The Real Deal

Must share this from my Canadian friend. Just an appetizer from his ever-changing website:

Search for the Real Deal on Non-retaliation/Unconditional

It has long been recognized that there is an historical Jesus whose authentic message can be found among the contradictory and distorting accounts contained in the New Testament gospels. Many have recognized that not all that is contained in the gospels is authentic to the historical person and in fact much contradicts profoundly the core message of the man.

This recognition has been expressed in a centuries-long search for the authentic sayings of Jesus, for the authentic gospel. This search begins with people like H. S. Reimarus in the 1700s (he starts the modern critical study of Jesus that challenges the long-held Christian teaching on Jesus), and moves to David Strauss in the 1800s (he recognized that the historical Jesus was buried underneath layers of Christian myth), and on to Albert Schweitzer’s apocalyptic Jesus of the early 1900s, and then into the later 20th Century “New Quest” for the Historical Jesus. The Jesus Seminar is one part of this new quest and recognizes that there are notable “dissimilarities” (differences) between the historical person and the gospel accounts. The Seminar researchers note, for instance, the difference between the injunction of Jesus to love enemies in Matt.5 and the later condemnation of towns (Matt.11) that rejected his followers. They conclude, “He would not have told Capernaum to go to hell after instructing his disciples to love their enemies” (The Five Gospels, Funk and Hoover).

Researchers like Stephen Mitchell argue that the historical Jesus was wise and forgiving in contrast to the punitive and self-centered Christian Jesus (i.e. John’s gospel). Mitchell then tries to “extricate the authentic sayings of Jesus from the morass of false, imputed statements found in the gospels”. People like Mitchell state that Christianity has created a New Testament that almost buries the authentic teaching of Jesus. Thomas Jefferson referred to this larger NT context as a situation where Jesus’ authentic words were like “diamonds in a dunghill”. This expresses well the point of stark difference between the message of the authentic person and the later contradictory additions to his teaching.

Another aspect of the quest for the historical Jesus was the recognition that the gospel writers (i.e. Matthew and Luke) used another source called Q Sayings Gospel when they wrote their gospels. Q research- or Quelle, the German word for “source”- recognizes that there was a stunning shift from the earliest version of this Sayings gospel that was non-apocalyptic (sapiential or wisdom sayings) to later versions that were strongly apocalyptic. And we are grateful for Q researchers like James Robinson that have noted this difference between an original Jesus gospel and the later Christian gospel. But you do not need Q research to see the striking difference between the authentic message of the historical Jesus and the Christian message about him, the Christ myth.

To appreciate the profound nature of this difference it is useful to get a grip on his core teaching. This will help to evaluate what is authentic among the rest of the material that has been attributed to him. We can engage here what some have referred to as “thematic coherence”, that there is often an organizing theme that consistently shapes the thinking, teaching, and acting of a person.

A summary of the core teaching of Jesus is found in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapters 5-7. A similar assembling of his core teaching is found in Luke 6. Within this larger body of core teaching there is a brief statement of his central theme (the core of the core). This is set forth in Matt.5:38-48. It is a clear and profound statement of non-retaliation as related to both ethics and theology. In fact, the ethical ideal is based on the theological truth.

Jesus’ statement on non-retaliation is arguably the clearest and most potent such statement in all history. Others had argued long before him for the principle of non-retaliation in human relating (e.g. the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son, Wikipedia). But Jesus took things to new heights of clarification by opening his statement on non-retaliation with a clear rejection of traditional retaliatory justice (eye for eye) as an ethical standard. And then he offered a new theological element in his statement, something that no one else in antiquity had ever done. He broke with all past perception of gods as retaliatory, judgmental, and punitive for a new theology of God as non-retaliating.

To summarize this core theme of Jesus as stated in Matt.5- first, he straightforwardly rejects eye for eye justice or ethics (payback, retaliation, vengeance, punishment) in favor of non-retaliation. This is a clear rejection of tit for tat response or relating. A rejection of “getting even”. While non-retaliation is the negative aspect (the passive aspect), today we state this type of response or relating positively in the term unconditional love, or unconditional treatment of all people.

