Tag Archives: Judaism

Jesus the Exorcist, the Healer, …


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Jesus and Beelzebul – Luke 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon [that was] mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.

Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.”

Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.

But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.

And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.

If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?

Therefore they will be your judges.

But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.

When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

The Jews of Jesus’ period believed that in addition to God and his material creation, there existed a world of spirits, some good and some evil, who interacted with human beings; and that the evil spirits harm human beings and also lead them astray into disobeying God and his commandments.

Banishing Satan and the allied spirits under his control from the world, and the destruction of his rule over human beings becomes part of Jewish Eschatology. In continuity with the eschatological prophecies of the prophets, there were two distinguished periods of human history. It asserts that the present period of history is under the control of Satan, or a synonymous eponym, but will end with the approach of the time of eschatological salvation.

In Jewish understanding, human beings are capable of having some limited control over Satan and his allied spirits and have the ability in certain instances to counteract or reverse their malevolent influence by having extensive knowledge about them and using the proper skills or rituals to expel and control them. Jesus, a Jew, accepts this idea and sees his own period in history as the period in which the Kingdom of God would replace the Kingdom of Satan.

Jesus was known not only as a healer but also to a certain extent as an exorcist. These two categories – healing and exorcism – overlap to some extent because possession by a demon can often manifest itself as physical ailments in such persons. In many instances, a person who has been exorcised is said to be healed.

In the Synoptic Gospels, we see a lot of instances of exorcism by Jesus. Here, I cite a few:

1. Luke 11:14-23 = Matthew 12:22-30: In Matthew and Luke, the Beelzebul controversy is precipitated by Jesus’ driving out a demon from a man.

2. Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31-37: At the synagogue in Capernaum, the evil spirit possessing a man recognizes Jesus and cries out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”  Jesus drives out the evil spirit saying “Quiet! Come out of him!.” Before departing with a loud cry, the unclean spirit shakes the man violently. The witnesses to this event are amazed that Jesus has authority over evil spirits.

3. Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39, and Matthew 8:28-34: Jesus heals a demoniac man (two men in Matthew) in the territory of Gadarenes (Gerasenes).

Jesus’ exorcism begins even before he actually meets the demonized. When Jesus does come face to face with the possessed man, the demon(s) within him is agitated and cries out in alarm “What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!” (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28). For he had ordered the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (It had taken hold of him many times, and he used to be bound with chains and shackles as a restraint, but he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into deserted places.) (Luke 8:29)

The demon possessing the man is called “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. The demons plead with Jesus to allow them to enter into a herd of swine that was feeding there on the hillside. Jesus lets them, and the possessed herd of swine rush down the steep bank into the Sea of Galilee and are drowned.

4. Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43a and Matthew 17:14-20: An evil spirit possessing a boy causes him to be deaf and dumb and sometimes tries to harm him by throwing him into fire or water. Jesus exorcises the boy after his disciples tried unsuccessfully to do so.  Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. (Mark 9:26-27)

Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:19-20)

5. Matt 9:32-34: Jesus heals a dumb demoniac; and when the demon was driven out the mute person spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.  But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”

6. Luke 13:10-17: In a synagogue, on a Sabbath day, Jesus heals a crippled woman who was there for eighteen years. She was bent over by the evil spirit and was completely incapable of standing erect.

7. Mark 7:24-30, Matthew 15:21-28: The daughter of a woman who was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth (a Canaanite in Matthew) is possessed by an unclean spirit. Jesus heals the girl, but reluctantly, and says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” meaning that he has come to bring deliverance to the Jews, insofar as the benefits of the Kingdom of God belong to them – “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

8. Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2: Out of the women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary Magdalene is one out of whom Jesus cast seven demons.

9. Mark 3:20-22: Jesus himself is accused of being possessed. The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

The saying about the ‘plundering of the strong man’ comes in the context of Jesus’ self-defence against the accusation that he casts out demons by the power of Beelzebul.  There are two different versions of the same tradition, quite dissimilar to each other: Mark 3:27 = Matt 12:29; Luke 11:21-22.

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Matt 12:29
How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
Mark 3:27
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.
Luke 11:21-22
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.

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The Gospel of Thomas has a shorter version of this saying: “Jesus said, ‘One cannot enter a strong person’s house and take it by force without tying his hands. Then one can loot his house’.” (35)

So, all these different versions boil down to this: In order to plunder the house of a strong man one must be stronger than he is; only then can one carry away his goods.

Here, Jesus is speaking allegorically: the strong man is Satan and the house is his kingdom or sphere of influence. Jesus is telling that an entity stronger than Satan has come and is in the process of plundering his kingdom, which is an ambagious reference to himself. The booty taken by the stronger man represents those who were demonized but whom Jesus freed from Satan’s influence.

To recap, by the power Jesus has over demons, the reign of Satan is in the process of being replaced by the Kingdom of God.

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Jim Reeves » Satan can’t hold me

When the trumpet has sounded and at judgement, we stand
And the Lord, up in heaven, takes you by the hand
If for things I’ve done wrong I am sent down below
Satan can’t hold me this much I know

Satan can’t hold me, nobody can
Angel or devil, spirit or man
Through the valleys of darkness, I’ll come to your side
Your love, my beacon, my love, my guide

I will climb over mountains, fly up in the blue
I’ll swim every river that keeps me from you
Till that wonderful day, we’re together again
Satan can’t hold me, true love must win

Satan can’t hold me, nobody can
Angel or devil, spirit or man
Through the valleys of darkness, I’ll come to your side
Your love, my beacon, my love, my guide

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Who Are We to Judge?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Judge not others

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Judging and condemning others, is an easy task. We come to conclusions based on our observations and interactions with others. Most of us label the people around us: “He’s an idiot”, “She’s a slut”, “He’s an oaf”, etc., etc.

But who are we to pass judgment? What rights do we have to appraise others?

This brings to my mind two sayings in Tamil:

  • “இன்னது மெய் இன்னது பொய் என்று யார் சொல்லலாம்?”

    (Transliteration: innathu mei, innathu poi endru yaar sollalaam?)

    Meaning: “Who can tell which is true and which is false?”

  • “கண்ணாலே காண்பதும் பொய், காதாலே கேட்பதும் பொய், தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்..”

    (Transliteration: kannaalae kaanbathum poi, kaathaalae kaetpathum poi, theera visaaripathae mei.)

    Meaning: “the eye can lie, the ear can lie, best is to investigate thoroughly.”

So, we must investigate thoroughly before condemning others. Also, we must learn to forgive those who displease us.

Forgiving

All of us have a right to our justified anger.

Though psychologists tell us that “anger is a human emotion that is completely normal and generally healthy” doesn’t mean that we have the right to take that anger out on our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or any other human being or living creature.

Forgiving is just not an attitude. It involves using our will and intellect to forgive and forget. We should not wait for the feeling to forgive come to us; because that may never happen. And, if you find it difficult to forgive, then pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive.

Martin Luther King Jr., said:

First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love… Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Giving

Giving is a spiritual practice and has a spiritual value. All the major religions of the world teach their followers to give, to provide for the poor and the needy.

The pali word ‘dāna‘ and the Sanskrit word ‘daan‘ mean giving or generosity. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also used to mean the practice of cultivating generosity.

For the Hindus, there are five important points to keep in mind:

  1. Give with the heart not with the head.
  2. Give with Joy, not reluctantly.
  3. Give only that is useful to the other person, not rubbish.
  4. Give without expecting anything in return. There should be no give and take.
  5. Give with humility, love and compassion, not with pride or arrogance.

For the Buddhists,

  1. Giving (dāna) as a formal religious act has the effect of purifying and transforming the mind of the giver.
  2. Generosity developed through giving leads to being reborn in happy states and the availability of material wealth. Conversely, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty.
  3. Giving without seeking anything in return leads to greater spiritual wealth. Moreover, it reduces the acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to continued dukkha (sorrow).

In Judaism, traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity and their homes commonly have a pushke, a box for routinely collecting coins for the needy. Jewish youths continually go door-to-door collecting cash and sundry for various worthy causes. A standard mourner’s prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased.

Zakat or alms-giving is the third pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It is the practice of charitable giving by the followers of prophet Muhammad based on accumulated wealth. It is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. A Muslim rather than to achieve additional divine reward may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah).

True  Christians ought to follow the wisdom of Jesus. He said to his disciples:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
 — Luke 6:36-38

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.
— Luke 6:41-42

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The Wisdom of Yeshua Ben Sira and the Gentle Mastery of Jesus Christ


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest

The Gentle Mastery of Christ.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. Matthew 11:28-30)

When Jesus says “who labor and are burdened” he means burdened by the law as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees. On another occasion Matthew says:

They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:4)

Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to his word, under which they will find rest in place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation.

  • Thus says the LORD: Stand by the earliest roads, ask the pathways of old, “Which is the way to good?” and walk it; thus you will find rest for yourselves. But they said, “We will not walk it.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

These verses of Matthew are peculiar and are similar to ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke:

  • Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction; (Sirach 51:23)
  • Take her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her. (Sirach 51:26)

The Wisdom of Ben Sirach

Sirach” or the “The Wisdom of Sirach” from which the verses, quoted above, attributed to Jesus ben Sira has been drawn is the last of the seven “Wisdom Books” in the Old Testament.  The other six are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Wisdom.

Illustration from Sirach, c. 1751.
Illustration from Sirach, c. 1751.

 

The Wisdom of Sirach is a collection of ethical teachings, a work from the early 2nd century BC. It is the work of a single author – Jesus ben Sirach of Jerusalem. It closely resembles Proverbs, which is an anthology of maxims drawn from various sources. The work derives its title from the author’s words:

  • Wise instruction, appropriate proverbs, I have written in this book— I, Yeshua [Jesus] Ben Eleazar Ben Sira — as they poured forth from my heart’s understanding. (Sirach 50:27)

The title “Sirach” comes from the Greek form of the author’s name.

The author, Jesus ben Sirach of Jerusalem was thoroughly imbued with love for the wisdom tradition, and also for the law, the priesthood, the Temple, and divine worship. As a wise and experienced observer of life he addressed himself to his contemporaries with the motive of helping them maintain religious faith and integrity through study of the books sacred to the Jewish tradition.

The Wisdom of Sirach contains numerous well-crafted maxims, grouped by affinity, and dealing with a variety of subjects such as the individual, the family, the community, the state, and communion with God. It treats of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other issues that reflect the religious and social customs of the period.

Wisdom, in Ben Sira’s view, is synonymous with the reverence of God, and sometimes is identified in his mind with adherence to the Mosaic law.

The contents of “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach” are of a discursive nature, not easily divided into separate parts. Chapters 1–43 deal largely with moral instruction; 44:1–50:24 contain a eulogy of the heroes of Israel. There are two appendixes in which the author expresses his gratitude to God (51:1–12), and invites the unschooled to acquire true wisdom (51:13–30).

Jesus ben Sirach may have authored the work in Alexandria, Egypt, between 180 – 175 BC, where he is thought to have established a school. It was originally written in Hebrew. The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson after 117 BC, who also added a prologue, which contains valuable information about the book, its author, and himself as the translator.

The Wisdom of Sirach” seems to be the earliest title of the book it is also known by various names:

Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira“,

Wisdom of Sirach“,

The Book Ecclesiasticus“,

Siracides“,

Proverbs of ben Sirach” (משלי בן סירא, Mišley ben Siraʼ),

Wisdom of ben Sirach” (חכמת בן סירא,Ḥokhmat ben Siraʼ), or simply “Sirach.”

Though there are numerous citations of Sirach in the Talmud and works of rabbinic literature (as “ספר בן סירא”, e.g., Hagigah 13a) the book was not accepted into the scriptural canon of Judaism after the first century A.D., nor, therefore, accepted by Protestants.

The Wisdom of Ben Sirach has been acknowledged by the Catholic Church as inspired and canonical. The Foreword, though not properly part of the book, is always included with it because of its antiquity and importance. Sirach is also accepted as part of the Christian biblical canon by Eastern Orthodox, and most Oriental Orthodox churches.

The Greek Church Fathers also called it the “All-Virtuous Wisdom.” The Latin Church Fathers, beginning with Saint Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (died September 14, 258) termed it “Ecclesiasticus.” The designation “Liber Ecclesiasticus,” meaning “Church Book,” appended to some Greek and Latin manuscripts, is perhaps due to the extensive use the church made of this book in presenting moral teaching to catechumens and to the faithful.

Until the close of the nineteenth century “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach” was known to Christians in translations, of which the Greek rendering was the most important. From it the Latin version was made. Between 1896 and 1900, again in 1931, and several times since 1956, incomplete manuscripts were discovered, so that more than two thirds of the book in Hebrew is available. These Hebrew texts agree substantially with the Greek. One such text, from Masada, is pre-Christian in date. So, the work of ben Sirach is presently known through various versions, which scholars still struggle to disentangle.

Hebrew translation of Ben Sira, 1814 (Vienna 1814)
Hebrew translation of Ben Sira, 1814 (Vienna 1814)

 

Here is a sample of Jesus Ben Sira’s wisdom.

Ben Sira’s Pursuit of Wisdom – Sirach 51:13-30

13 When I was young and innocent,
I sought wisdom.

14 She came to me in her beauty,
and until the end I will cultivate her.

15 As the blossoms yielded to ripening grapes,
the heart’s joy,
My feet kept to the level path
because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.

16 In the short time I paid heed,
I met with great instruction.

17 Since in this way I have profited,
I will give my Teacher grateful praise.

18 I resolved to tread her paths;
I have been jealous for the good and will not turn back.

19 I burned with desire for her,
never relenting.
I became preoccupied with her,
never weary of extolling her.
I spread out my hands to the heavens
and I came to know her secrets.

20 For her I purified my hands;
in cleanness I attained to her.
At first acquaintance with her, I gained understanding
such that I will never forsake her.

21 My whole being was stirred to seek her;
therefore I have made her my prize possession.

22 The LORD has rewarded me with lips,
with a tongue for praising him.

23 Come aside to me, you untutored,
and take up lodging in the house of instruction;

24 How long will you deprive yourself of wisdom’s food,
how long endure such bitter thirst?

25 I open my mouth and speak of her:
gain wisdom for yourselves at no cost.

26 Take her yoke upon your neck;
that your mind may receive her teaching.
For she is close to those who seek her,
and the one who is in earnest finds her.

27 See for yourselves! I have labored only a little,
but have found much.

28 Acquire but a little instruction,
and you will win silver and gold through her.

29 May your soul rejoice in God’s mercy;
do not be ashamed to give him praise.

30 Work at your tasks in due season,
and in his own time God will give you your reward.

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Are The Tallit and Tzitzit of the Jews Equivalent to Prayer Beads Used in Other Religions?


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The prayer beads (rosaries and mala beads) are common accessories among spiritual traditions of many religions except in Judaism.

The orthodox Jews frown upon such devices. They consider it a mortal sin tantamount to idol worship. Many Judaic sources frown, prohibit or discourage the use of prayer beads and such, since these practices could lead the observant to take the name of God in vain. However, there are other sources that verify such use as a common kabbalistic practice kept secret for over hundreds of years.

However, there is something comparable to the use of prayer beads in traditional Jewish practice, though there is no direct reference to any kind of rosary practice.

The tallit 

The tallit is a prayer shawl, used for centuries by Jewish people. It is a rectangular garment with parallel stripes across the shorter ends. Most tallitot (plural) are white with navy or black stripes. Originally it was woven without seams.

Tallit
Tallit – a Jewish prayer shawl

The Jews place the tallit over their head and shoulders while praying in private and in the synagogue, and during other significant times of prayer.

Tallitot are first worn by children on their Bar Mitzvahs. Among orthodox Jews in the Ashkenazi circles, a tallit is customarily presented to a groom before marriage as part of the dowry.

In the Torah, in the book of Numbers, chapter 15:37-40, we read that the LORD designed the tallit and gave the directions to Moses:

37 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:

38 ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue.

39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray;

40 that ye may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God.

Again in Deuteronomy 22:12 we read:

“Thou shalt make thee twisted cords upon the four corners of thy covering, wherewith thou coverest thyself.”

The tzitzit

In Hebrew, tzitzit is the name for specially knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews. Tzitzit are attached to the four corners of the tallit and tallit katan.

A tzitzit
A tzitzit

There are specifications for constructing the tassel, winding the thread separating the knots, and making the knots themselves.

God, in his concern for his people to obey his commandments and avoid punishment of death, told Moses to have his people include a specified number of fringes or knotted tassels on its four corners, and on the hems or borders of all their garments, in a very specific fashion, called tzitzit.

Each of these tzitziyot should include a cord of blue to remind that the origin of the Law is heavenly and not sin against the Holy One of Israel, Yahweh, God the Father.

Also, these verses from the Torah might lead some to subtly infer that numbers are as spiritually significant to the tallit in Judaism as they are to prayer beads in other traditions. However, there are no reference to using these knots in any kind of rosary practice.

The tallit katan

The tallit katan meaning ‘small tallit‘ is a fringed garment traditionally worn either under or over their clothing by Jewish men. It is a poncho-like garment with a hole for the head and special twined and knotted fringes known as tzitzit attached to its four corners.

An Orthodox Jewish man wearing a Wool Tallit Katan under his vest
An Orthodox Jewish man wearing a Wool Tallit Katan under his vest.

The four corners are generally regarded as the four corners of the earth’s cardinal directions; and the tassels to remind them of the commandments. By the way, the Jews have a total of 613 do and don’t commandments to follow and not just the 10 that are generally known.

Generally, a tallit katan is made of wool or cotton. The requirements about the fabric and fringes of a tallit katan are the same as that of a tallit gadol, the prayer shawl worn during the morning services in synagogues by all male participants, and in many communities by the leader of the afternoon and evening prayers as well.

“Who touched me?”

Most of us forget that Jesus was a Jew. Here is an interesting episode in the life of Jesus narrated by Luke in Chapter 8:42-48.

Woman grabbing yeshua's tzitzit
Woman grabbing yeshua’s tzitzit

… As he went, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, who [had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and] was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped.

Jesus then asked, “Who touched me?”

While all were denying it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me.”

When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

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What Do You Read in the Bible: Morality or Depravity?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Though born to Roman Catholic parents and growing up in a Catholic background I find that people who read the bible, the Old and New Testaments, as a ritual, fail to realize the reality of its content. The brutality in the history of Christianity such as crusades for redeeming the Holy Land, mass massacre, enslaving the defeated etc., stems from the words written in the Bible.

Barbara G. Walker
Barbara G. Walker

Recently I came across an article on the web titled BIBLE MORALITY (King James Version) containing biblical verses compiled by Barbara G. Walker, an independent scholar of comparative religion and mythology, as well as women’s spirituality. She is a Freethought Nation guest writer concerning the supposed “morality” of the Bible.

Some of my Christian friends might find fault with me for reproducing this controversial compilation. But this is reality.

The paraphrases and commentary are Barbara’s, while the original verses are linked.

1. KILLING.  (AS IN “THOU SHALT NOT”…???)

The biblical god personally kills a total of 371,186 people, not counting his slaughter of every living thing in Genesis 7. The biblical god also orders the killing of a total of 1,862,265.

Gen 22:2 – God accepts human sacrifices (including that of Jesus, later).
Ex 12:29 – God kills all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.
Ex 15:3 – God is a god of war.
Ex 21:1517 – Anyone who strikes or curses a parent must be killed.
Ex 22:18 – Every witch must be killed.

Ex 22:1920 – You must kill anyone who “lieth with a beast,” or who worships any god other than Yahweh.
Ex 31:15 – Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be killed.
Lev 20:101327 – You must kill adulterers, homosexuals, wizards and spirit mediums.
Lev 21:9 – Any priest’s daughter who fornicates must be burned alive.
Lev 24:16 – Blasphemers must be killed.

Num 16:27-33 – God caused the whole tribe of Korah — men, women, and children — to be buried alive.
Num 21:3 – God caused the destruction of all the Canaanites.
Num 31:7-35 – God orders Moses to kill the Midianites, making sure to slaughter not only the men but also the boys and females, except for the 32,000 virgin girls.
Deut 3:4 – God is pleased that his warriors destroyed 60 cities.
Deut 7:16 – You must kill all the people God delivers into your hands, and “thine eye shall have no pity upon them.”

Deut 13:5 – Any prophet or “dreamer of dreams,” who serves another god, must be killed.
Deut 13:6-9 – If your brother, son, daughter, wife, or friend tempts you to worship other gods, “thou shalt surely kill him.”
Deut 13:13-15 – If the people of any city worship other gods, you must slaughter them all, including their cattle.
Deut 17:5 – Any man or woman who worships other deities of sun, moon or stars must be stoned to death.
Deut 18:20 – False prophets must be killed.

Deut 20:16-17 – God commands complete destruction of all Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, and “thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.”
Deut 22:21 – A bride found not to be a virgin must be stoned to death.
Deut 22:22 – Adulterers must be killed.
Deut 22:23-24 – A girl who is raped within city limits, and fails to cry out, must be killed.
Deut 28:22-28 – If you don’t obey God’s commandments, he will punish you with consumption, fever, extreme burning, blasting, mildew, hemorrhoids, the scab, the itch, the botch of Egypt, etc., as well as “madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.”

Josh 6:21 – God’s warriors destroyed Jericho and killed every man, woman, child, and domestic animal.
Josh 8:25 – God’s warriors killed 12,000 people in the city of Ai.
Josh 19:47 – The children of Dan wanted more room, so they destroyed the whole population of Leshen and took their territory.
Judges 1:17-18 – Judah and Simeon utterly destroyed the populations of Zephath, Gaza, Askelon and Ekron.
Judges 11:39 – In accord with God’s law, Jephthah was forced to burn his virgin daughter to death as a sacrifice.

Judges 15:15 – God enables Samson to kill 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass.
Judges 20:46 – At Gibeah, Benjamin’s men killed 25,000 people and burned every town.
1 Sam 6:19 – God kills 50,070 people for trying to peek into the Ark.
1 Sam 15:3 – God commands the destruction of Amalek: “Slay both men and women, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
2 Sam 6:7 – God kills Uzzah for touching the Ark, even though he was trying to save it from falling off its oxcart.

1 Kings 18:40 – God commands the slaughter of “prophets of Baal”.
1 Kings 20:36 –  Because a man didn’t “obey the voice of the Lord,” a lion was sent to kill him.
2 Kings 2:24 – God sent bears to tear apart 42 children for making fun of Elisha’s bald head.
2 Kings 10:25 – God commands the killing of a multitude in the temple of Baal.
2 Kings 19:35 – God’s angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in a single night.

1 Chron 21:14 – God kills 70,000 Israelites with a pestilence.
2 Chron 15:13 – Any man or woman who refuses to “seek the Lord God of Israel” must be killed.
Job 1:15-19 – God arranges the killing of Job’s children, servants and animals.
Isa 13:16 – God promises that all the Babylonians’ children will be “dashed to pieces before their eyes;” their wives will be raped.
Isa 45:7 – God says “I create evil.”

