You people are amazing! I am terribly impressed by all of the wise comments made to Reading John Shelby Spong and to some extent to its follow-up, Excerpt. Many of you are much younger than I but have clearly already thought of these issues although this is new ground to this old geezer. And although this is a controversial subject, I appreciate the avoidance of antagonistic and inflammatory comments. It's great to hear everybody chirping in (or up) with cheerful voice and light spirit. Sometimes, one wonders about the wisdom of blogging certain topics, but I'm glad that I posted this.
I did a little Internet searching the other night, and it wasn't difficult to find the orthodox sites, which excoriate Spong for the obvious — all of the shibboleths of the faith that he doesn't believe: at least in the factual and historical sense. It's true; he doesn't match the required catechismic checklist very well. Indeed, this venerable and scholarly bishop would fail the entrance exam to scores of evangelical colleges. Sad that!
Sad that Christendom must persist in squabbling over the minutiae of belief list items rather than rejoice in the common faith that elevates and that bonds (or should bond) spirits together. With such a Big God, why are so many Christians so puny and narrow-minded?
I cannot tell whether Spong has arrived at the ultimate truth in unravelling the gospels. I can tell you that what he says makes a lot of sense to me. I will try to understand that Jews writing to Jews about profound truths could only attempt to do so by relating and linking Jesus with all sorts of Jewish scripture and scriptural characters. I will try to understand that they were much more interested in communicating ideas than in describing history.
I am trying to track down some works by other authors: Harpur and Borg. I'd like to see what ingredients they have to add to the mix. Maybe I'll figure out what I truly believe some day. Once I was so sure. I knew the bible, knew God, knew His will, knew His plan. But I didn't. And then I knew nothing for sure. Maybe now, I can approach the threshold of knowing something, a few crumbs, once again.
But mainly, I just want to thank everyone for those wonderfully positive and impressive comments. You're great!
Since You Asked About
Who Wrote What When ...
The gospels were not written until at least thirty years, and perhaps longer, after Jesus' life. That's the first gospel, Mark. The last gospel, John, was probably not written until very close to the end of the first century. Paul wrote his epistles before the gospels existed. I Corinthians 15 seems to be the very first written record that exists about the resurrection. It's rather hard not to interpret this passage in the traditional way because we know how the rest of the story is told, and we infer things.
Do note, however, that he seems to equate all other appearances of Christ as being like his own (and also note how many appearances are not part of the body of knowledge yet). Even if his own sighting happened exactly as Luke records it in Acts, Paul does not claim to have seen Jesus in bodily form. In fact, the others with him on the road to Damascus that day saw no one at all, thus suggesting that Paul's encounter was more of a vision than anything. Do you think that the very early church might not have been besotted with the notion of a physical resurrection that later developed, but that they believed in a genuine, spirit resurrection nonetheless?
Well, I find it all very