Well, it’s not really a secret. I’ve known about it since I was a teenager and did some research on the faith of the founding fathers. But it’s interesting that Jefferson may have created it without sharing it with many others. What was it? A Bible created by cutting and pasting (literally) lines from the New Testament which he considered authentically from Jesus. He put them together into a sort of moral philosophy guide which he read many nights before retiring for bed. He was downright devotional about it.
It’s comforting to know that a founding father was a spiritual man. Better still, one interested in the bright side of moral philosophy. Even better that Jesus was a guide? Well, yes and no. A Jesus completely remastered. A Jesus pulled from the inspired pages which had delivered him to Jefferson. A Jesus diluted of full context. A Jesus in his own image.
But don’t get me wrong we all do this a lot. And like Jefferson we probably don’t tell anyone about it. Our own private Jesus to bring our burdens to and to confirm our own freshly-minted moral convictions. Our own private savior to comfort and affirm. Not quite the risen Savior who blows the lid off our comfortable reality yet offers us his raw self.
Ashes to Fire is a great time to get in the habit of spending personal moments with Jesus. Just make sure your heart is wide open. One day we will end our journey just like Jefferson did and our family and friends will pick up the Jesus we left behind. Will it be a Jesus in our own image? Will it be a cut and pasted and domesticated life chaplain? Or will it be Jesus: the One and only savior of the world? It’s so easy to let our faith slide into this. But let’s not do it. No secret bibles.
PRAYER—Lord, I ask that I may look for nothing, claim nothing, and expect nothing but you, and that I may go through all the scenes of life, not seeking my own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you. Amen. JW*
*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 461-463). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
Eric Meyers seems right on the mark as a legit scholar pointing out likely identity of this latest “find”. Short version: move along, move along, nothing to see here…
It’s interesting to discover a tomb belonging to 1st century people but that’s about it. No real connection to Jesus of Nazareth or Joseph of Arimathea. If you read the very earliest Christian traditions, 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 (NRSV) you’ll see tradition already in writing within 2-3yrs of the resurrection. The very earliest Christians absolutely believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and paid for it with their lives. Eyewitnesses to the event are cited as still living at the time of Paul’s writing of this letter to the Corinthians. There were over 10,000 believers in this world-changing event within a few weeks of it occurring. There is nothing that could ever be discovered archaeologically that could overturn this reality. And no scientific methods exist to precisely identify 2,000 year old remains, if any were found. And without a sample, it would be impossible to compare it to the actual living Jesus. But in the meantime he can sell some books and get a TV show made. Below is the Bible passage, which absolutely proves there were not multiple interpretations of his death nor later theological traditions added onto the story of Jesus. The full Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Gospels were written a bit later, but this letter by Paul is decades sooner and is referring to written tradition he received right after his conversion, which was right after the resurrection. They didn’t just believe it based on what they saw, they believed it based on the promises found in the Old Testament. So it was a very deeply rooted belief in the Scriptures as well as the testimonies. So there’s just no room for this Book/TV show’s understanding of early Christian faith. The history is just too documented. Instead, I think they’ve found a jewish tomb from the time with similar names… Greek inscriptions were very common for the time… Many/most Jews believed in the bodily resurrection that would follow the judgment so it’s not surprising for the hope to appear. Belief in resurrection in general is different than believing Jesus rose from the dead. That’s what was and remains the specific Christian belief since day one:
The Resurrection of Christ
(Cp Mk 16:9–20)
15 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Click the above link to a story that’s been brewing for a few years. Steve Green is an unlikely curator but the Evangelical entrepreneur behind Hobby Lobby is founding a museum. For several years he’s amassed an amazing collection of Bible manuscripts. That’s right. And he actually seems to get it, too. He wants to tell the world the story of the Bible. Not the stories IN the Bible, but the story of the emergence of the Bible itself. I’ve spent a fair amount of time reconstructing this story myself and it’s epic. Manuscripts, codices, fragments, printing presses, inquisitions, martyrs, goats, shepherd boys, heroes, villains, it’s got it all. If he tells it well, the world will be amazed. You can’t fully appreciate this holy book until you have some idea of the drama that brought it together. This is important for the whole world to see!
Green says this is a non-sectarian project. Jews, Catholics, and Protestants are all contributing and taking turns hosting this museum-on-the-move until it finds a permanent home. (My basement is available, by the way!) This is also in my top 5 ultimate field trips! I studied 8 semesters of ancient Greek and 2 of Hebrew. I love the history and story behind the manuscripts. There’s an art and science to textual criticism. I’m a complete geek for this kind of stuff!
To top it all, interesting technology will be used to display and experience The Book in its various stages and forms. When I was in Kansas City in 2007 for the M7 Nazarene conference, the Dead Sea scrolls were also in town. I saw first-hand how technology multiplies the productivity and allows anyone to get involved. After a fascinating workshop I was granted access to hi-res images of the scroll fragments, which can be opened in Photoshop and aligned. Let’s see…Dead Sea Scroll fragments, Photoshop, and my Mac! Yes I was drooling! This also allows damaged, previously unreadable fragments to be read through infrared photography! Like I said I’m a geek and I absolutely cannot wait to experience this museum. So are you up for the road trip?
Follow the above link to a fascinating article on the endlessly interesting saga of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It’s good journalism because it carefully reveals thousands of years of history while explaining current tensions. To me this sifting project would be in my top 5 ultimate field trips. I’m especially interested in the 7th century figurines, the Herodian floor tiles, the inscriptions from Jeremiah’s period and the coins. These are all from decisive moments in the development of Judaism’s full understanding of God, which formed the foundation for the New Testament.
It’s more difficult than ever to claim that Solomon’s Temple isn’t under the Dome of the Rock. In a perfect world, modern excavation techniques could unearth treasures, while leaving existing structures and peace agreements undisturbed.
How amazing would it be to be able to take an elevator down to stand where King David stood, or raise arms toward heaven where Solomon did on Temple dedication day? But alas it would likely unleash such turmoil the price would be too high. Totally confirms in me that religion is not the world’s problem. The problem is the will to power, using religion as a front. Politically-minded men have too often ascended to religious leadership. This is a bad combination. Makes me think of the movie, Kingdom of Heaven… And so the creation groans, along with us, for the fullness of salvation to be revealed… How long, O, Lord?
It’s easy to judge from an armchair, but where are the growing edges of our own faith journey? John the Baptizer said, “I must become less, that he [Christ] become greater still.” In this Lenten season we’re reminded that we can’t always get what we want. And sometimes that’s for the best. Jesus emptied himself of all but love on the way to the cross. Are there artifacts we need to let go of? Do we need help from friends to sift through decades of “stuff”, to find the real treasures? Is the landscape of our journey defined by altars of worship or bloody battlefields of selfishness? Almost a month remains before Easter. What’s beneath your Temple Mount? What story is told from the artifacts of your journey?