Jer 48:10 – Killing for God is mandatory; God curses anyone who “keepeth back his sword from blood.”
Jer 50:21 – God commands that the people of Merathaim and Pekod be “utterly destroyed.”
Ezek 9:5-7 – God calls for purging in Jerusalem: “let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women… fill the courts with the slain.”
Ezek 35:8 – God promises to fill the mountains, hills, valleys and rivers with slain men.
Hosea 13:16 – God promises to have Samaritan infants dashed to pieces, and pregnant women will have their bellies slashed open.

Nahum 1:2 – God is jealous, full of vengeance and wrath.
Zeph 1:3 – God threatens to destroy everything, man and beast, birds and fishes.
Zeph 1:18 – “The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy.”
Zeph 3:6 – God brags that he has destroyed many nations.
Zech 13:3 – A false prophet must be killed by his father and mother.

2. RAPE

Ex 21:7-8 – A father may sell his daughter to be a “maidservant” (or sex slave) who must “please her master.”
Num 31:7, 18 – God orders his warriors to kill every living thing in a captured city, except the virgin girls, who are to be raped and turned into sex slaves.
Deut 21:11-12 – If a warrior likes the look of a female war captive, he can take her to be one of his “wives.”
Deut 22:28-29 – A man who rapes a virgin may take her for a wife if he pays her father 50 shekels of silver. (Yet, a bride found not to be a virgin must be stoned to death –Deut 22:20-21).
Judges 5:30 – The spoils of war include “a damsel or two” for every man.
Judges 21:12-23 –  God’s warriors killed all the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead except for 400 virgin girls, who were taken as slaves. If there are not enough girls to go around, God’s warriors may raid neighboring towns for more to rape.

3. SLAVERY

Gen 9:25 – God cursed Ham, son of Noah, with perpetual slavery for the crime of seeing his father naked.  (Ham was formerly considered the ancestor of all “blacks.”)
Ex 21:4 – A male slave may marry and have children, and may go free after six years; but his family remains the property (or hostages?) of his master.
Ex 21:7 – A man may sell his daughter as a sex slave.
Ex 21:20-21 – A man may be punished for beating a male or female slave
to death, but if the victim survives the beating for a few days, then
there is no penalty.
Lev 19:20 – When a man has sex with a female slave (or “bondmaid”), SHE must be scourged.
Eph 6:5 – Paul says slaves must obey their masters “with fear and trembling.”
Titus 2:9 – Paul says slaves must obey and please their masters.
1 Tim 6:1 – Paul says slaves must “count their masters worthy of all honor.”

4. WAS JESUS ETHICAL?

Matt 5:28-32 – Jesus says marriage to a divorcee is adultery; and a man who ogles a woman has already committed adultery; and that you must cut off your hand or pluck out your eye if it offends.
Matt 6:19-34 – Jesus says don’t save any money and don’t plan ahead.
Matt 8:32 – Having no regard for private property, Jesus destroys a herd of someone else’s pigs.
Matt 10:34 – Jesus says he brings not peace on earth but “a sword.”
Matt 19:12 – Jesus says the best way for a man to be sure of getting into heaven is to have himself castrated.

Mark 11:13 – Jesus destroys a fig tree for not bearing figs out of season.
Mark 14:4-7 – Jesus says it is more important to anoint him with precious ointment than to give to the poor, who will always be here. (Why not just get rid of poverty?)
Mark 16:18 – Jesus says anyone who believes in him can play with venomous snakes or drink poison without harm. (This act has been often tried, with rather unsatisfactory results.)
Luke 12:47-48 – Jesus says it is permissible to whip slaves.
Luke 14:26 – Jesus says no man can be his disciple unless he hates his parents, siblings, wife, children, and himself as well.
Luke 19:27 – In telling a parable, Jesus insinuates that anyone who denies his rulership must be killed.
John 15:6 – Jesus says anyone who doesn’t believe in him must be burned.
Acts 5:5-10 –  Ananias and his wife Sapphira were killed for withholding money from the church.
2 John 1:10-11 – A Christian is forbidden to offer hospitality to a non-Christian, not even to wish him “Godspeed” on parting.

5. WOMEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

1 Cor 11:3-10 – Women are inferior “because man was not created for woman, but woman was created for man.”  Every woman “while praying or prophesying” must have her head covered “because of the angels,” meaning the spirits (it used to be believed that women’s hair attracts spirits).
1 Cor 14:34-35 – Women must not speak in church, which is a shame for them to do. If they want to ask questions, they must learn from their husbands at home.
Eph 5:22 – Wives must submit to their husbands as they would to God.
1 Tim 2:11-15 – A woman must not teach, or hold authority over a man, but must “learn in silence with all subjection,” because “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”  (So, being gullible is the original sin.)
1 Tim 5:9 – Paul says the only women acceptable by the council of elders are devout, monogamous women over the age of sixty.

6. SILLINESS

Gen 1:11-19 – God made all green plants on the third day of creation, but neglected to supply the sun (on which both plants and “days” depend) until the fourth day.
Gen 6:6-7 – Because a few people displeased him, God “repented” having made the world, and decided to destroy all life on earth.
Lev 11:5-6 – God thinks rabbits are cud-chewing animals.
Deut 22:5 – All cross-dressers, or women who wear pants, are “abominations.”
Deut 25:11-12 – A woman who seizes a man’s genitals, even to defend her husband from an attacker, must have her hand cut off.
Deut 33:17 – God believes in unicorns.
Matt 5:22 – Jesus says anyone who calls another “fool” will go to hell, but then he does it himself (Matt 23:17).
1 Tim 2:9 – Christian women are forbidden to braid their hair or wear jewelry.
James 5:14-15 – Prayer by the elders of the church is the only sure cure for sickness.  (Christian Science, anyone?)

