What is Early Church History?

An article at the end of the Jewish Study Bible got me thinking. It made a nice distinction that I think very well summarises the challenge of doing early church history:

The difficulty is distinguishing the religion that generated the bible from the religion that the bible generated.

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36 responses to “What is Early Church History?

  1. Fantastic !
    You should visit Greta’s site and suggest this to her as one of her daily Mimes !

  2. Ian

    You’re rather emphatically Sabio, today, I see!

    Thanks for the link to Greta’s site. I hadn’t really read much before (I think I’d dropped there in passing before). Interesting. I’ve had a post on Sex-Positivity and Christianity in my drafts for a while, it reminded me to give it some attention.

    I’m not sure its quite the done thing to promote myself quite so shamefacedly as the first contact I have with her though! If you’re a regular there, feel free to point her in this direction…

    Oh, and I loved the idea of a daily mime. Though miming may be a little difficult to do online…

  3. Boz

    are there also religious sects that the non-biblical jewish/christian texts (apocrypha?) generated ?

    I expect this would be around the years 100 -400

  4. Ian

    @Boz – yes, absolutely. Though in a sense a lot of the new testament is generated because of those kinds of ‘sects’ (although at the time, the whole Jesus movement is a small sect). Various letters in the NT are written to counter the beliefs of certain groups, and this continues and deepens in the second and third centuries. Most modern scholars looking at Christian origins will talk about ‘early Christianities’.

    But for how I understand that distinction, I think the religions of the apocryphal writings are still in the camp of the religions that generateed the writings. Because of the political hegemony of one kind of Christianity in the fourth century, it was tough for those alternative Christianities to thrive. Most of them died without a trace.

    The hard bit, therefore, is removing what we know about Christianity as practiced in the last 1700 years (i.e. after emperor Constantine) from our understanding of the nascent Jesus movement in the first century.

  5. “from our understanding of the nascent Jesus movement in the first century”
    —>
    movementS (should be plural)
    Right?

  6. Ian

    Yes, exactly. One of the interesting questions in Christian origins is to what extent some of these groups saw themselves as different sects/religions and to what extent they saw their opponents as basically misguided members of the same sect. I think a combination of the two is at work, but there isn’t a clear picture of the actual dynamics.

  7. imarriedaxtian

    Aren’t you using the word “religion” in the modern sense? I thought that ancient communities were bound up in a specific religion, a useful glue to differentiate their nascent statehood (?) from others. ( I assume you are talking about the OT when you use the word “bible”)

    But in the context of your blog titled “What is early Church History?”, then its not clear to me or at least I dont understand your statement:

    The difficulty is distinguishing the religion that generated the bible from the religion that the bible generated.

    I thought it was the various Jesus following communities that generated the books that make up NT. The religion(s) that the NT later generated are numerous. 🙂

  8. imarriedaxtian

    @Boz

    Shouldn’t this be the other way around? That is, the various splinter groups generating their own (apocrypha) texts?

  9. Ian

    @imax

    Yes, the definition of religion is highly culturally specific, both then and now (i.e. is Taoism a religion?, is it the same kind of phenomenon as Christianity?). I wouldn’t be comfortable identifying religions with statehood, though.

    I was referring to the NT, specifically, though the quote I got it from was talking about the OT. Differentiating the kind of Hellenistic Judaism that based its self-understanding on Tanakh, versus the religions of the communities that wrote Tanakh.

    And your final point, I think, shows you did understand what I meant 🙂

    It is sometimes difficult to reconstruct a religious context in which Christianity, as we now understood it, did not exist. Particularly as that context is full of different groups that call themselves Christ followers. I’m not putting forward a criticism of scholarship on the subject, just saying that the quote summarizes quite a few of the interesting issues involved in doing that scholarship. It is an aphoristic summary, if you like.

  10. Ian

    One of the interesting questions in Christian origins is to what extent some of these groups saw themselves as different sects/religions and to what extent they saw their opponents as basically misguided members of the same sect.

    I could have put this better, without using words like religion and sect, that are totally problematic.

    I meant, it is interesting to try to understand how early Christian movements understood their own identities relative to other such movements, and to the various factions of Judaism. Questions of identification and identity understanding are difficult, but I find them fascinating.

