Faith of the Apostles 4

CHAPTER FOUR

Hark The Herald

How have the self serving purposes of the later church effected our knowledge of Jesus’ earthly existence? Obviously men sought to confirm the spiritual nature of his character, an identity they developed to enhance their own designs. The apostolic church was a Jewish movement intent on proving that Jesus was the Messiah. And in this, The Interpreter’s Bible notes, emphatically, that Jesus’ ministry was a Palestinian movement.

It must also be kept in mind that the practice of the Apostles was known as the Palestinian church. And because of this ministry, which was eventually subdued and driven into obscurity by Paul’s gentile movement, the synoptic Gospels were preserved for us.

“The brief career of the church in Palestine has commonly been treated as a mere prelude to the real history which opened the work of Paul… Such a view is totally wrong. That initial period of which we know so little was not only the first but the most important in all Christian history… but the later imperial church owed almost everything to that small community which grew up in Palestine and withered away after little more than a single generation.” 160

“For one thing it was that primitive church that saved Christianity. With the death of Jesus his cause, to all appearances, had gone down in disaster, but a handful of believers maintained it in being. That is their chief claim to our lasting gratitude.”

In his time, the man was simply, Jesus who is called the Christ; ‘Christos’, the anointed; from the Aramaic, ‘messiah’. Jesus Christ, as one would use a common name, was coined by Paul, Saul of Tarsus. It is used as a proper name and not as a title.

“So also, ‘Jesus Christ’ (Mark 1:1) has for Mark no longer the original technical sense. ‘Jesus the Messiah’ or ‘Jesus the anointed’, but is simply a proper name. Paul no doubt had much to do with the popularization of this usage in the mission field… But from first to last, ‘Christ’ connotated royalty, and Mark is careful to point out that Jesus utterly repudiated this concept.”

And for the first time we are able to include the, Gospel According to Mark, at length in our search. We are almost certain that the author is, John Mark, and the beginnings of his work brings us to the year, 29 A.D..

“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…”

This is the original introductory line in Mark’s Gospel. Later editors added, “…a son of God.”

“…but the term “Son of God” was taken over from paganism as a term already filled with rich religious meaning…”

“…yet because of the antiquity of the shorter reading and the possibility of scribal expansion, it was decided to enclose the words within squared brackets.”

Peake’s disagrees at once with this speculation.

“The words ‘the Son of God’ are probably original (a) because of the weight of MS evidence, and (b) because this is a fundamental part of Mk’s Christology.”

“It is therefore thought that this part of the quotation has been inserted here from Matt. 11:10 or Luke 7:27, or possibly even from Q, a source lying behind both Matthew and Luke. It was after the insertion of this popular early Christian “proof text” that the words Isaiah the Prophet were changed to read the prophets…”

“Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.”

This passage is used by the church to describe John the Baptist (who was originally called, John the Baptizer) as the forerunner of Jesus, sent to prepare his way. Unfortunately, it is scripture that has been plucked out of Malachi 3:1, and changed to fit the purpose of the later church and its expanding theology.

In Malachi, the prophet speaks for God Himself, relating to the coming of God’s forerunner, the one who will prepare His coming, the coming of the God of Hosts.

Inevitably, it was no longer desirable for the verse to fulfill its original purpose. In this manner, man’s continual editing of God’s Holy word, changed the original Jesus from a living human being in history to a philosophically arranged, Hellenistic god. In short, ‘inspired’ writing has been turned into something contaminated in order to serve man’s desires.

“Mark’s first statement is from the Law, and agrees verbatim with the text of Ex. 23:20 in the Septuagint. It is enriched by a formulation originating in the Hebrew text of Mal. 3:1, although the first person has been altered to the second in the interest of the messianic interpretation of the passage.”

He change it! Whatever words you use, whatever reason you give, it boils down to the same thing. He changed it! The author of Mark blatantly misused God’s Holy Scriptures, mingled it with a corrupt text, and change the words of God’s prophet without blinking an eye. Well, I do not care if you are John Mark, Peter, or an archangel, no one has the right, the power, or the authority to change God’s word for any reason. Inspiration seems to have turned into desperation, for what was done was criminal.

Two thousand years later, man’s doctrine fits the verse perfectly. Theologically, no one is now able to decipher truth from fiction. Our modern age intrigue has drawn a theology denoting that when one speaks of God, they are actually speaking about Jesus, whether that is the intent or not. To use that type of philosophical scheming, the twisting of words, is a dishonest practice at best, and it is rampant throughout the New Testament.

