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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31 thoughts on “Understanding Jesus – Compare with the Ba’al Shem Tov

  1. I quoted Ba’al Shem Tov in this sermon: http://sylvaniaucc.org/sermon_display.php?ID=453 and then read more about him. Very fascinating figure with some great insights and writing.

    The thing with Jesus is that he looks like a Hasidism, a pharisee, and then an Essene and not to mention a Kabbalist with all the mystical union stuff. The main thrust is that Jesus fits easier into Judaism than much of the Greek philosophy. However, there’s the whole arch of Mark where he moves from being just for the chosen to reconciling with the gentiles. This idea appears in Christ the Reconciler by Peter Schmiechen, a prof of mine in seminary. Jesus is very much founded in Judaism but is also branching out to the unclean and spends much of his ministry in all of the gospels in gentile territory.

    Great insights and yes!!!! most Christians are missing out on a gem if they don’t know Ba’al Shem Tov!

  2. “However, there’s the whole arch of Mark where he moves from being just for the chosen to reconciling with the gentiles” (Luke)

    Vermes claims these have to be additions or edits in the text or we have a Jesus who is quite unclear of his mission – was only to the house of the ‘lost sheep of Israel’ or did it include ‘everyone’ (as seen in Matt 28)? For Vermes, and myself, this is crystal clear – Jesus’ mission is easily traced to where he set his feet…Israel (he even has gospel story where he purposefully avoids the Samaritans).

    These edits (Mark written in the mid 70’s) likely made it into the gospel because of something you point out – the conversion of the Gentiles was where it was at for Christian growth. So why not have Jesus saying those same sentiments? That’s very plausible as an explanation when one considers the gospels are written by Gentiles, for Gentiles, in a Gentile language that none of the disciples spoke.

  3. “Jesus is very much founded in Judaism but is also branching out to the unclean and spends much of his ministry in all of the gospels in gentile territory.” (Luke)

    Jesus’ branches out to the unclean and includes them in his inner circle, oddly enough, they are Jewish as well. Which Gentile followed Jesus during his lifetime? In that answer is the definitive answer about how inclusionary his message was during his lifetime.

    I am having troubling following this idea ‘spends much of his ministry in all of the gospels in gentile territory’? Explain. All the stuff I have read, and this quite a few books now, have Jesus speaking only to Jews and within Jewish borders? When and where are these Gentile excursions?

    Now to say there were Gentiles in Israel is true, I will accept that as fact. However, the bigger fact there is it’s ‘occupied Israel’ and the laws of who can live there are somewhat out of their hands. So if there are Gentile areas in Israel (in this time frame) then it makes sense Jesus would see them time to time. But to think the areas were considered Gentile, like Rome or something, would not be in line with the Jewish understanding of Israel (their homeland). What were the Zealots playing around when they attacked Rome and tried to rid them from Israel? Or the Maccabee’s before them?

    Of course Israel would allow Gentiles to live in it’s borders but that situation was about as tenable as the one now in Israel between the Jewish nation and the Palestinians.

  4. Take a 45 minute read of Mark and note where the dude is. I would say once he’s rejected in his hometown in Chapter 6 he starts branching out. In Chapter 6, you have the feeding of the 5,000 with 12 baskets left over. Chapter 7 has the Syrophoniecian woman (she was greek) story which is a big hing point (we’ve had this convo before). Then in Chapter 8, there’s another feeding story this time with 7 baskets left over, the traditional number for the gentle kingdoms which surrounded Israel.

    And then there’s this “19 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.

    20 And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.

    21 And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” Which, using redactive methods, is original to the text. It would have hit the first century audience full in the face.

    But don’t take my word. You can do you own research. And I’m sure you’ve already heard something similar in your readings already.

  5. Israel in the time of Jesus: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/303091/Jesus-Christ/222991/Relations-between-Jewish-areas-and-nearby-Gentile-areas

    It is zero mystery the cultured that Jesus’ message was to the Jewish nation – to claim otherwise I would need to see proof text after proof text of Jesus making such claims – not what you have presented – which is supposition (the gentile inclusion has to be read in). I have supplied a link about the context of the region – Jesus was clearly in Jewish territory throughout his whole ministry.

