The Ordinary Jesus: An Excerpt from Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age

jamescarroll

Here is the question, finally: Why do Christians need to believe in the Incarnation? “The point of incarnation language,” the Catholic theologian Roger Haight writes, “is that Jesus is one of us, that what occurred in Jesus is the destiny of human existence itself: et homo factus est. Jesus is a statement, God’s statement, about humanity as such.” Humanity is the presence of God. The presence of God, therefore, lies in what is ordinary. Not in supernatural marvels. Not in a superman with whom we have nothing actual in common. Not in saints. Not in a once-only age of miracles long ago. Not first in doctrine, scholarship, or theology—but in life. Doctrine, scholarship, and theology are essential as modes of opening up that life and its meanings, and there is no separating the life of Jesus from interpretations of it. The interpretations must always be examined, and criticized. And we endlessly conjure interpretations of our own, as here in this book.

But the life is our object. The life of Jesus must always weigh more than his death. And, to repeat, the revelation is in the ordinariness of that life. His teaching—his permanent Jewishness, his preference for service over power, his ever-respectful attitude toward women and others on the social margin—is available to us because his followers passed the teaching along, which continues. His encounters with beloved friends, disciples, outcasts, antagonists, and Romans, all arranged in a story that is more invention than memory, are valued as occasions of his encounter with the Holy One—but they are typical encounters, not supernatural ones. Again and again he turned to God, and, as the tradition says, he turned into God—but that, too, occurred in the most ordinary of ways. Day by day. Act by act. Choice by choice. Word by word. Ultimately “lifted up,” as John says, on the cross which was the Resurrection. And the cross is central to this meaning not because God willed suffering but because, in Jesus, God joined in it. “The quality of the suffering,” in Eliot’s phrase, is changed. And that includes the extreme suffering of war.

Leaving us with? A simple Jesus. An ordinary Christ. One whom the simplest person can imitate, the most ordinary person bringing Christ once more to life—day by day, word by word, bread by bread, cup by cup. In all of that we see divinity, which, paradoxically, is what makes Jesus one of us. Whatever sort of God Jesus is understood to be, it must be the God who is like humans, not different. If that seems impossible, then what we think of God—and of humans— must change. This is essential to the New Testament and “the very logic of Christian faith.” And, finally, the truest argument—not proof—for the divinity of Jesus is in the one undenied fact of this history: that billions upon billions of ordinary human beings have found in this faith an immediate and saving experience of the real presence of God, “partaking” of God—becoming God. Even unto here, with these words written and read. We come to Jesus, in the end as in the beginning, only through the Jesus people.

If Christ is undiscovered now, a figure lost to many, that is in part because of scandals done in his name, by those who call out his name most loudly. In part, he remains undiscovered because of the abstractions and secrets of scholars who do not trust ordinary people with the very ordinariness of Jesus—as if the mass of believers can embrace only superstition and magic. And in part, he remains undiscovered because so much about our age has shaken us to the core, leaving us stripped of the intellectual horizon within which faith, for most of these thousands of years since Abraham, has had its resonance. Even while understanding that loss, still the conclusion of this long inquiry includes a frank criticism of contemporary culture for its ignorance of, and indifference to, the language of transcendence. The divinity of Jesus is problematic, but the blatant repudiation of the faith that constructs itself around that divinity is blind to a constellation of intellectual subtleties that have enhanced human life for two millennia. Likewise, the word “God” is problematic, but its abandonment is problematic, too.

Human life is more than material. To be rendered mute in the face of that mystery is to be less than human. And being less than human now carries dangers that simply did not exist before. Auschwitz and Hiroshima amount to the twin interruptions of history that have made this inquiry not only necessary but urgent. Auschwitz and Hiroshima, which warned not just of a capacity but of an inclination, lay bare the new actuality that confronts men and women: the dread prospect that the human species—which is the very cosmos aware of itself—will bring about its own extinction.

