The Problem With Jesus is…

He’s the frontman for the leaders of the church. He’s the fall guy and the reason for anything a church does. But Jesus really isn’t Jesus, he’s some form of you.

Jesus may have been real and walked this earth, but I am pretty sure the Jesus being taught in most churches is a construction of their own imaginations and desires, they are seeing what matches up with their own images.

I know I am right about this – I have had some time over the past week to see a history within America, and in the West, of the changing face of Christianity. I saw the south and north argue over slavery and segregation – and each side represented by their lawyer, Jesus. Also denomination splits in early America into the 1900’s became part of the normal Christian landscape – each with their version of Jesus and what ‘he really meant’. One cannot look at all of this and find a clear picture of Jesus – since it is severely convoluted.

One has to admit the obvious, Jesus is a construct of each denomination’s desires and reflects themselves, not what Jesus actually was and did. This is why someone can justify as a Christian the death of an abortion doctor, because they want it and they can put an excuseable face on their notions, Jesus. Slavery, homophobia, segregation, church splits, anti-Jewish sentiments, and any issue can also be lumped in this category. Jesus ain’t Jewish, Jesus is American that hated communism in the 50’s, felt we needed to mesh politics and religion, cares about prayer in school and the 10 commandments in front of courts, etc. It’s not such a crazy thought to ask ‘who is Jesus’ with all the insanity about who many think he is?

I read the bible. I like Jesus. But Jesus isn’t Western in his mindset or feel when I read him. He is Jewish, from the Middle East, practicing Judaism and upholding Torah and Prophets. He is not a messianic Jew, he is thoroughly a Jew and loving it. He believes in the Shema and One God, that God being His Father – the father of all Israel. Jesus never heard of Christianity nor Paul. Jesus claims were to messiah type ideals within the land of Israel, which did include a concern for Gentiles. Jesus had a mother and brothers and sisters, was not born of a virgin, believed in the idea God was active in humanity, seen a need for ‘renewal’, and functioned like a prophet figure (and should be read with this in mind). Jesus bought into ideas of his time, things that were constructs (influenced) of time amongst Gentiles. In fact, messiah was a theology developed over time when faced by problems outside Judaism and dealing with a more global national identity (ie: exile). In a nutshell, Jesus was a Jew, not a Lutheran, not a Methodist, not a Baptist, not a Catholic, etc.

What hasn’t changed about Jesus is he probably would of been killed today as he was in his own day, by people claiming to know him. I would say he is being crucified daily by churches across the country who use his image to justify their own behaviors, behaviors which mirror nothing about Jesus in scripture. If Jesus does come back, what will be his words for the church? Good intentions sure, but interpretations and structures that seem to betray his every vision. I won’t ‘pretend’ to speak for Jesus on the subject, you decide what your version of Jesus will say.

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57 thoughts on “The Problem With Jesus is…

  1. You have one correct conclusion; Jesus was real and did walk the earth.

    But you say our version of Jesus can’t be Jesus, I suppose, due to our own corruption. When you say, “Jesus is not a messianic Jew”, you show your own willful ignorance of what the historical Jesus plainly said. Jesus declared himself the messiah over 100 times. If you claim he didn’t, you are simply convicting yourself of the very thing you condemn others for.
    I think your whole problem with God is that you’re trying to preempt Him; to jump ahead and force on Him the rabbinic Jews of today, and to perhaps force Him to incorporate the Muslims and Buddhists et al. It’s quite possible that God could find a way to reconcile all people. I myself would like to think so, but in no way must we say what cannot be said in deference to our own wishful thinking. It is just as likely that rabbinic Jews will burn in the Lake of Fire, and very unlikely that we will fret over such a thing if we are truly basking in the glory of God Almighty.

  2. It is just as likely that rabbinic Jews will burn in the Lake of Fire, and very unlikely that we will fret over such a thing if we are truly basking in the glory of God Almighty.(JJ)

    Glad to see your Jesus loving compassion expressed. I certainly hope your daughter maintains your belief structure, if she doesnt I hope she likes the heat.

  3. Sorry, TFT, I just happen to love God more than I love people. Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I’m my wife’s personal chef and I support her in everything. I’ve worked hard to send my daughter to good schools. I’ve worked with the homeless charities and many others helping people.

    When you say you love people and it’s cruel that any should perish, you’re really just masking your disdain for God. The problem is not with Jesus, it’s with us for not putting God first. It’s as if salvation belonged to us or came from us. Good luck with that. I love God more than I love people. It’s discernment, not lack of compassion.

    • Im not talking about your love of your family or friends or possibly even strangers. Im talking about your cavalier approach to the possibility that many of these same individuals could suffer a tortuous lake of fire for eternity and you pretty much state you wouldnt give a shit because you are next to god. Truly, truly, God almighty. 😦

  4. Jim,
    Thanks for sending such kind thoughts my sons’ way. Truly appreciate that you have all your priorities in just the right place. Not everyone can party down while the children treasured by ‘other people’ are being tortured without end right next door. Some people would be really disturbed by such a thing, but it’s good to know you and your god would have no such qualms.

    I am reminded of something I read in a Holocaust story, where the Nazis played classical music at an incredible loud volume so that no one could hear the screams of Jewish children being thrown alive into fire pits. I immediately thought of people such as yourself, Jim, who think that this torture never ends for Jewish kids or adults. At least with Hitler it eventually ended, but your god is worse than Hitler because with your god it will never end! What a deal! I guess you guys will just have to turn up the volume on the ‘Praise and Worship’ music to drown all the rest of us out. Hope it won’t hurt your ears too much since such I wouldn’t want you to fell any discomfort, god forbid.

