HARD SAYINGS – AFTER THE PARTY

Some Hard Sayings to Follow a “Happy Birthday”

First, permit me to admit that I owe most of my conclusions to far more scholarly men and women than myself. Many others, whose tedious scholarship has finally come to mind during my late years, have convinced me that serious questions must be asked about daunting contradictions confronting what I was taught as “truth-without-error” during my more gullible days. Although I may question some of their conclusions, still, their major discoveries appear to be flawless and have changed my course as a result. So here are my thoughts:

It is enough to know that the accepting love and presence within us is the Father’s “righteous” for prodigal humanity. This is his “covenant” to humans. This is his “good news” for us all. It has always been so from the beginning. It has never changed and never will change, even when humanity’s freedom of curiosity chooses to try another way that leads to harming self and others instead of helping them along and making things better. It is always present, waiting to love and accept us as we are, with all our chosen prodigal warts. There are no further requirements necessary to receive such an unconditional love. It is simply there, with open arms, waiting to pour out all over us, free and clear of stipulations and demands before we can have it. Welcome home! Take your seat at the party. Celebrate. Period.

Therefore, salvation is totally unnecessary. The need for it is an ancient myth. It also became Christianity’s very first sadistic teaching thanks to Paul. And Christianity added yet another sadistic teaching to their arsenal. It was the threat of eternal torment for not believing the first one. I now believe that these two teachings alone, more than any others, have consistently created the atheists of the world who say that no such god exists, or rather, given such alternatives, among others, proves there is no god. And I am with them in their conclusion. Then I am an atheist as well. Christianity’s god does not exist. Their god is a myth. I feel like the fellow my Australian friend wrote about who used to really enjoy the food at a famous restaurant – until he went into the kitchen and observed the details of its preparation.

My Australian friend also reminded me: “The great contribution of the OT pre-captivity prophets was to proclaim a forgiveness based solely and wholly on God’s “righteousness” or fidelity to his covenant of mercy and compassion. They rejected the whole idea of a forgiveness based on bloody sacrificial offerings.” So did Jesus. And so do I, for exactly the same reasons. (He observed the details of cousin John’s attractive message at the river, but soon rejected it after looking into John’s kitchen.) Therefore, I must also challenge Paul’s “gospel” of atonement through the suffering, death and blood of his “Christ.”

Paul confuses his “gospel” even more by adding his teaching of the resurrection of a newly re-embodied spirit person. And the NT writers embellish on his teaching from one to three generations later to make it even more confusing. Worse, Paul’s admitted spirit-apparition, together with the NT writers’ own embellishments and supposed visionary sightings, were obviously written from and edited from personal theological viewpoints, either to 1) appease the old “resurrected in the flesh” idea (resuscitation of a corpse – Elijah, Elisha, etc.), found in the apocalyptic OT writings, or 2) to appease the local Greco-Roman dualism (body/soul) myths that spoke of a newly re-embodied personality following the soul’s Hades’ waiting experience, a “sleeping.”

My real point here is to remind one that all these accounts tend to effectively hide the Father’s first and original and unconditional righteous covenant with humanity.

Returning to the NT, as James Tabor says, it would be far more helpful to read it historically, in nearly reverse order, to better understand my former remarks. That is, start with the letter of James (the brother of Jesus and Elder of the Jerusalem Church) and then Paul’s letters (50 A.D.). Follow those with Mark’s post-Jerusalem account (following the Roman destruction and Jewish massacre of 70 AD.) written around 80 AD. Paul and the Apostles had already met their demise by then. Note especially that Mark can only follow Paul’s mention of Peter’s account of an empty tomb (the women’s account was glaringly, and tellingly, omitted by Paul), but Mark writes nothing specific of Jesus’ birth or resurrection appearances. Then comes Matthew’s account, nearly 20 years after Mark’s, with important embellishments about Jesus’ birth and resurrection.

