A History of Concealment Unraveled

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352 pg

RELIGION / Christianity / History

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By:  Ernie Bringas


Jesusgate seeks to assess the “Jesusgate phenomenon”—the fact that Christian leaders,
by acts of both commission and omission, have seriously neglected their responsibility to
share with the laity important information about the origins of Christianity and the Jesus
tradition. As a result, there is a significant gap between what scholars know and what lay
persons have been led to believe. Author Ernie Bringas explores how this information gap
has affected the quality of life at personal, political, and scientific levels.


Author Biography

Ernie Bringashas a Master’s of Divinity from United Theological Seminary,Dayton,Ohio, and was ordained a minister of theUnitedMethodistChurch. Presently, he is an adjunct faculty member teaching Religious Studies atGlendaleCommunity CollegeinArizona.


Author comments


Here are some of the qualities I look for when I hand my manuscript to someone for review. First, I look for someone who has a sharped, educated mind, a willingness to help, a strong backbone to express honest opinion. To that end, I wish to extend my sincere thanks to the following people. In alphabetical order: Dave Bourquin, Dr. Robert Erickson, and Al Gunby. The shortness of this message flies in the face of their many contributions and my immense gratitude for their help. An extended "thanks" to Dave, who fielded all my thorny grammar issues.

I should also reprise my deepest appreciation for Dr. Erickson's insightful suggestions regarding this work. For example, his counsel led to the WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT sections of this work, and also to a much more refreshed bibliography. His promotional advice was also most helpful, and I am grateful for his unwavering support.

I also want to thank my publisher, Robert Friedman, who would not allow this work to go unpublished. Not only does he reflect the qualities mentioned above, but he was also willing to put his initiative and expertise behind the publication of this work. Thanks, Bob.

Last, but not least, a special thank you to Jonathan Friedman for the creative layout design of this book's cover and content. I also appreciated his meticulous attention to my editorial concerns.

Table of contents


Prologue: Things You Should Know

Jesusgate: An Introduction

Intro to Chapter 1: Hollywood Days

CHAPTER 1: Prepping for Jesusgate

Intro to Chapter 2: Basking in the Limelight

CHAPTER 2: Jesusgate

Intro to Chapter 3: IQ + KQ = RQ

CHAPTER 3: Scholar Shock

Intro to Chapter 4: The California Sound

CHAPTER 4: Jesusgate 1

Intro to Chapter 5: The Fickle Finger of Fate

CHAPTER 5: Jesusgate 2

Intro to Chapter 6: Was it Something I Said?

CHAPTER 6: Jesusgate 3

Intro to Chapter 7: Que Sera, Sera

CHAPTER 7: New Testament Potpourri

Intro to Chapter 8: "I'm Dropping This Class"

CHAPTER 8: Who Wrote the Book of Love? (Part 1)

Intro to Chapter 9: (In {Or Out Of} Key)

CHAPTER 9: Who Wrote the Book of Love? (Part 2)

Intro to Chapter 10: Abraham Who?

Chapter 10: Heeeeere's Johnny

Intro to Chapter 11: High Noon

Chapter 11: Prophecy and Jesus (Part 1)

Intro to Chapter 12: Dear Karen

Chapter 12: The Birth of Jesus

Intro to Chapter 13: The Church of the Wildwood

Chapter 13: The Birth of Jesus

Intro to Chapter 14: American Idol

Chapter 14: The Divinity of Jesus (Part 1)

Intro to Chapter 15: American Idol (Almost)

CHAPTER 15: The Divinity of Jesus (Part 2)

CHAPTER 16: Epilogue

APPENDIX A: The Weakest Link

APPENDIX B: Women and Textual Criticism

APPENDIX C: New Testament Authors

APPENDIX D: Epic of Gilgamesh


Directory of the 75 Scholars United


About the Author

Introduction or preface


Things You Should Know

People say I look like Tom Cruise. That's what I tell my college students during lectures. Eventually they stop laughing. Truth is, I look more like Mayberry's Barney Fife. As for the Tom Cruise comparison, it's an obvious misstatement on my part, and an obvious no-brainer for my students. As I stand from and center, direct evidence proves me wrong. But not all statements and ideas can be so easily verified. When this occurs, as it often does, what method do we use to seek out the truth?

