I actually had more religious education than a lot of the
people I know, and I’m pretty sure that at one time I knew why
there were wars fought over whether the Holy Ghost proceded from
the Father and the Son or from the Father
through the Son.
It isn’t a problem that usually impacts my current life, but
I was delighted when my reading of RSS feeds led me to this
article about the making of the New Testament. It’s a pretty
long post, so here’s a brief excerpt, which should show you
whether you want to read more of it:
Among the books that Eusebius of Caesarea was considering were the Apocalypse of Peter and the Apocalypse of John. He had to have an apocalypse, the end of the world, because he’d started with the Gospel of John at “In Principio.” Nice symmetrical bookending. But he had several Apocalypses in his Disputed list and none in his Accepted list. What to do?
He had many objections to the Apocalypse of John, starting with What Was He Smoking, and moving on to Too Many Contemporary Political References and I’m Not 100% Sure John Was The Guy Who Wrote This. Eusebius preferred the Apocalypse of Peter, where Jesus takes Peter on a long tour of Heaven and Hell. And after Christ explains all the tortures of the damned, according to category (quite Dantesque), Peter says, “Hey, Josh. You and me go way back, went fishing together, been out drinking, talking philosophy ‘til dawn, and the whole time You’ve been all peace and love and forgiveness and mercy. Isn’t this a little dark for You?” And Jesus replies, “Yeah, Pete. I know. I’ve got to have a hell because it’s a logical necessity, but I never liked the place. Let me tell you a secret, just between you and me: I’m not going to actually put anyone in here. I’m going to save everyone.”
So Eusebius of Caesarea thought about this and said to himself, “If everyone gets saved why will anyone bother believing in Christ and being good and doing good works and loving their neighbor?” so he went with the Apocalypse of John with the seven seals and the great beast and 666 and all that instead.