July 07, 2018

Reason And Faith Are Compatible

For the first several centuries after the death of Jesus church elders struggled to define the system of beliefs that would become Christian Theology. Their work was framed by contemporary superstitions, cultural norms, established philosophies, competing religions, and first century science. They selected, edited, and published the books of the Bible, developed theological doctrine, and established formal religions. They characterized the ministry of Jesus Christ according to their objectives and their understanding of the world in which they lived.

That was almost 2,000 years ago. Over 700 years have passed since Saint Thomas Aquinas summarized his views on natural law, metaphysics, and the interaction of faith and reason; a magnificent effort to rationalize 13th century theology. Although there have been many changes within the institutions of Christianity, and human knowledge has made incredible progress, these traditional beliefs have endured into this century. They continue to dominate contemporary discussion

Therein rests the problem. We humans yearn for the spiritual. Meditation and prayer allow us to experience the divine. We seek a transcendent interpretation of our physical and not-physical ecosystem. But Christian tradition conflicts with contemporary knowledge. Although the message of Jesus Christ is both ageless and divine, there is an obvious confusion of expression.

The solution is to validate the key subjects and beliefs of Christianity in 21st century terms: a renaissance of Christian theology. The discussion of doctrine must be creative, disruptive, and credible as we explore the philosophical subjects of truth, reality, alternative dimensions, multiple universes, the relationship of science and theology, our quest to understand the nature of God, and how we make a conscious connection with the spiritual. Let us vigorously examine our traditional beliefs about evolution, creation, hell, and heaven as well as contemporary questions about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

We have been challenged to establish a reasonable consistency between the doctrines of Christian Theology and our comprehension of the Cosmos. If we wish to know the truth of our astral reality, we must combine an enlightened sense of the physical with a contemporary understanding of the not-physical. As Thomas Aquinas pointed out, since both reason and faith come from God - they are inherently compatible.


Ron
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July 06, 2018

Was the Mother of Jesus a Virgin?

Of course.  But Christian traditions are confused by obsolete knowledge.

Early church fathers, theologians, and clergy struggled with the concept of a virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Their beliefs were rooted in obsolete first century medical knowledge and a conviction Jesus had to be elevated above all other humans, including and especially Kings and Emperors. In order to assure Jesus as more important than mere humans, Mary had to be pure, divine, “immaculate” and “innocent” of all earthly sin. Ancient theologians clashed for years over the problem of Mary’s virginity.

Parochial theologians wanted to believe Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. God made her pregnant. She was never touched by human blood. She was married to God. Her relationship to Joseph was strictly Platonic (no sex, - not even a little touchy feely).

Rubbish.

From God’s point of view, a virgin birth served no useful purpose, and would violate the natural law which he created.

Less strict traditionalists want to believe God made Mary pregnant before she married Joseph. Jesus was fathered by God. Although the medical methodology remains a little murky, when Joseph found out Mary was already pregnant, he was upset (to say the least). The Book of Matthew suggests Joseph only married Mary out of a sense of duty to God. As an alternative, later theologians proposed Joseph was really an old man who believed it was his duty to marry a pregnant Mary. He could not have been the father because he was so old.

Rubbish.

Pregnancy out of wedlock was strictly prohibited by Jewish religious law and cultural customs. God would never ask (or cause) Mary to commit a sinful act that would make her a harlot in the eyes of the community and perhaps expose her to death by stoning (a quaint way first century parochial Jews punished fallen women), or force her into prostitution as a social outcast in order to survive.

Thus the idea that Mary was pregnant before she married Joseph is absurd. The idea was fostered by early biblical writers and church fathers to create the mythology of a perfect, sinless, and divine Mary who was above all other women. And it worked for several hundred years. But now. Not so much.

So.  Can we authenticate a more credible story? What is highly probable?

Mary had seven children. Five boys: Jesus, James, Joseph (Joses), Jude and Simon. Mary had two girls whom I have named Deborah and Rachel. All fathered by Joseph; all born according to natural law and Jewish custom.

We can choose to believe God wanted to convey the essence of his theology and philosophy to humanity in a message that would have lasting value. As he frequently does, God would convey his message to us through the voice and actions of a human messenger. In this case, the messenger would be a man God chose to call Jesus. In order to carry out his mission, Jesus would have to be very intelligent, creative, compassionate, and charismatic. God’s message would be conveyed to us with the credibility of a man who could speak from the heart because he had experienced the realities of human life: both the good and the bad.

From God’s viewpoint, a father-son relationship would work just fine. In order to be sure Jesus, his son, would have all of the necessary human characteristics to be an effective messenger, God picked a soon to be wed couple to be the human father and mother. Mary was a 14 year old peasant girl who had an absolute faith in God. She was also intelligent, self-educated, and compassionate. Joseph was a 15 year old carpenter and stone mason. He also was of above intelligence and had already demonstrated a remarkable maturity and personal strength.

