THE ULTIMATE HERESIES PAGE
          
          by Yuri Kuchinsky
          
          
          _An Introduction_
          
          I have been studying biblical history for great many
          years. For about three years I have been active on the
          Internet in various biblical history discussion groups,
          taking part in discussion of current issues in the field
          with many professional scholars, many of them at the
          top of their field. All this time, I've considered myself as
          belonging to the liberal wing of the biblical studies
          community.
          
          Generally, our biblical scholarship professionals can be
          broadly divided into the liberals and the conservatives.
          The liberals, the broad mainstream of our academic
          community, are secular scholars who take great pains to
          stipulate that their scholarship and their faith, if any,
          should be separate. While many of them _are_ Christian
          believers of some sort or another, they nevertheless
          accept that the historical scholarship should be
          scientific, and should not suffer any interference from
          personal faith, which, of course, cannot really be
          understood as having much to do with science.
          
          Perhaps the ultimate expression of the liberal wing of
          biblical scholarship at this time is THE JESUS
          SEMINAR, a group of prominent scholars who
          investigate the problem of the Historical Jesus from the
          standpoint of scientific objectivity.
          
           (Click
          here to go to THE JESUS SEMINAR site) 
          
          The mainstream liberal scholarship has broadly
          accepted certain facts of biblical history, such as:
          
          -    the authors of our New Testament gospels are
          unknown; their current names were given to the gospels
          long after they were composed, and perhaps even
          somewhat arbitrarily. Where the gospels were
          composed is likewise unknown, although Syria is
          strongly suspected as the place of composition for most
          of them. The gospels themselves are composed over
          time based on previous sources, such as the "Q gospel".
          Certain parts of some gospels betray extensive editing
          over time.
          
          -    the historical accounts of the New Testament are
          not really historical as such, but rather they constitute,
          for the most part, legitimations of Christian faith of the
          later generations of believers -- the manuals of Christian
          instruction. Or, to put it in other words, the biblical
          histories can be considered by and large as "pious
          fictions".
          
          -    our biblical narratives are often confusing and
          contradictory. Historical critical method is necessary in
          order to try to determine the real history of the Christian
          movement. And often this can be done but imperfectly, as
          our reliable sources are fragmentary and few.
          
          The conservative wing of the biblical scholarship are of
          course the confessional scholars. While they also, for
          the most part, accept the necessity of scholarly
          objectivity in their work, or at least claim to do so, their
          work is much more about faith. Their writings are
          apologetic in nature, i.e. they tend to defend the
          traditional interpretations of Scripture handed down to
          the believers by the Church, or by the founders of their
          denominations. These are perhaps a minority in the
          academic community.
          
          It is curious how the general public is often unaware
          that the biblical studies in our time are mostly the
          preserve of liberals and agnostics. Indeed, the typical
          biblical scholar that I know is a secular humanist, and is
          not really interested in discussing the matters of faith too
          much.
          
          As I said, for many years I've considered myself as
          belonging to the mainstream liberal-secular tradition, the
          tradition of the Jesus Seminar, of Dominic Crossan,
          Burton Mack, and such other prominent authors. I have
          been rather sceptical about the conservative
          traditionalists; these children of the dogma appeared to
          me as rehashing endlessly the faith formulas that have
          been rehashed for hundreds of years previously. Their
          commitment to the historical study of the Bible, and to
          the scientific method, if any, always seemed to me skin-deep.
          
          While I still respect greatly the work of the liberal
          scholars, I have now come to the conclusion that these
          two camps, as I've perceived them, for the most part,
          are really just one camp. I've come to the conclusion
          that far from following the scientific method as they
          profess to, the mainstream liberal scholarship has really
          created for itself a new set of dogmas that, when looked
          at closely, are quite comparable to the faith
          commitments of the conservative scholars.
          
          So what are these "ultimate biblical heresies" that I'm
          talking about? Well, the main one, it seems to me, is the
          myth of the "monolithic unity of our texts". 
          
          Almost all contemporary scholars, whether liberal or
          conservative, accept broadly the principle of the
          "monumental textual unity" of the books of the New
          Testament. Yes, there are some exceptions, but these
          are few and far in between. 
          
          Perhaps it is only with the Gospel of John that the situation
          may be more nuanced. The view that it is of a more composite
          nature is quite widespread. While our scholars accept
          rather broadly that John betrays much editing and
          interpolation, we're very far from any sort of a
          consensus on how it was written over time. It is also
          accepted that the endings of Mark (there are believed to
          be perhaps three of them in various manuscripts) are
          problematic. But this is about it. Otherwise, it is broadly
          assumed that, for the most part, the texts of the gospels
          as we have them are "monolithic unities". They were
          composed all in one piece, and remained "textually
          frozen" up to our time. 
          
          This assumption, I believe, is grievously wrong,
          especially in the case of Mark's and Luke's Gospels.
          