Even for those of us who still find a home among people who cannot let go of their affection for Jesus, belief is not what it was, and there is an unknowing for us as much as for any agnostic or atheist. Unbelief is now built into belief, since intelligent belief includes a self-critical and necessarily skeptical element. No Christendom, no hierarchy, no church—no Catholic Worker community, even—buttresses belief or replaces it. So each person makes the choice alone, even if the choice is for the solidarity of faith.

Not faith in Jesus Christ, precisely, but faith, at the invitation of Jesus, in God. Now we know, though, the limits of our language about God. We do not know “God” not because we are ignorant, but because “God” refers to one who, when it comes to certitude, is beyond categories of knowledge. The God to whom Jesus points is the God beyond “God.” We recognize in Jesus all that we need to know about the God who otherwise remains incomprehensible. And this recognition, because it is well rooted in the past, is powerful enough to carry us into the open-ended future, even extending beyond what can be imagined.

From Christ Actually by James Carroll. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © James Carroll, 2014.

  • ALPHA.MALE

    I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

    American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

    This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.

    BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN!

    http://www.boycottamericanwomen.com

    .,.,/, ., /,., /

  • Whiskyjack

    I read and loved Constantine’s Sword. However, I can’t say that this excerpt impresses me much.

    the truest argument—not proof—for the divinity of Jesus is in the one undenied fact of this history: that billions upon billions of ordinary human beings have found in this faith an immediate and saving experience of the real presence of God, “partaking” of God—becoming God

    It sounds just like an argumentum ad populum. At least he doesn’t claim it as a proof.

  • Jim Reed

    Christianity without the Christ. Some of us might be beyond that point, but for those billions this could be a step in the evolution of finding what Christianity might become in a new age. It could at least be a beginning.

  • Rmj

    It’s an argument for the incarnation; not for the existence of God. The sense of what you quote is completed in the next sentences: ” Even unto here, with these words written and read. We come to Jesus, in the end as in the beginning, only through the Jesus people.”

    He’s referring to the power of the witness, which is itself undeniable, as Christianity has been around for some 2000 years.

  • mgardener

    Somehow, I have trouble finding Christ in the catholic church.

  • Whiskyjack

    Incarnation – the divinity of Jesus – only gains coherence if one assumes the existence of a god. I did not claim that the excerpt proved god’s existence: only that it was an appeal to mass belief as a grounds for believing in the divinity of Jesus. It’s simply a bad argument however you look at it. It’s like claiming that geocentrism was true because there was a time when everyone believed it. It carries no epistemic weight whatsoever.

  • Jim Reed

    You talk about the incomprehensible God beyond God, and the limits of language to express it. But you are also working hard to make things not understandable. Have you considered the possibility that putting things this way might have the unintended consequence of causing religion to last longer than it should?

  • apotropoxy

    Jesus was a suicide-by-cop case who thought he’d bring about the destruction of Rome. He was wrong.

  • cgosling

    Silly talk by another author convinced he has the correct take on God. I am certainly no authority, but the plethora of similar thoughtful authors and religions in disagreement with James Carroll seems to indicate he is simply one of many believers struggling to explain their God concept to so many dissenters. Secularists still await proof of a deity’s existence before believing in it. Before discribing one’s favorite deity, perhaps it is best to first prove it exists.

  • Jim Reed

    He may not be convinced he has the correct take, and it is possible he is actually struggling to explain the God concept to himself. You can’t really be sure of any of these kinds of things unless you are more of a Mormon or Evangelical believer.

  • cgosling

    Exactly

  • joeyj1220

    I didn’t read it as attempting to have such weight. I read it much more as poetry; that it is a fact people have felt ennobled (divine) through the idea of the incarnation (itself another idea). I actually don’t think Carroll is attempting to “prove” the divinity of Jesus (but I could be wrong… I would need to read the entire book)

  • joeyj1220

    I think Carroll appeals to many of us who are indeed secularists and have no need to try and “prove” God or even care about supernatural claims and yet find interest in religious symbols and myths. Not for everyone for sure.

  • Whiskyjack

    If read as poetry, just about anything goes. I haven’t read the book either, but I took my cue from the title and subtitle. “Jesus Actually” sounds like it might have propositional content, in which case fallacious argumentation should be open to criticism.