After stating that we should not retaliate, Jesus then moved on to emphasize this positive element of unlimited goodness and generosity toward others. This is a call to unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, and the expression of unconditional generosity toward all. And the emphasis is on unconditional or unlimited. Absolutely no conditions before loving all. None.

To illustrate further, Jesus repeatedly argues that we should not retaliate against those who offend or harm us in varied ways. Instead, we should forgive and respond with unlimited generosity. We are to positively love our enemies. In stating this he lifted love out of the constricted realm of tribal or group thinking. Thugs and primitives restrict their love just to those who love them, to family and friends. You, Jesus urges, can do much better and love universally, including everyone, even enemies. He was eliminating all the divisive and discriminating categories of friend/enemy, insider/outsider, or good/bad people. There should be no limiting discrimination with authentic love.

And he added that people should not let their unconditional treatment of others depend on a similar response from others (Luke 6). Do not let your good treatment of others depend on how they respond to you or treat you. Do not expect others to respond in kind with similar goodness. Just love them anyway. He called for a full liberation from all tit for tat expectation and relating. These were uniquely new insights into unconditional treatment of others. His insights took human perception of love to a new height of humane response and relating.

And then he states the reason why we are to do so. We are to love enemies unconditionally because God does. We are to forgive all unconditionally, include all unconditionally, and express unlimited generosity toward all unconditionally. Because this is what God does. God forgives all, and includes all. God does not discriminate between good and bad but is generous toward all alike. He sends rain and sun on all without discrimination. God loves universally, including the bad or enemies. So be compassionate in the same manner that God is compassionate. Be merciful just as your father is merciful. It is a tight pair-bonding of ethics with theological ideal.

We find this core theme of unconditional treatment of all people throughout the teaching of Jesus, whether in parables or sayings or other statements. There is thematic coherence in his teaching. We see it in the parable of the vineyard workers (unconditional generosity), the prodigal son (no payback conditions), in his statements on unlimited forgiveness, and in his meal-time practice of embracing “sinners” without conditions or exclusion. For more detail, see the added summary posted below, “Unconditional In The Jesus Tradition”.

And this central theme of non-retaliation is critical to resolving the debate over whether he was an apocalyptic prophet/messiah (like his mentor John), or not.

The point is straightforward- if Jesus’ core theme was non-retaliation then he could not have been an apocalyptic messenger. And this gets us to the greatest of all contradictions between the historical Jesus and Christianity (the Christian or Pauline gospel).

Apocalyptic is most essentially a statement of retaliation. It is a grand divine retaliation against sinful humanity. It is a grand punishment, an act of divine vengeance, an exacting of revenge for sin. Paul is clear on this- note his comments, for example, in Thessalonians on God finally acting to repay (see also Romans and Hebrews for similar statements of divine retaliation). Apocalyptic is God intervening to retaliate in a grand final act of punishment of sin.

But Jesus, in his statement of his core theme, had clearly said that God does not retaliate. That core theme of his teaching then contradicts the entire structure of Christian belief or theology. Paul’s Christian system is built on the foundation of divine apocalyptic retaliation (Tabor- Apocalyptic influenced all Paul said and did, and Christianity is Paul’s religion). Paul’s Christian atonement theology is a subset of the larger apocalyptic framework (payment, punishment of sin in Christ’s death, salvation, final retribution against all sin, consummation, transformation). His Christ myth is all about retaliatory apocalyptic through and through. And his retaliating God emphasizes the profound contradiction between Jesus and Christianity.

So the core issue in the difference between Jesus and Christianity is that of retaliation versus non-retaliation, and not just apocalyptic versus non-apocalyptic. Once again, apocalyptic is most essentially retaliation, divine retaliation. This is the key point. And this is the most significant contradiction of all between the historical Jesus and the Christian myth of Christ. One is about non-retaliation and the other is about a supreme and final retaliation.

This difference can also be emphasized in a variety of ways- as that between authentic unconditional love and conditional atonement. Or between authentic forgiveness and the demand for atonement or payment. Or, as I have argued above, the difference between non-retaliation and vengeance or payback retaliation.

You simply cannot mix and merge these opposites, as Paul/Christianity has done, or you eviscerate the true meaning of the unconditional element in the process. With the conditional atonement of Christianity you distort and bury the unconditional insight of Jesus.

