This is a work in progress.
The Interpretation of the New Testament
To find the keys to interpret the New Testament we will look at how one of its major and first authors, the apostle Paul, interprets the Hebrew Bible. Later, we will look at the sources of the first gospel, Mark, and some of the later ones. Finally, we will look at how the author of the Gospel of John presents his discourses of Jesus Christ.
The oldest part of the New Testament is comprised of the letters of Paul and possibly the Letter to the Hebrews. In order to understand how to correctly understand these writings we will first look a how Paul himself interprets the Hebrew Bible. The first example is from an his earliest letter
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking; for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are slaves; she is Hagar.
Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.1
Notice how people and mountains in the Hebrew Bible are made to correspond to each other and to two covenants. Of interest is also how a mountain in Arabia can be equated with Jerusalem in Judea. A later letter of Paul gives us another example
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, …. and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
Now these things happened as an example for us,…2
Notice how Christ is made to correspond with a travelling rock that gives water. His claim that this all was written as an example for the first century Christians is also telling. To understand how to interpret Paul’s own teaching we will look at the following passage where Paul explains his understanding of the Divine teachings
Yet we do speak wisdom [sophia] among those who are mature [teleiois]; a wisdom, however not of this age [aion] …but we speak God’s wisdom, the hidden which God predestined before the ages to our glory; [doxa] …Now we have received, not the spirit of the world [kosmos] but the spirit from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words [logos] taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
But a natural [psuchikos] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he can not understand them, because they are spiritually examined [pneumatikos anakrinetai] 3
Of course that is not enough information to enable us to interpret the teachings of Paul. To do so we need to understand the kind of religion that Paul joined. There is a general consensus that the hymn in Philippians is an ancient Christian hymn that pre-dates Paul
…Christ Jesus, who although …likeness of men.
And being …cross.
Therefore also God …God the Father4
The above passage is one of the clearest ones where we can see that Paul joined a Greek-Jewish mystery cult5. Notice in the following quote the terms used by mystery cults
…we speak God’s wisdom [sofia] among …Lord of Glory6
Dying and rising gods and goddesses in the Ancient Near East: Inanna + Dumuzi, Ishtar + Tammuz, Adonis, Isis + Osiris, Orpheus, Dionysus, Cybele + Attis, cf. Ezek. 8:14, Jer. 7:18
Themes: descend, miraculous birth, sacrifice, resurrection, exaltation, cleansing rituals, sacred meals, initiation, identification with the savior [soter], ecstasy, and NDEs.
The early Christian philosopher Justin of Caesarea (100-165 CE) wrote
When we say that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.7
Thus we can clearly see that the early Christians understood that their religion was quite similar to the religions of the time. Among the sons of Jupiter was the god-man Dionysus. He was associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries. The similarities between him and Jesus Christ are striking. His story as narrated by the playwright Euripides8.
For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming9.
Notice that regarding the coming of Christ Paul is locating himself and the audience between two events the resurrection of Jesus in an indefinite past10 and the resurrection of believers in the future. Also note that Paul associates Christ with the firstfruits. This connection is used in the Gospel of Mark to place the resurrection of Jesus in the calendar.
The First Jewish War lasted from 66 to 73 CE. In August 70 CE the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions. The only temple of the Jews and possibly the most beautiful temple in the world. We will see later that this event was the catalyst for the composition of the Gospel according to Mark.
All gospels are anonymous, not dated, no place of origin, and originally written in Greek. Mark is the First gospel, followed by Matthew who uses and extends Mark. Then by Luke who uses Mark and Matthew as well as the works of Flavius Josephus. Thomas and John are later gospels and show knowledge of Mk, Mt, Lk and each other(?). Well will analyze the Gospel of Mark in greater detail since Mark is the first gospel ever written, either canonical or non-canonical. All gospels ultimately depend on Mark. Once we understand how this piece of literature came into being we can understand how to interpret the Gospels.
In order to properly understand the origin of this gospel we need to figure out its sources. The author, whom we will call Mark out of convenience with the understanding that the work is actually anonymous, has the following potential sources at his disposal:
- The Hebrew Bible, LXX
- The authentic letters of Paul
- Classical Greek literature, e.g. the Iliad and Odyssey
- Contemporary Greek literature
- Inspiration and/or his own creativity
For Christians the LXX contained the “types” which were fulfilled in the NT, the “antitype”. See 1 Cor. 30:11; 1 Peter 3:21; Rom 5:14; 15:4.
