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Some Human Sources of the UB (1992)
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pdf Morontia Mota-New Perspective (2000)
pdf Mota - the Coda (2002)
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The 1943 Midwayer Messages (2004, 2012)
155:5-6 Discourses on True Religion (2011)
16:7 Morals, Virtue and Personality (2011)
139- Apostles Study Part I (2010) go
188:4-5 Lessons from the Cross (2011)

Apostles Study: Part 1

Tracing the Sources for Paper 139 - "The Twelve Apostles"

IN HIS “Personal Account of Finding the Urantia Book” (circa 1960), Dr. Meredith J. Sprunger recounts his conversations with Dr. William S. Sadler, the Chicago author and psychiatrist who was mysteriously involved in the development of the manuscript that became the Urantia Book.

Sprunger writes:

I asked Sadler when and why he finally accepted the papers for what they claim to be. He replied that his professional pride was at stake and so he maintained a critical professional attitude until most of the papers were received. His decision to throw in his intellectual towel came, he said, when they received the paper on the twelve apostles. “I’m a psychiatrist,” he said, “and I think I know my business. But this paper gave me an inferiority complex. Even if I had a staff of psychiatrists and years to work on it, I don’t think I could prepare a paper of this quality. You almost have to have access to the interior of the human mind to write such a paper. So I finally decided to admit that we were dealing with superior knowledge.

Why Sadler seemed to assume that only a psychiatrist would be equipped to write probing character studies is puzzling. Had he never read Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky, for instance? Also, what exactly did Sadler find so impressive about Paper 139? The UB’s portrayal of the apostles extends throughout most of Part IV, but Paper 139 itself is short on deep psychological probing.

Further, was Sadler not aware that scores of books about the apostles were within easy reach, in any large bookstore or library, and that at least a few of them were clearly sources for Paper 139?

If he had delved into this literature, he would have realized that nearly all the “portraits of the apostles” were largely the product of the writers’ imaginations, extrapolating from what little could be gleaned from New Testament accounts and early traditions. For instance, the apostle Andrew is mentioned only three times in the gospels, very briefly, and yet a dozen pious Christian preachers managed to flesh out devotional portraits of him for the edification of their equally pious readers.

The standard Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias of the late 19th and early 20th centuries also profiled each apostle, drawing on gospel accounts and early church traditions. These articles relied much less on the authors’ imaginations; however, the authors, being devout Christians, were more apt to credit the historicity of early traditions than other scholars would do. Two of these biblical reference books provided source material for Paper 139.

Coincidentally, I found my first apostles source in 1994 at a used book store in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, the hometown of Meredith Sprunger. In fact, I had just visited Meredith and his wife Irene before stopping in at the bookstore. The source was These Twelve: A Study in Temperament (1926), by Charles Reynolds Brown. I didn’t find out about Meredith’s abovementioned interview with Sadler until some time later.

At the time of this writing (December 2010) I’ve found five definite sources, which collectively parallel only about half the paper. Much of the paper may well be unique. A noncommitted reader of the Urantia Book could then reasonably ask, Is the original material “revelatory” (i.e. does it reveal factual information available until then only to superhumans, as claimed in the UB) or is it the result of the same type of (human) creative imagination employed in the “portraits of the apostles” genre?

The sharing of source research alone will not settle the question, but the increased knowledge base provided by the parallels will help the reader get a handle on how the paper was written. Since my work on this paper is not developed enough to provide a full-paper parallel chart, I thought it best to present my findings on a source-by-source basis, over the next several months.

The lead-off source, and the subject of this article, is Studies of the Man Christ Jesus (1896), by Presbyterian evangelist Robert E. Speer. I found it in July of 2008 via www.books.google.com while looking for parallels for Paper 141.

The book may be read in its entirety here: http://www.archive.org/details/studiesmanchris00speegoog

As the title indicates, Jesus is the central figure; the apostles themselves receive only peripheral attention. The book is a major source for Part IV - it was used in four papers, including Papers 141 and 139 - and the apostle parallels were the least obvious and most surprising to me. Only after seeing the parallels with the other three UB papers did I notice them. They occur in Chapter III (“Some Active and Passive Traits of His [Jesus’] Character”).

That chapter is divided into ten sections, each describing a trait or set of traits. (Turn to page 12 of the Speer book to see the table of contents.)

The author of Paper 139 evidently drew from this chapter to fashion a subtheme that runs throughout the apostle portraits, which is: What trait of Jesus made a special appeal to each apostle? Each apostle, as described by Paper 139, was different in this regard; and, as the parallel chart shows, six of Jesus’ ten special traits, as described by Speer, were respectively admired by six of the twelve apostles. Andrew, Simon Peter, Thomas Didymus, James and Judas Alpheus, and Simon the Zealot are the ones who match up with six of Speer’s listed traits.

James Zebedee, John Zebedee, Philip the Curious, Honest Nathaniel, Matthew Levi, and Judas Iscariot find only debatable and vague parallels. For instance, Philip most appreciated Jesus’ “unfailing generosity”. This trait only partially corresponds to Speer’s fifth listed trait, Jesus’ “love and generosity to those who were alien or hostile to Him”. In the interests of clarity, I have not included such partial parallelisms in the chart.

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Part 2 of this study will be posted early next year.  up