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April 10, 2014 9:48 am

Jesus, Paul, and Others Saw Themselves as Jews

avatar by Bernard Starr

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A painting of Jesus teaching in the Temple. Photo: Photobucket.

If you were accused of a crime punishable by death wouldn’t you use your best defense? And if you believed that you didn’t commit a crime and, moreover, that the accusing authority lacked jurisdiction over you, wouldn’t you make those points your main rebuttal? Why, then, didn’t Jesus or Paul explicitly declare a new religion?

It’s well documented that both Jesus and Paul were arrested and indicted on the charge of blasphemy against Judaism. By what authority did the Sanhedrin invoke these charges? The Sanhedrin was empowered by Rome to rule over Jewish affairs. At least two Roman emperors established Judaism as a protected religion with special privileges.

So the Sanhedrin was empowered to charge and sentence Jews for blasphemy – but only Jews. From the Jewish perspective, pagans, which would include most Romans, were blaspheming against Judaism. However, if you worshiped Zeus, Apollo, the Sun God, or a pantheon of Gods you were outside the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin. All that Jews could do in response to pagan blasphemy was to rebel – and they frequently did. For example, Jews rioted when Pontius Pilate first marched into Jerusalem as the new prefect (governor) with his troops displaying effigies, a violation of an agreement with Rome not to flaunt graven images. The confrontation barely avoided a massacre according to Roman Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

Against this backdrop let’s revisit the trial of Jesus after he was seized by Jewish authorities in Gethsemane Garden and brought before Caiaphas, the head of the Sanhedrin.

If Jesus had broken with Judaism and had started a new religion, as some still contend, why didn’t he say so? He was facing death as a Jew charged with blasphemy against Judaism. Isn’t that the perfect moment to say, “I’m not a Jew. I used to be a Jew, but I have differences with Judaism and object to fundamental Jewish doctrines. That’s why I have started a new religion – Christianity – which is not Judaism. Therefore, you – Sanhedrin – have no authority over me.”

But Jesus didn’t do that. The issue of a new religion is never raised in the Gospels or other parts of the New testament. Why? Because Jesus’ objections were not to Judaism but to the Jewish leadership, who in his view did not represent the spiritual core of the Torah, as his teachings did. He was first and foremost a Jew. Jesus’ lifelong dedication to Judaism has been affirmed by many biblical scholars both Christian and Jewish with statements similar to these:

“What astonishes me when I read the stories about Jesus in the New Testament, is how completely embedded he is in this first century… Jewish world of religious practice and piety… Jesus presented continuously as going into the synagogue on the Sabbath. He is presented as going up to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage holidays, specifically in John, for any number of pilgrimage holidays, and in the synoptic gospels, most importantly, for Passover… What we’ve learned from the gospel stories is not that Jesus was not Jewish. Quite the opposite. He’s completely embedded in the Judaism of his time” (Paula Fredriksen, Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University).

And:

” …Of course, Jesus was a Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshiped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues. He preached from Jewish text, from the Bible. He celebrated the Jewish festivals. He went on pilgrimage to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem where he was under the authority of priests [rabbis]…. He was born, lived, died, taught as a Jew… What’s striking is not so much that he was a Jew but that the gospels make no pretense that he wasn’t. The gospels have no sense yet that Jesus was anything other than a Jew. The gospels don’t even have a sense that he came to found a new religion…” (Shaye I.D. Cohen, Professor of Judaic and Religious Studies, Brown University).

But what about Paul? It’s widely accepted that he carried the banner of the new religion of Christianity after his epiphany on the Damascus road, when he switched from persecutor of the followers of Jesus to a firm believer in Jesus as the Messiah. And isn’t Paul’s promotion of a new religion evident in the fact that he was called the apostle to the gentiles for converting uncircumcised pagans to his theology?

The New Testament, though, says otherwise. Yes, Paul converted gentiles. But his vision was of a new world Judaism that would be open to everyone – a vision that he clung to until his death. Decades into his ministry, Paul still identified himself as a Jew: “I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia”…(Acts 21:39) and “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of [Rabbi] Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3).

