Class Warfare Blog

June 22, 2020

Understanding Christian Thinking

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

I am reading a book, The Use and Abuse of the Bible, a Brief History of Biblical Interpretation. Two of the first great Christian thinkers addressed in this book are Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 202 CE) and Origen (c. 185–c. 253). Both of these gentlemen were praised for coming up with whole new modes of Christian thought, which should have been seen as a warning sign.

A Reasoned Approach to Understanding Christian Thinking
Thinking back to the second and third centuries CE, what kind of economic activity was available to intellectuals? I define an intellectual is someone who makes his/her way through life using his/her mind alone, whereas non-intellectuals use both their minds and bodies in various ratios. Of all of the occupations available at that time, in that place about the only place for intellectuals was as scribes. (They might also have become a physician but only the wealthy could afford the schooling.) Many people think of scribes as being stenographers for the illiterate (I did, too), but while that task might be something a scribe did (taking dictation), there was much, much more to do. Scribes might be employed by the wealthy to keep records and produce written correspondence, but the primary employer of scribes were the various temples.

My point is that intellectuals would be attracted mightily to being a religious scribe as being one of the few forms of occupation in which they got to work as they wished.

So, when scribes were presented with questions about unclear passages of scripture or flat out nonsense in scripture, they being the brilliant intellectual creatives they were, made up stuff. Irenaeus claimed that there should only be four canonical gospels (of the many more in existence) because there were four animals supporting God’s throne in Ezekiel 1. I guess the fact that most chairs had four legs wasn’t enough of a justification for God’s throne. And making a connection between the number of any part of God’s throne and the number of gospels to include in the canon seems not to be present. No surprise there.

So, question after question arises and soon they find the answers harder and harder to come up with. Origen commented on Genesis 18 where “Abraham stood by them under a tree . . .” during a divine visit to Abraham. Origen comments “What does it help me who have come to hear what the Holy Spirit teaches the human race if I hear that Abraham was standing under a tree? Let us rather see what this tree is, under which Abraham stood.” If Freud were alive I suspect he might say “Sometimes a tree is just a tree.”

Origen is probably the major source of the idea of there being “secret” knowledge that has to be winkled out through exegesis. The Jews had already succumbed to this position and Origen was leading Christians into the same position. But, I think the intellectual powers of these people, which allow them to “spin” any nonsense into sense, betrays them wholly at the end.

These worthies both insisted that the scriptures were divinely inspired and without error. So, if there is an error, it must be due to a misunderstanding on our part. Since the words must be right, our interpretation must be wrong, so what is needed is a new interpretation and what do creative intellectuals do? They create.

But by claiming that it is our flawed human understanding which is at fault, they are playing Russian Roulette with the lives of ordinary people. Ordinary people have crops and flocks to attend, business to do, families to provide for, any myriad other mundane tasks. They do not have the energy to study and learn to interpret scripture in their nonexistent spare time. So, failing to hear from a gifted intellectual who knows what scripture actually means, they mis-learn it and end up in Hell.

What the claim of “hidden knowledge” in scripture implies is that the inspired writers who composed scriptures are inadequate to their task. Should not the scriptures be easy to read and easy to understand by one and all? Shouldn’t they be clear and precise? Shouldn’t they all make sense, now and forever? Shouldn’t a lack of sense be evidence that a particular scripture was not divinely inspired?

That there is “hidden knowledge” being taught or is somehow embedded in scripture is a sop to the interpreters of meaning. Their arrogance is Trumpian “Only I can solve this problem! You see sometimes a tree is not just a tree.” (Origen felt that the tree was “insight” symbolically.) Symbolic writing is not accessible to one and all and should never appear in scripture. Every time in the NT you see a reference to the disciples not understanding what is right in front of their faces, an appeal to the concept of hidden wisdom or hidden knowledge is being made. If this knowledge were the difference between Heaven and Hell, why would any sane scripture-sponsoring entity hide that knowledge?

“He (Jesus) told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” Mark 4:11-12

What kind of great teacher deliberately obfuscates what is to be learned? Wouldn’t God Incarnate be able to speak so clearly as to create understanding and belief? And why would such a god allow prideful intellectuals to spin those scriptures into things they are not? (Note They are still doing it. Look up William Lane Craig and Lee Strobel, as examples.)

14 Comments »

  1. What kind of great teacher deliberately obfuscates what is to be learned? Wouldn’t God Incarnate be able to speak so clearly as to create understanding and belief? And why would such a god allow prideful intellectuals to spin those scriptures into things they are not?

    Steve,

    In my decades of studying and researching the Earliest then Early Christian Church Fathers—which are CLEARLY and heavily flavored with Greco-Roman philosophies, culture, and reasoning (Hellenism), they clash in major exegetical ways with Homeland Sectarian Judaism in Palestine of the 1st-century CE. Up until 70 – 74 CE one MUST remember that Roman authorities in Judea, Palestine, Syria, Nabatea, and Idumea allowed Jews to have their religious practices and beliefs… with some harassing, oppressive, influential exceptions like Herod the Great or Caiaphas and Annas, both Sadducean High Priests of the Temple and Sanhedrin, all three of which were hated/despised by Jewish Pharisees and the common rural Jews outside of (unclean, corrupt) Jerusalem that had become Hellenistic.

