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A Jew's Take On Jesus, Paul And Christianity


Guest nat
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Note: I am not an authentic christian believer. Far from it.

 

Someone said they were interested in a first hand Jewish account on if I contemplated Jesus being the messiah and what i though about it. Yes, I have contemplated these and many things for many hours.

 

Being born and raised as an Orthodox Jew and having achieved a high level of scholarship in Talmud and Jewish law (after many years of learning), it should be expected that I would have a bias in favor of my Jewish religion. Nonetheless, I believe in truth above all things, whatever it may be, and I am very open minded to various truths as well as skeptical to blinded acceptance of things of my own faith. In light of this, I can agree with various theological Christian views while at the same time argue that they don’t need Christianity or Jesus.

 

Here is an example of something I posted about Christianity and sin:

 

I have been reading a lot about the Christian perspective on sin. In all, there are as many positions on this matter as there are christian denominations. The conflict revolves around the competing teachings of christian salvation vs christian values. Whatever position you take, you can find an NT verse that supports it, so any resolution to the contradiction is very evasive. The questions will always remain, is there guaranteed salvation? Do you need to repent? How good do we need to be? Is it enough if we just don't really want to sin? Is it possible for a Christian to sin? Is it possible for a christian not to sin? Etc.

1. I find it troubling that Christianity is so unclear on this and other matters.

2. Whatever position you take, I (as a Jew) feel that God can do it without Jesus.

3. You often find on this and many other issues that Jesus indicated one thing, while Paul indicated another. Many have said that Christianity is the religion of Paul and not Jesus. Some say that Paul did a better job of understanding and defining Jesus more than Jesus himself. Some believe that Paul was the anti-christ. In any case, it does not sit well. I still find the various theological questions and various takes on them to be fascinating.

 

Although I cannot claim to be an expert on the NT, I am still not happy with what I have seen. Too many contradictions. If I would even believe in Jesus, I would be of the camp that believes that Paul corrupted Jesus’s message. I am not the first to make these claims. Once you get rid of Pauline Christianity, the whole thing starts to unravel. While I am open to various Christian theological teachings, I do not believe in either Jesus or Paul. Jesus says some nice things, but also some bad things. He did not like rich people. He did not like the Rabbis. He was a rebel. He was contradictory. I always believe the way to change something is from within. There were a lot of great Rabbis of that time. Think of Hillel. I read the Talmud. I see great people like rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Gamliel. The bible says to listen to the Rabbinic majority. Jesus said some nasty things against the Rabbis. The Seducees were the problem, not the Pharisees. 

I don’t disregard all of the teachings. Turn the other cheek can be found in Aichah (lamentations). But it all, Jesus is not the right person for me, and Paul is much worse.

 

Jesus by all accounts did not bring the final redemption. That is why we still all all waiting for the messiah. I have no issue with Isaiah 53. The Talmud teaches that the suffering of the righteous atones for mankind. The Talmud also teaches that the messiah will suffer. Jesus is just not the one I pin my salvation on. I have little issue with valid Christian theology which comes from Jewish texts. I just don’t believe in Jesus, and Paul less so. I put my faith in God and the Jews, whom I believe God loves eternally. 

 

There are more issues: Christian shameful history to the Jews, Christianity and paganism, the conflict of Paul and James. People also don’t realize how repulsive the Christian obsession with blood and death and a dead almost naked man on a cross is to Jews.

 

I wish that I were a genuine scholar able to put all the issues in coherent form in a book. But others have already done so.

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Thanks for posting this, Nat.  Like I said on the other thread I have a very favorable view of Judaism.  The idea of valuing truth even above one's religious beliefs seems to be a common thread in Judaism.  Might be why there are many Jews who don't believe in God who are nonetheless faithful to Jewish teachings.  I think you and I may have a lot in common here.  Some thoughts on what you've said:

 

Regarding your point number 2, I agree that even if we stipulate to the existence of sin and God's law, I don't see that God needs Jesus to accomplish forgiveness and redemption.  The idea of a single sacrifice who's blood "covers" sin is antithetical to Judaism, is it not?

