The main topics in the order they appear in the text:
For the religious formation of every believer, now and in the past, two people are essential: the evangelist John with his Gospel and the evangelist Luke with his two books: The Gospel and The Acts. Every Christian will agree on this. Supplemented by what was learned at the pulpit, this determines the core of the religious formation of every Christian.
The image that the evangelist John gives of Jesus is by no means a realistic description of what could be a jewish man. For Jews the clear start of a deification of Jesus by John was a step too far. John's Gospel cannot reflect the beliefs of a group of jewish Christians from the very first years of Christianity. This gospel is the written record of a theological development, and not a description of a historical reality in the life of Jesus. Let it be said clearly: there is no evidence what so ever to be found in the text of the other gospelwriters to support the content of this gospel.
In the Acts of the Apostles Luke describes the beginning of the church in such a way that the apostolic tradition -- the belief that everything immediately goes back to Jesus and his apostles-- becomes visible in a natural way. But how reliable is this description of Luke? The other evangelists wrote nothing about what happened after the resurrection of Jesus, and that must surprise us when we read the story in Luke. The fact that Luke probably started writing about 60 years after Jesus' death, undermines the historical accuracy of his work.
The seventeenth century was the time of the origin of the modern sciences, which focus on the predictability and the regularity of processes in nature. When it becomes clear that regularity is the determining factor of what happens in nature, one begins to doubt whether here on earth things happen by direct intervention from above. The magical world loses its glamor, belief in ghosts and miracle stories staggers. This is the beginning of a continuing confrontation between faith and reason. The time is right for a critical approach of the Scriptures.
Because the Bible in the New Testament is built around the figure of Jesus, the beginning of the critical study of the Bible is also the start of the search for the historical Jesus. Jesus investigation therefore knows a long history, more than two hundred years, and the end is nowhere in sight. Members of the Reformed Churches have been leaders in this field. The lack of catholic scientists is mainly caused by the fact that they are usually holders of a ministry. Due to strict censorship from Rome, abnormal behavior may be reason for an abrupt end to a career.
The Reformation has given the Scriptures into the hands of believers, who did not belong to the ranks of the clergy, a situation hitherto unthinkable in the traditional church.
The idea that the writers literally wrote down their texts inspired by the Holy Spirit, is no longer accepted in scientific circles. They wrote about things that were important for their community and what they wrote down or omitted, was a deliberate choice motivated by personal motives.
The oldest gospel in which is spoken about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus bears the name of Mark and was published some time after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Matthew and Luke wrote their Gospels with the text of Mark before them. But there are texts in the gospels of Matthew and Luke that can not be found in Mark. These texts come from a different source, consisting of a collection of Sayings. This collection of sayings is known under the letter Q (the first letter of the german word Quelle what means source in english). This collection of sayings as a written document, however, no longer exists in the original redaction. It has been found hidden in the texts of Matthew and Luke, it is therefore also called The Hidden or Lost gospel. Besides of a large number of sayings, it contains some short stories, mainly parables. This Gospel resembles in no way to our familiar four Gospels.
The first two known written records about the words and deeds of Jesus are dated to about the year fifty, twenty years after the death of Jesus. These texts are in no way similar to the known four Gospels and you will find no miracle stories, nor events of Jesus' life, nothing about the apostles, nothing about the crucifixion and even nothing about the resurrection, only sayings and short stories, usually in the form of parables. These two written sources are the oldest christian testimonials next to Paulís letters, which contain little information about Jesus, because he did not know him personally.
The other source, beside Q, is the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. This gospel was hidden in the ground in Egypt until, during excavations in the last century at Nag Hamaddi, jars were found with texts from the early christian times, including this Gospel. This gospel, like Q, contains no record of the life and death of Jesus but consists merely of sayings, and short stories.
The sayings Q-Gospel, the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mark are considered to be independent sources.
Without exaggeration, we dare say: The sayings set Q contains the core of the teachings of Jesus.
The main topics, sayings and parables of Jesus, can be found in Matthew and Luke. If present, indications to corresponding texts in the Gospel of Thomas are mentioned.
The sermon on the mount:
Sayings in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 as far as they can be found in The Lost Gospel. The Beatitudes: notice the difference between Matthew and Luke.