Which version of the Ten Commandments do you prefer from God’s inerrant Word? Exodus 20Exodus 34Deuteronomy 5 or Deuteronomy 27?

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Are the Creation-Flood Stories Myth or History?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj .

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How should we, the contemporary readers interpret the creation-flood narrative in Genesis 2–11?

The stories are neither myth nor history.

“Myth” is a poor term, as it has many different meanings and so connotes untruth in prevalent English.

“History” is, likewise, misleading, for it implies that the events, in fact, took place. The proper term would be ‘creation-flood story.’

The ancient thinkers of the Middle East did not have our means for researching serious topics. They used narratives for issues that we would describe as philosophical or theological. They sought out meaning in the ancient stories of their times. They contemplated on topics such as: how gods act with justice and generosity, why humans are rebellious, the dynamics of carnal allurement and marital relationships, why there are so many Peoples and languages. Their stories reveal an exclusive period, when divine decisions determined the future of the human race.Moreover, every time they retold these stories, they added, or subtracted narrative matters.

Even though most of these stories might seem to us as primitive and naive, they are, in fact, narrated in a compressed form with skill, and subtlety. They offer radical answers to perennial questions about God and human beings. To illustrate here is the story of the Tower of Babel told in Genesis,

Tower of Babel
The Tower of Babel

Story of the Tower of Babel – Genesis 11:1-9

The whole world had the same language and the same words.

When they were migrating from the east, they came to a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.”

They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.

Then the LORD said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another.

So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.

That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. From there the LORD scattered them over all the earth.

One Jewish tradition implies that humans later defied God when he tried to forge a relationship between the various nations. So, God decided to direct his attention to one nation only, hoping it would eventually unite all the nations of the world. To bring God’s decision to fruition the authors of Genesis introduce Abraham.

The Covenant of Circumcision – Genesis 17:1-11

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said:

I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless. Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.

Abram fell face down and God said to him:

For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.

I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you. I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.

God said to Abraham:

For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.

This is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

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Did the Gods Create Two Versions of Humans?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Storm Clouds by sighlent
Storm Clouds by sighlent

The Torah (Hebrew: תּוֹרָה‎‎) meaning “teaching,” “doctrine,” or “instruction” is the name given to the first five books of the Jewish Bible. In Hebrew, the five books bear the initial phrase in the text as their names: Bereshit (“In the beginning,”), Shemot (“Names,”), Vayikra (“He called”), Bamidbar (“In the desert,”) and Devarim (“Words,”).

The Pentateuch meaning “five vessels,” “five containers,” or “five-volume book” is the comparative term for the Torah in Christian theology. The Christians call the five books as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The Torah and the Pentateuch also known as “the five books of Moses,” form the first section of the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures.

Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch. Its title in the Jewish Scriptures it is known as Bereshit, the opening Hebrew word, “in the beginning.” Its title in English, “Genesis,” comes from the Greek word γενέσεως of Genesis 2:4, literally, “the book of the generation (genesis) of the heavens and earth.”

Genesis 1:1–2:3 presents us a seven-day creation account where a God almighty whose mere word generates an exquisite universe. In this beautiful universe, humans play an intrinsic part.

The storyline of Genesis 2–11, find its origin in creation-flood stories found in Mesopotamian literature of the second and early first millennia.

In the Mesopotamian creation-flood accounts, the gods created the humans as immortal slaves to take care of the universe for them. The humans were needed to provide the gods with food, clothing, and pay homage to them in temples. In an unanticipated development, however, the humans grew in plenty and were so noisy that the gods were not able to sleep. Madly angered, the gods decided to destroy the human race by a universal flood. However, one man, secretly warned of the flood by his patron god, built a boat and survived with his family. Regretting their impetuous decision, the gods created a new version of mankind. They made the new human race mortal to ensure they would never grow numerous and disturb the gods.The authors of Genesis (Bereshit) adapted this Mesopotamian creation-flood story to suit their viewpoints about God and humanity. To illustrate, in Genesis we read that Noah, created by God before the floods, led a long life.

Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. The whole lifetime of Noah was nine hundred and fifty years; then he died. (Genesis 9:28-29)

These authors attributed the weakness of the gods to human sin in lieu of divine oversight.

When the LORD saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil, the
LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved.

So the LORD said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them. (Genesis 6:5–7)

The authors made God reaffirm mankind without modifying the original creation

God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them: Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.

Fear and dread of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth and all
the birds of the air, upon all the creatures that move about on the ground and all the fishes of the sea; into your power they are delivered.

Any living creature that moves about shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants. Only meat with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.

Indeed for your own lifeblood I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from a human being, each one for the blood of another, I will demand an accounting for human life. Anyone who sheds the blood of a human being, by a human being shall that one’s blood be shed; For in the image of God have human beings been made. Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it. (Genesis 9:1–7).

In the biblical version God is just, powerful, and not needy.

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The Story of the Molten Calf


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

 

The Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicolas Poussin, 1633-4
The Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicolas Poussin, 1633-4

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The Torah, comprising the first five books of the Jewish Bible, severely condemns the worship of graven images. However, the Israelites collectively committed a grave sin while wandering through the desert. When Moses, who went over to the Sinai mountain to meet God, did not return at the appointed time, they demanded of Aaron, the brother of Moses, to make them a god to lead them in the desert.

The Molten Calf – Exodus 32:1-6

When the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for that man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.”

Aaron replied, “Take off the golden earrings that your wives, your sons, and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.”

So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He received their offering, and fashioning it with a tool, made a molten calf.

Then they cried out, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”

On seeing this, Aaron built an altar in front of the calf and proclaimed, “Tomorrow is a feast of the LORD.”

Early the next day the people sacrificed burnt offerings and brought communion sacrifices. Then they sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

According to the Aggadah

Aggadah or Haggadah (Heb. הַגָּדָה, אַגָּדָה; “narrative”) is one of the two primary components of the classical rabbinic literature of Judaism. Citing the Aggadah, some rabbis claim that the demand for the idol was due to the forty thousand mixed multitudes, which joined the Israelites at the time of the Exodus.

