Pope Francis: Not as Traditional as you Might Think!

After spending a good amount of time focusing on the gospels this semester, it was a nice break to sit down and watch some videos that didn’t necessarily focus completely on the gospels. Over the course of the last two weeks, we have watched three really intriguing videos. The first one was on Pope Francis, the second one was on the real Jesus, and finally we finished with “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican”. I really enjoyed watching all these videos and thought each of them were really good and interesting. The one video in particular that I enjoyed the most was the 60-minute special on Pope Francis. To be honest, I had no clue what the pope of todays name was. He is quite the character. He is very non-traditional unlike past popes, which is why I find him to be so interesting. He has such an important job, yet goes about things his own way.

First off the pope is very non traditional. Throughout history, all Popes signed their letter with the initials “pp.”. This was short for papa, and then they would initial the appropriate Roman numeral that they were respectively represented. Pope Francis on the other hand signed his letters for the Vatican print shop much differently. He simplified things, and started signing, “Francis”. Just Francis, no “Pope Francis”, or didn’t place a roman numeral just kept it simple saying Francis. I truly respect him for doing that. My main theme that I have stuck with through all my blog posts throughout the semester has been that I feel I am different from my classmates here at Gonzaga because I received to religious education growing up. So when I see something like this pop up in society I feel that it gives me freedom to go about things in my religion classes my own way. I can be more open to interpretation, and meanings.

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To say the least Francis is a very simple man. On the night of his first big inaugural speech at the Vatican he came in in a simple white shirt and a silver cross. He went against wearing the big red cape that many other popes had worn before. I feel he wanted to come out and make a statement that he is truly a person for the people. The first words he spoke to the hundred of thousands of people looking up at him were, “Buenos Aires”. This means good evening. Now are you kidding me? That is all he said and he did it with a big smile. From what I have read no Pope has ever started their speech like that. It won the crowd over for sure as they erupted with excitement. The final thing he did that shocked many people that were in the Vatican square that night was when he asked everyone there to “pray over me”. Usually the people are asked to “pray for me”. It was so silent that some say you could of heard a pen drop in the square. Francis is truly a people’s person and his ways really make the people feel good.

For Francis that prayer that sent everyone into complete silence was the last silent night for this interesting man. Francis is a man of many firsts. He is the first pope to take the name Francis. No one has ever done that before so that was seen as a really big deal. He chose the name after Francis of Assisi. Assisi was a man who cherished serving the poor and was also a very simple man. Pope Francis is almost a perfect reflection of Assisi and his name fits his character very well. Francis has already won me over. What I mean by this is I had no clue this guy existed tell last week, and I can already tell he is the perfect leader as Pope.

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Of all things he has done the most radical, and my favorite decision he has made was not living in his huge palace and living in a Vatican hotel. He has the opportunity of a lifetime to live in an amazing beautiful palace, but simply chooses a hotel instead. This guy is absolutely incredible. To me he reflects almost a modern day Jesus. As the leader of over one billion Catholics, are like the many followers of Jesus. Also Jesus was a pretty simple man other than the fact that he could perform miracles. Although he may not be able to perform miracles, I feel he performs miracles in his own way. Being a servant to the poor just as Jesus was, or posting on social media a “selfie” with a group of teenagers are great traits of a person who is meant to be a leader. As means of transportation from place to place, the pope insists on doing as others do. He would rather ride the bus, or in a car, then have to take a helicopter or anything fancy. The moment that made me laugh the most was when he went to the airport pick up his friend, in his Prius. He ran into almost 130 million Brazilian Catholics along his way. Instead of telling the driver to drive off, or get him away, he responded by rolling down his window and greeting as many people as he could, even kissing foreheads of babies. He has the mindset of doing whatever he wants. I feel this is why most people love him.

