New Testament Writers were Inspired by Jesus–But were they Inerrant?

Last time, we discussed the nature of the Bible by focusing on the Old Testament. I concluded that the books of the Old Testament were written by people who felt a special relationship with God and that these people developed increasingly insightful ideas about God. Their writings are very useful, and God may have inspired some writers to an extent, but their writings are not the authoritative, inerrant word of God.

Is the New Testament Inerrant?

If the Old Testament writings are not the inerrant word of God, then what about the New Testament? Is the New Testament authoritative in a way that the Old Testament is not? What is the nature of the New Testament?

I believe we should approach the books of the New Testament essentially the same way we approach any writing; they were written by people just as today’s histories, biographies, and other writings are written by people–but these New Testament books were written by people of great conviction who were energized by the person of Jesus. They spread the good news of God’s love and of the kingdom from their encounters with Jesus.

They were inspired by Jesus.  However, their writings are not inerrant or authoritative in themselves; they are only reflections and elaborations of their experience with the man who changed everything about their lives.

So we must assess what these writers say — what were the contexts of their writings; who were their audiences and what did those initial audiences understand from the writings? How do we personally relate to the writings–as reservoirs of eternal truth statements or valuable insights from which we can often benefit?

The writings of the New Testament are extremely valuable, but they are not inerrant sources of doctrinal truth statements. Rather they show the dynamic reaction of people to Jesus and the application of his good news to their lives. Often we can identify powerfully with the writers and their audiences, but other times we do not.

sermon-on-the-mount-carl-heinrich-bloch-1876

Sermon on the Mount, Carl Heinrich Bloch 1876

Jesus as the Foundation of the New Testament Books

I was raised as an evangelical and accepted all the assumptions and beliefs of evangelicalism, including biblical inerrancy. When I concluded in mid-life that claims of New Testament inerrancy did not hold up, I began reading the New Testament from a different and improved perspective.

What I found was that the portrait of Jesus presented in the gospels from the memories of his earliest followers is very compelling. I saw Jesus reflected in their memories and saw his impact on them. Their reports might not be accurate in every detail or historical sequence, but the person of Jesus shows through quite clearly—and he is compelling. I was drawn to this Jesus. He is a person I can believe in; he is a person I can trust. His person and message, reflected in the memories of his earliest followers, changed my life as it changed the lives of his earliest followers.

I do not believe in Jesus because the New Testament is the inerrant word of God but because of the person of Jesus, himself, as presented from the memories of his followers. I want to know as much as possible about Jesus and what he said and did. There is a great deal of information about Jesus from his earliest followers, and the essential portrayal of Jesus is consistent even though they differ on details and approaches.

New Testament Writers Who Never Personally Heard Jesus

Not all New Testament writers had the opportunity to hear Jesus personally, but they too were energized by the message of his earliest followers. They shared the good news of Jesus they had received, but we also see in their writings their attempts to digest what Jesus had done, understand what it means, and contemplate how it applied to the newly formed believer communities.

One writer in particular who wrestled with these issues, and was not among Jesus’ personal followers, impacted the world with his insights into the work of Jesus. As an unsympathetic observer who then came to find Jesus to be compelling, he became energized both in promoting Jesus and in trying to grasp the implications of Jesus’ work.

His name was Paul, and he made invaluable contributions to the spread of Jesus’ message and to our understanding of it. However, Paul is not authoritative or inerrant either. He was creative and inspiring, and he shared with us his insights about Jesus, but in some cases I believe Paul was mistaken.

Next time, we will further investigate some of Paul’s ideas.

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57 Responses to New Testament Writers were Inspired by Jesus–But were they Inerrant?

  1. Pingback: The Old Testament Writers and God | Jesus Without Baggage

  2. Garth Murray says:

    Tim, this is very interesting, I was begining to wonder if anyone else saw things as I do but you have said it just the way I have been believing it for quite a while. I will look forward to reading more of what you have to say.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi Garth, I am glad you found the blog! I remember when I was concerned that no one else seemed to think about the New Testament as I did, and it was a real joy to discover that there WAS a solid community of believers who thought as I did–and I was no longer alone.