Conclusion: To summarize again this issue of thematic coherence- the historical Jesus consistently and coherently taught a message of non-retaliation or unconditional treatment of all. This unconditional treatment of others is a baseline from which to evaluate all of the other teaching attributed to Jesus. Much of that teaching in the gospels contradicts the tenor of this unconditional theme and therefore should be challenged as not authentic or consistent with his core theme.

And as Jesus’ core teaching is coherently and consistently non-retaliatory, we can then conclude that he was unquestionably non-apocalyptic. Apocalypse is a grand divine punishment, a divine retaliation against sinful humanity. As Jesus was consistently non-retaliatory in his core message, then he could not have advocated for divine apocalyptic retaliation, or apocalyptic in any form. This is especially clear in his Matt. 5:38-48 statements, where he says that God does not retaliate. God is therefore not behind apocalyptic in any way, shape or form.

Note: Once again, we do not need Jesus as some special authority to validate the ideal of unconditional treatment of others. Our own sense of the authentically humane tells us today what it means to be truly human. But we do benefit from the varied breakthrough insights of past historical figures.

Wendell Krossa ~ February 2014

Published in: on February 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Have Mercy

It took me years to forgive myself for much more than you will ever know about. I was unable to do that until I became convinced of our Father’s unconditional love for us, no matter what. At first I thought it too scandalous to be like the Prodigal’s father. I was too much like the Prodigal’s brother whose justice demanded payment for his brother’s wastefulness. But our Father’s justice was taught by the historical Jesus in Matt. 5:38-48. “Blasphemy!” said the priests. “He must die for challenging the standard of justice in our Torah!”

And when he taught that our Father lived among us and in us, accepting us as we are, (the Father’s kingdom of here-and-now), well, that did it for me. That’s when I was able to forgive myself for a shameful past. Why? Because my Father forgives my past and accepts me as I am. And from then on, when faced with choices, I try to remember to ask myself, “Is this what Abba would do?” If I remember to ask myself that, then the choice is clear. If I do not remember to ask myself that, then I could still make the wrong choice and end up hurting myself or someone else. But I always know that Abba’s arms are open to me, no matter what. So I can start over.

That concept of our Father’s presence among and in us challenged the Jewish Temple religion and rituals. It challenged the priesthood itself! And that is when they brought suit against him before the Roman court claiming that he was the ringleader of another rebellion.

Jesus was falsely accused and murdered for what he taught. And even then, he asked our Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. The message that Jesus taught and died for was caring for, compassion for, acceptance of, forgiveness to, and love for others – no matter what. It’s what Abba would do, and it’s what Abba had always done from the beginning. Love does not generate fear. Love requires no payment for wrong-doing. Abba would not even THINK of sending his enemies to a hellish punishment. Such nonsense only came from the minds of those who required retaliation – priests and writers who did not know what they were doing or writing.

I could go on here about how and why Paul completely twisted and reversed the historical Jesus’ message with his production of a bloody “Christ” salvation idea that the NT “gospel” writers bought into and used to generate their narratives two to four decades later. Another time, perhaps.

For now, just think of Abba’s love and compassion for you as his dear child. What you and I have done or believed in our past is not an issue for Abba. He has long ago thrown our errors into the far horizons of space and accepts us like those mistakes never even happened. Just part of our learning. No blame. No guilt. No punishment. No payment required. Only gratitude for his open arms and for being his beloved child – then sharing such a love with others.

Jesus’ message puts a smile on our face and relief in our heart.

Indeed! Father, have mercy! We still have so much to learn.

Had to get my response of last night out of my system before reading the Rule of Life attachment. Glad I did. She has it! Margaret has found and seen the Light under the religious bushel. She is commenting on the historical Jesus, not the “Christ” of Paul. Total opposites. And yes, Paul did get a couple things. One, that there is no difference between Torah, Logos, and religion – any kind. All three cover up the mercy of our Father with their “laws.” The other worthy piece in one of Paul’s letters is his going on while describing love.

