Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Bible
(Aired 8 May 2007)

  Every now and then I like to massage my religious beliefs. It is good to have a healthy curiosity about the spiritual things that you believe in.

   In the discourse that preceded the Casino Gambling Bill for example I did not once say that I was against the concept of playing roulette, poker or blackjack for money. But I did object to the fact that the President of this country acting as if he was the sovereign lord of this nation, rather than its elected head of state, gave his agreement to the building of the hotels for World Cup Cricket by promising the owners of these hotels the right to have a casino Gambling License, thereby committing this nation to Casino Gambling two years before it was put before the public. The fact that he made a monstrous mistake and spent billions of dollars on a pipe dream is now a matter of record and we are poorer today because of it and in the coming months, maybe even in the coming years we will pay the price, and it will be heavy!  

   In a report released by the United Nations/ World Bank on the 3rd of May 2007 high crime rates, narco trafficking and violence are impeding the growth of much of the Caribbean.

   Giving narco traffickers a Casino is like putting fuel on a raging fire. We had that discussion before so I will not go into that here.

  But here is additional evidence that this entire region is in a very bad situation as a result of our proximity to the US, making it inevitable that we would be part of the southern hemispheric network that allows illegal narcotic drugs to get into the US which is the most lucrative market for it in the world, and our police forces are just not up to the task of stropping it since they are not properly equipped, motivated or remunerated to do it, especially in view of the fact that the narco trade is so lucrative, well equipped and organised that even the US authorities are losing the battle against it, so it may be advisable for the US authorities to examine the cost effectiveness of stopping the drug trade closer to the source here in the Caribbean, with economic support for us rather than after it arrives in the US.    

    This is after all a battle between the drug lords and the US authorities which is being conducted on our territory, since very little of these drugs are actually sold here, and we are completely unprepared for the consequences.  

   What appalled me was that all of the Church people who were so vociferous in their condemnation of this perceived scourge on our society of Casino Gambling and numbering within their midst my own Catholic Bishop forgot their objections after having met and basked in the sunshine of Bharat Jagdeo for a few short hours, completely forgetting their religious convictions and left the office of the President with their tails between their legs and have not been heard from since.

    And so we come back to me and my religion. It is not comforting to realise that the church, of which I am a member, will back down on a matter which it considered as offending such a fundamental moral issue, simply because the Head of State tells them that whatever they did, there was going to be Casino Gambling in Guyana and they can take it or leave it and they slunk away licking their wounds.

   Surely my religion which boasts more martyrs than any other religion should have moral convictions which is made of sterner stuff.

   This episode has shaken my religious beliefs quite a bit. Since not only was my bishop involved but the Guyana Council of Churches including the Muslim religious leaders were involved. It is very sad.  

  Recently some people began a debate in the letter writing columns about the genesis of the gospels and about who wrote them and when.

    Decades ago I decided that I would research the fundamentals of my faith just to make sure that my parents got it right and that I was practicing the right religion. After all are talking about eternity here and I don't want to spend it in the wrong place, so you will forgive me if I decided to hedge my bets. At that time one of the most frequent visitors to my home at Versailles was the sainted father Bernard Brown who was my parish Priest at Malgretout. Whilst I was questioning him one evening, he asked me if I was having a crisis of faith, he knew me that well that he say my doubt, I told him that I was, he then arranged for me to get two books from England the Jerusalem Bible and the Jerome Biblical Commentary these two books contain over 2500 pages so we are talking about a substantial amount of reading.

    The Jerome Biblical Commentary was published in 1968 and is supposed to be the foremost biblical commentary on the contents of the bible, it contains one thousand four hundred and seventy four pages and I have used it as a guide to the meaning of numerous concepts written in the bible since Father Brown got it for me in 1975-76, in fact when it was revised in 1990 I got the revised version which updated the theological thinking of the bible's genesis and meaning, it is called predictably enough the New Jerome Biblical Commentary.

   No legitimate scholar of the bible can operate without it, if they do not rely solely on it, they should read the bible in conjunction with it, and other legitimate commentaries which explain what the intention of the passages in the bible mean. No lay person should seek to interpret the meaning of what is contained in the bible, without help.

    The Jerome is very clear as to who wrote the gospels and indeed the order in which they were written, well as clear as anything can be when clouded by 2000 years of time and it says so.

   There will probably never be a universal agreement on this issue but we have to start somewhere. There is however universal agreement that the 4 gospels are not exactly similar, three are synoptic gospels Mark, Matthew and Luke and then there is John.

   The Synoptic gospels are in fact eyewitness accounts of events in the life of Jesus Christ, whilst John's gospel was more of a philosophical work substituting and introducing Christianity to replace the Jewish religion.

   By looking at the composition of the gospels it became clear to scholars since the 1830's that everything that is in Mark is in Matthew and in Luke. This gave rise to what is called the Markian hypothesis i.e. that the first gospel was written by Mark, his gospel contains 661 verses of which 80% is reproduced in Matthew and about 65 % in Luke. the Markian material found in the three synoptic Gospels is called the triple tradition, the non Markian material found in Luke and Matthew about 220 verses is called the double tradition. i.e. the verses are only common to two and not all three gospels. The discussion of course continues to today, but modern bible theory tells us that the best bet is for the order of the Synoptic Gospels to be Mark, Matthew and then Luke.    

   Who was Mark? Well contrary to the views expressed in the newspaper letters columns he was not an apostle, acts 12:12 &:25, 13:5-13; 15:37-39 point to a man called John Mark who was a scribe and interpreter for St. Peter and then at a later time a companion to Saul also known as St. Paul. The gospel was ascribed to Mark, the interpreter of Saint Peter, and was placed in Rome around 64 to 67 AD.

   Tradition then gives the next oldest gospel to Matthew. The commonality between Matthew and Luke suggests that there was an earlier work called the Logien-Quelle which was an early collection of sayings of Jesus Christ and when combined with the Mark gospel gave rise to the gospel of Matthew [now remember that Mark was interpreter to Peter himself so he would not have needed to be an eyewitness] if in fact apostle Matthew was the author of the Logien-Quelle then he Matthew would have been instrumental in writing some of the contents of the Matthew Gospel, but the Matthew Gospel was first seen after Mark's gospel after 64 AD but before 102 AD since at that time it was known by Ignatius of Antioch, its specific authorship however is still a matter of conjecture. So it is tentatively dated at around 80 AD.    

  The gospel of Luke was probably written by a physician called Luke, a Syrian of Antioch a companion and collaborator of St. Paul. But the gospel dates itself since it visualises the destruction of Jerusalem so it is dated at around 85 AD very close to the Matthew gospel but a few years later. Remember there are no absolutes here what I am giving you are the most widely held hypotheses based on the current research on the matter. There are other opposing views but for a layman the above satisfies me. I am not saying that it has to satisfy everyone, it satisfies me as an individual, and I hope that it has helped you.

   If there is a next time, and I feel like massaging my religious beliefs in public, I will tell you about the incredible Gospel of John.