Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Balancing Historic Equations

The equation does not balance. Or it does not always balance for me.

The consensus on the writing of the four gospels goes something like this. Mark is written around 70 A.D.. Matthew and Luke, being somewhat embellished copies of the “Q” standard set by Mark, get published around 80 A.D.. John gets published around 90 A.D..

Wow! The Christians got their stuff all together before the Jews did in 90 C.E. (A.D.). at the “Council of Jamnia”. How convenient!

Q? an abbreviation of the German word quelle meaning source. There was some German scholar in the nineteenth century who went through the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) line per line and concluded that there must have been a lost source document for similar quotes and a similar story line in each of these three gospels.

Of course you can reinterpret it as the smallest and the oldest document of Mark got tacked onto at later dates. I do not find anything wrong with that. That each of these synoptic (similar point of view documents) were regional base documents. Oral tradition among Hellenistic Jews and now Christians in Alexandria in Egypt and Pagan converts in Asia Minor (Turkey) had different oral traditions and got them put down on parchment at some point in time.

More is better or is less better?

I am not disputing validity of text. I am questioning timelines. I question academic theory as a basis for history. Is history in a pundit’s realm? Is history fact? Or is history merely an opinion?

Mine is not an original idea that Mark is the foundation of Matthew and Luke. It is just that if you read other historic documents such as Josephus Flavious’ histories, different things get said of the events of that era. In modern desktop publishing, words like “cut and paste” mirror manual techniques going back thousands of years. You got a parchment and you are an historian, you cut the scroll and glue in a new paragraph or two. You do not change the story or the message as much as your regional version overlaps, sometimes duplicates or addresses a singular subject only once without further backup documents.

You have to glean through the gospels to get a sense of the story of Jesus and his message that is sometimes clouded in poor, blurred, many times edited, copy.

I think that the first two gospels have one angel at the empty tomb of Jesus. Luke and John must be more accurate with two angels each protecting the empty tomb of the risen Christ.

The gospels are human documents. They are not necessarily false. I can see why over the years the R.C. church has avoided putting them at the forefront of their sacred tradition and ritual based religion. I can also see why after the Protestant Reformation, how with so little to work with, the northern countries of Europe lost the richness of religious tradition and started to ban stained glass and music for a time – but only for a time.

Stained glass and music work in the house of God much better than undefined echoes heard or shadows spread bluntly through an empty warehouse of a building. They work better to touch something spiritual, in the way of adding atmosphere and encouragement, to a place for prayer or meditation.

I do not know when the sacred scriptures of Christianity were written. I do not know how many people have handled the product throughout the early centuries of Christianity.

Jesus’ message does come through to me through all the paperwork. That message speaks of love, and caring and refined social interface. It speaks of justice and the possibilities of man as God’s creation to be able to reach for the stars.

Jesus' message also reflects the responsibility of the human race to manage well the gifts and resources given in abundance from above and as part of God’s ultimate plan, whatever that may be.