Truth in Advertising

It’s Day Two, post-therapeutic pummeling at the magic hands of Diamond Dave. Other than the stiffness and soreness associated with my therapy, I’m actually feeling better. It appears that the captain’s chair in the living room has been ruled in as the primary suspect for my back problem.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that this chapter is coming to a close, and they lived happily ever after…  That’s how a fairy tale ends, isn’t it?

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife thinks I need to stop writing about God and my delusions of becoming his prophet someday. There’s a part of me that would like to do that, too. I have a lots of stories that are ricocheting around inside of my head, clamoring to be written.

But I am a writer driven by my Muse; she more or less dictates what I write. And she wants this. We’ll see what she wants tomorrow…

I should preface my remarks by stating I am not a Biblical scholar. I’m a guy that has done an inordinate amount of reading about religions and gods and Popes and saints, mostly while I was busy sinning. I find the subject interesting, and while I read about many gods, my primary focus was on the Christian God. He’s the one I believe in.

I probably think more about this subject than I do anything else, including tits. Or food. I’ll probably have to turn in my Man Card. And my Guy Card. I probably wouldn’t be allowed into the He-man Woman Haters Club if the Little Rascals found out…

I claim to be a Christian, yet I doubt many things that other Christians hold to be the undisputed truth. And you might be tempted to ask this question:

Why do you suppose that is, Mark?

And that, is a very good question.

I know I’m not the only Christian that questions some of the things written in the Bible. A lots of Christians do. And religion, if nothing else, is mostly a matter of what one is willing to believe, and the amount of faith one is willing to invest into any given belief system.

What separates me from most Christians is this: When confronted by something in the Bible that is difficult to explain, my Christian friends will say, This demonstrates the awesome power of our God. And I say, Yeah, I don’t think that’s how God works. I see God as more of a scientist than a magician. Faith without science is, well, superstition. Science without faith is…statistics.

I have no doubt that God speaks through the writings in the Bible. There’s a powerful message inside of those pages. God clearly had a lots to say at one point in time. I choose to feel more than a little disappointed that He hasn’t had anything new to say for a couple thousand years.

From my point of view, if there was ever a time for God to step up and say something/anything, that time was last year. Maybe the year before…  And yet, He remains silent. To the best of my knowledge, we humans do not possess the ability to compel God to do anything.

I know a lots of people of much greater faith than I will probably ever possess. And they are very good people. I admire most of them. They read the Bible every day, and practice their faith, except when their football team is playing. Then all bets are off. Just win, baby. I used to be like that, but I’m a Vikings fan. There wasn’t much to cheer for after the first five games of the season.

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time. It is said to be inspired by God, and I don’t doubt that at all. But it was written, and rewritten by men, and that is most likely where my doubts arise.

The ancient group of peoples that eventually identified themselves as the Hebrews didn’t have a written language when God first started interacting with them, and they didn’t write anything down for a very long time. They had an oral tradition, stories were told and passed down from generation to generation.

I am a storyteller. My friends and I used to share stories about our exploits, and those events rarely happened in a vacuum. So when Gary did something stupid, there were usually witnesses. Gary’s version of the story would differ from my brother Tom’s version of events. Or when Shorty did something stupid, Dan would have his version of Shorty’s escapade. So we would drink beer and smoke a joint, and listen to the various versions, but there was one common thread at the end. The best version always won.

And that’s probably how things worked back then, too. No, we don’t want to hear Uncle Shlomo’s version of the Great Flood. We want to hear Uncle Joel’s! His has all the animals, two by two!

So when the Hebrews started writing stuff down, they took the best versions available, and those were the stories that ended up in the Old Testament of the Bible. The first Bible wasn’t compiled until the 4th Century. There were a lots of religious writings floating around back then, but a group of men got together and decided what would be in the first Bible, and what wouldn’t.

There’s a truckload of apocryphal writings that didn’t make it into the Bible for a multitude of reasons, and some of that stuff is interesting as all get out. The Book of Amos is in the Bible, so is the Song of Solomon for that matter, whereas the Book of Enoch is not. Many of those rejected documents were burned by the Church, and we may never know what secrets or insights were destroyed for all time.

* * * *

The New Testament is the most recent addition to the Bible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have better documentation of the books in it. Take, for instance, the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. No one knows who actually wrote the Gospels, but most experts would agree that the guys who they’re named for probably didn’t write them. Matthew and John were followers of Jesus, so they would have first-hand knowledge of Jesus and the things he said and did. Therefore, anything with their name on it would have more credibility than say, the Gospel of Bob.

Mark and Luke would have had to have gotten their knowledge secondhand at best. At worst, they made stuff up. And Luke appears to have had a real talent for the dramatic. Well, so does Matthew for that matter.

