Why was Christ not a writer?

Although it pains me to admit this, it seems that Christ was not a writer.

Although he quotes scriptures in order to position himself within history, establish his credentials as a teacher, parry attacks, and occasionally radically reinterpret or restore meaning to those texts, he never appears to express any interest in recording (or asking others to record) his ministry and teachings in a written form.  He responds to humans’ questions more than he lectures; he is an interpreter rather than a writer.  His utter disinterest in controlling his legacy, teachings, and image through a written work becomes, in fact, somewhat astonishing when compared to stories and commandments within The Book of Mormon that highlight the vital importance of record keeping for posterity.

What can we understand from the fact that Christ chose not to write and not to leave us with a text of his thoughts? Perhaps we can conclude that laying out a set of clear beliefs and doctrine was in the end simply not as important to Christ as it was minister to people in a practical way and to organize the people who would eventually record their memories of his life.  Since we see Christ quoting scripture in often radical and new ways—thereby modeling for us a manner of reading that both often challenged authority or made authority bend to match new circumstances—rather than solidifying a set of doctrine or an understanding of him through writing, perhaps we are also forced to conclude that Christ was simply not as interested in questions of authority, doctrinal stability, restoration, and understanding of the divine as he was in being responsive to the people around him.

We might say that in opting not to write, he opted not to leave us with words that would become authoritative and timeless; instead, he allowed us (in collaboration with him) to keep reinventing within each generation and person who we need Christ to be.  In his refusal to police his image, Christ, then, was at once selfless and utterly successful in ensuring that he’d remain relevant to many generations.

In the end, we don’t know why Christ didn’t write, but perhaps the fact that he decided to spend his time mingling with and serving people rather than codifying a doctrine and marketing his image speaks volumes.  He modeled for us what we need to do to in order to be a part of his kingdom, putting aside the apparently less important imperative that we understand his life and theology perfectly.

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Comments

  1. By having others write, it provided a second witness to His teachings. It held the writer accountable for writing truth, as it was revealed to them by the Spirit. As the writers’ accounts testify of the same Christ, that would be all that was necessary to present to the reader as truth. Allows the Spirit to do
    his part and reveal it to each individual as they are worthy to receive.

  2. Ron Madson says:

    I have been reading through the very lengthy and intriguing
    “The Urantia Book.” In fact I skipped to the final third of the book that deals with details as to the childhood and pre-mission Christ. Of note, the book explains that just before commencing His formal ministry, he went to his home and to the dismay of his siblings he destroyed ALL of his writings. The point was that he was in the process of rapid ascension in knowledge and prior writings needed to NOT be around to be quoted, etc. –Even He was a work in progress and probably continued as such. Even if Urantia is fable it has an incredible amount of imaginative and mind expanding information/detail

  3. John 8:1-11

  4. Cynthia L says:

    This is beautiful and thought-provoking. Thanks, Natalie.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts. I echo Cynthia L.

  6. I got into a bit of a discussion with someone about this once, and they quoted John 8, where Jesus writes on the ground. I found it highly amusing. I wish someone could have made a plaster cast of what he wrote. More than likely though, he was just doodling.

    I have often wondered why he didn’t write a book on his teachings, but, I kind of like the explanation given by Lori. The gospel is centered around witnesses. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses…” If Christ had written his teachings, would the others have witnessed to it? Anyway, I love the post.

  7. Jonathan Green says:

    Or it might mean that the various activities that we think of as writing–thinking up new thoughts, and committing them to the page, among others–were parceled up differently in 1st century Judea, and that Christ let the menial labor of note-taking be taken care of by a scribe, while the existence of the Gospels attests the presence of a scribe while Christ delivered sermons and commented on scripture. (I’m not saying that it was so, only that you have to be careful about deciding what you mean by ‘writing,’ and what constitutes evidence that it did or didn’t happen.)

  8. Are you considering the New Testament only? In other words, was your reference to the BoM a reference to (early) Nephi, Mormon, etc…or was it inclusive of Christ himself? If not, then 3 Nephi 16:4, 23:4, & 27:23-24 are kind of weak and don’t impact the central them of the post (which is great, btw), but are references to telling others to write His words.

