Innovators World, Introduction, Overview

Moral Innovator perspectives on Christianity #3

This is the third of three essays on Christianity that cover the three Christian breakthroughs from a Moral Innovator perspective:
1. The formation that started 2,000 years ago
2. The split between Orthodox and Catholics 1,000 years ago
3. The split between Catholics and Protestants 500 years ago

In Christianity #1 dated September 11th, 2016, the focus was on formation of Christianity 2,000 years ago. Pre-Christian communities like Essenes and Therapeutae focused on the soul or spirit. Several centuries after the death of Jesus, the writers of the Bible’s New Testament wanted believers to yield their souls to the consubstantial Jesus Christ, leaving all Christian believers only with their personalities. By adopting the Greek philosophers’ “Logos” (instead of Ethos or Pathos) to present compelling arguments for the soul and spirit, pre-Christian communities like Essenes and Therapeutae (and later Gnostics) had to become heretics. This story has not ended, as we may be able to find out more through the Dead Sea Scrolls which have been attributed to writings mostly of the Essenes.

In Christianity #2 dated September 18th, 2016, the focus was on the split between Orthodox and Catholics which was formalized in the year 1054, about 1,000 years ago. Orthodox Christians believe Jesus Christ is full human and full God, part of the trinity. Catholics believe in a consubstantial trinity. Both made Jesus a God even though Jesus himself did not proclaim to be God himself. On the surface, the divergence within Christianity was driven by power and rituals (e.g. should bread made with yeast be used or not during Eucharist/Communions. Catholics say yes, and Orthodox says no.

In Christianity #3, we focus on the Protestant schism from the Catholics. Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in 1517 (in Germany) and John Calvin broke from the Roman Catholic Church in 1530 (in France), leading a confederation of Christians that collectively are called Protestants.

500 years ago, Catholic Christians had achieved independence after the collapse of the Byzantine Empire. Not only was there no longer an empire to backup Christians, the lure of treasures in the Americas led the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI (1431-1504) to draft The Tordesillas Treaty adopted in 1493 by Spain and Portugal. This Treaty gave 90% of all of Americas to Spain, and the remaining 10% to Portugal which became Brazil today. 20% of all treasures collected in the Americas had to be turned over to Spain as royalty. Pope Alexander VI was one of the most controversial Popes, partly because he acknowledged fathering several children by this mistress, and partly because he expanded the practice of granting indulgences. For example, beginning July 13th 1495, up to 5,500 days less in purgatory can be purchased for reciting the Rosary, a Dominican meditation on Christians’ 15 greatest mysteries. Martin Luther’s protest in 1517 included the selling of indulgences such as reciting the Rosary.

Protestants generally believe the church belongs to the followers (or congregations), and not a separate institution like the Catholic Church. For example, Presbyterians are governed by their congregations, whereas some Calvinists’ believe in pre-destination. More recognized Protestants include Methodists (England), Baptists (Amsterdam), Episcopalian (USA), Pentecostal (USA), Churches of Christ (USA). Others include Salvation Army, Quakers, Mormons, Unitarianism, etc. Martin Luther’s marriage to a former nun Katharina von Bora also set the model for clerical marriage.

One of the most significant reasons Martin Luther (1483-1546) succeeded with the Reformation was the translation of the Bible into German, followed by the mass printing of German Bibles using Gutenberg movable type. We know that the printing of the Vulgate, or the Latin version of the Bible, started as early as 1450s. Up to 180 copies of were made, most of them in two volumes (the first volume ending with The Book of Psalms). We also know copies of vellum were heavier and sometimes bound into three or four volumes. The introduction of the movable type print was comparable to the internet as we entered the 21st century. No longer were scribes needed. Errors in reproduction were eliminated by the printing press. By adding several principles to the art of translation, Martin Luther also influenced the writing of the English Tyndale Bible (and later the King James Bible completed in 1611).