Mark was able to obtain the following information about Jesus Christ from the letters of Paul
- Crucifixion, burial and resurrection
- I Corinthians 15
- Lord’s supper
- I Corinthians 11
- Coming of the Lord
- I Thessalonians
- Transgression of the majority of the Jews
- Romans 9-11
- Rom. 6
- Kefas (Simon Peter), John, James
- Galatians, I & II Corinthians
- Abolition of dietary laws
- Galatians, I Corinthians 8
Notice how Paul makes no mention of geography, people or dates, He does not use the terms Nazarene, Galilee, tomb, Mt. of Olives, Pilatus, Judas, miracles, Sermon on the Mount, cleansing of the Temple, Lazarus, etc.
If we analyze its structure in the light of a contemporary Jewish literary style called midrash11
I propose that the Gospel of Mark used available Greek literature to compose his work. Among those are the Septuagint, the Letters of Paul, the works of Homer, Euripides, and others. The following is a list of proposed sources from widely known Greek literature that were used by the author of the Gospel of Mark12:
- 1:1 =
- Isaiah 40:9-10; 61:1-9; Asia Minor Augustus resolution
- 1:2-3 =
- Malachi 3:1a; Exodus 23:20a LXX; Isaiah 40:3
- 1:4-6 =
- 2 Kings 1:8
- 1:9 =
- Isaiah 9:1
- 1:10-11 =
- Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Genesis 22:12 LXX; Zoroaster; Aqeda of Isaac; 2 Kings 2; 2 Samuel 7:14; Ezekiel 1:1; Levi 18:6; Judah 24:3
- 1:12-13 =
- 1 Kings 19:5-7; Psalm 91:11-13; Genesis 2-3 reversed
- 1:16-20 =
- 1 Kings 19:19-21
- 1:17 =
- Ezekiel 47:10
- 1:21-28 =
- Nahum 1:15a; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Chronicles 35:21
- 1:29-31 =
- 1 Kings 17:8-16; 2 Kings 4
- 1:40-45 =
- 2 Kings 5; Exodus 4:6-7
- 2:1-12 // 3:22 =
- 2 Kings 1:2-17a
- 3:1-6 =
- 1 Kings 13:1-7 (Bethel Temple)
- 3:13-21, 31-35 =
- Exodus 18; Deuteronomy 1:23
- 3:22-30 =
- 2 Kings 1:2-3; Isaiah 49:24; 1 Samuel 2:25
- 4:35-41 =
- Jonah 1:4-17; 2 Samuel 22:2-16; Psalm 107:23-29; Odyssey 10:1-69; Psalm 106:9
- 5:1-20 =
- Psalm 107:4:22; Isaiah 65:4 LXX; Odyssey 9:101-565; Eleusinian Mysteries, 2 Samuel 16:5-13
- 5:21-43 =
- 2 Kings 4:18-37
- 6:1-6 =
- 1 Samuel 10:1-27
- 6:14-29 =
- Jezebel in 2 Kings 17-22; Ester 5:3; Odyssey 3:254-308; 4:512-547; 11:404-434
- 6:30-44 // 8:1-10 =
- 2 Kings 4:38-44; Psalm 107:4-5; Odyssey 3:34-38; 3:63-68; 4:30,36,51,53-58,65-68
- 6:40 =
- 1 Kings 18:4
- 6:45-52 =
- Psalm 107:23-30; 2 Samuel 22:2-16; Job 9:8; Psalm 89:9,20,25,27,48
- 6:48 =
- Job 9:8b
- 7:24-30 =
- 1 Kings 17:8-16; 2 Kings 8:7-15
- 7:31:37, 8:22-26 =
- Isaiah 29:18; 32:3-4; 35:5-6
- 8:1-10 // Mark 6:30-44 =
- internal parallel
- 8:22-26 =
- Judges 9; 2 Kings 6:15-23; Tobit
- 8:27 =
- I Enoch 12-16; Levi 2-7; Plutarch Moralia 5:17 (Tammuz)
- 8:27-33 =
- Panias – Styx – Dionysus
- 9:4-13 =
- 2 Kings 1
- 9:1-13 =
- Exodus 24; 34:29; Malachi 3:2; Deuteronomy 18:15; Daniel 12:4a; Zephaniah 3:8a LXX
- 9:14-29 =
- Exodus 32; 2 Kings 4:31-35
