Not What I Planted

Not-What-I-Planted

This cartoon by David Hayward seems like a suitable updating of the parable of the wheat and the tares from the Gospel of Matthew. What do you think?

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  • John MacDonald

    Jesus initiated one of the greatest ethical revolutions in history (loving your neighbor and enemy). It’s baffling that his message has been perverted into one of Exclusivism.

    • Nick G

      The evidence that he intended his message for anyone other than Jews is extremely thin. The evidence that he thought he was living in the “end times” is very strong.

      • John MacDonald

        From beginning to end the purpose of the movement was to sell the new religion to the world:

        (A) 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

        (B) The Great Commission
        16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

        (C) Sending out Emissaries
        Just as Moses had chosen twelve spies to reconnoiter the land which stretched “before your face,” sending them through the cities of the land of Canaan, so does Jesus send a second group, after the twelve, a group of seventy, whose number symbolizes the nations of the earth who are to be “conquered,” so to speak, with the gospel in the Acts of the Apostles. He sends them out “before his face” to every city he plans to visit (in Canaan, too, obviously).

        (D) For Paul, Jesus resurrection is understood as the “first fruits” of the general resurrection, and so was a selling point for the new religion: “The end of the world is at hand, so you better join the winning team.”

        Christianity was all about winning converts and spreading the word, so it is no surprise that they succeeded doing just that.

        • Nick G

          Hmm. I’m wondering why these references are somehow immune to the scepticism you express about the apocalyptic references above. There’s no account of Jesus himself proselytising to Gentiles, that seems to have been an idea of Paul’s, and there appears to have been conflict between him and the Jerusalem group over whether converts should be required to adopt Jewish ritual practices and food taboos.

      • John MacDonald

        There is no reason to suppose, as Ehrman does, that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. Paul says “20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 15:20).” Paul is identifying that Jesus was the first fruits of the general resurrection of souls at the end of days, so the end times were imminent. Paul or one of the other first Christians could have learned this firstfruits business from something they thought was Jesus through hallucinations. And, Mark could have learned this apocalyptic stuff from Paul, and simply invented the apocalyptic material in his gospel. Therefore, there is no reason to suppose, as Ehrman does, that the historical Jesus, if there was one, was an apocalyptic prophet.

        • Nick G

          I make no pretence to expertise in this area, but on thw whole I have more confidence in the considered views of multiple published experts (not just Ehrman) than those of a contrarian bog commenter.

          • John MacDonald

            Is it because I’m overweight and Ehrman is in good shape? I understand. But remember what Frank-n-furter said in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”:

            Don’t get strung out, by the way I look
            Don’t judge a book by its cover
            I’m not much of a man by the light of day
            But by night I’m one hell of a lover

          • Nick G

            No, it’s because they are acknowledged experts in the field, and you are not. Simple, really.

          • John MacDonald

            Then what’s the point of posting in the comment section of Dr. McGrath’s blog and analyzing ideas. If we follow the implications of your point of view, we should just quietly memorize the consensus opinion and keep our mouths shut. lol

        • Gary

          Ehrman has at least three books I know of covering the subject. In this book, he basically says, well, anything is possible. But…note his statement, “Probably the majority of modern scholars…”

          “Jesus Before the Gospels”: (pg 23)
          “Probably the majority of modern scholars have remembered Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet was was predicting that the end of the world was near, that God was soon going to intervene in the course of human affairs to destroy the forces of evil wreaking such havoc on earth, creating enormous amounts of pain, misery, and suffering; this cataclysmic act of God was to arrive very soon, within Jesus’s own generation. God would send a cosmic judge of the earth to annihilate everything that stood opposed to him and his purposes, bringing in a good kingdom on earth in which there would be no more war, hatred, natural disaster, violence, sin, or death. This is a view that I myself have held since I was a graduate student in the early 1980’s.”

          As an aside, I think you have to consider the times (33AD). Judea was simply crawling with apocalyptic fellows, expecting the end. John the Baptist, Essenes, Brian… :-)

          https://youtu.be/hmyuE0NpNgE

          Ehrman even did a lecture on “Life of Brian”. Easy to find. How can you not believe that?