Let’s now put ourselves in Paul’s shoes and relive his arrest and indictment. It’s more than twenty-five years after the crucifixion, and Paul is making his third trip to Jerusalem to meet with the disciples of Jesus, led by Jesus’ brother James. The disciples are still practicing Jews who worship in the temple in Jerusalem, although they believe that Jesus has fulfilled the prophecy of the Torah and should therefore be the center of Jewish worship. Paul agrees, but he wants to make Judaism, with Jesus at the helm, a world religion open to everyone. He seeks to accomplish that vision by not requiring circumcision or the dietary laws of Judaism. His proposal has previously met fierce resistance, if not outrage, from James and the disciples (although they eventually made some concessions) and even greater objection from other Jews who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

Paul arrives at the temple in Jerusalem but first goes through a seven-day purification ritual (Jewish baptism) to affirm his faith in Judaism. Just as he is about to enter the temple he is attacked by Asian Jews (Acts 21:28) who consider his teachings about Jesus blasphemous. The disturbance spills into the courtyard outside the temple, where a mob joins in attacking Paul. The Roman commander and centurions intervene. They take hold of Paul and rough him up (Acts 21:31-32). When Paul says he is a Roman citizen, the commander becomes frightened that he will be punished for mistreating a Roman citizen.

Since the disturbance and accusations against Paul are about Jewish law, he is taken to the Sanhedrin for questioning. Although the Sanhedrin was dominated by the Sadducees. who represented the rich elite class, Paul noticed that there were some Pharisees on the tribunal:

“But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both” (Acts 23:6-8).

Paul is then brought to Felix, the Roman prefect, for questioning. Felix recognizes Paul’s “offenses” as a Jewish matter (Acts 24:5-6) but detains him for two years hoping for a bribe (Acts 24:26). Then the new governor, Festus, also determines that the accusations against Paul fall strictly under Jewish jurisdiction (Acts 25:21, 25). Fearing that he will face the same fate as Jesus if he is tried in Jerusalem – or even murdered before a trial – Paul invokes his right as a Roman citizen to be tried in Rome before Caesar (Acts 25:11-12). Festus has no choice but to send Paul to Rome.

If Paul believed that he had launched a new religion, wasn’t this the critical moment to announce it? Didn’t his predicament demand that? “Governor: I am not a Jew. I have started a new religion that worships Jesus Christ whom the Jewish leadership has rejected. And Rome has no argument with me.”

With these words, Paul would have been released – especially since he was a privileged Roman citizen. But Paul doesn’t invoke that obvious solution. He accepts being charged as a Jew and off to Rome he goes.

After a harrowing year-long journey that included a shipwreck, Paul arrives in Rome and is put under house arrest. Paul then invites the Jewish leadership of Rome to his home and pleads his case. He reports that the Sanhedrin has charged him with blasphemy and adds that the Romans said he had committed no crime punishable under their laws (Acts 28:17-20).

If Paul missed the earlier opportunity to announce the new religion of Christianity, he now has a second chance. And if he didn’t see that strategy, surely one of his disciples might have said: “Paul, you’ve been preaching about Jesus for thirty years. At this time the converts to your version of Judaism are predominantly uncircumcised gentiles. The Sanhedrin has rejected Jesus and it’s clear that the main body of Judaism will not recognize Jesus as the Messiah nor will they accept uncircumcised Gentiles into the house of Israel. Face it, Paul – you’ve launched a new religion. If you admit to that the Romans will free you and you can continue your important mission. You are a Roman citizen and we are far removed from the Sanhedrin. The Romans will surely accept your declaration.”

But this quick, easy, and obvious response to Paul’s imprisonment and impending trial is never pursued. More astonishing – for those who believe that Paul launched a new religion – a declaration of a new religion that could win his release is not mentioned or even hinted at in the New Testament. Eventually Paul is executed – as a Jew.

Paul’s vision of an all-inclusive new Judaism thus evaporated. Christianity then sought to sever ties to Judaism and firmly established itself as the separate religion of Christianity.

Shouldn’t this history of a common foundation foster mutual respect and understanding between Jews and Christian? Pope Francis endorses that and so should we all.

Bernard Starr is a psychologist, journalist, and professor emeritus at CUNY. He is author of Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew and organizer of the art exhibit “Putting Judaism Back in the Picture: Toward Healing the Christian/Jewish Divide.” website: www.bernardstarr.com

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  • Ron

    The writer states:

    “Why, then, didn’t Jesus or Paul explicitly declare a new religion?”

