An Amazing Life: Jesus
and the Nozerim
Then Jesus explained: "My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. John 4:3
“‘Go to this people and say,
Otherwise they might see with their
(Isaiah 6:9,10 from the Septuagint)
"Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people. Ezekiel 12:2.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them listen!" Mat. 11:15.
(A favorite refrain of Jesus).
Jesus was, more than anything, a “rabbi” - a teacher of all of the laws found in the Torah, both written and oral. Jesus saw the goal of rabbinical teaching to be as much “healing” as “instruction”. His teaching was far from radical although his emphasis was new: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat. 4:17; Mk 1:15).
To repent meant turning to God through the pure form of righteousness: honoring God’s Will. God’s Will is that we obey Divine Law (the Torah and the Commandments) primarily through direct manifestation of Divine love. Divine love simply requires that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Lev. 19:18). With a humble repentant heart and acts of lovingkindness, we have prepared for the coming Kingdom of God – which is at hand.
Of course, there was more. But, if we learned nothing more from Jesus, we would have to deem him a great teacher. Indeed, we seem to get so involved in needless details and disputes about his other teachings that we lose sight of his most basic tenants.
Separating Jesus’ Teachings from the Pauline
The first challenge in discussing the teachings of Jesus is to figure out what he actually taught. Most Christians tend to blindly assume that whatever was put in the New Testament was said and taught by Jesus. This is unquestionably wrong and reflects intentional ignorance of both the history of the canon and the alternative sources. See Appendix XVII.
A good starting point in the quest for understanding the teachings of Jesus would be to understand his culture – especially Judaism of the 1st century. Another would be to understand his language, education, and influences. And then we would need a good filter in order to identify and challenge the editorial additions and doctrinal goals of the writers of the gospels (both New Testament and others). It is probably the last of these that is easiest to develop since many are derived directly from the other (larger) part of the New Testament – the Epistles of Paul.
Luckily, there is no need to “reinvent the wheel” in this regard – scholars with appropriate expertise have done much of the work for us. They are able to analyze language, intent, context, and consistency with remarkable tools and methods to glean what is more authentic. This is not a perfect science with full objective results, but it provides a good starting point and gives us a gradient ranging from very likely to be authentic to almost certainly not authentic. A close reading of the basis for making these determinations is highly instructive in itself, and those interested should go to the sources given below.
Let us begin with three lists offered by critical scholars who have applied rigorous historical-critical critera to ascertain which statements of Jesus from the synoptic and non-synoptic tradition are authentic. Two of the lists only provide sayings are deemed most authentic…
Dr. James Tabor: “These results are based on the work of Norman Perrin and R. H. Fuller. More recently Dominic Crossan has expanded the list considerably, but eliminated the apocalyptic elements that Perrin and Fuller felt were basic.
KINGDOM OF GOD
time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. (Mk 1:15a)
if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God
has come upon you. (Lk 11:20)
kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say,
"Lo, here it is!" or "There!" for behold, the kingdom of God
is in the midst of you. (Lk 17:20-21)
the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven has suffered
violence, and men of violence plunder it. (Matt 11:12)
PARABLES IN THEIR NONALLEGORICAL FORM
(Lk 10-30-36) Demand to say what cannot be said
Steward (Lk 16:1-9) Demand to applaud what cannot be applauded
& Publican (Lk 18-10-14) Reversal of judgement
Guest (Lk 14:7-11) World turned upside down
Treasure/Pearl (Mt 13:44-46) Total, radical turn
the dead to bury their own dead (Lk 9:60a)
anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone
would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if anyone
forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Mt 5:39b-41
whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake
[Perrin suggests here the original would have read, "for the sake of the
Kingdom of God"] and the gospel's will save it. (Mk 8:35)
hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! . . . it
is easier for a camel (rope) to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich
man to enter the kingdom of God. (Mk 10:23b, 25)
many that are first will be last, and the last first (Mk 10:31)
who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of
God. (Lk 9:62)
is nothing outside a person, which by going into him can defile him; but the
things which come out of a person are what defile him. (Mk 7:15)
does not receive the kingdom of God like a child cannot enter it. (Lk 10:15)
your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . . (Mt 5:44f)
not at all, let your yes be yes, your no be no . . . (Mt 5:34f)
version of divorce teaching: Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries
another, she commits adultery.
LORD'S PRAYER (Luke 11:2-4)
[Abba?], hallowed be your name
The next compilation brings together material from several sources to provide a list of sayings “most likely to reflect things that Jesus actually said”. It was compiled by Evan Lewis at the Dunedin Methodist Parish (New Zealand). ("Th" in the list references the Gospel of Thomas. See http://www.dunedinmethodist.org.nz/articles/view/the-gospel-of-thomas/).
