What Did Jesus Really Say?

Posted in Religion by chamblee54 on August 13, 2012

When religion raises its gnarly head, folks like to talk about what Jesus said. The question for today’s discussion is, how do they know?

Some say the Bible is “the word of G-d”. Some even say it is inerrant, which means there are no mistakes. (The spell check suggestion for inerrant is ignorant.) This assumes that the translation, and the understanding of that rendering, are also perfect. There are people who think this is nonsense.

PG is in the latter category. He has two beliefs about Christianty. G-d does not write books. Jesus has nothing to do with life after death. If you add the label evangelical, you get a third disagreement. To PG, evangelism means trying to convert people to your understanding of Christianity. PG thinks that what he believes is only open to discussion when PG trusts the other person.

How did we get to this point? The Bible is a collection of texts, from a variety of sources and languages. It was compiled into one text somewhere during the fourth century, give or take a hundred years. At this time, the only way to get a copy was to have a scribe copy the text by hand. As anyone who has played telephone knows, there were probably mistakes made while copying this text. It was several hundred years before the printing press was invented, and more than a tiny minority of people could read.

How to the Bible get from being a collection of texts, to the current “G-d in a book” view. Here is one hypothesis.
“The deification of the Bible is a result of the Protestant reformation. Before then, the final authority, the ultimate arbiter and source of information in religious matters was the church, with its ancient traditions and living experts. When Luther and friends opposed the teaching of the Catholic hierarchy, they needed a superior authority to appeal to, which was provided by the Bible.”
Moving right along, we still have to listen to people who speculate on what Jesus said. In one sense, it does not matter. A core belief of Christianity is that having the correct beliefs about Jesus will get you into heaven, while those without this belief will go to hell. This is a big deal in JWR. Many believers are far more interested in the death of Jesus than his life. Anything Jesus said pales in importance to what is reputed to have happened forty four hours after his death.

OK, so what did Jesus say? We really don’t know. The accounts of the Bible were written many years after his life on earth. Jesus spoke a language called Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek. The King James Bible is in English. Whatever record we have of the words of Jesus was written down after the fact, and translated a minimum of twice.

A few years ago, some scholars began to look at the reputed words of Jesus, and decide what was really said. They published a book, The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus.
“The Jesus Seminar , a group of scholars who have attempted to locate the authentic words of Jesus, made headlines two years ago by reporting that, of the entire Lord’s Prayer as found in Matthew, the only words that could conclusively be attributed to Jesus are “Our Father.” In this book they have published their results. This new translation of the four gospels, augmented by the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas, presents Jesus’ words printed in colored code: red for words Jesus almost certainly spoke, pink for his probable locutions, gray for the less than likely, and black for the implausible.” Many old favorites were said to be invented by later scribes.
The Jesus Seminar is a function of the Westar Institute. A good bit of their findings are available online. If your mind is already made up, it won’t make any difference.

As this is spoken, the 2012 is heating up. BS detectors will be buzzing nonstop. A poster is emerging, with a picture of BHO. There is a quote, attributed to Caroline Kennedy.
“I can’t stand to hear his voice anymore. He’s a liar and worse.”
According to snopes, the quote is from a book, The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House. There seems to have been a bit of a personality conflict between the Obamas and the Kennedys. In addition, it was suggested that BHO was not liberal enough to suit Carolyn Kennedy.

Whatever personal problems existed between Ms. Kennedy and BHO appear to have been smoothed over. The former first daughter made an appearance on behalf of BHO in New Hampshire.
“Caroline Kennedy stumped for President Obama’s reelection bid Wednesday night, highlighting the differing visions for the country held by the two parties. … “I’m a woman, a mother, a lawyer, an educator, and I really believe that Barack Obama is fighting for the America that I believe in.”
Here we have something, said in private, in the last four years. It is being used out of context, by people who hate liberals. If we cannot quote a contemporary public figure correctly, why can we assume to know what Jesus said two thousand years ago?

Pictures, of Union Soldiers, are from The Library of Congress.

3 Responses

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  1. peddiebill said, on August 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I agree about the difficulty in establishing what Jesus actually said. I also had a go at the same topic with an extended article entitled the Shaping of God. Dom Crossan in his latest book the Power of the Parable takes it a step further and suggests (with plenty of supporting evidence) that the gospels are best understood as extended parables about Jesus rather than as historical records. This would also make some sense of the extreme contradictions in the gospels eg John describing Jesus ministry as taking three years and Mark describing it as a one year ministry.

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