Results from our recent quiz on Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels may surprise and challenge our spurious familiarity with the New Testament.
Hello Messy Inspiration readers! The following are the first five results from the recent quiz posted. Hope you kept your answers handy. Correct answers are in red. Let’s get into it!
Results for Question One
When modern Christians and other people hear about the Gospel (“Good News”) concerning God, or Jesus Christ being raised from the dead, or the Kingdom of God, we think this sounds religious. But when first century Israelites heard this they thought it was…
A) RELIGIOUS ALSO.
C) PERSONAL, CONCERNING ONE’S SALVATION.
It can’t be “A” because in Jesus’ day and for a good long while after, religion only existed embedded in either politics or kinship. Originally, in very ancient tribal societies, religion existed embedded in kinship (i.e., domestic religion). Subsequently, religion only existed embedded in both kinship but also in politics (i.e., political religion). Messiah, Kingdom of God (theocracy), the Jesus Movement, the Temple and Jesus’ cleansing of it, and Jesus’ Gospel, are all examples of political religion. That’s why “B” is the right answer.
Separation of “church” and “state” is inconceivable until religion became disembedded as a separate social institution. This occurred around 1776 in the West. Hence, religion as we understand it, was not conceivable by Jesus and his contemporaries. Thus, no first century person would see Jesus’ proclamation and actions as religious.
“C” cannot be the answer because in Jesus’ collectivistic society, people are group personalities sharing a group consciousness. This is extremely difficult for American individualists to understand. To Mediterranean peoples, salvation apart from some group isn’t much of a saving!
Following John Elliott and other Context Group scholars, there is nothing Jewish before the fifth century CE. Hence, “D” cannot be correct.
Results for Question Two
When first century Israelites heard that God raised Jesus from the dead, this indicated to them that
A) JESUS HAD CONQUERED THE GRAVE TO SAVE ALL HUMANKIND
B) THAT THE SCRIPTURES HAD PREDICTED THIS LONG AGO
C) THAT THE GOD OF ISRAEL WAS ABOUT TO INITIATE A RADICAL POLITICAL REGIME CHANGE IN A THEOCRACY FOR ISRAELITES.
D) THAT THE DISCIPLES WERE HALLUCINATING
None of the followers of Jesus who encountered him risen in altered states of consciousness experiences, or other Israelites who heard of these experiences, were universalists. The prepascal Jesus, and the Jesus preached by the Twelve and other apostles, were ethnocentrically particular to first century Israel. Thus, “A” was unimaginable until later on, way after the earliest post-apostolic times. Ultimately, it was only after much unpacking of the Mystery revealed in Jesus of Nazareth that all humans came to be recognized as being actually or potentially God’s chosen.
Despite popular misunderstanding, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce are not examples of prophets giving prophecy. Biblical prophecy is not about “prediction-fulfillment” scenarios. Instead, prophecy, or speaking on behalf of God, concerns the forthcoming, not future-times we post-industrial, post-modern Americans can perceive. Forthcoming is analogous to a pregnancy already in motion or a field already planted. You know that, SOON, there should be a birth or harvest. This is very much like Biblical prophecy.
In grappling with why God allowed his messiah to be shamed in crucifixion, the first Israelite followers of Jesus turned toward their Scriptures, especially the servant songs (Isaiah 40—55). This developed over time, unfortunately with a tendency towards “allegory-gone-wild.” Regardless, “B” is not correct.
“D” is likewise wrong despite the intense skepticism that ancient Mediterranean peoples had. Ancients lacked our psychological categories and the pejorative senses of these.
Results for Question Three
The “gospel of God” or “good news” spread by Paul was originally meant for…
A) ALL HUMANKIND.
B) THE POOR.
C) PEOPLE WHO RECOGNIZE JESUS AS THEIR PERSONAL SAVIOR AND LORD.
D) ISRAELITES ONLY.
Despite spurious familiarity, Paul, the so-called “apostle to the Gentiles” was ethnocentrically particular to first century Israelites, so “A” is wrong. Paul disseminated his innovation (“the Gospel of God”) among mostly poor people, but some the first adopters among his clients had surplus enough to be his patrons (e.g., the Deacon Phoebe, Romans 16:1-2). Thus, “B” is wrong. Paul did not know any Evangelical Christians from the individualistic, post-modern West, and so “C” also is wrong.
“D” is correct because Paul was commissioned and authorized by the God of Israel to be a change agent to Israelite emigres living among Gentiles. This becomes evident reading Paul’s own seven authentic letters. Understanding his approach and presumptions—that his audience knew Israel’s story and Scriptures and his essential task concerning Jesus Messiah (Israelite political religious idea)—makes evident his proclamation was meant for Israelites.
Results for Question Four
First-century Middle Eastern North African individuals like Paul and Jesus were collectivistic personalities. A collectivistic personality is one who needs…
A) NOBODY TO TELL THEM ANYTHING.
B) OTHER PERSONS TO TELL THEM WHO HE OR SHE IS.
C) LIFE TO BE SIMPLIFIED.
D) MORE TIME TO THINK.
“A” for “American individualism” has to be wrong. “C” and “D” should be obviously wrong. There exists a tremendous and substantial difference between Western personalities and Mediterranean biblical persons like Jesus.
“B” is the answer. Should such dyadic personalities desire to know who they are, then they must ask significant others from their ingroup (Mark 8:27-29), embedded as they are, together. Jesus is such a collectivistic personality. He was socialized and enculturated INTO a collectivistic society that produces such. Therefore we should not wrongly assume that Jesus possesses Western, psychological, private self-knowledge.
Results for Question Five
Nowadays American individualism seems totally strange and esoteric, incomprehensible and even vicious, to observers from collectivistic societies. If Jesus, Paul, or anyone from the New Testament were to observe 21st century U.S. society, they would find Americans…
A) STRANGE, INCOMPREHENSIBLE, AND UNCIVILIZED IN MANY RESPECTS.
B) SAME AS PEOPLE EVERYWHERE, SINNERS IN NEED OF A SAVIOR!
C) PEOPLE WHO ENJOY FREEDOM.
D) MEMBERS OF A NATION BUILT ON CHRISTIAN VALUES.
The prevailing religious tradition of Americans is Euro-Christian, rooted in a monotheism facilitated by Roman imperial monarchy. But this was all fifth century outcomes evolving roughly four hundred years after first century Israelites like Jesus and Paul. Since neither were time-travelers, how could “D” be correct?
“C” is also incorrect. Our American/Western concept of “freedom” of instrumental mastery is not universal. It contrasts sharply with the Biblical idea of Mediterranean freedom. Western people see freedom as individualistic or personal liberation from external forces, or freedom from impediments and obstacles. We are socialized to believe that each person’s birthright is to be totally unlimited.
Because of this, as Westerners, we desire religion where God is limited and the human person is completely unlimited. In contrast, Biblical “freedom,” like all circum-Mediterranean freedom, is always limited and group-centered. In short, neither Jesus nor Paul nor anyone from their cultural world would see U.S. people as “enjoying freedom.”
“B” is incorrect also. Unlike our Christian perspective, first century Mediterraneans did not consider those outside their ingroup as the same as they were!
The answer is “A.” Although disconcerting, Jesus and Paul would see American Christians as strange, incomprehensible, and uncivilized people. Any first century Mediterranean would.
More to Come?
We will go over the second half of the results of our quiz, soon.