  • Jim Reed

    It is about making the strongest case you can based on nothing. This is a good approach because every time religion tries to base on something, it just causes more problems for itself..

  • S. Keegan

    Any discussion of Christ, it seems to me, without reference to His divinity, is not truly a discussion of Christ at all. Any attempt to describe Jesus of Nazareth as ordinary reflects merely a lack of understanding of His natures. Christ cannot be described accurately in secular terms because Christ’s essence extends far beyond the realms open to secular investigation.

  • spiff

    I rather like this author interpretation, very much like Thomas Jefferson’s perception of Christ. And all of us should respect everyone’s else opinion’s, regardless of their own belief’s.

  • Jim Reed

    That could be the current conservative vs. progressive split as applied to Christianity. One side is seeing history can show us there was no actual Jesus, and it all comes down to an application of apologetics to our natural tendency to believe. The other side rejects any questioning and believes more strongly than ever in the Christ savior stories.

  • Jim Reed

    Respect can be a trap. When a belief structure starts to fall apart, it retrenches and asks for respect for its opinions. Long term history shows us Christianity is a horror when it has political power. A good strategy might be to show disrespect where it is due so that we can avoid ever falling back into the problems of the past.

  • Bob

    AHAHAHA
    Someone, has not even bothered to study the scriptures.

    Jesus, was the Father who was required to come in the flesh to die.
    Go find out why.

    Psalms 78.ALL

    Revelation of John 5.9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to יהוה by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

    Matthew 7.1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

  • apotropoxy

    1. Psalms was written before Jesus lived.
    2. According to your own tales, Jesus was the son of the father. No one was required to die to redeem Adam’s sin because there was no Adam and no sin.
    3. Matthew’s bromide applies in some cases and not in others. Using your scripture to bolster you position only demonstrates your trust in your source. Your intuition does not impress those outside your tribe.
    4. The decision to include John in the Christian canon was a major mistake.

  • Craptacular

    “…intelligent belief includes a self-critical and necessarily skeptical element.” – James Carroll

    This is where you will lose the religious. (See the mormon “doubt your doubts” campaign.) Religions, and more specifically churches, do NOT want people looking at their belief with a skeptical eye. That is how agnostics and atheists are created…neither of which contribute to the church coffers.

  • Jim Reed

    That’s true, but you still have to make them think they are being intelligent and skeptical as they ultimately make the decision to agree with the church. Doubt your doubts, and check out what everyone else is believing.

  • Jim Reed

    You can only reach those conclusions if you start with assuming the Bible is God’s word. But then what do you do with all the contradictions?

  • Craptacular

    “…you still have to make them think they are being intelligent…” – Jim Reed

    I disagree. In my personal experience and reading articles written by the religious, they seem to value “common sense” over “intelligence.” Some even eschew intelligence, considering it a hindrance to faith and belief. Basically they seem to value what the group thinks/believes over factual data, which is why I think their arguments frequently resort to “everybody knows that ______ is true.”

  • Jim Reed

    I guess I never realized in a religious setting common sense and intelligence were such different things. That might explain why in real life I have such trouble communicating with people, but on RD I am great at communicating.

  • apotropoxy

    Any discussion of Mithras, it seems to me, without reference to His divinity, is not truly a discussion of him at all. Any attempt to describe the God Mithras as ordinary reflects merely a lack of understanding of His natures. He cannot be described accurately in secular terms because HIs essence extends far beyond the realms open to secular investigation.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Oh what nay sayers we have present here. While I’m on a high in the eloquent Logos in this theology, there are always those who react rather than sit quietly and just behold and ponder. To me, what Carroll is saying was always the message, but Emperor Constantine was maybe the first to screw it up. The state will always co-op the “Message” of human longing and aspirations: Its too dangerous. It is about Love as Connection and Compassion for your fellow humans, i.e. giving away the “self” to others. This does not work in a world of sending lemmings over the cliff to satisfy greed and imperial power. And we had better not point the finger at others. It begins here and now.

  • Jim Reed

    Just don’t believe too deeply because the stronger the belief gets, the more screwed up it becomes.

  • Bob

    One, you don’t HAVE to believe it’s all true, try to prove it’s all out of harmony and false – do that with equity and you won’t be able to.

    Start wit the law, apply it to all reasoning, assume if this be a God you’d follow he’d be a truth teller and follow his own law even unto death as Jesus did.

    The Bible says God changes not- Mal 3.6, Psalms 119.160 says the sum of Gods word is truth, et al.

    First you have to read and even study the words in context with the whole and have 2 or more witnesses which most of the bible is easy to do.

    The bible is in harmony, it’s mans thinking which is not. ALL apparent so called contradictions do harmonize if you diligently reason in equity and search for them.

    The most difficult thing is not to read into scripture something you assume & to never work to pit one scripture against another…. most people fail here.

  • Bob

    1. Jesus was Father incarnate
    Luke 24.44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

    He made the claim, the OT spoke of him. When you learn the bible story, you will see why your number 2 was required directly from the OT & the law.

    Your 3 & 4 are easily explained and harmonized if you but with integrity seek the whole truth and not filter things through your law but reason with equity in love of truth instead.

    I tell you a truth, JOHN is inclusive in Genesis 1-3. That where very few will ever discover in this life time I surmise.

    Know ye not , that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey , his servants ye are to whom ye obey ; whether of sin unto death , or of obedience unto righteousness ?

  • Jim Reed

    If you read the Bible for context is falls apart pretty quickly. The first thing you come across is Jesus the man from Nazareth is not real. The original record of Christianity that we have in the Bible is the writings of Paul, and these show Christians searching the old testament scriptures to find Christ references, and filling in the blanks with visions. Then decades later the gospels started being written, each one expanding on the story. The problem is in Paul’s time nothing of the gospel stories were known. The Bible is a story of making up what was supposed to have happened in an earlier generation, but as you go back in time toward when it was, the story disappears. The Christianity of the gospels that we believe in today was made up after the fact. The rest is apologetics.

  • Jim Reed

    That sounds little self-righteous.

  • apotropoxy

    Luke, and his fellow Jesus followers, believed that their guy was the messiah, not the Father Incarnate. That meme developed several decades after the Synoptic Gospels were written. The notion of Jesus-as-deity arrived in that community about the time the writer of John made his mark.

    The Hebrew scripture to which you refer predicts a messiah, not a second nature of Yahweh let alone a third nature that was soon to follow. The terms Son of God and Son of Man meant Servant of God and Servant of Man.

    You: “Your 3 & 4 are easily explained and harmonized if you but with integrity seek the whole truth…”
    Your failure to address my statement by dismissing it with a treacly Bold Assertion Fallacy is inferential evidence of the vacuity of your position.

    I tell YOU a truth. John’s error was his morphing of the meaning of messiah with that of deity.(How do you like Bold Assertion when applied to your faith-based ejaculation?)

    Regarding the gratuitous and prideful condescension you have demonstrated to the readers here, I commend unto you this thought by Paul’s…
    “The more thy (your god’s) glories strike mine eyes
    The humbler I shall be,”

  • Bob

    That last quote and really much of your diatribe is lacking merit and out of context, the quote being latter – que sera sera

    It does more than predict the Messiah, it explains WHY and WHOM he is; HINT: you will never know unless you have integrity & you read without wrestling scripture & you use the law, these and other keys will unlock the whole truth hidden in the dark sayings in plain sight to you.

    Isaiah 54.5 For thy Maker is thine husband; יהוה of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The Elohim of the whole earth shall he be called.

    Hey, Num-b-Nuts; (for I speak to them that know the law,): Christ was the kinsman redeemer by Yahweh spilling his blood. Go do basic bible reading cover to cover in equity just once.

    The Jesus Elect Followers in Scripture was revealed / eventually KNEW who Jesus WAS. The WRITINGS if I went line by line Testify he was, in fact – the bible’s a satanic piece of dung if Yahweh was not Jesus, there would be no Redemption or SALVATION and yes there’s a difference numbnuts – betwixt the two – so you’ve been warned.

