this method of oral tradition, often encapsulated simply by “Jesus said, [then an adage of Jesus].” This use of chreia is important because the narrative frame is often more prominent than the saying itself – many of the differences among the gospels, especially Thomas, are not the sayings, but the frame in which they are said.

In the time between the writing of Mark’s Gospel, between 65 and 80 CE (I tend to favour the 70-73 CE dating due to Mark’s ‘mini-apocalypse’), and the surge of Gnostic Christian writings, in the mid to late 2nd century, there was likely an explosion of diverse teachings and traditions concerning the personage of Jesus in order to account for the vast assortment of writings that have been made reference to in orthodox writings as well as those of which we have found in the 20th century. The vastly different perspectives of Jesus were often resultants of the placement of his attributed sayings in contrasting situations. Some Biblical scholars note at least three different trajectories from the time of Mark onward, each with their own texts, traditions, theologies, and internal diversities.8

The Gnostic Christians arguably gained root around the time of Mark and has captured much attention in the 20th century, especially since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts. The comparatively radical Gnostic Christians competed as a trajectory alongside what would become orthodox Christianity, as well as different forms of Jewish Christianity, and was eventually forced underground when it was declared heretical by an ever-increasingly hierarchal and relatively unified church in Rome.

Gnostic Christianity is best represented by a theology of material dualism amalgamated with cosmological myths drastically opposed to the Judeo-Christian worldview; Jesus was not a Saviour of the sinful, but rather a divine transmitter of special knowledge – delivering the Truth to those whom were worthy.9 This view is portrayed in Gnostic Gospels ranging from the Gospel of Thomas (50-140 CE) through to the Gospels of Peter (70-160 CE), Judas (130-170 CE), Mary (130-200 CE) and Philip (200-250 CE), just to name a few. There are many prevailing features in these Gnostic Gospels that appear to be borrowed from the tradition of Mark: the disclosure of teachings to certain persons, the enigmatic nature of the teachings, and the nature of Jesus’ appearance.

The relative dating between Mark and the Gospel of Thomas is unknown, but there is no mistake that Thomas accentuates the notion of secrecy. The Gnostic gospel even begins, “These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke…;” the first verse following the introduction is just as arcane: “”Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death.” Thomas already diverges towards a strictly Gnostic interpretation by insinuating that salvation comes solely from knowledge, a soteriological argument that is silent in Mark.

The revelation of special teachings to exclusive persons is present, just as in fourth chapter of Mark, except for in this case the teaching is revealed only to one disciple – Thomas. Unlike the Gospel of Mark, which makes vague references to the explanation of parables, the Gospel of Thomas, in saying 13, explicitly states that Jesus gave Thomas three secrets, none of which were to be disclosed to the other disciples nor are they written in the text. Not only does this secret revelation carry on a tradition of esoteric teachings, but also disseminates the convention of restricted worthiness. The same principle will be used in the Gnostic Gospel of Judas, even though the recipient changes to Judas rather than Thomas; the idea is the same as Jesus whispers to Judas, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom.”10 We see the same attitude again in the Gnostic Gospel of Mary; after Peter requests Mary to teach, she replies “I will teach you about what is hidden from you.”11

Not only is this a continuation of exclusive revelation, but also appears to be taking some literary freedom and filling in a narrative gap in Mark 16:9-11. The passage in Mark informed readers that Mary had indeed seen the resurrected Christ first, as previously mentioned, and then followed Jesus’ instructions to tell the other disciples, yet they did not believe her. The Mary gospel plays on this narration, stating that she saw Jesus in a vision, yet the disciples did not believe her.12 It is evident that the Gnostic gospels were stressing the secretive nature through extremely limited revelation, much more so than Mark’s gospel.

Mark usually limited his revelation to the twelve apostles, and at the very most to the three most intimate disciples, yet each of the Gnostic Gospels purposely restrict the special teaching to one, emphasizing the esoteric nature of Christ. An additional argument could be made that the disciples that did not receive “the mysteries of the kingdom” or “the special knowledge” were literary devices meant to contrast the writer’s purpose with that of opposing viewpoints at the time.