  11. imarriedaxtian

    One of the interesting questions in Christian origins is to what extent some of these groups saw themselves as different sects/religions and to what extent they saw their opponents as basically misguided members of the same sect.

    Perhaps a better question to ask is how did the 1st century CE Israelites view themselves as a nation? That there are already various groups coexisting there is little doubt. There are Essenes, followers of John the Baptist, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.

    Were the theological debates between themselves seeking (as you put it) to pull back in some of their misguided brethren or were they coming to grips with the realities of Roman rule and debating whether to accomodate or fight the Romans.

    I believe the followers of Jesus were accomodationists (Render unto Caesar…) because their worldview was apocalypticist. The Kingdom of God is coming soon. So all these discussions are moot.

    The more practical or zealous amongst the Israelites tend to want to take matters into their own hands and fight off the Romans.

    I write the above comments not as an historian but as an observer of what is happening in the middle east currently. The experiences of the various groups reacting to US intervention in Iraq and Afghan remind me so much of what I read in the gospels and ANE history.

  12. Ian

    Well I’m not sure if that is a better question. It is certainly another interesting question.

    And yes, we know of a broad range of Jewish sects, Sadducees in power in the temple, the Pharisees who assumed higher significance after the destruction of the temple, the Essenes who sought to withdraw from the world, the Zealots – the revolutionary wing of the Pharisee group, the Herodians who supported the puppet dynasty, the Sicarii who wanted to fight both Rome and corrupt enemies within, and so on… And then there were the (perhaps majority) of the average population who had no particular political viewpoint on their religion.

    My sense is that Judaism was a racial thing, as you alluded to, and so the us/them distinctions are a little more overlaid with understandings of statehood and racial identity.

    Layered onto those Jewish sects are then the Jewish converts to the Jesus movement. We know, for example, that there was a Zealot in the 12 disciples, and that at least one Sadducee was known to be a later convert. Paul was a Pharisee. So the movement seems to have been pretty broad (i.e. it doesn’t seem to be primarily a sub-movement of a pre-existing sect).

    I think you’re right that, by and large, Jesus and his movement were accomodationists. Especially those parts of the movement that encouraged Gentile conversion. And at least initially, the texts we have seem to assume an imminent apocalypse. What we don’t know is to what extent Jesus followers were involved in the Great Revolt, were there non-accomodationists who fought and died in this conflict? Was their lack of historical record a result of their demise, or dramatic curtailing here? Josephus, who is about the only source we could plausibly hope to find, is silent on the issue, and in fact is almost silent on Christianity generally.

    I think the last point is a little dangerous though. I’m personally not a fan of painting big-picture stuff that can apply to both modern and ancient understanding. I think the details are more important, and the big sweeps tend to lull you into the sense you know more than you do. I really don’t think the Roman occupation is similar to US involvement in Afghanistan, for example. Except to the extent that anyone might feel that foreigners have no business in their affairs, I’m not smart enough to find useful correspondences.

  13. imarriedaxtian

    Its a treat to read your blog and your responses to my comments. We share a lot of data in common. But its disconcerting (to me) to see you take some of our shared understanding and fly off in a different trajectory. 🙂

    But re-reading your previous comments, I think I may have pinpoint the key to our differences in understanding the material.

    It is sometimes difficult to reconstruct a religious context in which Christianity, as we now understood it, did not exist.

    That is the problem. My (unstated mental) starting position is that the Jesus movement was originally a political one, probably started by John the Baptist that seek to come to terms with the turmoil of the time. The political relevance of the movement was soon lost when the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 CE, and the movement dispersed and devolved into various religious sects.

    There is a similar story here in chinese literature of how Lord Guan a relatively obscure and marginal general in real life, became the chinese equivalent of the god of war. If I were inclined to worship a god of war, I rather worship a successful one than a loser!

    What we don’t know is to what extent Jesus followers were involved in the Great Revolt,

    I agree with you here. The Jesus movement was certainly not homogeneous. Take for instance the story of the Gadarenes (or Gerasene) swine in Mark 5.9/Luke 8.30. J D Crossan understand this passage as anti-Roman. So certainly a bit of fantasy/wish fulfilment is running here. Driving out the legions of rome. (Does the greek for (my name is) legion in this pericope correspond to the word for (roman) legion?)

