Pastor Mike, or would-be Pastor Mike, is a paradox of confused, often contradictory beliefs, delusions and drives to be sure. For example, he usually deals with the issue of biblical contradictions brought to his attention, e.g.
How did Simon Peter find out that Jesus was the Christ?
(a) By a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17)
(b) His brother Andrew told him (John 1:41)
by speciously arguing either that these are “minor differences but not contradictions". Or he asserts the clashing quotes are “inconsistencies” which are not contradictions. (Though an “inconsistency” is defined in my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, is given as: Lacking in agreement, as two or more things in relation to each other. A Contradiction”) In either case, he insists the differing citations must be "read in context" and "bearing in mind the language". Then, at the same time - he claims the bible must be read LITERALLY! Obviously, he neither processes nor groks that if one reads something "in context" and makes adjustments for the language or idioms used, then he isn't reading it literally!
Now in this dust up concerning the Gnostics, it seems abundantly evident that the Catholic scriptures he'd earlier criticized voraciously, he now accepts.
Let us use logic to show how and why this is so. Given that:
1) In the early centuries after Yeshua's death (40- 400 A.D.) there were NO evangelicals and only the Roman Catholic Church reigned,
2) Paul dictated which proper theological themes and beliefs were to be subsumed for the Pauline Catholic variant of the Church,
3) Only Greek Gnostic texts were the other alternative (later rendered into Coptic translations which became the Nag Hammadi scrolls)
4) No copyist-translator named Erasmus yet existed who would use the Latin Vulgate to create-invent the King James version,
5) One could only accept one of two scriptural variants: a) the Pauline Catholic (orthodox) Christian version OR the Greek Gnostic version which reflected the Gnostic interpretation of spirituality.
Now, since Mikey makes it clear he rejects the Gnostic version, viz., his words from his latest blog:
"I had mentioned that I received the book The Gnostic Gospels from my atheist bro', Phil. Well , it seems that I was mistaken . The book he actually sent me was '“The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels” by "scholar" Marvin Meyer . No matter - as both books ( The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels and '“The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels” by Meyer ) are still the same "dog," but with different "fleas."You see , BOTH books are utterly nonsense ( not to mention unscriptural ) , which I'll get into in a minute . My point here is that the title of the books are really irrelevant . I mean , hey, if I mistake a rock rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus ) with a speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii ) and kill the rock rattlesnake by mistake , BIG DEAL !! They're both still poisonous - and need to be eradicated from the earth !!"
THEN it follows there is only ONE other logical choice he's able to make: the Pauline Catholic orthodox version of texts. In other words, when all is said and done, he admits that given the choice between the Pauline Catholic scriptures and the Gnostic scriptures - he is choosing the FORMER! Again, bear in mind, no KJV yet existed, and wouldn't for over 1,000 years!
Let us further examine his reason for rejection: in his rant (above) he claims: "both books are still the same 'dog' but with different fleas".
However, had he actually chosen to open Meyer's book (which is actually his translation of the Coptic texts) then he'd see how pitifully in error he is. Because while Meyer's book presents FOUR actual Gnostic Gospels ('The Secret Book of James', 'The Gospel of Thomas', 'The Book of Thomas' and 'The Secret Book of John'), Pagels' book entitled 'The Gnostic Gospels' has not ONE single Gnostic Gospel in any of its 182 pages! It is rather a treatise about the Gnostics and the spiritual teachings underlying their gospels! So, here again, his claim of "the same dog" breaks down, because he can't even recognize the different content basis for the respective books. (One book actually has 4 Gnostic gospels, the other has none - hence rational criticism for one, simply can't transfer to the other!)
If he can't even do this, how can we trust him to recognize any other differences in signficant content- say in the actual Pauline-based Quadriforms, or anywhere else? Well, we can't!
Let's go at this from an even deeper level, using Meyer's own insights and arguments from his Introduction. Of interest is the tradition designated as "Q" or "Quelle" (the German for "source"). Textual analysis recognizes Q as a collection of Yeshua's sayings which doesn't exist independently (e.g. as a specific text) but rather can be parsed from the separate gospels, such as Mark.
Germane to this Q tradition, is how when one applies textual analysis to the books, gospels, one can unearth the process whereby the early Church (again, only Catholic - since that's the only one that existed at the time) worked and reworked the sayings to fit them into one gospel milieu or another. One can also derive a plausible timeline: for example, The Gospel of Mark appears to have committed the sayings to paper about 40 years after the inspiring events, then Matthew and Luke composed their versions some 15-20 years after Mark. Finally, as noted in the earlier blog on this - John was actually an original GNOSTIC gospel that was reworked to conform to the Catholic Orthodoxy and added some 50-75 years after Matthew and Luke. (Again, if one knows Greek, one can easily spot the multiple edits in John that transmute its content from a Gnostic view to an orthodox Catholic one).
