Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Invention Of The Christian God (Part 2)

Part 1 is available here.

AP: In case anyone is joining us for the first time and this is the post they've come across, just a reminder, the book we are discussing is Gesù. L'invenzione del Dio cristiano by Paolo Flores d'Arcais. You can click over to Part 1 to get the introduction.

The chapter dedicated to "James" raises the questions of who was really the head of the mother community of Jerusalem and criticizes the hypothesis (deduced mainly from the Gospel of Mark) that Jesus' whole family was against him during his public ministry. James, according to Paolo Flores, is the head of the community of Jerusalem because it is a very Jewish group in which the hierarchical primacy is given to the relatives of Jesus. Furthermore, in this same chapter it is noted how James was married and highlights the unreasonableness of the obligation of compulsory ecclesiastical celibacy from the late Middle Ages. The author also points out in this chapter the theological dispute between "Hellenists and Hebraists," which reveals the coexistence of very different interpretations of Jesus from the very origins of Christianity.

In the chapter "Paul Accuses Peter of Being Satan," the author contends that Peter, in substance and in form, was much more in line with the Judaizing line of thought that prevailed in the community of Jerusalem under the leadership of James than with the ideology of Paul. The evidence for this is found in the letter to the Galatian churches, especially chapter two, and proves the idea of ​​a primitive Christianity "founded on the synergy of the two great apostles Peter and Paul" never existed but is actually the fruit of the harmonizing and irenistic tendency of Luke in Acts.

The section dedicated to the canon does not present any history of the origins and formation of the list of sacred books, but emphasizes the diversity of the oral tradition, of the continuous reworking of the Gospel material since the parousia of Jesus was delayed and that until the fourth century there were as many Christian groups as there were large groups in the church without being able to properly indicate which was orthodox and which ones were heretical since all felt they were equally legitimate.

Jesus was never proclaimed Messiah, but this was a theological invention of early Christians deduced from the firm belief in the resurrection of Jesus. This is what Paolo Flores affirms in the chapter dedicated to Jesus as messiah. There he argues that authors of the Gospels use the expression son of man, used by Jesus to designate himself as a mere human being, with a new theological import that portrays the son of man as a celestial figure.

The chapter "The Son and the Virgin" holds two clear ideas: Jesus never believed that he was a "physical" child of God, but a man with a special relationship to the divinity, like one the King of Israel or a prophet could have. He maintains that the divinity of Jesus is conceived first in an "adoptionist" line (i.e., Jesus is an ordinary man and only at his baptism or after his resurrection is he adopted as Son by God, an act that grants him a semi-divine status). Paolo Flores also defends that the miraculous conception of Jesus (found in Matthew and Luke) is a pure theological invention and that the marriage of Joseph and Mary was as normal as any other in the Judaism of his time.

A brief review of the heresies cataloged by Irenaeus of Lyon or Epiphanius of Salamis, plus some others described by Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History, leads Flores, in his chapter dedicated to these heresies, to confirm his idea that primitive Christianity was an impressive Babel of very different conceptions that are not unified by the internal forces of the church itself but by the action of the Christian or pseudocristian emperors from Constantine and the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325.

The last two chapters "Ebionites" and "The Jesus of Muhammad" contain arguments taken from the apocryphal Judeo-Christian Gospels (found in the writings of the church fathers who explain the heresies before refuting them), an analysis of the Qu'ran and especially a text from the tenth century ("proof confirming the Prophethood of our Lord Mohammed, from the Islamic scholar ABD al-Jabbar, translated into English in 1966 by Shlomo Pines) that Muhammad had a very remarkable interaction with a group of Judeo-Christians living around Medina and transmitted to him an image of Jesus with natural birth, the son of a carpenter, the last prophet before Mohammed, a strictly Jewish Jesus, a staunch defender of a monotheistic faith, and a man who would never have accepted the idea of that he was a divine character. Based also on Hans Küng, in his work Christianity: Essence, History, and Future, arguing that a Christology of Jesus as the servant of Yahweh (i.e., a Judeo-Christian Christology) has undoubted analogies with the image of Jesus in the Qu'ran. Therefore, this image was born of a Christian movement very close to the Jesus of history, who would finally be declared heretical.

The book concludes with a support of the multi-faceted nature of primitive Christianity throughout the first three centuries of its existence.

We'll pick up here in the next post.

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