Skip to content

Quotations of Jesus

December 25, 2011

The one place in the Christian New Testament (NT) that gives the most inspiration for the Christmas holiday, which had its origins in pagan celebrations, is probably the statement attributed to Jesus in Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” No divine origin need be ascribed to that statement for it to be valued as holding great truth. Of course, the “more blessed” part seems to imply some sort of divine or supernatural favor for the act of giving. However, blessing can come from other sources. First, I think giving directly brings greater self-esteem to givers. Second, we can naturally expect giving to increase social solidity, that is, concern for the others in the group and cooperation in future efforts for common goals. Of course, this also might include direct recompense from those who received the gifts.

So this makes me think about the relationship between statements attributed to Jesus from the NT Gospels and other statements attributed to Jesus in other NT documents. The quote from Acts 20:35 is, of course, an example of such a proverb. However, there is not necessarily anything special about the statements and stories in the Gospels: they are also themselves farther removed from the origin of Christianity than the Pauline epistles. And Acts 20:35 actually is from a book that purports to be the second part of the Gospel of Luke. But the same kind of thing is claimed for epistles by other Christian writers.

I haven’t looked into these quotes beyond what I read in two books about the historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. There is so much to study about the historical situation and development of Christianity that it can get overwhelming. I plan to get to a full study of it all eventually, along with studies of significant episodes of United States history, economic history, and related concepts. Anyway, two books that provide a start for studying the possible “layers” in the Christian record of Jesus of Nazareth are Gary R. Habermas’s The Historical Jesus and Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle. Habermas takes the Christian apologetic position and defends the Christian tradition from claims of legendary development; Doherty presents a rather sensational theory of how all the claims of a historical Jesus could all be fabrications. I don’t recommend either view, but the books are great resources to get familiar with the different early source materials.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 5, 2012 10:52 am

    You’re perfectly right. It’s not possible for something that is true anyway to have a divine origin – the best that can be said here is that said truth have a divine recognition. No Christian would dispute the notion that God recognises the truth of certain moral propositions but to do this they must dispose of the idea that God is responsible for those truths.

    The problem is that Christians have to tie themselves in knots trying to reconcile the two, and fail dismally. As it was said in the FFF, “…ignore Euthyphro with a wave of the hand and walk right into it in the same breath”. They can’t avoid it.

    In the “Rick Perry disgusts me” thread there is a little spat at the end that illustrates this well. While Invictus quotes scripture to justify what most of us would call clearly immoral, Bou is appealing to the moral (that is, secular morality) to castigate Invictus. In the end, both resort to ad hominems, which is par for the course. Both fail miserably to get to the heart of the issue.

    And the issue is, and always has been, one of cognitivism vs. non-cognitivism. It’s interesting that the Christians in an important sense line themselves up on the side of oh_once and the non-cognitivists, failing to realise that a perfectly moral God and non-cognitivism can’t exist side-by-side, while cognitivism can exist independently.

    Good blog, by the way. Biblical research and criticism isn’t my thing, so it’s always good to dip in every now and then. Keep it up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: