An Affair on Golgotha — a Refutation

In his article ‘An Affair on Golgotha’ linked at the bottom of this article, the author Mr Garaffa writes:

It must be remembered that it was not the Apostles who began the ‘mystery’ of a human sacrifice whose shed blood was a washing of regeneration for the forgiveness of man’s sins. It was not the chosen twelve of Jesus who made him a ‘sin-eater’, or a ‘scapegoat’, nor his death the centre of Christian doctrine.

Later he concludes:

Did Jesus die on the cross? No! Then a question must follow.

Why is it impossible for man to accept a ‘saved’ Jesus, rather than a ‘crucified’ Jesus? Without the abhorrence of a human sacrifice, without man’s blood lust satisfied, he cannot survive. Paul’s ‘church’ turns to dust.

 

The following is a response to the article and its conclusions:

By Thomas

 

To even consider the only other option, that Jesus denies that he is the Christ, would be an incredible stroke against the very doctrines of Christianity. Throughout Mark, Jesus is emphatic in telling the disciples not to tell this to anyone. The messianic secret …

The ‘Messianic secret’ was put forward by the German Lutheran theologian Wilhelm Wrede in 1901, that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah and that Mark (and the rest of the New Testament authors) sensationalized Him and made Him into the Messiah. Wrede’s theory enjoyed some popularity during the 1920s but faded soon thereafter. Subsequent scholarship raised insurmountable problems that showed Wrede’s hypothesis was insufficient and today is regarded as indefensible. In short, the ‘Messianic secret’ was a failed theory long before the author wrote his thesis.

 

If Jesus did not say it, how dare men use this ‘sacred’ vehicle to demand that he did when they admit to the contrary? In the same manner, they have used God’s Holy Scriptures to advance their own doctrines and traditions throughout history.

But, on the other hand, if Jesus did say it, then the argument is void. As no argument is presented, this is void.

 

To prove the newest of upheavals, The Gospel According To John, has been restored and placed at its theological head. It is being used as the basis for the claim that Jesus of Nazareth is God.

By whom, he does not say. As I understand it, the whole thrust of the New Testament claims that Jesus is God.

 

We are told that it was authored by John, the disciple. Arguments against its authority are, (1) John would have been of extraordinary old age…

Wrong. Contemporary scholarship suggests the base-layer of John was probably contemporary with Mark and Paul. It seems the scribe was aware of Mark (or his source materials) but still might be prior to both. Certainly, he was unaware of Matthew and Luke.

 

(2) as a Galilean Jew of the orthodoxy; the text exhibits a definite, anti-Semitic nature…

This view is now regarded as out-dated, with the emergence of later archaeology and scholarship, especially with reference to Hebrew scholars – happily ignored up until the latter half of the last century. What was once deemed anti-semitic is now seen as tensions within the broader Jewish community. John’s whole premise is couched in terms of a Jew preaching to the Jews.

 

(3) the Church would be permitting a Gnostic text into their doctrine…

The claim that the Prologue and flavour of John was Gnostic has been demonstrated false by a greater understanding of Jewish mystical currents in Second Temple Era, and indeed by the Dead Sea Scrolls, as John is notably closer to the Qumran documents – the use of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ as motifs, for example.

 

(4) the church’s permissiveness would allow the use, and manipulation, of a five hundred year old text that originally appeared as Plato’s, Ode To Wisdom …

It would have helped if the writer had offered a reference so that readers could judge for themselves. I have no idea what he’s talking about here. Google was no help either.

 

(5) the admission of a document purported to be genuine to Jesus’ words and actions that appear almost one hundred and seventy years after the fact.

What, the Gospel of John? The latest it can be is 125AD, so at the outside less than a hundred years. As stated above, it’s possible the origin of the gospel was within 20 years.

 

Explicit explanation of the argument are as follows. The Interpreter’s Bible: Volume 7; Page 887, notes that in this Gospel, “…where intense hatred of the Jews is frequently given expression…” gives voice to point (2).

And scholarship subsequent to the 1950s has shown this to be a misunderstanding.

 

The preface of the Gospel, “In the beginning was the word…” (John 1:1) is well known to have originally been an ode to Wisdom created by Greek philosophers five hundred years before an unknown evangelist adapted it for use in the Gospel, which dates approximately one hundred seventy years after the fact.

Entirely wrong. Again, no supporting reference or evidence.

 

The Interpreter’s Bible, agrees that the word, Logos, is borrowed from the original where it represented divine reason. Philo of Alexandria uses this word more than thirteen hundred times in his expositions of the Old Testament. (See: I.B.: Volume 7; Page 442).

John’s use of the term “Logos” (1:1-2; most frequently rendered “Word” in modern English translations) drew much attention. The writer seems to insist it reveals his Gnostic leanings (cf Bultmann, The Gospel of John. 1971).