    Have a happy easter sunday.

  14. @ I-Married-a-Christian
    (1) Do you have a website
    (2) Are you a Christian?
    (3) What bothersome direction to you see Ian “flying-off into”?

  15. Ian

    @imax – I’m glad you’re enjoying it: I am too. Gotta be quick for now… dinner time…

    Why do you think that the Jesus movement was primarily Political? Why would you think that the John movement was? Most scholars lean towards a rather ascetic, withdrawing John.

    Yes, the word is the same. Legio. (meaning conscription). It is also the same word also used in Matt 26:53 when Matthew has Jesus claim to be able to summon 12 legions of angels.

    The Gerasene story is very strange however, because the Jews didn’t farm Pork. Various theories have been put forward (e.g. the Romans made the Jews farm Pork for their supply), but none of them have any independent corroboration.

    Thanks for the good wishes. We’re enjoying the day here.

  16. imarriedaxtian

    @Sabio Lantz !
    (1) Do you have a website?
    No.

    (2) Are you a Christian?
    I am an Atheist in the weak sense of the word, i.e. absence a belief in gods or Gods.

    However that has not been always the case. For most of my life, I was what one antipodean blogger wittily called an apathetic agnostic. Apathetic as an adjectival form of apathy or indifference and Agnosticism as in absence of knowledge. In other words for most of my life I Don’t Know and Don’t Care. 🙂

    Read here: http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts/2006/11/on_learned_ignorance.php

    I suspect this description can apply to most of us who blunder along in life oblivious to the undertow of religionist influences (in history in general, and in our lives in particular).

    All this changed when my wife embraced a born-again pentecostal form of xtianity after the birth of our first child. As a supportive husband (and I love my wife very much), I went along for the ride. But over the years, our approach diverged, she was more into prayers, devotions and apologetics, mine into more academic engagement of the texts (especially the NT). To keep peace in the household, I adopted my current position. 🙂

    My nom de guerre is playfully (although my wife doesn’t think so) chosen as a tribute to all the B-grade B&W horror movies I watched as a child. Especially as in I Was The Bride of Frankenstein! (with the gender roles reversed). 🙂

    Can I answer your point (3) when I respond to Ian?

  17. imarriedaxtian

    @Ian

    ALL religious movements are political in nature. It seek to impose its views on others and to subjugate opposing views.

    Josephus (in Jewish Antiquities) described a conflict between Arethas IV of Nabathea and his former son-in-law Herod Antipas. Herod lost, and Josephus maintained that it was God punishing Herod for executing John the Baptist earlier.

    Why did Herod have John killed? According to Josephus, its because Herod feared that John’s followers might revolt. Revolt! How can this not be about politics?

    Mark 6:17-29 narrates the tradition of John’s death. Here is the bare outline. Herod Antipas divorced the daughter of Arethas IV (see above) to marry Herodias, his own brother’s (Herod Philip) wife. John came along to upbraid Herod (Its not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife) and was executed for his temerity.

    Can you see the similarity to 2 Samuel 12? The Prophet Nathan is upbraiding King David for arranging to have one of his man, Uriah, killed so that he can marry Bathsheba.

    Fortunately for Nathan, he met up with a penitential David. Unfortunately for John, he got an unrepentant Herod.

    Did Mark invent this detail about John so his readers can draw parallels to the OT? (David=Good King, Herod=Bad) Or was John following the traditions of a long line of Jewish Prophets when he set about to put his King on the straight and narrow? If it is the latter, wouldnt you consider this a political act? It is certainly not the act of a withdrawing ascetic (as you put it). 🙂

    I will continue with my comments on Jesus later.

  18. Ian

    Ah, I see. Okay, I think we have different understandings of what constitutes a ‘political’ movement.

    I agree that for some definition, all religions are political. But then for a slightly weaker definition, all actions by all people are political. My going to work is political, getting married is a political act, buying oranges rather than bananas is political, etc. The term means very little to me at that point (I know that’s hyperbole, I’m not suggesting that’s your position!).

