Understanding Jesus – Compare with the Ba’al Shem Tov

Geza Vermes has put Jesus into the category of Hasidism – that lineage within Judaism. Although Hasidism started in the 1700’s there are remnants of this idea in early Judaism as well (which is where these leaders draw their water from).

What is Hasidism? “The Hebrew for Hasidism, hasidut, denotes piety or saintliness, an extraordinary devotion to the spiritual aspects of Jewish life.” (Rabbi Louis Jacobs)

This piety/extraordinary/hasidic devotion included many aspects like healer, man of prayer, righteous leader/teacher for the masses, love for God and all people/classes (namely within the faith), disciples who inherit movement after the tzaddik is gone, personal relationship with God, purity in religious spirit/heart means more than knowledge, world is filled with God’s glory, asceticism, use of stories/parables, focus on joy, and in constant conflict with the more orthodox strains of the faith.

If that don’t describe Jesus I don’t know what model within Judaism does.

So who is this Ba’al Shem Tov? He is all the things mentioned above. Oddly, this character resembles the life of Jesus as well.

These are incidences from Ba’al Shem Tov’s life:

  • key teaching passed to him ‘fear no one but God
  • while young had a close relationship with God – spent time in fields praying – even had visions while in such ecstatic states (many while studying in caves) (wandering rabbi)
  • even though well studied, kept an image of simplicity
  • early life surrounded by mystery (even his birthdate is unknown)
  • developed a relationship with other hidden righteous men
  • revealed himself in his early 30’s as a healer and teacher/leader
  • Was a highly respected teacher and had insight lacking in forms of Judaism at the time
  • believed in mentorship/discipleship relationship as key
  • gained follower’s in the the tens of thousands and even more after death
  • believed in the Jewish homeland – they should be there
  • had ideas that ,after passed, he would be there with you (IE: if you sang a certain prayer)

To not see Jesus in the same light as the Hasid, someone like Ba’al Shem Tov, is to miss out who Jesus was and how he taught within the framework of Judaism. Jesus existed in a time in Judaism when the core beliefs were not set and he offered a version to Judaism, a wandering rabbi, that focused on equality and a push back to Torah/Prophets as the core to learn from (sometimes went deeper than his contemporaries). He followed the tradition of healer but also focused on a purity in faith, be like children was somewhat the core of that. He possessed great knowledge about God due to his personal relationship with Him, one he also passed onto his disciples. Jesus tried to frame the ‘here and now’ as his importance (the kingdom of God is here) and this was a set-up to the after-life (even the apocalypse themes of the times).

What Christianity is lacking is this – they have taken Jesus from his Jewish roots, supplanted him, and placed him into philosophical thoughts exterior to his faith. Jesus is no longer a teacher of Torah/Prophets – he fulfilled them (finished them – completed them – was greater than them). He becomes a blood atonement for the masses, something he never did teach. He is placed into a 3 headed God figure (Trinity) that he never once teaches about. Jesus becomes a version of Gentile imagination, placed on the Jewish stories of him, to fit a Roman world.

And that’s too bad because Christianity is missing out on a gem of a person.

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Jesus & Christianity – From Faith to Fiction

Geza Vermes in ‘Jesus and the World of Judaism: Chapter 4 – Jesus and Christianity‘ does yeoman’s work to point out how Jesus was a clear adherent of the Judaism of his times. He was not a figure external to Judaism, but internal to the faith of his forefathers.

He followed Torah, in fact, taught on Torah ideals and how to delve further into them. He kept sabbath, purification rituals, and celebrated the festivals (IE: Passover). He had eschatological ideals, along the lines of the Essenes, and was a healer – like Honi from the Galilee. He followed the idea of being an ‘imitator of God‘, which had a rich history inside Judaism at the time. He was in an era when Judaism was making it’s codes for it’s faith and Jesus had his ideas which both differentiated him but also grounded him into the conversation.

It is plausible Jesus taught the idea, alive in Judaism in his era, that Israel would become a ‘light (un)to the nations‘. As David Ariel says about this idea in Reform Judaism ‘stressed that Israel was not only to be a moral exemplar but to see its reĀ­ligion as missionary, with morality as the Jewish mission‘.

Maybe Jesus saw a return to Torah, a better adherence, and building this relationship with God again (like the prophets) would lead Israel to (a) freedom and (b) influence. At this point in time Israel does not have a sovereign state and the religious fervor, apocalyptic in nature, was calling for this type of cleansing. If I am not to be believed surely 2 revolts – 68 CE and 132 CE – over this exact issue are to be considered.

Jesus fits in that mold of Judaism and he is an active participant in that faith. Did Jesus come to establish a whole new religion? This is the crux of the issue in Christianity.

Christianity has become a foreign idea to Jewish ears. Many ideas illegal to Torah have sprung up, accredited to Jesus, like blood atonement, end of the sabbath, Jesus’ equality to God, the law as a ‘curse’, and the overall usurpation/cancellation of Judaism by Christianity as God’s favored system.

Are we sure Jesus taught that? Are we sure Paul taught that even?

It is almost impossible for me to see Jesus as teaching such filth about his own beloved faith, in his Father-son ideas, and in the ideas of imitating God. No one in Judaism would make such claims against a God they proposed to love so dearly, in a religion established by God, and in the words (Torah) handed directly from God to Moses. That is ludicrous thinking.

So we must look at who wanted to usurp Judaism and take it’s integrity/place. This can only lie at the feet of Gentile writers. These writers/compilers never met Jesus nor were they taught in the ways of Torah (Judaism). They were, at best, taught Pauline ideas (who also never met Jesus), which were constructed from his Hellenistic-Jewish background and best interpretation of what he heard. What we find is we have 2nd and 3rd hand sources writing and compiling for the Christian canon.

I am claiming Gentiles complied/wrote/edited the teachings of Jesus (and Paul) so as to bend the faith in their favor. History not only bares this out but so does Christian thought (Philosophical Greek in nature – not Jewish).

2015 – Starting the Blog Again

I always loved blogging, namely on religious topics.

Lately I am reading a tonne of stuff on early Christian history and Judaism – much of how it impacted (and was ususrped) Christianity.

I think I’ll start writing blogs on the key stuff I read – from the books I am reading.

Plans are to write a book on the formation of Christianity and how it moved away from Judaism – so far that it is practically impossible to tell Judaism was where this branch broke off from.

I’ll examine that over 2015.