So. Having picked the perfect couple, how did God make sure Jesus would have the attributes he wanted in a son? Let us remember: everything we are is established by our DNA. We inherit half of our DNA from our father and half from our mother. To get his perfect son, all God had to do is modify the DNA of the zygote (fetus) in Mary’s womb to ensure it had all of the characteristics he wanted in a son.

Conception occurred (as Paul the Apostle tells us) according to Jewish custom and law. Mary and Joseph became happy parents. God’s divinity is transferred by DNA modifications to the fetus that will become baby Jesus. In 21st century terms, think of it as a form of In vitro fertilization. Jesus was the son of man and the perfection of God.

Unfortunately, however, no one really understood these possible solutions until the 20th century, and traditional Christian beliefs continue to center on obsolete medical knowledge. We can wonder. If Luke (a doctor) were alive today, what would he write in his Gospel?

So yes. Mary was a virgin bride and Jesus was conceived to be the son God wanted.

A discussion of the virgin birth can be found in Summa 21.


Ron

June 19, 2018

Jesus and Atonement

Jesus was a heretic and a blasphemer. His words angered the Philistines and Sadducees. They believed an angry and vengeful God demanded blood sacrifices to appease his wrath. Instead, Jesus taught us that God is not an angry monarch. He loves us. Every one. Regardless of our identity.

It is therefore unnecessary to appease God with tangible sacrifices. He prefers we demonstrate our faith and commitment by engaging in acts of love.
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June 10, 2018

Religions Are The Invention of Man

It is clear to me that "religions" are the invention of man, and therefore exhibit all the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. All too frequently religious beliefs are based on whatever human knowledge and concurrent mythology exists at the time they are created. As a result, formalized religions inevitably become outdated because they are rendered obsolete by the unrelenting march of human invention. A growing gap thus separates the norms of religious practice from our perceived experience of reality.

Yet, in this there is a paradox. Any extended attempt to seek the spiritual must establish a credible and cohesive framework of beliefs which support human intellectual achievement. Else it has no lasting authority.

Let us come together, therefore, to establish a virtuous theology that venerates transcendent values, rather than the trappings of current knowledge.

Ron
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May 25, 2018

Dear Pope Francis

I admire your dedication and respect your views. You are undoubtedly a compassionate man, and it is not hard to understand how the poverty you have witnessed shaped your opinions. But I must respectfully disagree with your proposed solutions. There are three fundamental flaws.

1. Socialism is not the answer.
The failure of the political solution you suggest is starkly illustrated by the chaos and misery in Venezuela (71 percent of the population is Roman Catholic) and the poverty in Cuba (60 percent of the population is Catholic). Regular church attendance is low in both nations. Socialist fascist policies have impoverished both nations. Top down dictatorships manage both economies. A socialist system of government encourages the creation of impoverished citizens who are governed by an elitist hierarchy that enforces its domination through methods of oppression.

Perhaps it would be helpful if the Vatican focused its attention on the restoration of the benefits of liberty and faith to the people of both nations. The wealth of a nation is created by its people. In order to do so, they must be free to try, to fail, and to succeed. Pride in personal achievement is far more effective than any socialist guarantee of minimal benefits. People who get something for nothing generally have no respect for what they have received. The result is personal and cultural failure.

2. The assumption of national sublimation is unrealistic.
You propose to have the United Nations control life on our planet. That is their agenda. It’s called globalism. But wait. Do you really believe this sprawling, illiterate, arrogant, avaricious and intolerant bureaucracy will rule the world with wisdom? Do you really believe China, Iran, Russia, and most of the other nations now ruled by defacto dictatorships will accept UN rule with open arms? Do you really believe OECD national wealth will be given up without a fight? And after the UN elitists and their army of bureaucrats have redistributed all the wealth and plunged the entire planet into miserable poverty, then what? Tribal warfare? Religious warfare? National rebellion? Ceaseless bloody revolt? What, exactly, will this strategy have accomplished?

3. Top down management does not work.
If you carefully evaluate why some corporations are successful and some or not, or why socialism fails and capitalism succeeds, you will discover that top down management is generally a disastrous way to run a large enterprise. It’s simple logistics. The person who has responsibility for a function must also have the authority to make decisions affecting the performance of that function. In top down management, people up the management chain assume they have all authority to act, even if they are unfamiliar with local activity and requirements, or even care what is happening on the local level. Since the person at the local level has no authority to act, they also lose nominal responsibility (and incentive) to act - even if it the result is disastrous. They can always blame “procedures” or “directives” for their failure. Economic activity stalemates.
 