    So one of the useful criteria, for me, is to distinguish between the explicit and implicit purposes of a movement. One could see that all religions are about mental subjugation, yes, but that would not be their explicit purpose. Movements might have goals that imply some political dimension: I might start a religion that believes in the sanctity of the embryo, for example – clearly political in the US, but I wouldn’t say my movement was a political movement in that case. On the other hand if I create a movement to lobby Washington for abortion law reform, then I would think of that movement as political. It is a continuum, like all terms.

    re: Mark, John and Nathan. Yes, that’s a correspondence that has been made before. It has some merit. Certainly making a very bad comparison between David (the paragon of kingship) with Herod (the ass-end of an ignominious puppet monarchy). Personally I think it very weak, however. There are no clear structural similarities in the two narratives, so we’re left with a thematic similarity, but then the OT covers a lot of themes. It isn’t clear to me that it isn’t just coincidence. But that’s irrelevant, I think, to your argument: so I’m happy to concede the point either way, if it helps clarify the core of what we’re discussing.

    Let’s assume (as we have reasonable grounds to do) that John did get imprisoned for preaching against Herod. That is a political act, yes, I agree. Was such political action the purpose of John’s movement? That to me is a much bigger jump.

    Let’s assume Herod was scared that John’s movement could lead to revolution. Sounds possible. Shades of Koresh and Wako here, for me. I’d say that is a political issue, yes. But was such revolution or threat of revolution part of the purpose of the John movement? Again I get stuck there.

    Jesus is no different here, of course. Most scholars agree he got executed for being called the Messiah in Jerusalem at passover (though there is a split over whether he might have called himself that). Assuming they are right, his death is certainly political: in some sense he was being hailed as the new king of Israel. Was the purpose of his movement political, the downfall of Rome and the Herodian monarchy? Again a big jump, using my criteria for a political movement.

    What I get stuck with in your line of reasoning isn’t the little cherries of evidence that support it, but the broad sweeps that don’t seem to or are neutral. You already made the point previously that Jesus appears to be accomodationist in places, he seems to be ascetic in others, and yet others he seems to be political.

    How are we best to make sense of the totality of the evidence? I’d be happy to join you in concluding that Jesus and John’s movements were political, in a watered down definition of political, that summarizes all their actions (i.e. that their actions and teachings weren’t always politically neutral). But in the sense I think of a political movement? No, I struggle to make that jump.

    I might be completely off base here, but could it be that you have quite strong political opinions yourself, and you’re suffering from the Jesus, The Mirror effect?

  19. imarriedaxtian

    Aarrrgghhhh! Ian I hate you. 🙂

    I spend all day crafting my response to you. And having just posted it I got a near instantaneous response that I have to digest and reply. Its 1.30am here in Kuala Lumpur. If I stop now, I can have 5 hours sleep before I have to get up. Sorry Ian. Gotta go.

    🙂

  20. Ian

    Well, as long as you read my response understanding how little time I took over it 🙂 Its fine, I’m enjoying the discussion, and there’s definitely something really interesting and nuggety in the midst of our thoughts. I’ve got plenty of time.

  21. imarriedaxtian

    and there’s definitely something really interesting and nuggety in the midst of our thoughts.

    Err…sorry Ian, my above remarks were mostly informed by a fab book on JB by Joan E Taylor “The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Jadaism”. The ideas were already quarried. 😦

    Let me see if I can make my point clearer. JB preached a form of apocalypticism where those who don’t repent is going to feel the wrath of God. So whats the point of trying to get Herod Antipas to repent of his evil ways? The Kingdom of God is going to come real soon now, and since Herod is such an a—hole, he is going to get his just rewards in due course. Its only a matter of time. So why did JB walk into the lion’s den. He doesnt sound like the shy, retiring ascetic you make him out to be. He sounded more like he was carrying on the traditions of his forebears to try to rectify his wayward ruler.

    How are we best to make sense of the totality of the evidence? I’d be happy to join you in concluding that Jesus and John’s movements were political, in a watered down definition of political, that summarizes all their actions (i.e. that their actions and teachings weren’t always politically neutral). But in the sense I think of a political movement? No, I struggle to make that jump.

