What are we to believe about the Gospels?
Luke/Acts was a single work called Acts of the Apostles. Luke was a Gentile convert and the "beloved physician" of Paul. (Colossians 4:14) Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:11,
"Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry."
He never met Jesus but did make an attempt at a historical narrative. Luke has 18 parables of which only 2 matches Mark or Matthew. Mark also has 20 miracle stories of which half match Mark and Matthew. Like Matthew, Luke has a virgin birth story but contradicts Matthew in genealogy.
Mark was another companion of Paul. According to the New American Bible Mark was the first Gospel written and is the shortest. Most disturbing is the earliest copies of Mark end with an empty tomb and had no resurrection story.
Luke also knew Mark. His surname was John (Acts 12:12, 12:25, 15:37) and he went on missions with Saul/Paul but had a falling out. (Acts 15:37-39) Paul confirmed knowing Mark. (Colossians 4:14) There is also no virgin birth story. Mark has only 4 parables and 20 miracle stories.
Matthew has 15 parables concerning Jesus' life in Galilee and the Passion. Matthew also has a virgin birth story, but conflicting genealogy with Luke. We also have 21 miracle stories. Matthew doesn't mention Mark, Luke, or Saul/Paul and himself only in passing the same way Luke and Mark do. I doubt he is the Matthew mentioned in the Gospels.
John is a pseudo-Gnostic work written in Ephesus (modern Turkey) around 90 C.E. It's also the most anti-Semitic like all Gnostics using terms such as "the Jews' 65 times. Here we find no parables and only 8 miracle stories of which only 2 match anything in Matthew, Mark or Luke and the only place where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:1)
Here we have the fully blown platonic Logos (Word) a spiritual Christ. It's loaded with Greek philosophy for a Greek audience. Here we have the Buddhist style philosopher.
Like all Gnostics the writer has a brooding and angry outlook on the world. Gnosticism combines Buddhist style transcendentalism, Zoroastrianism, and Greek philosophy such as Platonism.
A British scholar of Buddhism, Edward Conze, suggests Buddhism was in the West at that time. Trade routes between the Greco-Roman world and the Far East were opening up at the time when Gnosticism exploded (A.D. 80-200); for generations, Buddhist missionaries had been proselytizing in Alexandria. They certainly could have been in Sepphoris and Babylonia.
Hippolytus was a Greek speaking Christian in Rome (c. 225), knows of the Indian Brahmins and includes their tradition among the sources of heresy:
"There is . . . among the Indians a heresy of those who philosophize among the Brahmins, who live a self-sufficient life, abstaining from (eating) living creatures and all cooked food . . . They say that God is light, not like the light one sees, nor like the sun nor fire, but to them God is discourse, not that which finds expression in articulate sounds, but that of knowledge (gnosis) through which the secret mysteries of nature are perceived by the wise."
Gnosticism is an esoteric cult of divine knowledge (a synthesis Greek philosophy, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the mystery cults of the Mediterranean), which predates Christianity.
Gnostic 4th-century codices discovered in Egypt in the 1940s include the Gospel of St Thomas and the Gospel of Mary, probably originating about AD 135-165. Gnosticism envisaged the world as a series of emanations from the highest of several gods.
The lowest emanation was an evil god (the demiurge) who created the material world as a prison for the divine sparks that dwell in human bodies. The Gnostics identified this evil creator with the God of the Old Testament, and saw the Adam and Eve story and the ministry of Jesus as attempts to liberate humanity from his dominion, by imparting divine secret wisdom.
The writer of John never mentions Matthew, Mark, Luke, or Saul/Paul. But Paul was the founder of that church at Ephesus.
Paul was a pseudo-Gnostic and while he didn't preach "secret knowledge" as salvation, through the belief in a "Christ" (Greek for "anointed one") he does claims we need the Platonic intermediary deity. Paul was also influenced by the mysteries: "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2)
Quoting Will Durant's The Age of Faith comments on the Trinity in regards to Nicaea and the 4th century,
"Neoplatonism was still a power in religion and philosophy. Those doctrines which Plotinus had given a shadowy form of a triune spirit binding all reality, of a Logos or intermediary deity who had done the work of creation, of soul as divine and matter as flesh and evil, of spheres of existence along whose invisible stairs the soul had fallen from God to man and might extend from man to God. These mystic ideas left their mark on the apostles John and Paul..." (P 9)
Christianity is not about Jesus the man that preached an enlightened form of Judaism; it's about a Gnostic Christ Paul saw in a vision. (Acts 9) That "vision" had nothing to do with the Jesus of the Galilee or God. Paul as a Diaspora Jew was exposed to Greek philosophy (He wrote only in Greek) and he originated in Tarsus, a center for the pagan mystery religions.