Giving individuals the right, responsibility, and tools to succeed is far more likely to produce the benefits you seek than socialism or globalism. The Cuban economic and cultural experience provides multiple examples of this basic truth. Venezuela, where common people struggle to find enough to eat, is a really good example of socialist economic failure.

Let us think instead of a compromise between capitalism and socialism. Call it benevolent free enterprise. Combine the freedom to act with the Christian traditions of responsible action. Freedom and personal responsibility are essential tenets in the message of Jesus Christ.


Ron
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February 19, 2018

About Life and Love

In addition to the Ten Commandments, the core values of a 21st century Christian are taken from the New Testament of the Bible. Within these pages one finds the best expression the theology taught by Jesus Christ. These beliefs, along with selected passages from the Bible’s Old Testament, provide a moral foundation for the cultural values of Western Civilization and are the philosophical basis of Democracy.

Jesus had a profound respect for human life. He spent his ministry bringing us closer to God. His compassion was unlimited. Jesus loved and blessed the infant. In many ways, every new life is both a spiritual gift and a reminder of our own transience on this earth.

Jesus asks us to follow his example. It does not matter if one is young or old, healthy or infirm, rich or poor, a man, a woman, an adult or a child. We know every soul is equally important to the Holy Spirit. We are therefore challenged to cherish and protect human life from conception to death.
                                  
We do not believe in a class social system where there is a hierarchy of privilege. We believe in the inherent equality of humanity. One is not condemned to forever be at the bottom of the sociological pyramid. Even the poor can have dignity and status. Within our Christian community there is love and compassion for the sick, the elderly, the very young, the hungry, the widow, and the poor. No one need live in the loneliness of isolation. One can have a sense of belonging to a community of friends, of every age, all brothers and sisters in Christ. Salvation is offered to those who follow God’s commandments.

From Summa 21

Ron 
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January 05, 2018

The Attack On Christianity

When I was a kid no one dared criticize Christians. It just wasn’t done. Oh, maybe a grumble or two about the Methodists, but never, never about the Catholics. I suppose the fact that over 85% of our town was Catholic may have had something to do with it. And of course there were Priests and Nuns everywhere. Sort of keeping an eye on our behavior. It was the Nuns who taught my friends the “rule” of law.

Despite some unfortunate lapses, America was a moral nation. The people of our town had a genuine respect for the message of Christianity. It brought us together in times of grief, united our resolve to persevere against tyranny, guided our acts of compassion, and encouraged our generosity. After all, friendship, love and truth are better than animosity, hatred and dishonesty.

It should therefore come as no surprise that Americans who love their country are dismayed by the decline of Christian Theology as the metaphysical foundation of our culture. Christian Theology, as distinct from religions or the institutions of Christianity, is a positive, constructive, ethical, and benevolent philosophy. Although we humans and our religious institutions frequently fail to live up to the standards of Christian Theology, those standards provide us with the basis for the highest possible spiritual, intellectual and emotional self-realization. They also provide the philosophical foundation for public life and the conduct of a moral government.

Over the past year Americans have been exposed to the negative, destructive, immoral, and vindictive theology of communism, socialism and liberalism. These ideologies share a pathological contempt for Christianity and Christians that is frequently expressed in patronizing comments. Not only is the viral anti-Christian agenda obvious, it is frequently linked to anti-American propaganda and racist anti-white hatred. Who is perpetrating this divisive campaign? Russia? China? North Korea? Iran? ISIS? The list of possible villains is unfortunately quite long. The Internet gives ideological hatred international access to social media, blogs, and news sites. All too many misguided Americans are ready to echo belittling commentary. Illiterate repetition is especially strong among the young. Mainstream media personalities perpetuate divisive commentary because it generates corporate revenue, raises their profile, and supports their ideological hostility.

But wait. Doesn’t this rejection of Christian Doctrine encourage the pursuit of pervasive corruption, absolute power and unlimited greed?

It does.

Any effort to install a global government controlled by a select few must necessarily rest on a philosophical foundation that supports the ultimate goal: an international socialist fascist state. Liberalism serves that purpose quite well. Think Orwell’s Oceania; a world of perpetual war, oppressive government surveillance and public manipulation. In order to achieve this goal, all opposing theologies and philosophies must be killed and buried so they no longer offer an alternative to the preferred theology of socialist liberalism. That specifically includes Christianity and its silly Christian Theology.

 Christianity must be eliminated because Christian Theology is philosophically opposed to the mindless politically correct mantra repeated by the submissive serfs of a socialist fascist state.

