The Anatomy of a Biblical Mystery
The “Anatomy of a Biblical Mystery” sounds like something out of a Dan Brown bestseller. Well, sort of. Actually, the bestseller is the Bible and the mystery is how the dogma of Christianity was developed – and when.
A number of heavy hitters have weighed in on this topic, as follows:
- Brian McLaren, a Christian pastor and theologian, said, “One of the problems is that the average Christian in the average church who listens to the average Christian broadcasting has such an oversimplified understanding of both the Bible and of church history – it would be deeply disturbing for them to really learn church history.”
- John Allegro, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, said that the Scrolls provide overwhelming evidence that “…may upset a great many basic teachings of the Christian Church….”
- The Vatican has publicly stated that Christians will eventually need to reevaluate their faith and come to a new understanding of the Bible.
So why does Brian McLaren believe that Christians don’t understand their own religion and why does the Vatican state that Christians will have to learn the true meaning of the Bible? Those are pretty sweeping statements. What is it that Christians have not been told? Since the Vatican has yet to make a detailed public disclosure about their message (other than extraterrestrials are for real), let me try to fill in some of the blanks.
Biblical scholars have confirmed that the doctrines of the Christian Church have very little in common with the teachings of Jesus.
This all sounds boring enough, perhaps, until you start looking for clues in the least likely of places – the Bible itself. The gospels are considered to be the heart and soul of Christianity so one should expect to find the central tenets of the faith to be contained therein. That’s where the mystery begins. So let’s do a little sleuthing.
Mysteries, especially murder mysteries, usually require that one develop a timeline in order to understand what happened. With respect to Christianity, the timeline for the first 1,200 years after the Council of Nicaea (in 325 AD) is rather interesting as church doctrine at that time included the Immaculate Conception, the infallibility of the Pope and even certain books of the Bible which were later banned by Protestant denominations. That’s because for the first 1,200 years of Christianity, Christianity was the Roman Catholic Church (and, conversely, the Roman Catholic Church was Christianity). In other words, the Roman Catholic Church was the Word of God for all practical purposes. Today, however, many Christians deny anything Catholic which allows them to define the Word of God their way. The problem is that there is no universal agreement within Christianity as to what exactly defines the Word of God. For example, the Southern Baptists can’t even agree with the Baptists.
The more important timeline, though, is the one from the crucifixion of Jesus to the Council of Nicaea, a period of about three hundred years. After the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples continued to follow Judaism. The Torah was still their holy book. The stories about Jesus were spread to the general populace via oral tradition. In that regard, the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:1-4) states that there were several accounts of Jesus’ life at the time that the Gospel of Luke was written. So which one(s) do you suppose made it into the Bible and which ones got left out?
They say that history is written by the victors. Of course, that’s true of holy books as well. Accordingly, the Bible is a highly questionable work. The reason is that there are no bibles that predate the Council of Nicaea (the victors). Two of the oldest and most respected bibles are the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus both of which were written in Greek in the middle of the fourth century.
However, neither the Codex Sinaiticus nor the Codex Vaticanus include the last twelve verses of Mark (because those verses were added at a later date). Of what importance is that, you might ask? Well, without the last twelve verses of Mark, the only reference in the gospels to the ascension is Luke 24:51, which has only a passing comment about Jesus going to heaven (without any elaboration or explanation). So a central tenet of Christian faith is essentially missing from the Gospels.
Aside: It’s kind of interesting that in the additional verses added to Mark it says that Jesus ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father. After all, who observed this? I mean who was in heaven to know that Jesus sat next to God and that he specifically sat on the right side of God. Furthermore, how could you possibly give such a commentary without covering the real story – describing God himself?
The thing that people keep forgetting is that the Scriptures can only be viewed, and understood, through a Jewish lens. After all, the Bible was essentially written by Jews, about Jews and for Jews. Since the disciples were Jewish, the central tenet of faith of the disciples was the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), not the Bible. The only religion that the disciples ever espoused was Judaism and they continued to operate under the Mosaic Law long after the Resurrection. Christianity would only come later, as Paul spread the Good News to gentiles.
Of course, Paul was also Jewish and it was Judaism that he taught in the synagogue. In order to attract gentile converts, Paul liberalized Judaism by freeing it from the Torah. Without the Torah, however, the Judaism of the disciples effectively ceased to exist. Christianity took its place and became, in essence, a new pagan religion which maintained some of the old pagan heritage, including the following:
- Christmas was celebrated on December 25th, the day which originally honored the birth/rebirth of the pagan sun god. Note: The birthday of Jesus was celebrated on January 6th until the 4th century and January 6th is still observed today by some Christian groups.
- The observance of the Sabbath on Sunday (as opposed to Saturday which was observed by the disciples, inasmuch as Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath). This was a result of a Roman imperial decree in the 4th century.
- Easter, celebrating the resurrection of the sun(son) god.
While the Dead Sea Scrolls show that Christianity had Jewish roots, a Jewish religion would never have been accepted by an anti-semitic world (read: the Roman Empire); however, Christianity could be made palatable enough to be accepted by gentiles if it were to be completely removed from its Jewish origins. So, in the 4th century (300 years after Jesus), a Hellenized version of Christianity would be declared to be the Roman imperial theology and from that point on the Bible would be reinterpreted through gentile eyes. As a result, the Christian messiah was unrecognizable from the one that the Jewish disciples were expecting. So what was once a form of Judaism was now Christianity and what was once the teachings of Jesus was replaced by church dogma and as for Jesus, himself, he had been morphed from a Jewish messiah into a universal savior for all men.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
– 2 Timothy 4:3-4