The construction of christianism


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The construction of christianism

  1. 1. 1 THE CONSTRUCTION OF CHRISTIANISM: A META-ANALYSIS OF CHRISTIAN ORIGINS by George Borten How did Christianity evolve from Judaism to the teachings and ways of Jesus and from that to the Christianity we know today? It is an incredible story, beyond the limits of human comprehension. Generations of great minds have elaborated exhausting schemes of explanation, in an attempt to smooth the wrinkles and cover the leaps of reason, and to present this gigantic, unique, convulsive transformation process as a simply obvious and natural historical process. This process would have consisted of clear and straightforward adaptations to the changes in social and cultural environment of Christianity new setting, outside its original homeland. That should not affect a supposed perfect and unchangeable central doctrine. The changes, however, appear to be much bigger than justified by an adaptive process. That raises the possibility that, layer-by-layer, century after century, a whole new religion was being constructed, and quite disconnected from its historical origins, from its perhaps not so sure religious roots. A central premise of Christianity is the “One Church” feature, which has not been held up for so many centuries, and leaves us with no alternative but the make it the center of our analysis: there are many christianities, and there will always be. The idea that christianity began as a homogenous, straight, coherent body of doctrine has been dispelled by most gospels scholars. What reigned at first was sheer confusion, divergent views and extreme power play. The perfect unity of the starting church is no more than a myth.
  2. 2. 2 It’s startling to notice that just a few years after the death of Jesus so much discord had set in. It is astonishing that Paul, a newcomer, could prevail with his views over those of Peter who was, after all, the first and closest apostle to the Master. The divisions among christians have only increased with the passing of time, and the possibilities of a common understanding are each time more distant. And what would be the reason for this development? Quite simply put, that interpretation took the front row to revelation, and although revelation is supposedly unique, the mechanisms of interpretation are intrinsically prone to produce diverging results, and each time they are applied, the more so. We consider that the diverging christian branches are the result of the construction of doctrine through interpretation, a process that is ongoing in all religions, but also puts them all on the same level. If one argues that a form of religion is the right one, therefore superior to all others, one should demonstrate that it has been less modified through the ages, less subject to interpretation. In the case of Christianity, the rate of divergence, past and present, has been a bit too extreme, any way you look at it. This would, as much as anything, indicate human elaboration and interference. There also is the problem of contextualization. When the doctrine shows excessive influence of the time and cultural context, we see evidence of human elaboration. It is not a good sign when reference is made to something that we now consider so much out of character. This is specially the case with the virgin birth concept, which was extremely common in the greek-roman cultural period, but definitely too mythological for our day and ages. Also Jesus casting out demons, which then enter into pigs. This is extremely embarrassing. The point is that the literary style is supposed to be different, and that should be so, but the facts themselves could not be so outside our common sense. Does it prove anything? Perhaps again, that human elaboration had a lot to do with it.
  3. 3. 3 In the next steps, we shall analyze the degree of syncretism present in the construction of Christianity. We emphasize that is a phenomenon common to many religions. However, the degree of its utilization reflects on the claims of any religion to be THE ONE. In the case of Christianity the level of syncretism, the incorporation of other religions beliefs and practices, is massive. Elements from Zoroastrism, the Mithras cult, the Isis cult, Dionysius cult and many others find an equivalent there, hard to dispel. Are these just coincidences? You cannot rule them out, but in our “meta-analysis like” methodology, although every bit of information counts, it is the total sum, the total impression, the direction the whole process takes, that sets the probability of something being true or not. The split between Judaism and Christianity is also something that poses immense difficulties of understanding. Since Judaism continued on its own course, it is very odd that christians began to interpret the Bible (the so-called Old Testament) with almost complete disregard to rabbinical traditional opinions. After all, the split occurred initially over the disputed messianic condition of Jesus. The attributes of God were not to be changed at all, yet the Holy Trinity dogma was established without any discussion or acceptance by the jewish religious leadership, setting aside that this God was THEIR GOD and the Bible (the Old Testament) was their HOLY BOOK. In addition, the israelites were the HOLY PEOPLE. They, of all people, should know what their God is. Jesus mission to act as a redeemer and to announce the Kingdom of God was interpreted by christians as rigorous fulfillment of the Bible’s prophecies. Certainly not to cause theological havoc, by presenting a completely altered conception of God, as the Trinitarian formula does. Should it be the case, he would be expected to present it with utmost clarity. In fact, he does not directly talks about the issue, except for vague, ambiguous allusions, who could, or not, be indirect oblique references to the idea. If Christianity is validated by having sprung out of Judaism, the fact that christians would propose such an alteration of the concept of God, with no acceptance at all from their “Mother Religion” would seriously undermine the original validation. In fact, that would point to it being a new religion, from scratch, unrelated to the “continuation of the revelation” inside Judaism.