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Pope Francis to say the least is one of the most interesting men in the world. He keeps everyone guessing, and is always doing something you more than likely wouldn’t expect. I feel that this attitude he has towards life, and his job, really helps people fall in love with him. Just from watching the 60 Minutes segment on him, I am in love with him. I see a connection between him and Jesus. Yes obviously he is not the Jesus Christ, but I feel he influences a lot of what Jesus would of done in today’s society as well as back when Jesus was alive. He is a simply caring man, and truly wants what is best for the people whom he is serving. Pope Francis is the true meaning of a great leader and I hope everyone realizes what a great job he is doing. It may be radical, it may be different, but change isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.

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John’s Gospel VS the Synoptic Gospels

After predominantly focusing on the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament the first half of the semester, we now have started looking at the Gospel of John. Chapter 12 of Ehrman’s textbook goes into more depth of John’s Gospel than what I have been exposed to. Once again I am pretty unfamiliar with the Gospels, especially John’s so after reading chapter 12 I have a more complete and better understanding to why this Gospel is not included in the category of the Synoptic Gospels. It differs in many ways. This chapter also goes into great detail of how once again we read and understand the different Gospels.

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So now why is this Gospel so different? There are many reasons why it differs so drastically from the Synoptic Gospels. For example there is no mention of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, nothing is said about Mary being a virgin, Jesus does not get tempted by the devil in the wilderness, he does not perform any casting out of demons, does not go up to the Mount of Transfiguration, and there is no mention of the last supper. These are only a few of the main things that are left out in John’s. Although John’s stories mostly differ from the Synoptic Gospels, there are a few that match up with this Gospel and the other ones. Some stories include, the feeding of the 5000 people, and walking on water.

To me it feels like John’s Gospel focuses more on Jesus as a divine person and who he is as the equal of God, rather than the Jesus we see in the other Gospels who is performing lots of miracles and bettering the people. John focuses more on the identity of Jesus and all his characteristics that make him so great. Jesus barely ever talks about himself in the Synoptics, and is practically all he talks about in John. I just felt a different vibe of who and what Jesus was after reading what Ehrman had to say of John’s Gospel. In this Gospel Jesus is referred to as “Word of God”, “creator of the universe”, “the equal of God”, and “the one sent from heaven and soon to return”.

This idea of “emphasis” that we saw in the other Gospels appears in John as well. John tends to focus more on certain things just like the other authors did in their Gospels. In John’s Gospel, Jesus does not do as many miracles as in the other Gospels. The miracles that he does perform though are said to be way more spectacular. Unlike the Synoptic where Jesus usually tries to hide his performances of miracles and make them private, John has Jesus performing his miracles out in front of huge open crowds. He performs his miracles in front of huge crowds to prove to the gentiles of the land that he is Gods equal. Jesus states in this Gospel, “unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe”. A great example of this idea is the healing of Lazarus. Jesus lets Lazarus pass away before healing him. He comes to late to have people doubt that he can’t heal him. He then heals him with the crowd in front of him to make them all believers of how great and powerful he is. Another thing I found interesting about performing miracles in John is that Jesus doesn’t actually call miracles, miracles, he calls them “signs”.

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Another thing that caught my attention in chapter 12 of the textbook was looking at John through a redactional perspective. Just because John may not of necessarily used the Synoptic Gospels as sources, does not mean the he did not use other write documents. First of all the differences in writing styles are apparent. The prologue is one of the main things that stand out to why it could have been written from another source. The hymn written in the beginning was more than likely written by another author than John because it doesn’t exactly match up with the rest of the novel. The central theme that Jesus is the World made flesh, occurs nowhere else in the text, so it could have been borrowed from somewhere else and placed in there. Repetition and redundancy are present in this Gospel as well. There are many places where similar accounts are repeated in slightly different wording. Thus meaning that they could of came from different sources and placed in different spots throughout the novel. For example, Jesus saying that he is leaving the world but the disciples should not grieve is mentioned twice in chapters 14 and 16. In this case the author could have had two different accounts of Jesus last words to his disciples.