    But even if you have a point about the Syro-Phonecian woman (‘a dog’) and a copied story (second feeding of the same miracle) it is still known that Gentiles compiled and edited the synoptics and John. One has to consider that they would not have done this UNLESS is included them somehow (what was their return for doing this?). That alone, should lead any biblical reader to examine those texts more closely.

    Matt 10: 5-6 “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”

    Matt 15: 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

    Now why would Jesus make such wild claims if his mission included all Gentiles and their regions?

  6. Oh Jay, you need to stop proof-texting and trying to defend ground you don’t know much about yet. All ya need to do is say, “That’s interesting, let me research that” instead of digging yourself deeper with half-assed google searches. You did this last time and I countered that as well by telling you to read further in Matthew. Yawn. Same conversation as then, same boring result.

    • Here’s the same riddle back to you: what’s the good news if it’s strictly to Jewish people?

      If that were true, Paul wouldn’t have happened. There would be no debate and thus the first church fight (how to include gentiles and how jewish do they have to be) would have never happened if the Good News was only targeted to Jewish peeps.

  7. Here’s what I can say for certain after 3 years in seminary and 5 as a minister: The Bible and it’s related contents and context (which include the life of Jesus and 1st century Palestine and even the redactive history of how the modern narrative came to be) is a mystery. Not a mystery in terms of we don’t know… it’s that we know multiple and often contradictory things that can’t be reconciled. And thus it is as the ancient rabbi’s described the Torah: Like a 70-sided gem, and each little turn produces something new to be marveled at and argued about.

    So you could be right! I could be right! We both are prolly right and have perspectives that inform the other, not competes.

  8. “Oh Jay, you need to stop proof-texting and trying to defend ground you don’t know much about yet” (Luke)

    I guess 20 years of studies counts for nothing, thanks pastor

    “You did this last time and I countered that as well by telling you to read further in Matthew. Yawn. Same conversation as then, same boring result.” (Luke)

    Same convo because you only hear what you want to hear – all new insight on this buddy – including studies into the Jewish Bible (Tanakh and the NT version one), Neusner, Vermes, JIll-Levine, and other authors on Christian history in the era of Jesus.

    I don’t know why you can’t comprehend I am onto something with the research – but you continually deny it. Then you in turn insult me and the research, as if what I am doing is inferior to the studies you have done. The Encyclopedia Britannica is no good anymore? I intentionally pick studies that have validity (if I use the internet).

    I find that sad. I guess growth stops here.

    • I didn’t deny it. Not totally. It’s part of the story, however plz read the comment at 3:21 pm.

      Even what you cite, each scholar has stated that there’s an element of Jesus reaching beyond the traditional bounds of Judaism and redefining purity. Plus there’s the fact that he’s walking around in gentile lands, speaking to ppl no good Jew would speak too. I’ve read many of the people you’re reading because you’ve told me to and we keep having this conversation.

      The arch of Mark, the first gospel, is one from just ministry to Jews to ministry of Jews and Gentiles. Now this leaves a shit-ton of questions (shit-ton is a fancy theological word meaning “a lot”) that many in this day and in the first generation of the church sought to figure out what that means, how jewish people needed to be? how exactly do gentiles get included? how can God’s covenant be opened to all? is it open to all or just those who believe or those who do or those who have the faith of christ or because of christ’s faith?

      Mysteries upon mystery. I’m not denying you’re not onto something, I’m denying that it’s the total story.

  9. “Good News is that all can have salvation, repent, and be in the new and everlasting covenant with God and be named a Child of God. And what is the biblical concept of salvation? It’s not belief as we understand it today, but actual liberation: The Good News is that it’s open to everyone through the life of Christ.” (Luke)

    Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. This is Jesus’ first and foremost message. It is about ‘kingdom’ – now how are we to understand that terminology when in Israel there was no ‘king’? To whom was Jesus addressing this idea of ‘kingdom’?

    Kingdom – obviously a trace back to a Davidic period when Israel did have kings over the land (maybe even to the Hasmonean period). In essence, those kings were Jewish kings presiding over Jewish land and it’s sovereignty.

    Of God – The whole premise of Jesus’ message is to call people back to the God that established that kingdom in the first place – which would include Torah and Prophets as cornerstones for the faithful (much like the prophets would do in calling people back to Torah so God could establish them again).

    At Hand – Present tense, right now this can be happening.

    All Jesus is saying is that Israel can regain it’s glory again, like when David ruled, by virtue of a closer relationship with God by faithfulness to the scriptures. In fact, it seemed to be his goal to pull his people back to a closer relationship with God as the key to this kingdom (thus all his teachings on piety). One did not need to be a Saducee or a Pharisee or an Essene for this, one just needed to find their roots in Torah again.

    This message went unheeded.

  10. “each scholar has stated that there’s an element of Jesus reaching beyond the traditional bounds of Judaism and redefining purity” (Luke)

    I guess I would suggest read Vermes ‘Jesus the Jew’ very closely then – so as to not be confused by anything I am saying. Vermes see’s a Jewish person altogether in Jesus in a time frame when the codices of Israel were in a state of flux. Vermes does not for one second see a Jesus of the Gentiles, he leaves that to Paul’s letters, he see’s a hasid.

    Now I wonder why the foremost scholar on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jewish background in Jesus’ life would make such claims about Jesus? Unless there is validity to those claims.

    I have to agree with much of Vermes scholarship, it’s very well done and well researched in many areas including the aramaic backgrounds to Greek, cultural times of Jesus and movements, and overall study on Christian studies into the Judaism of Jesus and terms used of him (ie: son of man, son of God, etc).

    Needless to say, there were very little biased research done on this topic by Christians concerning Jesus’ Judaism. Feel free to look into that problem for yourself, I just happened to land upon it one day when I noticed Jesus was not a Jew – well not according to Christian definitions of him.

    • I’ll check out that book. I did read Spong’s book of a similar title and vein. Spong is an inclusionist as am I. As I think it’s logical to be. Jews were already the chosen people, no need to bring a new message or talk about the kingdom being close at hand for that other than to say he’s a revivalist of his own tradition. it’s a fair idea, but i think it misses a lot and I think Jesus goes a step further and brings gentiles into the mix. But I’ll keep considering and talking. I’ll even buy that book tonight! Thanks for keeping in the conversation. Sorry if you felt slighted up there, it was not my intent.

      • I think it’s worth the read to place Jesus in his cultural context (if anything)

        “Jews were already the chosen people, no need to bring a new message or talk about the kingdom being close at hand for that other than to say he’s a revivalist of his own tradition” (Luke)

        I believe he was a revivalist in the sense he was delivering a time old message about calling Jewish people back to their faith and culture and away from the Greco-Roman influences – which he likely saw out his backdoor in Sephoris

        What I don’t understand is why he would call Gentiles into Judaism – without Judaism being more pure than it was? His message seems to indicate that he was about a higher level of piety for the Jewish nation – running contrary to current ideas of the temple Sadducee’s and the tradition building Pharisee’s. He may have seen that as (a) a sellout (Sadducee’s) to the Roman occupation and (b) tradition that needed to be alive here and now (Pharisee’s) and not so rigid on the poor and outcast.

        He also was a healer and this ran contrary to Pharisee ideas overall (Honi from Galilee attested to this).

        Also Galilee was uneducated and a very radical place, it was the first area to fight the Romans in 68. I think it is possible Jesus was against the Roman occupation (had friends who were zealots for starters) and his message was less militaristic and more spiritual as the path to sovereignty. He comes off like the Ba’al Shem Tov in the 1700’s concerning how to be a good Jewish citizen.

  11. “how exactly do gentiles get included? how can God’s covenant be opened to all? is it open to all or just those who believe or those who do or those who have the faith of christ or because of christ’s faith?” (Luke)

    Granted, the mysteries exist and it makes it harder to find out what the content mean and why they are there. But it is not impossible either. The one thing usually left out in this studies is a thorough examination of Jesus and Judaism – how this relates to the texts. I am taking that on.

