Ander tweede eeuse stories oor Jesus

Hierdie artikel is deel 8 van ‘n 11-deel gesprek – sien die volgende:


Ander tweede-eeuse stories oor Jesus

Dit bring ons by die vraag van ander stories oor Jesus en hoe ons weet dat daar nie dalk baie selektief te werk gegaan is in die vroeë kerk oor watter stories ingesluit is en watter nie. Dit moet egter van die begin af duidelik gestel word dat die gesag van die boeke in die Nuwe Testament nie eers 300 jaar na die geskryf daarvan deur die kerk bepaal is nie. Bruce Metzger, ’n ekspert in tekskritiese studies, skryf in Canon of the New Testament die volgende:

“The Church did not create the canon, but came to recognize, accept, affirm, and confirm the self­-authenticating quality of certain documents that imposed them­selves as such upon the Church.”

Op ’n ander plek merk Metzger op:

Neither religious nor artistic works really gain anything by having an official stamp put on them. If, for example, all the academies of music in the world were to unite in declaring Bach and Beethoven to be great musicians, we should reply, “Thank you for nothing; we knew that already.” And what the musical public can recognize unaided, those with spiri­tual discernment in the early Church were able to recognize in the case of their sacred writings through what Calvin called the interior witness of the Holy Spirit. This testimo­nium Spiritus Sancti internum, however, does not create the authority of Scripture (which exists already in its own right), but is the means by which believers come to acknowledge that authority.

Die skrywers van Reinventing Jesus verduidelik dat daar van die vroegste tyd in die vroeë kerk se geskiedenis klem gelê is op die gesag van sekere geskrewe dokumente:

“The canon of the New Testament was a list of authoritative books “that imposed themselves as such” upon the early church. As early as the label Scripture was applied to any books of the New Testament, the four Gospels and Paul’s thirteen letters were included. As well, Acts, 1 Peter, and 1 John were generally undisputed. The same can be said for the most part for Hebrews and Revelation. By the end of the fourth century, the canon was effectively, though not officially, closed in the West. In the East, certain influential voices argued for a canon of twenty-seven books, but some writers dissented. It is im­portant to realize that their dissent did not move in the direction of a larger canon but a smaller one. Only a few books on the edges of the canon were disputed. These same writers rejected outright the heretical books, if they discussed them at all.”

In Reinventing Jesus word daarop gewys dat daar al vroeg reeds lyste van gesagvolle boeke was. Die skrywers wys op een van die eerste lyste waarvan ons weet wat deur Marcion in ongeveer 140 n.C. opgestel is en wat se implikasie dit het vir die meriete in ander stories oor Jesus:

“…[E]ven though Marcion was a heretic whose views were largely compatible with Gnostic teaching, which was gaining a foothold at this time, he only included parts of our New Testament in his list. To be sure, he edited these books heavily to suit his own purposes, but why didn’t he include such works as the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Mary or the Acts of Peter? Marcion was certainly exposed to Gnostic ideas, so why didn’t he include any Gnostic writings in his list? The most likely inference is that they did not yet exist. And even if some of them did exist, they would not have been regarded as authentic because of their obviously recent vintage. Marcion easily could have edited any Gnostic work for his own purposes, just as he did the New Testament books. Indeed, his job would have been considerably easier, since he would not have had to cut out nearly as much material! The fact that he used only New Testament books for his truncated canon, and mutilated those cop­ies, suggests that even a radical heretic like Marcion knew that these books were already highly regarded.

After Marcion, other canon lists started to appear. The Murato­rian Canon was composed in the latter part of the second century, most likely in Rome. Although the copies of the Muratorian Canon are all fragmentary, most of it can be made out. The list includes the four Gospels, Acts, Paul’s thirteen letters, Jude, Revelation, 1 John, and either 2 John or 3 John or both. Thus, at least twenty-one or twenty-two books are listed as authoritative before the end of the second century.”

Ten spyte van die feit dat daar wel ’n dispuut was oor die gesag van ‘n aantal boeke (omtrent sewe in die Nuwe Testament), sê Craig Blomberg dat “no debate seems ever to have surrounded the acceptance of the four Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen letters with Paul’s name in their opening lines, 1 Peter, or 1 John.”

Inteendeel, dit lyk asof daar vroeg reeds ‘n standaard was waaraan ‘n gesagvolle boek moes voldoen. Wallace en kie verduidelik:

“It is important to note that the age of a work was a determining factor in canonicity. A book that was perceived to have been written after the time of the apostles was categorically rejected. As time went on, and as memories of the age of certain books died out, canonical claims were made for some of the second-century documents. But in the earliest canon lists, these books were absent (in Marcion’s list) or were explicitly rejected (in the Muratorian Canon) as being recent works and therefore non-apostolic.”

Craig Blomberg gee drie kriteria waarvolgens die vroeë kerk tussen gesagvolle en nie-gesagdraende boeke onderskei het :

“…[T]hree criteria prevailed for sifting the canonical from the non-canonical. First and foremost was apostolicity—authorship by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle—which thus, for all practical purposes, limited the works to the first hundred years or so of Christian history. Second was orthodoxy or non-contradiction with previously revealed Scripture, beginning with the Hebrew Scriptures that Christians came to call the Old Testament. Finally, the early church used the criterion of catholicity—universal (or at least extremely widespread) usage and relevance throughout the church. This excluded, for example, the Gnostic writings, which were accepted only in the sects from which they emanated.”