But wait. Even atheists and agnostics should be alarmed.  The concept of personal freedom is embedded in Christian Theology. So too are the concepts of personal accomplishment, personal responsibility, personal independence, moral behavior, social equality, and love... ah yes... love. Do we really want these taken away from us by a corrupt, oppressive, malicious, self-serving government that teaches our children to act like biological robots?

Is welfare becoming the new serfdom?

There is a certain cultural irony here. The globalists are more likely to achieve their objectives if they espouse Christian Theology, rather than oppose it. The economic and social health of a global culture is more likely to work if the participants have a positive self-motivated outlook, rather than a negative resentful response to oppressive government regulation. But I digress.

Yes. Christianity and Christian Theology are under attack. And while I believe the institutions of Christianity are due for the refreshing exhilaration of a 21st century reformation, and Christian Theology needs to be characterized in 21st century terms, the underlying philosophy is essential to virtuous behavior and spiritual tranquility.

Not convinced Christian Theology is under attack? Reject my alarm? Do your own research. Do an Internet search using the terms “anti-Christian”. Or read the random selection of items in the Reference section that follows.


TCE


References

“On Sunday, the day of the (Sutherland Springs, Texas) church massacre, cultural commentator David French tweeted, “The amount of anti-Christian hate on Twitter the same day Christians were massacred is stunning and chilling.” ... This is more than heartless and tactless. It is intentional and quite focused: Faith in God is to be mocked, in particular, Christian faith, and when Christians are slaughtered during a church service, that is the perfect time to pile on.  ... it is a natural fruit of the harsh and condescending “new atheism,” which continues to poison many hearts and minds with its venom. God is not simply to be rejected; He is to mocked and ridiculed, as are His followers. ... The hostility against us is reaching a crescendo, and things could get even uglier in the days ahead.”
- Why So Much Hatred Against Christians in America Today?  Michael Brown | Townhall.com | Posted: Nov 07, 2017

“But worship of any kind, private or public, gets religious America into serious hot water with the liberal media, which has come to mock and resent public displays of faith, or any acknowledgment of God or religion by the state. The mere suggestion that the country is in fact a Christian one is declared backward, dangerous, and heretical to the Constitution of the United States.
- S. E. Cupp: Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity

”Hillary Clinton’s campaign mocked Catholics... This was thinly veiled religious bigotry, not only against conservative Catholics, but also against evangelicals,"
- former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove commented to Megyn Kelly on "The Kelly File."

“... Christians in the U.S. are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist, and close-minded.”
- from a report by International Christian Concern.

Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin, both Democrats, attempted to disqualify a U S. District Court nominee because she is a Christian. The Catholic Association's Legal Advisor Andrea Picciotti-Bayer said: "Amy Coney Barrett's qualifications for the federal judiciary are undisputed, but abortion industry advocates continue their smear campaign by attacking Barrett's Catholic faith. The full senate rejected their attempt to hang a "Catholics need not apply" sign outside the Senate chamber when it considers candidates to the judiciary. We applaud the Senate's rejection of anti-Catholic bigotry and confirmation of Amy Barrett's nomination to the 7th Circuit court of appeals."

The ACLU’s brief against Colorado baker Jack Phillips, a Christian, includes a dismissal of the First Amendment. Logically this case could set a precedent whereby the expression of Christian beliefs, including the display of a cross, could be banned by any Judge. "If religious freedom does not include the freedom for individuals to peacefully decline involvement in private commercial activities they find objectionable, it's a meaningless concept,"
- Robby Soave, an associate editor at Reason.com.

“America today would be unrecognizable to our founders. Our first freedom is facing a relentless onslaught from well-funded and aggressive groups and individuals who are using the courts, Congress, and the vast federal bureaucracy to suppress and limit religious freedom,...”
- Tony Perkins, president of the FRC, and Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute. - 2012

“American Christians are facing uncertain times. Our nation’s values are under assault. Religious liberty has been undermined. We live in a day when right is now wrong and wrong is now right. The vicious leftwing attack against the recent traditional marriage stance of Chick-fil-A should serve as a wakeup call to people of faith. It’s not about a chicken sandwich. It’s about religious liberty. It’s about free speech. It’s about the future of our nation.”
- Publisher's Description;  God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values, by Todd Starnes

First Liberty Institute
“UNDENIABLE: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, 2017 Edition” is an alarming compilation of more than 1,400 documented instances of hostility towards free religious exercise. It offers irrefutable evidence of this growing crisis in four key areas:

The Public Arena (government, public places, and the workplace)
Education
Religious Institutions
The U.S. Military

Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for First Liberty: “This flood is engulfing ordinary citizens who simply try to live normal lives according to their faith and conscience. It is eroding the bedrock on which stand vital American institutions such as government, education, the military, business, houses of worship, and charity. It has the potential to wash away the ground that supports our other rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, and government by consent of the people...
...individuals and families are being hurt. The attacks you will read about ... are sweeping away small businesses. careers and ministries. Behind the legalities are tears. anguish. and the denial of basic human tolerance. compassion. and common decency. It’s time for a national rejection of politically correct cruelty based on discrimination against traditional American forms of faith.”
- First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in America with the exclusive mission of protecting religious freedom for all our citizens.