    What’s more importantly – a rub against your delusion is the whole bible in unison singing the same song: Job 19.25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see Eloah:

    See, if the average nit-wit were to with integrity simply replace most of the places a typical Bible says GOD or LORD with Yahweh or El Or Elohim etc where appropriate, it would be easier to comprehend the depth of the magnitude of the story. Galatians 4.4 But when the fulness of the time was come, יהוה sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.

    Dare the wicked one to investigate in equity for once. Luke 3.23-38

    I Thessalonians 5.10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

    Their Redeemer is strong; יהוה of hosts is his name: he shall throughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land. Turn, O backsliding children, saith יהוה; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion

    You lack research integrity to actually look yourself. The bible is very clear through the whole, telling in harmony the whole story of Father coming to die and why.

    I Corinthians 7.39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the faith. Romans 7.3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Galatians 3.17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of יהוה in the Messiah, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. Ephesians 2.1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Romans 9.3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from the Messiah for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the worship, and the promises; Zechariah 11.10 And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it assunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. Joel 3.16 יהוה also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but יהוה will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.Isaiah 40.3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of יהוה, make straight in the desert a highway for our Elohim. Psalms 118.19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise יהוה: 20 This gate of יהוה, into which the righteous shall enter. 21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. 22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. Zephaniah 3.15 יהוה hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even יהוה, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
    17 יהוה thy Elohim in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. Psalms 95.1 O come, let us sing unto יהוה: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.3 For יהוה is a great El, and a great King above all elohim. Psalms 130.7 Let Israel hope in יהוה: for with יהוה there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. Hosea 13.4 Yet I am יהוה thy Elohim from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no elohim but me: for there is no saviour beside me. 5 I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. 10 I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?

  • Bob

    You certainly were, how arrogant you are, do you drive with anger towards all the little people in your sight or do you actually do one thing in Love and Equity?

    Tell me, does THIS scripture truth really bother you? Psalms 92.7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:

  • Bob

    Actually the full bible word for word is contained in Genesis 1, really 1-3 but I digress, that’s not meat for you and for most believers, but as God is my witness It’s there.

    You’re not judicially approachable due to your unrighteous and double minded demands you proffer because your world view demands it.

    The Christianity of the Gospels is the SAME Religion of the Old Testament. Now, there was an event, a series of contracts and actions which TIED the two into a new creature forever more all due to the law…. That’s 95+% of all peoples shortcomings, that and being disingenuous. if you were really honest with yourself, you’d know there’s MOUNTAINS more evidence even secularly than Shakespeare… if you but HUMBLY with love for truth investigated. There’s so much OUTSIDE the bible evidences – however I no longer go there, Not in Science, Not anyplace but Scripture – because that’s the dividing line and the test can be seen if someone has possibilities, is lost forever, is a weak, medium strong or giant in the knowledge of Yahweh’s truth.

    You’ve already made some assumptions – why not correct them and use fewer in the beginning until you’re able to go bathroom by yourself.

    Can you read Scripture without rubbing one part against another?

    Do you have the capacity to work at filtering what you read by a specific set of laws/standards ?

    What WOULD be an example of a law to judge if the bible be true or not?

    Proverbs 1.32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

  • Jim Reed

    You have to be careful about taking that stuff too seriously.

  • apotropoxy

    OK… Got it. Thanks. Have a nice day.

  • Judith Maxfield

    This is a bit long, but talking about Christ, Jesus, cannot be understood by using 21C attitudes don’t really help. Christianity involves an openness to the mystery of Life itself. This is especially for Jim Reed since I may not have hit the reply:

    I too wondered why it was so hard to understand the words in the Gospel. By being willing to struggle with the message, being intentionally obscure as Jesus uttered it, the people remembered it in experience (not word of word) and much later put it into print. Lets not get into any position now on the existence of Jesus, Paul not being present, etc. I would wish you too stay with me for a bit on the following:
    The message is not prosaic in 21h C format/language. Read or hear it through the 100AD way of poetic style and discourse. (Even ancient history is not like ours today) Most scholars, at least in the mainstream of Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican/Episcopal religions believe the Jesus sayings were meant to slow people down and make them think what is meant behind the actual wording, i.e. its poetic Dude. Its meant to confuse the hearer.