    I don’t get why people aren’t running in droves to sign up for your god! Go figure.

    Anyway, I’m ‘naming and claiming’ my own scripture verses these days! Hallelujah! Jim says me and mine are going to hell? Oh well, even if he’s right, we won’t be bothered in the least. And Isaiah 43 tells us why:

    “But now thus said Adonai – Who created you, O Jacob, Who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I will redeem you; I have singled you out by name, You are Mine. When you pass through water, I will be with you; through streams, and they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire you shall not be scorched; through flame, it shall not burn you, for I am the Holy One of Israel…”

    So, you see, Jim. I’ve got all the bases covered because (everyone now switch to that oh so solemn, serious tone of voice) ‘God said so’. Oh wait, never mind. I keep forgetting we Jews got kicked out of our own stories….

    Doesn’t matter. I figured out a long time ago where hell will actually be – it will be in the ‘true believer’ section of olam haba, the world to come. These types will be so upset about the situation in heaven that they torment themselves and everyone around them for all eternity. They will be so pissed off that those horrible others will be in the same place as them, so pissed off that God actually likes ‘those people’. Oy vey. How can this be possible?

    While the rest of us will be kicking back with a few L’Chaims the ‘true believers’ will be wailing and carrying on in true ‘true believer’ fashion. To be stuck in that section with these types who are still insisting quite vehemently that they know more than God about who should be allowed in and who not; that would indeed be hell, where the fire of their zeal is never quenched and the worms do not turn (teshuva)….

    Tossing all of this aside, let’s see, I can choose to spend eternity with Jim and Jim-type people, or I can choose to spend eternity with my rabbis and Jewish friends and people such as Ghandi. Oh gee, how will I ever decide…such a tough choice…besides, as I have pointed out before, Mr. Bean says I’m right. So there!

  5. It’s as if salvation belonged to us or came from us.
    Yael, your analogy is very odd. I do not plan to burn anyone in the Lake of Fire. I would be more interested in preventing it, but I simply cannot say if I would ever know whether anyone is finally condemned that way. The only salvation I can be sure of is my own.
    You don’t believe God has a right to destroy people? The Jewish God is sovereign. If he so chooses to destroy, who are we to condemn him for it? I trust God’s judgment, do you?

  6. Jim, your God and views of God mean not the least thing to me. How about you go learn how to read Hebrew so you can actually read Tanakh for yourself rather than in translation, study Talmud, and the writings of Jews through the ages and then perhaps you can start talking about what a Jewish God might or might not be.

    My analogy is very old? Really? Gee, I thought the holocaust happened less than 100 years ago.

    No, I would say what is old is your refusal to take responsibility for your own beliefs. You say my sons, the sons and daughters of all my friends, me, my friends, everyone I know, all of our ancestors and our descendants, will likely burn forever, but then you want to claim all innocence. Oh, this doesn’t bother me in the least because I love God more than people. Well, la-de-da, aren’t you just the epitome of piety.

    You are truly one amusing character, Jim. Sick? Definitely. But also incredibly amusing.

    I just spoke about the Akedah last Shabbat at shul and wrote the following on my blog:

    Abraham looked up and saw a ram just after it was caught by its horns in a thicket (Genesis 23:13). After Abraham SEES the ram and sacrifices it, kills it for his God, Abraham names the place ‘Adonai Yir’eh’ because ‘on the mount of Adonai, God will be SEEN (Genesis 23:14).

    Where was God seen? Abraham saw a ram. Was that God being seen? Why the immediate linking of seeing a ram, killing it, and God being seen? Abraham and God do not speak again after the Akedah. Was Abraham saying that on this mount God was killed? Is God ‘killed’ every time people sacrifice each other to their God/god/gods and then claim that God rewarded them afterward for being willing to give everything they valued in life over to God?

    I write this and then two days later here comes Jim with his altar….

  7. this reminds me of my hermeneutic post namely that i don’t act like i am following Jesus, but more that i’m being implicated by him. I think you’d love books by Borg, Spong, and Crossan (which i think you’ve read Crossan, right?) I’ve just finished “Jesus Against Christianity” by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. He argues that the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth has mostly disappeared from the church and from the lives of most Christians. In his place are a pathologically violent God, muddled thinking and unjust living. The real Jesus is missing or has been banished and Nelson-Pallmeyer, a scholar, activist, author and regular contributor to Sojourners magazine, wants to find him again.

    the problem with this, is that we’ll never arrive at the “real” Jesus. we have, as what Borg calls, a divide between the Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ. both are in the gospels and we can’t separate the two. we have Jesus, who would have been Jewish and all the things you say, but we have the early Church’s record of him which substitutes a messianic version, and is where we get the Christ. we have to deal with both, we can’t take one over the other, because when we do we have conversations like the one that’s going on now above with JJ with the Christ and everyone else talking him down.

    i must say though, that i’ve encountered Jesus and i stand convicted that Christianity is the way to go for a variety of reasons. so i can’t fully stand behind the statement “But Jesus really isn’t Jesus, he’s some form of you.” as an absolute, blanket statement. religion can be the best thing in the world, healing, liberating, and freeing people to the abundance of life, yet it can stifle life just as quickly when we make it a heartless set of requirements. just as Jesus stated in Mark 7:9-“You cleverly ignore the commands of God so you can follow your own teachings.” or what was written in 2 Tim 4:3-4 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” This is that tribal mindset, that “I’m saved and you’re not” idea. The same Jonah had when he couldn’t believe God loved the Ninevites or Peter found God with Cornelius, the Bible is not establishment literature, it’s preference is for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden in almost every book save Numbers, later half of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy as the priestly class wrote those. the prophets definitely aren’t establishment, and Jesus carries on that role, despite what 2,000 years of eccesiastical turkeys acting like establishment was their stock and trade.

    as i’ve found time and time again, that this style Christianity is so different from everything else calling itself Christianity, i’ve had to rename it Xnity. it’s humanistic as it loves humans as God loves humans, it’s accepting, it’s aware of it’s own faults and short-comings, it doesn’t claim all other religions are going straight to hell or don’t hold truth or even that it’s the first among equals, and it sees no divide between sacred and secular or religion and science. but i’m usually called a radical, socialist, proto-Unitarian, or plainly non-Christian when i articulate this version of faith. so it goes. yet we can see it throughout our history as a faith and people.

