Eyewitness to Jesus: About the Origin of the Gospels, Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, ©1996 Doubleday --
"Christmas Eve 1994 would have come and gone like any other, had it not been for three tiny papyrus fragments discussed in The Times of London's sensational front-page story. The avalanche of letters to the editor jarred the world into realizing that Matthew d'Ancona's story was as big as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The flood of calls received by Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, the scholar behind the story, and the international controversy that spread like wildfire, give us an inkling as to why the Magdalen Papyrus has embroiled Christianity in a high-stakes tug-of-war over the Bible.
"Thiede and d'Ancona boldly tell the story of two scholars a century apart who stumbled on the oldest know remains of the New Testament - hard evidence confirming that St. Mattthew's Gospel is the account of an eyewitness to Jesus. It starts in 1901 when the Reverend Charles B. Huleatt acquires three pieces of a manuscript on the murky antiquities market of Luxor, Egypt. He donates the papyrus fragments to his alma mater, Magdalen College in Oxford, England, where they are kept in a butterfly display case, along with Oscar Wilde's ring. For nearly a century, visitors hardly notice the Matthew fragments, initially dated to A.D. 180-200; but after Dr. Thiede redates them to roughly A.D. 60, people flock to the library wanting to behold a first-century copy of the Gospel.
"But what is all the fuss about? How can three ancient papyrus fragments be so significant? How did Thiede arrive at this radical early dating? And what does it mean to the average Christian? Now we have authoritative answers to these pivotal questions. Indeed, the Magdalen Papyrus corroborates the tradition that St. Matthew actually wrote the Gospel bearing his name, that he wrote it within a generation of Jesus' death, and that the Gospel stories about Jesus are true. Some will vehemently deny Thiede's claims, others will embrace them, but nobody can ignore Eyewitness to Jesus." -- (from the book flap)
Dr. Thiede is a leading authority on ancient manuscripts (a papyrologist). He directs the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, Germany, where he lives. He is a life member of the Institute for Germanic Studies, University of London.
Commentary -- On the cover Eyewitness to Jesus... you will find three Matthew fragments. Interesting to note: the portion of the Gospel of Matthew written on these fragments comes from Matthew 26: 7-8, 10, 14-15, 22-23, 31, 32-33... detailing and preserving the incident when a woman came to Jesus and "wastefully" poured expensive ointment on His head. Judas Iscariot objected saying "the money should have been given to the poor"... to which Jesus responded... "The poor you will have with you always." [Ain't that the truth!] "This woman has done a good thing. See to it, wherever the Gospel is preached... tell what this woman did". That's when Judas went out and betrayed Christ.
Isn't it interesting that this Matthew manuscript rediscovered in the Library of Magdalen College (the College named after the woman indicted by Judas as "wasteful")... has finally been rigorously scrutinized under modern microscopic technology just invented within the last decade... our decade... almost 2000 years after the actual event? These fragile fragments have been hanging around for quite some time.
"See to it, wherever the Good News is given, see to it... we also tell what this woman did..." as an appropriate response. Simple enough task, right? Apparently, Somebody's going to "see to it"... the story's told! It has been said: Whoever has been forgiven much, loves much. Well, I'm fascinated that her account has been preserved in "her" College! How 'bout you?
Check out these incredible manuscripts from perhaps 25 years following the time of Christ (a brief time frame reaching back less years than from us to the Viet Nam War era).
Exciting... ain't it?!
Although John Singer was a guy with ethics and values quite different to many Americans (certainly to mine...), still... he was an American citizen. John Singer was born in New York on 6 January 1931.
He was a member of the Mormon Church who was later excommunicated for his fundamentalist beliefs, including the practice of polygamy (By the way, Singer wasn't... the only polygamist in his neck of the woods. As a matter of interesting fact, the practice of polygamy in the southwestern United States has been on an increase in the last several years.)
Singer gained public notoriety because of his stand against what he felt was the immorality of the school system (So, what's new! I would hope that LAUSD or any other school district in our country doesn't take criticism... that personally!).