          And now, we get to the Pauline writings, a very
          substantial part of the New Testament. The 14 Epistles
          that the New Testament itself attributes to Paul can
          generally be divided into three groups. 
          
          There are the 7 epistles that are generally seen as
          genuine writings of Paul; they are Rom, 1 Cor, 2 Cor,
          Gal, 1 Thes, Phil, Phlm. At the other end of this
          spectrum, there are the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tm, 2 Tm,
          Ti) that very few, if any, commentators accept as
          genuinely Pauline. These are certainly the work of
          Paul's followers. (Of course, there are still some
          conservative commentators who believe that all the 14
          supposedly Pauline Epistles were in fact authored by
          Paul, but these are very few indeed). And in the middle,
          there's a bit of a grey area. Epistles to the Hebrews,
          Colossians, and Ephesians, and the 2 Thes, are mostly
          seen by scholars as deutero-Pauline (i.e. written by the
          followers of Paul), but there are still some seemingly
          competent scholars who refuse to consider them so.
          Some good arguments can be made that parts of this
          middle group may indeed contain certain authentic
          passages borrowed from some genuine Pauline letters
          that did not survive in their entirety.
          
          In any case, at this time, in my experience, something
          like 99% of biblical scholars, both conservative and
          liberal, accept that the Historical Paul himself was the
          author of these seven epistles: Rom, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, Gal,
          1 Thes, Phil, Phlm. It is my view that in this area
          especially the liberal consensus is completely off base.
          The belief in the authenticity of the 7 "genuine letters of
          Paul" _in their entirety_ is, it seems to me, as much an
          item of faith as the belief in the Immaculate Conception.
          
          And recently I have found on the Net quite a few
          scholars who agree with me on this. Please visit their
          site. This is the website that has some of the really
          radical biblical criticism. It is so radical, few people even
          know about it yet.
          
          
          (Click here to go to The Journal of Higher Criticism site
          at Drew University.) 
          
          So what -- some might say. Paul himself did not write
          these Epistles, his followers did -- big deal. Well, it is a
          big deal. In the study of early Christianity it is a very big
          deal indeed. Because the Pauline literature is generally
          supposed to be written in the early 50s of our era, and
          thus it comprises the earliest Christian writings we
          possess. (The Gospels, Mark the earliest among them,
          are believed to have been written at least 20 years
          later.)
          
          And so, a very great deal hinges on when these Pauline
          writing were really written. Pick up any book dealing with
          early Christian history and see for yourself how much
          hinges on the reliability of the information found in the
          Pauline writings. If, as I propose, many of the passages
          in these 7 letters were authored and interpolated in the
          second century, long after Paul himself passed off from
          the scene, much in our understanding of early
          Christianity will need to be revised. 
          
          Anyone familiar with modern biblical New Testament
          interpretations will know that all modern scholars, both
          liberal and conservative alike, always quote Paul's
          writings without any second thoughts in regards to whether or
          not the passages quoted are really authentic. This is
          what I mean by scholarship based on faith rather than
          science.
          
          The second item I would like to bring up for discussion
          here is the true nature of the Gospel of Mark. Mark is
          our earliest Christian gospel. It provided the foundation
          for the writing of the other two Synoptic gospels,
          Matthew and Luke. It is generally accepted by both the
          conservative and the liberal scholars alike that Mark is a
          textual unity (with the exception of the endings, on which
          there are a few dissenting voices among scholars). The
          liberal consensus seems to be that Mark was written all
          in one piece sometime around 70 AD. This, I believe is
          highly questionable. I believe that the earlier, and a
          substantially different, version of Mark, what I call the
          proto-Mark (pMark), circulated widely in early Christian
          communities. At a later stage, this early version was
          substantially reworked and expanded to result in our
          present-day canonical Mark. How exactly, and why, this
          process happened is a very complex matter, and I will
          deal with this later. The answers in this area are
          certainly not all clear. But I have no doubt in my mind
          that this basically was what happened.
          
          None of what I said above is _really_ new. Detailed
          studies in this area are available. And yet none of those
          belonging to the contemporary biblical world (I mean
          something like 99.9%) have heard of any of this. Of this,
          I'm pretty sure -- for one thing, my experience on the
          Internet has given me a very good opportunity to gauge
          academic opinions on a wide variety of subjects. All
          these theories are so obscure that even the professional
          scholars of the Pauline literature, and of Mark, people
          who studied these matters all their lives, and wrote
          books on this -- even these scholars wouldn't know what
          I'm taking about right now. This is because the studies
          that I referred to above have been done, to a large
          extent, nearly a hundred years ago.
          
          Yes, how easily we assume that the progress in
          scholarship is always linear and direct... How easily are
          we seduced by this evolutionary idea that today scholars
          know more than they did yesterday, and that, likewise,
          tomorrow they will know more than they know today. I
          wish it were always so...
          
