An awesome video to remind us that there is no one like Jesus and nothing more important than knowing him:
Archive for the ‘Jesus Christ’ Category
Watch this video of a “megachurch” service and try to figure out what – or who – is missing:
Ever since I started studying the Bible seriously I have noticed a curious fact: in the New Testament, it is very rare that Jesus is explicitly referred to as “God” (Greek theos). In fact, there are only two cases in the whole of the New Testament that Jesus is unquestionably called God (John 1:1; 20:28), although there are a small number of other passages in which the author is probably using the term God to refer to Jesus (John 1:18, Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1), although each of these other instances are questioned in some quarters.
What is particularly interesting is that just a few years after the writing of the New Testament books we find other Christians who have no such hesitation. St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of John the Apostle and died in the early 2nd century, shows no reserve is calling Jesus God: “For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb by Mary” (Ignatius Letter to the Ephesians 18:2); “love towards Jesus Christ our God” (Ignatius Letter to the Romans Preface); “I give glory to Jesus Christ the God who bestowed such wisdom upon you” (Ignatius Letter to the Smyrnaeans 1:1).
So why do the New Testament writers hesitate, or even refuse, to call Jesus God if they believed him to be divine?
Some, of course, would say that the N.T. authors did not, in fact, believe Jesus to be divine. But that ignores the overwhelming evidence of the N.T. writings. Even if Jesus were never called God in the N.T. it is still clear that the first Christians believed him to be divine. His authority to change the Law (Matthew 5) and to forgive sins (Matthew 9:1-3), as well as his exaltation as Lord of the Universe (Philippians 2:9-11, Colossians 1:15-20) are just a few examples showing that the N.T. authors believed him to be equal to God. So, again, why didn’t they just go around explicitly calling him God as later Christians would do?
The answer lies in the strictly monotheistic Jewish atmosphere in which the first Christians lived and breathed and the competing worldview of the ruling Roman Empire. To a first century Jew, there was only one God and that was the God of Israel. To apply the term God to another being would be to reject the strongest pillar of Judaism: monotheism. To the first century Roman pagan, on the other hand, there were many gods and applying the term theos to someone caused no more concern than calling him powerful or a ruler. So the first century Jewish Christians (and remember, all the first Christians were Jewish) had a dilemma: they understood and accepted that Jesus possessed divine attributes, yet they also held steadfast to Jewish monotheism, so how could they express this without being perceived as Roman polytheists? If they just blithely called Jesus God, most Jews (and pagans) would believe they were inventing yet another god in the pantheon of pagan gods – or they would have believed that the Christian equated Jesus with God the Father. In many ways, the revelation of the Trinity was the greatest linguistic challenge man ever faced.
So the New Testament authors closely guarded their use of the title God for Jesus, and used many other ways to express his divinity. No one reading the N.T. books in the first century would have questioned that their authors believed Jesus to be divine, but at the same time they would have also been clear that these authors did not believe Jesus to be the same person as God the Father. By being circumspect in their language, they were able to protect both their monotheistic beliefs as well as their conviction that Jesus was God.
Eventually, as Christianity grew it became more confident in its distinctive beliefs regarding the Godhead in contrast to both Judaism and paganism and so was able to more freely assign the title God to Jesus outright, as we see in the writing of St. Ignatius of Antioch. The belief didn’t change, but the language used to express it did develop.
For further reading: Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus by Murray J. Harris
We see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:9-10)
Everyone has heard the popular phrase, “What would Jesus do?” (WWJD?). It gained popularity in the Evangelical world in the 1990′s as a way to encourage Christians to consider what Jesus would do before making moral decisions. In many ways this is a great idea, and Catholic tradition has always called on disciples of Christ to live in a Christ-like manner. In fact, St. Paul goes so far as to say that it is no longer he who lives, but Christ who lives in him (Galatians 2:20).