    It is because of these ‘internal’ Jewish schisms that led to Rome sacking and destroying Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE then the last remaining Homeland Jews at Masada in 73-74 CE. From then on there existed no primary/core Homeland Judaism or proper Mishnaic Hebrew interpretation of oral or scriptural exegesis. A large void existed in Tannaitic Period of Second Temple Judaism/Messianism. Therefore, guess who stepped right in to take over mysterious Messianism/Christ stories, theology, and doctrines?

    Yep, Greco-Roman Church Fathers with no legitimate expertise in proper Hebrew exegesis or Messianism. Roman Legions destroyed and exterminated most all of it.

    Hence, Irenaeus is Greek or Greco-Roman born and educated thinker; educated by Polycarp, another Greek. And Origen is also a Greco-Roman born and educated thinker who was also educated by Clement of Alexandria, a Greco-Roman too.

    It all begs the ENORMOUS question modern Christians: Where is Yeshua’s/Jesus’ authentic, historical Jewishness he was trying to teach, reform and unite his brethren under!?

    It does not exist (in whole) in the Synoptic Gospels or in the Epistles of the canonical New Testament. This is glaringly obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Professor Taboo — June 22, 2020 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

    • And both of them were working from Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures because neither knew the Hebrew language at all well (or at all). Those translations are problematic and much hilarity has ensued from people depending upon them.

      I believe the Jesus of the scriptures to be a construct. If there was an actual person at the core of the construct is not discernible at this time and so is irrelevant. I also find the narratives surrounding the so-called mission of Jesus to be as full of holes as the Hebrew scriptures. And my doubt applies to both–if you need special intellectuals to explain what scripture means, then it is very poor scripture indeed as the “hidden meanings” claimed so often belies the position of the scriptures as being the “word of god.”

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — June 23, 2020 @ 9:00 am | Reply

      • I believe the Jesus of the scriptures to be a construct.

        Yes, a vague, ambiguous caricature of Yeshua, a very human, Sectarian Rabbi reformer! Nothing more. It was the decades later Greco-Roman retro-fitting incursion and seizure of ideas and theology based in a millenia-old tradition of Greek Apotheosis that really formed the Church and eventually Christology.

        I am with you all the way Steve. 🙂

        Like

        Comment by Professor Taboo — June 23, 2020 @ 1:14 pm | Reply

        • Seems as if we have traveled similar paths. I am a bit shocked at the amount of information available … in plain sight … and even though it is somewhat ambiguous, it is now common knowledge that there was no exodus to or from Egypt, no conquest of Canaan and nothing in Genesis is considered to be actual history (actually the whole effing Pentateuch). These are the mainstream positions and yet the AMerican Religious leaders are still telling Bible stories as if we are in Bible kindergarten.

          On Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 1:14 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Liked by 2 people

          Comment by Steve Ruis — June 23, 2020 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

          • Crispies don’t read “information” any more than they read their bible. Knowledge comes from the pulpit, doncha’ know?

            Liked by 1 person

            Comment by Nan — June 23, 2020 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

            • Now, Nan, let’s not be cynical. It is bad enough that we are correct, but cynical is unbecoming. :o)

              On Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 1:40 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Liked by 1 person

              Comment by Steve Ruis — June 23, 2020 @ 1:48 pm | Reply

              • NOT cynical. Truthful.

                Liked by 1 person

                Comment by Nan — June 23, 2020 @ 2:02 pm | Reply

                • okay, we can agree on that, you are just going to have to work on your presentation. (My cartoon mind popped up the scene in The American President where Michael J. Fox’s character goes ballistic with a politician on the phone and was chided for his demeanor.)

                  On Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 2:02 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                  Like

                  Comment by Steve Ruis — June 23, 2020 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

          • When a society—no, probably an entire hemisphere (the West)—has centuries and millenia of repetitious Placebo-effects surrounded by Peer-assimilated, Peer-pressured (the Herd-Mob mentality) or fear of being ostracized, by way of millions of churches/synagogues, there are fewer and fewer independent Free-thinkers, those who would boldly say/ask… Why? Why must it be this way all the time for all of time!?

            Everyone would rather be “accepted” into their tribe and simply conform. Those are not leaders of kindergarten robots are they? 😉

            Like

            Comment by Professor Taboo — June 23, 2020 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

            • If I had been born 100 years ago I’d have died young, lynched by outraged Chrsitians (so much for Thou Shalt Not Murder … which techically only applies to those of the same faith, but has been abandoned by those who claim the NT supercedes the OT, oh well consistence was never their long suit). If God is the source of all things, then God made the Internet, knowing full well it would allow atheists (and racists, and fascist, etc.) to connect and grow stronger. It must be atest for Chrsitians. They should all drop off of social media and delete browsers from their phones and computers … right now! Maybe we will have some peace then.

              On Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 1:45 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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              Liked by 1 person

              Comment by Steve Ruis — June 23, 2020 @ 1:52 pm | Reply

              • Hahaha! 😄 Yes, that would be the Amish Steve, maybe with some Mennonites too. But other Christians say those Christians are wrong or are heretics. Who knows. 🤷‍♂️ Your guess is as good as mine… or theirs! HAH! 😛

                Like

                Comment by Professor Taboo — June 23, 2020 @ 2:04 pm | Reply

                • All of the Calvinists tell us the rolls are already written as to gets saved and who doesn’t. And they don’t even think just a little bit about what that says about their asshole of a god.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  Comment by Steve Ruis — June 23, 2020 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

                  • (does the fast arrow sound going by… sssssPHTTTT and the arrow shaft wabbles!) 🎯

                    Bulls-eye Steve!

                    Like

                    Comment by Professor Taboo — June 23, 2020 @ 2:12 pm | Reply


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