Friday, December 14, 2007

Introduction - Palimpsest and Revolution

Jesus of Nazareth is not the exclusive property of the christian religion. Jesus was not a christian and never preached the religion we know as Christianity. The aim of this page is to scrape away the accretions that the christian religion has overlaid on him, and view plainly and clearly the religion that he really preached, wise and loving and full of a wonderful light.

Jesus was, of course, a jew, who lived in the Galilee and Judea in the first century and preached his own version of Judaism to jews. The core doctrines of Christianity as they are commonly preached these days - sacrifice on the cross to redeem our sins, eternal life through faith in him and acceptance of him as savior, son of god and of the same substance, original sin - these were ideas he never knew and which would have been foreign to him, as they are to Judaism. No, Jesus preached a very different religion than Christianity.

But his words and story are still there for all to see in the gospels as they remain in the New Testament. (At least, I will accept the words attributed to him in the Gospel of Matthew as his own.) If you read what he says there, you might realize how small a role his actual teachings play in Christianity as we hear it all around us today. His words still sound fresh and inspiring partly because of just that.

Jesus In Time And Place

The jewish lands of Judea and the Galilee had been under the control of the roman empire for decades by the time Jesus was born, during the reign of Augustus Caesar. This dominion did not sit as easily on the jews as it did on many other peoples who the romans had brought under their control. To the jews, romans and greeks seemed profane and arrogant, and we jews never stopped trying to drive them out of our lands, through revolt after disasterous revolt. Eventually, the patience of the roman state wore through, and they expelled us from our land and forced us to wander the earth without a place to call our own. Not for us the yoke of empire, yet, sadly, the righteous will not always prevail in the course of one lifetime.

Jesus was part of the fabric of the jewish striving for freedom in these years. He is known to historians, through the writings of Flavius Josephus, who lived in Judea in the decades after his death, as one of many who thought they might just be god's annointed king come to overthrow the wicked usurpers and establish an eathly kingdom in Israel that would shine with such a transcendant light of virtue that the nations of the earth would pay homage and submit to its instruction. Moreover, there were many in Judea and Galilee in those decades who struggled to merely find the path of righteous living according to the scriptures that would appease god so that he would lift their affliction and drive out the pagans. Finally, many despaired so much that they argued for ordinary physical resistance, like refusing to pay taxes, or even armed force. Jesus was born, lived, and died in the midst of this turmoil, and hastened to play his part in it.

Jesus preached a heightened moral purity that contrasted with other philosophies and practices of the time, such as the pharasees and essenes, that sought to sharpen the ritual practice of purity as part of spiritual awareness. The other paths have left their mark in history, but he alone forged a body of moral thought and poetry which survives and lives.


This page is a 'living document', that is, one that is not finished, and which will, i hope, continue to grow. I want to flesh out the historical context of Jesus, and also to be able to analyse his words and summarize them so that we might be able to see a coherent and graspable picture of what Jesus sought to add to jewish moral thought. Please feel free to comment!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've come via "Betsy's Page" to give an answer to your rather puerile critique .Look,the President is not God.Your arguments are:thhis is evil;why hasn't it been stopped?It must be the President's fault.I don't know whether you are actually trying to comment intelligently or fan your self esteem,but your argument is a variation of the 'Kindly Old Burt Shotton 'theme.(This was a ploy a spsorts writer who opined "the dodgers won in spite of,lost because of Kindly Old Burt Shotton')
Best wishes,C