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LTJ #11: Learnin’ Sumptin’

I’ve been considering some of the things I’ve been reading for the Life & Teachings of Jesus class, reflecting on what was said or responded to in class, and looking at what I thought I knew going in, realizing just how little I understood once I got there, and hoping to come out of it a bit more informed.


As I flipped through my class notebook, reviewing things I’d written, I found a summary of the four Gospels, the “Q’ Source and the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas.  While we really didn’t touch John much, if at all, the others were read, referenced or spoken of by the professor.


So here’s a little core dump of some things I captured in my notations.  I may not fully understand them at this time, but then I feel I am a healthy sponge that will continue to soak up what it can, and later ingest what I need, to grow and move forward:


The Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the four canonical Gospels.  It was written around 70 C.E., almost four decades after the death of Jesus Christ.  Of all the Gospels, it is the shortest, with Matthew and Mark being almost 50% longer.  Having none of the Nativity narrative, Mark begins with Jesus as an adult.  The first half of the Gospel is about Jesus’ public ministry, and the second half carries us along to Jerusalem, the Cross at Calvary and the empty tomb.


The Gospels of Matthew and Luke both used Mark as their primary source; 90% of Mark is found throughout Matthew, and almost two-thirds of Mark is also in Luke.  Hence, the three are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels”.  They take a common view, with their similarity in content, order and statement.  Both Matthew and Luke contain much more regarding Jesus’ teachings, and include the infant narratives and Easter stories.


Then there is “Q”, the Quelle or "source” which reflects portions found in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark.  It also had a common source.  “Q” is mostly a sayings source, with about 200 verses.  It was maybe written in 50 C.E.


The Gospel according to St. John is the fourth, and latest, Gospel written perhaps in 90 C.E.  It is known for the “I am” statements and uses language which is more symbolic and metaphorical.  Some refer to it as the “spiritual Gospel”.


Since we didn’t concentrate so much on either “Q” or John, I will hope to find other opportunities to explore those in greater depth.  Certainly, if not sooner, I fully expect I would be immersed deeply into John, if not also “Q” during my formation in seminary.


And before I leave the sources section, in the Life & Teachings of Jesus class, we also explored the Gospel of Thomas.  It was discovered in Egypt in 1945.  Thomas is another “sayings source: like “Q” which contains the teachings of Jesus in 114 sayings.  As we discussed it, looked at citations in our textbook, and read some examples, I began to recognize them as the “red letter words” of Christ.  They read simply and directly, sounding more like something we could attribute directly to Jesus himself.


Studying the New Testament, and specifically the Gospels, is to consider faith from two different perspectives: one that is Belief-centered versus the other which is Way-centered.  The Belief-centered faith is about holding beliefs about Jesus, God and the Bible itself.  Some might consider this a literal interpretation and stance on faith.  Their Christian doctrine can be readily found in the creeds of the Church.  The Way-centered faith is all about following Jesus on a path, known as “The Way”, to a transformation of life.  This calls for a more-than-literal interpretation, and also involves a deeply experiential walk.  There is much metaphorical meaning in trying to understand faith this way.


Sometimes issues arise between faith communities when we try to employ “Biblical literalism”.  Believing the Bible is a product of divine inspiration to be read literally as “God’s Truth” has led to some poor interpretation by man in its application.  We cannot pick and choose which portions of scriptures to apply to any given issue or situation.  I’m not going for the can of worms already open out there in the world, except to say that Levitical Law is in the Old Testament; since then, a new covenant was established through Jesus Christ when he came among us to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.  Trusting in God’s goodness and showing our faithfulness toward Him is our call to faith today.  It can be the difference between “believing that” and “believing in”.


The Life of Jesus as written in the Gospels was part of a historical process, an initiation of a movement, with emerging practices and beliefs from the early Church.  It speaks of “what Jesus had become” in community life.  The Scriptures combine memory and testimony, memory and metaphor, describing what Marcus Borg called the “pre-Easter” vs. “post-Easter” Jesus.  The Gospels contain both pre-Easter memory and post-Easter testimony.


Well, that’s about all I can squeeze out of my little pea brain right now.  That’s plenty, but I know there’s so much more to come.  I welcome all the teachings still to come, and look forward to all the learning yet to be done.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 15th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
Quelle, ftr
means "source". In Cherman.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )