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Author Topic: A claim about early Christian teachings on reincarnation
Ganzfeld
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In his book Many Lives, Many Masters:... [rest of long title omitted] Brian L. Weiss makes this claim.
quote:
During the week I had reviewed my textbook from a comparative religions course taken during my freshman year at Columbia. There were indeed references to reincarnation in the Old and New Testaments. In A.D. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, along with his mother, Helena, had deleted references to reincarnation contained in the New Testament. The Second Council of Constantinople, meeting in A.D. 553, confirmed this action and declared the concept of reincarnation a heresy. Apparently, they thought this concept would weaken the growing power of the Church by giving humans too much time to seek salvation. Yet the original references had been there; the early church fathers had accepted the concept of reincarnation. The early Gnostics – Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Saint Jerome, and many others – believed that they had lived before and would live again.
I know there are several biblical and religious scholars among the snopesters. I'm wondering what people think about this subject. Is there any truth to this assertion?
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Sandman
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Yes, it is true that some of the early Gnostics accepted the concept of reincarnation. But there were also Gnostics who had all sorts of unconventional (by the Church's standards) beliefs, including the denial of the divinity of Christ, the permanant purity of the soul, and a whole host of other ideas, mainly ideas borrowed from other faiths of the time and mixed with the young Christian faith. Reincarnation was a very common belief in many non Christian faiths at the time, and some newly converted Christians did not abandon everything when switching. This, of course, caused the early church fathers no end of frustration...

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YudanTaiteki
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It's also important to distinguish theologically between reincarnation and resurrection, which are very different things.

I'd especially like to see these references to reincarnation in the NT that were deleted by Constantine. Which passages in particular does he have in mind?

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MaxGunnar
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I believe he tossed out books and letters that some of the churches were uses. google gnostic texts or bible and you'll find "Gospel According to Mary Magdalene" "Gospel According to Thomas" and others.
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Honey Bunching Oats
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One thing to keep in mind about the preConstantinian church is that it was diverse. Constantine didn't care which dogma won out as long as all christians were united. Constantine didn't convert until his deathbed. Until then he was a worshipper of Apollo. I always wondered if that had anything to do with the Sabbath moving to Sunday.

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Elwood
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quote:
Hebrews 9:27 And inasmuch as (CA)it is appointed for men to die once and after this (CB)comes judgment
This at least confirms that the author of Hebrews firmly rejected the notion of reincarnation, and may have even been aware of it.

Constantine had absolutely nothing to do with the establishment of a canon or a concerted effort to toss contrary books. They were already quoted, disputed and debunked (in terms of claimed authorship) by earlier church leaders.

It might be more accurate to say that religion was more diverse in Rome prior to Constantine's edict. A lot of people drew from mixed customs of various religions, Christianity being among them, but I don't know if it would be completely accurate to call the gnostics "Christians" as they rejected some of the more fundamental tennants of the oral and written tradition that was established at a comparitively early date. Christianity, with traditional interpretation in tact is probably as or more diverse now than it was then.

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Nick Theodorakis
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quote:
Originally posted by Honey Bunching Oats:
One thing to keep in mind about the preConstantinian church is that it was diverse. Constantine didn't care which dogma won out as long as all christians were united. Constantine didn't convert until his deathbed. Until then he was a worshipper of Apollo. I always wondered if that had anything to do with the Sabbath moving to Sunday.

No.

Sunday worship was in evidence from at least the early second century. For example, Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165 AD) writes in his First Apology:

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.


Nick

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me, no really
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quote:
Originally posted by Honey Bunching Oats:
One thing to keep in mind about the preConstantinian church is that it was diverse. Constantine didn't care which dogma won out as long as all christians were united. Constantine didn't convert until his deathbed. Until then he was a worshipper of Apollo. I always wondered if that had anything to do with the Sabbath moving to Sunday.

I am not a biblical scholar. I have read a few books written by scholars and historians. From memory, this is all a bit misleading (and slightly inaccurate). As I recall, you are correct in saying that Constantine dod not particularly care which theology won out, as long as a consistent ruling could be made. There was by this time however as i recall only one major issue that was seriously debated, and that had to do with the divinity of Christ. It was not so much whether he was divine or not, I don't think that was questioned, it was more technical than that, from memory about whether he was born divine, or became divine later. I could be wrong about the exact specifics of the debate though. Other theological questions had been settled a long time previously.

Also, from memory, Constantine did not convert on his deathbed. He was baptised on his deathbed. At the time, baptism was seen as a literal clensing of all your past sins. You didn't want to do that until you weren't likely to commit anymore, so deathbed baptism was a common practise.

