Monday, May 1, 2017

Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

Who were the Apostles?

Why do we believe what we believe? That was the original subtitle for Prostitutes, Virgins and Mothers.  I was inspired to use that title while listening to a radio preacher. I don't do that very often but sometimes I torture myself. He asked, "Why do we believe that?"  And answered, "I don't know why we believe that, we just do. You don't have to know why we believe that,  just believe." I don't know what they were believing, I was busy screaming at the radio, "You don't know why you believe what you believe?" YIKES!!!

 The April 23, 2017 bulletin of St. Joseph Catholic Church brings to mind that radio preacher.  It states, "Today we listen to the teachings of three apostles - Luke, Peter, and John - who remind us that even though we have not seen Christ, we nonetheless are filled with joy as we place our belief in his saving death and resurrection." I believe the implication is that these three men were friends and contemporaries of Jesus.  If a parishioner took the bulletin at face value, they would be deceived.  

Luke is not recorded in any list of Apostles found in the Gospels. Some traditions say he was a doctor who traveled with Paul, others that he was a late second century Christian from Antioch. We know he was not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus because he tells his reader he is attempting to compile a narrative, "Just as those who were eyewitnesses." The approximative date for Luke's Gospel is between 80 - 130 C.E. That would mean the Gospel was written 50 -100 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Scholars believe that 1 Peter was written by a follower of Peter based on "language, content, style and theological development." An example of  this is the polished Greek in which the letter was composed and allusions to persecutions which date between 81- 96 C.E. Peter was an unlettered and probably illiterate Galilean fisherman martyred in Rome between 64 - 67 C.E. That would mean Peter was dead thirteen years before the persecutions started.  The date for 1 Peter is the same as the Gospel of Luke.

In the introduction to the Gospel of John, The New American Bible: St. Joseph Edition, a Catholic publication, states, "Other difficulties for any theory of eyewitness authorship of the Gospel in its present form are presented by its highly developed theology and by certain elements of its literary style." Scholars believe that this Gospel was written by a disciple of John between 90 - 120 C. E.

Scholars of the Roman Catholic Church know this.  The New American Bible for Catholics says of  
1 Peter, "Some Modern scholars however, on the basis of a number of features that they consider incompatible with Petrine authenticity, regard the letter as the work of a later Christian writer." The introduction to the Gospel of John says, "Critical analysis makes it difficult to accept the idea that the Gospel as it now stands was written by one person." And of Luke, "The prologue to the Gospel makes it clear that Luke is not part of the first generation of Christians disciples but is himself dependent upon the traditions he received from those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word." 

We did not see Christ and we are filled with joy.

Perhaps that is why the church bulletin reminds us of the joy of  believing without seeing. Whoever these ancient authors were, they did not know Jesus and are relying on the words of others for their writing. Does that disqualify them as Apostles? In the Greek Apostle means, "One who is sent." According to that definition these authors could be considered Apostles. Why does this matter? Because, we are being misled into believing that the authors of Luke, I Peter and John were eyewitnesses to the life and teaching of Jesus. Taught to believe something that is not true. Why do we believe what we believe? Because we read it on the front of the bulletin or hear a radio preacher tell us that is what we believe. 

In Matthew, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are "sent" by an angel of the Lord to go quickly and tell the disciples. In Mark, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are "sent" by a young man to go and tell the disciples and Peter. Luke says it is Mary Magdalene, Johanna and Mary the mother of James who are "sent" by two men in dazzling garments to the eleven and all the others.  Finally, in John's Gospel it is Jesus who "sent" Mary Magdalene to tell his brothers.  

What makes an Apostle an Apostle?

Is it gender? Is it being an eyewitness to the life and teaching of Jesus? Does being sent to proclaim the life and teaching of Jesus or the resurrection make one an apostle? Romans 16:7 refers to Junia as, "prominent among the apostles" and in I Cor. 15:8-9 Paul calls himself an apostle. 

So what is the answer? If the authors of Luke, John and I Peter, are apostles, if Paul is an apostle, if Junia is an apostle then Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Johanna are all apostles. They were eyewitnesses to the life, teaching and resurrection of Jesus and they were sent! 
Why is this important? Because gender is so often used to deny women full participation in their faith communities and deny their importance in the development of the Christian Church.  Believing the authors of Luke, John, and 1Peter were contemporaries of Jesus is Biblical  illiteracy and a contributing factor to limits on the full participation of women. 


  1. Really interesting Paula. Any thoughts on women often holding the position of Deacon and, I've also read, performing the role of Bishop in the very early Church?

    1. Thanks Michael! I have many thoughts. You have given me an idea for another blog and i need all the ideas I can get.