    So here are my answers:

    Gentiles were not included in the original message of Jesus – if they were – they were peripheral (just like in the temple and just like in the synagogues)

    God’s covenent, whatever that is defined as, is not open to all – and if it is – then it is open because of Micah or Habakkuk. In the time frame of Jesus the habit was to make the commands of God ‘concise’ (seen in Micah and Habakkuk) but also in Hillel. Or we could examine why the Gentiles were outsiders in the synagogue (and the early church) as well.

    I believe Gentiles took the message and made it for ‘all’, so they could have inclusion into that message and/or Paul made this leap.

    • And I don’t. I think it ignores a large swath of the original material to fit a messy and complicated thing into a nice, neat theory of everything.

      It’s just like the mythicists do. “Dude was just a story like Paul Bunyun to inspire revolve and revival among the jewish people against rome.” I don’t agree for the same reason: nice neat theory of everything which ignores a lot. But I give you more merit than that line of thinking, if that’s any comfort.

      • “And I don’t. I think it ignores a large swath of the original material to fit a messy and complicated thing into a nice, neat theory of everything.” (Luke)

        Then it leaves an age old question at the heart of Jesus’ faith – did he come to start a new religion – apart from Judaism?

        The reason I ask is because that is what happened to his legacy. The answer one of two things:

        (a) No – he stayed true to Judaism and it’s revival

        (b) Yes – he went away from Judaism to start a faith for all nations

        I tend to think, based on Matthew 5:17, he was faithful to Judaism and by that faith he would see Judaism rise again and become a ‘light to the Gentile’ nations. It’s not that he needed to change the message to include all, it already did, but that the scriptures needed to be followed so Israel would become the Rome (so to speak – concerning influence).

  12. Why the dualism? Why not C. He stayed true to Judaism yet strove to make it a faith for all nations? That’s based on Matt 28:19.

    His whole message was loving your enemies, offering the other cheek, nonviolent engagement, making disciples of ALL nations… to what ends? Conversion to the Jewish way of life? Covert the gentiles to the True Faith and convert the insular nature of his home faith that he saw? Or is there a D-Z options here? There is the question of which there’s no answer. Dude died before he was able to give specifics.

    We don’t know the intent. Most movements, at least described by Dr Albert Palmer are as they are (stage A). Then you have a plan for movement and a new structure (stage B). And then there’s the unintended consequences (stage C). That’s the starting point. What transpires from there, according to Palmer would be either acceptance (stage D.1), rejection, conflict, and competition (stage D.2) a do-over (stage D.B.) or various permutations there-in.

    You’re advocating for a D.2 stage. No denying that there’s a MASSIVE case for it. What’s up for debate is what stages A & B were, IMHO.

  13. “Why the dualism? Why not C. He stayed true to Judaism yet strove to make it a faith for all nations? That’s based on Matt 28:19.” (Luke)

    I thought about that, maybe there is a ‘maybe’ part where he was true to Judaism but tried to make Judaism for all? But then I can’t find a single place where this was a tradition within Judaism (historically). If it is not there, then I cannot be expected to accept it as likely to have been his message.

    As for Matt 28:19 – that passage is very strange and likely not his wording.

    “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”

    (a) Disciples of all nations: Contradicted by Matthew 10: 5 ” “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans”

    (b) Baptism – Jesus actually did not do this as part of his ministry – John did. It’s quite odd that now the disciples are being asked, quite out of the blue, to start doing this.

    (c) Trinity – There is no Trinity in Judaism nor does Jesus teach anything of this until this sentence.

    I would have to say this is a clear addition to Jesus’ words to try gain validity for a doctrine that developed much later but never was found of Jesus himself.

    • No doubt the great commission has been redacted and edited, but it is original. The original Greek in the earliest manuscripts available to us is “Go and make disciples of all nations.” *(Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus) Once again Jay, there’s a turn in both Matthew and Mark narratives about half way through. “Don’t go to the gentiles” and then the dude is all over the place and nullifies his own words as he’s on the gentile side of the lake with pigs and a demoniac, through the Samaritan territory, and hanging out “with them.” In Mark, it’s lightly coded. In Matthew, it’s a bigger shift.

