The Birth of Jesus, Part III. The Testimony of Mark, the Earliest Gospel
29 November 2012: 4 Comments »
The first gospel to be written, the one we call Mark, was composed in the early years of the 8th decade (70-72). It contains no story of and no reference to the birth of Jesus. To explain this omission, there are only two possibilities: Either the author of Mark had never heard about the birth …
Question & Answer
You have been a blessing to me as I have struggled all my life with the teachings of mainstream Christianity. I once wondered if I was Jewish because I just could not feel connected to the traditional Jesus. I also couldn’t grasp at all the “stories” about miracles, virgin birth, resurrection, etc. I am now reading Jesus for the Non-Religious and have sent a copy to my 35-year old daughter who has been struggling as well. I do have some questions I would like to ask you.
Praying with words is difficult for me. How do I pray and does it work?
Why did Jesus have to die to get his message across?
What do you think of Baptism and Eucharist?
I wish I could spend a day with you to get more clarity on my unsettled-ness but I have resigned myself to the fact that I will have to listen to you through your books! I hope you do not mind if I contact you now and again with a question or two to help clarify some things. Thank you for speaking out and helping so many people who find the teachings of the established Church hard to believe and a roadblock to an understanding of the REAL Jesus.
Thank you for your letter and for your kind words. Several years ago I did a series of lectures at Eastern Shore Chapel in Virginia Beach. That experience makes me aware that you are not alone in your response.
The questions you ask are all worthy, but they are far too complex to be reduced to a few lines in a question and answer column.
The subject of prayer is one that almost always comes up first when people begin to raise their consciousness about whether or not the portrait of God as a heavenly parent figure or even a punishing judge begins to be challenged. It is not prayer that is usually the problem, but rather our infantile understanding of it.
In regard to the death of Jesus, the way you ask the question indicates that you are still in the power of that old adage that somehow the only way God could forgive us was for Jesus to die. “Jesus died for my sins” has become an almost irrational mantra that we repeat as if it still makes sense. It doesn’t. In my book to which you have referred, Jesus for the Non-Religious, I offer a very different perspective and in sufficient detail that so brief a response through this “question fore mat” could never match.
Baptism and Eucharist were originally a version of the Jewish Ceremonial Bath and the Passover simply transformed for Christian use. Baptism was the rite of institution that brought the person officially into the Christian community and the Eucharist was the common meal of the community which was thought to renew and sustain each member’s identity. Throughout Christian history, a variety of interpretations has been laid on both of these rites, some of which violated everything we know about Jesus. (The unbaptized child is doomed said the Church during parts of its history. “Come unto me all ye!” said the Jesus of the Gospel) The Eucharist has been interpreted in some eras of history as if it is a cannibalistic rite in which the flesh of Jesus is literally eaten and his blood literally drunk.
I don’t believe it is possible to be fully human alone and being Christian is about being fully human. So I welcome these rites that bind me to my community of faith.
John Shelby Spong
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