(Remember that other than Paul’s personal apparition account some 20 years after the crucifixion, Mark’s account had been the only one available to early Gentile/Jewish Christians for almost 20 years following Jerusalem’s destruction, and the empty tomb was not an issue with them. They realized that Jesus’ body had been hastily placed in a nearby and temporary tomb prior to sunset before the holy day by a member of the Sanhedrin and his unknown assistants. This troubled the women, of course, who wished to clean and anoint the body. But the Sanhedrin fellows had already removed the body immediately following the holy day, before the women could get to it, and placed it in a permanent tomb elsewhere, perhaps one that later became the family tomb. Again, this had not troubled the early Christians at all. It would have been standard procedure under the circumstances – a quick solution, then a permanent one to satisfy the holy day requirements. In other words, the early followers, through nearly 90 A.D., both during and after Jerusalem’s demise and Nero’s persecution, knew nothing else except for the resurrection appearance rumor of Paul’s apparition.)

Matthew uses Mark almost exclusively, almost 90% of it, but adds important embellishments concerning Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection which he found unsatisfactorily missing from Mark’s account.

Luke’s version follows just before the turn of the century. His embellishments to Matthew’s are very obvious. And his Acts of the Apostles gives such credence to his account that it assures its selection into the NT canon later. It is interesting to note, however, that Luke is unable to leave Jesus walking about, eating, drinking, getting old, and dying again, so he has him transcend bodily into heaven from a mountain, but does admit that not all the disciples saw this apparitional sighting either.

Finally, nearly another generation later, already well into the 2nd century A.D., John writes his account. By now, at least to this theologian, Jesus had become no longer just human, but like the Roman hero, Appollonius, son of Zeus, he had become the Son of God and more. And still later, probably another John, while exiled in a lonely island prison has the final apocalyptic vision included in the canon where Jesus returns to destroy his enemies (Satan, the devils, and all who would not accept his atonement package paid for with his own blood) in an everlasting and tormenting hell he has prepared for them, one too horrible to fully describe. Then he gathers up the faithful few, either live witnesses to his powerful destruction or those asleep in Hades, and whose corpses he then resuscitates to go live with him forever in heaven. Sounds just like something the historical Jesus would participate in, huh?

But remember, these were very difficult times for early Christians. And there would be no peace for them for another century, not until Emperor Constantine (325 A.D.). They needed some hope for a better future and took whatever they were given, even the hope of an impending end-time judgment and possibly escaping hell.

Historically, that is how the NT should appear for reading. Not nearly as many suppositions would be drawn concerning its ultimate validity as an expression of infallible truth.

Note some final points. First, the gospel writers’ names were undoubtedly pseudonyms because the Apostles were already gone from the scene when the accounts were written. Second, they certainly were not contemporaries, although Mark and Matthew came close. Third, they all wrote well after Paul’s claim of a visionary appearance experience, one and two generations later in fact. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, whereas Mark and Matthew write of visionary sighting experiences two or more weeks after the crucifixion, ones which take place in Galilee, and definitely favor the tradition of a re-embodied new spirit person not unlike Paul’s vision, Luke and John, however, also write of visionary sighting experiences, but only in Jerusalem, and on the same day or immediately following the empty tomb discovery, and they definitely favor the old flesh and blood resuscitated corpse theory of resurrection that eats and drinks and can be touched. These points speak for themselves and cannot be denied.

As for Paul’s kitchen, most know that he grew up in Tarsus, but they probably do not know that Tarsus was the ancient Persian center of the apocalyptic Mithras religion which one can easily study later. Nor may they know that this was the religion of choice by the majority of the ever-present Roman Infantry in Paul’s day. Then, as Tabor points out, on the edge of town was a more contemporary and fascinating stone inscription for all to see as they came and went. It read: This man, named after Apollo and shining forth Tyana (God), extinguished the fault of men. The tomb received his body, but in truth heaven received him so he might drive out the pains of men. Hmmm, sounds a bit familiar, does it not?

