Warning: the following is religious in nature and should not be read by anyone.
Before the Bible, obviously, there wasn’t the Bible. Communities tended to base their beliefs and practice around either the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John or from the writings and ministry of Paul. This went on for a couple of hundred years after Jesus’ death and though the Gospels and teachings of Paul all focused on the life of Jesus, they represented a splintering of the church. Meaning there was little unification among the early Christians. These groups basically did their own thing.
To rectify that, the Church pulled together a list of these sacred texts which were then debated, edited, and eventually approved by a council of men (perhaps even several councils over many years). They chose what books went into what would eventually become the Bible (and what stayed out). This arguably saved early Christianity yet there were still problems.
For one, God didn’t decide what books belonged in the Bible. A group of men did. And yes: disagreements, politics and agendas came into play.
Two, the earliest known versions of the four gospels were written well after Jesus’ crucifixion and by authors still unknown today.
Three, the texts used were copies of copies of copies of copies. Today there exist multiple versions of the gospels with subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) variations. The originals no longer exist and didn’t exist at the time of Biblical canonization.
Finally, once the Bible was approved – that was it. Apparently no more changes could be done.
Which brings me to my point today.I just finished reading “The Banned Book of Mary: How Her Story was Suppressed by the Church and Hidden in Art for Centuries” by Ronald F. Hock (based on an early writing called “The Infancy Gospel of James”). It tells of Mary’s parents, her birth and her life outside of the relatively few mentions in the Bible. It talks of how artists such as Da Vinci and di Bondone and Raphael exalted Mary eventually forcing the Church to give her more prominence in their dogma.
Yet despite similarities with passages from the Bible – such as the virgin birth – this book also has contradictions; differences that led to its rejection by the Church. The same can be said for the Gospels of Judas and Thomas which also vary from the Bible and thus, also rejected by the Church.
Are these writings historically inaccurate? Are there mistakes in the Bible itself? The answer is YES to both questions. Yet both have their place in creating a broader picture of Jesus, his life, his family, etc. None of us were around in 1 A.D., or hundreds of years later when the Bible was canonized, so we’re left with the task of piecing together a puzzle with relatively few pieces.
To get a better understanding of Jesus, or ANY historical figure really, all available materials, accounts, and testimony need to be taken into consideration. Just because something said might not be positive, popular, or even beneficial doesn’t mean it should be dismissed outright. If new information contradicts old information, that doesn’t necessarily mean the new information is wrong. Forming an opinion based on a single source can often be short-sighted.
Now. Do I believe in God? I do – though not necessarily in the way defined by man. Do I believe in Jesus? Absolutely, though again I think there is much more to his story than what the Church teaches or even wishes to be known.
When the day is done, religion and your connection to God should be what you want it to be and not what someone, or even some book, tells you it should be. Believing in God also means believing that God gave humans the ability to think and decide for themselves. Yet all too often we seem to ignore this free-will and allow others to form our opinions and make decisions for us.