Mark’s Gospel was the first gospel written, probably about the time the Romans destroyed the Great Temple of God in Jerusalem in 70 AD. And that would mean it was published roughly two years after his death.

In addition, the earliest gospels were written in Greek. Any following versions in other languages would have to be translated, and then you have to consider the skill of the translator. Have you ever heard the term lost in translation? If not, you should probably get out more.

Jesus is commonly depicted as the son of a carpenter, right? But Judea during the time of Jesus was more or less a desert, and so, there weren’t a lots of trees to work with. The Greek word that was translated as carpenter, tekton, roughly means one who works with his hands.

There’s no doubt Jesus was a teacher, but a teacher, any teacher, can only teach what he or she knows. Jesus told a lots of parables when he was teaching, but none of them are about carpentry. You can check for yourself. A lots of them are about guys working in the fields. Jesus was more likely a day laborer in the fields and vineyards of the wealthy farm owners in Galilee.

I’ll admit it’s a small thing, and it may not be important. But if small details can be missed, so can others. And the Gospels are just about our only source of information about Jesus. Their significance cannot be overstated.

Aside from possible translation issues, Mark’s Gospel was edited at least twice, mostly because the original author didn’t say and they all lived happily ever after at the end. The original gospel ends with the women followers of Jesus finding the empty tomb, but they told no one what they discovered because they were too terrified. The End. Not exactly the ending you’re hoping for if someone is telling you a story about a guy that rose from the dead.

All of Mark’s Gospel is included in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Those two gospels would embellish the story of Mark, and added a version Jesus’ divine birth, and more stories about his parables and healings. And that thing about his birth, well, Jesus was a king. Right?

In short, they are much better stories. And as a storyteller, I can assure you that’s all that matters. But as much as the more better gooder stories of Matthew and Luke are than Mark, they all pale in comparison to the Gospel of John.

You almost have to wonder if the other guys were in the same classroom as John after you read his story. It’s like comparing Dr Seuss or Nancy Drew to James Joyce.

John’s Gospel is believed to be the last of the gospels written, probably twenty or thirty years after the Gospel of Mark. All of the gospel writers had one similar objective–they wanted to convince their readers Jesus was the Son of God, and he was the Messiah. But the Jesus presented in Mark is vastly different than the Jesus presented in John.

Take a look at this scene when Jesus is arrested from Mark.

Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane on his knees, desperately praying to God for his life. He is deeply troubled and distressed. Judas shows up with a bunch of nameless guys holding swords and clubs. Judas kisses Jesus, Peter draws a sword, and chops off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus performs his last miracle, then rebukes the men sent to arrest him, and is arrested.

Thirty years later, John writes this:

Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane, but he is not on his knees. He’s standing up, calmly. He is waiting. And it was night. Judas shows up with a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards. Jesus confonts the men sent to arrest him, and they fall to their knees. Peter chops off the ear of the high priest’s slave,  whose name is Malchus, and Jesus rebukes Peter for interfering in the job he was sent to do, and then he’s arrested.

When I was trying to become a rich and famous author, one of the questions I was most asked was, What sort of audience are you trying to target? And my response was, Um, I don’t know. The kind that would like to read my book, I guess…

But I’m going to guess the gospel writers had a better idea of who they were trying to target. The gospels were mostly written to convert Gentiles to the new religion, particularly Romans, because Rome controlled pretty much the entire area around the Mediterranean, which was the center of the Western World.

They weren’t written specifically to convert the Jews to this new religion, though no Christian would mind if that happened, but for the most part, the Jews didn’t want anything to do with this radical off shoot/sect of their religion. After his death at the hands of the Romans, the followers of Jesus, the Messiah tried to gain supremacy of the Jewish faith, but were ultimately rejected by the Jews because of a difference between reality and expectation.

The Messiah the majority of the Jews were looking for was a warrior that would free them from the oppressive rule of the Romans. They wanted a Jewish Alexander the Great, not the son of day laborer who talked about loving your fucking enemies, and giving away your earthly treasures. What kind of messiah did that?

Each successive version of the gospels made this new religion, Christianity, more and more separated from the religion that spawned it.

When Jesus is on trial, is it Pontius Pilate that wanted to kill him? No way! Pilate doesn’t want to have anything to do with this innocent man. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, it’s the high priests and a crowd of people that call for the death of Jesus. By the time of John’s Gospel, it’s the Jewish high priests and the Jews that are doing it.

In a previous post, I stated my position that Jesus committed a form of suicide by cop, and forced the Jews and Romans to execute him because that’s what God wanted him to do. And in doing so he served God perfectly, and man became God.

Jesus died his bloody death, but not to save us from our sins. He did so because it was what he had to do to become the King of Heaven and Earth.

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