While the exclusivity of revelation radically re-interprets Mark, the teachings themselves are much more subtle, yet equally powerful. Mark is a short, concise, and often theologically primitive. Because of this fact, other Gospels, both Gnostic and those that became known as canonical and orthodox, could add what was felt necessary to advocate a certain theological or philosophical idea (or ideal), without radically perverting the original source. Deducing from the two-source hypothesis, this is exactly what the writers of Matthew and Luke did.

As mentioned earlier, Mark makes vague references to the secrets of the kingdom of heaven and then makes use of parables to explicate this nature of this kingdom, only to reveal their true meanings to the disciples. One can only speculate on the criticisms the Gnostics must have had towards those who would argue that the secrets of the kingdom of heaven was actually the secret of the redeeming Messiah; we know that the Gnostics ridiculed Luke’s literal resurrection, harshly pronouncing it a “faith of fools.”13 Even the idea that the disciples, who were apparently given the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, continually misunderstood the teachings of Jesus, even after the resurrection, as their disbelief is illustrated in the last chapter of Mark: this in itself is an argument for the reduction of twelve (or three) recipients of the secrets in the canonical gospels to one in the Gnostics.

The problem with trying to explicate the comparisons or contrasts of Mark and the Gnostic gospels in reference to the teachings themselves is the limited narrative of the former and the esoteric quality of the latter. In the Gospel of Thomas, in saying 13 after the disclosure of the secrets to Thomas, the other disciples inquire into the aside, only to receive the response that the revelation of those secrets would surely cause the other disciples to stone Thomas and then they themselves would be destroyed; afterwards, in saying 62, Jesus asserts that the mysteries are told to only those who are worthy.

Later, there is a reference to the Jewish-Christian trajectory in saying 39, stating that the Pharisees have hidden the keys of gnosis, not only had they not let anyone attain gnosis, but they themselves have not. Mark 4:11’s revealing of secrets is expanded and prioritized in the Gospel of Thomas, becoming a foundation for Gnostic Christian gospels. In the Gospel of Judas, the secrets revealed are those of the Gnostic cosmology, similar to that found in the Pistis Sophia. In the Gospel of Mary, the secret is the adultery of dualism, borrowing ideas similar to Platonic Idealism.

Because of the uncertainty of the historical relationship between the Gospels of Thomas and Mark, the only claim that can be made with any certainty is that a tradition of withholding certain knowledge had developed between the time of Jesus and the writings of the gospels, with Mark taking a looser, cautious approach and Thomas promoting a much more radical perspective. I personally doubt the earliest datings of the Gospel of Thomas that would admit a precedence of Thomas before Mark or two competing independent traditions. The overlapping sayings that are found in Thomas and the synoptic gospels point more convincingly to fracturing of trajectories, especially if there was a so-called later “gnosticizing redactor”, after Mark rather than a Thomasine precedence or a dual primacy of Mark and Thomas.14 The writers of the Gnostic gospels, at least after the Gospel of Thomas, certainly had access to the Markan text whether they extensively used it or not.

The most conclusive argument concerning the relationship between Mark and the later Gnostic Gospels is that the ambiguous and seemingly unexplained references to secretive acts and teachings in Mark’s Gospel was exploited and advanced by future works. To claim that the canonical gospels are of much more authority solely because of the reliability of their dating could possibly be erroneous; not only is there is reason to believe a relatively early dating of Thomas, it is also possible that the Gospels of Judas and Mary were written shortly after the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Messianic secret in Mark’s Gospel, later reduced in Matthew and Luke, may have simply been a way to explain why Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah, but the tradition that developed in Gnostic trajectory did not interpret it as such. Rather, the secretive nature of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark allowed an opportunity to present the Gnostic Saviour, a source of divine knowledge, ready to bestow the secrets of the kingdom of haven upon those select few who were worthy.

Note: This paper is a sketch of a larger piece I am currently working on. The underlying arguments remain, but I am constructing a 30+ page article which will offer much more discussion on many of the assumptions I had to take for granted in this smaller paper. Any criticism is beneficial and is greatly appreciated.