“Behold I send My messenger, and he shall clear the way before Me… ”

In its edited version, ‘My’ and ‘Me’, have been changed to, ‘thy’ and ‘thee’, in Mark 1:2.

In Malachi, God speaks of His messenger coming to prepare His way, the day when the Lord God Himself will return to take back His earthly kingdom.

“And the Lord whom ye seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in, behold, he cometh, saith the Lord of Hosts.”

It tells us that the one who has been called by God, the messenger of the covenant, one whom we delight in, will come first as a forerunner. Could Jesus have been this one, the prophet?

Prophet, in the New Testament is, ‘prophetes’. It translates as, ‘a public expounder, a messenger’. The prophet was chosen by God as His anointed. But within the text we are also cautioned about his coming, which we desire so very much.

“But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth?”

The original message does not sound like John the Baptizer. Even though he preached the coming of the kingdom, which in John’s day meant the acceptable day of the Lord, he spoke of another who would come after him. That one was not God. It was one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit rather than water. This in itself is important to our study.

Secondly, John was not a prophet. Though every effort has been made to show that John was a prophet, and even Islam gives him the benefit of that title, the word of God contradicts the effort. Let us examine the New Testament scripture in the minds of Christian theologians.

“Some scholars have viewed the whole of vss 2-3 as an insertion, and have combined verses 1 and 4 as follows: ‘The beginning of the Gospel was John.’ RSV, keeping verse 1 as a title, reads: ‘As it is written in Isaiah… John (the baptizer) appeared in the wilderness.’ This seems preferable. The work of John the Baptizer was commonly viewed as the beginning of the Christian movement. Acts 10:37; 13:24; 19:4. The Gospel of John, in its opening chapters, presupposes a close connection between Jesus and the Baptizer.”

Zachariah and Elizabeth brought a priestly heritage to their house by God’s choosing. This was also John’s heritage, and we may assume that he was schooled in it by his parents from childhood. But rather than keeping his watch in the temple, John is found in the desert out beyond Jerusalem, preaching the coming of the kingdom.

“John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

“In Jewish teaching, as in the Old Testament, divine forgiveness follows at once upon human repentance; but the passage before us has been colored by Christian interpretation. John’s baptism is viewed as, sacramental.”

The total description of John’s vision, even down to offering a sacrament of repentance, is priestly. There is no evidence to prove his having been known as a prophet, historically or biblically, other than tradition. He did not perform the works of a prophet, but another scripture reference gives us further evidence of this theory’s validity.

Why was John in the desert?

Here was the son of a priest in the order of Aaron, a highly respected man whose duties took him to the very altar of the Temple, beyond the holy of holies. His mother was of the order of the priesthood of Abada. With such a family of note and high order, why was their son, a legitimate priest of orthodox upbringing, in the midst of revolutionaries and seditionists in the wilds of Judea, beyond the Jordan?

This is a question that may never be answered, but we may be assured of several things. There was a search for a leader in this besieged land, perhaps in the guise of Messiah, perhaps as another. John himself was asked on many occasions if he were the one to come. His response was to the point.

“I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”

No, I am not the one. Another is coming, one far greater than I am, one who is worthy of the task. One with strength. It is interesting that the original Gospel writer separates the Holy Spirit (ghost) and the fire. That element came to be synonymous with the spirit in Christian dialogue, but not here. Fire would seem to indicate a physical element that would be leveled against that society.

“In John’s preaching it more probably meant “the messenger of the covenant’ of Malachi 3:1-4:3, who was to inaugurate the divine judgment as a consuming fire.”

Here we have the truth of the matter as spoken by Christian theologians, and it is repeated later in Jesus’ teachings. John, however, goes even further.

“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor; and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Without regard to the inferred religious connotation put on these verses by the modern church, in Jesus’ time they could easily have been taken in a purely revolutionary context. In other words, a political statement.

So why is John inserted in this relationship between God and Jesus? Why is John in the desert, and made to resemble the prophet, Elijah? And more importantly, what bearing does all this have on Jesus’ earthly figure?

In Mark 1:11, at the point of Jesus’ baptism, the oldest text, and that in the majority states:

“This day have I begotten thee.”

Jesus would have been about 36 years old at the time.

“The Western reading in Luke 3:22 is ‘adoptionist’: “Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee,” but is clearly derived from Ps. 2:7.”

“I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.”

As several instances show, there is nothing in the synoptic Gospels that says Jesus was the begotten son of God. The sonship that is expressed by Mark, was a sonship by adoption, as the several theologians have insisted.