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Biggles
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quote:
Originally posted by Ganzfeld:
In his book Many Lives, Many Masters:... [rest of long title omitted] Brian L. Weiss makes this claim.
quote:
During the week I had reviewed my textbook from a comparative religions course taken during my freshman year at Columbia. There were indeed references to reincarnation in the Old and New Testaments.
...
The early Gnostics – Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Saint Jerome, and many others – believed that they had lived before and would live again.


I have read a bit about Origen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen - an interesting guys, if the story re his castration is true [Eek!] and it sounds like later believers in reincarnation have ascribed there own beliefs to Origen, but ones that Origen hiself would have denied:

quote:
"The book Reincarnation in Christianity, by the theosophist Geddes MacGregor (1978) asserted that Origen believed in reincarnation. MacGregor is convinced that Origen believed in and taught about reincarnation but that his texts written about the subject have been destroyed. He admits that there is no extant proof for that position."
So while the early Christians argued about a lot, (ever seen the "The Life of Brian?" [Wink] ), I would say that 'the Christian church' has never accepted reincarnation as a core belief
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Jason Threadslayer
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Origen doesn't support reincarnation:

quote:
In this place [Matthew 11:13-14] it does not appear to me that by Elijah the soul is spoken of, lest I fall into the doctrine of transmigration, which is foreign to the Church of God, and not handed down by the apostles, nor anywhere set forth in the scriptures.
quote:
Originally posted by Honey Bunching Oats:
I always wondered if that had anything to do with the Sabbath moving to Sunday.

Constantine abolished the Roman eight day week in favour of the Middle Eastern seven day week. He also established some of the earliest blue laws.

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Ganzfeld
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Thank you for your insightful comments.

I found this part the statement to be particularly suspect.
quote:
Apparently, they thought this concept would weaken the growing power of the Church by giving humans too much time to seek salvation.
Surely, there is no evidence for this, is there?
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Johnnym
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Addressing the issue of Constantine deleting references to reincarnation out of the NT; by 325 A.D. there were already thousands of copies of the Greek NT. It seems reasonable that Constantine would not have been able to gather ALL copies and remove all references to reincarnation.

Honey Bunches of Oats: The Sabbath is still Saturday. The early church made the change to worship on Sunday in recognition of the Christ having risen on that day.

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hoitoider
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The disciples seemed to believe in reincarnation & the way the question is answered kinda leaves the door open. It's not like Jesus said, "It's not possible for this man to have sinned before he was born."

quote:
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life...
(John 9:1-3)



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Mistletoey Chloe
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quote:
The early Gnostics – Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Saint Jerome, and many others – believed that they had lived before and would live again.
This bit is very dubious. Jerome was not a Gnostic by any means--in fact, he wrote more than one polemic against Gnosticism. Clement of Alexander is a Gnostic only in the sense that he redefined the term to mean "Christian," and this was followed by Origen. I would be very dubious of any text that misrepresents in this way.

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Jonny T
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quote:
Originally posted by hoitoider:
The disciples seemed to believe in reincarnation & the way the question is answered kinda leaves the door open. It's not like Jesus said, "It's not possible for this man to have sinned before he was born."

quote:
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life...
(John 9:1-3)


Judaism at the time had the concept of punishment for sin passing on from parents to children:

quote:
Exodus 20:4-6
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

- Jonathan

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Elwood
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quote:
Originally posted by MaxGunnar:
I believe he tossed out books and letters that some of the churches were uses. google gnostic texts or bible and you'll find "Gospel According to Mary Magdalene" "Gospel According to Thomas" and others.

Are you at all familiar with the Muratorian fragment/canon? The works of Irenaeus? There were substantive lists accpeting and rejecting the authorship and authority of certain books well before the time of Constantine.

The gnostic gospels are no secret. They are known. They were known. They did not fall out of favor due to the actions of any one person or authority. Constantine's influence on the creation is probably nil. Well. . . very close to 'nil. Having commissioned the creation of copies of the New Testament, it follows that the manner in which the books were organized would carry some historical weight, but that is about the extent of it.

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Grand Illusion
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quote:
Originally posted by Jonny T:
quote:
Originally posted by hoitoider:
The disciples seemed to believe in reincarnation & the way the question is answered kinda leaves the door open. It's not like Jesus said, "It's not possible for this man to have sinned before he was born."

quote:
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life...
(John 9:1-3)


Judaism at the time had the concept of punishment for sin passing on from parents to children:

The explanation of this passage I have always heard is that the Jews believed that one could sin while still in the womb.

