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erickmarkley

Cogitatio

Reflections on philosophy, theology and just observations on life.

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The first epistle of H. N. A crying-voyce of the holye spirit of loue. Translated out of Base-almayne into English. (1574)
Christopher Vitell Hendrik Niclaes
The Works of James Arminius, Volume 1
James Arminius
Politics, Law, and Morality: Essays by V.S. Soloviev
Vladimir Wozniuk, Vladimir S. Soloviev
Meditations on the Soul: Selected Letters
Marsilio Ficino
The Complete Poetry and Prose
David V. Erdman, William Blake, Harold Bloom
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (8 Volumes in 4)
Paul Edwards
Cambridge Platonist Spirituality
Charles Taliaferro
Wellsprings of Faith: The Imitation of Christ; The Dark Night of the Soul; The Interior Castle
Juan de la Cruz, Teresa of Ávila, Thomas à Kempis
Paul and the Stoics
Troels Engberg-Pedersen
Locke: Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
Peter Laslett, John Locke

This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity

This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity - Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. This book is so incredibly poor that it is a sad testament to the incompetence of the publishing world and the gullibility of a certain segment of the book buying public. Since I had taken the time to debate about this book (when I hadn't read much of it), I thought it only fair that I read it in total and dispute it thoroughly. This I intend to do with this review. It will be a bit long but it will be shorter than that over-long piece of propaganda. Reading the book was a trial but it was light enough reading that I was able to do it quickly.
Louis A Ruprecht with this book finds himself in the growing list of pseudo-scholars. What is pseudo-scholarship? Pseudo-scholarship is a form of propaganda totally uninterested in studying texts in and for themselves (as true scholarship does); it rather seeks to proselytize by cherry picking genuine scholarly theories and choice pieces of texts; while, ignoring all other texts that don't fit in the rhetorical scheme, or are contradictory to the purpose at hand. Some more or less genuine scholars may indulge in pseudo-scholarship from time to time; notable examples include Crossan, Pagels, Meyer, Ehrman etc. Generally they try to limit how far they venture into that maze of inflated self opinion and pseudo-religion. Most of the time the worst pseudo-scholars, such as Robert Eisenman, get very little support in scholarly circles for their theories. I don't know how much support Ruprecht gets but he is thoroughly in Eisenman territory. His writing is almost entirely based on rhetoric and the most ridiculous errors of logic that I have come across for some time. When he isn't telling blatant falsehoods, he vituperates and makes unsubstantiated claims. Before getting too far into quoting him and exposing his errors, a little background to New Testament scholarship is in order.
It is usually held by scholars that the sayings gospel Q and Mark are the oldest canonical gospels. John is thought to be the last. Matthew, Mark and Luke are called synoptics because they share much material. Matthew and Luke appear to share Mark's narrative and a common sayings source. Scholars refer to this theorized source as Q. Please note, and this is important, the preceding is a THEORY, not a fact. Is it logical to base a theory on unsubstantiated theory and then more theories on those, and more on those ad nauseum? No. Only people that are incredibly poor researchers do this and I will tell you why. If the foundational theory is proven wrong, all dependent theories are also wrong. Common sense, right? Apparently not to pseudo-scholars like Ruprecht. His sorry work of propaganda falls apart if his basis in the theory of Mark's earliness is proven wrong. Is there any proof that it is right? Not really. Matthew and Luke contain a narrative like Mark, but it isn't certain that it is Mark. Differences abound; notably Mark 4:26-29 is a parable not found in Luke or Matthew. Other differences occur that are usually down to variant words and letters, but do not amount to dramatic differences in meaning. These differences make it far from certain that Matthew and Luke used Mark. Is there manuscript evidence for the earliness of Mark? Nope. Would you like to know what the earliest New Testament manuscript is? John. That's right, it's John. That manuscript is numbered P52 and has been dated to around 125 AD (library.duke.edu). That means that John is significantly older than that. Almost certainly from the first century, since it is necessary that it was in circulation for some time to have even been preserved as a manuscript in Egypt. The earliest manuscript for Mark is at least 100 years later. That's a fact. So much for manuscript evidence. What about evidence from tradition? What did the early church say? The church fathers all agree that John's gospel is to be attributed