          Whatever the case may be, I have good reasons to
          believe that in biblical studies a substantial "foray
          into the wilderness" has taken place in the last couple or
          so of the scholarly generations. And our mainstream biblical
          scholarship is still out there, chasing up on those fleeting
	    visions and the mirages of the desert...
          
          (Of course, another example of such a "wrong track" of
          academic scholarship can be provided by my research in
          the area of transoceanic cultural contacts in ancient times
	    -- the other major parts of my two websites. You
          don't have to take my word for it, go to those files and
          see for yourself, if interested. It is well known that the
          academic scholarship of only 30 years ago or so was
          much more receptive to these ideas, compared to the
          climate prevailing in this field today.)
          
[Later addition to this article (April, 2000) -- It seems like in the
last year or so, the ice started to crack in American archaeology. An
awful lot of new research in this area has now begun to appear. See my
webpage for details.]

          I have come to this conclusion about contemporary
          liberal biblical scholarship after I discovered the work of
          the great French biblical scholar Alfred Loisy. How this
          discovery took place is perhaps traceable in the
          Crosstalk exchanges available on this webpage.
          
          Everything started with the discussion of the earliest
          versions of the eucharist (the Lord's Supper) in the New
          Testament. For some time, I've inclined to the view that
          the "Jewish type of the eucharist", found in the Didache,
          an early Christian manual of instruction, is very early.
          This eucharistic liturgy, or at least the parts of it that can
          be considered as the most ancient, talks about the
          sharing of the Communion in a way that is quite 
	    different from what we find in the canonicals.
          Eating the Host, in this version, stands for the future
          hope of humanity, for the regathering of the humanity in
          a better and happier Heavenly world. This version of the
          eucharist does not mention the rather morbid idea of
          celebrating the death of the Lord, and of consuming his
          flesh. I knew all this before, but I have never pursued
          the matter beyond this until recently. 
          
          My Crosstalk discussions in the Fall of 1997 moved me to
          examine in detail the various versions of the eucharist
          found in the New Testament, and to review the scholarly
          debates in this area. What I discovered was that there
          are two basic types of eucharist in the New Testament,
          the Markan (this one being quite close to the Didache
          eucharist), and the Lukan. And then there's the version
          of the eucharist in Paul's 1 Cor 11. On closer inspection,
          this one was amazingly close to the Lukan version. Was
          it possible that the writer of Luke copied his eucharist from
          Paul? But the scholars believe it very unlikely that Luke
          knew the writings of Paul! Or was it Paul who copied his
          eucharist version from Luke? But it is generally believed
          that Luke was written much later than Paul... So we
          have a conundrum here.
          
          One answer to this is to suppose that the 1 Cor 11
          eucharist passage was really not authored by Paul.
          Could this passage be a later liturgical formula, possibly
          borrowed from Luke (or from a common source), that
          some later editor inserted into the 1 Cor, an authentic
          Pauline Epistle? This was an answer that soon
          suggested itself to me. Seemed like a logical idea. So I
          went to the library to look up the standard commentaries
          on this Epistle. Surely someone should have suggested
          this idea before? Was I the first one to think of this? I
          somehow doubted it, since the idea seemed pretty
          obvious to me...
          
          But to my serious surprise, my initial investigations drew
          a blank. None of the standard commentaries that I
          consulted seemed to be aware of such a possibility.
          Mystified, I delved deeper into more commentaries. And
          this is where I came across the work of Alfred Loisy on
          the eucharist. His name came up in a footnote, and he
          indeed suggested the possibility that the 1 Cor 11:24,25
          verses were interpolated. Eureka!
          
          This, for me, was the beginning of a new journey
          indeed. I was aware of this scholar previously; his name
          still comes up in footnotes now and then, but only in a
          very cursory fashion. There was some big controversy
          with the Vatican. He got into some hot water way back
          when, almost a 100 years ago. That's as far I was aware
          of the existence of Alfred Loisy. And now it seemed like
          Loisy, back in the 20s and 30s, managed to figure out
          these troublesome textual relationships quite well, and
          explained all these things rather adequately. Of course I
          started to read more of Loisy at that point. And the more
          I read him, the more I liked him.
          
          And so, the idea for my new big research project was
          born...
          
          In this Introduction to my latest research, I only outline in
          the briefest way the process that led me to this new
          course in my biblical research. Much more needs to be
          said about Loisy, his life, and all his many theories. In
          his time, he wrote and published dozens of books.
          Some of the most important ones were translated into
          English, but they are all out of print at this time. (Only
          two of his books are in print currently, and these are not
          the ones where you would find much about his theories
          on the Pauline writings, or on the Gospel of Mark.)
          Something about his theories can be found in these
          Crosstalk postings. But my main work of bringing his
          research back to light, and of making his ideas available
          to modern readers, is still ongoing. I will be uploading
          my writings here by and by. 
          
          I hope my book, when it is ready, will find a good
          publisher. But in any case, much of my research will be
          made available on my webpage.
          
          Best wishes to all,
          
          Yuri.
                    
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