Il Sfumato of the New Testament

English Section / 16 aprilie

Versiunea în limba română

(The Roman Empire Subjugates the Kingdom of Heaven - Episode 6)


Backward is Pharisaism and Saul of Tarsus, forward is the Apostle Paul and Christianity, and in the middle is Revelation, as he himself assures us; and/or the deviation from Pharisaism, incorporating Hellenism, as one might observe.

With roots in Judaism, Christianity has emerged in successive layers of biblical and theological voices, overlapping in centuries, with a sfumato effect (1) - the first layers are seen under the color of the last layers, blurring the logic of the drawing, so that the derivation of the subject of faith enters into chiaroscuro.

Tertullian's discovery that Jesus Christ is one of the beings of the Trinity - "He is one God, from whom these degrees, forms and appearances are counted, under the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (2) - was established, in the third century (approximately), above the thesis that Jesus Christ is the divinity of the Logos in the body of man, which the Evangelist John had formulated about a century earlier.

The concept of the Trinity - the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are each whole God, and together they are One God - became central in Christianity, despite the evidence that formally presents itself as a linguistic artifice, as it does not respect the logical principle of identity (3).

But the thesis of Tertullian's Holy Trinity, superimposed on the Hellenistic-inspired thesis of the Evangelist John regarding the identity of the Logos with Jesus Christ, forms a transparent layer in which both overlap the thesis of the Apostle Paul, who was the first to launch the assertion of the divine nature of Jesus Christ around the years 50-60:

"5. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Philippians 2:5-6)

The thesis above justifies the previous one, which lacked it at the time of formulation, so it was logically risky.

Without the linguistic artifice of the Trinity, which makes One out of three Gods, how could Christianity not appear as polytheistic when it presents Jesus Christ as God?

And without the identification of the Word with God and the Logos with the Word and Jesus Christ with the Logos, how could the assertion of Jesus Christ as God be justified?

Tertullian emphasized the union of the two natures of Jesus - human and divine -, John emphasized the divinity of Jesus, and Paul emphasized the importance of salvation through faith in Jesus. All three contributed to the development of early Christian theology and the understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ.

The fundamental thesis of Christianity, that Jesus Christ has a divine nature, is consolidated by consecutive layers and represents a radical change of perspective and is opposed to traditional Judaism, where faith in one God is fundamental and central.

Under the foundation of Christian painting, one can glimpse the Jewish layer of a different spirit (see Annex 1 - "The Imprint of God"), mentioned in the leitmotif - "To fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, who said..." (Matthew 8:17; 12:17; 21:4).

But there can be counted dozens of verses from the New Testament which, in order to validate themselves, allude to or explicitly quote prophecies from the Old Testament.

The reason for some actions in the New Testament lies in the desire to fulfill prophecies from the Old Testament, which inaugurate the way called here, in Italian, "Il Sfumato del Nuovo Testamento".

Saints and heretics have argued that the New Testament replaces the Old Testament (4), although they are not comparable, and the multiple references to the Old Testament present in the New Testament would remain without references.

The idea of replacement stems from a miscalculation: the New Testament imposes the Old Testament, without which, among other things, entire quotes of the declarations of Jesus Christ himself would have to be eliminated, such as Matthew 5: "17. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (5), which establishes that the Old Testament must have a continuous importance in the Christian tradition.

From the point of view of this essay, whose subject is the gap between humanity and what is understood by "divinity", the biblical texts are presented with a unitary status, of subjective opinions, expressed under divine inspiration, but with the exception of the Torah/Law/Deuteronomy, whose status as a revealed divine text is recognized (in general) both in Judaism and Christianity.

This difference in status legitimizes a radical difference in the treatment of the two types of text:

By transferring the presumed providential qualities of the author, the Torah text, considered revealed, can be conceived as infinite, both extensionally (what is achieved through the circularity of reading in a spiral) and intensionally (through the non-limitation of the meanings allocated, under the premise that they were implanted there by divinity and are waiting to be discovered);

Although certain texts of the Bible are considered holy, the rest of them support discrepancies, which are a natural result of being authored by humans. The divine inspiration that stimulates them manifests itself during personal processing. Therefore, the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3: "24. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian." This means that the Old Testament (which is guided by the Torah/Law) has completed its role and is making way for the New Testament, which had not yet been written;

Although this is one of the defining theses of the Apostle Paul, in which he insists when laying the foundation of Christianity, the drastic character of his assertions is nuanced in the larger context of his writings, making it clear that he adapts (without worrying about contradiction) to the audience he addresses.