James Brother of the Lord
Of all the Gospel writers, only James would have known Jesus in the flesh. Paul calls him "the Lord's brother." (Galatians 1:19) Paul also calls James a "pillar" of the Church. (Galatians 2:9) But Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, even in Galatians was having problems with James, "James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision." (Galatians 2:12)
Paul tries to make it out that James was in fear of fellow Jews. But Luke, the author of Acts, tells a different story. Luke reveals James was in the Jewish mainstream including joining with high Jewish officials, "and the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present." (Acts 21:18) It was Paul in conflict with both James who headed Jesus' church after his death and Judaism in general.
In the Gospel of James we have no Zoroastrian end-times ravings or Gnostic/Buddhist transcendentalism. No magic tricks, miracles, or worshiping Jesus as God. He contradicts Paul's faith alone claims, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19-20) This sent Martin Luther into a rage.
Acts 15:2 further states, "Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question."
Paul had been a failure with Jews (as recorded in Acts) even with the Hellenistic Jews of Greece and Asia Minor while Jesus' Church under James was part of and accepted in the Jewish mainstream in Jerusalem. Paul only found converts among Gentiles that didn't know Judaism. Acts not only introduces Paul into the picture, but also ends with his arrest for guest what, breaking Jewish Law.
He was a Roman citizen and tradition says he dies in Rome around 64 C.E. and his epistles date between 50-64 C.E. James died on the Temple steps during a riot around 51 C.E. and his epistle dates around that time in reaction to Paul.
The Bible is from the view of Paul, the founder of Pauline Christianity, the one we have today. The Church didn't want the real Jesus a probable Jewish rebel, but Paul's Gnostic Christ. Paulism was acceptable to Roman authority.
16th century Unitarianism was a product of the Renaissance where learning and exposure to Greek philosophy and history once again became available. Not only could the individual read the Bible themselves, but also became aware of what I just went through. There is much truth in the Bible if we learn to read it in a rational manner. Here is my view on the subject.
Paul never met Jesus so both him and his epistles are useless. He produced his own religion based on Gnosticism and bits and pieces of Eastern Religion and Platonism. He like many Gnostics thought "flesh" was evil and had a very negative view of humanity. He wrote only in Greek and was a product of Greek culture.
Much of John is also a Gnostic/Eastern view and is anti-Semitic. It's late date of writing and heavy use of Greek philosophy makes it certain not to have been authored by a Galilean fisherman named John. I consider it useless.
Of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus' message is in His parables and Sermon on the Mount. His audience was Jewish, but could apply to anyone. He put more emphasis on moral conduct and works than Jewish Law.
He never said do away with the Law for Jews and the Law never applied to Gentiles to begin with. For Gentiles, even under Judaism, moral conduct and belief in God is all we need. The story should end with an empty tomb and a mystery just as the writer of Mark left it.
James presents the probable view that Jesus was in the Jewish mainstream. He didn't need to go to India or other nonsense because He could find the basis of his teaching there at home. The Galilee was on the border of Orthodox and Hellenistic Judaism. This India nonsense is the attempt of occultists and New Age types trying to recast a Jew into the form of a New Age Mystic.
Jesus was crucified by the Romans for sedition just like many others were. Crucifixion was reserved for state crimes against Rome and not for common thieves that would have been handled under local laws. The mere claim in any manner of being "King of the Jews" was a death sentence. If Jesus had been guilty of blasphemy, under Jewish law he would have been stoned.
Jesus believed in God the Father and prayed to Him, not to Himself. He was not divine. He believed in a God of love, not the violent tribal god. Be believed in heaven and an afterlife, and in demons and devils just like most people of those times.
Jesus was not perfect, but He showed how to live and that we are all just human. His teaching and Commandments can be summed up in his own words.
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
"And Jesus said unto him, Why call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lack: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me." (Mark 10:17-21)
Nothing about "faith alone" and He denies being God. Any person that uses their God-given reason can follow this. In Matthew 7:7, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: or every one that ask receive; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened..." You have every right to ask and question.
How does Jesus sum up the whole Bible? "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
What is it you do not understand?
- Classical Deist' View of Religion and Its Application Today
- Were the Three Magi Zoroastrian Pilgrims?
- Biblical Monotheism and Persian Influences
- More Questions on Zoroastrianism for Comparison
- Traditional Zoroastrianism Another View
- Early Life of Zoroaster From Zoroastrians
- Calling Jesus a Recreation of Zoroaster is Rubbish
- Zoroastrianism Influence on Christianity and Judaism Hard to Prove
- Zoroastrianism and Judaism According to the Jewish Encyclopedia
- Influence of Zoroastrianism On Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism
- Why Jesus was not Zoroaster or Buddha
- Is the Resemblance Between Zoroastrianism and Judaism Coincidence?
- Hellenism Meets Judaism
- Judaism Versus Zoroastrianism
- What are we to believe?
- Zoroastrians Keep Dwindling
- Under Judaism God Alone Does Good and Evil
- Problem of Original Source Material for Zoroastrianism