Saturday, February 28, 2015

    The Bookworm Report #7: The Mythmaker by Hyam Maccoby

    Submitted by Russell Pizer

    The Bookworm Report #7
    The Mythmaker
    – Paul and the Invention of Christianity
    by Hyam Maccoby ©1986, 237pp

    The inside flap of the dust cover of the book titled The Mythmaker, begins with this question: “Who was the founder of Christianity? The answer seems obvious – Jesus. . .”  The author, a Talmudic scholar, shows clearly that this is not true. The information on that flap continues: “. . . Jesus’ disciples never had any thought of founding a new [religion]; they never embraced such ideas as Jesus’ divinity and the Eucharist, which were the brainchildren of Paul; and the heretical Ebionite* sect was really a continuation of ‘Jewish Christianity’ against which Paul had rebelled.”

    For clarity, this “Paul” was Saul of Tarsus who has become known as the “Apostle Paul.” Also, for clarity, there is no evidence in The Bible that Paul had contact with Jesus except through Paul’s own alleged revelations that he said came directly for the risen Jesus.

    It may seem nonsensical to Christians that the founder of Christianity was not the Jesus of Nazareth or any of his apostles – including James – his biological brother – or Peter, but Paul. At first, Paul defied James and Peter and claimed revelations from Paul's new deity as a basis of the doctrines of his (Paul’s) new religion which has come down to present day societies as the Christian religion.

    On page 139, this is found: “[The book of Acts – particularly Chapter 15] was written to minimize the conflict between Paul and the leaders of the ‘Jerusalem Church’ – James and Peter.  Peter and Paul, in later Christian traditions, became twin saints – brothers in the faith. . . The idea that they were historically bitter opponents standing for irreconcilable religious [differences] would have been repudiated with horror.  The work of the author of Acts was done well. [H]e rescued Christianity from the imputation of being the individual creation of Paul . . . [He] gave it a respectable pedigree, as a doctrine with the authority of the so-called ‘Jerusalem Church’ . . .   Yet, for all his efforts, the truth of the matter is not hard to recover. If we examine the New Testament evidence with an eye to tell-tale inconsistencies and confusions, rather than with the determination to gloss over and harmonize all difficulties,  . . .” the truth of the conflict becomes evident.

    Page 145 continues with, “Paul did not accept, either in his private thoughts or in his teaching . . . that he was under the authority of the Jerusalem Community led by James [the brother of Jesus].  On the contrary, he regarded his own authority as higher than theirs, since his doctrines came – as he declared – direct from the risen Christ, while theirs came only from the earthly Jesus. Yet he came meekly to Jerusalem when summoned and submitted himself to the decision of James for he did not consider the time ripe for a complete break with Jewish Christianity.”  In other words, Paul wasn’t honest enough to tell the followers that Jesus had selected that he [Paul] was going to “do his own thing.”

    Because it is in the Book of Acts that we find Saul’s conversion making him the “Founder of Christianity” – not Jesus of Nazareth, the author of The Mythmaker, Hyam Maccoby, on page 88, gives a problematic view of the New Testament.  Maccoby states that there are three accounts of [Paul’s conversion] in Chapters 9, 22 and 26 with some curious inconsistencies. Also there are four other accounts in the first chapter of Galatians written by Paul himself. These raise problems also.
     — Russell Pizer   
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    * The Ebionites regarded Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites. They revered James the Just and rejected Paul (Saul of Tarsus). Ebionim was one of the terms used by the sect at Qumran that sought to separate themselves from the corruption of the Temple, whom many believed were the Essenes.

    Tuesday, February 3, 2015

    Don't look now, but Hell may be freezing over - Evangelicals embrace gay marriage (!!!)

    I found this article to be moving in a couple of ways.  First, just the fact that an evangelical church has pivoted to a position of acceptance of same-sex marriage.  The second was in reading the thought process that led up to this decision, grounded in scripture, if you can believe it.  Even though we don't share the same views on religious issues, maybe there really is a way we can work it out so that we achieve the same end.  It's not the belief, it's the action that counts in the end.

    David Brooks of the NY Times takes on secularism - worth reading for the comments

    Conservative NY Times columnist David Brooks has recently strayed into the minefield of philosophy.  This column is worth reading not necessarily for what he says but rather for the comments, many of which rebut Brooks' argument in thoughtful responses which contain nuggets of wisdom that HSGP members could use to further refine their own thoughts about secularism.  (Sorry for the bad pun but I couldn't resist.)

    Monday, February 2, 2015

    Bookworm Report #6: The Jefferson Bible

    By Russell Pizer

    The Jefferson Bible
    The Life and Morales of Jesus of Nazareth

    Christians like to assert that Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et al., founded these United States of American on Christian principles and especially the Ten Commandments.  However, those who assert such appear to discount one of Thomas Jefferson’s activities regarding The Bible.

    On 3/16/2011, this headline appeared in the Hoffington Post: “Will the Jefferson Bible Spark New Smithsonian Controversy?”  The article read, in part: “The Smithsonian recently began the painstaking restoration of one of America’s great hidden treasures: what is called the “Jefferson Bible.” Composed through a process of rigorous editing, Thomas Jefferson assembled a spare, concise book that was devoid of supernatural events from six different biblical texts. Even the crowning moment of the Christian story, the Resurrection, is completely deleted from Jefferson’s version. . . .

    “[Religious] pundits . . . would have you believe that the Founding Fathers were devout believers who saw America as a Christian nation. They point to the phrase in the Declaration of Independence,* noting that natural rights are ‘endowed by a Creator’‡ . . . 

    “[T]he Founding Fathers shared little consensus on religion.  Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine were explicit deists.  Franklin’s writings revealed ‘some doubts as to [Jesus’s] divinity' . . .”  [Presidents Jefferson and Madison were charged with being atheists.]  “Madison, the author of the Constitution and no friend to organized religion, composed a ‘Detached Memoranda’ to the Constitutional Conventions decrying religious influence as injurious to public life. . .”

    Concerning the “Ten Commandments,” Jefferson selected only six for his version of The Bible.  He included these: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother; and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  These are the same six that Jesus gave in Matthew 19:17-19.  Historically, it should be noted that in 787 the 7th Ecumenical Council nullified the 2nd commandment. This was done so the Roman Catholic Church could have its statues, paintings, icons and images of God, the Holy Family and all the saints.

    People who are not familiar with this effort by Jefferson will probably be mortified to learn that one of our Founding Fathers mutilated the Bible.  Jefferson literally took scissors and cut out the portions he liked and glued them together – making him perhaps the first great American Cafeteria Christian.

    NOTE:  The Jefferson Bible can be downloaded for free from the internet.  An 8½- by 11-inch version contains 33 pages.
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    * Contrary to popular belief, there is no such document in U.S. history that is titled “The Declaration of Independence.” The heading on the first broadside as printed by John Dunlap is: “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of American in General Congress Assembled.”  The embossed official document – the hand-written version by Timothy Matlack – has the title: “The unanimous Declaration of the united States of America.”  Notice it is not the United States of America – with an upper case “U”.  And, history shows that it was not “unanimous.”

    ‡ When Thomas Jefferson submitted the hand-written version of the so-called “Declaration of Independence” to the printer – John Dunlap – the word “creator” appeared with a lower case letter “c.”  There seems to be no historical record as to who changed the word “creator” to “Creator.” It was probably some unknown typesetter in the Dunlop printing office on the night of July 4, 1776. Also note, the phrase is “endowed by their creator,” not, “endowed by the Creator.”