    Here Ian, let me help push you off. 🙂

    Keep the following dates in mind:

    The Gospel of Mark was written ca70CE, Matthew ca80CE, Luke ca90CE, and John ca100CE.

    Now match that to the following dates

    66-73 CE : The Great Jewish Revolt
    115-117 CE : Jewish Revolt against Trajan
    131-135 CE : The Bar Kochba Rebellion against Rome.

    Enough context for you yet? Remember that the Gospels were written in Koine Greek for the Gentiles living in areas that are under the dominion of Rome. eg Macedonia, Asia Minor, Syria, etc. My hypothesis is that the Jesus movement lost its way as a political one after the crucifixion of JC and devolve into various religious movements. What kind of a chance would a Gospel have in areas ruled by suspicious Roman governors sniffing out Jewish sedition? Ian, the Gospels have all been sanitised!

    but could it be that (…) you’re suffering from Jesus, The Mirror effect?

    LOL! Good one Ian. I am reminded of a Non-Sequitur cartoon by John Wiley. The characters were discussing Paris Hilton. “You mean she is famous just for being famous?” asked one. Then a light bulb lit up on top of Danae (the evil one).

    But be careful though. I know how to get a rise out of you. 🙂

  22. imarriedaxtian

    Oops….it’s Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller. I hang around you long enough and I would probably slip into permanent stream of consciousness writing….:-)

  23. imarriedaxtian

    Oops…into permanent state of free associative writing 😦

    Hey Ian is there any way for me to delete an unwanted comment? 😦

  24. Ian

    There is no way as far as I know for you to delete a comment, but I can do that for you, if you let me know. You have my direct email address (reply to one of the thread updates) and I’ll sort it out.

    As for the previous comment.

    Ian, the Gospels have all been sanitised!

    Here’s the money shot. If the gospels don’t contain the content that backs up your theory, then what does? Where is the evidence that the gospels have been systematically edited to remove traces of reality? Where is the evidence that suggests of what actually happened?

    If there is no solid evidence and your hypothesis relies on the notion that lack of evidence could be expected, then I can’t see how you can make progress beyond speculation. Lack of evidence could be evidence of just about anything.

    In other words, apart from large generalizations and circumstantial stuff (i.e. stuff that also fits other possibilities), what is the evidence?

    I agree the gospels are written from a particular perspective, and are included in the canon after having been through the filter of centuries of early Christian development. But I don’t see how to get from there to anything other than random speculation about what was the reality, unless it is on the basis of the totality of evidence (textual variations, extra-canonical material, archaeological finds, and so on). Again, the totality of evidence is needed, not cherry picking bits you like and deprecating counter-evidence.

    Getting a rise out of me? Really? My comment about Jesus, the Mirror wasn’t meant to be petulant, just amusingly snarky!

  25. @ Ian
    That last comment was good. Perhaps you should do a series on “Why I am not a Mythicist”

  26. Ian

    Interesting idea Sabio. But I think it might attract the kinds of debate I’d rather not have…

  27. Sabio

    Ahhh, but what would be refreshing about your approach is that you would not debate as much as help set out the limitations of knowledge in a systematic way. While helping to education of sources and history. You could set the parameters as to what sort of “debate” you could entertain.

    Alas, but we shall cont. enjoying your posts even if you don’t go down this dark ally.

  28. imarriedaxtian

    Here’s the money shot. If the gospels don’t contain the content that backs up your theory, then what does? Where is the evidence that the gospels have been systematically edited to remove traces of reality? Where is the evidence that suggests of what actually happened?

    No? How then do you explain the diminishing culpability of Pilate in JC crucifixion in each succeeding gospels? Even the church father Tertullian thought that Pilate was a Christian at heart. Augustine of Hippo classified Pilate as a prophet in one his sermons. The sanitising process did not stop when the canon closed. It continued. This is not speculation as you put it. Just read the texts.

    Was the purpose of his movement political, the downfall of Rome and the Herodian monarchy? Again a big jump, using my criteria for a political movement.
    What I get stuck with in your line of reasoning isn’t the little cherries of evidence that support it, but the broad sweeps that don’t seem to or are neutral.