Ek dink dus Timothy Jones is korrek wanneer hy sê dat “Testimony that could be connected to eyewitnesses of the risen Lord was uniquely authoritative among early Christians.”

Dit alles wys daarop dat die boeke wat nie deur die vroeë kerk aanvaar is nie, vir goeie rede so gedoen is. Volgens Wallace en sy medeskrywers kan daar klem geplaas word op veral die volgende drie redes:

“(1) They are late, sometimes many centuries later than the canonical Gospels. (2) Although some were popular among the masses, the patristic writers condemned them as unworthy descriptions of the real Jesus. They were seen to be hokey and palpably untrue. (3) They usually included docetic ideas – that is, that Christ only appeared to be human – or even Gnostic ideas. As such, they did not see Jesus in any sense as a real human being who developed naturally, but as a supernatural being who was born already with powers of mature thought and the ability to do miracles, even malicious miracles. Thus, these gospels were unorthodox in that they greatly diminished the humanity of Jesus while elevating his deity.”

Die prentjie wat hierdie ander stories oor Jesus skets, is een waarin hy nie regtig mens is nie. In teenstelling hiermee sê Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code dat “Any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible.” Hierop reageer Wallace en kie soos volg:

“[S]uch statements are terribly misleading, having next to nothing to do with the evidence. For one thing, the vast majority of rejected gospels emphasized Jesus’ divinity over his humanity, rather than the other way around. This hardly supports Brown’s argument! For another thing, these gospels came later – often centuries later – than the canonical Gospels. So how could they have been considered for the canon if they didn’t even exist by the time the four Gospels were recognized as authoritative?”

Hulle gaan voort om te sê:

“…[T]he evidence for authenticity within these apocryphal books is disappointing at best. The material is secretive, the Jesus in view floats above the earth, and he discourages marriage as a valid lifestyle choice of a disciple. His relation to women is ascetic in the extreme, to the point that they need to be changed into men in order to become his disciples. None of the apocryphal works have credentials that would demand a first-­century production. They are, in fact, all works from the second century or later. And as such, when they claim to be written by an apostle, they are already on thin ice because of the church’s view of pseudepigrapha.”

“As we have seen, the canonical Gospels were all anonymous works to begin with. But many of the apocryphal gospels claim apostolic authorship. This marked difference suggests that they were trying to get on the fast track to acceptance by the church. Since they were not first-century documents, something had to be done to give them an edge. Claiming to be written by an apostle was just the ticket. But in due time, the church was able to sniff them out and declare them heretical or, at least, noncanonical.”

Aangaande die aard van hierdie ander stories oor Jesus, som Wallace en kie later op soos volg:

“The vast majority of apocryphal works that were rejected were not rejected because they had too low a view of Jesus – a too human and earthly Jesus – but because the Jesus they envisioned could hardly be called human in any sense. His deity was so pronounced that even his footsteps made no marks in the sand! Such hyperembellishments of the canonical Christ cannot be reasonably believed to represent the real, historical Jesus.

By contrast, the canonical Gospels were accepted from the earliest periods, were not given to bizarre embellishments, and proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth as both man and more than a man. If Constantine had really picked the Gospels to go into the New Testament, want­ing only those that elevated Jesus to the heavens, he must have been singularly incompetent because he left out all the juicy tales! The four Gospels, on the other hand, have the earmarks of authenticity due to their age, their use in the churches, and their conformity to the truth of the gospel as it was known, both in oral tradition and in the New Testament letters that were emerging when the Gospels began to be penned.”

So, was daar ander stories oor Jesus? Ja beslis, maar dit was juis omdat hierdie stories so duidelik ‘n doelbewuste poging was om ‘n ander Jesus in die plek van die historiese Jesus daar te stel, dat dit verwerp is as oneg! Mense kan gerus aangemoedig word om boeke soos die Evangelie van Tomas, die Evangelie van Judas, die Evangelie van Petrus, die Evangelie van Maria, die Evangelie van Fillipus en ander te lees, en dit dan te vergelyk met die vier kanonieke Evangelies. Die kontras is skryend. Soos dit in Reinventing Jesus beskryf word: “[These other stories] are sensational, bizarre, secretive, and unorthodox.” Bruce Metzger skryf:

“One can appreciate the difference between the character of the canonical Gospels and the near banality of most of the gospels dating from the second and third centuries. Although some of these claimed apostolic authorship, whereas of the canonical four two were in fact not apostolically titled, yet it was these four, and these alone, which ultimately established themselves. The reason, apparently, is that these four came to be recognized as authentic – authentic both in the sense that the story they told was, in its essentials, adjudged sound by a remarkably unanimous consent, and also in the sense that their interpretation of its meaning was equally widely recognized as true to the apostles’ faith and teaching. Even the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas, both of which may preserve scraps of independent tradition, are obviously inferior theologically and historically to the four accounts that eventually came to be regarded as the only canonical Gospels.”

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