But then, of all things, Paul does a turn-about and proceeds to build his vision of a new religion – one that included all the same points of Eastern Zoroastrianism. (Fall, loss of paradise, promised savior, atonement, resurrection, return in judgement, and hellish punishment for unbelief) Muhammed used exactly the same line for his Koran. Both buried Jesus’ comforting message of the Presence of a caring, compassionate, loving Father-God always among us and in us. Some OT pre-captivity Prophets got it as well, but the religious priests had them stoned, etc. for blasphemy according to their “holy law.” Even Abraham had grown up in the tradition of Eastern religion and was ready to practice it on Isaac. The Jewish scribes and priests rewrote their Hebrew history while in Babylon, all in line with Eastern religion, and always involving their myth of judgmental-punishing “god” who must retaliate.

In fairness to Paul, he was, after all, a brilliant scholar of the Torah which had come home rewritten from Persia. And he saw an opportunity to use Greek and Roman mythology to formulate a new similar mythology for the Gentiles. Same line. Different characters. (Jesus’ brother, James, and Peter who had actually heard Jesus’ comforting message, vehemently refused to accept Paul’s new religion. After meeting with them, Paul even uses sarcasm to belittle them as uneducated “super-apostles.”) One to two generations later, well after Paul’s influence among the Gentiles and after Jerusalem was destroyed (70CE), the writers of the “gospels” took pseudo names and each added their twists to the accounts of the Galilean that were still being passed about orally.

I do not have time here to show how opposing theologians gathered copies of circulating manuscripts over the next three centuries and finally formulated their confessions and rituals and “laws” for the new Christian religion. Enter Constantine and his “sword” used on unbelievers, especially Jews. The church became a powerful arm of European, Middle Eastern, and North African governments that followed. Or was it the reverse? Another three centuries later, roughly 600-700CE, Muhammad, like Paul, began having his visions among the Arabs who claimed being children of Ishmael.

I know, all this challenges everything we were taught and held dear. But I know for certain that Love does not generate fear. Therefore, with the historical Galilean, I challenge the value of religion – any form of it. And no one can formulate a religion around sharing our Father’s presence and love for each of us. Other than that, all we can do is learn how religion actually hides this authentic good news with a pseudo “good news” of their own – plus endless laws and rituals and confessions and threats to keep folks from questioning an ancient tyranny.

And yes, I suppose there may be gatherings with leaders whose purpose is to reassure each other with the authentic love that our Father has for us, gatherings that find ways to help those in need and surprise with goodness those who would do them harm. May there be many such gatherings that do NOT organize but only have a caring, compassionate, loving mission.

Be free!

HH ~ February 2014

Published in: on February 21, 2014 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Let Love and Freedom Rule

The historical Jesus got it!

Our Father’s unconditional love for humanity has no strings attached to it. No ifs. No belief requirements. It is meant to set humans free – free to love: free to accept others, free to forgive self and free to forgive others, free to give others permission to be free, free to be humanely human.

Divine justice is scandalous to a religious mindset which is based on retaliation.

To be truly human a person must first discover and then claim their freedom. Animals are incapable of doing that. Only humans can be truly free through the Divine gift of self-consciousness. It’s a Divine Presence within each and every one of us which yearns to be so discovered and claimed. When freedom prevails, astounding things occur – ideas, creativity, productivity, trade, discoveries, and on and on.

Let love and freedom rule. Five words say it all.

It’s the very nature of a belief system (i.e. religious, ideological) to conform, to limit freedom – all must think according to the system. And the pressure to conform is enforced with threats of punishment and hell or enticements of utopia and heaven.

All this is something fresh to those of us who have been brought up in religious traditions – to be true to oneself, to claim one’s personal freedom, to forgive and love one’s self, to know one’s true self are all discouraged. Only your sinful worthlessness and the crucifix is held before your eyes.

Religious orientation also subsumes one’s self to the larger group. People are coerced to not be selfish but to subject their identity to the collective, to the state, to the church. Freedom is diminished and creativity and production is squelched.

When the historical Jesus discovered a Presence within him bearing the gifts of love and freedom, his core message became like a Light to show humans the way of our Father. It became his very life and reality, his mission, to share our Father’s dream for humanity.

Question authority. Shine on!

HH ~ February 2014

Published in: on February 21, 2014 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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