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31 October 2017 = 500th anniversary of Luther’s theses

5.15.4.
This is why the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were included, as well as

Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Christ
Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Christ

the Acts of the Apostles by Luke, John’s Revelation and the letter collections of individual churches.

5.15.5.
The authentic letter of Paul to Philemon and the inauthentic 3rd letter of John were included and are included in the canon because they emphasise the unity of the whole church from the social point of view (Philemon) and in questions of faith (3 John).

5.15.6.
The four Apostolic church’s contributions to the canon:

Individual

church            Gosp. Acts       Letters                     Revelation      

James             Matthew          James, Judas           –

John                John                 1-3 John                   John

Peter                Mark               1-2 Peter                   –

Paul                 Luke, Acts      Paul’s  letters,          –
                                                  Hebrews                                          

 

The Bible can be so exciting, if we approach it with an enquiring mind instead of accepting the papal interpretation. As Martin Luther wrote in 1520 (in his open letter To the Christian Nobility…): Bible interpretation should not be the sole privilege of the (Pope’s) church with its priests and professors; on the contrary, all Christians, even lay people, should interpret the Bible.

I withdraw nothing, as Martin Luther stated on 18 April 1520 at the Diet at Worms, unless the Holy Scripture or rational argument prove me wrong.

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V  15   The canon of the New Testament

5.15.1.
The dominant master narrative about the origins of the New Testament canon states that in the first half of the 2nd century AD,

Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Christ
Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Christ

there were so many Gospels and Apostolic letters circulating among the communities that the churches had to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The only texts they adopted into the canon of significant texts for the Christian religion were those that they considered were written by one of the twelve Apostles or the Apostle Paul, or that were authorised by one of the Apostles; e.g. Luke’s Gospel, written by Paul’s companion Luke (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11; Philemon 24), was authorised by Paul.

5.15.2.
The new theses about the origin of the New Testament canon:

The New Testament canon was formed from writings from the three Palestinian Apostolic churches of James, John and Peter and the Gentile Christian church of Paul.

5.15.3.
The criterion for the acceptance into the canon was the balance between the origins in the individual churches and the extent to which the writings supported the church’s unity.

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5.14.6.
Mark’s Gospel is the founding document of the united Christian church; it was classified as canonical

Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Mary
Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Mary

from the very start. In addition, the leaders of the three individual churches, James, John and Peter, are presented jointly in Mark’s Gospel as witnesses to the core statements of faith of all three single churches.

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5.14.4.
The writer of Mark’s Gospel adopted stories about Jesus handed down in the Jesus Groups

Istanbul, Theodosian Walls, gate
Istanbul, Theodosian Walls, gate

led by James, John and Peter. Cf. in detail Johannes Neumann, War Markus ein Dichter? in: Neumann.: War Jesus Statthalter von Galiläa?, p. 43-92, here p. 51-62.

5.14.5.
The evangelist adopted stories about Jesus from Galilee that originated as oral traditions handed down in the individual churches. The Jesus stories from Jerusalem are based on interpretations of Jesus’ death by the individual churches and their cultic application.

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V  8   John

5.8.1.
John the Baptist was one of the first political and religious leaders

Pergamum, temple, detail
Pergamum, temple, detail

to invoke Jesus after his death and to aim to follow him in his activities.

5.8.2.
John founded the Christian Baptists, the second Jesus movement in the early phase of Christianity.

5.8.3.
In Christian tradition, John the Baptist became not just a disciple, but also John, Jesus’ favourite disciple.

5.8.4.
John aspired to the title of Messiah as Jesus’ successor after his death.

5.8.5.
John was executed by Antipas in 37 AD. In Christian tradition, his successor as leader of John’s Baptist church was also called John.

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5.6.5.
The great disciples James, John, Peter and Judas formed Jesus Groups

Troy, excavations
Troy, excavations

within their original movements: Judaism, Baptists, Gnostics and rebels.

The Jesus Groups later linked up with the early Christians; the original movements Judaism, Baptist sect, Gnosis and rebels remained autonomous.

5.6.6.
In the Jewish world around them the disciples formed political movements that were only loosely linked to the early church and carried out independent missions even outside their Jewish world.

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V  6  The disciples / Apostles

5.6.1.
The dominant master narrative about the disciples states that the disciples were Jesus’ personal followers,

Troy, excavations
Troy, excavations

whom he had sought out and appointed. Many of them were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee; after their encounters with Jesus they left their work and families to join Jesus, the itinerant preacher. Peter was the leader of the disciples; he and the brothers James and John were the most important disciples.

5.6.2.
And these are my theses about the disciples: Jesus’ disciples were not fishermen. They were preachers of the astrological Age of Pisces (the star sign), the new spring constellation that they interpreted as a heavenly sign of God’s kingdom that they were expecting.

5.6.3.
Jesus’ disciples were not his personal followers.

5.6.4.
The disciples were independent political and religious leaders in early Christianity; the great disciples James, John and Peter aspired to succeed Jesus as Messiah after his death.

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5.5.21.
An ecumenical movement: between 62 and 64 AD the Apostolic Council took place in Jerusalem, where Paul and Barnabas,

Hattusa, Lion Gate
Hattusa, Lion Gate

the Apostles to the Gentiles, met the heads of the Palestinian Jesus Groups of Peter, James and John.

Reports about the Apostolic Council show that the Jesus Groups in Palestine still existed as separate organisations but that they worked together, and that Paul and Barnabas were recognised as representing the Gentile Christian church, but their work was also viewed with distrust.

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5.5.15.
Original movements and Jesus Groups: the Samaritans, the baptism sect and the Gnostics around Simon Magus

Masada, ruins
Masada, ruins

had few solid structures and little in the way of binding dogmas. They were groups with many different views, and Messianic ideas were widespread at the time, so Jesus’ followers within these movements could form groups without leaving the movement.

What we seen in the Gospels are a range of interpretations of Jesus that can be attributed to the movements named and to which we can allocate disciples’ names. These names are James (Israelites), John (Baptists) and Simon Peter (Gnostics).

These men clearly led Jesus Groups that remained within their movements. We can see the conflicts among the Christian Jews that they were confronted with. The disputes always focused on the issue of how far a Jesus Group could or should distinguish itself within the parent movement.

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5.5.3.
Jesus the Messiah
During the Armenian crisis, Jesus was selected in 35 AD by the citizens of Caesarea Philippi to succeed Philip. He was proclaimed

Jerusalem, Temple Mount (north)
Jerusalem, Temple Mount (north)

as the Jewish Messiah by John the Baptist and went with many followers to Mt. Gerizim in Samaria in 36 AD.

Being proclaimed Messiah increased Jesus’ popularity; he was now definitely a star and a beacon of hope for all Jews and for many others in the Roman East.