The explanatory material associated with this list has sufficient merit that I reprint it here:
Jesus summed up his teaching in the phrase "the kingdom of God", which meant community under God's rule. For Jesus this certainly did not imply biblical legalism. Nor did it establish the authority of the temple priesthood and their emissaries. It was much more a matter of getting back to the prophets' emphasis on Israel's founding inspiration.
One problem we have is that our way of thinking about relationships is very different from that of first century Mediterranean people. We are individuals, understanding ourselves introspectively. We think out who we are. They were group-oriented. They were who they were because they were incorporated in a particular community. They were defined by their community and by the way others regarded them, not by what they thought of themselves. Conscience was the accusing voice of others, not an interior sense of guilt. Most often the reference group was the family. But it could be a group constituted in a different way.
Jesus was calling people into a new community under God, which he intended as an effective response to society's ills. That meant leaving an old community which was not proving equal to the challenge of the times. 'Hating' the members of your family did not imply violent antipathy (though that could happen). It did mean detachment from the old and attachment to the new.
Jesus was renowned as a healer and as one who could drive out demons. He expected the same skills to appear in his community. Anthropologists explain to us that in his situation healing didn't mean curing the disease. It meant finding a solution for the psychic and social calamity that had befallen people because of their condition. (Think of the problems of the 'leper' in biblical times or a sufferer from AIDS in our day.)
The Sayings of
men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a
tax-collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed like this:
"I thank thee, God, that I am not like the rest of men,
greedy, dishonest, adulterous; or even like this
tax-collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all
that I get." The tax-collector kept his distance and would not
even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying,
"God have mercy on me, sinner that I am." It was
this man, not the other, who went home released from his sins. Lk
will destroy this temple and no one will be able to rebuild it. Th 71 Mk
14:58 Mt 26:61.
are the pharisees! They are like a dog lying in a manger.
The dog doesn't eat and it won't let the cattle eat.Th 102 Th 39 Lk
11:52 Mt 23:13.
of the scholars who like to wear long robes, and to receive salutations in
the market places, and to have the best seats in synagogues, and the
places of honour at feasts. Lk 11:43 Mt 23:5-7.
do you wash the outside of the cup? Don't you know that the one who
made the inside is also the one who made the outside? Th 89 Mt 23:25f
is not what goes into a man from outside that can make him unclean.
It's what comes out of him that makes him unclean. Mk 7:15 Mt 15:10f
sabbath was created for people, not people for the sabbath day. Mk 2:27.
cannot serve God and Money. Lk 16:13 Mt 6:24.
is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to
enter the kingdom of God. Mk 10:25 Mt 19:24 Lk 18:25.
was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously
every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus,
covered with sores. He would have been glad to eat the scraps from
the rich man's table. Dogs used to come and lick his sores.
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried, and was in Hades in agony.
He looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus beside him.
"Father Abraham," he called out, "take pity on me!
Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in
anguish in this flame." But Abraham said, "Remember,
son, that all the good things were yours while you were alive, and
Lazarus had all the bad. Now he is comforted here and you are in
distress. And besides, a great chasm has been fixed between
you and us. No one is able to cross it from our side, and none
may cross from there to us. Lk 16:19-26.
was a rich man whose land yielded heavy crops. He debated with
himself: "What am I to do? I have nowhere to store my
produce. This is what I will do. I will pull down my
barns and build bigger ones. That's where I will store all my grain
and my goods. Then I can tell myself, 'You have plenty laid up
for many years. So take your ease, eat, drink, and
be merry.' " But God said, "Tonight your life will
end. Then who will have those things you have put in store?" Lk
12:16-20 Th 63.
one can be the slave of two masters. Either he will hate the first
and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and think nothing
of the second. Lk 16:13 Mt 6:24 Th 47.
like a man planning a journey who called his servants and put capital in their
hands. He gave one five bags of gold, another two, and
another one, each according to his ability. Then he set out.
The man with the five bags began trading right away and made a profit of five
bags. The man who had the two bags added two. But the
one who had received a single bag of gold dug a hole in the ground and hid his
master's money. Eventually their master returned and called them to
account. The servant entrusted with five bags produced the five he
had made. "Master," he said, "you left
five bags with me. See, I have gained five more."
"Well done, my good and trusty servant!" said the master.
"You have proved trustworthy with a little. Now I'll give you a
greater responsibility. Come and share your master's delight."
The man with the two bags then came and said, "Master, you left
two bags with me. See, I have gained two more."
"Well done, my good and trusty servant!" said the master.
"You have proved trustworthy with a little. Now I'll give you a
greater responsibility. Come and share your master's delight."
Then the man entrusted with one bag came and said, "Master, I
knew you to be a hard man. You reap where you have not sown.
You gather where you have not scattered. So I was afraid and I went
and hid your gold in the ground. Here is what belongs to you."