Liberal Hollywood types have declared an all-out war on Christianity.
From Townhall.com | 12/15/2017 | Showtime Vs. Christianity | Brent Bozell

(Edited) The Hollywood Foreign Press Association Golden Globe Awards nominations have been announced. Two nominations went to Showtime's program called "SMILF," which stands for "Single Mother I'd Like to F---." Obviously, the executives of (CBS-owned) Showtime also designed it to nudge people to click on it because they know it's going to be dirty, or as the critics call it, "a raw, honest look at the life of a 20-something single mom." Frankie Shaw insists, "If it offends you, don't watch."
One of the dominant themes is the character having suffered sexual abuse by her father when she was a child. Another is a serious loathing of religion, specifically Christianity....  in the fourth episode, when Bridgette's mother, Tutu, suggests a prayer to the Virgin Mary. "Mothers cannot be virgins," lectures Bridgette. "Mary was forced to have that baby. ... Matthew and Luke and whoever did some stuff to her and then called it an angel baby. ... Now we're all stuck praying to this 'angel baby.'"
In other words, Mary was raped by the Gospel writers, and Jesus was just an illegitimate result worthy of no one's adoration.

The entire article can be seen here:
https://townhall.com/columnists/brentbozell/2017/12/15/showtime-vs-christianity-n2422671

See also:
Religious Liberty Is Eroding in Canada. Here’s What Americans Should Learn.
- https://amac.us/religious-liberty-eroding-canada-heres-americans-learn/
Open Doors - https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/
Christian Post - https://www.christianpost.com
The Religion of Peace - https://www.thereligionofpeace.com/attacks/christian-attacks.aspx
Church in Need - https://www.churchinneed.org/christian-persecution-reaches-historic-levels/
World Net Daily - http://www.wnd.com/2015/02/committed-christian-obamas-religious-history-unmasked/
Attack on Christianity - David M. Howard: http://deepriverbooks.com/books/attack-on-christianity/
World Net Daily - http://www.wnd.com/2017/01/u-s-on-list-of-christian-persecuting-nations/
Wonder where hostility to Christianity is surging? http://www.wnd.com/2012/08/wonder-where-hostility-to-christianity-is-surging/ The assessment is not exhaustive, but presents “over 600 incidents of religious attacks and hostility in the United States – most of which occurred within the past 10 years,”....
Family Research Council - A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military:  - http://www.frc.org/clearpresentdanger2
National Review - http://www.nationalreview.com/article/452964/europe-christianity-non-believers-cultural-identity-crisis-immigration-assimilation
National Review - http://www.nationalreview.com/article/449789/post-christian-americas-superstitious-intolerant-reality
Christianity.com - http://www.christianity.com/christian-life/political-and-social-issues/are-christians-in-america-under-attack.html
“ERADICATE: Blotting Out God in America: Understanding, Combatting, and Overcoming the Anti-Christian Agenda, Apathy in the Church, and the Decline of Morality in Culture”
- Paperback – September 17, 2012 - by David Fiorazo 

Books by atheists
The God Delusion; Richard Dawkins
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything; Christopher Hitchens
Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments … ; Armin Navabi
All That's Wrong with the Bible: Contradictions, Absurdities, and More; Jonah David Conner
Christianity No Longer Makes Sense; Evan Davids
God's Gravediggers: Why no Deity Exists; Raymond Bradley

And finally....
A belief in God is irrational; religion has inflicted grievous harm on society; the Old Testament tyrant is obsessed with sex; religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children. Religion is a man-made wish, a cause of dangerous sexual repression, and a distortion of our origins in the cosmos.

Question: Is this paragraph a statement of hatred or love?

And which do you prefer?
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December 09, 2017

When Was Jesus Born?


It is amazing.  Curious.  Jesus is one of the most important humans ever to walk on the face of our planet, yet nobody seems to have had the presence of mind to write down the dates of his birth, ministry or death. Although there are many historical and Biblical references to his life and work, there are only vague references to tell us when these events occurred.

