The Cross

Mosaic."Transfiguration Cross" in St Apolinare in Ravenna, ItalyIn the last two days Marcus Borg, teacher and scholar, posted a two-part essay on the Meaning of the Cross for Christians. Part 1 described the understanding of the cross held by many (most?) 21st century Christians in the United States (Jesus “paid” for our sins). Part 2 described ancient understandings of the Cross (understandings lost when the currently dominant theme of payment ascended in the 12th century). How is the Spirit speaking to the Church through this scholar? How is the meaning of the Cross (and Resurrection)  expanded or narrowed for you? I commend the two essays to you:

Part 1. Christianity Divided by the Cross

For Christianity from its beginning, the cross has always mattered. The crucial question is: what does it mean? Why does it matter? What is its significance?

Part 2. The Real Meanings of the Cross

In earliest Christianity, the cross of Jesus (always also including his resurrection) was utterly central. Central as revelation of God’s passion and Jesus’s passion for the transformation of this world; and as revelation of the way, the path, of personal transformation.

I invite your comments as we continue the conversation.

The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem

The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem

A second book recommendation was passed along by Stan in our Sunday Morning Forum. The Last Week is authored by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. Follow the link to the book on Amazon (available in both paperback and Kindle formats). “Using the gospel of Mark as their guide, Borg and Crossan present a day-by-day account of Jesus’s final week of life. They begin their story on Palm Sunday with two triumphal entries into Jerusalem.” (Publisher’s Book Description)

Seven, ten, or thirteen? Scholars are still deciding.

We raised the question on Sunday.

The last 3 weeks we have read from “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians” in our worship. In the discussion on Sunday (7/29/12) Stan and I raised the question about who authored the letter to the Ephesians. In part, our question arises from our reading of commentaries and essays by a variety of scholars including, most recently, the scholarship of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.

Quote . . .THREE PAULS

Mainstream scholarship as it has developed over the last two centuries has concluded that some of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul were not written by him. Rather, they fall into three categories.

First, a massive scholarly consensus: at least seven letters are “genuine” – that is, written by Paul himself. These seven include three longer ones (Romans, I and II Corinthians), and four shorter ones (I Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon). Written in the 50s of the first century, plus or minus a year or two, they are the earliest documents in the New Testament, earlier than the gospels (recall that Mark, the first gospel, was written around 70). Thus the genuine letters of Paul are the oldest witness we have to what was to become Christianity.

Second, an almost equally strong consensus: three letters were not written by Paul. These are I and II Timothy and Titus, commonly known as “the pastoral epistles” or simply “the pastorals.” Scholars estimate that they were written around the year 100, possibly a decade or two later. The reasons these are seen as “non-Pauline” include what looks like a later historical setting as well as a style of writing quite unlike the Paul of the seven genuine letters.

Thus the letters to Timothy and Titus were written in the name of Paul several decades after his death. In case some readers may think that writing in somebody else’s name was dishonest or fraudulent, we note that it was a common practice in the ancient world. It was a literary convention of the time, including within Judaism.

Third, letters about which there is no scholarly consensus, though a majority see them as not coming from Paul. Often called the “disputed” epistles, they include Ephesians, Colossians, and II Thessalonians. We are among those who see these as “post-Paul,” written a generation or so after his death, midway between the genuine letters and the later pastoral letters.

From Chapter 1 of their book The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon. Chapter 1 is online at: Paul: Appealing or Appalling?

In your reading and study have you formed an opinion? What role does the Holy Spirit play in the writing, preserving, handing on, and interpreting of these letters? What role does the Spirit play as you grapple with this kind of information? Let’s keep the conversation going.

You decide

“Recommend books, poetry, music, movies, videos, and so on,” we tell each other on Sunday. Just last Sunday (5/20/12) Stan recommended The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. (It is available at the Rancho Mirage Public Library.) Here are 2 Book Reviews to help you decide to pick it up and read.

A book review from Spirituality & Pracitce

Marcus Borg (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time) and John Dominic Crossan (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography) set out to explore the last week in Jesus’ life against the backdrop of Roman imperial control. Their purpose is not to attempt a historical reconstruction of what has become known as the “Passion” or suffering of Jesus, but to probe the things Jesus was passionate about. The text they use is the Gospel of Mark, the earliest to be written, the most succinct, and the one with the most time markers for the week’s events. Read more.

A book review from Journey with Jesus

In this simple exposition written for a general audience, two leading New Testament scholars use the Gospel of Mark to explain what happened to Jesus during his final week. They use Mark because most scholars consider it the earliest of the four Gospels, the primary source for Matthew and Luke, and because when you read carefully you see that Mark details the last eight days of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. Read more.

Keep the conversation going: what is your experience with this book?