"You lazy rascal," said the master. "You knew
that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered?
Then you should have invested my money with the bankers. On my
return I would have received what is mine with interest. Take the
bag from him and hand it to the one with the ten bags. Throw this
useless servant out." Mt 25:14-28 Lk 19:12-27.
the emperor what belongs to the emperor. Pay God what belongs to
God. Mk 12:17 Mt 22:21 Lk 20:25 Th 100.
a blind person is leading a blind person, both will end up in a ditch. Lk
6:39 Mt 15:14 Th 34.
cannot mount two horses at once, or bend two bows. Th 47.
did you go out to the desert? To see reeds swaying in the wind?
To see a man in fine clothing? You find the grandly dressed and
those who live in luxury in royal courts. What did you go out to
see? A prophet? Yes indeed! And more than a
prophet. Lk 7:24-26 Mt 11:7f Th 78.
those born of women, from Adam to John the Baptist, there is no one
so much greater than John that his eyes should not be lowered before him.
Yet whoever among you becomes a child will know the kingdom, and will be
greater than John. Th 46 Mt 11:11 Lk 7:28.
John it was the Law and the prophets. Since then there is the good
news of the kingdom of God, and everyone is breaking in violently. Lk
16:16 Mt 11:12.
man said to Jesus, "Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with
me." Jesus said to him, "Man, who made me a
divider?" Lk 12:13f Th 72.
prophet is welcome on his home ground; doctors don't cure those who know
them. Th 31 Mk 6:4 Mt 13:57 Lk 4:24.
do you call me good? No one is good except for God alone. Mk 10:18
Mt 19:17 Lk 18:19.
have cast fire upon the earth, and see, I am watching over it until
it blazes up. Th 10 Lk 12:49.
accepts you accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent
me. Lk 10:16 Mt 10:40.
your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Lk 12:34.
kingdom of God is like treasure buried in a field. The man who found
it buried it again. Delighted, he went and sold everything he
had and bought the field. Mt 13:44 Th 109.
kingdom is like a merchant who had a consignment of merchandise and then
discovered a pearl. The merchant was shrewd. He sold the
merchandise and bought the pearl for himself. Th 76 Mt 13:45.
man was expecting guests. When the dinner was prepared he sent his
slave to call them. The slave said to the first, "My
master asks you to come." But that one said, "Some
merchants who owe me money will be calling on me tonight. I must
give them instructions. Please excuse me from the dinner."
The slave went to another to say, "My master asks you to come."
But he said to the slave, "I have bought a house and have been called
away for a day. I won't have the time." Another
said, "My friend is to be married and I am to arrange the banquet.
I can't come. Please excuse me from the dinner."
Another said, "I have bought an estate and I am planning to collect
the rent. I won't be able to come. Please excuse
me." The slave went back and said to his master,
"The people whom you invited to dinner have asked to be excused."
The master said to his slave, "Go out to the streets and bring back
whoever you find, to have dinner." Th 64 Lk 14:16-24 Mt
kingdom of God is like this. A landowner once went out early in the
morning to hire labourers for his vineyard; and after agreeing to pay them
the usual day's wage he sent them off to work. Three hours later he
saw some more men standing idle in the marketplace. "Go and
join the others in the vineyard," he said, "and I will pay
you a fair wage. So off they went. At midday he went out
again, and at three in the afternoon, and made the same arrangement
as before. An hour before sunset he found another group standing
there and said to them, "Why are you standing around like this all
day with nothing to do?" "Because no one has hired
us." "Then go and join the rest in the vineyard."
When evening fell, the owner said to his steward, "Call the
labourers and give them their pay, beginning with those who came last and
ending with the first." Those who had been taken on an hour
before sunset came forward, and were paid the full day's wage.
When it was the turn of those who had come first they expected something extra,
but were paid the same as the others. As they took their pay they
grumbled at their employer: "These latecomers have done only one
hour's work, yet you have made them equal with us, who have sweated
the whole day long in the blazing sun!" The owner turned to one
of them and said, "Friend, I am not being unfair to you.
You agreed on the usual daily wage, didn't you? Take your pay
and go home. I choose to pay the last man the same as you.
Surely I am free to do what I like with my own money? Why be jealous
because I am kind?" Mt 20:1-15.
one sews a new patch onto an old garment, and no one puts new wine into
old wineskins. Mk 2:21f Mt 9:16f Lk 5:36f Th 47.
one drinks old wine and then wants to drink new wine. Th 47 Lk 5:39.
kingdom of God is like a woman mixing yeast into dough and turning it all into
large loaves. Th 96 Mt 13:33 Lk 13:20f.
sower went out to sow. And as he sowed some seed fell along the
path, and birds came and ate it. Some fell on rocky ground
where it had little soil, and since it had no root it withered.
Some fell among thorns which grew up and choked it, and it gave no grain.
