I started this project in April 2010. I finished in December of that same year. Eight full months dedicated to reading the New Testament and then writing down my thoughts for the world to see.
I have to admit that I have come away with a slightly different view of Christianity. It was very enlightening to read through the entire story of Christ starting from Jesus’s birth. It was illuminating to see how the stories and legends grew, how the ministry of Christ changed those around him, and how Christ’s message was changed after his death.
I have more reverence for Christianity now than when I first started this project.That is pretty humbling for me. I always thought I am open-minded when it comes to any religion. I didn’t realize, though, that I was letting my view of Christianity be influenced by others.
There are so many people who use Christianity as an excuse to judge others, to justify discrimination and abuse of others, to try to force their own beliefs on the world in the name of Christ. There are a surprising number of people in the world who are more than willing to twist Christ’s teachings and ministry to suit their own purposes. I allowed my view to be distorted by such people, and that made me very biased against Christianity.
So it has been refreshing to see the core of the religion. To see what Christianity was about when it first started. I still don’t believe in Christ’s divinity, but see him as one of this world’s greatest teachers and philosophers. I think that his gospel spread love and hope and tolerance and understanding throughout the world. The world is all the better because of Jesus.
However, once you get past the gospels and Acts of the Apostles, you see that Christ’s message is corrupted almost immediately after his death. I read Paul’s letters as a complete distortion of Christ’s teachings and message. I truly believe that Paul never stopped being a Pharisee, but instead took the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mindset.
Paul created the story that Jesus saved him and appointed Saul to be one of his chosen few. Paul used this story to work his way into the new Christian church, and to move up to one of the top leadership positions in the church. Once established there, Paul then started steering the religion right back towards his Pharisee roots.
There is a major difference – almost as start as the difference between day and night – between the first half of the New Testament – mostly dealing with Christ’s life, death and resurrection – and the last half. Most of the last half are letters from Paul, stating how people should behave in their daily lives. How they should act, how they should dress, what they should do with their own bodies. Throughout, Paul continually tried to establish his own credibility.
And it worked! Thousands of years later, Paul is enshrined in the New Testament as one of the main voices of Christianity.
On the plus side, Paul gives me a lot to rant about. Good thing, too: aside from rants, there was basically nothing to write about in Paul’s letters.
Be that as it may.
I will leave you with my advice: if you choose to read the New Testament yourself, read the four Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, and then skip to Revelation. Skip the entire body of epistles – those written by Paul as well as the minor letters written by Peter, James, et al.
The Gospels allow you to see exactly what Christ taught, mostly in his own words. That is what Jesus wanted people to follow. Read these, and then see how different Christ’s message is from what Christianity turned out to be. I think you’ll be surprised at the difference.
Read Acts of the Apostles because of its entertainment value. Acts is truly one of the best novels I’ve ever read. Peter’s travels, Paul’s arrests and escapes, Paul’s thrilling adventures at sea, Paul’s court room battles against a government that clearly wants him dead, and the finale as Paul faces a future of promise and uncertainty. The story is immaculately plotted and wonderfully crafted. Luke was one hell of an author, and Acts holds up as one of history’s greatest action/adventure stories.
Read Revelation for the pure mind-trip. If you’ve ever wondered what a drug-induced hallucinative trip is like, Revelation will show you. Armies of angels. Locusts with scorpion tails. Seas of blood. Seven-headed dragons. Talking eagles. It’s a hoot, an epic fantasy on the lines of Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Tolkiens fantasy world.
With that, my dear readers, I am calling this project completed. I hope that you have enjoyed this series. I welcome your comments – positive and negative alike. Comment below, or contact me directly.
– Michael Fierro, 12/31/2010
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.