For more information which finally came to light in a US criminal
trial... about governmental agency deception, murder and attempt at covering
up a recent incident which left an American shot dead in the back, check
out the following book review link:
Utah History Encyclopedia - John Singer - the killing, David Fleisher and David M. Freedman, (1983)
"...that the idea of a human "soul" must have been the natural seed thought from which all other religious concepts evolved. Ancient savages, Tylor suggested, imagined that they had "souls" while wondering at two groups of biological problems: sleep, ecstasy, illness, and death on one hand, and dreams and visions on the other. The idea of "soul" was reinforced as savages noticed their reflections in water, or their own shadows.... Once primitives got used to thinking of themselves as possessing souls, Tylor continued, it dawned upon them that other entities -- animals, trees, rivers, mountains, the sky, and even forces of nature -- might be similarly endowed. Thus did spiritism (Tylor called it "animism") come to birth -- the first religion.
"Ages later, said Tylor, a new phenomenon emerged in some human societies -- stratification of classes!
[Remember: this concept was written at a time following the reasoning of enlightened savants whose various theories were putting people of faith to flight (for what reason... I do not know). After all, with the Church out of the way... these are the same learned men of the Age of Reason who also produced the philisophical mind set that ushered in Socialism, Communism, and ultimately Nazi-ism. Thank you very much! Tylor did his theorizing during this age when the "fittest" were surviving and some of the most unusual ideas were evolving. Added by ME! But back to the story...]
"Human aristocracies ruling over peasants suggested aristocracies of "gods" ruling over run-of-the-mill souls and spirits. Thus polytheism, in Tylor's model, emerged from spiritism -- but only where the social phenomenon of stratification of classes prompted it!
"Still later, some human aristocracies experienced a further metamorphosis: one aristocrat was fortunate enough to be exalted above his peers as a monarch. Once again, theologically precocious minds projected this latest social development over their vision of the supernatural world. Result: one member of the local pantheon of gods began to gain stature above his fellow deities as a budding "supreme god." Thus monotheism, said Tylor, gradually evolved out of polytheism -- but only in areas where the social phenomenon of monarchy suggested it.
"For a more detailed summary of Tylor's theory, see pages 74-77 of Fr. Wilhelm Schmidt's The Origin and Growth of Religion, published in English by the Dial Press, New York, 1931.
"At least four notions were implicit in Tylor's evolutionary model. First, there was no longer anything very mysterious about religion; religion's natural origin and subsequent evolutionary development had now been scientifically explained. Second, since monotheism marked the final stage in religion's evolution, religion now reached the end of a dead-end street. Third, further developments in human society were already dictating the next step for people who wanted to stay on the crest of evolution's wave: abandon religion with its now defunct God, gods, or spirits....
"What, then, was the fourth notion implicit in Tylor's theory? It was the one which would make it possible to test the validity of Tylor's thesis by field research. If Tylor was correct, primitive societies would be devoid of monotheistic presuppositions, since class stratification and the later concept of a monarchy had not yet developed to prompt the notion of monotheism.
"Drawn by the impressive elegance of Tylor's theory, dozens of notable scholars gave him their initial support. Probably the most detailed documentation of what followed is found in the writings of Fr. Wilhelm Schmidt, an Austrian Catholic priest who was both a professor at Vienna University and the editor of Anthropos, a scholarly scientific journal. For example, in his Origin and Growth of Religion, Schmidt wrote: '[Tylor's theory] with its crushing weight of facts, its smooth and unbroken series of stages of development, and the concise, dispassionate style of its exposition, left no room for opposition... for the next three decades it remained "the classical theory,"... almost without any loss of prestige.... A notable proof of the extent to which Tylor's theory influenced the world is the fact that it was accepted by a number of prominent students of ethnology and religion almost without alteration. Such unqualified acceptance is to be found in ...' Schmidt went on to list 39 European and American scholars who endorsed Tylor's theory, naming the various books and articles in which their endorsements could be found.