 

About Jesus and Paul, I can't add much to your marvelous analysis of the situation.  Jesus and Paul simply seem to be separate entities.  Paul adds quite a bit to what Jesus said, and seems like someone who never even met Jesus (even the NT's account of their meeting leaves much to be desired).

 

Finally, about the Pharisees.  I've read enough history to know that the Pharisees were not the hypocritical tyrants that Jesus made them out to be.  They established the synagogue system and championed justice and  the idea of care for one's fellow man.  It's unfortunate that Christians have demonized these men (literally, in some cases).

 

I hope to hear more of your opinions on all this!

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hi nat,

 

welcome.

 

i am neither good at science or mathematics. but to jump to conclude god is infinity, and inifinity is far from zero and the equate god's existence i think a little far fetched.

 

anyway, i think many like to ask you about judaism and would propose you meet us at the lion's den so we may ask. you some of your practices as a jew with regards to old testament.

 

cheers

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The conflict between justice, mercy, salvation, good works, etc is very complicated. Christianity has a great selling point of quick salvation (which is why the retain so many adherents), but when you scratch below the surface, you see that it is not so clear and not so quick. In Judaism, every aspect has a say on the matter and the truth comes out from the totality of all aspects. Sometimes there is justice, sometimes mercy. To a degree the suffering of the righteous attones for all humanity. To a degree it does not. The fact the the world is still around can be a product of the atonement of righteous suffering. But there is also personal responsibility. In the end a person has to be good. But how good is good? Jews say on the day of atonement, our wish is to do god's wish, even if we end up falling short of it. i have found a similar Christian teaching on salvation, that it is based on our spiritual nature to really want to be good, even if our flesh nature can't rise to that occasion. In the end, God will judge how good a person was, and i know he will be merciful, without Jesus. I find Christianity to be very exclusionary, simplistic, and hateful.  

 

I do value truth above all, but I strive to reconcile the truth with the teachings, rather than throw out the teachings. There is always a way to reconcile. If the truth is that the world was created in more than six days, then the six days can be understood differently or allegorically. And i am with those that believe (as did Nachmanidies) the the creation story is much more about mystical and kabalistic underpinnings than about the actual creation.

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I'm surprised you got labeled with the "Authentic Christian Believer" tag since you are not a Christian.

 

The lion's den is right here: http://www.ex-christian.net/forum/6-the-lions-den/

It is where people go to debate on general theology (usually Christian). I don't know a lot about Judaism, and I too am curious about the Jewish perspective on Christianity as well.

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As a believer I often wondered about becoming Jewish, as the Jesus stuff was theologically difficult for me, and Paul's stuff was just crap.... Thank you for sharing this unique perspective. You've given me some food for thought as I retrospectively examine my struggles with Christianity.

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Thanks very much for your post, Nat. I pretty much agree entirely with what you have said.

 

I'm very interested to hear more about this, but unfortunately, I'm also not really a scholar on the Bible so I don't have any intelligent questions to ask. 

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I think if Paul's writings are examined carefully it will become apparent he was simply attempting to reform Judaism and open it up to the Gentiles. Earl Doherty, among others, is convinced that Paul understood Jesus only in a spiritual context. Doherty is convinced Paul believed Jesus was crucified and resurrected in the spiritual realm and never thought of Jesus as ever having been an earthly messiah.

 

To get the full flavor of Doherty's thinking his book The Jesus Puzzle would be worth looking into, and there is an online version. Robert M. Price endorses Doherty's interpretation of Paul. In any case, the Paul of Christian tradition is probably very different from the Paul of the bible. Many of the writings attributed to Paul have been proven to be forgeries.

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Over on the Freethought & Rationalism discussion board, there are strong proponents of the thesis that Paul's letters are forgeries of a century or more after their purported date:  cf. e.g.

 

http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=323219&page=40

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Jews believe that Paul started his own religion. 

 

My thoughts on this are that if religion is man based, then everyone has a free shot, and let the best man win.

 

But if you believe that religion is God based, as I do, then man made up religions don't match up.

