Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Is "Tebow-mania" Getting Out of Control?

The report on page two of The Denver Post Sports section was disconcerting to say the least. Under the header, 'Message Delivered in Silence', the article noted that "the most widely searched for item for most of Sunday night on Google was 'John: 3:16". This is one of the most often cited verses by bible bangers which purportedly holds the key to human "salvation" based on the known fiction (at least to most of us) of a redeemer's "expiation". That is, an ultra-perfect ("divine") being is alleged to die for the "sins" of gnarly humans, thereby ensuring them the chance to get to the promised land if they only....believe.

Those who see symbols and meaning in everything, were also apparently mesmerized by the fact Tebow compiled 316 passing yards.

Look! See the critical message!

316 yards!

John 3: 16!

This, of course, has also been Tebow's trademark, having worn it regularly stenciled into his eye black when he played at the University of Florida. (Thankfully the NFL prohibits such blatant faith displays!)

I will wager, however, that not one of those who googled Tim's trademark learned anything really new and in particular that the famous verse is a bogus quotation. Most biblical experts, mainly of the Jesus seminar, tend to agree it was a later insertion. It was deliberately intended to underscore Christianity's separate existence as a religion in its own right, at a time when the Sol Invictus "Sun God"- Mithra cult still reigned in much of the Roman Empire. Nor was this sort of later insertion unusual.

The Roman Catholic historian Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, in his monograph ‘A Concise History of the Catholic Church’, notes (page 17):

The Gospels were not meant to be a historical or biographical account of Jesus. They were written to convert unbelievers to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, or God.”

In his monograph he goes on to point out that hundreds of later insertions were willy-nilly made to text of the New Testament at certain points (John 3: 16 being one of them) to further push and promote the notion of salvation and especially linking belief to that cherished but delusional state. Thus we see "whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life".

Underscoring the Rev. Bokenkotter's premise of trying to convert unbelievers to faith in Jesus as the Messiah or God. But it all rests on a house of cards. Trick cards to fool the gullible, like Tim Tebow and his irrational followers.

Hebrew scholar Geza Vermes' in his The Authentic Gospel of Jesus probably provides the most scholarly and exegetically-rigorous reasons for why these verses for "belief in a Messiah" and links to "life everlasting" are specious.

For example, Vermes shows from his textual analysis, that the syncretic later additions and embellishments to the basic initial writings were probably a result of increasing skepticism and boredom among disillusioned Christians (Vermes, p. 384, ‘Towards the Authentic Gospel’) After all, over a century had passed since the days of Jesus and the church- which had NO role to play during his life- had by then become institutionalized. It thus had become an entity to serve no other purpose than to perpetuate the teaching of Jesus in an indefinitely postponed “Parousia”.

This in turn, led to the impetus to add to, further embellish and reinforce the Savior –Redeemer myth. The easiest way to do so was to copy legendary tales from earlier pagan sources and insert them into later translations. Or, to simply conjure up words that would lend themselves to the expiation theme and "ultimate sacrifice". This mightily helped church leaders in their constant exhortations to the faithful to not lose sight of the goal.

Thus, there came new and revised parables and more “Son of God” sayings to "encourage the need for quiet optimism and hopefulness, and to simplify a formulaic salvation". E.g. “John 3:5 and 3:16 are perfect examples of later syncretic additions. By the time of the 2nd Council of Constantinople – with flocks being pulled away by many other sects - the time had come to get more forceful to preserve integrity and “Hell” was inserted into doctrines. (As Vermes notes about the “born again” references – e.g. “Unless a man be born again of water and the spirit....) Before that, reincarnation was accepted by more than half the original Church’s flock – following teachings by Origen of Adamantius and Clement of Alexandria.

Vermes further notes (p. 402, Epilog) Jesus “never chose to call himself ‘Messiah’ or ‘son of God’ and “even when others questioned him about his alleged Messiahship he usually declined to give a straight answer”. Vermes adds that as for the epithet ‘Son of God’- disallowing the combined expression “Messiah, the Son of God” in Matt. 26:63 (where the two are obviously used as synonymns) it is NEVER spoken by Jesus himself.

Vermes adds:

One has to be foolish to believe the mockery of the chief priests and scribes, taunting Jesus to get down from the cross because he claimed to be the ‘Son of God’ (Matt.27:43) .

Indeed, he observes that “only demons or people possessed by demons addressed Jesus with this title” (Matt. 4:3, Luke 4:3, Matt. 3:11, Luke 4:41 etc) The “only example in which the disciples call Jesus the ‘Son of God’ and ‘worship him’ comes from a LATE LEGENDARY ADDITION by Matthew to the story of Jesus walking on the water “(Matt: 14:33).
Meanwhile, in the parallel passage in Mark (6:51-52) the astonishment of Jesus’ companions is caused not by walking on water but the earlier feeding of the five thousand.

As for "lake of fire" references (also a presumed destination of the unbeliever) this was originally in the Book of Mithras which predated Christian works, scriptures by HUNDREDs OF YEARS. It was the abode of "eternal perdition" for all those who refused to "eat of the body of the Son, Mithras". Thus, it was COPIED - like most other parts of the gospels, eschatological references from the Book of Mithras, NOT ANY ORIGINAL INSPIRATION!

The only rational solution is to dispense with ALL salvation doctrines. They are not needed and do not inspire anyone to be better – but only to comply in order to purchase an “afterlife insurance policy” – by conformance to a recipe.

Tebow's 'John 3:16' is such a recipe, which may suffice for the curiosity of the slow-witted and the gullible, but which should not be made the sine qua non objective for the truly intelligent and probing mind. No more than the recent appeals for Tebow to throw his ring in for the U.S. presidential nomination.

Eventually, finally, obsession and fascination with all things Tim Tebow will cease. Let us hope it happens as soon as this Saturday night!

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