    The new religion was a continuation of the old religion. Matthew 5:17:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

    The writer also gives the following quote:

    “The gospels don’t even have a sense that he came to found a new religion…”

    However, the gospels do state that a new assembly was being built for those called out. Matthew 16:18 has Jesus say:

    “And I say also unto thee,
    That thou art Peter, and upon
    this rock I will build my
    church; and the gates of hell
    shall not prevail against it.”

    This sounds like the building of a new religion.

    An examination of the gospel in Greek shows that the word translated as “church” is ecclesia, literally out called, often referring to an assembly, gathering or congregation of those called. In context of the sentence “I will build my church” is literally “I will be building of me the out called.”

    In Acts 7:38, there is a reference to “the ecclesia in the wilderness,” which is a reference to the out-called ones from Egypt. So we have a parallel that Jesus is gathering his congregation of believers in a new church as Moses had done.

    In this case the out called included Jews and gentiles in a new house, not in a synagogue since the Greek synagogue world is not used. Matthew’s words signified a break from the old Jewish religion to a new religion of the called, which included Jews and Gentiles.

    This new religion demanded the called out follow in the step of Jesus. John 14:6:

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

    John 10:9:

    I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

    Matthew shows that the church will have temporal as well as spiritual power. Matthew 16:19:

    “And I will give unto thee the
    keys of the kingdom of heaven:
    and whatsoever thou shalt bind
    on earth shall be bound in
    heaven: and whatsoever thou
    shalt loose on earth shall be
    loosed in heaven.”

    This sounds like a declaration of a new religion even if it is built on Jewish religion and values and Jews were called out as well as Gentiles to join it.

  • Julian Clovelley

    The article makes two basic presumptions which remain unproven, which would be fine if they were stated as presumptions and not as fact. The two presumptions are that the Jesus of the New Testament, and the Paul of the New Testament, actually existed. However all we can actually be certain of is that there existed in Turkey a group of religious authorities that we can reasonably refer to as the “Paulines”. Paul himself may well be a construct of that group, rather than the real person that Luke portrays in his two part Gospel (Luke and Acts). Indeed it is altogether possible Saul existed but Paul did not

    From the Paulines we can derive a vital realisation that they (who for convenience I will now refer to as “Paul”) gained their knowledge from what Paul refers to as direct revelation from the Risen Christ. In particular Paul refers to the Eucharist segment of the Passion narrative. Paul claims that knowledge of it was directly revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. A skeptic would count that as an admission he invented it. It is a matter of reasonable extrapolation that Paul is therefore responsible for many other aspects of the Passion narrative, and indeed of perhaps all of it, and more

    Is the Jesus of the Bible anything more than Paul’s own alter ego, the wandering itinerant preacher? Drawing largely from pagan sources, a construct was formed, that in its post Pauline form included pagan concepts of Virgin Birth, miracle working and Atonement, many, but not all, reasonably attributable to Paul. From Judaic Scripture was drawn a life history that could serve as a facsimile for the new saviour, the core Judaic myth of the life of Moses, including the fortunate preservation of the baby and the slaughter of innocents.

    Paul wrote his letters and expounded his teachings decades before the Gospels were written. There were then, and are to this day, no eyewitness records of Jesus himself. Paul’s largely self invented teachings about the life and purpose of Jesus clearly brought him into fierce conflict with the Judean based followers of the way, not least through arguments over circumcision, and most likely over dietary law – including the obvious reality that the Eucharist is unlikely, because it is so offensive to Kosher laws in its symbolic consumption of human flesh and blood. As for the Virgin Birth itself, it’s first appearance is after Paul’s supposed date of death. Christianity is obviously largely fiction

    The Jesus of the Bible is a compromise between various oral, and possibly written but lost Judean traditions, and Paul’s teachings. That a compromise was possible casts further doubt on the real existence of the Jesus of the Bible. Starting with Mark a series of four known, and later canonised, Gospels were written, themselves amended over time (for example the two endings to Mark). By the time the last of these were written, probably John, Judea had been destroyed, the population of Jerusalem largely massacred, and the Christians of Judea probably almost completely wiped out. John stands as a poetic attempt to consolidate the story in the light of a still existing hope that the Roman Empire will accept Christianity. It is in this hope that the antisemitic framework of Christianity was almost certainly constructed. I share Bishop Spong’s view that Judas Iscariot is almost certainly a fictitious figure, that there was no betrayal of Jesus, either by Judas or by the Sanhedrin. It is all fiction.

