31 October 2017 = 500th anniversary of Luther’s theses
This is why the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were included, as well as
the Acts of the Apostles by Luke, John’s Revelation and the letter collections of individual churches.
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).
The four Apostolic church’s contributions to the canon:
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.
The dominant master narrative about the origins of the New Testament canon states that in the first half of the 2nd century AD,
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.
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.
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.
Mark’s Gospel is the founding document of the united Christian church; it was classified as canonical
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.
The writer of Mark’s Gospel adopted stories about Jesus handed down in the Jesus Groups
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.
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.
The dominant master narrative about the disciples states that the disciples were Jesus’ personal followers,
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.
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.
Jesus’ disciples were not his personal followers.
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.
An ecumenical movement: between 62 and 64 AD the Apostolic Council took place in Jerusalem, where Paul and Barnabas,
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.
Original movements and Jesus Groups: the Samaritans, the baptism sect and the Gnostics around Simon Magus
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.
The dominant master narrative of the Apostolic Age states the following: the Gallio episode in Acts 18:12ff fixes
the date for Paul’s visit to Corinth at 51/52 AD. Paul’s missionary journeys can be reconstructed on the basis of the information in the Acts of the Apostles and in Paul’s letters, and the date of the Apostolic Council set at 48/49 AD. The other events can also be dated from this basis.
These are my theses on this subject:
The Gallio episode in Acts 18:12ff is a literary construction by Luke; it is not based on any historical event and does not offer a reference point for the chronology of early Christianity.
The Apostolic Age begins with Jesus’ death in 36 AD: Ant. 18.4.1.
John the Baptist, the founder of the church of John (see below), died in 37 AD: Ant 18.5.2.
The dominant master narrative concerning Jesus’ message states that Jesus was impressed by John the Baptist’s preaching
about repentance. In his own pronouncements, however, he proclaimed a loving God full of grace whose kingdom would soon be realised, bringing equal rights for all people; it could already be experienced in the community of the disciples.
These are my theses about Jesus’ message:
Jesus was a Jewish statesman; he was Prince Antipas’ governor and shaped Galilean politics. He viewed religion simply as a supplementary measure to safeguard economic and political developments.
Jesus imitated Emperor Augustus’ form of rule in his political work (imitation Augusti) and aimed to organise society around a monarchy.
Jesus aimed for a monarchy in Galilee headed by a Jewish monarch, a Messiah. This monarch, this Messiah, could only be the ruling Jewish prince; for Jesus, therefore, this was Antipas.
After Jesus’ election as Philip’s successor, John the Baptist proclaimed that he was the Jewish Messiah: 1 Kings 13:23. The people of Galilee
hailed him as the King of Israel and Antipas was forced to flee from the furious population that associated themselves with Jesus: 2 Sam. 15:14. Jesus journeyed in triumph through Galilee to Samaria, the location of the old holy places of the northern Israelite kingdom.
The dominant master narrative about Jesus’ biography states that Jesus was born in 7 BC in Nazareth in Galilee
as the eldest son of Joseph, a building labourer and Mary, a housewife. After an encounter with John the Baptist he became an itinerant religious preacher, gathered disciples and gained the reputation for carrying out miraculous healings.
In 30 AD Jesus went with his disciples to Jerusalem to preach there. Due to a misunderstanding, he was accused by Pilate of insurrection against the Romans and crucified. His disciples saw him in visions after his death and reported that he had risen from the dead.