## Jesus Christ: A Lunatic, Liar, or Lord? The Logic of Lewis's Trilemma

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I've been reading the NT lately and I agree with Lewis's point. It's a shame that so many in this thread have tried to bypass it by saying insubstantial excuses along the lines of "oh well we don't really know whether JC existed" or "well how do we know those are the real quotes?" We're philosophers here, give the document a bit of a charity. It wouldn't even matter if the person of Immanuel Kant never existed if we have his work. We'd just deal with the ideas. That's how we should treat the ideas in the NT.
My thoughts exactly. Excellent point on Kant. What really matters are the underlying concepts conveyed by the words attributed to Jesus while He walked the Earth.

Also what I love about JC is how he says in Mark "I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners." The sinful Jews are on the bottom of the totem pole so why not jump ship?

Jesus came to call sinners to righteousness much like the later OT prophets. God wants loyalty. Loyalty entails being righteous. The righteous do not sin. According to the gospel preached by Jesus, salvation, living in the Kingdom of God, eternal life all require that one be righteous.

Of course, Jesus also conveyed a different understanding from the OT as to what is and what is not righteous.
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Evidently you're going to continue to ignore what I write in order to go off on irrational rants. More's the pity. You're free to pull it together at anytime.
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Jesus came to call sinners to righteousness much like the later OT prophets. God wants loyalty. Loyalty entails being righteous. The righteous do not sin. According to the gospel preached by Jesus, salvation, living in the Kingdom of God, eternal life all require that one be righteous.

Of course, Jesus also conveyed a different understanding from the OT as to what is and what is not righteous.

Judaism and Christianity understand righteousness differently. Judaism understands righteousness through the lens of ethical conduct (i.e. action.) I am not quite familiar with how Christians understand the term.

Judaism has always been a religion focused on action over belief (or more generally it prioritizes the external over the internal.) If Jesus was initially preaching within Jewish communities his focus on the sinners is brilliant because the righteous believe that they're already saved due to their good deeds. The Jewish sinners have nothing to lose especially if they're already low on the social totem pole in addition to bleak afterlife prospects. His focus on them is brilliant.

It's still not entirely clear to me how one is saved under Christianity.
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As we all know, the logical disjunction (OR/$\lor$) is inclusive; we can't really rule out the possibility that Jesus was all three - a lying, lunatic Lord!

:snicker:
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More obfuscation.

You are unable to explain the meaning of what Jesus is alleged to have said in this passage from John. So much for your "extraordinary" understanding of the teachings of Jesus.

There is a classic comedy theme that goes all the way back to the Greek comic poets. It is about what ensues when someone wildly overestimates their own abilities. Thanks for the laughs.
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Judaism and Christianity understand righteousness differently. Judaism understands righteousness through the lens of ethical conduct (i.e. action.) I am not quite familiar with how Christians understand the term.

Judaism has always been a religion focused on action over belief (or more generally it prioritizes the external over the internal.) If Jesus was initially preaching within Jewish communities his focus on the sinners is brilliant because the righteous believe that they're already saved due to their good deeds. The Jewish sinners have nothing to lose especially if they're already low on the social totem pole in addition to bleak afterlife prospects. His focus on them is brilliant.

It's still not entirely clear to me how one is saved under Christianity.

Just so you know, I am not and have never been a "Christian".

Christianity has the gospel taught by Paul as its foundation rather than the gospel preached by Jesus. Perhaps the following will help shed light on a key difference:
"In the teachings of Christ, religion is completely present tense: Jesus is the prototype and our task is to imitate him, become a disciple. But then through Paul came a basic alteration. Paul draws attention away from imitating Christ and fixes attention on the death of Christ The Atoner. What Martin Luther. in his reformation, failed to realize is that even before Catholicism, Christianity had become degenerate at the hands of Paul. Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ. Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely turning it upside down. making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ"

My understanding is that the above quote comes from Soren Kierkegaard, though I've never confirmed it. Here too what's of importance are the concepts conveyed. I should also add that while Kierkegaard "fixes attention" on "imitating Christ", the gospel preached by Jesus "fixes attention" on understanding, believing, keeping and ultimately "abiding" in the words spoken by Jesus while He preached His gospel.

So, I was speaking of how the gospel preached by Jesus views righteousness and salvation rather than the views of "Christianity".