However, there is a danger in WWJD? in that it can blur the distinction between Christ and us. Namely, that he is God and we are not. Just looking at the Gospel of Matthew, here are a few instances in which what Jesus did is NOT what we should do:
“You have heard it said…but I say to you” (Matthew 5:20-48)
In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, he often stated an Old Testament command, but then followed it by stating, “But I say to you”, thus making himself above the Law. In fact, in some cases – such as with marriage – he even changes the Law as it was originally received by Moses! None of us ever have the ability to change the law as it has been received by God.
“Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:1-8)
Christ startled those around him by forgiving the sins of people who came to him. As the scribes correctly noted, this is blasphemy if you are not God. We can – and should – forgive the sins that are committed against us, but we have no ability to forgive sins committed against others. (Of course, priests have been given the ability to forgive sins, but most of us are not priests, and they are only able to do it through the ministry of the Church).
“Follow me” (Matthew 9:9, 9:37-39, 19:21)
Christ often calls people to unconditionally follow him – and he makes grand promises (and dire predictions) to those who take up his call. He made it clear that he should be the center of each person’s life if they want true joy and happiness – and he predicts persecution to those who take him up on his offer. We, on the other hand, should always point people to Christ and never to ourselves. If anyone is following you, you better give them a new map.
“On the third day [I] will be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21, 17:22, 20:19)
If anyone you knew predicted that three days after his death he would be walking the earth again, you would rightly think he was crazy. Jesus, however, did just that – and backed it up by defeating death. None of us, however, should go around predicting our bodily resurrection (at least not until the Last Day).
“You have the poor with you always, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11)
Christianity has always been clear that we have a duty to care for the poor. In fact, we recognize that when we serve the poor, we serve Christ (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). However, when the disciples were indignant that a woman “wasted” an expensive bottle of ointment on Jesus instead of selling it to help the poor, Jesus made the startling statement that the woman’s action was superior to helping the poor. If any of us were to think that service to us was more important than serving the poor, we would be deluding ourselves.
These are just a few examples (and if I had picked John’s Gospel, I could multiply them even more; after all, who of us can say “I am the way, the truth and the life”?), but they should serve to remind us that although we are to be molded into the image of Christ, we must always remember that Jesus Christ is the unique and divine Son of God, and none of us should ever act exactly as he did on this earth. We sometimes become so familiar with the words and actions of Christ found in the Gospels that we forget how inappropriate – and even blasphemous – they would be coming from ordinary men and women like us.
So instead of asking “What would Jesus do?” we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus have me do?”
Today is the anniversary of the birth of one of the most influential Scripture scholars who ever lived: Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann’s impact on the theological world cannot be underestimated; if you pick up just about any scholarly work on Scripture or Christology written in the past fifty years, there is a very good chance that Bultmann’s name will be mentioned.
Bultmann’s greatest influence was in advocating for a complete split between history and faith (see my post yesterday about this subject). He advocated “demythologizing” the New Testament by stripping it of any supernatural content, thus discovering the true history behind it. Actually, he claimed that the Gospels were not even historical documents, but merely the proclamation of the message of the early Christian community. Even though not all the specifics of Bultmann’s teachings are accepted in modern scholarship, his underlying presuppositions and assumptions still rule the world of Scripture scholarship and Christology.
One of the primary purposes of Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth series is to combat the work of Bultmann and his followers; in fact, the pope directly addresses Bultmann and his arguments numerous times in the first volume of Jesus of Nazareth. Pope Benedict recognizes that true faith and history are not in opposition, but instead that the Christian faith is founded on real historical events. Another critic of Bultmann’s false separation has been Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. I was humbled when Fr. Benedict considered my book Who is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew, which uses modern scholarship but is not a scholarly work, as one small contribution in combating the false presuppositions and conclusions of Bultmann. Fr. Benedict writes in the Foreword:
Beginning with the pope himself, the effort to present the faithful with an adequate picture of Christ is well underway. It is an effort well supported by Eric Sammons. I hope that in years to come, he will follow this book up with later volumes on the other evangelists. I also hope that we will see more and more books like this, intelligent and erudite, yet accessible, on our Divine Savior and his life and personality. It is time to reject and reverse the influence of writers like Rudolf Bultmann, who dismantled the picture of Christ, leaving us only with remnants. In the place of such destruction we now have books like Who Is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew — books that rebuild or, rather, reveal anew the true picture of Christ.