    The problem I have with this article is that it is itself based too strongly on religious belief rather than historical fact. Religions of rather shonky origin have dominated humanity for far too long. One might reasonably argue that their invention was generally well intentioned in trying to bring man closer to what is perceived as G-d – but all of them become diverted into being bastions of political and military power groupings, and of elites. All end up bolstering or creating class and caste structures, concepts of the Chosen and the Other. All of them become justifications of land claims and land ownership and of the right to Monarchy.

    If in all this I have a major hope for the future it is that realisation of the conflict between religious mythology and historical reality will help lead us to the realisation of the conflict between unfounded belief/faith, and reason and truth – a recognition that at best all religions are nothing more than what one culture calls “the finger that points at the moon”

    But to reach that stage I feel writers like this present one need to take that additional step that draws them out of the framework of myth that binds humanity, distorts its reason, and even its ability to be empathetic and compassionate. So long as our acadaemia remains unable to progress beyond the frameworks of the myths of the past, we will always be at the mercy of what Yeats referred to in his prophetic poem “The Second Coming” – “And what Rough Beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born”

    Yeats was correct “the centre cannot hold” bringing the threat of anarchy and violence. I would argue that the problem of the centre is that it is founded on fables, the fables of religion, of ideology, of market Capitalism, of the trickle down effect, and of class and racism.

    Not least of these problems is the theological crisis of our times. We need our scholars to step through the portal into academic integrity that they themselves have opened – it is ultimately the only path away from the domination of violently conflicting Fundamentalisms, a domination that threatens the fabric of the Earth itself, and all its peoples – or that can only otherwise be resolved by implementing the Orwellian nightmare of unending Fascism forcing its Weltanschauung via “the boot stamping in the human face forever”

    Is there an alternative path, a possible new Centre? – I think there is – It begins with understanding what religions often sought initially to promote, but often ended up restricting and destroying

    It is called “Human Rights.” When you attack those organisations in their infancy that seek to work in that direction – I don’t think I need to name them – you are destroying your own best hope.

    • Bede A.

      How ridiculous that Julian starts by criticising of two “presumptions” being taken as “facts”, and goes on to base all his articles on “presumptions” that have ever been used by any sane academic but only popular among uneducated religious fanatics… For him non-disputed existence of Jesus and others that are connected with the new Testament is a “presumption”, but non-existence of Jesus is a “fact”!! This would nullify all what he has said, thereafter. You seems to have doubts about Paulines in Turkey, but you don’t talk about the disciple Thomas who fled to India and lived and died south of Madras, during the same generation as Jesus christs. Those evidences are from a country and a culture that has no connection to Judaism or Arabia, but from India. I don’t think you have studied History or Archaeology at any serious level, to know how history is formed in any given context and what are the more important evidences and how and why. Else you wouldn’t have written “There were then, and are to this day, no eyewitness records of Jesus himself…”, you really don’t have any clue, do you?? Do you have any eye witnesses that Ceasar ever existed? or David, or Alexander the great, or Emperor Asoka?? I am sure they would have been someone’s imagination too. Please don’t go to places that you have no access to… I wouldn’t even start to argue or write anything to prove anything about history, as you don’t have the basic knowledge, so don’t go there…
      The Original Author, Bernard, has brought up some good points that brings up interesting food for thought to many people.It can open up many constructive discussions at many other forums and at different levels. Well done.

      • Julian Clovelley

        What I do in my post Bede is replace religious based presumption with historical uncertainty. Whether Jesus or Paul actually existed, is mostly only relevant to Christian worship. What history bases itself on are clearly evidenced events, contemporary writings, and remaining artefacts. My concern with the article in Algemeiner was that the conclusions started at the level of presumption, rather than that of history, and seemed to follow the pattern sometimes described as ” what you get out of a sewer rather depends on what you put into it”. The author’s conclusions are his own inserted presumptions. This is very common in religious writings and in the fashionable trend of trying to establish the opinions of Jesus, before first establishing his existence, and drawing a credible evidenced character profile

        Ideas are not nullified when the source is in doubt. Ideas can stand alone and be judged on their own validity. None of them are carriers of absolute truth. Religion, however, seeks to make this so – to “create truth” – by replacing belief based on considered evidence, with belief based on faith. In this action Christianity itself further distorts the meaning of faith, defining it as ” the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV). Christianity makes faith irrational, and subject to religious authority and delineation. This results in the persecution of “infidels”, the ones who intellectually, as well as emotionally, cannot share a demanded irrationality. From the earliest times Christianity became the great persecutor of Heresy – in later centuries, murdering dissidents, and sadly, those of other faiths.

