Saturday, November 28, 2009


I think a spirit has been provoking me. Either God or the Devil. Either way I think I'm coming out of it now, with some reinforced knowledge.

The issue has been the authenticity--or inauthenticity--of the New Testament. I've ruled out the solitary Ingenious Deceiver hypothesis on the Chestertonian observation that, given the actual content and variety of the anthology of writing that makes up the New Testament, no one could have come up with it. As Pascal pointed out, no one would even ever think to make up something like the Resurrection. As a purely human notion it is either insane or absurd. The only way it makes sense is if the action is Divine.

The originating concern, however, has been how we know whether or not--even granting the historical viability of the gospel narratives--there mightn't be documents that were suppressed by the Apostles; e.g., a document written by Jesus's own hand. But the only reason to suppress a document is that it makes claims contrary to the document(s) you're pushing; in this case, the "contrary" claims would be that Jesus is not, in fact, God, and that the Apostles were not His representatives. The latter is exactly the kind of thing we would expect from a man-made religion, whereas the idea that an orthodox Jew of the first century could casually commit blasphemy is untenable. But besides all that, there is the fact that the Church precedes the gospel writings. "The Gospel" is simply the witness of the Resurrection, not this or that particular book about the Riser. The Gospel was taught for years before "the gospels" were ever written. So I finally realized I've been working with a backwards axiom. It is not scripture that authorizes the Church: it is the Church that authorizes scripture. The fact is, even if the New Testament had never been "authorized," the Catholic Church would still be today exactly what it is. The Church is the Body of Christ and a Living Tradition.

But the real problem has been the vicious circle I've been going through, pondering and repondering, checking and rechecking. The question of the reliability of the Apostles has really been a bugger. But it seems unlikely that some small group of Galilean tradesmen would be capable of a vast KGB-esque conspiracy. And the claims of St. Paul to have received a direct post-Resurrection revelation of Christ, and the subsequent lack of disagreement of the original Apostles with his teaching, sure is curious. A zealot like Saul of Tarsus would never have given up his Jewish heritage--with full knowledge of the condemnation he would receive as a Christian--without damning evidence of its incompleteness.

And one more point: I read last night a great apologetic for the authenticity of the four Catholic gospels, as against the counterfeit apocrypha: To say that the unreliability of the apocrypha demonstrates the potential unreliability of the canonical gospels is like saying that the fact that there are counterfeit coins proves that all coins are counterfeit. Rather the very existence of fakes demonstrates the necessity of the originals. In any case, as above, the way any given writing was determined as worthy to be included in the canon was the degree to which it reflected or bore witness to the already-existing Church.

Christianity is not an "of-the-book" religion.

(Not that Protestants would have you believe that.)

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