Friday, September 21, 2012

Here we go again ...

     Headlines on Tuesday and Wednesday, both in the printed press as well as on the evening news and other tv programs announced the uncovering of a revolutionary 4th century papyrus fragment that indicates that there were those who believed that Jesus was married.  This unauthenticated ancient Egyptian Coptic text includes the words "Jesus said to them, my wife ...".  The newspaper article I read said that this discovery was likely to renew a "fierce debate" in the Christian world over whether Jesus was married!  Does it sound a lot like the fiction of one Dan Brown in "The DaVinci Code" of 2003?  Here we go again!

     If you knew little of the history of the early Church, you could become excited at this "find".  After all, it may be ancient, it may reveal the belief of a portion of the church and it is historical (or at least someone's expression of history).  But to know our history is to know that from Jesus' death and resurrection on, many people came to profess many things about him.  He was god but not a human being ... he was a great human being but not a god ... he was this or that, real or imaginary, a great teacher and leader or a very mislead revolutionary.  These things had to be sorted out, as was done by the Apostles, by Matthew (today's feast), Mark, Luke and John and leaders of the early Church.  They sorted out truth from fiction, distortion from scripturally based truths.  They did so through their reliance on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and their experience of Jesus.   In the same way they determined the canon of the sacred books - which were authentic and which were not - which were inspired and which were good reading but lacking in foundation.  Those that accepted their determination accepted it as truth, and they formed the early Church.  The others were fringe groups that were caught up in what are known as heresies.

     Let me give you an example from another context:  I have a passion for the Civil War in the United States.  Central to that period 150 years ago is Abraham Lincoln, the president.  Countless books have been written about him, stories told and movies produced (a new movie is due out in November by Stephen Spielberg).  Lincoln is seen and understood is so many different ways, depending upon your perspective of history.  He is loved, beloved, hated and despised - depending on your take.  He is even portrayed in a recent movie as a "vampire killer"!  What is the truth about Lincoln?  Can it be found by reading or seeing everything that comes down the pike? Entertaining as Bill O'Reily's "Killing Lincoln" is, it is not the definitive study of the man.  Or must you be a student of Lincoln and his times to gather the kind of perspective that allows you to see his greatness in history?

     What Jesus is to me must be rooted in my understanding of him as revealed by the Church (not every whim that comes along) and the development of my relationship to him that comes from my personal experience of him in my life.  The rest is just fancy, fiction, a distraction and a waste of my time.  My observation and objection at the publishing of "The DaVinci Code" was that while this was listed as a work of fiction (made up), Dan Brown said in the introduction that it was true.  And all too many believed him.  What the Church teaches about Jesus is true, but we are skeptics.  What Dan Browns says is fiction, and yet we believe!  Are we in need of a renewal of Faith!

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