    Maybe I didnt explain so well. Let me quote others who can make the case better than I can.

    CH Dodd (in More New Testament Studies, 1968) speaks of first-century Judaism’s concern to maintain its identity:

    This aim, moreover, was being pursued in a situation in which resentment of pagan domination, and national sensitiveness, were mounting towards the fatal climax of AD 66. We have to allow for something approaching a war-mentality among large sections of the Jewish people – and we know how that can affect one’s judgement. It was not clear to those who kept watch upon him that Jesus really cared for the national cause. When he was told about Pilate’s slaughter of Galileans in the temple, he responded, not with indignant denunciation of Roman brutality, but with a warning to his own people to “repent”

    Dodd was commenting on Luke 13:1-5 where some messengers appeared to Jesus to report about the slaughter of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Josephus records a number of such massacres during this period in Jewish Antiquities.

    And why was Jesus suppose to respond indignantly? Kenneth Bailey, a Biblical scholar who spent most of his life in the Middle East, and whose works inform me, has this to say:

    Civil and national violence spawns incredible rumors. One real massacre is enough to create stories about ten others. (…) Such stories serve a community at war. The teller and the listener together are emotionally stirred to a point of rage that can motivate them to heroism in retaliation.

    See? Various groups were trying to gauge where Jesus political allegiance lies. Jesus unfortunately did not respond as expected.

    sigh

    We seem to be talking pass each other Ian. Let me recap our conversation.

    You started off by musing about how the various religious groups view themselves and others and how difficult it is to reconstruct a religious context in which Christianity did not exist.

    I basically said hang on a sec, Ian. You cannot study this as if all of it happened in the 21st century, like with the baptists and the methodists, and the roman catholics and all, having biscuit and tea and having a fireside chat, you have to study it in the context of the 1st century CE when it all happened. And its not religious context you have to take into consideration but political.

    Then when I was trying to explain to you why the gospels needed to be sanitised, you jump in and accuse me of unwarranted speculation, completely missing my point that 1) Pilate needed to be exculpated and 2) the revolutionary bits of Jesus sayings needed to be toned down for it the gospels to be acceptable in a Roman world that was hostile to Jewish national aspirations.

    We probably have carried this particular exchange as far as we can without repeating ourselves. I am going to stop now and wait for future blog posts from you.

  29. Ian

    I am going to stop now and wait for future blog posts from you.

    That’s a shame, I think. I’ve enjoyed being asked to think in a different way.

    So your summary helped:

    I basically said hang on a sec, Ian. You cannot study this as if all of it happened in the 21st century, like with the baptists and the methodists, and the roman catholics and all, having biscuit and tea and having a fireside chat, you have to study it in the context of the 1st century CE when it all happened.

    I find nothing at all controversial about this. I’d agree with it. Political context is very important to understanding Christian origins.

    This quote of yours:

    the Jesus movement was originally a political one, probably started by John the Baptist that seek to come to terms with the turmoil of the time.

    however, was what I thought I was responding too. And basically I still have to say: where’s the evidence?

    I have agreed with you already that Jesus was not politically neutral. If that is what you mean, then we agree, and I think your assertion is uncontroversial.

    If your thesis is that Jesus was somewhat pro-Roman, then that’s interesting too, and within some bounds I could entertain that. But to say that his movement was originally a political one? That’s what I don’t buy. Not unless you interpret ‘political’ wider than I would want to.

    So I guess I don’t understand exactly what hypothesis you’re defending. Lots of things you’ve said I agree with, others I don’t. I’m going to be mercurial, I think, unless we can pin down a question to answer.

    Does that help clarify where I am?

  30. imarriedaxtian

    This quote of yours:

    “the Jesus movement was originally a political one, probably started by John the Baptist that seek to come to terms with the turmoil of the time.”

    however, was what I thought I was responding too. And basically I still have to say: where’s the evidence?

    I dont understand what you mean. Is it my statement that “the Jesus movement being probably started by John” that you dont agree with? I was just following opinions of scholars like JP Meier in his historical magnum opus A Marginal Jew.