  8. oh, and Jim, “It’s quite possible that God could find a way to reconcile all people.”

    he did, through the life and open table fellowship of Jesus. for Jesus came to the world to save it and not condemn it. your comments don’t help bring others to the table, but repel them. not helpful dawg.

  9. Yael @ 630–Not everyone can party down while the children treasured by ‘other people’ are being tortured without end right next door. Some people would be really disturbed by such a thing, Yael @814– Your salvation means nothing to the rest of us, Jim. Never has, never will.

    Just thought I’d juxtapose those two quotes. And, sorry, the analogy was odd, not old (see 8:12 quote).

    Again, I repeat, salvation is up to God, not us. It seems the complaint is that God could condemn someone.

    I almost missed this gem by tildeb. Atheists often pick up on those critical points that us religionists tend to overlook.
    tildeb–Jim writes I just happen to love God more than I love people.

    There in a nutshell is why religion poisons everything.

    He is exactly right.

    • Your views on salvation, Jim, means nothing to me, do not affect me, have never affected me or anyone I know. They are merely the views of your RELIGION, and yes, yours is just as much a religion as the rest of ours, and do not mean one single thing to anyone outside your religion. That you think your religion speaks for all of God is your delusion, not mine.

      You don’t get the partying down deal? Really? You and your pals are all supposed to go to heaven one day and have a grand old time with your God while me and mine are supposed to be tormented forever. You say that won’t bother you at all because you’re so in love with God that God can do whatever God wants.

      Cool. So, God can go around torturing people and that’s OK? Really? So, I guess most of us here on earth are much better than God then, because we don’t think it’s OK to go around torturing people. God is held to no standards of decency at all, but the rest of us have to do what this God says or God will barbecue us forever? Your god can go right ahead. I’d rather be tortured forever than bow to such an evil entity.

  10. Z1 – I kinda remember going through the open table fellowship phase with Yael. She’d have nothing of it.

    I’m not wishing burning forever on anyone. I sincerely hope that God can heal every heart. And it’s not an “Ooops, you picked the wrong answer, you’re goin’ to Hell. Bummer!” situation either. Again, my point was and still is, God has the right to do such a thing. And the Judge of all the earth will do right (Gen 18). I held the same “not my God” view Yael has and missed out on decades of a wonderful relationship. We shouldn’t judge God for things we simply don’t know about.

  11. well JJ, i feel Yael and i are at the same table and having quite a Mitzvah! plus, if you’re a Trinitarian, Yael has a great relationship! It’s not the one you or i know (and you and i have differing views as well), but we’re at the same table. Recall Acts 10:34-43 “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God.’”

  12. “But you say our version of Jesus can’t be Jesus, I suppose, due to our own corruption. When you say, “Jesus is not a messianic Jew”, you show your own willful ignorance of what the historical Jesus plainly said” (JJ)

    So Jesus proclaimed he was a messianic Jew? Where? And I mean like the messianic Jews we have running around in our era (ie: Jews for Jesus). As for claims to the messiah, I know that I even mentioned that, but what messiah means is another thing.

    “I think your whole problem with God is that you’re trying to preempt Him” (JJ)

    Jim, how big is the God you serve? Is there anything I can do that could actually ‘pre-empt’ His power? I am merely kicking out a perspective that the Jesus we know may not be the Jesus of the bible…and Luke gives 2 good reasons for that – Jesus and Paul had varying messages to some degree. Which makes sense, Paul only cared about the Gentiles and Jesus only his Jewish nation.

    As for inclusion of the Jewish people into my view of Jesus – it’s perfectly sensible – Jesus himself was Jewish and adhered to Judaism. I don’t know why that is even questioned to be honest.

    “It’s quite possible that God could find a way to reconcile all people. I myself would like to think so, but in no way must we say what cannot be said in deference to our own wishful thinking” (JJ)

    It’s a better belief/viewpoint to live by than this next line…

    “It is just as likely that rabbinic Jews will burn in the Lake of Fire, and very unlikely that we will fret over such a thing if we are truly basking in the glory of God Almighty.” (JJ)

    So basically your view is this:

    (a) Wishful thinking is better than what is taught in scripture.

    *Atheists feel free to jump in now.

  13. “i must say though, that i’ve encountered Jesus and i stand convicted that Christianity is the way to go for a variety of reasons. so i can’t fully stand behind the statement “But Jesus really isn’t Jesus, he’s some form of you.” as an absolute, blanket statement” (luke)

    I agree as well and on the same page as you – but I must push this a little further into inquisitiveness.

    Isn’t the Jesus you serve to some degree you?

    I mean, Jesus is recorded in history by writer’s with agenda’s (ie: a narrative to frame). Are we both not doing the same with Jesus? Jesus’ teachings are quite vague and require you and I to enter in ‘how we would do such and such a thing’.

    For example, ‘love your neighbors’ doesn’t exactly come with a checklist of ‘how to and where to’. Jesus apoke in parables, which contain multiple meanings within even the shortest parable. John’s gospel is covered with symbolism and metaphors about who Jesus is. So to some degree, it is us filling in the blanks and being the students Jesus requires.