We must always remember that our Christian Faith is not founded on myths in some pre-historic past, but on the historical and reliable witness of the first followers of Christ.
One of the most common positions of the scholarly community over the past one hundred years is to distinguish between the “Jesus of history” from the “Christ of faith.” The “Jesus of history” was the walking, talking historical Jesus of Nazareth who was born of Mary, preached in Galilee and Judea and was killed by the Roman authorities. The “Christ of faith,” on the other hand, is the creation of the early Christian community – especially St. Paul – and does not necessarily have any connection with Jesus of Nazareth. Any “appearances” of Jesus after his death are seen as possible apparitions and/or visions (or even hallucinations), but they are not appearances of a resurrected Jesus.
Many of the scholars who posit this theory even claim to be Christian believers. They believe that God really did work through Jesus during his life and confirmed Jesus as His messenger by giving the early Christian community these visions of a glorified, heavenly Christ. But to think that the actual physical body of Jesus of Nazareth was reanimated in some way is preposterous.
There is a major, glaring problem with this theory: the empty tomb.
If the first Christians had simply claimed to see visions of Jesus, but one could find his body rotting in the tomb, then all would realize that they mean purely heavenly visions. But one of the central themes of the early Christian preaching was that the tomb was empty and that they had seen the Lord and even touched him and ate with him. Every Gospel account emphasizes the empty tomb (Matt. 28:1-9, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-8, John 20:1-9), and Matthew even tells us that a common attack against the early Christians was that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matt. 28:11-15), again focusing on the historical fact that the tomb was empty. If the Gospel writers or first Christians were lying about the empty tomb, then it would have been easy enough to call their bluff and prove them wrong: just check the tomb.
But perhaps they did steal the body? Perhaps this was all an elaborate ruse foisted on the public by distraught followers of a disgraced would-be Messiah. This brings us to another striking feature of the early accounts of Christ’s resurrection: they don’t actually recount his resurrection. All of the accounts follow this pattern: (1) Jesus died on the cross; (2) his dead body was placed in a tomb; (3) three days later his tomb was empty; and (4) after that some people encountered Jesus in a physical, yet different, body.
If the first Christians had stolen the body and invented tales of resurrection, surely they would have included actual tales of resurrection, wouldn’t they? But instead they are silent about the most vital part of the story: the rising of his dead body to life. This indicates veracity, for an invented tale is much more likely to fill in an important detail like that. But if it actually happened as they claimed, then the first Christians would be unable to recount the actual resurrection, as there was no eyewitness to that event. They would have been bound to be truthful about what really happened.
Ultimately, the theory that there is no direct connection between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith” needs to be buried in its own tomb. All of the evidence points to the fact that the first Christians believed wholeheartedly – and enough to give their lives for the belief – that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead and is the Christ in which they trust for their salvation.
Every follower of Christ wants to draw closer to their Lord throughout their lifetime. And our Lord in his great mercy has given us many means to do so: the sacraments, prayer, works of service, etc. These all help us to become more like Christ and thus draw closer to him. But I would argue that there is another aspect of growth in the spiritual life that is just as important, and it all revolves around one word.
That word is “no”.