But other seed fell into good ground and brought forth grain, growing and
increasing and yielding thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold. Mk
4:3-8 Mt 13:3-8 Lk 8:5-8 Th 9.
is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and then go to bed and
get up again, night and day. The seed sprouts and grows,
he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the
blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But
when the grain is ripe he puts in the sickle right away, because it is now
harvest-time. Mk 4:26-29.
not sparrows sold for very little? Yet not one of them is forgotten
by God. The very hairs on your head have been counted.
Fear not. You are worth more than a flock of sparrows. Lk 12:6f
be anxious about your life, what you are going to eat, or about your
body, what you will wear. Think about the ravens. They
don't sow or reap. They don't have storehouses or barns, yet God
feeds them. Consider how the field-flowers grow. They
don't toil or spin. And yet even Solomon in all his splendour wasn't
adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass,
which is there today and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, won't he all the
more clothe you? Mt 6:25-30 Lk 12:22-28 Th 36.
your son asks you for a loaf of bread who among you would give him a stone?
Or for a fish would you give him a snake? If you know how to give
good gifts to your children, how much more will God give good gifts to
those who ask? Mt 7:9-11 Lk 11:11-13.
are you who are destitute. The kingdom of God belongs to you. Lk
6:20 Mt 5:3 Th 54.
are you who are hungry now. Your hunger will be satisfied. Lk 6:21
Mt 5:6 Th 69.
are you who are weeping. You will be laughing. Lk 6:21 Mt 5:4.
kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It's a tiny seed, but
when it falls on good soil it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for
birds of the sky. Th 20 Mk 4:30-32 Mt 13:31f Lk 13:19.
who have will get more. From those without, even what they do
have will be taken. Mk 4:25 Lk 8:18, 19:26 Mt 13:12, 25:29 Th
does not hate his father and mother cannot be my disciple. Whoever
does not hate his brothers and sisters cannot be my disciple. Th 55, 101
Mt 10:37 Lk 14:26.
you imagine I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you,
but rather conflict. After this five in one house will be divided,
three against two and two against three. Father will be pitted
against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter
against her mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Lk 12:51-53 Mt 10:34-36
was a man who had two sons and the younger said to his father,
"Father, give me my share of the property." So he
divided his estate between them. Shortly afterwards the younger son
turned his share into cash and left home for a distant country where he
squandered it in reckless living. He had spent it all when a severe
famine fell upon that country and he began to feel the pinch. He
went and attached himself to one of the local landowners who sent him out to his
farm to mind the pigs. He would have been glad to fill his belly
with the pods the pigs were eating. No one gave him anything.
Then he came to his senses and said, "How many of my father's paid
servants have more food than they can eat, and here am I, starving
to death! I will go back to my father and say to him, 'Father,
I have sinned, against God and against you. I'm no longer fit
to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired
servants.'" So he set out for his father's house.
But while he was still a long way off his father saw him, and his heart
went out to him. He ran to meet him, flung his arms round him,
and kissed him. The son said, "Father, I have
sinned, against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be
called your son." But the father said to his servants,
"Quick! fetch a robe, my best one, and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Bring the fatted
calf and kill it, and let us have a feast to celebrate the day.
For this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and
is found." And the festivities began.
The elder son was out on the farm. On his way back, as he
approached the house he heard music and dancing. He called one of
the servants and asked what it meant. The servant told him,
"Your brother has come home, and your father has killed the fatted
calf because he has him back safe and sound." But the elder son
was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with
him; but he retorted, "You know how I have slaved for you all
these years; I never once disobeyed your orders. Yet you never
gave me as much as a kid, for a feast with my friends. But now
that this son of yours turns up, after running through your money with his
women, you kill the fatted calf for him." "My
boy," said the father, "you are always with me, and
everything I have is yours. Lk 15:11-31.
was told, "Your brothers and your mother are standing outside."
He said, "Those here who do the will of God are my brothers and my
mother." Th 99 Mk 3:32-35 Mt 12:46-50 Lk 8:19-21.
hang on to your life is to lose it. To let go of your life is to
save it. Lk 17:33, 9:24 Mt 10:39, 16:25 Mk 8:35 Jn 12:25.
have holes and birds have nests, but human beings have nowhere to lay
themselves down and rest. Th 86 Lk 9:58 Mt 8:20.
passersby. Th 42.
you follow me you carry a cross. Lk 14:27, 9:23 Mt 10:38, 16:24 Mk
8:34 Th 55.
first will be last and the last first. Lk 13:30 Mt 19:30, 20:16 Mk
10:31 Th 4.
you give in charity don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
Mt 6:3 Th 62.
you have money, don't lend it at interest. Give it to someone
who won't be able to return it. Th 95 Lk 6:34.
and you will be forgiven. Mk 11:25 Mt 6:14f Lk 6:37.
someone wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times
saying, "I am sorry", you must forgive. Lk 17:4 Mt
others the way you would like them to treat you. Lk 6:31 Mt 7:12 Th
your enemies. Lk 6:28 Mt 5:44.
one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does he not leave
the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the missing one till he has
found it? How delighted he is then! He lifts it onto his
shoulders, and home he goes to call his friends and neighbours together.
