Monthly Archives: February 2015

And what about Jesus? Some beginning thoughts for Universal Judaism

The Association for Universal Judaism has no prejudice regarding Jesus.

We welcome the participation of all those, from Christian backgrounds,

who resonate with our teachings and find this beneficial. It may be

beneficial for them should they decide to pursue a Jewish path of spiritual

development. But, it might be beneficial simply for clarifying their own

particular views about Jesus, and deepen their own paticular relationship with Jesus.

 

Being very scientific in its approach, Universal Judaism can make no claims regarding Jesus, either as a person nor as a deity. The reason is there is a paucity of information regarding him. There exists one scripture, in Greek or, for some, Aramaic. There are plenty of interpretations that developed over the centuries. And apart from this, there is maybe two other non-religious citations, in Josephus’ Antiquities, regarding Jesus;  Josephus, being Jewish, could hardly be considered objective.

 

In this sense, Universal Judaism would have as much trouble verifying claims about Jesus as about verifying claims about the Hebrew covenant or God. A mere claim, substantiated by weak evidence, is not religious truth from our way of thinking.

 

Moreover, if one looks at the extraordinary creativity within Christian camps, one cannot see a consistent viewpoint, from the standpoint of doctrine. There are Catholics who maintain that the Holy Spirit proceeds equally from the Son as from the Father. There are Eastern Rite Christians, who deny that. There are Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny the divinity of Jesus, yet affirm the virgin birth. There are Congregationalists who maintain that God the Father continues to act, separately, even with Jesus being God. And these days there are neo-Gnostics, who believe in The Christ Mind, a generalized cosmic human, to which all human beings ascend, regardless what they call it.

 

It is a great sadness that the divisiveness regarding the Divinity of Jesus has been placed at the feet of Jewish deny-ers. And yet, there is so much confusion within Christian camps. As Jesus said, following the Jewish tradition in which he was apparently educated, “Remove the plank from your own eye, before you remove the straw from another (Matthew 7:5). Christian unity regarding Jesus is something we believe should be sought amongst Christians, before they approach Jews for their viewpoint.

 

Being as objective as possible, it is pretty clear that Jesus of Nazareth was a proponent of the Hillelist position, amongst Pharisaic teaching. Hillel tended to emphasize love of God, and flexibility of the law. The Shammaist viewpoint, tended to emphasize strictness of the law. Virtually every single criticism Jesus makes about Pharisees (Perushim in Hebrew, meaning separatist), is one which takes the Hillelist position.

 

For example, when Jesus declares the two pillars of the teaching of the Law to be “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your Might”, and “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Luke 10:27], he sounds like he is correcting “Judaism”, and yet, we know the exact same teaching from Rabbi Akiba. Clearly Jesus was teaching the Hilelist interpretation of the Oral Law, of which others, including Akiba, were well aware.

 

However, Jesus clearly doesn’t seem to be a bonafide member of the Pharisaic School, but seems to be charismatic and unaligned. This fits what may be his prophetic nature.

 

If, in fact, Jesus resurrected the dead, this would put him an elite group of Jewish prophets, such as Elijah and Elijah, who also resurrected the dead. Indeed, Jesus ascended into Heaven, as did Elijah, and, for that matter Enoch. In Christian Scripture, he is often confused with Elijah, mistaken for him.

 

The question is whether Jesus’ self-resurrection, and self-ascension to God, constitute a different order or magnitude of prophecy. This is the essential question as to his contribution to Jewish history, and of course world history!

 

Upon this essential question, the separation of Christians from Jews took place, and Christianity developed, embodied into Roman civilization, as a new viewpoint of what Israel stands for. Roman civilization retained its anti-Jewish bias from its pagan ancestors, and the rest is, as they say, “history”.

 

This all aside, Universal Judaism takes a different approach entirely than the doctrinal. The question we ask is the following:  If one were to implement Jesus teachings, in a spiritual way, would we have something qualitatively different than essential Judaism. We believe “No.”