    It was meant to provide a way of seeing the world, not as the world powers would have you believe, but to have a means to stand back, see through a more “complete” world view that could save you from imperial destruction in health and spirit. In an ancient hymn I love, “Let all mortal flesh keep silence”, it’s said, “that the powers of Hell may vanish as the dark clouds fade away”. You only can understand when a terrible crisis or a death of the spirit causes you to see your world as you knew it is no longer true or healthy. There is more to Life than what you thought and the good news is you will know threes more to life, no matter what. Hell cannot destroy or overpower you.

    I went through Hell and was forced to re-examine everything I thought was valuable to
    me. Now I get it why Jesus sought out those on the edge of society, the failures. They were down, out, despised, hungry for this truth. Give up your egocentric ways and grow up as a full human being. You will have a Peace the world cannot give. Its true. Know who you really are aside from what the world says. To me, this is not crazy. Its no the dogma of American evangelicalism. Of course the church makes mistakes, but we still have people who did change the world, Bonhoeffer, MLK, St. Francis, Desmond Tutu and more. Its not about a far away Heaven, but life now and here. James Carroll has it right.

  • Judith Maxfield

    P.S. “Let those who can hear, hear”.

  • apotropoxy

    “I too wondered why it was so hard to understand the words in the Gospel.”

    ______________________

    It becomes a lot easier when you apply the history of the times and the religious tradition from which they sprang.
    Some things to consider:
    – The Synoptic gospels were written by Jews, for Jews. (Luke was a convert)
    – John, the first of the canonized writers to transition Jesus from messiah to deity, was written two generations after Jesus’ death. The early church fathers had serious debates as to the wisdom of his work’s inclusion.
    – Paul, the only canonized scripturalist who was a well educated man with a sophisticated depth of understanding about his religion (Judaism) transitioned the Jesus movement from Judaism to meta-Judaism.
    – Jesus, and the canonized writers, expected the overthrow of Rome by their god’s armies to occur during the lifetime of those who had actually listened to Jesus and Paul speak. A great deal of Christian apologetics that followed were focused on squaring the circle.
    – Christianism’s reach into the Jewish community started small and petered out fast.
    – Jesus was a Jew in the Pharisee tradition who preached a blend of Hillel humanism and end times fatalism.

  • apotropoxy

    Reinforcing your argument with quotes by sources in whom you place faith is circular confirmation bias.

  • Jim Reed

    We live in the 21st century, so although these things might make more sense in a middle ages context, we are not going back. Our 21st century understanding of historical context is only going to expand from here. The older ways of thinking were an attempt to understand what couldn’t be understood back then. That might be true of all things religious. We must go forward.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Amen! I already knew these things and absolutely agree. You are the first person on this site who has any sense out of the story and not tried to ad ib from the outside looking in. The history is not the so called background, but the actual context of Jesus and his experience in the Roman world. I believe his life was a part of an evolving enlightenment taking place not only in the middle east, but elsewhere.
    To me, thats why it was so difficult for the twelve – and still true- you have have to give up or at least question everything you have ever learned in the world to begin to evolve. For me, its the practice taught by Jesus whom I see as the Christ (i.e. Messenger).

  • Bob

    And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of יהוה, to the house of the Elohim of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of יהוה from Jerusalem.

  • Jim Reed

    The United States was founded on reversing most of that law because it doesn’t make sense in a modern democracy, and if taken too seriously it leads to abuse.

  • Bob

    Wrong Once again… Gee, I could really make a lot of money just following you around – you know it?

    Done so, because Jesus & His word not on the claimed founders hears, they were instead usurpers of God & Mans authority.

    Since ALL LAW and Politics is RELIGION in action, you’re saying that we’ve out lived the usefulness of Jesus? HAHAHAHA

    So tell me what LAW of God so bothers you the most?

    What Makes your or any other mans morality better than Jesus?

    At least you should agree with me that this verse is without a lie and desperately pleasing: Proverbs 2.22 But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

  • Jim Reed

    In an era when all religion stocks are dropping the best approach is to find an appealing way to say nothing.