"Celebrate with me!" he cries. "I have
found my lost sheep." Lk 15:4-6 Mt 18:12f Th 107.
a woman has ten pieces of silver and loses one of them, does she not light
the lamp, sweep out the house, and look in every corner till she has
found it? And when she has, she calls her friends and
neighbours together and says, "Rejoice with me! I have
found the piece that I lost." Lk 15:8-9.
someone hits you on the cheek offer the other as well. When someone
takes your coat let him have your shirt too. Lk 6:29 Mt 5:39f.
notice the speck in your brother's eye, but you don't see the log in your
own eye. When you take the log out of your own eye you will be able
to see to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Lk 6:41f Mt 7:3-5
who is not against you is on your side. Mk 9:40 Lk 9:50, 11:23 Mt
man had a fig-tree in his vineyard. He came looking for its fruit,
but found none. So he said to the vine-dresser, "For the
last three years I have sought fruit on this fig-tree and found none.
Cut it down. Why should it go on using up the soil?"
But the vine-dresser replied, "Leave it for another year, sir,
while I dig round it and manure it. If it bears next season,
well and good. If not, you shall have it cut down." Lk
a neighbour calls out to you in the middle of the night, "Friend,
lend me three loaves. A travelling friend of mine has just shown up,
and I have nothing to offer him." You might want to reply,
"Don't bother me. The door is already bolted and my children
and I are in bed. I can't get up at this time of night to give you
anything." But even though friendship won't move you to help
your neighbour, nevertheless you will stir yourself to assist him because
you'd be ashamed not to. Lk 11:5-8.
kingdom of God is like a woman who was carrying a jar of flour.
While she was going along a distant road the handle broke and the flour spilled
behind her along the way. She was unaware of it, she hadn't
noticed a problem. When she reached her house she put the jar down,
and discovered that it was empty. Th 97.
was once a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. To
begin with there appeared before him a man who owed ten thousand talents.
Because he had no means of paying, his master ordered him to be sold to
meet the debt, with his wife and children and all his possessions.
At this the servant threw himself down at his master's feet.
"Give me time," he said, "and I will repay
everything." The master felt so sorry for him that he cancelled
the debt and let him go. As he went out he ran into a fellow-servant
who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him by the throat and
said, "Pay me what you owe me." His fellow servant
fell at his feet and implored him, "Just give me time and I will
repay you." But the other refused and had him jailed until he
should pay the debt. Their fellow-servants were very distressed when
they saw what had happened and they reported the whole affair to their master.
He accordingly sent for the man. "You scoundrel!" he
said to him. "I cancelled all that debt when you appealed to
me. Were you not bound to show the same concern that I showed for
you?" In his anger the master handed him over to the torturers
till he should pay his debt. Mt 18:23-34.
kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed. They won't
say, "Here it is!" or "There it is!"
The kingdom of God is among you. Lk 17:20f Th 113.
no purse, no bag, no sandals, nor two tunics.
Whatever house you enter, eat what is set before you. Heal the
sick and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come upon you." Lk
10:4,7,9 and parallels.
I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has
arrived for you. Lk 11:20 Mt 12:28.
grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? Lk 6:44 Mt 7:16
is nothing covered up that will not be uncovered, nothing hidden that will
not be made known. Lk 12:2, 8:17 Mt 10:26 Mk 4:22 Th 5, 6.
use oaths, whether 'by heaven' or 'by earth' or by
anything else. When you say yes or no let it be plain 'Yes'
or 'No'. James 5:12 Mt 5:34-37.
me, and leave it to the dead to bury their own dead. Lk 9:60 Mt
you have ears then use them! Mk 4:9 (many parallels).
city that stands on a hill can't be hidden. Mt 5:14 Th 32.
must be as crafty as snakes, and as innocent as doves. Mt 10:16 Th
you see a cloud rising in the west you immediately know that it's going to rain,
and indeed it does. When the south wind blows you predict scorching
heat, and that's what happens. You can read earth and sky.
Why can't you interpret the present time? Lk 12:54-56 Mt 16:2f Th
one lights a lamp and then puts it in a cellar or under a bushel. It
goes on a stand so that those who come in may see the light. Lk 11:33, 8:16
Mt 5:15 Mk 4:21 Th 33.
salt loses its saltiness what will you season it with? Lk 14:34 Mt 5:13
was a judge who cared nothing for God or man, and in the same town there
was a widow who constantly came to him demanding justice against her opponent.