to the disciple John. Papias and Polycarp were acquainted with John personally and heard him teach and carried down traditions about him. Irenaeus knew both Papias and Polycarp and gives witness to the authenticity of John's gospel; as do Clement, Tertullian, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Eusebius etc. They held that John was the last gospel written, but along with Matthew, was the only one written by hearers of Jesus. Matthew was said to have wrote a sayings gospel according to Papias; most likely what scholars call Q. Ruprecht wisely ignores church tradition because it holds that Mark never heard Jesus but John did. Ruprecht never discusses church tradition because, like all pseudo-scholars, he cherry picks information. What about internal evidence? Scholars from the 19th century held that Mark was early because it appears to be the simplest gospel with an undeveloped Christology, and was apparently the narrative source for Matthew and Luke. Of course, this isn't proof of anything. It's just a speculative theory. There are no manuscripts or traditions to support that theory. After the discovery of the dead sea scrolls most of that early New Testament scholarship needed to be rethought but it tenaciously held to outmoded ideas. The Qumran scrolls such as The Two Ways, The Community Rule and The Wicked and The Holy contain a very interesting tradition. They hold to a very rigid dualism between truth and falsehood; light and darkness; good and evil; death and life etc. The Didache is a very early Christian document; held by many scholars to be older than most of the New Testament, except for Paul's epistles. The Didache has that same dualism; so does the Epistle of Barnabas and the gospel of John. As well as Jewish Christian literature like the Ebionite Clementina. No other gospel shares that same dualism the way John does. According to tradition, John was an early follower of John the Baptist (John 1:35). John the Baptist was quite near the Qumran community. It is fairly evident that a continuity of Jewish tradition is found in John's gospel. Aside from it's kinship with Essenic Judaism and early Christian texts, John's gospel shows the most familiarity with the topography of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the temple. John had to have known what the temple and it's porticos looked like before it's destruction. Until relatively recently no one knew the porticos in John's gospel really existed. John knew it because he saw them. So much for the supposed facts of the earliness of Mark's gospel and the lateness of John's. Let's tackle Ruprecht.
Very early on Ruprecht let's his propagandistic colors show. He refuses to call John a gospel and wants to call it an evangel (page xii). Never mind that the words mean exactly the same thing, namely, good news. He does consider gnostic works gospels though (pg. 69). Contradictions like that doesn't prevent Ruprecht from his train wreck of asinine deductions and conclusions. He says there's no knowing what the term Christian and Christianity originally meant (pg. 4), but that doesn't stop him from saying that John corrupted it; whatever it is or was. He charges orthodox Christianity with heresy hunting (pg. 5), even though in the entire book he can't say what orthodoxy is. He claims Mark came first (pg. 99), but he also, laughably, claims that heresy came first (pg. 152). If Mark is heresy what is orthodoxy? If heresy is deviation from orthodoxy, which is what heresy means, what was orthodoxy before Mark? He doesn't say. He does claim John isn't orthodox though (pg. 69). All of this is anachronistic nonsense of course. Ruprecht engages in that a lot. Here's one of his more amusing nonsensical tautologies from page 7: "he [Mark] literally invented a new literary genre, the Christian gospel. And it was the invention of that genre that helped turn Christianity into a religion that was dependent on Jewish and Greek literary models but independent of Judaism and Hellenism." He says repeatedly that Mark based his gospel on Greek tragedy and yet paradoxically still believes it is the most authentically Jewish account. So his most early Jewish witness is really a Greek or Roman witness. We've already discussed John's clear Jewish propensities. Ruprecht says that John brought fear and not pity into Christianity (pg. 7-8) and later contradicts this and says that Mark brought fear and a new Christian compassion (pg. 95); in reality, Mark's Jesus castigates them for being afraid (Mark 4:35-41). Indulging in the logical fallacy equivocation is not below Ruprecht. He repeatedly says that Mark is the more compassionate gospel because it has pathos or suffering in it (pg. 23). Of course, pathos and compassion are in no way synonymous. Compassion is love. John's gospel uses the Greek equivalents of love over 40 times. Mark uses those words less than 10 times. Mark does use the word pathos while John does not. Explanation is in order. Time for another discursion in order to discuss the intent of these two gospel writers.