    Doesn’t Jesus shoot a line like this one time ‘the student should endeavor to be like his teacher’…and at another time ‘do even greater things than his teacher’. Even the gospels are pretty rife with the idea of our inclusion as students in the learning and later the teaching process.

  14. society, I’m not following your line of reasoning. So Jesus proclaimed he was a messianic Jew? Where? Jesus proclaimed that he was the Messiah. And all Jews were waiting for a Messiah. You also say, but what messiah means is another thing. And then you don’t say what messiah means…to you, at least. Of course, Jesus is a psychological construct in our own minds loosely based on an historical man. Or whatever.

    The reason why you’re all at the same table in this case (and I’m in the corner with my anchovy sandwich and Star Trek lunchbox) is that 1) you’re happy that your interpretations are just for you and 2) everyone is saved.

    If everyone is saved, then Hitler was saved. Do we all agree that your table supports Hitler’s salvation? If not, then why not?

  15. Everyone isn’t saved in my religion. Lots of people never were saved. 6 million died in the Holocaust and no one saved them, numerous others died in pogroms, inquisitions, and crusades, no one saved them. Jason’s people were almost anihilated and no one saved them. People are murdered every day, no one saves them. When people are in danger, sometimes they get saved, sometimes they don’t.

    Hitler killed himself. I guess if he had wanted to, he could have saved himself from that fate.

    So, your point is what? That you STILL don’t get that terms like ‘salvation’ and ‘being saved’ have one meaning in your text and a totally different one in mine?

    Perhaps the reason I can get along with Jason and Zero is that we don’t make these kinds of assumptions?

    For those Jews who believe there is some kind of afterlife, and some do, some don’t, someone like a Hitler died and that was it for him. Too bad, so sad. No torment, no nothing, just gone. For myself, I don’t worry nor care about what happens when I die, nor do I spend time wondering about what will happen to everyone else when they die. I’d rather spend my time helping people be able to live, right here, right now.

    My interpretations…I might interpet a passage any number of ways, that’s what happens when you can understand Hebrew and think for yourself. And what people take from my interpretations is their business, not mine. If someone doesn’t like my interpretations and takes the time to think about why not, I take that as a compliment. If they take what I say and use it to branch off into their own studies, or to think about something they’d never considered or noticed before, cool. If they take what I say and repeat it like a parrot, I have failed. Your religion seems to like parrots best. Different views, Jim. As always.

  16. Such an outpouring of hate from people who claim to know God. Is this suppose to draw people to Judaism or something? Do you not see it?

  17. LOL, Bob, Bob, Bob. It is a very old tactic to accuse someone of being hateful just because they hold to another POV. People read into other people’s comments what they want to read. If you want to read hate, that is what you read, if you want to read humor, that is what you read. It’s not the writer that determines the tone, it’s the reader. Do YOU not see it?

    It is not a goal in Judaism to ‘draw people’ to Judaism; we don’t proselytize nor feel any need to do so.

    I find it quite amusing, Jim is the one who says my kids are likely to be tormented in hell for all eternity and that this won’t bother him at all because he’ll be there with God; yet you see Judaism as the problem here, but not anything Jim said? I guess people do indeed see what they want to see!

    Jim doesn’t hate me; I don’t hate him. Now and then he likes to make outrageous remarks to see if he can get a response from me. He knows what he’s doing, I know what he’s doing. Mostly I ignore him, sometimes I respond. I’m laughing as I type my responses to him and I have every reason to believe he’s laughing as he responds back.

    It is just a blog after all.

  18. Bob,
    I’m evil because I say I wouldn’t fault God for punishing people. That’s it in a nutshell. A God that might actually hold you accountable is unacceptable and relegated to “bigoted interpretation” status.

    Yael–My interpretations…I might interpet a passage any number of ways, that’s what happens when you can understand Hebrew and think for yourself.

    I have a book called a Concordance, Yael. I can understand Hebrew too. That’s a very condescending thing to say. And, yes, I do think for myself but not so much that I create my own truth, which is what you guys are doing; Jesus wasn’t messianic, belief in an afterlife doesn’t matter, etc. Regarding the afterlife, Jesus pointed out the Sadduccee’s error in not believing in an afterlife when he pointed out that God’s name forever (Exodus 3) was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and asked rhetorically if God was a God of the dead or the living. There’s myriad other examples he could have pointed to in the Pentateuch to make the same point. If you believe the point is debatable, I can only imagine how many other solid doctrines you think are also debatable.

    • Jim,
      A concordance? You’re relying on a concordance to tell you what Hebrew words mean or don’t mean? As if a concordance isn’t just one more person’s interpretation of what words mean! And how does one begin to read sentences using a concordance?

      Yes, I do sound condescending at times, or maybe even a lot of the time. I get very tired of people who cannot sit down and read Hebrew for themselves taking shots at my interpretations, as if somehow mine are defective because they do not line up with the interpretations made by Christians long ago. The Christian guys who made these interpretations wanted to back up what they themselves believed, one single interpretation which doesn’t even hint that there could be other interpretations. When I interpret I leave open all possibilities, yet I’m the one who is off the mark here? I don’t think so!

      You do think for yourself? Good. I have to admit I saw no evidence of such a thing happening, but I will take your word for it that you do and that somehow it just happens you don’t deviate all that much from the evangelical ‘party line’.

      Jesus means nothing whatsoever to me so I’m not making up any ‘truths’ about him one way or the other.