Also, the two major religious factions in Jerusalem at the time were the Pharisees and the Saddusees; the former believed in a bodily resurrection (same body coming back to life), and the latter believed that once you are dead, you stay dead.

As far as I know, Gnostics believed that the soul is eternal, but the body is temporal. I have never heard that they believed anything like the Buddhist idea of reincarnation. If anything, it was probably more similar to the Egyptian idea of the travelling soul.

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Ganzfeld
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quote:
Originally posted by Grand Illusion:
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life...
(John 9:1-3)

[/QUOTE]Judaism at the time had the concept of punishment for sin passing on from parents to children:
[/qb][/QUOTE]The explanation of this passage I have always heard is that the Jews believed that one could sin while still in the womb.[/QB][/QUOTE]I thought that, since they were trying to trick him into agreeing with one or the other explanation, neither one necessarily describes a valid belief. That is, if Jesus had said he sinned then they could acccuse him of either teaching reincarnation or of teaching that there is sin in the womb. So I don't see why you need a Jewish belief in either one to accompany the story.

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Jonny T
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quote:
Originally posted by Ganzfeld:
quote:

quote:
Originally posted by Grand Illusion:
1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life...
(John 9:1-3)

quote:
Judaism at the time had the concept of punishment for sin passing on from parents to children:

The explanation of this passage I have always heard is that the Jews believed that one could sin while still in the womb.
I thought that, since they were trying to trick him into agreeing with one or the other explanation, neither one necessarily describes a valid belief. That is, if Jesus had said he sinned then they could acccuse him of either teaching reincarnation or of teaching that there is sin in the womb. So I don't see why you need a Jewish belief in either one to accompany the story
Jesus was a Jew.
His questioners were Jews.
The listeners, assuming there were any, would likely have been Jews.

So putting the question in that context - a Jewish teacher being questioned by his students - it makes sense for it to be a reference to common Jewish beliefs. Much more than an utterly irrelevant reincarnation interpretation, anyway.

- Jonathan

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hoitoider
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quote:
Originally posted by Jonny T:
Judaism at the time had the concept of punishment for sin passing on from parents to children:

quote:
Exodus 20:4-6
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

- Jonathan
Sort of, depending on how the kids turn out:

"...suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things...

"...He will not die for his father's sin; he will surely live. But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people."

from Ezekial 18

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lionswims
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Though I do not know this for sure, it would not surprise me if a belief in reincarnation was recorded somewhere in the hundreds of early Christian gospels. The beliefs of Christians at that time (as most of you have already mentioned) were widely diverse, and many of these early writings were not adopted when the canon was established. The idea that references to reincarnation were deleted from MatthewMarkLukeJohn seems less likely, but not impossible.

The Church's alleged reason for abandoning the concept of reincarnation makes sense. A major precept of Christianity is Christ's salvation and the inevitability of hell without salvation- a belief in reincarnation would undermine this crucial concept.

This excerpt, however, doesn't cite anything, and uses the word "apparently" to preface his assertion. Also, I agree with Elwood in that Constantine had little to do directly with establishing a canon. To make a long story short, I would suspend belief until finding a better source on the matter.

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opensesame44
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I remember Jesus referring to John the Baptist as Elijah. I wish I could quote chapter and verse. That was the only thing Jesus said that made me think of reincarnation. I assumed He just meant that John fulfilled the same role that Elijah had during his life. I always wondered though.

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Ganzfeld
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quote:
Originally posted by Jonny T:

So putting the question in that context - a Jewish teacher being questioned by his students - it makes sense for it to be a reference to common Jewish beliefs. Much more than an utterly irrelevant reincarnation interpretation, anyway.

Yes, I agree. It makes even more sense (to me at least) that they give him a choice between two common but heretical beliefs. Otherwise they are just asking him to explain the points. There is no trick. (In other words, I meant the story doesn't need a "legitimate" Jewish belief.)
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Grand Illusion
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Jesus often had tiffs with the Pharisees, who were constantly trying to trap him in his words and trick him with paradoxic or ambiguous questions, and in those cases, Jesus had to watch what he said and give a factually correct answer. The passage in John that I quoted earlier was not with the Pharisees; it was with his 12 disciples (most scholars believe that John himself was the asker of the question). They had no intent of tricking him and often had no idea that their time-honored beliefs were sometimes incorrect.

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Avril
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I find the whole, "Until Constantine, Christians..." thing very annoying. Constantine called a meeting of church leaders and had them discuss a dispute, which was whether Jesus was the first thing God created or was a part of God's infinite existence outside time, as a part of the Trinity. Arian's idea, that Jesus was created at the beginning, lost the day, but his idea was considered "new" at the time. The result was the Nicene Creed in its earliest form, and the phrase which Catholics recite to this day, asserting Jesus was "...begotten, not made..."