Mark's Jesus is painfully human indeed but Mark also recognizes His divinity. Mark has Him sleeping while a violent storm breaks out and all the apostles are afraid (4:35-41). Jesus rebukes the waves and they are silent. How many normal human beings can do that? John doesn't include this part of Mark and Ruprecht doesn't explain why he leaves out a portion of Mark that so utterly reinforces his take on Jesus. Mark uses the word Son Of Man the most and wants to focus on Jesus' humanity primarily but isn't unaware of His divinity as we've shown. Mark's depiction of the disciples is that they do not understand Jesus. Jesus also speaks in parables that are often ambiguous to them. Mark's Jesus is human literally and parabolically divine. John's Jesus is parabolically human and literally divine. The figurative undercurrent in Mark is made literal in John and the literal is made figurative. In the very beginning of John's gospel he presents the divine Logos and that is what he focuses on. John uses the divine "I am" statements more than the other gospel writers, even though they all use them to a degree. John makes plain the meaning of the parables in the synoptics. In order to reveal he must also conceal. He knows Jesus is a human being (John 1:14) but he wants to declare Jesus' divinity or His Spiritual nature openly; that entails obscuring the humanity. This is in line with the ideal of kenosis. Clement of Alexandria and Origen said that John's gospel was the Spiritual gospel. Indeed, in John the word spirit is used 17 times -all in the divine sense. Mark uses the word spirit 6 times in the divine sense and 11 in the demonic sense. John wanted to bring out the Spiritual undercurrent that is hinted at in the synoptics but wasn't made as plain there. He does this successfully and admirably. People like Ruprecht are carnal in thought, dead in spirit, rhetorical in speech and blind and deaf to truth. Christianity has always struggled to reconcile Jesus' divinity with His humanity. A balancing had to be maintained. Ruprecht offers nothing new. He struggles with the dichotomy because he is dead spiritually. It's that simple. All gospels agree on the basics of what the orthodox Christian church has taught, e.g. Christ's divinity and humanity; His death and resurrection; His teaching; His works of compassion etc. The textual variants are really pretty minor and have no effect on tradition. They only serve to allow the carnal minded to cast lots for Jesus' clothes. But as Isaiah said they will be ever hearing but never understanding.
Ruprecht claims that Mark's gospel ends in tragedy and the resurrection didn't happen (pg. 8, 25, 33, 75). This is patently false. Even in the uncontested portions of Mark the resurrection was predicted and happened (Mark 8:31-32; 14:8, 17-21; 16:6). Ruprecht doesn't mind a little lying in order to misrepresent Mark and bolster his case. He says that in Mark's gospel, Jesus doesn't want anyone to know He is the Messiah (pg. 8, 33), even though Jesus tells the Pharisees just this (14:61-62). Ruprecht consistently says that it was only the Romans (pg. 9, 19) who arrested Jesus and beat Him even though Mark says that the Jewish temple authorities did both (Mark 15:55, 65). Ruprecht's imaginary Markan Jesus basically tells some ambiguous parables and somehow gets crucified for it and doesn't resurrect even though He says that he would. Ruprecht is simply a Post-Modern Arian. He misrepresents John as holding that no Christian would ever suffer or shed a tear (pg. 11); this is quite false (John 15:18-16:2). He claims that the church refuses to see the suffering around it (pg. 12), even though the church has been almost solely responsible for hospitals, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other charities historically. Ruprecht consistently charges John with subverting Mark's gospel. What's his evidence? Jesus didn't pray in Gethsemane. That's it. That's his only evidence in the whole book. With that he slanders John again and again. As I've said before John knew Jesus was a human being with human emotion; he said that He was troubled in soul, but John wanted His divinity to overshadow His humanity in that instance. He wasn't attempting to subvert Mark, John said plainly that Jesus was troubled but He wanted to emphasize the Spiritual resolve of the Logos and His mission in order to give a balanced view of His complex nature; a nature that the other gospels didn't present as plainly as John wanted to.