- 9:33-37 =
- Numbers 12,16
- 9:38-41 =
- Numbers 11:24-30
- 9:42-50 =
- Isaiah 66:24
- 10:13-16 =
- 2 Kings 4
- 10:32-45 =
- 2 Kings 2:9-10
- 10:46-52 =
- Isaiah 35:5a, 6a, 8a LXX; Odyssey: Tiresias
- 11:1 =
- Zechariah 14:4
- 11:1-6 // 14:12-16 =
- 1 Samuel 9; 10:2-7; 1 Kings 17; 2 Kings 4:10
- 11:7-10 =
- 1 Maccabees’s 13:51; Psalm 118:25-26; 148:1; 2 Kings 9:13; Zechariah 9:9; Leviticus 23:40; Simon bar Gioras
- 11:12-14,20 =
- Micah 7:1; Hosea 9:15-16; Jeremiah 8:13
- 11:15 =
- Malachi 3:1; Zechariah 14:21; Hosea 9:15; Nehemiah 13:8; 2 Kings 10:18-28; Simon bar-Gioras
- 11:16 =
- Nehemiah 13:9; Apion 2.8.106; 2 Maccabees: Onias, Menelaus, Jesus/Jason
- 11:17 =
- Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11
- 11:18 =
- Jeremiah 11:18-23; 26:8-24
- 12:1-12 =
- Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 118:22-23; Odyssey: Telemachus
- 12:41-44 =
- 2 Kings 12:5-17
- 13 =
- 2 Kings 10:25-28
- 13:7 =
- Daniel 2:28
- 13:8 =
- Isaiah 19:2 and/or 2 Chronicles 15:6
- 13:12 =
- Micah 7:6
- 13:14 =
- Daniel 9:27; 12:11; Genesis 19:17
- 13:19 =
- Daniel 12:1
- 13:22 =
- Deuteronomy 13:2
- 13:24 =
- Isaiah 13:1
- 13:25 =
- Isaiah 34:4
- 13:26 =
- Daniel 7:13
- 13:27 =
- Zechariah 2:10; Deuteronomy 30:4
- 14 =
- 2 Samuel 15-16
- 14:3-9 =
- 2 Kings 9:1-13; Canticles 1:12; Osiris
- 14:10,43 =
- Zechariah 11:5,17
- 14:11 =
- 14:12-16 // Mark 11:1-6 =
- internal parallel
- 14:17-25 =
- Psalm 41:9 (Ahithophel); Jeremiah 31:31
- 14:26-31 =
- Zechariah 13:7; 2 Kings 2:2,4,6; 1 Samuel 15:21
- 14:27 =
- Psalm 116:11
- 14:32-49 =
- 2 Samuel 15-16; 1 Kings 19:1-5; Psalm 22:24; 31:22; 69:3; 116:10-15; Jonah 4
- 14:34 =
- Jonah 4:9; Psalm 42:6 (Jordan, Hermon)
- 14:36 =
- Psalm 116:10-15
- 14:37-38 =
- Jonah 1:6
- 14:42 =
- 1 Kings 19:7
- 14:44-46 =
- 2 Samuel 20:7-10; Proverbs 27:6
- 14:47 =
- Amos 3:12; 2 Samuel 16:9; Zechariah 11:17
- 14:51-52 =
- Amos 2:16
- 14:53-65 =
- 1 Kings 21:5-22:28; Psalm 35:11; 27:12
- 14:55 =
- Daniel 6:4 LXX
- 14:61 =
- Isaiah 53:7
- 14:63 =
- 2 Kings 11:14
- 14:65 =
- Isaiah 50:6
- 14:72 // Mark 8:34 =
- internal parallel
- 15-16 =
- Joshua 10:16-27, Alcestis of Euripides
- 15 =
- Daniel 6
- 15:1,3 =
- Amos 7:10
- 15:6-15 =
- Leviticus 16:7-10; 20-26, Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripides
- 15:20-21 =
- Genesis 22:6
- 15:21 // Mark 8:34 =
- internal parallel
- 15:27 =
- Joshua 1:7; 23:6; Isaiah 53:12
- 15:21-32 =
- Psalm 22; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 119:120; Psalm 69:21; Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20; Amos 8:9; Lamentations 2:15 LXX
- 15:38 =
- Exodus 26:33
- 15:40 =
- Psalm 38:11 LXX; Ezekiel 8:14; Micah 4:8
- 15:46 =
- Isaiah 22:16; 53:9; 2 Kings 13:20-21
- 16 =
- Psalm 24 LXX; Daniel 6;
- 16:1 =
- 2 Chronicles 16:14, Psalm 24:Title LXX
- 16:2 =
- Daniel 6:19; Canticles 7:12
- 16:3 =
- Odyssey 9:300-305; Genesis 29:3
- 16:5 =
- Tobit 5:14; Canticles ?????