Martin Luther spent most of the last part of his life translating the Bible into German. After being excommunicated by the Catholic Pope (1521), the German New Testament first appeared in 1522 and the entire Old and New Testaments in German began to appear around 1534. In his later works, Martin Luther also expressed Jewish homes and synagogues should be destroyed, their money confiscated, and liberty curtailed, against some of his own congregation of Lutherans. There is still debate among scholars whether the World War II Nazis correctly characterized Martin Luther’s anti-semitic views.

Protestant congregations also adopted Logos to justify a new concept (such as Quakers) based on logical (moral) values, not credibility (Ethos) or emotions (Pathos). Many cult-like religions have been led by charismatic “lone wolf” leaders who attracted enough followers to sustain a congregation. For example, David Koresh believed he was the final prophet in the Davidian Branch. We probably recognize David Koresh as the child abuser who died in the FBI raid in Waco Texas in 1993.
What were the underlying moral values behind this Protestant Schism? It was the belief that scripture (e.g. Bible) has higher authority than the Catholic Church, and no institution or state such as Vatican can replace scripture. A clear example is Catholic confessions. Whereas Catholic followers confess to a preacher, Protestants repent directly to God in prayers.
Today, we know that Protestants and Catholics each have about 1 billion followers, which when combined with the 200-300 million Orthodox followers, make up 35% of humanity.

After 2,000 years, Protestants cannot reasonably expect the Vatican to just disappear because there is no need for Catholic Churches when congregations follow the scripture. An effective way to address this and other differences between Protestants and Catholics is to return to the original message Jesus himself preached during his three years of actual preaching: Love thy neighbor.

The next essay will introduce Islam. With 85% Sunni and 15% Shiite, there was a similar schism among Muslims. We will then introduce the Indian and Chinese civilizations. After we look at Christianity, Islam, Indians and Chinese, we will have addressed over 90% of the 7+ billion humans, and begin to address how Moral Innovations can facilitate a peaceful, homologous world. It will not be Utopia, but we can still thrive with knowledge of your places in the world, so we can do the right things and make it better.