Christ told his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, emphasis added). If you wish to come after Christ, then you must deny yourself – you must say “no” to your passions and your own desires and instead follow the path that Christ lays out before you. At baptism we are cleansed of the stain of original sin, but the effects of original sin still remain in us. We are a fallen race and that means we are a selfish race. Our desires are disordered and are not in conformity with God’s desires. Thus, we must say “no” to our own desires throughout our lives. These “no’s” can be to major sins:
- “No” to murder
- “No” to adultery
- “No” to stealing
- “No” to pornography
But we also must get in the habit of saying “no” to our little desires as well:
- “No” to the extra helping at dinner
- “No” to taking the most comfortable seat in the room
- “No” to giving our own opinion in every conversation
- “No” to watching TV every night
- “No” to wasting time on the Internet
- “No” to sleeping in
For most of us, it is the little “no’s” that are most important, as we are not directly tempted to the major sins. But giving in to the little “no’s” can lead to a selfish lifestyle, which is contrary to the Gospel (and can weaken our resolve against the major sins). Refusing to say no to our little desires on a regular basis leads to greater attachment to the things of this world, which weakens our attachment to our Lord.
In the spiritual classic “The Way”, St. Josemaría Escrivá writes simply, “Get used to saying No” (Point 5). This is advice we all should follow if we wish to grow in the spiritual life.
Peter, James, John follow
Alone with Jesus
On the mountain, away from all.
Glory from glory
God from God
Light from Light
The Law and the Prophets testify
”This is he of whom we speak”
The Beloved Son
All of the Father within
”Listen to him and you listen to me”
Back to the world, the cross to come
Glory pointing to sorrow, leading to glory
The three to be transfigured:
Peter, the rock, ruling in love
James, the son of thunder, soon to drink Christ’s cup
John, the eagle, the beloved son of Mary
Alone with Jesus
Make me your beloved
Let me enjoy your favor
- written on retreat, summer 2008
Today’s Gospel reading, which recounts the famous scene of Christ and his apostles at Caesarea Philippi, puts our intellectual life in a stark contrast: we can either think like God or we can think like man. One way leads to illumination, the other to destruction. And Peter, that great apostles of extremes, demonstrates both ways to us in the span of about 30 seconds.
First, the leader of the apostles displays an insight that is not possible by human means:
[Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. (Matthew 16:16-17)
Note carefully what Jesus said to Peter: the apostle did not come to a realization of the true identity of Christ by means of deep intellectual thinking or reasoning; he came to it by divine inspiration. Reason alone cannot acknowledge the divinity of Christ; it is necessary to have God Himself reveal it to us.
But then Peter quickly falls back into a more base way of thinking:
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16:21-23)
When faced with the prospect of his Lord suffering, Peter reverts to relying on his own intellectual prowess to determine the way things should go. He rejects such a path and decides on his own how Christ should come into his kingdom. But Jesus immediately rebukes Peter, telling him that he no longer is allowing God to illumine his mind, but instead is following the way of man, which in this fallen world is also the way of Satan.
None of this is to say that man should not use his intellect in life; quite the contrary: man should allow his intellect be illuminated and guided by God’s revelation. As St. Paul wrote,
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
If we depend solely on our own powers, we are sure to follow the highway to destruction. But if we follow God’s way, we can be transformed and follow the path that leads to eternal life and light.
The central command of the Christian Faith, from which all else revolves, is to love. In fact, Christianity makes the bold statement that “God is Love” (1 John 4:16). If we want to be like God, we must love. Yet, what does it mean to love another person?
A critical aspect of love is how we view our beloved, such as a spouse, our children, or our close friends. Dietrich von Hildebrand said that when we truly love someone, we give them three “credits:”
When we love someone, we firmly believe in the beauty of that person, even in areas we have not yet discovered. We do not take a critical point of view towards the beloved, but instead believe that they are beautiful in many and various ways. We are convinced that the more we know about the person, the more we will love them.
Whenever one deals with another person, there are events and actions that are open to interpretation. When we love someone, we always assume the highest interpretation, assuming the best, until we have definitive proof that our interpretation is false. We never assume the worst about those we love.
Of course, every person has faults, including those we love. When we discover these faults in a beloved, we mourn and grieve over them, because we feel that they betray the true beauty of that person. We continue to affirm that it is good that our beloved exists, and we desire nothing more than that they overcome their faults.
