If you are not a serious scholar of religion, you may not know this. The scholars have many viewpoints about the Bible. Historically there have been fiery debates, violence and wars over divergent understandings of what was or was not meant by various sections. Within the Bible there are not homogenous stances, but often widely different statements, sometimes opposite statements.
This has led a growing number of people to just throw the whole thing out. If you are one of those people, please consider what I am going to share today.
Context is important and affects everything. What era is it - Iron Age, Bronze Age, Greek/Hellenistic Age, Roman, etc? Who was writing? How long after the fact was it written? Is our thinking about it mostly influenced by later philosophers or theologians? How do we know what we think we know?
For me, the crucial issue is the New Testament. Jesus's teaching has been the guide for my life. I am convinced over and over again that by all of us actually living his teaching, we would bring forth the kingdom of heaven here on earth - peace, loving kindness, end of poverty and hunger, etc.
Let's go back to the first century Roman Empire - brutality controlled society, literacy at 5-10%, poverty for the vast majority, dirty, smelly, short life expectancy, etc. Into this came Jesus's message. The people called him Rabbi and some called him Messiah, King of the Jews, the one to sit on the throne of David. Only the Roman Emperor could be ruler, no exceptions. They crucified all who fought their rule, thousands of them. They only crucified for sedition. Jesus was crucified. They thought they were done with him.
But, he appeared to people after he was crucified. His followers grew instead of disappearing. People told stories about him. Those who had heard him in person shared what they remembered of what he taught. The stories spread around the Mediterranean area. Peop!e who could write and could afford papyrus wrote down the stories they heard. Since they were in different areas, some heard other stories and wrote them down. Some were copied and shared.
Eventually, some were lost and so no longer copied, and later in the 4th century and beyond, some were destroyed because the people in charge didn't like them. Some were buried to save them. Scholars knew about some of them because earlier writers mentioned them or quoted parts of them.
Starting in the 19th century, archeology became a thing and parts of some of discarded writings started to be found. The big find in 1945 was in Nag Hammadi. Some of the Gospels found had been mentioned very early, as in the first century. The Gospel of Thomas, for example, has been dated by many historians/scholars as old as the Gospels in the Bible. It has 114 sayings of Jesus, half of which are in the Gospels in the Bible.
I have gone on a long while here, and I could continue. But I want to ask you to consider that through all of this and more, a string of the life and teachings of Jesus has made it here to us in the 21st century with his core teachings intact.
Whether you call him teacher/rabbi, savior, or both, he is here and can open our hearts and lives to a bigger life with The Divine Presence, The More, The God.
In his name, I ask that God awaken us this very day, the last day of 2023, so that we walk into 2024 living and loving the teachings of the amazing man from Galilee. Come into our hearts Lord Jesus.