- The Apostate

1 Wrede, William. The Messianic Secret. Trans. J.C.G. Greig. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1971. p. 11.
2 Ibid., p. 33.
3 Burkill, T.A. New Light on the Earliest Gospel. New York: Cornell, 1972. p. 5. Also Burkill, T.A. Mysterious Revelation. New York: Cornell, 1963. p. 319.
4 Helms, Randel McCraw. Who Wrote the Gospels. Altadena: Millennium Press, 1997. p. 12.
5 Wrede, p. 44.
6 Helms, p. 12.
7 Arnel, William. Relig 211 Handout. A Glossary of Technical Terms. “Chreia”. University of Alberta. July 24, 2006.
8 Litke, Wayne. Relig 313 Lecture. University of Alberta. October 3, 2006.
9 Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. New York: Random House, 1979. Vintage, 1981. p. 17.
10 Kasser, Meyer, and Wurst. Eds. The Gospel of Thomas. Washington: National Geographic, 2006. p. 23.
11 Gospel of Mary. BG 8502. 6:3.
12 Ibid., BG 8502. 7:1-2 and 10:1-2, 3.
13 Origen, “Commentarium in 1 Corinthians.” Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1909): 46-47.
14 Quispel, Gilles. “The Gospel of Thomas and the New Testament.” Gnostic Studies. Vol II. Leiden: Netherlands Institute for the Near East, 1975. p. 16.

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I never wanted to be an Atheist The question of suffering and my de-conversion

23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Nerd  |  July 26, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Maybe it’s the beer I just had. But I don’t quite get what the “secret” is supposed to be. Can someone give me the abstract?

  • 2. The Apostate  |  July 26, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Nerd,
    I defined the Messianic secret, on the other hand, at the end of my first paragraph:

    The Messianic secret [is] meant to describe the commandments by Jesus to followers and demons not to reveal the secret of his Messiahship.

    Note, however, that my title is “The Secretive Messiah,” not “The Messianic Secret.”

  • 3. Cthulhu  |  July 26, 2008 at 12:53 am

    The Apostate,

    Is there then a direct relationship between Mark and Gnosticism? Did Gnosticism find it’s foundation in Mark? I do not have the theological education to evaluate that properly.

  • 4. The Apostate  |  July 26, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Cthulhu,
    The simple answer to your first question is no, there is [probably] not a direct relationship between Mark and Gnosticism. I give the implicit speculation that this could be the case, but the evidence is silent.

    My answer for your second is, more or less, yes. Mark, like Matthew, was massively popular in the early Christian setting and is probably one of the earliest narratives of Jesus ever written. Because of its versatility and lack of theology, Mark was easily co-opted by many different forms of Christianity. I merely provide here how Gnostics probably would have used it.

    Speaking non-academically, I believe that Gnosticism was entangled with Christianity the very moment the new Christian religion left Palestine. Gnosticism had been wildly popular in Persia and various parts of Mesopotamia, Rome, and northern Africa and it meshed well with any religion it came in contact with. I am not saying Mark was at all Gnostic in origin, but I believe that what we now call “gnosticism” is made up of various aspects that were common in the religions of the time, some of which seeped into “non-Gnostic” or “proto-Gnostic” Christianity.

  • 5. 9/11  |  July 26, 2008 at 3:25 am

    Whenever anyone says, ‘theoretically,’ they really mean, ‘not really.’DaveParnasDave Parnas

  • 6. Eshu  |  July 26, 2008 at 6:26 am

    The Messianic secret [is] meant to describe the commandments by Jesus to followers and demons not to reveal the secret of his Messiahship.

    So you’re saying… “Only the true Messiah would deny his divinity!” ;-)

  • 7. TheDeeZone  |  July 26, 2008 at 9:19 am

    TA,

    One of the things I appreciate about your writings is the depth and scholarly nature of your work. Also, ty for including sources. Will come back later when I have time to really devote studying your article.

    Dee

  • 8. Cthulhu  |  July 26, 2008 at 11:40 am

    The Apostate,

    Thanks for the answer and for a very interesting in-depth article.

