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Jesus Interrupted 7: Who Invented Christianity?

05/17/2011

This highlights how different the groups were that originally worshiped Jesus, and how Eusubius rewrote history, painting all the other groups as fringe, when in fact many were major. The earliest Christians did not see Jesus as divine, did not believe in the trinity, did not believe in hell. These were all created later.

Kindle Notes:

I can see why you might want to read a book by J. K. Rowling. But if God wrote a book…wouldn’t you want to see what he has to say?” (3491)

My thesis here is that not only is the Bible a very human book, but that Christianity as it has developed and come down to us today is a very human religion (3503).

Christians have frequently cited certain passages in the Old Testament as clear prophecies of the future suffering Messiah, passages such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, in which someone suffers horribly, sometimes expressly for the sins of others. These passages, Christians have claimed, are clear statements about what the Messiah would be like. Jews who do not believe in Jesus, however, have always had a very effective response: the Messiah is never mentioned in these passages. You can check it out for yourself: read Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 (I’ll quote the relevant verses later in this chapter). The term “Messiah” never occurs in them (3532).

both Matthew and Luke indicate that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but they have him born by means of different, contradictory plot devices. Why do they both want him to be born in Bethlehem? Because the Old Testament indicates that a savior will come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). But didn’t everyone know that he came from Nazareth? Yes, say both Matthew and Luke, Jesus actually grew up in Nazareth. But he was born in Bethlehem, and here is how it happened. The problem is their accounts contradict each other. What does this show? The Christians told stories about Jesus in light of what they believed about him, making sure that at every point, his life fulfilled Scripture, since he was, after all, the suffering Messiah (3641).

Some of his later followers retained the Jewish character of his proclamation. As the Christian religion developed in other directions, however, these followers came to be labeled heretics. This is one of the real ironies of the early Christian tradition, that the original form of the religion came to be cast out and denounced (3672).

Anti-Semitism as it has come down to us today is the history of specifically Christian reactions to non-Christian Jews. It is one of the least savory inventions of the early church (3793).

We have seen that the Gospels of the New Testament, three of which do not call Jesus God, were written many years after Jesus lived and died. There are other portions of the New Testament that were written earlier (3799).

The Trinity is a later Christian invention, which was based, in the arguments of Athanasius and others, on passages of Scripture but which does not actually appear in any of the books of the New Testament. Within three hundred years Jesus went from being a Jewish apocalyptic prophet to being God himself, a member of the Trinity. Early Christianity is nothing if not remarkable (4030).

The earliest Christians, starting with Jesus, did not believe in that sort of heaven and hell, as a place that your soul goes when you die. This, too, is a later Christian invention (4039).

with the passing of time, the apocalyptic notion of the resurrection of the body becomes transformed into the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. What emerges is the belief in heaven and hell, a belief not found in the teachings of Jesus or Paul, but one invented in later times by Christians who realized that the kingdom of God never would come to this earth. This belief became a standard Christian teaching, world without end (4122).

What we might think of as traditional Christianity did not simply drop from the sky, full grown and fully developed, soon after the ministry of Jesus. Nor did it emerge directly and simply from his teachings. In many ways, what became Christianity represents a series of rather important departures from the teachings of Jesus. Christianity, as has long been recognized by critical historians, is the religion about Jesus, not the religion of Jesus.

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