      First century culture as with Jewish culture then and now is in no way monolithic. Nor pagan culture for that matter. Odds are it’s C, at least that’s where my money is. I look forward to seeing you go through the gospels as a narrative whole and see what I’m talking about. Even Crossan, Borg, Spong, and Luke Timothy Johnson talk about the first century context was very complex, esp. in that area.

      Crossan and Borg state that Jesus could be a follower of John and when John was beheaded, Jesus assumed his role but instead of being THE baptist, Jesus used a franchise model. Thus when the head is removed, the movement keeps going. So baptism is a huge part of both John and Jesus’ movement. It’s political theater and protest. That’s why there’s a whole big deal about John in Matthew and the relationship between him and Jesus, at least according to the Jesus Seminar group, which has greatly influenced my ministry. There’s more research for ya.

      • ““Don’t go to the gentiles” and then the dude is all over the place and nullifies his own words as he’s on the gentile side of the lake with pigs and a demoniac, through the Samaritan territory, and hanging out “with them.” In Mark, it’s lightly coded. In Matthew, it’s a bigger shift.” (Luke)

        Makes me wonder about the compiling and editing of the gospels (Mark and Matt in this case). I see a Jesus venturing through those territories but would he have not seen all the land as belonging to God/Israel? Also, even with that shift, his converts are still Jewish.

        “First century culture as with Jewish culture then and now is in no way monolithic.” (Luke)

        Agreed, obviously there were 5 groups we know of: Pharisee’s, Saducee’s, Essenes, Qumran Community, and Jesus’ followers

        Even within those are spheres that break into regions – like Galilee.

        Going to do a post on the Qumran Community from Vermes study of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

      • “Crossan and Borg state that Jesus could be a follower of John and when John was beheaded, Jesus assumed his role but instead of being THE baptist, Jesus used a franchise model.” (Luke)

        This is also believed by Vermes. I don’t believe believe it personally since the connection is too loose for that assumption. John appears handfuls of times in the passages (synoptics and John) and if his movement were usurped by Jesus – why does John get little air-time? Why doesn’t Jesus move into John’s territory? Why don’t the disciples baptize?

        I think it best as explained, John baptized Jesus – and this in turn signified their mutual respect for one another.

        Off theological question arises from that – why did Jesus need to be baptized at all? John’s baptism was for the unclean – a symbolism in Jordan of the Moses experience – of moving from unclean to clean? Like a movement from unrepentant to repentant?

  14. “His whole message was loving your enemies, offering the other cheek, nonviolent engagement, making disciples of ALL nations… to what ends?” (Luke)

    The first few things you mention are ‘piety’ and Jesus teaching on a higher level of it – also happened within Judaism. Jesus is challenging the Judaism of his time to greater things – remember he said these things to his disciples and those within Judaism at the time (or those feeling disconnected from Judaism – countryside folk).

    There is very little proof Jesus made disciples of ‘all nations’. From what I see of his life he had 12 students – all of them were Jewish. I am open to seeing the gentile converts he made, that followed him.

    “Conversion to the Jewish way of life? Covert the gentiles to the True Faith and convert the insular nature of his home faith that he saw?” (Luke)

    I don’t think he was trying to convert the gentiles at all – in fact – his only concern was Israel being true to it’s God. If Israel were true to it’s God then it would have it’s glory back. From that glory Israel could be a light to the Gentiles.

    “There is the question of which there’s no answer. Dude died before he was able to give specifics.” (Luke)

    Dude died because he gave specifics and thoughts on the temple. I think everything we need to know about Jesus is in the words recorded about him – to see how he was clearly within the realm of Judaic thought and content – and how that content ran him into trouble with his contemporaries.