Chapter 12 of Ehrman’s textbook really shed a whole new light to me. I have a way better understanding about John’s Gospel, and I keep expanding my knowledge on the Gospels for there are mentions of them in the chapter as well. I really enjoy getting all this information thrown at me from so many different ways. Coming from a public school system I never had this much knowledge of the Gospels. These readings and this class are really helping me with my understanding because I have wanted to learn about the Gospels for so long just never took the time. John’s Gospel is differs tremendously from the others but has its own emphasis and main points just like each Gospel does. After learning so much about the Synoptic Gospels it is really nice to find out more about the Gospel of John.

Matthew’s Emphasis!

All of the gospels of the New Testament are similar yet very different at the same time. Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John each excludes, adds, or hinders different ideas of each gospel to focus on a certain emphasis they want to portray more in depth. Over the past two weeks in class we have been using the method of redaction criticism to decipher the many differences and similarities of the gospels. In chapter 9 of Bart Ehrman’s text “The New Testament” we look at Marks emphasis on Jesus in his gospel through this method of redaction criticism. By understanding what we have been doing the past two weeks with the pericopes, I have a better understanding where Ehrman is coming from and was able to follow along with what Matthew emphasizes.  The main points that Matthew emphasizes are the birth of Jesus, Jesus as the new Moses, the Sermon on the Mount, and the fulfillment of the Jewish laws.

the gospel according to matthew

Matthew is the only gospel that tells the birth of Jesus, which is one way he differs from any of the other gospels. What is perhaps the most striking of his birth is that Matthew claims that Jesus was born according to a divine plan. It is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for Mary’s pregnancy. I always knew that Jesus was the Son of God and son to Mary, but I was unaware to how exactly he was born. Matthew claims in his text that Jesus is born as the new Messiah. When I first read that I was so confused to what he met. Jesus to me is Jesus, but what is this strange new messiah idea he presents.

jesus and moses

As you read on in Matthew it becomes apparent to what he means. He strongly emphasizes the birth of Jesus and many of the opening stories to show that Jesus’ life is a fulfillment of the stories of Moses. It is so obvious the connection he makes as Jesus as the new Moses there is almost no way you can miss it. Ehrman claims that, “Jesus’ baptism is like the crossing of the Red Sea, the forty days of testing are like the forty years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, and the Sermon on the Mount is like the law of Moses delivered on Mount Sinai. These claims make it evident that the Jesus Matthew is portraying is the new Moses whom is in fact still the Son of God, but he has come to give the people freedom, the “New Law”, and teach his teachings to all.

Another instance in which we see redaction criticism is in the Baptism of Jesus. This version differs from Mark’s version in which it is much longer. When actually sitting down and looking at these two gospels side by side, there were two things that stuck out most to me. First was how Jesus mentions a line saying “let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness”. The next thing I noticed is the voice from heaven saying, “You are my beloved son”. Now what do these show in regards to the portrayal of Jesus? Matthew lays greater emphasis on showing that Jesus is more powerful and superior even to John, who was God’s chosen prophet.

Matthews’s gospel is the only gospel to mention the Sermon on the Mount story. Clearly something about this story is significant to Matthews’s depiction of Jesus. Once again the Sermon on the Mount correlates back to Moses. It is the first of five major blocks of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew, which is seen as Matthew as equivalent to the five books of the Law of Moses. It is believed though that the Sermon on the Mount was Matthews’s own creation due to the fact that it isn’t in Mark, and parts of it are scattered through Luke. Matthew was clearly emphasizing the idea of Jesus as the new Moses. The main teaching is the about the life in the kingdom of heaven. I always thought that the kingdom of heaven was the place where you went when you died. I was unaware that really it referred to God’s presence on earth, and will overthrow all the evils of earth.

Finally we see Matthew emphasizing for the Jews to follow the laws of Jesus. Jesus is shown not a contradictor of the law, but rather to follow the Law more intensely than ever before. He wants their spirit to be 100% committed to the Law. When it all boils down to it though, Jesus wants the people to abide by his golden rule. Ever since the elementary school days, we were taught to abide by this idea to make us better people. Essentially that is what Jesus is doing as well. He wants, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets”. Matthew portrays Jesus in this way as a loving and caring Jesus. He wants others to be loved as much as oneself. Matthew makes this clearer in his Gospel than any other.

