Guide for Studying the New Testament Gospels as a Scientific Document:
The Primacy of Stewardship: The Handbook for Christians Who Believe in Democracy
by John Manimas
Shorter Guide: The Two Principles and the Five Questions
A) The Gospel message is about scientific facts, not about morality;
B) The purpose of the Gospel message is to tell us what we need to know, what we need to know in order to survive and thrive as a species;
1) What is the kingdom of heaven?
2) What is the main theme or main idea conveyed by the parables?
3) Why are there so many parables about good servants and bad servants?
4) What do all the good servants have in common?
5) What do all the bad servants have in common?
The One Obstacle: The doctrine established in the human mind that if God speaks to us the subject matter determined by God to be of the greatest importance to us must be moral lessons and not scientifically factual information.
Longer List of Guiding Principles:
1) I am not studying the Gospels in order to decide who Jesus was;
2) I am not studying the Gospels in order to learn about Christian morality or join a church or become a Christian;
3) I am not studying the Gospels in order to adopt some or all of the moral teachings that are conveyed in the Gospels;
4) During my study, I will make my best effort to set aside the traditional interpretation that Jesus Christ was a moral philosopher who was teaching morality;
5) During my study, I will keep in mind that my purpose is to discover the scientific information that Jesus was teaching or may have been teaching, and I will persist in relating every passage and parable to modern science by continually asking the question: "If this is science, what is the scientific content that is being taught?"
6) During my study, I will keep my mind open to the possibility that Jesus was teaching evolution, and that survival of the good steward is survival of the fittest. I will keep in mind that John Manimas wrote The Primacy of Stewardship in order to invite me to consider this possibility, because it may be the correct understanding of Jesus' mission.
Steps in the process of setting aside morality and receiving scientific information:
Step 1: Make the simple observation that if Jesus were God, or a superior being, it does not follow necessarily that such a being, even a Supreme Being, would deem moral lessons to be the most important information that we humans needed for our benefit. Humans naturally possess a sense of fairness, justice, right and wrong. Either a Supreme Being or superior being, being healthy, reasonable and benevolent, would most likely deem our greatest need for information to be to understand who and what we are and the most important factual realities of our situation in the real, physical universe.
Step 2: Deal with the identity of Jesus as a personal decision. First look at what Jesus said when asked if he was The Messiah. Then look at the five possible explanations for who Jesus was and why and how he possessed special knowledge.
1) Are you the Messiah we are looking for?
My book, The Primacy of Stewardship: The Handbook for Christians Who Believe in Democracy, is unique for many reasons, one of which is that I restrict my focus and purpose upon the goal of evaluating the teachings of the Gospel "message" itself, without getting bogged down in disputes over the true identity of Jesus. I stick to the issue of whether the teachings of Jesus are scientifically credible. To be fair to Jesus, and treat him with the same courtesy that we would any other person, let's ask him who he is and hear his response.
When the disciples asked Jesus how to distinguish between a true prophet (teacher, advisor, spiritual guide or scientist) and a false prophet (Matthew 7), he said "By their fruits you will know them," which means that Jesus taught us to evaluate or judge a person by the results (fruits) of their work or of their ideas or of the programs or projects they design and implement.
When John the Baptist sent a small group of disciples to talk to Jesus and ask him "Are you the one we are looking for [the Messiah], or should we keep looking?" (Matthew 11) Jesus did not respond by saying, "Yes, I am the Messiah." He said to the delegation or "deputation" from John: "Report to John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them [the poor are educated without being charged a fee]." Each person must decide for themselves who or what they believe Jesus is, but this is the statement made by Jesus himself about who he is.
2) The Five Possible Sources of the Message in the Gospels:
This means that the source of the Gospels does not in itself necessarily confirm the validity of the message. However, the source is important. Still, we do not need to establish the source beyond reasonable doubt in order to proceed to examine the message in a scientific manner. Toward the purpose of having us study the Gospels scientifically, let's say that the Gospels are a message that is probably an important message, and that we do not know the source precisely, but we can list five possible sources:
One: Jesus alone, charismatic person and profoundly skilled philosopher and observer of human behavior, who by himself provides the parables and wisdom that constitute the entire message that we have received as the Gospels.
Two: Jesus not alone, but still a charismatic person and profoundly skilled philosopher and observer of human behavior, who by himself with a special educational and training experience, provides the parables and wisdom that constitute the entire message that we have received as the Gospels. This means he probably traveled and studied and practiced during the eighteen years of his "absence" (from age 12 to 30) in many lands, possibly Egypt, Persia, India, Greece, Rome, and possibly even China, Tibet and parts of North Africa such as Ethiopia.
Three: Jesus not alone, but still a charismatic person and profoundly skilled philosopher and observer of human behavior, who by himself with a special educational and training experience, provides the parables and wisdom that constitute the entire message that we have received as the Gospels. This means he probably traveled and studied and practiced during the eighteen years of his "absence" (from age 12 to 30) in many lands, possibly Egypt, Persia, India, Greece, Rome, and possibly even China, Tibet and parts of North Africa such as Ethiopia. And further, thirdly, the body of knowledge he came to master -- the message -- was not the result of any single ethnic or national tradition or sect but was in fact the accumulated record of wisdom and knowledge from the Gnostics and Greeks and Eastern cultures which represented a universal collection of the wisdom and knowledge of humankind to date. This option best explains the universal quality of the Gospel message that lifts it above the traditional sectarian or tribal religion of the Hebrews, even though Jesus was biologically and by cultural heritage a Hebrew.
Four: Jesus was a messenger from a superior extraterrestrial humanoid species that was sent on a mission to provide the human species with important information about what it means to be a technological animal, or intelligent species, and what are the traits and obligations and the possible destinies of such a species on a water planet like Earth.
Five: Jesus was God, or the Son of God and the Holy Spirit in a Holy Trinity, and in any case Jesus was essentially the "incarnation" of the divinity that created the universe and came to us in the form of a human being, Jesus, in order to tell us what we needed to know, or to tell us what He, God, considers to be good behavior and bad behavior so that we could be loved and approved by God instead of being sent to bed without dinner or sent to Hell without any hope of salvation and reconciliation with God.
In support of freedom of religion and with respect for one's rights as an individual, each reader is invited to make their own decision about who Jesus was, or is. The purpose and format of The Primacy of Stewardship is restricted to examination of the Gospels -- whatever the source -- in order to formulate a conclusion as to whether the teachings in the Gospels are credible. The question is: Is there science in the Gospels? The answer is: The Primacy of Stewardship according to the thinking of John Manimas Medeiros. The Primacy of Stewardship is what John Manimas hears Jesus teaching, and it is science, not morality.
John Manimas, August 2010
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