Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saint Quelle Pray For Us

Saint Quelle, who was he? He was from Somewhere. Presumably he lived in the end part of the first century into the early years of the second century. Where did he live? Somewhere is in present day Turkey.

After doing a lot of amateur sleuthing about the last century of academic dissection of the four Gospels, one sees a lot of impressive deconstruction and primarily from the Jesus Seminar. I say deconstruction because it is easy to pull something apart but what is left of the whole of the Christian Myth.

A name that gets tossed around a lot is the retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Sprong. He is quite eloquent and I do not take away from any of his or his fellow Jesus Seminar types but – but – they all salaried, vested and pensioned academics and use only documentation to talk their talk and walk their walk.

Besides, deconstruction of the Christian Myth leaves a great big hole, a void, a chasm that has not yet been filled in. When it is filled in, it will be paper mache and made only from the original few documents in Christianity that are there.

This academic dissection got started over a century ago with an analysis that stated of the first three similar synoptic gospels – Matthew and Luke did not copy everything from Mark. Some other document, a “quelle” (“source” in German) document must have once existed to be a source for the slight differences in quotes between the original Mark and the two follow up gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Rather than be a document, I have sometimes wondered if “Q” was not the same oral source. This does not much differ from oral history being written down and then used at a later time. But think of it. Let’s put a human being there in the seventh and eighth decade of the first century and still being a possible oral source – an original eyewitness. Interesting concept. I call him Saint Quelle. He was real. Just like Christianity itself.

What about the documents that are not there? Too many documents seemed to have disappeared in the early centuries of the Church or maybe they never existed to begin with – “Q” document included.

I am not saying that Jesus is not real. His message is clear to me. It is a simple message and stated amid the embellishments added to the New Testament over the decades and centuries after his ministry. While the academicians may have done a lovely job on the Gospels, they have yet to scrutinize the rest of the New Testament and namely Saint Paul.

I believe that there is a Paul Seminar going on at present. And it is brought to you by the same people who deconstructed Jesus in the Jesus Seminar - claiming by one estimate that only 18% of the sayings in the Gospels were actually uttered by Jesus.

I hope that the scholars they use this time are not merely Christian scholars who have studied Hebrew and Judaism. How many Rabbis have been invited to dissect Paul, the original yeshiva overachiever?

Having stated earlier that I thought that the Acts of the Apostles was an honest work, I look at it of late and see some basic flaws. I do not see specific flaws. The main thing I see is an all too convenient nature of the Acts as a bridge document to feed into and explain the players.

In Acts, Peter runs a Jim Jones type commune. Anybody who does not sell all their property because the world is going to end next week – and give all your money to the commune – well they get blown away like Ananias and Sapphira who cheated God and hedged their bet about the end of the world and the eternity things. Does this all happen in mere days or months after Jesus leaves town following his resurrection?

And, with Peter, is a major shadow player in the form of James, the “brother of Jesus”. Peter is or is not the second banana here depending on who tells you the story or who is in charge of the lecture.

Then you have Paul, the guy that always seems to be a dollar short and a day late in missing all the good stuff that just happened right under his very nose – lived in Jerusalem and never heard of Jesus etc. There is I think a problem with timelines here. Paul is an Apostle with an asterisk footnote.

Paul hears Jesus on the road to Damascus after Jesus is dead, resurrected and ascended into heaven until the second coming. Jesus makes one exception to his timeline to grab Paul’s attention when Paul and his posse got stopped short by a blinding light and Paul does a 180 degree turn and then embraces Christianity instead of trying to destroy it.

Then Paul and Peter and James kiss and make up and agree that circumcision is okay for gentile believers of Jesus as the Messiah – but only outside Jerusalem, James and Peter’s turf. Whatever.

The rest of Acts has Paul being beaten and arrested and surviving one shipwreck after another. You can almost hear the 007 electric guitar music playing as he rides out the super hero role into a question mark. Acts does not really say what happens to either Peter or Paul. You are supposed to guess your happy ending to that spec script.

Acts in real terms to me is like a bridge document or a Star Wars 1, 2, 3 to make sense of the original starting films 4,5,6 which got produced first like the Epistles or the Gospels. Acts if it is a bridge document, it was written to pull all the rest of accepted scripture into a makes sense timeline.

Just waiting for the shoe to drop from the Paul Seminar is so nerve racking. What will the academics accept and who or what in the script will get black balled?

Looking ahead with my own deconstruction and reconstruction, I see a few things that will cushion me against the Paul Seminar throwing the baby out with the bath water again.

A sort of partial deconstruction and reconstruction happened in the Reformation. The protestants threw out the Pagan Roman traditions of the RC church. The Prots based Christianity on the written word. That was a primitive reconstruction of sorts. It perhaps sets the stage for the future of Christianity after another future wave of literal deconstruction and reconstruction of scripture.

And then there is always the possibility that a set of Christian style bunch of Dead Sea Scrolls or Nag Hammadi type documents will get discovered in the future.

As such I am following my own previous stated positions. I break the whole Jesus Christ myth into historic timeline myths labeled The Jesus Myth and The Christ Myth. Do not be afraid of the word myth. I use it in place of the word story as in traditional and or legendary story.

The first is The Jesus Myth which is the basic Jesus product that grew up out of oral and written things – a model T Ford automobile - that includes the gospels if in fact they were finalized before the second stage or The Christ Myth.

The Christ Myth is the merger into Greek and Latin and with heavy weight pagan beliefs and the basic son of Zeus thing – a 1959 Cadillac with fins.

Any way you slice Christianity, it as a core of words or beliefs, has a lot going for it and namely its ability to morph from millennium to millennium and suit new secular needs. Right now the faith is a little bit in the doldrums and waiting for the winds of some more change to take it to the future – on wings as of an eagle.

Saint Quelle pray for us – and especially the Paul Seminar!


Dave said...

Bishop Spongs ideas will spin your head around and his latest book..Jesus for the non-religious.. was a good read. It will test your faith and is not for the faint of heart. Will he/they go after Paul? My feeling is that the message..not the what really matters here! Christianity has flourished despite all odds and something very special happened to spur so many people to repeat the story over and over and over..

Mike McShea said...

I think that Paul in the Epistiles is real. I have my doubts about how somebody in 150 or 200 AD saw the timeline thing. Acts is no doubt factual in many ways - it is how it is written and perhaps exagerated at some points that annoys me - and hey I am no biblical expert. I think that James, the brother of Jesus is put in the story (he is a very flat figure) and there was no real eyewitnesses left to accurately gauge his imput into the original faith.

No doubt over time Bishop Sprong might attain, be recognized with a modern age commentary status like a Martin Luther or a Francis de Sales. For the moment, I do not think that Christianity needs a perfect book about the gospels, it needs as you say people talking about them and repeating the parts they think important. What the faith, the church, the energy is in the future is what the majority thinks it is(inspired by the Holy Spirit) but not over and the above original message of Jesus.

Dave said...

When you get down to it..Jesus' message is some pretty radical stuff that rattles the powers that be. It is a difficult path to follow and it will get you in a world of trouble but boy will you feel great doing it! Love is powerful and scary and liberating all at the same time. 2,000 years down the road and we are still just barely scratching the surface of what the kingdom will eventually look like.