The contradictory idiocy of little Pastor Perplex is again at work when he writes:
"The early church councils followed something similar to the following principles to determine whether a New Testament book was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit: 1) Was the author an apostle or have a close connection with an apostle? 2) Was the book being accepted by the Body of Christ at large? 3) Did the book contain consistency of doctrine and orthodox teaching? 4) Did the book bear evidence of high moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit?"
But again, let's be very clear about the historical context here! We have to do this because we can't allow this slippery little twit to get away with anything! We have to hold him to account, because we know he employs those "arguments" most expeditious to his agenda at any given time - though they often contradict his claims at other times!
Now what EARLY CHURCH COUNCILS is he referring to? It is none other than CATHOLIC EARL CHURCH COUNCILS since that was the ONLY EARLY CHURCH that existed! In other words, dear little bro is upending the Gnostics because they dared to diverge with the principles or coda demanded by the CATHOLIC, PAULINE ORTHODOXY. Thus, he is validating the Catholic process for separating wheat from chaff in terms of which books, texts were acceptable and which weren't. If Mikey weren't a self-proclaimed non-Catholic already I'd have believed 100% his previous remarks and his recitation of the four principles was coming from the pen of a Jesuit!
This is validated when we see the words of Bishop Irenaeus (cited in Pagels' book, page 24) on verifiying the same coda that Mikey lists (1-4) as testifying to what can legitimately be recognized as a faithful scriptural text. He writes (ibid.) these coda are approved and accepted, since:
"by indicating that tradition, derived from the apostles of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul...and by indicating the faith...which came down to our time by means of the succession of bishops"
The bold highlight, of course, shows in no uncertain terms this can only be the CATHOLIC Church. The same Church (and its Pope - who is one of those same succession of Bishops) that Mikey other times disavows as "Satanic".
Well, sorry Mikey! You can't on the one hand condemn this Church (e.g. as "Satanic" or a "cult"), then at another time (when it suits your convenience) bellow their principles for accepting legitimate textual passages! It's either reject the whole Church as "Satanic" or shut up!
Now that we've effectively established that Mikey is validating the Catholic textual coda as guidance for legitimate scriptures, let's proceed further, returning to the issues surrounding the Q. Given the temporal divergences of the contributory sayings from Mark, Luke, Matthew and John - and the fact they were added at widely different times (with John actually originating from a GNOSTIC text), the assorted biblical contradictions we find now make sense. Since there was no temporal continuity in the passages, it makes sense the references to the events also diverged. (As in the earlier contradiction I posed, with one gospel claiming Simon Peter learned about the Christ by a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17), while the other (John 1:41) insisted ) His brother Andrew told him. Well, if John was in fact the latest addition, and originally a Gnostic text, this makes sense since the Gnostics also interpreted events differently!
What is most amusing to behold is when Mikey rails:
"The gospel of Thomas fails all of these tests"
Totally unaware (or maybe he is aware, but doesn't want us to process it) that the "tests" were posited by the CATHOLIC CHURCH hierarchy. (Or is Mikey going to claim an evangelical went back 1,800 years or more in a time machine and actually wrote the Catholic gospels as well as the principles for accepting orthodox texts?)
In fact, as Meyer points out (page xviiii, Introduction), The Secret Book of James, The Gospel of Thomas, and the Book of Thomas, consist of material that was "collected of the early Church's process of working and reworking the sayings of Jesus". In other words, those selfsame texts were contributory inputs to the final designation of the Q tradition. Meyer again(ibid.)
"If Q represented Jesus as a proclaimer of wise sayings, then the Gospel of Thomas is a document similar to Q in form and style. Like Q, the Gospel of Thomas is a substantial collection of Jesus' sayings with one saying immediately following the other."
Some scholars even concede that the Gospel of Thomas was securely within the Q tradition and hence, as much entitled to legitimacy as any of the four quadriforms. (e.g. the Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, in his monograph ‘A Concise History of the Catholic Church’, page 16- 17). Meyers himself notes that "the Gospel of Thomas has been edited and revised by early Christians with gnosticizing interests." Thus, it is evident that the rejection of the Gospel of Thomas as "failing all these tests" is not anywhere as clear cut as claimed. What if, indeed, the original Gospel of Thomas passed every one of the four coda criteria, but then - after editing - failed them? What does one conclude? Does he conclude the original version passed the coda criteria and only failed on the revisions?
Indeed, when one examines the specific content of Thomas in conjunction with the other quadriforms, it's very evident that issues are not so manifestly obvious as Pastor Bro and his (unlikely) Catholic, anti-Gnostic cohort (like Tertullian, Irenaeus, and even the current Pope - Benedict) would maintain.
We can get more insight by reference to biblical scholar F.F. Bruce in his work, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, who notes:
"The Gospel of Thomas says, Jesus said 'Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Do you not realize that he who made the inside is the same as he who made the outside?'
