Copyright © By Dr. Adel Elsaie, Book Title: "History of Truth, The Truth about God and Religions"
Evolution of Christianity
Four Phases Theory
The Four Phases Theory
I tried to understand how did the teachings of Jesus (Pbuh) evolve into a religion, with a name that was neither declared by Jesus, the original founder, nor mentioned in the Bible. How did the theology of Christianity evolve? Who started the name "Christianity"? What is the origin of the Trinity? Jesus never mentioned the Trinity. As I was studying the Christian history, it became obvious that Christianity evolved in four phases. Each phase took it further away from Jesusí message. Historians report stories of the past with a certain package that depends on their intention and the message that they attempt to emphasize. Sometimes, historical facts are being "tampered and altered" to convince the people with certain points of view. Christian history is abundant with such views. Christianity as it exists today is an altered version of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The Four Phases Theory
The Theory of the Four Phases started right after Jesus, and lasted for about 800 years. Each phase took the religion further away from the original message of Jesus. This Four Phases Theory can be identified in chronological order as follows:
The first phase: The establishment of Pauline Christianity as a major drive to attract the Gentiles to the new religion. This was accomplished by the victory of the liberal Paul, who cancelled the Mosaic Law, over the conservative original apostles.
The second phase: Writing of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and their influence on the pagan converts.
The third phase: The fierce theological struggle of the fathers of the church to accommodate their perceptions of God of the Old and New Testaments with the Greek culture.
The fourth phase
Because of these four phases, we have a religion that was compromised to attract more pagan coverts at the expense of the purity and the holiness of the original message of Jesus.
Due to the crucial importance of the Gospels, this chapter starts by examining the Gospels. The average Christians believe that all the writers of the Gospels were contemporaries of Jesus, recording the message of Jesus with honesty, integrity and virtue. They assume that Matthew wrote the Gospel according to Matthew, and Mark wrote the Gospel according to Mark, etc. They also believe that the Evangelists wrote the New Testament by inspiration of God or the Holy Ghost. It can be proven that the Gospels according to the Evangelists are full of major contradictions. Thus negating the notion that any of these Gospels was inspired by God or the Holy Ghost. It is important to note that if there were even a single contradiction in the Gospels, the idea of divine inspiration would collapse. The Almighty does not contradict Himself.
For a quick head start, consider the following questions:
Who are the real Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
What were Jesusí last words on the cross in the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
How did Judas die in the Gospels according to Matthew, and Acts?
How did the people who arrested Jesus identify him in the Gospels according to Matthew, and John?
To prove that God did not inspire the entire New Testament, let us apply the same method that was adopted in the previous chapter. The origin and the contradictions in the New Testament will be exposed. First, the name "New Testament" should be questioned, because nowhere does it refer to itself with such name. Christian scholars followed the same steps of analysis that the critics of the Old Testament had pursued. As mentioned before, the contradictions in the Old Testament started by scholars noticing that there are parts in the Books of Moses, that should have been written after Moses, especially the part that addresses Mosesí death. Then scholars found more and more contradictions. Next, when contradictions are found in a Holy Book, supposedly inspired totally by God, then the question of authenticity of the entire book is raised.
As for the New Testament, it appears that the discrepancy of the genealogy of Jesus according to Matthew and Luke was the first contradiction that was discovered. This was followed by critical examination of the entire New Testament to establish the degree of inconsistency. Apart from the general accounts of Jesus' arrest, trial, death, and resurrection, which are generally similar in all four Gospels, they differ in important details. Neither Matthew nor John accounts for Jesusí Ascension. Luke in his Gospel places the Ascension on the day of the Resurrection and forty days later in the Acts of the Apostles, which is assumed to be by the same Luke. Mark mentions it, without giving a date, which suggests that it is not thought to be authentic. The Ascension, which is a major Christian event, therefore, has no solid scriptural basis. Commentators nevertheless approach this subject casually.
The first three Gospels are called synoptic Gospels because despite their differences, they can be viewed together. General comparison of Matthew, Mark, and Luke impresses the reader with such agreements that they have generated many theories about their relationships. One of the most widely held scholarly opinion is that Mark was the earliest Gospel and became a source for Matthew and Luke. Most likely, Matthew and Luke each had other common sources as well. This assumption is based upon the source of much shared texts not found in Mark. The interrelation of the Gospels also has continued to attract much study. In 1863, Holtzmann introduced the Two Source Theory, with Q and Mark being the common sources of Matthew and Luke. Q is short for the German word "Quelle" which means "source." In 1972 the Four Source Theory was introduced, with Q, A, B, and C as the sources of all Gospels. Does this sound familiar to J, E, P, and D of the Old Testament? In a preface the author of Luke 1:1-4 stated that he learned from some other people that saw those things from the beginning before writing his Gospel. The fourth Gospel of John stands most noticeably apart from the synoptic Gospels.