"Keeping" and "abiding" in Jesus' words focuses on "ethical conduct (i.e. action)". They are righteous. The righteous NEVER commit sin. "Abiding" in His word connotes actually "living" His words. Another way to think of it is that Jesus calls everyone to become "one with God" as He was "one with God". The focus increasingly becomes on producing more and more "good deeds" so to speak.
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It often goes unnoticed how polemical the gospels are in response to each other. In addition, there were the debates over canonical NT texts and Council at Nicaea, which debated the ontological status of Jesus.

I'm not familiar with this first topic.

Sure, and there were debates over canonical OT texts as well. Man chooses what is canon. Not everything in the canon is absolutely essential or of equal importance. Some books are more authoritative than others.

Christianity has the gospel taught by Paul as its foundation rather than the gospel preached by Jesus.

You seem to be talking about Christianity from a more modern social perspective. From a theological and philosophical perspective I see nothing wrong with a Christianity that clings to the word of Jesus and disregards those of Paul. One could hold that view and still call oneself a Christian. I'm lukewarm on Paul but he was undoubtedly influential but I don't think anyone can call Paul infallible. I'm familiar with anti-Paul views but I don't hate the man. I'd be interested to know in what way he perverts the word of Jesus. Your dispute is with the compilers of the canon.
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I'd be interested to know in what way he perverts the word of Jesus.

Yeshua, the apocalyptic reformer becomes Jesus, Son of God whose death and resurrection "saves" you under Paul. That's it in a nutshell.

My speculation is Yeshua the man was a moderate sensation as a miracle-worker (mainly healer) in the Galilee, a student of John the Baptist, and probably had some ties with Pharisees (mainly of a Hillel-influenced variety). He may have even learned about Prophets and Law through Pharisees (probably the only ones in the Galilee with that kind of knowledge and literacy of Hebrew proper and not just Aramaic), who knows. He had disagreement with (other?) Pharisees, but picked up the apocalypticism of groups like the Essenes and pre-Zealots (Zealots as a party did not arise until much closer to the start of the Jewish-Roman War of 66 CE).

Paul did not know Yeshua. Rather, he knew of him and claimed to have a revelation on the road to Damascus where the already dead Jesus spoke to him and told him the "real" version of what his death and resurrection meant. To Paul, his life wasn't even that important. Rather, it was that his death was a replacement for the Torah, thus introducing mystery-cult ideas into the movement and putting it further away from its original roots in Jesus/John the Baptist's/James? (the brother of Jesus) interpretation of Mosaic law.
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I'm just impressed by JC's teachings. It's not his apocalyticism that is salient for me. His social teachings are quite different from Jewish ethical teachings. The teachings in the gospels are very different from Pirkei Avot. He takes (?) maybe one line from Hillel but then provides a stronger and more aesthetic formulation of it (as it typical of Jesus his teachings are very demanding.) I actually prefer his formulation over Hillel's.

Pirkei Avot is a compilation of Jewish ethical teachings from around year 0. I recommend it and the teachings are sensible, often practical. The ethical/social teachings of Jesus are a different animal. In one stanza you have him yelling at a tree while in the next he's preaching very classy, advanced social behavior. He has one definitive vision of what society should be and goes all in with it. I think Jesus would have killed it with woman if he wanted to. In short the OT often presents what is justified; Jesus presents the ideal that one should execute if social conditions are right (turning the other cheek will do you no good in a Mad Max world). It's the combination of brilliance juxtaposed by seeming insanity that draws me in.

For me the jury is still out for Paul. He is a man and therefore not infallible. We could save a discussion on him for another time as I have already matched your length.
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Man chooses what is canon ... Some books are more authoritative than others.

The Church Fathers, on their own authority decided what books were authoritative. For some scholars the concern is with texts that were excluded, texts that were condemned, declared heretical, and banned. The Gospel of Thomas is quite different than the canonical gospels. It consists of sayings of Jesus.

I'd be interested to know in what way he perverts the word of Jesus

The problem with this is that Paul's influence is all over the gospels, both those that are sympathetic and those that are antithetic. Unless it can be determined what Jesus actually said we cannot say what is the word of Jesus. Here we return to the intertextual disputes and the suppression of texts based on self-appointed authority of the Church Fathers.