  • A crowd of mixed ancestry also went up with them, with livestock in great abundance, both flocks and herds. (Exodus 12:38)

Two Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Mambres, were among the crowd. They aided in the making of the molten calf (Midrash Yelammedenu, Ki Tissa, Ex. xxxii.)

The crowd said that it was the sixth hour of the fortieth day since Moses had left, the hour which he had previously set for his return. They claimed that since he had not yet appeared he would never come. The people had included the day of the ascent of Moses in their calculation, whereas he had excluded it (Rashi, Shab. 89a).

Satan added fuel to the state of affairs by showing the people a vision of Moses’ bier. This convinced them that he died. So, they demanded Aaron to make a god for them (Shab. 89a; Tanh. B., Ex. 112–3).

God was also blamed since He enslaved them in Egypt where they were exposed to the most idolatrous of ancient civilizations; and giving them an abundance of gold and silver when they left Egypt.

Hur, the son of Miriam and Caleb, tried to dissuade the people from committing the sin of idolatry. Even so, they killed him. Aaron feared that he would share the same fate. Since he wanted peace to prevail, he conceded to their demand. To gain time, he asked them to bring the gold ornaments of their wives. He knew their wives would not part with their ornaments. The men thereupon gave their own jewelry.

Aaron then threw the collected gold into the fire, still hoping that Moses would return. Instantly, however, a calf appeared, alive and skipping. It was the result of a splinter thrown into the fire by the wicked Micah. This splinter contained the words עלהשור (aleh shor, “Come up, Ox”).

Moses had previously thrown this splinter into the Nile when he desired the coffin of Joseph, whom he compared to an ox, to rise above the surface so that he could transport his remains to Ereẓ Israel (Tanḥ. Ki Tissa, 19).

According to another version, the Egyptian magicians made the calf move as if it were alive (Song R. 1:9, no. 3).

Aaron then postponed the celebration to the next day to gain time. God knew that Aaron was motivated by good intentions. So, the high priesthood was not taken away from him. Still, he was severely punished by the subsequent death of two of his sons.

The tribe of Levi and its 12 leaders did not join the worship of the molten calf. The remaining Israelites were mercilessly punished. Whoever sacrificed and burned incense before the altar of the molten calf died by the sword; whoever embraced and kissed the calf died by the plague; and whoever rejoiced in his heart died of dropsy (Yoma 66b).”There is not a misfortune that Israel has suffered, which is not partly a retribution for the sin of the calf” (Sanh. 102a).

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Who Is The Real Jesus: The Jesus Of The Bible Or The Jesus Of The Qur’An?


By William Lane Craig

A comparison of how Jesus is described in the New Testament and in the Qur’an in order to determine which is more reliable.

Jesus of Nazareth is the most influential person who ever lived. Twenty centuries after his death, he continues to exert his power of fascination over the minds of thinking men and women. Peter Jennings’ television special “In Search of Jesus” attracted some 16 million viewers across the country. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” grossed 370 million dollars. Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code has been a runaway best seller, exceeding the 100 million mark in some 40 languages. People obviously continue to be fascinated by Jesus.

Bread Of Life By Corbert Gauthier
Bread Of Life By Corbert Gauthier

But who is Jesus really? Is he, as the Bible says, the divine Son of God? Or was he merely a human prophet, as Muslims have been taught to believe? Who is the real Jesus?

I propose to answer that question as a historian. I shall look at the New Testament and the Qur’an as the historian looks at any other sources for ancient history. I shall not treat them as inspired or holy books. Accordingly, I shall not require them to be inerrant or infallible in order to be valuable historical sources. By taking this historical approach, we prevent the discussion from degenerating into arguments over Bible difficulties or Qur’anic inconsistencies. The question is not whether the sources are inerrant but whether they allow us to discover who the historical Jesus really was.

Now in order to determine who the historical Jesus really was, we need to have some objective criteria for assessing our sources. Prof. John Meier, an eminent New Testament historian, lists the following four criteria: 1

1. Multiple, independent sources. Events which are reported by independent, and especially early, sources are likely to be historical.

2. Dissimilarity. If a saying or event is different from prior Judaism and also from later Christianity, then it probably doesn’t derive from either one and so belongs to the historical Jesus.

3. Embarrassment. Sayings or events that would have been embarrassing or difficult for the Christian church are unlikely to have been invented and so are likely historical.

4. Rejection and execution. Jesus’ crucifixion is so indisputably established as an anchor point in history that words and deeds of Jesus must be assessed in terms of their likelihood of leading to his execution as “King of the Jews.” A bland Jesus who just preached monotheism would never have provoked such opposition.

When we apply such criteria to the New Testament, we’re able to establish a good deal about the historical Jesus. Let me discuss just three of the facts that emerge about this remarkable man.

1. Jesus’s Radical Self-Concept. The Qur’an says that Jesus thought of himself as no more than a human prophet who told people to worship the one, true God. However, on the basis of the criteria, it can be shown that among the historically authentic words of Jesus are claims which reveal his divine self-understanding.

Take, for example, Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man. The criteria of multiple sources and dissimilarity show it belongs to the historical Jesus. Now most laymen probably think that this title refers to Jesus’ humanity, just as the title “Son of God” refers to his deity. But that’s a mistake. It fails to take into account the Jewish background of the expression. In the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 7, Daniel sees a vision of a divine-human figure coming on the clouds of heaven to whom God will give everlasting authority, glory, and dominion. No mere human being could be accorded such status, for this would be to commit the sin which Muslims call shirk, giving something which properly belongs to God alone to someone else. Yet this is the status which Jesus claimed for himself. Probably the most famous “Son of Man” saying by Jesus comes at his trial before the Jewish high priest. I quote:

Then the high priest stood up . . . and asked Jesus, . . . ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’

‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’

The high priest tore his clothes. . . . ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ They all condemned him as worthy of death. (Mark 14:60-64 NIV)

Every Muslim would have to agree with the high priest and the Council that Jesus is a blasphemer who is worthy of death because he had made himself equal to God.

