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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Human Jesus: a response

This article does not attempt or profess to be a full response to every point in The Human Jesus video. (I see the video has undergone some editing and it has been broken up into multiple, smaller clips. Some of the specific references such as Rabbi Goldmark were omitted. I have renewed the video link on 12/25/15.) have been removed.) Undoubtedly, there will be misunderstandings and although great efforts were made to avoid direct quotations to eliminate misquoting and to prevent any semblance of personal attacks this will not prevent those intimately familiar with the video from recognizing indirect allusions. Despite the shortcomings every effort has been made to treat the documentary truthfully and accurately in hopeful, prayerful expectations. Readers are encouraged to view the documentary.

The Human Jesus video challenges believers to examine and reject beliefs concerning Jesus which are without Bible basis. That is a commendable biblical admonition. Certainly, both the challenge and the doctrinal belief behind the documentary have been around since the first century. The two-hour documentary references the familiar second century historic decision at the Nicaea council of 325 when (as it is said) Trinitarianism won out over Unitarianism. Although this article reflects a definite conviction concerning Jesus there is no preference for either of these labels which are as non-biblical as they are inaccurate. Believers flash these, as well as monotheist and polytheist, in lieu of teaching and understanding. Often believers are given to making sweeping assumptions about another’s teaching on the basis of a flash card approach instead of engaging in dialog.

The Ishango bone

It seems peculiar, if not telling, that the documentary should draw on the Ishango bone, an ancient mathematical system, to illustrate the introduction of the subject of discussion on the One-ness of God. It is amusing that the bone of a dead animal should serve to establish the antiquity of the concept of one, _ as in the One living God? Furthermore, it is ironic
that among the Ishango bone markings with their respective numeral explanations of 3, 4, 6, 9, 21 etc. the numeral 1 is absent. There are several Old and New Testament scripture references with scholarly commentary. Foremost among these scripture passages are Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 110.

The unity of spirit and truth: scripture and perspective

The unity of spirit and truth of this article on The Human Jesus video is in the manner of Jesus. Truth and spirit is not limited to worship of the Father. It was modeled by Jesus in the way in which he engaged the Sadducees. Although he differed with them radically on the resurrection he did not feel threatened by them, not compelled to shun them or to call his disciples away from them. As often as they afforded him the opportunity, albeit with evil motives usually, he would engage them in his teaching. However, he was uncompromising to doubly impress on them in Mark 12:24-27 the error of their understanding and doctrine on the resurrection: “Isn’t this because you are mistaken . . . You are therefore badly mistaken.” The unity Jesus demonstrates in his response to the Sadducees is the spirit and truth (that is, the basis and authority of scripture [spirit] and the perspective [truth] of history) such as when he spoke to the Samaritan woman in John 4. More on the Sadducees later.

The Shema

Subsequently, Jesus moves on to the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 as quoted in Mark 12:29-31.

Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one

The documentary takes the historical, popular view on the Deuteronomy passage; that is, it ascribes to it the literal quantitative value of one. This is the interpretation the Jews have given this passage historically; an interpretation which just disregards the plural noun ending. One should wonder about a telltale interpretation which just disregards grammar (as one rabbi states) as being a suitable and sufficient explanation especially in something as the divine scriptures. Similarly, one should wonder as to how an interpretation of this telltale plural noun ending speaks to a plurality at all. It is noted Paul reminds Christians we are indebted to the Jews. However, the indebtedness is as concerns the Jewish heritage of the scriptures, not the Jewish interpretation and to view a different interpretation of scripture by Christians as anti-Semitic is a stretch. The quotation of the Shema passage by Jesus, although his quotation reflects his embrace of the Shema, does not equate to an interpretation nor an embrace by Jesus of the Jewish interpretation. In fact, it was the Jewish understanding of the one reference to God in the Shema which could not/did not allow for any consideration that that same God could  and would take on human form without ceasing to be God. This translated into the rejection and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus.