Innovators World, Warrior World

Evolution of Abrahamic religions Scripture

We know that Abrahamic religions basically mean Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Christianity has Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant major branches plus hybrids like Church of the East (that started as Nestorians), and Islam has Sunni and Shiite major branches. How do we find the moral foundation(s) of these religions? We start with the written scripture for their followers.
Abrahamic religions began with Judaism. Many Jews believe the first Jew was Abraham, a person born in the city of Ur in current day Iraq about 4,000 years ago, 1,000 years before the Hebrew language became a language. We donot know how the Jews created its calendar (the first day was the birthday of Adam or the first human created by God in the Abrahamic religions – this year (2014) is the year 5774 in the Jewish calendar). We also do not know when exactly Judaism started to teach its faith (be very careful reading the words and spellings in Judaism because they can be confusing with multiple meanings). Judaism, like other religions started as an oral (i.e. not a written) teaching, and the Hebrew word for teaching is torah. In other words, we donot know when oral torah began, other than it cannot be older than 4,000 years if Abraham was declared the first Jew, making all Abrahamic religions younger than India’s Hindu religion, for example. This assumes the first language of Judaism was not Hebrew.
2,400 years ago, there was apparently a “great synagogue” meeting to discuss what should be included in the scripture, presumably in Hebrew. The reference that this meeting took place appeared in the Mishnah component of Talmud which was first published 1,800 years ago. This could be the first written draft of the Jewish scripture.
Around the time the Second Temple was destroyed at 70ce, there was concern that Jewish culture may not survive. This fear facilitated a more rigorous effort to write down the Jewish tradition.
1,800 years ago, the first attempt to write the Jewish scripture was redacted by Rabbi Judah haNasi that became the Mishnah, written in Tannaitic Hebrew. This was the accepted core text component of the Talmud which should not change.
1,500 years ago, Talmud’s core text (i.e. Mishnah) added commentaries and notes that are called Gemara. There were two versions of the Gemara – one by Israeli scholars 350-400ce, and one by Babylonian scholars ~500ce. Unless specified otherwise, the Babylonian version of the Gemara is the accepted version of Gemara. These are the commentaries and notes in both Hebrew and Aramaic languages that form the second part of the Talmud. Some core text (i.e. Mishnah) is not supported by commentaries and notes (i.e. Gemara). In other words, Mishnah plus Gemara are the two components to the Talmud. However, the term Talmud could mean Gemara alone, or the Mishnah and Gemara as printed together. The oldest full (Israeli or Jerusalem) Talmud manuscript we know I’d dated 1289ce, known as the Leiden Talmud. The oldest full (Babylonian) Talmud manuscript we know is dated 1342ce, known as Munich Talmud (Cod.hebr. 95). The entire Talmud consists of 63 tractates in 6 orders. In standard print it is over 6,200 pages long.
1,000-1,200 years ago, a group of Jewish scholars led by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher (?-960ce) and Moshe ben Naphtali (890-940ce) created and published the 24 book Masoretic Text Hebrew Bible.
Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christians all reference primarily the Masoretic Text Hebrew Bible with the acronym Tanakh (5 books of Moses or Pentateuch or Chumash or Torah (Ta in the acronym), 8 books of Prophets or Neviim (na in the acronym), plus 11 books of Writing or Ketuvim (kh in the acronym)). The first seven books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges) are in the same order for Tanakh, Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christian Old Testaments. The other 17 books of Tanakh are all in the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Old Testaments except in different order and sometimes split into two (e.g. Samual and Kings were split into 1Samual 2Samual, and 1Kings 2Kings, etc.). Catholics also used seven books (from Septuagint) which came from the Greek and not Hebrew origin. When Protestants reformed Christianity, they removed the 7 Books of Greek origin from Septuagint that the Catholics used in the Old Testament. Therefore there are 39 Old Testament books in the Protestant Bible.
800 years ago, Mosheh ben Maimon, aka Moses Maimonides (1135-1203 ce) created Halakha or Jewish Law when he lived in Egypt. This version is called Mishneh Torah (not to be confused with Mishnah, Torah, Talmud, Gemara, etc). Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christians do not use this Halakha, even though Maimonides was known to have influenced Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). For example, Aquinas specifically referred to Maimonides in the book “Commentary on the Sentences.” Aquinas had an important role to incorporate Aristotle’s philosophies and ethics into Christianity.
In summary:
1) Judaism has the Talmud (Mishnah and Gemara), Masoretic Text Tanakh, and the Mishneh Torah (aka Halakha) written between 2,400 – 800 years ago.
2) Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians rely mostly on the 1,000 year old Masoretic Text Hebrew Bible for the Old Testament. The New Testament is a separate story of Greek and Latin versions. For example, the King James English Bible was based on a 12th century incomplete Greek version of the New Testament that includes at least one page of Latin translated back into Greek before the Greek was translated into English.
3) Muslims use a completely separate source for their scripture Koran (or Quran) which traces back to 610ce when Archangel Gabriel facilitated a dialogue between Allah (God) and Mohammad (570-632ce) in a dark cave. The first caliph Abu Bakr (573-634ce) directed Zayd ibn Thabit (610-660ce) who was Mohammad’s personal scribe to collect the verses and produced the first hand-written manuscript of the Quran. Under the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan (577-656ce), Abu Bakr prepared a standard copy of the Quran, both in scripta defective Arabic in simple lines and strokes, completely different than today’s Arabic script. The Arabic script as we know it today, the scripta plena, was not perfected until the middle of the 9th century. Another original version of the Quran was written based on chronological order by Ali ibn Abi Talib (~601-661ce) who was the cousin and son-in-law of Mohammad. The order of the Ali Quran differed from the Abu Quran, but Uthman’s standardized version written by Abu Bakr was accepted without objections. It is believed that Jesus is an accepted prophet in the Quran, but not a God.
It would be interesting to explore the original source of the Quran, especially in the context of how Jesus was recognized as a prophet, not son of God. It seems the two ways Mohammad would know Jesus as a prophet would have to be 1) told by Allah or 2) told directly or indirectly by Jesus followers.