      The idea of an afterlife is a product of the very rabbis you claim will likely end up in hell….how ironic. What Jesus had to say about any afterlife means nothing to me; I don’t know how many more times I have to repeat this. If you want to refute what I have to say, don’t come at me with the NT. It means no more to me than Talmud does to you. If I wanted to, I could use Tanakh in the same way the NT does and back up my claim that I’m the messiah, one of my favorite articles is one where an anti-missionary uses quotes from Tanakh to prove his chicken is messiah. It’s not that hard to do when a person just uses Tanakh as a resource for cherry picking.

      ‘Solid doctrine’ and ‘salvation’ are your concerns, Jim, not mine. You keep trying to force your values on to everyone else and it just doesn’t work, no matter how much you claim your values are really God’s values.

      Salvation in Tanakh is PHYSICAL salvation from danger. Therefore I do not believe that everyone is ‘saved’ because people get hurt and die all the time. Obviously they were not PHYSICALLY saved. Solid doctrine is as solid as you want it to be. You want to make your religion into a concrete block, I guess you are about as solid as you can get. I have no interest in concrete and there is no requirement that I must have this interest or I will be excluded from all things God.

      You don’t like that you can’t sit at the table with the rest of us and you complain that the reason we can sit together is because we’re all bad rather than pious truth holders such as you see yourself being. Gee, I don’t hold to any of these stories that you hold to, but isn’t there one in your text about ‘some people’ getting pissed off about ‘some other people’ sitting and eating together, ‘some other people’ that just weren’t good enough by those ‘other peoples’ standards? And what was your guys response to those ‘other people’? Or is it that you never actually look for yourself in your own texts?

      Funny thing how you claim God can do anything God wants, but you can never allow that God just might have friends you don’t think God is allowed to have, or that God might not care in the least what any of us think about God but is instead more interested in how we take care of the world around us and each other. Your God can kill all the rest of us if your God chooses to do so, but your God can’t relate to all the rest of us through any means other than the one you yourself use to relate to God. That’s one strange God you love more than anyone or anything…Or is it control more than anyone or anything. 😛

      It’s been fun but I’m checking out of the conversation. As you know, the reality is I march to the beat of a different drum, I prefer to, I always will, and if I miss the God boat in the process, oh well, so be it. The older I get, the less I care. 😀

  19. “Isn’t the Jesus you serve to some degree you?”

    the short answer is “yes and no.” it’s a good question! this is an interpretative question.

    a fundamentalist friend once told me that you are never to “interpret” the bible. i hope he now knows that is impossible. you cannot NOT interpret the bible. our very reading of the bible is our interpreting it through our culture, our temperament, through our personality, through our historical context, and may other layers. that is always an interpretation.

    yet we have the modern critical methods. if you refuse informed interpretation, then you are trapped in your own limited cultural interpretation. so the face that looks out from the lines of the text will indeed be your own. but using the method, meeting your biases consciously and trying to get your own ego agenda out of the way is key. and here is where Christianity has been very very weak in the spiritually educating it’s adherents and why i keep emphasizing a scholarly piety as necessary to the process.

    so while i’ll start with me, i don’t end there. if i did i would still be trapped in my own prejudices, able to write off atheists and nonChristians alike, still homophobic and sexist and more racist than i already am. so while i’m still me, i’m a more open me. a transformed me. transformed by the Christian Tradition, scripture, and Christ himself. i am still me in this process, but i believe we all have our particular gifts to bring to the table.

    so while the Jesus i followed looked a lot like me at the beginning, i find myself chasing after and holding onto a much different and wilder person than i started with who doesn’t act, speak, think, or do “me” very well at all.

  20. “Jesus proclaimed that he was the Messiah. And all Jews were waiting for a Messiah” (JJ)

    Point is Jesus was nothing like the messianic Christians we have in our era. Jesus adhered to Judaism and liked his own faith and culture. Dod he come to start a whole new faith is the better question?

    As for all Jews waiting for a messiah, this isn’t exactly true. Many were and many ideas were floating around but what this messiah was and would do. Many were waiting for a Jewish messiah to free them from the clutches of Roman Imperialism. Well, Jesus did not do that – in fact – he died at their hands like many other Jewish messianic figures of the day (ie: Bar Kohkba).

    “And then you don’t say what messiah means…to you, at least. Of course, Jesus is a psychological construct in our own minds loosely based on an historical man. Or whatever” (JJ)

    True, messiah – means ‘anointed one of God’ – which is basically to say someone God would send to free Israel from the plight it is facing (ie: exile). That’s the basics of the idea, which is why Jesus was only concerned with Israel during his life. In fact, the apocalyptic visions in Matthew and Revelations seem to also only take place in Israel (ie: Armageddon happens in the valley of Megiddo).

    Messiah came to mean more though and I agree this is the case.

    Jeffrey Spitzer gives the messiah 10 different options from scripture:

    A Child Who Grows Up to Rule in Peace
    Judge and Descendant of King David
    Great Warrior
    Skilled Judge
    The Messiah’s Arrival Depends Upon the People Israel
    The Messiah as a Blighted Beggar
    The Despised but Beautiful Messiah
    Academic Head
    A Successful Philosopher/King/General
    There is No Messiah, Just a Messianic Age
    The Messiah Could Be Anyone
    Waiting for Us, Among Those Who Need Healing

    Article: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Theology/Afterlife_and_Messiah/Messianism/Who_is_the_Messiah.shtml

    Jesus falls into many of these categories and some of them he doesn’t (ie: great warrior). For me, I see Jesus as a messianic figure more like an academic head (ie Teacher) who ushered in a new era (ie: a kingdom ethic and theology).