"Occasionally, even in the heyday of evolutionary theories like Tylor's, a few voices at least tried to call attention to scattered reports that even very primitive tribes acknowledged the existence of a Creator. But scholars paid little or no attention. Schmidt describes their attitude as follows: 'The doctrine of progressive Evolution mastered the mind of all Europe, ... all framers of theories concerning fetishes, ghosts, animism, totemism and magic, if they agreed in nothing else, were at one in this, that the figure of the sky-god must be got rid of from the earliest stages of religion, as being too high and incomprehensible [for savage minds' ... unless it was preferred to deduce him from Christian influence. (p.134-137)
Unfortunately... eleven years later, in 1898... a favorite pupil of Tylor's, Andrew Lang read a missionary's report in which it was stated that primitive inhabitants of the distant place already acknowledged the existence of a Creator God even before the missionaries arrived! Lang's initial reactions were recorded: "[Lang's] impression was that the missionary had made a mistake. But the further his studies took him the more examples of this kind he met with, and at last he came to the conclusion that this fundamental tenet of Tylor's would not hold water. To this conviction he gave public expression in 1898, in his book The Making of Religion.... Apart from this, Lang was unweariedly busy and on the watch for new particulars to discover and publish, mistakes and misunderstandings to clear up, attacks to repel....
[Don't you just love a good fight between heavyweight academicians, scholars, and otherwise "keepers of the truth"?!]
"Seeing then that [Lang's objections] found lively expression in leading British periodicals, which of course are known everywhere abroad also, and that they represented the new views of a scholar of wide repute... it is hard to understand why the majority of specialists... outside Great Britain received Lang's utterances with the deepest silence." (p.139)
Well Professor Schmidt... it really isn't all that hard to understand! After you (that's right.. he's dead!) Well.. after WE read Eternity In Their Hearts... it isn't hard to understand at all.
Starting with the encounter with the Unknown God by Epimenides, the Athenian Elder / Senator living in 6th Century BC...
... citing the Theos of Xenophanes, Plato and Aristotle...
... recalling the Viracocha of Pachacuti (or Pachacutec) the ruler who brought the incredible Inca civilization to its finest flowering... rebuilding Cuzco, the Inca capital... fortifying its defenses from invasion from A.D. 1438 to 1471 (Machu Picchu... being the best and last refuge of the Incan upper class in its flight from Spain's brutal conquistadores. In fact, the conquistadores never found Machu Picchu. In 1906, an English missionary Thomas Paine serving under a society called Regions Beyond Missionary Union... actually discovered the ruins... lost for several centuries though most history books credit some other guy for making the discovery sometime in 1910.)...
... detailing the Thakur Jiu of the 2.5 million Santal near Calcutta, India...
... and describing the benevolent Magano of the 1/2 million Gedeo people in Ethiopia... the sky-god Koro of the Mbaka's... one of the Bantu tribes of Central African Republic... who "understood that Koro, the Creator, sent word to their forefathers long ages ago that He had already sent His Son into the world to accomplish something wonderful for all mankind. Later however, [their] forefathers turned away from the truth about Koro's Son. In time they even forgot what it was that He accomplished for mankind. Since the time of "the forgetting," successive generations of [their] people had longed to discover the truth about Koro's Son. But all [they] could learn was that messengers would eventually come to restore that forgotten knowledge to [them]. Somehow they also knew that the messengers would probably be...."
[Would be what??! THAT... in the finest circles... is called "dangling"!! Wouldn't you just love to know... what the Mbaka ancestors knew about their anticipated messengers a long time ago? (smile)]
Highlighting some of the most fascinating recorded encounters of early missionaries with various ethnic groups around the world... Don Richardson informs his readers about the worshippers of the great Shang Ti from the earliest times of Chinese history until the Zhou Dynasty (1066-770 B.C.) when worship of Shang Ti became the exclusive right of the upper class... leaving the lower classes to the later influences of: 1. Confucianism - a social philosophic structure maintaining the status quo (Confucius advised the people to forget Shang Ti because He was too high and unapproachable for the common folks); 2. Taoism -- countered the religious instinct of a large majority of Chinese unsatisfied with social-Confucianism; and, 3. Buddhism -- took over China with its polytheism (sort of like a god (or saint..) for any and every occasion... approach to life... since Shang Ti wasn't enough..) in spite of its celibacy tenet which never really caught on to any appreciable extent in the most populous place on planet Earth! (By the way, a careful study of Chinese ideographs called: radicals... is a fascinating as the various combinations of these 214 radicals form between 30,000 and 50,000 ideographs... some with unusual symbolism. For example: the ideograph for "righteous"...contains an upper and lower part. The upper part was simply the Chinese symbol for a lamb. Directly under the lamb was a second symbol, the first person pronoun I. The Chinese character for righteous is: I under the Lamb. For further study check out C.H. Kang's book: The Discovery of Genesis.)