Canon was established, to varying degrees, for a few hundred years prior to the council. It depends on which list you like as to the exact date. The gnostic gospels never appear in them.

Gnosticism was always outside the mainstream of what the Church considered itself, and their gospels were rejected pretty much from day one by the people who would continue to be the Church. So I wouldn't call the gnostics Christians, or accuse Christians of "throwing out" documents they never embraced in the first place.

Avril

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callee
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quote:
Originally posted by Avril:
I find the whole, "Until Constantine, Christians..." thing very annoying.

you can say that again.

on the other hand, as a phrase it does serve as a handy way to distinguish quickly those who have done scholarly reading on the subject from those who read a bunch of pop theology at the barnes and noble.

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Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Grand Illusion:
Jesus often had tiffs with the Pharisees, who were constantly trying to trap him in his words and trick him with paradoxic or ambiguous questions, and in those cases, Jesus had to watch what he said and give a factually correct answer. The passage in John that I quoted earlier was not with the Pharisees; it was with his 12 disciples (most scholars believe that John himself was the asker of the question). They had no intent of tricking him and often had no idea that their time-honored beliefs were sometimes incorrect.

Got it!
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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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I've heard that according to the dead sea scrolls, the divine spirit did not enter into Jesus until he was an adult. Before that, he was a reincarnation of an earlier person (might have been Zarathustra, but my memory is unclear) as a human body would not be strong enough to accept the devine spirit until this age (or perhaps the process in some way strengthened the body). When the divine spirit eventually entered the body, the previous inhabitant was kicked out and the person finally became Jesus and son of god.

This is something I heard a long time ago, so my memory is a bit vague and I can't find any reference for it, but it might account for the claim in the OP.

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/Troberg

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Ganzfeld
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Wikipedia has this to say about that.
quote:
Vatican conspiracy theory
Allegations that the Vatican suppressed the publication of the scrolls were published in the 1990s. Notably, Michael Baigent's and Richard Leigh's book The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception claim that several key scrolls were deliberately kept under wraps for decades to suppress unwelcome theories about the early history of Christianity; in particular, Eisenman's speculation that the life of Jesus was deliberately mythicized by Paul, possibly a Roman agent who faked his "conversion" from Saul in order to undermine the influence of anti-Roman messianic cults in the region.
However, the complete publication and dissemination of translations and photographic records of the works in the late 1990s and early 2000s effectively undermined these ideas, since the 'new' Scroll material did not include anything which connected the Scrolls to early Christianity and certainly did not contain anything the Catholic Church or any church would want to 'suppress'. As a result, Baigent et al's conspiracy theory is not taken seriously by any credible scholars.


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AdmiralDinty
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by Avril:
I find the whole, "Until Constantine, Christians..." thing very annoying. Constantine called a meeting of church leaders and had them discuss a dispute, which was whether Jesus was the first thing God created or was a part of God's infinite existence outside time, as a part of the Trinity. Arian's idea, that Jesus was created at the beginning, lost the day, but his idea was considered "new" at the time. The result was the Nicene Creed in its earliest form, and the phrase which Catholics recite to this day, asserting Jesus was "...begotten, not made..."

And it's worse than that. Constantine and the Council of Nicaea didn't stop the Arian heresy. In fact, a couple of emperors after Constantine were Arians or semi-Arians (not to mention several the Germanic tribes - the Visigoths being the best known).

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"I wanna bite the hand that feeds me. I wanna bite that hand so badly. I wanna make them wish they'd never seen me." - Elvis Costello

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
However, the complete publication and dissemination of translations and photographic records of the works in the late 1990s and early 2000s effectively undermined these ideas
That may explain it, I heard it sometime in the early 1990s.

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/Troberg

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Open Mike Night
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I know that in 1894 Nicholas Notovitchput out a book postulating that Jesus spent his time from age 12-30 in India studying various eastern religions before returning to Israel. I believe it has been pretty soundly debunked, but the idea was latched onto by Elizabeth Clair Prophet, a new age spiritual teacher that wrote a book claiming that Jesus did indeed spend his time in India, and brought back the idea of reincarnation which was later edited out of the Bible.

I read her book "The Lost Years of Jesus Christ" (I don't even remember how I got a copy, I certainly didn't spend money on it). It's a decent reference if you want to see where the "Jesus teaches reincarnation" theory comes from, but it is a lousy read, full of new age mysticism and begging to be debunked at every turn. It's just a very unbelievable book.

