Christian History Jesus (as)

Real Christianity

REAL CHRISTIANITY (Shameem- Ahmad Khalid) Christianity was born approximately two thousand years ago in a country which is known these days as Palestine or Israel. This country in Pthose days formed three provinces of the Roman Empire, namely Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Apart from these few facts little else is very certain in the religious context. Jesus, who is generally claimed’to be the founder of this religion, spread his message among his people for only one to four years before he was put on the cross. He had apparently achieved so little during those few months of his ministry and made such insignificant impact on the prevailing affairs that history took no notice of him. In fact, historians have found it increasingly difficult to prove from historical records that he even existed. During the entire nineteenth century a very lively debate went on in Christian Europe as to whether there existed a historical Jesus. It was under these foggy circumstances that Jesus spent the fateful few months of his ministry in Palestine.. Little else .is certain about him and as such about his religion. This fact has been recognised by numerous Christian scholars and some of them had the audacity to proclaim their opinion and place it on record. In this article it is intended to quote the opinion emanated from some reliable Christian sources on some fundamental issues on which the Church has taken up a firm official position and would like the world to believe it to be the only and the whole truth; however the truth is different or at least subject to further argument. This writer admits that nothing in this article is his original finding and almost the entire material is based upon the research and writings of great scholars of the West where Christianity is the predomin- ant religion. The basic document which may be regarded as the primary source of this religion is the New Testament which itself contains material and evidence of varying degrees of authenticity and reliability. Its contents occasionally contradict themselves. We are told that none of the writers of the four Gospels were personal witnesses to the events’. None of them ever met Jesus, and what they have recorded is at best second-hand information.’ I may hasten to say that the material left behind by them is indeed useful; however, by no stretch of reasonable imagination the writings of these unknown persons can be accepted as words of God. The editor of Pears Cyclopedias (96th Edition) article on Christianity admits that Mark’s Gospel was the first one to be written; it was produced in Rome and was based upon St. Peter’s reminiscences, Luke and Matthew 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS wrote their Gospels afterwards, borrowing much from Mark. The fourth Gospel was written later on by John about 60 years after the event of the crucifixion. We are also told that Luke and Matthew used another written source .which no longer exists as a separate document and which consisted of a collection of sayings of Jesus. It is a pity that this valuable original source, if it ever existed, has been allowed by the Church to become extinct. Christian scholars tell us that during the first century AD, it was mostly the oral traditions which formed the basis of the Christian dogma. The Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament were not compiled until AD 150 according to some other scholars. However, it was in the second century that the New Testament was compiled after great debate and doubts. It, however, continued to undergo changes and we are told that finally an agreed form of the New Testament was eventually written in 692 AD. Itmay be mentioned that Jesus spoke Aramaic but the Gospels were written in the Greek. The Latin translation, the Vulgate, was produced in 4th century AD. It is also worth noting that the writer of 14 books .of 2 7 of the New Testament was Paul who had never met Jesus in his lifetime; in fact, he was a persecutor of Christians prior to conversion and was instrumental in precipitating the murder of the first Christian, St. Stephen. The story of how the New Testament was finally agreed upon is also very interesting but it is beyond the scope of this article. It may suffice to say that the decision as to what would be included in the New Testament was made by a body of men who differed vehemently with each other; there was nothing divine about it. Christian theology is primarily based upon what Paul dictated. According to Will Durante, the renowned .American historian, Paul created a theology of which none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ. Paul was the inventer of the following important doctrines for Christianity: a. Rejection of the Jewish Law b. Salvation by faith alone c. No need for circumcision d. Carrying the message to the Gentiles e. Sonship and Divinity of Jesus f. Concept of original sin and its permanancy. g. Ascension h. Jesus died for humanity’s sins. Christian scholars have found that Paul was strongly opposed by many REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 9 of the disciples and apostles of Christ on these, issues. The Encyclopedia Britannica has categorically stated that initially there was no Christianity as such in the days of Christ; there was only Judaism. Later came Jewish Christians; the term Christian was used first time in AD 110. It was a much later development that Christianity, as a religion, separated entirely from Judaism, most probably when the dogma of Trinity and the Divinity of Jesus were gradually adopted by many as essential parts of Christianity. Some Christian researchers like Amalgam have exhibited commenda- ble frankness in stating that Judea gave Christianity ethics, and Greece had given it theology, and later Rome .gave it the Organisation. It is asserted by them that the Church was not founded upon theology, it was theology which was developed by the Church. It is amazing that this religion, which claims exclusive rights to be truly divine has been grossly manhandled. Will Durante analysed and summed it up well when he wrote: In Christ and Peter, Christianity was Jewish; in’Paul it became half Greek; in Catholicism it became half Roman. It is well known to European historians that mystery religions in ancient Greece believed that their god had died for them, had risen from grave and would save them from Hades. Salvation theory was popular among Greeks. Greek gods, Osiris, Attis and Dionysus had died to redeem.mankind. Will Durante candidly admits that Christianity did not destroy Paganism, it adopted it. Christianity according to him was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world. Sadly enough, the Christians