The information you can find in the Jesus communities in Palestine is the primary source of our faith. The faith in the Jesus-communities determines half of the face of the christian religion. The other half originated in Asia Minor where the christcult, the cult of the crucified Christ, was mixed with the ideas of the Jesus movements, giving life to what is called the christian religion. What took place in Asia Minor was of an entirely different order than what happened in Palestine. Responsible for the difference in approach and execution are the exceptional circumstances, characteristic of Asia Minor at that time.
The situation was very different in the crucible of uprooted local cultures in Asia Minor with its new and dominant culture of Hellenism: a breeding ground for all kinds of experiments. The presence of large jewish communities in the Diaspora of Asia Minor was the base for the emergence of a new religion, with Paul as the great animator of a development that competed with the great local religious movements.
Many people had sympathy for Judaism and were loyal visitors of the synagogue, but they did not live by the rules of the jewish laws; in the Acts they are called the God-fearing. Among the Jews and the God-fearing, Christianity in Asia Minor must have found its first adherents.
The end of the first century showed a pluralistic picture of the christian religion. Christianity had to go through a process of development of which the outcome was not certain. Actually that is not surprising, when we realize that Jesus before his departure had not given clear directions about what to do later. The slogan "The Kingdom of God" was the only beacon that his followers had been given for the future.
In the development of the christian communities in Asia Minor, the attention was first focussed on the risen Lord, but later the man Jesus became part of a further development of the religion and he was transformed into the God-man Jesus Christ, which fits with how societies at that time and in that region coped with the supernatural.
In the year 313 freedom of religion was proclaimed by Emperor Constantine, so that the christian faith could openly be professed. From that moment the internal tensions within the young religion became visible. They were seen by Constantine as a threat for the survival of the young religion. He wanted unity and peace within his realm and he did not tolerate further internal quarrels. In the year 325 he convened in Nicea the first ecumenical council of Christianity. His influence on the course of the council and the decisions that were taken there, was considerable.
For the achieved unity a high price was paid. After several centuries nothing was left of the free spirituality in Christianity from the first period. What previously was a difference in interpretation, which could be considered as an enrichment, was now considered as deviating from the orthodox doctrine. Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, has put on a tight theological straightjacket. Pluralism degenerated into rigidity and aberrant convictions were not accepted anymore. Diversity was exchanged for heresy: the consequence of this changed vision.
Apart from the Bible writers, who have given us their personal vision, also the church has created its own Jesus, who speaks, after his death and resurrection, the language of the church leaders and with his voice supports the decisions taken by them.
The Roman Catholic Church tells us again and again with the voice of Jesus that women explicitly are excluded from the ordained ministry.
The Church remains convinced that it was Jesus himself who founded the church and introduced the sacraments, such as Baptism, Confirmation and the Confession. The texts that should support this conviction, however, lack a historical reality, because they are written with the intention to attribute ecclesiastical developments to Jesus. Especially the resurrection stories are ideal for statements of Jesus to support the development of the young community.
During my investigation of the early years of Christianity, I was impressed by the importance of the jewish people and its religion on the development and spread of the new religion. The growing awareness of belonging to a living tradition that connects both religions, despite the differences, can for me only be a great support in my life.
The Old Testament describes the history of the jewish people before the coming of Jesus of Nazareth. With the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 and the subsequent war with Rome in the second century, there came no end to the jewish religion and the jewish identity, but for a long time the jewish people were merely deprived of a homeland. Scattered across the world, the jewish religion and identity remained intact through the centuries, and still the Jews continue to cherish the great past with the same old ideals and expectations in mind. The jewish religion is a living religion.
The new religion begun the great adventure without any experience, but had access to the entire biblical treasure of jewish history. So one could experience how the relationship with Yahweh had been through the ages and how in a process of trial and error the religion has won in depth. It became a source from which the christian churches have drawn richly and lastingly.
The references to texts from the Bible are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible of 1986 (NJB for short). You can reference to the Bible, and copy text using the website www.Catholic.org/Bible. The quality of this website has its restrictions. Sayings of Jesus in the gospel of Thomas can be found in the Gnostic Society Library (the Nag Hammadi Lbrary).
A short summary in english of my investigations during more than 25 years can be downloaded under the name: The first years of Christianity. A brief introduction follows below.