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On the crusade to eliminate Moral Asshattery wherever it exists
Member: AAMAH

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callee
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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All these conspiracy theories about this or that being "edited out" of the bible really need to get a dose of reality.

the textual history of the biblical text absolutely does not allow for any such partisan editing attempts. not succesful ones anyway.

as someone already noted, the bible never existed as just "one book." from the moment its individual letters were first written, the only way they circulated was by having multiple copies made. By the time the different biblical books were collected - a grass roots phenomenon that came took hold long before constantine, btw - each one of them was already circulating individually in the form of many, many copies. After combination, the different groupings continued to be copied and recopied by normal, everyday people.

Sure, accidental mistakes occurred in all that copying, and sure, some people did make partisan changes to their own copies, but whenever one person committed either act, it could only affect their own copy(ies). No matter what editing any one group made of their own copy, everyone else would still have their copies that read differently!

Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho, for example, records just such an exchange, wherein two parties in an argument are each accusing eachother of editing the biblical manuscripts to better suit their own arguments. The very fact that such accusations could be made, however, shows how the prevalence of independant copies absolutely prohibited any one person from making any universal changes or edits.

All of the individual changes - or more often, accidental mistakes - are now known as variants, and the study of the many hundreds of thousands of variants in the thousands of surviving NT manuscripts is today called textual criticism. Any one who wants to can go and read an introductory text book on text criticism (Bruce Metzgar's is the standard, but recently Bart Ehrman did release one, Misquoting Jesus, that is tailored more to uneducated laypeople) and thereby see the state and history of the field, and then understand how the universal editorial changes postulated by any of these conspiracy theories would have have been completely and utterly impossible.

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a moment for old friends now estranged, victims of the flux of alliances and changing perceptions. There was something there once, and that something is worth honoring as well. - John Carroll

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
By the time the different biblical books were collected - a grass roots phenomenon that came took hold long before constantine, btw - each one of them was already circulating individually in the form of many, many copies. After combination, the different groupings continued to be copied and recopied by normal, everyday people.
I'm not so sure about that. Literacy was not that common at the time. I would find it more likely that few copies where made, and that they were made by a nonrepresentative group compared to the average citizen. From there on, some things could be guessed.

It is likely that the ones that made the copies where part of the upper class. The upper class had the opportunity to affect their situation in a way that common people lacked, so they may, to some extent, have altered them to suit their own ambitions.

Besides, whatever the circumstances, I've seen documents mutate to a point where they were hardly recognizable in just a few revisions. A book that has survived for 2000 years is likely to mutate a bit.

Islam has made it easier for themselves in this respect by having some rules:

* It's very clear what's part of the Koran.
* The Koran is supposed to come directly from god and all of it is definitely holy without lesser holy parts, so there can be no changes it all. In fact, they scrap an entire printing of Korans if even a simple spelling mistake is found.
* There are no translations. The Koran is in Arabic only. There may be interpretations in other languages, but these are just considered interpretations, not translations. The correct way to read it is considered to be in Arabic.

That's how you lock down a document. Once you start to classify parts as less holy or not coming directly from god, you lose stability. Once you start to get different translations, you lose stability. Once you lose the trace to that definitive source document, you lose accuracy.

This is not an evaluation of the religions as such, I'm an atheist and care little for such matter, I care about the effects and actions of religions. This is just my thoughts about how to maintain a stable document.

Oh, one more thing: never ever put the document in Word, it will auto-correct it to pieces and then mess up the file when it saves it...

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/Troberg

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callee
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Troberg:
I'm not so sure about that. Literacy was not that common at the time. I would find it more likely that few copies where made, and that they were made by a nonrepresentative group compared to the average citizen. From there on, some things could be guessed.

most studies peg literacy between 10-15%. Is your argument that the literate 15% were able to pull the wool over the eyes of the remaining 85%? Doubtful. First, that remaining 85% bennefited from the common practice of public reading. Most books of the NT were, infact, intended to be read publically. Second, the evidence is that within that 15% there already was enough independent controls to keep any one person from making universal changes. See, for example, the text from Martyr I cited above. Marginalia in the many extant copies of the NT today also support this. Most extant mss show evidence of atleast 2-3 correctors!

quote:

It is likely that the ones that made the copies where part of the upper class.

Depends. In later centuries, yes. But for the first three centuries or so the average scribe of a NT book was, infact, not a professional. We know this because a) earliest christianity was not an upper class religion, and thus did not contain many upperclass scribes to do such work, b) the oldest extant copies we have are, in truth, highly crappy in their quality.

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a moment for old friends now estranged, victims of the flux of alliances and changing perceptions. There was something there once, and that something is worth honoring as well. - John Carroll

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