But not everyone is concerned with such things. For some it is simply a matter of the sayings that resonate with them, regardless or alleged authenticity. I recommend you read the Gospel of Thomas. Translations are available free online.
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↪ThinkOfOne

You seem to be talking about Christianity from a more modern social perspective. From a theological and philosophical perspective I see nothing wrong with a Christianity that clings to the word of Jesus and disregards those of Paul. One could hold that view and still call oneself a Christian. I'm lukewarm on Paul but he was undoubtedly influential but I don't think anyone can call Paul infallible. I'm familiar with anti-Paul views but I don't hate the man. I'd be interested to know in what way he perverts the word of Jesus. Your dispute is with the compilers of the canon.

Sure, one could hold that view and call oneself Christian, but Christianity, as the word is commonly understood, does not have the gospel preached by Jesus as its foundation. The underlying concepts are worlds apart. It would likely lead to misunderstanding.

As to the dispute being with the compilers of the canon, seems like the compilers of the canon determined would have chosen what is consistent with beliefs already held. Beliefs based on the epistles of Paul and the other books of the NT which were already influenced by Paul.

As to the corruption of the words of Jesus, that's a really large topic. So let's narrow it to one aspect of the gospel preached by Jesus: The Righteous vs the Unrighteous.

According to the gospel preached by Jesus:
The righteous do not commit sin. They are not "sinners". They do not "do evil".
The unrighteous commit sin. They are "sinners". They "do evil".

The righteous are considered to have "life".
The unrighteous are considered to be "dead".

It is crucial to note that this is a strict dichotomy. An individual is considered to be either righteous or unrighteous. There is no overlap between the two. There are no partly righteous and partly unrighteous individuals.

Some of the unrighteous make a show of "acting righteously". Jesus calls them "whitewashed tombs" or even "wolves in sheep's clothing". Righteous looking on the outside. Corrupt on the inside.
They may do many "good deeds". Jesus does not consider their "good deeds" to be good.

Jesus "came not to call the righteous, but to call the sinners (unrighteous) to repentance". Jesus calls the unrighteous to make themselves righteous.
Note that Jesus speaks of there being those who are righteous for whom He did not come.
Those who have made themselves righteous are considered to have been "resurrected" from death unto life. They have been "raised up". They have been "born from above". They have been "saved".
Note that the "resurrection" is figurative rather than literal.
"Repentance" entails making oneself righteous. Anything short of this is not true repentance.

Only the righteous receive eternal life, live in the Kingdom of God, etc.

There is a lot that needs to be unpacked in what's been sketched out above. Hopefully you'll give it a thorough reading. Let's discuss it, then I'll move onto the corrupting influences of Paul. Comments? Questions?
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Unless it can be determined what Jesus actually said we cannot say what is the word of Jesus. Here we return to the intertextual disputes and the suppression of texts based on self-appointed authority of the Church Fathers.

I'm new to NT, but for me I just accept that there's some things we'll never know, such as what Jesus's last words on the cross were -- especially if there's contradictions between gospels. I'm more focused on his general ethical/social teachings, particularly ones that appear in several Gospels + gThomas. If the teaching appears in multiple places I think we can say with a high degree of confidence that JC preached it. There do appear to be common threads. If something is mentioned only once I would tend to view it as less authoritative. It's similar to the Hebrew Bible -- if something is mentioned several times it's likely of greater importance.
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Jesus paints an ideal. Perhaps in an ideal world the righteous among us, with their pure hearts and proper means and perfect environment, never sin -- but in the actual world "all [have] sinned" (Romans 5:12). We see the universality of sin in the OT too; King David is as righteous as a king can be but he is not perfect. I consider David's moral imperfection one of the core truths of the OT that no one is perfect. I see Jesus's strength as a visionary. It's like he paints a picture for us and we run towards it despite the difficulties of the world.

I guess in this sense I'm somewhat sympathetic to Paul in his view that the material world brings us down, and it even seem to have perhaps vague roots in JC: "the flesh is weak, but the spirit is willing." I find Paul to be a complex figure. Did he ever demand his teachings be treated as authoritative or was he just writing letters with his ideas that were later established as authoritative by the compilers of canon?
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If the teaching appears in multiple places I think we can say with a high degree of confidence that JC preached it.

It is generally assumed that in such cases there was a common source or sources, such as Q, from which the gospel stories were taken. Whether the source was Jesus himself is another matter.

During the early Jesus movement writing gospels was a common practice. They were based in large part on inspiration, what was believed to be the indwelling of spirit. The Church Fathers, seeking to establish a unified Catholic or universal Church, put an end to that.
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Did he ever demand his teachings be treated as authoritative or was he just writing letters with his ideas that were later established as authoritative by the compilers of canon?