For a long time he refused. But in the end he said to himself,
"True, I care nothing for God or man, but this widow is such a
nuisance that I will see her righted before she wears me out with her
persistence." Lk 18:2-5.
one can break into a strong man's house and plunder his goods unless he has
first tied up the strong man. Only then can he ransack the house. Mk
3:27 Mt 12:29 Lk 11:21f Th 35.
was a rich man who had received accusations that his steward was squandering his
property. So he sent for the steward and said, "What is
this that I hear about you? Produce your accounts. You
can't be manager here any longer." The steward said to himself,
"What am I to do, now that my master is firing me? I
haven't the strength to dig. I'm ashamed to beg. Aha!
I know what I can do so that doors will still open for me after I am
dismissed." He summoned his master's debtors one by one.
To the first he said, "How much do you owe my master?"
He replied, "A thousand gallons of olive oil." The
steward said, "Here is your account. Sit down and make it
five hundred. Be quick about it." Then he said to
another, "How much do you owe?" He said,
"A thousand bushels of wheat", and was told, "Take your account
and make it eight hundred." The master praised the calculating
steward because he had acted shrewdly. Lk 16:1-8a.
I tell you in the dark declare in the light. What you hear whispered
announce from the rooftops. Mt 10:27 Lk 12:3 Th 33.
and it will be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and
it will be opened for you. Lk 11:9 Mt 7:7 Th 2, 92, 94.
man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell among thieves,
who stripped him and beat him, and then went off, leaving him
half-dead. It happened that a priest was going down that road.
When he saw him he passed by on the other side. In the same way a
Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the
other side. But a Samaritan travelling that road found him,
and when he saw him he was moved to pity. He went and bound up his
wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own
animal and took him to an inn and tended him there. The next day he
took out two coins and gave them to the innkeeper. He said,
"Look after him, and whatever more you spend I will repay you when I
come back." LK 10-25-37.
(This list from: http://www.dunedinmethodist.org.nz/archive/bibl/words.htm).
Finally, I offer a partial list and related material as compiled by “The Jesus Seminar” a group of critical scholars and laymen founded by Robert Funk (as the “Westar Institute”). They produced new translations of the New Testament and apocrypha to use as textual sources and published the results of their work in four books: “The Complete Gospels - Scholars Version” ( HarperCollins 1994); “The Five Gospels” (Macmillan 1993), “The Acts of Jesus” (HarperCollins 1998), and “The Gospel of Jesus” (Polebridge Press 1999). I consider their effort to be the most thorough and “fair” – albeit controversial.
In “The Five Gospels”, the scholars list their seven “pillars” developed since the end of the 18th century for the critical scholarship of Jesus:
Like most scholars of the historical Jesus, the Jesus Seminar treated the gospels as fallible historical artifacts, containing both authentic and inauthentic material. They used specific criteria for determining whether a particular saying or story is authentic, including the following:
Likewise, the fellows used these criteria for inauthenticity:
The following sayings were deemed most authentic by the Jesus Seminar (using their own "Scholar's Version" translation with % indicating the weighted average of those scholars in agreement):
sayings deemed “probably authentic” (top 15 of 75) by
the seminar were:
17. Lost Coin (75%): Lk15:8–9
18. Foxes have dens: Lk9:58 (74%), Mt8:20 (74%), Th86 (67%)
20. Friend at midnight (72%): Lk11:5–8
21. Two masters : Lk16:13a, Mt6:24a (72%); Th47:2 (65%)
22. Treasure: Mt13:44 (71%), Th109 (54%)
23. Lost sheep: Lk15:4–6 (70%), Mt18:12–13 (67%), Th107 (48%)
24. What goes in: Mk7:14–15 (70%), Th14:5 (67%), Mt15:10-11 (63%)
25. Corrupt judge (70%): Lk18:2–5
26. Prodigal son (70%): Lk15:11–32
In sum, the Seminar concluded that only about 18% of the various statements in the "five gospels" attributed to Jesus were likely spoken by Jesus (as reported). Nearly all of Jesus’ sayings in the Gospel of John were judged inauthentic (many corrupted by edits). The synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) did better, but there are variations in the reliability between those gospels indicated by the percentages above. The Seminar found two unique sayings from the Gospel of Thomas likely to be attributable to Jesus: the empty jar and the assassin. (Its other authentic sayings have parallels in the synoptic gospels).
The lists also include the sayings deemed likely to be inauthentic. Many of these are foundational elements of the Pauline Church (thus the controversy): Jesus’s divinity, the messianic/prophetic core, and theological dogma. In short, Jesus didn’t intend to start a church, found a new religion, or designate a supreme follower who he never met (Paul).
