Saturday, June 30, 2012

NT Notes - Mark 1 - 10

In November 2010, I set out to re-read the Bible from start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation. By the end of the year, I stumbled upon Project: The King and I - a blog by Bruce that also attempted to re-read the Bible, except in an open "book club" format. It was great fun, especially the first several months of the OT, which brought out believers and non believers in many digressions of apologia. Over all, it was civil and worthwhile, but a frequent grind. It heightened my interested in Christian apologetics - there were some elementary attempts by a few specific believers (who shall remain nameless) at defending the faith that were maddeningly inane.

That blog appears to be on hiatus now. Can't blame Bruce - this is tedious stuff. The end of the OT is a dreadful bore, and for most ex-Christians, the NT is old ground - nothing new to see. I still want to get through it, though, so I'll unearth my notes and slog through the New Testament on an infrequent basis here.

Today, a quick look at a few chapters from the Book of Matthew.

First, it should be noted that many NT scholars believe that Mark was the first Gospel written, followed by Matthew and Luke, then by John. Wikipedia, speaking about those scholars, states:

Their conclusion is largely based upon an analysis of the language and content relationship between the various books.

I believe a shallow summary would be that the "Markan Priority" view holds that Mark was written first because its verses appear in both Matthew and Luke so that it appears to be the common ancestor of both texts. Because Mark, Matthew and Luke share many points about Jesus, they are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels. John looks like it is written from an entirely different viewpoint, and for an largely different purpose and audience.

Second, there is a school of thought that places Matthew as the first Gospel written. This is called the "Matthean Priority" view, as opposed to Markan Priority. The Matthean view seeks to include the birth narrative and resurrection as fundamental, which Mark does not provide. Note that Mark 9-20 are widely believed to be later additions to the original texts, and thus make it appear that the oldest gospel says nothing of Jesus' virgin birth or resurrection - major components of the Christ mythology.

This minority view, aka "The Augustinian hypothesis":

... addresses certain fundamental points of contention surrounding the synoptic problem, such as how reliable the early Christian tradition is...

Third, and the point that jumped out at me many years ago during my escape from Christianity, is that the earliest texts written that refer to Jesus are from Paul, usually considered to be Thessalonians c. 49-51 CE:

  • First Thessalonians (ca. 51 AD)
  • Philippians (ca. 52-54 AD)
  • Philemon (ca. 52-54 AD)
  • First Corinthians (ca. 53-54 AD)
  • Galatians (ca. 55 AD)
  • Second Corinthians (ca. 55-56 AD)
  • Romans (ca. 55-58 AD)
Some scholars believe that Galatians should be dated at 49 C.E. - which is worth noting. Regardless, Paul's works appear to be a good 19-20 years before the gospels. His references to Jesus are (in my understanding, which I'll confirm upon re-reading) the product of word of mouth and/ or revelation, not personal experience with Jesus. This makes the Gospels, in my view, more decoupled from reality than I originally perceived them as a young, fervent Christian.

and now...


This will be a light, superficial treatment that highlights the action without attempting to glean any deeper meaning.

Chapter: 1: the generations from Abraham to Joseph (through King David) are enumerated. Wonder why Joseph is included, since he's not the dad! Mary's found to be with child, an angel appears and tells Joe to chill, it's cool, Jesus is born of a virgin, just like the prophecy said. Remember to look hard for the prophecy in the OT ... It's pretty vague, as all prophecies necessarily are.

Chapter 2: explains that JC was born in Bethlehem, that Herod wants to kill the new born messiah, and that JC has to be hidden (ala Moses). There are also wise men, angels, and they move to Nazareth. Never mind that a historical Nazareth doesn't exist at that time:

In 1620 the Catholic Church purchased an area in the Nazareth basin ... This "Venerated Area" underwent extensive excavation in 1955 ... the settlement apparently came to an abrupt end about 720 BC...

Chapter 3: John the baptist, JC gets baptized - (KJV) Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Chapter 4: JC is tempted by the devil - repels him with aphorisms, starts his ministry, gathers apostles to be "fishers of men"

Chapter 5: more famous aphorisms! ... very memorable chapter. Worth being familiar with!

Chapter 6: still more of Jesus speaking. I noted that his words start at 5:3 and end at 7:28.

Chapter 7: finishes Jesus' teachings.

Chapter 8: Jesus comes down off the mountain, heals a leper, tells him to tell no one. In Capernaum, he heals a centurion's servant. He then cures Peter's mom, then casts some demons into the sea - all in all, a magicky good time was had by all.

Chapter 9: more healing and good sayings and a declaration by JC that he has the power to forgive sins. He picks up Matthew as a follower - which raises the question of which Matthew this is. If it's supposed to be the gospel-writer, then this doesn't make sense! He then raises a ruler's daughter from the dead; heals a dumb man by driving out a demon, and continues to teach and to be followed by multitudes. Then we have 2 verses that, although sounding innocuous enough, may be the beginning of the most sinister scam foisted upon the human race:

He's gloating about all the of the uneducated rubes that are about to throw away their independence and reason. Do I read that right? ;-D

Chapter 10: JC confers powers onto the 12 apostles and sends them out to do work, telling them all manner of magicky stuff to do. He shows that he's a jealous twit, just like his dad:

All said, Jesus does some good, but shows some of the same traits that make daddy such a dick in the Old Testament. You can see that the cracks are already there.

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