    Or the movement coming to terms with the political turmoil of the time? I thought my reply on Dodd commenting on Luke 13:1-5 would have clarified that.

    If your thesis is that Jesus was somewhat pro-Roman, then that’s interesting too, and within some bounds I could entertain that.

    I probably should have nuanced my comments. We should not view JC as a one-dimensional character. We have to take into account all the difficult statements he made in the NT. Stuff like Matthew 10:34, JC cursing the fig tree in Mark (fig tree as a metaphor for Israel?) and many more.

    I dont have the technical skills to analyse all the pericopae. The next best thing is what I do. I read everything I can get my hands on and let it all stew in my brain and see what comes out. So the following is my line of speculation:

    1) JC is part of John the Baptist (JB) movement
    2) Probably initially accomodationist ( render unto caesar …etc).
    3) Various groups trying to souse out where JC stood (Luke 13:1-5). Stayed neutral – “repent” (like his mentor’s JB message).
    4) Probably pro Herod Antipas until his mentor JB was executed by said HA.
    5) JC started to waver. Cursed Israel for not “bearing fruits”
    6) Got his followers ready to fight. Matthew 10:34 and 10:27
    7) Triumphant entry to Jerusalem
    8) Betrayed by Judas
    9) Executed by Pilate

    But dont take it too seriously 🙂

    PS I normally like to take a day or so to reflect and give a considered response, citing chapters and verses but what the heck, I am going to chance it 🙂

  31. imarriedaxtian

    Arrgh. Accidentally used a smiley for item 8

  32. Ian

    Interesting,

    So there’s various bits I could comment on each step in your chain. Can I first ask, however, whether you think that:

    – Jesus or JBap was originally a political activist that co-opted religious language and the religious understanding of their culture to forward their political aims. (i.e. was the religious bit cynical).

    – They were political activists who’s work was couched in religious terms by others or later on, based on their understanding. (i.e. was the religious bit accidental or a later cover-story).

    – They saw themselves as religious figures primarily, and their political actions were by-products that flowed out from what they thought God was saying to them. (i.e. where they convinced by the religious stuff).

    Or some middle ground. Or do you think the question is irrelevant / unknowable?

    [To tip my hand, I agree with 1, 8 and 9, and some of the others with caveats :)]

  33. imarriedaxtian

    Those are diffcult questions to answer. I have not given it any thoughts before. My quick take would be this: that Jesus and John were so well loved by the communities they once served in that their followers chose to honour them by remembering their words and deeds in their oral traditions and later, the various gospels.

    So I would see them primarily as teachers first who were later embroiled in the political struggles, either through circumstances or through their religious convictions.

    Certainly, I view John as one who saw himself following the traditions of ancient Israel prophets who tried to warn his King (Herod Antipas) about the consequence of divorcing Arethas IV’s daughter. (As I posted at great length above. I am repeating myself. ) 😦

  34. imarriedaxtian

    I am feeling a bit mischievous this morning. In my nine points outline posted above, I should have explained that:

    5. JC was actually angry at HA for executing his mentor JB that he was actually marching against HA. He planned to usurp HA! Hence the epithet “King of the Jews”.

    and

    8. JC was betrayed by Judas because Judas wanted JC to fight the Romans and not his own people. Bear in mind that Judas was a Sicarii.

    Move over Dan Brown. There is a new fiction writer on the block 🙂

    Don’t engage my remarks too seriously, Ian. Its meant to be a bit of fun.

  35. Ian

    Thanks for continuing to engage with me, imax. I think I’m getting the ‘fun’ now. It is fun speculation, yes.

    As for your previous comment, interesting. I don’t disagree with your conclusion. I just couldn’t make that conclusion. But as you said, fun speculation is fun.

    And there is money in books that reinvent Jesus! You’d sell some if you wrote the book that puts Jesus in an anti-Amercian analogy in the Afghan war, for example. Rile up Bill O Riley and Glen Beck, and you’d get some free publicity there!

  36. imarriedaxtian

    Speculations unchecked by honest criticism leads only to fantastic inventions that bears no relevance to scholarship. Now is as good a time as any to cease commenting on this topic. 🙂

    I look forward to your future musings.

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