Richardson describes those who first grasped the meaning of the Hananim of Korean faith...
... and the Y'wa of the Karen of Burma... who, like the Mbaka of Central Africa... awaited their appointed return to great Y'wa for centuries as they sang their Songs of Hope.
... the Karai Kasang... of the Kachin in far north Burma...
... the Gui'Sha who promised to send his messengers with the words lost by the Lahu forefathers living near Laos so long ago...
...the Wa tribes scattered throughout the same Southeast Asian mountainous region... who condemned headhunting and spirit-appeasement because of their Siyeh...
... the Phra-Ariya-Metrai of the Shan and Palaung Peoples... the Kui of Thailand and Burma... the Lisu of China... India's Naga race's Chepo-Thuru... the Mizo peoples of India among whom the British man Adoniram Judson worked in 1817...
... the Peace Child of the Sawi in New Guinea...
... the Wakan Tonka of the Souix... or the Saharen-Tyee of the Chehalis...
... and lest some of us forget the all-powerful, eternal Gott... or Gud... or God of our tribal ancestors from Northern Europe...
Don Richardson's illustrations go on and on! Eternity In Their Hearts will engage the serious seeker. And just perhaps we will discover a little more about the One of whom Isaiah the Prophet wrote:
Surely Thou art a God who hidest Himself...
Or is He? Paradoxically, history reveals He doesn't mind being found.
China's history spans 4,500 unbroken years of history recorded in all 18 dynasties. In all the dynasties, it was the Emperor beginning with HUANG TI (the first emperor) who built the Temple to SHANG-TI... the Supreme LORD of the Harvest. From over 175 Chinese records, SHANG-TI is the only One God referenced in their ancient history. No idol nor image or picture were ever made of SHANG-TI. Yet the Emperor always the Blood Sacrifice to SHANG-TI. So the Emperor served as both King and High-Priest for his people. Confucius acknowledged that the Blood Sacrifice was the most important ceremony to annually keep. And during these ancient ceremonies, the Chinese would sing songs to "GOD our Father."
It was in the HAN Dynasty... when JESUS was born. Chinese Astronomy records not only the appearance of stellar activity in the heavens, but because Chinese language is pictoral, they vividly describe these events. Around the time of the Birth of JESUS, Chinese astronomers wrote of an unusual stellar event: The Perfect Sacrifice came out of Heaven; some 35 years later, Chinese records speak of a 3 day period of solar eclipse... when Ying and Yang (Heaven and Hell) had exchanged their places: the sins of all the People are place on the Man from Heaven. 3 days later, Chinese astronmers observed: a Rainbow, like a halo encircled the Sun and they noted: Pardon is proclaimed to all the People.
During the Qing Dynasty - often called: the Golden Era of China... Emperor KANG XI reigned. Of all 18 dynasties, KANG XI ruled the longest (from 1661-1722). He had a great love for JESUS Christ... and was a prolific writer/poet. Poems of Emperor KANG XI - reflecting his Christian faith; and a point to make regarding KANG XI's poetry: when he writes of "coming from the west" remember the Middle East is west of China! Unfortunately, it was the Domincans of the roman church that ruined the advancement of Christian faith in China at this time. On 19 March 1715, Pope Clement XI stupidly issued the papal BULL, which officially condemned Chinese rites. In response, Kangxi officially forbade roman catholic trouble-makers in China. Another link: KANG XI - Emperor of Faith - A Christian in China.
[An aside: For other interesting history touching on multi-cultural
religious themes... go see The Bethlehem
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