        As for Thomas – we have another example of myth versus history – Christianity spread, like all religions, via trade routes. We have very little evidence that Thomas in fact ever travelled to India. All religious sects in early Christianity sought patron saints, not least the Christians of India. There are other myths too – for example that Jesus survived the crucifixion, and died and was buried in India – But I doubt if that story would be to your taste, Bede.

        There is massive evidence concerning the life of Julius Caesar – including his own memoirs and Roman histories, negligible, I would agree, outside the Bible for David. As for Alexander there are a plethora of sources, mostly suffering from being written long after his death, and all treated with caution by historians – a caution you seem to seek to disallow in relation to Jesus and Paul

        We can go a little further. The likely earliest fragment of any Gospel (Ryland P52) contains parts of five verses of John’s Gospel. Dating has varied between an earliest probability of 117CE and as late as the Third Century CE. There is no complete Gospel dating from before the Fourth Century CE, so we cannot be sure what their original content was, and, of course many of the letters once attributed to Paul are now regarded as pious forgeries, even amongst Catholic academic circles. My suggestion is merely that in truth it could be all of them, linked by a largely invented history

        I do not therefore apologise for erring on the side of historical caution. Indeed if I have one firm belief it is that were the religious of all faiths to do the same, we might socially progress beyond the inhibiting and divisive mythologies of two thousand years ago, thirteen hundred years ago, and three thousand years ago. In fact in my post I echoed selected ideas expressed in different form by writers such as the brilliant English Jewish scholar Hyam Maccoby, and others including Brandon, and Mack, together with the thoughts of progressive Christians such as Bishop Spong. Continuing this debate would take volumes, so I’ll stop there.

  • Eli Willner

    The author tries to prove a premise that isn’t seriously disputed using a very weak argument. These people wouldn’t plead innocence on the basis of forming a new religion because they knew very well that it wouldn’t get them off the hook. Judaism holds that once a Jew always a Jew and the Romans recognized that. The claim is the equivalent of my pleading exemption from American law because I declared Brooklyn a separate country. I’d be laughed out of court.

    But as I said, the premise the author attempts to prove is already established so I’m not sure why he bothered trying to prove it again with a dubious argument.

    • Bernard Starr

      Eli Willner: Your Brooklyn “analogy” is not an analogy to Paul declaring he was no longer a Jew –if he had chosen to make that declaration. The Jewish authorities only had limited jurisdiction in legal matters. But let’s use another example to examine the issue.If a Jew said he was no longer a Jew but now worshiped Caesar as God (and he was born Roman citizen), do you think the Romans would have allowed the Sanhedrin to prosecute him for blasphemy against Judaism? Highly improbable. The fact that the New Testament doesn’t even consider the argument “I’m a Christian, not a Jew” as a defense is suspicious and extremely revealing about Paul’s continued identification as a Jew, with his version of Judaism. The fact that Paul may have launched a movement that eventually did become a separate religion from Judaism does not contradict the thesis that in his mind he was a dedicated Jew who was seeking to establish a more inclusive Judaism.

  • Bede A.

    Though Christianity started as an “inclusive” practice, I must emphasize, that not only Judaism, but Christianity in all shapes and forms have been “excluding” others who differ from their belief in each sect of Christianity. A lot has been misinterpreted to create rivalry and to promote their interests in manipulating people, over centuries. Main intention was to gather power at the power base of Rome. Though I have always tried to see through such manipulative interpretation, I have had most enlightening insights through Jewish Scholars, who can give a fascinating insight in to the “other side” of the story, which “fill-in” the gaps that we have. I personally have have had many such important conversations, at this site. I look forward to reading your book “Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew”, Bernard, which I am sure will have a lot of thought-provoking insights to Life of Jesus Christ.

  • Bede A.