  • 9. truthwalker  |  July 26, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    I am somewhat familiar with the emphasis of Mark on the secret nature of Christ. But I have always heard it presented in a different light. Mark presents the picture of Christ as a servant. That’s why Mark includes no geology: who cares about the linage of a servant” Mark was written to servants and other “blue collar” workers. He wrote with a real mystery focus because to people low in the class system the idea of knowing something that upper crust folks didn’t had real demographic appeal.

  • 10. Obi  |  July 26, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    After studying more about comparative religion and the possible origins and influences of other religions upon Christianity, I think I see the mysterious nature of Jesus’ ministry in Mark to be deliberately trying to appeal to those involved in te “mystery cults” of the time who had secret initiation rites and cryptic knowledge and teachings that were bestowed upon only a select few. This view seems to be backed up by such passages as the “parable of the sower” in Mark 4, where Jesus deliberately obscures the meaning of his message in a parable so fewer people can have their sins forgiven.

    Christianity was in conflict with another mystery cult/religion called Mithraism in the Roman empire, and perhaps that had something to do with it. The Osiris-Dionysus line of mythical figures that Jesus is often classified as belonging to were also usually worshipped in mystery cults/religions. Does anyone see any merit to what I’ve concluded here?

  • 11. The Nerd  |  July 26, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Ah, thanks! One piece of criticism is that it seems to jump right into it, without any introductions. I don’t know if it’s because you’re taking it out of context of a larger work, but it’s slightly disorienting.

    I find it very interesting just how much our modern situation filters our interpretation of Jesus’ intent in the gospels. The Gnostics believed they had much reason for their interpretation of who Jesus was. In much the same way, people today believe that Jesus simply wanted to make sure he didn’t offend anyone too much so as to cut his life short before he could fulfill his purpose and reveal himself to all. And yet, both views come about after reading the same text.

  • 12. Ubi Dubium  |  July 26, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    Obi

    I think I see the mysterious nature of Jesus’ ministry in Mark to be deliberately trying to appeal to those involved in the “mystery cults” of the time who had secret initiation rites and cryptic knowledge and teachings that were bestowed upon only a select few.

    Yes, I quite agree. From my readings of Gnostic texts, it was also very much along those lines. Salvation was not so much a function of having the correct belief, but of having the correct secret knowledge. Only the highest level initiates would ever be allowed to share the deepest secrets. Of course, that sort of thing still has much appeal today, for instance in Freemasonry.

    The recently discovered gospel of Judas is also quite along these lines. Jesus tells Judas that he must betray Jesus, and be reviled for it, but it return Jesus tells him he will be rewarded in the hereafter, and then gives him secret knowledge about various angels and spirits, which is not given to the other disciples.

    What I find interesting is, considering the gnostic overtones in Mark, that Mark was included in the bible at all. Or, perhaps those offending bits could have been edited out as overly problematic. But they have remained, artifacts of a belief system the early church tried so hard to eradicate.

  • 13. The Apostate  |  July 26, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    truthwalker,

    Mark presents the picture of Christ as a servant. That’s why Mark includes no geology: who cares about the linage of a servant”

    If you presuppose that Christ is presented as a servant, I suppose you could view it in that light. Do you believe Mark consciously left out a lineage for this reason? Considering the lack of historical details presented in Mark, is it not more likely that there was more of a need at the time to give some vague context to the oral traditions/teachings of the historical Jesus and the theological complexities of an attributed lineage simply was not needed yet?

    Mark was written to servants and other “blue collar” workers. He wrote with a real mystery focus because to people low in the class system the idea of knowing something that upper crust folks didn’t had real demographic appeal.

    That is an interesting post-Marxist speculation, but I believe it is quite anachronistic. There has been little consensus on the readership of Mark, other than its overall popularity (throughout the blossoming Christian world, crossing gender and status). Much of Mark is used not only to condemn spiritual elitists, but also showed how the people and even his own disciples simply did not understand his teachings. There is little implication that only the lower classes would have “got it.”

  • 14. The Apostate  |  July 26, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    The Nerd,

    Ah, thanks! One piece of criticism is that it seems to jump right into it, without any introductions. I don’t know if it’s because you’re taking it out of context of a larger work, but it’s slightly disorienting.