      I hope you continue to enjoy the blog and that you add to its value with your comments. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: New Testament Writers were Inspired by Jesus–But were they Inerrant? rb | Jesus Without Baggage

  4. Anthony Paul says:

    Please forgive me if I sometimes sound unsure of the ground under my feet on this issue, but I often feel as though I am walking a very narrow path between what I perceive to be “Divine inspiration of Scriptures” and the “inerrancy of Scriptures”. If I understand your position on The Bible from some of your earlier comments, the people who wrote The Bible were indeed inspired by The Holy Spirit but they were not used as “human pens” writing under the complete direction of God as though in a trance? But they were subject to both personal and cultural biases of their time? If this is your position, I can most heartily agree because it removes certain contradictions caused by the inerrancy postulate as offered by the evangelical church.

    This may not be relevant to this discussion, but where I do have a problem is with writers like Adam Hamilton (Making Sense of the Bible) who, while standing totally against the inerrancy doctrine, go out on a limb to show us how God’s condemnation of sin (Leviticus 20:13) is little more than a misinterpretation of what is stated there. I believe that this is the other side of the same coin: he twists words to fit his personal belief from his liberal perspective just as the evangelicals twist words to support their conservative view of Scripture. In my view, Pastor Hamilton, like so many of us, likes to talk and feel good about God’s “Love” while very little is said about God’s Holiness — that which sets Him apart from man. When men like Adam start to diminish sin by calling it by some other name, then I believe that we profane that which is sacred.To paraphrase Pastor Steve Brown (author of A Scandalous Freedom): Once we deny that sin is sin, then we burn our bridge back to God’s gifts of grace and forgiveness through repentance — the metanoia by which we change our minds and hearts about who we really are as sinners before a holy and just God becomes irrelevant in such a world.

    I guess that what I am saying here is that doing away with the doctrine of inerrancy, although it is step in the right direction over all, is not without its problems; as we can see from Adam Hamilton’s book, twisting and stretching can be accomplished just as easily from the left as from the right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • William Burnette says:

      I’m with you on this Anthony. While I don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, having been written by men, that does leave us with the possibility of rewriting portions of it to suit our own agendas- which is dangerous ground either way- left or right. As a Methodist, I try to follow Wesley’s method of interpreting scripture by considering cultural context, other translations (including the original) and how the subject squares with scripture as a whole, such as other passages on the same subject… and by prayerfully considering the law that the Holy Spirit has written on my heart. There are certain things which just aren’t beneficial to us as humans, and are therefore sinful. To deny that is to abandon any consideration of holiness in my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Thank you, William, for your comments and support on this subject. What I’m hearing you say here is that learning what The Bible is saying to each of us requires work which transcends our need to satisfy our ego’s need to be right based on personal feelings, human inclinations, or the mores of a new age. If we are indeed temples of The Holy Spirit then that same Spirit will speak to us when we pray with open hearts and minds. Jesus Himself referred to The Spirit as our teacher, and so I trust that this is a good place to start.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Anthony,
      I agree with you that this kind of “interpretation” is problematic, but I don’t think it is the flip side of innerancy. It seems to me that innerancy is an assumption made prior to interpretation, and as such, has particular implications for any interpretation that we might arrive at. Interpretation requires us to respect the text as itself, to honor the other as the other. What many of us do, on the right and on the left, is treat the text as a mirror (I am so often guilty of this), finding all of our own presuppositions and preferences irrespective of what the text actually says. Innerancy then, is a way of weaponizing our particular “interpretation” and claiming that it is above critique. I wonder if historical criticism might be the flip side of inerrancy. It seems to me that with historical criticism we often bypass the text itself in favor of data/information that we can hang our desire for certainty onto, rather than hanging it on the assumed innerancy of scripture. I don’t mean that historical context isn’t important, I just mean that it can also be weaponized in a way that attempts to claim it is also above critique. Good conversation! Thanks!

      Nicholas Tangen

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Nicholas; Thank you for your thoughts. I think you are pretty much spot on here… I do agree with everything you have said. I just want to clarify that I didn’t mean to suggest that interpretation is the flip side of inerrancy. You are right… inerrancy is a doctrine upon which one’s interpretation may be based. I don’t believe that the writer I alluded to in my comments (Adam Hamilton) comes with a view of historical criticism, however. I believe that, unlike the school of higher criticism, he is most sincere and respectful of The Scriptures as God’s Holy Word to us and as such has a great deal to say to us. I am just suggesting that his basis is more liberal, i.e., more in keeping with modern interpretations of what society considers sin versus just plain humanism. I think you’ll agree that it’s both difficult and dangerous when we try to interpret the Mind of God especially when we are offering these interpretations as imperatives to be followed by others.

        Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anthony, I think you have characterized my position quite well except in one aspect: I don’t subscribe to the concept of the “Divine inspiration of Scriptures”. Now I think some writers might have been specially inspired by God in some way, but I don’t think there is any way to determine what passages those might be.

      But this doesn’t matter for me in terms of the ‘authority’ of the Bible. As in any literature there are things in the Bible that speak to me and some that do not, but I don’t consider any of it as made authoritative by God. The lens through which I see any part of the Bible is the teaching and example of Jesus as written from the memories of his earliest followers (the gospels). This is where I find Jesus’ loving Father as opposed to the sometimes angry, vindictive god of the OT. This is where I learn of the good news of the kingdom and about loving others.

      However, I agree with you that the words of the Bible can be twisted and misused by liberal as well as by conservative believers; and we always need to avoid doing that. I think your earlier responders all offered excellent thoughts on the question. I especially like Nicholas’ comment that inerrancy is an assumption (presupposition) made prior to interpretation and that we cannot bring any other personal presuppositions to infuse meaning into the text (this is called eisegesis); the Bible is not a mirror to reflect our own thoughts.

      William spoke to the same issue in saying that rewriting portions of the text to suit our own agendas is dangerous whether it is from the left or right.

      Good discussion!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Tim, thank you for your comments and views… I stand corrected on your view of “divine inspiration”… furthermore your point about not really knowing which parts were divinely inspired is salient and well spoken. We certainly have no problem here. Whenever I feel as though I might be struggling with one particular point or thought, you always seem to offer some concise but well-thought out ideas that force me to think a bit more on the matter at hand while still feeling as though we are very much in synch when it comes to our core beliefs. You seem to be focused and quite well grounded in how you view The Bible with Jesus being at the center of your theology… and that’s not a bad place to be. When I truly start to make Christ the center of my being, then perhaps a lot of the other pieces will all fall into place.

        Thanks to everyone for your insightful comments… In reading the many posts here I’m beginning to feel like the blade being sharpened by the stone.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Anthony, you say your are still learning and growing but it seems to me you are well down the road on your journey. I appreciate your kind words about me, but I am fully aware that I don’t ‘know everything’ and I am NOT an authority. People should consider my ideas only if they make sense to them.

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  5. hoju1959 says:

    Tim, I was intrigued by your headline — “New Testament writers were inspired by Jesus” — because it touched on something I’ve been mulling over lately.

    And that is — how do you explain Paul?

    Think about it. Why is it we don’t have anything the apostles wrote—or had written for them? (They were probably illiterate.) Why did Jesus spend three years of his life painstakingly teaching his apostles what his mission was only to have Paul, who never even met Jesus, be the one who set the agenda for that mission?

    How do you explain that?

    The reason, I feel, is that Paul’s gospel “won” over the competing, Torah-based gospel preached by the Mother Church in Jerusalem. That shouldn’t be surprising. Freedom in Christ would be a lot more appealing to Hellenistic gentiles than having you foreskin cut off. Ouch!

    By the time Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written, Paul’s gospel had “won” over the pro-Torah gospel preached by the Mother Church in Jerusalem. It was bound to happen. There were only so many Jews. As soon as the gospel got out into the gentile world, it was influenced and shaped by it. Paul was heavily influenced by Hellenistic thought. Once the temple was destroyed all traces of the Jerusalem church run by Jesus’ blood brother, James, vanished.

    That gospel, Jesus’ gospel, which was about obeying the Torah, “lost.” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and, mostly, John, reflect Paul’s theology,

    So the verses in the gospels where Jesus seems to set himself up as a divine messiah who will die for the sins of the world we’re put there after the gospel writers were influenced by Paul. The verses that have most likely to have come from Jesus were the sayings in Q. It’s in those sayings that the real Jesus peeks through, or at least as close as we’ll ever get to the real Jesus.