    Bernard,
    I,myself or any other fellow Christian that I know of, would dispute any of the main points of your article. We always knew, that Jesus and Paul were Jews, they were born Jews, and they died Jews. We also know that they didn’t form a new Religion,which is practically impossible to form, for any monotheistic religion. Because though the God might have different names depending on one’s language & culture, the God concept is the same.
    Some people, including me, consider religion to be, what one “believes” in, the conceptual part of believing in God. How one “practises” it and how one lives one’s life, assuming that is what is expected by God from us, is the practical part of it. As per this definition, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the same in believe and recognition of God, as they all stem from Judaism, but only differ in practise.
    Since ancient times, not only Jews, every society “excluded” people who are different to them.It is the same in most places in the world, to this day. The “modern world” led by the “west” have been trying to create societies that “includes” everyone, which is the way to go. But even before this trend was started by the “west” there were individuals like Jesus or Paul as you mentions, who tried to create “inclusive” societies, but with much less success. We all Christians and Muslims also believe in the same God as Judaism and in the holy scriptures, but Jews “exclude” people, unless born to a Jewish mother, unless circumcised, etc. etc., people who are excluded, who still believe in that same God, have to call them something to identify them, as they can’t be Jews, and they have chosen to call them the people who follow the Christ, “Christians”. It is not a new religion. People simply follow Jesus Christ, whom they consider as Messiah, mentioned in the Old testament and who has criticized how the religion was practised and interpreted by the Religious leaders at that time, and who declared that God doesn’t choose his people on race, colour or ethnicity or weather they are circumcised or not. God is accessible to everyone.
    Even among Christians there are divisions. They are considered “different religions” by people, who are prone to human tendencies of “excluding” other who differ from them. In an “inclusive” society, this wouldn’t be the case.

    • Bede A: You do not provide any support for your initial statment:”1….would dispute any of the main points of your article.

      If Paul defected from Judaism or launched a new religion–as many maintain– why didn’t he say so to gain his freedom and avoid execution? Why is that possibile solution to Paul’s predicament not even suggested in the New Testament?

      And if Chrstianity is not a new religion, as you are suggesting– then what are Christians practicing?

      • Bede A.

        Bernard,
        I saw the typing mistake only after posting it, but thought it would be evident from the rest of what I said, but I know, it is confusing. What I was saying was “We would NOT dispute what you were saying”. Sorry, typing mistake.
        Just like you, we never disputed the fact that Jesus nor Paul started a new religion. It would have been very easy to do, just give it a Name, build a Church(Temple) and preach what ever they want as the “Ultimate truth” and compete with Judaism. Those who want to go after them and their doctrine would follow, and would have had much less problems with Jews and anybody else. But as we all know, that is not what they did. Jesus only criticized the practises, how people’s traditions and practises either take them in a different direction or in worst case in Opposite direction. It is nothing new in Human history. When Moses came down the the Mount Sinai, his followers already have found a new Worship… It happens all the time, and that is why we had reformers who reformed the believes and practises from time to time. So yes, they never created a new religion, (which would mean a new GOD, new Theory, New Practise..) but he “broke the tradition”, he was blamed for breaking Sabath rules, which he did to show, that sticking to such “rules” doesn’t mean anything, they are traditions, but preaches a simple knowledge. That God doesn’t exclude anyone, on race, colour, social standards, practises such as circumcision or anything. He showed that even prostitutes or murderers can find God, through redemption. There wouldn’t have been another Religion or many of them, in fact, a few centuries after Jesus’s crucifixion, if Jews followed his footsteps and “included” everyone. People who couldn’t become a part of Judaism, who were excluded, simply because I am not a Jew, we call ourselves people who follow the Jesus Christ, Christians. It is not a separate, or new religion, but Judaism, preached by Jesus, which includes everyone.
        Though some might point out saying that there are people who have “converted” to Judaism who are not Jews, we all know that is more the exception than the rule. Many orthodox Jews will anyway not recognize such “Conversion”. As Jews have identified the race with religion, Jews with Judaism which has become mutually exclusive, it has excluded everyone else. Therefore Christianity in all it’s forms and Islam in all it’s forms too, are simply Judaism that was “reformed” by Jesus and Prophet Mohammed, only refusing some traditional practises, which has nothing to do with the religion. That hopefully answers your question in last paragraph, “then what are Christians practising”, in one sentence, “Judaism, as presented by Jesus”.

      • Julian Clovelley

        You just asked the relevant question, Bernard, “And if Christianity is not a new religion, as you are suggesting – then what are Christians practicing”

        The answer to that can be approached in two obvious ways. One is through the history of the religion – the other is by comparing its practices with other religions – especially Judaism.