          • John MacDonald

            As I said, Mark could have received the apocalyptic interpretation of Jesus from Paul (Jesus as firstfruits, 1 Cor 15:20), and Mark could have consequently invented out of whole cloth the apocalyptic material unique to his Gospel. Paul could have “received” this apocalyptic interpretation of Jesus from a hallucination about Jesus, or he could have just made it up for Evangelism reasons. Apocalyptic claims are good selling points for the religion: the world is ending so you better join the winning team, get right with God, and start loving one another. Matthew and Luke could have inherited Mark’s apocalyptic material, or just have heard from other Christians the apocalyptic interpretation of Jesus at the time they were writing, and invented some apocalyptic material of their own. So there is no reason to think the historical Jesus was apocalyptic.

          • Gary

            John, I defer to my ultimate philosopher and mentor. Judge Judy. You say “that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it”. Judge Judy says, “could have, would have!”

        • Gary

          Actually, now that I think about it, the very existence of the Essenes, which no one can deny existed at the same time, Is proof enough that Jesus is in the same mold. Likes hanging in the desert, obsessed with an ascetic life style, not too loving toward the Jerusalem Temple and Pharisees. What’s not to doubt?

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            And there’s the apocalyptic gospel passages, such as Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 17, and Luke 21.

          • Gary

            True. But I was trying to avoid mentioning the gospels, since John said, “Mark could have learned this apocalyptic stuff from Paul, and simply invented the apocalyptic material in his gospel. Therefore, there is no reason to suppose, as Ehrman does…”
            However, the War Scroll and various other Dead Sea Scrolls clearly show apocalyptic types were plentiful at the time. No need to invent the “movement”.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            Yeah, John can’t make up his mind on the gospels. He cites several gospel verses to counter Nick’s claim that Jesus was apocalyptic, then later discounts the gospels as influenced by Paul. He can’t have it both ways.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m magically inconsistent, lol. The trick is to adopt one set of assumptions to play devil’s advocate in one argument, and a different set of assumptions to play devil’s advocate in a different argument, depending on what you need at the time. In this way, the gospels are either reliable or unreliable, as the necessities of the argument may dictate. Hence, deconstruction.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            Hence, we stop bothering discussing anything with you.

          • John MacDonald

            Derrida irritated people too. But then, so did Socrates, the gadfly (μύωψ) of Athens, see Plato’s “Apology.”

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            The difference, of course, is that they were consistent, and didn’t introduce “devil’s advocate” approaches unless they were clear about their intentions.

          • John MacDonald

            My intentions here at Dr. McGrath’s “Religion Prof” blog are the same as yours: to do an analytic of religious concepts, discovering where my assumptions lie and overcoming them, and to try to take the best stance I can on religious issues (as dictated by reason) – from the point of view of being a secular humanist. I just tend to end up, as Derrida said, stuck in “undecideability” after analyzing the concepts, such as the topic here of whether Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet (as Ehrman argues for). Jesus might have been an apocalyptic prophet, but I don’t think we can conclude that from the textual evidence because, as I said, Paul may have received his apocalyptic interpretation of Jesus as the “firstfruits” from a hallucination of Jesus, or Paul might just have invented the apocalyptic description to win more converts – and Mark might have taken this over from Paul and just invented out of whole cloth the apocalyptic material unique to his Gospel. Matthew and Luke could have done the same.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            As Nick has already noted, you could make that argument about anything you read in the gospels, including the verses you use to claim that Jesus wanted to “sell the new religion to the world”. – Also an idea easily borrowed from Paul.

            Finding shared elements in Paul and the gospels is more often construed by historians as a point of historicity.

          • John MacDonald

            Beau said: “Finding shared elements in Paul and the gospels is more often construed by historians as a point of historicity.”

            It could be that elements shared by Paul and the gospels reflect historicity of the elements (as per the criterion of multiple attestation), or it could be that Mark’s source was Paul, or that Matthew or Luke’s source was Paul or Mark. We simply don’t know.

            Analogously, if you found something in both Mark and Matthew, would the simplest conclusion be multiple attestation, or rather that Matthew was borrowing from Mark?

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            Sounds like your argument is a wash then.

          • John MacDonald

            Why?

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            You can apply the “shared elements” to both the apocalyptic prophet or the sell the new religion to the world notions.

          • John MacDonald

            As I said, it could be that elements shared by Paul and the gospels reflect historicity of the elements (as per the criterion of multiple attestation), or it could be that Mark’s source was Paul, and so there is no multiple attestation. We simply don’t know. We are left with “undecideability” in Derrida’s sense, and so we are left with a proper deconstructive reading = an aporia (ἀπορία) as Plato said, a block in the path.