    Thank you for the criticism. It is a thoroughly condensed piece that takes in parts from the larger work. I did the best I could to pack in as much information as possible without losing the specific examples that people can check out for themselves. The nice thing about Mark is that after reading my essay, you can sit and read Mark in one sitting to find criticisms or affirmations of my article.

  • 15. truthwalker  |  July 28, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Apostate:
    Well, first of all, understand that I am not stating my beliefs, here, just telling a sermon I’ve sat through frequently. Now, that you mention it, it is a startlingly post-Marxist view of a book written two millennia ago. To me that perspective made sense because I’ve read it in other books about the early spread of Christianity as told by post modern historians. They say that Christianity was a very working class religion for the first 200 or so years. The nature of Galilean ministry (where all but the 12 say “Who could understand this teaching?” and walk off, kind of says you’re right though, no one was really getting it.

  • 16. Bobbi Jo  |  July 28, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    “If you presuppose that Christ is presented as a servant, I suppose you could view it in that light. Do you believe Mark consciously left out a lineage for this reason? ”

    The Apostate, you once asked me about the differing lineage in Mathew verses Luke. I was led to an interesting article about a new theory I had not heard about. I thought i’d give you the link to check it out. I have heard of the author but don’t know much about him. maybe you have some insight? the link is:

    http://www.khouse.org/articles/1998/73/

    Btw, I didn’t want to read Mark at first because it presented a “chuck norris” version of Christ’ life, meaning that it’s so fast paced and on to the next thing. Also, He seems to be able to take on the pharasees pretty well. :) I have heard that men tend to like (to read) Mark for this reason. Although I like Mark a lot better now that I have read it all. In fact, it has some of my fave verses in it now. Thanks for the interesting article.

  • 17. Mirjam  |  July 28, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Apostate, you wrote:”Speaking non-academically, I believe that Gnosticism was entangled with Christianity the very moment the new Christian religion left Palestine. Gnosticism had been wildly popular in Persia and various parts of Mesopotamia, Rome, and northern Africa and it meshed well with any religion it came in contact with.”

    Why are you so sure that this new Christian religion did actually originate in Palestine, leave Palestine and mingle with with Gnosticism? Could it not be the other way round: that gnosticism (not the gnostic writings, but gnostic thought in general) was a breeding ground for Christianity, which might well have originated among diaspora jews? The sayings that are fond in both Thomas and the Synoptic gospels, in my view, don’t prove that the author of Thomas had access to Mark’s gospel. Thomas & Mark might have used the same sources/collections of ancient sayings, etc.

    By the way, I’ve always seen Jesus’ secretive sayings in the context of his Essene background…

    Anyway, interesting article, but there seem to be a few preconcepts in your article that you’re just taking for granted & that I’d like to read more about the evidence

  • 18. The Apostate  |  July 28, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Bobbi Jo,
    Welcome back.

    The Apostate, you once asked me about the differing lineage in Mathew verses Luke. I was led to an interesting article about a new theory I had not heard about…

    This explanation is a common one among evangelical circles, but immediately discredited among many theologians and Biblical scholars alike. The main reason for this is because of the blatant dishonesty one must employ. The article you presented, which is hardly Missler’s original idea, argues the following:
    a) Matthew presents Jesus’ lineage through the father’s line (Jacob as father of Joseph)
    b) Luke presents Jesus’ lineage through the mother’s line (Heli as father of Mary)
    But when was the last time Missler actually read his Bible? Missler even cites the passage: Luke 3:23-28. I am unsure why he believes verses 24-28 are needed as they merely continue the lineage. Luke 3:23 clearly states, however, that according the Lukan author, Heli (or Eli) is the father of Joseph, not Mary.

    When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,

    Hence, we have two different Gospels with two different fathers of Joseph. To insert a theory about Mary, one has to completely disregard the same book one is trying to argue as inerrant.

    Mirjam,

    Why are you so sure that this new Christian religion did actually originate in Palestine, leave Palestine and mingle with with Gnosticism?

    I am not sure. The reason I prefaced what I said with “not speaking academically” is because I was stating something that I do not have much evidence for. I am, like many others, piecing together the best I can of a very obscure time in Palestinian history. The fact is that all evidence of any sort of “Christianity” – whether of a Jewish-Christ movment or a Pauline sect – comes from within Palestine. Paul’s early references to the Pillars of Jerusalem and even the Gnostic obsession with the holy city hardly suggests a different location for the birth of the religion.