Anyone who has loved another person can easily see how they have applied these three credits to their beloved. Who assumes the worst about their spouse, or believes that their child is not beautiful, or doesn’t grieve over a close friend’s faults?
But Christ does not just ask us to love our beloved, he commands that we “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44). In other words, we must apply those three “credits” to our enemies. We must believe in the intrinsic beauty of our enemies, assume the highest interpretations of their actions, and grieve over any faults they may have. We do this for our spouses, our children, and our friends. Do we do it for our enemies?
There is a rising trend in Evangelical churches these days: pastors preaching to multiple congregations through hi-def technology:
The Sunday morning service at Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas, was humming along with hymns and prayers when something unusual happened.
The lights in the sanctuary suddenly dimmed, and members of the church hushed as they peered at a pulpit shrouded in darkness. The parishioners then erupted in cheers and whistles as Ed Young Sr., the church’s senior pastor, emerged from the darkness with a microphone in hand.
“Please be seated, be seated,” Young said as he grabbed the Bible. “How are you guys doing today? Doing well?”
Young delivered his sermon, but he couldn’t hear or see his congregation respond: He wasn’t physically there.
Young’s parishioners were instead looking at a high-def video image of their pastor beamed into their sanctuary from a “mother” church in Grapevine, Texas.
Young is part of a new generation of pastors who can be in two places at one time. They are using technology — high-def videos, and even holograms — to beam their Sunday morning sermons to remote “satellite” churches that belong to their congregation.
The problem with this trend isn’t the technology, or even having sermons broadcast to multiple locations (EWTN essentially does this all the time). The real problem of this particular use of the technology is two-fold: (1) it encourages a cult of personality around the pastor, and (2) it diminishes the sacramental nature of Christianity, in which matter and spirit are combined in our path to salvation.
Most Protestant services revolve around the sermon, and the better the preacher, the more likely the service will be popular. Churches begin to revolve around the personality of the pastor, whose preaching ability is essential to the success of the church. But the structure of the Catholic Mass helps to prevent this problem. The focus of the Mass is not the sermon, but instead the Eucharist, in which Jesus Christ is truly present to us in sacramental form. The only cult of personality that should exist in the Church is around the person of Jesus Christ.It is great when a Catholic priest is a good preacher, but that is not the primary reason we come to Mass, and it should not be the high point of the liturgy. Instead, the miracle of the consecration is what should draw us: through the power of the Holy Spirit bread and wine are able to change into the body and blood of our Lord.
Furthermore, we believe the “Word became flesh” thus elevating our physical natures to heights unimagined before the incarnation. This taking on of flesh by the Son of God has profound implications for our lives, and it effects how we live our Catholic Faith. The Church does not allow sacraments to occur without the physical presence of the minister (you can’t receive confession by phone, nor can a priest consecrate the bread and wine if he is not physically present). This isn’t anti-technology, it is good theology, for God uses physical matter to bring us closer to Him. As much as modern technology can help us in our walk with the Lord, nothing can replace one-on-one interaction with our pastors and fellow Christians.
Ultimately, it really isn’t very impressive that these pastors can “appear” at multiple locations at one time; Jesus Christ has been appearing at EVERY Catholic parish in the world since his Ascension! He doesn’t need hi-def technology to do it, but instead through a sacramental miracle he takes the form of bread and wine and allows himself to be received by his followers. No man-made technology will ever to able to top that!
Each year it seems that it takes ever more ludicrous claims in order to get attention in the mainstream media. The latest from CNN: Gospels don’t say Jesus was crucified, scholar claims. Here is the article with my comments within:
There have been plenty of attacks on Christianity over the years, but few claims have been more surprising than one advanced by an obscure Swedish scholar this spring.
The Gospels do not say Jesus was crucified, Gunnar Samuelsson says.
