You Are Profoundly Wrong! A Response to the Archbishop of Newark and Other Catholic Leaders
25 October 2012: 5 Comments »
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark, the Most Reverend John J. Myers, has recently issued “A Pastoral Teaching on the Definition, Purpose and Sanctity of Marriage.” In this document, which is clearly politically motivated, he urges “faithful Catholics” and other “men and women of goodwill” to vote against any candidate for public office who supports …
Question & Answer
As you know, I very much appreciate your books and weekly essays, even if I may be so bold as to say I do not agree with every bit of them. I wonder whether you have read a new book, Moral Transformation: The Original Christian Paradigm of Salvation, by A. J. Wallace and R. D. Rusk, who I believe are two New Zealand biblical scholars. The book, backed up by copious quotations from the New Testament and from early Christian writers such as Irenaeus and Origen, throws a flood of light on Christian beliefs and practices of the first three centuries AD, which were quite simply to follow faithfully the teaching and example of Jesus in the hope of being judged by God worthy of eternal life. There was no conflict between Paul and Jesus, no conflict between faith and works – the Greek word “pistis” and its assorted adjectives and verbs, commonly translated “faith,” really means, in 80-90% of the cases, faithfulness or loyalty, not belief in a system of ideas. They show how the reformers of the 16th century misunderstood the point that Paul was making, largely due to this mistranslation. If you have read the book, I should be interested in your comments on it. If not, may I respectfully recommend it to you?
It is always good to hear from you. You are the only Queen’s Counsel I know. My best to your wife Rachel.
I have not read the book you recommend and appreciate you calling it to my attention. It is quite difficult to determine what differences there were between Jesus and Paul since most of what we know about Jesus is recorded in the four gospels that were not written by eyewitnesses, but by Greek-speaking authors, who composed them between 40 and 70 years after the crucifixion. That would be two to three and a half generations after Jesus. The Hebrew word, “dabar,” which was translated by the Greek word “pistis” does in fact mean trust or a willingness to put one’s confidence into something or someone. It was only in the Greek language that this Jewish concept was changed and came to mean believing or giving intellectual assent to propositional statements. The creeds were never written to define faith, they were written to enable human beings to trust the God they sought to capture in creedal words. This is why the shift from “I believe” to “We believe” when we say the creed in church is a step in the right direction. It is a corporate faith not an individual belief.
I am still convinced that most of the difficulty Christians have today with the Bible is that they do not understand or appreciate the power of the Hebrew Scriptures that lies behind almost everything in the New Testament. They do not understand, for example, that the story of Jesus feeding the multitude in the wilderness with five loaves and two fish was related to the story of Moses and manna in the wilderness, that the Sermon on the Mount is based on Psalm 119 and that the Palm Sunday story is based in Zechariah 9:9-12. These were not “predictions” that Jesus somehow miraculously fulfilled, it is evidence that when the Jesus story was being written his interpreters used the scriptures to interpret and to frame his life.
When Christians left the synagogue, they left the interpretive context in which their own gospels were written. The time has come to recover that.
~John Shelby Spong
Read what Bishop Spong has to say about A Joyful Path Progressive Christian Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds: "The great need in the Christian church is for a Sunday school curriculum for children that does not equate faith with having a pre-modern mind. The Center for Progressive Christianity has produced just that. Teachers can now teach children in Sunday school without crossing their fingers. I endorse it wholeheartedly."
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