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I think many historians would credit Constantine with creating, or at least firmly establishing, Christianity as a valid religion. I am convinced Paul is being incorrectly credited with starting a new religion when in fact he didn't. I think Paul was intending to reform Judaism and that was all he was attempting to do. This new religion, Christianity, was after all a Jewish sect when it began. It took decades for it to evolve into a Gentile religion and Paul was long dead with it finally took hold. And even then there was a huge fight between the Gnostics and those advocating orthodoxy that took additional decades to resolve.

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But if you believe that religion is God based, as I do, then man made up religions don't match up.

 

 

 

Everyone believes HIS religion is the real, God-based one. To those unable to believe any of those religions due to their collective lack of evidence, they all look and function the same.

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But if you believe that religion is God based, as I do, then man made up religions don't match up.

 

 

 

Everyone believes HIS religion is the real, God-based one. To those unable to believe any of those religions due to their collective lack of evidence, they all look and function the same.

 

I completely understand. We know so little and it is all confusing. We weren't there. What do we know for sure. For my part, my belief is based on two things. 1. That is what my soul tells me to do, and I am not one to deny it. 2. God gave me some personal hints. 

A person has to be honest and humble and follow what truth tells him. Not much more that can be asked for.

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1. That is what my soul tells me to do, and I am not one to deny it. 2. God gave me some personal hints. 

A person has to be honest and humble and follow what truth tells him. Not much more that can be asked for.

I'm confused. Are you saying god has given you personal insights into truth?

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Actually, in my studies that led me out of Christianity, one of the striking arguments was the Jewish perspective of Jesus and Paul's theology.  Paul keeps harping on the fact that the Jews had been blinded to the truth of Christ and could not see him for who he was despite him "obviously" being the fulfillment of messianic prophecies.  Whereas, the truth is that the Christian theology and practices taught by Paul and the early Christians was not only completely foreign to Judaism, but were in fact ALMOST IDENTICAL to the other pagan mystery religions of the region in the 1st century.  Jews didn't accept Christianity because it was obvious it was a just another plagiarism from the popular paganism of the day. The "gospel truth" was not a new revelation to the Jews.  Virgin births, incarnate gods, blood atonement deaths, hell, baptism, communion ceremonies of bread and wine...NONE of these have  ANY reference in Judaism.  But they ALL were COMMON beliefs and practices by the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian, etc. mystery religions.  Really, it's no wonder the Jews rejected Jesus out of hand.  In fact, St. Augustine declared that the priests of Mithras worshipped the same god as him, because their practices and beliefs were almost indiscernable from the Church!

 

Unfortunately people today have NO CONTEXTUAL UNDERSTANDING  of the religious landscape of the middle east 2000 years ago.  People are taught their are the Christians, Jews, and the Pagans (who believe some other unknown things).  That's it!  And the Jews are practically the same as Christians!  Actually, quite the opposite.  The Christians were practically the same as all the other religions!

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Actually, in my studies that led me out of Christianity, one of the striking arguments was the Jewish perspective of Jesus and Paul's theology.  Paul keeps harping on the fact that the Jews had been blinded to the truth of Christ and could not see him for who he was despite him "obviously" being the fulfillment of messianic prophecies.  Whereas, the truth is that the Christian theology and practices taught by Paul and the early Christians was not only completely foreign to Judaism, but were in fact ALMOST IDENTICAL to the other pagan mystery religions of the region in the 1st century.  Jews didn't accept Christianity because it was obvious it was a just another plagiarism from the popular paganism of the day. The "gospel truth" was not a new revelation to the Jews.  Virgin births, incarnate gods, blood atonement deaths, hell, baptism, communion ceremonies of bread and wine...NONE of these have  ANY reference in Judaism.  But they ALL were COMMON beliefs and practices by the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian, etc. mystery religions.  Really, it's no wonder the Jews rejected Jesus out of hand.  In fact, St. Augustine declared that the priests of Mithras worshipped the same god as him, because their practices and beliefs were almost indiscernable from the Church!

 

Unfortunately people today have NO CONTEXTUAL UNDERSTANDING  of the religious landscape of the middle east 2000 years ago.  People are taught their are the Christians, Jews, and the Pagans (who believe some other unknown things).  That's it!  And the Jews are practically the same as Christians!  Actually, quite the opposite.  The Christians were practically the same as all the other religions!