    • Luke 7:1-10. “The Crowds” in Mark, whom he makes lie down on green grass (see Psalm 24). Matt 15, he’s in Tyre and Sidon, a Gentile region, speaks with a Cannanite woman (can’t get more gentile than that). Once again, narrative stuff. Luke’s gospel is all gentile all the time cause it’s written for the gentiles (so traditions and many a scholar has hypothesized) whereas Mark and Matt.. it’s unclear. John is a pissed off former-jewish Christian whose all sour grapes from getting blamed for the temple’s destruction (that’s straight out of Spong, save for the pissed off).

      You’re onto something with the piety part. However, it’s a much different piety than the pharisees. “do what they say, not what they do.” It’s an upside down piety with not much regard to purity. A great book on this is “Sinners: Jesus and his early followers” by Greg Carey, my NT prof. Great book. Greg’s a big pietist and you’ll read exactly that in his book.

      • “John is a pissed off former-jewish Christian whose all sour grapes from getting blamed for the temple’s destruction (that’s straight out of Spong, save for the pissed off). ” (Luke)

        As a gospel I have little respect for John, it uses the synoptics (loosely) put then invents narrative that Jesus likely had little to do with and is more about relating a message of the 100 CE era. At this point, my focus is on Jesus, his culture, his religion, his words, and his community – John is a step away outside that and not helpful (at this point).

        “However, it’s a much different piety than the pharisees. “do what they say, not what they do.” It’s an upside down piety with not much regard to purity” (Luke)

        That difference can be accounted for in one theme, familiar to the Essenes and the Qumran community, eschatology/immediacy.

  15. “We don’t know the intent. Most movements, at least described by Dr Albert Palmer are as they are (stage A). Then you have a plan for movement and a new structure (stage B).” (Luke)

    Stage A: Jesus teaches the Kingdom of God is at hand – or – the time for change is now. He calls Israel back to Torah/Prophets and to renew its relationship with God – to renounce the Greco-Roman influence on their culture and faith. This would be in step with the message of the prophets and Moses in the wilderness. It would also align with his bro, John the Baptist. He is claimed to be the messiah by his followers, but he more resembles the prophets. Jesus dies for his faith in God.

    Stage B: Jesus is not starting a new faith so any steps afterwards seem benign to me. He is calling people back to their faith in God and nothing more. He is traveling the countryside because these are the people forgotten by the faith of the cities – Saducee’s and Pharisee’s. This is where he garners his following.

    Stage C: Permutations happen after Jesus has died – starting with the teaching of Paul (who never met Jesus – this leaves his teachings with some explaining). Now I am a fan of Paul (as we write) but some Jewish writers see him as changing the teaching of Jesus to suit a wider audience. After Paul is gone, well, anything goes and that is what happens to Jesus – he gains many faces, and many gospels, by the time we get to Nicea.

    However, I think he is really quite simple and there is no mystery to him – once he is placed in his culture, his religion, and his God.

    • No mystery to Christ? And that is where I leave you. Even those who have never picked up a bible, those who have a passing familiarity with Jesus have a MASSIVE opinion about him and it’s not a universally held one either.

      There is NOTHING simple about this. And thus this is my main beef with how you’re going about this thesis of yours. It’s not your thesis it’s self, it’s a good idea. It’s what you’re founding it on, hoping for a neat and easy theory of everything. We have no idea if Jesus was trying to start a new faith, or expand it or whatever… Going forward with this basis, I think you’re going to be disappointed IMO.

      After Jesus’ death, there’s a MASSIVE explosion in the types of early Christianities, at least 7 styles. And those are the groups we know about. And we don’t know a whole lot about those because the “winners” the proto-orthodox put so much to torch and then went about redacting the gospels.

      Nothing. simple. about it. To say such makes me question… well… let’s just say, I won’t respond on this post again. Too fired up and rather stupefied that someone as well-versed as you would ever utter something as asinine as “I think he is really quite simple and there is no mystery to him – once he is placed in his culture, his religion, and his God.” Nothing simple about first century Israel, the Jewish faith, temple culture with a pharasidic movement against the Roman occupation with the kingdom of Herod on top of that, and SO much more. Layers upon layers. Simple?