It is therefore impossible to establish accurate dates for the birth, ministry and death of either John the Baptist or Jesus. Biblical references are subject to interpretation, and the Roman historian Flavius Josephus – who does mention both men in his texts – may have been more interested in the narrative he was writing than accurate historical information. Most scholars believe John and Jesus were born sometime between 6 and 4 B.C. (Before Christ, Before the Christian era). It would appear John was born sometime in March or April. Jesus was born about six months later in September or October. Other dates are possible. John started his ministry between 26 and 28 A.D. (Anno Domini, in the Year of Our Lord). Jesus began his ministry between 27 and 28 A.D. John was imprisoned in the spring, and beheaded in August, of 28 or 29 A.D. Jesus was crucified in 29 or 30 A.D. Christian traditions favor 30 A.D.  It should be noted the popular date of birth we observe for Jesus, December 25, was established by the Catholic Church in 336 A.D. (Julian calendar) in order to replace a pagan Roman holiday (Saturnalia) with a Christian holiday. Ironically, this is also the date when Romans gave tributes to the Sun God. Another interesting irony: it is possible Jesus was actually conceived on December 25, 6 B.C.

To further confuse the date issues, we should note the calculation of years and months in the Hebrew calendar does not match the calculation of these time spans in the Julian (old Christian) calendar; the Hebrew New Year may have actually started between the birth of John (in March or April) and the Birth of Jesus (in September or October); and finally, there is no year zero.

So, what can we do? In the absence of better information, we can establish a reasonable, logical, and credible time line that may, or may not, be entirely accurate, but does give us a way to lay out the events that shaped the lives of these two men. The dates are an interesting way to visualize history, but in the final analysis what matters to us is that both men existed and both men had an incredible influence on human history.

So here goes. Tradition tells us our Christian calendar starts on the date Jesus was born. That would be at the beginning of the first year A.D. (There is no year zero). But the date of his birth was accidentally miscalculated when Dionysius Exiguus developed a new calendar in the 6th century. In 525 A.D. Pope John I asked him to create a set of tables that would establish the proper dates for Easter. Dionysius invented a method called Anno Domini (A.D.) to number the years for the Julian Calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.). Dionysius renumbered the years of the Julian Calendar, using the incarnation of Jesus Christ as year 1 in the Roman numbering system. Unfortunately, Dionysius miscalculated the date Jesus was born. He apparently misunderstood how the years in the Hebrew calendar were numbered. Scholars place the birth of Jesus between 6 and 4 B.C.

According to the Hebrew calendar, Jesus may have been born after the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah in 4 B.C. For purposes of simplicity, let’s use the Gregorian calendar dates.

After considerable research of available (and often conflicting) information, we can narrow down the possible dates Jesus was born. If Jesus was born on Christmas day, as tradition tells us, it would have been 6 B.C. But Jesus was more likely born in late September or early October. That would move the date of his birth into the next year. Thus in our scenario, John was born in the month of March of 5 B.C. and Jesus was born in September or October of 5 B.C. 
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November 04, 2017

Was Jesus Married?


A Coptic Script

A very small fragment of papyrus has been verified as an authentic record of ancient Coptic belief. Scientists have extensively tested the papyrus as well as the ink used to inscribe the badly aged fragment. They have analyzed the handwriting and the grammar of the author. After careful review, it has been concluded the fragment dates back to at least the ninth to sixth century, and may date as far back as the fourth century.


Called by some the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife", the fragment contains eight mostly legible lines on the front and six barely readable lines on the back. Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King emphasized the fragment does not confirm that Jesus was married. Rather, it suggests early Egyptian Coptic Christians believed Jesus was married.


Written in the Coptic language, the text affirms that women who are mothers and wives can be Disciples of Christ. The words on the front of the fragment appear to record a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. The fourth line of the text says, "Jesus said to them, my wife." Line 5 says "... she will be able to be my disciple," while the line before the "wife" quote has Jesus saying "Mary is worthy of it" and line 7 says, “As for me, I dwell with her in order to ..."


Cultural Influences

In order to determine the probability of whether or not Jesus was ever married, we need to evaluate his activity within the cultural norms that would have influenced his life. This was a culture bound by long standing traditions and social rules. Peer pressure was a strong motivation for personal decisions, and none were stronger than those which guided personal attitudes about family, social behavior, and religion. We may be critical of the superstition and reliance on ancient law that governed social activity, but they were non-the-less the basis for personal behavior.


The Gospel of Mark, which was written more than 15 years after Christ’s crucifixion, does not mention his wife. Neither do the later Gospels of Matthew, Luke or John. Many have chosen to believe this omission proves Jesus was never married. We must remember, however, the four Gospels were written ~ 15 – ~ 80 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the Gospels fail to mention any marriage, this omission does not necessarily prove Jesus was never married. The Gospels focus on Jesus the man and Jesus the son of God. They celebrate his birth, ministry, and resurrection.


With these thoughts in mind, let us examine the options.