Not only did Jesus claim to be the Son of Man, but he also thought of himself as the unique Son of God. Jesus’ self-understanding as God’s special Son comes to expression in his parable of the wicked tenants of the vineyard, which even the radical, sceptical critics in the so-called Jesus Seminar recognize as authentic. In this parable, the vineyard symbolizes Israel, the owner of the vineyard is God, the tenants are the Jewish religious leaders, and the servants are the prophets send by God. In Mark 12.1-9 we read:

‘A man planted a vineyard . . . [and] rented [it] to some farmers. . . . At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

‘He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.” But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. . . . let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they took him and killed him. . . .’ (Mark 12:1-9 NIV)

Now what does this parable tell us about Jesus’ self-understanding? It tells us that Jesus thought of himself as God’s only, beloved son, distinct from all the prophets, God’s final messenger, and even the heir to Israel. He did not think of himself as merely another human prophet.

Jesus’s self-concept as God’s special Son comes to explicit expression in Matthew 11.27: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” It is unlikely the church invented this saying because it says that the Son is unknowable–”no one knows the Son except the Father”–, but for the post-Easter church we can know the Son. So by the criterion of dissimilarity this saying is authentic. What does this saying then tell us about Jesus’ self-concept? It tells us that he thought of himself as the exclusive Son of God and the only revelation of God to mankind!

This is really incredible! Yet this is what the historical Jesus believed. C. S. Lewis was right when he said,

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said . . . would either be a lunatic–on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. . . . You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.2

2. Jesus’s Trial and Crucifixion. According to the Gospels Jesus was condemned by the Jewish high court on the charge of blasphemy and then delivered to the Romans for execution for treason for claiming to be King of the Jews. Not only are these facts confirmed by independent biblical sources like Paul and the Acts of the Apostles, but they are also confirmed by extra-biblical sources. From the Jewish historian Josephus and the Syrian writer Mara bar Serapion we learn that the Jewish leaders made a formal accusation against Jesus and participated in events leading up to his crucifixion. From the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a, we learn that Jewish involvement in the trial was explained as a proper undertaking against a heretic. And from Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus, we learn that Jesus was crucified by Roman authority under the sentence of Pontius Pilate. According to L. T. Johnson, a New Testament historian at Emory University, “The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its co-agents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned and executed by crucifixion.”3

Perhaps the single most egregious historical error found in the Qur’an is its claim that Jesus was not in fact crucified. Not only is there not a single shred of evidence in favor of this remarkable hypothesis, but the evidence supporting Jesus’ crucifixion is, as Johnson says, “overwhelming.” Those of you who are Muslims need to appreciate that no one who is not already a Muslim believes that the historical Jesus was not crucified. The crucifixion of Jesus is recognized even by the sceptical critics in the Jesus Seminar as–to quote Robert Funk–”one indisputable fact.4 Indeed, Paula Frederickson, whose book From Jesus to Christ inspired the PBS special by the same name, declares roundly, “The crucifixion is the strongest single fact we have about Jesus.5

3. Jesus’ Resurrection. What happened to Jesus after his crucifixion? The majority of scholars who have written on this subject agree that three things happened:

First, on the Sunday morning following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.

Second, on multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

And third, the disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their every predisposition to the contrary.

I think that the best explanation of these three facts is that the disciples were right: God had raised Jesus from the dead. This has enormous theological significance. For as the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg explains,

The resurrection of Jesus acquires such decisive meaning, not merely because someone or anyone has been raised from the dead, but because it is Jesus of Nazareth, whose execution was instigated. . . because he had blasphemed against God. If this man was raised from the dead, then that plainly means that the God whom he had supposedly blasphemed has committed Himself to him.6

In summary, on purely historical grounds, we have seen (1) that Jesus of Nazareth possessed a radical self-concept as the unique Son of God and the Son of Man, (2) that he was tried, condemned, and crucified for his allegedly blasphemous claims, and (3) that God raised him from the dead in vindication of those claims.

All this is in contradiction to the Qur’an’s claims that Jesus thought of himself as a mere prophet preaching a blasé monotheism, that he was not crucified, and that he did not rise from the dead.

When you think about it, however, this situation isn’t really surprising. I mean, which would you trust: documents written down within the first generation of the events they record, while the eyewitnesses were still alive, or a book written over 600 years after the events with no independent, historical source of information? Why, even to ask the question is to answer it!

In fact, the Qur’an contains demonstrably legendary stories about Jesus which evolved during the centuries after his death. I’m referring to stories about Jesus which are found in the so-called apocryphal gospels–these are forgeries which appeared in the second and third centuries after Christ–and which the Qur’an unwittingly repeats as facts. For example, the Qur’an mentions the story–borrowed from the legendary forgery entitled The Infancy Gospel of Thomas–of how the boy Jesus made a bird out of clay and then made it come to life (III.70, V.100-110). Such stories are fictional. Thus, the Qur’an offers us no independent historical source for Jesus.

Historically speaking, then, the answer to the question before us seems clear: the real Jesus is the person described in the New Testament, not the legendary fabrication we read about in the Qur’an.

Notes

1 John Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol.: 1: The Roots of the problem and the Person, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1991), pp. 168-177.

2 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 56.

3 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 125.

4 Jesus Seminar videotape.

5 Paula Frederickson, remark during discussion at the meeting of “The Historical Jesus” section at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, November 22, 1999.

6 Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Jesu Geschichte und unsere Geschichte,” in Glaube und Wirklichkeit (München: Chr. Kaiser, 1975), p. 92.

Reproduced from Reasanable Faith with William Lane Craig