The unity of God

The ascribing of a literal quantitative value of one or any other value is to miss the intended point, namely, the unity of God. The point God sought to impress on Israel was the total unity thread without variation between anything and everything God said, what Moses said to Israel as being what God said, what the prophets declared and wrote as being from God, what Jesus declared as being from God, what the apostles said and wrote as being from the Holy Spirit and what saints in Christ say when we quote the scriptures . This unity thread (God [spoke] to the fathers, to the prophets, to his Son) is reflected by the writer of Hebrews:

1:1 God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 1:2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son

A scribe who answered wisely

What may bear some significance is the reiteration by the scribe (Mark 12:32, 33) to Jesus' quotation of the Shema. Mark comments Jesus regarded the scribe’s reiteration as “wise(ly)”. The scribe had, it seems, merely parroted the risk-free, standard, acceptable view of the Sadducees on the content of the Deuteronomy passage, but without much understanding. There was nothing wrong in what the scribe said. He, like Jesus, did not offer an interpretation. Jesus then moves on to Psalm 110.

The New Testament inspired interpretation and application of Psalm 110

It does not seem an unrelated coincidence that Jesus should follow-up the Shema; the quintessential passage on the one-ness of God with Psalm 110. The Shema may have been an open-and-shut case for Sadducees and believers today as to the literal One-ness of God. However, Psalm 110 is at best another open-and-shut case (after scholars scrutinize every jot and tittle in the Hebrew) or at worse an opened Pandora's box overflowing with some upsetting, unsettling business about the lord(s) (after musing over absurdities about multiple god(s)). See Hebrews for the quotation and application of Psalm 110 to Jesus.

Believers articulate their convictions: an indictment

The fact that believers may articulate poorly their understanding on Father, Son, and, Holy Spirit is itself not proof of a false doctrine. In this respect, the understanding by our first century Jewish brethren of Jesus as something other than God incarnate is not an invalidation of their faith. Salvation is by the grace of God for all who put their trust in Jesus, his Son. Similarly, whatever Constantine's motives our understanding might have been at Nicaea did not change scripture. If the believer’s profession coincides with what Constantine and other peoples' thought and that profession is defined and upheld in the content and context of scripture it is scripture, not Constantine, which is the source and authority for the believer.

Similarly, grilling believers with a barrage of questions and rhetorical absurdities may have a self-serving effect, but does nothing to teach or enlighten believers. Are those questions intended as proof of a greater understanding on the part of the questioner than the one answering the question? There seems to be no less substantial gaps, quirks and awkwardness in the articulations for the human Jesus than by those who grill. Those believers who espouse a human Jesus do not seem to have a better grasp of what they profess and may be parroting what they themselves have heard. The tactic of volleying a barrage of questions is often mistakenly taken by those who cannot answer that the questioner must therefore understand. Altogether, the inability of believers to articulate clearly their scripture-rooted convictions is more an indictment of those who teach the people of God his word.

The Sadducees, the resurrection and death

Now, back to the Sadducees on the subject of the resurrection, their serious misunderstanding of the scriptures and the entry of death in the garden of Eden. The Sadducees posed for Jesus a marriage scenario involving a woman who was widowed seven times. The similarity of expressions between the Sadducees’ “Moses wrote to us” and the Pharisees’ “Moses commanded us” (Matthew 19) and the related questions on marriage would seem to suggest both groups may have been questioning Jesus.

Also, it is reasonable to infer and to apply Jesus’ reference on the origin of marriage in the garden in Mark’s account to Matthew’s passage. It is between the Mark and Matthew accounts that the unity, the harmony, the one-ness of spirit (the scripture, “Moses commanded”, “Moses wrote”) and truth (the perspective of history, “from the beginning it has not been so”) is demonstrated by Jesus. The exclusiveness of scripture and the inclusiveness of history bear testimony of God and his will. Truth in scripture is confirmed not by the many times it appears, to be doubted by the few times it is stated, whether Jesus or Paul said it, but simply by the fact it is written in scripture.