Commentaries suggest the term is deeply rooted in Old Testament thought (e.g. Genesis 1, Proverbs 8). Further, the role of the Johannine Logos parallels personified Wisdom in a number of traditions within Judaism (e.g. Sirach 24). Sirach’s Wisdom and John’s Logos cannot simply be identified with each other, since the former is a creation of God (Sirach 1:9) whereas John holds the Logos as pre-existent and Divine. John’s use of such language in his setting could scarcely avoid associations with Hellenistic thought (“Logos” played a key role in Stoic thought and in Philo).

It may well be that the Greek world provided the main source for its interpretation. C. H. Dodd argued that John’s adoption of the term deliberately reflects the ambiguity of the word in Judaism, employing a Greek philosophical term that captures both the immanent and the transcendent implications, all within a decidedly Christian framework (C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel Cambridge University Press, 1953). Other scholars develop Old Testament and Wisdom backgrounds.

They argue, moreover, that while the Hellenistic connotations are inevitable and useful for drawing the attention of a wide range of first-century audiences, these associations are secondary and in some respects incidental, since the Fourth Gospel’s employment of the term turns out to be quite contrary to a Hellenistic worldview, as well as in some ways quite distinct from previous Jewish uses. Leon Morris puts it this way:

“John could scarcely have used the Greek term without arousing in the minds of those who used the Greek language thought of something supremely great in the universe. But though he could not have been unmindful of the association aroused by the term, his thought does not arrive from the Greek background. His Gospel shows little trace of acquaintance with Greek philosophy and even less dependence on it. And the really important thing is that John, in his use of the Logos, is cutting clean across one of the fundamentals of Greek ideas.” (In Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987).

Beasley-Murray agrees, and sees Johannine usage as indicative of the Evangelist’s acumen in communicating the Gospel and its distinctive message within the philosophical and cultural context of his time:

“The remarkable feature of this presentation is that it employs categories universally known, possessing universal appeal, which would attract and have attracted alike Jews, Christians, pagans, Hellenists and Orientals in their varied cultures, followers of ancient and modem religions, philosophers and people of humble status who were seekers after God.” (George Beasley-Murray, John, World Biblical Commentary, Thomas Nelson, 1999)

 

A dozen pagan rites, including the most powerful, that of Mythranism, repeat this story over and over again before Christianity ever became a dream in man’s mind.

Mythranism – by which I presume the author means Mithraism – does not repeat the story, it’s quite different. Also, Mithraism in Rome borrowed a number of motifs from Christian iconography – there’s no evidence elsewhere – and that Christianity is a derivative of Mithraism is a meme that has been shown to be false.

 

It must be understood, without question, that Christianity today is not the church that Jesus founded, nor is it based on the principles that he taught. What proof do we have? Are Jesus’ own words enough?

Well as you have dismissed the New Testament as a reliable text, and if your thesis is right, then the Church effectively wrote the NT, then we do not have Jesus’ own words, do we? Throughout, the writer wants it both ways, refuting Scripture when it suits, citing it as authentic when it suits, without apparent rhyme or reason.

 

Jesus did not choose Paul …

Yet based on Scripture and Paul’s testimony he did, so where does this come from?

 

It is Paul who announced the martyred ‘lamb’ …

Well Paul mentions it once – “For our passover also hath been sacrificed, [even] Christ” (1 Corinthians 5:7). However the theology of the sacrificial lamb is based on John’s Gospel: “The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.” (1:29), “And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God.” (1:36), and the Lamb is mentioned 29 times in Revelations!

 

It is Paul who demands that we observe the bloodied sacrament of, Communion, not the Christ, not Peter …

“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled, Foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but manifested in the last times for you” (1 Peter 18-20).

So, this argument is utter nonsense.

It’s a matter of note that Garaffa dismisses Scripture where it suits, and claims its authenticity where it suits, without rhyme or reason.

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Regarding the extensive commentary on the Passion-Ascension, I will not dignify it with a response. Smoke and no substance.

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Paul’s ministry was assaulted by Jewish Christians known to us as the Judiazers.

As I’ve demonstrated elsewhere, the writer is largely ignorant of Paul and his ministry.

 

The Hellenists, especially Stephen, were insistent that the role of Judaism was over and that the religion was dead.

Quite simply wrong.

 

“To Stephen Israel had been apostate throughout her history; her rejection of Jesus is merely the culmination of a series of misdeeds. Christianity must break with Judaism because the two are incompatible.” (Peake’s Commentary on the Bible: Thomas Nelson & Sons LTD; Page 871 70d)

Again, an ill-informed overstatement. No scholar would support that thesis. sadly I have searched Peake’s Commentary but can’t find the text he quotes…

 

An Affair on Golgotha by Victor Garaffa:

https://www.interfaith.org/articles/golgotha/

 

For a full discussion visit:

An Affair on Golgotha — a refutation

https://www.interfaith.org/community/threads/19601/

A Refutation of the Refutation of ‘An Affair on Golgotha’

https://www.interfaith.org/community/threads/19628/

 

 

 

 

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