Category Archives: Jewish

questions on the bible

I’ve been listening to a fascinating course on the early Christians. It has me thinking about the Bible. What seems to be taken as a given is that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are very different forces. Somewhat cruel and hands-on in the former vs. loving and distant in that later. From what I have gleaned so far, scholars know some of the authors of the New Testament and have educated guesses on those they don’t know for sure.

Who “wrote” the New Testament? My guess would be that these are stories passed down from generation to generation until they were written down in texts that were sacred to the Jews. Question for the Jews: in general are the stories of the old testament taken as fact written via the influence of God or for fable to learn by or both?

For Christianity I would say that there are those who believe that God caused the writing of the New Testament (for lack of a better description). My sister-in-law has a good term “God-breathed”. Then there are other Christians who see the Bible more as a set of stories. I’ve typically taken the later view. It’s an easy position, men wrote it down we know that. They are inherently imperfect (i.e. not God). Did they feel inspired by God when they wrote it? Undoubtedly. That doesn’t make everyone who feels “inspired” right.

When I started this blog I posed a question which was, can one consider oneself a Christian if one does not believe that Jesus was the son of God? What has become clear to me after studying these early Christian’s is that whether or not Jesus was the actual messiah, those who wrote the texts of the New Testament certainly believed he was. And it is that belief that shaped everything they wrote, did, said, you name it.

To follow my thoughts to a (hopefully) logical conclusion – if Christianity is the result of the writings and teachings of the early Christians interpretation of Jesus as the son of God whose death and resurrection fulfilled the contract with God and the Jews, then yes – one does have to agree with these ideas to be considered a Christian. As the closest group to Jesus, who himself left no writings, all we have are their interpretations. They define the religion.

The difficulty comes when one begins to understand all the other texts that have surfaced in the last 100 or so years that are also written by early Christians that present a very different view of what Jesus’ message was. Which do I believe? All, because they are all “God-breathed”? Just the traditional cannon, a survival of the fittest gospel concept? Or none, because how can one know. Do I just choose what I like? That’s what most early Christian sects did, they picked the writings that supported their view and discarded the rest. Its human nature I supposed.

My conundrum continues, what is a person who believes in God but does not necessarily believe in Jesus as the son of God? Maybe I am a Jew by definition – that is pending the answer to the question in paragraph 2. Also, how do we reconcile the extreme differences of God presented in the Old and New Testament? I can’t seem to just accept that the Bible is true. I don’t have a problem with accepting God even though he’s less provable than the Bible. I wonder why this is. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it!

if Jesus was a jew, how come i’m not?

I’m listening to a wonderful lecture right now from the teaching company. Part of the discussion is on the Jewishness of Jesus – basically that he was one and a very big one at that. If you take away all the stuff I struggle with: Jesus being the son of God and the messiah and all that, I do believe he was a very influential Jewish prophet who managed to change the way a lot of people thought. You might even say that because such a small, radical sect of Judaism became the dominant religion of today speaks volumes as to how really influential Jesus was – maybe this was supposed to be? But I try not to get bogged down in supposed to be’s.

But if he was this great Jewish teacher, prophet, whatever you want to call him, that had no intention of starting a new and separate and certainly anti-Jewish religion then why are all Christians Christian and not Jewish? Because his followers and disciples became convinced that he was the messiah and spread the word about HIM rather than his teachings. Ok, but then we have a religion based on one person (albeit divine in nature) as opposed to the one God. That particular notion makes me uncomfortable. It’s great and all that God sent his only son to die for our sins but why still does that mean I don’t follow the religion that His son did? The separation of these two once so closely related religions doesn’t seem to mesh with the concept of forgiveness and unity. If every time we have a difference of opinion we split off and form a new sect of something without bothering to stay and work it out we’re quitters.

I’m not saying we all have to agree and practice one unchanging religion. On the contrary there should be debate and differences – that’s the only thing that helps us grow. Maybe it doesn’t matter that we call ourselves Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or whatever because deep down we’re all the same? Good thought, but the devil’s in the details and that’s still where a lot of folks are focused. It doesn’t matter that we all agree we shouldn’t kill another human being if we’re worried about whether Mary was actually a virgin or Jesus was really fathered by God. There are too many people out there who still think they are the one that got it “right”.

Ok, so there is no right answer and we will continue to splinter and differ, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to get along. Great – where does that leave me personally? I have no clue. Christianity is what I know, it’s comfortable to me and I’ve come a long way with it. I can’t just walk away. At the same time, I can’t ignore the questions of faith and belief, as a matte of fact, I think I should embrace them. I’ve always said I wouldn’t convert to any particular religion. But then maybe I can’t claim to be any either. I consider myself a Christian now. I would like to believe that Jesus was the son of God but I admit I’m not there yet. How do I reconcile a man who lived thousands of years ago in a completely different time and place with what I know and feel today? Is this even possible?

Maybe I’m focusing to much on the man. Maybe there’s a more general, or spiritual way of approaching it. But then I have to separate the physical, historical realities from the spiritual beliefs. How do I do that? Faith is a great answer in theory, but much harder in practice. I’m a historian by training, it’s what I know and love – looking past historical realities is like deciding not to see the truth for me. I do have a desire to get it right. I guess that’s the first thing I have to set aside. All I really need to do is get it right for me.