    I think the truth is we don’t have any of the original Apostles teachings intact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hoju, I think you make some good points here. It is possible that Q might be the earliest document written on Jesus, and it adds tremendously to the gospels of Matthew and Luke; I don’t know what we would do without it.

      I agree with you that the developing understanding of Jesus, his message, and his mission (significantly spurred by Paul’s insights) influenced the preaching of Jesus earliest followers whose memories of Jesus are recorded in the gospels. But I think the basics of the life and work of Jesus in the gospels is consistent and dependable.

      Paul did, indeed, have a lot of original insights but so did the writers of the gospels in my opinion. I will talk about Paul and his writings in the next two articles.

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    • mark says:

      hoju1959 I have also wondered why Paul and the letters attributed to him were made canon yet nothing out of Jerusalem was.
      Another source of concern for me is that there are NO surviving Original documents that are the source for the Gospels. Q has never been found and the Qumran scrolls have been hidden away and not open for scrutiny other than what was chosen to be released. It bothers me because we have a faith that has us to believe what they tell us yet offer no proof for their claims…..it can be whatever THEY say it is.

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  6. William Burnette says:

    While I realize many scholars do not believe Matthew and John were written by the apostles by those names, I don’t believe that is a universally held opinion. There are still scholars who would argue for the apostle’s authorship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Yes, William, there are differences of opinion here. However, I don’t think it likely that Matthew or John directly wrote the gospels that go by their names. I suggest that the two gospels were written by the two communities (Matthean and Johanine) to record decades of preaching in those communities by each of the two disciples.

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  7. sheila0405 says:

    The Gospel writers are anonymous. It is unlikely they were even eyewitnesses of Jesus. That’s pretty much been established by scholars of ancient historians, as far as I’ve researched it. Just sayin’…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      Sheila, I agree with you that they are unlikely to have been direct eyewitnesses of Jesus. They are at best about three times removed from directness.

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  8. sheila0405 says:

    Tim, I see you already addressed my comment. No need to reply. I think the reality of the conditions under which the Gospels were written provide a sound foundation for rejecting them as reliable eyewitness reports. At best, they are hearsay. But I respect your overall point. I look forward to Paul. Please don’t use his forged writings when you proceed.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. mark says:

    When I try to view the NT from a critical literary standpoint alone, I don’t see it as inerrant…
    Instead of an being ” inerrant and inspired” , I’m seeing two opposing factions promoting their version of who and/or what Jesus was. Each speaking to a very different audience.
    I see James speaking only to Torah Jews and to the “Lost Sheep of the House of Israel”..attempting to rejoin the “Two Sticks”..or two Houses. In their accounts I see cultural racism against Samaritans, Pagans and gentile “Dogs” as their Jesus called them. Their story is about a righteous God who demands death and blood as a penalty for sin. So He becomes Jesus that He might pay off the debt He owes Himself on the account of Israel….? Instead of just forgiving them He must kill Himself.

    Then there is the Jesus promoted by Paul and given to the non-jewish world. An observant view of this story tells us of a very different person than the one claimed by James John and Peter.
    This Jesus is nice..Hes a lovable guy to everybody. He would never call you a dog returning to its vomit..eating crumbs from the table….or Swine having pearls cast to it. This Jesus would doesn’t demand that you as an enemy to be brought before Him and slain at His feet, nor require you to adhere to any edict of LAW coming from the “seat of Moses”.
    This story has God as a loving Father for the entire world now . No longer are the rest of the Nations abominations that need to be destroyed, but are now worthy of HIS love as is Israel. Yet even still God required a blood sacrifice of His son instead of just outright forgiving the sin.
    It’s like saying..”I hate you so I’m going to kill my kid because of you, then I can love you” Really ?

    Mainstream Christianity would have you to not look at or question the narrative….just go along with what they tell you and beLIEve…..in your bi-bull. In trying to defend the Scripture as inerrant,..it become incoherent and not able to be understood for what it really is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Mark, this is very interesting and I would agree that some NT books seem to be written to Jewish audiences while others are for gentile audiences. But the sharp dichotomy you suggest is not so apparent to me.

      Can you share some specific examples from biblical passages that demonstrate this division?