- 16:6-8 =
- Isaiah 32:9-14
The following is a list of possible references to the letters of Paul and the letter to the Hebrews that the author of Mark would have used:
- 1:1 =
- Philippians 4:15
- 1:10-11 =
- Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 3:26
- 1:14 =
- Romans 1:1; 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:2,9
- 1:29-31 =
- 1 Corinthians 9:5
- 2:16 =
- Galatians 2:11
- 4:9-20 =
- 1 Corinthians 9:11; Colossians 2:7; Ephesians 3:17; 1 & 2 Thessalonians; Galatians 3:19
- 6:3 =
- 1 Corinthians 1:24
- 6:7 =
- 1 Corinthians 9:2-6
- 7:15 =
- Romans 14:14,20
- 7:20-23 =
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Romans 1:29-31; Galatians 5:19-21
- 7:27 =
- Romans 1:16
- 8:12 =
- 1 Corinthians 1:22-23
- 8:15 =
- 1 Corinthians 5:8
- 9:42 =
- 1 Corinthians 1:23; 8:13
- 10:5 =
- Galatians 3:19
- 10:12 =
- 1 Corinthians 7
- 10:35-37 =
- 1 Corinthians 6:1-3
- 11:23 =
- 1 Corinthians 13:2
- 12:10-11 =
- Romans 8:31 – both cite Psalm 118
- 12:13-17 =
- Romans 13:1-7
- 12:18-23 =
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-14
- 12:25-27 =
- 1 Corinthians 15:35-50
- 12:28-34 =
- Romans 13:8-10
- 12:35-37 =
- 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 – both cite Psalm 110:1
- 14:17-25 =
- Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
- 15:38 =
- Hebrews 9:6-12; 10:19-20
- 15:20-21 =
- Romans 16:13
- 15:25 =
- 1 Corinthians 5:7
- 16:2 =
- 1 Corinthians 15
Mark 15-16 has also parallels in: Chaereas and Callirhoe, Xenophon’s Ephesian Tale, Leucippe and Clitophon, Daphnis and Chloe, Heliodorus’ Ethiopian Story, The Story of Apollonius, King of Tyre, Iamblichus’ Babylonian Story, and in places in Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. Probably also the Iliad and Odyssey were used.
Now we will look at a few of these parallels in detail.
A parent of a dead child asks Elisha and Jesus for help. The parent touches the feet of Elisha and Jesus. It is unclear to some people in the story whether the child is dead, dying or asleep. The child is in a house some distance away. A second person comes from the house and confirms that the child is dead. Elisha and Jesus continue anyway to the house. The parent precedes Elisha and Jesus. Elisha and Jesus seek a high degree of privacy by turning people out of the house before their miracle. A woman prostrates before Elijah and Jesus.
Mark 5:42 – after the miracle, the parents were ‘amazed with great amazement’ exstesan ekstsei megale. 2 Kings 4:13 – ‘amazed with all amazement’ exstesas emin pantan ten kstasin tauten.
Jonah and Jesus are the only ones asleep during the storm. The only time that Jesus is said to sleep.
- Ionas …ka� ek�theuden
- ka� aut�s …kathe�den
- ka� efob�thesan f�bon m�gan
- ka� efob�thesan hoi �ndres f�bon m�gan
The use of midrash is also proved by Matthew’s version of the story …
- Mt 8:25
- they went and woke him, saying, Save [s�son], Lord [k�rie], we are perishing [apoll�metha].
- Jonah 1:6
- So the captain came and said to him, What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise [an�sta], call upon your God [the�s]! Perhaps your God will save us [dias�se], that we do not perish [apoll�metha].
A widow’s son raised from the dead a story unique to Luke
- ka� eg�neto …te p�le tos poleos ka� ido� …ch�ma …ka� �doken aut�n te metri auto�
- ka� eg�neto …ton pulona tes poleos ka� ido� …ch�ma …ka� �doken aut�n te metri auto�
John 4 uses the elements of 1 Kings 17 that Luke does not. In John 4, Jesus, while in a foreign land, meets a woman who no longer has a husband, just as Elijah does. Both Elijah and Jesus are thirsty and have to ask the woman for a drink.
