Faith of the Apostles 0

IN DEFENSE OF THE APOSTLES FAITH

by

A. Victor Garaffa

A Critical Thesis On The Gospels

PREFACE

Thus says The Lord

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.”

STATEMENT OF INTRODUCTION

AND PURPOSE FOR THE

CRITICAL THESIS

titled

IN DEFENSE OF THE APOSTLES FAITH

by

A.Victor Garaffa

There is no greater faculty in heaven or earth that man can possess than love for his God, and an overwhelming desire to know His truth. The greatest gift that God can bestow on man, is to allow him to find it.

Somewhere in the world community, there is an arena in which the layman must be permitted have his say. Someone without a vast array of letters after their name will be allowed to present a valid text in order to support a basic statement of faith that is free of the repressive doctrine of the ‘church’. Somewhere, a thesis created without university degree or notoriety is waiting to be presented to focus man’s attention back toward the single, individual entity known as, God.

Where does one begin a two thousand year old search? Certainly we have sufficient manuscripts available and the newly translated, Dead Sea Scrolls, add to that source. Christian writers, beginning with the first century church, are quoted repeatedly. However, the only biblical writings left to us are those which have been ordained by the church as canon, and are drawn on edited text to which countless numbers have contributed their own ‘corrections’ and ‘additions’. They have been reduced to historically distorted narratives that present a portrait of Jesus’ earthly figure which is as adulterated as the manuscripts themselves.

They may well be valid for the church’s purpose, but they no longer relate to the original substance of Jesus’ time in history. Many ancient biblical records have been lost or destroyed, and what is left have become second-hand observations of later evangelists which have been attributed to subjects upon which they were never meant to comment. At first one is amazed that modern critics admit, and even underline the vast number of ‘revised’ text, but refuse to remove them from what is left of the original documents. No reason has been given for this practice. We are only told that to do so would, ‘undermine the faith of Christian adherents’. How does one establish a matter of ‘faith’ on a false premise?

When we realize that man has decreed his own traditions, along with these spurious writings, as ‘sacred’, we begin to understand the lengths to which we have been led away from the Apostles’ original faith.

What material then, do we propose to work with? The Gospels themselves, for one. Though our sources are limited, in a search for truth we must expose those writings that are genuine, as well as those that are not. Text that withstands the test of spirit and logic, and those that bring us new inspirational understanding, will sweep away that which is not supported by the God’s word.

We must go to the most original text available, and their exegesis, without regard for their basic theology even if it is not Christian. The diversity of cult-legend is as important to history as the beliefs of the adherents of any given religion. Inspiration is not the sole property of any one sect, and criticism is as profound a means for locating original material as any other, as long as it is not used to demean source documents.

We must always consider the words we study since they are no longer read from the original tongues, but come down to us from numerous translations. Often enough, those who did the earliest works had a poor knowledge of the text they were exploiting, so we must examine these writings in a form closest to the original language as possible. It is essential to determine what the correct translation should be. That would seem to be what they meant at the time they were written, not what we desire them to mean for us now.

Any study of a given period of history, especially of a single being or race of beings, demands that we learn about them in the context of their own geographic surroundings and their specific circumstances. To remove a subject of study from its own place in time and space, and to try to dissect it in the light of one single facet of its total existence, especially when imposing our own values upon it, is unforgivable. It will lead us to make improper assumptions and draw erroneous conclusions.

Paul, with his character and motivation in question in this student’s mind, is the earliest of all writers. However, he speaks little of Jesus as a ‘history effected’ personality. In fact, he speaks little at all of Jesus’ ministry and teachings. Paul expounds his personal opinion of what Jesus represented theologically, in the light of his own philosophical, Hellenistic training. That which he learned came from others, and his Apostleship was self-pronounced and highly questionable

Is Paul not the one who coined the phrase, Jesus Christ? A totally ‘improper’ name to be given the man, especially when it did not constitute a title.

For whatever purpose, fate has proclaimed that our present day church be based on Paul’s Hellenistic philosophies rather than on Jesus and his original teachings. Our doctrine, as well as our actual practices, are Pauline.