    I also don’t mind that we Christians have taken a strictly Gentile view of what the teachings of Jesus mean, since we all are Gentiles who follow this messiah. We do not follow the law for example, but we were never required to. We have our own cultures that we adhere to and that is okay. I would say the Noahide laws are a good guide for Christianity to use in keeping with the intentions of Jesus (or Paul) for Gentiles communities. I see the Tanakh as God’s word and can be used for inspiration for one’s life (this inspired the NT).

  21. “The reason why you’re all at the same table in this case (and I’m in the corner with my anchovy sandwich and Star Trek lunchbox) is that 1) you’re happy that your interpretations are just for you and 2) everyone is saved.” (JJ)

    I don’t believe ‘everyone is saved’ and I also don’t think my interpretations are ‘just for me’ (assumption on your part).

    However, if there is question about the depth of an atonement that Jesus fulfilled, it would have to include everyone since no human has anything to do with it and it’s reach. Good thing for you is I don’t think there was that type of atonement (since a human cannot be sacrificed for God).

    My interpretations fall into the universalist line of thinking, this is true. However, I base everything I do believe about Jesus and my faith in scriptural backings, so how it is me determining this interpretation just for me is quite beyond me. If I were to make this only about me, I would just scrap the bible altogether and develop my type of religious system apart from Jesus, NT, Tanakh, Prophets, etc. I wouldn’t quite need them now would I?

    “If everyone is saved, then Hitler was saved. Do we all agree that your table supports Hitler’s salvation? If not, then why not?” (JJ)

    Like Yael, I think Hitler is just dead and gone. No afterlife for him but also no eternal suffering for him.

  22. “Such an outpouring of hate from people who claim to know God. Is this suppose to draw people to Judaism or something? Do you not see it?” (Bob)

    I don’t really see any hate to be honest. It’s a dialogue about religion, and sometimes emotion is involved, but it’s nothing more than that.

    If religion cannot be questioned – how is it to change? If religion cannot be changed – how can we stop any of this hate from religious sources we see in our society now? Which is why I write a blog on religion – so we can all discuss it and come to conclusions on various ideas in our texts, discuss modernity, and seek change and peace for the 21st century.

  23. almost missed this one: ““If everyone is saved, then Hitler was saved. Do we all agree that your table supports Hitler’s salvation? If not, then why not?” (JJ)

    i love how you say God can do whatever God wants, and then states God couldn’t or wouldn’t save Hitler. Why is Hitler always used to show God’s wrath and never used to show the complete and total grace of God?

    i’m not saying Hitler is or Hitler isn’t. what I am saying is that if grace is true, and all people will be drawn to God, then i’m not ruling it out.

  24. Z-1. It was a trick question. My POV differed from the table’s because I said God can punish the wicked (by that I mean unrepentant sinners) while the table said he does not. Yael said he would just die and that was that. So you’re saying God would forgive Hitler without the need for Hitler to recognize his deeds as wrong. Is that correct?

  25. “My POV differed from the table’s because I said God can punish the wicked (by that I mean unrepentant sinners) while the table said he does not.” (JJ)

    I believe in punishment – we humans do it to ‘correct’ matters of laws being broken. I think it applies to God as well (since we are doing something like this I would have to imagine God would as well).

    What I don’t believe is what you call punishment is actually punishment, it’s torture and they are different.

    Parents punish kids all the time, but for what ends? To hurt their kids for eternity or to make them better – refine them? If God were to punish someone, would it be eternal or momentary? If eternal, that’s just plain old torture since there is no means of resolution involved.

    Could not resurrecting be seen as a punishment? It’s actually a pretty horrible thought to think of not existing – now that I think about it. Maybe eternity offers a redemption I am unaware of?

  26. society– don’t believe ‘everyone is saved’ and I also don’t think my interpretations are ‘just for me’ (assumption on your part).

    So we agree that everyone is not necessarily saved. It seems to me that I’ve been criticized for this position that apparently everyone holds. I have also been told that my interpretations are indeed for myself and myself alone.

    I’m quite befuddled by your understanding of Jesus. Christ’s whole mission is that he is the Son of God and the sacrifice for our sin. Sounds like you’ve been reading the Jesus Seminar version that presupposes that Jesus was just a man; a really good and nice man who was….completely nuts, I suppose. I don’t follow your understanding of Jesus much at all. Perhaps you could elaborate by telling me in your opinion who Jesus was, what was his purpose, and what, if any, is his connection with Jewish culture and history (e.g. Tanakh). Thanks

  27. society–Parents punish kids all the time, but for what ends? To hurt their kids for eternity or to make them better – refine them?
    That’s an excellent point, svs.
    1 Corinthians 5:1-5
    1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? 3Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. 4When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature[a] may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

    About ultimate salvation, I know as much as anyone else, which is not much. I pray that by all means God saves all, but it’s all about Him and up to Him, not me.

  28. “About ultimate salvation, I know as much as anyone else, which is not much. I pray that by all means God saves all, but it’s all about Him and up to Him, not me.” (JJ)

    But since neither of us know about the refinement after one dies, shouldn’t we be hoping that for all people – now and eternally?

  29. “Perhaps you could elaborate by telling me in your opinion who Jesus was, what was his purpose, and what, if any, is his connection with Jewish culture and history (e.g. Tanakh). Thanks” (JJ)

    I’ll try explain my position – but it’s based on historicity (something like the Jesus Seminar) and what is found directly in scripture.

    Who Jesus is? Messiah (anointed by God for a certain mission/purpose). This is his claim in the gospels. He is a Jewish person following the Torah and Prophets and elaborating on them (ie: a teacher/rabbi). He did miracles and changed the boundaries of his times, challenged the authorities, and like John, eventually died at their hands for a message against that system and it’s co-opting of faith.