  9. Natalie, you consistently give us intriguing ideas.

  10. Maybe what we ought to take away from this, from the fact that Jesus didn’t think it was all that important to really keep a written record of what he said and what he did that the little things, the small sins, for example, really don’t affect us in the eternal sense. Or maybe that the Jews had 2000-3000 years of written record that ended up choking the life out of their religion. He was quite specific in denouncing the rabbinical teachings that had enclosed the original law (which was written down, specific, detailed, and one thought, clear enough). Maybe what he is telling us is that “it’s okay, stay on the general path and stop worrying about all those little things that are not just stressing you out, but wearing you down.” I mean, look at the example of the woman caught in adultery. “Go and sin no more.” That’s it. That’s all her punishment for her sins. He’s saying that what ends up happening is that you get a breakup of society into various classes, where one class thinks it is more righteous than another because they believe they more closely align themselves with the religious law. You see this happening in EVERY society, including ours. He’s saying, listen to the Apostles as they teach you righteousness but don’t be overly harsh on yourself OR others if you or others aren’t perfectly aligned with the words. For one thing, the words may not be exactly the thoughts and intents of God. God’s Word does get filtered through an imperfect human being with his own prejudices and thoughts. He’s saying, listen to the Spirit, the Comforter, which will be with you when you are close to Him. It is such a wonderful guide in terms of whether you are doing right or wrong. He’s saying that words can be taken out of context, meanings change, language is limited in its understanding and thus, over time, can be used to choke the life out of a religion.

    Or maybe I’m reading too much into the Savior’s lack of words. :)

  11. His lot was not to write but to fulfill what was already written. The four gospels were witnesses to His fulfillment.

  12. I’ve wondered if he didn’t write in the Bible type records because he was warned of the future translational issues and didn’t want his writings to be mutilated and possibly so corrupted.

    Or maybe he was a bad speller-is that heretical?

    Or he left a journal with the lost ten tribes.

    I must admit I find the OP thought provoking, but I seem to be responding at a Fridayi’veturnedmybrainoff level.

  13. Natalie says:

    These are all excellent thoughts. Here is an additional thought that I had after writing this post: People are constantly quoting scripture in the NT in order to undermine and attack Christ. Maybe he just didn’t want his own words used that way?

  14. Another thought came to mind.

    If the ancient text of the Jewish Bible or aka the “Old Testament” were all prophesying about Him and then He comes and fulfills those prophesies. Other people give written testament and none of written by Christ, it adds to the believability and removes the ability for people to say well if He wrote it then…

    It is a lot easier to believe when everyone else writes about you vs here is what I wrote about me…

  15. rob,

    His lot was not to write but to fulfill what was already written. The four gospels were witnesses to His fulfillment.

    But the four gospels were not written in real time. They were not scribbled down as Jesus spoke. The gospels were written years, if not decades later. Really, the gospels were not written to be witnesses of Christ, except perhaps John’s. The other three seemed tailored to particular audiences, not necessarily to stand the test of time as standard bearers of the Gospel that they eventually became. Just look at Luke’s account, written to the “most excellent Theophilus” and not, like the Book of Mormon, to stand as a testimony to all of Jesus Christ.

  16. Daniel what I meant by what was already written was the ancient text of the Jewish Bible or aka the “Old Testament” Christ fulfilled was written.

    From the Pentateuch to the books of the Kings and to the books of the prophets, they all wrote about Christ.

    The accounts written by the four Gospel writers reveal the fulfillments.

    As for the timelines of those writings it is blurry and yes they were written for different audiences. The same way that all behavior or personality test have four types. There is a gospel for each.