Quite ridiculously Ruprecht claims Luke makes allusions to Homer and Greek tragedy (pg 43). On page 61 he claims that Mark gives no conclusion to Jesus' prayer even though Mark's prayer ends exactly the same way Matthew and Luke's does, with Jesus submitting to God's will. Any differences are purely semantic. Ruprecht simply lies and pretends Marks prayer doesn't end the same way. He slights John for having Jesus predict His own death (pg. 71) even though Mark does the same (8:31-32). He says that John isn't interested in showing how Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecies (pg. 71). This is another blatant falsehood. John does cites prophecy regularly regularly (e.g. 19:24, 28). Ruprecht lies when he can't obfuscate. He criticizes John for having Jesus say that Christians would be kicked out of synagogues (pg. 72) and once again Mark says the same (Mark 13:9). He claims John inspired prideful martyrdom (pg. 75), even though Christian tradition attributes that to the synoptics (e.g. Matthew 10:32-33). He claims some early Christians rejected John's gospel (pg. 76) and he provides not one shred of proof. Ruprecht takes long and pointless discursions in order to talk about Greek tragedy and Nietzsche. He could not prove the ridiculous idea that Mark was modeled on Greek tragedy. He says that John holds that people are too dumb to understand Jesus (pg. 105), when in actuality, and ironically, John holds them to be too blind, but in the case of Ruprecht I might agree. He claims that John doesn't believe Jesus is human (pg. 108) and this is of course easily proven false (John 1:14). He thinks pathos is the only genuine human emotion and ignores how many times John uses the word love. He repeatedly says that John is anti-jewish but on page 11 claims that the word Jews in John 4:22 is to be translated Judeans rather than Jews. He is hoping that the average reader won't know that Judaioi can be translated as either and he only translates it the way he does in order to bolster his weak theory. Ruprecht claims only John presents Jesus as the paschal lamb (pg. 117) when in fact all gospels do. He says that John loves no one but Jesus even though in John's gospel Jesus commands love of neighbor (13:35). He says that early Christianity had no coherent message (pg. 142); of course the Acts of the Apostles and the early church fathers give the lie to that supposition. He makes much of early church dissension and can only provide the example of disagreement on when to hold Easter celebration (149-150). He puts words into Luther's mouth (pg. 174). Ruprecht claims that Protestants don't know church history (pg. 155), but later says they do (pg. 179). He claims Luther was completely dependent on John when in fact in his disputes with the Anabaptists over the nature of the eucharist he sided with the synoptics over the Anabaptists' appeal to John. He makes a big deal about John not including a prayer that no disciple could have heard as they were all sleeping when it happened, but he passes over in silence the fact that John also doesn't include the communion part of the last supper. He doesn't discuss Q. Ruprecht ignores Paul's letters in large part, even though they are all held to be earlier than Mark. He claims that the resurrection really didn't happen because he believes Mark didn't include it. I have already shown that that is a lie; and on top of this, Paul's letters attest to the tradition of Jesus' resurrection that it was a part of the earliest traditions about Jesus; Paul's uncontested epistles are agreed to be older than Mark by scholars. Ruprecht says that the Nicene creed was based on heresy, not orthodoxy (pg. 151), even though it can be proven that all of the early church fathers believed in the traditions behind the creed, even before it was codified. His bibliography is abysmal and full of other examples of pseudo-scholarship.
To sum up. Louis Ruprecht is a propagandist and rhetorician. He wants to recreate Christianity the way he thinks it should be. In order to do this, he doesn't mind lying, misrepresenting, misconstruing, belittling, libeling, equivocating, double-speaking, cherry picking and using numerous other low tactics in his attack on orthodox Christianity and Johannine tradition. He isn't a scholar quite simply. I find it incredibly sad that people can be taken in by books like this. They are really not worth the paper they are printed on.