deviated greatly from the path shown to them by Jesus and took .up the lead given by Paul who was only twenty years old when Christ was crucified and he had never met him, and the only authority on which he spoke was a self proclaimed vision’. It has been mentioned earlier that Paul was opposed vehemently in his assertions by many of Jesus’ apostles. Let us take now the doctrine of the sonship- and divinity of Jesus. We know from the Bible that Jesus never claimed to be the only son of God. St. John has thus recorded the belief of early Christians in the second chapter of his Gospel wherein Martha said to Jesus, Lord, ifthou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask God, God will give it thee. Obviously Jesus depended upon what God gave him. David Flusser in his article ‘Jesus in the context of History’ puts down his firm finding, thus;. Certainly, Jesus saw himself as a prophet, and this belief of his found expression, not only in the New Testament but also in later Jewish Christian sects. We are told by Mr. Hutchinson, a 10 RKVIEW OF RELIGIONS great British scholar, that the tremendous question regarding the nature of Christ and his relation to God and humanity, which were to rend later generations and still torment mens minds, seem scarcely to have occurred to Peter. This part of theology did not exist in the, days of Christ nor did the early apostles have any doubts about Jesus being a prophet. It was only by the Church at a later stage that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus were asserted. The formal decision to declare Jesus, the son of God, was taken at the council of Nicaea in the year 3.2 5 AD, which we all know was held under the chairmanship and sponsorship of Constantine whose major objective in holding that convention was political in that he badly needed political and ideological unity within his Empire. The doctrine of Sonship of Jesus was hotly debated, the session involved verbal violence and great Christians like Arius of Egypt took the firm line that Jesus was not of the same substance as God. The Nicaene Assembly was more political than religious; so was the Creed which they formulated and the Christian stomachs were forced to take what was fed to them. Jesus was declared by the men of the assembly as the Son of God and of the same substance, the so called apostles creed, which no apos.tle ever formulated, was worded to declare that Jesus was the only son of the Lord who died on the cross, descended into hell, rose again from the dead, on the third day ascended into heaven, sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. Obviously, Jesus never said these things about himself and the apostles showed no concern for these ideas; it was only three centuries later that a group of men coined the statement of the Christian faith. It is well known that a number of Christian sects disagree with almost each phrase of this creed. When the council of Chalcedony, was convened in 451 AD, Christianity was already divided into more than eighty sects, Today in the USA alone there are more than 255 sects. The councils justified the permissive policy that the theology of the Christian faith could be decided by assemblies and councils. No wonder today, the British Parliament decides through Acts of Parliament on what is the authorised content of the Christian Faith i.e. of the church of England. Christianity has become a man made religion. The New Testament itself is a product of the Church. The Church came first and theology afterwards; not the other way round as we are told by candid Christian researchers. Joseph Stiller, an American said, we make God say Amen to what we believe instead of saying Amen to God. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica have been forthright enough to include the following statement in that great work of knowledge: After Constantine, the Church became political and the Imperial RKVIKW OK RELIGIONS 11 Church enforced unity of belief, dogma, liturgy and policy.’ Important movements within Christianity, like the Albigenses Movement, have asserted that the Church got corrupted from Constantine onwards. Sacraments form an important part of the Christian theology, It may be stated that in the days of Jesus there was no formality of sacraments. Jesus baptized no one. Significance and meaning attached to various sacraments are also later innovations. The belief that baptism washes away sin points to the futility of Christ’s own baptism at the hands of John if the former was sinless. Marriage is considered-a sacrament by Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Church but at the same time their theology scorns at this institution and forbids it to their clergy. Eucharist which is supposed to transform the drinker’s wine into the blood of the New Testament shed for thy sins obviously is a post crucifixion innovation of which ‘Jesus had no idea. Ordination of ministers and -priests is a sacramental procedure which was evolved by the Church much later. It was limited to only a few, so in reaction, the Reformation demanded priesthood of all believers. Sacramental innovations therefore were rejected by a number of Christian sects at will. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Churches have instituted seven sacraments while Protestants have only two; namely baptism and communion. Quakers and Unitarians believe in no sacraments. This had to be so because the novelty of sacraments does not find any authority in Jesus, all being later developments. Therefore each sect took the liberty of adopting sacraments it liked and the way it liked, Roman Catholics serve wine at Eucharist while Presbyterians serve grape juice, some others serve plain water. It may be stated that European historians have discovered that offering of bread and water in mass is a legacy of an old Pagan custom. Wycliffe a great and daring Christian of the 14th century strongly objected to the concept that during communion- (Eucharist) the substance of the bread and wine changes into Christ’s body and blood. He attacked the sale of indulgences by the Church. He died in 1384 and was buried, but a few years later the Pope had his dead body disinterred, burnt and flung into the river swift. This essay could be expanded to cover all aspects of Christian theology which are regarded as sacred cows by different sects, However the space does not permit this exercise. Suffice it to say that Christianity of today is a man made religion and Christians of great standing, both secular and religious, have courageously, forthrightly and consistently challenged various aspects of the post-Jesus theology. A time has^ come that the people of the west, though in name Christians have all but rejected this (continued on page 18)