    Matthew was written for the Jews and the very detailed oriented people.
    Mark was more of a let’s get to it and a little more laymen.
    Luke was written for the more intellectual
    John was written for the more kinesthetic

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    I wonder whether part of the answer isn’t just cultural. People argue about the extent of literacy at that time, but in most of the circles Jesus circulated (growing up the son of a carpenter in a Galilean village, his wandering ministry with fishermen from Capernaum, etc.) there was precious little reading and writing going on. Teaching was done more by oral means than by writing in that time, place and setting.

  18. #17: What about the Jewish Laws as to who could write about God? Were they still in play at the time?

  19. What’s beautiful about this article, or this question posed by Natalie, is that it has provoked thought about revelation and inspiration, all done through the Spirit. It matters not when the writers lived. Jesus Christ, or Jehovah or the OT, has been in complete control of the writings in the scriptures from the start, and will be until the end. If the writings are inconsistent with His teachings I believe that is where man has intervened (i.e., mistranslations from other languages). Not to worry; He will provide a way, though prophets, to rectify the translation problem, as he has done with the JST. Some of the writers were eye-witnesses. Others were not, but may have received visions, or given charge to write by delegation of authority (as seen in the Book of Mormon). I believe some were simply inspired to write the teachings of Jesus Christ through direct revelation by the Spirit; all still testifying of Him. It becomes apparent as we read ALL of the “standard works” of the LDS church, that His teachings are timeless and consistent. They all are witnesses of Him. I believe Christ wasn’t a writer, YET HE WROTE IT ALL through inspired individuals. It is a way each writer becomes a “tool in the hand of the Lord.”

  20. I’d be wary of using a lack of evidence as evidence of anything. We might not be able to find any writings from Jesus, but that can’t really be used to prove that Jesus actually *chose* not to write.

    That said, if he had written something, you would think that someone would have copied/preserved it. Especially if it was doctrinal.

    Then again, are we supposed to believe that Jesus never wrote even a single letter to a friend? That he never wrote his own name down?

    I think it’s more likely that his writings were lost or destroyed than that he wrote nothing.

  21. I too have read the Urantia Book and the prevailing sense seems to be that the reason Jesus did not leave behind any writings was because his message was intended to be written on the heart. The heart to heart connection is what people need to feel and that is also the reason for the great commission – to go and preach the good news to all the world. Notice it was not to write letters.

    It’s strange to realize that the Bible only contains 28 days of Jesus’ life on earth, the savior of all humankind, and only 28 days! The Bible, as it is written, is man’s attempt to record actual or perceived events about Jesus, our history, creation, the celestial realms, the universe, and God. The Urantia Book attempts to do this as well and might be called an update, or even a whole new program.

  22. Actually, there is an incident of Christ writing. Look at John 8, and read verse 6 very carefully.

    I think it’s rather telling that this detail should be included and preserved in the Bible. It reveals a lot, I think, in the way Christ viewed what He was there to do. It was better for us, the adulterers and the stoners of adulterers, to have His words swept away than to have them turn to ashes in our mouths at the judgment bar.

    He could have left pages written by His own hand. But would we have been prepared to receive them, or to be held accountable for them?

    I think the Martin Harris incident is definitely telling about how UNprepared we are to receive the fullness of truth that Heavenly Father has prepared for us. We should count ourselves blessed that we even have the secondhand accounts of His disciples, in my opinion. If He deems us worthy only of that, I trust His judgment.

  23. John 5:31. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

  24. Maybe it’s all a commentary on blogging. That like Jesus we should stop writing about the gospel and just focus on perfecting the gospel in the acts of our daily lives.

    Then again we are supposed to keep records and stuff so maybe that’s off.

  25. It is most likely that Jesus, AND his disciples, were not even literate. The “original” NT manuscripts were in Greek, and it is most likely that Jesus and the disciples were speakers of Aramaic. In that time period, learning Greek was the luxury of the wealthy, and neither Jesus nor his disciples were wealthy or privileged (carpenters, fishermen, farmers, etc.). Think of learning how to read/write Greek as going to Med school or Law school, and then imagine that without the existence of scholarships or student loans.

  26. I’m with Clay (#25) on this one. Also, the story that people are citing, where Jesus writes on the ground during the episode of the woman taken in adultery, is rejected by all textual scholars as being inauthentic. If you like the story, fine, just realize there is no textual support for thinking Jesus actually did that.

  27. Natalie B. says:

    #25 – Actually, one of the first explanations I thought of was that perhaps Christ couldn’t write or didn’t have access to writing materials. However, it seems odd to me that someone who could raise people from the dead could not figure out a means to have his ministry recorded and preserved if he thought it was important.

  28. #27: Indeed. It often seems odd if we look at history and require it to fit a modern interpretation.

  29. Clay,
    Your point is a good one, but doesn’t fit the entire story–Natalie’s question was not only about not recording his history–but also about not asking anyone else to, either. While Jesus of Nazareth may not have been literate, it is probable that among all of his disciples, none could be found who could write?

  30. Please do not speak of my Savior in that tone.

    This article was extreme. Why didn’t the Savior write?

    Why didn’t Heavenly Father himself comedown and write the complete gospel down and buy a condo and stay so people could come to him for question on interpretation, etc?

    Truth be told, I do not have the answers, but the matter is **not important**, and I do not appreciate how you were attacking the Savior just so you could have material to publish. Infact, I would not be able to tell you were Christian by your writing, due to the lack of standing up for and defending your Savior, as is your moral obligation.

    The spirit says I should not come back here anymore.

  31. Steve Evans says:

    Trevor, I think you’re confusing me with the Spirit.

  32. Rob,

    #16,

    Daniel what I meant by what was already written was the ancient text of the Jewish Bible or aka the “Old Testament” Christ fulfilled was written.

    But you say that the gospels were written as a testament of that. Yet the four gospels were not written for another 20 to 30 years after the events took place. John’s account wasn’t written until like 100 AD, a whole 70 years later!

    I don’t think his Apostles even understood the significance of what they had experienced until much later, which is probably why they didn’t write things down whilst he was in their presence. Often, they looked confused when he would tell them something, particularly related to his impending sacrifice. And they certainly didn’t know, as they were walking with Jesus, that what they witnessed would become so valuable in later generations.

    One thing that is particularly odd is that Jesus doesn’t instruct his Apostles to keep a written record (at least we don’t know if he did, the account of his life in Jerusalem is very incomplete—we really only have a very small snapshot of what Jesus said and did during his ministry), yet when he visited the Nephites in the ancient Americas, Jesus was quite specific with them to keep a written record. What’s with that discrepancy?

    As for the timelines of those writings it is blurry and yes they were written for different audiences. The same way that all behavior or personality test have four types. There is a gospel for each.

    Huh?

    Matthew was written for the Jews and the very detailed oriented people.
    Mark was more of a let’s get to it and a little more laymen.
    Luke was written for the more intellectual
    John was written for the more kinesthetic

    Dude, there’s not a perfect symmetry at work here. However, each did have a specific audience. Matthew did indeed write his to a Jewish audience, but there’s no indication it was meant for “detailed oriented people.” Ironic, because Matthew leaves out quite a lot that Luke covers, which detailed oriented people would most certainly have loved Matthew to cover. Mark’s account was written to the Romans. Mark essentially borrows from Matthew, trims it down, essentially cutting out the Jewish prophecy stuff (which would have bored the Romans), and told a story of Jesus. Luke’s account was specifically to a man named Theophilus. And John’s account was for the general membership of the church, written as his last word to the members before he disappeared.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    btw re: Clay’s claims of illiteracy, what then do you do with scriptures like Luke 4:16-22?

  34. Kevin,

    #17,

    How literate were the Jews back then? If I recall correctly from my studies, the Jews were fairly literate. Peter did later write his own epistles (quite well written too). John wrote. Jesus was presenting himself as a Master. That would indicate that he was learned, read, and could write.

  35. Clay,

    #25,

    The “original” NT manuscripts were in Greek, and it is most likely that Jesus and the disciples were speakers of Aramaic.

    There are no original manuscripts. The earliest actual manuscript we have of New Testament writers are from about 300 AD, if I recall correctly. That’s 270 years after Jesus’ ministry. For comparison, America has not been free yet for 270 years.

  36. Many interesting points. I would say that everyone is correct in their points in varying degrees.

    Just as there are shades of color in the flowers and levels of wind in the air, are there interpretations of Jesus’ actions.

    We were not there in person, so we will never know to a certainty, until Revelation completes the picture.

    As an aside: According to The Urantia Book, Jesus spoke Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew. He was given a Greek translation of the Law and the Prophets to him from Mary’s rich relatives when they fled to Alexandria to avoid the death calling from Herod Antipas. Jesus also learned Hebrew from the small amount of schooling he did receive.

    Jesus/Michael was admonished, as part of his bestowal on our planet to never leave any writings behind as they could become objects of worship.

    Peace,
    Mike

  37. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, what’s with your schizo moniker? Are you Dan or Daniel? Choose now.

  38. Steve,

    Sorry, when I’m logged into wordpress, I appear as Daniel. When I’m not logged in, my habit has been to just go with Dan. I’ll change the not-logged-in to Daniel for consistency sakes. :)

  39. Mike,

    Jesus/Michael was admonished, as part of his bestowal on our planet to never leave any writings behind as they could become objects of worship.

    Where do you get that from?

  40. Natalie, this is very interesting and not something I’d considered before. I like the way you think.

  41. Steve, I was thinking of literacy more along the lines of writing. Is there a different word for being able to read but not write?

    Daniel, you illustrated why I put quotes around the word original.

    Assuming the named disciples (gospel authors) were the real authors, they most likely would have written in Aramaic and in a far less educated and anachronistic literary style. Thus, if the gospels were originally written (not just passed on orally) in real time, they would have gone through translation and re-interpretation to Greek in a 2nd-3rd century Christian context, passed through the middle ages and translated to the King’s English… and now we quibble over the possible meaning of a word here or there.

    What I’m saying is that you gotta believe in and comprehend the nature and spirit of Jesus through faith, because the NT isn’t reliable enough to paint the picture accurately.

    *Running now from villagers’ stones.*

  42. Dan/Daniel (39)
    It comes from the Urantia book.

  43. Steve #31

    HA!!!!

    I will do my best to nominate that comment next year.

  44. What the heck is the Urantia book?

  45. ah, That Urantia book…never thought I’d see it again, or that it would be considered a credible source.

  46. Steve Evans says:

    Clay, it’s the rare person who can read but cannot write.

  47. Eric Russell says:

    Steve, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from internet blog comments, it’s that there are lots of people out there who can read but can’t write.

  48. John Hamer says:

    Nice insights, Natalie! This is one of those observations where folks have been chatting about bark and foliage and you come along and say, “yep, that there’s a forest.” By which I mean, people think about the gospels as the way Jesus is understood. Period. The question: “Why didn’t Jesus write?” remains unconsidered.

    I also like your answer of timelessness. Whether or not that was intent prior to the fact, it does seem to be a result; especially inasmuch as one feels free to look upon the scriptures in their context as human-wrought documents.

  49. Steve Evans says:

    rimshot! Good job Eric.

  50. I’m convinced Christ didn’t write anything down because because it gives people who wouldn’t like what He said some wiggle room to accept Him as their Savior while still rejecting pieces of truth they don’t like. That is, He grants them room to grow into truth line upon line, bit by bit.

    Besides, can you imagine the abuse the words of Christ would take if he had written them down? They would have the weight of irrefutability and could be twisted and taken out of context, even worse than what Christendom does with the Bible.

  51. I did a little ‘Web study’ of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I think they a least show a written records were possible at the time of Christ, and there were those who made a effort to keep them.
    “They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, mostly on parchment, but with some written on papyrus.[1] These manuscripts generally date between 150 BCE to 70 CE.” ( Wikipedia)

  52. Martin,

    Besides, can you imagine the abuse the words of Christ would take if he had written them down? They would have the weight of irrefutability and could be twisted and taken out of context, even worse than what Christendom does with the Bible.