  4. 4. 4 “The doctrine of the double nature of Christ, like that of the Trinity, is a doctrine of inference. Neither doctrine is declared in any verse, nor can they be expressed in the language of Scripture. Scattered verses are assembled in quasi-syllogistic form, inferences are drawn from newly-created contexts, and it is assumed that the Messiah is both a mortal man and the almighty God”. From: The Holy Trinity theological development took about three centuries. Before this idea had any significant outline, the presence of former strict Judaism followers in the christian cult had steadily declined. The fall of Jerusalem was the last straw. From this point on, “Athens and Rome” took control of the young church. The elaboration of the dogma felt into the hands of citizens of the greek cultural world, neophytes non acquainted with Judaism, and totally infatuated with a very elaborate, speculative, philosophical greek tradition. The end result was a concept that was so alien to jewish theological thought, that to this day it remains a major stumbling block to any religious convergence between the two faiths. Adding to this also, the fact that the notion of Original Sin is not even a part of the Source Faith. Summing it up, Christianity, from a formal historical point-of- view, should be considered, in fact, a whole new religion, with an inauguration date around 30 AC, and with a very different concept of God than its proclaimed roots. The Triune God is a significant departure from Judaism’s beliefs, and a big game changer. After centuries of being hammered with the “there is only one God” concept, it is understandable why there was such a resistance to this new idea, which could rightly only appear to most israelites as blasphemous. An idea that was not even clearly stated by Christ himself, but only came to be through a greek philosophy inspired use of inference and syllogistics procedures. These massive, astonishing efforts of interpretation where used to convert small, ambiguous, sparse references into immense theological cathedrals. Never so much was inferred from so little. All this happening after Christ’s departure, so that it would be perhaps more correct to say that Christianity only appeared many years after the crucifixion, and that its relation to Christ’s real words and acts is not so certain, as once was thought.
  5. 5. 5 Would it have been possible for Judaism to have incorporated Jesus teachings and actions and, from there on, to become a worldwide religion, so that today there would be, instead of Christianity, a “Judaism 2.0”, that would be now the biggest religion in the world? That may have been the initial aim of Jesus actions, since he lived fully as a born and practicing member, and never rejected it. Nothing in his words suggests the birth of a new religion. Of course, there is a suggestion of a “New Era”, but no trace of the idea of a new “Institution”, just of a loose community with common ideals, as the original word used for “church” really means community. The highly hierarchical, vain, rich, authoritarian institutions, with their stiff rituals, intellectually sophisticated theology and magnificent buildings and which label themselves “churches”, are difficult to justify, for they do really seem alien to the teachings of Jesus. The making and spreading of a system that later would be called “Christianity” is hard to reconcile with the Jesus that never preached outside his land and his people. It took the actions and words of Paul, who had never met Jesus, to pull the Jesus movement out of its jewish roots. But was it necessary? Was there something incompatible between the New Creed and mainstream Judaism? In the long run, it became so, but at one point in time something must have occurred that made the rift irreversible. Matthew 15:11 may give us a clue. Jesus is reported as saying: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth—this defiles a person”. This could, and certainly was, interpreted as considering the dietary laws as not so important. As a consequence, all regulations of the Law, which governed jewish daily life, could be put into question, and that would be considered an unacceptable threat to Judaism. The very life of the chosen people was linked to strict obedience to the Law. Many had defended their identity and even died by refusing to eat in disagreement with the prescriptions of the Law and to question its validity would strike at the very heart of jewish identity. From that point on, relations would be very strained between Jesus and the religious authorities. The consequences of Matthew 15:11 are here today, as christians eagerly eat ham, which is strictly forbidden by the Old Testament.
  6. 6. 6 Of course if Matthew 15:11 is correct, why didn’t Jesus eat some pork or any other non approved food to make his point, following declarations with deeds, as was his style. No such thing occurred (if it had, his movement would not have survived), but then why say something, if you cannot possibly follow up with action? We are left to wonder if Matthew 15:11 has the exact words as they were uttered. They seem too much aligned with a feeling of rejection for the Source Faith, already well established when the gospels were written down. My personal guess is that the original wording was more like this: “You care so much about what goes into the mouth, that you forget to care about what comes out of the mouth, and by which you are equally defiled”. This would be in accordance with the reported general stance adopted by Jesus, and the gospels description of the incident. At the time of Jesus someone who, being a jew, pretended to be a messenger of god, and declared that the impurity laws were abolished, probably would have been stoned for blasphemy. At the trial before Pilatus the issue would have been brought up, as an accessory accusation of public disturbance. No way this would be met by grumbling only. That is one of the several signs that the gospels were written with specific agendas in mind, and contain many elaborations that depart significantly from the original facts. It is my belief that Matthew 15:11 and its equivalent Mark 7:19 were intended as a way out for the greek culture adherents, who wanted to get rid of the control of the Jerusalem church, and become independent of Judaism. That paved the way for a brand new religious scheme, for those that felt constrained by the conventions of the old order of things, giving much less importance to the Law, and bringing an array of visionary, eschatological and mystical elements and postures. That allowed the young sect to abandon stiff ritual demands, attain a wider audience, and spread to the corners of the Roman Empire.
  7. 7. 7 Three centuries later, after becoming the religion of the empire, it backtracked, adopting rigid, detailed rules, laws and opinions about almost everything and creating super elaborate rituals. These two big, odd moves, in sequence but in opposite directions, gave it the final touches, and set it definitely apart from its original Source Faith. A new religion had come of age, and it became Christianity. Eusebius, the fourth century christian apologist, devised an elaborate scheme to explain why Christianity and Judaism became so different. He pretended that christians are connected to what he calls “Ancient Hebrews”, whose original religion is not what he calls derisively as “Law-centered Judaism”, which he considered a late development that became too geographically fixed, too formal and too much ethnical. These kinds of elaborate “thought-up” schemes became the hallmark of christian theologians in the centuries that followed, because of the hard questions that were put to the early christians, like: ”If you worship the God of Israel, if you use their sacred books, how come your faith is not Judaism?”. Eusebius, through his works, tried to answer such questions, but the results look somewhat embarrassing and contrived, adding to the patchwork character attributed to Christianity by its early critics.