New Horizons

To fully understand any system of texts, one needs the comparative and contrastive insights that come from familiarity with parallel systems. Shortly after the completion of The Original Analects, the Project extended its researches to the Biblical texts and later, to the Homeric corpus. Among the Biblical texts, the first exploration was directed to the smaller of the two Testaments, and focused especially on the Gospels. Initial results were encouraging, and a recovery of the earliest form of Christianity seemed to be possible. This we named Alpha Christianity. It is to be found in the earliest layers of the earliest Gospel, that of Mark. (The next phase, that represented by Paul, is distinguished as Beta Christianity).

Alpha Christianity is not simply Jewish Christianity; it is a Jewish Christianity operating with only half of the Decalogue, free of the Sabbath pieties and Pharisaic complications which Jesus in Mark so conspicuously violates. Jesus' own statement of the commandments of God is given in Mark 10:19:
You know the commandments: Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.
This is radical. The part about fraud is not in the traditional Ten Commandments (Deut 5:7-21), it is instead borrowed from Deut 24:14-15. The old code is thus not only streamlined, it is extended - and in a social direction. As a result, the focus of God's will for man is no longer on man's sacrificial obligation to God, but solely on man's obligation to man. This issue soon led to controversy within the movement: a dispute over whether "faith" or "works" is necessary for salvation. The Alpha side, still obedient to Mark's formulation, held that good works were the key. The Paul faction, with some risky Scriptural quotes, argued for a new concept, "faith." In that view, it is belief in the doctrine of atonement, where Jesus' death, not individual actions, is what gives individual salvation. This issue was openly debated between the Epistle of Jacob (in English Bibles, "James"), for the Alpha side, and Paul in Romans, for his side. Here is that exchange. It took place in the year 57, about a generation after Jesus' death.

Rom 3:20-24. Because by works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for through the Law cometh the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Jacob 2:14-18. What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

Rom 4:3. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."

Jacob 2:20-24. Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called the friend of God. You see that man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.

This war of Bible quotations was one of the major tensions within Christianity during its decades of early development.

The doctrine of atonement has proved to be divisive down through the centuries, and still causes trouble for many contemporary Christians, not only in the pulpits, but also in the pews. The interest of contemporary Christians in these findings led to a survey book, Jesus and After (2017), which is now in its fifth printing.

Our parallel researches in the Hebrew Bible have attracted attention among scholars in that field, some of whom see a special relevance in the interactions between growth texts in classical China. An Outreach Center is being set up to accommodate that interest, and to make those results more fully available.

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