    Really? Seeing that Jesus Christ was not taken seriously by anyone outside Judaism whilst alive, would that really be the case were he to have written down his gospel in his own words? I don’t see the difference between him writing down what he says, and others writing down what he said, or how they interpret what he says. We’re trying to judge reasons why Christ and his Apostles didn’t record their doings in real time based on 2000 years of Christian culture already infused within our identity. What Jesus taught and did was revolutionary for his time, he was ahead of his time, but few then noticed. Whether he wrote it himself, or others writing for him, I don’t think it would have changed things that much. Satan would still have worked double time to discredit his gospel. Based on Mormon theology, we believe Satan succeeded in discrediting Jesus’ gospel, and corrupting it with outside influences from quite near the get-go.

  53. Dude, writing pre-dates Christ by several millennia.

  54. #53: “Although the Qumran community existed during the time of the ministry of Jesus, none of the Scrolls refer to Him, nor do they mention any of His follower’s described in the New Testament.”

  55. Bob,

    The Dead Sea Scrolls have nothing at all to do with Jesus. They predate him by about 100-200 years. They do offer segments of the Old Testament however, and that is quite valuable.

  56. Bob, You realize that your #54 is not responsive to John C.’s #53, right?

    Daniel, You realize that your #55 is not responsive to Bob’s #51 or Bob’s #54, right?

  57. what are you like the responsive police, Scott? ;)

  58. #56:Thank you for breaking up the ‘scrum’.
    #55: Yes, they were mostly working on old stuff. But there were also contemporary writings found.

  59. Christ was an apocalyptic preacher. He did not care about retirement, savings, and his physical family.

    Why would he have cared about writing? If you are waiting for the end of times, a written record is not a priority.

  60. Hellmut,

    was he really an apocalyptic preacher? How much of what he taught was apocalyptic, and how much of that was directed privately at his Apostles? Most of his teachings are very much about how to live a life. It sounds quite stable and anti-apocalyptic.

  61. Wonderful post Natalie. I’m glad he did not write. His grammar would have been dissected, his expression and command of Aramaic or Greek would have been scrutinized. He would be deconstructed. What would we have expected? Perfect syntax, perfect penmanship, great use of creative writing skills, expressive turns of phaise? We would have expected no less than Shakespeare. What if He were no Milton? Not even a Hemmingway? Would his message be compromised? By allowing others to write in their weaknesses the message is not lost in the medium.

  62. I don’t agree with the notion that Christ’s statements are somehow limited in scope, David, because they were only directed “to his Apostles.”

    I rarely see that in the text. The evidence is not there. That reading is probably an attempt to render Christ more compatible with aspirations of respectability.

    Certain people would prefer a more phariseeical Christ. But that says more about them than about Jesus.

  63. SteveP,

    But again, Jesus’ words are already dissected and scrutinized. What difference if he wrote them himself or if someone else wrote them for him?

  64. This is an interesting question, Natalie. Thanks for posting it.

    The argument made a few times here that Jesus didn’t write down his words himself because he was concerned they would be abused sounds suspiciously like the argument that we don’t hear about Heavenly Mother because God is worried people will badmouth her. These both seem to me like the application of a convenient one-size-fits-all explanation for any gaps in our knowledge: “We don’t know about X because God was afraid we would sully it.”

  65. Um, also? I’ve noticed that writing requires quite a bit of sitting around… and well, Jesus wasn’t so big on sitting around.

  66. The idea of God “fearing” anything just seems odd to me- and hence, Ziff and I are on the same fence.

  67. Interesting post.

    “We might say that in opting not to write, he opted not to leave us with words that would become authoritative and timeless; instead, he allowed us (in collaboration with him) to keep reinventing within each generation and person who we need Christ to be.”

    I agree. Besides he surely knew the relative instability and imperfections of our languages. How language is affected by time and by translations. It is safer for us to have the accounts of disciples and the guide of living prophets, and the personal guide of the Holy Spirit, than to have a text that can be easily corrupted and easily abused as authoritarian as Martin stated.

