Posted: 2/14/2006 9:11:53 AM EDT
What was Jesus' primary message? Was it theology? ethics? or something else?
I would maintain that Jesus' primary message was not ethical, but theological and that it centered around His own identity. I hope to in coming days do a more detailed analysis of the teachings of Jesus as to content and focus, but for now . . .
Thomas Jefferson edited a version of the Gospels where he intended to cut out all of the miraculous and focus purely on the historical events and ethical teachings recorded in the Gospels. This shortened the story considerably. In fact, I read his account in between my first post here and this edit.
Even in Jefferson's account the following things stand out (all references from Jeffersonian Bible).
2:11 "blessed are you when you are insulted for my sake." It is significant that Jesus' promises blessings for those who will suffer for Him.
2:19 Jesus calls Himself the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law
3:64 At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Jews notice that Jesus teaches as "one with authority." Throughout the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, "You have heard . . . but I say" indicating that He has authority not only to interpret Scripture, but add to it.
4:56; 10:39-62; 13:48-64 and all of chapter 14 are predictions of His second coming and instruction on how to behave in light of His coming again.
5:54 Jesus claims the angels are His.
6:48 The Jews are out to kill Him. Why? In the Jeffersonian Bible it appears that it is because He didn't wash His hands. Hmmm, maybe I should share that with my 7 year old. If you don't wash your hands, the Jews will kill you.
7:57 We learn they are mad about "one work." Jefferson doesn't mention in the original context it was healing on the Sabbath.
8:1-11 Jesus implies He can forgive sins.
8:14 He describes Himself as doing the works of God, another reference to miracles (in the original text)
8:20 He describes Himself as the Good Shepherd laying down His life for the Sheep - sacrificial death.
9:1-7 Records healing of man with dropsy, without including the healing.
12:27-37 He tells a parable indicating He is the Son of God and He will be killed.
16:27 Peter remembers Jesus' prophecy.
Finally, they execute Jesus for blasphemy, i.e. claiming to be the Son of God. While the Jeffersonian edits allow for a slim possibility that it's a false charge, the original text makes it pretty clear that Jesus did make the claim.
Point - Jefferson set out to separate the ethical teachings of Jesus from His miracles and His theology. To a great extent, Jefferson failed. He cut a great deal of the four gospels out, but the above cursory reading indicates numerous shadows of the miraculous still imbedded in the message.
Even large sections of ethical teaching such as the Sermon on the Mount assume Jesus' authority to give commands and pronounce judgments.
Bottom line: Jesus' message had a lot more to do with His identity as the Son of God and His mission as a sacrificial offering than any ethical teachings.
Ethical teachings were NOT the primary message of Jesus Christ, nor the reason he was sent to earth!
His identity, specifically the fact that he walked around saying he was the Son of God sent to die on man's behalf and fulfill prophecy as the Messiah, was his message. In fact, this is the very reason he was crucified in the first place! He kept saying he was the Son of God and King of the Jews and the non-believers killed him because of it! Then he arose from the dead after 3 days.
Like I have said before, either he was who he said he was, or he was a crazy person! You just don't go around saying "No one comes to the Father except through me", unless you are the Son of God or a lunatic.
There is certainly an ethical application to Jesus' teachings, but the focus was entirely theological.
When people talk about the perfect summmation of Christian thought, one event comes up again and again.
The Sermon on the Mount
Do you consider it to be ethical or theological?
The Sermon on the Mount will not save you.
Yes, there were many parables and moral/ethical lessons and miracles Jesus Christ performed, but belief in those events themselves do NOT lead to salvation.
Jesus Christ's purpose was to live a sinless life and be crucified as a pure sacrifice and then be resurrected to take away the sins of mankind (every man and woman and child).
The problem with your statement, and CS Lewis's on this matter is it leave out another possibility, that there was no such person who ever said such a thing. Again, All options must be on the table.
I would maintain that Jesus's primary message was that the promise of the Old Testament — that man could have a relationship with God and that God would walk in them and be in them — could now be fulfilled. His message was that it was possible to overcome the sin that separated man from God.
Jesus came to reconcile mankind with GOD. He spoke of himself because he is our example. He overcame sin in the form of a man. That set the judgement line that we could too.
You are thoughtful. Yes, I concede that is possible. But then that means all the prophecy that was fulfilled within the Bible before and after Jesus Christ over the course of hundreds of years was carefully constructed through a hoax that has lasted for almost 2500 years. That would mean the Bible is the world's biggest and most successful joke that has ever been conceived.
I must be honest and say that yes, it is possible, but so is the chance that every human on earth will instantly evolve into fire-breathing dragons tomorrow night. Hey, by the way, did you know that fire-breathing dragons are in the Bible too? Good stuff.
