O.K. let me begin by saying, I am not Christian. Now, I don’t mean this in the general ethical sense of acting “in a Christian manner”, meaning humbly and kindly. In this sense, I’m not too bad— though there’s always room for improvement. I’m pretty Christian. But, it’s also a Jewish-like way, and a generally-humane way. Indeed, even such a prodigious intellect as the great
Hermann Cohen, whose Religion of Reason out of the Source of Judaism is
a philosophical milestone, did not eschew the necessity of what he called “practical Christianity” from everyone, including Jews.
No— I am not Christian, i.e. card-carrying Christian— because I do not accept that a human being is God.
Now this, might, if I were Christian, make me a Jehovah’s Witness, since they refuse to believe that Jesus was God, and therefore they do witness to Jehovah (or YHVH, transliterated for English, with the vowels for Adonai). But, then again,
I would then have to accept the Virgin Mary, which Jehovah’s Witnesses accept.
On the other hand, I have no problem accepting that Jesus is God, if God is hypostatic, and that His Being is everywhere anything that is, is. That’s like saying “everything is God”. I don’t have much of a problem with him being God in this sense. But, I would then have to distinguish between Jesus as God and a lamp. This is complex, and would take us far, far away . . . from this blog.
Nor, leaving aside this snaggle around Jesus’ Divinity, am I Christian in the sense of absolute-certainty, lived-in-faith, that he is the messiah and is coming again. I, honestly, don’t know. But, if he IS the messiah, well, that’s not such a big problem for me. I adopt, respectfully, a wait and see attitude. Should he come back, I would say to him, “Yeshie, look, are you or aren’t you? I need to know or I can’t get with the program? By way the way, what IS the program? Would you mind telling me? Too many people are saying things that make no sense, and have no meaning to me.”
You see it is all about meaning. What do the words, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, King of the Jews” mean? I’d like to address that.
The phrase declares first and foremost that there is a God. There is also a person, male, who is a “son”, issued from the “Father” God. “Son” in the Hebrew also means “build up in the same character as”, which would mean that Whoever God is, God’s issue would have the character of God, which we all presume to be “Good” (a complex issue left for a later time.) God “The Father”, is a perfectly good Jewish concept.
The phrase declares that this particular Son, Jesus, issued directly from his Father. Well, I really don’t have much of a problem with that. It’s not different than Adam, who received God’s Living Breath, raised up from the material earth, i.e. its dust. So, Jesus is an Adam, too, as are all human beings.
King of the Jews? Well, that’s not such a problem. If Jesus had a messianic lineage to David, which he may have had on his “father’s” side, i.e. Joseph (which again, here the Virgin Birth is troublesome)— well, why couldn’t he actually be the restoration of that kingly lineage?
Now— what do we mean by a “Christ”, Greek for Messiah? Well, for one thing, as a King of the Jews, he would have to topple Rome and free up the Land of Israel. Well, Israel has been restored to its land. Rome toppled, in the form of Hitler’s Third Reich (modeled on the pagan Roman empire), and then, after Christian nations repented their sins against the Jews, originally sins of their Roman ancestors, we went back to Israel. Maybe Jesus has been doing this in heaven? After his death, resurrection and ascension? I don’t know. Do you?
Second, increasingly, no one can fail to notice that Jesus the Messiah is becoming so for many of the world’s peoples. Not just for Christians. But for Muslims (Though they don’t hold him to be God, they do hold him to be the Messiah, born of a Virgin, too, and who will come again.) And when you look at the amazing convergence of Buddha with Jesus that is taking place (read, for example, Thict Nat Han), and the reverence of Jesus in Hindu Literature (Upanishads)—- well, there really does seem to be a Global Thing going with this Jewish Messiah.
So—- Jesus Christ, Son of God, King of the Jews—- hey— if I BELIEVE that
— and live my life for that—- then, what’s so terrible. In fact, it’s pretty great. After all, by affirming “Jesus Christ, Son of God, King of the Jews, I am affirming:
1. The God of Israel and the World, The Creator.
2. The Direct Creation of a human being, Jesus, by God.
3. The character of the human being like God, i.e. capable
of being a knowledgeable Judge.
4. The character of a human being, knowing God’s Will, i.e.
being a prophet (with some healing abilities too.)
5. The possibility not only of him being the King of the Jews, but
by expansion, the entire world.
What do I have? I have a PARTICULAR statement of GENERAL Judaism.
The God of Israel, raises up an individual, which is the prototype of humankind, who is “made in the image and likeness” of God, such that he can know God’s Will, discern God’s Will, minister to God’s people, not just to Israel but everyone.
I’m not saying this particular view is right. But, I AM saying, that it is not wrong.
And it is very, very, very familiar (in the sense of being from the same Jewish “family”, ganza mispacha.
Another way to say this is that Christians ARE Israel. They are not the previous or “old” Israel, but they are “new” Israel—- new people who come to take in the Spirit of Israel— Universal Judaism– and no less have a relationship with the very same God of History.
When you think about it, there are MANY ISRAELS. They all have certain features in common, and other features which are particular to their lineage, whether Roman, Arab, Buddhist, Hindu, or what not.
There really is no threat at all to Jews by saying “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, King of the Jews” provided, none of us are being so flat-out certain that we know how history will culminate . . . none of us are so certain that our particular view or theology will translate itself with perfection (measured by us) into Reality . . .
and of course, that we don’t try to wipe out our opponents to prove that our truth ultimately, and posthumously, is ascendant and perfect.
The excessives of “mission” is the problem with Christianity. Not Christianity in itself!
As Martin Buber said, “ehyeh asher ehyeh”— commonly translated “I am that I am”—- is better translated, ‘I will be there in the form of my choosing’. This is non-idolatry!!
HOW God takes the many different Israels (including the secular, American-European capitalist version), and weaves them together into a single humankind, and a single world, I don’t know.
WHEN will God accomplish this? I don’t know.
Well, I’m only a rabbi.
Well, then, again, I don’t know, because I’m only human.
And so was Jesus. He did not know either:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36)
Why wouldn’t the son of God who is God know what God had on his mind? It doesn’t make much sense to me, and— frankly—- to a lot of other people who call themselves “Christian”. It seems, more likely, that Jesus is “just” human.
But, what IS a human?
What ACTUALLY is a human?
What is this stunning distillation of the entirety of the cosmos, and beyond, into an individual, that can alter the course of evolution, consciously, by his own technology, and fathom and visit worlds beyond his own?
Well, that is something so spectacular, that one might be tempted to say we are indeed Divine? Would we be wrong? Completely wrong?
Did God make man? Or is it— in a metaphysical sense—- “God made man”, “man formed out of the Being of God”?
Maybe Jesus IS Divine? Maybe human beings ARE Divine? Well, according to some scale-of-Divinity.
What IS divine?
Do you know?
I’m not so certain.
And I’m not so certain that what looks like idolatry IS idolatry, even though, until I’m certain, I’m going to be very, very careful!!!!
Not just with Christian doctrines. But, with Jewish doctrines, as well.
Universal Judaism is truth-based. Not doctrine-based. And all truth-seekers are welcome, no matter which side of the family they are from.
Blessings to all.
R’ Michael Shevack