    Could it not be the other way round: that gnosticism (not the gnostic writings, but gnostic thought in general) was a breeding ground for Christianity, which might well have originated among diaspora jews?

    Well that all depends on what it means to be “Christian,” doesn’t it? Were the earliest Christians “gnostic”? Was gnosticism rising in popularity in Jewish circles? What can we consider to be gnostic? Better yet, what is not gnostic? These are all questions that have to be asked when pondering the relationship between gnostic religions and early (or possibly contemporary) Christianity.

    The sayings that are fond in both Thomas and the Synoptic gospels, in my view, don’t prove that the author of Thomas had access to Mark’s gospel. Thomas & Mark might have used the same sources/collections of ancient sayings, etc.

    I suppose I could clarify my second last paragraph. In my larger work, I place more emphasis on the the historical uncertainty of the relationship between Mark and Thomas. I believe it is more likely that Mark was written before Thomas, but that later gnostic works did explicitly use Mark as a source. Thomas, on the other hand, represents a competing Christianity which would later develop into a more complex Gnostic Christianity. I believe that Mark and Thomas did, as you suggest, use similar sources, but I think that Thomas would have been well aware of the Markan gospel.

    By the way, I’ve always seen Jesus’ secretive sayings in the context of his Essene background…

    Which is very much disputed.

    Anyway, interesting article, but there seem to be a few preconcepts in your article that you’re just taking for granted & that I’d like to read more about the evidence

    Most likely. I had a hard time condensing everything from the larger work to get in all the evidence. If this is the sort of stuff you are interested in, be sure to check out the citations.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • 19. Bobbi Jo  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    TA,

    I’ve also heard it mentioned that a “son” in the bible can also be refering to a grandson. So maybe they are not complete geneologies. For example, there is a verse in mark (10:47) where the nazerine cries out “Jesus, son of David”. Maybe, given their audience Luke and Mathew mentioned the ones they thought important? Kinda like if you mentioned you’re italian, and I said, “oh my dad is italian” because it was relevant to my audiance (you) and then someone else says I’m German and I say “oh my dad is german”. Sounds like a contradiction, but my dad is both of those in his geneology. It all has to do with audience. of course, I certainly haven’t studied at lenghth like you have. just a theory.

    now your turn. Let me have it. :)

  • 20. The Apostate  |  August 2, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Bobbi Jo,

    I’ve also heard it mentioned that a “son” in the bible can also be refering to a grandson. So maybe they are not complete geneologies.

    Yes, I have also used this one as well in a past life. There are a number of problems with it, all of which are fairly mundane and plain to see, but are refused by Biblical literalists for the sake of, well, Biblical literalism. You can certainly scour the internet for both sides of the discussion, if you are so willing. I will only give an answer to your specific analogy only because investigating the genealogies presented in Matthew and Luke are getting wildly off topic from the original content of this post.

    Maybe, given their audience Luke and Mathew mentioned the ones they thought important? Kinda like if you mentioned you’re italian, and I said, “oh my dad is italian” because it was relevant to my audiance (you) and then someone else says I’m German and I say “oh my dad is german”.

    The fact is, you only have one biological father, and his name is X. X is whatever citizenship he currently holds, whether from a multitude of traditions or one, such as in Jesus’ case (Jewish). He has one name: Joseph (at least as far as we know, although it is highly debatable whether the man named “Joseph, father of Jesus” ever really existed). He of course, in turn, had one father – FX. Now, he may claim to be a descendent of many men and women – of course in a patriarchal society, the latter are usually ignored. But then would we not expect to see one lineage to be much longer from detail than the one that is going for a rich symbolic history of descendants? This is not the case though. We have nobodies interspersed with popular Israelite figures in both accounts.
    Furthermore, Matthew explicitly is expected to be this detailed account since it states in 1:17:

    So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the carrying away to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon to the The Anointed One fourteen generations.