It is a true tragedy that so many who claim to honor and accept Jesus as divine spend so little effort in trying to ascertain his teachings (instead relying on someone else to tell them what those teachings were and what they meant). Luckily, the gist of those teachings were retained because they had enough merit that Paul couldn’t have built his church without relying upon them. Because they were recorded in both an oral tradition and in writing, they were less corruptible and we may glean them from the record. I propose that it is also possible to glean some of Jesus’ teachings from his actions (as below) and by “reading between the lines” (also below). Clearly, such is less objective and reliable, but then so is most of what people think Jesus said and did.
Jesus believed that the Kingdom of God had already arrived in his time and was manifested in the way that he and his followers treated each other. He sought to share this notion with others in the manner it came to him – through devotion, humility, service, and love. Sayings beyond this are questionable; sayings in contradiction to this are sacrilege.
The Source Gospel
Biblical scholars have long recognized the commonalities of Matthew and Luke and as early as the 17th century speculated that the authors of Matthew and Luke drew some of that material from the Gospel of Mark. However, they also recognized that Matthew and Luke share large sections of text which are not found in Mark and some suggested that the common content probably came from a second common source, which is now known as “Q” (short for “Quelle” -"source” in German).
Thus, more than a century and a half ago, as renewed interest in “the historical Jesus” was just getting under way, there arose speculation that his sayings had been collected from the oral tradition and were written as a “sayings gospel”. Since we have no first-century copies of anything Christian, no copies of Q have been found, but textual analysis and increasingly sophisticated literary reconstruction methods have led to a reconstruction of the “Sayings Gospel Q”.
This Sayings Gospel lacks the “coloring” of the kerygma of cross and resurrection which is so familiar in the canonical Gospels. From it emerges a more historical Jesus previously “lost from sight by the heavy overlay of golden patina. Here the real Jesus, who actually lived in history, has his say.”
Some of the more notable portions of the New Testament believed to have originated in Q include:
The development of the Sayings Gospel Q also allows us to reframe the history of Jesus’ followers after the crucifixion. To those followers, it was Jesus’ words which mattered most and they collected Jesus' teachings as an oral tradition. With the Jewish-Roman war and the dispersing of the Jews (in 70 CE), the teachings appeared in clusters which became the written Sayings Gospel Q. Later writers used it as a foundation for a Hebrew Gospel and the early Gospel of Matthew. Subsequently, writers merged the Gospel of Mark into the Gospel of Matthew (especially in chapters 12-28) and began the insertion of Pauline themes and doctrine (or kerygma).
Eventually, the Jesus community of the Sayings Gospel Q lost its Jewish-Christian exclusivity and merged with the community of the Gospel of Matthew. The Matthew community ended up repudiating its Jewish core and turned to the Pauline gentiles, thus producing an enlarged version of the first major section of Matthew-Q, in which Jesus was claimed to be the Coming One predicted by John (note chapters 3-11 of Matthew). Finally, the Matthew community absorbed the gentile-Pauline Gospel of Mark and copied its contents as Matthew chapters 12-28.
The Jewish Jesus movement died as Q's Jewish basis disappeared from the gospels. Jesus was reframed as the resurrected Christ with a mission to evangelize all nations (the “Great Commission”). Myth and dogma grew and “Christianity”, with its canonical gospels, emerged. But the real Jesus and his actual sayings remained hidden at the core of those gospels and, in spite of everything built to hide this truth, it remained accessible and has been rediscovered. Now we can listen again to Jesus and experience his goal of a devout, righteous, loving, selfless society – the “Kingdom of God”.
"Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but do not do what I tell you?" This is the concluding exhortation of Jesus' inaugural sermon (Q 6:46) just preceding the double parable of houses built on rock or sand (Q 6:47-49).
You have eyes--can't you see? You have ears--can't you hear? (Mark 8:18).
The Acts of Jesus:
Jesus might well have said that actions speak as loud as words since teaching by example was clearly his way. As his brother James reminds us, even faith without works is dead (James 2:14, et seq.). As with his teachings, the starting point for discussing the acts of Jesus is to discern what is authentic from the chaff. As with his sayings, the Jesus Seminar has examined the various accounts and decided that the following were things likely done by Jesus or were accurately reported about him:
· He was born during the reign of Herod the Great.
· Jesus had a family who are named in the gospels.
· Jesus' relatives come to get him - Mark 3:20-21
· He was an itinerant sage who shared meals with social outcasts.
· Jesus proclaims the good news - Mark 1:14-15
· He practiced faith healing without the use of ancient medicine or magic, relieving afflictions we now consider psychosomatic.
· The blind man of Bethsaida - Mark 8:22-26
· The Beelzebul controversy - Luke 11:15-17
· Demand for a sign - Luke 11:29-30
· He was arrested in Jerusalem and was executed (crucified) by the Romans as a public nuisance (not for claiming to be the Son of God).