Paul does not hesitate to find the origin of Jesus Christ in the books of the Old Testament, a text whose relevance he has just invalidated in faith: "And again, Isaiah says, 'The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him, the Gentiles will hope.'" (Romans 15:12). In this verse, he invokes Isaiah 11:10 from the Old Testament: "In that day, the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious." Its explanation is found later in Ruth 4:22: "To Jesse was born David." This succession of verses intends to attest to Jesus' royal genealogy, but in both Matthew 1:6-16 and Luke 3:23-38, only Joseph's descent from the House of David is indicated, who was his adoptive father. Therefore, Jesus cannot be assimilated with "the Root of Jesse."

The mismatch is minor, and although it is not the only one in the New Testament, it is only significant in signaling the distinct status of the text whose readers are "servants of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:6).

However, this verse from Corinthians carries three contradictions that ruin it (without even considering the contradiction with the Law itself): a). it is self-contradictory; b). it will be contradicted by the Evangelist John, and c). it contradicts Jesus' own words:

a). Among the meanings of the word "letter" is that of "a graphic sign of an alphabet in a language; a word." (DEX 2009); Paul does not take into account that one of the main ways to transfer experience in "serving the spirit" is the Epistle, which he himself entrusts to "letters," and his readers receive his ideas through "letters." Since "letters" mediate the culture of "serving the spirit," "letters" themselves cannot be inadvertent to the purpose they mediate. Thus, the Apostle Paul is self-contradictory - what he claims is contrary to what he does.

b). The Gospel of John 10:35 states, "Scripture cannot be nullified"; the polysemy of the terms "letter," "word," and "Scripture" is sometimes broken and aligned in synonymy in the New Testament:

"6. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6) - here, the opposition with "spirit" indicates that "letter" means Law/Torah/Scripture;

"It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4) - here, Jesus quotes the "word that comes from the mouth of God" as a synonym for Scripture;

from the two previous quotes, it follows that "letter" and "word" are synonymous and that each can refer to "Scripture."

The Gospel of John links the word of God inexorably to both Jesus Christ and God - "1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) - and "14. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

The argument woven into this string of quotes links Letter, Word, Scripture/Law, and Jesus Christ/God into a unified sequence, which is surprisingly asserted by the Apostle Paul himself: "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

Although it can be argued that the polysemy of the terms in the string does not allow for their synonymy and that, perhaps, the Gospel of John does not contradict the words of the Apostle Paul but only offers a personal perspective on Christian beliefs, it is nevertheless certain that the attempt to confer coherence opposes it, and the impression, after a detailed examination of the words of the two Saints, is that they are not only in agreement, but also in disagreement;

c). Another meaning of the term "letter" (which the Apostle Paul himself uses) is Law (the one that God is said to have entrusted to Moses), as can be seen in Romans 7: "6. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."

Jesus Christ is quoted (Matthew 5) with a contrary opinion: "19. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

The expression "will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" means salvation.

As the attempt of the Apostle Paul goes far beyond just "breaking one of these commandments" but leads to the rejection of the entire Law, including all of God's Commandments, Jesus Christ refers to him as "the least in the kingdom of heaven"; this situation is caused by the Apostle Paul himself, through his insistence on promoting faith in Jesus Christ, which, through the quote from Matthew 5, downgrades him "avant la lettre" (6); if, indeed, Jesus Christ refers to Hillel when he says "18. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the Law," and if, as we see, the Apostle Paul is a bearer of the liberal line inaugurated by Hillel in the interpretation of the Law and in his attitude towards God, then it can be said that Jesus Christ rejects them both, together.

The tolerance for the approximations and leaps from one extreme to another of the epistles of the Apostle Paul cannot be extended to those foundational theses that ruin their declared purpose, as has been seen before.

Similarly, the Apostle Paul proceeded in the case of the elevation of the master of slaves to the rank of divinity: "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ" (See "A. Deviations from Pharisaism, in the origin of Christianity"/Note 2).