There is more. To add to the confusion, Paul writes in Romans 8 and elsewhere in Corinthians of God’s secret mystery revealed only to him in Arabia (Mt. Horeb), where he must have had a NDE and was taken into heaven to learn that he had been chosen to reveal the announcement of God’s preparation to use Paul and an elite group of his chosen spirit-filled children to be glorified or transformed like Christ in order to take over rulership of this world with Christ after God has deposed all earthly rulers who are led by Satan. This to occur while God reorders the cosmos and while all others are being transformed toward their glorification as well through finally accepting “his gospel.”

In conclusion, I must say again that the confusion these writers sowed became like another enormous weed patch that together with the blood atonement and eternal punishment for unbelief Christian teachings almost totally hides the Father’s unconditional mercy and accepting love for all his beloved children from the beginning of time. My complaint is the same complaint of the OT pre-captivity Prophets as well as the complaint of Jesus himself who spoke only of the presence of a compassionate and merciful Father and who also warned his followers of making something more of him than he was, namely, merely a ” human one.”

The historical Jesus’ view of life and the presence of the Father within us nearly obscured the horrible surroundings and tyranny of Rome that he lived under. Instead, he chose to see very generous surroundings revealed in simple things of nature all around. And he used them to illustrate and substantiate his message of the Father’s loving and generous presence among and within us. It was a broad approach, a “humane ideal to reach for” as my Canadian friend calls it. It still stands today in stark contrast to the half-empty thinking we can see behind most unconvincing religious thought patterns that seem to rule the world around us. We have a very long way to go for humanity to capture it, but that makes it no less of an ideal. It’s like a carrot that the Father of all continues to hold before our noses. Once finally smelled and grasped hold of, great things happen to make better any unbearable conditions around us. But once again, probably in more subtle and quiet ways, without much fanfare, and in much slower fashion than it sounds here. Funny that, but I think that is how the Father operates among us. I speak for myself of course. I never had a crash-bang revelation that I can recall. Usually something seemingly insignificant at first, but life and mind changing eventually. Ahrrgh, what patience and love!

Afterword

Ideas have antecedents. I like to think that my current thinking and words are my very own, but most really are not. Nor have they “dropped out of heaven” as a dear friend says, which really makes me wonder all the more about the whole “meditation” thing.

We listen and process and conclude then act, listen and process and conclude then act, listen and process and conclude then act – as we go in life. Other ideas and concepts finally become our own when we can relate to them through our very private experiences and then pass them on. We also discard what we have learned just does not work in practice. If private reflection or meditation helps to bring this about, so be it. (Unfortunately, this method has also led some to think that their conclusions are SO unique, that they DID drop from heaven as a revelation that the world must now act upon or else risk being lost in their projected oblivion.)

This is a humbling admission to make, I know. But the sooner we all realize it, the better we can appreciate those around us who have become such an integral part of our lives during the brief time we spend here. We are not such rugged individualists as may think we are. Only in our personal experiences, challenges, and obstacles that we have either overcome or finally succumbed to are we real individualists. These are the things that seem to determine what ideas we listen to, think about, and make our own. The final results are that we have the potential to become more of a human corporation, trying to find the best way to market that which we think are our very own recipes. Yes, in some ways, they are our own, but in other ways, they really are not.

Being aware of these very natural hand-offs gives one pause over what both the OT and the NT writers wrote and why they wrote what they did. I can even cut some slack to Paul and all the other authors of the Bible because their ideas had antecedents too.

But I hurry to add that it still does not mean that I swallow most of what they write about, because it simply does not work in practice. Payback justice, which most of the Bible relates to and encourages, leads to nothing but destructive behavior. However, the quiet internal voice of unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness relieves tensions and bears good and decent fruit (behavior) within humanity. It’s THAT voice, hidden among all the Bible’s weeds, that is really winning around the world, NOT the typical voice of Christianity which many think is so successful.

I think that the message of the historical Jesus is quietly winning among people after all! Paul’s message, followed by the NT writers’ messages, only appear to be the winners on the “official” surface count of Christianity’s success around the world. But there is more going on with generous and caring attitudes than meets the “official” eye.

Henry Hasse
December 27, 2012

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Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 4:41 am  Leave a Comment  

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