There is the search for truth as to the ancestry of Mary and her husband Joseph. Why was it so urgent that Mary be a virgin? To give birth to a prophet? The son of God? The mother of God Himself, which Catholicism proclaims? And why does Jesus’ father mysteriously vanish? When so much was brought about due to Joseph’s house, why does he suddenly disappear without a trace?

Those who formed the original Apostolic community did not write. Records were unnecessary to minds that were convinced they were about to be transported into the coming kingdom. When recollections were put into written text from oral tradition, scribes were used for the task, such as John Mark. None of them were witnesses to the fact.

Legend and cult-myth have obscured much of the path, but even at that, certain historical facts cannot be denied credibility. We must refer to the, Holy Qur’an, as a testimony to the existence of an early Christian narrative. For Mohammed was well aware of a Lukan theology that had been introduced to his area of the world earlier than the seventh century. It is reflected in the, Holy Qur’an, and is an integral part of the Moslem faith. Here, a Lukan Gospel is repeated with additional illumination on an early legend concerning Mary and Jesus.

Within the content of this theological treatise, we must attempt to explore the known facts of history from 168 B.C. to 40 A.D. including the events that we know took place during Jesus’ lifetime, 6 B.C. to 31 (33) A.D. The known world was small, those who wrote of the civil unrest that was threatening one of the most strategic areas of the Roman Empire, are few but accurate. These include Josephus, the Gospels, the Romans’ own records, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Strabo, Philo, Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, (whom we know to have been, Octavian), Cleopatra VII, Mark Anthony, Tiberius, Salome (Herod the Great’s sister), and the Herods, are figures of insurmountable legend. They fill the pages of world history in that period of time, in a land that was known as, Palestine. The active wars of the Maccabees were only just put away, and Josephus was beginning his enormous writings of the, Wars of the Jews, and the, Antiquities of the Jews. No, we are under no restraint to learn of the things that influenced Jesus’ life and his actions. All it takes is an admission that we are ready to accept the dictates of truth and the facts of recorded history.

We must be willing to admit that religious writings are not the sole domain of God’s inspiration. We must be eager to find the truth even if it proves that our own opinions are wrong. In fact we are doing no more than following Jesus’ entreaty.

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be open to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be open.”

“Jesus said: Seek and you will find… Jesus [said]: Whoever seeks will find [and whoever knocks], it will be opened to him.”

The only reason that men might refuse to accept this teaching, is if they have something to hide. If, in fact, a devious nature has transposed its own will upon the very works of God, and after two thousand years, is continuing to secret a hideous lie that new discoveries are slowly unveiling, and are about to expose.

We must understand one thing, that men of this day in the middle East are not as they were then. The religion, civil and criminal law, economic rules, and their politics were all one-in-the-same in the time of Jesus. One did not differentiate between them, they were all based and written down from the same source, God’s Law as given to man through Moses. It is an easy thing to say, but not one to comprehend when put into action.

Involved in all of this, are the myths and cult legends that have grown up around the figure of the man, the man now worshipped by a large part of Christianity as the god of creation, or the begotten son of God. Joshua bar Joseph, to Jesus, Jesus to Christ, anointed of God to the son of God, the human sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world, to God Himself. Jesus has become the lost prophet, and the advent of his figure has been tormented and deformed over the centuries until it is no longer recognizable to the lay worshipper, or the discerning eye of the text-critic.

To the majority of the world’s religions, Joshua bar Joseph was God’s great prophet, a prophet of action, the Messenger of The Covenant, whose coming and ministry were foretold by the prophet, Malachi.

Without doubt, the power, spirit, and the word of God were his. The times and the circumstances surrounding his world, however, were manipulated by men, and through men he would suffer. One must be very careful to note that though we know a great deal about the calling and lives of the prophets of God, in comparison we know little or nothing about Jesus and his followers.

However, a true picture of Joshua bar Joseph may not be as lost as many assume. Within the Gospels, within the words of the New Testament, there is still an exacting portrait. It is only our inappropriate expression of history and Greek text that has misdirected the focus of the general student. Scholastic vanity and the ‘absolute’ domination of the church in continuing toward its own selfish purpose, have strained the meaning of God’s word until it has become powerless to direct, or even influence, those who were once within its sway.