“…but whether the earliest Christology was ‘adoptionist’ is an open question. Certainly the problems raised by the later theological reflection are not yet even on the horizon.”

The question has now been asked, and since 1962, the date of first printing of Peake’s Commentary, we have reached that far horizon.

“Ps 2 was an ancient hymn for a royal accession or coronation, presumably of some king of Israel or Judah; the appropriateness of the words quoted in Mark depended upon the interpretation of the psalm as referring to King Messiah-a point further emphasized in the Western (perhaps original?) text of Luke 3:22, which adds, “Today have I begotten thee”…”

It would seem that the greatest embarrassment to the church today would be, The Letter To The Hebrews. It is generally agreed that this is not one of Paul’s letters. The literary style and the message it delivers, are most assuredly not, Pauline.

“…For to what angel did God ever say, “Thou art My son, today I have begotten thee’? Or again, “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a son?”

“So also Christ did not exhalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by Him who said to him, “Thou art my son, today I have begotten thee”…”

“Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

“Although he was a son!”

This cry of God to identify His prophets, carries us on to further evidence concerning the correct missions of both Jesus and John.

“Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples)…”

No source indicates why Jesus did not baptize, they do not even theorize on this remarkable practice. Perhaps they do not have to and it is interesting to see the position taken by skilled theologians.

“The synoptic Gospels are silent about baptism as an accompaniment of the ministry of Jesus, and an editorial note here limits this function to his disciples.”

Why? Because Jesus was not a priest, and he would not foolishly attempt to fulfill the obligations of God’s priesthood by offering up a priestly sacrament. What was Jesus? Let us answer this with another question.

Why didn’t John heal the sick and afflicted, why didn’t he furnish miraculous feedings, raise the dead, or calm the anger of nature? Because he was not a prophet, and he did not possess the power of God’s prophets. Jesus did, as did the prophets of the Holy Scriptures before him.

In his statement John was correct, the one who came after him did not baptize with water, he was not a priest. He baptized with the Holy Spirit, with fire, with the power of a prophet.

If we look at the Holy Scriptures there is a tremendously familiar scene set before us in the narrative concerning the birth of one named, Samson. A prophet of God, the foretelling of his birth by an angel, to his mother-to-be, rings familiar in the nativity stories of John and Jesus.

“And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bore not. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her; ‘Behold now, thou art barren, and hast not borne; but though shalt conceive, and bear a son… for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb…”

A barren woman, or a virgin, unable to bear children because of their physical condition, and all filled with the Holy Spirit, chosen, ‘messiah’, by God before their birth. Let us look at the description of the messenger of the covenant again.

“… for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”-

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written…”

Here, as Jesus would have read the scripture from the Hebrew text, is the translation from Isaiah 61:1-2.

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the lord hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the eyes to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s good pleasure, and the day of the vengeance of our God.’ And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all of them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.'”

“The scripture was read in Hebrew, but a translator turned it, verse by verse, into Aramaic.”

It was not read in Greek, nor from the Septuagint version, thus I have used the Masoretic text, which is as close as possible to what Jesus would have read. Translating for the congregation meant that a great number of people no longer retained a knowledge of the classic Hebrew tongue

Yet, Jesus, was educated enough to read it in the original tongue. Here is a man of intellect and culture, who had just read from the word of God concerning the cry of a prophet.

“The original expressed some post-exilic prophet’s consciouness of mission. The same passage underlines Jesus’ words to the emissaries of John the Baptizer in 7:22 (Matthew 11:5). Therefore, Jesus as well as the evangelist may have interpreted it as illuminating his commission.”

At the moment of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, a question is asked of the people who are witnessing the parade that surrounded the man. It is interesting that two thousand years ago the common man knew who and what Jesus was, and today, daring to say that we are in complete understanding of his position, our arguments over his identity ring louder than the ‘church’s’ bells.

“And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.'”

Christian scholars say it, the scriptures say it, the people said it, and now the text makes it obvious. Jesus announces it to the congregation. He is the fulfillment of a prophecy about the coming of God’s messenger, God’s anointed, God’s prophet! If you wish, you may conjecture that Jesus was surely the messenger of the covenant, but the point is made clear.

“Behold, I send My messenger, and he shall clear the way before Me…”

The messenger of the covenant preached the acceptable year of the Lord. In Christian context, this phrase speaks of the messianic age, and if the modern church must twist the original meaning of the scripture so that it points to the second coming, the pieces fit as well. We are told that Jesus is God’s expected prophet, His anointed one. Later, we will see Jesus’ opinion of John the baptizer, and face additional contradictions brought up by the Gospels themselves.

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