    What was his purpose? Salvation, reformation, conversion, and inclusion. Jesus was most definitely seeking change for his faith – and this is quite clear in Matthew. He came to overturn the power structure of what was real power and what was just force.

    Salvation was seen in his calls for ‘repentance’ – mainly for adopting ways that drew people away from the finest pieces of Judaism (maybe even the co-opting of the faith with Rome – ie: Sadducee’s were ruled by Rome – were a state religion of Israel basically). His ideas are about the refinement of the faith and breaking it down to what matters the most.

    Conversion was a core piece of his message. Jesus wanted people to ‘turn back to God’ and away from ‘these times’. However, Paul was concerned with the conversion of the Gentiles – which would mean turning from the plethora of gods to the One. Much of Jesus’ conversion message is about repentance and changing one’s ways – Paul may have captured it best with ‘renewing of the minds’ idea.

    Jewish Culture & History: Jesus was Jewish and was born into that culture and religion (ie: Judaism). When we read his teachings we are reading teachings that were proposed to fellow Jewish adherents within Judaism. I think the gospel narratives tailor the message to be more inclusive but it’s pretty clear Jesus is speaking about the ‘law’ and ‘interpretation’ and ‘practice’. Jesus is part of their culture and history – and we have been adopted in – not Jesus out.

    Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles only – and he has us following ‘no law’. Yet he turns around and then asks people to follow his law (ideas on morality). This is likely why the teachings of Jesus were written down into various narratives so people could have teachings to follow in these Gentile communities (for the most part)…since nothing existed in Gentile regions (they did not have a bible – Judaism did).

  30. Reading your post, svs, I had a Eureka moment. The missing link jumps out at you; what about sin? Jesus was without sin. We’re up to our eyeballs (if not at the bottom of the Mariana Trench) in it. How can your interpretation carry any weight at all if it doesn’t address the core problem of humanity – sin?

  31. “So you’re saying God would forgive Hitler without the need for Hitler to recognize his deeds as wrong. Is that correct?”

    no. it’s not. the early church believed in apokatastasis in a time of great persecution. only when the rebellion was brought into the fold did that idea get pushed away. we need to reclaim it.

    “How can your interpretation carry any weight at all if it doesn’t address the core problem of humanity – sin?”

    so what then is the incarnation, life, and cross? you have said it yourself, Jesus has conquered sin and offered grace to the world, no exceptions. it doesn’t sound like you believe it though.

  32. *should have added “so what then is the incarnation, life, and cross? you have said it yourself, Jesus has conquered sin and offered grace to the world, no exceptions, without us having to do anything at all on our part because the problem is so vast and bigger than us, we were powerless. the captives have been made free.”

  33. “Jesus was without sin. We’re up to our eyeballs (if not at the bottom of the Mariana Trench) in it. How can your interpretation carry any weight at all if it doesn’t address the core problem of humanity – sin?” (JJ)

    Good point, but I did mention repentance – which is actually a form of ‘atonement’ (so is charity/giving as well). So is sacrifice, which I think I also mentioned (as a lifestyle).

    The problem with sin is us. Jesus, as great as he was, is not the problem. So I think we need to address the problem with sin, it stems from us and can only be stopped by us (our actions and choices). This is probably why I struggle with an atonement theory where our sins are forgiven, which I think God can do regardless of any atonement theory, and they are seemingly ‘fixed’? This does not seem to be the case whatsoever.

    The problem with the atonement is it is all ‘theory’ and not ‘practical’…so I am not sure I would use it. In fact, the atonement theory is not discussed by Jesus himself or even Paul.

  34. “Is there a sliding scale for forgiveness?” (T4T)

    Forgiveness seems to be only as great as the person giving it. I would think each person is responsible for their actions and God can divide that up. I think some people in the German army hated what they were forced to do (at the risk of their own death).

  35. In fact, the atonement theory is not discussed by Jesus himself or even Paul.
    I love you, Jason, but that’s just ridiculous. It’s like reading Dr Zhivago and opining that it was a story about the French Revolution.

    I just realized what got under my skin about this post; it’s the title, “The Problem with Jesus is..”
    There’s no problem with Jesus. The problem is us. Until the next thread, ciao amigo.

  36. “I love you, Jason, but that’s just ridiculous” (JJ)

    It’s true though. Jesus himself never discusses the details of a single atonement theory we use in churches. That may sound weird but it’s all there and we have the ability to check – we have the gospels right in front of us.

  37. yeah dawg, Paul talks about it constantly… he just doesn’t lay out a systematic way of understanding it. heck, i’d even say he doesn’t lay out just ONE either. as for Jesus, we could state that the early church put those words in Jesus’ mouth in the Gospels, but i gotta say that he could have said some of those things about his own death. one doesn’t have to be a “seer” to know what happens when you stand up to a tyrannical and corrupt power system.

    if there are two problems with Jesus as i see it: 1.) it’s that he’s irreducibly complex and resists easy definitions. 2.) many of his followers make him simple and easily definable and really don’t understand or truly believe his message of grace. or they do, and think it only applies to themselves.

  38. “yeah dawg, Paul talks about it constantly… he just doesn’t lay out a systematic way of understanding it” (Z1G)

    I am going to have to check closer into this claim…I think he may talk about something similar – but a blood atonement…I will need to see some proof on that one.

    I agree with the problems with understanding Jesus – it is complex but people try make it easy – which isn’t a bad thing…for a new Christian. But that’s why I wrote what I write, much of Christianity is interpreting a Jesus they want to see – not the one that is in the texts.