The appearance of Jesus and his disciples was not an act of fate or chance. What is so amazing is that they appear at the very moment of a millennium, and at a time when Palestine and Rome were in the throes of an agonizing struggle. One major incident after another collaborated within a very few years to produce the proper atmosphere in which Jesus and his ministry would be accepted by so many in such a short time. One catastrophic event after another created the proper ingredients necessary for the growth of that ministry and its survival.

They appear, seemingly out of nowhere, with little record of their past. There is no indication of their work or their ministries until Jesus of Nazareth and John the baptizer are at least thirty years old. Our total knowledge of their existence is two and one half to three years, and then they are gone. Somewhere around the year 29 A.D. these figures, and those that followed them, mostly Galileans, appear in a world racked with insurrection, civil uprising, terrorism, and the politics of the Empire that was Rome.

Within a short period of time they are all gone. Rumor and myth abound concerning the work of the Apostles, but in fact, within a very few years, Jesus, John the son of Zebedee, Judas Iscariot, Simon Peter, Stephen, Paul, and James are all dead. The rest disappear from the pages of the Bible and history. Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Mary Magdalene are never heard of again, and those who knew him within the scope of real history, including Simon, Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha, are as though they had never been.

With such mysteries in our hearing, is it any wonder that those who hunger for the word are sworn to the search? It was Jesus himself who said that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

And there are the many contradictions amongst the Gospel stories, and also in what is practiced as an organized religion today. We may take the end of Jesus’ ministry as a good example, and from it, understand why we are searching for the right answers.

Men were being put to death for Zionist activities. The Apostles and their followers were being hunted down for that very reason. They were preaching the Christ in the Empire, and he had reportedly been put to death for sedition. What escapes the Christian mind today is that no one at that time was being hunted down for the practice of the Jewish religion in Jerusalem, as they were in other areas of the Empire.

“Of such a mood there is no trace in the Lukan story of the primitive church. A situation of general active persecution is not envisioned. There are attempts at repression by the ecclesiastical authorities, but they are unsuccessful.”

In the first century church there was no Christmas story, no God in man theology, no sacrifice of death for the forgiveness of sins, and no worship of the man, Joshua bar Joseph. There was certainly no concept of a, ‘holy’ trinity, nor any doctrine concerning the, Ascension. In their practices, the Apostles were not breaking any Jewish laws nor were they defying any of the religious practices of the Jews. The only difference was their adherence to Jesus as Messiah, the anointed of God, which he was, and which many people of the time held him to be, including many of the Pharisaic order.

The Bible tells us that Peter and the Apostles were teaching and worshipping openly in the synagogue, and in Jerusalem. This seems extremely odd when Peter had just denied Jesus out of the fear of being arrested and put to death with him. In fact, he and the Apostles were being hunted down for following Jesus, a Galilean revolutionary who had been accused of preaching sedition against Rome and the Herods. Which of our Gospel stories are correct?

Many diverse religions were flourishing in the middle east and in Rome itself, including Mythranism, which was chief among the religions of the day, and none of them were being persecuted. Acts, tells us that Peter and the apostles preached openly in the city of Jerusalem, without opposition, during this period of time. This is sufficient to tell us that the Apostles were not being pursued for religious reasons, they were being hunted down for their alleged political activities.

Peter denied Jesus, and the Apostles fled from the crucifixion because they were fleeing from certain arrest. But here, contradiction rears its ugly head. If the authorities believed that the apostles were preaching insurrection, how is it that we have such divergent stories from the pen of Luke that tell us they were practicing Judaism in the city without opposition?

Beyond this, a treasure trove of written works was either destroyed by those who were attempting to take control of the early church, or hidden away by those who were being persecuted. All of this simply because men of ideals and character would not bow down to the dominating strength of Rome, the Hellenists, and the Church. Only now, in a time of extreme change, are these articles being discovered and brought into the light. Our picture of Jesus’ time and character are changing daily. The oppressors of truth, now far weaker than they were two centuries ago, have begun to panic and their faith to disintegrate.

At this point we must make several basic assumptions, at least the beginnings of a theological dissertation that is divergent from the ‘word and purpose’ of man. The Gospels as they are today are far newer than many would have us believe. By admission, the theological community states that in many cases they have been filled with error, misinterpretation, and misinformation due to manipulations, both intended and accidental.

