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Thread: What were the motivation and aspirations of Jesus in the Bible?

  1. #11


    Quote Originally Posted by DavidR View Post
    I'm going to try to keep this brief, so I hope it doesn't come off sounding blunt. I'm also going to write two posts, (A) on sources and (B) on Jesus. So no, not that brief.

    Let me say first that, on the one hand, I completely agree with Lee about trustyoursource's guys-in-a-bar scenario. The gospels are nothing like that, and trying to imagine a completely different setting and nature for them and then critique them according to your imagined scenario is neither logical nor very fair. On the other hand, though, I probably have a different view of the gospels than most of the BibleWorks software users here. I don't see them as direct eyewitness accounts, but as the result of a process of oral tradition followed by writing that took several decades. I would give a timeline something like this: Mark shortly before 70 A.D. (the Jewish revolt and destruction of the Temple); Matthew and Luke maybe in the 80s (using Mark and other materials as sources); John perhaps around 90, basically independent of the others though aware of some of the same traditions.

    Few if any responsible scholars these days would date the gospels 100 years after the time of Jesus; I don't think any would question that he really did exist. The notion of Jesus-as-complete-fiction is itself a fantasy pure and simple. I would also agree with Lee that no one would be willing to suffer persecution and violent death for the sake of something they knew to be a fiction. Can you name any other cases in which that has happened?

    OTOH, the gospels were not written (in my opinion, shared with a fair number of scholars) as historical texts, biographies in the modern sense. They were written to provide guidance in faith and living for early Christian communities, and I have no doubt that stories and sayings were adapted in the course of the oral and writing processes involved. In part this was because their authors believed (as Christians still do) that Jesus, risen from the dead, continued to guide and teach them through the Holy Spirit. See John 14:25-26. The gospel of John, in fact, seems to represent a kind of culmination of this process, presenting Jesus as already teaching what later Christians came to believe about him. Calls to believe in Jesus as Son of God are found in John, scarcely at all in the others.

    Personally (and getting back to something of what trustyoursources originally asked), none of this bothers me in the least in reading and studying the gospels, or in my relationship of faith with Jesus. It did bother me quite a bit when I first began to study the gospels critically, many years ago. But gradually I came to the conclusion that if God is real and Jesus is true, then faith in them is compatible with anything that is real and true--including the reality that the gospels did undergo a complex process of adapting, writing, and editing. If all that mattered for faith were literal, historical data and logical deduction, then maybe there would be problems. But if that were all that mattered, the gospel writers (who were obviously intelligent people) would have written something quite different. Let me unpack that in two ways.

    First, facts and logic are great tools, but they cannot tell us the entire truth, about Jesus or anything else. The gospel writers were, so to speak, portrait painters, not photographers. Each of them presents an image of Jesus meant to call the readers toward faith, commitment, and discipleship. Within those images are plenty of facts, enough to allow us to get a good, consistent understanding of what Jesus taught. But the gospels were written to extend his teaching into new circumstances, and Christian life (IMHO) is always a balancing act between being true to Jesus, and being true to him in our own settings. If we knew every single historical fact about Jesus with 100% accuracy, we would still have to make a decision regarding what we believed about him. And the encounter with any person, whether directly with people we know or indirectly through stories, is always more than a matter of facts. It is a matter of personhood, of the personal reality of a human being, which is more than the sum of the data about them.

    Second, this is all the more true with someone like Jesus. One reason why so many different images of him exist (in the gospels and in the minds of their readers and interpreters) is (IMHO) because he could not be nailed down (pun intended). He did not fit any single category, out of the many that were available in his day, such as prophet, miracle worker, mystic, teacher, rabbi, revolutionary, movement leader, sage. What he was and who he was seem to have been unprecedented enough that he evoked a very wide range of responses, in his lifetime and afterward. This is one reason it doesn't bother me that we get different impressions from different gospels. Part of his unprecedented reality was that, probably already in his lifetime and certainly while people who had known him were still living, some of those who encountered him recognized him as a unique bearer of the Presence of God. I believe it was from actual experience with him that the Christian beliefs about him as divine Son of God emerged--whether he himself taught this or not. Not mythology or imagination but experience lies at the bottom of Christian belief and tradition, IMHO.
    I will take this point by point.

    What do you mean by oral tradition following decades of writing it down? I am curious I honestly do not know much about how the bible was put together.

    I cannot sir think of a time when people died for an idea or cause without conviction however having said that I know plenty of cases where people died under a false conviction especially in cases of cults, nationalism, religion, and other such dogma. Martyrdom does not make a case stronger if it did I think ISIS would have a monopoly on truth by now.

    Your description of the reasons for the early gospels explained to me what you mean by oral tradition then text thanks it is an interesting theory and I can see how it can produce a work like the bible. I like the way you described the texts as portraits vs pictures that makes a lot of sense to me.

    Thanks you for your thoughtful response.

  2. #12


    Quote Originally Posted by DavidR View Post
    OK, brevity fails me once again. Here's the second part.