  39. “I am going to have to check closer into this claim…I think he may talk about something similar – but a blood atonement…I will need to see some proof on that one.”

    never said a blood atonement. i said “atonement.” if you want blood atonement, look no further than Epistle of Hebrews and Paul runs that way in Romans 3:21-26 (and pretty much the rest of it too). if you want a ton of other options, just read through the various Pauline epistles like Galatians and Philippians which are overlooked, IMHO.

  40. Good suggestions all around – I’ll have to take some looks into those Pauline works. Hebrews, nah…not Paul and is the only epistle with an obvious error in it and the only epistle with a blood atonement theory (which was written by anonymous).

    Still means Jesus doesn’t really broach the subject and this does mean a lot with regards to theology on this issue IMO. Jesus is the teacher, we are the disciples…and for him to overlook this crucial theology means it wasn’t that crucial after all.

  41. yeah, I know Hebrews isn’t Paul, doesn’t sound like him at all, that be more of a Jewish-Christ-Follower writing in the post-Temple period. Paul doesn’t care about any of that, he’s marketing to a strictly Gentile audience.

    Jesus does talk a lot about servant-leadership and how there is no greater cause than to lay one’s life down for friends. he alludes to it, but, like Paul, never lays out a systematic understanding. it’s multiple images and stories and parables and allegories. not a good thing if you just want a clear and pat answer. it’s a great thing if you love metaphor and questions with answer that have no clear resolution.

  42. Society, I’ve been busy and haven’t replied to your statement about no blood atonement by Jesus. Here’s a list from the New Testament. Remember in the Old Testament, the blood was from the animal sacrifices.

    Mark 14:24
    “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.
    Luke 11:51
    from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
    Luke 22:20
    In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
    John 6:53
    Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
    John 6:55
    For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
    John 6:56
    Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.

  43. “Mark 14:24 – “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them”

    It’s a confirmation of the covenant between the people and God, seems to be reflecting Exodus 24. However, if it is going to be a clear reflection, it is this episode in Exodus 24 where the law is approved by the people as what they will follow (they all make this agreement to God). It’s only like a beginning of the covenant with the Israelites, not the ending, the people still had their part to live up to.

    Jesus seems to be making this same symbolic gesture with his sacrifice, the beginning of his covenant with them – which would be this original covenant more or less (for Judaism) and a new one for Gentiles (if this even addresses them). This says nothing big about the atonement theories we know today.

    “Luke 11:51 – “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.””

    Says nothing about atonement at all.

    “Luke 22:20 – In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

    Same as Mark.

    “John 6:53 – Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
    John 6:55 – For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
    John 6:56 – Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them”

    Do you think this is literal or symbolic? If it is literal, we better get used to being called ‘vampires’ or ‘cannibals’.

    Doesn’t say much about atonement as a theory and hearkens to the idea in Mark about ‘covenant taking and keeping’. It’s using some pretty unique symbols mind you but seems to be pointing to the reason for a ‘communion supper’.

  44. I am guessing Jesus knew no human sacrifice would be accepted in place of an animal sacrifice. The Torah is pretty clear on what could and couldn’t be sacrified, and since he was ‘perfect before the law’ – this would not have been something he condoned.

    “Moreover, the sin sacrifice (known in the Jewish scriptures as korban chatat) did not atone for all types of sin, but rather, only for man’s most insignificant iniquity: unintentional sins.” (Rabbi Singer – http://www.outreachjudaism.org/jesusdeath.html)

    This is actually mentioned in Hebrews at one point. Regardless, the point still stands, this blood sacrifice could only atone for ‘unintentional’ sins (which we would call sins of omission). Nowhere does Jesus state this was any difference nor clarify the length and brevity of such a sacrifice.

    Rabbi Singer found a 2nd problem with this type of sacrifice.

    “That is to say, Leviticus 17:11 explicitly declares that blood can only effect atonement if it is placed on the altar. Jesus’ blood, however, was never placed on the altar” (http://www.outreachjudaism.org/jesusdeath.html)

    The problem with the literalism of the Jesus offering as a covenant is the altar? Where exatly is the altar – unless it the altar is the all inclusive earth itself? However, then this is not the original Jewish covenant but some whole new idea outside the margins of Judaism. This also means Jesus did not fulfill the law.

    Truth is Christianity wants Jesus’s sacrifice to be more than it is based on some pretty loose theology and interpretations of Jewish texts, which Jesus himself is admitted, by the gospel record, as adhering strictly to.

    So when looking at the sacrifice it is pretty hard for me to believe, based on the biblical evidence alone, it’s some expiation sacrifice. It may be convenantal – to some symbolic degree – but not expiation.

    The question from me would be – how come James, Peter, and John and the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 never understood this?

  45. “It may be convenantal – to some symbolic degree – but not expiation.”

    Hebrews is a kinda-sorta. mostly symbolic and i have a hard time with those who take it literally. sacrificial atonement is in there in the biblical texts and morphed into penal substitution, which i don’t think is in there. yet, as i’ve stated and stated before and scholars such as Rainer Albertz and Walter Brueggemann back me up here, that there is no consistent pattern of atonement in the Gospels or Epistles. In fact, i would go so far to say that there is no consistent pattern of truth or arriving at truth in the entire Bible… the text itself is incessantly pluralistic.

    those people who want to say “the bible has always taught…” apparently do not have much uniform ground to stand on and can only manufacture some by a “copy and paste” style proof-texting theology. what matters and is emphasized throughout the entire text is right relationship much more than being intellectually right. Jesus consistently declares people to be saved or healed who are in right relationship with him and God, and he never grills them on their belief, credo, or belonging system. so anyone who states “I love God more than people” automatically misses the entire point of the Bible, the Incarnation, and has no idea what the Good News is.

    the Good News MAY have something to do with sacrificial/penal/substitutionary atonement, but the point is At-One-Ment with God and your neighbors.

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