I’ve been listening to a fascinating course on the early Christians. It has me thinking about the Bible. What seems to be taken as a given is that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are very different forces. Somewhat cruel and hands-on in the former vs. loving and distant in that later. From what I have gleaned so far, scholars know some of the authors of the New Testament and have educated guesses on those they don’t know for sure.
Who “wrote” the New Testament? My guess would be that these are stories passed down from generation to generation until they were written down in texts that were sacred to the Jews. Question for the Jews: in general are the stories of the old testament taken as fact written via the influence of God or for fable to learn by or both?
For Christianity I would say that there are those who believe that God caused the writing of the New Testament (for lack of a better description). My sister-in-law has a good term “God-breathed”. Then there are other Christians who see the Bible more as a set of stories. I’ve typically taken the later view. It’s an easy position, men wrote it down we know that. They are inherently imperfect (i.e. not God). Did they feel inspired by God when they wrote it? Undoubtedly. That doesn’t make everyone who feels “inspired” right.
When I started this blog I posed a question which was, can one consider oneself a Christian if one does not believe that Jesus was the son of God? What has become clear to me after studying these early Christian’s is that whether or not Jesus was the actual messiah, those who wrote the texts of the New Testament certainly believed he was. And it is that belief that shaped everything they wrote, did, said, you name it.
To follow my thoughts to a (hopefully) logical conclusion – if Christianity is the result of the writings and teachings of the early Christians interpretation of Jesus as the son of God whose death and resurrection fulfilled the contract with God and the Jews, then yes – one does have to agree with these ideas to be considered a Christian. As the closest group to Jesus, who himself left no writings, all we have are their interpretations. They define the religion.
The difficulty comes when one begins to understand all the other texts that have surfaced in the last 100 or so years that are also written by early Christians that present a very different view of what Jesus’ message was. Which do I believe? All, because they are all “God-breathed”? Just the traditional cannon, a survival of the fittest gospel concept? Or none, because how can one know. Do I just choose what I like? That’s what most early Christian sects did, they picked the writings that supported their view and discarded the rest. Its human nature I supposed.
My conundrum continues, what is a person who believes in God but does not necessarily believe in Jesus as the son of God? Maybe I am a Jew by definition – that is pending the answer to the question in paragraph 2. Also, how do we reconcile the extreme differences of God presented in the Old and New Testament? I can’t seem to just accept that the Bible is true. I don’t have a problem with accepting God even though he’s less provable than the Bible. I wonder why this is. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it!