"You think that's air you're breathing?"
Well put, Bladeswitcher.
Again, it is point of view. You believe it is remote because you believe the chances of someone fulfiling all those prophecies are remote.
I believe it is likely because I believe no such prophesies were fulfiled. (Yes, when I read the Gospels and all the prophesies they claim are fulfiled, I and Traditional Jewish thought think not a single prophesy was fulfiled)
So we have two different perspectives on the Issue, But that doesnt change the reality that what I propose is an option and the way that question has been presented (Lord lunatic or lier) is seriously flawed.
Actually, when I hear people try to summarize Christian thought they usually turn to either John 3:16 or I Corinthians 15:3-4. That may be because we run in different circles. Even if we try to summarize Jesus' teaching why should the Sermon on the Mount take precedence over (for example) the Upper Room Discourse in John 14-16 where Jesus repeatedly and clearly claims equality with the Father.
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures"
That said, the Sermon on the Mount is mostly ethical in content: but its most striking aspects are not ethical. The basic themes are centered around the 10 commandments. The striking part is that Jesus has the audacity to say, "You have heard it said . . . but I say." His initial audience commented on this, "for He was teaching them as one having authority and not as their scribes." Jesus doesn't just comment on Old Testament Law, He claims to fulfill it (5:17) and expand it and ultimately to judge the world (7:21:23).
Edited because my fingers are faster than my brain.
Since the purpose of this thread is to discuss the content of Jesus' teaching, I think a basic presupposition for this thread should be that Jesus existed and that the best record we have of his teaching is found in the Christian NT.
If you would like to discuss the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus or the textual evidence for the accuracy of the copies of the Gospels or the likelihood that the Gospels actually record Jesus' teaching, please start your own thread.
Obviously, if Jesus never existed this thread, my faith and quite a bit of discussion on this board are pure nonsense!
Jesus' primary message...
outside of the obvious.
1 John 4
7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Loving God and loving other people will NOT save you! Hence, it was not his primary message!
His reason for coming to earth was to be sacrificed as a free gift from God to us to save us from our sinful nature.
Jesus never said loving God and loving other people will save you. Jesus said that believing He was the Son of God, to be killed as an ultimate sacrifice was what saves us.
Even this is based on the experience of God's love and how do we experience God's love? Back up a chapter:
"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." I John 3:16
ETA: And I'm oblivious to what you meant by "the obvious." I find that what I think is obvious many people on this board can't see at all and what they think is obvious I can't see. Please elaborate.
IMO, this is another way to look at a few of Jesus' teachings.
What do you suppose was "higher" on his "priority" for us:
A) Telling us to love God and love on another, which by itself will not save us.
B) Telling us to believe that He is the Son of God and that only belief in Him will save us.
I am NOT saying that loving God and one another is not important. It is very important. I am saying that His PRIMARY message was to believe Him that he was the Messiah, not just to love. There was love before Jesus came to earth. There was no Messiah before Jesus came to earth!
it's a composite “answer” you can't both love Jesus and hate your fellow man. Salvation does not work that way. To understand and accept the sacrifice you have to love those who seek to do you evil. You may think that it’s as simple as memorizing 1+2=3 but you have to understand what your believing… what is 1, 2 and 3 and what does the + and = mean. You can say something all day but if you don’t live it it’s hypocritical.
I agree 100% with you. What you said makes complete sense and you are certainly correct that loving Jesus while hating someone else does not work. Your last sentence is so powerful.
Jesus thought they were important enough to mention in what is viewed as his most important sermon.
Many of modern Christianity's views on Jesus come to us not from the words of Jesus, but the words of Paul.
Dino, why is the Sermon on the Mount considered his most important sermon and who considers it that? It seems to me those that focus on the Sermon on the Mount as THE most important teaching of Jesus are those that seek to stress the ethical content of Jesus' teaching (which none of us would deny exists). It seems the argument runs: The Sermon on the Mount is the most important part of Jesus teaching. Why? Because it contains the most ethical content. Why does that make it the most important part of his ministry? Because Jesus' ministry was about ethics. How do we know Jesus' ministry was about ethics? Because his most important sermon (the Sermon on the Mount) is about ethics.
All four Gospels dedicate a great deal more time and effort towards Jesus' death and resurrection than to his Sermon on the Mount. Mark and John don't even include the sermon.
If Jesus' ministry was just calling people to a higher standard of ethics, He wouldn't have been crucified. Do you see anyone thinking about killing Him after the Sermon on the Mount? No. It was His repeated claims to be the Messiah, to be the Son of God to be the I AM of the Old Testament that got Him in trouble.