Luke says, 'And the Lord said unto him, 'Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within and see everything will be clean for you'.
Matthew is different again, with, ' Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may also become clean!"
Now, as Bernard Simon notes, (The Essence of the Gnostics, p. 134) in the end we may never know which is the "right" version (taken to be the original, authentic words actually uttered by Yeshua - as opposed to words put into his mouth by later copyists, translators). But as he puts it: "Is it really an issue in a biblical world full of metaphor and allegory".
Well, probably not! Especially as current Catholic orthodoxy sees the issue as about faith and not fact. Indeed, it was also the Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, in his same monograph (‘A Concise History of the Catholic Church’,page 17), who observed:
“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.”
So in the end it doesn't matter WHICH orthodox view one adopts, or even whether a questionable text (like the Gospel of Thomas, or the Secret Book of James) passes muster with the 4 Church "text acceptability" principles. In the end, we are talking about mostly allegorical references anyway. And so, we don't take literally that Yeshua actually walked on water, any more than that a man named Jonah was kept inside a whale's belly for three days and emerged intact - despite all that hydrochloric acid!
However, and this is important, from the comparison of quotes above, we do see the Gnostics had a radically different interpretation from the orthodox. This comports with the findings that their teachings were based on a "secret wisdom" (cf. Meyers, ibid.) most likely traced to the sect known as the Essenes - from which Yeshua emerged. Thus, the Gospel of Thomas rendition is more accurate and trustworthy in terms of the secret wisdom teachings: to wit that any discrimination between the inside and outside of a thing is egregious given it exists manifestly as one whole, a continuuum - which can't be so casually divided.
The other renditions from Luke and Matthew obviously hail from an orthodox point of view, which also reflects Yeshua's public pronouncements - because he knew that he couldn't deliver the same messages of "secret wisdom" to an untutored public.
BUT this is exactly what pissed off the early Church Fathers - like Tertullian, just as they now piss off Mikey. Neither one could abide that some "secret wisdom" could manifest to which they are denied. Tertullian was so pissed that he once wrote (Pagels, p. 23):
"every one of them modifies traditions as it suits his own temperament."
But what tee'd off the Church authorities more than anything, was the de-localization of christhood which followed directly from Gnostic secret wisdom teachings.
Why? Because if the ('Institutionalized') Church accepted this, they would have to surrender their coveted power wielded via intermediaries (priests, bishops, cardinals, etc.). Paul knew this full well, which is why he had to fight against the Gnostics' egalitarian Christhood with all his might.
Again, to summarize the concept (which I'll also explore in further depth in a later blog on Gnostic spirituality), the Gnostics- from their ancient wisdom teachings - believed all men could become christs. In this way, Christhood was a general state of being, like "Buddahood" for Buddhists. Salvation then, was contingent on attaining Christhood, not on accepting one individual as "the Christ" and hitch one's salvation to that! The Gnostics, indeed, believed that Paul's identification of Yeshua as "God" and hence becoming a "God-man", was the most outrageous blasphemy. (Which, of course, is why Paul ferociously persecuted the Gnostics!)
Pagels observes (ibid., p.134):
"Whoever achieves gnosis becomes no longer a Christian, but a Christ."
In effect, in the Gnostic teachings, anyone has the capacity to become 'a Christ'. Pauline Catholicism, meanwhile, rigorously held there could be only one, on which all others had to depend for 'salvation'. This was the nexus for power and control over the masses. So long as they were conditioned to accept and believe they were worms of the Earth who needed an outside "Savior" or "salvation" they'd be in the power of the Church and its hierarchy.
Evangelicals in their latter- day amendments and alterations have only improved on this sad situation somewhat: by removing the need for a hierarchy and just demanding people follow John 3:14 and "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ", not realizing that the Gnostic version of John (which was edited by the Pauline Catholics) doesn't say that at all - rather it was : "Believe on yourself as the Christ and Ye are saved!"
In the end, the true irony is not so much Mikey's passionate love for the Pauline Catholic scriptures and their 4 criteria for determining scriptural "legitimacy" (which he professes to embrace to attack the basis for the Gnostic gospels) but the fact he and his ilk (in their "salvation" agenda) invoke a quote from a gospel that was originally of GNOSTIC origin - but altered to suit the agenda of the orthodox (Pauline) Church.
Will wonders never cease? Maybe Mikey needs to shake hands with "da Popey" as he refers to him, given how much they both have in common - including regarding Gnostics as "heretics" and "Satanic". The two would certainly agree with Mikey's idiotic remark that: "Nowhere in Scripture is God's Word given “in secret" (totally oblivious that those of the Pauline Church who manufactured "God's word" -to promote their own control agenda, as they saw it, had to ensure that very fact! Hence, they diligently removed all the secret scriptures - then when they re-emerged in the Nag Hammadi scrolls- they denounced all as "unbiblical" or "heretical". Control the literature and you control people's minds!)