This thesis of the Apostle Paul, contrary to those advanced by Jesus Christ, is derived from the original Pharisaic doctrine of the Hillel clan, serving not the "spirit," but the "establishment."


(1) - Sfumato: The technique in painting of an imperceptible transition from light to shadow, developed (also) by Leonardo da Vinci, in the case of several paintings;

Glaze: Clear and transparent color applied (in painting) over a denser color and serving to render chiaroscuro.

(2) Tertullian, born Quintus Septimius Florens, (ca. 150, Carthage - d. after 220, Carthage), was an early Christian writer, the first patristic writer to publish in Latin, which is why he was called "the father of Western Christianity" and "the founder of Western theology." Tertullian is the first author to use the word Trinitas as the equivalent of the Greek τριάς, to designate the Holy Trinity. (Wikipedia)

"Adversus Praxeas"/Ch. 2/Tertullian:

"[...] we believe that there is only one God, but under the following dispensation, or oikonomia, as it is called, that this one God also has a Son, His Word, who proceeded from Himself, through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made. We believe that He was sent by the Father into the Virgin and was born of her - being both Man and God, the Son of Man and the Son of God - and that He was called by the name Jesus Christ; we believe that He suffered, died, and was buried according to the Scriptures, and after He was raised by the Father and taken back to heaven, He sits at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. He who was sent also from heaven by the Father, according to His own promise, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

The idea of the Trinity appears in an incipient form in Jesus' formulation, as reported in the Gospel of Matthew (written, it seems, between 70 and 100 CE):

"18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28).

These two verses precede the final one in Matthew's Gospel.

In his book "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture" (Oxford University Press, 1993), Bart Ehrman argues that the Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19 was added later to support the Trinitarian theology developed later by the Christian Church.

(3) Subsequently, the logical difficulty of the concept of the Trinity led to the introduction of the Filioque clause - the addition of the four words "and the Son" to the Nicene Creed - which, theologically, justified the Great Schism between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in 1054.

In the Nicene Creed, it is said that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father" (in Latin, "qui ex Patre procedit").

In the 8th century, the Catholic Church began to add the Filioque clause, so that the Creed would affirm that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son" ("qui ex Patre Filioque procedit"). This addition was motivated by the desire to emphasize the unity and equality of the Son with the Father in the Holy Trinity, but it was rejected by orthodoxy with a subtle argument: maintaining a defining expression that is irrational for the Holy Trinity is a boundary, signaling the limit at which logic must stop, because Divinity cannot be investigated rationally, but only through the experience of faith.

In other words, discourse about God is improper, which superimposes the Orthodox conception over the initial Jewish conception, in which YHWH is only a sign for God, but cannot be vocalized (as "Yahweh") or treated as a word that is His name.

Among those who, in the first three Christian centuries, considered that the Old Testament was no longer necessary and had been replaced by the New Testament, were both the holy Apostle Paul and the heretic Cardinal Marcion of Sinope, as well as others such as Tatian the Syrian, Clement of Alexandria, and so on.

The Apostle Paul writes in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 3):

"6 who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?"

He also insists:

"14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.

15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart."

In the presumed time of Jesus Christ's life, only the Torah (the Law/Pentateuch) and the Nevi'im (the Prophets) had been canonized, while it was only later in the first century that the Ketuvim (the Writings) were canonized. The Ketuvim include the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Job, Ruth, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, and the Twelve Minor Prophets.

Therefore, when Jesus uses the term "the Law and the Prophets," he is not just referring to the Torah and Nevi'im, but to the entire textual body, which was later designated by the acronym Tanakh (TNK = Torah + Nevi'im + Ketuvim).

The Christian canon admitted supplementary ("deuterocanonical") books in the Old Testament that were not included in the Jewish canon, such as Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, Daniel (including Susanna and the Elders), and Maccabees (I, II, and III). The Ethiopian Orthodox Church also accepts the Books of Enoch and Jubilees.


This essay proposes an interpretation that does not exclude consacrated interpretations, but rather adds to them; the critique it develops of religious texts is nothing more than a critique of texts; readers are warned that the author of the essay did not intend to undermine faith and is aware that this would not be a useful or achievable objective.