Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jesus, a man of true heart and spirit

I have written before about the Jesus Seminar which has made a scholarly attempt to decipher the New Testament. Long story made short, this decades long project has produced a body of scholarly opinion about the origins of the gospels and the writings in them. Bottom line. The gospels are not eyewitness accounts, play by play, blow by blow, of the holy man aka Jesus of Nazareth.

The Jesus Seminar among most things states that less than twenty percent of the sayings attributed to Jesus were actually said by him directly or indirectly.

The first time I heard something like this in I believe a New York Times article more than a decade or so ago I was completed dumbfounded. The New York Times had a stellar reputation then of printing all the news worth printing.

The Jesus Seminar has more than its share of critics regarding methodology, qualifications of scholarship etc.

Jesus Seminar

The bottom line however is that this niche of historic research, scholarship and educated opinion puts the story of Jesus being resurrected into an allegorical mode and style consistent with Jewish studies and teachings of the time.

A recent online article about J.D. Crossan, co-founder of the Jesus Seminar appeared in CNN. The article was insightful into the background of the man who helped start a pathway to truth about the real Jesus and perhaps too the real message of Jesus.

John Dominic Crossan's 'blasphemous' portrait of Jesus
Crossan believes the public should be exposed to even the most divisive debates that scholars have had about Jesus and the Bible. He co-founded the Jesus Seminar, a controversial group of scholars who hold public forums that cast doubt on the authenticity of many sayings and deeds attributed to Jesus...

Crossan's overarching message is that you don't have to accept the Jesus of dogma. There's another Jesus hidden in Scripture and history who has been ignored...
My own search for the real Jesus started many years ago in reading the New Testament several times. As time progressed I noticed the flaws and differences between the gospels. No big deal to a Roman Catholic as I had been raised and never read the bible as a one piece of literature. The gospels doled out in the Roman mass ritual were more like what they describe as soundbites in the media. Short readings and short homilies too as I remember from my youth. In the RC church it is all in the traditions and rituals and not in the writing styles or intent of the original “four evangelists”.

The modern world discounts the ancient world. Jesus and religion and or “Christ”ianity compete with mankind's attention along with media commercials for hamburgers and car insurance.

All this stuff on the side of scholarship by a Jesus Seminar also competes for the tradtional fundamentalist Christianity that in recent decades here in America has seemed to graft itself onto one of the major political parties.

So it is not surprising that people were not aware of all this scholarship and research stuff going on not in secret but off the main media stage. Perhaps too another generation is only getting first wind of this ongoing religious research. The CNN article has something in excess of eleven thousand comments as I am writing this several days after the article first appeared.

In any case I use the Jesus Seminar to reinforce my own historic and religious research. Alas I nevered studied Latin or Greek and cannot do what someone like Crossan and others can do with reading the oldest documents available to scholars regarding the New Testament.

Never the less I find that my own Irish Catholic American upbringing parallels Crossans when he comments on the usage of accepting Jesus to a evangelical Protestant.
Some critics say he's trying to debunk Christianity. Some question his personal faith. At a college lecture, Crossan says an audience member stood up and asked him if he had "received the Lord Jesus" as his savior.

Crossan said he had, but refused to repeat his questioner's evangelical language to describe his conversion.

"I wasn't going to give him the language; it's not my language," Crossan says. "I wasn't trying to denigrate him, but don't think you have the monopoly on the language of Christianity."

When asked if he is a Christian, Crossan doesn't hesitate.

I know where Brother John is coming from. Once the Roman religion is engrained in you, phrases like receiving “the Lord Jesus” as your savior is language you never heard as a child or in the style of Roman Christianity as I experienced it. Five centuries after the Reformation there is still a linguistic and cultural devide perpetuated by both sides of the “Kristos” aisle that only helps to splinter understanding regarding concepts of Christian faith, salvation, purpose and ideals. And then again it might be the non-verbal cultural thing of the Irish.
After spending much of his life in the Roman Catholic Church, Crossan is now an outsider.

He hasn't joined a church because he says a priest might deny him the sacraments because of his run-ins with church leaders.

"If I attend a local Roman Catholic Church, I would get sucked back into all the debates," he says. "I don't want to spend my life fighting Roman Catholicism."
This is the quote that hit home for me. Any of you who are regular followers of this blog know that that is what I have been doing – fighting Roman Catholicism. I have not been fighting it to attack it but rather to deprogram myself in the many pagan aspects of a Christian belief system merged with Roman paganism in its prime. Whatever.

As a cultural Christian I still consider myself a Christian. I believe in the basic message of love of Jesus to us and all our neighbors. I believe in God and the Holy Spirit and believe that Jesus was in some of those few words recognized by the Jesus Seminar as authentic, a true man of heart and inspired by that holy spirit of the creator.