        The historical path is a difficult one, in that much of the traditional understanding of Jesus employed by the early followers of the way was transmitted as oral tradition until some thirty years after his supposed death. By this time the theology of the Paulists had come to dominate the picture, initially outside of Judea, and later within it after the fall of Judea – notably the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD

        The inescapable truth is that Jesus himself is a historically unreachable figure. We have no evidence that the constructed character that is the core of Christian worship in any sense predates his supposed death. This is further complicated through the existence of obvious fictional elements such as the Virgin Birth, the slaughter of the innocents, and the miracles, and the undercurrent of obvious antisemitism in the irrational blaming of all of the Jewish people for what was quite clearly a solely Roman action in killing him

        Christianity is a misnomer – something Thomas Jefferson pointed to when he described the New Testament as less a “Christiad than a “Pauliad”. The Christianity we know arguably developed from a mixture of influences in the pagan provinces of Turkey, that were later superimposed upon a mainstream synagogue movement, and came to dominate the synthesis. It also appears to have been constructed from Pauline revelation practices akin to Oracles and prophecy. The Gospels were almost certainly written to consolidate an orthodox tradition within the Movement. The story developed as it was retold for the different communities to which each individual Gospel was addressed, culminating in one fairly coherent narrative of Christianity’s supposed origin, and early development, in Luke and Acts, and one poetic interpretation in John. Alongside these four Gospels were other writings that became sidelined by the orthodox stream

        If I were to give the religion a more accurate name I would suggest something closer to “Johannine-Paulism” – a reality rather hinted at in Catholicism in its choice of name for two recent popes.

        Not having early original documents means that we can never likely know just how much editing, adjustment and addition took place in the years from around 40AD, when there may indeed have been source documents long since lost (the “Quelle” hypothesis). “Christianity” is neither the religion of Jesus – which quite clearly would have been Judaism, nor is it really a direct development of Judaism. Rather it is the State religion of Constantine’s Byzantium, consolidated at his demand, with a finite canonised scripture and a succession of Creeds. In my experience it is far more pagan than Judaic

        Some years ago I was doing some research in a Jewish library that was the annexe to the synagogue. I chatted with many other people there and observed a Rabbi and his group discussing a segment of the Talmud. Without warning a prayer session took place and everyone stood, gathered, and faced in the same direction towards the words in Hebrew. I recognised that it was probably the moment I should politely leave, but I waited for a minute or two – because having been brought up a Baptist (and lapsed), for a moment I found myself in the situation of not having a fictitious figure between myself and whatever G-d is. It was a deeply moving moment to me, a feeling I have never forgotten.

        As I left I, no doubt incorrectly, turned to look again at the worshippers, raised the skull cap they had given me, bowed and smiled at the hospitable worshippers who returned my smile

        No Judaism and Christianity are vastly different religions – and in that moment I knew why. Thankyou.

        There are many paths but all are different.

        • Bernard Starr

          Julian Clovelley:
          Thanks for your informative comments.
          Just an added note: Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman,in his book “Jesus Misquoted,” points out that no one has ever seen an original copy of the Gospels. Furthermore, that the actual and potential misquotes and distortions are enormous— in the process of translations of the Bible by different scribes from Aramaic to Greek to Latin and later to many other languages. If the simple game of telephone produces funny outcomes at the end of the line, apply that analogy to bible translations over many centuries. Then many scholars, including Ehrman maintain that fifty percent or more of Paul’ Epistles were not written by Paul.

  • Andre

    Great article, sir! The existence of Jesus, and his existence as a Jew, is a remarkable spot to the understanding of First Century Judaism. The same is true about Paul. When the Jewish people accept the Jewishness of the New Testament and the roots of Christianity, even not agreeing with the tenets of the Christian faith, Christianity will be more conscious about itself as a Jewish gift to the World. This could cure anti-Semitism and unite both religions on the goal of Messianic Redemption of the World. Chag Pessach Sameach!

  • Whether Jesus existed or not Christianity exists and the New Testament has framed the way Christians have viewed Jews and Judaism for two thousand years–often with dire consequences for Jews. And those catastrophic events were also real. Yet, as I’ve shown, the New Testament has been misread. Jesus and Paul–real or not–emerge as dedicated Jews in the New Testament.