    Martin,

    I absolutely agree with you when you state:

    “Besides, can you imagine the abuse the words of Christ would take if he had written them down? They would have the weight of irrefutability and could be twisted and taken out of context, even worse than what Christendom does with the Bible.”

    Daniel,

    The problem is not discrediting the gospel, the problem starts when Christian religious authorities start giving the words the wrong meaning and making that wrong meaning irrefutable because “Jesus wrote it.” There is a universe of difference if he wrote things or if his disciples did. The disciples writings will inevitably contain their own interpretation of what they saw and whatever they judged important. They are not necessarily irrefutable, and this process forces us to seek for guidance for the interpretation of the teachings as it applies to our own lives.

    Bob,

    The Dead Sea Scrolls don’t contain any of the acts or teachings of Jesus Christ, nor is he mentioned in them. Only through “Messiahnic Prophecy” since parts of Isaiah are found among the dead sea scrolls. They contain old Jewish traditions and legends (including what I think is an instruction manual for the use of the Urim and Thummim).

    Some gnostic writings contain long lectures taught by Jesus. Pistis Sophia includes a section called titled “The Books of the Savior.” These section contains a summary of “The Books of Jeu” from the Bruce Codex. They seem to contain the teachings of Jesus Christ to the apostles and close disciples such as Mary Magdalene during the 40 day teachings after his resurrection. The teachings include a ceremonial ascention that parallels the Temple Endowment. These writings are not contemporaneous with Jesus though and appear to be of pseudepigraphal character.

  68. merrybits says:

    Well, at least I feel better now about not keeping a journal!

  69. I agree with Clay….and it wasn’t that big a deal to not write in those days, as it would be today. He wasn’t illiterate, based on the standards of that society. He had different goals and of course, a higher purpose.

    But I do wish he had written things down.

  70. Christ wrote in the sand once, though, yeah? It has been suggested he was actually writing some of the sins of the accusers of the woman taken in adultery when he invited them to cast the first stone. I think that’s a rather apocryphal suggestion, but interesting nonetheless.

  71. BHodges,

    There is no textual basis for thinking that Jesus wrote in the sand since ALL biblical scholars, conservative and liberal, reject that story as not being in the original gospel of John. It’s one of the few things all camps do agree on.

  72. David,

    Oh huh! I saw “Finding Faith in Christ” and it totally had him drawing in the sand. And that movie made it through Correlation.

    QED.

  73. Just as “parables” protect those who can’t really hear and understand, similar protection is offered by “mysteries”. Clearly, God could explain everything to everyone right now. The obfuscation is intentional.

  74. Funny….my first thought was “hey jesus did write in the sand…” and that’s been beaten like a dead horse by this point.

    I like Rob’s comment in #14 when he said by having others write it adds to the beliveability of his teachings.

    This was a great post and thought provoking. thanks for sharing!

  75. Thinking on this I wonder how we come to the conclusion that Jesus didn’t write? Sure, I hold the personal unproven position that he didn’t, but it isn’t without possibility. Think about what we have of the New Testament. That collection is more literate than most any other ancient work, containing mostly Paul’s writings. Better yet, think of what we have of other ancient historical figures that we know wrote from other surviving writers’ works, but don’t have their actual writings.

    The fact that the New Testament collection even exists is due less to who was able to write then the importance given to the writings. Scribes allowed for the existence of the manuscripts more than the original authors. The related manuscripts we do have are between 60 and 300 years after Jesus’ death. The earliest are not even biographical. He could have written something, but they were lost to time out of rarity, poor conservation, or other unknown reasons.

    On the other hand, I can see why there is an automatic conclusion he didn’t write. None of the manuscripts we do have (New Testament the most authentic) quote writings of Jesus, but mostly assumed spoken sermons. That gives the impression he didn’t write anything down and maybe he didn’t. It is an idea that given some thought is not as easily clear cut.