Nowhere does the Torah say, as in Mathew, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” In the whole of the Torah, there is no command to hate personal enemies.
From a Jewish perspective, this is fascinating that the person of jesus could have intended it as a legal rendering, even if it was meant literally.
In practice, Christians have not proved better than Jews at doing so, and it could quite successfully be argued that they have been a good deal worse.
That depends on whether or not you accept Paul as one of Christ's Apostles. If he was indeed an Apostle, as I believe, then the words of Paul were also the words of the Lord.
"If Jesus' ministry was just calling people to a higher standard of ethics, He wouldn't have been crucified. Do you see anyone thinking about killing Him after the Sermon on the Mount? No. It was His repeated claims to be the Messiah, to be the Son of God to be the I AM of the Old Testament that got Him in trouble."
There's little in what can be imparted from the statements attributed to the person of jesus that differentiate from the thought of the Pharisees. There are several attributed statements that are interesting, however.
One being to turn the other cheek when smote.
Judaism would ask that one defend oneself.
A second that a sin thought of is equivalent to a sin performed.
This is also antithetical to Judaism, as it is actions, not psyche that determines the sin.
As for being smote, or thinking of smiting…again, Christianity has not in quite practiced the most unique and radical differentiation from Jewish thought on these matters.
This is counterintuitive, as any theological understanding of the nature of G-d to humankind; the relationship of humankind to G-d, and of humankind to one another is baseless without applied ethics.
If you believe that apostle's are inerrant and they are actually his words, yes. Several of the Pauline epistles are viewed as pseudopigraphical by modern scholarship. The whole issue of an inerrant and literal Bible is a major question that not all Christians agree upon.
The quote is
5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’
Jesus is not citing the Torah he is pointing out that if they heard it this way, they heard it wrong.
Strange...you capitalize the 'P' in Pharisees, but not the 'J' in Jesus?
What a clever little trick, eh?
And so disgusting.
Such as sayings in the Torah and other Scripture that were attributed to Jewish prophets and writers?
Yes, Judaism just might.
But then it would be wrong.
And the Messiah came into the World to fix what the Jews had done to the Torah and the Prophets.
Then such Judaism hides behind a very poor screen.
It is the 'psyche', to use your word, that motivates the sin.
That would like a co-relgionst of yours saying that it quite acceptable to hate God, so long as you do nothing overt to show that hatred.
You know, unless 'actions' occur, no sin has been committed!
What a thought!
Or, more properly, what a thought process!
Thank God, it was not such a 'thought process' that was continued in Christianity!
Here is the Messiah speaking on this 'thought process':
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. Matthew 21:28-31
Now, when have the Jews ever lived up to the righteousness that G-d required of them, either?
So, your point?
Your comment makes no sense to me.
There was nothing counterintuitive at all in what I said.
Jesus' teachings had everything to do with showing us the way (and example) that we need to follow to return to our Heavenly Father's presence. In short: Jesus taught a doctrine of salvation.
Inherent with truly following Jesus the Christ is the most supremely ethical way of living. Yes, the doctrine and the ethics cannot be seperated, but the ethics come as part of seeking salvation. Salvation, however, doesn't come merely because some person tries to be ethical in life.
Try following Christ sometime, Scuba-ed. You'll find it amazingly intuitive.
Seems like we are into a kind of chicken and the egg argument now.
I've always viewed the message of Jesus as ethical. The message of Paul was theological.
You can get around that by saying Paul was just saying what Jesus told him, but thats a better argument for apologetics than for convincing someone your view is correct.
That goes back to whether or not you believe Paul was an inspired Apostle of the Lord.
EXACTLY!! The ethical teachings of Jesus while they raised the bar on some issues were very close to what was already being taught by the Pharisees and the Essenes. I would argue even Jesus' emphasis on thought life can also be found in the prophets. Isaiah 29:13 "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me."
What was different about Jesus was HOW He taught "one with authority" and what He taught about Himself.
In John's Gospel Jesus uses the phrase "ego eimi" to refer to Himself 7 times. These are the exact words used by God when Moses' asked, "who should I say sent me?" and God responded "I AM." This is as clear a claim to divinity as could be made in that time. Jesus also makes other claims placing Himself on an equal level with God the Father. Notice the Jewish response to these claims.
John 5:18 "For this cuase therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God."
3 of the "ego eimi" statements are found in John 8:21-59. The last of those statments is found in John 8:58-59 "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.' Therefore, they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple."
Jesus also alludes to the famous Shema statement. Deutornomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!"