          • John MacDonald

            My claiming that we have no reason to think Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet (based on the textual evidence we have) doesn’t mean we have proven Jesus wasn’t an apocalyptic prophet. We have just shown there is no basis for the positive claim. Ontologically, Jesus may have been an apocalyptic prophet, but epistemologically we have no ground to claim that. As Ehrman says, the responsibility is on the individual making the claim that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet to provide the evidence to defend the claim, not the person challenging that claim to show some other scenario (like Jesus being a Cynic Sage) is probable. Based on the evidence we have, it is “possible” that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, but not “probable.”

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            Proof is for math and brewing, not history.

            Probabilities, on the other hand, can be assessed based on the given evidence.

          • John MacDonald

            Yes, which is why I said “Based on the evidence we have, it is ‘possible’ that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, but not ‘probable.'”

            It is like Ehrman presented a case for the prosecution that Jesus is guilty of being an apocalyptic prophet, and I am on the defence team with the job of getting the evidence for Ehrman’s case thrown out.

            We can throw out the connection of “the apocalyptic” and the historical Jesus in Paul because Paul might have just learned of the apocalyptic (firstfruits) nature of Jesus through revelation (hallucination), so there is no reason to think that designation applied to the historical Jesus. Or Paul could have simply been making the “apocalyptic stuff” up to help sell the religion.

            Further, we can throw the apocalyptic evidence from the Gospels out because Mark might just have been using Paul as his source, and consequently inventing his apocalyptic material out of whole cloth.

            And, as I said to Gary, the apocalyptic connection of Jesus to John the Baptist can also be thrown out too. There is no reason to think Jesus ever met John the Baptist. The Baptist pericope is often deemed historical by the criterion of embarrassment. For example, Ehrman says that Jesus Christ being baptized by a mere mortal was embarrassing, so it must have happened. But this, along with other passages, could just have represented humility (which may also lead to exaltation) to Mark. Philippians 2:5-11, for instance, supports a humbled, then exalted, Jesus. And some have disputed the historicity of the Baptist motif as theologically recapitulating the Elijah/Elisha dynamic of Elijah bequeathing a double portion of his power to Elisha, making Elisha his successor and his superior. Paul never mentions John the Baptist, and there is no reason to think Jesus ever met him. It could be a Markan invention.

            Carrier says:

            “So, really, the apocalyptic prophet thesis is really no better grounded than the Zealot thesis: both require “excusing away” passages to the contrary and cherry picking evidence and backfilling the thesis with a whole lot of suppositions not specifically in evidence.”

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            Carrier is arguing that Jesus didn’t exist. He throws out every argument for an existing Jesus. Is that your stance?

          • John MacDonald

            No, I’m convinced Jesus existed because of the “James, the brother of the Lord passage.”

            You don’t have to agree with everything a thinker (Carrier) says to agree with his analysis on a certain point.

            For example, regarding The Death of the Baptizer (Mark 6:14-29), Dr. Dennis MacDonald (“The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark.” New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000 pp. 80-81, 176) shows how the story of John’s martyrdom matches in all essentials the Odyssey’s story of the murder of Agamemnon (3:254-308: 4:512-547; 11:404-434), even to the point that both are told in the form of an analepsis or flashback. Herodias, like Queen Clytemnestra, left her husband, preferring his cousin: Antipas in the one case, Aegisthus in the other. This tryst was threatened, in Clytemnestra’s case, by the return of her husband from the Trojan War, in Herodias’, by the denunciations of John. In both cases, the wicked adulteress plots the death of the nuisance. Aegisthus hosted a banquet to celebrate Agamemnon’s return, just as Herod hosted a feast. During the festivities Agamemnon is slain, sprawling amid the dinner plates, and the Baptizer is beheaded, his head displayed on a serving platter. Homer foreshadows danger awaiting the returning Odysseus with the story of Agamemnon’s murder, while Mark anticipates Jesus’ own martyrdom with that of John. The only outstanding difference, of course, is that in Mark’s version, the role of Agamemnon has been split between Herodias’ rightful husband (Philip according to Mark; another Herod according to Josephus) and John the Baptizer.

            I don’t agree with everything that Dr. MacDonald says everywhere, but I find him compelling on this point.

          • Nick G

            “Playing devil’s advocate” is tiresome – as well as dishonest if you don’t make clear that is what you are doing.

          • John MacDonald

            The Advocatus Diaboli (Latin for Devil’s Advocate), far from being dishonest, was formerly an official position within the Catholic Church: one who “argued against the canonization (sainthood) of a candidate in order to uncover any character flaws or misrepresentation of the evidence favoring canonization”

            In common parlance, the term devil’s advocate describes someone who, given a certain point of view, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with (or simply an alternative position from the accepted norm), for the sake of debate or to explore the thought further. It is a perfectly reasonable technique for analyzing ideas and testing their foundation.

