Sunday, July 21, 2013

What did Jesus say?

When I first became a Christian as a teen in 9th grade in high school I remember not having a Bible to take with me to services. I usually had to share the Bible with another member of the church who happened to be sitting next to me during service. It wasn't long before one of the elders of the church notices this and pulled me aside one day and asked if I had a Bible and I told him that I didn't and could not afford to buy one at the time. He asked me to wait a minute and stepped away into the pastors office and soon emerged with a small New Testament Bible in his hands. He handed it to me and pointed out that the words in red were the words of the Lord Jesus Christ!! I was blown away.

My very first Bible was just like this one! 

Everytime I read my Bible and I came across the red letters that represented the word of Christ I payed extra special attention to them. I imagined in my mind that it was the Lord himself speaking to me directly through those very same words that must've been heard by the apostles themselves. I imagined Christ face as most Americans do with his long hair and  beard and those compassionate loving eyes we see in most movies about him. I recall once having dreamed that I was present at his crucifixion. The dream felt so real to me that I awoke from it "filled with the Holy Spirit" and speaking in tongues (glossolalia). I was in spiritual ecstasy for almost a half an hour and believed right then and there that God had a special purpose for my life.

This is what I believed Jesus Christ looked like

Because of the influence of movies and church proselytizing materials I had believed in those days that Jesus looked exactly as the movies depicted him. In my dreams or visions he looked exactly as I imagined him every time I had some kind of spiritual encounter or dream. I once had a series of dreams that showed me suspended in mid air and every couple of days I saw myself ascending higher and higher into the clouds. I interpreted these recurring dreams as a sort of gauge of my spirituality, the higher I went the closer I came to God. The movies helped with the image and the voice and the Bible gave me what I believed in those days were the exact words of Jesus.

In those days I only lasted in the church for about a year and I did not return to the church until 1990 when I managed to stay in the church till 94' running my own deliverance ministry. I picked up right where I had left off in high school. I was literally in love with Jesus. I gave every waking moment of my life to him and the spreading of the gospel. I talked about Jesus at work with fellow employees, on the street with strangers, when I wasn't talking to someone about Jesus I was talking to Jesus himself in my mind. I talked the talk and walked the walk literally and devoted my entire life to the Lord. I prayed over everything in my life from whether I should apply for a certain job, if offered the position should I take it, and any and all future plans. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' Mark 12:30

You can't imagine how devastating it was to me when I found out that those red letters in that Bible did not really represent the exact words of Jesus Christ. Of course I learned about this and other things related to my former beliefs after I became an atheists and began researching the history of the church and the Bible itself. I was interested in finding out who wrote the Bible and how was it compiled and put together. I was shocked when I learned that Jesus never wrote one word that was in the Bible. So in retrospect wouldn't these red letter editions of the New Testament be guilty of misrepresenting the truth? 

The first blow came when I found out that the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke were not written by the people named as the authors of these books. In fact, I found out that Mark was the earliest of the three dated to about 65 to 70 CE. I also found out that these gospels were actually presented as anonymous works until about the mid second century. This was a huge problem for me because for years I had believed that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were the actual authors of the synoptic gospels. That those red letter portions highlighted in the texts were not actually the words of Christ but rather what others said he said. In the end it amounted to nothing more than hearsay. 

The deeper I delved into the history of  the church and the authorship of the Bible the more devastating were the surprises to my former faith. I think I actually left the church and began studying the Bible and its history hoping that in the end it would bring me back to God by justifying my faith with evidence. But all it did was push me farther and farther away from my former beliefs because the more I uncovered the angrier I got. Imagine the shock I experienced when I found out that none of the original texts were extant. Not only is the authorship of the Bible based entirely on hearsay but not one copy of an original text survived, what we have is nothing more than copies of copies of copies. None of the gospels are based on first hand accounts of the life of Jesus by people woh walked and talked with him! What we do have are second, third, fourth person accounts by people who most likely never even met Jesus. 

Even my imagined image of what Christ looked like was taken away from me and proven to be wrong. You see, no one to this day knows what Christ looked like! No one in his day thought to draw a sketch, or make an image of him. The Bible doesn't physically describe Christ for us to help us imagine what he looked like. 
So what did Jesus look like? I guess we'll never know.

My conclusions regarding the words of Christ is that we can never know. Unfortunately, Jesus if he existed and if he was the son of God as it is said he claimed, did not write a single solitary word of the New Testament. I think if his message was so important that being God incarnate he would have foreseen the many divisions amongst believers and if he had written a definitive gospel of his own it would have cleared up a lot of these doctrinal differences and make his church a more unified body. The fact that there are over 35,000 Christian sects in the U.S. alone speak volumes about what Christians believe and about what they perceive to be the truth.

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Translation of the scriptures.


  1. I was surprised by this stuff too, and I learned it decades after leaving the church. I guess I could have accepted oral tradition possibly being passed on accurately because people had better-developed memories back then, but it certainly would explain the contradictions amongst the synoptic gospels. And speaking of which, knowing that John came later explains why it's so different, and why fundamentalists seem to quote it more than the other books.

    Reading Bart Ehrman's books has certainly been an eye-opener, but reading reviews of his books was even more of an eye-opener. He gets criticized for merely reporting to the public what people in seminaries have been learning for years.

    I knew for a long time that Catholic clergy in the past anyway, didn't approve of the everyday people having direct access to the Bible because of their lack of training in apologetics. But then when I read the Bible myself I realized it's not just about misunderstanding the text - it's about hearing only the convenient parts.

    Even if you read the whole thing cover-to-cover as a devout believer, all the personal influences from pastors and church radio etc. would smooth over the patches that ought to make a person go "uhhhh what???"

  2. I always found it interesting that Jesus was depicted with blue eyes and blonde hair. After all he came from the Middle East and that is not exactly the norm there (possible but not the norm).

    Funny you mention the solidarity thing. I have been talking about omniscience with a theist, and apparently god does know everything but not the future? So in other words god is not omniscient....... But that's according to my definition, which is the ability to know everything.