I am reading a book by Elaine Pagels, “READING JUDAS”. Ms. Pagels is an accomplished scholar in the field of religion and has written several works which shed light on the complexities and inconsistencies of Biblical scriptures. She compares the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John noting that contemporary scholars overwhelmingly agree that Mark was composed first about 40 years after the death of Jesus and that the remaining three were written later based mainly on the writings of Mark with additions and increased references to Old Testament prophesies. Debate continues over whether the writers of the Gospels, none of whom are logically the namesakes of the books, attempted to show prophecy historicised or history prophesised. The era of the formulation of the canon which we now know as the Bible was fraught with disagreement, conspiracy, and murder. Many books, such as the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary were banned or burned having been labeled as heretical accounts of the events surrounding Jesus and his band of disciples. Ultimately only one version of these events was authorized by Emperor Constantine in 325 C.E. at the Council of Nicaea, a lakeside village in present day Turkey. It represented Christianity much as we know it today. Only recently have the banned writings been discovered hidden in earthen jars buried in caves. They are the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls. Those scriptures have reopened debate and speculation regarding the veracity of the accounts of the Nicaean approved writings.
Just as the book and movie “The DaVinci Code” provided intrigue concerning the lineage of Jesus, the Christ, these new discoveries of ancient scriptures contribute another dimension to the mystery of Jesus, the centerpiece of Christianity. As much as I would like to have a definitive account of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, it simply is not available to me. Who he was, how he lived, what he believed cannot be a certainty to those of us who claim him as Lord and Savior while also refuting the inerrant and literal interpretations supported by some Christians.
I have no problem with that. My faith is based on a God which has blessed humanity with numerous messengers throughout history. My faith is not dependent on the historical accuracy of those messengers nor the accounts written by their followers. What those instruments of guidance have provided is a rich and wonderful foundation for living life to the fullest in compassionate communion with all of God’s creation. I find the deepest inspiration in the verses which ancient mystics have passed on for me to discover and ponder. I marvel at the wisdom and beauty expressed by both simple shepherds and royal kings. I find many of the answers to contemporary society’s problems given to me by sages from centuries past. I find strength in the thoughts and writings of others who have been deeply touched and inspired by their faith in a Higher Power. I don’t require historical accuracy to follow a manner of living which honors and reveres God, the Higher Power of my understanding.
What I need is heart driven truth. It is not necessarily historical nor factual by the world’s standards. The truth which I seek emanates from a sacred place within, it wells up, it flows, it gushes from a spiritual presence which is timeless and eternal. Jesus knew it, the great mystics knew it, Buddha knew it, Muhammad knew it. Every one of us can have it and live fully in God’s glory, compassion, and mercy.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
The Jewish faith says, “Stop striving and know that I am God.” Stop striving with religious doctrine, stop striving with translations, stop striving with historical accuracy; go to that quiet place within your personal temple and know the loving kindness of a gracious Father.