  • Jim Reed

    The problem is the 10 commandments. Commandments against killing, stealing, false witness are good, and universal. The other commandments are laws against blasphemy, and that is what the United States had to end with our constitution because those laws were turning Christianity into a horror.

  • gilhcan

    Theologians and would-be theologians, Christian, post-Christian, and non-Christian, are bound by the mythological notion of gods. Since no gods are demonstrable, provable, why do we persist in trying to turn Jesus into Christ. Jesus was Jesus. Jesus was usually sufficient as a model that we might attain goodness through various imitations. What more is needed? Certainly, in the time of Jesus, many people were still bound by the mythology of gods, but we should be able to move on and upgrade Jesus into the reality of science and the greater understanding of our world and people in the twenty-first century. We need not be limited, by any means, only to Jesus, especially to the mythological Jesus..

  • Bob

    Cafeteria Style: NOPE

    So what makes YOUR or Their private Morality superior to the Bible?

    Not a few – Many – do you know what iniquity is?
    Matthew 7.22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    Christianity in general DOES NOT TURN, it’s intolerant, starting weak and grows stronger and heartier.

    Matthew 22
    38 this is a first and great command;
    39 and the second is like to it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;
    40 on these–the two commands–all the law and the prophets do hang.’

    No sir what U want 2 do is create your own morality / religion, which I whole heartedly REJECT as do all those who Love Jesus.

  • Jim Reed

    Western civilization creates morality, although it is a very long and slow process, with a major detour around when Christianity was the government. one critical element is no penalty for blasphemy, especially not capital punishment. We are working on it.

  • Jim Reed

    Trying to upgrade Jesus might be creating a spectrum of religions that at one end anchors us to the past. If we can just free ourselves of Jesus, society will be able to advance to a higher level.

  • Bob

    If that be the case then the IRS would be extinct

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Ha, Ha, Ha!!! Now THAT is seriously funny, apotropoxy! That’ol”Mithra”chestnut is still around, huh?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Show us the history that shows us the non-existence of Jesus, Jim Reed. I’ve studied the history of the Church (ALL churches, not just catholic.), and I know of no serious scholars who attempt to make that”claim”credible, at least not anymore. The idea of Christ being God Incarnate is not an historical inquiry,since to a large degree that not the historian’s field of expertise, but the idea that the Person of Jesus had no reality…Frankly, that’s just asinine. Try again.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Here’s a thought, cgosling:Why don’t you ask The Saviour yourself? He’ll answer you, just like He did me, and I guarantee you, no one who knows me think I’m deluded, insane, hearing auditory hallucinations, etc.You game, or like so many others on these sites do you find comfort in hiding behind your computer screen, railing against that which is indeed far beyond what you can even begin to grasp… (Cue the upcoming derision and mockery of the unknown and not-experienced.)

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    With all due respect, Jim Reed, that is THE most asinine, ill-informed, and pseudo-“intellectual”drivel I’ve heard in…well, today anyway. Seriously, dude?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    So, Bob…You said all that to say…what, exactly? (This would be a good time to apply Ockham’s Razor here, Bob.)

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Dial it back a notch, Bob; you’re lapsing into incoherency, O.K? CHILL, dude.

  • cgosling

    Laurence – I have no reason to believe you are not a sincere and moral person. You sound like a good person.

    In high school I prayed every day until I took a biology course. I soon realized that I was deluded in believing in the Christian God and his claimed miracles. I realized all the sincere followers of all the religions were deluded as are you. I have no doubts that you and they are sincere. Its normal to think you are talking to God but when you believe he is talking back to you, then you really are deluded. Certainly you don’t believe a person needs to believe in God to be moral, empathetic, charitable, and honest. Check out the internet for great musicians, scientists, artists, philanthropists, leaders, doctors, etc. and you will find atheists with more than their share of great men and women. On the other hand you will find Christianity has its finger prints on numerous wars, inquisitions, crusades, political intrigue, and slavery. Why do you think your God is real and all the thousands of other Gods are not? Is not arrogance a sin by your religious philosophy? Do you realize that hundreds of books have been written about the contradictions and atrocities found in the Abrahamic holy books?