  76. #75: I am with you. I am more comfortable with we don’t know if he wrote anything, than he did not.
    I only brought up the Dead Sea Scrolls because others had says no one was interesting in writing those days. If fact, there are claims (not mine), that Jesus came out of one of these sects.

  77. #76 That’s interested in writing.

  78. #77 “and said”. My proof reader has been out sick for fifty years.

  79. re #72 Scott,

    I like your argument. Perhaps we can call it the via correlativa. I don’t know Latin, but it sounds Latiny!

  80. Sorry I’m jumping in late. I’m usually a lurker.

    I don’t know much of the book mentioned earlier that indicates that Jesus destroyed his writings before his ministry started, but we do have some of Jesus’s writing. See Exodus 34:1. Also, 1 Nephi 16 describes a Liahona that contains writings that change over time. It doesn’t say who the author of the writings that change, but they do lead the people as long as they are righteous.

  81. We have to be careful and realize that reading and writing are two separate skills. Anciently, many learned to read, but fewer learned to write (or write well). This is why there were scribes. People would go to the scribes in the temple to have documents written for them, including official documents.

    While many Jews could read, they just never had a nun standing over them with a ruler, waiting to slap them on the wrist for making a sloppy aleph.

    I believe Jesus could read, and the New Testament attests to it, as he reads from Isaiah. But there really is no evidence of him ever writing, just as most Jews would not have been writers.

  82. Tadpole says:

    Utterly brilliant post, Natalie. Thanks for the very keen observation.

  83. However, it seems odd to me that someone who could raise people from the dead could not figure out a means to have his ministry recorded and preserved if he thought it was important.

    He did “figure out a means to have his ministry recorded and preserved”, precisely because he thought it was important. He commanded his disciples to write down his teachings and to go into all the world teaching all nations “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

    It’s not clear why Jesus himself should be expected to write these things down — after all, he had apostles whose role was as special messengers and witnesses of who he was and of his ministry and teachings. But just because Jesus himself didn’t write these things down does not mean that he did not prepare “a means to have his ministry recorded and preserved”; to the contrary, the means he provided continue to enrich us today.

    By the way, a ton of material in the Book of Mormon revolves around the importance of writing down teachings and the dealings of the Lord with the people, including numerous instances in 3 Nephi in which Christ explicitly commands his disciples to write down teachings that he has given to the prophets, and he quotes passages of his revelations to Isaiah and Malachi for the express purpose that his disciples should record them in the writings that would become part of the Book of Mormon following the labors of Mormon in the fifth century in compiling those writings into the record. Despite Jesus’ commands to his disciples in the Book of Mormon about writing down these teachings, even the Book of Mormon does not contain a complete transcript of everything Jesus taught during his time with the people (3 Nephi 26:6).

  84. BTW, John Durham Peters has an interesting discussion on this point in his book “Speaking Into the Air.” Highly recommended!

  85. Ashley M says:

    Thanks, Natalie. I’ve thought about this a lot but never in a concrete, written down sense so I thank you for bringing it up to better clarify what this fact means to me. After reading some of your replies my guess is that my thoughts will seem quite heretical. Im not sure if I’m correct in my thoughts, it’s just what makes the most sense to me.

    To me, trying to add layers and layers to “why Christ didn’t write” his messages down is like trying to give the emporer clothes. It just seems to make it all so simple to take it for what it really is. His #1 intention for each of us was to simply be like him! To serve our fellow men, love our fellow men, associate with sinners to aleviate their pains, NOT JUDGE, look upon the heart, not be letter of the law kinds of religious people (pharisees and saducees). It speaks so much against what the church teaches and it could definitly be a false philosophy but I LOVE the idea that Jesus was not trying to start a religion. Peter wanted to start the religion and hence tumbled all the scripture. As I look more into biblical history, both Old and New Testament, this way of seeing things seems to make more and more sense. Jesus came to die for us, give us an example, leave a legacy worth following and thats it! I try to find this in my Mormonism everyday and I do. I find it in my fellow members. I find it in our focus on service, humililty and the pure love of Christ. I find it in the pure examples of our current prophet and leaders. ANy thoughts?

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