 

Universal Judaism holds that if we had adequate spiritual experience, that virtually all the warring differences between these two great approaches would end. Indeed, many of the abilities of Jesus, prophetic abilities, would, through delving into the spiritual, unveil themselves in each and every individual. Jesus says, “Anything I can do, you can do and more” [John 14:12]

 

Only by spiritual experience, solid spiritual experience, can one have any true inkling into the spiritual nature of rabbinic or Jesus’ teachings. Only if more than two people have it, can there be objective understanding of the spiritual experience and objective theological conclusions drawn from this.

Both Jesus and the Jewish tradition maintain that “two or more” must be gathered in His Name, for God’s Presence to be felt!!

 

With such a solild spiritual experience as the separate and mutual underpinning of each, what would remain would simply be a difference in eschatological (end-time) predictions. But, in an era where there is no Roman persecution, in essence, Jews and Christians would become two variations of messianic expectations, and yet the essential spirituality of them both would be essentially identical. The rest would be historical artifacts.

 

Indeed, this is what was the condition of Jews and Christians before pagan Rome started to interfere, and forbid Jews to proselytize at the risk of extermination, and so there was a “selection pressure” towards a separation between Jews and Christians.

 

We are both two views of “Israel”, with, we believe, the identical spiritual foundation.

 

The viewpoint of Universal Judaism is that all good and true teachings of Jesus are completely welcome. They are good and true to the nature of the Jew as well.

 

My personal experience is, is if one approaches Life from the standpoint of Universal Judaism–  not as a fixed law, a Mosaic revelation– but as a living experience with Life, discovering the “laws of God in Creation”, or “How Life Works”, that one begins to experience, first hand, the TRUE MEANING of Jesus’ teachings as well as the entire inspiration behind the RISHONIM (the first generation of rabbis) who framed “Judaism” after the Roman destruction of the Temple.

 

Spiritual experience is the common element we share. Prophetic experience!  It is my experience that when this experience is had, that much of the debate around the nature of Jesus become so much silliness.  The more spiritual experience occurs, the greater the ground upon which True Authentic Discussion as to Jesus’s spiritual nature, can be ascertain.

Many Christians have been astonished by how much I understand about their scripture– more than they. Well, that’s because spiritual experience teaches you the essence of it!!  It has nothing to do with formal religious identities as Jews or Christians.

 

None of this however, means that the Divinity of Jesus, if true, does imply certain things for Judaism, that have real, deep, important significances.

Such a teaching is so precious, that even if it isn’t fact, it is understandable why it must be preserved.  This is true also for the teaching regarding the virgin birth.

 

Religious doctrines are delicate. They should not be sliced into by a rational knife without the utmost respect for the depth of human experience they frame.

 

Let me end by giving you challenge.  Try thinking this way, as an experiment in thought, not unlike Einstein:

 

“If it is true that Jesus is God, and he self-resurrected, and self-ascended to God, HOW MUST CREATION BE DESIGNED, so that this could take place.”

 

This is a fascinating exercise. Try it. You will begin to understand the power of Christian creeds in expanding the possibilities of mind and heart. It may convince you to become Christian, if you are Jewish. Or, you might just expand your own sense of yourself. Your choice is your own, in Universal Judaism. We are individualistic and believe that religious freedom is essential!!!

 

This experiment however, opens doors to understandings which are magnificent, and they do not threaten the religious identity of anyone!

 

 

 

It is like saying, “If I jump up and come down, how is Creation designed so this takes place”.

 

This is basic curiosity.

 

This is basic scientific thinking.

 

What’s wrong with trying it?

 

There is so much more I can say in regard to Jesus, but I wouldn’t mind if we could open up a dialogue. I do feel a bit like I’m playing all alone in the sandbox and don’t have enough conversations going.

 

Is anyone out there?

 

Blessings

 

Michael Shevack