    With regard to what you say about Jesus himself, trustyoursources, I have several responses. You wrote:

    First, you have to be careful with the use of sources. You run a lot of things together here from different gospels, and tend to generalize from single incidents. Jesus doesn't tell anyone to worship him, or say that he is God (not "a god"!), with the exception of a couple of passages in the gospel of John. But John (as I said in post A) is in general quite different from the other gospels. I'm one of those who believe that, in this respect, it does not reflect what Jesus himself said, but the convictions of believers of a generation or so later.

    "Cheap parlor tricks" is not very persuasive as a description of the miracle stories in the gospels. There is no table-knocking and dopey séance stuff. You need to be more specific if you want to be taken seriously.

    The same is true of "anytime anything other then him comes up he tells you how unimportant it is compared to him". Please point out even one specific instance where this happens. As for the Charles Manson and Marshall Applewhite analogies, kindly give the list of people Jesus ordered his followers to kill, or to kill themselves.

    So far, trustyoursources, you're really not presenting the evidence to make your conclusions credible. But I will give you this: the kind of charismatic person that Jesus actually seems to have been (see post A) can evoke overwhelming commitment from followers, and this can be good or it can be evil. Evidently you see life-changing commitment (abandoning family and possessions) as always evil. But note that Jesus does not call on his followers to sell their possessions and give the money to him, but rather to others (Mark 10:21). He himself seems to have lived without a home much of the time; he didn't ask others to do things he wasn't willing to do himself. There is also the role (or lack of role) of violence in his mission. He explicitly renounced it and called on his followers to do so as well (Luke 6:27-36). Cult leaders often encourage their followers to threaten or harm critical outsiders; again, Jesus refused to do so (Luke 9:49-56). (Unfortunately, we who believe in him have not often had the courage to practice his nonviolence!)

    Returning to the subject of commitment, it seems that what Jesus called for was an utter commitment to God, even if that came with a serious material cost. We live in an age in which commitment to anything is regarded as suspect, and giving up one's material advantages for a larger cause is considered slightly loony. Yet as recently as the 20th century some of the most admired figures in history did just that. Gandhi (who saw much to admire in Jesus) gave up a law career, lived poor, and attracted a legion of dedicated followers to his cause. Martin Luther King Jr. (a Baptist minister) suffered persecution and ultimately martyrdom, and he too drew committed workers to the cause of justice, many of whom gave up safety and security to do so. Jesus' call to self-abandonment for the sake of God was a call to find life and identity in very unusual and unexpected places and actions. It definitely did and does look fringe-y. It definitely did and should still take people out of their comfort zones and well-constructed rational defenses.

    As I said in post A, even in possession of all the facts, we still have to make a decision. I decided for Jesus precisely because I saw (and see) in him something deeper and truer than superficial appearances and standard ways of behavior. I see in him a path to God, "the Way, Truth, and Life" (whether he himself said that or not), to finding my own truest self in God, and then finding the truest way to live as myself for the cause of justice in the sight of God (not always successfully, faithfully, or consistently, to be sure). He and his way are freeing, even if I have to drop a lot of baggage along the path to freedom. IOW, the answer to why is that I tried it and found it to be real and true; not only the origin but the best proof of the truth of Christ and Christianity lies in experience, IMHO.
    By cheap parlor tricks I mean walking on water, water to wine, healing, raising the dead, and the rest of the casting out of demons and "miracles" I can provide you links to modern day magicians (not actual ones but entertainers) the walk on water using concealed platform, put something(maybe water) in a place(maybe a jar) and then poof and take out something else(maybe wine), tv evangelists and tent revivalists who "heal" (the exact same way Jesus did it by touching and proclaiming them healed, raising the dead (Lazarus was related to him whats more likely that they agreed to pretend he was dead but he hides in a cave and then tada the ultimate magicians act Lazarus is alive. The trick even had a curtain(a rock)) My point being what is more likely that he did what is literally physically impossible or that he fooled people or someone just made the whole thing up. I would say the chances are literally infinitely higher that its either magic or a lie (also I know that it is a matter of faith for his followers but as far as interpretation goes I feel like its a fair way to sum up his miracles.

    As far as narcissism - 1 example, when his disciples were admiring architecture of Jerusalem he went on to tell them to stop and then gave the not one stone atop another rant. He said to give up everything of this world he wanted people to focus 100% on him and his message and his will and thats what I mean by Manson and Applewhite they tried and made their followers world completely swallowed up by them and their dogma (brainwashing) and no I know of no account where Jesus ever had his followers kill anyone. However I know of one account where Jesus did tell his followers to buy swords and this is a very telling account because a sword is not a wood cutters ax of a bow, its not for hunting or a tool but serves only one purpose a weapon of violence against other human, Jesus was very swiftly after he gave this advise apprehended and executed so no fruit came of his plans for violence so we will never know but I would not put it past him with all the other red flags of cult like behavior of the group and megalomania on his part. (I also understand self defense may have been the explanation however this makes him no longer a pacifist because he does encourage at the very least violence in self defense and goes against the turn the other cheek doctrine.) As far as telling followers to go kill themselves no I can't think of him saying that but I remember him poking at Judas and telling him how it would have been best if he was never born and Judas hung himself the next day or the day after that.