          • John MacDonald

            The fact that there were apocalyptic figures in Jesus’ time doesn’t mean Jesus was one of them. There were other factions of Jews at that time that Jesus wasn’t like, either.

          • Gary

            According to Josephus, there where three groups of Jews. One, Pharisees. Two, Sadducees. Three, Essenes. By implication, there is a fourth, insignificant dirt poor. Since Jesus was a cousin of John the Baptist, which group most resembles John the Baptist and Jesus? I am not saying Jesus and John the Baptist were Essenes. But I am saying they resemble that group more than the others. Thus, they resemble apocalyptic preachers, more than any other group. They could be insignificant, dirt poor. But then, they would be “much to do about nothing”. Even Paul would have said – “Are you kidding? I’m going to all this trouble for an insignificant, dirt poor?” Or, maybe they are one of the “deplorables”. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it. My Trumpism is showing.) Forgive me James, for I have sinned!

          • John MacDonald

            Do you and your cousin have to ascribe to the same worldview? And anyway, there is no reason to think Jesus ever met John the Baptist. The Baptist pericope is often deemed historical by the criterion of embarrassment. For example, Ehrman says that Jesus Christ being baptized by a mere mortal was embarrassing, so it must have happened. But this, along with other passages, could just have represented humility (which may also lead to exaltation) to Mark. Philippians 2:5-11, for instance, supports a humbled, then exalted, Jesus. And some have disputed the historicity of the Baptist motif as theologically recapitulating the Elijah/Elisha dynamic of Elijah bequeathing a double portion of his power to Elisha, making Elisha his successor and his superior. Paul never mentions John the Baptist, and there is no reason to think Jesus ever met him. It could be a Markan invention.

          • Gary

            “Do you and your cousin have to ascribe to the same worldview?” Yeap. He jumped in the womb when he first meant my embryo!

          • John MacDonald

            When I was born, instead of me, the doctor took one look at me and slapped my mother. lol

          • John MacDonald

            Matthew could have invented the Baptist material unique to him, and there is really no reason to think the supposed Baptizer material in Q existed, because there may have been no Q source. For example, see Mark Goodacre’s “A Monopoly on Marcan Priority?” and Michael Goulder’s “Is Q a Juggernaut?” For an extensive refutation of Q, see Goodacre’s “The Case against Q” and now (supporting that) “Thomas and the Gospels”. Beau who blogs here also has some interesting thoughts against the Q source. It’s also perfectly reasonable to suppose that the author of the Gospel of John was just repeating what the community John belonged to had to say about the Baptizer, which, as late as John was writing, may have had no basis in reality. David Oliver Smith suggests Mark needed a forerunner of Jesus because of Mal 4:5, and he needed to institute baptism as a sacrament because Paul mentions it in 1 Corinthians and I assume it was an established initiation ritual by the time Mark was writing.

          • Gary

            “David Oliver Smith suggests Mark needed a forerunner of Jesus because of Mal 4:5, and he needed to institute baptism as a sacrament because Paul mentions it in 1 Corinthians…”

            Probably no reason to “institute” baptism artificially in Mark, since it already existed in the Qumran community.

            Pulled from “The Dead Sea Scrolls”, Craig A. Evans.

            Parallels between John the Baptist and the Scrolls:

            1. John and Essenes (assumed men of Qumran) appealed to Isaiah 40:3, “A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness”.
            2. Both John and men of Qumran called for repentance and baptism.
            3. Both John and Essenes anticipated soon coming appearance of the kingdom of God, including an anointed figure or Messiah.
            4. Both used similar words, “water, spirit, fire”.
            5. Both had “strange” diets. Preferred eating grass rather than violate their food laws (Josephus, War 2.143). Actually, 2.119-2.161 is worth reading.
            6. Both harshly criticized Israel’s religious leaders.

          • Gary

            Actually, since Evans mentions that John may have been “adopted” when young by Essenes (which obviously is conjecture), I was also struck by Josephus 2.120, “They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons’ children, while they are pliable, and fit for learning; and esteem them to be of their kindred, and form them according to their own manners”.

            I wonder about connecting the dots to Ehrman’s comments that old versions of Mark have Jesus “adopted” by God, as his son, at baptism. Conjecture. Should have, would have?