What is the connection between the Sadducees’ question on marriage and the resurrection as concerns The Human Jesus discussion?

The garden is where Satan sought to disrupt the unity between what God said and where Adam and Eve allowed the deceiver to distort what God had said. The unity of Adam and Eve was not limited to their fleshly union which made them one. It was another expression of their unity and one-ness in harmony with the will of God. It would be a serious misunderstanding were anyone to conclude the extent of the union God purposed between the man and the woman was strictly in the flesh. The garden is where death entered into the world. The effect of that lost unity has been felt between God and man and the man and the woman since the garden.

God cannot die is the common strong suit assertion of The Human Jesus documentary. However, that’s a phrase which could plausibly have originated in the garden. We are familiar with Satan’s lies to Adam and Eve. He deceived them telling them they would not die. After their sin against God they realized Satan had lied. It was a bit later but Death’s knock several years later removed any doubts as to the reality of death.

After the fall of Adam and Eve Satan realized he had work to do. God, contrary to what Satan might have expected, did not disown the man and woman. God desired the restoration of their trust and belief in Him. This became and has been Satan’s work to instill in man not so much the reality of death, but that . . .

God cannot save you. God is not a man. God does not understand.
God cannot die. God will not die.

This lie that death is final is perpetrated and believed even by those who teach the scriptures to the people of God. The implication of this belief is that there is nothing and no one greater than death. Therefore it was necessary that God himself step into his world and take on death.

10:17 Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. 10:18 No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I received this commandment from my Father.” Gospel of John

It is a mistake by those, much like the Sadducees, who say God cannot die to equate that with God would not die. Furthermore, they are badly mistaken to believe God is willing and able to raise the dead such as Lazarus, but he certainly cannot and would not lay down his own life. As impressive and memorable as was the resurrection of Lazarus few, perhaps none, understood or could imagine Jesus would soon demonstrate the full significance of his words, I am the resurrection.

The overflow of the (un)belief in the phrase God is not a man is not to say God cannot, (nothing is impossible for Him) but that He could not/would not become a man. The apostle Paul in Philippians:

2:5 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, 2:6 who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, 2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.

Conclusion

The theology behind The Human Jesus documentary is as old as the first century church. Certainly, it's message content is as much embraced in Islam. It has been and will continue to be the constant struggle of believers to hold fast or to take up that which they left, again. It is in the quest to know God. Jesus informed his disciples he is not particularly impressed by their repetitious acclamation of Lord, Lord nor is He unaware that his disciples did not know it was him we were serving faithfully. What pleases him is that we, his people, do what he has commanded that we love one another. If Jesus did not feel threatened or resorted to condemnation of those who did not know who He is, who do we presume to be when we react out of a sense of threat to condemn our brother and sister who has yet to understand the Incarnate Word that is God?

One who loves is free from fear and intimidation and trusts fully in the love of the God he or she knows. Examine all things. Feed one another. It is the human thing to do and when done in as a disciple of Jesus it glorifies the Father.

Supplement

The New Testament inspired interpretation and application of Psalm 2

The second psalm points to a convergence between a father and a son to whom he is a father. When viewed in light of Jesus one common interpretation is for a physical creation.

You are my son.
Today I have become your father

Colossians 1 is viewed in the same way with respect to a physical creation of the Son. However, Hebrews 1 is considerably clearer and bolder with its assertions on an alleged creation of the Son. Furthermore, it is the apostle Paul who provides the inspired interpretation and application of Psalm 2 in Acts 13:33ff to the resurrection as being the manner in which Jesus was begotten.

13:33 that God has fulfilled the same to us, their children, in that he raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second psalm,


‘You are my Son.

Today I have become your father.’

13:34 “Concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.

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