Jesus the Nobody

There were early Christians who didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus. The gospels accommodate these people by writing them into the stories of the risen Jesus:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him they worshiped Him; but some doubted (Matthew 28:16-17).

Another group who didn’t believe that Jesus came in the flesh at all pop up in the first letter attributed to a John. Most scholars are of the opinion that this John was not the same as the John who supposedly wrote the fourth gospel nor the John who made up the Revelation that bears his name. Nor do they think that any of these Johns was a disciple of Jesus.

In ‘John’s’ second letter, he warns against those who disputed that Jesus made any earthly appearance. To be sure,  he thinks little of them and labels them anti-christs, but nevertheless makes clear these people are, or were cult members, not disbelieving outsiders:

…many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son (2 John 7-9).

Paul famously knows nothing of an earthly Jesus. His Jesus is a celestial being who appears in visions and revelations, his mission to save mortals entirely worked out from ancient scripture:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15: 3-8)

Unlike the later gospel-Jesus, Paul’s Jesus did not resurrect in a flesh and blood body but a spiritual one because, according to Paul, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15.50).

What are we to make of these early cultists whose views of Jesus did not comply with later orthodoxy? There are some big hitters here – disciples, Paul and other members of the church – who appear not have known about a human Jesus or who didn’t recognise his bodily resurrection. They and their views were clearly significant enough for them to be included in early documentation and to make it, disparagingly in some cases, into the Bible itself.

Today’s Christians largely ignore the Jesus who supposedly walked the Earth. Most of them don’t do what that he commanded them to do. They don’t believe he taught the end of the world was imminent. Instead, they worship a being who, they’ve convinced themselves, lives in the sky with God and blesses them from above. A human Jesus is as irrelevant to them as the idea was to Paul, John’s anti-christ believers and the disciples who doubted.

7 thoughts on “Jesus the Nobody

  1. You are engaging in a form of gaslighting, just repeating over and over again the same tired old ideas of the so called “scholars” and their misreading of the texts without engaging the ideas and research of others. I think you are whistling in the graveyard.

    I read the books and letters attributed to John BY VERY EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS and find a great deal of stylistic similarity, language, and common themes and motifs. I have read the arguments for different authors, but none make an adequate argument against the obvious evidence and the opinion of men who lived much, much closer to the time and were well acquainted with the texts as Greek speakers and readers as well as with the tradition of John’s authorship than any modern scholar. Modern literary criticism can only go so far in the face of the evidence. There is the continuity of history to consider, after all.

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    • I love it that anyone who has a different interpretation of ‘the scriptures’ than you is ‘misreading’ them. So that’s everyone else, apart from your unspecified ‘others’. Apparently you, and only you, know what VERY EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS really meant.

      I love too your metaphor that I’m whistling in the graveyard. Let me extend it: there are no resurrected god men or any other risen corpses to be seen; not in this graveyard nor in any other. What you fail to admit is that your VERY EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS were demonstrably wrong about almost everything they said would result from Jesus’ resurrection. This on its own points to the fact the resurrection didn’t happen.

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      • Neil: Unspecified others.

        If you were as well read in today’s Christian thought as you imply, you would not need me to specify. But I will provide a couple of beginning points for you.

        RE: science and the biblical narrative meshing, you could begin with https://biologos.org/ and the team of men and women working under Dr. Francis Collins or read Dr. Hugh Ross at https://reasons.org/team/hugh-ross. Each of these organizations include large groups of colleagues if you want to follow up with individuals.

        RE: Reading the Bible as according to the various genre. This is not a new concept. You might begin with someone who has written books about the subject, Leland Ryken at https://www.crossway.org/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-bible-as-literature/#:~:text=Reading%20the%20Bible%20as%20literature%20is%20within%20every,we%20know%20about%20literature%20generally%20to%20the%20Bible.

        But as I say, it is not a new idea and is adopted by many seminaries as the lens through which they read the Bible. See Trinity Evangelical Divinity School https://www.tiu.edu/divinity

        Re: reading the Bible as history this is so common that I cannot list the numbers of schools and scholars who teach this method. You could start with https://www.baslibrary.org/ But almost every Evangelical college and seminary follows this approach.

        As I have followed you over time, Neil, I get the impression that your acquaintance with Christianity has been largely with the most fundamental and literalist teachings or you have adopted them as the easiest to refute. If you are really interested there is a whole different world of Christians out there. Enlarge your reading.

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      • I don’t claim to be ‘well read in today’s Christian thought’. Nor do I want to be. Christian writing that I have encountered is didactic and propagandist, attempting to subjugate human knowledge to a Biblical worldview (when you Christians can’t even agree what that is.) Why would I be interested in that?

        I critique the Christianity I know, the version that does most damage in the world, the one that labels me and others sinners, the one that takes the Bible at face value.

        I have considered other versions – the fact there are many versions of Christianity speaks against it being ‘The Truth’ – frequently over the last ten years. So-called intellectual Christianity, which I take it you think you subscribe to, is as irrational and delusional as any other sort and is dishonest to boot. How hard you have to work to make it seem remotely credible.

        A belief system that depends entirely on the existence of supernatural beings has no claims to being either rational or intellectual.

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      • Further, all the claims are centered in ONE book … a book that has dubious credibility but because it is accepted and “studied,” it is considered “truth.”

        Liked by 1 person

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