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      • mark says:

        Tim as I stated “from a Literary standpoint” not spiritual , I will try to answer your question.
        If this book was called anything else other than the Holy Bible it would be seen as Propaganda..myth..a protocol for hate, racism and genocide.
        Much of the scrolls were “re-worked” by scribes after the return from Babylon. Those “New found Scriptures” we previously spoke about.
        The accusation of racism can be seen by Judah’s treatment of their brother Israel..the remnant that wasn’t deposed from the land under conquest….the had remained and were Semite blood and stock of the Northern Kingdom…yet Judah rejected them and drove a wedge between the two houses setting the stage for hatred and persecution..they the inhabitants that had remained, were now Dogs….Samaritans….swine. Today they are Palestinians and Goyim ..animals and beasts whose only purpose is to serve Jews and nothing else. These are not my words nor my made up opinion but straight from the Talmud…reference here , (Jehovah created the non-Jew in human form so that the Jew would not have to be served by beasts. The non-Jew is consequently an animal in human form, and condemned to serve the Jew day and night. Midrasch Talpioth, p. 225-L)
        This line of thinking began to come to fruition after babylon ….in their opinion only the returning diaspora were the true and righteous. This theme set in stone by the lying Pens of the scribes. Jeremiah 8:8. records the same thing happening in His day…
        On the racism and genocide….Psalm 137:9 Ezekiel 9:6 Hosea 13:15-16.
        And an even more horrible slaughter from a earlier time. Numbers 31:15-18 study the entire chapter here it is supposedly God-sanctioned murder, rape, enslavement, and child abuse at the Midianites. Did God really require this? Or did the Priesthood just sanction it by “claiming” God said do it. What was their crime/sin? Essentially, the Midianites were descendants of Abraham through Keturah.

        Going forward to the NT for a moment we see the writers/scribes placing these words in the mouth of Jesus…Matthew 15:24 “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The Jewish writers would have us believe That Messiah was for them only and that God had revealed through Moses that the children of Israel were “a holy people to the LORD . . . chosen . . . a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). It was through the Jews that God issued His Law, preserved His Word, and sent His Son. This is why, elsewhere, Jesus tells a Samaritan (dog) that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). In Matthew 15, when the Jewish Messiah says that He was sent to “the house of Israel,” When Jesus sent His disciples to preach the good news of the kingdom, He expressly told them, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6) Well so much for the theme that Israel was to be a blessing to the Nations..

        But as we proceed thru the Gospels we see a more Gentile version of Jesus edited into the stories…keep in mind these Gospels were not written by Matt..Mark , Luke or John….but at a much later time and only thru the lenses of a more Gentile audience. Also the Epistles and other Letters were added to show GOD as GOD and Creator of ALL Nations and Peoples and Jesus as Messiah to ALL….and not just to believing Jews of that time.
        A very sharp demarcation here between the exclusive believers in Jerusalem and the inclusive Believers in the Gentile world.
        There is no attempt at peace…or kindness to neighboring countries…no loving their enemies as GOD had required…much covetous still over the Canaanite Promised land Judah believed GOD had given to them. And only by much debate and Peters vision of the clean/unclean sheet did the Church of Jerusalem agree that Paul’s mission to the Gentiles was according to GOD….forced inclusion.
        Did GOD want Issac to hate Ishmael ….or did Abraham also BLESS Ishmael as GOD would have required for the first born.
        Tim there is much much more I could list out here but it’s already become lengthy as it is.
        This is where I see “Inerrant and Inspired” to be not so. I see much of our Bible as mere selfish and carnal opinions of jealous men. And its these opinions that have for a millennia or so form the basis of Christian doctrine and theology.. This is what I mean by seeing it for what it is and not what we are taught it is.
        I base and build my faith off who I believe Jesus is and what He would have taught about our Creators love for Mankind. And like you I am tossing the baggage traditional Church has added.
        God is God for all time…He does not change…but we do. Our understanding of Him grows with time. To me it would be taking steps backwards to insist that men’s opinions and understandings about GOD from thousands of years ago would be more accurate than what we know and understand today. We have made great strides at removing the myth…we know that sickness and disease is not demonic possession…nor is the earth flat and sitting on 4 support columns with the sun and stars circling us. Evolution is very probable and Donkeys and serpents don’t really talk.
        Not all is what it seems….Jesus without baggage..I stand by it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Mark, thanks for clarifying; I see your point more clearly now. I agree with you that there were Jewish believers who were never friendly to gentile believers and burdened them with heavy Jewish requirements, but it seems to me that the New Testament books are written from a point of view of acceptance of gentiles.

