April 8, 2008 Leave a comment
Christian theology and the Bible
It’s been roughly two thousand years since the birth of Jesus. In that time the Christian world has seen incredible changes. For nearly 1200 years the Catholic Church dominated all Christian worship. Rejection or skepticism of the Catholic Dogma was sometimes a death warrant. After the Protestant Reformation, core theology/Dogma changed dramatically, but the New Testament remained largely unchanged, even though it was assembled by the same leaders whose beliefs were now rejected.
When one looks through the many translations of the New Testament now available, you are struck by the differences in interpretations, and you can’t help but wonder about any personal notions about Christianity the interpreter may have inserted.
The native tongue of Jesus was Aramaic, and the oldest surviving texts are in Greek. Without any surviving Aramaic texts we have no record of Jesus’ actual words. All we truly have are subjective translations by an army of ancient scribes, and we have a gap of maybe three hundred years between actual writing and the surviving copies. With no printing presses at the time it is possible for many scribal errors to creep in, and many undoubtedly did. Pile this on top of historically recorded burnings and destructions of many early Christian writings and there is true reason for doubting the canonicity of what we have now.
Now people keep telling me that God made sure we have the true “word”, but I just have this nagging feeling after reading the many twists and turns that the Bible went through in its acceptance by the Catholics, whom I don’t trust at all in matters of theology, and consequent small changes by the new Protestants that something isn’t kosher.
Since 325 AD, Christianity; in its many permutations, has been closely allied with the civil leadership, be it theistic or not. It has mostly flourished and has sometimes been a force for good. However, as we all know, most wars that have ever been fought, somehow have a religious connection. The God of the Old Testament was figured to be directly responsible for over 20 million human deaths. The writings of Paul, after the death of Jesus were largely responsible for changing the face of the Christian OT God by directing attention away from Him, onto the much gentler message and folk theology of a thoroughly Jewish Messiah. Or it just may be Paul’s personal interpretation of Jesus’ message.
The first four chapters in modern NT were accepted fairly early on by most Christian congregations, and were formalized by Bishop Irenæus about 185 AD. The rest of the NT was relatively slow to materialize, as various combinations of epistles, and letters were tried by different congregations to fit into their own particular understanding of the message of Jesus.
The Catholic congregation was one of the dozens of denominations vying for supremacy in the Christian world, pre-Constantine. When Constantine made Catholicism the state religion of Rome, all other divisions of Christianity were branded heretical. It was in the year 367 AD with the Epistle of Athanasius that the Church finally agreed on which writings were “authentic” and formed the official “canon” of the New Testament we know today. Other writings were destroyed by the new “official” religion of the western world.
Is it just me, or are the stories we have leading up to a Canonized Bible seem more like a political contest than a divine ascension of the true God to moral and religious leadership of the world?
As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, after two thousand years…you would think God would somehow manage to assert his true self and the desired manner that we humans should “glorify” Him. After all He managed to establish the official True Word, didn’t He? Instead we are still killing each other in His name. Still arguing about the miniscule details and hopeless mish-mash of contradictory writings. This is a sign that something is truly wrong there.
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