Gethseminary

Gethseminary June 3, 2016

For some reason, just as I was waking up one morning some weeks ago, I had the mash-up between “Gethsemane” and “seminary” that is the title of this post pop into my head.

And then I read a piece in the Chronicle about the educational power of discomfort. It was not specifically about seminaries, but about the struggles involved in learning and in being confronted with the challenges to our views and preconceptions that are part of anything worthy to be called “education.”

And now I am visiting Israel with students.

I hope that the experiences that students have while visiting Israel – including some students who are seminary students and some who are not, and including a visit to Gethsemane – will provide that kind of challenging discomfort that will lead to growth and learning.

That will be my prayer, literally offered in the Garden of Gethsemane…

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  • John MacDonald

    I think Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is an excellent argument against mythicism. Imagine the first Christians, in a major pericope, creating a Jesus who fundamentally disagrees with his place in God’s plan and petitions God to change His plan!

    • John MacDonald

      I guess he’s more “terrified” of his place in God’s plan than “in disagreement.” lol

    • The Eh’theist

      How is that different from Moses?

      • John MacDonald

        Mythicists think Jesus was a God. – The whole dying/rising God thing.

        • The Eh’theist

          None of the mythicists I’ve ever heard have said they think Jesus was a God. But that wasn’t my point.

          To elaborate on my original point, we have a Jewish tradition of Moses disagreeing with his place in God’s plan and asking for changes, yet Moses is highly revered in Judaism, so how is it this an amazingly new thing for Christianity arising out of Judaism to have the same sort of thing, for the most important figure in the faith?

          We also have Isaiah, Gideon, Sarah, all major figures of the faith who question God about their role in the plan.

          So the idea of Jesus praying for a change, and then submissively accepting his fate, not that novel, and no reason why it couldn’t have been invented by the writer as a plot point to appeal to those who came from that tradition. So not a silver bullet against mythicism.

          • John MacDonald

            All mythicists think Jesus was a God (Price, Carrier, Doherty, Godfrey, etc.), and it seems silly that a God would be terrified of his atoning death, because that is the only reason he is on the allegorical earth for in the first place.

          • The Eh’theist

            First off, those folks don’t think Jesus was a God or they would be theists. They may believe that some members of the early church thought he was a god and who later came to be considered a human and/or a human/divine hybrid.

            Next, if we want to dismiss the mythicists in this passage because it’s silly that anyone would believe that God would be concerned about his own death, then I offer up millions and millions of silly folk who recite the Apostle’s Creed on a regular basis and believe just that. So there is precedent for that particular strain of silly, which means it couldn’t rule out a mythicist claim, if they were making one about that passage. But that’s a tangent to the original point we started with.

            Your original argument was:

            Imagine the first Christians, in a major pericope, creating a Jesus who fundamentally disagrees with his place in God’s plan and petitions God to change His plan!

            whether or not people’s ideas about God are silly doesn’t do anything to salvage that argument from the holes I pointed out. So it still doesn’t take down mythicism.

          • John MacDonald

            Mythicists believe the first Christians thought Jesus was a God who had never been on earth (who had been crucified in outer space), who later became Euhemerized, starting in the gospel of Mark (mythicists say Mark was writing pure allegory, and Mark did not believe an historical Jesus ever existed on earth). Does it make sense to you that in an allegorical story about a God who came to earth to die to wipe out the sin debt of mankind, that this God would beg to abandon his post? Jesus knows he has nothing to fear because he will just suffer for a few hours and eventually be resurrected: Jesus says “”The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise (Mark 9:31).” Jesus is not portrayed by Mark as a God, but just a terrified human.

          • John MacDonald

            Probably what we see in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is the intrusion of doubts in Jesus’ mind about whether God will resurrect him or not (something that wouldn’t have happened if Jesus was a God, since as a God Jesus could have been in direct communication with God The Father).

          • John MacDonald

            Or maybe Jesus had originally “discovered” that he was to be raised on the third day because he interpreted the story of Jonah in such a way that he believed it was to be fulfilled by him (by Jesus). We see this in the gospel of Matthew when Matthew writes “38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ 39But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:38-40).” Maybe Jesus was losing faith in this hermeneutic (that maybe this prophesy wasn’t to be fulfilled by him), and so was afraid his atoning death wouldn’t end in resurrection.

          • John MacDonald

            In any case, whatever Jesus thought God said in response to his desperate prayer in Gesthemane, Jesus comes out of it with renewed vigor and purpose: spouting blasphemy to the Jewish high council and telling Pilate he was the king of the Jews. So what had happened? Maybe Jesus thought God told him he would now be a traditional messiah, and that God would intervene in human history and help Jesus to defeat his enemies (The Romans and the Jewish Elite). When this doesn’t come to pass and Jesus goes to the cross, Jesus can’t understand it and Cries out for God to intervene in history and send a divine being to come and help him escape and bring him victory: Mark records that: 34At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” 36Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down (Mark 15:34-36).”

          • John MacDonald

            And so maybe Jesus’ fear and wanting to opt out of God’s plan was, in fact, all a part of God’s plan. Maybe Jesus as a “willing sacrifice” could not pay the sin debt for the world, but maybe Jesus as an “unwilling sacrifice” could. If it would have been meaningful to God if Jesus wanted to offer up himself willingly, imagine how much more it would have meant to God if Jesus was sacrificed unwillingly and in terror!

          • John MacDonald

            Luke evidently had a problem with the portrayal of Jesus’ death and last words in Mark, so Luke changed Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’ last words from a terrified ” “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME? (Mark 15:34-36),” to the resolute “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).”

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            You are either accidentally or purposefully confused about John’s comment.

            John is saying the mythicist position is that Jesus was a god in the same way you or I might say that Zeus was a god. John is not saying mythicists believe Jesus actually exists and is a god. He’s saying that mythicists understand the ancient belief in Jesus to be that of belief in a god.

          • John MacDonald

            Imagine the mental gymnastics you would have to go through to explain the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane from a Trinitarian point of view. lol

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            It’s a mystery! 😉