          I acknowledge Matthew’s statements that Jesus told his disciples to go only to the house of Israel rather than to the Samaritans or the Gentiles, but it is in the same book of Matthew that Jesus later tells them to ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’ My understanding would be that Jesus focused his mission on the Jews during his very short mission in order to have his disciples expand it to the gentiles after his death.

          And even though his work was primarily to the Jews, he was very open to the Samaritan woman, the Canaanite woman, and the Centurion when he encountered them. Perhaps you are right, but I see the issue differently.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim,the problem there is that the final paragraph of Matthew,where it says ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ is almost certainly a later addition, as you have agreed before.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I would agree that the passage might be a later addition, but I would not say ‘almost certainly’.

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        • Anthony Paul says:

          Mark, you pretty much dismiss the OT and parts of the NT as human propaganda and yet you can still say, “I base and build my faith off of who I believe Jesus is and what He would have taught about our Creators love for mankind.”

          Your conclusions about Jesus and His teachings do not seem to follow from your beliefs about the book that was written about Him. You may not like parts of the OT and NT because they don’t fit your idea of who God is; but once we all just start basing our beliefs on our personal feelings instead of trying to learn what the writings are trying to convey in spite of its disturbing aspects, then the nature of God itself is a question of personal choice… one can just as easily suppose the NT is just a total fable made to make people feel good about life and their miserable existence. And suppose the OT reflects the true nature of God as some philosophers have suggested – God being mean, vengeful, and hateful, or at best a duality of good and evil. What I’m saying is that when we start to sift away everything we don’t personally like about the book, then revelation about the nature of The Deity washes down to little more than the folly of human fantasy.

          Liked by 2 people

          • mark says:

            Anthony..not really what I like or dislike…It’s about what appears to be tampered with. Many greater Theological minds than ours have came to the same conclusions. I just happen to agree with their findings. While no two Churches can agree on all things…Neither do I believe we can all agree. It should not matter if we do or don’t…GOD Himself will teach us ..each to our own understanding. Could be you are reading more into my Belief and salvation in what I’m posting than what I am actually saying.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Chas says:

            Anthony, it is necessary only to accept that we were separated from God, and therefore unable to resist doing things that we know could lead to suffering, until we believed that Jesus was His son. Once we accept this, the Gospels and everything in them becomes unnecessary.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I cannot agree that “the Gospels and everything in them becomes unnecessary.” Without the gospels we know next to nothing about Jesus.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, I did put: ‘Once we accept this’, because, while I acknowledge that we have needed the Gospels to come to this point, we no longer need them once we have got there.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, you say it is necessary only to:

            1. Accept that we were separated from God, and
            2. Therefore unable to resist doing things that we know could lead to suffering,
            3. Until we believed that Jesus was His son.

            “Once we accept this, the Gospels and everything in them becomes unnecessary.”

            I am not sure I understand what you mean. The things you mention seem to read like a doctrinal statement. Even if we accept these things, is this all we need to know from the gospels? The gospels give us Jesus’ teachings and show us his own example; it is in the gospels that we see Jesus’ character displayed.

            It seems to me that if we are going to follow Jesus then we need to know who he is in order to know what we are following. Perhaps I am unclear on what you mean by: “Once we accept this, the Gospels and everything in them becomes unnecessary.” Can you be more clear on how you think the gospels become unnecessary? Do we ‘graduate’ from the gospels into…What?

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, accepting these things enables us to resist doing things that lead to suffering, which encompasses what God wishes us to do, so what men wrote in the Gospels, while trying to understand God and His purpose for His Son, is no longer necessary. Because we are in a world (and universe) in which there is destruction, this separates us from God, since there is no destruction with Him. Accepting these things enables us to receive from God resistance to destructive behavior. It means that accepting these things is itself resisting destructive behavior.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            OK Chas, so you think the gospels are no longer necessary. Sorry, I just don’t see it.