      • “Even those who have never picked up a bible, those who have a passing familiarity with Jesus have a MASSIVE opinion about him and it’s not a universally held one either.” (Luke)

        I wonder why that is? That’s the real problem in Christianity – for Jesus there are 30,000 faces of who he man is/was. That doesn’t bother you?

        If we look at that closely we are going to see exactly why that is – and it’s not what we want to see – it is what is left out of what we are told to see concerning Jesus.

        How can Christianity function in any scope of actual legitimacy if it will not examine the roots that made Jesus? This is why we find 30,000 faces for the same person.

        In fact, Jesus can be almost anything because of the removal from his culture, his religion, and his era. It’s really that simple. I say this because I come from a cultured people and history and see this problem quite clearly.

        2 examples will suffice here.

        1. Sitting Bull – a Sioux leader, religious (almost mythical) and traditional who fought for his nations rights while America devoured their territory and way of life. Remove this man from that context and all of a sudden much of what he did will have to be mythologized to make sense of his ideas, movements, and struggle.

        2. Martin Luther King Jr – an African American civil rights leader who fought segregation (and the Vietnam war) in America…was later assassinated for his stances. Let’s remove this man from his context in America, then interpret his teachings/ideas, and see what becomes of him. Much of what his message revolved around African-American freedoms and challenging the constitution.

        Take these 2 folk heroes and remove them from their (a) culture (b) era (c) political/contextual struggle and see if we don’t develop new versions of them – which do not relate with the real person.

        This is what has happened to Jesus. Christianity has ignored his roots and wants them filtered through Paul and resulting Gentile traditions. How can we claim we know Jesus when it is obvious we know nothing of this man because we left out his key features?

        This is why I think there is less mystery than you think there is – cause there is less mystery – it’s just Jesus is not studied in his context(s). You might not like it but that’s reality – this man was Jewish and therefore he will have to be put back into the Jewish box to be understood fully. Right now, Jesus in Christianity is a person without a identifiable face, easily misinterpreted, and can morph into anything – even racist ideology against the culture that bore him (Jewish). That;s fairly abnormal? No?

  16. “Nothing simple about first century Israel, the Jewish faith, temple culture with a pharasidic movement against the Roman occupation with the kingdom of Herod on top of that, and SO much more. Layers upon layers. Simple?” (Luke)

    I would say that is simple – yes – you easily define some aspects of the era. Each thing is traceable back to where it originated.

    Jewish faith – originates from Torah – Torah as the key piece, followed by prophets, and later by the writings (and other prophets). They have a high period in David, a low period in the Exiles, rebuild a temple, it is later destroyed, they move under Greek rule, are freed by the Maccabee’s/Hasmoneans, then fall under Roman rule. Within that startasphere is when we see the 5 Jewish movements form: Jesus’ disciples, Pharisee, Sadducce (Hasmonean influence), Essences, and Qumran community. 3 of those groups were eschatological in nature – the Pharisee’s become the winner in Judaism.

    Temple – was a key part of all the Jewish faiths in one shape or another (whether pro or anti-temple). The temple was a revered place because it held the sacrificial system, the priesthood, and the presence. In the times of the Romans, it became the centerpiece of Jerusalem and was used for many activities. It was destroyed by 72 CE due to Jewish struggle with Rome.

    Pharisee – become the leading group after the destruction of the temple and their is a spiritual vacuum for Judaism. They have a replacement for the temple, the synagogue, and are the most equipped line to move the faith forward. Christianity contends with this movement after the temple and is why the Pharisee’s become their chief rivals in the gospels.

    Roman Occupation – They ousted the Greeks for the territory/area but it is not until a deal is struck with part of Israel (Judea – against the Seleucids) that they move in and set Herod up as a ruler and by 4 CE usurp them under Roman Governorship. Israel would never see sovereignty in it’s land again during the Roman rule.

    These are all historical ideas that can be studied, so in this sense, yes I think tracing Jesus into that is simple enough (not simple in endeavor as it takes a lot of time – but simple in the sense he gets put into a context).

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