- 1 Kings 17:10
- de moi …piomai
- John 4:7
- dos moi pein
In both stories, though, it is the woman and not the prophet who is in true need. Both Elijah and Jesus promise her a never ending source. Both 1 Kings 17:24 and John 4:19 make the women certify the miracle worker as a true prophet. Later we will encounter this story again to look at its allegorical meaning.
The author of John uses also 1 Kings 17 when writing a miracle story of turning water into wine, the words of the woman from 1 Kings 17:18 reappear exactly as words of Jesus. The woman in Kings had finished her food and Elijah asks her put water in a jar. At the wedding, wine ran out and Jesus asks that jars be filled with water. Midrash allows us to explain something that has puzzled reader of the Gospel of John, a strange dialog between Jesus and his mother.
- 1 Kings
- Ti emo� ka� so�, ho �nthropos tou theo�
- John 2
- Ti emo� ka� so�, g�nai
Now we know why Jesus was brusque to his mother at the wedding.
Not only the Greek Hebrew Bible but also Greek religious literature seems to have been used in the composition of this story in the Gospel of John
Between the market-place and the Menios [in the city of Elis] is an old theater and a shrine of Dionysus. The image is the work of Praxiteles. Of the gods the Eleans worship Dionysus with the greatest reverence, and they assert that the god attends their festival, the Thyia. The place where they hold the festival they name the Thyia is about eight stades from the city. Three pots are brought into the building by the priests and set down empty in the presence of the citizens and of any strangers who may chance to be in the country. The doors of the building are sealed by the priests themselves and by any others who may be so inclined. On the morrow they are allowed to examine the seals, and on going into the building they find the pots filled with wine. I did not myself arrive at the time of the festival, but the most respected Elean citizens, and with them strangers also, swore that what I have said is the truth.13
Here the jars were empty instead of filled with water. However, there is also a reference to Dionysus changing water to wine, but in this case is was spring water.
The Andrians too assert that every other year at their feast of Dionysus wine flows of its own accord from the sanctuary.14
Thus John combined the 3 empty jars and the spring water into the 6 empty jars that were filled with water that was transformed into wine. However, this only explains the source of the components of the story, not the meaning of the story itself. Its meaning is found by noticing the code words ‘Jewish custom of purification’ (John 2:6). We are given to understand that the purification is not anymore by ritual water but by the divine spirit and coming of the messiah.
While we are looking at Dionysus, we can notice other interesting parallels
He [Dionysus] appeared on a jutting headland by the shore of the fruitless sea, seeming like a stripling in the first flush of manhood: his rich, dark hair was waving about him, and on his strong shoulders he wore a purple robe.15
Notice how the ending of the first paragraph of Pausanias resembles the ending of the Gospel of John (21:24).
There are remarkable parallels between the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den (chapter 6), and the Trial, Execution and Burial of Jesus (chapters 14-16). The main parallels are summarized in Table 1 which was adapted from Helms (1988)
The chief priests and scribes try to trap Jesus with arguments over the law
The satraps and administrators trap Daniel with a law
the death of Jesus is required by law (implied in Mark)
the death of Daniel is required by the law of the Medes and Persians
Pilatus is reluctant to execute Jesus, tries to convince crowd to let him go
Darius is reluctant to put Daniel in the lion’s den, Darius exerts himself until evening to save Daniel
Pilatus, though distressed, is forced to put Jesus in a tomb
Darius, though distressed, is forced to put Daniel into a lion’s den
Joseph of Arimathea looks forward to the kingdom of God
Darius tells Daniel his god will save him
At dawn, as soon as it was light, the women who cared deeply for Jesus go to his tomb
Just after sunrise Darius who cares deeply for Daniel goes to the lion’s den.
Joyful news: Jesus is raised!
Joyful news: Daniel lives!
A mysterious young man, perhaps an angel, announces the news
An angel shut the lion’s mouths
|Table 1:||Summary of parallels between Daniel 6 and Mark|
Daniel is not the only source for Mark’s composition of the tomb of Jesus story. He also used Isaiah 22:15-23 and 32:9-14 as well as Joshua 10:15-27. This thesis is supported by the fact that Matthew understands the sources that Mark uses and adds further elements from them that Mark himself had not used yet and places them in his gospel.