The Gospels translated into Modern English by J. B. Phillips in London, with editors Geoffrey Bles, had the following to say about the Gospel of Matthew:
"Early tradition ascribed this Gospel to the apostle Matthew, but scholars nowadays almost all reject this view. The Author, whom we still can conveniently call Matthew, has plainly drawn on the mysterious "Q", which may have been a collection of oral tradition. He has used Markís Gospel freely, though he has arranged the order of events and has in several instances used different words for what is plainly the same story. The style is lucid, calm, and tidy. Matthew writes with certain judiciousness as though he himself has carefully digested his material and is convinced not only with its truth but of the divine pattern that lies behind the historic facts. If Matthew wrote, as is now generally supposed, somewhere between 85 and 90, this Gospelís value as a Christian document is enormous. It is, so to speak, a second-generation view of Jesus Christ the Son of God and the son of man. It is being written at that distance in time from the great event where a sober reflection and sturdy conviction can perhaps give a better balanced portrait of Godís unique revelation of Himself than could be given by those who were so close to the light that they were partly dazzled by it."
The above quotation stated frankly the facts about "Q", and then tried to reason as why Christians should still accept second generation accounts of Jesus: the first generation could not handle both the light of Jesus and writing of the Gospels!
Many ancient translations of the Bible have received critical attention and are available in scholarly form. The language in the New Testament has received much attention not only for theological reasons but also from students of history of the Greek language. The study of the Aramaic language, the native language of Jesus and the contemporary Palestinian Christians, has also advanced. Scholars advocate that the traditions used by the Gospel writers and the author of Acts existed in Aramaic, perhaps in manuscripts but certainly in an oral form. It remains a matter of debate to translate the New Testament from Greek to Aramaic in an attempt to recreate the original manuscripts or the oral tradition.
Early Christianity, just like Judaism, took the idea of authenticity and inspiration of the scriptures for granted. No formal doctrine of the divine inspiration of New Testament was initially proposed. Christians generally believed, however, that the Bible is the word of God as transmitted by the Holy Spirit, first through the patriarchs and prophets and then through the apostles. The writers of the New Testament, in fact, relied upon the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures to support their claims concerning Jesus Christ.
To set a New Testament canon beside the Old implied divine inspiration of the entire Bible. The New Testament writings were considered as "prophecy" given by the Holy Spirit to the disciples. However, Paul did not think of his letters to his churches as constituting inspired revelation to the entire humanity at all time. It was suggested that the divine inspiration was a case of verbal inspiration that took over the voice of the prophet. This view implied that the words are divinely given; so any text can be interpreted in the light of other texts. This theory of verbal inspiration was considered as acceptable for the first Greek translation of the Old Testament. Christian scholars Origen and Augustine adhered firmly to this theory. At times, this took a sophisticated form of explaining discrepancies between the Biblical texts, such as a divine will to teach the point of a deeper meaning that lies beyond human comprehension! During the 19th century, the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit was promoted in response to the development of new biblical criticism. Scholarly studies seemed to challenge the divine origin of the New Testament. Those who advocate the authenticity of the Bible, word for word, cannot prove their claim easily.
The subjects of authenticity and history of the early Bible are not readily available in common Christian bookstores. It appears that the history of Christianity began in 325 AD, when the council of Nicaea condemned the theology of Arius and declared that Christ is "one in essence with the Father". There are no written details of events of what actually happened after Jesus until the council of Nicaea. Biblical apologists attributed the lack of information to the oppression that the Christians faced over three centuries. It is also quite difficult to find detailed information from Christian scholars. This is because most of them are writing to average Christians and the information has to be packaged in an acceptable way that should not cause public confusion. For example, I tried unsuccessfully to find out what happened to the Virgin Mary after Jesus, and what was her role in the early Christian history. To the Christian, Mary is a model to all believers. To the Muslims she is the holiest woman ever among all the Jewish, Christian and Muslim women. When Mary holds such a unique stature, one would be tempted to know everything available about her role. Jesus was obedient to his parents, (Luke 2:51). When Jesus began his public ministry, he called his mother "woman", (John 2:4, 19:26). Sometimes I wonder if this is the same Jesus that said in Matthew 19:19 "Honor your father and your mother." This would indicate that Maryís maternal role on his behalf is finished. It is hard to believe that Jesus called his mother "woman". Is this a permit for anyone to call his mother woman? Or was this the writing of someone that did not appreciate the mother of Jesus for one reason or another? Looking at the Holy Bible, Easy to Read Version, I found that in John 2:4, the word "woman" is replaced by "Dear woman." This was a little bit of a relief; at least someone else feels that it is inappropriate to call the holiest woman ever simply a "woman". A Christian apologist suggested that Jesus called his mother "woman" in a soft tone! There is no knowledge about "tape recording" the tone of Jesus! The question still remains. Did Jesus call his mother woman, dear woman, mother, or dear mother? Did he or did he not honor his mother? And, what was Maryís role after Jesus?