Jesus Was Never Married: Possible

Gospel references to Jesus emphasize the spiritual importance of his birth, his special relationship with God, and his knowledge of Jewish (religious) law and history (even as a 13 year old boy). Jesus is a man (the son of God in human form) who has a direct access to God through prayer. He is on a mission to spread the wisdom of God’s message. It would be easy to envision a youth spent in study and contemplation, followed by a young man’s commitment to celibacy and spiritual growth until he is ready to begin his ministry. For many, this is the pure Jesus, untouched by the rigors of manhood or the sins of sex.


But if we are honest about Jesus the man, particularly at the time he commits himself to a ministry he knows will result in his death, then this scenario fails to explain how he acquired his intense charisma and passion. He didn’t stumble around in a spiritual fog for 18 years (from age 13 to 31). Here was a man with spiritual credibility, intellectual focus, and strong emotional conviction. Jesus was a man on a mission whose charisma and warmth captivated those who knew him.


So; how and why did Jesus develop his passion and counter-culture theology?


Marriage as a Young Man: Likely

Unlike almost all of the other spiritual teachers, Jesus went out of his way to include women in his group of followers. Joanna, Susanna, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, Mary his mother, Mary Salome, and others are mentioned in the New Testament. Treating women as equals contradicted the wisdom of the prevailing culture, and on occasion was the source of some irritation among his male disciples. But where and how did Jesus learn to respect women as equals in the eyes of man and God? For that answer we must construct a likely scenario of his life as a young man.


Within ancient Jewish culture it was believed a man could achieve immortality through his children. His status in the afterlife was closely linked to the number of living descendants. Hence, it was important to have as many children as possible and to encourage them to raise families of their own. Sexual deviation was frowned upon for the simple reason it produced no children.


In this culture, during this period of time, boys were usually married by the time they were 16. There is no reason to believe Jesus would have been an exception. Biblical revelation celebrates sexual intimacy in marriage. Marriage was expected, even among religious teachers. Jesus would have been under incredible peer pressure to marry and raise a family.


Marriage to Mary Magdalene: Unlikely

There is a popular belief that Jesus met and married Mary Magdalene during his ministry. It is true he developed a very close relationship with her. Jesus met Mary of Magdala during a trip to Caesarea. Wealthy in her own right, she was attracted to Jesus because of his intense charisma, quiet grace, wonderful knowledge of the spiritual, and compassion for everyone he met. She was included within his inner circle of disciples in an age when women were seldom allowed to be students or disciples of a spiritual teacher. Mary was a courageous woman who accompanied Jesus throughout his later ministry; impressed Jesus with her spiritual insight; helped Jesus financially; was faithful even when the other disciples were afraid to support Jesus at his trial; was the first person to see him after his resurrection; and was the first to announce to all who would listen that Jesus had arisen. The fourth-century theologian Augustine called her the "Apostle to the Apostles", in recognition of her role in the life of Jesus.


But the idea that Mary Magdalene was his wife fails for at least eight reasons:


First: It was the custom of the time to refer to married women as being the wife of their husbands. If Mary had married Jesus, the Gospels would refer to her as “Mary, the wife of Jesus”. But this association has never been made in any of the texts.


Second: In one of the most emotional moments in the story of the resurrection, a grief-stricken and weeping Mary Magdalene is desperately looking for the body of Jesus. He calls out to her: “Mary”. Turning, she sees him for the first time and calls out “Rabbuni” (translated as teacher or master). She calls him by the same name used by the other disciples. If Mary had an intimate relationship with Jesus, it is likely she would have used a term of marital endearment. But she does not, indicating their relationship was one of disciple and teacher.


Third: Before he started his ministry at age 31, it would appear Jesus decided to adopt the discipline of celibacy. There is a remarkable resemblance between Christian doctrine and the Essene system of beliefs. The Essenes considered celibacy to be praiseworthy behavior of any man who wanted to be close to God. Jesus was influenced by these beliefs as he was forming the theology for his ministry. Indeed, his forty days in the wilderness may have been as a guest of the Essenes near the Dead Sea. The adoption of celibacy allowed Jesus to focus all his energy and intellect on his mission.


Fourth: Jesus was a very intelligent man. He must have known his ministry would not provide the time or environment for a successful family life. In addition, Jesus would have certainly understood his counter-culture theology would lead to a confrontation with contemporary religious and political leaders; a conflict that he was sure to lose. With no dependent family and a vow of celibacy, Jesus was free to concentrate on his mission.


Fifth: Mary Magdalene’s position within the group that followed Jesus was of a devoted and worthy disciple. She appears to have been sufficiently independent financially to help fund the ministry of her teacher. The Gospels respect her intelligence as a disciple and the importance of her witness to the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That a woman could be the primary witness to these events was a radical idea, and confirms her independence as a disciple.