All branches of knowledge adhere to the stringent principles of the scientific method, including the religious field (known as biblical criticism or higher criticism). The scientific method is a rigidly controlled, analytical process that gave us antibiotics, a round trip to the Moon, and made Disneyland possible  (okay, it also gave us AK-47s and nuclear bombs).

The practical value of the scientific method is that it can be applied across the board. From the study of quantum physics to the mating habits of the dung beetle, the scientific method reigns supreme. It is a system of methods, principles and calculated procedures, which brings reality (things as they really are) into focus. Although some religious questions rest outside the boundaries of science (for example, Does God exist?), many claims made by various religious groups can be investigated (for example, what evidence do we have that Jesus, Buddha, or Muhammad ever lived?).

Because scholars of religion utilize a scientific methodology, their fact-finding track record has proved remarkably productive. Obviously, they cannot deliver all of their findings with the same degree of "certainty" as normally associated with the laws of physics and chemistry. Accordingly, I agree with The New Interpreter's Bible (NIB) that biblical criticism is not simply an objective science but is also an art. As the NIB notes, it has its scientific aspects (statistical and quantitative measurements). But it also has prominent subjective judgments even though they are based on substantial knowledge. In some cases, therefore, determinations are made on the basis of a "balance of probabilities." Although the dominant terms used herein will be biblical criticism or higher criticism, I take the following expressions to be synonymous with them: biblical scholarship, biblical analysis, biblical studies, and biblical science.

Unfortunately, the expression "biblical criticism or higher criticism" gives the false impression of being negative or hostile--as though the Bible were going to be maligned. This impression is incorrect because the words "critic" and "criticism" derive from the Greek word kritikos, meaning "able to judge or analyze." It is important for the reader to remember that the word "criticism" reflects a discipline of scholarly investigation, and should not be associated with the popular understanding as an expression of disapproval.

Biblical criticsm serves as a catchall expression that incorporates all the analytical processes of religious scholarship (such as textual criticism, historical criticism, source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, narrative criticism, and many more). Through harmonious interplay these disciplines help to determine the character, composition, authorship, historical authenticity, and origin of biblical documents; they also help to evaluate the influence of surrounding cultures on the development of Christianity in its early stages.

Be aware that this writing does not cover the many facets of biblical criticism. Although the writing herein may appear to be comprehensive, it isn’t; it merely scratches the surface of a very complex discipline. It does, however, provide some basic and necessary information that may help create a more realistic understanding of our Christian heritage.

Incidentally, true scholars are not limited to the findings of biblical criticism. Scholars of religion traverse over a wide range of disciplines in their investigative journeys. In short, they will use any information that will help them to corral the truth (or at least a better approximation of the truth). This is not to suggest that all mainstream scholars and educators share identical viewpoints. Neither have they cornered the market on truth. That is not possible even under the best of circumstances, much less in a field of study where subjective interpretation of the evidence is often unavoidable. But I am confident that the information herein will fall well within the boundaries of mainstream scholarship; regarded as conventional by both religious and secular authorities in the field.

Furthermore, you can rest assured that the information herein is free from ecclesiastical control; that is, free from the Church’s supernatural spin. Although many mainstream scholars are themselves Christian—as we shall see—they allow the facts to fall where they may. Of course, some spin is unavoidable but most mainstream scholars do not spin the potter’s wheel so as to shape the information in accordance with the traditional teachings of Christianity.


It is important to know from which biased direction this book is written. Yes, I am biased. Everyone is biased or, at least, should be. If you disagree, put your car in neutral and see where it takes you. Before disclosing my preference, a cautionary word is needed.

To say one is biased, may convey the wrong impression. The word “bias” implies a predisposition either for or against something, usually based on opinion before there is good reason; a prejudicial leaning of the mind. But if one’s opinion is shaped by education (as would be the case with doctors, lawyers, scientists and so forth) one might refer to it as a “professional judgment” rather than a biased opinion; assuming, of course, that one is commenting on one’s field of expertise. All of this sounds fine. But what does it mean when two well-educated people in the same field disagree with each other’s professional judgment? Whom should one believe?