In fact, he argues, in the original Greek, [beware any argument that is based on the 'original Greek!' It usually means the person is counting on the ignorance of the vast majority of people - including CNN reporters] the ancient texts reveal only that Jesus carried “some kind of torture or execution device” to a hill where “he was suspended” and died, says Samuelsson, who is an evangelical pastor as well as a New Testament scholar. [I wonder if would be called a 'scholar' if he came to traditional conclusions]
“When we say crucifixion, we think about Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion.’ We think about a church, nails, the crown of thorns,” he says, referring to Gibson’s 2004 film, “The Passion of the Christ.”
“We are loaded with pictures of this well-defined punishment called crucifixion – and that is the problem,” he says.
Samuelsson bases his claim on studying 900 years’ worth of ancient texts in the original languages – Hebrew, Latin and Greek, which is the language of the New Testament.
He spent three years reading for 12 hours a day, he says, and he noticed that the critical word normally translated as “crucify” doesn’t necessarily mean that. [So, if this claim is true, he spent around 13,000 hours studying this - does that trump the millions of hours spent by thousands of scholars through the centuries who came to a different conclusion? Ever hear of peer-review?]
“He was handed over to be ‘stauroun,’” Samuelsson says of Jesus, lapsing into Biblical Greek to make his point. [Translation: See? He's a really smarty-pants - he knows Biblical Greek!]
At the time the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were writing their Gospels, that word simply meant “suspended,” the theologian argues.
“This word is used in a much wider sense than ‘crucifixion,’” he says. “It refers to hanging, to suspending vines in a vineyard,” or to any type of suspension.
“He was required to carry his ‘stauros’ to Calvary, and they ‘stauroun’ him. That is all. He carried some kind of torture or execution device to Calvary and he was suspended and he died,” Samuelsson says. [Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament - the work of many scholars over many years and accepted by scholars of both liberal and conservative bent as authoritative - defines it as "an instrument of torture for serious offenses...in three basic forms: a vertical, pointed stake...an upright with a cross-beam above it...or two intersecting beams of equal length." Then it goes on to explain the Roman method of 'stauron' at that time as what we call crucifixion.]
Not everyone is convinced by his research. [In other words, NO ONE is convinced by his research] Garry Wills, the author of “What Jesus Meant,” “What Paul Meant,” and “What the Gospels Meant,” dismisses it as “silliness.” [I'm no fan of Wills, but I couldn't agree with him more. Yet still CNN thought it was worthy of a story.]
“The verb is stauresthai from stauros, cross,” Wills said.
Samuelsson wants to be very clear about what he is saying and what he is not saying.
Most importantly, he says, he is not claiming Jesus was not crucified – only that the Gospels do not say he was.
“I am a pastor, a conservative evangelical pastor, a Christian,” he is at pains to point out. “I do believe that Jesus died the way we thought he died. He died on the cross.”
But, he insists, it is tradition that tells Christians that, not the first four books of the New Testament. [This would not be an issue, in other words, if not for sola scriptura: if something is only in "tradition" that means it is unreliable. Even if Samuelsson were correct - which he is not - then it would still not be a problem for Catholics, as we accept sacred tradition as being a reliable means of passing on information.]
“I tried to read the text as it is, to read the word of God as it stands in our texts,” he says – what he calls “reading on the lines, not reading between the lines.”
Samuelsson says he didn’t set out to undermine one of the most basic tenets of Christianity.
He was working on a dissertation at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden when he noticed a problem with a major book about the history of crucifixion before Jesus.
What was normally thought to be the first description of a crucifixion – by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus – wasn’t a crucifixion at all, but the suspension of a corpse, Samuelsson found by reading the original Greek.
The next example in the book about crucifixion wasn’t a crucifixion either, but the impaling of a hand.
Samuelsson’s doctoral advisor thought his student might be on to something.
“He recommended I scan all the texts, from Homer up to the first century – 900 years of crucifixion texts,” Samuelsson recalled, calling it “a huge amount of work.”
But, he says, “I love ancient texts. They just consume me.” So he started reading.