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    • Chas says:

      Mark, I agree with you regarding the contrast between the gentle, kind, loving Jesus, that we believe shows the true nature of God, and the one that seems to be shown as a man who is like many other men, prone to violence and confrontation. This contrast shows us that, although the Gospels are based on a dilution of what was remembered of Jesus, it also contains the ideas of men who still thought that God would behave in the same way as a man, and so thought that His Son would too.

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      • mark says:

        Chas I think you hit the nail square on that.
        I think their Idea about GOD came from their understanding of man and his ways…and that they appropriated to the Creator…If we carry that out a little farther we could say they created god in THEIR image.

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  10. William Burnette says:

    I’m don’t get the same impression from reading the account of Jesus in the gospels that you seem to Mark. It seems to me that the Jesus described in the gospels was only critical of the self-righteousness and selfishness he saw among the Pharisees and Sadduces. He wasn’t critical of people who were downtrodden- he didn’t blast them for being sinners- but rather was very compassionate to their plight. It seems to me that Jesus message was that it was not about the law- it was about love and concern for your fellow man. That, more than anything, was what God desired for us humans.

    I think if you are looking for the salvation message to make sense in the black and white way we as humans desire, it never will. I’ll admit it seems odd- which as C.S. Lewis put it- is why I believe it’s true. It’s not how mankind would have written it if we were just making it up. I have to chalk the sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the cross as atonement for our sins as one of those mysteries of faith…

    Liked by 1 person

    • mark says:

      William…I feel you misunderstood my post.
      I wasn’t implying the salvation message didn’t make sense…what I was saying was how selfish men had taken the liberty to claim it as theirs and theirs alone according to a supposed ancient promise and Prophecy .
      In the scriptures as a whole It can be seen that there was and still is two opposing views..2 for Israel and two for Christianity. The stark contrast is not always apparent it’s at times subtle and can be seen only thru study…not merely reading of daily devotionals. And I am not implying that at you friend…just saying in general.
      Over the course of my life my faith has grown…it has changed and my understanding of the Bible is very different today than it was in the early 60’s
      I was once challenged by an old timer years ago …He asked my why I believe what I believed..I didn’t have a good answer other than “cause the Bible says so” He suggested I find out what the Bible Really says and not what we have been taught to think it says. Thats good advice for everybody.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      William, it might not be how mankind would have written it if they were just making it up, but it might be exactly how they would have written it if they had heard something about Jesus and were trying to understand this from their limited knowledge and perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Chas, I must say that I have a great deal more confidence in the overall portrait of Jesus, his teachings, and his behavior than you seem to indicate.

        Like

        • Chas says:

          Tim, your comment is not clear, but I assume you are saying that you have a great deal more confidence in the overall portrait of Jesus in the Gospels than I have. If that is so, then you would be correct. I consider that the portrait of Jesus in the Gospels is entirely man’s, based on verbal descriptions of him handed on from one person to another over several decades, distorted by the personal prejudices of each person in the chain, their assumptions and their imperfect understanding of what God would be like.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas I acknowledge that, to some extent, the gospels reflect what most impacted the earliest followers from hearing and observing Jesus; they would not only describe what they observed but what was most significant to them as individuals.

            A lot of people assume that, before they were written down, stories of Jesus were “verbal descriptions of him handed on from one person to another over several decades, distorted by the personal prejudices of each person in the chain” like a game of Telephone. I don’t think this is what happened.

            After Jesus’ death and resurrection, some of his earliest believers preached about Jesus over that period of decades before what they said about Jesus was written down, so what we have is a continuous tradition of Jesus by the disciple who preached in the Matthean community, and the same thing in the Johanine community. Mark is likely written from the preaching of Peter. Therefore the stories of Jesus were not passed mouth to mouth but preached by original witness in communities over an extended period of time.

            While some details that were inserted into the Jesus story, I think it is overall a story of considerable integrity. You have a right to your opinion, but I have quite a different one on this issue.