Redaction criticism is a fantastic way to go about comparing differences in the gospels. I have noticed so many differences and patterns already between each, and honestly I find it quite fun and interesting. Seeing the different emphasis on each gospel gives us some insight on what type of person Jesus was to different people. I feel as if my knowledge for the gospels is growing tremendously since I have no previous knowledge of them from going to public school my whole life. Redaction criticism has helped out my understanding tremendously.

matthews jesusthe gospel according to matthew

Greco-Roman Biography And The Christian Gospels

Growing up, I knew what I was getting into when I would grab a book off the shelf from the library. In school I had been taught, what was going to be in a story, or in a newspaper. I had expectations of different kinds of literature. I knew in a story I was going to be reading would be about a character, which faces a struggle, and overcomes it. As far as a newspaper goes I was aware that it was mainly going to be current news about what was going on around in the area. So when reading chapter 6 of The New Testament by Bart Ehrman, I was stunned when he presents the question of, “What kind of literature is a Gospel?” I am not the one to tell you the answer to that. I had never thought of this before. I attended public school my whole entire life before coming here to Gonzaga. I had an understanding about who God and Jesus are, and am a strong believer in them, but I’m not that educated on the writings of the gospels or it’s origins. I figured they were biographies or stories of Jesus life or his teachings. So this really intrigued me and made me more interested to learn about the gospels and all the teachings religion has to offer.

To understand what is meant by what kind of literature is a gospel, we must think about when ancient persons read or heard one of the gospels, what were their expectations of it. They were somewhat like biographies, but scholars say that they are very irregular from modern biographies. The conclusion the scholars came to was that the Gospels are to be best classified as a Greco-Roman biography. You have to look at it from a different aspect, just like ancient scholars did. That is the key factor to truly understanding the Gospels. Greco Roman biographies were not so concerned with giving complete factual data about someone’s life. They were more along the lines of describing what an individual did in his lifetime that defined his character. Whether it was speeches, conflict stories, they reflected on the character aspect of the individual’s life and was used either to have people act in the individual’s way, or as a propaganda technique.

When conveying information in the Gospels, it was mostly through oral messages that the points got across. Taking this point into serious consideration is crucial I believe. You cannot trust oral sources to be as true. Ehrman mentions in an early chapter of the wide spread Mediterranean area that these stories were passed around in. There is no way that every person who tells the story will keep the story exactly the same. Even back home hearing a crucial story that took place in my town, everyone has their own jingle to it. It is like second nature to people. It’s important to understand this aspect because you can then take into account a better understanding of the Gospels. The words that keep getting passed around may not have been the exact words of Jesus, but they keep the stories mostly the same just with emphasis on certain themes or theological aspects.

spreading gospels

I do see something positive about oral sources. It is apparent to me that these people would have had a better understanding of the text. They were alive at the time, and probably took on the true meaning of the Gospels than how people take them today. This gives them the advantage over us. Today we feel that we can take the Gospels and form them into anything we want. They knew the true meaning of the story, which played a crucial part when passing the story from person to person, or from town to town. The meaning of the story, or the overall message was the same.

Through these readings I am starting to make connections. As mentioned earlier in Chapter 5, the stories of the Gospels are modified to portray a theological truth. This makes sense to why some of the stories may have been altered. Mark’s point my not have been the same as John’s or Matthew’s, but they still convey the same message. Now through understanding these Gospels more, I look at them in a more Greco-Roman biography way.

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 By understanding this basic knowledge of the Gospels, I can carry that further into the reading and have a better understanding of them, as they get more in-depth.  We understand now what type of genre and literature they are so we can start to think about how and figure out the time of when they were written. I have been a history nerd ever since I can remember. I love learning about new things, and very important parts of our history. I feel that the further we go into the reading the more knowledge I will gain and the more fluent I will become with the Synoptic Gospels. I have never been exposed to the Gospels before and am truly excited to continue learning about them. 

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