Divergent views are apparent in all disciplines. But in the religious field, there is a divisional marker between scholars that cannot be ignored. It is the world’s-apart difference between evangelical scholars (also known as fundamentalists) and all other scholars of religion. I support the latter. I do not rely on fundamentalist scholars because they are considered by mainstream scholars to be the weakest link in the academic world. In fact, except for evangelical colleges and seminaries, no other seminaries or universities (from Stanford on the West Coast to Harvard on the East Coast) rely on evangelical publications for religious studies. The same holds true for the numerous community and state colleges across this nation (not to mention our European counterparts). The reasons for this exclusion are specific (see Appendix A). For the moment, suffice it to say, evangelicals usually won’t accept data that doesn’t tell them what they want to hear. For that reason, the information presented herein will not reflect their thinking. Rather, this work will reflect the knowledge disseminated by the majority of educational scholars worldwide. I do realize that all this may sound as exciting as a trip to the dentist. Yuck! But honestly, some of the findings of higher criticism are mind-boggling. “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on!”


Our subject matter is serious. But I believe—and I’ll bet my Mickey Mouse watch you do too—that life would be a drag if we couldn’t have fun along the way. It’s good for us to laugh, or at least crack a smile from time to time. So, aside from a Non Sequitur cartoon, enclosed are some original cartoons stemming from my funny bone. No, I can’t draw—not even a crooked line. Therefore, a free-lance artist out of Phoenix, James Weeden, drew them for me.


What’s this? The old familiar dating symbols BC (before Christ) and AD (in the year of our Lord)4 are slowly being replaced—certainly within the academic community—with the symbols BCE (before the common era) and CE (the common era) respectively. This lettering has come into vogue as a sensitive response to the vast number of people (Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and so forth), who do not place Jesus at the center of history. This, then, is a less intrusive dating system that favors no special religious group (at least not as blatantly).

However, for the sake of clarity and practicality, I will use the old dating system. I know it’s fashionable to go the other way, but I’m reluctant to impose it here. Furthermore, although I know that BC follows the date (for example, 33 BC), and traditionally AD precedes the date (AD 33), I choose to place AD following the date (33 AD); a style now used by many academic authorities.

[NOTE: c. or ca.—an abbreviation that means “about,” or, “around.” For example: The Greco-Roman era ran from ca. 300 BC to 400 AD.]


I will try to define in parentheses many of the words that I feel might not be understood by some readers. For many of you, this approach will appear to be somewhat condescending (the author coming across as superior to the reader). Rest assured, I have no such delusions. I realize that most of you reading these pages are not in need of these definitions. Nevertheless, bear with me. Through this overly cautious approach, the attempt will be made to keep everyone on the same page, so to speak (especially some younger readers). Also, this approach will be helpful if the words I use have multiple meanings or are esoteriC (obscure; not well known). I will, however, try to avoid esoteric language whenever possible.

[NOTE: A minimal amount of material from my former writings will be found herein. However, rest assured that any minimal duplication is rewritten by necessity. For the most part, it has also been revised and expanded. The opening theme may be similar, but the closet’s full of new clothes.]


Before I launch into the Jesusgate syndrome, rest assured that I do not come to this table as an outsider. I have been in the Church since childhood. After receiving my B.A. degree from California State University, Long Beach, I spent three years at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where I obtained my M.Div. (Master of Divinity degree). Thereafter, I served the Church as a United Methodist minister for almost twenty years.

Presently, as an adjunct faculty member, I teach World Religions, and have taught Introduction to the New Testament, at Glendale Community College in Arizona. Under their auspices I have also taught these courses at Arizona State University.


This is not a religious book; it is a book about religion. Specifically, this work seeks to assess and unravel the Jesusgate phenomenon. The term Jesusgate, used herein, indicates that Christian leaders, by acts of commission and omission, have seriously neglected their responsibility to share with churchgoers, vital information about the origins of Christianity and the Jesus tradition. As a result, people have been rendered religiously illiterate. An incredible knowledge gap has ensued between what scholars of religion now know, as opposed to what lay people have been ledto believe (be they parishioners in the pew, or persons on the street). Welcome to the gap. (The phenomenon I call Jesusgate will be fully explained in the early chapters of this work.)

