spiritual writings | retreat center directory

You're invited to visit our sister site DanJoseph.com, a resource site
featuring articles on spirituality, psychology, and A Course in Miracles.

Home | Writings | World | Stephen Mitchell | Gospel part 3 | back   
Selections from The Gospel According to Jesus by Stephen Mitchell, Copyright 1991 by Stephen Mitchell. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"But Jefferson was morally shocked to realize that the words of Jesus had been added to, deleted, altered, and otherwise tampered with as the Gospels were put together."

Stephen Mitchell, The Gospel According to Jesus, Part Three

Jefferson's robust honesty is always a delight, and never more so than in the Adams correspondence. The two venerably ex-presidents, who had been allies during the Revolution, then bitter political enemies, and who were now, in their seventies, reconciled and mellow correspondents, with an interest in philosophy and religion that almost equaled their fascination with politics -- what a pleasure it is to overhear them discussing the Gospels sensibly, in terms that would have infuriated the narrow-minded Christians of their day. But Jefferson, too, called himself a Christian. "To the corruptions of Christianity," he wrote, "I am indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wanted anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he claimed no other." It is precisely because of his love for Jesus that he had such contempt for the "tricks" that were played with the Gospel texts.

Tricks may seem like a harsh word to use about some of the Evangelists' methods. But Jefferson was morally shocked to realize that the words of Jesus had been added to, deleted, altered, and otherwise tampered with as the Gospels were put together. He might have been more lenient if he were writing today, not as a member of a tiny clear-sighted minority, but in an age when textual skepticism is, at last, widely regarded as a path to Jesus, even by devout Christians, even by the Catholic church. For all reputable scholars today acknowledge that the official Gospels were compiled, in Greek, many decades after Jesus' death, by men who had never heard his teaching, and that a great deal of what the "Jesus" of the Gospels says originated not in Jesus' own Aramaic words, which have been lost forever, but in the very different teachings of the early church. And if we often can't be certain of what he said, we can be certain of what he didn't say.

back to index ->