He found very little evidence of crucifixion as a method of execution, though he did find corpses being suspended, people being hanged from trees, and more gruesome methods of execution such as impaling people by the belly or rectum.
The same Greek word was used to refer to all the different practices, he found.
That’s what led him to doubt that the Gospels specify that Jesus was crucified.
At the time they were written, “there is no word in Greek, Latin, Aramaic or Hebrew that means crucifixion in the sense that we think of it,” he says.
It’s only after the death of Jesus – and because of the death of Jesus – that the Greek word “stauroun” comes specifically to mean executing a person on the cross, he argues.
He admits, of course, that the most likely reason early Christians though Jesus was crucified is that, in fact, he was. [Proof of the idiocy of much of modern biblical scholarship. They completely divorce the texts of the Bible from the world in which it was produced. This guys admits that the reason it was seen as crucifixion is because it was, in fact, a crucifixion. But the text doesn't say it in the way he wants, so now he questions it. This would be like the first accounts of JFK's death just saying he "died of a bullet wound" and then hundreds of years later claiming he really wasn't shot because the original accounts only said "died of a bullet wound" - maybe he just ran into a rogue bullet that was suspended in mid-air in Dallas!]
But he says his research still has significant implications for historians, linguists and the Christian faithful. [Not really]
For starters, “if my observations are correct, every book on the history of Jesus will need to be rewritten,” as will the standard dictionaries of Biblical Greek, he says. [Now we get to the heart of the matter. Like many scholars, he wants to be influential. He is hoping his findings make him popular on the scholarly circuit.]
More profoundly, his research “ought to make Christians a bit more humble,” he says.
“We fight against each other,” he reflects, but “the theological stances that keep churches apart are founded on things that we find between the lines.
“We have put a lot of things in the Bible that weren’t there in the beginning that keep us apart. We need to get down on our knees as Christians together and read the Bible.” [Again, the problem of sola scriptura. When everyone can individually interpret what the Bible 'really says,' then we will never come to agreement and be able to resolve the things that keep us apart. It is only when we humbly accept the authority of the Church that such union is possible.]
It’s pretty much a guarantee that when Stephen Colbert talks about religion you’ll end up with some hilarious (and often incisive) quotes. A few examples from the following video:
“Adam and Eve were Jewish…check under the fig leaf, my friend.”
“Jesus loves to run up the odds. You saw what he did the last time he was here; he let them think he had them on the ropes. Three days later…Boom! He comes back and they clean up at the table.”
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
This past weekend a fellow convert asked me why I became Catholic. I quickly answered, “Because it is true.” Of course that didn’t really answer his question, as he wanted to know the specific things that drew me to Catholicism. So I gave him an abbreviated form of my conversion story.
But the answer “because it is true” is the fundamental reason why I became Catholic. And there is no better patron saint for this reason for conversion than today’s saint, St. Justin Martyr. Justin was a pagan philosopher who jumped from one philosophy to another in pursuit of the truth. This fundamental longing for truth is something that has been missing from much of modern philosophical studies, and in modern society in general. At the beginning of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the senior demon Screwtape writes,
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
I note what you say about guiding our patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïf? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” of “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary”, “conventional” or “ruthless”. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.
The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real”.
It seems like the work of Hell has been largely successful today: the pursuit of objective truth has become unfashionable in most circles, as whatever someone believes is “true for them” and not really relevant to daily life anyway.
Yet St. Justin lived in a different era, and he was a passionate about pursuing the truth, wherever it might lead him. When he eventually encountered the “philosophy” of Christianity, he recognized that the truth was not a concept or philosophy, but a person: Jesus Christ. And although he was a philosopher, he was not drawn to Christianity merely by intellectual arguments, but also by the witness of the martyrs, whose love of the Truth led to their heroic deaths. St. Justin himself ended up following their witness, which is why he is remembered as St. Justin Martyr.
St. Justin Martyr, pray for us!