In both letters to the Corinthians, he presents the Spirit he has introduced to the congregations as higher than the law required for participation in Jewish communities.
Your question goes to the larger result of Paul only knowing Jesus through visions but claiming to be a witness at the same time.
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Have you had a chance to read alternative translations of the New Testament that have a better command of the Greek originals? I'm thinking of works like David Bentley Hart's version, as a for instance.
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Many years ago I took a course to learn Greek (I think it was soon after the gospels were written), but soon after my attention way pulled in a different direction and did not practice enough to become proficient. I forgot most of what I learned. I did purchase the Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon and was able to consult it to look up terms and phrases that seemed important.

Now I usually use biblehub.com and biblegateway.com . They provide several different translations, including Young's Literal Translation. Bible Hub also has a tab that gives you the Greek term and English together as well as a concordance and commentaries.
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Jesus paints an ideal. Perhaps in an ideal world the righteous among us, with their pure hearts and proper means and perfect environment, never sin -- but in the actual world "all [have] sinned" (Romans 5:12). We see the universality of sin in the OT too; King David is as righteous as a king can be but he is not perfect. I consider David's moral imperfection one of the core truths of the OT that no one is perfect. I see Jesus's strength as a visionary. It's like he paints a picture for us and we run towards it despite the difficulties of the world.

I guess in this sense I'm somewhat sympathetic to Paul in his view that the material world brings us down, and it even seem to have perhaps vague roots in JC: "the flesh is weak, but the spirit is willing."

What a curious response.

"I'd be interested to know in what way he perverts the word of Jesus."

My post was in order to begin to fulfill that request. In order to show how Paul "perverts the word of Jesus", it is logical to first establish what the word of Jesus says. My post was in order to do that.

Whether or not you believe Jesus is a different matter.

Whether or not Paul believed Jesus is a different matter.
Even more illogically, how is it not wrongheaded for you to cite Paul in support of your unbelief, given the context?

Also you've taken ""the flesh is weak, but the spirit is willing" out of context.
Matthew 26
“Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
In context, it's a reminder to be vigilant.

What's more, even IF no one has never sinned, how does that demonstrate that no one is capable of ceasing to commit sin?"

Kierkegaard was correct in saying, "Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ. Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely turning it upside down. making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ".
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"Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ. Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely turning it upside down. making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ". - Kierkegaard

I think a discussion about the overall theme of the New Testament would be interesting. Yes, Paul acted as Jesus's "spokesman" who may have acted as if he had gotten the Good News better than Sts. Peter or John did. However what's interesting about St. Paul is that he puts an emphasis on the subjective human experience of what Christlikeness really is. For example:

"But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)

"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?" (Colossians 2:20)

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)

The overall theme of the New Testament is in my opinion a rebellion against nihilism and Paul definitely gets into that. This rings true in the gospels; in the gospels Jesus says "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). But I feel some fellow Christians forget what the Christianity of the New Testament really is. In the era of nihilism that we live in it would do people some good to look at Christianity not as a fear mongering religion; believe me I cannot stand some clergy that preach fear from the pulpit. New Testament Christianity is that the individual ultimately stands alone before God searching for answers in an imperfect world that doesn't make much sense. To give a take on most modern "Christians" who either reduce everything to "being a nice person" or fall in love with an organization (i.e. calling oneself a Traditionalist Catholic, being a diehard follower of Benny Hinn or Franklin Graham, etc), Kierkegaard wrote in Attack Upon Christendom the following:

"The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism – no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity with a dash of sugar. In every way it has come to this – that what one now calls Christianity is precisely what Christ came to abolish."
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"Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ. Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely turning it upside down. making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ". - Kierkegaard

Most interesting. — Ms. Marple

Me: Most unfortunate.

What made kierkegaard suspicious I wonder? He saw something was not quite right in the accounts of Jesus' deeds & words in scriptures. He's, sadly/not, quite dead.

"The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism – no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity with a dash of sugar. In every way it has come to this – that what one now calls Christianity is precisely what Christ came to abolish."

All fires, no matter how vast or how intense, will go out in due course of time. The Christianity of today maybe the dying embers of a once magnificent flame that lit up the world. A passing fad, that's what everything is - they're all the rage one day and just a has-been the next. Fashion, metaphorically speaking.

Panta rhei. — Heraclitus

Nevertheless, Christianity seems to be going strong, it is the largest religious denomination in the world. Part of the reason why could be that it has adapted to the times and has become "the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity with a dash of sugar." Felix culpa (the fall saves).