Good points.

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1. That is what my soul tells me to do, and I am not one to deny it. 2. God gave me some personal hints. 

A person has to be honest and humble and follow what truth tells him. Not much more that can be asked for.

I'm confused. Are you saying god has given you personal insights into truth?

 

yes

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All the things Gamecock noted are true, but many of those beliefs took decades to develop and evolve. The majority of scholars I've read classify Jesus as an apocalyptic Prophet preaching a message about the coming Kingdom of God and the end of the world. The idea of Jesus being a savior, in its present day accepted context, and things such as substitutionary atonement came much later.

 

As the legend of Jesus developed and evolved it definitely mirrored the Pagan Mystery Religions common to that time in history. The similarities became so obvious that early church fathers were forced to deal with it. They concocted a story about the Devil having inspired the pagan mystery religions so people wouldn’t recognize the real Jesus when he came.

 

The Gospels have been edited so much that it is probably impossible to reconstruct the original story of Jesus now. The Gnostic gospels may reflect a more accurate picture of Jesus and His teaching. Scholars tend to accept Mark as being the most accurate of the four gospels because it is generally accepted as the first gospel written.

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Geezer and gamecock make great points.

 

I also alluded to the issue of Christianity and paganism. To top it all off it is not clear who was who what and when. Did Jesus exist? Who knew him? When were the books written? What a grand mess!!

 

And 2 billion people believe in it because salvation is powerful.

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Thank-you for your views on Christianity, Nat.  I found them insightful and interesting.

 

One of the things you wrote that particularly struck me was your point 2 quoted below:

 

2. Whatever position you take, I (as a Jew) feel that God can do it without Jesus.

 

I couldn't help but picture some yackety yack preacher tackling that one.  It might be something like this:

 

"God can do it without Jesus?!  [insert loud boisterous laughter here].  Why, son, you obviously don't understand your Bible.  God and Jesus are one and the same, though separate too, of course, but they are one, or something like that.  You know, the trinity, yeah, like three sides of the same coin.  Well, if coins had three sides, that is.  But they're the same.  God is Jesus and Jesus is God and so is the Holy Spirit.  Jesus had to die an atoning death so he could convince himself to forgive us, or something like that.  You know, the trinity just like it is so clearly spelt out in the Good Book."

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1. That is what my soul tells me to do, and I am not one to deny it. 2. God gave me some personal hints. 

A person has to be honest and humble and follow what truth tells him. Not much more that can be asked for.

I'm confused. Are you saying god has given you personal insights into truth?

 

yes

 

 

That's exactly what my Mormon friends tell me: they have special revealed truth.

 

Sigh.

 

Just when I thought you were different from the other Truth Claimers who come here.

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1. That is what my soul tells me to do, and I am not one to deny it. 2. God gave me some personal hints.

A person has to be honest and humble and follow what truth tells him. Not much more that can be asked for.

 

I'm confused. Are you saying god has given you personal insights into truth?

yes

That's exactly what my Mormon friends tell me: they have special revealed truth.

 

Sigh.

 

Just when I thought you were different from the other Truth Claimers who come here.

or mohamad, or david jones, or some of us here who used to think we heard from god's firect line
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...

Just when I thought you [nat] were different from the other Truth Claimers who come here.

 

 

I'd cut nat some slack. Anyone who adheres to an organized religion will claim to know the truth, it goes with the territory. That said, nat's religion isn't big on gathering in new converts, and in some ways, discourages it. I have no problem with that.

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1. That is what my soul tells me to do, and I am not one to deny it. 2. God gave me some personal hints.

A person has to be honest and humble and follow what truth tells him. Not much more that can be asked for.

I'm confused. Are you saying god has given you personal insights into truth?
yes

That's exactly what my Mormon friends tell me: they have special revealed truth.

 

Sigh.

 

Just when I thought you were different from the other Truth Claimers who come here.

or mohamad, or david jones, or some of us here who used to think we heard from god's firect line

 

Yup, I heard from god too. Special messages about truth, and everything!

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