Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything header image 2

Who cares if Jesus thought the earth was flat?

September 2nd, 2007 · Posted by Who Knows? · 10 Comments

I cannot say Jesus did think the earth was flat, Aristotle provided observational evidence for a spherical earth as early as 330 BCE, and this knowledge was apparently widespread by late antiquity. (There are a number of myths in circulation, e.g. that Christopher Columbus had to convince people at the council of Salamanca that the earth was not flat[1].) As such, for all we know, Jesus might have known the earth is not flat.

I’m sure I can safely say Jesus thought the sun revolved around the earth though, or otherwise didn’t give it much thought, being concerned with “more important” things? (He was more active in the political and social scene, obviously.) And what does it matter? He certainly didn’t know quantum physics or the proof to Fermat’s last theorem…

Had Jesus been born today, I’m personally convinced he would accept evolution, as I’m convinced he would accept science, being so concerned about truth. Of course, opinions about Jesus differ greatly. Some may even speculate Jesus might have been an atheist had he been born today. Who knows, and what difference does it make what I think, anyway?

Well, while you’re here, I might as well share my thoughts: I consider Jesus to have been a “liberal” (in the US-swear-word sense, hehe), and that the “liberal theology” take on Jesus is more accurate than the more “conservative” ones. (And yes, obviously I do think he existed. I have met a few people who thinks he didn’t. Typically they come to that conclusion after watching “The God Who Wasn’t There” – a [poor] documentary that I found particularly unconvincing.) That does not mean I believe the myths were factually true. (For example, virgin births were common myths at the time… Oh, and for the record, you don’t have to believe in the virgin birth to be a “good Christian”.)

More than that, I don’t feel comfortable sharing right now. Do feel free to leave comments or questions.

Those that do disagree with me, will probably do so on the grounds that “Jesus is God, and God knows Everything”… I’m not interested in that debate, I’m simply asking, “Who cares? Does it really matter?” Does it bother you if other people think the statement “Jesus was human” means he didn’t have such knowledge?

(BTW, how do I categorise posts like these? I have got some references to science in here…?)

Categories: Religion and Science

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pienk Zuit // Sep 3, 2007 at 10:59 am

    You say you’re not interested in the debate of “Jesus is God, God knows everything”, but isn’t that what it boils down to? How can you avoid that debate by asking that question? May I rephrase your question : “Does it really matter whether Jesus is God or not?” If that’s your question, I think it does. Isn’t the gospel based on Jesus being the Son of God (and therefore God)?

  • 2 Hugo // Sep 3, 2007 at 11:30 am

    No, I don’t think that is what it boils down to. What does it mean to “become human”?

    I believe to be fully human, you don’t have a perfect memory. You don’t have perfect knowledge of the future. You don’t have perfect knowledge of the past. Brian McLaren pointed out in the foreword of “The Secret Message of Jesus” that throughout history, people oscillate between over-emphasising Jesus’ divinity, and over-emphasising his humanity. I’m really just emphasising his humanity, and not saying any more than that.

    Where’s the challenge in living a “sinless” life, if you have perfect knowledge, are omnipotent and omniscient? Humans are not omnipotent and omniscient. If he was omniscient and omnipotent, I can’t identify, because then he wasn’t human… 😉

    Besides, what does “sinless” mean? He definitely violated their purity code, even broke at least one of the ten commandments (not working on a Sunday). (Some would even say he ordered his disciples to steal a donkey, but that seems rather gratuitous. <grin>)

  • 3 Pienk Zuit // Sep 4, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Interesting, I’ve never thought about it like that, but it does make sense.

  • 4 Steve // Sep 5, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Hmm – here’s a challenge for you, Hugo: did Jesus actually violate a commandment or their purity code, or did he just overstep the common interpretations of the purity codes and commandments?

    Here’s another question (but I think you’ll have a pretty good answer to this): why is the sinlessness of Jesus important in the whole Christian framework?

  • 5 Hugo // Sep 5, 2007 at 9:58 am

    I was thinking of the criticism that statement could generate as I was writing it, I am aware many people would argue he only reinterpreted many parts of the Old Testament and therefore didn’t necessarily violate the laws. This is what an inerrantist would want to claim, for example.

    My views are more “radical” (heretical? hehe). I do consider him to have “broken” their laws. The Good Samaritan is also an example of a violation of purity laws? A challenge to the purity code at least, pointing out there are much more important things. That which comes from outside doesn’t make you impure (it’s about what’s inside, etc etc). This is an easy perspective for me to take though, as I recognise contradictions in the Bible.

    The importance of “sinlessness” of Jesus for the Christian framework, is something of Jewish origins (as most of Christianity, I suppose). Sacrifices were supposed to be “unblemished” (?). I see on wikipedia theologians have come up with a number of different “theories” on how the atonement “works”. The general idea is that the sacrifice is only good enough for all humanity because he lived a “sinless life”? Hmm… Oh, and then there’s the requirement for him to be sinless to match up with some of the “prophecies” in the Old Testament… 😉

    Now what happens when you throw out the doctrine of “original sin”? (Which a number of theologians do, of course… and I think becomes rather necessary when you realise there wasn’t a literal Adam and a literal Eve? Or is “original sin” compatible with evolution in some metaphorical sense?) Without “original sin”, the Catholic doctrine that Mary was immaculately conceived becomes unnecessary. Similarly the virgin birth? (Virgin births are common theme in that time and culture, and is also encouraged by certain interpretations of what, a verse in Isaiah, right?)

  • 6 Steve // Sep 6, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    I actually heard another reason than original sin why the virgin birth was necessary, based on a curse by God on the line of Kings from Jehoiachin. Can’t remember the exact details, though, but it was interesting, at least.

    Yeah, the common basis is the verse in Isaiah, although many just say the original language refers to a young woman.

    You still haven’t given me an example of Jesus breaking the Jewish law (the Good Samaritan was “just” a story, of course),

  • 7 Hugo // Sep 6, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    “Working” on a Sunday is the first one that springs to mind. Of course, “What is working?” – it could just come down to a reinterpretation of “work”. Eating with sinners, touching lepers, those were acts of breaking the purity code…?

    But yes, these, like so many other things, depends on your frame of reference, your perspectives, I’m sharing my perspective or interpretation. Finding examples that work for all frames of reference of course need to be more rigorous.

    I am not sure I have the motivation to go looking for better, more rigorous examples, so no promises of giving them in some future blog post…

  • 8 Steve // Sep 7, 2007 at 9:04 am

    First off: Sabbath is Saturday 😉

    Yeah. I think it would be a re-interpretation of work. An interesting story relevant here: The time I helped some Jews.

    So, I guess we agree to disagree until a better example gets unearthed.

  • 9 Estee // Oct 17, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Just started reading your blog today Hugo. This is rather random, I know, but felt myself filling up with sadness and helpless frustration in thinking about some friends, as I know you have many times before.

    I’m remembering a friend who didn’t even want us to go horse riding on Sunday because it would be sinful to make the horse “work” on the day of rest – truly believing it. What kind of only-one-truth-and-thats-ours preachings do people follow so much so that they can’t even think of acknowledging the fact that when Jesus of Nazareth lived, and at the time the bible was written, the Sabbath was on a Saturday and not Sunday…

  • 10 Hugo // Oct 17, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    It seems it became Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ

    Jews and Muslims do not commemorate the resurrection of Christ, of course. What about Seventh-day Adventists then? 😉

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