Sixth: Jesus treated the members of his inner circle with respect. He embraced men and women as equals. He refused to reduce the importance of a woman based on her sexuality. His love for women, and their love for him, was a primary driving force for the eventual success of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Hence women, including Mary Magdalene, surrounded him whenever he took his ministry into the countryside. They were disciples and observers, not familiar partners.


Seventh: Jesus had enemies who were looking for every chance to criticize his beliefs and activities. Nowhere do we find an accusation of sexual misconduct in his relationship with any woman. If Jesus had married Mary Magdalene, they would have found a way to find fault with his choice of a partner.


Eighth: If we accept he had been married as a young man, it is likely Jesus would have refrained from a second marriage out of respect and love from the woman who had been his marriage companion.


And a final thought. Mary Magdalene became a trusted and influential apostle within the growing Christian movement. Who was this woman whose maturity and character encouraged belief and commitment? Was she actually an older woman, perhaps recently widowed, who was seeking spiritual consolation when she met the charismatic and sympathetic Jesus? Did they connect because he understood her grief? Did she find transcendent comfort and inspiration (as so many have done) in a loving association with Jesus Christ?


From the Gospel of John:
It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she said, “and we don’t know where they have put him.”


Peter and the others rush to the tomb to see for themselves, and then leave. Standing alone outside the tomb, still weeping, Mary Magdalene once again peers cautiously into the tomb.


“Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” As she said this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognize him. Jesus said, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.” Jesus said, “Mary!” She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbuni!”—which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to...my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.”


What Would God Want?

And of course, we must consider – what would God want?


1. God would want Jesus to be thoroughly familiar with Jewish law and religious customs. Jesus would need this knowledge if he was to defend his theology against the challenges of his critics and effectively bring God’s message to those who followed him. Both Mary and Joseph heeded God’s counsel by making sure Jesus was well versed in contemporary Jewish beliefs. By age 13, he understood the law well enough to engage in a discussion of considerable depth with temple priests in Jerusalem. This episode also reveals an independent and remarkably mature Jesus.


2. God would want Jesus to be passionate about his mission. In addition to having an intellectual understanding of theology and the law, Jesus must also have the innate ability to deliver a powerful message. If he is to minister with a voice that resonates with his contemporaries, then Jesus must live the compassion of love and experience the suffering of hatred. The obvious solution: Jesus would live and experience human life with all its joys, sorrows, triumphs, and tragedies. Jesus would acquire his credibility, and his passion, by taking his place among the men of his community. His life, and his life style, would be influenced by the cultural norms of his community.


If God is compassionate and loving, would he not want Jesus to be the same? Would he want Jesus to experience human life with all its joys, sorrows, challenges, and triumphs? One can acquire an intellectual understanding of theology through study, but in order to value the deeply emotional significance of theological concepts one must live them. This experience would round out Jesus the man and Jesus the teacher. After all, how can one teach about life if one has not experienced it?


Marriage

Following cultural norms, it is likely Jesus was married by the age of 16. Mary and Joseph would have known the girl’s parents. Perhaps they participated in the selection of a suitable companion. In any event, it was perfectly natural for Jesus to be married according to the customs of his community. But it is unlikely Jesus and his wife produced any progeny. If they had done so, the men who wrote the gospels would have mentioned them by name because children were a mark of a man’s wealth. Instead, this young couple would have been subjected to intense social pressure and belittlement when their marriage produced no progeny. One can guess Jesus drew ever closer to his beloved wife as the years went by. They both longed to have children. But they did not. Was it from this experience that Jesus developed his very strong sense of compassion for women and his love for children? Does that not seem logical?


Why Isn’t She Mentioned in the New Testament?

Since there were no children, the marriage was not important. Any revelation about a marriage would have been seen as a distraction to the main purpose of the male centric Gospels. In order for Jesus to be a symbol of spiritual purity, and the son of God, earthly details about his life must be discarded. Within this cultural environment, there is nothing unusual about Matthew’s description of Jesus, or the details of how he started his ministry. Matthew clearly wants to prove that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and does so by giving us a striking image of Jesus in vivid detail.


But if Jesus was married, then what happened to her? Did she pass away from disease or accident? Possible; these were tough times. That would certainly explain the passion with which Jesus launched his ministry. The loss of his beloved wife after a marriage that produced no children would have been emotionally devastating. It could have been the event that sparked his search for spiritual union with God.


On the other hand, is it possible she is “the disciple whom Jesus loved?” mentioned six times in John? Tradition says this disciple was male and the reference may have been to John himself. But the references appear confused. Could it have been his wife? Of all the Gospels, does John (or whoever wrote the Gospel of John) have the best understanding of Jesus the man and the meaning of his message?


Many questions: we can only contemplate possible answers.