Helms (1988, p. x) observed that Matthew makes this dependence on Dan 6 very clear. Not only does Matthew retain the parallels to Daniel 6, he also notes that a seal was placed on Jesus’ tomb, just as Darius placed a seal on the stone (Dan 6:17). Matthew uses the same word for seal, sphragizo, that the Septuagint uses. Matthew’s perception that Dan 6 underlies this scene is further evidence for the existence of the parallel.
In Acts 10, Peter is told in a dream by God to eat unclean food. In Ezekiel 4 is asked by god to eat unclean food. Let us compare the replies give to God
- Medam�s, K�rie, oti oud�pote …akatharton …
- Medam�s, K�rie, …akatharsia …oud� …
Note: (1) Medam�s, K�rie occurs in the Bible in only these two places; (2) this story of Peter must have been come from any Hebrew/Aramaic source.
One of the major differences between the Gospel of John and the other three canonical gospels as well as the Gospel of Thomas is that in it Jesus offers long discourses about Himself and about His relation to God the Father.
Here we will offer a couple of examples on how this gospel of interprets these discourses of Jesus. The first speech is in chapter three with a story located in Jerusalem the holy city of the Jews. Jesus says
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above [gennethe �nothen] he can not see the kingdom of God.16
From the reply of Nicodemus we can see that he misunderstands Jesus and thinks that Jesus has spoken literally, not allegorically. He understands ‘born again’ instead of ‘born from above’.17 This is somewhat comically portrayed by the author where the statement of Jesus does not follow the question of Nicodemus and the rebuttal of Nicodemus is nonsensical. Something we would certainly not have expected from a learned man.
The next misunderstanding is shown in chapter 4 where Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. This place was sacred to the Samaritans.18
Dionysus was named twice-born, dimetor, by the ancients, counting it as a single and first birth when the plant is set in the ground and begins to grow, and as a second birth when it becomes laden with fruit and ripens its grape-clusters – the god thus being considered as having been born once from the earth and again from the vine. – Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 3.62.5, c. 90 BCE c. 30 BCE
A similarly strange conversation takes place. Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for water. However, He is not interested in drinking and states
If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.19
Again the woman misunderstands, she thinks physical water, while Jesus means spiritual water, i.e. divine teachings to quench the thirst of the soul. The author of the gospel makes it clear that the passage should not be understood literally, the reader should not make the same mistake that the woman just has done. The setting is symbolic, Jacob’s well. The conversation not realistic as is the rest of the scene.
Above all, there is a ‘code’ that makes it clear that the whole story should be understood symbolically and that the Samaritan woman is a stand-in for the Samaritan people. The prophets of the Hebrew Bible often have used women as symbols for cities, nations, and peoples.20 Here Jesus states
Go, call your husband, and come here. …You have well said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband;21
The context, especially verses 20-24 make it clear that it is about belief in God, the god of the Hebrews. In Hebrew husband is baal, the same term used for the gods competing with the true God of the Hebrews, YHWH. The five previous husbands represent the gods of the five peoples that were the ancestors of the Samaritans. Those peoples were from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sephar-vaim.22
Clearly the passage is about true worship which goes beyond any nationalistic religious rivalries
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
God is spirit, and those who worship Him, must worship in spirit and truth.23
The following example is the famous ‘Bread of Life’ discourse performed in the synagogue of Capernaum.24 Again the opening statement of Jesus does not answer the question of the people. They also give a convenient starting line with manna in the wilderness to which Jesus contrasts the true bread out of heaven.
I am the bread that came down out of heaven.25
Predictably, the audience misunderstands Jesus, understanding His pronouncement to have a literal meaning instead of an allegorical one. Again, the author makes clear the allegorical meaning of the passage by having the audience give the appropriate line at the right time and having them behave unrealistically.
Matthew, Luke and John understand that Mk is a midrash of the Hebrew Bible and use the same technique to obtain more material for their work. Matthew, Luke and John make profound changes to Mk and each other – a further indication of allegory. Luke also uses midrash to write Acts. Note that Luke also uses the writings of Flavius Josephus.