    I am aware that in the bible Jesus says to give to the poor but look at any church/mosque/(almost any house of worship and some charities) they tell people to give money to help the poor but and there is always a but every single one of these institutions will process this transaction between wallet of donor and the poor cutting themselves a gigantic piece of that delicious pie. The bible doesn't get into specifics of how the money got to the poor from those who heard Jesus asking but my money is on a good part of that money ending up with Jesus himself funding his trips (which weren't free) across the middle east but also his own indulgences which ever those were I think prostitutes but the bible says once he put so much perfume on himself it was literally worth one year wages for a person. He did this in front of his followers who gave everything up to follow him.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2009


    Quote Originally Posted by trustyoursources View Post
    I will take this point by point.

    What do you mean by oral tradition following decades of writing it down? I am curious I honestly do not know much about how the bible was put together.

    I cannot sir think of a time when people died for an idea or cause without conviction however having said that I know plenty of cases where people died under a false conviction especially in cases of cults, nationalism, religion, and other such dogma. Martyrdom does not make a case stronger if it did I think ISIS would have a monopoly on truth by now.

    Your description of the reasons for the early gospels explained to me what you mean by oral tradition then text thanks it is an interesting theory and I can see how it can produce a work like the bible. I like the way you described the texts as portraits vs pictures that makes a lot of sense to me.

    Thanks you for your thoughtful response.
    Glad it was helpful. I do take your point on martyrdom.

    I see that on one matter I was too brief to be clear. What I meant by oral tradition was that this tradition came before the writing of the gospels. Something like this: Jesus taught by word of mouth; he didn't write anything that we know of. After his death (and, in Christian belief, his resurrection), those who had heard him passed on his teaching and stories about him, still by word of mouth, and still in the Aramaic language. In the decades that followed, several things happened:

    • Small collections of sayings and stories were gathered together, such as groups of parables, teachings on specific themes, or groups of miracle stories.
    • The teachings and stories were translated from Aramaic into Greek.
    • Documents containing collections of sayings and stories began to be written.
    • The gospels began to be composed from these earlier materials.

    Note that the above list is not sequential: probably all of these things were going on at the same time in different places and in different orders. The gospels (again, this is my opinion, shared with other scholars, but not a scientific fact!) were composed probably using existing materials, both written and oral, but it's impossible to say whether, for instance, the collection of parables in Mark 4 existed as a written document before Mark. In that age, few people could read, but the upside was that people were much more comfortable with learning and passing on material by word of mouth. Even after the gospels were written, oral and smaller written materials no doubt continued to circulate, probably well into the second century. (Christians today [especially Protestants, definitely including me], like modern people generally, are most comfortable with the certainty of written texts reproduced with 100% accuracy. But the earliest generations did not have this possibility, nor did they necessarily see a need for it.)

    I hope this will be of further assistance. I'd really recommend getting a book or two about the gospels, and the New Testament generally. Others here will have recommendations of their own, but I like Familiar Stranger, by Michael J. McClymond. It's relatively brief, doesn't use highly technical language (at least not all the time), and presents what I'd call a moderately critical position, seeing the gospels neither as 100% accurate eyewitness accounts nor as works of fiction.
    David Rensberger
    Atlanta, Georgia

  4. #14

    Cool you have to read

    i think if you want to get motivation and aspirations of Jesus in Bible Then First you have to read the Bible first, Then you can understand

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2007

    Default Welcome to the forums

    Quote Originally Posted by trustyoursources View Post
    Hi all (Before I start quick disclosure: I am an atheist but I am here to have an honest discussion and am not here to troll and offend anyone.)
    Greetings and welcome to the BibleWorks forums.

    #1 It does not matter if you are an atheist, a Shintoist, Buddhist, Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic, a Protestant because these forums aren't meant for Theological debate, but as a support group for users of the Software Called BibleWorks. And, I am aware of Atheists who use bibleworks software in conjunction with classes in ancient near eastern studies as well as well Hellenistic and Ancient Greek studies.

    #2a What version of the BibleWorks software do you own? Or are you thinking of purchasing a license to use BibleWorks version 10?

    #2b See: (link)

    #3 If, you do not mind what is your field of study or interest?

    for example: exegesis, linguistic, Semitic studies, Hellenistic studies, ancient near eastern studies, Classica/Koine Greek, Hebrew, Jewish Studies, textual criticism, the awesome Cantillation marks (Ta'amin) of the Hebrew Biblel or something else?
    Last edited by bkMitchell; 08-08-2017 at 08:52 AM.
    Brian K. Mitchell
    חפשו בתורה היטב ואל תסתמכו על דברי

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