No small task. It took me two years to do so. I was trying to find a balance. You could spend your entire life studying the bible. But on the other side of the coin, I didn't want to read it simply to say I read it; to race to have it 'under my belt'.
I was looking for truth. In fact, to those who have accused me of having an ulterior agenda, I was hoping to find that Christianity was true. That Jesus was the answer. I truly was.
Reading the New Testament in the chronological order the books were written in sheds a very different perspective. This can be difficult because we approach this with our own biases and information - right or wrong. The challenge is a read the New Testament chronologically, and bring nothing to the table with us.
(And yes, I know I'm glossing over a great amount in an extremely simplified way).
c. 100 AD
Very basically, we see all the Pauline Epistles, followed by the first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the Acts of the Apostles (the sequel to the book of Luke), the various misc. letters, and finally (nearly a century after the event) the Gospel of John, his 3 letters and Revelations (all Johannes).
We can see Paul, Peter, James, John (and Thomas?) bickering over interpretations (Jew - Gentile, Temple, Salvation by deeds - by Grace), bickering over authority (Paul's conversion by a post-crucifix Christ, John's "most beloved disciple", the discredit of 'Doubting Thomas', etc.), and ultimately, the bold Johannes "God-Incarnate" statement (an attempt at the most authoritative and final word).
c. 400 AD
The silencing of some groups or factions by discrediting their source material.
Even if the books of the bible were divinely inspired, its Table of Contents (the Canon itself) was not. The Table of Contents was a man-inspired fabrication.
4th Century AD
The establishment of the Doctrine of the Incarnation (Jesus literally being God) would ultimately and directly force the Doctrine of the Trinity.
Again, we see inter-bickering over authority and agenda. The Arian controversy of the 4th century, the 1st Council of Nicaea of 325 AD, the 2nd Council of Constantinople of 381 AD, the 3rd Council in Ephesus in 431 AD over the issues of Nestorianism, and ultimately, the establishment of the Doctrine of the Trinity.
The final nail in the coffin - and the end of the search for me - was 1 John 5:7.
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one" NLTFootnotes for this verse state the following:
NLT: Some very late manuscripts add "in heaven - the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And we have three witnesses on earth"
NIV: Late manuscripts of the Vulgate "testify in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth" are not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century.
It is odd that during the various debates and arguments and interpretations over what eventually lead to the establishment of the Doctrine of the Trinity, this verse wasn't quoted or referred to.
It strikes me as suspicious that this verse may have been added by the winning Trinitarians to support their agenda and put this potential debate forever to rest.
This says one of two things, or both, to me.
1) The Canonicity of the Bible was propaganda and a great lie and the authenticity of the books themselves are compromised.
2) The original and core message of the historic Yeshua of Nazareth has been obscured and lost between the pages of history and the bible.
We have no core source to return to.
The red letters of Jesus are, at best, second hand information, and likely with their own spin. (Paul's Jesus openly embraced Gentiles, Peter's reluctantly allowed them. James was strictly temple-based Judaism, John meant for Jesus to be God himself, Thomas, not so sure).
Ultimately, Christianity is all about cherry-picking, isn't it?
I know I do. I can admit it.
Ultimately, all Christians (and ironically, non-Christians alike) all follow their own personal imaginary Jesus.
Although I'm sure it wasn't Matt Mikalatos' intention, his Imaginary Jesus, although a piece of fiction, makes a good point. We all - Christians, non-Christians, and atheists alike - hold an imaginary Jesus.Assuming we can bring ourselves to this realization (and admit it) we should begin questioning our imaginary Jesus's
I know I have, and it lead me to think in my endeavors to avoid Entrapment, to avoid and escape Delusion, to try to embrace what I've labeled Dharma, I had to address this issue.
(This Dharma that I speak of isn't the teaching or 'doctrine' of Buddhism. This Dharma is our openness and willingness to accept the truth, whatever it may be. Our receptiveness to it and our ability to allow it to lead us, rather than force it to fit our preconcieved notions and agendas. The truth never needs defending. Only our truths needs defending. If we are open and aware and allow ourselves to be led where ever it is that the truth leads us, we consistently reduce the levels of delusion in our lives. Delusion is Dharma's enemy.)
I had to either abandon my Imaginary Jesus, or replace him with the real one.... but how?
The only 'real Jesus' is the historic one.
I have long since come to the conclusion that the Historical Jesus (the heretical rabbi, Yeshua of Nazareth) has long been either lost or inaccessible between the pages of history and the bible. (See Above & Beyond Christianity, and The Christian Criterion: Lines of Division for further details).
I have come to the point where I believe he is ‘accessible’ through the bible. It is because of the canonized bible that he has become isolated in a hidden and inaccessible part of history. Locked between various interpretations.
So, in the spirit of striving against Delusion, to travel a path away from Entrapment, the issue of Jesus is inconclusive.
Let's be thorough and clear here.
I am not saying I am undecided, a seeker, in a state of transition.
I have found my answer.
There isn't one.
To focus on this a dog chasing its own tail.
We must avoid allowing (willingly or not) confusion, denial, and delusion into our lives and minds. Beliefs are fine to have so long as we acknowledge them as such. When we mistaken our beliefs as facts we enter into delusion and are the cause of human suffering.