· The first list of appearances - Jesus appeared to Cephas: 1Cor 15:3-5
Here, it is useful to list some of the things the Jesus Seminar concluded were unlikely to have happened:
In essence, the Jesus Seminar followed the Jeffersonian idea that we can reject miracles as either myth or misunderstandings. They also recognized the efforts of the Pauline church to have Jesus fulfill messianic prophecies (even when they misunderstood those prophecies) by adding events and claims that were not historical to their gospels. To those who object to this approach, I ask: If you really wish to honor and respect Jesus, do you prefer belief in a myth about him or knowledge of the truth about him?
Throughout “An Amazing Life” I have tried to stay true to what is most likely and what is realistically possible given the record. Much of that has built from reasonable presumptions derived from the historical context, the actions likely to have been real, and the teachings which seem authentic. This is a list of the key presumptions I have worked from:
While the events of Jesus’ life are compelling, what happened afterwards is profound: a great many of Jesus’ followers accepted the idea that Jesus had been “resurrected from the dead”, thus proving divine favor. The core group of followers, led by his brother James, established a ministry of charity and continued teaching under Jesus’ name in Jerusalem. People told stories about Jesus that became legendary and his sayings and teachings were shared in an organized manner by the dispersed disciples. And then, along came Saul of Tarsus… (another story).
The Students of
"Why do you keep calling me 'Lord, Lord!' and then you don't do what I say?” Luke 6:46.
“The best evidence of great teaching appears in one’s students” (RVW). Jesus changed people’s lives in a positive way and this is the mark of great teaching. Ironically, none of Jesus’ students emerged as a well known or historically significant teacher – except the one he never met named Paul. James led the Jerusalem Council and the disciples of Jesus after the crucifixion, but it appears that the core followers of Jesus followed “the Great Commission” and travelled widely to spread the good news. Most met untimely and violent deaths (see Appendix XXI).
Soon after the murder of James, the Jews revolted against Rome and were soundly defeated. Their Temple was dismantled down to its foundation and the practice of their religion was banned throughout the Empire. The majority of Jews who escaped went east – outside the realm of Roman dominance. The close disciples generally kept their Jewish roots and beliefs (as Jesus had done), but were silenced thereby. Those who accepted Gentile ways and adopted non-Jewish beliefs distanced themselves from Judaism and Jesus’ core teachings and later formed a new religion based upon Jesus being the Messiah. That group then re-wrote the teachings and history of Jesus to advocate their doctrine and theology – the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles of the New Testament.
 Note that Appendix V – Jewish Laws and Customs – provides background relevant here.
 The first five books of the Jewish Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
 See Appendix XVII. I personally find the Thomas Gospel highly useful as reflects an earlier version (although not without its particular focus) of Jesus’ teachings and represents the sayings gospel model.
 Perhaps best known in “Funk and Wagnalls” – the popular reference works.
 For example, one well written criticism is at http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Five_Gospels.pdf.
 Similar sayings - "Pray for your enemies": POxy1224 6:1a; Didache 1:3; Poly-Phil 12:3; and "Love one another": John 13:34-35, Romans 13:8, 1 Peter 1:22 were rated likely inauthentic.
 The scholars also rated the saying in the Egerton Gospel 3:1-6 as authentic.
 The version in Matthew –Mt. 22:2-13 was rated at 26%.
 "The kingdom of the father is like a certain woman who was carrying a jar full of meal. While she was walking on the road, still some distance from home, the handle of the jar broke and the meal emptied out behind her on the road. She did not realize it; she had noticed no accident. When she reached her house, she set the jar down and found it empty." Gospel of Thomas 97.
 "The kingdom of the father is like a certain man who wanted to kill a powerful man. In his own house he drew his sword and stuck it into the wall in order to find out whether his hand could carry through. Then he slew the powerful man." Gospel of Thomas 98.
 Examples include: the Devil's three temptations of Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, and a group of individual sayings.
 Around 1830, Friedrich Schleiermacher posited that Papias of Hierapolis, writing around 125 CE, was referring to a sayings gospels when he wrote: "Matthew compiled the oracles (“logia”) of the Lord in a Hebrew manner of speech."
 One version is available at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/q-funk.html.
 From “The Real Jesus of the Sayings "Q" Gospel” by James M. Robinson available at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=542.
 The “Gospel of the Ebionites” is only known because seven brief quotations included in the Panarion (Ch. 30), as part of a polemic (heresiology) written by Epiphanius to point out inconsistencies in the beliefs and practices of the Ebionites relative to Nicene orthodoxy. For info about the Ebionites, see Appendix IX.
 One might think that the authors of the canonical gospels exemplified Jesus’ teaching, but few serious scholars believe that the gospels in the New Testament are properly attributed to Jesus’ close followers (Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John). The book of James may be attributed to Jesus’ brother, but such is unlikely.
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