August 1, 2008

The Christ of History!

This is what I’ve been able to gather, so far, about Scholars. Aside from generalizing, please tell me to what extent any of this is actually wrong. I hope it’s at least a little wrong. This is one time I would especially LOVE to be wrong. (NOTE: I wrote this some days ago.)

Christian Bible Scholars don’t want to blend the Gospels into one story. They prefer to see Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as individual documents with their own unique “theological” message. They say things like, “The Bible is not a History Text.” Basically, Christian Bible Scholars view the New Testament as a Sourcebook of information we can study, from which we can build teachings about God, faith and how Christians should live.

Non-Christian Bible Scholars don’t believe the Gospels tell one true story. They prefer to see Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as religious propaganda that was sprinkled with non-credible events to create an elaborate picture of who they (wish) Jesus of Nazareth truly was. They say things like, “How can we find the historical Jesus?” Basically, Secular Bible Scholars view the New Testament as a Religious-Dogma Sourcebook, which needs to be discredited and exposed as a fraud, for the good of all mankind.

Christian Bible Scholars believe Jesus rose from the dead. They know the Gospels don’t perfectly agree with each other. They prefer to keep these facts under control so they can protect the innocent minds of poor, simple believers.

Non-Christian Bible Scholars believe Jesus just lived and died. They deny any possibility that miracles might have actually happened. They like to say the imperfections and oddities of the Gospel texts are evidence that the whole thing is full of made-up lies.

Christian Bible Scholars engage their opponents on their opponents’ ground. Here they can do little more than criticize and attack. Arguments and discussions go in circles. The two sides do no better than agree to disagree.

Non-Christian Bible Scholars refuse to assume any tenants of faith for the sake of argument. They hold the high ground in University Departments on the political principles of “Separation of Church and State”.

Non-Christian Bible Scholars are trying to reconstruct (or re-invent) “The Historical Jesus”. Christian Bible Scholars are left with having to speak about “the Christ of Faith”.

And now for my favorite:

Classical Scholars (both Christian and Non) avoid study of the Bible for its own sake. Classical Scholars write about every other text from the ancient world, except the Bible. WHY IS THIS, REALLY?

To Sum Up: Christian B.S. avoids Historical thinking. Non-Christian B.S. denies the whole truth about Jesus. Ancient Historians avoid the Bible altogether.

And me? I’m trying to put the True Jesus in Historical Context.

Sometimes it feels like I’m very alone in this quest. I sure hope that’s not true.

So who else is with me on this?


Kat said...

Hello Bill!

I've been reading through your posts and yes - I'm with you on this one!!! Putting Bible texts together into one cohesive whole is not a task for the faint hearted or the lazy!

I've been working on (for 2 or so years now) what started as a "simple" chronology of the last week of Jesus's life. Needless to say, this has boldly taken me where (apparently) no man has gone before!! Even after much searching the Internet - the things I'm discovering don't seem to have been "discovered" by anyone else - (or at least anyone else who posts stuff on the Internet!!)

So as far as my study goes; having now realized that about half of the content of the gospels concerns things that happened in the last week of Jesus's life - has made this project quite long and involved. What started off as a study on the atonement has branched off into studies in eschatology, history and other such various topics! Thus the reason I've come to your blog! I was looking for historical info that might help me better understand Chapter 17 of the book of Revelation. (I'm trying to more accurately pin down a date for the writing of Revelation - I'm coming to the conclusion that it was probably much earlier than the reign of Nero! - which I'll explain in a minute.)

Now of course I've made my rounds of the blogs and what kept me looking at yours is the fact that you got both the dates of Jesus's birth and death correct! I don't know why that seems to be particularly hard for people to "nail down" but it is? Generally they get one right and the other wrong, or both wrong!

Either way - let me return to my explanation as to why I'm beginning to believe Revelation was written much earlier than most scholars believe it was.

In 17:10 we have rather cryptic language of 7 kings - 5 are fallen, one is and the other is not yet come. Most historical interpretations look at Roman emperors as a fulfillment to this. (and thus date Revelation during the reign of Nero) The problem I'm finding is multi-fold.

First of all, Babylon the Mother of Harlots is a reference to Jerusalem not Rome.

Secondly, between Jesus's birth and the destruction of Jerusalem is 10 Roman emperors not 7.

And what do you do with the 10 kings that have no kingdom - that end up making the whore desolate?

Consequently, the conclusion I've come to is that the kings that are involved in this passage are Jewish kings - since the context of the passage is about Jerusalem!

Interestingly enough, there were 7 Herod(s). (Herod the Great, his 3 sons, Agrippa I and Agrippa II). Who the 10 kings are who have no kingdom I haven't figured out yet. Because they destroy the whore - I think there may be a link there to the Roman governors. (Trying to nail down a historical document that tells me how many of them there were.)

Here is the rest of it though; I know Agrippa 1 died in 44 AD. I also found in one historical account that there was a meeting between Paul and the other apostles in Jerusalem that same year (which could have been conserning the Revelation received by John). Between this year (44) and 49 AD we start to see historical accounts of the apostles showing up in other parts of the world. So it appears to be that all the apostles were out of Jerusalem by 49 AD. My guess is that they started to leave after Agrippa 1 died.

Now at the end of 1 Pete - we find "The church that is in Babylon...." One document I found dates this writing between 44 and 49 AD. So my theory is that if Revelation was written before the death of Agrippa 1 - Pete is using the reference to Babylon found in the book of Revelation in this letter to tell these people that they (meaning the apostles or who's left of them) are still in Jerusalem. They leave soon after because chapter 18 of Revelation tells about the fall of Babylon!

So anyways - there's my latest little research project. Hopefully - it won't take too much longer to nail this one down.

Enjoyed your blog - and surely will be back for more!

Kat said...

OOH - just realized in my "Herod Count" I missed a Tetrarch - he wasn't part of Herod's entourage though. There was a 4th Tetrarch who ruled Abilene. His name was Lysanias.

Gotta get my Herod(s) strait!


Bill said...

Hello Kat. Thanks so much for your great interest. I'm thrilled to see how much work you've been putting in. I am definitely one who can relate to that obsession. It just sortof takes over, doesn't it? ;)

Let me encourage you above all else to KEEP AT IT. And I look forward to having you here as a regular from now on. With me, any harsh or challenging comments are as welcome as the kind and encouraging ones. So feel at ease and free to let loose.

I've studied the decades from "zero" to 70 AD, and I am of course familiar with the revelation passages you cite.

I hesitate to get into eschatology on the record, here, because it's frankly so many light years away from my central purpose in what I'm doing. I don't want anybody to get the wrong idea that I've got a secret end-times agenda! ;)

But that said, I do of course find myself extremely sympathetic to the historical interpretations of those. Whether or not that has bearing on any particular forms of preterism, millenialisms or other isms... I don't really care. I don't want to get into that, so I'm willing to believe prophecies can have more than one fulfillment.

Can you tell how much I'm NOT a theologian?! ;)

So... if you want to talk revelation, e-mail me. I've got a few observations and questions you might find interesting. But I'm not posting those until I get to the 60's. And when I do, it won't be dogmatic. It'll just be "here's the history. and here's what john said. now you decide."

Or something like that. :)

So e-mail me. Let's talk Caesars and Herods and tetrarchs. I have some books to recommend, a Herod or two you might have missed and maybe a bit or two on Lysaias.

It's all worth talking about.

And then, God willing, we can get back to Jesus and the Gospels! Amen? :)

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