The generations of men that have governed the translation and the editing of these writings have left them basically inaccurate and erroneous in the history and message of the Messiah’s ministry on this earth. The last, is a problem agreed upon by both laymen and theologians.

It would appear that the ‘clergy’ have propagated a doctrine and a daily worship based on invalid concepts. For what purpose? That depended on those who were in control, but for the most part, to further the concept that man’s ‘tradition’ is as holy as the word of God.

The madness and criminality of our present society is evidence that man is not as powerful as God, nor does he reflect the Creator’s wisdom in any way. We are a society steeped in drugs and in the passionate embrace of violence, hatred, and illicit sex. Corruption runs from the highest to the lowest, from our seats of government to the clergy itself, and into the very ranks of society. This is the domain once ruled by the ‘church’, shaped and given life by the ‘breath of man’.

“Either make the tree good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.”

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit.”

Yet history is well recorded, and it is in honor of God’s gift of reason to read that history and try to fathom how the events that took place effected those who lived in it. It is with a responsibility to God’s word that we should learn from those times, and investigate the cult legends that we have been taught all our lives. When we find them in opposition to God’s word and recorded history, they should be pointed out definitively. And one must remember that, The Holy Bible, is a large part of that history.

In my years of experience in the church, I have rarely heard the figure of Jesus discussed in terms of the history of his day. The little that is taught makes certain that he is not intimately involved in the social and political fervor of his own period of existence. I have, in fact, been told point blank that history and religion are incompatible, and that where religion is concerned history is invalid. And most recently, that even if history is considered, it is inaccurate and totally without merit.

I have heard people in Sunday School programs and within the general body of the ‘church’, state that history is totally groundless when taken in the context of religion and religious events. That history and science are embodied with atheists and have no relevance in fact. This curse has followed us down from the dark ages, and continues to keep the general congregation uneducated and in total ignorance of the real world. It is truly unfortunate that this paralysis of the mind has been propagated, in good part, by the clergy. Why?

Statements like this, made in ignorance of the Gospels and history, is a perfect example of the prejudicial mentalities that have kept human kind, and the Christian society in general, from actually experiencing the true nature of the man they have chosen to worship as their god. Today, scholars are beginning to admit that, indeed, the politics of his world greatly influenced his life. If they were not, in fact, the specific reason for his purported execution then there is a greater mystery here than we can imagine.

I fear that those who would keep the figure of God’s prophet untainted by the works and ordeals of men, are making a big mistake. If Jesus of Nazareth ever happened in the real world, then his figure is totally involved in the passage of time, and therefore, history. To state that he was undisturbed, completely unaffected by the events taking place around him, would be ludicrous.

We are speaking of a living man who experienced every facet of human nature, including every emotion. He existed in time and was subject to it. He aged and was susceptible to the conditions set by the rising and falling of the moon and the sun. To say that the world shaking events taking place in the period of history in which he lived, and that took place around him each day, had no effect on his actions or his ministry would be foolish beyond belief. It would hide the explanation of a great deal that he taught, the meaning behind certain public events in his later life, and the reason for his ministry’s end.

More important, it would deny the very reason for his coming into the world.

One word is aptly applied to this period in time, upheaval, and the chief thorn was the middle-east. Zealots, seditionists, terrorists, those horrible people from Galilee. A sect of Jews who Gibbon states, “…there had arisen among them a new and pernicious sect of Galileans, which was capable of the most horrid crimes.” The Palestinian Jews were in revolt, rioting and preaching sedition in every corner of their land.

Rome ruled the western world militarily and economically, but allowed their Empire to be dominated by Greek language, Greek intellect, and Greek philosophy. And in this world of Greek forms, one group of Jews resisted the infusion of Greek philosophy into the Holy Scriptures, the revealed word of God. The Maccabees revolted and took up arms against Rome and a Hellenistic movement that was putting its corrupting mark on civilization.

At the great educational citadel of Alexandria, during the period 275-100 B.C., Hellenistic Jews translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, and in doing so, consciously blended in many original Greek philosophical ideals that totally corrupted the original text.

Gibbon, whose essay against the Jews in his, Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, sounds appallingly like Adolph Hitler’s, Mein Kampf, makes the following statement.

