Posts tagged ‘New Testament’

Early Christianity: The Writing of The New Testament

Jesus appearing to Thomas the Apostle, from th...

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The New Testament consists of 27 books written by an assortment of different authors. There’s a lot of argument and speculation about who wrote a great many of the books, with some scholars even insisting that some of the Pauline letters were not written by Paul. There isn’t even any agreement about when the books were written.

The gospels could have been written as early as the 50s C.E. or as late as the second century. The debate for when and who wrote many books of the New Testament is important because it establishes the authenticity of the books. If the gospels were written within the Apostolic Age, then there is a good chance that they were written by eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

If the date of authorship is later, then the gospels lose some of their clout as they are most certainly a written version of an earlier oral tradition. And we all know what happens when you play a game of Telephone.

The earliest church didn’t see a need for a New Testament. The Jewish scriptures were their scriptures. No need to reinvent the wheel. Also, early Christians were convinced that Jesus’ return was imminent. They wouldn’t have seen the importance of preserving church tradition or the stories of Jesus because they were convinced that Jesus was coming for them before they could have children to whom they might pass it on.

This might explain some of Paul’s views on celibacy and marriage, which would have been contrary to Jewish tradition. These views, in turn, undoubtedly influenced the monastic tradition.

Some extremely conservative evangelicals would argue that all four gospels were written by disciples or contemporaries of Jesus. But I would ask you to remember that these are the same people who like to say that Moses wrote the Torah, which requires him to have written of his own death. Seems unlikely to me. So, I think we have to at least be open to the possibility that the Gospels were written after the death of Jesus’ contemporaries.

Does this mean that we should automatically disregard the New Testament as nothing but propaganda for a fledgling religion, a sect of Jews who were concerned with communal living? Well, oral history isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to scripture. The myths that make up Greek and Roman mythology were originally transmitted this way. This is also probably true for much of the Old Testament as well.

One great argument for the accuracy of oral tradition is the commonality of the flood myth amongst various cultures. Given that it’s a story that circulated through numerous peoples in geographical areas that couldn’t have influenced one another, there seems to be at least one case for the relative accuracy of oral tradition.

November 20, 2010 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

Early Christianity: The Apostle John

Damian. "Jesus Christ and St. John the Ap...

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“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (John 1:6-8)

This post is about John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. John and his brother James were Galilean fishermen from a family of distinction. They were originally disciples of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. Some say that John and Andrew were cousins of Jesus, through their mother, Salome.

John, like Peter, was sometimes quick to anger. He seems to have been a favorite of the Lord’s since he was present at many important events in Jesus’ ministry. As Jesus was on the cross dying he asked John to take care of his mother Mary in his absence and even told her that she had a new son in John.

John was one of the key leaders in the early church. Along with James the Just, Peter and Paul, he built the early Christian church and presided over the church in Ephesus for many years. John had disciples of his own, and some scholars believe that it is one of these disciples and not John himself who wrote the Gospel of John.

The authorship of I John, II John, and III John, the Gospel of John, and the Book of Revelation have generally been attributed to the disciple John, but modern scholars largely dismiss this idea, believing that the letters, gospel and apocalyptic vision were written by two or three separate authors.

John was present at the Pentecost and preached with Peter in Samaria. He was thrown in jail with Peter. John preached in Judea for twelve years until persecution of Christians caused them to generally flee the area, and he ended up in Ephesus where he stayed for many years.  The letters that bear his name were written there.

John was the longest living of all of Jesus’ disciples and is believed to have lived until approximately 100 C.E. Although he was eventually exiled on the island of Patmos and spent time in prison for his beliefs, he is the only one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples to escape death from violence (Judas having taken his own life and the others suffering martyrdom).

The Gospel of John is a lasting tribute to his memory. It is my personal favorite gospel, in that the language is of a superior literary quality. It’s also more concerned with theology than the other gospels. John’s gospel is less concerned with presenting factual evidence for Jesus’ divinity and establishing his claim as Messiah and more concerned with conveying the essence of Jesus’ message: love one another.

The other three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are generally grouped together and referred to as the synoptic gospels, so named because they have many incidents in common with one another. Matthew, Mark and Luke seem more preoccupied with a historical account of Jesus’ ministry than with a summary of his message.

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

If you haven’t done so already you really owe it to yourself to read his message. The first link goes right to the Bible Gateway site where you can read the entire Gospel of John online.

November 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm 1 comment

Chicken Shit Bingo

There’s a bar here in Austin called Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon that does something called Chicken Shit Bingo every Sunday evening from 4 P.M. to 8 P.M. A couple of my girlfriends and I were going to partake of the experience since it has taken on an Austin legendary status. Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon is a long, skinny dive bar on Burnet Road that plays country western and features some kick ass live musicians. For Chicken Shit Bingo we got to listen to Dale Watson.

Chicken Shit Bingo, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, is a bingo where the caller is really the chicken. Feed is put down on a large plywood bingo board that’s covered in a crate with chicken wire, and whichever number the chicken shits on is the number that everyone marks on their cards. You pay for a card, and if you win then I presume you get to take the pot home.

One of my girlfriends “chickened” out on me, shall we say. The other girlfriend and I met at precisely 4 P.M. on Sunday night. We ordered two beers. We could have eaten there since chili dogs out of Crock Pots were provided as a courtesy for our enjoyment. We just chose not to do so. We stayed until 5:30. First off, let me say, Dale Watson is ridiculously talented. His first set was great. There was a couple swing dancing to the up tempo numbers on a dance floor that must have been the size of a floor tile. They were fun to watch.

Also, you, Hot Guy, who looks sort of like Matthew McConaughey! You were wearing a navy bandana around your head and a red hankie out of the left ass pocket of your jeans and walking around with a camera – call me.

Unfortunately, we didn’t end up staying for the Chicken Shit Bingo. The line to buy cards to play was ridiculous. The bar was overcrowded. I guarantee you that if a fire marshall would have made an inspection at that moment the place would have been shut down on the spot. I am going to guess that there might have been close to one hundred people there in a bar without central heating and air. There’s one window unit literally kept together with duct tape that looks like it might have enough horsepower to keep one small bedroom cool, and some ceiling fans. I was literally going to sweat to death before the chicken could get done shitting.

Some additional observations: my friend and I saw a young family enter the bar with two preschool aged children. Only in Texas can you see a mother with toddler on hip, with the aforementioned toddler holding a pocket sized version of the New Testament, next to Dad, who is holding a beer in one hand and his gambling money in the other, on a Sunday afternoon. All this in a state where liquor stores are required to be closed on Sundays. That being said Ginny’s does have a family friendly sort of atmosphere. You have to get up and make a walk to the bar to get a beer for yourself, but the wait staff will pass the hat themselves to make sure the musicians get tipped.

My friend and I left and decided to go to Trudy’s North Star for some margaritas and Tex-Mex at a place that’s definitely not part of the Keep Austin Weird movement. In its favor: the food was good, the place was cool, and someone served you your drinks. My friend and I would definitely go back to Ginny’s again. We are going in the winter and bringing our own personal fans and fire extinguishers…just in case.

June 27, 2009 at 1:43 am Leave a comment

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