The Bible warns us not to be literalistic. “We should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6) “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6) Jesus Himself always spoke in parables (Matthew 13:34) and figurative language (John 16:12,25), and when His disciples interpreted His sayings literally, He said, “You people of little faith? Don’t you understand?” (Matthew 16:7-12)
Paul wrote that the whole Old Testament tells of Christ, but with those who do not see this hidden meaning “their minds are blinded” it is as if a veil covers the Old Testament when they read (1 Corinthians 3:13-16). When Jesus disciples failed to see that hidden meaning in the Old Testament, He called them “fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). Of those who were not ready to understand the hidden meanings in His parables, Jesus said, “This peoples heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.” (Matthew 13:15) But when His disciples were ready to understand the deeper meaning, Jesus said, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:16)
In Greek romantic fiction that is concurrent with the Gospels fictional and factual characters are mixed. See works like Chaereas and Callirhoe.
The term rapture comes from the Latin translation of the original Greek of a letter of Paul, I Thessalonians. The verse in question is the following
The English ‘caught up’ is the translation of harpages�metha, literally ‘we will be snatched’. The literal interpretation is the most popular one presently, however, as most literal interpretations of the New Testament, it is most likely wrong. To prove this consider that Paul uses the same verb in a later letter, II Corinthians
I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows, such man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows – was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak28
The first occurrence of ‘caught up’ is harpag�nta while the second one is herp�ge. While Paul himself does not pronounce whether it was a physical or spiritual journey, we have long abandoned the Ptolemaic cosmic system and have a much different conception of the universe than that of the ancients. At any rate, the same verb is used later by Paul for a mystical experience that has nothing to do with space travel. Thus, a more appropriate interpretation of the meaning of the term ’caught up’ or ’snatched’ is a mystical experience29.
No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. Epictetus, from The Enchiridion
Jan Sammer notes: The most venerated object in Rome was a huge fig tree that, according to tradition, was as old as the city itself, having sheltered its founder Romulus and his brother Remus when they were infants. Tacitus reports that in 58 CE this tree suddenly began to wither (Annals XIII.58), causing widespread consternation.
A Fig tree saved Odysseus from the monster Kharibdis, Odyssey 12.84, 12.430.
Notice a couple of things. First see how Matthew changes the timeline of the withering of the fig tree. Then notice how Luke changes story of the fig tree from an event in Mark and Matthew to a parable. These are further indications that the gospels are midrash and allegory.
Inanna in the Underworld is a religious text. Possibly one of the oldest. Just about all myths in the Bible are derived from the Sumerian religion.
Jonah 1:17 …Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights….
In Jonah chapter 3 we can see that this event was associated with death (v. 2) and the Temple (v. 4). The destruction of the temple was pivotal to Mark in writing his gospel. Jonah means dove, the representation of the Holy Spirit that entered into Jesus and baptism in Mark’s gospel. Also notice that the fish that ate Jonah represents the chaos monster that had to be killed to create the cosmos, the myth of the original sacrifice.
In the P creation story all the plants came out of the earth on the ‘third day.’ Notice that Paul considers the resurrected Jesus to be the ’firstfuits’, aparche, I Corinthians 15:21-23. I do not consider that a coincidence. I think that there is a mythical fil rouge here.
Actually, we can deduce it from Leviticus 23:10-11
then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits (aparchen, LXX) of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before YHWH for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
Guess what happened on the day after the Sabbath in the Gospels!!! Here is the source material that Mark used through midrash to develop the dating of the resurrection story. Notice how Mark carefully points you back to Leviticus 23 in 14:1,12; 15:42; 16:130.
The feast, observed in the same week as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was held on the 16th day of the 1st month, Nisan, at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Notice that in the same day a male lamb has to be sacrificed.
Luke also here understands the midrash of Mark and uses the following verses of Leviticus (23:15-22) to write the story of the Pentecost. We have a sin offering in v. 19, a proclamation in v. 21 and the foreigners in v. 22. Notice that now the offering are the loaves of Barley. The result of the sheaf that was waved 50 days previously. Now a symbol of the Church that is the result of the offering of the First Fruits in the Book of Acts as alluded to in the I Corinthians and I Thessalonians.
King Hezekiah was mortally ill (2 Kings 20) and the prophet Isaiah promises him that he shall not die but on the 3rd day go to the Temple. Again, a connection with the Temple and overcoming death on the 3rd day.
Hosea 6:2 “He (Yahweh) will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.”