“Neither the violence of Antiochus, nor the arts of Herod, nor the example of the circumjacent nations could ever persuade the Jews to associate with the institutions of Moses the elegant mythology of the Greeks.”

‘The elegant mythology of the Greeks’? Indeed, and I would refer one to the works of Homer, in which resides the most judicious warning of all time.

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

The church today is no more than a reflection of a Hellenistic apostate word. It uses the philosophy of a society that had nothing to do with a belief in the God of Creation, or with the God that the Jews, or Jesus, served. It is totally Hellenistic in its form, and so a Hellenistic religion is in practice in a world today that is desperate for the true word of God.

To those of us who do not agree with the arguments of the anti-Semites, I would also quote the work of Hebrew scholars in continuing to foster the, Masoretic Text.

“It is enough to point to the Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Scriptures, the product of Israel’s contact with the Hellenistic civilization dominating the world at that time….. While Philo and his Alexandrian coreligionists looked upon the translation of the Seventy as the work of inspired men, the Palestinian Rabbis subsequently considered the day on which the Septuagint was completed as one of the most unfortunate in Israel’s history, seeing that the Torah could never be adequately translated.”

Greek philosophical wisdom has nothing to do with the Law of God as given by Him through His prophets to His people, and the world. It has no part in God’s Holy word. This is the same form Greek religion has taken from the beginning, to humanize the spiritual kingdom and to raise man’s intellectual genius above the Word of God. This could only have come to pass through the ravings of mad-men!

One must also keep in mind that it is this translation of God’s word that we accept today in our Christian congregations. It is done without thought or concern for the price that must eventually be paid for the use of an illegitimate text.

In this age of revolution and civil war, the gods of the Greeks had failed. Their religion, which had existed for generations, came to a conclusion. Belief ended at the foot of Mt. Olympus, and men hungered for something greater than themselves to lead their lives. Scores of religions sprang forth in this world, in the Greek mind, the world of Rome, and in Palestine.

In 168 B.C., Mattathias killed an apostate Jew who was about to offer sacrifice to the god Zeus in the Temple at Jerusalem. There was no turning back, and no end to the active war would come about until 63 B.C..

The Maccabees fought against the Syrian Greeks, ie; the Seleucids, and those who fostered the mistaken idea that this bastardized form of God’s word should be forced upon all the Jewish peoples. The Hasideans, or Hasidim, (“the pious ones”) were a group of 2nd century B.C. Jews who rigidly observed the laws of Judaism. They offered their services to the Maccabees during their fight for religious freedom and the restoration of Jewish political life. They were rebelling against Hellenistic influences and stressed a meticulous observance of their own traditions.

With the Roman army in Jerusalem, another sacrilegious act brought an end to the open warfare, but not to the spirit of the battle which was kept alive by that Jewish sect called the Galileans. Into these smoldering embers, only fifty-seven years after the fact, came Jesus of Nazareth, John the baptizer, and their disciples.

An occupied nation waited, held in check by two people of whom only secular history speaks. Octavian (Caesar Augustus) was Emperor of Rome. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra lived, Julius Caesar had just died and the battle of Actium was yet to come in the year 37 B.C., after which Octavian would become ruler of the known world. Herod the Great had yet to issue the edict of 6 B.C. These things must also be investigated, and can be through both the Gospels and the writings of the historians of the day.

Men hungered for freedom, and the revolt that the Maccabees started in the desert of Judea, continued there after the passing of their great leaders. As a group of village priests led a new nation toward religious freedom in the wilderness, so we find the beginning of the three years of Joshua bar Joseph’s circle of influence.

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.”

What was the son of a priestly class doing in the desert where seditionists, Zionists, and Galileans hid from the authorities? With father and mother in the Temple in Jerusalem, fulfilling their priestly duties, what was their son doing in the desert of Judea where the Maccabees had only just ended their struggle under the Roman boot?

So many questions, so much dust to search through. But, the effort must be made. Perhaps it has been delayed too long, for here we are, facing another millennium and still, the promised one has not returned.

This work is done against the weight of the world, and the sheer power of its self-ordained authority. It is done in acknowledging the One God, with the hope that just one single soul may hear His gentle voice. It is done that some day we may again hear Moses say, “…would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

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