            Liked by 1 person

  11. Russ says:

    Thanks for sharing. In my deconstruction journey (not to be confused with deconversion), I’ve really thought/studied/prayed about the Bible and how to read it. For years, I read it literally, historically, and scientifically but many things just fall apart (especially scientifically). But recently, I’ve been listening to some wonderful podcast and reading blogs like this, and I’m growing for comfortable with the idea of scripture being inspired but not inerrant. I explain it this way — I’m a filmmaker and if two filmmakers are “inspired” to tell a story, I can guarantee you that each of us will tell a very different story “inspired” through our life lens. So instead of reading scripture as an instruction manual to follow, I’m learning to read it like a beautiful piece of art to be experienced and contemplated. But, primarily, I now read scripture Christologically (to use my new favorite word). Everything in scripture should be read through the character of Christ. He is the Word, so he authors it and perfects it in us. To paraphrase Jesus when he was rebuking the religious folks for their religious study of scripture in John 5:39, “You search the scriptures because you think they have eternal life. But, I’m standing right here people!” Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anthony Paul says:

      Russ; I think this was stated beautifully. Your thoughts are very much appreciated and add another valuable piece to the spiritual puzzle I’ve been working on.

      Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      “I’m a filmmaker and if two filmmakers are “inspired” to tell a story, I can guarantee you that each of us will tell a very different story “inspired” through our life lens. So instead of reading scripture as an instruction manual to follow, I’m learning to read it like a beautiful piece of art to be experienced and contemplated…Everything in scripture should be read through the character of Christ…John 5:39, ‘You search the scriptures because you think they have eternal life. But, I’m standing right here people!'”

      Very well said, Russ!

      Like

    • mark says:

      Well Said Russ!
      Many if not most treat the Bible as the actual Word of God…almost to the point of worship. But it’s Idolatry just the same as those who worship the cross…idolatry

      Liked by 1 person

  12. William Burnette says:

    Sounds like we’ve been on the same journey, Russ. I love “I now read scripture Christologically”. Yes, yes, yes! It’s all about Christ. For me, the Bible is the story of Christ- he was the “God revealer”. There is value in the rest of the Bible, but I find more and more these days, all I care about is what Christ said and did- inasmuch as we have His words and deeds handed down to us from the early believers, and whatever insights I gain from prayerful study and discernment of what the Holy Spirit in me is showing me to be true.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Anthony Paul says:

    William, your thoughts reflect a common theme that I am starting to pick up from this blog… I first heard it from Tim, then Russ, and now from you: Jesus Christ as Center. I know this sounds pretty basic and perhaps even like one of those “duh!!” moments; but I must confess that even though I say that Christ is the center of my existence, I am coming to believe that He is not. [Please indulge me in my moment of personal confession… I think it’s the former Roman Catholic in me] I do love who He is, and His position as an advocate for the human race still blows my mind. My problem is that sometimes I get too sidetracked with theology and philosophy and tend to forget that it’s more about having a soul connection with Our Creator and not just an intellectual one. Your contribution and that of so many others has helped me personally to move just a bit closer to the light of where I believe I need to be. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      Anthony, shouldn’t the Father be the Center, since His Son was born to show us the way to Him?

      Like

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Chas, I do believe that Christ is “the center” exactly because He was sent to show us the way home to The Father’s house and for several other reasons: To cite just a few examples, the NT teaches us that all things were put under the dominion of Christ; it tells us that all things were created by Him and through Him; Jesus said, “Who sees Me sees The Father”.

        But on a more personal level, Jesus is the only real and living revelation and manifestation of God that I have, and so He is the only One to whom I can realistically relate on a spiritual level. For example, I love The NT accounts of Jesus being with His friends… as I imagine at some wedding feast or perhaps just a dinner party or just being with His closest friends, His disciples, talking and eating and drinking and laughing and having a great time as we all do. I can relate when Jesus weeps over the loss of His friend Lazarus; who of us hasn’t been heartbroken and destroyed at the loss of a friend or loved one? It’s comforting to me that The Creator of the cosmos knows that pain. Jesus being fully man suffered the same temptations as I do, was gripped by fear as I so often am, and was subject to the torments of pain even unto death… perhaps the most traumatic event yet to come in our lives. In short, Jesus (God) laughed and danced and suffered and cried as we all do throughout our own private lives; And for me this is more than enough.

        That is my short answer as to why Jesus is the center; thank you for asking this good and important question… because in formulating an answer I had to take the time to think about some very important elements of who Christ is in my life.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. William Burnette says:

    Ditto brother. This is what encouraging each other in the faith is all about.

    Liked by 1 person

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