    .
    Unless, of course, you must take 14 to be simply a symbolic number. But than what is to be taken as literal? There is no reason in either account that certain generations should be skipped. It is one thing to claim a past kingship, be it David, Solomon, or Henry the VIII, but there is no point to claiming descent from an obscure Jewish man, unless of course it is an attempt to realistically track the Messiah’s lineage – since how can a Lord not have a rich background of ancestors?

    Bobbi, you seem like you have a thirst for the truth. I am not going to present obscure arguments or try to give a straightforward apology for agnosticism or an attack on Christianity. Only you can find this on your search for the truth about your faith, the scriptures you believe in, and the concepts you believe. Be honest with yourself. Unless you fear the result, be as critical towards your own beliefs as you are with others. Judging one’s ideas and weighing out the evidence is not only not a sin, it is commanded – albeit in odd and obscure means.

    Only ask yourself this. Who was Jesus, really? Was Jesus a Christian? Why does certain statements of faith hold high value whilst others hold none? It is my belief that Jesus was a Jew, not only by birth, but through practice and belief. He not only was a Jew, but so were at least two of the authors (Mark and Matthew) of the people who wrote about them – and those two probably hail from the earlier traditions of the Jesus movements. Why is it then that the Jewish people have systematically rejected Jesus as their Messiah? Out of spite? Ignorance? Misunderstanding (or stupidity?)? Their evil and sinful nature? I am serious. Why is it that the most learned Jewish scholars cannot recognize the Messiahship of Jesus?

    If you are interested, I would be begin my search of Jesus with people who are related to him: Jews.
    So what do they have to say have Jesus’ genealogies?

  • 21. MysticSaint  |  August 25, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Women are not worthy of life – Simon Peter

    http://mysticsaint.blogspot.com/2008/08/women-are-not-worthy-of-life-simon.html

    Sacred Marriage of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene

    http://mysticsaint.blogspot.com/2008/08/sacred-marriage-of-jesus-christ-and.html

  • 22. india independence day 2014  |  August 4, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    india independence day

  • 23. Alban  |  August 7, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Ubi dubium…it appears that you have done some research on the Knowledge I have written about over the last 3 years. Why then would you think it is not possible today to be shown that or term it “woo” ?

    I am not big on quoting a lot of scripture but I seem to recall that there is a prophecy concerning this Knowledge…that its mystery will no longer be…and the earth shall be filled with the Knowledge of the Lord…or something to that effect.

    Mm…we live now in a very special time that contains a unique opportunity, one that has been offered before and for the many reasons I have stated went underground for long periods of time.

    Now is now. Nothing like stating the obvious, huh? If you would like to know what was called ‘the secret Knowledge’ not as a scholarly point but as a meaningful, fulfilling access to knowing yourself, I suggest checking out wopg.org or tprf.org or tprfyt.

    In some of the videos the speaker does not say that he shows the Knowledge, though I assure you, he does. In listening to him speak there is a special kind of preparation, one that hones in on a feeling, a non emotional, not thinking, distinct but early on subtle feeling that coincides with listening to the content. That feeling is not mystical!!

    Recorded history made it seem that way. Trust me on this. Secret to a degree, yes but mostly in the sense of casting pearls before swine. People as a whole were not ‘ready’ and to a great degree now are maybe not quite ready to appreciate this gift in the sense (again) of ignorance of the law is no defense…so when receiving Knowledge it is a glorious daily experience yet with a responsibility to one’s self that is precious. Hope that makes sense.

    The Knowledge session is wondrous in its simplicity. For each person the experience itself is unique just as we all are. Most however do mention…that this is so obvious, how could I have missed it (?)…

    What has intrigued me about all of you is the thought, the research, the care that so many give to this subject matter even in rejection, whatever labels apply and of course, the occasional pointedness or sharpness. Most of you like myself aren’t the type to ‘buy in’ without proof.

    To discover as I hope many will that you have been walking around with the proof so apparent is mind boggling. The enjoyment and the naturally occurring appreciation is incomparable.

    For those of you with strong yet now questioning fundamentalist backround (being on this site), don’t be alarmed at there being no mention of God. Where have you read that God resides? You may just appreciate actual proof in that same place…the very last place any of us ever thought to look.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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