God moves in a mysterious way. — William Cowper
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It is crucial to note that this is a strict dichotomy. An individual is considered to be either righteous or unrighteous. There is no overlap between the two. There are no partly righteous and partly unrighteous individuals.

What if someone who is righteous stumbles? Is this precluded when you claim?:

The righteous NEVER commit sin.

But presumably it is possible if one must remain vigilant because the flesh is weak.

If someone who is righteous does stumble are they then unrighteous? And if they repent are they then once again righteous? Is there something like a three strike rule?

The problem is with your strict dichotomy:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.(1 John 1:8-9)

If the righteous NEVER sin then none of us are righteous. It is, according to 1 John, not through us but by forgiveness that we are without sin. John is here closer to Paul than to Matthew or Mark.
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The overall theme of the New Testament is in my opinion a rebellion against nihilism and Paul definitely gets into that.

Some regard Paul's teachings as a form of nihilism. For example, your quote above:

"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?" (Colossians 2:20)

As in many other places, Paul is contrasting the natural world, the cosmos, with the spiritual life promised.

... it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body; there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body ... (1 Corinthians 15:44)

The problem is, the promise was not fulfilled, as he had expected, during his lifetime or in the next generation or in any generation since then.

Another example. Paul claimed that man is a slave to sin, powerless and in need of God's grace in order to be saved.
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In the spirit of what I quoted from Kierkegaard, seems like it calls for instead is an analysis of how the "gospel" of Christianity differs from the gospel preached by Jesus. How it is the " the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ".

The gospel preached by Jesus can be found in the words attributed to Jesus from the beginning of His ministry through His crucifixion as documented across the four gospels: Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

Some years ago, I had a series of discussions with a retired pastor regarding the gospel preached by Jesus. As part of those discussions, I noticed that he would often force Jesus' words into the gospel taught by Paul and others influenced by Paul - no matter how awkward the fit. He acknowledged that he did so. So I issued him the following challenge: that he set aside his beliefs and read the words of Jesus as if the rest of the NT did not exist. To allow the words spoken by Jesus to speak for themselves. He said that he didn't think himself capable of doing so. Do you think yourself capable? If so, are you willing to work through analysis of how the "gospel" of Christianity differs from the gospel preached by Jesus.
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Rather than discuss this here I will create a new discussion thread for the topic. Interested to get into what the real gospel could be (or is).
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Looking forward to it. After you've created the new thread, please post a note here.
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I broadly agree with your take on the Jesus gospel. How did Paul corrupt that message?

It is generally assumed that in such cases there was a common source or sources, such as Q, from which the gospel stories were taken. Whether the source was Jesus himself is another matter.

It seems we're always taking some leap of faith whenever we view history. Maybe the source was Jesus but the teaching was misheard or miswritten. Or maybe the source was not Jesus but it was remembered perfectly. I do appreciate how the Church fathers allowed contradictions such as Jesus's last words to make it in. You've certainly studied this area more than me: Do you think there any teachings in other gospels that you think were intentionally barred from canon or teachings that contradict major teachings in the synoptic gospels? Thank you for directing me to gThomas.
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↪ThinkOfOne I broadly agree with your take on the Jesus gospel. How did Paul corrupt that message?

First let me know what you found questionable as to it being a part of Jesus' message.

Also, just how familiar are you with the teachings of Paul? For some reason I was thinking that you had a reasonably firm grasp on the teachings of Paul and had ideas about what the Pauline message was about.
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1. Certum est quia impossibile.

2. Credo quia absurdum
— Tertullian

Essentially, I believe it because it is a lie!
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Do you think there any teachings in other gospels that you think were intentionally barred from canon or teachings that contradict major teachings in the synoptic gospels? Thank you for directing me to gThomas.

Here is a nice brief overview from the perspective of five scholars. At the bottom there is a link to a statement by
Another scholar.

One thing that emerges is that the canon has more to do with the preferences of the Christian communities themselves than with any attempt to establish historical accuracy. This is an important point that is not well understood. The standards and practices of contemporary historians were not the standard practices of gospel writers. The "true" teachings of Jesus did not mean a historical determination of what he actually said and did. It is rather revealing the meaning of his teaching as they understood it, which meant the creation of accounts (logoi) about what he said and did.
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New discussion forum is up titled "The Real Meaning of the Gospel."
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