For the past three centuries, scholars of religion have sounded the clarion call hoping to reduce this knowledge disparity. But most of society remains unaware or misinformed (some important exceptions to be noted later). Having served as a minister in the United Methodist Church, I can definitely attest to the dominating influence of religious illiteracy. When I speak of religious illiteracy, I am not referring to what laypersons may or may not know about biblical content. Someone may well be able to quote you chapter and verse and yet be totally unaware about the findings of biblical criticism. Clearly, the information accruing from religious scholarship over the past few centuries has not trickled down to the general population.

Mass ignorance about this informational divide floats the illusion that everything is perfectly normal. Sadly, people everywhere are caught in a lockstep procession of antiquated beliefs; oblivious to vital information that would liberate them from many of the obsolete notions they presently hold to be sacred. They remain unaware of the findings from religious, academic studies begun as long ago as the Enlightenment of the seventeenth century, especially in the area of New Testament scholarship. Shockingly, then, people today possess the religious mentality of those living prior to the seventeenth century. This all sounds unbelievable, but it’s true.

As we shall see, the gulf between scholar and layperson has created much more than religious illiteracy. It has also fostered many serious problems on all levels of human interaction (be it familial, social, religious, political, scientific, you name it). The signs and dangers of antiquated belief could easily be detected in other disciplines, such as medicine (beware of the doctor who suggests bloodsucking leeches to alleviate your headache). This type of discernment is sorely lacking in the religious arena and society as a whole. How could it be otherwise when most individuals are thinking at a level of religious understanding that predates the seventeenth century! No other field of thought has suffered such a prolonged, arrested condition within the general population.

The responsibility for this outdated mind-set must rest primarily with the clergy. The dialogue from the movie, Cool Hand Luke, sums it up nicely: “What we have here is the failure to communicate.” The Jesusgate phenomenon—the clergy’s inability or unwillingness to inform, and the subsequent rise of religious illiteracy—is the starting point for everything that follows in the main body of this work. In an effort to help abate the Jesusgate influence, this work will describe the clergy’s role in creating and maintaining this informational chasm. More importantly, it will showcase the numerous findings from biblical scholarship that have accrued over the past several centuries, findings that make the beliefs of most people indefensible.

As noted earlier, this deficiency of knowledge is not restricted to any one group; it permeates all segments of our society. This is not to say that all Christians and non-Christians are religiously illiterate. Indeed, there are pockets of lay people who are well-informed about the findings of mainstream scholarship that have emerged over the past three centuries. Nevertheless, the number of informed, versus those who are uninformed, is dramatically lopsided in favor of the latter. There are over two billion Christians worldwide, and I would estimate that less than one percent of them know much about the findings of higher criticism.

Thus, the lack of understanding within the ranks of the laity remains unchecked.

For the record, this is not an anti-Christian work, nor is it pro- Christian. It may seem anti to many readers because the knowledge being presented is almost the direct opposite of everything believers and nonbelievers have ever heard about Christianity. As humanly possible, however, this data is presented from a fact-based, academic viewpoint. The approach is primarily historical, not religious. I am drawing from the concrete knowledge that scholars have at hand. For example, scholars know to a certainty that we do not possess any of the original biblical writings. However, as we noted in the opening segment, not all issues are so easily discerned.

Accordingly, there are some issues of belief that remain outside of the scholar’s reach. Was Jesus really the Son of God? Is there life after death? Are angels real? Is God on the side of Muslims or Christians? The foregoing questions are prime examples of metaphysical (beyond the physical) issues. Biblical scholars who stay within the constraints of their discipline cannot make these determinations. This does not mean that scholars are without opinions about these topics. But when they do offer opinions on these abstract or “supernatural” matters, it is only within their capacity as believers or unbelievers, not as scholars.

Christianity is still my religion of choice even though my efforts to convey “new” knowledge may be misconstrued in the opposite vein. My goal is to diminish religious illiteracy, so that we may continue into the twenty-first century with intellectual integrity when contemplating the substance of religious teaching. But I do confess that popular Christianity (what most people believe) no longer speaks to me or for me. If I call myself Christian, it is simply because I believe—as one example—the perceptive teaching of the New Testament to “love the neighbor,” which I might add is not exclusive to Christianity. I should also say that I do not embrace all of Christianity in the literal sense (the Virgin Birth, for example). The following pages will make it plain as to why.