  • apotropoxy

    When your’re done laughing I invite you to respond with content and avoid non sequitur.
    I can wait.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Well, wait no longer, apotropoxy; I think you understood my derisive laughter very well. The non-existent fable termed “Mithraism HAS no content,therefore any presumed response to what in effect is meaningless would be…meaningless. You’re just angry because you didn’t expect to get caught out trying to be cute. Bring on a bona-fide expert thoroughly conversant in”Mithraism” and this nonsense dialogue can continue, IF You wish.The reality AND validity of the Christian faith speaks for itself, and has done so good and bad, for two millenia. So…I’M waiting;game on, sir.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Is this particular claim the result of abysmal ignorance, or revisionist”pseudo”-history, apotropoxy? Have you been reading Reza Aslan? Really?

  • Jim Reed

    The history is what does the New Testament say, and when, and why does it say it? In the middle of the first century we find a lot of Christian writings from Paul. They show a heavenly Christ that Christianity was finding in old testament scriptures, plus what they saw in their visions. There was no record of Jesus the man from Nazareth. Nothing about any of his teachings or miracles as found decades later in the gospels. In the last third of the century the gospels were written, each one adding more to the story. The final gospel, John, has the most impressive Jesus miracle, raising Lazarus from the dead after three days in the grave. Even though this was Jesus’ greatest miracle, it was unknown in the earlier gospels, and unknown in all the writings of Paul, but then everything from all of the gospels was unknown when Paul was writing. This is a picture of the Jesus story being invented over several decades, all of them well after the time when Jesus was supposed to be living, and the best stuff was only in the last writings.

  • apotropoxy

    Mithras was an important god to several ancient faith traditions.You are certainly free to believe in whatever gods you choose but you’re not free to dismiss the historical fact of his place in several quondam cultures. There are, to my knowledge, no Mithrans left. Perhaps, one day, the Jesus believers will find themselves sharing a pillow with the long lost, too.
    Christianism has had a strong run in the West but it has fractured itself from its earliest days and continues to do so. You are one of the frightened little splinters.
    Keep praying for that second coming, sport. He’ll come back when he gets around to it.

  • apotropoxy

    Aslan is good for primer for beginners.
    Do you ever tire of gratuitous ad hominem and non sequitur?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    I didn’t dismiss Mithras’ particular importance in any particular place that he had adherents, apotropoxy; that was not the point.My point was to squash any inane attempt to place him on some presumed equivalency with Jesus the Christ, as you attempted to do in your earlier post.Now that you have shown yourself to be wise enough to abandon that folly, my task has been accomplished. And don’t kid yourself: The Christian Faith will endure as long as Jesus Himself will . GOD BLESS YOU!

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    DoYOU ever get tired of trying to keep up with these wanna-be academics by trying to sound more educated than you actually are? If you don’t believe, cool.Just be honest and admit that; I will have mad respect for you. But these long-discredited attempts to somehow undermine, overthrow, or nullify the reality of the Christian Faith are exercises in futility, and THAT I have NO respect for. I think many secularists fail realize that the Christian world has its own celebrated scholars, every bit as formidable in any given academic field as any atheist.My”mentor”, Dr.William Lane Craig, is, in my admittedly biased opinion, THE greastest living philosopher/apologist in the Christian world to date; Richard Dawkins practicality runs from the man to keep from debating him, and Craig is just one in a long, long line of men and women of his caliber stretching back to the great Apostle Paul. So…don’t fool yourself into thinking we’re all knuckle-dragging, inbred, fire-and-brimstone backwoods hicks, apotropoxy. Christianity has a long, rich intellectual history, and I for one am proud to be apart of It.Peace.

  • apotropoxy

    All gods occupy the same dusty shelf, son. Your passionate beliefs are your problem. Your religions are the world’s.

  • apotropoxy

    I take your answer to be ‘no’.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Well…this absurdity has obviously run its course, apotropoxy so…I bid you adieu, and again, God bless you.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    No, apotropoxy. God bless.