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Politics and the Bible

It’s always been said that “Biology only makes sense in the light of [the theory of] Evolution”. Well, after reading about the history of the Bible, the different time periods the different books were written in and how it was compiled, I’ve come to the conclusion that the “historicity” of the Bible only makes sense in the light of politics. Politics, as we’ve come to know it, is simply about the attainment and consolidation of power. Many stories in the Old Testament are about how the Jews rose and fell ad nauseum in power. What they don’t tell you in Bible class though (unless you’re getting a doctorate in Bible studies) is that archeology doesn’t correspond with the early Biblical account of how things happened.

For instance, who is the “pharaoh” in Exodus? You would think that if Moses went up and talked to that pharaoh to demand he “let his people go” that he would know the dude’s name. Especially if he’s the one who wrote the first five books of the OT. There’s no evidence of 1 – 2 million people being displaced and wandering around the desert in the area between Egypt and modern day Israel. There is evidence of small communities rising and falling with the same trends as the larger kingdoms around them in that area.

King Solomon was said to have a kingdom that spread from modern Israel to Egypt – that’s a huge flippin’ kingdom! A kingdom that size wouldn’t be known in history until Roman times in around 300 – 400 CE. A good 1,000+ years later. How come there’s no record of this kingdom from other kingdoms that we know about? In other words, how come no Egyptian kings from that time period (11,000 – 800 BCE) wrote about this huge Israel kingdom right next to theirs in any of their letters to other kingdoms in that area?

The hypothesis is that these stories were embellished to give solidarity and a sense of history to the early Jews as a means of unifying them under a common banner. Much like the story of King Aurthur for the Saxons. It wasn’t meant as history, but as politics.

And what about the New Testament? First of all, none of the synoptic gospels or the gospel of John names their author. They were all written anonymously – any Bible scholar will tell you that. It’s the equivalent of getting one of those annoying chain mail emails that are written anonymously and one of the forwarders just types in “from Bill Cosby” in the text and then forwards it. In my readings, I oddly enough traced Gnosticism back to Paul of Tarsus, you know – the dude who’s letters make up the bulk of the NT. Valentinus, who’s said to be a student of Theudas, who was said to be a student of Paul, was a major figure in early Christianity. He was a major proponent of Gnosticism for the Gnostic Christians, and a major antagonist for what would become the Trinitarian (the concept of the “Trinity” didn’t exist in 100 CE) Christians. The popularity of the Gnostics was huge in the second century. How come, then, Christians today aren’t Gnostics? Not because of any divine authority, but because of politics. Ireneaus, who is mostly responsible for the modern NT, was highly annoyed and threatened by these Gnostics, so he wrote “Against Heresies” in the second century. In it, he vociferously attacks Valentinus and Gnosticism, and claimed that his church had what was called “Apostolic Succession” – their churches could be traced back directly to the original apostles, while Valentinus and the Gnostics could only be traced back to Paul. If Ireneaus lost his churches to Gnosticism, he would lose his power.

Politics!

Marcion, who was another popular figure in early Christianity, compiled his own “NT” with what he called the Gospel of Truth, which was simply a modified version of the Gospel of Luke (it’s been argued by scholars that the Gospel of Luke might actually be a modified version of Marcion’s Gospel of Truth) and all of Paul’s letters. This is also reportedly where we get a 3 Corinthians from. At the beginning of the second century, there were a crapload of gospels going around – too much to name here – and it’s believed that these gospels were all written in response to other gospels and such and so forth. None of these original gospels survive today. This is the time period that we get the Gospel of John, which isn’t a synoptic gospel. It must’ve been a terrible job to sort through all of the noise to get a “one true” NT during this time period – much like today there are thousands of denominations of Christianity, the same was true back in the first century. There was no one unified church – and all of these churches wanted to be the “one true” church, the universal (“universal” in Greek is “catholic”) church. That one church would get all of the power – politics.

And what about that whole “blaming the Jews” thing? Doesn’t that seem odd – considering that Jesus was a Jew? The hypothesis is that after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE – the Jewish-Roman war, most Jews began to consolidate into what is now Rabbinic Judaism. The Pharisees. The Essenes and the Sadducees pretty much disappeared from the scene due to how closely their spirituality was to the Temple (Sadducees) or how apathetic they were to the Temple (Essenes). Jewish-Christians also fell off the map at this time.

So around 70 CE is when Christians start converting Gentiles in heavy numbers. This is also around the time that the first gospel is actually written down (Mark). So if these new Christians are in majority Gentiles, and they want Christianity to gain more ground with more Gentiles, in Roman territory, how can they blame the death of Jesus on Roman rules? As Pilate is quoted “I wash my hands of this” when he asks whether the Jews want Jesus dead or Barabbas dead. Thus, in order to gain popularity with Romans Gentiles, Jesus’ death is blamed on the Jews.

Politics!

As we all know, Constantine I is largely responsible for the modern incarnation of the Catholic Church. One of his homeboys – Eusebius – was a major adviser in the First Council of Nicaea. Right now I’m trying to find the link between Eusebius and all of these 2nd and 3rd century churches and writings. Why he decided on which books to accept, and which ones he decided to reject – Arianism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, etc. He also could have been responsible for the anti-Jewish, Roman neutral slant of the gospels…

If we look at politics today, there’s a huge joke that an honest politician is a politician that doesn’t exist. We all think of politicians as crooks and liars, only out to get more power. More prestige. Election after election we’re spoonfed biased statistics, half-truths, and only the facts that put the politician in a good light. Dirt from the opposing party’s past is brought up as a means of diminishing the popularity of the other politician. Think about this for a second – we have all of these problems today in an age of the Internet and are supposedly a more informed generation. But we still get people who are like “I’ll never vote for Obama because he stole the Democratic Nomination from Hilary” or “Obama is a child-molesting muslim terrorist – that’s why I’m voting for McCain” or “McCain doesn’t know how many houses he owns – he so out of touch with the regular American.” These are propositions that people are taking seriously in their decision to vote for a president! And this type of stuff happens repeatedly and repeatedly – every election, every year. If we can’t even get a descent noise-to-signal ratio, how would people in the first and second century get a descent noise-to-signal ratio? You can bet the same type of assertions and personal attacks were going on in the first century, second century, 18th century, 3rd century BCE, and all throughout human history. How can we discern any true picture from what politicians write about themselves and their enemies?

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2008 in bible, Christianity, gnosticism, history, politics

 
 
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