Genesis 22: The sacrifice of Isaac, which is an archetypal human sacrifice. Notice that the place of sacrifice was found on the 3rd day. Also notice that Isaak carried the wood and that words that come from heaven in Genesis 22 are used in the baptism story of Mark 1.
I have previously given an example from Greek mythology, the story of Alcestis. Notice that these were not secular, but religious representations.
In the Zoroastrian religion after death, the soul is allowed three days to meditate on his/her past life. If the good thoughts, words and deeds outweigh the bad, then the soul is taken into the light of Ahura Mazda. Otherwise, the soul falls into darkness.31
According to traditional belief (not specified in the Gathas), the soul of a dead person lingers on earth for three days and nights following the death and stays near the place where the head of the dead was resting immediately before death, recounting all the acts the person had done in his or her life. The righteous soul chants the sacred hymns, experiencing great joy while the wicked soul recalls the evil acts, experiencing great sorrow. At the dawn of the fourth day, the soul starts its journey to the next existence or world. At the Chinavat bridge, it is met with his or her conscience (Daena) that accompanies the soul to its final destination.32
The Odyssey, which was known to anyone educated to write Greek, the leading crewman of Odysseus, Eurylochus, waits back silently at the door of a palace while he watches his comrades enter where he fears they will meet their doom; when he sees they are turned into pigs he runs out and weeps in remorse. The audience is meant to despise him for his weeping as much as they ought for his lack of courage in the first place. Weeping is used by the author to dramatically demonstrate total failure.
From War of the Jews 3.8.1
But, finding every spot guarded on his account and no means of eluding detection, he descended again into the cave. So, for two days he continued in hiding. On the third, his secret was betrayed by a woman who had been with them.
And War of the Jews 3.9.6
But when time revealed the truth and all that had really happened at Jotapata, when the death of Josephus was found to be a fiction, it became known that he was alive and in Roman hands… the demonstrations of wrath at his still being alive were as loud as the former expressions of affection when he was believed to be dead.
Did any Jesus traditions exists? Considering that
- there is evidence that Mark did not need any Jesus tradition to compose the first gospel. All his pieces were in front of him in the letters of Paul, the Septuagint, the works of Flavius Josephus, and the Cynic and Stoic philosophers.
- there is evidence that show that Mark did not have any Jesus tradition available.
- if Mark had these, why then is just about everything in his Gospel traceable to the OT?
- if Mark’s story were based on Jesus traditions, why do the other gospel writers have absolutely no compunction in altering the story and saying to suite their needs?
- if there were Jesus traditions available, why do Matthew and Luke follow Mark step by step and just add material to his story or leave out pieces?
- if there were Jesus traditions available, why are there no independent Jesus stories? Even John follows the basic outline of Mark’s story.
The only logical explanation I can come up with why people insist with these Jesus traditions is that they are necessary to their belief system. Certainly there is no logical need to postulate these traditions. We are following a tradition, not making conclusions based on available evidence. If we would behave like this in science, physicians would still be bleeding patients and chemists would still be searching for the philosopher stone.
The original version of the Jesus story was composed by Mark. Paul did not have much of a story, basically:
A divine being, Christos (or possibly Chrestos = the Good One), descends from the highest heavens, becomes like a human being and is crucified by demons. Then is resurrected and ascends again to the highest heaven and in glory and is given the name Iesous. If you like, you can add that He is a descendant of David and born of a woman. Not much of a story, so Mark will attinge from the Jewish Holy Writings to write a befitting story for this abstract heavenly being. Mark makes him appear in Galilee based on Isaiah 9. He performs 2 cycles of 5 miracles that both start with a water miracle and end with a feeding miracle. Hmm, the march of the Hebrews from Egypt started with the parting of the waters and ended with the last manna on the banks of the Jordan under the command of Jesus son of Nun.
Other miracles come from Elijah and Elisha. Now, for those that really have a hard time to understand what is going on he has the mount of transfiguration scene where Iesous meets with Elijah and Moses. According to the OT only 3 people have ascended mount Sinai. Anyone cares to guess who they are? Moses with Iesous and then later Elijah. Poor Mark, how much more explicit can he get? We could add that Mark makes the home base of Iesous Kfar Nahum = House of the Paraclete. Introduces Iesous Bar-Abbas = Iesous Son of the Father and Joseph of Arimathea = aristos mathetes = best disciple. But you get the gist.
Concluding, there were no traditions as the base of the Iesous of Mark, just as Tolkien did not use any traditions about Frodo and Bilbo.