"'I and the Father are one.' The Jews took up stones again to stone Him." Jesus answered them, 'I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning me?' The Jews answered Him, 'For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make youself out to be God."
Jesus assumes the power to forgive sins.
It is important to understand that every sin is against God. David after he sinned with Bathsheeba wrote "Against Thee, Thee only I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight." Now considering David stole Uriah's wife and had Uriah killed in battle, I'm sure Uriah would have been surprised to hear David only sinned against God. David's point is that ALL sin is primarily an offense against God. Therefore, the ONLY one who can forgive sin is God. The Jews understood this as seen in Matthew 9:2-3 "'Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.' And behold, some of the scribes said to themselvees, 'This fellow blasphemes.'"
Jesus teaches that accepting Him is the basis for entering into the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 21:27-46 Jesus teaches that since the Pharisees have not accepted Him, the kingdom will be taken from them and given to the tax-gatherers and harlots. This assumes that believing Jesus' teaching about Himself is more important than past ethical behavior (though He does indicate if they believe in Him, the behavior of the tax-gatherers and harlots will change). It also assumes that Jesus has the authority to determine who will be in the Kingdom of God. All of this angered the Pharisees.
The numerous kingdom parables in Matthew focus on a Messianic kingdom with Jesus at the head of it.
If Jesus' primary focus had been on ethical teaching He would have never have angered anyone. Scuba_Ed has mentioned that much of the Sermon on the Mount was consistent with the teaching of the Pharisees. Jews today would be able to accept Jesus' ethical teaching IF it wasn't for His claims to be the Messiah and even more so God!
If Jesus' primary focus had been on ethical teaching He would not have been crucified. Only some claim of Lordship and teaching about a need for allegiance to Him could have aroused Roman attention.
So a study of the Gospels indicates that a large portion of Jesus' teaching was focused on His own identity and the crucifixion itself indicates that Jesus was teaching more than ethics.
Pardon me, but that is sheer baloney.
He chastised the Jews who had made the worship of God into a ritual and had ignored the essence of what true worship of God would be.
He chided them on their traditions, which set at nought the commandments of God.
And everytime that they tried to kill Him, it followed a statement by Him that the Gentiles received relief from the Lord when the 'Chosen People' had not.
I think you mis-read or misunderstood what Scuba_Ed said.
While he initially said this, he went on to point out the differences he found between 'what Jesus taught' and 'what Judaism believes.'
I doubt it.
'Exhibit A' = Scuba_Ed.
'I rest my case.'
It was His Purpose, and this Purpose leaves no room whatsoever for anyone to quibble 'about what Jesus taught.'
The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine.
Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.
Why askest thou Me? ask them which heard Me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. Gospel of John, 18:19-21
Now, allow me to conclude not with Scripture, but with the words of someone who knew the Scriptures very well indeed...
SUCH then was 'the hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers,' for which the twelve tribes, 'instantly serving (God) night and day,' longed - with such vividness, that they read it in almost every event and promise; with such earnestness, that it ever was the burden of their prayers; with such intensity, that many and long centuries of disappointment have not quenched it. Its light, comparatively dim in days of sunshine and calm, seemed to burn brightest in the dark and lonely nights of suffering, as if each gust that swept over Israel only kindled it into fresh flame.
To the question, whether this hope has ever been realised - or rather, whether One has appeared Whose claims to the Messiahship have stood the test of investigation and of time - impartial history can make only one answer. It points to Bethlehem and to Nazareth. If the claims of Jesus have been rejected by the Jewish Nation, He has at least, undoubtedly, fulfilled one part of the Mission prophetically assigned to the Messiah. Whether or not He be the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to Him, assuredly, has been the gathering of the nations, and the isles have waited for His law. Passing the narrow bounds of obscure Judæa, and breaking down the walls of national prejudice and isolation, He has made the sublimer teaching of the Old Testament the common possession of the world, and founded a great Brotherhood, of which the God of Israel is the Father. He alone also has exhibited a life, in which absolutely no fault could be found; and promulgated a teaching, to which absolutely no exception can be taken. Admittedly, He was the One perfect Man - the ideal of humanity, His doctrine the one absolute teaching. The world has known none other, none equal. And the world has owned it, if not by the testimony of words, yet by the evidence of facts. Springing from such a people; born, living, and dying in circumstances, and using means, the most unlikely of such results - the Man of Nazareth has, by universal consent, been the mightiest Factor in our world's history: alike politically, socially, intellectually, and morally. If He be not the Messiah, He has at least thus far done the Messiah's work. If He be not the Messiah, there has at least been none other, before or after Him. If He be not the Messiah, the world has not, and never can have, a Messiah.
From Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, (1883), Vol. II, Chapter 6.