    • Jules

      Bernard, Romans 2:29a Paul writes (all Scripture is G-d breathed)’ “No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not the written code.”
      So as a Christian I agree with your article as my Lord is Jewish, and He lives in me. In Him we live and move and have our being.
      Paul goes on further in Romans 3. He asks, “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of G-d.”

    • Julian Clovelley

      With the greatest respect Bernard you make my point for me. You now say “Whether Jesus existed or not..”

      Nothing wrong with that, except that in your article you say “It’s well documented that both Jesus and Paul were arrested and indicted on the charge of blasphemy against Judaism”

      Can you see your own conflict? Your article is predicated on two presumptions which you now seem to recognise can legitimately be disputed. Therefore your entire article could equally be couched in terms of the presumption that what we are dealing with is literature rather than history. There was no accusation – no trial before the Sanhedrin – it is fabricated antisemitism. Judas was not needed to identify and betray Jesus. The Romans had no need, or likelihood, to seek Sanhedrin approval to murder him, no tradition of releasing prisoners on the behest of a crowd. The Biblical cry of “Crucify Him” that came from the Jews is dangerous political and racist fiction, and the innocent have been murdered in accordance with this fiction for two thousand years

      Literature has an entirely diffferent motivation when it is constructed fiction rather than an attempt to represent fact. We do not need to ask why Jesus or Paul did or said anything – what we need to do is ask the question why the evolved construct we know as the New Testament tells us that Jesus or Paul did this or that and why perhaps Christianity’s priests and scholars have, until recently, not sought to correct a misapprehension that has motivated pogroms and genocide

      When you do that, things fall into place very quickly, and very little mystery is left, Christianity falls neatly into the general framework of Roman religion, many of which individual cults were from time to time persecuted, in particular the mystery cults from which much of Christianity may well have been drawn, in combination of course with elements of Mithraism.

      The reason why Christianity is antisemitic is because it is Roman and not Judaic. Whilst it seeks to share the “Old Testament” scriptures in order to grant itself roots in Judaism, it treats these in a fashion Judaism would find eccentric – even using the Garden of Eden narrative to find a prediction of Christ – and totally abusing the meaning of Isaiah, where the suffering servant passage is used as a prediction of Jesus – pure fantasy.

      My aim in all these exchanges is to politely ask you to think again, to recognise your own Fundamentalism, and how it has affected your approach to what in the end is really only writings.

      It is time to let this exchange come to an end perhaps. But I feel it is important that I clarify one point. My writings here are not the writings of a Jew, but the writings of someone from a family descended on one side from Huguenot Protestant refugees, and on the other from Roman Catholics. I am not a Jew attacking Christianity, but rather someone brought up as a Christian who has seen through the culture of his childhood – come to recognise that a sentimental pseudo history and a composite picture of its Messiah, derived by combining aspects of several conflicting documents, hides a story of bitter conflict, repression, racism, dispossession and murder, just as much as it enhances the positive aspects of Christian love and sacrifice.

      A truly compassionate society can never be built on a lie. That was the real mistake the Paulines and the followers of the way made. When you fabricate or accede to a presumption or a fiction it is inevitable that someone may suffer from that fabrication – someone you may have never intended to suffer, and far removed from your time. Such are the blood libel, the myth of Jewish guilt, that have been used to motivate genocide and the pointing of rockets, right now, at innocent children.

      A Happy Easter and Passover festival to all. May they bring us the gifts of peace and brotherhood througout the Middle East and the world entire. F-ther forgive.

      • Julian Clovelley:
        You miss my point. I was speaking hypothetically–that even if Jesus didn’t exist (and we can’t prove that one way or the other) Christianity exists. Christianity is a reality. It has impacted the world historically and continues to influence the world.
        Some credible scientists claim that we and our entire “reality” have no material existence–that what we call our reality is a hologram of a parallel universe: “Physicist Brian Greene explains how properties at the black hole’s surface—its event horizon—suggest the unsettling theory that our world is a mere representation of another universe, a shadow of the realm where real events take place.” So should we all retreat to a cave and contemplate our nothingness?

  • david

    Visit the jesusneverexisted. Com website for the whole megillah. Why would a Jewish publication validate Christianity? ?

    • KJ

      EXACTLY! Why would they. Christianity and Judaism should ALWAYS remain separate with firm distinctions between the two.

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